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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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Protesters in Egypt have called for a general strike today and a “million man march” on Tuesday in an attempt to force Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power. Over the past seven days, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have protested in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities in the largest protests Egypt has seen in decades. An estimated 150 protesters have been killed and thousands have been injured over the past week.
On Sunday, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei joined protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo. The former head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency called for Mubarak’s ouster.
Mohamed ElBaradei: “Today, as Egyptians, you have taken back your rights to life and freedom. What has begun cannot go back. As we said earlier, we have one main demand: the end of the regime and the beginning of a new stage.”
Several Egyptian opposition movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have expressed support for ElBaradei to negotiate with the Mubarak government.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an orderly transition to a democratic government in Egypt. But she refused to publicly urge President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Hillary Clinton: “Any efforts by this government to respond to the needs of their people, to take steps that will result in a peaceful orderly transition to a democratic regime, is what is in the best interests of everyone including the current government.”
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has predicted that Mubarak will have to resign because “the people have decided.” Carter, who brokered the existing peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, said, “This is the most profound situation in the Middle East since I left office.”
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports Israeli diplomats are urging the United States and European nations to mute criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the Middle East.
In response to the massive street protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has sworn in a new cabinet and named former Air Force commander Ahmed Shafik to be prime minister, and Omar Suleiman to be vice president, a position that has been unfilled for three decades. Suleiman is Egypt’s former intelligence chief. He has close ties to Washington and played a key role in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program.
The Hosni Mubarak government has also intensified its efforts to silence critics of the regime. In addition to shutting down Internet and mobile phone communications across the country, Egyptian authorities closed Al Jazeera’s Egyptian office and removed the news station from a main satellite operator. Six Al Jazeera journalists were arrested earlier today in Cairo and had their equipment seized.
Mustafa Souag, Al Jazeera’s news director: “This is going to make it a little bit more difficult for our journalists to work, of course. I mean, the foreclosure of our office in Egypt is the latest in a series of moves by the Egyptian authorities trying to silence Al Jazeera as a way to prevent its citizens and the rest of the world from knowing what’s going on.”
The protests in Egypt have had reverberations across the Arab world. Over the weekend, demonstrators took to the streets in Jordan, Yemen and Sudan. In Jordan, activists demonstrated near the prime minister’s office in Amman.
Saed Darwazeh: “We are asking to do major changes in the political and economical system in Jordan, on top of that, to change the current government as they are responsible for increasing the poverty, the unemployment rate and all the economical situation currently in Jordan. People are suffering more and more, and the economical situation is going down the drain.”
In Yemen, nine protesters were injured by police on Saturday as they attempted to march to the Egyptian embassy in Sana’a.
In Sudan, police have beaten and tear-gassed student protesters in the capital city Khartoum. At least one student reportedly has died. Earlier today, police surrounded universities in Khartoum and other cities in an effort to prevent more anti-government protests.
Authorities in Southern Sudan have announced that 99 percent of voters in the region have opted to secede from the country’s northern region.
A 63-year-old U.S. Army veteran from California has been arrested after allegedly threatening to blow up a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan. Roger Stockham was arrested last week while sitting in his vehicle outside the Islamic Center of America with a load of M-80 fireworks and other explosives in his trunk, as well as a concealed knife. At the time of his arrest, several hundred people were inside the mosque attending a funeral. Police say Stockham drove from California to Michigan to carry out the attack because of the state’s large Muslim population. The mosque is one of the largest in the country.
The Washington Post is reporting Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal now totals more than 100 deployed weapons, a doubling of its stockpile over the past several years. Pakistan is now believed to have produced more nuclear-armed weapons than its rival India, but India is said to have a larger existing stockpile of fissile material for future weapons.
In California, 25 people were arrested Sunday while protesting outside a resort in Rancho Mirage where conservative lawmakers and business executives met for a political strategy session hosted by Charles and David Koch. The billionaire Koch brothers have helped bankroll the Tea Party movement and many conservative organizations. Greenpeace flew a blimp over the desert resort. The blimp featured a large sign reading “Koch Brothers Dirty Money.”
Greenpeace activist: “Greenpeace is here to send a message to the Koch brothers and the attendees of their secret strategy meeting to get their dirty money out of our democracy and stop blocking progress on climate and clean energy policies.”
A new report suggests the FBI may have violated the law 40,000 times since the September 11 attacks in its use of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance powers. Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation show that from 2001 to 2008, the FBI reported nearly 800 violations of surveillance law and the Constitution. Based on the rate of reporting of violations, the EFF estimates the actual number of FBI violations is much higher. Approximately one-third of the 800 confirmed violations involve National Security Letters, which give the FBI the ability to request information about suspects with little judicial oversight.
In business news, Goldman Sachs has tripled the base salary for chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and awarded him more than $12 million in stock. Blankfein’s base salary was increased from $600,000 to $2 million.
Alpha Natural Resources has purchased Massey Energy for $8.6 billion. The merger will create the second-largest U.S. coal company in the United States. Last April, 29 miners died in an explosion at a West Virginia mine owned by Massey.
In Ohio, a single mother of two was released from jail last week after serving nine days for falsifying records so her two daughters could attend a better school. Kelley Williams-Bolar, a 40-year-old African American teaching assistant for kids with special needs, was convicted of using her father’s address to claim residency status allowing her children to attend a higher-performing suburban school. Williams-Bolar’s conviction comes with an additional punishment. She is only a few credits shy of earning her teaching degree, but under Ohio law, a felony conviction will prevent her from obtaining her teaching license. She plans to appeal the case.
Brooklyn College in New York City is coming under criticism for dismissing an adjunct professor after a local politician claimed the professor was biased against Israel. Kristofer Petersen-Overton was let go last week, one day after New York Democratic State Assemblyman Dov Hikind complained about the professor’s politics. Petersen-Overton said he was dismissed before he even had a chance to teach his first class, a graduate seminar on Middle East politics.
Kristofer Petersen-Overton: “It seemed that one of the students in the class googled me and took objection to some of the political stances I’ve taken in the past vis-a-vis the Israeli, Palestinian conflict. They expressed these concerns to the head of the department, he asked her to wait until the class actually began before continuing to complain; unfortunately she didn’t. She started spreading this around on the blogs and quite quickly in fact, disturbingly fast, a campaign to vilify me was spread all over the internet.”
A trial has begun for an Arizona woman accused of killing a nine-year-old girl and her father in May of 2009. Shawna Forde is accused of orchestrating a murder and robbery at the home of Raul Flores, Jr., in order to fund her border vigilante group, the Minutemen American Defense.