Newscast for Wednesday, January 26, 2011

  • Demonstrations continue in Egyptian cities, defying a government ban on protests
  • A Palestinian reaction to the release of hundreds of secret documents on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  • The Congressional Budget Office says US economic recovery is lethargic
  • The economic prospects after President Obama’s State of the Union speech
  • Subpoenaed Chicago activists refuse to appear in court

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Warrant for ousted Tunisian leader
An international arrest warrant has been issued for Tunisia’s former authoritarian leader, Ben Ali, and some of his family. The interim Tunisian government asked the international law enforcement body, Interpol, to issue the warrant, which is for “theft and currency offenses.” Switzerland has frozen Ben Ali’s assets. Meanwhile, protests and skirmishes with police continue in the capital city, Tunis, as demonstrators want the interim government to be free from politicians connected to Ben Ali. The interim government says they have the experience to govern. Ben Ali was ousted by popular uprising after 23 years of dictatorial rule.


Miners Killed in Colombia
At least 5 miners have been killed in an explosion at a mine in the Northeastern part of Colombia. At least a dozen more are missing; gas build up is likely to have caused the blast. This not the first time this mine has seen devastation. In 2007, 30 miners died in an explosion due to gas build up.


House votes to end Presidential Public Financing
The Republican majority in the House of Representatives voted to end public financing of presidential elections. It is part of their efforts to reduce federal spending and would save more than 600 million dollars in the next decade.

Freshman Republican Rob Woodall of Georgia:
“This proposal today is one small step toward attacking that operating deficit.”

Opponents say ridding elections of public financing will lead to more corporate influence in campaigns.

New York Democrat Louis Slaughter:
“The Presidential election campaign fund is the one place in the electoral system that we take some off the pressure off of candidates who otherwise have to raise bushels of money.”

Taxpayers choose on their tax forms if they want to contribute 1 or 3 dollars to the fund.

During the 2008 President elections, President Obama was the first major candidate to opt out of public financing.


Flotilla Report Blames Israel
Turkey released a report on the May 2010 attack on an aid flotilla. The report says the attack by Israel was “premeditated” and that Israeli soldiers used an “excessive” amount of force. Israel released its own report earlier this week and called the attack justified. The aid flotilla was headed to Gaza from Turkey when Israeli soldiers seized the boat and killed 9.



Thousands continue to demonstrate in Egyptian cities, defying a government ban on protests
Anti-government demonstrations continued for a second day in Egypt, as crowds defied a ban on protests and defended themselves from tear gas and rubber bullets. Video posted by Russia Today shows tensions continued throughout the night, as throngs of riot police shot guns into the air and sprayed crowds with a water cannon.

Police have detained more than 800 people, according to the Guardian, some of them violently. The media outlet’s own Cairo correspondent Jack Shenker was beaten and thrown onto a dark, crowded security bus with dozens of others. He used a recording device to document what was happening:

“So we’re in the back of a central security truck after being severely beaten and herded into a sort of holding pen in down-town Cairo. They then transferred us onto the truck, a few more beatings, and we’re now being driven out into the desert. The police have been incredibly violent with all of us in the truck and we’re herded in here, there must be between 30 and 40 people in a confined a very confined space. More than 40 you think?

Man: No, yeah, in this car maybe 60 people or something and the another car so we’ll get more
Shenker: So in this truck we’re now thinking somewhere around 50, maybe 60 people, a bit more than I thought.”

One of the Egyptians rounded up with Shenker expressed concern about where they might be taken.

Shenker said they eventually released all but one detainee, the son of a well-known dissident, Ayman Nour.

Thousands have been protesting in Cairo and other cities since yesterday, in a movement inspired by Tunisia’s popular uprising that forced President Ben Ali from power. Some Egyptians are hoping for the same result with their President, Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for 30 years. For more on why these protests were organized, the Real News Network spoke to Miret El Naggar, special correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers in Cairo.


A Palestinian reaction to the release of hundreds of secret documents on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Today FSRN continues our coverage of the Palestine papers — more than 1600 confidential files related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leaked to Al-Jazeera. The Qatari-based news outlet shared the files with the Guardian, and both have been publishing investigations this week. The files include e-mails, maps, memos, minutes from private meetings and power point presentations dating from 1999 to 2010. So far, the documents have shown the extent of the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to make concessions to Israel and their deep disappointment with the Obama administration’s efforts in the peace process. For a Palestinian reaction to these leaks, we go to Nadia Hijab Co-director of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.


The Congressional Budget Office says US economic recovery is lethargic
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a bleak assessment of the nation’s economy. CBO Director, Doug Elmendorg, says the economic recovery is lethargic and is seeing the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. He projects that 2 ½ million jobs will be created each year, but that unemployment won’t drop below 9% until next year.

He says the sluggish economy has had a drain on the national deficit:

“There are several factors that have meant the budget deficit has not started to improve in the way the economic news has started to suggest. I think the most important one is that the economy has been recovering slowly.”

The annual report is done to assess government policies for the immediate year as well as the long term impact for the next ten years. Elmendorf says that if current policies stay the same, the deficit will reach 1.5 trillion dollars this year. That makes the deficit the highest percentage of GDP for three consecutive years since 1945.

The CBO’s figures have been readjusted since their August report. They now project the deficit to be 400 billion dollars worse for the next 3 years because of an extension of the Bush tax cuts, the estate tax and other tax extensions.

Kent Conrad, top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee says the CBO analysis is another wake up call. The CBO also said that entitlement programs, namely Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, could increase from 10% of the GDP to 16% by the year 2035 if changes are not made.


The economic prospects after President Obama’s State of the Union speech
Stimulating the flagging US economy – detailed in that CBO assessment – was a focus of President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Obama emphasized the importance of education and the need to invest in renewable energies, but also said “painful cuts” will be necessary:

“I’m proposing that starting this year we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. Now this would reduce the deficit by more than four hundred billion dollars over the next decade and would bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.”

For reaction to the President’s speech and how it dealt with key issues, including the economy, Letters and Politics host Mitch Jeserich spoke with George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics from the University of California.


Subpoenaed Chicago activists refuse to appear in court
Nine Chicago political activists were ordered to appear in front of a Federal Grand Jury Tuesday, to answer questions related to a widening federal probe into allegations of material aid to terrorism. All nine refused to honor those subpoenas. FSRN’s Chris Geovanis reports from Chicago.

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