Tag: TMC Politics

Feb 26

Reporting the Revolution: 26.02.2011

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

class=”BrightcoveExperience”>This is The Guardian Live Blog from Libya.

Al Jazeera English also has a Live Blog stream that is up dated regularly.

Protests and violence continued across the region on Friday. The International community is considering its options and in a rare move the UN Human Rights Commission took sanctions against one of its own members, Libya. Meeting in Geneva, the commission voted unanimously recommending suspension of Libya from the Geneva-based body and decided to conduct an independent probe into violations by the Qadhafi regime, which has launched a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.  

The United States closed down the embassy in Tripoli as the last of its diplomatic personnel were airlifted to safety. President Barack Obama signed an executive order freezing the assets of Gaddafi, his family and top officials, as well as the Libyan government, the country’s central bank and sovereign wealth funds.

Thousands demanded reform in Jordan and in Bahrain more changes. Virtually isolated in Tripoli, the military still loyal to Gaddafi opened fire on unarmed protesters.

As Libya uprising reaches Tripoli Gaddafi vows to ‘open up the arsenals’

Gaddafi gives a defiant speech to cheering supporters, as witnesses report indiscriminate firing on demonstrators

Libya’s uprising reached the heart of Tripoli on Friday as anti-regime demonstrators defied a security clampdown to demand Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow amid hopes that key military units in the west of the country would defect.

Gunmen in cars reportedly opened fire on protesters as they streamed out of mosques after Friday prayers. Witnesses described shooting in streets near Green Square in the heart of the city.

Information remained patchy, confused and sometimes contradictory, but up to seven people were reported shot dead in Janzour, Fashlum, Bin Ashour, Zawiyat al-Dahmani and other urban areas. “Security forces fired indiscriminately on the demonstrators,” said one resident.

Later, Gaddafi appeared in Green Square to give another angry and defiant speech to crowds of supporters waving banners and cheering him – a message that he is alive and in control – as he pledged to “open up the arsenals”.

Gaddafi vows to crush protesters

Libyan leader speaks to supporters in the capital’s Green Square, saying he will arm people against protesters.

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has appeared in Tripoli’s Green Square, to address a crowd of his supporters in the capital.

The speech, which also referred to Libya’s war of independence with Italy, appeared to be aimed at rallying what remains of his support base, with specific reference to the country’s youth.

“We can defeat any aggression if necessary and arm the people,” Gaddafi said, in footage that was aired on Libyan state television on Friday.

“I am in the middle of the people.. we will fight … we will defeat them if they want … we will defeat any foreign aggression.

“Dance … sing and get ready … this is the spirit … this is much better than the lies of the Arab propaganda,” he said.

Libya: International response gathers pace after Gaddafi counterattacks

No-fly zone or sanctions among options being considered as world bids to force Libyan leader to end the violence

International efforts to respond to the Libyan crisis are gathering pace under US leadership after a still defiant Muammar Gaddafi launched counterattacks to defend Tripoli against the popular uprising now consolidating its hold on the liberated east of the country.

The White House said Barack Obama planned to call David Cameron and France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to discuss possible actions, including a no-fly zone or sanctions to force the Libyan leader to end the violence. Switzerland said it had frozen Gaddafi’s assets.

Gaddafi, in power for 42 years, has used aircraft, tanks and foreign mercenaries in eight days of violence that has killed hundreds in the bloodiest of the uprisings to shake the Arab world. Up to 2,000 people may have died, it was claimed by a senior French human rights official.

Friday protests grip Middle East

Opposing political camps rally in Yemen while protesters vent anger after prayers in Jordan, Iraq and Bahrain.

Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s president, have held rival rallies in the capital, Sanaa.

Protesters outside Sanaa University repeated slogans demanding that the country’s longtime president step down immediately, chanting: “The people demand the downfall of the regime.”

About 4km away, loyalists shouted support for the president, who they described as holding the fractured and impoverished tribal country together. “The creator of unity is in our hearts. We will not abandon him,” they chanted.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sanaa, said that while the situation is calm in the capital, due to the huge presence of police and military, there have been reports of protesters being killed in the south of the country.

“The situation in Aden [in the south] is very tense, two people have been killed and at least 24 pro-democracy protesters were injured in clashes with security forces [today],” he said.

“Security forces have been asked by the ministry of the interior to block the main square to put an end to the escalations there, as it is the stronghold of the secessionist movement who want to break away from the north.

“There have been huge rallies in the province of Sadah, the stronghold of the Houthi fighters. They have said they are joining the protesters and that their fight will be similar to the fight of thousands of protesters who are asking for an end to the political regime.”

Yemen has been swept up in protests inspired by the recent successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. The demonstrators are demanding that Saleh, in power for 32 years, step down.

Deaths in Iraq pro-reform rallies

At least 12 protesters killed by security forces, amid nationwide “day of rage” against corruption and poor services.

Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets across the country to protest against corruption and a lack of basic services in an organised nationwide “day of rage”, inspired by uprisings around the Arab world.

In two northern Iraqi cities, security forces trying to push back crowds opened fire on Friday, killing at least 12 demonstrators.

In Baghdad, the capital, demonstrators knocked down blast walls, threw rocks and scuffled with club-wielding troops.

Hundreds of people carrying Iraqi flags and banners streamed into Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, which was under heavy security.

Military vehicles and security forces lined the streets around the square and nearby Jumhuriya bridge was blocked off.

Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said there was a violent standoff between the protesters and the riot police on the bridge that leads to the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Ahmed Rushdi, head of the House of Iraq Expertise Foundation, tried to join the protests in Baghdad but was prevented from doing so by the army.

“This is not a political protest, but a protest by the people of Iraq. We want social reform, jobs for young people and direct supervision because there is lots of corruption,” Rushdi told Al Jazeera.

“If [prime minister Nouri] al-Maliki does not listen, we will continue this protest. He told everyone that we are Saddamists, but that is not right. We are normal Iraqi people.”

Eight years after the US-led invasion which ousted Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader, development in the country remains slow and there are shortages of food, water, electricity and jobs.

Protesters confirmed that they were protesting for a better life and better basic services.

“We are free young men and we are not belonging to a certain ideological movement but we ask for our simple legitimate demands that include the right of education and the right of decent life,” Malik Abdon, a protester, said.

Feb 24

Reporting the Revolution: 24.02.2011

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

class=”BrightcoveExperience”>This is The Guardian Live Blog from Libya.

Al Jazeera English also has a Live Blog stream that is up dated regularly.

Libyan “madman” Muammar Gaddafi again took to the public airways via a telephone statement that the rebellion is being run by Al-Qaeda and that the young protesters were being drugged by Osama bin Laden. Tripoli is paralyzed and, according to foreign reports, food and fuel are in short supply contradicting  Libyan official reports that everything is “normal”. Phone and internet service is intermittent.

Mustafa Abdel Galil, who resigned three days ago as justice minister, speaking to Al Jazeera, said that Gaddafi had chemical weapons and would not hesitate to use them. The United Nation’s Human Rights Council will meet in Geneva to decide to send a team to investigate violations of international human rights law in Libya.

In the east, the cities of Benghazi and Tobruk are now under the control of a civilian council of lawyers and doctors with the aid of military officers who turned on Gaddafi. Ferries have docked in Benghazi to aid in the evacuation of foreign residents and tourists. The eastern border with Egypt has been opened and tent hospitals and aid stations have been set up to care for the wounded and sick. Doctor Without Borders is sending a team from France to help the Egyptians.

Even as Gaddafi digs in, much of the country is out of his control and the military is deserting him. His assets in foreign banks have been frozen. Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, one of Gaddafi’s top security official and a cousin, defected and left the country on Wednesday evening, stating differences over “grave violations to human rights and human and international laws”. It would seem that it just a matter of time before Gaddafi is gone. The cost to be rid if him will be high.

Oil prices soar to 30-month high amid uprisings

Oil prices climbed to their highest level in 30 months in London today as Libya’s uprising reduced shipments and sparked fears of unrest spreading across the Middle East.

Brent crude hit 119 US dollars a barrel for the first time since August 2008, while benchmark crude for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was up nearly four dollars at 101.67 US dollars.

Foreigners flee Libyan chaos

Countries around the world step up efforts to evacuate citizens, but some warn an exodus of refugees could spark crisis.

Nations around the world are evacuating thousands of people from the violent unrest in Libya, amid fears in some countries that the situation will lead to an exodus of illegal immigrants.

On Thursday, European nationals and thousands of Chinese people landed on the Greek island of Crete, after boarding chartered ferries from Libya, while scores of Britons were evacuated via military plane to the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Gaddafi daughter denies fleeing

Aisha Gaddafi, the daughter of the Libyan leader, appears on state TV to deny reports that she tried to flee to Malta.

Aisha Gaddafi, the daughter of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has appeared on state television, denying a report she tried to flee to Malta.

There had been reports on Wednesday that a Libyan plane carrying Gaddafi’s daughter had been turned back from Malta after it was denied permission to land.

Algeria repeals emergency law

Scrapping the draconian law to placate growing discontent had been a major demand made by the opposition parties.

Algeria’s cabinet has adopted an order to lift a 19-year-old state of emergency in a concession designed to avoid the tide of uprisings sweeping the Arab world, but protesters said the measure did not go far enough.

A draft law approved by the cabinet would repeal the emergency law as soon as it is published in the government’s official journal, the official Algerie Presse Service reported on Wednesday.

Hosni Mubarak’s cronies face corruption charges in Cairo court

Three stalwarts of the deposed Egyptian president are greeted by angry crowd at courthouse

Three former stalwarts of Hosni Mubarak’s regime have appeared in a Cairo court to face charges ranging from abuse of state power to squandering public wealth.

The trio – former housing minister Ahmed Maghrapi, former tourism minister Zuheir Garana and Ahmed Ezz, steel tycoon and one-time secretary general of Hosni Mubarak’s NDP party – arrived in police cars clanging with the sound of pelted stones and got out at the courthouse to a chorus of deafening insults.

Yemen to ‘protect protesters’

President Saleh instructs security forces to protect demonstrators after at least 15 protesters have been killed.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s president, has issued a directive ordering his security forces to protect demonstrators trying to end his 32-year rule, after at least 15 people have been killed in the country’s recent unrest.

The statement, relayed by the Yemeni press attaché in Washington on Thursday, said Saleh had “demanded security services to offer full protection for the demonstrators”.

“Late this evening [Wednesday] … Saleh instructed all security services to thwart all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between pro- and anti-government protesters,” it said.

“Furthermore, the government calls on protesters to remain vigilant and take all precautionary steps to prevent the infiltrations of individuals seeking to carry out violent actions.

“The government … will continue to protect the rights of its citizens to assemble peacefully and their right to freedom of expression,” the statement said.

Thousands of protesters were camping out for a fifth day in an impromptu tent city outside Sanaa University. Members of the university’s professors’ union also turned out to support  the demonstrators, who have one demand: that Saleh step down.

Students killed at Yemen rally

Protests turn deadly as the president’s supporters open fire on anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Sanaa.

Feb 24

Under the Radar: Look Over Here

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Here’s some of the other news that gets missed or relegated to the inner pages by our ratings fixated media and what some of the loonies have been “plotting”.

  • Apparently somebody at the Justice Department told the White House that defending war criminals, even in a civil law suit, just might be problematic.

    The Justice Department under President Barack Obama has quietly dropped its legal representation of more than a dozen Bush-era Pentagon and administration officials – including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and aide Paul Wolfowitz – in a lawsuit by Al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla, who spent years behind bars without charges in conditions his lawyers compare to torture.

    Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that the government has agreed to retain private lawyers for the officials, at a cost of up to $200 per hour. Miller said “conflicts concerns” prompted the decision. He did not elaborate.

    (emphasis mine)

  • Is New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller on the White House payroll? Sure sounds like it. Again Keller, at the request of the White House withheld information from a news story. On January 27, Raymond Davis, who works at the US Embassy, killed two Pakistani men alleging they were threatening him. The White House has claimed that Davis is a diplomat and Pakistan cannot hold him. What was known but not released by the NYT, at the Obama administrations request, was that Davis, a former special forces soldier, was actually working for the CIA and, in fact, worked for Xe, aka Blackwater.

    This is not the first time that the NYT has done the bidding of the administration in power. Keller even boasted in a BBC interview that the NYT had earned the praise of the U.S. Government for withholding materials which the Obama administration wanted withheld.

    The NYT is now Pravda and Izvestia all in one.

  • Arizona may be overboard on a few issues like guns, immigration and denial of transplants under Medicare but the criminal justice system got it right in two cases.

    Jury Convicts Iraqi Immigrant in ‘Honor Killing’ of Daughter

    Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 50, also was convicted of aggravated assault for injuries suffered by the mother of his daughter’s boyfriend during the October 2009 incident in a suburban Phoenix parking lot, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident.

    Prosecutors told jurors during the trial that he mowed down 20-year-old Noor Almaleki with his Jeep Cherokee because she had brought the family dishonor by becoming too Westernized. He wanted Noor Almaleki to act like a traditional Iraq woman, but she refused an arranged marriage, went to college and had a boyfriend.

    Border Activist Sentenced to Death for Fatal Home Invasion

    Forde was convicted Feb. 14 of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009, deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia Flores, 9. She was also found guilty of attempted murder in the shooting of Gina Gonzalez, Flores’ wife and Brisenia’s mother.

    Prosecutors said Forde decided to target the house in Arivaca, Ariz., because she believed Flores was a drug smuggler and would have cash in the house. She wanted money to fund her border protection group, Minutemen American Defense, prosecutors said.

  • Feb 23

    It’s Gotta Be Bad If Even Bob Barr Gets It

    Cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    Sen. Al Franken, (D-MI) has called Internet Freedom the most important free speech issue of our time. That Freedom is now being threatened by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) who have introduced a bill that would essentially give the President the authority to shut down the internet with new national emergency powers, aka a “kill switch”:

    President Obama would be given the power to “issue a declaration of a national cyberemergency.” Once that happens, Homeland Security would receive sweeping new authorities, including the power to require that so-called critical companies “shall immediately comply with any emergency measure or action” decreed.

    No “notice” needs to be given “before mandating any emergency measure or actions.” That means a company could be added to the “critical” infrastructure list one moment, and ordered by Homeland Security to “immediately comply” with its directives the next.

    The U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Lieberman chairs, appears to believe that it’s not necessary to include explicit judicial review of the president’s emergency authority once exercised, believing it’s implicit. Any such lawsuit filed by a targeted company would likely focus on language saying the emergency decrees should be “the least disruptive means feasible.”

    The president may declare a “cyberemergency” for 30 days, and extend it for one 30-day period, unless Congress votes to approve further extensions.

    Homeland Security will “establish and maintain a list of systems or assets that constitute covered critical infrastructure” and that will be subject to those emergency decrees.

    (emphasis mine)

    The ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson said”It still gives the president incredible authority to interfere with Internet communications.” If the Department of Homeland Security wants to pull the plug on Web sites or networks, she said, “the government needs to go to court and get a court order.” I  light of the recent erroneous seizure of 84,000 web sites by the Department of Homeland Security that took them off line even Bob Barr has weighed in with this statement:

    No government – no matter how benign or well-meaning – should be empowered to control the Internet. Moreover, the Congress should take a long, hard look at how federal agencies are using – and abusing – their existing powers to control parts of the Internet.

    Holy FSM. They’re even calling this bill “Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act.”


    Hello!!!! Does this sound familiar?????? Egypt, Libya, anyone?????

    Feb 21

    From Egypt to Wisconsin with Love

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    Michael Moore has asked that we spread this message from the trade unions and workers in Egypt to the unions and workers in Wisconsin. Also, wear something RED today in support of the Wisconsin state workers.

    ‘We Stand With You as You Stood With Us’

    The poster in the background shows photographs of some of the recent young victims of the Mubarak government. The writing says they are among the martyrs of the 25 January Revolution.

    KAMAL ABBAS: I am speaking to you from a place very close to Tahrir Square in Cairo, “Liberation Square”, which was the heart of the Revolution in Egypt. This is the place were many of our youth paid with their lives and blood in the struggle for our just rights.

    From this place, I want you to know that we stand with you as you stood with us.

    I want you to know that no power can challenge the will of the people when they believe in their rights. When they raise their voices loud and clear and struggle against exploitation.

    No one believed that our revolution could succeed against the strongest dictatorship in the region. But in 18 days the revolution achieved the victory of the people. When the working class of Egypt joined the revolution on 9 and 10 February, the dictatorship was doomed and the victory of the people became inevitable.

    We want you to know that we stand on your side. Stand firm and don’t waiver. Don’t give up on your rights. Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights.

    We and all the people of the world stand on your side and give you our full support.

    As our just struggle for freedom, democracy and justice succeeded, your struggle will succeed. Victory belongs to you when you stand firm and remain steadfast in demanding your just rights.

    We support you. we support the struggle of the peoples of Libya, Bahrain and Algeria, who are fighting for their just rights and falling martyrs in the face of the autocratic regimes. The peoples are determined to succeed no matter the sacrifices and they will be victorious.

    Today is the day of the American workers. We salute you American workers! You will be victorious. Victory belongs to all the people of the world, who are fighting against exploitation, and for their just rights.

    Feb 21

    Reporting the Revolution: They Will Not Be Silenced (Up Date)

    Cross posted at The Stars Hollow Gazette

    class=”BrightcoveExperience”>This is The Guardian Live Blog from Libya

    The protests against repressive regimes has taken a violent turn over the last three days with police, the military and some armed counter protesters shooting and beating the unarmed, peaceful demonstrators in Bahrain, Libya and other countries in the region. Yesterday Human Rights Watch has reported at 173 protesters have been killed over the last five days in Libya and reports from hospitals there say 20 more were killed on Sunday. Other sources are putting the death toll at over 200. Reporting is hampered because journalists and the news media has been barred.  The US is relying on reports from the HRW and other observers. News coming in from CNN say that [Benghazi now in the hands of Libyan protesters and that some of the military has now gone over to supporting the protest. CNN has reports coming from citizens, on the ground in Libya, calling the network.

    Saif el Islam, Gaddafi’s son spoke on Libyan state TV. It is unknown if the telecast was live or taped.

    Gaddafi’s son talks of conspiracy

    Clashes between anti-government protesters and Gaddafi supporters escalate, as army unit ‘defects’ in Benghazi

    Saif el Islam, Gaddafi’s son speaking live on Libyan television says there is a plot to break Libya into small Islamic states.

    While admitting that the army and police made mistakes during protests, he said reported death tolls were exaggerated.

    He warned of a civil war that will burn Libya’s oil wealth and of a “foreign conspiracy by fellow Arabs” set in motion against Libya.

    He said protesters have seized control of some military bases and tanks.

    Appearing on Libyan state television Sunday night, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi warned of civil war in the country that would burn its oil wealth.

    He also acknowledged that the army made mistakes during protests because troops were not prepared to battle demonstrators.

    Address comes as security forces have shot dead scores of protesters in Libya’s second largest city, where residents said a military unit had joined their cause.


    The Guardian has Live Blogs covering Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Morocco.

    Al Jazeera English also has a Live Blog of Libya

    Up Date: 2/21 @ 0200hrs EST:

    Rights Advocate Warns Massacre Looming in Libya

    An official of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said her organization is increasingly concerned and seriously alarmed about what she described as the ongoing murder of unarmed protesters who are demanding reforms in Libya.

    Heba Fatma Morayef, researcher for the Rights Organization for Egypt and Libya, told VOA it appears is behind the shootings deaths of the unarmed protesters since the Tunisian and Egyptian-inspired protests in the North African country.

    “The overall death toll now is at 223 and that is just in the previous days. Regardless of who is doing the shooting, in this case, whether its mercenaries, whether its plainclothes individuals with weapons, the responsibility remains (for) the state to protect the demonstrators,” said Morayef.

    Oil Rises as Libya Violence Prompts Middle East Supply Concern

    Oil for April delivery rose for a fourth day in New York as violence escalated in Libya, bolstering concern supplies will be disrupted as turmoil spreads through the Middle East and North Africa.

    Crude gained as much as 2.2 percent after Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s son warned that a civil war would risk the country’s oil wealth. Security forces have launched attacks on anti-government protesters, killing more than 200 people, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. The North African nation, holder of the largest crude reserves on the continent, pumped 1.6 million barrels a day of oil in January, equivalent of about 8 percent of U.S. consumption.

    US condemns Libya crackdown

    Top US and EU diplomats denounce violence against protesters but stop short of calling for a change of government.

    Western countries have expressed concern at the rising violence against demonstrators in Libya.

    The United States said it was deeply concerned by credible reports of hundreds of deaths and injuries during protests in Libya, and urged the government to allow demonstrators to protest peacefully.

    “The United States is gravely concerned with disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “We have raised to a number of Libyan officials … our strong objections to the use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators.”

    The State Department said US embassy dependents were being encouraged to leave Libya and US citizens were urged to defer nonessential travel to the country.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice spoke out against brutal crackdowns on protesters in Libya and Bahrain but stopped short of calling for a change of government in any of the countries facing large protests.

    Gaddafi’s son warns of civil war

    Appearing on Libyan state television, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi says his father is in the country and has support of army.

    A son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has promised a programme of reforms after bloody protests against his father’s rule reached the capital, Tripoli.

    Saif al-Islam Gaddafi also hit out at those behind the violence. He said protests against his father’s rule, which have been concentrated in the east of the country, threatened to sink Libya into civil war and split the country up into several small states.

    Gaddafi’s turbulent US relations

    Libya has become a key player despite decades-long image of political pariah.

    A weedy, overgrown backyard in Englewood, New Jersey seemed likely for a time last week to become the scene of the latest flashpoint in Libyan-US relations.

    Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is planning his first visit to the US since he seized power in a military coup 40 years ago. He is set to address the yearly UN General Assembly in September.

    Now, wherever the long-time Libyan leader goes, he likes to take a little bit of Libya with him – in the form of a huge, air-conditioned Bedouin-style tent. He pitched his pavilion in the Kremlin during a visit to Moscow. In Rome, the tent sat prominently in a public park.

    Gaddafi initially planned to set up camp in Manhattan’s Central Park, but Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, said no dice.  So a squadron of gardeners and construction workers descended on the dilapidated estate of Libya’s UN ambassador in lovely Englewood, a suburb of 30,000 people with a large Orthodox Jewish community.

    You can guess what happened next. Protests were organised. Petitions were passed around. Lawsuits flew hither and yon.

    Perhaps unexpectedly, Gaddafi backed down. There will be no tent party in Englewood, and the Colonel will stick to Manhattan on his visit.

    Tunisia seeks Ben Ali’s extradition

    Officials have formally requested the extradition of former president from Saudi Arabia, where he fled last month.

    The 74-year-old former leader is reportedly very ill in hospital after suffering a stroke. Rumours are rife that the former leader might be dead.

    Moroccans march to seek change

    Demonstrators demand large-scale political and economic reforms in the North African kingdom.

    Calls for change sweeping the Arab world have now spread to the kingdom of Morocco, where thousands of people have taken to the streets in the capital to demand a new constitution.

    The demonstrators shouted slogans calling for economic opportunity, educational reform, better health services and help in coping with rising living costs during the march on central Hassan II Avenue in Rabat on Sunday.

    A protest organiser said the turnout at the rally was more than 5,000. But police said fewer than 3,000 people had marched.

    Many in the crowd waved Tunisian and Egyptian flags, in recognition of the uprisings that toppled the two country’s long-standing rulers.

    Algerian police break up protest

    Several people are injured and others are arrested as police thwart pro-democracy rally in capital Algiers, reports say.

    Algerian police in riot gear have used batons to break up a crowd of hundreds of opposition supporters trying to take part in a protest march inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world.

    Police brandishing clubs, but no firearms, weaved their way through the crowd in central Algiers on Saturday, banging their shields, tackling some protesters and keeping traffic flowing through the planned march route.

    Reports of new protests in Iran

    Security forces clashed with anti-government protesters and briefly detained the daughter of Iran’s former president.

    There are reports of renewed anti-government protests in Iran, with demonstrators taking to the streets in several cities across the country.

    There have also been clashes between protesters and security forces, posts on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter said on Sunday. There were also reports of one protester being shot dead in Tehran, a story denied by government official in state media.

    The official IRNA reported that Faezeh Rafsanjani, the daughter of ex-president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been among those arrested for particiapting in the protest. Fars news agency reported that she was released shortly thereafter.

    Shots fired at Yemen demonstration

    Leader of Yemen’s separatist movement arrested in Aden amid countrywide protests against President Saleh.

    Shots have been fired at a demonstration in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as anti-government protests in the impoverished Arab country entered their 11th consecutive day.

    Thousands of people also staged sit-ins in the cities of Ibb and Taiz on Sunday, demanding the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who renewed his call for opposition parties to pursue a dialogue with the government.

    Feb 18

    Reporting the Revolution: February 17 Up Date 1930 hrs EST

    Cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    class=”BrightcoveExperience”> The protests are spreading across the Middle East. What started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Iran, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain. Two protesters were killed in Manama, Bahrain as heavily armed police made an early morning raid on sleeping unarmed protesters in Pearl Square. Using tear gas and percussion grenades, many men, women and children were overcome and trampled in the chaos. Two people were reported killed and hundreds are in hospitals. In Libya protesters are preparing for a “day of rage” against the 40 year old repressive regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Two protesters were reported killed there yesterday

    The best English reporting is coming from Al Jazeera with a Live Blog from Bahrain

    The Guardian also continues with live updates from the region.

    Up Date: 1930 hrs EST Latest News Reports:

    Bahrain’s quiet anger turns to rage

    Demonstrators vow to avenge three men killed by police during a pre-dawn raid on their base camp in the centre of the capital

    The demonstrators have vowed to avenge three men killed by riot police during a pre-dawn raid on their base camp in the centre of the capital. The raid left their tent city in ruins and temporarily destroyed hopes of a peaceful change. They had spent the day regrouping inside the grounds of the hospital after being evicted from the Pearl Roundabout by up to 500 officers who attacked them shortly after 3.15am on Thursday.

    Their numbers had grown to around 4,000 by late afternoon, rallied by calls through social media and by a restless middle class, which until now had not been prominent in protests.

    Violent response to Bahrain protest

    Troops and tanks lock down capital of Manama after police smash into demonstrators in pre-dawn assault, killing four.

    Troops and tanks have locked down the Bahraini capital of Manama on Thursday after riot police swinging clubs and firing tear gas smashed into demonstrators in a pre-dawn assault, killing at least four people.

    Hours after the attack on Manama’s main Pearl Roundabout, the military announced a ban on gatherings, saying on state TV that it had “key parts” of the capital under its control.

    Khalid Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, justified the crackdown as necessary because the demonstrators were “polarising the country” and pushing it to the “brink of the sectarian abyss”.

    Speaking to reporters after meeting with his Gulf counterparts, he also said the violence was “regrettable”. Two people had died in police firing on the protesters prior to Thursday’s deadly police raid.

    Bahrain uses UK-supplied weapons in protest crackdown

    MoD to review arms export licences after Bahrain clears protesters with UK-made crowd-controls weapons such as teargas and stun grenades

    The British government has launched a review of arms exports to Bahrain after it emerged that the country’s security forces were supplied with weapons by the United Kingdom.

    After a bloody crackdown in the capital, Manama, left up to five people dead and more than 100 injured, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said the government will “urgently revoke licences if we judge that they are no longer in line with the [UK and European Union] criteria”.

    Bahrain security forces accused of deliberately recruiting foreign nationals

    Al Khalifa regime hires non-native Sunni Muslims in concerted effort to swing balance in Shia-majority Bahrain, say analysts

    Bahrain’s security forces are the backbone of the Al Khalifa regime, now facing unprecedented unrest after overnight shootings. But large numbers of their personnel are recruited from other countries, including Jordan, Pakistan and Yemen.

    Tanks and troops from Saudi Arabia were also reported to have been deployed in support of Bahraini forces.

    Precise numbers are a closely guarded secret, but in recent years the Manama government has made a concerted effort to recruit non-native Sunni Muslims as part of an attempt to swing the demographic balance against the Shia majority – who make up around 65% of the population of 1 million.

    Libya’s day of rage met by bullets and loyalists

    Gaddafi supporters clash with protesters in al-Bayda and Benghazi on the second day of unrest in the country

    Libya’s government has brought out its supporters to express their loyalty to try to stifle a planned “day of rage”, but sporadic violence has continued in the east of the country, far from Tripoli.

    Unconfirmed reports said up to 15 people have now died in the unrest.

    Clashes were reported for a second day between supporters of Muammar Gaddafi and the relatives of two men killed during a protest in al-Bayda on Wednesday, when unrest also erupted in Benghazi, Libya’s second city and opposition stronghold.

    Snipers were said to have killed four more protesters in Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, where six more dead were reported by the Libya al-Yawm news website. “There are thousands of people in the centre of town, and it is spreading, and they are being repressed,” said Ramadan Jarbou, a leading local journalist.

    Egypt detains ex-ministers

    Three former ministers close to Mubarak held on suspicion of wasting public funds in an attempt to calm public outrage.

    An Egyptian prosecutor on Thursday ordered the detention of three ex-ministers and a prominent businessman pending

    trial on suspicion of wasting public funds.

    The prosecutor dealing with financial crimes said former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli, former Tourism Minister Zuhair Garana, former Housing Minister Ahmed el-Maghrabi and steel magnate Ahmed Ezz must be held for 15 days.

    All four have denied any wrongdoing.

    ElBaradei criticizes Egypt’s military rulers

    Egypt’s new military rulers came under criticism Thursday from a leading democracy advocate as well as from youth and women’s groups for what they say is a failure to make decisions openly and include a larger segment of society.

    Five days after ousting Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising, Egyptians continued protests and strikes over a host of grievances from paltry wages to toxic-waste dumping. They defied the second warning in three days from the ruling Armed Forces Supreme Council to halt all labor unrest at a time when the economy is staggering.

    The caretaker government also gave its first estimate of the death toll in the 18-day uprising. Health Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid said at least 365 civilians died according to a preliminary count that does not include police or prisoners

    Yemen clerics urge unity government

    Influential group of clerics demand transitional unity government, as two demonstrators are shot in continuing violence.

    A group of senior clerics in Yemen has called for the formation of a national unity government in order to save the country from chaos.

    The influential figures are demanding a transitional unity government that would see the opposition represented in key ministries, followed by elections in six months.

    They say the move would place Yemen in the same situation as Egypt and Tunisia, without suffering bloodshed.

    Their comments on Thursday came amid fresh clashes between thousands of pro- and anti-government protesters in Sanaa, the capital.

    Feb 15

    The US Constitution Has Been Suspended by the GOP

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    While we were watching the Egyptians take back their country, our so-called representatives in the House were destroying ours. From John Nichols at The Nation:

    House GOP Rejects Requirement That PATRIOT Act Surveillances Be Conducted in Complaince With Constitution

    Less than a month after making a show of reading the U.S. Constitution into the Congressional Record, the leaders of the Republican-controlled U.S. House enginnered a vote to extend the surveillance authorities that both the Bush and Obama administrations have used to conduct “roving surveillance” of communications, to collect and examine business recordsand to target individuals who are not tied to terrorist groups for surveillance.

    While most Democrats opposed the extension of the surveillance authorities — rejecting aggressive lobbying by the Obama administration and its allies in the House GOP leadership — overwhelming Republican support won approval of the legislation on a a 275-144 vote. Thus, the supposedly Constitution-obsessed House has endorsed a measure that is widely seen — not just by Democrats and progressives but by Republicans and conservatives — as a constant threat to privacy protections outlined in the document’s 4th Amendment.

    As Michelle Richardson, the legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, noted Monday night: “It has been nearly a decade since the Patriot Act was passed and our lawmakers still refuse to make any meaningful changes to this reactionary law. The right to privacy from government is a cornerstone of our country’s foundation and Americans must be free from the kind of unwarranted government surveillance that the Patriot Act allows. If Congress cannot take the time to insert the much needed privacy safeguards the Patriot Act needs, it should allow these provisions to expire.”

    The 275 votes for extending the surveillance authorities came from 210 Republicans and 65 Democrats.


    More remarkable was the House vote on a motion offered by the Democrats, which sought to recommit the bill with instructions to add language ensuring that surveillances would only be conducted in compliance with the U.S. Constitution.

    That motion lost on a 234-186 vote.

    144 Americans stood up against this, 127 Democrats that included Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Michigan’s John Conyers, and 27 Republicans. Patriots all.

    Feb 15

    The Federal Budget Battles on the Backs of the Poor

    The White House unveiled their proposals for the Federal Budget for 2012 that begins October 1. Keep in mind that the budget for 2011 has yet to be passed, thanks to the Democrats not being able to rein in their “mavericks” and the penchant for the White House capitulate to Republican demands. As promised, the White House budget does not mention Social Security which has set the Republicans in the House and Senate to whining that it is the President’s responsibility, not theirs, to swing the ax on “entitlements”. While Obama opened the door to this by loading his deficit commission with the likes of Alan Simpson, he has finally recognized that cutting Social Security benefits in any way will be political suicide in 2012. So wisely, he has left it to the Republicans and they are not about to take any responsibility for it.

    The rest of the White House budget is pretty dismal. While there are proposals for education, high-speed rail and infrastructure, it does that by shifting money from other vital programs like heating assistance, wage freezes and other draconian cuts mostly affecting those who can least afford it. The President’s proposed budget will allegedly cut the deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years while still creating creating jobs.

    The exchange this morning on CNN with Sen. Jeff Sessions, (R-AL) attacking the Obama budget with the argument that “our cuts are better than your cuts” and trying to pass the buck back to Obama on Social Security cuts. This would really funny if it weren’t so devastating to the majority if Americans and the poor

    “A one trillion reduction is insignificant,” Sessions insists. “This is nowhere near what’s necessary to avoid the fiscal nightmare that this nation is facing. … It doesn’t touch any of the entitlements, it only has some reductions in the discretionary accounts.”

    That’s a slow ball, right over the center of the plate if your job is to reinforce conventional wisdom, and the anchor, Kiran Chetry, knocks it out of the park. “At what point does everybody get together and just say, ‘Alright, it’s time to tackle these bigger issues: Raising the Social Security retirement age. Medicare doesn’t just go to everybody.’ When is that gonna be tackled.”

    But, Sessions responds, on tough issues over which Congress has the ultimate say, it’s the President’s job to take all the political risk!

    “We’ve heard nothing from our chief executive, the President of the United States,” he said.

    The MSM is still perpetuating the lie that Social Security has to be cut when the truth is that it is the one safety net program that has not added one cent to the deficit. If the fund had not been raided to pay for illegal wars and tax cuts for the rich by the Bush administration, the fund would be solvent well into the next century,even wit the influx of the “Boomer” generation. Social Security is not an entitlement.

    The Republican budgets would have the same results on the deficit, the difference being that the Republican budget does not create any jobs but would actually kill any chance of job creation by slashing:

    • High speed rail investments ($5 billion)
    • COPS Hiring (supporting local law enforcement) ($298 million)
    • High School Graduation Initiative ($50 million)
    • Weatherization assistance program ($210 million)
    • National Park Service climate change monitoring and response ($4.5 million)
    • Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($86 million)
    • Green Jobs Innovation Fund ($40 million)

    and that is only the tip of the proposed Republican cuts.

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon is requesting its largest budget since World War II with Defense Secretary Gates insisting that $553 billion price tag for 2012 is the “the minimum level of funding we can live with.” The promised cuts of $78 billion over 5 years won’t start until 2014 and 2015.

    As Center for American Progress senior fellow and President Reagan’s former assistant secretary of defense Larry Korb points out, Obama’s request is “5% higher than what the Defense Department plans to spend this year. In inflation-adjusted dollars, this figure is higher than at any time during the Bush years or during the Cold War.” In fact, the total military budget this year “comes in at a thumping $750 billion – an annual tax of more than $7,000 on every household in the country.” And while there are clear ways to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget, it seems that many in the GOP have no intention of doing so.

    (emphasis mine)

    Obama and the Democratic has accomplished more than either Bush or Cheney ever dreamed. They had a golden opportunity and totally wasted it. It is very possible that the economy will sink back into another recession worse than the last one.

    Feb 14

    Reporting the Revolution: February 14

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    class=”BrightcoveExperience”>With Hosni Mubarak gone and rumors running rampant on his fortune, health and whereabouts, promises of democracy and reform from the military, one would think that the revolution was finished. Today, despite threats of arrest and pleas to go back to work, thousands of striking workers took to the streets again in Tahrir Square and across Egypt demanding better pay and working conditions. Even the police held a demonstration. Even though the internet and phone service is working, the press is still being harassed. There have been reports of camera equipment confiscated, reporters taken into custody and the military has ordered Al Jazeera to stop filming the protests. However, the state media has now taken to praising the revolution with proclamations of “the people ousted the regime”.

    The military is walking a very fine line trying to get the economy running and a semblance of order so the government transition can progress to elections in September, as hoped. Banks did not open today because of the continuing protests and tomorrow is a bank holiday. The military council has promised that banks will open on Wednesday.

    Protests in other countries are getting larger and louder, as the young Arabs grow weary of stifling regimes. There were many large demonstrations in Iran, Yemen, and Bahrain disregarding bans by governments and the strong presence of police and military.

    Guardian has a Live Blog from their reporters in Egypt and around the region refreshes automatically every minute. .

    The “Jasmine Revolution” that started in Tunisia is growing It is going to be an interesting summer.

    Here is a round up of news:

    Clashes reported in Iran protests

    Pro-reformist marches under way in Tehran despite a heavy security presence and police crackdown.

    There are reports in social media sites and non-state Iranian news sites of clashes between protesters and security forces in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

    Thousands of demonstrators were marching on Monday on Enghelab and Azadi streets [which connect and create a straight path through the city centre], with a heavy presence in Enghelab Square and Vali-Asr Street, according to these reports.

    Several clashes have been reported on Twitter, the micro-blogging site, with claims of some demonstrators being teargassed and others beaten and arrested.

    Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, in Tehran, confirmed reports that security forces used tear gas, pepper spray and batons against the protesters.

    She said up to 10,000 security forces had been deployed to prevent protesters from gathering at Azadi Square, where the marches, originating from various points in Tehran, were expected to converge.

    Young Arabs who can’t wait to throw off shackles of tradition

    The frustrated generation at the heart of the protests tell how their progress is being stifled by unemployment and corruption

    They live with their parents, hang out in cafes, Facebook their friends, study in their spare time, listen to local rappers – and despair about ever being able to get a good, fulfilling job and start a family. The young people at the vanguard of the protests sweeping the Arab world are an exasperated demographic, the lucky ones stuck in poorly paid jobs they hate, the unlucky ones touting degrees that don’t get them anywhere, an entire generation muzzled by tradition, deference and authoritarian rule.

    WikiLeaks cables: Egyptian military head is ‘old and resistant to change’

    US ambassador to Cairo gives his opinion on Muhammad Tantawi and number two general, Sami Enan

    Nothing Egypt’s military council has done in its past suggests it has the capacity or inclination to introduce speedy and radical change. Guaranteed its $1.3bn (£812m) annual grant from the US – a dividend from the Camp David peace accord with Israel – it has gained the reputation as a hidebound institution with little appetite for reform.

    Army urges Egyptians to end strikes

    Military council calls on workers to play their role in reviving the economy after almost three weeks of turmoil.

    Egypt state media changes sides

    Loyal government mouthpieces to the end of Mubarak’s rule, state-run media outlets now celebrate the revolution.

    Egyptian minds are opened

    Upheaval has opened the door to political and economic reform, but its most lasting effect may be psychological.

    Feb 12

    Under The Radar: Open Thread

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    Or the stuff you won’t hear from the MSM. The blogosphere is a big place and there is a lot going on that gets lost in all those pixels. The subtle background, the nuances to the top political news that don’t get aired in prime time. Lots of stories get buried or just ignored in news dumps. The White House does it all the time releasing stories late on Friday nights in hopes that in the rush to start the weekend and the media misses, or decides its not important enough.

    * Not really under the radar but with all the news breaking about Egypt it is in a “holding pattern”. From Politico:

    Sen. Jon Kyl announces his retirement from Senate

    Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl announced Thursday that he would retire after his current term, creating the fifth open seat Senate race of the 2012 cycle.

    Speaking at a press conference in Phoenix, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate said, “There’s more to life than being a United States senator. I never anticipated I would be in public service for 26 years.”

    * A list of the “insane” witnesses that testified before Ron Paul’s House Energy and Commerce committee. Be prepared, the next two years are going to be quite amusing.

    The Parade of the Republican “Kooks” and Shills

    Testifying on the GOP’s behalf today: A man who calls Lincoln a “horrific tyrant” and an all-star cast of polluters

    The Koch brothers have bought the government on e congress critter at a time. The Koch Committee’s Big Oil Witnesses For Upton-Inhofe Pollution Act

    Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), who has received $9,000 from Koch Industries since 2008, will chair the subcommittee hearing on the Upton-Inhofe “Energy Tax Prevention Act,” hatched at a secret meeting between the bill’s sponsors and polluter lobbyists. The Republican witness list is a cavalcade of the nation’s worst polluters and oil-funded ideologues.

    * The subjucation and legalized murder of women sponsored by the American Taliban.

    ‘Forcible Rape’ Language Remains In Bill To Restrict Abortion Funding

    by Amanda Terkel

    WASHINGTON — After significant public blowback, House Republicans last week promised to drop a controversial provision in their high-priority No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that would redefine rape. But almost a week later, that language is still in the bill.

    Last week, a spokesman for the bill’s principal sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), said, “The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment.” The Hyde Amendment bans taxpayer dollars from being used for abortions, except in cases of incest and rape — not just “forcible rape,” as the Smith bill, H.R. 3, would have it.

    But as The New York Times first noted on Wednesday, the “forcible rape” language remains. Ilan Kayatsky, a spokesman for New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top-ranking Democrat on the House judiciary subcommittee focusing on constitutional issues, told The Huffington Post that while Nadler hopes the bill will soon be changed, they have been treating it as it’s written.

    Feb 11

    Reporting the Revolution: Day 18

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    This is a Live Blog and will be updated as the news is available. You can follow the latest reports from AL Jazeera English and Al-Masry Al-Youm: English Edition

    class=”BrightcoveExperience”>The Guardian has a Live Blog from their reporters in Egypt that refreshes automatically every minute.

    Al Jazeera has a Live Blog for Feb 11

    Also follow the Live blog at mishima’s Ignoring Asia.

    As you can see we now have the live feed from Al Jazeera English.

    Last night’s announcement by President Hosni Mubarak that he was not leaving office infuriated the Egyptian people who immediately marched from Tahrir Square through dark Cairo streets to the building of the state run television station for a loud but peaceful demonstration. Today portends to be another day of peaceful marches and protests with a planned march from Tahrir Square to the Presidential Palace. Protests are planned throughout the country but everyone is anxious with the rise in anger and Vice President Omar Suleiman’s speech that was taken as an offensive. Al Jazeera is reporting that “Egyptian military’s supreme council has held an ‘important’ meeting and will issue a statement soon”. So far the military has remained on the sidelines. They were, however, embarrassed by Mubarak’s continued refusal to leave office since they had made public announcement that indicated that the protesters demands were going to be met. Day eighteen promises to be large and loud and let us all hope peaceful and successful.

    Here is some of the current news as the day has already begun in Egypt.

    Mubarak’s defiance could spell disaster

    The stubbornness of the beleaguered Egyptian president has embarrassed the army and endangered the people

    Mubarak’s speech came at the end of an extraordinary day during which all the evidence seemed to indicate decisive intervention by the military, with officers telling protesters in Tahrir Square that their demands would be met.

    Even more significantly, state TV broadcast pictures of the higher armed forces council meeting without Mubarak, the commander-in-chief, reinforcing the impression the generals and the defence minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, were moving against him. Tantawi is said to be close to and in close contact with the US government.

    The council’s statement – the title “communique number one” redolent of past military interventions in Egypt and across the Arab world – said it would “remain in continuous session to discuss what measures and arrangements could be taken to safeguard the homeland and its achievements, and the aspirations of the great Egyptian people”. Omar Ashour, an Egyptian academic at Exeter University, said: “We may be seeing factional fighting inside the regime and in the end the Mubarak faction won. Or maybe we see him attempting to cling to power regardless of the views of the military. This is certainly embarrassing for them.”

    Mohamed ElBaradei, the nearest the fractured opposition has to a single well-known leader, said Egypt’s fate now lay in the hands of the military. “The army must save the country now,” he said.

    Military Caught Between Mubarak and Protesters

    WASHINGTON – Even as pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo have riveted the world’s attention for 17 days, the Egyptian military has managed the crisis with seeming finesse, winning over street protesters, quietly consolidating its domination of top government posts and sidelining potential rivals for leadership, notably President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal.

    Then came Thursday, a roller coaster of a day on which the military at first appeared to be moving to usher Mr. Mubarak from the scene – and then watched with the world as Mr. Mubarak clung to his title, delegating some powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice president and former longtime intelligence chief.

    The standoff between the protest leaders and Mr. Mubarak, hours before major demonstrations set for Friday, could pose a new dilemma for military commanders. Mr. Suleiman called for an end to demonstrations, and Human Rights Watch said this week that some military units had been involved in detaining and abusing protesters. But by most accounts, army units deployed in Cairo and other cities have shown little appetite for using force to clear the streets.

    Barack Obama impatient for credible transition in Egypt

    US president says Egyptian government has yet to put forward a ‘credible, concrete and unequivocal path to democracy’ after Mubarak refuses to step down

    Barack Obama expressed dismay at the failure of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to stand down and said the Egyptian government has yet to put forward a “credible, concrete and unequivocal path to democracy”, as Egypt braced itself for what demonstrators predicted would be the biggest protests yet.

    The US president’s patience appeared to be nearing its end after being wrong-footed and embarrassed earlier in the day by an expectation that Mubarak was planning to stand down.

    American unhappiness with Mubarak was echoed by European leaders.

    The White House, the state department and the Pentagon will be seeking explanations from their counterparts in Egypt as to what went wrong. Obama’s critics claimed he had been set up and the incident reflected his naivety.

    The Obama administration had hinted early on Thursday that Mubarak was on the eve of departure. The CIA director, Leon Panetta, giving evidence before the House intelligence committee, predicted there was a “a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down” by the end of the day.

    U.S. Intelligence Chief Defends Reports on Egypt

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. director of national intelligence sought Thursday to defend the intelligence community against criticism that it had failed to more clearly warn of the recent crisis in Egypt, saying that the buildup of potentially explosive pressures had been amply reported but that the specific triggers to action were far harder to predict.

    “We are not clairvoyant,” said the director, James R. Clapper Jr., at a hearing of the House intelligence committee.

    The intelligence community has faced criticism for failing to provide a clearer warning, or more timely descriptions, of the fast-moving developments in Egypt. President Barack Obama and other top administration officials have repeatedly seemed to be scrambling to catch up with events.

    But Mr. Clapper, and also Leon E. Panetta, the director of central intelligence, suggested that it would always be difficult to know precisely when a potentially critical situation would turn explosive – to know, for example, when a frustrated merchant in Tunisia would set himself afire, an event that indirectly fed into the Egyptian crisis.

    Europe’s Foreign Policy Chief, Struggling for Mandate, Faces Criticism on Uprisings

    PARIS – After President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt refused to step down on Thursday night, infuriating demonstrators in his country, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, issued a sharp statement saying that “the time for change is now” and that Mr. Mubarak “has not yet opened the way to faster and deeper reforms.”

    Her rapid response was a marked change from the past few weeks, when she has been increasingly criticized as being painfully slow to respond to the crisis in Egypt and elsewhere, and as simply following an American script that has shifted several times with the flow of events.

    It has been very difficult for Ms. Ashton, whose job was created in December 2009 by the Lisbon Treaty, to get ahead of the curve.

    She must maneuver among the 27 member states – all with their own foreign ministers – as well as the European Union bureaucracy and the European Commission, run by José Manuel Barroso, who has foreign policy aspirations of his own. She is still struggling to build a staff and a new European diplomatic corps, and she must cobble together money and agreed positions from all the members.

    Iran Presses Opposition to Refrain From Rally

    TEHRAN – Iran’s authorities have increased pressure on the country’s political opposition days before a rally proposed by opposition leaders in support of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

    Security forces stationed outside the home of the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, one of the country’s most prominent opposition leaders, prevented Mr. Karroubi’s son from seeing his father on Thursday, according to the son, Hossein.

    In an interview with an Arabic-language news Web site, Al Arabiya, Hossein Karroubi, who is politically active, said that the security forces told him that other family members, except his mother, were also barred from seeing his father.

    The elder Mr. Karroubi and another government critic, Mir Hussein Moussavi, had submitted a formal request to the government to hold the rally on Feb. 14. Opposition Web sites have also reported the arrest of a number of people associated with the two opposition leaders. On Wednesday night, Taghi Rahmani, an activist close to Mr. Karroubi, and Mohammad-Hossein Sharifzadegan, a former welfare minister and an adviser to Mr. Moussavi, were arrested at their homes by Iran’s security forces. The Web sites also reported Thursday that two reformist journalists had been arrested.

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