I came across an interesting article on the BBC's Spanish news website (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/misc/newsid_6673000/6673535.stm). Apparently, the Sheikh of Dubai announced at the World Economic Forum that he is giving 10 billion dollars for education in the Middle East. I was expecting to find this news on the New York Times' website, but even after searching UAE news within the Middle East section all I got was a depressing scoreboard of suicide bombings and deaths in Iraq and the Palestinian territories. The deed was not even mentioned in an article on the World Economic Forum in the Kuwait Times!
Apparently, only 40% of Arab women can read and write, Turkey publishes more books than the entire Arab world combined (thanks to Ataturk), and fewer patents and research papers come out of all Arab universities each year than out of a single company like Hewlett-Packard for example. As for the books that are published in this part of the world, the majority of them are mostly religious books that extoll stasis over progress. In my admittedly limited experience in the Middle East, I have come across many things that are simply wrong - pervasive racism, religious intolerance, illegitimate leaders, etc... Most of them are better addressed by schoolteachers and books than paratroopers and bombs. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Makhtoum of the Emirate of Dubai is doing the right thing here, and he should be praised far and wide for it. At the very least, he should get more press coverage than suicide bombers.
I made only one really good bird observation lately: a very tame flock of black-crowned finch larks Eremopterix nigriceps landed right next to me when my camera was packed away for the move. I think they are fairly unusual around here.