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Cloud Lightning

Texas Dems accuse Perry of 'California dreamin'' during ice storm

Rick Perry
© unknown
Rick Perry
Gov. Rick Perry took heat from Texas Democrats on Thursday for being in California while Texans back home were dealing with icy streets, rolling power blackouts and the lowest temperatures in years.

"RICK PERRY WAS CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' WHILE TEXANS ENDURED BLACKOUT NIGHTMARE," screamed the headline of a news release from Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Gray. Perry is in California to participate in the 100th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's birth. But spokesman Mark Miner said Perry was monitoring storm-related developments back home.

"It shows the Democrats are out of touch," Miner said. "He's been in constant communication with the office and is dealing with the weather situation and other issues facing the state on a regular basis."

Rocket

US missile misses Bin Laden, hits Afghan woman and her kids

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An Afghan woman has been injured along with her five young children when a missile fired by US-led forces struck their house in Afghanistan's northeastern province of Kunar.

A US-led convoy, rolling through Sarkani district of Kunar Province, came under attack by Taliban militants on Friday. The forces responded by firing a missile which missed the target and hit the residential building.

Parts of the structure were damaged in the incident, a Press TV correspondent reported on Friday.

The incident comes as violence in Afghanistan has spiked to record high levels since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Statistics about the civilian death toll in Afghanistan are not available. However, it is estimated that between 14,000 and 34,000 Afghan civilians have lost their lives since the US-led invasion.

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have reportedly lost their lives as the result of displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war.

Che Guevara

More protests as Jordanians call for reforms

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Hundreds of Jordanians have gathered outside the prime minister office in the capital, Amman, calling for wide and quick political and economic reforms.

Around 1,000 protesters marched toward the prime ministry following the Friday Prayers and urged Jordan's newly-appointed Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit to bring in the public on the country's decision making process.

Demonstrators said they demand more government reforms than the appointment of a new prime minister. The protest was organized by the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood.

On Tuesday, after three weeks of anti-government protests, King Abdullah sacked the prime minister, Samir Rifai, and appointed Marouf Bakhit in his place, instructing him to "take practical, quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms."

The opposition, however, says Bakhit is not a reformist.

"We want seriousness on the ground. We want a genuine reform. We want initiatives and now so that people feel they are partners in decision making," Secretary General of IAF Hamzeh Mansour said.

Bandaid

Azerbaijan considers sacking ministers as mass protests loom

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Azeri Prime Minister Artur Rasizade
Reports from Azerbaijan indicate the Baku government is preparing for a cabinet reshuffle for fear that the country may plunge into protests similar to Egypt and Tunisia.

A report published in the Azeri newspaper Yeni Musavat on Friday said Baku is well aware of the severity of the people's dissatisfaction with the ruling establishment in the former soviet republic, an IRIB correspondent reported.

The Azeri government is therefore considering a 'plan B' to sack Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and dismiss his cabinet or even hold a snap parliamentary election, the paper added.

In neighboring Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has pledged elections after two decades.

Panah Hussein, who leads Azerbaijan's Public Chamber Movement, said regarding the latest developments in the world, Baku would have to announce early general elections.

Hussein said if 45 lawmakers choose to resign, the parliament elected in 2010 would automatically be dissolved and new election would be inevitable.

But a lawmaker from President Ilham Aliyev's ruling New Azerbaijan Party dismissed calls for a 'popular parliament' and snap election, insisting that Azeri lawmakers would never volunteer to resign.

Comment: We wonder if this is related?

Azeri embassy staff killed in Egypt by unknown assailants


Family

Anti-Mubarak demo held in New York

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© Unknown
Egyptian-Americans rally in Times Square, New York to express support for the Egyptian protesters' call for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Egyptian-Americans have held a demonstration in Times Square to coincide with the massive demonstrations that were held in Egypt calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Hundreds of people gathered behind police barricades in Times Square on Friday afternoon chanting "Mubarak must go." One demonstrator held up a sign saying, "Long live the Egyptian intifada."

The larger demonstrations in Egypt were named the "Day of Departure" for Mubarak.

The U.S. government says close to 60,000 Egyptian-Americans live in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. Community members say the real number is twice that figure.

Over the past week, Egyptian-Americans have gathered in coffee shops and restaurants in a neighborhood of Queens, New York known as Little Egypt, glued to TV sets broadcasting bloody clashes in Cairo. Many are worried about family and friends in their ancestral homeland.

The demonstration in New York began at 3:30 p.m. local time. The protesters later marched to the Egyptian Consulate, which is located on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue.

Light Saber

World rallies to support Egypt revolution

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© Agence France Presse
Hundreds of Malaysian protesters gathered in front of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to show their solidarity with the Egyptian anti-government protesters on February 4, 201.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have held rallies to support the revolutionary drive of Egyptians and call for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

In the Tunisian capital Tunis, protesters rallied near the Egyptian Embassy. They told President Mubarak to leave just like ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In the Turkish city of Istanbul, protesters called for an immediate regime change in Egypt.

In Lebanese capital, Beirut, people gathered outside the Egyptian Embassy, calling for political reform in Egypt.

Thousands of Malaysian protesters, who took to the streets to show support for the Egyptian revolution, clashed with police while staging a march to the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Eye 2

Mubarak sends snipers after protesters

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Reports say that plainclothes police officers and snipers have launched a crackdown on millions of anti-government protesters in central Cairo.

This comes as anti-government demonstrators are gathering in Liberation Square as protests against embattled President Hosni Mubarak continue for an eleventh consecutive day.

Latest reports, however, say there are running street battles between protesters and security forces in some areas in Cairo.

At least 30 protesters have been arrested, reports say.

Two French journalists have been missing in Cairo for the last 24 hours and an Egyptian journalist has been killed.

Light Sabers

Big Obama donor quits envoy job amid criticism

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© AP Photo/USAF Senior Airman Nick Wilson
-U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Cynthia Stroum speaks to the crowd during the Veteran’s Day ceremony at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. Nov. 11 2010
Washington - As a supporter of presidential candidate Barack Obama, Cynthia Stroum was a superstar whose financial backing of the campaign landed her a plum diplomatic posting in Europe.

As America's ambassador to Luxembourg, the wealthy Seattle-based businesswoman was a disaster.

According to an internal State Department report released Thursday, less than a week after she quit, Stroum's management of the U.S. Embassy in the tiny country was abysmal. The report says her tenure of about one year was fraught with personality conflicts, verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel, wine and liquor.

Stroum's case illustrates the pitfalls that presidents can face when they appoint non-career diplomats to ambassadorships as a reward for their political support.

The Luxembourg embassy "has underperformed for the entirety of the current ambassador's tenure," said the report, which was prepared last fall before she resigned abruptly. "At present, due to internal problems, it plays no significant role in policy advocacy or reporting, though developments in Luxembourg are certainly of interest to Washington clients and other U.S. missions in the NATO and EU communities."

MIB

U.S. Ambassador Cynthia Stroum Called "Bullying, Hostile" in State Department Investigation

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© luxembourg.usembassy.gov
Cynthia Stroum
One way that presidents reward their biggest donors is by offering them plum ambassadorships. Which is why it wasn't surprising when the Obama administration tapped Cynthia Stroum to be U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.

Stroum, a businesswoman and philanthropist, had been a major bundler for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, raising more than half a million dollars for the then-candidate.

It appears that her fundraising abilities did not translate to diplomatic success, however: According to a scathing State Department probe out Thursday (PDF), Stroum was seen by most employees as "aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating."

The probe found that Stroum's "confrontational management style," staffing problems and "the absence of a sense of direction" have brought much of the Luxembourg embassy "to a state of dysfunction."

Black Cat

Report rips U.S. envoy who resigned

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© Associated Press
Cynthia Stroum left her post as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg last month.
An Obama bundler picked for a choice ambassadorship brought the U.S. embassy she led to "a state of dysfunction" in a year on the job, a State Department probe has found.

Cynthia Stroum, who last month left her post as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, was "aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating," the department's inspector general said in a report released Thursday. The embassy and its staff face myriad problems, including "the absence of a sense of direction," which has "brought major elements of Embassy Luxembourg to a state of dysfunction."

Stroum's year in Luxembourg was marred by personality struggles, management problems and improper spending, including $3,400 the embassy rushed to spend on wine and liquor at the end of the 2010 budget year.

The inspector general found that Stroum, who announced her resignation in mid-January and left the embassy on the last day of the month, was the source of" [t]he bulk of the mission's internal problems." Stroum, the report said, followed a pattern of public criticism of colleagues ... who have not performed to her satisfaction."