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John Boehner squares up to Obama as House votes for $61bn in cuts (just don't mention the war machine)

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© Alex Wong/Getty Images
John Boehner, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, pushed through a massive package of cuts by 235 votes to 192, declaring: 'We will not stop here.'
House of Representatives provokes threat of veto from Barack Obama - and raises prospect of a government shutdown

Republicans pushed through a draconian series of budget cuts worth tens of billions of dollars on Saturday, raising the prospect of a showdown with President Barack Obama.

Emboldened by their 2010 midterm election victory and swelled by Tea Party-backed newcomers, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives signed off on federal spending cuts worth $61bn. The axe will fall on federal money for public broadcasting, environmental programmes, Obama's healthcare reforms and the family planning organisation Planned Parenthood.

Even Obama's own staff face $120m of cuts. Personnel would be withdrawn from key areas including the reform of Wall Street. Some government agencies face budget cuts as high as 40%; the largest reduction in federal government spending since the second world war.

Heart - Black

UK: Why do the elderly allow the NHS to treat them so badly?

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It's absurd to think GPs can serve us from cradle to grave. We need a new breed of specialist practitioners

I was shocked, not at all surprised and guiltily elated by the health service ombudsman's findings of official NHS neglect and failure to care for elderly people. Ann Abraham's report - and the observations in her eloquent introduction - should be a wake-up call. She told it from her vantage point. From my ground-level perspective on the edge of our revered healthcare system, the NHS seems, bluntly, no longer fit for purpose for older people.

I'm not a medical professional. As a specialist exercise instructor, I work with older people who still live independently, but most of whom are at risk of falling and injuring themselves. None of my clients is at death's door, but all are living lives made increasingly complicated by the combined effects of ageing, disease, disability and treatment. It's a new kind of normality and one that could easily be yours or mine some day. This generation's experiences of their unanticipated extra decades carry urgent cultural and structural messages for the future of healthcare.

Among this generation of over-70s, I see a culture of low expectations about what the health service can do for them. This is paradoxical, because they consume truly vast amounts of their own and the NHS's time visiting GPs: undergoing scans, investigations, procedures; awaiting diagnoses; tracking down specialists' reports; getting new medications; coping with the side-effects of medications; switching medications and so on.

Che Guevara

Amy Goodman: Pro-democracy movement in the Middle East is part of a rolling global rebellion

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Amy Goodman talked from New York City about the movement toward democracy in the Middle East, ranging from Tunisia, to Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain, as well as the opposition and response to the uprisings. She also responded to telephone calls and electronic communications.


People

From Libya to Yemen, No Sign of Unrest Easing

Anti-government protesters
© Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in Sanaa February 18. Crowds of rival demonstrators thronged the Yemeni capital and two other cities on Friday in a show of strength between President Ali Abdullah Saleh's supporters and those demanding an end to his 32 years in power.
The unrest shaking the Middle East and North Africa showed no signs of calming Friday as protesters determined to overthrow governments and remake a region plagued by corruption, poverty and decades of limited political freedoms continued to confront security forces and regime loyalists.

Uprisings that only months ago would have been unthinkable have engulfed a region desperate to replicate the toppling of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. So far, the breadth of demonstrations in Yemen, Libya and Jordan have not reached a tipping point.

As in Bahrain, many leaders in the region are relying on the police and military, pro-government propaganda and intimidation to beat back protesters.

But the death toll and the frustrations are growing.

Protests against the 41-year rule of Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi continued in Benghazi on Friday with opposition forces and government troops clashing violently. The tumult in Libya's second-largest city has taken as many as 35 lives there, according to human rights groups, news agencies and hospital officials.

Chess

Is the Next Mideast Volcano a Little Island in the Gulf?

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© Hasan Jamali/Associated Press
Bahraini anti-government protesters pray together at the Pearl roundabout in Manama, Bahrain Wednesday Feb. 16, 2011.

Talk of revolution in the normally placid Gulf comes down to the opinion and emotions of solidly middle-class Mohamed Ali, 31, a manager in a financial institution in the Bahraini capital of Manama. "We feel that our country is not belonging to us. We gave the government 10 years to resolve these issues," he says. "But what we got only promises."

Ali speaks for many of the thousands who, on Wednesday, were protesting for the third straight day in Manama's Lulu Roundabout, a busy city intersection now turned would-be Tahrir Square. Feeling disenfranchised from their own country Ali and his wife, have joined the ranks of protesters. Says he, "There is no equal opportunity."

Shi'a Bahrainis like Ali form a majority in the Gulf island, which has been ruled for 40 years by a Sunni minority. The Shi'a feel that the best jobs, the best opportunities are reserved for Sunnis and that they are placed behind Sunnis from other countries who get preference above Bahrainis. Since Feb. 14, protesters have converged at Lulu, calling for the removal of the Bahraini prime minister, Sheikh Khanifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has been in office - unelected - since 1971. By Wednesday, tweets reported that the protest tents were getting bigger and included more families. "Speeches varied," one poster wrote, "from thoughtful to fiery."

Magnify

U.S. v. Bond: Reexamining the Mysterious 10th Amendment

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© Unknown
Is smearing toxic chemicals on a mailbox "garden-variety" crime or a federal treaty violation?

When Carol Anne Bond of Lansdale, PA, put deadly poison on her best friend's mailbox, she probably didn't think she was violating an international treaty against chemical weapons. Nor did she probably imagine she'd end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving that most mysterious of Amendments, the Tenth.

Tuesday's oral argument in United States v. Bond will probably focus on the legally important parts of this case -- quasi-theological concepts like the nature of the Article II Treaty Power, the meaning of the Article I "Necessary and Proper" Clause, and the real meaning of the Tenth Amendment -- which from a journalistic standpoint is a shame, because the unimportant parts of the case are so amazing.

I'm pretty sure Bond wasn't thinking about these issues when she committed her crime -- or thinking about of anything, beyond perhaps proving her suitability to appear on a future episode of a daytime talk show called "Highly Educated Microbiologists Who Do Crazy Stupid Things."

Video

Bahrain protesters reclaim central square

'We are victorious,' demonstrators say as they pour back to Pearl Square, setting up camp for extended stay

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© Hassan Ammar/AP
Bahraini protesters pray and chant slogans as another protester places a Bahraini flag at the Pearl roundabout soon after the military pulled out in Manama, Bahrain, Saturday. Riot police later beat demonstrators and fired tear gas, before they too withdrew.
Manama, Bahrain - Anti-government protesters in Bahrain swarmed back into a symbolic square on Saturday, putting riot police to flight in a striking victory for their cause and confidently setting up camp for a protracted stay.

Crowds had approached Pearl Square in Manama from different directions, creating a standoff with riot police who had moved in earlier to replace troops withdrawn on royal orders.

Suddenly police raced to their buses, which drove away mounting kerbs in their haste to escape.

Emboldened protesters, cheering and waving national flags, ran to the center of the traffic circle, retaking it even before all police had left.

"We are victorious!" they chanted as they marched back into the square.

The crowd waved fleeing policemen through.

"We don't fear death anymore, let the army come and kill us to show the world what kind of savages they are," said Umm Mohammed, a teacher wearing a black abaya cloak.

On orders from the crown prince, troops and armored vehicles earlier withdrew from the square, which they had taken over on Thursday after riot police staged a night-time attack on a sit-in by protesters, killing four people and wounding 231.

Eye 2

Fresh clashes after Libyan city buries dead

Tripoli - Moammar Gadhafi's forces fired on mourners in the eastern city of Benghazi, wiped out a protest encampment and clamped down on Internet service throughout Libya Saturday as the regime tried to squelch calls for an end to the ruler's 42-year grip on power.

Libyan hospital official said security forces killed at least 15 mourners leaving funeral for protesters, The Associated Press reported.

Libyan protesters were back on the street for the fifth straight day, but Gadhafi has taken a hard line toward the dissent that has ripped through the Middle East and swept him up with it.

Snipers fired on thousands of people gathered in Benghazi, a focal point of the unrest, to mourn 35 protesters who were shot on Friday, a hospital official said.

"Now we have youth coming to the hospital to donate blood," he said. "We are running out of supplies."

Like most Libyans who have talked to The Associated Press during the revolt, the hospital official spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Stormtrooper

What regime change, what revolution? Egyptian military warns people against further "illegal" demos

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The Egyptian military has banned fresh pro-democracy protests amid labor strikes.
Egypt's military has warned people against staging fresh pro-democracy protests, saying it will not allow constant "illegal" strikes and demonstrations that have wreaked havoc on the economy.

The Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has temporarily taken over power following the historic ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in the North African country, declared in its statement on Saturday that it will "confront" protests with "legal steps," the Associated Press reported.

The military has taken a hard-nosed approach toward continued mass pro-democracy protests at a time when massive walkouts by the public sector staff in protest against low wages and poor working conditions have raised the specter of new multi-million protests akin to the huge demonstrations that put an end to Mubarak's 30-year reign.

According to the military's statement, the warning is aimed at preventing the Egyptian economy from plunging into the abyss. However, labor strikes have continued as employees expressed fury at corruption and abuse of power by the cronies of Mubarak.

Che Guevara

Panama clashes: Guaymi angry over copper mining law

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© Agence France-Presse
Indigenous Panamanians blocked a major road with their protest
Police in Panama have clashed with dozens of indigenous protesters trying to prevent copper mining on their ancestral lands.

Members of the Guaymi indigenous group occupied a bridge on a major highway on the outskirts of Panama City.

Clashes erupted when police tried to move the protesters to clear the way for traffic.

Lawmakers last week approved a law which opens up the western Ngobe-Bugle reservation to foreign mining projects.

Police say demonstrators, some of whom were armed with spears, threw stones at them when they tried to clear the section of the Pan-American highway.