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Monday, December 16, 2013

Egyptians Mock Ads Promoting New Constitution With Typos and Stock Images

A campaign to win support for a draft of Egypt’s new constitution got off to a rocky start on Sunday, one month ahead of a referendum, when observers noticed that a banner promoting the document misspelled the word for “Egyptians” in Arabic and used stock images of foreigners to stand in for representative citizens.

As Egyptian bloggers were quick to note, the banner was given a prominent spot at a news conference on the referendum, hanging behind members of the committee appointed by the interim authorities to write the new constitution.

Loay El Biritaany, a leader of the activist film collective Mosireen, which was formed to document protests against authoritarian rule in Egypt, pointed out that a typo in the banner’s Arabic text mistakenly referred to the charter as a constitution for “the determined” rather than for “Egyptians.”

Within hours of the campaign’s launch, journalists and bloggers discovered that three of the five Egyptians pictured on the banner were apparently not Egyptians at all, and suspicions grew that the makers of the poster had simply searched Google to find stock images of “a doctor,” “a businesswoman,” “a farmer,” “a man with Down syndrome” and “an Egyptian soldier.”

Posting their discoveries on Twitter, the bloggers Amro Ali and Malak Boghdady showed that the image of the doctor had previously been used on the American site ehowtogetridofstretchmarks.com; the stock image of the businesswoman already graced the home page of an Irish professional networking site; and the image of the man with Down syndrome illustrated an article in an Arizona business magazine last year.

Ahram Online, an English-language site under loose government control, reported that the image of the farmer could be found in the archives of a Czech stock photographer, Frantisek Staud, and the image of the soldier was taken, without permission, from a post on the personal blog of an Ahram journalist, Rowan El-Shimi, in which he had criticized the nation’s army for beating and detaining protesters one month after the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution.

Far from being a loving portrait of the Egyptian Army, Ms. Shimi’s post, illustrated by his photograph of the soldier chosen to promote the new constitution, asked questions about the role of the military in the continuing repression of citizens: “Why were we still under curfew two weeks after Mubarak stepped down and the ongoing protest in Tahrir was dispersed? Is it maybe so the army can use it as an excuse for this violence? Or maybe to remind us exactly of who is in charge?”

Aaron Rose, who covered the news conference for the English-language Daily News Egypt, reported that the banners were apparently produced by a previously unheard-of organization using the name Egypt Peace Lovers Assoc.

The use of stock images of foreigners in place of Egyptians by the authorities led to sardonic comments and online mockery from journalists and activist bloggers, including another member of the Mosireen film collective, Sherief Gaber, who replaced the non-Egyptian Egyptians with a collection of more obvious aliens and police officers.

Dissent was not just limited to poking fun at the authorities in the virtual realm, however, as it might have been during the Mubarak era. Activists took to the streets on Monday, flouting a new law that effectively bans unapproved protests. They rallied outside government offices in downtown Cairo to note the second anniversary of the brutal beating of protesters by soldiers â€" including, most notoriously, a woman who was stripped and kicked in full view of the cameras â€" during the period of direct military rule in 2011.

As the protesters rallied outside, the chairman of the committee that drafted the new constitution, Amr Moussa, spoke to a conference of Arab liberals, in the upper house of Egypt’s Parliament, the Shoura Council.

Inside Arapahoe High When Gunfire Erupted

Brett Stewart was sitting in psychology class at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., early Friday afternoon when he heard what sounded like a heavy book drop outside the classroom door.

“Then the sound came again,” he wrote about the experience, after returning home from school Friday night. “It took my class a moment to realize that gunshots had been fired less than a hundred feet from where we were. Our teacher immediately locked the door, turned down the lights, and had everyone get on one wall. Pepper spray in hand, she crouched at the door lying in wait for any possible threat.”

At the same time, Claire Davis, 17, was sitting near the school library when Karl Halverson Pierson, a fellow student she hardly knew, walked in and began shooting, striking her in the head, the police said. He had entered Arapahoe High School, armed with a shotgun, two Molotov cocktails and a machete looking for his debate coach who had earlier disciplined him. After shooting randomly at Ms. Davis, who remained in critical condition at a nearby hospital on Monday, Mr. Pierson turned the gun on himself, dying of a self-inflicted wound. He had bought the shotgun only days before.

School officials announced the high school would be closed until after the holidays, and counselors were available to students, as the CBS television affiliate Channel 4 in Denver reported.

In an interview, Mr. Stewart, 18, said he felt compelled to write and publish his experience online, because he wanted people to understand the horror of what it was like to be inside a school with a gunman loose in the hallways on the day before the anniversary of the shooting death of 20 children and six faculty and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“I never thought I would be at the other end of the cameras,” he said, recalling how he and thousands of other students filed outside of the school, with their hands above their heads. “I thought back to Newtown and how traumatic it was to watch that on TV, and then I realized that I was now on the other side of that and the entire country was now watching this terrible event unfold at my school. It was very odd to realize that I was on the other end of the cameras.”

In his essay, titled “From Inside the Walls of Arapahoe â€" A Student Account of Today’s Shooting,” which he published on an online student literary publication he started called Strike, Mr. Stewart began with the first minutes when no one knew what was going on except for the sound of gunshots

After the shots, you could hear screams down the hall. “He ran that way!” “He has a gun!” Sobbing students in my class began to face their own mortality, questioning who the shooter was, would he come for us, and if he did, would he shoot us? Over the course of 30 minutes, sirens, flashing lights, screaming and loud footsteps thundered throughout the campus. Entire SWAT teams rushed onto the scene within 10 minutes and tactically pushed through the halls shouting “Blue!” or “Clear!” when a room was clear. In hindsight, we now know that the last shot heard must have been the self-inflicted death of the shooter, but at the time, it was absolutely terrifying, because all of the screaming made it sound as if the incident was prolonged much, much longer.

Eventually, men with guns slammed on our door and directed us out of the room. Leaving my phone, keys and jacket (which I would later regret in the cold Colorado weather), I was ushered out of the room by legions of police. They made us put our hands over our heads, and they frisked some students, which is understandable, considering at this point in time they weren’t aware of the extent of the threat.

The debate coach, Tracy Murphy, who was also the school’s librarian, had left the school when he was alerted the gunman was looking for him. He was unharmed. In a statement released over the weekend, he said that he and his family shared everyone’s concern “for all of the victims of this tragedy. ”

The father of Ms. Davis asked people to pray for his daughter, who is in coma, according to a statement from the family posted on Littleton Adventist Hospital’s Facebook page.

Students have been conducting prayer vigils and tributes to Ms. Davis on the school’s grounds, as well as asking people on Facebook and on Twitter to #prayforclaire.