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Egyptian talks near collapse as trade unions back protests

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© Stringer/EPA
Egyptian employees of service companies owned by the Suez Canal Authority have joined workers across the country in strike action.
Talks between the Egyptian government and opposition have all but collapsed after the regime balked at surrendering power to a transitional administration in the hope that mass protests would die down.

Instead, the unrest is spreading as some of the largest demonstrations yet against President Hosni Mubarak were joined by labour strikes across the country, including on the Suez canal, in the city of Alexandria and by public transport workers in Cairo.

A prominent member of a key opposition group, the Council of Wise Men, said negotiations had "essentially come to an end". A western diplomat said Washington was alarmed by the lack of progress and the vice-president Omar Suleiman's warning of a coup if the opposition refused to accept the government's terms.

Pharoah

New Egyptian minister for culture resigns amid relentless protests

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© Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
Our country now: Anti-government demonstrators hold a huge national flag in Tahrir (Liberation) Square
Egypt's newly appointed Culture Minister Gaber Asfour has resigned as protests against President Hosni Mubarak's regime continue.

He resigned on Wednesday just nine days after he joined the cabinet in a reshuffle that was prompted by mounting demonstrations against the three-decade authoritarian rule of Mubarak, reports say.

Asfour, who had replaced Farouk Hosni after twenty-five years in office, has said he quit because of medical reasons. However, there is no official comment on the resignation so far.

The sixteenth day of the deadly demonstrations turned more violent on Wednesday with security forces using live bullets to disperse the outraged protesters in the small town of Kharga, witnesses said.

Having denied permit for a peaceful demonstration, Kharga police clamped down on protesters, killing at least five people and injuring hundreds of others in the past 24 hours, medics said.

On Wednesday, Cairo's Liberation Square remained flooded with demonstrators who have vowed not to go home until Mubarak steps down.

Che Guevara

Go Egypt Go! Revolution Enters Its 17th Day

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© Press TV
Demonstrators take part in a candlelight vigil for the people who were killed during the pro-democracy protests against Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in Liberation Square in Cairo February 9, 2011.
Revolution has entered its 17th consecutive day in Egypt, despite massive crackdown on demonstrators in the past two days which left more than a hundred people killed or wounded.

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters camped overnight in the streets in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, near parliament building, the site of a massive march on Wednesday, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Pro-democracy protesters blocked roads and railways connecting the northern part of the country to the south on Thursday.

Reports say the protesters set fire to tires placed across the main motorway that goes from Cairo to Assiut, 350 kilometers south of Cairo.

Around 8,000 protesters, mainly farmers, took to the streets in Assiut, and used wooden planks and bricks to block the railway line. More than 3,000 railway workers went on strike to put more pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign.

Stormtrooper

Mubarak's thugs loot and vandalise International Media Center in Cairo

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Reeling in the years
Security forces and thugs have raided and looted the International Center for Media in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, as the revolution in the crisis-hit country enters its 13th day.

The International Center for Media announced on Sunday that all the equipment at its Cairo office has been seized by the assailants, a Press Tv correspondent reported.

This is while, Egypt's main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has started landmark talks with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman demanding an immediate elimination of Emergency Law and guarantees for peaceful protests.

Meanwhile, much larger crowds of Egyptian protesters have been entering Cairo's Liberation Square to mark the 13th day of revolution, dubbed "Day of Martyrs."

Stormtrooper

Police detain anti-Berlusconi protesters in Italy

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© Unknown
A member of Italy's civic movement Justice and Freedom protests against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Italian anti-riot police have arrested two protesters at a thousand-strong rally held in Milan against scandal-plagued Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Thousands of Italian protesters, including writers and intellectuals, protested on Sunday, demanding the premier's resignation as soon as possible.

"Resign, resign!" the protesters shouted at the gates of Berlusconi's private villa in the Milan suburb of Arcore, where he was spending the weekend.

Clashes with riot-police erupted when protesters tried to break a security cordon erected several hundred meters from Berlusconi's residence. They threw bottles and other objects at the Italian police.

Another clash took place in front of Arcore's train station between several officers and demonstrators, which left a journalist injured, police said. Police arrested two protesters in the clash.

The organizer of the rally was an Italian activist group called Justice and Freedom.

Megaphone

The Rise of Hate: English Defence League stages protest near London

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© Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
A member of Italy's civic movement Justice and Freedom protests against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Thousands of far-right activists from the English Defence League descended on Luton yesterday for the biggest demonstration in the organisation's 20-month history.

Coachloads of supporters from the group's UK-wide "divisions" arrived from 10am and were joined by far right and Islamophobic groups from across Europe.

The EDL and police had predicted a turnout of between 5,000 and 7,000, but as the marchers arrived in St George's Square in the town centre just after 1pm, it appeared that no more than 3,000 had turned out. Despite the smaller numbers there were minor scuffles at the train station as anti-racist protesters tried to prevent EDL supporters getting off trains.

More than 2,000 police officers from forces across the south of England escorted the EDL march from the station into the centre of Luton. Some fireworks and bottles were thrown, shops and businesses in the town were closed and petrol stations had been boarded up in what one resident compared to a "war zone".

Stormtrooper

Egypt's army detaining and torturing protestors

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Military accused by human rights campaigners of targeting hundreds of anti-government protesters

The Egyptian military has secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak began, and at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian.

The military has claimed to be neutral, merely keeping anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists apart. But human rights campaigners say this is clearly no longer the case, accusing the army of involvement in both disappearances and torture - abuses Egyptians have for years associated with the notorious state security intelligence (SSI) but not the army.

The Guardian has spoken to detainees who say they have suffered extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organised campaign of intimidation. Human rights groups have documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army.

Clock

Can Egypt's revolution stay the distance?

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© Associated Press
After 14 days of unrest, the protesting crowds were thinner yesterday morning, although numbers increased later in the day
Increasing signs of normality in parts of Cairo belie a continuing stalemate.

After thirty unbroken years as President of Egypt, it had seemed as if Hosni Mubarak's charmed career was finally coming to an end.

But yesterday, Cairo's famous traffic jams were back. Businesses, shops, and banks were open across the capital. Barack Obama spoke of the "progress" the Egyptian government was making towards reform. And though still in tens of thousands, the numbers at Tahrir Square were probably down on the previous day.

Meanwhile, Mr Mubarak, the great survivor, was using all the guile that has kept him in power for so long to produce a series of sweeteners - including a 15 per cent pay rise for state employees - to widen his public support. He even held the first meeting of his new cabinet: the group he had hastily cobbled together as another means of staving off the end. His regime was doing everything in its power to suggest that things were calm once more. In another symbolically conciliatory move, the regime released Wael Ghonim, a local marketing manager for Google, who is a prominent youth activist involved in the protests and was detained three days after they began.

Eye 2

Holocaust historian says massacre of Egyptian protestors is desirable

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© Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
A young opposition supporter kisses an Egyptian flag as he is carried on his father's shoulders among the crowd in Tahrir Square
A "Holocaust" historian and former Israeli kibbutznik, "Professor David Cesarani, floated the idea of there being a Tiananmen Square-style massacre in Egypt as a way of quelling potential post-Mubarak anarchy.

"And there has been no outrage. No Twitterstorm, no blog-based apoplexy, no heated radio phone-ins. Perhaps talking about the massacre of Egyptians is normal these days.

"Professor Cesarani was asked by Michael Portillo about the 'moral dilemma' of how to deal with what comes after Mubarak. What if it's worse than Mubarak? Should it be crushed?

"Professor Cesarani said that if one takes the 'wholly pragmatic view,' then 'the outcome of a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown is desirable and is predictable.' Because, he said, 'if you allow this popular democratic movement to run on unchecked, you cannot predict what's going to happen. But you can predict probably that after a short, sharp, massive clampdown at huge human cost, there will be a sullen stability.'

"Portillo was startled. 'Quite a lot of people would be quite shocked to hear what you said - that a Tiananmen-style outcome would be desirable.'

"Cesarani responded that, 'The West is no longer weeping that much over Tiananmen Square because we're doing a lot of business with China. So, many business interests would say, quietly, that, perhaps, well the way in which the Chinese managed their transition was preferable.'

"Another panellist, Matthew Taylor, former adviser to Tony Blair and now chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, later described Cesarani's comments on Tiananmen Square as 'incredibly brave' and said: 'In a way, I can see his argument."

- Brendan O'Neill

Black Cat

The Deepening Mystery of Raymond Davis and Two Slain Pakistani Motorcyclists

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© A. Majeed, AFP/Getty Images
Activists of Shabab-i-Milli Pakistan shout slogans during an anti-U.S. protest against alleged U.S. consulate worker Raymond Davis in Peshawar on February 2, 2011.

The mystery of American Raymond A. Davis, currently imprisoned in the custody of local police in Lahore, Pakistan and charged with the Jan. 27 murder of two young men, whom he allegedly shot eight times with pinpoint accuracy through his car windshield, is growing increasingly murky. Also growing is the anger among Pakistanis that the US is trying to spring him from a Punjab jail by claiming diplomatic immunity. On Feb. 4, there were massive demonstrations, especially in Lahore, demanding that Davis be held for trial, an indication of the level of public anger at talk of granting him immunity.

Davis (whose identity was first denied and later confirmed by the US Embassy in Islamabad), and the embassy have claimed that he was hired as an employee of a US security company called Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, which was said to be located at 5100 North Lane in Orlando, Florida. Business cards for Hyperion were found on Davis by arresting officers.

However CounterPunch has investigated and discovered the following information:

First, there is not and never has been any such company located at the 5100 North Lane address. It is only an empty storefront, with empty shelves along one wall and an empty counter on the opposite wall, with just a lone used Coke cup sitting on it. A leasing agency sign is on the window. A receptionist at the IB Green & Associates rental agency located in Leesburg, Florida, said that her agency, which handles the property, part of a desolate-looking strip mall of mostly empty storefronts, has never leased to a Hyperion Protective Consultants. She added, "In fact, until recently, we had for several years occupied that address ourselves."