February 3rd, 2011
By HELENE COOPER and MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.
Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.
Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now.
They cautioned that the outcome depended on several factors, not least Egypt’s own constitutional protocols and the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities.
Some officials said there was not yet any indication that either Mr. Suleiman or the Egyptian military was willing to abandon Mr. Mubarak.
Even as the Obama administration is coalescing around a Mubarak-must-go-now posture in private conversations with Egyptian officials, Mr. Mubarak himself remains determined to stay until the election in September, American and Egyptian officials said. His backers forcibly pushed back on Thursday against what they viewed as American interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.
“What they’re asking cannot be done,” one senior Egyptian official said, citing clauses in the Egyptian Constitution that bar the vice president from assuming power. Under the Constitution, the speaker of Parliament would succeed the president. “That’s my technical answer,” the official added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business.”
Mr. Mubarak’s insistence on staying will again be tested by large street protests on Friday, which the demonstrators are calling his “day of departure,” when they plan to march on the presidential palace. The military’s pledge not to fire on the Egyptian people will be tested as well.
The discussions about finding a way out of the crisis in Cairo take place as new questions are being raised about whether American intelligence agencies, after the collapse of the Tunisian government, adequately warned the White House and top lawmakers about the prospects of an uprising in Egypt.
During a Senate hearing on Thursday, both Democrats and Republicans pressed a senior Central Intelligence Agency official about when the C.I.A. and other agencies notified President Obama of the looming crisis, and whether intelligence officers even monitored social networking sites and Internet forums to gauge popular sentiment in Egypt.
“At some point it had to have been obvious that there was going to be a huge demonstration,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence.
She said that intelligence agencies never sent a notice to her committee about the growing uprising in Egypt, as is customary in the case of significant global events.
Stephanie O’Sullivan, the C.I.A. official, responded that the agency had been tracking instability in Egypt for some time and had concluded that the government in Cairo was in an “untenable” situation. But, Ms. O’Sullivan said, “we didn’t know what the triggering mechanism would be.”
Because of the fervor now unleashed in Egypt, one Obama administration official said, Mr. Mubarak’s close aides expressed concern that they were not convinced that Mr. Mubarak’s resignation would satisfy the protesters.
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, Mr. Mubarak said that he was “fed up” with being president but that he could not step down for fear of sowing chaos in the country.
“The worry on Mubarak’s part is that if he says yes to this, there will be more demands,” said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “And since he’s not dealing with a legal entity, but a mob, how does he know there won’t be more demands tomorrow?”
A number of high-level American officials have reached out to the Egyptians in recent days. While administration officials would not offer details of the alternatives that were being discussed, they made it clear that their preferred outcome would be for Mr. Suleiman to take power as a transitional figure.
February 3rd, 2011
The Washington Post
By George Soros
Revolutions usually start with enthusiasm and end in tears. In the case of the Middle East, the tears could be avoided if President Obama stands firmly by the values that got him elected. Although American power and influence in the world have declined, our allies and their armies look to us for direction. These armies are strong enough to maintain law and order as long as they stay out of politics; thus the revolutions can remain peaceful. That is what the United States should insist on while encouraging corrupt and repressive rulers who are no longer tolerated by their people to step aside and allow new leaders to be elected in free and fair elections.
That is the course that the revolution in Tunisia is taking. Tunisia has a relatively well-developed middle class, women there enjoy greater rights and opportunities than in most Muslim countries, and the failed regime was secular in character. The prospects for democratic change are favorable.
Egypt is more complex and, ultimately, more influential, which is why it is so important to get it right. The protesters are very diverse, including highly educated and common people, young and old, well-to-do and desperately poor. While the slogans and crowds in Tahrir Square are not advancing a theocratic agenda at all, the best-organized political opposition that managed to survive in that country's repressive environment is the Muslim Brotherhood. In free elections, the Brotherhood is bound to emerge as a major political force, though it is far from assured of a majority.
Some have articulated fears of adverse consequences of free elections, suggesting that the Egyptian military may seek to falsify the results; that Israel may be adamantly opposed to a regime change; that the domino effect of extremist politics spreading to other countries must be avoided; and that the supply of oil from the region could be disrupted. These notions constitute the old conventional wisdom about the Middle East - and need to be changed, lest Washington incorrectly put up resistance to or hesitate in supporting transition in Egypt.
That would be regrettable. President Obama personally and the United States as a country have much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy. This would help rebuild America's leadership and remove a lingering structural weakness in our alliances that comes from being associated with unpopular and repressive regimes. Most important, doing so would open the way to peaceful progress in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood's cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who is seeking to run for president, is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system. As regards contagion, it is more likely to endanger the enemies of the United States - Syria and Iran - than our allies, provided that they are willing to move out ahead of the avalanche.
The main stumbling block is Israel. In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. The main danger is that the Obama administration will not adjust its policies quickly enough to the suddenly changed reality.
I am, as a general rule, wary of revolutions. But in the case of Egypt, I see a good chance of success. As a committed advocate of democracy and open society, I cannot help but share in the enthusiasm that is sweeping across the Middle East. I hope President Obama will expeditiously support the people of Egypt. My foundations are prepared to contribute what they can. In practice, that means establishing resource centers for supporting the rule of law, constitutional reform, fighting corruption and strengthening democratic institutions in those countries that request help in establishing them, while staying out of those countries where such efforts are not welcome.
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The writer is chairman of the Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Foundations, which support democracy and human rights in more than 70 countries.
February 3rd, 2011
February 3rd, 2011
The end of January a U.S. District Judge in Florida ruled Obamacare unconstitutional. If the ruling stands, it will overturn the 2,700 page, $938 billion bill passed by Congress last year.
Judge Roger Vinson referenced the Boston Tea Party: “It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.” …Difficult to imagine indeed!
I pray the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the president’s socialist experiment, but freedom-loving Americans cannot count on the courts to solve this problem.
If we want to stop President Obama from taking away the freedom to make our health care decisions, we must force Congress to repeal Obamacare wholesale.
Here’s an Internet-based tool I’ve used for years to contact those charged to represent me: http://letter2congress.rallycongress.com/698/. If we don’t keep bugs in Congress’ ears, who will? …From what I’ve seen in my life, I honestly don’t think too many Americans care what happens to them or their posterity.
NOTE: Many in Congress are posed to profit bigtime from this progressive venture. Never underestimate what we’re up against.
February 3rd, 2011
Watch video: Punxsutawney Phil's forecast
We've had 7 major winter storms affect parts of the nation just since mid-December.
It's been very busy since mid-December!
Read article: First 3 storms made December a Top 10 Weather Story of 2010
We're still recovering from a record-breaking snowstorm in Tulsa, OK...and a top 3 snowstorm of record in Chicago.
If we do this, will winter leave?
TWC Facebook fan Joey Guillo
See photos: Blizzard's fury
Watch video: Cantore in thundersnow
Typically, the atmosphere will "take a breather" after such a large winter storm, at least for a few days.
Then again, February is a notoriously stormy month, particularly on the East Coast.
Remember last February's back-to-back East Coast snowstorms. Do the terms "Snowpocalypse" or "Snowmageddon" sound familiar?
Read article: Last Winter...a Top 10 Weather Story of 2010
I think you know where we're headed with this. We have yet another wintry system ahead, but this one's a "different bird".
Snow and ice where?
Following the South/Midwest/Northeast winter storm, snow blankets about 60% of the nation, from the Rockies to North Texas to the Great Lakes and Northeast.
This next winter storm will first attempt to add to the nation's snow cover in parts of the South.
First you need cold air, and it is definitely in place over the South after the latest snowstorm pulled down bullish Arctic high pressure.
Then, you need an active subtropical, or southern branch of the jet stream, typically a major stormy player in February.
Current temperatures (Click to enlarge)
Forecast jet stream map (Click to enlarge)
Finally, you need the surface cold air (i.e...sub-freezing) to remain in place, even if warmer (above freezing) air aloft glides over it.
Read article: Weather 101...Sleet and freezing rain
One of the cities in the wintry threat is Houston. Yes, that's right, Houston. Farther south than Jacksonville, Fla. Just under an hour's drive from the Gulf Coast.
So, this brings up the obvious question: How unusual is snow in Houston? Well...consider the following:
Measurable snow falls once every 2-3 years.
1"+ snow falls once every 5 years.
Since 1895, snow has fallen only 33 times.
- 2008, 2009: First time snow had fallen in consecutive years.
With that in mind, let's check out the forecast.
NEXT > Storm Timeline