Turmoil Spreads in Arab World

Fallout from a wave of anti-government protests continued to spread across the Middle East on Tuesday, plunging the region into instability as governments wavered between cracking down and giving into demands. Most governments are responding to the protests with a combination of reconciliation and police pressure in the hopes they can survive the wave of anti-government sentiment. Yemen’s president said he would not run for re-election. Jordan’s king, Abdullah II, dismissed his Cabinet and pledged to initiate political reforms. Steven Heydemann, a Middle East analyst at the U.S. Institute of Peace, .said he didn’t believe the revolts would have the same outcome as Egypt and Tunisia, where the majority of people seemed to coalesce behind the protests. Many of the countries have the same complaints — a lack of jobs and political repression — but they don’t have the cohesion seen in revolts in Egypt and Tunisia (see below for country-by-country details).

FBI: 100 Percent Chance of WMD Attack

The probability that the U.S. will be hit with a weapons of mass destruction attack at some point is 100 percent, Dr. Vahid Majidi, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, tells Newsmax. Such an attack could be launched by foreign terrorists, lone wolves who are terrorists, or even by criminal elements, Majidi says. It would most likely employ chemical, biological, or radiological weapons rather than a nuclear device. As it is, Majidi says, American intelligence picks up hundreds of reports each year of foreign terrorists obtaining Weapons of Mass Destruction. Majidi’s directorate within the FBI investigates more than a dozen cases in the U.S. each year where there was intent to use WMD.

House of Representatives Votes to Extend Patriot Act

The House of Representatives Monday night approved a nine-month extension of the Patriot Act after rejecting the same proposal a week ago. Last week, 277 lawmakers voted yea. But that fell just short of the required two-thirds threshold. Finding a supermajority wasn’t a problem Monday night as the House considered the bill under regular rules that mandate just a simple majority for passage. This bill cruised to approval, 275 to 144. The Patriot Act extensions deal with special “roving” wiretaps, which allow law enforcement officials to use one search warrant to monitor a suspect’s calls, even if he or she skips from phone to phone. Traditional search warrants only apply to a single telephone line. The bill also grants anti-terrorism officials the authority to search library records. The Senate still has to act before the bill expires in a few weeks.

State Dept. Taps Twitter to Reach Iranians

After watching Facebook and other social media help grass-roots movements toss repressive regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, the State Department is turning to Twitter to encourage opposition groups in Iran, where thousands clashed with police Monday in the country’s largest gathering of anti-government protesters in more than a year. The State Department began tweeting messages in Farsi on Sunday on two Twitter accounts: “U.S. calls on Iran to allow people to enjoy same universal rights to peacefully assemble, demonstrate as in Cairo,” they posted. The United States stands with cyber dissidents and democracy activists from the Middle East to China and beyond, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday. She pledged to expand the Obama administration’s efforts to foil Internet repression in autocratic states.

Ecuadoran Judge Fines Chevron $8 Billion for Amazon Pollution

A judge in Ecuador has fined Chevron $8 billion for decades of pollution by its Texaco division in the country’s Amazon rain forest. The ruling comes days after international arbitrators ordered Ecuador to not enforce any judgment against the oil giant. That action, which happened Wednesday, came a day after a New York judge issued a temporary restraining order stopping the plaintiffs from going overseas to seek enforcement of any court ruling against the company. In a statement, Chevron called the Ecuadoran court’s judgment “illegitimate and unenforceable,” “the product of fraud” and “contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence.” The company said it would appeal.

  • There’s no doubt that Chevron has severely damaged the Amazon rain forest, but such corporations are an important part of globalist strategies to impose a one-world government and empower international courts.

2 U.S. Immigration Agents Shot in Mexico

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was killed and another wounded while driving through northern Mexico Tuesday, in a rare attack on American officials in this country which is fighting powerful drug cartels. The two agents were driving in the northern state of San Luis Potosi when they were stopped at what appeared to be a military checkpoint. After they stopped, someone opened fire on them. U.S. and Mexican officials said they were working closely together to investigate the shooting and find those responsible.

Census Shows U.S. Blacks Moving South

The nation’s blacks are leaving big cities in the Northeast and Midwest at the highest levels in decades, returning to fast-growing states in the once-segregated South in search of better job opportunities and quality of life. The Southern U.S. region— primarily metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami and Charlotte, N.C. — accounted for roughly 75% of the population gains among blacks since 2000. The gains came primarily at the expense of Northern metro areas such as New York and Chicago, which posted their first declines in black population since at least 1980. In all, about 57% of U.S. blacks now live in the South, a jump from the 53% share in the 1970s.

Baby Boomers Flood Seminaries

Boomers are the fastest-growing demographic at U.S. divinity schools, according to the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). TIME reports that younger students under age 30 are still the biggest demographic in the student body, but those over 50 have jumped from 12 percent of students in 1994 to 20 percent in 2009. ATS says the slow economy and job loss may contribute to the trend, but doesn’t really explain it. “I wanted to give back in some way,” says the Rev. Bob Fellows, who completed his seminary training three years ago at the age of 58. He says, “As an older minister, I have a lot more useful life experience.”

Overall Church Membership Continues to Decline

Mainline Protestant denominations in the United States continue their decades-long membership decline, while the membership in Pentecostal churches are on the rise, according to new figures compiled by the National Council of Churches. The Roman Catholic Church (No. 1) and the Southern Baptist Convention (No. 2) are still significantly larger than all other North American denominations, but Catholics posted minimal growth of less than 1%, and Southern Baptist membership fell for a third straight year. The membership drop in mainline churches led to a 1% decrease in total U.S. church membership, to 145.8 million. The Presbyterian Church (USA) led with the greatest membership drop of the 25 largest denominations, down 2.6%. Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced the greatest growth percentage overall, gaining 4.4%.

Leviathan Sea Monster Fossil Found in Ancient Peruvian Seabed

The fossilized skull of a gigantic sea monster that attacked and ate whales was unearthed in an ancient seabed along the arid wilderness of the Peruvian coast. The remains of the incredible creature are so huge, researchers have dubbed it “the Leviathan.” The Leviathan, a terrifying behemoth of the deep, is described in the Bible’s Old Testament. The Hebrews called it one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper. Those that observed it in the waters far offshore claimed the horrible thing was the most terrifying creature in existence. Long thought to be a myth, the Leviathan has been found. The fossil is well-preserved and is a testament in living stone to the terrors of the seas.

Young Non-Drinkers Up in Down Economy

The tough economy appears to be having a sobering effect — literally — on incoming college freshmen. Some new surveys of high school students suggest increasing numbers are beginning college as teetotalers. Outside the Classroom, an organization that provides alcohol education training at colleges, finds that since 2006, the percentage of incoming freshmen who abstain from alcohol has jumped from 38% to 62%. Why the number of teetotaling 18-year-olds is up isn’t clear. CEO Brandon Busteed says the economy is a big reason. Students “are taking (college) more seriously because they realize it’s their future,” he says.

Veterans: Military Rape Cases Botched

A group of U.S. veterans who say they were raped, insulted and otherwise abused by their comrades want to force the Pentagon to change how it handles such cases. More than a dozen female and two male current or former service members say servicemen get away with rape and other sexual abuse and victims are too often ordered to continue to serve alongside those they say attacked them. In a federal class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday, they want an objective third party to handle such complaints because individual commanders have too much say in how allegations are handled. The alleged attackers in the lawsuit include an Army criminal investigator and an Army National Guard commander. The abuse ranges from obscene verbal abuse to gang rape.

Budget Battle Affects Only Fraction of Funds

When Congress takes up President Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget, the debate will center on just a fraction of the overall $3.7 trillion budget: his proposals on spending and how to pay for them. Not counting what the government spends on national security and social safety-net programs such as Medicare and Social Security, spending on other domestic programs accounts for just 12% of the overall budget. Obama put off a bigger, politically riskier battle over the possibility of trillions of dollars in cuts to the popular entitlement programs. Now that Republicans control the House of Representatives, the 2011 budget is back on the table. Tuesday, lawmakers began debate over steep spending cuts touted by the Republicans: $61 billion for the remaining seven months of this fiscal year – still only 1.6% of the total budget, while the annual deficit remains over $1 trillion.

If the federal budget released by President Barack Obama today is implemented, it will double the national debt over the next 10 years. The current national debt is $13.56 trillion (end of FY 2010). By the end of 2021, that debt would rise to $26.3 trillion under the White House budget. The reaction of Tea Party-backed Congress members to the budget cuts and spending freeze proposed by President Obama on Monday was swift and unanimous: not nearly enough. But whether the House and Senate leadership fully embrace the $100 billion cuts supported by Tea Party activists will be a significant test for the power and influence of the fledgling movement.

Economic News

Shoppers pushed retail sales up for a seventh straight month although the increase was the weakest since June. Retail sales increased 0.3% last month to $318.6 billion. Sales are up more than 14% from the recession low hit in December 2008. And they rose in a month in which severe winter weather limited economic activity in many parts of the country.

The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 10.2 percent as of February 12, much above the official estimate of 9 percent, according to the Gallup polling agency. The rate of those considered to be underemployed, meanwhile, hit 19.7 percent, Gallup says. The official unemployment rate in January fell to 9 percent from 9.4 percent in December.

  • Surely the government wouldn’t understate the unemployment rate, would they?

Bracing for what the IRS calls the largest set of tax law changes in 20 years, a newly released IRS budget reports that the agency is seeking to bolster its resources in preparation for Obamacare implementation to the tune of 1,054 new auditors and staff — at a cost of $359 million to taxpayers.

Bookseller Borders, which helped pioneer superstores that put countless mom-and-pop bookshops out of business, filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, sunk by crushing debt and sluggishness in adapting to a rapidly changing industry. The 40-year-old company plans to close about 200 of its 642 stores over the next few weeks. All of the stores closed will be superstores. Borders plans to operate normally and honor gift cards and its loyalty program as it reorganizes.

The Chinese are struggling with a monthslong surge in food prices that has defied government efforts to combat inflation with interest rate hikes, price controls and a campaign to boost vegetable and grain output. On Tuesday, the government reported inflation accelerated in January, rising to 4.9% from December’s 4.6%. That was driven by a 10.3% jump in food costs because of tight supplies and strong demand. Economists expect more sharp price rises in coming months.

The parent company of the New York Stock Exchange says it has agreed to combine with the operator of the Frankfurt stock exchange, Deutsche Boerse. The deal announced Tuesday will create the world’s largest financial exchange owner. “Each of the group’s national exchanges, including those in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Lisbon, will keep its name in its local market and all exchanges will continue to operate under local regulatory frameworks and supervision.”


The top leaders of the protest movement that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak said Tuesday that they will demand the military move more quickly on creating an interim civilian government, cut off natural gas shipments to Israel and not allow Mubarak to leave. The leaders say they will resume massive demonstrations if its requests are denied. The demands will be presented Wednesday by ten activists at a meeting with the Armed Forces Supreme Council, which is now running the country.

Egypt’s long banned Muslim Brotherhood said Tuesday it intends to form a political party once democracy is established, as the country’s new military rulers launched a panel of experts to amend the country’s constitution enough to allow democratic elections later this year. The panel is to draw up changes at a breakneck pace — within 10 days — to end the monopoly that ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party once held, which it ensured through widespread election rigging. The initial changes may not be enough for many in Egypt calling for the current constitution, now suspended by the military, to be thrown out completely and rewritten to ensure no one can once again establish autocratic rule.

CBS correspondent Lara Logan is recovering in a U.S. hospital after being beaten and sexually assaulted by a Cairo mob in the frenzied aftermath of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation Friday, the network disclosed Tuesday. Logan, 39, was reporting from Cairo’s Tahrir Square when her film crew was surrounded by more than 200 people “whipped into a frenzy,” CBS said. After she was separated from her crew, she was assaulted before she was rescued by a group of women and Egyptian soldiers, CBS said.


Thousands of people marching for the ouster of Yemen’s U.S.-allied president clashed Tuesday with police and government supporters, and at least three demonstrators were injured in a fifth straight day of Egypt-inspired protests. Police tried to disperse the demonstrators using tear gas, batons and stun guns, but about 3,000 protesters defiantly continued their march from Sanaa University toward the city center, chanting slogans against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, including “Down with the president’s thugs!”


Thousands of protesters in Bahrain are filling a main square in the Gulf nation’s capital as Egypt-inspired demonstrations gripped the country for a second day. Security forces appeared to hold back as the crowds poured into Pearl Square in Manama. The dramatic move Tuesday comes just hours after a second protester died in clashes with police in the strategic island kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Opposition groups are calling for greater political freedoms and an end to the ruling Sunni monarchy’s grip on key decisions and government posts. The nation’s majority Shiites have long complained of discrimination.


Hardline Iranian lawmakers called on Tuesday for the country’s opposition leaders to face trial and be put to death, a day after clashes between opposition protesters and security forces left one person dead and dozens injured. Tens of thousands of people turned out for the opposition rally Monday in solidarity with Egypt’s popular revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years in power. The demonstration was the first major show of strength from Iran’s beleaguered opposition in more than a year. Iranian police used tear gas and electric prods to crack down on the country’s biggest antigovernment protest  At an open session of parliament Tuesday, pro-government legislators demanded opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami face be held responsible for the protests. Pumping their fists in the air, the lawmakers chanted “death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami.”


A month after massive protests ousted Tunisia’s longtime dictator, waves of Tunisians are voting with their feet, fleeing the country’s political limbo by climbing into rickety boats and sailing across the Mediterranean to Europe. More than 5,000 illegal immigrants have recently washed up on Italy’s southern islands — an unintended consequence of the “people’s revolution” that ousted autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and inspired the uprisings in Egypt and beyond. European powers cheered when Tunisia’s 74-year-old ruler fled into exile in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14, but the fallout a month later has tempered their enthusiasm.


Hundreds of Libyans calling for the government’s ouster clashed with security forces early Wednesday in the country’s second-largest city as Egypt-inspired unrest spread to the country long ruled by Moammar Gadhafi. The protest began Tuesday and lasted until the early hours Wednesday in the port city of Benghazi. Police and armed government backers quickly clamped down on the protesters, firing rubber bullets. The outbreak of protests that has roiled the Middle East has brought unprecedented pressure on leaders like Gadhafi who have held virtually unchecked power for decades. As in the uprisings that toppled longtime autocratic rulers in two countries flanking Libya— Egypt and Tunisia — Libyan activists are used social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter to rally people in their homeland. They called for a major protest on Thursday.


About 2,000 demonstrators attacked government offices in a southern Iraqi province, ripping up pavement stones to hurl at a regional council headquarters in a protest over shoddy public services. The demonstration was among the most dramatic since Iraqis began venting their anger about dysfunctional government at all levels in relatively small protests across the country — an echo of the tumult happening across the Arab world. Unlike protesters in other countries demanding democracy or regime change, however, demonstrators in Iraq have focused on unemployment, lack of electricity and corruption. Forty-nine people were wounded in the protests in Kut, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad.


Coalition forces in Afghanistan have beaten the insurgency in an important stronghold of Taliban fighters, though pockets of resistance remain, a U.S. commander said Monday in an interview with USA TODAY. “This is really the heart of the insurgency,” Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills said of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. “I believe they have been beaten.” The province is among the first targets of a surge of 30,000 U.S. service members ordered into Afghanistan by President Obama in December 2009. At the time, the Taliban had control over Marjah, a center of the country’s opium trafficking industry that the insurgents had used to pay for its fighters and supplies, according to the Pentagon. The Marines pushed the Taliban out of Marjah soon after. The progress in Helmand province “shows you the momentum is shifting,” said James Phillips of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Loosening the Taliban’s grip on the drug trade “could have a cascading effect in the years ahead,” he said.


A pair of suicide bombers, including a woman, attacked security forces in Russia’s volatile Dagestan province on Monday, killing two security officials and wounding 21 others, according to officials and news reports. The female suicide bomber blew herself up as she tried to enter a police station in the village of Gubden — known as a stronghold of radical Islamists — killing one soldier and wounding six others. Several hours later, after Gudben was cordoned off by police and the military, another suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car near a police post, killing a police officer and wounding 17 other security personnel. Dagestan is the largest and most ethnically diverse province of the predominantly Muslim Northern Caucasus region. The province has been beset by almost daily violence that stems from two separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya.


Another strong earthquake has shaken central Chile, part of a wave of aftershocks that have been rocking the same area that suffered so much destruction almost a year ago from a disastrous magnitude-8.8 quake. A magnitude-6.6 quake that struck just after midnight Sunday after a magnitude-6.8 quake Friday sent thousands running for higher ground. Chile has updated the toll from the Feb. 27, 2010 disaster to 524 deaths and 31 disappeared. That massive quake left 220,000 homeless and caused $30 billion in damage.


Christians in Sri Lanka are crying out for food after the country was ravaged by a second wave of extensive flooding in as many months. People had no sooner returned home after the first flood, which started with heavy rainfall at the end of December and displaced more than 367,000 people, when a fresh deluge hit the east, centre and north of the island last week. The floods have destroyed vital rice crops, which are normally harvested at this time of year, as well as vegetable crops and the mud houses in which many families live. People are begging for food, which is unheard of in the region even during previous crises. A senior church leader in Sri Lanka said, “You can see from their eyes they are a broken people.



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