Gaddafi's son says reports of violence 'just a big joke'
The Libyan leader's son Saif al-Islam has said that the reports of casualties and mercenaries in Libya are "just a big joke" while restating his claim that Al Qaeda are behind the anti-government protests in the country.

TelegraphPlayer-834934612:29PM GMT 26 Feb 2011
Speaking at a news conference at the Rixos al Nasr Hotel in Tripoli, Saif al-Islam tried to play down the extent of fighting with rebels who have seized much of the country.

"Soon you will discover that what you have heard in Libya was just a big joke. A very big joke. Here in Libya we were laughing about those reports about hundreds and thousands of casualties, bombing Tripoli and Benghazi and Zawiya or whatever, about mercenaries," he said.

He went on to claim blame al-Qaida chief for the chaos in Libya.

"If we are talking about al-Qaida, it's not a secret. Al-Qaida issued a statement yesterday supporting those groups in Libya and they said 'this is part of our global war against...' I don't know. So, go to the internet, and search there, and you will see the statement, official statement from al-Qaida issued yesterday, supporting those terrorist people."


Benghazi, Libya (CNN) -- Libya's foreign minister said late Saturday that talks are underway between Moammar Gadhafi's government and figures in the eastern part of the North African nation.

Benghazi-based opposition spokesman Jalal Igallal, however, strongly knocked down reports of any discussions between anti-government figures and officials in Gadhafi's regime. He urged Foreign Minister Musa Kasa to say who is being talked to, if such negotiations are in fact ongoing.

Meanwhile, city councils in areas no longer loyal to Gadhafi have chosen former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil to head an interim government that would represent all of Libya and ultimately be based in Tripoli, according to Amal Bogagies, a member of the coalition of the February 17 Uprising, and a separate Libyan opposition source. Both are based in Benghazi.

Protests began February 15 in Benghazi. That city and many others in Libya are now thought to be under opposition control, according to eyewitnesses. There have been numerous reports of widespread violence, some of it perpetrated by foreign mercenaries and military and security forces loyal to Gadhafi.

Kasa, the foreign minister, told CNN's Nic Robertson that the country was close to a civil war situation, on the same day that Saif al-Islam Gadhafi told a reporter that "life is normal" in Tripoli.

Embassy head: 'We were lucky to get out'

State Dept. 'concerned' for Libyans

Gadhafi behaving badly? RELATED TOPICS
Moammar Gadhafi
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While CNN does have staff in some cities, the network could not independently confirm reports for many areas in Libya. But CNN has compiled information through telephone interviews with witnesses.

Tripoli itself was noticeably tense but largely quiet overnight Saturday, its streets largely barren except for police and young people with sticks at some intersections.

The situation at the main airport, about 20 miles south of Tripoli, was far more chaotic. Several thousand people camped outside in makeshift tents, waiting for the chance to leave the war-torn country.

Across the Atlantic at the United Nations, international pressure intensified as the Security Council huddled Saturday in an urgent session to discuss slapping new sanctions on Gadhafi's government and referring the strongman to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Military and security forces loyal to Gadhafi have killed more than 1,000 people, the United Nations estimated.

More than 200 Arab organizations and a group of 30 prominent intellectuals from across the Middle East and North Africa urged global bodies, including the Security Council, the European Union and the African Union, to take action to limit further humanitarian consequences.

"We fear we may be witnessing the calm before the storm," said their statement. "The window of opportunity to prevent further atrocities from occurring is closing fast. The people of Libya need you to act quickly and decisively."

The group urged the international community to devise contingency plans for intervention and impose immediate sanctions on the Libyan regime.

"We appeal to you as leaders who have the power to bring an end to this horror," the statement said. "Your failure to do so would be a lasting stain on the responsibilities of world leadership and on humanity itself."

U.S. President Barack Obama also weighed in Saturday, telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel to "coordinate our urgent efforts to respond to developments and ensure appropriate accountability," according to a White House statement. In some of his strongest wording to date, Obama said, "when a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now."

Later, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement urging Gadhafi to step down.

Gallery: Unrest in Libya

American evacuee is happy but feels torn

A protester's view from Libya

Libyan: U.S. 'doesn't give a damn' "Moammar Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence," Clinton said. "The Libyan people deserve a government that is responsive to their aspirations and that protects their universally recognized human rights."

Tripoli's Green Square, occupied by pro-Gadhafi demonstrators on previous evenings, was empty Saturday night, a witness told CNN. She said her neighborhood near the square was eerily quiet.

Other frightened residents said they stayed indoors, though unable to shut off the sound of gunfire or put aside the words of Gadhafi in a public address the day before in which he vowed to keep unleashing force.

"We can destroy any assault with the people's will, with the armed people," he said on state television Friday. "And when it is necessary, the weapons depots will be open to all the Libyan people to be armed."

Gadhafi's son went on air on Al-Arabiya television Saturday, again blaming foreigners for the unrest and denying that Gadhafi's security apparatus was to blame for the bloodshed.

"Now we are here, we are in a hotel in Tripoli," said Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. "Go out and see who is ruling there. Thousands of people are doing their jobs to maintain security in the city. They are not security police or armed forces."

The prime minister, meanwhile, announced on state television that every family would receive 500 Libyan dinars ($406) from the government.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said in a statement Saturday one of its teams was in Benghazi, Libya's second-biggest city. Their arrival, and a promise of future aid, marked one of the first humanitarian inroads into Libya in recent weeks.

Three main hospitals were all "well equipped and have managed to deal with the numbers of wounded people and medical needs," according to the group. But the facilities also face shortages of drugs, bandages and other medical items, which Doctors Without Borders said it will provide. The group plans to send an orthopedic surgeon, anesthesiologist and nurse on Monday.

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the situation was appreciably worse in Zawiya -- about 55 kilometers (35 miles) west of Tripoli and the epicenter of violent protests Thursday.

"West of Tripoli in Zawiya city, government security forces firing on demonstrators are causing bloodshed and chaos," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's Middle East and North Africa director.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he planned to speak with Obama in Washington Monday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama was suspending embassy operations in Tripoli and pursuing sanctions. State Department officials said they have other channels to communicate with the Libyan government, and emphasized that relations between the two nations are not broken.

"The flag is still flying. The embassy is not closed. Operations are suspended," said Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.

The British Embassy has done the same.

"In light of the deteriorating situation in Libya ... we have temporarily suspended the operations of the British Embassy in Tripoli," the Foreign Office said Saturday.

I say defiantly dont rush to judgement about the situation in Libya strictly based off of the western media reports. For those millions following the situation in the east get your facts dont rush to judgement strictly off of media reports. The same media who has never been friendly to Muslim Nations and Countries. I say dont believe the hype just the truth, just the truth of everything. By no means do I condone or standby human or civil rights violations by no group, faction, country, or religion by no means. But I know our history over here in the greatest nation on earth when it comes to false media slander and propoganda. We should be wary of what took place in Egpyt and Libya and what can happen over here in our country. We're focused on the middle east when we still have senseless deaths,crimes,corruption,racism,and all sorts of civil rights violations over here daily. We just dont have the outpouring of mass violence, rioting, and protesting. We live in this great land but in this great land you can display racist sentiments towards our President because of his color of skin. (THINK ABOUT IT) THACHILLONE!!!


Comments (378 comments)
Yes, oral sex is sex, and it can boost cancer risk
Here's a crucial message for teens: Oral sex carries many of the same risks as vaginal sex, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of oral cancers in America in people under age 50.

"Adolescents don’t think oral sex is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 'sex.'"

Halpern-Felsher and other researchers presented the latest information about the risks of contracting an HPV infection Sunday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

The latest data suggest that 64% of oropharynx cancers - growing in the middle part of the throat - in the United States are caused by HPV, which is more than tobacco causes, said Maura Gillison of Ohio State University. And as the number of partners on whom you have performed oral sex goes up, the risk of oropharnyx cancer goes up.

About 37,000 people per year receive a diagnosis of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Just about everyone has had at least one of the 130 strains of HPV. The vaccines currently available, Gardasil and Cervarix, only protect against a few of them. But not all of the strains are cancer-causing. Certain types cause warts on the hands and feet that are benign.

About 5% of cancers worldwide are caused by HPV, and some turn up in some surprising places. A University of Washington study found that some men carry HPV 26 under their fingernails, which can lead to a form of cancer called digital squamous cell carcinoma. Proper hand-washing can help prevent this from happening, said Dr. Diane Harper, leading HPV researcher at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

But this isn't nearly as common as HPV causing cancer in other areas of the body, such as the oral cavity and the cervix.

In the countries that have cervical cancer screening, the prevalence of cervical cancer is five times lower than in other countries, indicating that the testing is effective, Harper said.

Why HPV causes cancer in some people and not others is still mysterious. Studies of the cervix have found that 70% of infections resolve by themselves within one year, and 90% within two years. It's that remaining 10% that actually turn into more serious infections, and 5% lead to treatable precancerous lesions, Harper said.

Two well-established mechanisms of prevention in terms of sexually transmitted HPV are condom usage and circumcision, although neither completely eliminates the risk, Harper said.

A large ongoing study called HITCH is examining questions of HPV transmission and infection in greater detail. So far, it's found that couples can "ping-pong" HPV back and forth to each other, which is one reason that the virus may take so long to clear naturally.

As for getting HPV from kissing, that's not clear, and there isn't enough data to say anything about it yet, Harper said.

It's very hard to get teens to listen to abstinence messages about oral sex, or to get them to use any kind of barrier method for these behaviors, Halpern-Felsher said. And since any risk factor under 50% sounds low to a very young person, throwing these precise statistics at them most likely won't make a difference.

But parents should have honest conversations with their teenagers about oral sex, Halpern-Felsher said. Tell them that the consequences of HPV may not happen right away, and while the risks may not be huge, they are significant. Potential long-term outcomes of cancer are quite concerning.



LOS ANGELES -- This was supposed to be a tribute to a unique accomplishment by Kobe Bryant … except Kobe wasn't having any part of it.

With the All-Star Game back in Los Angeles, Bryant is the only player since the NBA-ABA merger to make two All-Star Game appearances in his home arena in a single city. When I brought that to his attention, he didn't seem impressed.

"Is that supposed to mean anything?" he said.

I added this: Of the 24 players who participated in the 2004 All-Star Game at Staples Center, only Bryant and six others have stayed with their same respective teams in the seven years that have elapsed. And of those six -- Paul Pierce in Boston, Tim Duncan in San Antonio, Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, Andrei Kirilenko in Utah, Michael Redd in Milwaukee and Yao Ming in Houston -- only Pierce, Duncan and Nowitzki will be back at the All-Star Game.

Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are still All-Stars, only now they're in Boston. Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal are in Boston, too, but no longer earn trips to the league's showcase game. Tracy McGrady has gone from one of the top scorers in the league to a point guard for lottery-bound Detroit. Some scattered across the globe in order to keep playing, Steve Francis to China and Allen Iverson to Turkey.

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant won his record-tying fourth All-Star game MVP award to the delight of his hometown fans, scoring 37 points and propelling the West to a 148-143 victory over the East in the NBA's midseason showcase on Sunday night.

The Los Angeles Lakers' veteran guard put on another show among stars at the 60th All-Star game, also grabbing 14 rebounds and overcoming LeBron James' triple-double for the East.

Clearly pushing for another trophy against an East roster stacked with rival Celtics and Heat, Bryant matched Bob Pettit's NBA record with his fourth MVP award in just 10 years.

"Being at home, I wanted to come out and play hard, put on a good show," the 32-year-old Bryant said. "This will be my last All-Star game in front of these home fans, so it feels good to be here."

Although the protracted courtship of West starter Carmelo Anthony dominated much of the All-Star weekend discussion, Kobe gave the Los Angeles crowd another memory to go with Clippers rookie Blake Griffin's dunk contest win on Saturday.

James had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the East, but Miami teammate Dwyane Wade limped off in the third quarter. Wade finished with 14 points.

Bryant didn't score in the final 6:48, falling short of Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star game record of 42 points in 1962.

Bryant won the All-Star MVP trophy in 2002 and 2007 before sharing it with Shaquille O'Neal in 2009. Pettit won four MVP awards with the St. Louis Hawks from 1956-62.

NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant had 34 points for the West, and New York's Amare Stoudemire had 29 for the East.

The West maintained a steady lead against an East team with a combined seven players from Boston and Miami, arguably the top contenders to replace the back-to-back champion Lakers.

Back-to-back baskets by Amare Stoudemire and James trimmed the margin to 142-140 in the final moments. Bryant then missed a jumper, but Lakers teammate Pau Gasol tipped home the rebound.

After two free throws by Chris Paul, Boston's Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds left, but Durant finished it with two free throws.

Boston placed a record-tying four players on the squad, led by 14-time All-Star Kevin Garnett, while the Heat sent league MVP James alongside Bosh and Wade, last season's All-Star MVP in the East's two-point win at Cowboys Stadium.

Anthony had eight points and seven rebounds in less than 23 minutes as a West starter -- and perhaps the NBA's most hottest property was a bit distracted.

The Nuggets forward apparently spent the weekend working on his agonizingly protracted separation from Denver. Los Angeles was abuzz with rumors of talks with management from New York and New Jersey throughout the weekend, but the 'Melodrama had no resolution before the game.

Anthony also picked up three early fouls -- no small feat in a game where officials typically swallow their whistles.

Anthony even got a smattering of boos in the first quarter when he chose a layup over a dunk on a breakaway. Bryant remedied that moments later, hovering underneath the rim before throwing down a two-handed jam on the other side.



Lil Kim checked in with Atlanta's V-103's Ryan Cameron this week and discussed the real tension that started her beef with Nicki Minaj.

During the interview she sated,

"Baby tried to reach out a hundred times. Puffy tried to reach out. But I feel like both of those two were a big major part of the problem... so it was really nothing to talk about.

"[As far as Puffy], I feel it was very disrespectful because being with Puffy for so long... I remember plenty of times when I said something that may have been offensive about somebody and Puffy... back in the day he wouldn't
As a matter of fact he would say 'No, No, No, you got to change that. You can't say this.' Especially if it was about somebody he had a relationship or was getting money with, he wouldn't let that ride like that so that's what bothered me.

Now he's sitting there saying she's mad becauyse I wanted to work with another female... Come on, how preposterous is that. How many females has he worked with that I was cool with or didn't have a problem with so {his answer] didn't make any sense to me."

Peep the interview below as she further details her version of how Baby and Slim used her to create Nicki Minaj's image and calls Drake a "Pink Person"... another word for??? [LOL]



(CNN) -- The Mississippi NAACP has called on Governor Haley Barbour to publicly denounce an attempt by a Confederacy group to honor a Ku Klux Klan leader, the organization said Monday.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans has launched the campaign to recognize Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest on a specialty license plate.

Forrest, a popular and controversial figure, is best known as a leader of the KKK, the white supremacist group known for terrorizing blacks in the South after the Civil War.

He is also praised and criticized for an 1864 raid at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, where hundreds of black Union Army members were killed during the war. The controversy over whether Forrest conducted or condoned the massacre is still a matter for heated debate.

Mississippi NAACP leaders feel a state-sanctioned license plate honoring a man with ties to the KKK sends the wrong message to people in the state and across the country.

"Any individual who was a traitor to our country and our Constitution should be treated as such," said Derrick Johnson, president of the state NAACP chapter.

Forrest was a "terrorist" whose acts were "immoral and unconstitutional," Johnson said. Honoring him or anyone who promoted racial hatred or violence would be offensive, he said.

The NAACP isn't alone in its protest against the SCV. More than 1,700 Mississippians have joined a Facebook group called Mississippians Against The Commemoration Of Grand Wizard Nathan Forrest.

The group's website says they "are united in sending a message to the state government of Mississippi that WE WILL NOT STAND for the public glorification of one of the original leaders of the Ku Klux Klan."

The proposal by the Sons of Confederate Veterans seeks to honor Confederate generals.

"If we can't hold him up to where he's supposed to be, then nobody else is gonna do it," group member Greg Stewart said. Forrest is being "unfairly maligned," he told CNN.

Most historians agree that Forrest left the KKK after less than two years because the small pockets of groups were growing rapidly, were unorganized and violent.

Forrest felt "they had the right idea, but went about it the wrong way," said Mike Martinez, a part-time political science instructor at Kennesaw State University. Despite his short stint with the Klan, Martinez said Forrest's affiliation with the organization gave it credibility.

Stewart said Forrest was chosen to be recognized not because of his time with the KKK, but for his spirit and leadership during the Civil War.

His image is one in a series of five that will have to be approved on a year-by-year basis by the state legislature, Stewart said.

Other Confederacy symbols to be used on license plates are Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, the battle for Vicksburg, the battle of Shiloh and Confederate soldiers.

One image still under consideration that may surprise many people is that Holt Collier, an African American who fought for the Confederacy and eventually served under President Theodore Roosevelt as a bear tracker.

Collier is best known for the famous Mississippi hunt where Roosevelt refused to shoot a wounded bear. It became known as the "Teddy Bear" craze.

The SCV group has had a specialty license plate since 2003. The image of a small Confederate flag was used until last year when it was redesigned.

Money from the sale of the plates is used to repair state-owned historical flags.

Barbour has not responded to the controversy since it began making headlines last week. He spoke this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., and is said to be setting his sights on a run for the White House in 2012. He finished 15th in a CPAC straw poll.

A call to the governor's office from CNN on Monday has not been returned.


Rap mogul Jay-Z's three-award Grammy juggernaut rolled early: At the afternoon ceremony he collected awards for best rap/sung collaboration and best rap song (for his duet with Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind") and best rap performance by a duo or group (for "On to the Next One," with Swizz Beatz). Eminem - the year's comeback kid (his album "Recovery" has sold 3.5 million) and the day's top nominee, with 10 nods - took best rap album, and in the early going as "Not Afraid" pulled in best rap solo performance honors. (Variety)

Best Rap Album
Eminem, RecoveryRap Solo Performance
Eminem, “Not Afraid”

Rap Song
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”

On To The Next OneJay-Z & Swizz Beatz
Track from: The Blueprint 3
[Roc Nation].

Empire State Of MindJay-Z & Alicia Keys
Track from: The Blueprint 3
[Roc Nation].

Its only befitting that Hip Hop's biggest juaggernauts of the past ten years in counting continue to show that age isn't nothing but a number as they continue to put up big numbers in their storied careers. They both have sold over 30 million records domestically they stand second and third only to 2pac forget all that other nonsense you heard in the media and from other artists exaggerating their sales.

Where are they now as Jay and Eminem have long ago established themselves in the Hip Hop Hall Of Fame and Music Hall Of fame altogether. I mean sold out tours,fashion lines,millions of hit recoeds sold, movies, plays,successful record and production companies, successful artists, Hundreds of Millions made, countless numbers of awards and accolades. They are the blueprint to hiphop success. Now multiple grammy wins to add to their legendary statue and career. Jay Z. 41 and Eminem 39 their still pushing the envelope and showing these young guns in the industry how to be successful and still put out quality music and be respected for it in the end. (THACHILLONE)


Mississippi License Plate Proposed to Honor KKK Leader
The Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans wants to sponsor a series of state-issued license plates to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

In 2014, one of the designs proposed is set to honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who happened to be an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Forrest led the 1864 massacre of Black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tennessee and was a Klan grand wizard after the war.

However, he was called a military genius, and a Christian that distanced himself from the hate group in his later years.

Sons of Confederate Veterans member Greg Stewart stated, "If Christian redemption means anything — and we all want redemption, I think — he redeemed himself in his own time, in his own actions, in his own words."

According to the Associated Press, NAACP president Derrick Johnson was told about the Forrest plate and responded, "Seriously?...Wow."


CAIRO – Fireworks burst over Tahrir Square and Egypt exploded with joy and tears of relief after pro-democracy protesters brought down President Hosni Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV. Mubarak, who until the end seemed unable to grasp the depth of resentment over his three decades of authoritarian rule, finally resigned Friday and handed power to the military.

"The people ousted the regime," rang out chants from crowds of hundreds of thousands massed in Cairo's central Tahrir Square and outside Mubarak's main palace several miles away in a northern district of the capital.

The crowds in Cairo, the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and other cities around the country erupted into a pandemonium of cheers and waving flags. They danced, hugged and raised their hands in prayer after Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall. Some fell to kiss the ground, and others chanted, "Goodbye, goodbye."

"Finally we are free," said Safwan Abou Stat, a 60-year-old protester. "From now on anyone who is going to rule will know that these people are great."

Thousands from around the capital converged on the celebrating crowd in Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, the epicenter of the stunning protest movement that was started by a small core of secular, liberal youth activists on the Internet and turned into the biggest popular uprising in the Arab world.

The protests have already echoed around the Middle East, with several of the region's autocratic rulers making pre-emptive gestures of democratic reform to avert their own protest movements. The lesson many took: If it could happen in three weeks in Egypt, where Mubarak's lock on power had appeared unshakable, it could happen anywhere.

The United States at times seemed overwhelmed trying to keep up with the rapidly changing crisis, fumbling to juggle its advocacy of democracy and the right to protest, its loyalty to longtime ally Mubarak and its fears of Muslim fundamentalists gaining a foothold. Neighboring Israel watched with growing unease, worried that their 1979 peace treaty could be in danger. It quickly demanded on Friday that post-Mubarak Egypt continue to adhere to it.

Mubarak, a former air force commander came to power after the 1981 assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat by Islamic radicals. Throughout his rule, he showed a near obsession with stability, using rigged elections and a hated police force accused of widespread torture to ensure his control.

Click image to see photos of protests, clashes in Egypt

Reuters/Dylan Martinez
He resisted calls for reform even as public bitterness grew over corruption, deteriorating infrastructure and rampant poverty in a country where 40 percent live below or near the poverty line.

Up to the last hours, Mubarak sought to cling to power, handing some of his authorities to Suleiman while keeping his title.

But an explosion of protests Friday rejecting the move appeared to have pushed the military into forcing him out completely. Hundreds of thousands marched throughout the day in cities across the country as soldiers stood by, besieging his palaces in Cairo and Alexandria and the state TV building. A governor of a southern province was forced to flee to safety in the face of protests there.

Mubarak himself flew to his isolated palace in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, 250 miles from the turmoil in Cairo.

His fall came 32 years to the day after the collapse of the shah's government in Iran.

Vice President Suleiman — who appears to have lost his post as well in the military takeover — appeared grim as he delivered the short announcement.

"In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic," he said. "He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor."

Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, whose young supporters were among the organizers of the protest movement, told The Associated Press, "This is the greatest day of my life."

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression," he said adding that he expects a "beautiful" transition of power.

The question now turned to what happens next after effectively a military coup, albeit one prompted by overwhelming popular pressure. Protesters on Friday had overtly pleaded for the army to oust Mubarak. The country is now ruled by the Armed Forces Supreme Council, the military's top body consisting of its highest ranking generals and headed by Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tanwawi.

State TV said a new statement by the military would be issued Friday evening.

Earlier in the day, the council vowed to guide the country to greater democracy. It said was committed "to shepherding the legitimate demands of the people and endeavoring to their implementation within a defined timetable until a peaceful transition to a democratic society aspired to by the people."

Abdel-Rahman Samir, one of the protest organizers, said the movement would now open negotiations with the military over democratic reforms but vowed protests would continue to ensure change is carried out.

"We still don't have any guarantees yet — if we end the whole situation now the it's like we haven't done anything," he said. "So we need to keep sitting in Tahrir until we get all our demands."

But, he added, "I feel fantastic. .... I feel like we have worked so hard, we planted a seed for a year and a half and now we are now finally sowing the fruits."

Sally Toma, another of the organizers, said she did not expect the military would try to clear the square. "We still have to sit and talk. We have to hear the army first," she said.

For the moment, concerns over the next step were overwhelmed by the wave of joy and disbelief.

Outside the Oruba presidential palace in northern Cairo, where tens of thousands had marched during the day, one man sprawled on the grass, saying he couldn't believe it. Protesters began to form a march toward Tahrir in a sea of Egyptian flags.

In Tahrir, protesters hugged, kissed and wept. Whole families took pictures of each other posing with Egyptian flags with their mobile phones as bridges over the Nile jammed with throngs more flowing into the square.

Abdul-Rahman Ayyash, an online activist born eight years after Mubarak came to office, said he would be celebrating all night, then remain in the square to ensure the military "won't steal the revolution."

"I'm 21 years old," he said. "This is the first time in my life I feel free."




Washington (CNN) -- As they talked publicly in generalities about a smooth transition to a new government in Egypt, U.S. officials have been working behind the scenes on ways to "move that process forward," a national security spokesman said.

Top members of the Obama administration stated Thursday their desire for embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave office and for inclusive negotiations to begin immediately with his political opponents.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor added that U.S. officials have also discussed with Egyptian officials "a variety of different ways" in which that new government could take shape.

But Vietor stressed "all of those decisions must be made by the Egyptian people."

A senior Obama administration official knocked down a New York Times report that the Egyptians and Americans were near consensus on a specific proposal.

Egypt losing a lot of money

Hosni Mubarak: In his words

Crowley: We're worried about the media

Camera rolls as Cooper, crew attacked "It's simply wrong to report that there's a single U.S. plan that's being negotiated with the Egyptians," the official said.

U.S. officials have made clear in recent days their desire to jumpstart talks between opposition and ruling forces in order to lay the groundwork as soon as possible for a governmental transition.

That includes pressuring, besides Mubarak's government, opposition groups to engage immediately in talks.

Mubarak has announced he will not seek re-election in September. Protesters, however, continue to demand that he step down immediately, with a caretaker unity government running the country until the fall elections.

While some, like former Foreign Minister and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, believe concessions made by Mubarak presented an opportunity to build upon, members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood have insisted no talks should take place until the president leaves office.

"It's time for both of them to roll up their sleeves," a senior State Department official said. "The government has to take some steps, but the opposition has to be willing to participate in negotiations as well."

Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman made "important statements" about a political dialogue, the senior official said. Still, he added that the Egyptian government should allow the opposition to bring its own ideas, rather than dictate the pace and scope of a transformation to democracy.

The urgent call for talks comes as the Egyptian government pushed back on what it described as "vague" statements from the Obama administration about the pace of transition.

An Egyptian government official told CNN the White House has shown support for its "roadmap" for a transition up to when Mubarak's term ends in September, but said President Obama's calls for an "orderly transition" are at odds with his call for an immediate one.

The official said Mubarak is seen as a "receding figure" in Egyptian politics, but warned that deposing him immediately would lead to a murky political process that would make free and fair elections difficult. According to the Egyptian constitution, the presidency would be transferred to the speaker of the parliament if Mubarak leaves power without enacting certain legislative and constitutional reforms.

"Institutionally, there is support in Egypt for this roadmap among the military, vice president and prime minister," said the Egyptian official.

Cairo's epicenter of violence

What's the role of Egypt's military?

Egypt: Lay of the land

Will the Egyptian crisis ever end?
Barack Obama
Hosni Mubarak
U.S. officials said they believe what transpires Friday -- when another massive anti-government protest is expected -- will be an important barometer on whether serious negotiations can take place. Demonstrators may be less willing to talk if attacked.

"It's hard to imagine if there is a day of very bad violence, it will lead to the type of dialogue that needs to take place," the senior State Department official said.

These backroom discussions involving the U.S. and Egyptian political players come as the White House and legislators stepped up their public pressure on Mubarak's regime.

On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden talked with Suleiman and pressed him that "credible, inclusive negotiations (should) begin immediately" with opposition political groups, a statement from Biden's office said.

That sentiment was reiterated by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who told reporters "it is important that we all begin to see meaningful steps, and that negotiations take place between the (current) government and a broadly based group of members of the opposition as we work through the transition toward free and fair elections."

U.S. lawmakers have also chimed in, with foreign policy veterans Sens. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and John McCain, R-Arizona, among those calling for Mubarak to step aside for the sake of his country and people.

Thursday night, the U.S. Senate gave unanimous approval to a resolution calling for Mubarak to "immediately begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political system, including the transfer of power to an inclusive interim caretaker government, in coordination with leaders from Egypt's opposition, civil society, and military, to enact the necessary reforms to hold free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year."

The Obama administration also sharply condemned the violence that erupted Wednesday in Cairo, when pro-Mubarak supporters attacked anti-government protesters. At least eight people were killed and 836 injured, according to the Egyptian Health Ministry.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday "elements close to the government or ruling party" carried out the violence.

"I don't think we have a sense of how far up the chain it went," he noted.

The United States continues to walk a fine diplomatic line in the crisis, encouraging Mubarak to transition from power while stopping short of publicly asking him to step down.

Officials say the restraint is needed because the White House is mindful that allies in the Middle East are concerned about American loyalty. Government contacts have expressed reservations about how vocal the Obama administration has been in pressing Mubarak, a close American ally of three decades.

Other regional allies are concerned about how quickly the United States might turn on them if protests start in their countries, the State Department officials said.

The White House, meanwhile, has made a deliberate decision to let Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, take the lead role in communicating with the Egyptian military about its role in the current unrest, according to two senior U.S. officials.

Mullen has not told Egyptian military leaders to pressure Mubarak to step down, the officials insisted to CNN. "That's not his role," one official said.

Mullen is, however, trying to push the Egyptian military to maintain security, not move against peaceful protesters, and keep the violence from escalating.

The U.S. government believes Mubarak will not issue a direct order to the Egyptian army to do anything because he is uncertain his orders would be followed, one official with very direct knowledge of evolving U.S. policy in the crisis told CNN.

A refusal on the part of the army to obey Mubarak would spell the end of the Egyptian leader's rule, the official noted. At that point, Mubarak would have to leave the country.

The U.S. belief right now, the official said, is that Suleiman is letting the army feel it is "representing the flag of the nation" in trying to help without making a massive move against the government.

While Mullen is communicating with his Egyptian counterparts, the CIA has set up its own task force to monitor the crisis.

"The Central Intelligence Agency always surges personnel and resources as needed to meet any crisis head-on. This situation is no different, and we've established a Middle East Task Force," CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said.

"Our 24/7 operations are focused on ensuring we provide the best possible insights and freshest intelligence to policymakers," she said.

The chaotic situation has raised concerns that terrorist entities could try to exploit the situation.

"People are watching for signs that terrorists or militant groups might try to take advantage of the situation in Cairo and launch attacks," a U.S. official noted. "We expect groups like al Qaeda to take advantage of instability anywhere as a means to promote their cause publicly."

Overall, the Obama administration is handling the Egyptian crisis relatively well so far, according to Nicholas Burns, a former Clinton State Department official.

"We've got to stand up, as the president is doing, for reform and democracy," Burns told CNN. The U.S. government needs to "use our influence behind the scenes, and we've got a lot of influence there with President Mubarak to move him towards a fast transition."

Burns noted the importance of Egypt in terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict, shipments through the Suez Canal, and the containment of Iran, among other things.

"We've got to preserve those very real American interests," he said. "This is about as difficult a challenge diplomatically as I think we have seen in many years."

Michael Rubin, an analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said that while it's "tempting to try to score political points" in the current crisis, he's not sure Obama has responded any differently than a Republican president would have in a similar situation.

In terms of backing Mubarak, all of Obama's predecessors "kicked the can down the road until the road ran out," he said.

The real difficulty, Rubin said, will come in the months ahead as U.S. policymakers try to prevent Egypt from following the path Iran took after 1979, when the fall of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi led to the rise of the fundamentalist regime still in power today.

The U.S. needs to make clear the Egyptian elections happen "come hell or high water," Rubin said, but at the same pushing to ensure armed extremist militias aren't allowed to claim the mantle of democratic legitimacy.

CAIRO (IPS/GIN) - Demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt continued in several Egyptian cities with police cracking down violently, a development that many analysts here say reflects the nervousness of the regime.

At least four people have died so far, 600 have been arrested and many more injured. Protests are flaring up in Cairo, Suez, Mahal El- Kubra and Alexandria.

“Young people are standing in the way of heavily armed armoured vehicles and stopping them. People are genuinely frustrated,” Khaled Al-Balashy, editor-in-chief of Al-Badil newspaper told IPS.

“That was the first time I see people literally sacrificing their lives in face of police brutality,” Al-Balashy said. “They think nothing worse could happen to them. This is unprecedented. And the changes will be equally unprecedented. It is a matter of time.”

Diaa Rashwan, an analyst with the semi-official Al Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies noted that the protests are now calling for regime change, not for the usual government benefits or reduction in food prices.

“Protesters want the regime out. That in itself has confused the government,” Rashwan said. “They do not know how to respond so far. The only answer has been extra security - I think they are scared.”

The government has stepped up its security response across the country, with armoured vehicles visibly deployed around important buildings in Cairo - including the television and radio building overlooking the River Nile and several ministerial offices.

Hundreds of members of the Egyptian Press Syndicate demonstrated outside their union, where there was a heavy police presence, while hundreds of lawyers were trying to break a blockade by the police of the Bar Association building nearby.

Several women journalists were beaten by the police and were seen crying in pain. Many were seen yelling at officers who had used clubs against women reporters.

“These protests may not bring immediate or quick results,” said Qutb Al- Arabi, an activist with the Egyptian Press Syndicate. “But it is a message to the government that we are truly fed up.”

Mr. Al-Arabi said he was demonstrating with other journalists initially for greater press freedoms, but as the police cracked down with violence, the demands have now shifted to request the departure of 82-year old President Hosni Mubarak who has ruled Egypt since 1981.

Pres. Mubarak and his government have been losing popularity due in part to implementation of economic policies backed by Western institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development that have led to high prices, rampant unemployment and corruption.

The government has cut or removed subsidies for many staple goods in a country where millions survive on less than two dollars a day.

Just before the protests broke out Jan. 25, the government was preparing to cut energy subsidies, a move that would have pushed prices up even further.

The health ministry was also planning to cut its public health care coverage - limiting the hours at public hospitals were patients could be seen for reduced fees.

Politically, more activists are being pushed to the sidelines— including Islamic opposition, secular and independent political leaders.

Several political activists were particularly shocked in November over what they saw as the rigged parliamentary elections, which the ruling National Democratic Party won with an overwhelming majority - leaving very little room for opposition.

“The government's performance is very weak on many levels, be that socially, politically or economically,” said Gouda Abdel-Khalek, head of the economic affairs committee at the left-leaning opposition Al-Taggammu Party.

But some analysts say that the Egyptian regime is flexible enough to note the demands of the protestors.

“We are talking about a state that is a professional survivor,” Mohamed Abdel-Salam, editor-in-chief of the political periodical Al-Seysa Al-Dawlia told IPS. “They survived many other storms before.”

Abdel-Salam said the size of the protests were clearly larger than what Egypt was used to, but “it is still smaller than protests in Tunisia, Lebanon or Yemen.”

“The political elite are reading the events well and we expect to see some positive response soon because they will strengthen the hand of the reformists inside the ruling establishment. The changes will likely be political rather than economic,” said Abdel-Salam, whose publication is part of the state-run Al-Ahram Institution.

The government however has not indicated it is responding either politically or economically.

The Interior Ministry has been the dominant government voice so far. In a statement Tuesday, the ministry blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the protests—a declaration that positions the government to ignore demands of protesters since the Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed.

Opposition parties say the protests were spontaneous and not organized by the Muslim Brotherhood.

“It was a popular unrest. It wasn't the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Abdel- Khalek of Al-Taggammu party. “I hope that the regime will get the real message and won't believe its own untruths”.

Abdel-Khalek, who also teaches economics at Cairo University, said that the regime will fight hard for its survival because it is “a matter of life and death”.

“They are afraid that once they are toppled, there will be investigations into their corruption and their mismanagement of the country,” he told IPS.

The liberal Wafd Party called for a “reconciliation government' that would include members from outside Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party, and also on Mubarak to dissolve the current “rigged” parliament.

But all analysts agree on one thing; the emergence of a new generation of young Egyptians who are more combative and who are not afraid of the police—who are capable of bringing about more change than previously thought.

A former White House official has criticized the US support of the Egyptian government, saying Cairo's strengthened military power may worsen the situation in the country.

“Our [the US] relationship [with Egypt] has been largely based on support for the [Egyptian] government to be able to maintain its borders and protect itself,” Edward Peck told Press TV in an interview.

“The relationship is supposed to transcend what could be a minor bump on the road to the sort of things that the American government would like to see,” said Peck, who formerly served as the State Department's Director of the Office of Egyptian Affairs.

Referring to Israel's call on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to use force if necessary, he said, “It is fairly typical of the Israeli government to urge the use of force, which of course, is what Israel does whenever it faces anyone who is unhappy with the situation in occupied territories for example.”

Commenting on the US foreign policy on the issue, Peck said that “we would be better off not saying much, certainly much less than we are saying now.”


(CNN) -- While snow from a massive winter storm system continued to fall Wednesday night in much of the Northeast, millions in the Midwest were left to dig themselves out yet again from even more snow and brave dangerously frigid temperatures.

An Arctic cold front followed the storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in some locales, complicating cleanup efforts and spurring freeze warnings that spanned much of the nation's midsection.

In much of Wisconsin, for instance, wind chill values were expected between 20 and 25 degrees below zero Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Still, Green Bay Packers fans down in north Texas ahead of their team's Super Bowl showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers only got a relative respite, temperature-wise. In Arlington, site of Sunday's game, there was a wind chill advisory in effect due to very cold conditions that made the temperature feel between zero and minus-10 degrees and several inches of snow and ice had a debilitating effect in parts of Dallas, Fort Worth and the surrounding area.

"It was funny to see a whole city shut down. Everything was closed," said Packers' defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. "In Green Bay, this is just a normal day."

Monster storm cuts across US heartland

Buffalo braces for winter snow

Massachusetts pounded with snow

Massive storm blankets US with snow The storm, though, was no laughing matter for many of the millions it has affected in recent days.

The mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain blanketed 30 states over several days, producing record-breaking accumulations in several Midwest locales, making for treacherous travel on snow-choked roadways and forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights.

The last of the storm was drenching the Northeast late Wednesday, dumping freezing rain and snow in much of southern New England. While the amounts were less there than what some had forecast previously, the cumulative effect of relentless precipitation had a crippling impact in places.

In Massachusetts, for instance, a number of roofs collapsed under the weight of rain-soaked snow, including the roof of a large commercial building in the town of Easton, according to fire captain David Beals. Up to 100 employees were evacuated prior to the collapse, he said. No injuries were reported.

This appeared to be the last breath of a massive system that, at one point Monday night, prompted the National Weather Service to issue winter storm warnings, watches or advisories in at least 29 states in a 2,000-mile space stretching from the Southwest to the Northeast.

The huge demand for information caused sporadic outages for the weather service's web servers, which struggled to handle a deluge of 10 million to 20 million hits per hour, officials said. The site normally experiences an average of 70 million hits per day.

Chicago was hit hard, too, in a different way.

O'Hare International Airport received a record-breaking 20.2 inches of snow, according to the weather service. The Windy city at times crippled by the combination of gusts and blinding precipitation.

Raymond Roscoe, chief of staff for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, said many motorists remained stuck in their cars throughout the night, while others abandoned their vehicles. Police, fire department and sanitation crews spent much of the night pulling people out of their cars, he said. Roscoe said there were no reports of injuries.

"There were no cars or people on the street and you couldn't see the buildings nearby because of the thick snow," said city resident Sruthi Swaminathan. "The only thing you could see clearly were the lights from the Chicago theater."

The good news was that the blizzard warnings for northeastern Illinois, including the Chicago metropolitan area, were called off. Still, even as the snow tapered off, forecasters said wind chills may fall to 20 to 40 degrees below zero late Wednesday.

"The wind on the lake shore is beyond belief," said Chicago resident Anni Glissman. "It almost knocks you over."

Elsewhere, Illinois State Police carried out a rescue operation in Kankakee County after 20 cars were stranded in the snowstorm, where snowdrifts were measured at about 3 feet, the agency said.

Stranded motorists rescued

Snow causing slick conditions in Omaha

Indoor 'park' provides respite from snow

Blizzard blankets Missouri
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The rescued motorists were taken to temporary warming centers in Manteno or Peotone, said state police Sgt. Angie Kinstner.

In Wisconsin, the Department of Transportation reported that Interstate 42 and Interstate 94 were impassable south of Milwaukee. The National Guard was making a sweep of the interstates for stranded motorists.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin asked federal authorities Wednesday to approve an emergency disaster declaration for all the state's 77 counties, a move that would expedite post-storm assistance, according to a release from the state's Department of Emergency Management. Fallin had declared a state of emergency on Monday in advance of the storm.

A 20-year-old Moore, Oklahoma, woman died while after her hitting her head while sledding during the storm, the statement said. Many others were injured in Oklahoma -- 77 in falls, four in carbon monoxide poisonings, 13 with cuts, 24 in road accidents, two with frostbite and five in other storm-related injuries, according to the state health department.

In addition, the state highway patrol responded to 81 storm-related crashes and 278 calls from motorists seeking help.

Air travel was just as difficult across the region. O'Hare was expected to have limited or no flight operations on Wednesday, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation. More than 2,200 flights were canceled. At Chicago's Midway Airport, airlines canceled most flight operations on Tuesday.

Nationwide, airlines canceled more than 4,000 flights Tuesday, with thousands more grounded on Wednesday. Delta Air Lines announced the cancellation of 1,175 Delta and Delta Connection flights for Wednesday.

In Boston, 496 flights were canceled at Logan International Airport, said Phil Orlandella, a spokesman for Massport, which manages the airport. The airport's two runways were temporarily closed while a deicing treatment was applied, Orlandella explained.

Jet Blue canceled all its flights out of Logan for the day.

In Philadelphia, 221 flights had been canceled by 6:45 a.m., said Victoria Lupica, an airport spokeswoman.

More than 1,000 flights were canceled at New York's JFK International Airport and La Guardia, and New Jersey's Newark Liberty International, according to Port Authority spokeswoman Sarah Joren. Continental Airlines said it was suspending all operations at Newark's airport through noon Wednesday.

Further afield, the lingering affects of the large system brought needed rain to much of the South on Tuesday, but also unwelcome ice and hard freeze warnings, which remained in place on Wednesday in most of eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

"If you're traveling your certainly going to have troubles," said National Weather Service forecaster Bruce Sullivan. "Tomorrow we're looking at potential icy conditions across the Gulf states."

Rolling power outages swept across Texas on Wednesday as a result of the blustery weather, officials said.

"Because of winter weather conditions that have created an unprecedented demand on the state's energy grid, many Texans across our state are experiencing power outages today," said Texas Governor Rick Perry in a written statement. "I urge businesses and residents to conserve electricity to minimize the impact of this event."

The Public Utility Commission of Texas said rotating outages would be limited to 10 to 45 minutes, unless equipment fails due to a power surge during the restoration process, according to the statement. Fifty power plants were out statewide due to the extreme weather, leading to the 10%-15% reduction in electricity production, said utility commission spokesman Terry Hadley.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch effective Thursday afternoon through Friday morning for southeastern Texas, including the Houston metropolitan area.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain is possible across the metro area, the service said, while forecasters say accumulations of 1 to 3 inches are expected to create hazardous road conditions.

High-wind warnings were posted Wednesday in the mountains of western North Carolina and Virginia, with gusts as high as 50 mph forecast in Boone, North Carolina.

Up to an inch of freezing rain plagued travelers in Columbus, Ohio, causing slippery road conditions across much of the state, forecasters said.

Plummeting temperatures were expected to filter in behind the system, dropping to below zero in the upper Plains states over the next few days. Parts of the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma also will experience some of the coldest air this season, CNN meteorologist Sean Morris said.

Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City doubled its previous record snowfall Tuesday, receiving 11.8 inches, while emergency personnel warned of frigid weather conditions that could reach temperatures of minus-15 degrees on Wednesday.

Smack in the middle of the storm track is Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of a certain groundhog, who has been forecasting the end of winter for more than 100 years. When Phil emerged from his hideout early Wednesday, he saw no shadow -- meaning, according to tradition, that spring will come early this year.

By the time the snow stopped falling Wednesday, the total snowfall recorded at O'Hare International Airport reached 20.2 inches, putting the storm third behind historic winter snows of 1967 and 1999.

If this storm was different from the other two, it was because weather scientists had seen it coming days in advance.

"We did pretty damn well," said Mark Ratzer, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chicago. "Our forecast all along for Chicago had been around 20 inches and that's essentially what we ended up with, which was right in the ballpark given the magnitude of the storm."

It was a remarkably accurate forecast given the size and complexity of a fast-moving storm that flared up Friday off the coast of California. Meteorologists expected that moist air from the Pacific and Gulf Coast would give the storm heft and volume, and therefore knew that the system could bring blizzardlike conditions to the Chicago area.

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By Monday, scientists had determined there was a 75 percent chance that Chicago would see at least a foot of snow overnight and that wind gusts would top 50 mph.

They also had correctly predicted the possibility of what's commonly called "thundersnow," an unusual meteorological phenomenon in which intense thunder and lightning accompany a snowstorm. At the peak of the storm's fury, lightning was hitting the ground as many as 50 times in one hour, Ratzer said.

Thundersnow occurs when warm, moist air circulates vertically with the cold temperatures of a winter storm below, experts said. On Tuesday night, thunder and lightning added an eerie element to the wind-whipped snowstorm.

"Thundersnow generally doesn't last very long and it looks pretty weird because it's snowing and your visibility is limited and the whole sky lights up green," Ratzer said. "I don't recall seeing a storm, in my 16 years I've been doing this, that produced as much thunder and lightning as this one."

The storm's severity varied slightly throughout the area. Hardest hit were lakefront North Side neighborhoods and North Shore suburbs, where at one point snow was falling at 3 to 4 inches an hour. Areas near the lake also took on a couple of extra inches of lake-effect snow.

Meteorologists were able to forecast this storm so precisely because of advancements in computer modeling technology, as well as improvements in data collection and observation, said John Ferree, a severe storm expert at the National Weather Service in Oklahoma.

Computer models are now able to calculate up to 20 different scenarios of a storm's impact and then select the average, or the most likely that is to occur based on ever-changing weather conditions. This modeling software has been used for only about five years and factors in the inherent uncertainties about a storm's behavior.

The computer programs are also able to take in other variables, such as the atmospheric profiles of temperatures, moisture and winds taken throughout the country by surface observation, weather balloons, satellites, commercial airlines and advanced weather instruments on weather service aircraft.

"We have better training, better tools, better communication and it all adds up to a better forecast," Ferree said. "As a forecast of a major event, this one turned out pretty good."

Which makes Thursday's forecast of extended subzero temperatures and extreme wind-chill warnings of 20 below zero all the more chilling.


ATLANTA — The leader of a violent Atlanta gang was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murder and assault charges stemming from three separate incidents that left two dead and two wounded.

George “Keon” Redding, a 21-year-old widely recognized as the leader of “30 Deep,” was convicted late Monday of the charges. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus 40 years by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua.

Prosecutors say Redding shot and killed 40-year-old Ronnie Pierce in June 2007 after a dispute over a gun. He also was charged in the July 2007 killing of 25-year-old Victor Hill in an apparently random attack. And he’s accused of targeting a third man who was shot and wounded while playing basketball in east Atlanta.

Not saying that Redding doesn’t deserve to be imprisoned but, double-life plus 40?!? There are a people that have killed more people and done worse crimes that will be walkin’ the streets in 25 years.

Then on July 28, 2007, Redding went after a man who had witnessed the shooting of Hill earlier in the month. The man was playing basketball when he was shot four times and wounded.

Redding also is charged with murdering a third man but he has not been indicted in that case.

Next week, Redding’s cousin, Jonathan, is scheduled to go on trial on charges he murdered a popular bartender at a Grant Park restaurant. John Henderson was killed during a robbery at the Standard Food & Spirits on Memorial Drive on Jan. 7, 2009.

Jonathan Redding, also believed to be a member of the 30 Deep gang, is facing 24 felonies -- including murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery and participation in criminal street gang activity. Many of the charges against could bring a sentence of life in prison.

The 30 Deep gang has been linked to a number of smash-and-grab burglaries in from Buckhead in Atlanta to Gwinnett County. They are suspected of selling drugs, stolen high-end jeans and expensive electronics.

Just last month, Atlanta police arrested nine 30 Deep gang members -- ranging from 14 to 19 years old -- for a pair of smash-and-grab burglaries early Sunday morning, Jan. 17.


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(CNN) -- Are we alone in the universe? Findings by NASA's Kepler space telescope are making that seem less likely.

NASA scientists have announced Kepler has spotted five planets about the size of Earth, orbiting stars in our galaxy.

These planets are orbiting in what is known as the habitable zone, which puts them at a distance from their suns where liquid water could exist. Liquid water is a key ingredient for life to form.

"In a generation we have gone from extraterrestrial planets being a mainstay of science fiction, to the present, where Kepler has helped turn science fiction into today's reality," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

The Kepler science team also announced the telescope found six planets, all larger than Earth, orbiting a single sun-like star.

That star is some 2,000 light years from Earth.

To date, the telescope has detected more than 1,200 planet candidates. The fact that so many planets have been found in the Milky Way galaxy "suggests there are countless planets orbiting sun-like stars in our galaxy," said William Borucki, Kepler's principal investigator.

Kepler does not actually see the planets themselves. The telescope sees tiny decreases in light from the stars as planets transit across their suns.

The five Earth-sized planets are orbiting stars cooler and smaller than our sun, and further analysis is still necessary to officially confirm they are planets.


CNN) -- Sent as reporters to document the turmoil in Egypt, journalists on Wednesday became targets -- beaten, bloodied, harassed and detained by raging men, most all in some way aligned with embattled President Hosni Mubarak.

Numerous news outlets -- including the BBC, ABC News and CNN -- reported members of their staffs had been attacked, most on the streets of Cairo. In several cases, news personnel were accused of being "foreign spies," seized and whisked away, and often assaulted.

"It was pandemonium. There was no control. Suddenly a man would come up to you and punch you in the face," said CNN's Anderson Cooper, describing being attacked by pro-Mubarak demonstrators with two colleagues outside of Tahir Square.

The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news network was among the worst hit, its office damaged and several of its staff targeted. Among them was correspondent Ahmed Abdullah, who his editor confirmed Wednesday was found bloodied and transported to a hospital after being severely beaten by his captors.

Anderson Cooper details attack in Egypt

Cooper: I've been hit like 10 times

CNN anchor describes chaos in Cairo
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Reporters Without Borders
Maurice Sarfatti told the Brussels-based Le Soir newspaper, which he writes for along with publications in Switzerland and France, that he "received a steam of blows to the face" from men claiming he backed leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei.

"I am being guarded by two soldiers with Kalashnikovs (rifles) and bayonets," said Sarfatti, according to a translation from Le Soir. "They say I will be taken before the intelligence services. They say I am a spy."

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy organization, claimed that such accounts were all too commonplace around Cairo. In a news release, the group detailed about a dozen incidents, accusing men -- most of them described as pro-Mubarak demonstrators, "plainclothes police," uniformed officers and military -- of perpetrating attacks on reporters toting cameras and notepads.

The group laid the blame for this violence squarely on President Mubarak's administration, accusing it of scheming to suppress and stifle news coverage.

"The Egyptian strategy is employing a strategy of eliminating witnesses to their actions," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the committee's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "The government has resorted to blanket censorship, intimidation and, today, a series of deliberate attacks on journalists carried out by pro-government mobs."

One of those was CNN's Hala Gorani, who got caught Wednesday morning in a stampede of demonstrators, some of whom were riding on camels and horses.

"I got slammed against the gates and was threatened by one of the pro-Mubarak protesters who was ... telling me to 'get out, get out!" Gorani said. "The pro-Mubaraks, whoever they are, whoever sent them, are being threatening toward camera crews, journalists, anybody who looks like they may be onlookers."

Hours later, as he walked past raucous Mubarak backers toward the Tahir Square, the hub of Wednesday's confrontations, Cooper said one man suddenly came out and tried to grab his cameraman's camera, screaming at them and pushing.

That triggered what the CNN host called a "mob," which swarmed around Cooper and his two colleagues. They turned to head back, doing so only after getting hit repeatedly by fists and bottles, with some men trying to rip clothing off a female CNN producer. Egyptian soldiers positioned nearby, he claimed, saw the chaos unfold but did nothing.

"There were certain individuals in that crowd itching for a fight," Cooper said, noting that his cameraman had a bloody eye but otherwise they suffered minimal injuries. "We certainly saw that very up close... It can get nasty very, very quickly."

Other journalists who were attacked fared worse.

Sarfatti, who also goes by the pen-name Serge Dumont, was taken to a military barracks outside Cairo and given a glass of water from the Nile River and told by his captors that they wanted him to drink it and get diarrhea, according a translation of his remarks to Le Soir.

The Egyptian independent daily Al-Sharouk reported that one of its reporters and photographers were injured after "plainclothes police" attacked its headquarters, according to the Committee to Protect Journalist.

The group said that Danish correspondent Steffen Jensen was beaten by Mubarak supporters with clubs, while he was live on Danish TV2. He later said that, after the men asked for his phone and passport, he was being held by soldiers in Tahrir Square.

In a prepared statement, Jean-Francois Juillard, secretary-general of the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said "the use of violence against media personnel is especially shocking."

"These attacks seem to have been acts of revenge against the international media for relaying the protests calling for President Mubarak's resigning," Juillard said. "We urge the international community to react strongly to these excesses. And we remind the Egyptian government that it has a duty to apply the law and to urgently restore security for everyone, including media personnel."