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Tuesday:  November 25, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Cairo (8)

Wednesday
Feb022011

EGYPT'S EVOLUTION: View from Cairo. What We Couldn't Show You.  

(HN, 2/2/11) - HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw had arrived in Cairo, Egypt on Thursday, January 27, 2011 from an assignment in Africa.  His hotel, the Four Seasons on the First Residence in Cairo had been about 65% full when he checked in, about 10% full when he left this past Monday 1/31/11.  Throughout his stay with Egyptian friends who live in the country, Bociurkiw, who had been to Cairo many times - even living there for four months in recent years - toured the city as demonstrators took to the streets in ever larger numbers as the days of protests for Egypt's future wore on. He had no internet or SMS for the length of his stay, only hard line phone and a mobile phone in later days. 

He has since been evacuated by the Canadian government (you can see his report below) through a chaotic airport experience to Frankfurt, Germany and now onto assignment in Africa.  Internet in Egypt has been sporadically restored just today inside the country, and with Bociurkiw out we are able to share his photographs of the historic Friday protests across Cairo, and bring you his eyewitness video report. 

-- HUMNEWS staff. 

Tuesday
Feb012011

SCENES OF EGYPT'S EVACUATION PROCESS AT CAIRO AIRPORT, January 31, 2011

These are scenes from the Cairo International Airport as Canadian, Australian, US and British  citizens were evacuated from Egypt to Frankfurt, Germany - Monday, January 31, 2011.

   

 In these videos shot by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw on his IPhone 4.  

Canadian, Australian, American and British travellers being processed for an evacuation flight at Cairo International Airport on January 31, 2011. Boarding an Air Canada Boeing 777 which served as an evacuation flight at Cairo International Airport on January 31, 2011. Then, passengers on a Canadian evacuation flight from Egypt disembarking from the Air Canada Boeing 777 at Frankfurt International Airport, Germany, February 1, 2011. Australian travelers evacuated from Egypt being processed at Frankfurt International Airport, February 1, 2011.

Monday
Jan312011

As Egypt Descends Further Into Chaos, Foreign Visitors Flee (Report)

By Michael Bociurkiw

(HN, January 31, 2011) - As protests in Egypt headed into possibly their most tumultuous phase since the January 25 start of open defiance of President Hosni Mubarak, thousands of tourists, business travellers and expatriate workers rushed to international airports to catch evacuation flights home or to nearby safe havens.Travellers boarding an Air Canada evacuation flight Monday evening in Cairo. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw

At just past 1900GMT Monday an Air Canada Boeing 777 chartered by Ottawa lifted off from Cairo International Aiport for Frankfurt carrying more than 200 Canadian and Australian nationals. As soon as the jet lifted off the runway the weary passengers aboard burst into applause and cheers, relieved to be leaving behnd a city very much on edge.

The anxiety was clearly visible: a Canadian couple from Vancouver Island said they and other tourists endured a sleepless night due to gunfire and thugs who temporarily took over their Cairo hotel.

As if to add insult to injury the Air Canada relief flight almost missed its take-off slot when, at the last minute, Cairo International Airpoprt ground handling crew demanded an unexplained $2000 fee. Livid Canadian Embassy officials quickly gathered up a collection from passengers and the flight was eventually allowed to depart.

There were also indications that airport authorities were deliberately slowing the processing of evacuation flights: the Canadian-Australian flight was threatened with a delay by security officials who claimed the passengers werent properly screened, and then further delayed when no tow could be found to push back the jet from a remote stand.

The hitches infuriated Embassy officials but also many of the travellers - many of whom had harrowing stories to tell of enduring spreading lawlessness throughout the country. Some said the quick exit marked their last experience with Egypt.

The evacuation flights were so hastily organized that some airlines, including Air Canada, brought their own maintenance crews along - just in case of hitches on the ground in Cairo.

Like Canada, several other countries - including the United States, Turkey, Switzerland and Germany - chartered planes to take their stranded nationals out of Egypt. Canada was billing each passenger $400 for the evacuation flight to Frankfurt. Most passengers said they didnt mind absorbing the cost but some questioned why nationals of other countries were offered free passage by their respective governments.

A Canadian passport holder born in China was reportedly told by Chinese officials at the airport he was eligible for free passage to Beijing.

The measures to evacate foreigners were due to the deteriorating security situation as well as massive cancellation of outbound flights, especially by national flag carrier Egypt Air. There are unconmfirmed reports that Cairo Airport will close for at least two days later this week.

Today marked the most chaotic day at Cairo Airport since the crisis began almost a week ago. Tempers flared amid several delays and cancellations. HUMNEWS observed a near riot at desks designated for flights to Gulf countries.

The rush to leave is not misplaced: On Tuesday opposition leaders are calling for a one-milion-person march in central Cairo - just as the Mubarak Administration appears to be positioning itself for a major confrontation. This HUMNEWS correspondent saw several dozen tanks lined up near an urban military base, ready to roll at a moment's notice. There were also several reports of foreign journalists being harassed by security officials: an Al Jazeera crew was among many detained. Others are sauid to have had their equipment confiscated.

An indication of the widespread fear is that many Egyptians residents and visitors who hold Canadian and other passports could be seen queing up for evacuation flights.

As tourists, business travellers and expatriates bid goodbye to Egypt, tourism industry officials fretted about the huge blow to a sector that employs millions of Egyptians and is one of the top foeign exchange earners. The Four Seasons Cairo at First Residences was among many luxury hotels in the city where occupancy dipped to single digit figures.

The immediate impact of the exit of so many foreign professionals at once is also difficult to gauge. For example, the Air Canada flight carried at least a dozen staff from the Canadian International School in Cairo. There was no indication when they would return to resume teaching.

What is certain is that millions of Egyptians will be forced to endure a temporary economic slowdown - perhaps the price to be paid for removing the current regime.

David Hill, a British expatriate who manages a building site employing 1000 Egyptians, said it was impossible for him to to continue construction at a time when all of his employees insisted on staying home to protect their properties and valuables.

Thursday
Jan272011

A Government Challenged on the Streets of Cairo - By Victoria Hazou (Photo Essay)

Cairo-based Canadian photographer Victoria Hazou captured these images of protesters on the streets of the Egyptian capital.


 


 

Tuesday
Jan252011

Protests Erupt Throughout Egypt: "Twitterized Revolution" (UPDATED 1540GMT)

(HN, January 26, 2010) - In what is being described as an extraordinary moment for Egypt, thousands of protestors from all walks of life hit the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities Tuesday to vent their outrage at the 30-year rule of the Hosni Mubarak regime. 

Smaller protests were reported today (Wednesday) in central Cairo and other cities amid signs the government was drawing a new line in the sand: as many as 800 people have been reportedly arrested.

As dusk fell yesterday, reports began to emerge of teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets used by police against protestors. Indeed by 1am local time, riot police moved in with force to clear Cairo's central Tahrir Square of people. Some estimates put the number of people in the square at 20,000.

News agencies report that at least four people have now died from protests.

A HUMNEWS source in central Cairo said it appeared that mobile phone networks were being constrained or shut down for a second day today. Activists on social networking sites said authorities have been blocking popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. (For its part, Twitter has confirmed its services are being blocked in Egypt).

Thousands of protesters, some throwing rocks and climbing on top of an armoured police truck, clashed with riot police in the centre of Cairo. Police responded with water cannon, batons and tear gas. Demonstrators were shouting "Down with Mubarak," and "demanding an end to Egypt's grinding poverty, corruption, unemployment and police abuses."

Also today, Amnesty International called on Egyptian authorities to refrain from using excessive force against demonstrators. “We witnessed reckless policing yesterday with the security forces relying on tear gas and using rubber bullet as a first resort” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

On Wednesday, the Interior Ministry was quoted as saying that public gatherings, protests and marches will no longer be tolerated. The authorities have vowed to arrest and prosecute anyone found to be taking to the streets against the government.

(In Rome today, Egypt's trade and industry minister, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, told a news conference  there is no risk of destabilization. "I think the discontent can be managed," he said).

Nonetheless, Twitter feeds were full of notices about another mass protest on Friday. There are reports that officials will cut power to areas of Cairo if protests continue.

One tweet that has been widely circulated says: "A call for a one million protester march this Friday after prayers at around 1pm - this is for everyone Christians and Muslims."

One of the photos of protests in Cairo that went viral over the InternetAs with the historic protests in Tunisia earlier this month, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook appeared to have played a major role in mobilzing people. One Twitter post called the events in Egypt a "Twitterzied Revolution."

Social networking sites are not only being used to mobilize people. One tweet being circulated pleaded for owners of wireless networks to remove passwords so that people on the ground could continue reporting on developments to the outside world. Others were being advised to send mobile phone credit to anyone who needed a top-up.

"Anyone with wireless connection at home near to Tahrir Square, remove the password so ppl can access the Net to keep in touch," said one tweet that quickly went viral.

As the sun set, one Tweet said a huge neon portrait of Mubarak near the Raml Station in Alexandria had been shattered.

It is impossible to predict where the protests will go and for how long. The Egyptian security apparatus is known for maintaining a tight grip on the country, which has been under emergency rule for years.

Nonetheless, security forces were clearly caught off guard by the widespread protests. One observer said that, unlike the Tunisian protests, the gatherings in Egypt today were small and numerous - difficult for a security apparatus to control.

Western news agencies too - spread out thinly with breaking news in Lebanon, Tunisia, Albania and the World Economic Forum in Davos - seemed to have few resources on the ground in Egypt.

Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday issued a statement condemning the widespread internet censorship and attacks on journalists by police. It added that access to several local online publications were blocked - including Al-Badil, Al-Dustour and Al-Masry.

Some analysts say Egypt - with its large numbers of unemployed, disenfranchise youth and yawning disparities between rich and poor - is a "Tunisia" waiting to happen.

Poverty and joblessness are widespread in Egypt, where the population may exceed 100 million by 2020. The UNDP Human Development Index (2006) ranks Egypt 111 out of 177 countries. Recent estimates from the World Bank show that 23% of the population live below the national poverty line with more than 12% of children under the age of five suffering from malnutrition.

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies

Saturday
Dec112010

Egypt Intensifies Fight Against Human & Organ Trafficking (News Brief)

(HN, December 12, 2010) The Egyptian Government plans to intensify its battle against the widespread trafficking of human organs and humans, including moving against the widening practice of under-age marriages that are the equivalent of human slavery.

Starting with a forum this weekend in Luxor chaired by First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, the country will follow-up with its first national anti-human trafficking plan. It is to enter into force as of January 2011 and extend to to January 2013, and is based on four main points: prevention, protection, prosecution and participation. Mubarak made the annoucement at a news conference.Egyptian First Lady Suzanna Mubarak has taken on the fight against human trafficking as one of her main causes

Human trafficking is an enormous problem in Egypt. Canadian investigative journalist Victor Malarek identified the country - and especially the Sinai Peninsula - as a major transit point for women from Eastern Europe being trafficked. Malarek, in his book The Natashas, has documented cases of Slavic women smuggled via Egypt into Israel and forced into prostitution, often with the collusion of Israeli police.

Mubarak hinted at the large scope of the problem - saying that, given the unprecedented growing threat posed by this crime, it was a must for Egypt to adopt its own combat strategy.

Human trafficking has mushroomed into a global, trans-national menace that imposed itself on the world community's agenda, she said.

The trafficking of human organs is also proliferating - especially among poor, urban dwellers in Egypt - who sell the items to specialized hospitals and labs, the government found in a national study on human trafficking.

Another problem is under-age marriage for the purpose of prostitution or human slavery: a government study obtained by HUMNEWS says that girls as young as 14 years old, in a bid to escape poverty, are wed to wealthy men from the Gulf States.

The forum - held with the UN and attended by Hollywood celebrities - is held also to mark the ten-year anniversary of the UN Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, which was launched on Dec. 12, 2000. The protocol focused the attention of the global community on combating human trafficking and called for the criminalization of all acts of trafficking, including forced labor, slavery, and slavery-like practices.

Human trafficking is the third most profitable illegal business after weapons and drugs nowadays. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates the total market value of human trafficking at $32 billion. And an estimated 2.4 million people are currently victims of this modern slavery - from at least 127 countries and have been found to be exploited in 137 states.

Most victims are between the ages of 18 and 24, and an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, UN figures show.

At the forum, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov urged for action from business: "The private sector has so much to offer in terms of resources, knowledge and influence to combat human trafficking. Raising awareness both within the workforce and the general community on trafficking is critical, and businesses have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that all aspects of their operations are "traffic-free" - from employees, to suppliers, to partners".

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo - the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons - has said there is absence of accurate data on trafficking in persons, especially women and children which has made it impossible to measure the magnitude or scale of human trafficking in Egypt. "While acknowledging that quality data may be scarce in the field, it also breeds concern because...many stakeholders describe Egypt as a transit country but this classification is done without any backup statistics," she said.

Ezeilo also said human trafficking is much more of a domestic problem in Egypt. "There is a growing trend of sexual and economic exploitation of young Egyptian girls by their families and brokers, who execute marriages that are also popularly known as 'seasonal or temporary' marriage. These types of marriages sometimes provide a smokescreen for providing sexual services to foreign men."

Though one observer in Egypt said the problem is far more grave than the Government or UN is admitting. "We are a country of origin, transit and destination but the government decided that we are only a country of origin. We have the worst forms of exploitation - and they (the Government) still insist that we have none."

- HUMNEWS staff, files

Thursday
Nov252010

60% of Africans City Dwellers by 2050 - UN (News Brief)

(HN, November 25, 2010) - Incredible urban growth and population migration will swell the size of major African cities - in some cases tripling their size over the next 40 years.

According to a new report by UN Habitat, The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequality and Urban Land Markets, urbanization is occurring faster on the African continent than anywhere else, and that by 2030, the Africa will no longer be predominantly rural.Traffic is worsening in many African cities due to urban migration. CREDIT: Michael Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS

“No African government can afford to ignore the ongoing rapid urban transition taking place across the continent. Cities must become priority areas for public policies, with hugely increased investments to build adequate governance capacities, equitable services delivery, affordable housing provision and better wealth distribution,” said Joan Clos, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT.

The report also found that:

- By 2015, Lagos will be Africa's largest city with 12.4 million people - overtaking Cairo (however Cairo is said to have an unofficial population as high as 17 million at times)

Luanda has recently surpassed Alexandria and is now Africa’s fourth largest agglomeration. It is projected to grow to more than 8 million by 2040.

- Africa's population will be 1.23 billion by 2050

- Slum dwellers in Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia decreased to 11.8 million in 2010, from 20.8 million in 1990.Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Is one of the largest slums with more than a million residents struggling with limited access to basic services. CREDIT: UN Habitat

- Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is becoming the fastest-growing city in Africa: its population will almost double over the next decade.

70 per cent of all African urban population growth will be in smaller cities and those with populations of less than half a million.

- Projected proportional growth for the 2010−2020 for some cities defies belief: Ouagadougou’s (Burkina Faso) population is expected to soar by no less than 81 per cent, from 1.9 million in 2010 to 3.4 million in 2020.

The report also noted that, since many large cities (such as Lagos and Alexandria) are situated by the sea, climate change and coastal flooding may erode their size.

- HUMNEWS staff, UN

Monday
Aug162010

REFLECTING ON RAMADAN IN CAIRO (PERSPECTIVE)

by Michael Bociurkiw in Cairo

(HN, August 16, 2010) - It's always a joy to return to Cairo during the holy month of Ramadan, which debuted last Wednesday and continues into September.

The streets seem calmer, without the usual impossible traffic and choking fumes. In the moments leading up to iftar - the meal that marks the end of the daily fast - a frenetic atmosphere takes hold as people rush to set up dining areas for impossibly large feasts.

This is a time for large, festive gathering of families and friends - with tables groaning under the weight of traditional dishes. Into the late hours of the night, many companies treat their employees and partners to large, elaborate, pre-dawn receptions known as Suhoor. One that I attended by the telecommunications giant, Mobinil, on the banks of the Nile River, even had a small shooting gallery to keep guests entertained!A Palestinian man prepares the traditional Ramadan sweet katayif in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. (Haythem Othman, Maan Images)

With all the family and corporate gathering in Egypt, it is said that the country is the only spot on the map in the Muslim world where people actually gain weight during the holy month of fasting!

I will remember this year’s Ramadan for an iftar I shared with a dear Egyptian friend at the El Sit Hosneya Restaurant in Cairo’s Dokki district. Aside from the food being outstanding, there was so much served that I took the leftovers to my friends at my next destination - it was enough to feed three adults and one toddler!

When I think of the Ramadan table I think of energy-packed dates, a milk drink filled with dried fruits and almonds, lentil soup, kubbe, moutabel, fattoush, babaganoush, hummus, labaneh, fresh salads and stews, falafel - and of course freshly-baked bread and kataiaf - or filed pancakes.

With the special dishes that fill a traditional Ramadan menu, it’s easy to see why people cant resist over-eating. But many say people have gone overboard.

Said an editorial in Egypt’s Al -Ahram: “Public consumption dramatically rises during Ramadan...it poses a huge financial burden on the average citizen and forces him sometimes to borrow to be able to buy the goods he wants, and satisfy the consumption culture which now controls our behaviour in Ramadan.

The consumption culture in Ramadan is not only in consuming more food, but also in wasting time and forgetting that Ramadan is the month of virtue and worship. It should not be the time for amusement and spending time in matters that distort the minds of our nation.”

Local observers say this year, Ramadan has been more subdued as families cut back on festivities due to the spiraling cost of meat and other products. Some critics say that opportunistic food traders deliberately raise prices during Ramadan as they know families have an obligation to feed their friends and the poor. Basic commodities such as sugar, rice and eggs are reportedly up by more than 40 percent over the past year in Egypt.

Combine sticker shock at the markets with unbearable heat, lack of power and growing disenchantment with government officials and you get some seriously unhappy people.

Spiraling costs have also reportedly forced soap opera producers - who vie for the peak viewing hours of Ramadan - to dump first tier talent for less expensive stars. For example, Donya Ghanem and Maged El-Kadwani will co-star in El-Kebir Awi (The Biggest of All) - a comedy about a village mayor who marries and American woman who gives birth to twins. It features humorous encounters between the two, one brought up in Upper Egypt and the other in America.

Also a surprise for visitors coming to Cairo this month is that huge swaths of the city are darkened at night due to electricity load management by the power authority. Due to a record-setting heat, the surge in demand for power has put a huge strain on the Egyptian capital’s creaky power system. The new system means that there are far fewer fanouss - or Ramadan decorations - to be seen in the middle of alleyways or by the doors of businesses in Cairo.

The lack of power will undoubtedly darken the TV screens of millions of television addicts who flock to their sets during Ramadan to watch the hundreds of hours of extra programming laid on by Arab terrestrial and satellite TV channels. Egyptian columnist Mohamed Sultan says that for one person to watch the 120 Egyptian and Arab TV series scheduled for the month, he would need 2,500 watching hours - leaving not much time for prayer and reflection.

Speaking of prayer - Egypt’s Minister of Endowment introduced measures this year to unify the five-time-a-day call to prayer by the start of Ramadan - by linking all of Cairo’s 4,500 mosques by a call transmitted from a radio station. The move is designed to reduce noise pollution but some see it as running against tradition.

Another change this year was brought about by a controversial, last minute move by the Government to ease the strain of fasting on the faithful - and on the electricity grid - by introducing a special one-month time change. The move was done to make Iftar - the traditional breaking of the fast - an hour earlier during the most hot and humid time of the year.

Al-Ahram columnist Youssef Rakha criticized the move, saying that once Eid al-Fitr - the feat that marks the end of the holy month - comes, Egypt returns to summer time for 20 days only, before switching again to winter time. “Who came up with this brilliant plan, nobody knows,” wrote Rakha.

In past Ramadans - whether here or in Jerusalem - I have sympathetically observed friends and colleagues struggle to adjust to the new sleeping and eating schedule. The faithful awake before daybreak to dine before beginning their daily fast. The first few days of Ramadan are difficult for those who work regular hours as their bodies adjust to the new regime.

Three years ago, during a visit to the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, a recall listening to a radio talk show where the manager of a large factory chastized his staff for using Ramadan as an excuse to decrease their output. While the manager said he sympathized with their plight, he stressed that it hurt his company’s standing with overseas buyers. Some offices - including many UN offices in the region - deliberately shorten the workday during Ramadan to allow those with families more time to prepare for iftar.

HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw is Founder and Editor of Savvy Traveller - a member of the HUM CSR Co-op