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AP News in Brief Feb. 1, 2011

AP News in Brief
Feb. 1, 2011, 6:04 p.m. EST
Associated Press

Posted by Public Blog News-Plus Posting Service: http://publicblognewspostingservice.com

Egypt crowds unmoved as Mubarak vows not to run again: ‘We are not leaving until he leaves’

CAIRO (AP) — President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday he will not run for a new term in September elections but rejected protesters’ demands he step down immediately and leave the country, vowing to die on Egypt’s soil, after a dramatic day in which a quarter-million Egyptians staged their biggest protest yet calling on him to go.

Soon after his speech, clashes erupted between protesters and government supporters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, and gunshots were heard, according to footage by Al-Jazeera television.

Mubarak’s half-way concession — an end to his rule seven months down the road — threatened to inflame frustration and anger among protesters, who have been peaceful in recent days but have made clear they will not end their unprecedented week-old wave of demonstrations until he is out.

The speech was immediately derided by protesters massed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square. Watching his speech on a giant TV, protesters booed and waved their shoes over their heads at his image in a sign of contempt. “Go, go, go! We are not leaving until he leaves,” they chanted. One man screamed, “He doesn’t want to say it, he doesn’t want to say it.”

In the 10-minute address, Mubarak appeared somber but spoke firmly without an air of defeat. The president who has ruled the country for nearly three decades — and during that time has rarely if ever admitted to making a mistake or reversing himself under pressure — insisted that his decision not to run for a new six-year term had nothing to do with the protests.


Obama’s envoy, an old friend, told Mubarak his time as president was ‘coming to a close’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election came after President Barack Obama’s special envoy told him the U.S. saw his presidency at an end and urged him to prepare for an orderly transition to real democracy, American officials said.

The message was delivered to Mubarak on Monday by Frank Wisner, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, according to two officials familiar with the envoy’s mission. Obama dispatched Wisner to the country amid mounting anti-government protests and demands for the 82-year-old Mubarak to step down.

In a half-way concession to hundreds of thousands of protesters, Mubarak said late Tuesday in Egypt that he would serve out the rest of his term working to ensure a “peaceful transfer of power” and new rules on presidential elections. His message that he would not immediately leave was rebuffed by many in the throng of demonstrators in Cairo’s main square.

The Obama administration didn’t immediately comment on Mubarak’s speech, though the president and his national security team were gathered in the White House Situation Room as it aired. The White House said Obama would deliver remarks on Egypt later Tuesday.

Wisner’s message was disclosed as the Obama administration increased its outreach to Egyptian opposition groups determined to force their leader out. Perhaps most significantly the U.S. opened talks with a possible successor, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.


Dow over 12,000 for first time since before 2008 financial crisis, extending remarkable run

NEW YORK (AP) — Two years ago, the stock market was roadkill along the financial highway. Now one of the greatest bull markets in history is rolling along — maybe enough to finally get the attention of average investors.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 12,000 for the first time in two and a half years Tuesday, putting the Great Recession even farther in the rearview mirror and erasing most of the damage it inflicted on tens of millions of retirement accounts.

A broader measure of the stock market, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, closed above 1,300 for the first time since Aug. 28, 2008. And at least one widely watched measure suggests stocks are still cheap by historical standards.

The remarkable run for stocks began on March 9, 2009. The Dow stood at 6,547, its lowest point in 12 years. Since then, in the fastest climb since the Great Depression, it has risen 84 percent thanks to surging corporate profits, the unexpected resilience of personal spending and a bond-buying intervention by the Federal Reserve that made stocks more appealing. And some of the early gains came because investors realized that stocks had fallen too far during the financial crisis.

The Dow’s total return, which assumes stock dividends were reinvested, is 92 percent. Anyone who bought an S&P 500 index fund that day in March 2009 has doubled his money, assuming dividends were reinvested.


In unified praise, GOP presidential field backs health overhaul ruling against Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) — Buoyed by a federal court ruling, Senate Republicans maneuvered for a vote to repeal the year-old health care law on Tuesday while the party’s potential White House contenders took turns urging them on.

Despite the stepped up attack, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the legislation was secure. “It’s not going to go anywhere,” predicted the Nevada Democrat.

The Republican-controlled House voted last month to repeal the law. A showdown vote is possible as early as Wednesday in the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority and the bill’s opponents far short of the 60 that would be needed to clear it.

Despite the certainty of defeat, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell noted Republicans had “pledged to the American people” in last fall’s campaign they would attempt to repeal the law. To fulfill that pledge, McConnell took virtually the first opportunity available to him in the new Congress.

The maneuvering unfolded one day after U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled the law was unconstitutional, saying Congress lacked the power to impose penalties as a way of enforcing a requirement for millions to purchase health insurance.


Colossal storm roars through heartland, delivers paralyzing punch of ice, snow and bitter cold

CHICAGO (AP) — A winter weather colossus roared into the nation’s heartland Tuesday, laying down a paralyzing punch of dangerous ice and whiteout snow that served notice from Texas to Maine that the storm billed as the worst in decades was living up to the hype so far.

Ice-covered streets were deserted in Super Bowl host city Dallas. Whiteouts shut down Oklahoma City and Tulsa. And more was on the way. Chicago expected 2 feet of snow, Indianapolis an inch of ice, and the Northeast still more ice and snow in what’s shaping up to be a record winter for the region.

The system that stretched more than 2,000 miles across a third of the country promised to leave in its aftermath a chilly cloak of teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the single digits or lower.

Winds topped 60 mph in Texas. The newspaper in Tulsa, Okla., canceled its print edition for the first time in more than a century. And in Chicago, both major airports gave up on flying until at least Wednesday afternoon.

The threat of high winds also had Chicago officials contemplating steps they haven’t taken in years — starting with closing down the city’s busy and iconic Lake Shore Drive because of the prospect of 25-foot waves caused by 60 mph winds washing over it from nearby Lake Michigan.


Residents evacuate coast as ‘life-threatening’ storm gains strength, roars toward NE Australia

CAIRNS, Australia (AP) — Tens of thousands of people fled the path of a monster storm bearing down on northeastern Australia as officials warned that the life-threatening cyclone had increased in strength overnight.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh urged residents of low-lying areas to evacuate quickly as gusts up to 174 mph (280 kph) were expected ahead of Cyclone Yasi, forecast to hit Cairns late Wednesday.

“We are facing a storm of catastrophic proportions in a highly populated area,” Bligh told reporters. “What it all adds up to is a very frightening time. We’re looking at 24 hours of quite terrifying winds, torrential rain, likely loss of electricity and mobile phones. People really need to be preparing them mentally if nothing else.”

Cyclone Yasi was forecast to hit the coast about 10 p.m. Wednesday (7 a.m. EST, 1200 GMT), the Bureau of Meteorology said.

“Yasi … poses an extremely serious threat to life and property,” the bureau warned, adding that the storm is likely to be, “more life-threatening than any experienced in recent generations.”


Senate report warns US mission in Iraq may not be safe after military leaves at year’s end

WASHINGTON (AP) — American diplomats and other mission employees may not be safe in Iraq if the U.S. military withdraws its remaining 50,000 troops and leaves the volatile country at the end of the year as planned, according to a new Senate report released Tuesday.

The report by the Foreign Relations Committee puts new pressure on a delicate diplomacy between Washington and Baghdad to decide what future role American troops will have in Iraq — if one at all — before they start withdrawing this summer.

At least 159 Iraqi citizens and 100 police and soldiers were killed in insurgent attacks in January — the deadliest month for Iraq since September, according to data released Tuesday by security and health ministry officials in Baghdad.

An Associated Press count of Iraqis killed in attacks over two weeks alone puts the death toll at more than 200.

“The situation in Iraq is at a critical juncture,” concluded the report, issued a few hours before Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey and Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of the U.S. military in Iraq, testified before the Democratic-led Senate panel.


Senators propose rigid spending cap that would force cuts in Social Security, Medicare

WASHINGTON (AP) — Social Security, Medicare and virtually every other federal program would face the budget ax under legislation unveiled Tuesday aimed at forcing Congress to dramatically cut spending over the coming decade.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would phase in a federal spending cap of just more than 20 percent of the size of the economy, which they said would wring almost $8 trillion from the budget over the coming 10 years.

Cuts of that magnitude would have to fall heavily on Social Security and Medicare, the retirement programs whose costs are being driven sky-high by the retirement of the baby boom generation.

The legislation doesn’t actually propose cuts but instead sets spending caps and enforces them with the threat of automatic, across-the-board reductions. The idea is that the threat of such a meat-ax approach would force lawmakers to make more thoughtful cuts.

Corker said the measure is a “legislative straightjacket, a way of forcing Congress to dramatically cut spending.”


Woman who called self ‘Jihad Jane’ pleads guilty in terror plot, plan to kill Swedish artist

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A suburban woman who was the live-in caretaker for her boyfriend’s elderly father calmly told a U.S. judge Tuesday that she had worked feverishly online under the name “Jihad Jane” to support Islamic terrorists and moved overseas to further her plan to kill a Swedish artist who had offended Muslims.

Colleen LaRose, 47, faces the possibility of life in prison after pleading guilty to four federal charges, including conspiracy to murder a foreign target, conspiracy to support terrorists and lying to the FBI.

LaRose, who spent long hours caring for the father, was also building a shadow life online from 2008 to 2009. According to prosecutors, LaRose “worked obsessively on her computer to communicate with, recruit and incite other jihadists,” using screen names including “Jihad Jane,” ”SisterOfTerror,” and “ExtremeSister4Life.”

LaRose returned to the United States in November 2009 and was immediately taken into FBI custody at Philadelphia International Airport. She remained in secret custody until March, when her indictment was unsealed hours after Irish authorities swept up an alleged terror cell that included another American women, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, 32, of Leadville, Colo., and her Algerian husband.

LaRose and her co-conspirators had hoped her all-American appearance and U.S. citizenship would help her blend in while carrying out their plans, prosecutors said.


Husband says Zsa Zsa Gabor is ill with new infection, apparently had stroke

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Zsa Zsa Gabor has a high fever, fluid in her lungs, an infection that developed after her recent leg amputation, and hasn’t recognized anyone since the surgery, leading doctors to say she probably suffered a stroke, her husband said Tuesday.

Frederic Prinz von Anhalt was at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with his wife as doctors worked to stabilize her in the emergency room.

Gabor, whose 94th birthday is Sunday, ate breakfast then started spitting up blood and was running the fever, von Anhalt said.

“The doctor told me her leg is infected again. They have to treat it right now. Hopefully they are going to get her stabilized in a few hours,” von Anhalt said. Her leg was amputated because of gangrene.

Gabor was “sort of conscious,” he said.


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