Puppet MastersS


Mubarak Leaves Cairo for Sharm el-Sheikh as Protesters Keep Up Pressure

Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak left the presidential palace in Cairo today but remains in Egypt, sources told ABC News, as protesters kept the pressure on the government to force Mubarak out of office.

Sources tell ABC News that the 82-year-old president has gone to an estate he owns in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the Red Sea about 250 miles from the protests in Cairo. Mubarak told ABC News last week he may eventually retire to the resort town, but vowed never to leave Egypt.

A senior Egyptian official told ABC News Mubarak's departure from the palace was intended to be symbolic, as well a visual withdrawal from the political process after having handed over most of his authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman. But the move does not preclude him from returning or inhibit his ability to oversee constitutional amendments, the official said.


Egypt emergency law 'to be lifted'

© Agence France-PresseDefence Minister Tantawi visited Tahrir Square, the focal point for the protests, last week
Egyptian military leaders have pledged that the country's emergency law will be lifted, but only "as soon as current circumstances end".

The promise was made as part of the Armed Forces Supreme Council's response to the mass protests which are intensifying after President Hosni Mubarak's latest refusal to step down.

In a statement read out on national television, the army leaders also pledged to support work towards peaceful transition of power, in the light of Mubarak handing over some powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president.

The third point made was that "the honest men who called for an end to corruption and for reform" will not be prosecuted.

The army generals also called for a return to normal life in the country, as thousands of protesters streamed into Cairo's central Tahrir Square.

Hussein Tantawi, the chief commander and defence minister, chaired Friday's meeting.


US Congressman Ron Paul: Classified Cable Proves US Ok'd Saddam's Kuwait Invasion

Ron Paul
How the 20-year war started another "wild conspiracy theory" proven true...

VT Editor's note: Though Ron Paul totally sidesteps his previous statements on 9/11 and the role of Israel and its friends in both conflicts, choosing instead to push blame on to the Republican party and a cabal of oil companies, there are telling facts to be gleaned from the Wikileak cable meant to discredit the United States. When a reasonable and acute thinker quickly comes to the conclusion that the influence of Israel is far greater in Washington than any oil company and the rationale for targeting Iraq served only the strategic interests of Israeli expansionism and was not, in any way, related to accessing oil openly available on the world market, we can escape the artifices of Mr. Assange and his handlers along with the "soft soap" of Ron Paul and his "kow-tow" to AIPAC.


IMF boss calls for global currency

© Larry Downing/REUTERSIMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn thinks the fund's Special Drawing Rights could be used as a global currency. Surprise!
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has called for a new world currency that would challenge the dominance of the dollar and help curb future financial instability.

In a speech in Washington, Strauss-Kahn argued that the reserves that member countries held with the fund could be used, instead of the dollar, to price international trade. These so-called special drawing rights (SDRs) could also act as an alternative to the dollar in central banks' foreign currency reserves.

"Using the SDR to price global trade and denominate financial assets would provide a buffer from exchange rate volatility," he said, while "issuing SDR-denominated bonds could create a potentially new class of reserve assets".

The IMF published a policy paper backing Strauss-Kahn's views as it gathered top-level economists for discussions on the future of the international monetary system.

Strauss-Kahn, who has been tipped as a contender for the French presidency next year, also argued that the way SDRs were valued, which is currently based on a basket of currencies - the dollar, sterling, the euro and the yen - be broadened to include others such as the Chinese yuan.


(Virtually) Face to Face: How Aaron Barr Revealed Himself to Anonymous

© ArsTechnicaStian Elkeland

Aaron Barr, CEO of security company HBGary Federal, spent the month of January trying to uncover the real identifies of the hacker collective Anonymous - only to end with his company website knocked offline, his e-mails stolen, 1TB of backups deleted, and his personal iPad wiped when Anonymous found out.

Our lengthy investigation of that story generated such interest that we wanted to flesh out one compelling facet of the story in even more detail. In a sea of technical jargon, social media analysis, and digital detective work, it stands out as a truly human moment, when Barr revealed himself to Anonymous and dialogued directly with senior leaders and "members" of the group.

The encounter began on February 5. Barr had managed to get his work written up in a Financial Times story the day before, and now strange traffic was pouring in to HBGary Federal. With his research done and his story in print, Barr needed only to work up some conference slides and prepare for a meeting with the FBI, which had been tracking Anonymous for some time. So Barr ditched the covert identities he had been using to watch the group, and on February 5 he approached a person on Facebook whom he believed was the powerful CommanderX.


IMF calls for dollar alternative

New York -- The International Monetary Fund issued a report Thursday on a possible replacement for the dollar as the world's reserve currency.
dollar graph

The IMF said Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, could help stabilize the global financial system.

SDRs represent potential claims on the currencies of IMF members. They were created by the IMF in 1969 and can be converted into whatever currency a borrower requires at exchange rates based on a weighted basket of international currencies. The IMF typically lends countries funds denominated in SDRs

Bad Guys

House passes Patriot Act rule, clears way for passage

patriot act
© Robert W. Thompson 2008

The House passed a rule Thursday setting up a second vote to extend Patriot Act surveillance authorities until Dec. 8.

The new rule clears the way for the legislation to be passed by just a simple majority, after the same bill failed to win a two-thirds majority under a suspension of House rules earlier in the week.

In the suspension vote, more than two dozen Republicans bucked their leadership and joined Democrats to sink the extension.

In floor debate preceding Thursday's vote on the rule, Democrats jabbed Republicans for dropping the first vote and protested the "closed rule" for the second vote, which prevents amendments.

Rep. Sheila Jackson (D-Texas) said Republicans were practicing "unique trickery" by calling the bill back for a second vote.

"We have a right to have a voice and that voice has already been expressed," said Lee. "What more needs to be said?"

Some Democrats said they would have proposed an amendment that extended the law for only 60 days. But in many ways the floor discussion mirrored the debate earlier in the week.


Pentagon official: US could send troops to fight Mexican "insurgency"

The second-highest civilian official in charge of the US Army warned Monday that US troops may have to intervene in Mexico to combat what he termed an "insurgency".

The remarks, made by US Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal at a security forum in Utah, drew an immediate rebuke from the Mexican government. Mexico's Interior Department issued a statement Tuesday saying it "categorically rejects" the US official's assertions.

"It is regrettable that this official makes statements ... that do not reflect the cooperation that the two governments have been building," the statement added.

The statement disputed the characterization of the armed conflict in Mexico as an "insurgency," stressing, "Organized crime is seeking to increase its illegal economic benefits through trafficking of drugs and people, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, extortion and other crimes. They are not groups that are promoting a political agenda."

In his remarks at the University of Utah's Hinkley Institute of Politics, Westphal described Latin America and Mexico in particular as one of Washington's "blind spots" in terms of national security. "As all of you know, there is a form of insurgency in Mexico with the drug cartels that are right on our border," he said.

He added, "This isn't just about drugs and about illegal immigrants. This is about, potentially a takeover of a government by individuals who are corrupt."


Statement of President Barack Obama on Egypt


The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient. Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world. The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.

As we have said from the beginning of this unrest, the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. But the United States has also been clear that we stand for a set of core principles. We believe that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected, and their aspirations must be met. We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change, and a negotiated path to democracy. To that end, we believe that the emergency law should be lifted. We believe that meaningful negotiations with the broad opposition and Egyptian civil society should address the key questions confronting Egypt's future: protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens; revising the Constitution and other laws to demonstrate irreversible change; and jointly developing a clear roadmap to elections that are free and fair.

We therefore urge the Egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek. Going forward, it will be essential that the universal rights of the Egyptian people be respected. There must be restraint by all parties. Violence must be forsaken. It is imperative that the government not respond to the aspirations of their people with repression or brutality. The voices of the Egyptian people must be heard.


US: Republicans Turn on the Patriot Act

© Unknown
Washington, DC - Why did 26 House Republicans vote to block reauthorization of the Patriot Act? The Bush-era law, which gives the government broad surveillance powers, has been hated by the lefties and libertarians for years. Ahead of the vote, Rep. Dennis Kucinich said it would be the Constitution-loving "Tea Party's first test." Well, did they pass?

Maybe? During the last fall's election campaign, the Tea Party talked a good game about freedom and respect for America's founding documents, and libertarian Rep. Ron Paul--one of only three Republican congressmen to oppose the Patriot Act in 2001--is considered a founding father of the movement. But of the 26 Republicans who voted down the bill--which allowed the secret FISA court to continue granting roving wiretaps, warrants for all kinds of records (library, medical, etc.), and warrants to monitor someone without evidence he's working for some kind of foreign entity--only eight were freshmen. In fact, 44 of the 52 members of the Tea Party caucus voted for the extension. Plus, two of the nays were establishment Republicans weighing Senate campaigns.

So if the dreaded Big Brother bill wasn't temporarily slayed for the sake of civil liberties (and it was temporary--Republicans will surely bring it up again under different rules so only a simple majority is needed to pass it), why did so many vote against it? It might have more to do with the guy in the White House and the defeat of many moderates in the midterms. As Geoff notes at Ace of Spades HQ, last year, the extension passed fairly easily--in part because almost two-thirds of Democrats voted for it, as did 94 percent of Republicans. This year, 89 percent of Republicans voted for it, while just 35 percent of Democrats did so. Maybe some GOP n00bs just don't trust Obama with all that hopey changey wiretappy stuff.