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The Egyptian military has imposed martial law and suspended the constitution following Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation on Friday after nearly three decades in power. Millions of Egyptians erupted in joy after learning the Mubarak regime had fallen, following 18 days of street protests led by the Egyptian youth and recently fueled by the labor movement.
bq.Mohammad Jamal: “It’s not only today — the celebration has been going on for almost 19 days now — that people are celebrating the love for the country and wanting to change and wanting to become a better country, wanting to be looked as — to be looked to from the rest of the world as a respected place. We are young people, and we can make a change. And this is what we proved in this place, in Tahrir Square.”
Egypt’s military council says it plans to rule the country until democratic elections can be held. Parliament was dissolved on Sunday, but former President Hosni Mubarak’s cabinet will stay on. The military has vowed to rewrite Egypt’s constitution within 10 days, but many questions remain over the military’s role. The military issued a rule today banning meetings by labor unions, effectively forbidding strikes. While protesters celebrated the fall of Mubarak, many criticized the army’s decision not to immediately lift the emergency law.
bq.Khaled Said: “Our demands: number one, put an end to the emergency law and achieving public freedom; two, initiation of a coexistent government to fix the constitution — the interim government has to take the following steps: put corrupt people on trial, freeze their assets and start up factories and ministries; three, dissolving both the People’s Assembly and the upper house of parliament.”
The popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia are continuing to inspire protests across the region. In the Gulf nation of Bahrain, at least 14 protesters have been hurt after police used tear gas and rubber bullets on a crowd of demonstrators earlier today. The protesters were demanding the release of 450 jailed political activists and the dismantling of the state security forces. In a move to quell a populist uprising, the Bahraini king recently ordered the payment of nearly $2,700 to every family. Bahrain is the home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, making it a key strategic ally for the United States.
The Yemini government has been accused of violently suppressing anti-government protesters over the past three days. According to Human Rights Watch, security forces used electroshock tasers and batons against the demonstrators. In addition, hundreds of pro-government supporters armed with knives, sticks and assault rifles attacked a peaceful gathering on Friday. Protesters in Yemen are calling for the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for three decades.
Protests have also spread to Algeria, where police arrested up to 400 demonstrators over the weekend. Earlier today the Algerian government said it will end its 19-year-old state of emergency “within days.”
The Iranian government has placed opposition leader Hossein Mousavi under house arrest ahead of a scheduled protest today in Tehran. There are reports that Iranian authorities have also cut the phone lines to his house and have cordoned off his house to prevent him from attending the rally.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has dissolved his cabinet just months before the Palestinians’ plan to hold elections in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has already asked Fayyad to remain as prime minister. Meanwhile, the top Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has resigned after a series of embarrassing documents were leaked to and published by Al Jazeera in what has become known as the “Palestinian Papers.”
President Obama has proposed to reduce the federal deficit by $1.1 trillion over 10 years. The plan includes calls for slashing federal assistance for the working poor and reducing aid to help the needy heat their homes. Obama’s proposal also calls for cutting Community Development Block Grants by $300 million and for a five-year spending freeze on non-security discretionary spending.
President Obama: “My budget freezes annual domestic spending for the next five years — even on programs I care deeply about — which will reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade. This freeze will bring this type of spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.”
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed a bill that would eliminate almost all collective bargaining rights for most public workers as well as slash pay and cut benefits with no negotiation. Walker has also notified the state’s National Guard to be on alert for actions taken by unsatisfied state, county and municipal employees. Journalist John Nichols has been writing about the governor’s power grab in The Nation magazine.
bq.John Nichols: “It’s easily the most radical assault on labor unions, particularly public labor unions, but really labor in general, that any Republican has initiated in decades, and it’s caused an incredible outcry in Wisconsin. There have already been a number of major demonstrations. There are expected to be many more. But this is coming to a head quickly.”
In economic news, the U.S. Department of Treasury has outlined a plan to slowly dissolve Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored programs that own or guarantee about half of all mortgages in the United States. Housing advocates say the closing of Fannie and Freddie would likely make it more expensive for borrowers to buy a home and thus restrict the availability of mortgages.
Hundreds of thousands of Italian women took part in rallies on Sunday to show their opposition to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is embroiled in an underage prostitution scandal. Protests were organized in more than 200 towns and cities throughout Italy. Last week, prosecutors filed a request to bring Berlusconi to trial, accusing him of paying for sex with a nightclub dancer when she was under 18 years old.
A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has issued an arrest warrant for exiled former President Pervez Musharraf in connection with the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Prosecutors have accused Musharraf of knowing about Taliban plans to kill Bhutto but not passing on that information to authorities.
U.S. officials have called off scheduled talks with Pakistani and Afghan officials amid growing diplomatic tensions between the United States and Pakistan. The United States did not provide specific reasons for its postponement, though the imprisonment of a U.S. embassy official in Pakistan has strained U.S.-Pakistani ties. Raymond Allen Davis has admitted to killing two people he said threatened him while he was driving in Lahore last month. A third Pakistani was reportedly run over and killed by a U.S. consulate vehicle that arrived at the scene. The U.S. embassy claims Davis, a former Special Forces soldier, acted in self-defense and, as a diplomat, is entitled to immunity. Davis’s diplomatic status has been called into question. Pakistani media reports have suggested he is a CIA operative or private security contractor.
Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul has won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists. Paul edged out multi-millionaire Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, the group Young Americans for Freedom announced it was expelling Paul from its National Advisory Board because of the congressman’s antiwar politics.
A one-time aide to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been sentenced to 20 months for his connection to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. The aide, Michael Scanlon, was also ordered to repay $20 million to five Native American tribes whom he defrauded in a kickback scheme with Abramoff’s lobbying firm.
The president of the University of Puerto Rico has resigned following massive student protests against fee hikes. SWAT teams and riot squads have permanently occupied the campus and banned public protests and the distribution of leaflets. Hundreds of students have been arrested, and some have reported being beaten, including sexually harassed and tortured.
Fourteen people, including the 76-year-old writer and farmer Wendell Berry, spent the weekend locked inside the Kentucky governor’s office demanding an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. Wendell Berry spoke to journalist Jeff Biggers about why he was committing civil disobedience.
bq.Wendell Berry: “Over these years, there’s been one protest after another, one march on Frankfort after another, one visit to a legislator after another. And last year we visited the governor. And all this has been without any perceptible political effect, no acknowledgment even that the problems exist. And so, we’re doing this simply as the next logical step. We’ve exhausted all other possibilities.”
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