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Europe must wipe out intolerance of western values in Muslim communities and far-right groups, asserts British Prime Minister David Cameron

British prime minister says European governments are too tolerant of sectors of society that oppose democracy.
‘Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries,’ he says

david-cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel
of Germany at a conference in Munich on Saturday
where Mr. Cameron spoke.
Photo By Miguel Villagran

Ynetnews.com

Europe must stamp out intolerance of Western values within its own Muslim communities and far-right groups if it is to defeat the roots of terrorism, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday.

Cameron told the annual Munich Security Conference that European governments have been too tolerant of some sectors of society that publicly oppose democracy or reject equal rights for all.

He said Britain had found that many convicted terrorists had initially been influenced by so-called “nonviolent extremists” people who aren’t involved in encouraging plots, but denounce Western politics and culture before going on to carry out violence.

“We won’t defeat terrorism simply by the actions we take outside our borders. Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries,” Cameron told the conference.

Both Britain and Germany have had noisy domestic debates about the impact of immigration, and the difficulties of integrating some religious communities, or those who struggle with the language of their new home.

In an attack on Britain’s previous government, Cameron said authorities there had been too hesitant to intervene when some sectors of society espoused abhorrent views.

“We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values,” Cameron said. “We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”

Cameron said a culture of tolerance had allowed both Islamic extremists, and far-right extremists, to build support for their causes. “We’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them,” he said.

Some European allies have criticized Britain for harboring hard-line Islamic clerics and failing to clamp down on mosques that promote a perverted view of Islam.

Several terrorists involved in attacks or attempted plots in the US, Sweden, Denmark and Norway over the last two years have had links to Britain, or British-based clerics.

“If we are to defeat this threat, I believe it’s time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past,” Cameron said. “Instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we as governments and societies have got to confront it, in all its forms.”

He told the conference that developments in the Middle East should be harnessed to disprove Muslims who claim their religion cannot be observed properly within the democratic system.

“If they want an example of how Western values and Islam can be entirely compatible, they should look at what’s happened in the past few weeks on the streets of Tunis and Cairo,” Cameron said.

Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation a British Muslim youth group said in a statement following the speech that Cameron has risked angering Muslims by suggesting there was widespread intolerance within the religion.

“Singling out Muslims as he has done feeds the hysteria and paranoia about Islam and Muslims,” Shafiq said. “British Muslims abhor terrorism and extremism and we have worked hard to eradicate this evil from our country.”

The British leader’s comments follow tensions across Europe since November of possible new terrorist attacks. Officials said last year that a sleeper cell of some 20 to 25 people may have been planning an attack inside Germany or another European nation.

Nine men were charged last month in Britain over an alleged plan to attack Parliament and the US Embassy in London.

Last week, the US State Department warned of an ongoing high threat-level in Britain, and told tourists of a specific risk to transit networks and airports.

See Related: David Cameron ‘livid’ after multiculturalism speech comes under fire – Stands by his philosophy – ‘You have to say to the people in Birmingham Central Mosque, or wherever, who are saying 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy, that that is not an acceptable attitude to have’

See Related: Brits begin extremism crackdown as cash withheld from suspect groups – Steps prepared to combat Islamic extremism on university campuses

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Reagan Photo Memories – On Scene with Bill Wilson

BY BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2010

Since the tributes to Ronald Reagan have been pouring in on the centennial of his birth, I thought I might add my photographic memories. There were only two times when I had the opportunity to photograph President Reagan. However it was when he was announcing his candidacy that I got closest to him. The Folcroft Firehouse meeting room probably had a capacity of several hundred that was more than exceeded that morning.

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Faith Ryan Whittlesey, Ronald Reagan, and Nancy Reagan.
Senator Schweicker who would be come Reagan’s
running mate is partially visible over Whittlesey’s shoulder
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

At the time I was living with my brother in Pennsylvania. So I was able to attend the rally. Faith Whittlesey, who served as US Ambassador to Switzerland during the Reagan administration in an oral history project which is part of the Library of Congress explains why this stop took place in Folcroft, “The day after he announced that he was running for president, his first stop was in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He came to Folcroft, Pennsylvania, which was a blue-collar town, a median income of $11,000 a year. It was a factory town. I had arranged it there. He was in a fire hall. I have all the pictures. It was his first campaign stop. It was symbolic of where he was going to go, and we discussed this with the campaign staff. I said, ‘No he’s not going to go to Bryn Mawr, the Main Line! He should go to Folcroft or a place like Folcroft because these are the people that will support Ronald Reagan. They will make the difference in the election, not the Main Line’.” The full interview can be read, click here.

During the Reagan inaugural on January 20, 1981 I was unable to get a photo of President Reagan as his limousine passed me as it headed from the Capitol down Constitution Avenue. The President was not visible as the limousine passed the one block where protestors had been permitted to gather. The excuse at the time was that the President had leaned down to take off his coat. After the assassination attempt security around the President and the White House tightened. I wasn’t able to secure passes to welcoming ceremonies at the White House for visiting heads of State as I had been under previous President from Nixon to Carter. However there was one time when fortune smiled and I was able to take advantage of a Presidential visit to Capitol Hill. I was working at the Library of Congress and one of my co-workers came in one morning with a ticket to a balance budget rally that she had been given as got off the Metro (DC Subway system). She didn’t want to use it so she gave it to me to use.

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President Reagan speaking to a Balanced Budget Rally July 19, 1982
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Since they were handing out these tickets at the subway stops I didn’t think they would mean anything. So I was surprised when my ticket actually allowed me to get close to the front and my luck further held out when they decided that the area they had reserved in front of us wasn’t needed so they allowed us to get even closer. However my luck didn’t continue when for some reason my telephoto lens decided that that was the moment it needed to fall apart. The pictures of President Reagan and Vice President Bush that I was able to get would have been more dramatic if I had had a functioning telephoto lens, but I was pleased that at least I had gotten close enough to get a good shot.

See Related: ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON ARCHIVE

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past six years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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Negotiations to resolve Egypt crisis set to start Sunday – Muslim Brotherhood soften position to participate in talks but youth leaders refuse to compromise on insistence that Mubarak step down

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An opposition demonstrator shouts “go away” at soldiers
and army tanks on the front line near Tahrir Square in Cairo,
February 5, 2011

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Reuters

Opposition groups demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak failed to agree on a common position before negotiations with Vice President Omar Suleiman scheduled for Sunday morning intended to pull Egypt out of its worst crisis in 30 years.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most influential and organized opposition group, said on Saturday it has accepted to enter into dialogue, having refused the offer before. But an agreement may prove elusive as youth representatives are refusing to compromise and allow Mubarak to stay in power, even in a ceremonial capacity.

A popular uprising has gripped Egypt since January 25, with protesters camping out in central Cairo demanding the departure of Mubarak, even after the president on Tuesday announced he would not seek re-election in September.

A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman said the talks will take place at 11:00 A.M. on Sunday to discuss the process of Mubarak leaving office, the right to protest in public places and guarantees for their safety.

State television said Suleiman began meetings with prominent independent and mainstream opposition figures on Saturday to go through the options, which center on how to ensure free and fair presidential elections while sticking to the constitution. It did not name the groups he met.

The proposal being promoted by a group of Egyptians calling itself the “The Council of Wise Men” involves Suleiman assuming presidential powers for an interim period pending elections.

But some opposition figures argue that would mean the next presidential election would be held under the same unfair conditions as in previous years. They want to first have a new parliament to change the constitution to pave the way for a presidential vote that is democratic.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous and influential country, faces the danger of a power vacuum unless some sort of agreement on a transitional government is reached.

Council of Wise Men

With the negotiations under way, state television announced that the leadership of the ruling National Democratic Party, including Mubarak’s son Gamal, had resigned. The resignations were quickly dismissed by the opposition as a ruse.

Mohammed Habib, a member of the Brotherhood said: “It’s an attempt to improve the image of the party but it does not dispense with the real aim of the revolution: bringing down the regime, starting with the resignation of President Mubarak.”

The “Wise Men” proposal is based on article 139 of the constitution that would allow Mubarak to hand executive powers to his deputy while staying on as a figurehead until September, Diaa Rashwan, an expert at the al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and one of the “Wise Men”, told Reuters.

Handing power to Suleiman offers a compromise between protesters’ demands for Mubarak to leave office immediately and his decision to stay on until the end of his term in September.

Rashwan said all opposition factions and forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, were invited to Saturday’s talks but they were divided over some issues, with some unwilling to let Mubarak stay on even in a symbolic capacity.

“Consultations are continuing to find an end to this crisis,” he said. “The truth is that the youth movement do not accept Mubarak’s presence in any form or shape. We are trying to persuade them to accept it… We are trying to reach a compromise.”

He said the unprecedented social upheaval that gripped Egypt require sacrifices by Mubarak if they hit a deadlock.

“The president has ruled the country for 30 years. Egypt deserves that he sacrifices and leaves power six months before his term expire. What remains is to find an honorable departure without any humiliation because if things stay as they are it won’t be good,” Rahwan said.

The main opposition groups comprise the Brotherhood, the National Coalition for Change led by Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, the Kefaya (“Enough”) group and youth represented by the April Sixth Movement, the liberal Wafd party and the leftist Tagammu party.

Even if they all agree on the proposal, article 82 of the constitution could present a legal complication. It says that while the president is able to delegate powers to a deputy, that person is not allowed to request constitutional amendments or dissolve the parliament or local shura councils.

If that article holds, it would be impossible for a Suleiman-led administration to carry out the constitutional reforms promised by Mubarak in response to the protests.

Without constitutional changes, a presidential election in September would have to run under the same rules that opposition parties say stack all the cards in favor of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party and effectively foil a meaningful rival bid.

Internal Divisions

The Brotherhood said discussions were still taking place among the factions to seek common ground.

“Until now there is no agreement among the various parties and factions on one scenario,” Mohammed Morsy, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Reuters.

He said his Islamist group was proposing that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court takes over power as stipulated by the constitution since parliament has been effectively suspended since the unrest erupted last month.

“The head of the supreme court will then call for parliamentary elections and the elected parliament can amend the necessary clauses in the constitution in order to conduct fair and honest presidential elections,” Morsy said.

“Most of the clauses in the constitution concern the president… The president has to go. We are trying to find a constitutional way out if the president is no longer in his post.”

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Boeing technology for tracking cell phone location, internet communcation reported sold to Egypt

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Narus, a subsidiary of Boeing, offers real-time traffic intelligence on cell phone and internet use

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By Timothy Karr
FreePress.net

WASHINGTON — A U.S. company appears to have sold Egypt technology to monitor Internet and mobile phone traffic that is possibly being used by the ruling regime to crack down on communications as protests erupt throughout the country.

Boeing-owned, California-based company Narus sold Telecom Egypt, the state-run Internet service provider, “real-time traffic intelligence” equipment, more commonly known as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology.

DPI is content-filtering technology that allows network managers to inspect, track and target content from Internet users and mobile phones as it passes through routers on the Web.

The company is also known for creating “NarusInsight,” a supercomputer system allegedly used by the National Security Agency and other entities to perform mass surveillance and monitoring of public and corporate Internet communications in real time.

Narus Vice President of Marketing Steve Bannerman said to Wired in 2006: “Anything that comes through (an Internet protocol network), we can record. We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their [Voice Over Internet Protocol] calls.”

Free Press Campaign Director Timothy Karr made the following statement:

“What we are seeing in Egypt is a frightening example of how the power of technology can be abused. Commercial operators trafficking in Deep Packet Inspection technology to violate Internet users’ privacy is bad enough; in government hands, that same invasion of privacy can quickly lead to stark human rights violations.

“Companies that profit from sales of this technology need to be held to a higher standard. The same technology U.S. and European companies want to use to monitor and monetize their customers’ online activities is being used by regimes in Iran, China, Burma and others for far more suspicious, and possibly brutal, purposes.

“The harm to democracy and the power to control the Internet are so disturbing that the threshold for the global trafficking in DPI must be set very high. That’s why, before DPI becomes more widely used around the world and at home, Congress must establish legitimate standards for preventing the use of such control and surveillance technologies as means to violate human rights.”

For more information, read Karr’s story at the Huffington Post, click here.

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Hamas commander said back in Gaza after Egypt jailbreak

Hamas Commander Ayman Nofal, and five other Palestinian militants, had been held at Abu Zaabal prison in Cairo until it was raided in anti-government protests

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Hamas military wing spokesmen at a news conference
in Gaza City on December 25, 2010

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egypt-feb-1-15

By Avi Issacharoff
Haaretz

A senior Hamas commander returned to the Gaza Strip on Saturday after breaking out of a Cairo jail during the political upheaval in Egypt, sources in the Palestinian Islamist movement said.

They said Ayman Nofal had been arrested in the Egyptian Sinai in early 2008 for allegedly planning to carry out a terror attack in Egypt. According to Egyptian media, he had been armed and was suspected of hunting members of the rival Palestinian faction Fatah who had fled from neighboring Gaza.

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Ayman Nofal

Five other Palestinian militants who had been held at Abu Zaabal prison in Cairo made their way back to Gaza this week, using smuggling tunnels to circumvent Egyptian border controls.

On Friday, Egyptian security sources said a member of the Lebanese Hezbollah group had escaped from prison after being jailed for planning attacks in Egypt.

Sami Chehab, sentenced last April to 15 years in prison, escaped on Sunday, they said. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has previously said Chehab was a member of a Hezbollah cell that was working to smuggle weapons through Egypt to the Gaza Strip.
Sources close to Chehab’s family said he had already left Egypt.

The emergency state security court sentenced Chehab as part of a group of 26 men charged with planning attacks in Egypt. The case underscored Egyptian concern about what it sees as the destabilizing influence of Shi’ite Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor.

A number of prominent prisoners have escaped from Egyptian jails over the last week as law and order collapsed when mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak began and police were temporarily withdrawn from the streets.

Hamas sources said Nofal had commanded the ruling group’s armed forces in central Gaza.

Also on Sunday, three Palestinian security prisoners reportedly escaped back to the Gaza Strip via a smuggling tunnel. Officials in Gaza said the three, including at least one Hamas member, had fled during the upheaval and returned to the coastal territory.

Egypt meanwhile has kept its border with the Hamas-ruled territory closed amid the raging turmoil. Palestinian border official Ghazi Hamad said that the closure was expected to last several days.

The prison breakouts added to the chaos engulfing the country as anti-government protests continue to demand the ouster of longtime authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak.

See Related: Gaza Archive

See Related: Israel Archive

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Western countries back gradual Egyptian transition

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By Kareem Fahim and Mark Landler
The New York Times

CAIRO — The United States and leading European nations on Saturday threw their weight behind a gradual transition in Egypt, backing attempts by the country’s vice president, Omar Suleiman, to negotiate with opposition groups without immediately removing President Hosni Mubarak from power.

The strong endorsement came as Mr. Suleiman, a longtime security official and confidante of Mr. Mubarak, told opposition leaders that he would not press his boss to resign before September and ruled out any delegation of Mr. Mubarak’s power, central demands of the opposition.

Mr. Mubarak’s ruling party then announced a shake-up that removed its old guard, including his son Gamal, while installing younger, more reform-minded figures as a modest gesture to protesters.

The moves amounted to a rebuff to protesters who have posed the most serious challenge to the nearly three-decade rule of Mr. Mubarak, a pillar of the American-backed order in the Middle East.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have demanded faster and more sweeping changes to the military-dominated government that has relied on an ossified ruling party, police, and a powerful clique of businessmen at the center of power.

By emphasizing the need for a gradual transition, only days after emphasizing that change there must begin immediately, the Obama administration was viewed as shifting away from protesters in the streets and toward stronger backing for Mr. Mubarak’s hand-picked elite.

Protesters who filled Tahrir Square for a 12th straight day and leaders of opposition groups insisted that genuine change in Egypt required Mr. Mubarak’s departure as a first step.

“They are trying to kill what has happened and to contain and abort the revolution,” said Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University. “They want to continue to manage the country like they did while making some concessions. These are cosmetic changes that don’t change the regime. We do not want this.”

Speaking to a security conference in Munich on Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it was important to support Mr. Suleiman as he sought to defuse street protests.

Mr. Suleiman has promised repeatedly to reach out to opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, but there were few indications that any genuine dialogue with opposition leaders had begun.

“That takes some time,” Mrs. Clinton said. “There are certain things that have to be done in order to prepare.” Ms. Clinton’s message, echoed by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, appears to reflect worries that rapid change in Egypt could destabilize the country and the region.

At the same Munich meeting on Saturday, Frank G. Wisner, the former ambassador President Obama sent to Cairo to negotiate with Mr. Mubarak, suggested that the United States should not rush to push Mr. Mubarak out the door. He said Mr. Mubarak had a “critical” role to play through the end of his presidential term in September.

“You need to get a national consensus around the preconditions of the next step forward, and the president must stay in office in order to steer those changes through,” Mr. Wisner said of Mr. Mubarak. “I therefore believe that President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical — it’s his opportunity to write his own legacy.”

A senior administration official quickly sought to distance the White House from Mr. Wisner’s comments. American officials have said that they are seeking privately to nudge Mr. Mubarak out of his executive role ahead of September elections, though they have also said that they do not view his departure as an essential first step toward a transition to a new democratic system in the country.

Mr. Wisner, the official said, had not been supplied with talking points for his remarks to the Munich conference.

“We’re not coming out and making a pronouncement about Murbarak’s future,” this official said. “Frank Wisner was speaking for himself, he was not speaking for the United States government.”

But Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who has been chosen to negotiate on behalf of the protesters and other opposition groups, said the American-backed plan for a gradual transition was a nonstarter. “I do not think it’s adequate,” he said in an interview. “I’m not talking about myself. It’s not adequate for the people.

“Mubarak needs to go,” he said. “It has become an emotional issue. They need to see his back, there’s no question about it.”

There were tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square on Saturday as a light rain fell, and in interviews, some said they would not be dislodged until their demands were met.

“President Obama better put pressure on Mubarak to leave or things are going to get a lot worse here,” said Ibrahim Mustafa, 42, who was waiting to enter Tahrir Square in the morning as the military was tightening restrictions. “He needs to get the army to force him out of here. America is going to create another Iran here. America doesn’t understand. The people know it’s supporting an illegitimate regime.”

Even so, Mrs. Clinton suggested that the United States was increasingly concerned about an abrupt shift of power in Egypt. She said Mr. Mubarak, having taken himself and his son Gamal out of the September elections, was already effectively sidelined. She emphasized the need for Egypt to reform its Constitution to make a vote credible.

“That is what the government has said it is trying to do,” she said. “That is what we are supporting, and hope to see it move as orderly but as expeditiously, as possible, under the circumstances.”

Mrs. Clinton expressed fears about deteriorating security inside Egypt, noting the explosion at a gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula, and uncorroborated media reports of an earlier assassination attempt on Mr. Suleiman.

American officials did not confirm that an assassination attempt had taken place. But Mrs. Clinton referred to reports of the attempt and said it “certainly brings into sharp relief the challenges we are facing as we navigate through this period.”

Mrs. Clinton highlighted the dangers of holding elections without adequate preparation. “Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy, only to see the process hijacked by new autocrats who use violence, deception, and rigged elections to stay in power,” she said.

Her emphasis on a deliberate process was repeated by Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Cameron. Mrs. Merkel mentioned her past as a democracy activist in East Germany, recalling the impatience of protesters, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to immediately join democratic West Germany. But the process took a year, and it was time well spent, she said.

“There will be a change in Egypt,” she said, “but clearly, the change has to be shaped in a way that it is a peaceful, a sensible way forward.”

In Cairo, however, there were few indications that Mr. Suleiman and other officials were making much progress in addressing concerns of opposition groups. Negotiations between Mr. Suleiman and a group of self-appointed “wise men” who are acting as intermediaries between the vice president and the protesters and trying to find away around limits on succession in the Constitution did not advance significantly.

Amr Hamzawy, one of the intermediaries, said the negotiations were “gaining traction,” but added that his group did not meet with Mr. Suleiman on Saturday. The intermediaries, whose efforts have received the tacit encouragement of Western governments, have forwarded a plan that would see Mr. Mubarak transfer his powers to Mr. Suleiman and perhaps move to his home in Sharm el Sheik or embark on one of his annual medical leaves to Germany.

In Tahrir Square, meanwhile, the military tightened its cordon around the protesters by reinforcing security checks at all of all entrances. An army officer, Brig. Gen. Hassan al-Rawaini, negotiated with protesters outside a barricade near the Egyptian Museum, urging them to bring down the fortifications, allow traffic to return and move their protest to the heart of Tahrir Square.

In contrast to the pitched clashes of just days ago, General Rawaini offered a microphone to protesters so that they could air their complaints. He tried to reason, kissing some on the head and pinching others’ cheeks. Occasionally, he winked.

Eventually, he and his soldiers moved past the makeshift barricade, knocking part of it down, though protesters quickly put back up the sheets of corrugated tin, barrels, metal rebar and parts of fences. He then toured an area strewn with rocks from the clashes and incinerated vehicles that served as barricades. Some protesters thought he was preparing for the army to enter, forming human chains across the streets. Others chanted, “Peaceful!” and formed a bodyguard around the general.

“He wants to tear down these barricades, so that the tanks can come through,” shouted Sayyid Eid, a 20-year-old protester as he tried to block his way.

“We’re going to die here,” yelled Magdi Abdel-Rahman, another protester.

“Listen to him! Listen to him!” others shouted back.

Tempers cooled and General Rawaini made a leisurely stroll to a makeshift health clinic, then visited knots of protesters across the square with a retinue of soldiers.

“We’re trying to remove the barricades and return the streets to normal,” General Rawaini said. “If you want to protest, you can go back to the square.”

A protester shouted back, “General, we’re not going to walk way from here until Hosni Mubarak leaves.”

Kareem Fahim reported from Cairo, and Mark Landler from Munich. Reporting was contributed by Steven Erlanger from Munich, and Anthony Shadid, David D. Kirkpatrick, and Mona El-Naggar from Cairo.

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Strange’s Last Night’s Top Ten Late-Night TV Jokes February 4 2011

STRANGE’S LAST NIGHT’S TOP TEN LATE-NIGHT TV JOKES FEBRUARY 4 2011

February Strangies: Kimmel 1, Leno 1, Fallon 1, Letterman 1

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By Strange de Jim
Beep beep! Love from Strange

Friday, February 4

10. David Letterman: Justin Bieber reading Top 10 reasons it’s fun to be Justin Bieber: 5. At the barber shop I can say, “Give me the me.”

9. Jimmy Fallon: Joe Lieberman is writing a book about the Jewish Sabbath called “Gift of Rest.” I hear he’s been working on it 24/6.

8. Jay Leno: According to “The National Enquirer” House Speaker John Boehner had his package stimulated. He’s being accused of having two affairs, one with a female lobbyist. That should end the criticism of the Republicans as “The Party of No.”

7. Craig Ferguson: The saddest part of the Renaissance Faires is the entertainment, because you have these musical groups that used to be popular, but now they’re playing Ren Faires. “Now for ye entertainment, squires and wenches, the musical stylings of Foreigner.”

6. I like dressing as a jester. The bell-tipped shoes are very comfortable. More comfortable than the bell-tipped underwear. With my bell-tipped shoes everyone can hear me coming. With my bell-tipped underwear …

5. Jimmy Fallon: Egyptian President Mubarak said President Obama doesn’t understand Egyptian culture. Man, get off your high camel.

4. David Letterman: I love the Super Bowl. We gather the family around the TV and listen to the side effects of Cialis. This year I’ll be watching with Oprah and Jay, and Jay’s newly discovered half-sister.

3. Jimmy Fallon: Facebook celebrated its 7th birthday today, guys. I have to be honest. I only remembered because I saw it on Facebook.

2. Jay Leno: Now Egyptians are demanding to see President Mubarak’s birth certificate. There’s a rumor he was born in New Jersey.

1. David Letterman: A zoo in Britain has a gorilla that walks upright. Not only that, but he texts while he’s doing it. I heard about this. Within ten minutes we had fifty jokes, all with the same punch line. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race by Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart explains Earth’s history to the aliens who have discovered our ruins.

Page 41 – Skin Color: It’s not surprising that variations in epidermal tincture caused by differing ratios of pheomelanin and eumelanin (as determined by the allele of the SLC24A5 gene) could make the difference between freedom and slavery. After all, pigmentation was a quick and convenient way of judging a person. One of us, Dr. Martin Luther King, once proposed we instead judge people by the content of their character. He was shot.

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Best Buy $12.95
or Buy New $14.00

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For each day’s
funniest zingers follow me on Twitter
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Egypt’s upheavel is rattling Israel

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The Economist

The Egyptian upheaval is seen in Israel as so ominous that, for once, government ministers are largely heeding an instruction by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, not to talk about it in public. Mr Netanyahu reflected the nation’s anxieties when, after days of silence, he issued a careful statement urging that the Israel-Egypt peace treaty should be preserved and welcoming “the advancement of free and democratic values in the Middle East”.

He cautioned, though, that “extremist forces” must not be allowed to “exploit democratic processes to gain power and to promote anti-democratic agendas, as happened in Iran and elsewhere”. “Elsewhere”, as everyone understood, meant the Gaza Strip, where the Islamist Hamas movement won elections in 2006 and, after being prevented from forming a government in both parts of the Palestinian territories, took power by force the following year.

Mr Netanyahu’s sentiments, apart from encouraging Western sobriety, seemed designed to block off awkward thoughts being expressed here and there in the Israeli peace camp. Some peaceniks argue that Israel is another Middle Eastern country directly threatened by the wave of democracy emanating from Tunisia, sweeping Egypt and lapping at Jordan. Mr Netanyahu this week extolled his country as an island of stability and democracy. But Israel, note the peaceniks, rules a large and disaffected population of Palestinians who are learning on their televisions how to topple tyranny. On the West Bank the Palestinians are held down with the help of the Palestinian Authority’s police. But some Israelis ask whether Palestinian police units—or Israeli security forces, for that matter—would really crush a mass democracy movement live on world television, after Egypt’s powerful army has set a precedent of forbearance.

The Egyptian cataclysm slots into Israel’s endless national debate, much as Anwar Sadat’s assassination did in 1981, when Mr Mubarak assumed power. Then, as now, the Israeli right refused to recognise that the separate peace signed by Israel and Egypt in 1979, and Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories conquered in 1967, rendered the Israel-Egypt relationship both parlous and unpopular among large sections of Egyptian society and in most of the Arab world.

Relations with the Arabs at large brightened after the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993. But they quickly clouded again when that agreement foundered under Mr Netanyahu’s first government, from 1996-1999. Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party, which leads today’s ruling coalition, still ignores the flaws in the treaty, talking of a “cold peace” and blaming Egypt’s government for not warming it up.

The question now is whether the fall of Israel’s most powerful regional ally will shock the Israeli government out of its apparently confident belief that the occupation of the Palestinian territories can be sustained indefinitely. Or will Mr Netanyahu instead “batten down the hatches”, thus making a deal with the Palestinians still more unlikely?

Even if a new government in Egypt were to re-endorse the treaty, Israel’s defence spending will probably rise, as its planners contemplate the now-less-hypothetical threat of a war in the south. After all, if the Muslim Brothers become part of an emerging new order in Egypt, they are certain to be more helpful to Hamas, which is a branch of their movement.

Israel would probably win again, if it had to, on the battlefields of Sinai. But could it win against masses of peaceful protesters in town squares across the West Bank, Gaza and Israel too, demanding political rights for Palestinians? It is a question that makes many Israelis queasy.

See Related: U.S. expects Egypt to keep peace with Israel regardless of who is in power

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See Related: Egypt Archive

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Hillary Clinton signals U.S. backing for Omar Suleiman

US secretary of state stresses need for orderly transition headed by vice-president

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Hillary Clinton said the transition process in Egypt
should be transparent and inclusive

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By Julian Borger
The London Guardian

The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton today signalled how far the US has swung its support behind vice-president Omar Suleiman and the transition process he is leading in Egypt.

Clinton was speaking at a security conference in Munich today, where the watchword on Egypt was the need for orderly transition.

In her most striking remarks, the US secretary of state said: “There are forces at work in any society, particularly one that is facing these kind of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own agenda, which is why I think it’s important to follow the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by vice-president Omar Suleiman.”

She was presumably referring ito Suleiman’s leadership of the transition rather than the government, but US officials have told their European colleagues that they view Suleiman as increasingly in control.

Clinton went on to say the transition should be transparent and inclusive, while setting out “concrete steps”, moving towards orderly elections in September. She listed with approval the steps the Egyptian government had taken so far.

“President Mubarak has announced he will not stand for re-election nor will his son … He has given a clear message to his government to lead and support this process of transition,” Clinton said.

“That is what the government has said it is trying to do, that is what we are supporting, and hope to see it move as orderly but as expeditiously as possible under the circumstances.”

David Cameron and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, speaking at the same conference, echoed the call for an orderly transition and cautioned against early elections.

But Cameron denied there was a trade-off between the speed of reform and stability.

“There is no stability in Egypt. We need change, reform and transition to get stability,” the prime minister said. “The longer that is put off, the more likely we are to get an Egypt that we wouldn’t welcome.”

British officials said they were encouraged by the developments of the past 24 hours, pointing to the role of the army in preventing attacks on the demonstrators and the opening of a dialogue between Suleiman and opposition groups.

“It does have to be led by the Egyptian government but we do need a road map,” one official said.

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U.S. expects Egypt to keep peace with Israel regardless of who is in power

The Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel were signed by former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and have remained in place under Mubarak,
who is widely viewed as a source of stability in the region

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Haaretz

The United States expects the Egyptian government to honor previous peace agreements with Israel regardless of who is in power, the White House said on Friday.

“Our expectation would be that whatever the next government of Egypt is, that they would adhere to a treaty signed by the government of Egypt,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Gibbs was referring to the 1978 Camp David Accords, which were brokered by the U.S. and set the stage for the 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, which is in force to this day.

The political turmoil in Egypt and the possible ouster President Hosny Mubarak has led to widespread concern– particularly in Israel – that a new government in Cairo will not be as friendly towards Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced fears last week that Egypt may follow in the extremist footsteps of Iran.

“Our real fear is of a situation that could develop … and which has already developed in several countries including Iran itself — repressive regimes of radical Islam,” said Netanyahu.

Netanyahu continued, adding that although the protests may not be motivated by religious extremism, “in a situation of chaos, an organized Islamist body can seize control of a country. It happened in Iran. It happened in other instances”.

The Camp David Accords were signed by former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and have remained in place under Mubarak, who is widely viewed as a source of stability in the region.

“The treaty is not with a particular president,” Gibbs said. “It is with the government, the country and the people of Egypt.”

Israel has been particularly concerned about a potential rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in a post-Mubarak era. The Islamist group, officially banned under Mubarak, has traditionally opposed any peace agreements with Israel but more recently has alluded to a more lenient position vis-à-vis the Camp David Accords.

President Barack Obama said Friday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must presently prepare for his transition from power with input from all political parties, in accordance with the desires of the Egyptian people.

Obama did not insist that Mubarak step down immediately, but he talked about a transition period that should begin right away. “The future of Egypt will be determined by its people. The transition process must begin now,” Obama said after meeting at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The last eleven days have seen millions of Egyptians take to the streets in massive anti-government protests. Demonstrators are calling for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, who has served as the president of Egypt for over 29 years.

The protestors were first met with violence by Egyptian police, and then by pro-Mubarak supporters, while the army has largely stood by, unwilling to enforce the government-imposed curfew, but refusing to intervene to prevent attacks on protesters.

See Related: Egypt’s upheavel is rattling Israel

See Related: Israel Archive

See Related: Egypt Archive

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California law to curb greenhouse gases faces legal hurdle

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By Felicity Barringer
The New York Times

California’s landmark law on curbing greenhouse gases, which is well on its way to taking effect, has hit a legal snag in the form of a tentative judicial ruling that state environmental regulators failed to follow legally required procedures.

Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith of San Francisco Superior Court issued a tentative opinion — a rarely used procedure that gives the prospective loser in the case a chance to make new arguments or take new actions before a final decision — saying that the rules creating a cap-and-trade system were adopted without proper analysis of alternatives.

It is unclear whether the decision, if made final, represents a major obstacle or just a speed bump as the regulations carrying out the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act go into effect. Judge Goldsmith’s ruling was made on Jan. 24, but not publicized until Thursday.

The opinion focused on what he said were regulators’ procedural lapses. Referring to the California Air Resources Board, which last year approved the regulations to cut greenhouse gases, he wrote, “ARB seeks to create a fait accompli by premature establishment of a cap-and-trade program before alternative can be exposed to public comment and properly evaluated by the ARB itself.”

Poor communities, particularly in Southern California, have been leery of market-based systems of pollution control, believing that industries nearby would be able to pay for extra pollution allowances and continue to send dangerous chemicals into their neighborhoods.

While no one maintains that carbon dioxide is a hazardous pollutant dangerous to local communities, Alegría De La Cruz, a lawyer for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, said that carbon dioxide rules often have “co-benefits” in terms of controlling other, more immediately toxic air pollutants. Creating different incentives or mandates for regulating carbon dioxide might thus be more beneficial for those communities, Ms. De La Cruz said.

Requiring an analysis of these questions before carrying out the cap-and-trade rules, she said, “doesn’t slow down or stop California from doing something that is good and transformative for the country. It just must be done right.”

Stanley Young, a spokesman for the Air Resources Board, said, “We are reviewing the tentative decision, and we’ll respond in the allotted time.”

The board’s response to Judge Goldsmith’s ruling is due Tuesday.

See Related: Global Warming Archive

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Strange’s Last Night’s Top Ten Late-Night TV Jokes February 3 2011

STRANGE’S LAST NIGHT’S TOP TEN LATE-NIGHT TV JOKES FEBRUARY 3 2011

February Strangies: Kimmel 1, Leno 1, Fallon 1

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By Strange de Jim
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Thursday, February 3

10. Jay Leno: Do you know where Chinese people go to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit? IHOP.

9. Jimmy Kimmel: This is day 3 of the storm that has snowbliterated the United States. Finally America’s extra layer of fat comes in handy. Take that, Michelle Obama.

8. Jay Leno: Police are investigating whether Lindsay Lohan may have stolen a valuable necklace from a jewelry store. She wanted something nice to go with her court-ordered ankle bracelet.

7. David Letterman: There was so much snow today that Kim Kardashian’s ass caved in. Thirty-six miners were trapped.

6. Conan O’Brien: After the big snowstorm in Chicago, Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel has been pitching in digging stranded cars out of the snow. Of course he didn’t help his campaign by telling people, “Thank God I don’t live here.”

5. David Letterman: The trouble is, when it’s this cold in New York City it takes even longer to warm up to me.

4. Conan O’Brien: Tomorrow is Facebook’s 7th birthday. Just think, 7 years ago you were only in touch with people from high school you liked.

3. Conan O’Brien: Happy Chinese New Year. The Chinese say the year is 4709. We say it’s 2011. You know, folks, I’m just going to guess they got the math right.

2. Conan O’Brien: Hosni’s son Gamal Mubarak says he does not want to become President, which is just as well. If you’ve seen one Mubarak you’ve seen Gamal.

1. Jimmy Fallon: Egyptian President Mubarak’s son Gamal will not run for President. Why would he? An unpopular President is removed from office and his inexperienced son is voted in? That could never happen.

The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 2010

Page 121 – [In Vienna] The other maid, Wuthering Heights (which is not her name), is about forty and looks considerably younger. She is quick, smart, active, energetic, breezy, good-natured, has a high-keyed voice and a loud one, talks thirteen to the dozen, talks all the time, talks in her sleep, will talk when she is dead; is here, there and everywhere all at the same time, and is consumingly interested in every devilish thing that is going on. Particularly if it is not her affair. And she is not merely passively interested, but takes a hand; and not only takes a hand but the principal one; in fact will play the whole game, fight the whole battle herself, if you don’t find some way to turn her flank. But as she does it in the family’s interest, not her own, I find myself diffident about finding fault. Not so the family. It gravels the family. I like that. Not maliciously, but because it spices the monotony to see the family graveled. Sometimes they are driven to a point where they are sure they cannot endure her any longer, and they rise in revolt, but I stand between her and harm, for I adore Wuthering Heights. She is not a trouble to me, she freshens up my life, she keeps me interested all the time. She is not monotonous, she does not stale, she is fruitful of surprises, she is always breaking out in a new place. The family are always training her, always caulking her, but it does not make me uneasy any more, now, for I know that as fast as they stop one leak she will spring another. Her talk is my circus, my menagerie, my fireworks, my spiritual refreshment. When she is at it I would rather be there than at a fire. She talks but little to me, for I understand only about half that she says, and I have had the sagacity not to betray that I understand that half. But I open my door when she is talking to the Executive at the other end of the house, and then I hear everything, and the enjoyment is without alloy, for it is like being at a show on a free ticket. She makes the Executive’s head ache. I am sorry for that, of course; still it is a thing which cannot be helped. We must take things as we find them in this world.

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February Strangies
Tuesday, February 1 Strangie to Jimmy Kimmel: Egyptian President Murabak says he’ll leave in 5 years and then hand the job off to Conan.

See Related: STRANGE’S LAST NIGHT’S TOP TEN LATE-NIGHT TV JOKES ARCHIVE

For each day’s
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Fire Department urges residents to be alert for Castro arsonist – Supervisor Wiener reaches out

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White would like San Francisco residents, particularly those living in the Castro District, to know that Arson Investigators are working diligently to prove that a recent string of fires that have occurred in the early morning hours have been intentionally set and that they, along with the San Francisco Police Department, are doing everything in their power to find the person responsible for setting them.

“Our sympathy goes out to those affected and displaced by these fires,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “The City family is doing everything possible to assist those impacted and to aggressively investigate these incidents.”

“The most important message that we want everyone to hear is that it is generally the eyewitness reports that we receive that ultimately lead us to the responsible party,” said the Chief.

“We’re concerned for the public’s safety and we’re asking that everyone be on “heightened alert” status.
Report anything or anyone that triggers that innate sense of suspicion. Trust your instincts.”

While the Arson Task Force investigates what appears to be a developing pattern of intentionally set fires, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage and District 8 residents to be displaced, Supervisor Scott Wiener is reaching out to his constituents being assisted by the Red Cross.

“Members of our community are suffering from these despicable acts,” said Supervisor Wiener. “I am working hard to assist the people affected by these fires, including helping them find temporary housing. If they need assistance or advocacy, they should contact my office. We will assist them. We will advocate for them.”

To date, thirteen people are being assisted with housing and other needs through the Red Cross. Property damages have exceeded $1 million and residents are feeling the strain of wondering if and when another fire may break out.

To report information related to the recent fires in the Castro that may be of interest to Arson Investigators, call (415) 920-2944.

To report an immediate occurrence or suspicious activity, call 911.

See Related: The Castro Fires: Supervisor Scott Wiener to introduce Good Samaritan Rental Law to Aid Tenants Displaced by Natural and Criminal Disasters

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Hamas switches direction of Gaza tunnels use – Now sending food supplies to Egyptian soldiers rather than vice versa

Hamas transfers food supplies to stranded Egyptian soldiers on border through Gaza smuggling tunnels built to illegally transport goods into Strip

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Ynetnews.com

Egyptian soldiers isolated on the Gaza border by 10 days of internal upheaval are getting bread, canned goods and other food supplies from the enclave, which is usually on the receiving end of food aid.

A source in the border town of Rafah said security forces of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, had been providing the troops with supplies for the past three days.

The sources said Palestinian merchants in Gaza have also been smuggling vegetables, eggs and other staples into Egypt, where store owners have run out of stock because normal supplies are cut off by the unrest – reversing the usual flow of goods.

With mass protests demanding Mubarak should quit, sources in Rafah said north Sinai was tense. Angry Bedouins were in control of many roads following armed clashes with Egyptian police.

Hamas security forces had beefed up their presence along the border and in the area of Gaza’s honeycomb of smuggling tunnels to prevent any breach of the border line. No photography or television images were allowed.

See Related: Egypt Archive

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San Francisco weekend traffic and transit impacts February 5-6

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The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) advises San Francisco residents and visitors of the following event-related traffic and service impacts this weekend, Saturday, Feb. 5 – Sunday, Feb. 6.

Event participants and fun seekers should check with sfmta.com or call 311 to find out which of the 80 Muni lines will get them where they want to go.

San Francisco Half Marathon

The Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon will begin at 8 a.m., Sunday. The race begins and ends in Golden Gate Park and is accompanied by a 5K Run which stays completely in the Park.

The following street closures outside of Golden Gate Park will be required from 7:30 to 10 a.m. Each street will be reopened as the last runner goes through.

· Oak Street from Stanyan Street to Baker Street

· Fell Street from Stanyan Street to Baker Street

· Baker Street from Oak Street to Fell Street

· Masonic Street from Oak Street to Fell Street

· Stanyan from Oak Street to Fell Street

· Kezar Drive from Waller Street to JFK Drive

Northbound Great Highway from Fulton Street to Skyline Boulevard will be closed from 8 a.m. to noon.

The following Muni routes will be affected:

· 18 46th Avenue
· 23 Monterey

· 33 Stanyan

· 43 Masonic

· 44 O’Shaughnessy

See Related: Travel Archive

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Egyptian government figures join protesters

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By David D. Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell
The New York Times

CAIRO — With signs of fracturing within Egypt’s ruling elite, hundreds of thousands of people packed Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Friday, chanting slogans, bowing in prayer and waving Egyptian flags to press a largely peaceful campaign for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.

As the uprising entered its 11th day, there were few signs of the violent Mubarak supporters who the protesters said were organized and dispatched by the Mubarak government over the last two days in an effort to capture the initiative. Lurking fears among the opposition that their movement may have lost momentum were banished by the sheer numbers of the protesters and the level of their passion.

Some carried baskets of bread, food and water for those who camped out in the central square overnight after days of running battles, urging the president to depart at one of the most decisive moments in Egypt since the 1952 revolution against the monarchy. “Leave, leave, leave,” protesters chanted.

Tens of thousands of jubilant protesters turned out in the port city of Alexandria, the site of bitter and deadly clashes in the last week.

Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League and a former foreign minister serving Mr. Mubarak, appeared among the crowds in Tahrir Square, seeming to align himself with the protest. Twice he sought to address the crowd, but both times he was drowned out by roars of approval at what seemed a tacit endorsement of their cause.

Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister and deputy prime minister, appeared in the square — the first member of the ruling government elite to do so — but he seemed to be concerned mostly with reviewing the troops and did not seek to speak to the crowd, though he did chat with some protesters.

And Mohamed Rafah Tahtawy, the public spokesman for Al Azhar — the center of Sunni Muslim learning and Egypt’s highest, state-run religious authority — told reporters that he was resigning because “I am participating in the protests and I have issued statements that support the revolutionists as far as they go.”

The government had broadened its crackdown on Thursday, arresting journalists and human rights advocates across an edgy city, while offering more concessions in a bid to win support from a population growing frustrated with a devastated economy and scenes of chaos in the streets.

But, after a night of scattered clashes and bursts of gunfire, an uneasy calm gave way to what seemed jubilation on Friday as antigovernment protesters mustered for what they have called a “Friday of departure.” Television images showed thousands of protesters crowded beneath the palm trees of Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city on the Mediterranean coast, waving Egyptian flags and demanding Mr. Mubarak’s ouster.

Just a week ago, demonstrators poured from Cairo’s many mosques after noon prayers on the Muslim holy day to press their uprising, and there seemed to be a similar surge on Friday. But one big difference was that last week the protesters confronted the police at the start of a day of violence and looting. Since then, though, the uniformed police force has largely disappeared from the streets and the protesters have clashed with their pro-Mubarak adversaries.

On Friday, there were no immediate signs of the pro-Mubarak camp.

On one approach to Tahrir Square on Friday, two orderly lines of protesters stretched back hundreds of yards on the Kasr al-Nil bridge, their progress slowed by elite paratroops who threw razor wire across the bridge and searched demonstrators as they arrived — apparently a new attempt by the military to assert some control.

On Thursday, the authorities said that neither Mr. Mubarak nor his son Gamal, long seen as a contender for power, would run for president. They also offered dialogue with the banned

Muslim Brotherhood, a gesture almost unthinkable weeks ago.

For its part, the Brotherhood insisted on Friday that it had no ambitions to field presidential candidates if those talks took place. But, speaking to reporters in Tahrir Square, Mohammed el-Beltagui, a leading member of the outlawed group, said that if Mr. Mubarak left, the Brotherhood — the most organized opposition in the country — would not present a candidate for election.

“It is not a retreat,” Mr. Beltagui said. “It is to take away the scare tactics that Hosni Mubarak uses to deceive the people here and abroad that he should stay in power.” A close ally of the United States, Mr. Mubarak has cast himself for years as a bulwark against Islamic extremism.

The Brotherhood has assumed an increasingly prominent role in the uprising, but its disavowal of long-term political ambitions seemed to contradict an assertion on Friday from Iran that Egypt was in the throes of an Islamic revolution similar to the tumult that ended the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in Tehran in 1979.

“The awakening of the Islamic Egyptian people is an Islamic liberation movement, and I, in the name of the Iranian government, salute the Egyptian people and the Tunisian people,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said at Friday prayers in Tehran, which were broadcast on television, Reuters reported.

On a larger scale than on previous days, thousands of people in Tahrir Square sank to their knees at noon as loudspeakers amplified the sound of prayers filling the air. But those in the square reflected a cross-section of society, not just members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The minute the prayers were over, the square erupted in slogans of defiance, urging Mr. Mubarak to go.

Many said their determination was blending with a fear that if they lost, the protesters and their organizers would bear the brunt of a withering crackdown.

“If we can’t bring this to an end, we’re going to all be in the slammer by June,” said Murad Mohsen, a doctor treating the wounded at a makeshift clinic near barricades, where thousands fought off droves of government supporters with rocks and firebombs.

On Friday, Mohamed ElBaradei, who has been authorized by the protesters to negotiate with the authorities, said that, despite the authorities’ offers of negotiation, no one from government had contacted him or any other opposition leader.

At a news conference at his home in Giza, close to the pyramids, Mr. ElBaradei said Mr. Mubarak’s adversaries had already begun drawing up a constitution and were seeking the creation of a council of two to five members — including a representative from the powerful military — to oversee reform over a one year period. It was the first public suggestion of a formal proposal for transition.

“The earlier he goes with dignity the better it will be for everybody,” Mr. ElBaradei said, referring to Mr. Mubarak.

He said the young people propelling the uprising were not interested in retribution. “The Egyptian people are not a bloodthirsty people,” he said. The conciliatory tone of his remarks contrasted with the demands of some protesters for Mr. Mubarak’s execution.

“We need to move the current dictatorship and all of its apparatus to a democracy,” he said.

Mr. ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a Nobel laureate, took issue sharply with remarks by Mr. Mubarak in an interview with ABC News on Thursday when he said that he was fed up with ruling but that his precipitate departure would cause chaos.

“We as a people are fed up as well, it is not only him,” Mr. ElBaradei said. “The idea that there would be chaos is symptomatic of a dictatorship. He thinks if he leaves power the whole country will fall apart.”

From festive scenes of just days ago, the revolt on Thursday had become more martial, as exhausted men defended what they described as the perimeter of a free Egypt around Tahrir Square. Their demands have grown more forceful and the uprising more radical. After pitched clashes of two days that left at least seven dead and hundreds wounded, banners in Tahrir Square declared Mr. Mubarak “a war criminal,” and several in the crowd said that the president should be executed. Major television networks were largely unable to broadcast from the square on Thursday.

On Friday, the mood seemed to have swung back to an atmosphere of celebration.

On Thursday, the United States joined a chorus of criticism, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton saying, “We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners and diplomats.”

The government’s strategy seems motivated at turning broader opinion in the country against the protests and perhaps wearing down the demonstrators themselves, some of whom seemed exhausted by the clashes. Vice President Omar Suleiman, appointed Saturday to a position that Mr. Mubarak had until then refused to fill, appealed to Egypt’s sense of decency in allowing Mr. Mubarak to serve out his term, and he chronicled the mounting losses that, he said, the uprising had inflicted on a crippled Egyptian economy.

“End your sit-in,” he said. “Your demands have been answered.”

In interviews and statements, the government has increasingly spread an image that foreigners were inciting the uprising, a refrain echoed in the streets. The suggestions are part of a days-long Egyptian media campaign that has portrayed the protesters as troublemakers and ignored the scope of an uprising with diffuse goals and leadership.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it had 100 reports of attacks on journalists. Al Jazeera, the influential Arabic channel, said government supporters stormed the Hilton Hotel in Cairo, searching for journalists, and two of its reporters were attacked. A Greek journalist was stabbed with a screwdriver and others were beaten and harassed.

Police also raided the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, a headquarters for many of the international human rights organizations working in Egypt. The human rights workers were told to lie on the floor and the chips were removed from the telephones, someone present in the building said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Cairo, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Liam Stack, Kareem Fahim and Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Thugs trash Al Jazeera Cairo office

Cairo office of Arabic language news channel ransacked as intimidation of journalists continues

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By Mark Sweeney
The London Guardian

The Cairo office of al-Jazeera was ransacked by pro-government “thugs” today, as the Arabic language news channel also said its news website had come under attack by hackers.

Al-Jazeera said its office had been stormed by a “gang of thugs” who burned equipment, on a day of reports of escalating violence against journalists covering the Egyptian uprising.

The Qatar-based broadcaster added that the attacks appeared to be an attempt by “the Egyptian regime or its supporters” to hinder its widely watched coverage of the uprising in Egypt.

It said its website had been hacked earlier today with a banner advertisement replaced with a slogan “Together for the collapse of Egypt”, which linked through to a web page with content critical of the network. The banner remained in place for two hours.

“Our website has been under relentless attack since the onset of the uprisings in Egypt [and] we are currently investigating what happened today,” said a spokesman for al-Jazeera. “While the deliberate attacks this morning were an attempt to discredit us we will continue our impartial and comprehensive coverage of these unprecedented events.”

Last week al-Jazeera’s Cairo office was closed by the Egyptian authorities. The broadcaster’s reporters have also had their press credentials revoked and nine were detained for periods of time.

In other recent incidents, Swedish TV reporter Bert Sundstrom was in a serious condition in Cairo hospital after being stabbed in the back, according to Associated Press. Dan Nolan, al-Jazeera’s UAE correspondent, tweeted today that unfortunately the decision had been taken that it was now too dangerous to remain in Cairo.

“Sadly I’m catching [a] plane out of Cairo today,” he said. “Threats to us been about too much. Need to spend some time with family and hope to return soon.”

CNN’s star reporter Anderson Cooper, who on Wednesday was “roughed up” by thugs on a Cairo street, tweeted today that CNN was now broadcasting from an “undisclosed location” in the city to “stay live as long as we can”.

Guardian journalists Peter Beaumont and Jack Shenker were prevented from entering Cairo’s Tahrir Square earlier today by both the Egyptian army and armed vigilantes.

Beaumont said the pair were picked up by the army at a checkpoint and made to kneel facing a wall and interrogated. They then had to deal with machete-wielding vigilantes, he added.

However, according to Reuters the Egyptian army has been instructed to assist foreign media and help protect them from groups who have attacked and beaten journalists. Britain and the US have criticised what the US called a “concerted campaign” to intimidate foreign reporters.

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Betting on Egypt democracy is Israel’s only choice

Nobody can be certain that cold peace between Israel and Egypt will survive Mubarak’s fall and the emergence of a new political system

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By Carlo Strenger
Haaretz

For decades Israel’s overall strategy was based on two conflicting assumptions. One is that Israel’s strategic position depends on the survival of authoritarian regimes like those of Mubarak and Ben Ali. Common “wisdom” has been that the alternative to these dictatorships is Islamic fundamentalism, and this means endless, often armed conflict with Israel’s neighbors. The Iranian revolution of 1978 and the Algerian elections in the 1990s seem to indicate that repressive regimes that democratize indeed move towards Islamization.

There has also been another common wisdom – which Netanyahu has been identified with: there will be no peace in the Middle East, and Israel will know no security as long as there is no democracy in Arab countries. This theory is based on the rather strong evidence that developed democracies tend not to go to war with each other, because, once a strong middle class is established, war is contrary to the interests of the people.

The problem in Israel’s position is rather obvious: the support for corrupt regimes and the call for democracy mostly contradict each other, and this has not just been Israel’s problem, but also that of the U.S., which often supported autocratic regimes. It started with the cold war doctrine that assumed that the choice was between communist regimes and dictatorships more congenial to the U.S.

The U.S. meddled in Iranian politics from early on. After the election of Mohammed Mossadeq as prime minister in 1953, the U.S. was involved in toppling him and instating the Shah, who for decades ran a brutal regime based on persecution, torture and surveillance. The Iranian people never forgot the American involvement in instating and supporting the Shah, and it is doubtful that the Islamic republic would ever have come into being without the U.S. intervention in 1953.

What would it mean to bet on democratization rather than supporting autocrats because they seem more friendly to Israel or the West? The process of democratization is, more often than not, messy. But most of all, it cannot be done under the auspices of external powers. The U.S. has just had another painful example of how quixotic it is to try to impose democratic structures from the outside, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Israel has made the same mistake in the past when it tried to meddle in the affairs of Lebanon, trying to support its Christian allies. The result was a quagmire of eighteen years that, among others, created Hezbollah – now one of Israel’s greatest problems. Similarly, Israel crushed all attempts to create viable political structures in the Palestinian territories during the 1970s and the 1980s, in the hope that it could suppress Palestinian quest for independence altogether. In its attempts to counteract the PLO, it was instrumental in the creation of Hamas – again now one of Israel’s greatest problems.

Of course Israel is apprehensive about what will happen to Egypt. Nobody can be certain that the cold peace between Israel and Egypt will survive the fall of Mubarak, and the emergence of a new political system. Nevertheless, experts like Scott Atran strongly doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood is as dominant as often assumed, and panicking is certainly not advised.

The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt should be taken as a historical opportunity to stop wavering between the support of tyrants and the belief that only democracy can bring stability, prosperity and peace to the Middle East in the long run. Anyone who truly believes in democracy and human rights cannot but rejoice for the people of Egypt: a repressive regime that will come to an end. As many commentators have pointed out, this uprising has not been controlled by any one party: It is an uprising of the people, in the interests of the people.

We can only hope that the people of Egypt will realize that it has been a tactic of many Arab regimes to divert attention from their misdoings by focusing on Israel, as if Israel were responsible for the problems of their societies and economies. Solving the many ailments of their society and economy will not be served by making anti-Israeli sentiment the center of the new economic, political and social order that they are striving for. Rather, they will have to embark on the long, painful process of building viable democratic institutions and to erase corruption.

For Israel, it is crucial not to use the events in Egypt to argue, as Moshe Arens has done in recent days, that Israel can only make peace with Arab dictators, because the Arab people always oppose peace with Israel. The Al Jazeera leaks have shown beyond any doubt that there is a Palestinian partner for peace. If Israel will show that it is capable of relating to the Palestinians from a position of mutuality and to truly respect their dignity and desire for self-determination, the Arab peoples around us may realize that the wellbeing of the whole area depends on moving from confrontation to cooperation, from tyranny to democracy.

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Rural poor paid to attack Mubarak opponents – Mubarak’s Hired Thugs

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Pro-Mubarak supporters are detained by anti-government demonstrators at a metro station
after being rounded up during clashes at Tahrir Square on Thursday

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By Volkhard Windfuhr and Daniel Steinvorth
Der Spiegel

CAIRO – In exchange for the equivalent of a few euros, poor seasonal workers have taken part in street fighting in Cairo on the side of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The thugs, who fight with iron bars, knives and clubs, have been recruited by privileged members of the regime, including party officials, security forces and rich business people with lucrative state contracts.

The bloody clashes in Cairo show that not all of Egypt’s 80 million people want to see President Hosni Mubarak overthrown or a new start heralded by fresh elections. Many are fiercely loyal to the ruling system and are ready to fight for it — with brutality. On Thursday afternoon, there were even reports on the Al Jazeera news channel that Mubarak supporters were storming the hotels of Cairo and hunting down journalists.

The confrontation between the opponents and supporters of the Mubarak regime first escalated on Wednesday, as both sides engaged in hours-long battles on Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and the adjoining side streets. Mubarak loyalists stormed the crowd, armed with knives, clubs and stones. Some, riding horses and camels, hit the demonstrators on the head with iron bars.

In Cairo’s working-class district, they organized a big demonstration, including a motorcade of cars and motorbikes. They shouted slogans such as “Mubarak, we kneel before you,” and “Yes to the president of peace.” Taking part were members of trade unions and associations, as well as employees of state-run companies, who were obviously told by their bosses to attend.

In the background, the movement is being controlled by businessmen with lucrative state contracts, public servants, security officers and party officials, who are worried by the uncertainty of recent days. They are all determined to ensure that as little as possible changes, regardless of who follows Mubarak. They are the supporters and representatives of the ruling National Democratic Party, which has 3 million members, who fear that they could lose power in free elections. They are members of the nouveau riche, who have gained huge fortunes and influence, largely through corruption and criminality, and who currently enjoy immunity.

The Poor Are Easy Prey

They have everything to lose — and are now depending on those who have nothing left to lose. The privileged members of the regime don’t want to get their hands dirty. Instead, they recruit their helpers from the rural and semi-rural regions, particularly from two provinces north of Cairo: Bahtim and Qalyub. The poor, who make up the majority of the population here, are easy prey. Many are distrustful of the demonstrators’ motives and fear that the movement is secretly pursuing other aims.

In every province, there are party offices. There, people, especially seasonal workers, are collected and offered a tiny sum of money to take part in the bloody battle to keep Mubarak in power. There is not much work on the land at this time of year. Terribly poor and illiterate, they set off to do their employers’ bidding for a paltry sum equivalent to around €10-€15 ($14-$20). They are cheap, they are desperate and they don’t ask questions. Thousands have taken part, though it is difficult to estimate the exact figure. According to eyewitnesses, around 4,000 people took part in the counter-demonstrations in Cairo and Alexandria on Wednesday.

Mubarak loyalists have resorted to perfidious measures to sabotage the protests by the opponents of the regime and to put on a show for international observers. Thousands of prisons, including detention centers in the desert, were opened in recent days. At total of 14,000 inmates, including murderers and other serious criminals, were suddenly set free. They were released on the understanding that they would cause as much chaos as possible — effectively a license to plunder, murder and commit arson.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 of the inmates are thought to have now reached Cairo, while a few hundred have turned themselves in voluntarily. Many want to flee across Sinai to the Gaza Strip, in the hope that the radical Islamist group Hamas, which is in government there, will take them in. Hamas has so far not taken a position on the events in Egypt. However, it is assumed that they are not exactly sympathetic to Mubarak, because he has supported the Israeli-imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip. Hamas is also considered an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group officially banned in Egypt.

The opposition wants to demonstrate once again against the elderly Egyptian president on Friday. The planned march will converge on Cairo. And the members of the pro-Mubarak camp will also presumably be out in force — with bloody consequences.

Annett Meiritz contributed to this report.

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Crowds pack Tahrir Square as ‘Day of Departure’ begins

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By David D. Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell
The New York Times

CAIRO — With signs of fracturing within Egypt’s ruling elite, hundreds of thousands of people packed Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Friday, chanting slogans, bowing in prayer and waving Egyptian flags to press a largely peaceful campaign for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.

As the uprising entered its 11th day, there was no sign of the violent Mubarak supporters who the protesters said were organized and dispatched by the Mubarak government over the last two days in an effort to capture the initiative. Lurking fears among the opposition that their movement may have lost momentum were banished by the sheer numbers of the protesters and their passion.

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Egyptians gathered to enter Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday morning
Photo By Peter Macdiarmid

Some carried baskets of bread, food and water for those who camped out in the central square overnight after days of running battles, urging the president to depart and seeking to maintain the momentum of their protests at one of the most decisive moments in Egypt since the 1952 revolution against the monarchy. “Leave, leave, leave,” protesters chanted.

Tens of thousands of jubilant protesters turned out in the port city of Alexandria, the site of bitter and deadly clashes in the last week.

Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League and a former foreign minister serving Mr. Mubarak, appeared among the crowds, seeming to align himself with the protest. Twice he sought to address the crowd, but both times he was drowned out by roars of approval at what seemed a tacit endorsement of their cause.

Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, appeared in the square — the first member of the ruling government elite to do so — but he seemed to be concerned mostly with reviewing the troops and did not seek to speak to the crowd, though he did chat with some protesters.

And Mohamed Rafah Tahtawy, the public spokesman for Al Azhar — the center of Sunni Muslim learning and Egypt’s highest, state-run religious authority — told reporters that he was resigning because “I am participating in the protests and I have issued statements that support the revolutionists as far as they go.”

The government had broadened its crackdown on Thursday, arresting journalists and human rights advocates across an edgy city, while offering more concessions in a bid to win support from a population growing frustrated with a devastated economy and scenes of chaos in the streets.

But, after a night of scattered clashes and bursts of gunfire, an uneasy calm gave way to what seemed jubilation on Friday as antigovernment protesters mustered for what they have called a “Friday of departure.” Television images showed thousands of protesters crowded beneath the palm trees of Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city on the Mediterranean coast, waving Egyptian flags and demanding Mr. Mubarak’s ouster.

Just a week ago, demonstrators poured from Cairo’s many mosques after noon prayers on the Muslim holy day to press their uprising, and there seemed to be a similar surge on Friday. But one big difference was that last week the protesters confronted the police at the start of a day of violence and looting. Since then, though, the uniformed police force has largely disappeared from the streets and the protesters have clashed with their pro-Mubarak adversaries.

On Friday, there were no immediate signs of the pro-Mubarak camp.

On one approach to Tahrir Square on Friday, two orderly lines of protesters stretched back hundreds of yards on the Kasr al-Nil bridge, their progress slowed by elite paratroops who threw razor wire across the bridge and searched demonstrators as they arrived — apparently a new attempt by the military to assert some control.

On Thursday, the authorities said that neither Mr. Mubarak nor his son Gamal, long seen as a contender for power, would run for president. They also offered dialogue with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, a gesture almost unthinkable weeks ago.

For its part, the Brotherhood insisted on Friday that it had no ambitions to field presidential candidates if those talks took place. But, speaking to reporters in Tahrir Square, Mohammed el-Beltagui, a leading member of the outlawed group, said that if Mr. Mubarak left, the Brotherhood — the most organized opposition in the country — would not present a candidate for election.

“It is not a retreat,” Mr. Beltagui said. “It is to take away the scare tactics that Hosni Mubarak uses to deceive the people here and abroad that he should stay in power.” A close ally of the United States, Mr. Mubarak has cast himself for years as a bulwark against Islamic extremism.

The Brotherhood has assumed an increasingly prominent role in the uprising, but its disavowal of long-term political ambitions seemed to contradict an assertion on Friday from Iran that Egypt was in the throes of an Islamic revolution similar to the tumult that ended the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in Tehran in 1979.

“The awakening of the Islamic Egyptian people is an Islamic liberation movement, and I, in the name of the Iranian government, salute the Egyptian people and the Tunisian people,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said at Friday prayers in Tehran, which were broadcast on television, Reuters reported.

On a larger scale than on previous days, thousands of people in Tahrir Square sank to their knees at noon as loudspeakers amplified the sound of prayers filling the air. But those in the square reflected a cross-section of society, not just members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The minute the prayers were over, the square erupted in slogans of defiance, urging Mr. Mubarak to go.

Many said their determination was blending with a fear that if they lost, the protesters and their organizers would bear the brunt of a withering crackdown.

“If we can’t bring this to an end, we’re going to all be in the slammer by June,” said Murad Mohsen, a doctor treating the wounded at a makeshift clinic near barricades, where thousands fought off droves of government supporters with rocks and firebombs.

On Friday, Mohamed ElBaradei, who has been authorized by the protesters to negotiate with the authorities, said that, despite the authorities’ offers of negotiation, no one from government had contacted him or any other opposition leader.

At a news conference at his home in Giza, close to the pyramids, Mr. ElBaradei said Mr. Mubarak’s adversaries had already begun drawing up a constitution and were seeking the creation of a council of two to five members — including a representative from the powerful military — to oversee reform over a one year period. It was the first public suggestion of a formal proposal for transition.

“The earlier he goes with dignity the better it will be for everybody,” Mr. ElBaradei said, referring to Mr. Mubarak.

He said the young people propelling the uprising were not interested in retribution. “The Egyptian people are not a bloodthirsty people,” he said. The conciliatory tone of his remarks contrasted with the demands of some protesters for Mr. Mubarak’s execution.

“We need to move the current dictatorship and all of its apparatus to a democracy,” he said.

Mr. ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a Nobel laureate, took issue sharply with remarks by Mr. Mubarak in an interview with ABC News on Thursday when he said that he was fed up with ruling but that his precipitate departure would cause chaos.

“We as a people are fed up as well, it is not only him,” Mr. ElBaradei said. “The idea that there would be chaos is symptomatic of a dictatorship. He thinks if he leaves power the whole country will fall apart.”

From festive scenes of just days ago, the revolt on Thursday had become more martial, as exhausted men defended what they described as the perimeter of a free Egypt around Tahrir Square. Their demands have grown more forceful and the uprising more radical. After pitched clashes of two days that left at least seven dead and hundreds wounded, banners in Tahrir Square declared Mr. Mubarak “a war criminal,” and several in the crowd said that the president should be executed. Major television networks were largely unable to broadcast from the square on Thursday.

On Friday, the mood seemed to have swung back to an atmosphere of celebration.

On Thursday, the United States joined a chorus of criticism, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton saying, “We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners and diplomats.”

The government’s strategy seems motivated at turning broader opinion in the country against the protests and perhaps wearing down the demonstrators themselves, some of whom seemed exhausted by the clashes. Vice President Omar Suleiman, appointed Saturday to a position that Mr. Mubarak had until then refused to fill, appealed to Egypt’s sense of decency in allowing Mr. Mubarak to serve out his term, and he chronicled the mounting losses that, he said, the uprising had inflicted on a crippled Egyptian economy.

“End your sit-in,” he said. “Your demands have been answered.”

In interviews and statements, the government has increasingly spread an image that foreigners were inciting the uprising, a refrain echoed in the streets. The suggestions are part of a days-long Egyptian media campaign that has portrayed the protesters as troublemakers and ignored the scope of an uprising with diffuse goals and leadership.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it had 100 reports of attacks on journalists. Al Jazeera, the influential Arabic channel, said government supporters stormed the Hilton Hotel in Cairo, searching for journalists, and two of its reporters were attacked. A Greek journalist was stabbed with a screwdriver and others were beaten and harassed.

Police also raided the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, a headquarters for many of the international human rights organizations working in Egypt. The human rights workers were told to lie on the floor and the chips were removed from the telephones, someone present in the building said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Cairo, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Liam Stack, Kareem Fahim and Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Murphy Brown comeback? – On Scene with Bill Wilson

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Castro Theatre
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

BY BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2010

“If Sarah Palin runs for President I’m going to ask CBS to bring back Murphy Brown” declared creator Diane English much to the delight of the crowd at the Castro Theatre. “It will take about six episodes.”

The statement came during an appearance with Candace Bergen as part of the 10th Annual SF Comedy Sketchfest tribute to Murphy Brown. Originally Connie Chung was scheduled to interview the two, but because of the snow there were no flights out of New York. So it was agreed that Diane would question Candace, but of course it turned into reminisces between friends.

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Candace Bergen signing autographs at the Castro Theatre (note photo fan is holding on the right)
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Diane had been asked to bring one episode to show before the interview and the one she picked was the episode where Murphy Brown gives birth. She said she picked it because it was the last episode she was involved in before she left the show. (She would later come back for the last seasons) It was toward the end of the Q and A session that she revealed the larger impact of that episode.

She had mentioned that there was a three week interval between taping the show and its air date which made it particularly difficult for writer dealing with topical humor and events. This particular episode aired on May 18. She said that on May 19 she was planning a relaxing day and was in her car going to visit her horse when she got a call from her assistant saying that she might want to come back to the office because the phones were ringing off the hook.

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Candace looking at the photo (from previous shot) before signing it
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

In a speech here in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club the then Vice Dan Quayle had berated Murphy Brown saying, “We must be unequivocal about this. It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown — a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman — mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another ‘life style choice’.” (excerpts from remarks prepared for delivery by Vice President Dan Quayle before the Commonwealth Club of California, as transcribed by News Transcripts Inc.)The opening salvo of the “culture wars” had been fired and Murphy Brown was the target.

Candace remarked that she had gone out that morning and seen the New York Post headline “Quayle to Murphy: You Slut!”, but was more amazed to find a large story about it on the front page of the New York Times – above the fold!

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Diane English and Candace Bergen
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Candace explained that in the days before Murphy Brown movie and theatre actors didn’t do TV because it was considered such a step down. When she was originally given the script to read she had just put it aside. When her agent said that she would have to give an answer Candace took the script on a flight to New York to read. She called her agent from the plane and said she wanted to do the part. Diane said that Candace hadn’t even been on their list of people to play Murphy because they were so sure she wouldn’t do it.

See Related: Television Archive

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past six years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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America’s most miserable cities – Eight California cities make Forbes list

California has never looked less golden

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By Kurt Badenhausen
Forbes

Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as the governor of California at the end of 2003 amid a wave of optimism that his independent thinking and fresh ideas would revive a state stumbling after the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

The good vibes are a distant memory: The Governator exited office last month with the state facing a crippling checklist of problems including massive budget deficits, high unemployment, plunging home prices, rampant crime and sky-high taxes. Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings hit 22% last year, a record low for any sitting California governor.

California’s troubles helped it land eight of the 20 spots on our annual list of America’s Most Miserable Cities, with Stockton ranking first for the second time in three years.

Located in the state’s Central Valley, Stockton has been ravaged by the housing bust. Median home prices in the city tripled between 1998 and 2005, when they peaked at $431,000. Now they are back to where they started, as the median price is forecast to be $142,000 this year, according to research firm Economy.com, a decline of 67% from 2005. Foreclosure filings affected 6.9% of homes last year in the Stockton area, the seventh-highest rate in the nation, according to online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac.

Stockton’s violent crime and unemployment rates also rank among the 10 worst in the country, although violent crime was down 10% in the latest figures from the FBI. Jobless rates are expected to decline or stay flat in most U.S. metro areas in 2011, but in Stockton, unemployment is projected to rise to 18.1% in 2011 after averaging 17.2% in 2010, according to Economy.com.

“Stockton has issues that it needs to address, but an article like this is the equivalent of bayoneting the wounded,” says Bob Deis, Stockton city manager. “I find it unfair, and it does everybody a disservice. The people of Stockton are warm. The sense of community is fantastic. You have to come here and talk to leaders. The data is the data, but there is a richer story here.”

There are many ways to gauge misery. The most famous is the Misery Index developed by economist Arthur Okun, which adds unemployment and inflation rates together. Okun’s index shows the U.S. is still is in the dumps despite the recent gains in the economy: It averaged 11.3 in 2010 (blame a 9.6% unemployment rate and not inflation), the highest annual rate since 1984.

Our list of America’s Most Miserable Cities goes a step further: We consider a total of 10 factors, things that people gripe about around the water cooler every day. Most are serious issues, including unemployment, crime and taxes. A few we factor in are not as critical, but still elevate people’s blood pressure, like the weather, commute times and how the local sports team is doing.

One of the biggest issues causing Americans angst the past four years is the value of their homes. To account for that we tweaked the methodology for this year’s list and considered foreclosure rates and the change in home prices over the past three years. Click here for a more detailed rundown of our methodology.

Florida and California have ample sunshine in common, but also massive housing problems that have millions of residents stuck with underwater mortgages. The two states are home to 16 of the top 20 metros in terms of home foreclosure rates in 2010. The metro area with the most foreclosure filings (171,704) and fifth-highest rate (7.1%) last year is Miami, which ranks No. 2 on our list of Most Miserable Cities.

The good weather and lack of a state income tax are the only things that kept Miami out of the top spot. In addition to housing problems (prices are down 50% over three years), corruption is off the charts, with 404 government officials convicted of crimes this decade in South Florida. Factor in violent crime rates among the worst in the country and long commutes, and it’s easy to understand why Miami has steadily moved up our list, from No. 9 in 2009 to No. 6 last year to the runner-up spot this year.

California cities take the next three spots: Merced (No. 3), Modesto (No. 4) and Sacramento (No. 5). Each has struggled with declining home prices, high unemployment and high crime rates, in addition to the problems all Californians face, like high sales and income taxes and service cuts to help close massive budget shortfalls.

The Golden State has never looked less golden. “If I even mention California, they throw me out of the office,” says Ron Pollina, president of site selection firm Pollina Corporate Real Estate. “Every company hates California.”

Last year’s most miserable city, Cleveland, fell back to No. 10 this year despite the stomach punch delivered by LeBron James when he announced his exit from Cleveland on national television last summer. Cleveland’s unemployment rate rose slightly in 2010 to an average of 9.3%, but the city’s unemployment rank improved relative to other cities, thanks to soaring job losses across the U.S. Cleveland benefited from a housing market that never overheated and therefore hasn’t crashed as much as many other metros. Yet Cleveland was the only city to rank in the bottom half of each of the 10 categories we considered.

Two of the 10 largest metro areas make the list. Chicago ranks seventh on the strength of its long commutes (30.7 minutes on average–eighth-worst in the U.S.) and high sales tax (9.75%—tied for the highest). The Windy City also ranks in the bottom quartile on weather, crime, foreclosures and home price trends.

President Obama’s (relatively) new home also makes the cut at No. 16. Washington, D.C., has one of the healthiest economies, but problems abound. Traffic is a nightmare, with commute times averaging 33.4 minutes–only New York is worse. Income tax rates are among the highest in the country and home prices are down 27% over three years.

And it does not get much more miserable than the sports scene in Washington. Beltway fans should be grateful for the NHL’s Capitals, their only major pro team to finish out of the basement in the last two seasons. The Nationals (MLB), Redskins (NFL) and Wizards (NBA) have all finished in last place in their respective divisions the past two years.

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White House, Egypt discuss proposal for Murbarak to resign immediately – Suleiman would head government – Muslim Brotherhood would be invited into transitional government

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By Helene Cooper and Mark Landler
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.

Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.

The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.

Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now.

They cautioned that the outcome depended on several factors, not least Egypt’s own constitutional protocols and the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

Some officials said there was not yet any indication that either Mr. Suleiman or the Egyptian military was willing to abandon Mr. Mubarak.

Even as the Obama administration is coalescing around a Mubarak-must-go-now posture in private conversations with Egyptian officials, Mr. Mubarak himself remains determined to stay until the election in September, American and Egyptian officials said. His backers forcibly pushed back on Thursday against what they viewed as American interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.

“What they’re asking cannot be done,” one senior Egyptian official said, citing clauses in the Egyptian Constitution that bar the vice president from assuming power. Under the Constitution, the speaker of Parliament would succeed the president. “That’s my technical answer,” the official added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business.”

Mr. Mubarak’s insistence on staying will again be tested by large street protests on Friday, which the demonstrators are calling his “day of departure,” when they plan to march on the presidential palace. The military’s pledge not to fire on the Egyptian people will be tested as well.

The discussions about finding a way out of the crisis in Cairo take place as new questions are being raised about whether American intelligence agencies, after the collapse of the Tunisian government, adequately warned the White House and top lawmakers about the prospects of an uprising in Egypt.

During a Senate hearing on Thursday, both Democrats and Republicans pressed a senior Central Intelligence Agency official about when the C.I.A. and other agencies notified President Obama of the looming crisis, and whether intelligence officers even monitored social networking sites and Internet forums to gauge popular sentiment in Egypt.

“At some point it had to have been obvious that there was going to be a huge demonstration,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence.

She said that intelligence agencies never sent a notice to her committee about the growing uprising in Egypt, as is customary in the case of significant global events.

Stephanie O’Sullivan, the C.I.A. official, responded that the agency had been tracking instability in Egypt for some time and had concluded that the government in Cairo was in an “untenable” situation. But, Ms. O’Sullivan said, “we didn’t know what the triggering mechanism would be.”

Because of the fervor now unleashed in Egypt, one Obama administration official said, Mr. Mubarak’s close aides expressed concern that they were not convinced that Mr. Mubarak’s resignation would satisfy the protesters.

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC News, Mr. Mubarak said that he was “fed up” with being president but that he could not step down for fear of sowing chaos in the country.

“The worry on Mubarak’s part is that if he says yes to this, there will be more demands,” said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “And since he’s not dealing with a legal entity, but a mob, how does he know there won’t be more demands tomorrow?”

A number of high-level American officials have reached out to the Egyptians in recent days. While administration officials would not offer details of the alternatives that were being discussed, they made it clear that their preferred outcome would be for Mr. Suleiman to take power as a transitional figure.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke by phone to Mr. Suleiman on Thursday, the White House said in a statement, urging that “credible, inclusive negotiations begin immediately in order for Egypt to transition to a democratic government that addresses the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

Mr. Biden’s phone call came after a mission by Mr. Obama’s private emissary, Frank G. Wisner, was abruptly ended when Mr. Mubarak, angry at Mr. Obama’s toughly worded speech on Tuesday night, declined to meet with the envoy a second time, officials said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has made three calls since the weekend to Egypt’s powerful defense minister, Field Marshal Tantawi, who served on the coalition’s side in the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

Pentagon officials declined on Thursday to describe the specifics of the calls but indicated that Mr. Gates’s messages were focused on more than urging the Egyptian military to exercise restraint.

Officials familiar with the dialogue between the Obama administration and Cairo say that American officials have told their Egyptian counterparts that if they support another strongman to replace Mr. Mubarak — but without a specific plan and timetable for moving toward democratic elections — Congress might react by freezing military aid to Egypt.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a resolution calling on Mr. Mubarak to begin the transfer of power to an “inclusive, interim caretaker government.”

Anthony H. Cordesman, an expert on the Egyptian military at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that a transition government led by Mr. Suleiman and the military, with pledges to move toward democratic elections, was in his mind “the most probable case.” But he said the administration had to proceed with extreme caution.

“Everybody working this issue knows that this is a military extremely sensitive to outside pressure,” Mr. Cordesman said.

Even as the Obama administration has ratcheted up the pressure on Egypt, it has reaffirmed its support for other Arab allies facing popular unrest.

The White House released a statement saying that Mr. Obama called President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen on Wednesday to welcome Mr. Saleh’s recent “reform measures” — the Yemeni president promised not to run again in 2013.

And on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called King Abdullah II of Jordan to say that the United States looked forward to working with his new cabinet — recently announced — and to underline the importance of the relationship between Jordan and the United States.

Philip J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman, declined to say whether Mrs. Clinton had enlisted King Abdullah in an effort to ease out Mr. Mubarak. But Mr. Crowley praised the king for responding to the unrest in Jordan.

“He’s doing his best to respond to this growing aspiration,” Mr. Crowley said. “And we appreciate the leadership he’s shown.”

Elisabeth Bumiller, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker contributed reporting.

See Related: Egypt Archive

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SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
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Strange’s Last Night’s Top Ten Late-Night TV Jokes February 2 2011

STRANGE’S LAST NIGHT’S TOP TEN LATE-NIGHT TV JOKES FEBRUARY 2 2011

February Strangies: Kimmel 1, Leno 1

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By Strange de Jim
Beep beep! Love from Strange

Wednesday, February 2

10. Jimmy Kimmel: Apparently something is going on over in Egypt. Anderson Cooper and his crew got attacked by pro-government forces. He got hit in the head about 10 times, and I think he got kicked in the Mini Cooper too.

9. Jimmy Kimmel: New York has its own groundhog called Staten Island Chuck, but he’s like O-Town, a cheap ripoff. A few years ago Chuck bit New York Mayor Bloomberg, so this year the Mayor came prepared with gloves, and they just handed Chuck to him. [Clip showed the Mayor saying, "That was so much better than having to reach in and let the son of a bitch bite you."]

8. Jay Leno: The NFL may return to L.A. Two companies have invested $700 million to put their names on a stadium that hasn’t been built yet in a location that hasn’t been found yet for a team that doesn’t exist yet. I think that’s what they call Fantasy Football.

7. Conan O’Brien: While in Egypt, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was attacked and beaten, which raises 2 questions. Is it safe to send our media into these places? And how do we get Glenn Beck over there?

6. David Letterman: President Mubarak says he won’t step down until September, but that he won’t seek another rigged election. He plans to retire to his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Is this guy really leaving in September, or is he just pulling a Leno?

5. Jimmy Fallon: Google is accusing Bing of watching what people search for on Google and then using that information to improve searches on Bing. That’s when you know Bing is in trouble. When even Bing isn’t using Bing.

4. Craig Ferguson: The Super Bowl is going to be different this year. Neither the Packers not the Steelers have cheerleaders. I know! No cheerleaders at the Super Bowl. Are you happy now, Al Qaeda?

3. Jay Leno: Sarah Palin says she may run for President. I understand there’s an opening in Egypt. Works for me.

2. David Letterman: This Egyptian thing sneaked up on everybody, because the foreign press was too busy covering Hollywood.

1. Jay Leno: Someone claimed to TMZ that Britney Spears used a stand-in for some of the dance scenes in her new video. People don’t care about that. They just want to know if she did her own lip-syncing.

Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race by Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart explains Earth’s history to the aliens who have discovered our ruins.

Page 40 – Torso: Most frequently aimed-at part of the body. Navel: Permanent reminder of the good old days.

Urine and feces were the liquid and solid waste products resulting from digestion. Excreting them was the dirty little secret shared by all human beings, with the exception of movie stars, the President of the United States, and one’s own mother.

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Best Buy $12.95
or Buy New $14.00

See Related: STRANGE’S LAST NIGHT’S TOP TEN LATE-NIGHT TV JOKES ARCHIVE

For each day’s
funniest zingers follow me on Twitter
@strangedejim

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Ostrom Road landfill contract set for February 9 Hearing before Budget Committee – New deal will save ratepayers $130 million and reduce greenhouse gases

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Ostrom Road landfill project

The Department of the Environment’s resolution authorizing San Francisco to enter into a contract with Recology to landfill the city’s non-recycled refuse is scheduled for hearing at the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors, 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, February 9.

Under the proposal, San Francisco’s trash would go to Recology’s Ostrom Road landfill in Yuba County once the city has reached the contracted
capacity at the Altamont landfill near Livermore, where the city’s trash currently goes, likely around 2015. Recology is a San Francisco-based,
employee owned company.

“This is a good deal for San Francisco and for the environment,” said SF Environment Director Melanie Nutter.

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Melanie Nutter
Bill Wilson © 2010

“Ostrom Road is a state-of-the-art facility that employs industry best practices, and the price is dramatically lower than the competition. This will help us maintain reasonable refuse collection costs as we move toward zero waste.”

With all costs factored in, the Ostrom Road bid was 24 percent below the competing bid, which could save San Francisco ratepayers over $130 million
over the life of the contract. This includes a $2 million reduction in city government waste disposal costs, which would free needed funding for
other city programs.

The new landfill agreement also has significant environmental advantages over current operations, in which San Francisco’s refuse is hauled by truck
to Altamont. Under the proposal, San Francisco’s refuse will travel to Ostrom Road by rail in custom-designed, sealed containers, which will be
loaded on freight cars in the East Bay.

This will eliminate up to 10 million truck miles on congested Bay Area freeways, reduce fuel consumption by up to 1 million gallons, and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by up to 5 million pounds. One train load will carry the equivalent of 162 long-haul transfer trucks.

San Francisco selected Ostrom Road through an extensive, multi-year public process starting in 2006, which included numerous public meetings, requests
for qualifications, proposals, and interviews. Ostrom Road Landfill, located in Yuba County, was the first landfill in California to meet new US
EPA’s regulations for landfill liners and construction standards. Landfill gas is captured on site and turned into electricity.

The landfill disposal contract is for 5 million tons or ten years, whichever comes first. San Francisco currently sends about 1,000 tons to
the landfill each day, but that amount is expected to decrease over the coming years because of San Francisco’s successful waste prevention,
recycling and composting programs.

San Francisco is now recycling 77 percent of its waste stream, the highest diversion rate of any city in the nation. Statistics for 2008 show that
San Francisco diverted just over 1.6 million tons of material—double the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge—through recycling, composting and re-use.
In 2010, only 378,000 tons went to the Altamont landfill, the lowest disposal on record.

See Related: Waste Management Using Unregistered Lobbyists in San Francisco?

See Related: On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past six years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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