Cairo

PR fail (Update: Followed by social media win!)

Kenneth Cole — the designer himself, as indicated by the “-KC” — tweeted this this morning:

He even customized his bit.ly link to be “bit.ly/KCairo!” Aghhh! This was, not surprisingly, followed by a barrage of disgust from those with brains. A tiny sampling:

And a couple hours after the initial tweet, the mea culpa:

UPDATE: Good LORD, this was fast: Introducing @KennethColePR:

Brilliant.

UPDATE 2: Early Thursday afternoon, Kenneth Cole posted the following apology on his Facebook page. Love the first response:

Caring for a dying mother in a time of revolution

Sandra Ramses is headed to Egypt to care for her ailing mother. (Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG)

It feels really good to have substantial space for a story I care about. I felt this way with several stories I did on the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year, as well as with The Vancouver Sun‘s recent series on refugees in Vancouver, which I was lucky enough to be a part of. I felt this way again today (and yesterday), covering the local connections to the valiant uprising in Egypt. A recent realization: If I got to travel, this would be my dream job.

From Tuesday’s Vancouver Sun:

BY ANDREA WOO, VANCOUVER SUN

METRO VANCOUVER – As governments around the world rush to get their citizens out of Egypt, where the political protests are rapidly escalating, one North Vancouver woman is preparing to fly into the eye of the storm.

Her voice periodically quivers as she discusses her plans, her hopes and uncertainties about going to her family in Egypt.

It seems a combination of excitement and anxiety, of passion and worry, but even Sandra Ramses herself can’t pinpoint the feelings associated with going home to care for an ailing mother in a time of revolution.

“Maybe the reason you can’t really decipher my tone is because I personally can’t, because I don’t know which way this is going to go,” said Ramses, on a break from packing her belongings on Monday. “I am pretty excited. I’m concerned when I think of my mom, but I think that’s natural.”

Ramses, 24, was born in California and has gone back to Cairo, where her family lives, every two or three years. She came to Canada at 19 to attend McGill University in Montreal, then landed in North Vancouver about a year ago.

On her last trip to Egypt, over the Christmas break, Ramses learned her mother’s breast cancer had spread into her liver, bones, lungs and brain. Doctors told her she had four or five months to live.

“I came back here to pack my things and quit my job and make sure the legal stuff is under control and leave, and now all this happens,” said Ramses of the mass demonstrations since Jan. 25. “I thought it’d be best to leave [today] because I think the later the delay, the more uncertainty there is.”

Thousands of people, including hundreds of Canadians, crowded into the Cairo airport Monday trying to get a flight out before today’s protest, expected to be the biggest yet and cause further disruptions to air and rail transportation.

Ramses will board a London-bound flight at Vancouver International Airport tonight. She will likely stay overnight in London, as Cairo-bound flights and ground transportation will be affected by the 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew, she said.

Ramses said the uncertainty of having her family half a world away has her more worried about the prospect of staying in Vancouver than flying into Egypt, where the uprising has claimed more than 100 lives.

Continue reading here.

Ottawa offers flights as Canadians urged to leave Egypt

Thousands of travelers wait at the terminal at Cairo International Airport. There were many airplanes ready to fly out of the airport, but few crews could be assembled to fly them, leading to massive delays. (Scott Nelson, New York Times)

From my story in tomorrow’s Vancouver Sun:

BY ANDREA WOO AND MIKE DE SOUZA, VANCOUVER SUN, POSTMEDIA NEWS

When the federal government begins flying Canadians out of Egypt on Monday, Hassan El-Shaikh and his family will be among those anxious to board.

The Surrey resident, his wife Mona and their five-year-old son, Karim, went to Egypt two weeks ago for a long-anticipated visit with family. They were supposed to return to B.C. on Saturday, but the mass demonstrations and political unrest since Jan. 25 have disrupted air travel, leaving them stranded — at separate homes, no less — in Alexandria.

El-Shaikh’s brother-in-law, Ahmad Badawi, said the family is particularly concerned about escaped criminals, with numerous jailbreaks having been reported at a nearby facility in Alexandria.

“It is not safe,” said Badawi, an Egyptian-Canadian who now lives in Burnaby. “The criminals escaped and are shooting firearms.”

Mona and Karim are stuck at a different family member’s home than Hassan, as they find it is too dangerous to travel even within the city to be together, Badawi said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon announced details of the charter flights Sunday evening in Ottawa, on the heels of similar action taken earlier in the day by the U.S. and other countries. Cannon said the government will start flying Canadians out of Egypt as early as Monday — a move that comes amid criticism over the government’s efforts to help stranded Canadians.

“We don’t want to put Canadians in a precarious situation,” Cannon said. “Rather than bettering itself, the situation seems to be deteriorating from the reports that we are receiving. And, therefore, our primary concern, of course, is the safety and security of Canadians.”

Continue reading here.

Egypt in photos

A few of my favourites:

An Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters poured into the streets of Egypt Friday, stoning and confronting police who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas in the most violent and chaotic scenes yet in the challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. (Lefteris Pitarakis / AP)

A protester gestures in front of a burning barricade during a demonstration in Cairo January 28, 2011. Police and demonstrators fought running battles on the streets of Cairo on Friday in a fourth day of unprecedented protests by tens of thousands of Egyptians demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic, National Post)

Police gather in Tahrir Square as a car burns on January 28, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)A protester stands in front of a burning barricade during a demonstration in Cairo January 28, 2011. Police and demonstrators fought running battles on the streets of Cairo on Friday in a fourth day of unprecedented protests by tens of thousands of Egyptians demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule. REUTERS/Goran TomasevicPhoto, below: Anti-government protesters clash with police in downtown Cairo today. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

A protester stands in front of a burning barricade during a demonstration in Cairo January 28, 2011. Police and demonstrators fought running battles on the streets of Cairo on Friday in a fourth day of unprecedented protests by tens of thousands of Egyptians demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Anti-government protesters clash with police in downtown Cairo. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

And here is a good slideshow compiled by the Huffington Post.

Check back for updates.

Uprising in Egypt

(Not sure who to credit this to, but I found it on Twitter.)

As of 1:30 p.m. PST Tuesday, two protesters and one policeman have died in Egypt’s biggest anti-government demonstration in a generation. In the past eight days, at least 12 (!) Egyptians have set themselves on fire — the act that first triggered the mass uprising in Tunisia — in protest of corruption, unemployment and poverty, calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

As with Tunisia, I am following the news overwhelming via Twitter. There are reports the micro-blogging service has been blocked in Egypt during a protest, however tweets are still trickling out from citizens via smartphone apps, proxies and SMS. (Egyptian blogger @Zeinobia said in response to my query: “The twitter website is blocked in Egypt , we are using alternatives like applications and proxies software #Jan25“)

One I love:

As a side note: In addition to the expected Twitter hashtags of #Egypt and #Cairo, a useful one that wasn’t used (as far as I knew) for Tunisia is the date, like the blogger used: #Jan25.

Another great information resource is The Guardian’s live-blog of the events. Some disturbing tweets from a video journalist they pointed out:

7.20pm: The video journalist Mohamed Abdelfattah has posted some distressing tweets – using the Twitter for Blackberry app – from the scene of the protests, where he says he has been arrested. Here’s some of his posts – all filed within minutes of each other and presented here in chronological order.

@mfatta7 Tear gas

@mfatta7 I’m suffocating

@mfatta7 We r trapped inside a building

@mfatta7 Armored vehicles outside

@mfatta7 Help we r suffocating

@mfatta7 I will be arrested

@mfatta7 Help !!!

@mfatta7 Arrested

@mfatta7 Ikve been beaten alot

Another interesting resource is Ustream’s live-feed of downtown Cairo, however it’s been up and down all morning.

And, video of a man having a “Tienanmen Square” moment as he faces down a water cannon vehicle:

UPDATE – 1:52 PST: “Anonymous,” of pro #WikiLeaks fame, reportedly attacking Egypt’s Ministry of Interior site. Indeed, http://www.egypt.gov.eg is down. (You may remember it as the group that launched DDoS attacks against PayPal, Visa, MasterCard who cut services to WikiLeaks.)