Pro-democracy protests in Egypt have entered their 14th day as thousands of activists remain in Tahrir Square in Cairo calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. On Sunday, Egypt’s newly appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, held talks with a series of opposition groups including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition group that has been banned in Egypt since 1954. During an interview on ABC, Suleiman said Mubarak could not resign before his term ends later this year.
Omar Suleiman: “We don’t want chaos in our country. If President Mubarak would say that ’I’m leaving now,’ who will take over? In the constitution, that means the speaker will take over. I think, with this atmosphere, that means the other people who have their own agenda will make instability in our country.”
Many of the pro-democracy protesters rejected the talks, saying Mubarak and his colleagues must first leave office before political negotiations can occur.
Mahmoud, Egyptian protester: “We are asking for the change. We don’t want him anymore — him or his colleagues or his government. Imagine, everything is false. Our senators, they succeeded by false, by cheating the people, by police. Why this? We need change. We need to feel free. We need liberty.”
On Saturday, President Obama’s special envoy to Egypt, Frank Wisner, openly called for President Hosni Mubarak to stay in office. In a statement, Wisner said, “Mubarak must stay in office in order to steer those changes through. This is an ideal moment for him to show the way forward.” The White House has attempted to back away from Wisner’s comments, but the Obama administration has refused to call for Mubarak’s immediate resignation. President Obama spoke last night on Fox News.
President Obama: “Egypt is not going to go back to what it was. The Egyptian people want freedom, they want free and fair elections, they want a representative government, they want a responsible government. And so, what we’ve said is, 'You have to start a transition now.' Mubarak’s already decided he’s not running for re-election again. His term is up this year. And what we’ve said is, ’Let’s make sure that you get all the groups together in Egypt, let the Egyptian people make a determination on what’s the process for an orderly transition, but one that is a meaningful transition.’”
The Egyptian security forces continue to crack down on human rights workers and journalists. On Sunday, authorities detained Ayman Mohyeldin, the Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English. He was held for seven hours and then released.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush has been forced to cancel a planned trip to Switzerland after human rights attorneys threatened to take legal action against him for sanctioning the use of torture. The trip to Geneva was supposed to be Bush’s first to Europe since leaving office. He was scheduled to speak next Saturday at a dinner in honor of United Israel Appeal. The Center for Constitutional Rights said they had planned to bring a complaint against Bush under the Convention Against Torture on behalf of two men who were tortured by U.S. interrogators and held at the military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In addition, Amnesty International said it had sent a detailed analysis to Swiss prosecutors, claiming there was sufficient information to open a criminal investigation against Bush.
Matthew Pollard, attorney with Amnesty International: “Well, what we’re specifically bringing to the attention of the Swiss authorities are statements that Mr. Bush himself made in early November 2010, both on broadcast television in the United States and also in print in his memoirs that were published also at the end of2010, in which he, without any apology, admits that he authorized specifically the waterboarding of several identified individuals in particular cases.”
The U.S. official unemployment rate dipped to nine percent in January, but only 36,000 new jobs were added to the economy. The only reason the level dropped was because the number of unemployed workers who have given up looking for work rose by 200,000 to 2.8 million. These former workers are no longer considered part of the labor force and are not counted in the unemployment rate.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were unemployed in the month of January, that’s the highest level since the bureau began collecting data on veterans in 2005. According to the government, 15.2 percent of veterans were out of work in January, up from 12.6 percent the same month a year ago. Veterans advocates warn the numbers could increase as the U.S. military begins winding down operations in Afghanistan and veterans return home looking for work.
Corporate America has sent Republican lawmakers a wish list of more than 150 government rules and regulations that they want to see rolled back or preempted. Rep. Darrell Issa of California had asked the oil industry, drug manufacturers, healthcare providers and telecom firms to tell him which government regulations he should target this year as the new chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. According to the Washington Post, the Business Roundtable voiced concern over executive pay disclosures. The coal mining company Murray Energy said that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas and clean air rules “must be stopped immediately.” At least 13 industry groups targeted the EPA’s proposed attempt to regulate coal ash. Also under scrutiny is a Federal Aviation Administration plan to combat pilot fatigue by mandating more rest time between shifts.
The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has started a lobbying firm in an effort to become the “ambassador to the Tea Party movement.” Virginia Thomas has promised to use her “experience and connections” to help clients of her new firm Liberty Consulting raise money and increase their political impact. Legal experts say the news could raise a number of ethical questions for Justice Thomas.
In Iran, the trial has begun for three American hikers who were arrested in June 2009 on spying charges after they allegedly crossed into Iran from Iraq. Freelance journalist Shane Bauer and his friend Josh Fatal have been detained for 18 months. Bauer’s fiancée Sarah Shourd spent 14 months in jail before being released on bail in September. Last week she was summoned to Iran for the trial but remains in the United States. All three have pleaded not guilty. During the trial, Shane Bauer said they were arrested while vacationing in the region.
Shane Bauer: “I was in Iraq and Kurdistan as a tourist with my fiancée Sarah, Josh, and our friend Sean.”
Masoud Shafiee, an attorney for the three, complained about the proceedings because he was not allowed to meet with his clients until just before the trial began.
Masoud Shafiee: “At this stage of the case, despite repeated requests, I have still not had permission to see Shane or Josh. However, we have spoken to the judge, who has arranged for me to have access to Shane and Josh one or two hours before the 10:00 a.m. trial.”
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets this weekend to complain of limited electricity, shoddy water and sewage services, and potential layoffs in government jobs. In the city of Basra, approximately 1,500 protesters got into a shoving match with riot police while demonstrators presented provincial officials a list of demands. In a press conference on Sunday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced he would increase monthly food rations for all Iraqis by about $12.
The founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is back in a London court today fighting extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sex crimes.
A Florida man is accused of stabbing another man in the neck after learning he was Muslim. According to an arrest affidavit, Samad Ebadi told 52-year-old Bradley Kent Strott he was a Muslim. Investigators say Strott then grabbed Ebadi by his shirt and stabbed him in the neck with a pocket knife. Strott then reportedly told Ebadi that “Muslims are the root of the problems.” Ebadi was treated for his wound and was not seriously hurt.
The internet firm AOL has agreed to buy the Huffington Post website for $315 million. Under the deal, Arianna Huffington will oversee editorial content on the Huffington Post and other AOL-owned sites.