Protests Continue in Arab World

Demonstrators were back in the streets Sunday in Yemen, Bahrain and Libya, where the son of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi said protesters had seized control of some military bases and tanks. Appearing on Libyan state television Sunday night after six days of protests, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi warned protesters that they risked igniting a civil war in which Libya’s oil wealth “will be burned.” He acknowledged that the army made mistakes during protests because it was not trained to deal with demonstrators but added that the number of dead had been exaggerated, giving a death toll of 84. Human Rights Watch put the number at 174 through Saturday. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the nation’s ruler of more than 32 years, offered to have protesters sit down with him and talk over their differences as thousands of Yemenis gathered Sunday outside Sana University. “We are ready to respond to their demands if they are legitimate,” Saleh said, according to the state-run Saba News Agency. Yemen’s main opposition coalition rejected the offer. In Bahrain, host of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, a weekend of protests gave way to quiet Monday as the military retreated from a square that was the scene of a bloody attack last week and allowed protesters to go back in. Meanwhile, protests also broke out in Algeria and Morocco.

Ø These youth-led, internet-driven protests have forever changed the face of Muslim nations, leading either to greater freedom or more repression. This is a rare opportunity to pray for the light of Jesus to penetrate the Islamic spiritual darkness that has heretofore blanketed these severely oppressed nations.

GOP-Controlled House Passes Spending Cut Bill

After four days of marathon, near-round-the-clock sessions, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a bill early Saturday to runt he federal government through the fall and slash $61 billion in spending. The 235-189 vote to send the bill to the Senate was largely along party lines and defied a veto threat from President Obama. It marked the most striking victory to date for the new Republicans elected last year on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure. The sweeping $1.2 trillion bill covers every Cabinet agency through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year, imposing severe spending cuts aimed at domestic programs and foreign aid, including aid for schools, nutrition programs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and Planned Parenthood. The bill also prohibits the funding of the new health care reform law.

Wisconsin Budget Battle Sends Dems AWOL

70,000 protesters failed to change the minds of Wisconsin lawmakers dug into a stalemate over Republican efforts to scrap union rights for almost all public workers. If changes aren’t made to the benefit contributions paid by Wisconsin’s nearly 300,000 public sector employees, about 10,000-12,000 workers will lose their jobs, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker warned Sunday. Democratic legislators on the run avoided state troopers Friday and threatened to stay in hiding for weeks, potentially paralyzing the state government in a standoff with majority Republicans over union rights for public employees. The party’s battle against balancing the state budget by cutting the pay, benefits and collective bargaining rights of public workers is the boldest action yet by Democrats to push back against last fall’s GOP wave. Republicans told everyone months ago that unions would be one of their targets, and the GOP now has more than enough votes to pass its plans once the Legislature can convene. The 14 Senate Democrats left the state Thursday, delaying action in that chamber on the sweeping bill. Wisconsin’s growing war over public-employee benefits is becoming a major battleground between President Barack Obama and grass-roots conservatives who say the time has come to restore sanity to state, local and federal budgets.

Few States Follow Mental-Health Gun Law

More than half the states are not complying with a post-Virginia Tech law that requires them to share the names of mentally ill people with the national background-check system to prevent them from buying guns, an Associated Press review has found. The deadline for complying with the three-year-old law was last month. But nine states haven’t supplied any names to the database. Seventeen others have sent in fewer than 25, meaning gun dealers around the U.S. could be running names of would-be buyers against a woefully incomplete list. Officials blame privacy laws, antiquated record-keeping and a severe lack of funding for the gap the AP found through public records requests. Eleven states have provided more than 1,000 records apiece to the federal database, yet gun-control groups have estimated more than 1 million files are missing nationwide.

Arizona‘s Flu Season Hits State Hard

The flu arrived earlier than normal and is lingering longer in Arizona this year. Several schools reported absence rates of more than 10 percent this week, doctors offices have been packed with miserable kids, and parents are overloading hospital emergency rooms with coughing toddlers and infants struggling to breathe. This week marked the eighth consecutive week of widespread influenza, and state health officials say there is more in store. Dr. Karen Lewis, medical director for the immunization program at the Arizona Department of Health Services predicted another four to eight weeks of influenza activity in Arizona. There were 851 confirmed flu cases last week, up from 772 the week before, for a total of 5,115 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases so far this season. Three children have died. The report shows that the more sex, drugs, violence, obscenity and general immorality a film contains, the less the movie will make at the box office. In fact, the dollars-and-cents breakdown of box office receipts illustrates, the cleaner the movie, the more money it will make.

Hollywood Rolls Out Red Carpet for God

At this weekend’s 19th Annual Movieguide Awards Gala, stars strolled the red carpet and statuettes were awarded, but one aspect in particular set this event apart from typical Hollywood extravaganzas: Rather than longwinded speeches thanking their agents, the award winners expressed their gratitude, sometimes in tears, to God. The Movieguide Awards Gala is an event designed to honor those films and filmmakers that present positive and faith-affirming messages as well as to demonstrate to Hollywood the inspiring power – and even profitability – of putting well-told, redemptive tales on the silver screen. One of the films nominated for awards this year was “To Save a Life,” a story about teenage suicide that has literally been saving lives. In addition to honoring the films and filmmakers, the Movieguide Gala includes an annual report to the movie industry that includes the hard facts on comparative box office receipts between films with positive messages and/or values and those that disregard or denigrate those values.

Scientist Finds Gulf Bottom Still Oily

Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist’s video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn’t degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the seafloor. That report is at odds with a recent report by the BP spill compensation czar that said nearly all will be well by 2012. “There’s some sort of a bottleneck we have yet to identify for why this stuff doesn’t seem to be degrading,” Samantha Joye told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington. Her research and those of her colleagues contrasts with other studies that show a more optimistic outlook about the health of the Gulf, saying microbes did great work munching the oil. Magic microbes consumed maybe 10% of the total discharge, the rest of it we don’t know,” Joye said. “There’s a lot of it out there,” she later added.

Ø Hmm. Who to believe. BP? The federal government? An impartial scientist? A coverup of the truth seems likely.

Millions of Dollars Owed Denied to Gulf Oil Spill Cleanup Crews

Subcontractors say they are still owed hundreds of millions of dollars for their work in the Gulf oil spill cleanup. Because contractors typically can’t pay other subcontractors until the first has been paid, the ripple effect of not paying the top contractors is huge, affecting hundreds of businesses. When asked O’Brien’s about the unpaid bills, they admitted to only paying 90% of all amounts invoiced. When asked why they weren’t paying subcontractors the remaining 10%, BP was unresponsive. Lawyers and accountants of the affected subcontractors are estimating that 10% is several hundred-million dollars, if not more.

Economic News

Crude oil prices jumped 4% Monday as violent protests spread in Libya, raising the possibility that oil supplies from that OPEC nation could be disrupted. By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark light, sweet crude for March delivery was up $3.10 a barrel to $89.30.

Portugal‘s financial agony deepened Friday, threatening to pitch Europe into a new round of economic turmoil over its debt crisis. The country’s borrowing costs are punishingly high, with the interest rate on its 10-year bonds holding above 7% for a 10th session Friday. The broad consensus in markets is that Portugal is doomed to become the third member of Europe’s bailout club, after Greece and Ireland.

Even as its economy cools, China’s demand for imported grain is likely to surge this year, providing a boon to the U.S. and other exporting nations. This week, China reported that strong imports had sharply narrowed its January trade surplus to $6.45 billion from $13.1 billion in December. China is one of the largest metals and energy consumers in the world. It’s also a top importer of U.S. agricultural products.

If the U.S. dollar is being devalued so rapidly, then why does it sometimes increase in value against other global currencies? It is because everybody is recklessly printing money now. The truth is that it is not just the U.S. Federal Reserve which has been printing money like there is no tomorrow. Out of control money printing has also been happening in the UK, in the EU, in Japan, in China and in India. Investors all over the world are racing to get out of paper and to get into hard assets. Just about anything that is “real” and “tangible” is hot right now. Gold hit a record high last year and it is on the rise again. Demand for silver is becoming absolutely ridiculous right now. Oil is marching up towards $100 a barrel again. Agricultural commodities have exploded in price over the past year. Many investors are even gobbling up art and other collectibles. Paper money is no longer considered to be safe.


As the Obama administration vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution claiming that Israel settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are “illegal,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the settlements “illegitimate.” “I think it is absolutely clear to say, number one, that it’s been American policy for many years that settlements were illegitimate and it is the continuing goal and highest priority of the Obama administration to keep working toward a two-state solution with both Israelis and Palestinians,” Clinton told ABC. The UN resolution accusing Israel of illegal activity failed because of the U.S. veto.

Ø The Obama administration continues its half-hearted “support” of Israel, while laying the groundwork for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital


A major government building in the capital was on fire Monday morning, a Reuters reporter said. The building is where the General People’s Congress, or parliament, meets when it is in session in Tripoli. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is believed to have fled the capital Tripoli after anti-government demonstrators breached the state television building and set government property alight, London’s Daily Mail reported early Monday. Over the weekend, Libyan security forces opened fire on mourners at the funeral for anti-government protesters in the city of Benghazi, where a doctor says at least 200 people have already been slain in days of demonstrations. Marchers were bearing coffins to a cemetery when they passed a compound of President Moammar Gadhafi in Libya’s second-largest city. The man said security forces fired in the air and then opened up on the crowd. A hospital official says four people have been wounded, two seriously. The latest casualties follow a day of brutal violence Saturday. Witnesses told The Associated Press a mix of special commandos, foreign mercenaries and Gadhafi loyalists assaulted demonstrators with knives, assault rifles and heavy weapons. Rebellion has sprouted in a half-dozen cities against Gadhafi, who came to power in a coup in 1969. Gadhafi’s son offered to put forward within days changes that he described as a “historic national initiative.” He said the regime was willing to remove some restrictions and to begin a discussion of the constitution. He offered to change a number of laws, including those covering the news media and the penal code. He threatened to “eradicate the pockets of sedition” and said the army will play a main role in restoring order.


Yemeni riot police in the capital shot dead a protester and injured five others on Saturday when they opened fire on thousands marching in the 10th day of unrest rocking the country. Protesters began marching early in the morning from the University of Sanaa to the Ministry of Justice while chanting, “the people want the fall of the regime,” until they were met by riot police and supporters of the president. The president’s supporters armed with clubs and knives attacked the crowd and engaged in a stone throwing battle while at one point police fired in the air to disperse the march. Protesters complain of government corruption and political patronage. Yemen remains the Arab world’s poorest state. Almost half of the people live on less than $2 a day, and unemployment is at 40%. Its dwindling oil supply is likely to run out in 2017, according to the World Bank.


Yemen‘s embattled leader on Monday rejected demands that he step down, saying widespread demonstrations against his regime are unacceptable acts of provocation. Bahrain’s opposition leaders gathered Sunday to examine offers for talks by Bahrain’s rulers after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have sharply divided the strategic Gulf nation. The streets in the tiny island kingdom were calmer as efforts shifted toward possible political haggling over demands for the monarchy to give up its near-absolute control over key policies and positions. But bitterness and tensions still run deep after seesaw battles that included riot police opening fire on protesters trying to reclaim a landmark square. At least seven people have been killed and hundreds injured since the Arab wave for change reached the Gulf on Feb. 14. The opposition’s main demand is for the resignation of the government, including a prime minister — the king’s uncle — who has been in his position for 40 years. They also want the government to address claims of discrimination and abuses against Shiites, who make up about 70% of Bahrain’s 525,000 citizens.


Jittery Chinese authorities wary of any domestic dissent staged a concerted show of force Sunday to squelch a mysterious online call for a “Jasmine Revolution” apparently modeled after pro-democracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East. Authorities detained activists, increased the number of police on the streets, disconnected some mobile phone text messaging services and censored Internet postings about the call to stage protests at 2 p.m. in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other major cities. The campaign did not gain much traction among ordinary citizens and the chances of overthrowing the Communist government are slim, considering Beijing’s tight controls over the media and Internet. A student-led, pro-democracy movement in 1989 was crushed by the military and hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.


Algerian police thwarted a rally by thousands of pro-democracy supporters Saturday, breaking up the crowd into isolated groups to keep them from marching. Police brandishing clubs, but no firearms, weaved their way through the crowd in central Algiers, banging their shields, tackling some protesters and keeping traffic flowing through the planned march route. A demonstrating lawmaker was hospitalized after suffering a head wound when he fell after police kicked and hit him, colleagues said. The gathering, organized by the Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria, comes a week after a similar protest, which organizers said brought an estimated 10,000 people and up to 26,000 riot police onto the streets of Algiers.


Morocco‘s interior minister says five charred bodies were found in a bank set aflame by troublemakers on the sidelines of one of many nationwide protests pushing for more democracy in the kingdom. At least 128 people were injured — mostly security forces — in unrest linked to protests a day earlier that drew at least 37,000 demonstrators in dozens of towns and cities. The minister said that “troublemakers” vandalized dozens of public buildings, stores and banks, including one in northeastern Al Hoceima where the five bodies were found. He said 120 people were arrested. The demonstrations marked Morocco’s entree into a wave of protests across the Arab world after popular uprisings toppled longtime autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.


Demonstrators thronged streets in northern Iraq Saturday to demand justice over a deadly shooting at a protest earlier this week. In Baghdad, hundreds of orphans and widows rallied to call on the government to take care of them. The uprisings sweeping the Middle East have galvanized many in Iraq, one of the rare democracies in the region, to demand better services from their leaders. The demonstrations in the capital and the northern city of Sulaimaniyah were peaceful, but five protesters were killed earlier this week. A few thousand demonstrators took to the streets in downtown Sulaimaniyah, demanding that those responsible for a shooting two days earlier that killed two people and injured nearly 50 be held responsible.

A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb Monday at a police station north of Baghdad, killing at least 12 police officers. Monday’s bombing also wounded at least 22 people. The attack in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, comes nine days after a suicide bomber targeted Shiite pilgrims returning from a religious ceremony at the city’s al-Askari mosque. Thirty-six were killed in that attack. The police battalion that came under attack had been dispatched from a southern Shiite province two weeks ago to help protect pilgrims during the ceremony,.


A suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to an Afghan government office Monday, killing at least 30 people — many who were waiting in line to obtain government identification cards  Violence has been on the rise in the north, where there are known hide-outs for the Taliban, al-Qaeda and fighters from other militant factions . Gunmen detonated explosives in front of a bank and then stormed the building in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Saturday, killing at least three people and injuring scores of others. A doctor at the city’s main hospital said more than 60 people were injured in the attack on the Kabul Bank branch in the city, including civilians, police and Afghan army soldiers. Three suicide bombers took part in the raid. Kabul Bank handles payrolls for many of Afghanistan’s police and soldiers. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.


A warship is shadowing a yacht with four Americans on board that was hijacked by Somali pirates, a pirate said Sunday, as the vessel was reported to be moving closer to the Somali coast. The hijacked yacht is the most recent of 30 or more vessels captured off the coast of Somalia by pirates. The latest hijacking came two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship. That incident ended when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the captain.


A spate of attacks on taxis in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco has left 12 taxi drivers or passengers dead, police said Sunday, just hours before the Mexican Open tennis tournament is scheduled to start. Acapulco has been the scene of bloody drug cartel turf wars, and taxi drivers have often been targeted for extortion or recruited by the gangs to act as lookouts or transport drugs.


Last week there were 2,291 wildfires reported across the U.S. with 26 of those considered large (over 100 acres). Most of these occurred in the south, from Texas through Florida where drought conditions prevail. Eighteen of these large wildfires were contained.


Federal officials say a minor earthquake has shaken southern Alabama, and people more than 200 miles away have reported feeling the tremblor. The U.S. Geological Service says the 3.5-magnitude earthquake happened at 5:15 p.m. Friday. There were no immediate reports of damage. Residents in the Pensacola area of the Florida panhandle also said they felt the earthquake, as did residents as far north as Birmingham, Ala. It’s been five years since an earthquake struck within 125 miles of where Friday’s earthquake hit.


A winter storm that blew through the upper Midwest over the Presidents Day long weekend coated roads with ice and snow and led airlines to cancel hundreds of flights. Residents of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin who didn’t get the Monday holiday off faced what was expected to be a dismal commute. Officials were urging people to stay off the roads if possible, rather than risk driving on icy roads or through wind-driven snow. Early Monday, the National Weather Service said up to 10 inches of snow had fallen on parts of southern Michigan since the storm began Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service posted winter storm watches or warnings Monday from Montana to New England, a distance of more than 1,800 miles. Blizzard warnings were out for most of the Dakotas and parts of Minnesota, and as much as 13 inches of snow was recorded in western South Dakota.

A gust of wind picked up a bounce house with two girls playing inside Saturday, dumping one girl in the yard but carrying the other away and dropping her onto a neighbor’s roof. The incident in the town of Marana left a 10-year-old with serious head lacerations and other injuries. She was taken to a trauma center in Tucson after firefighters got her off the roof. Northwest Fire District spokesman Adam Goldberg says the two girls were at a birthday party when what family members called “a microburst” picked up the bounce house. The 10-year-old was carried more than 100 feet before falling out onto the roof. About two dozen roof tiles were shattered by the impact.

The National Christmas Tree is no more. The Colorado blue spruce that stood on the Ellipse south of the White House since 1978 was toppled Saturday morning by heavy winds. By the afternoon, the 42-foot tree was ground into mulch. The tree was exposed to the elements because it stood alone on the Ellipse. The park service already has a replacement picked out.

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