Friday, February 11, 2011

Analysis: Military Coup Was Behind Mubarak's Exit

CAIRO (AP) — It was the people who forced President Hosni Mubarak from power, but it is the generals who are in charge now. Egypt's 18-day uprising produced a military coup that crept into being over many days — its seeds planted early in the crisis by Mubarak himself.

The telltale signs of a coup in the making began to surface soon after Mubarak ordered the army out on the streets to restore order after days of deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo and much of the rest of the Arab nation.

"This is in fact the military taking over power," said political analyst Diaa Rashwan after Mubarak stepped down and left the reins of power to the armed forces. "It is direct involvement by the military in authority and to make Mubarak look like he has given up power."

Army troops backed by tanks and armored fighting vehicles were given a hero's welcome by the protesters angry over brutal treatment by the police. The goodwill was reciprocated when the military vowed not to use force against protesters, a move that set them apart from the much-hated police who operated with near impunity under Mubarak.

The generals adopted a go-slow approach, offering Egyptians carefully weighed hints that it was calling the shots. They issued statements describing the protesters' demands as "legitimate" and made halfhearted calls on the demonstrators to go home and allow normal life to resume.

Rather than quit the protests, the demonstrators turned out in ever greater numbers. Mubarak offered one concession after another, but they all fell short of the protesters' demands that he immediately leave.

The military was clearly torn between its loyalty to the regime and the millions of protesters. Mubarak is one of their own, a former air force commander and a hero of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

But as the president continued to defy the growing crowds and cling to power, the Egyptian army moved more definitively toward seizing control for the first time in some 60 years.

Thursday brought the surprise announcement that the armed forces' highest executive body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, was in "permanent session" — meaning that it was on a war footing.

State TV showed Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi presiding over a table seating some two dozen stern faced generals in combat fatigues — but no sign of commander in chief Mubarak. His newly appointed vice president, former army general and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, was not there either — indicating a rift between the civilian and military leadership.

A statement, tellingly referred to as "communique number 1" — phrasing that in the Arab world suggests a coup — made no mention of Mubarak or Suleiman.

The council, it said, met to "discuss what measures and arrangements could be taken to safeguard the homeland and its achievements and the aspirations of the great Egyptian people."

Translation: The generals are in charge, not Mubarak, not Suleiman nor the Cabinet.

The communique set the stage for what the crowds of demonstrators expected would be Mubarak's resignation Thursday night. Instead, Mubarak announced he would stay in office and hand over power to Suleiman, who told protesters to go home and stop watching foreign news reports.

The protesters were furious — and so were the generals.

"Both of last night's addresses by Mubarak and Suleiman were in defiance of the armed forces," Maj. Gen. Safwat el-Zayat, a former senior official of Egypt's General Intelligence, told al-Ahram Online, the Internet edition of Egypt's leading daily, on Friday.

Protest leaders pleaded for the military to take over after Mubarak's speech, saying the country would explode until the army intervened.

If Mubarak had stepped down, handing Suleiman his presidential powers in line with the constitution would have kept his regime largely intact after he had gone, something that would have left the protesters unhappy.

In contrast, a military coup would provide a clean break with a regime they hated for so long, opening up a wide range of possibilities — suspending the constitution that many protesters saw as tailored to keep Mubarak in office and dissolving a parliament formed by an election marred by widespread fraud. A coup seemed to be the best way forward.

The first official word the protesters received from the generals on Friday, however, was discouraging.

A second military communique contained what appeared to be a reluctant endorsement of Mubarak's blueprint for a way out of the crisis, though it also projected the military as the ultimate guarantor of the country's highest interests. El-Zayat said the language in the statement was an attempt to avoid an open conflict.

Later Friday, with millions out on the streets demanding that he step down, Mubarak finally did just that. He may have been denied the chance to announce his own departure — say goodbye to the people he had ruled for nearly 30 years. Suleiman announced the decision for him.

Alternatively, he may have not wanted to go on television to say he was stepping down after less than 24 hours after insisting to serve out the remaining seven months of his current term.

It was a humiliating end.

Keeping up appearances, The military later issued a third military statement praising Mubarak as a leader who has done much to his country. It hinted that the military would not be in power for long, saying the armed forces were not a substitute for a legitimate administration. But it gave no clue as to what its plans are.

"The truth is that even the senior military now at the top of the power structure under Mubarak almost certainly have no clear idea of what happens next," Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in a commentary on Thursday. "It will be days before anyone know how well the transition will function, who goes and who stays, and how stable the result really is."

Switzerland Freezes Mubarak's Assets -- Rumored As Much As $70 Billion

The Swiss foreign ministry says it has frozen all assets linked to Mubarak and his family.

Mubarak's family is said to have as much as much as $70 billion. Reports ABC News:

Experts say the wealth of the Mubarak family was built largely from military contracts during his days as an air force officer. He eventually diversified his investments through his family when he became president in 1981. The family's net worth ranges from $40 billion to $70 billion, by some estimates.

Mubarak's family is said to own properties in London, Paris, Madrid, Dubai, Washington, D.C., New York and Frankfurt, according to IHS Global Insight.

This guy is not Presidenial material using the 'God' line! How about reason & logic and policy?ARE WE NOT FIGHTING PEOPLE WHO USED GOD TO KILL US? Tim Pawlenty: America Needs to Turn Toward God

WASHINGTON -- Former Minnesota governor and likely GOP presidential candidate said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday that America needs to "turn towards God, not away from him."

In hard times, he said, it is particularly important to remember "the motto of our country: in God we trust."

Pawlenty, one of a number of potential presidential candidates speaking to roughly 11,000 conservative activists in Washington, opened his speech by quipping that President Obama had "done the impossible: He's proven that somebody can deserve a Nobel prize less than Al Gore."

Pawlenty said that while he doesn't question whether Mr. Obama is a U.S. citizen, the president's policies have caused him to wonder "what planet he's from."

Like other speakers, Pawlenty complained about comparisons in the media between Mr. Obama and former President Ronald Reagan. "Barack Obama is not behaving like Ronald Reagan," he said. "He's behaving like Jimmy Carter."

Pawlenty said the individual mandate in the health care law is "a page right out of the Jimmy Carter playbook."

Pawlenty said the health care law should be overturned, stating, "the bureaucrats don't tell us what to do, we the people tell the government what to do." (Earlier in the day, Mitt Romney, a likely Pawlenty rival who as Massachusetts governor signed into law a similar health care overhaul, avoided the topic of health care .)

Pawlenty said "the policies of the left encroach every day on the very freedom that has made this country great." He called freedom "the very air we breathe."

"We need more common sense and less Obama nonsense," said the former governor, adding: "The private sector, not the government, is the answer to job creation."

Pawlenty then said dealing with the budget deficit is "a matter of sixth grade math."

"I know there might be some Democrats in the room so I'll say it real slow: We can't spend more than we take in," said Pawlenty, who, like most other speakers, did not bring up the presidency of George W. Bush. He added: "Just because we followed Greece into democracy does not mean we have to follow them into bankruptcy."

Ignoring warnings that default could plunge the American economy into chaos, Pawlenty said America should not raise the debt ceiling. He called for a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget and said the tax code should be overhauled. Every member of Congress, he said, should be forced to do their own taxes so they understand the "moronic, burdensome, intimidating beast that our tax system has become."

The 2012 GOP Presidential Field: Strengths and Weaknesses for the Top Contenders

Echoing Romney, Pawlenty called for President Obama to "stop apologizing for our country." He criticized Mr. Obama's foreign policy, saying it is one that makes America "appease and accommodate" enemies like Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood while undermining allies like Israel.

"Bullies respect strength, they don't respect weakness," he said.

Pawlenty also expressed incredulity that Americans said in a poll they expect China to be the dominant country in the world in two decades.

"America's place is not lagging behind China," he said. "America's place is leading the world."

Investigator: Wait and see on Vick

The man who led the U.S. government's investigation of Michael Vick's dogfighting case said that he's withholding judgment on Vick's rehabilitation.

"Do I think he's changed? I don't know," said retired U.S. Department of Agriculture senior special agent Jim Knorr, speaking to ESPN's "Outside The Lines." "I would hope he has but I don't know. Only one person knows and that's him.

The only way the public is going to know if he's sincere is to revisit it five to eight years from now, when he's not playing in the NFL and getting endorsements. Is he still going into the neighborhoods, preaching to the kids? If he's sincere or not, it doesn't really matter because what he's doing now, he's doing a positive thing by speaking to kids in the community about his mistakes and telling them not to go there. What he's doing is good for the public.

” -- Retired U.S. Department of Agriculture senior special agent Jim Knorr

"The only way the public is going to know if he's sincere is to revisit it five to eight years from now, when he's not playing in the NFL and getting endorsements," Knorr said. "Is he still going into the neighborhoods, preaching to the kids?

"If he's sincere or not, it doesn't really matter because what he's doing now, he's doing a positive thing by speaking to kids in the community about his mistakes and telling them not to go there. What he's doing is good for the public."

Knorr talked for the first time since he discussed the case with author Jim Gorant for his book "The Lost Dogs." He said he met Vick "four, five times" during the investigation.

Vick was "always polite and respectful," Knorr said, but added that Vick didn't come clean with authorities about his role in the killing of dogs until after he took a lie-detector test.

Knorr also recalled how one confidential informant he wrote about in his USDA report noted that Vick's adrenaline "would go up, he'd get a high when the group [Vick and his co-defendants, Quanis Phillips and Purnell Peace] were killing [the dogs]."

In 2007, Vick was convicted of a felony related to a dogfighting ring and served 19 months in prison. He has spent the past two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, and was named the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year by The Associated Press.

Last week, Dallas mayor pro tem Dwaine Caraway gave the key to the city to Vick, causing an uproar among animal rights activists.

Recently, Chicago White Sox pitcher and animal rights activist Mark Buehrle told that there were times this season he wished Vick would get hurt.

"He had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game, and I know it's bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt," Buehrle told "Everything you've done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys."

Knorr said that the public's perception of Vick depends on whether a person owns a dog.

"I think 25 percent of people are for him -- those are the football fans -- 25 percent of people hate him and 50 percent are right in the middle," Knorr said. "A lot of Eagles fans didn't like it when the team first signed him. If he had a horrible season, would Eagles fans still be supporting him?"

Knorr, who owned a dog at the time of the 2007 investigation, said he had to separate his personal and professional lives. He conceded that it wasn't easy when he returned home to see his dog, BJ, after he supervised the digging up of the site where some dogs who didn't perform well had been hanged, then drowned and buried by Vick, Peace and Phillips in the backyard of Vick's house in Surry County, Va.

"I had the scent of the dead dogs on my clothes and when I got home late [the night federal agents first dug up the dead dogs]," Knorr said. "BJ -- who was always sitting by the window waiting for me and would be there to greet me -- went sniffing around and went berserk barking, smelling the death of the dogs on me. I basically went down into the garage and stripped down there, so I could go back in and take a shower and wash the clothes the next day. BJ smelled the death of the dogs on my pants."

Kelly Naqi is a reporter for ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

FOOTBALL FANS Here is the latest on the NFL labor story

1. A lockout is virtually certain at this point.

Last time around, we explained that a lockout would happen long before September. It’s now clear, given the comments of NFL lawyer Bob Batterman and subsequent remarks from Commissioner Roger Goodell, that a lockout will begin on March 4.

Goodell says that 490 players due to become free agents on March 4 won’t become free agents absent a new deal. Though Goodell has been reluctant to admit that free agents won’t become free agents only if the league implements a lockout, the message is clear.

Without an agreement, a lockout is coming on March 4.

There’s another reason to expect a lockout. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen pointed out during a Friday appearance on Mike & Mike in the Morning that the league wants, as we’ve surmised, to escape the jurisdiction of Judge David Doty. It will happen if the current agreement expires. And if the current agreement expires, the league will implement a lockout, pending the negotiation of a new deal that wouldn’t fall under Doty’s umbrella if it’s finalized after the current agreement expires.

Of course, the union could agree before the current deal expires to an extension that would fall beyond Doty’s jurisdiction, but at this point we can’t imagine either side agreeing to anything without getting something in return.

2. The union still has the ability to try to block a lockout.

During the 2010 regular season, the NFLPA embarked on a series of meetings with players from every team. Systematically, the union obtained advance approval to decertify in the face of a lockout.

Derided by the NFL as a decision to “go out of business,” decertification would prevent the league from locking out the players by converting the NFLPA from a legally-recognized union into a collection of individual, non-union workers. Some think that the NFL would challenge the maneuver as a sham, but such an approach would entail P.R. risks, since the NFL would be using litigation in order to force a lockout on the players. Given that the NFL has repeatedly criticized the union for using litigation in place of negotiation, it would be a challenging exercise in double-talk for the league to resort to litigation against the union.

It remains to be seen whether the union will decertify. If the union fails to decertify, it will prove that the effort was a ruse aimed only at making the NFL think that decertification could occur.

If decertfication happens, the league then would be compelled to craft across-the-board rules regarding free agency, the draft, and player salaries. The union would likely respond by filing an antitrust lawsuit, arguing that the league consists of 32 separate businesses that cannot work together to place common limits on its workers. (This is why the American Needle case was viewed as being critical to the labor situation, even though the facts center on marketing deals. If the league had secured a ruling from the Supreme Court that it is one business, an antitrust claim based on labor rules may have been doomed from the start.)

We’ve heard that the union possibly won’t decertify because the union is concerned that the rules implemented by the league for a non-union work force would have a much better shot at withstanding an antritrust lawsuit than the rules employed after the failed strike of 1987. If the union decertifies, files an antitrust lawsuit, and then loses the case, the players will be in a much worse position than they are right now.

3. The owners still have an alternative to a lockout.

Just as the union may be bluffing about decertification, there’s still a chance that the owners are bluffing about a lockout.

It’s a remote chance, but it’s still a chance.

If a new agreement isn’t reached by March 4, the owners aren’t required to lock out the players. The owners can declare an impasse and then implement the last, best offer as the new set of rules, pending a formal agreement.

In an appearance last month on PFT Live, NFL lawyer Bob Batterman made it clear that, absent a new deal by March 4, the alternatives will be imposition of a lockout or declaration of an impasse.

If the league declares impasse and imposes the last, best offer, the union then would have to decide whether to work under those rules, or whether to strike. With the union repeatedly insisting that it won’t strike, some nifty P.R. moves would be required in the event the union decides to walk out in the face of a decision by the league to “let them play” under the terms of the NFL’s final offer.

Some think that the league prefers a lockout because the players at some point would agree to the terms of that last offer for several years beyond 2011, presumably after they miss one or more game checks. By implementing the last, best offer, however, the league would be getting what it wants, at least in the short term.

Likewise, the league would be able to claim the moral high ground in the event of a work stoppage. No longer would the owners be locking out the players; if football goes away for all or part of the 2011 season, the players would be the ones to make that happen.

Still, the players could strike at any time, like at the outset of the postseason or two days before the Super Bowl.

4. The league is counting on a free agent uprising.

It’s widely believed that, once the players start missing game checks in September, they’ll fold the tents and cry “uncle” to their NFL sugar daddies.

The league has been trying, in hardly subtle fashion, to remind the 490 players due to become free agents that, for them, they’ll start missing checks in March.

Fueling the effort was Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who’d like to parlay his solid season into a signing bonus that will help feed the many mouths relying on him. Cromartie’s strong comments brought into focus the fact that nearly a third of the league’s players will see their potential bonus checks delayed. If, ultimately, the labor situation is resolved in August or September, few if any players will receive big-money deals in 2011.

Thus, if enough of the 490 realize that they’ll be hurt by an offseason lockout like all players will be hurt by an in-season lockout and if enough of them speak out, the union could end up facing a ton of pressure to get a deal done before the end of March.

5. The player-acquisition process will be bass-ackwards.

In a normal year, teams have the opportunity to acquire veteran players via free agency or trades in March, weeks before the draft.

This year, an offseason lockout would make the draft the first, and perhaps the only, tool for adding new players.

So if a team enters the offseason needing a quarterback, the team may have to reach for one in the draft because there may be no opportunity to otherwise get one. That said, the possible absence of team-managed offseason workouts and minicamps will make it even more important to find rookies who could walk right in and be ready to play in September — and who can be trusted to work out on their own without team supervision, until the lockout is resolved.

Either way, teams routinely use the draft as a way to address any lingering immediate needs after free agency and to build for the future. In 2011, those immediate needs will be even greater in April.

6. Fans need to wake up regarding the lack of an offseason.

We’ve heard plenty of folks in the media contend that fans don’t care won’t care about a lockout until September, when regular-season games are missed. On this point, those folks in the media just don’t get it.

The NFL currently has the most robust and intriguing offseason of any sport. With the arrival of the current free-agency system in 1993, the NFL has made baseball’s hot stove league look like a used match in a bucket of rain water.

An offseason lockout would wipe it all out. No free agency, no trades, no OTAs, no minicamps, no training camps, no preseason. Nothing, with the exception of the three-day April oasis known as the draft.

So when August rolls around and it’s time to start putting together that fantasy draft board and you have no idea how to prioritize the players because there was no free agency and no trades and no offseason workouts and no buzz about who’s looking good and who isn’t, you can blame yourself for not making it clear to the league and the union that, for the fans, the process of disconnecting emotionally and financially from the game begins far earlier than the moment the first regular-season game is missed.

7. The union arguably has nothing to lose by waiting.

When the NFL and the union issued a joint statement on Saturday, February 5 suggesting the that two sides were committed to doing a deal by March 4, we were encouraged. For months, we’d been saying that a deal can’t be done until the two sides agree to the moment on which the clock strikes 12. It previously was believed that the league considered that deadline to come in early March, and that the players were targeting a much later date.

For the league, there are plenty of reasons to do a deal before March 4. Apart from the disruption to the normal offseason activities, it’s much easier to sell tickets and do deals with sponsors if the doors haven’t been padlocked shut.

For the union, there’s no real reason to do a deal now. Sure, the money lost during an offseason lockout is money from which the union won’t take its cut, but that’s a shared burden, and it shouldn’t squeeze the union into doing a bad deal.

That’s the sense that’s currently emerging. The NFL clearly wants to a deal. But the NFL wants to do a deal on its terms.

Although the league claims that the goal remains to negotiate an agreement that the players will regard as a fair deal over the long haul, it could be that the league wants the players to swallow a so-so deal and simply to think it’s a good deal about which the players won’t complain for a generation or longer. Thus, if the NFL wants to do a deal so badly, the only real leverage at this point that the players have is to wait.

Though the league has threatened that the deal will get worse once March 4 comes and goes, threats like that are made all the time. The question becomes can the union do a better overall deal later than it can now.

In many respects, we simply won’t know until time passes. As mentioned below, public opinion could be tilting toward the players. Also, perhaps some of the pending legal claims will be resolved in the players’ favor.

Either way, the union gains nothing by doing a deal now, but for avoiding the potential outcry from the 490 looming free agents. If those men can be placated, the union will be able to dig in.

And why shouldn’t they? The current deal was deemed to be a good one by 30 owners five years ago. Since then, the league has become more popular and more profitable. In the end, it’s possible that management doesn’t think the league is making enough money. It’s possible that management merely thinks the players are making too much.

8. Revenue sharing continues to lurk.

When the current labor deal was negotiated in 2006, the owners squabbled over the issue of revenue sharing. Basically, the NFL decided long ago to share core revenues like box-office receipts and TV money. Over time, many teams have discovered and exploited new forms of revenue that aren’t shared, like luxury suites.

Last time around, a debate raged over the impact that a player-compensation model based on total football revenues would have on the teams that generate relatively low amounts of total football revenue. Bengals owner Mike Brown argued at the time that the new system could eat into his profit margin by raising his overall labor costs, since the salary cap and salary floor would be determined by the revenues generated not only by the Bengals but by high earners like the Cowboys, Patriots, and Eagles.

Former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw insisted that the last labor deal include an agreement among the owners regarding supplemental revenue sharing, even though such an accord arguably was irrelevant to the union. In the end, the owners did the deal, in large part because the teams found themselves squeezed by restrictive rules of the last year with a salary cap, which was set to launch if a new labor deal hadn’t been reached.

Today, the owners want to squeeze back, and they’ve done a great job of keeping under wraps the lingering disagreements regarding supplemental revenue sharing. But multiple league sources have told us that a major potential fight among the owners regarding revenue sharing lurks just beneath the surface.

So how do the owners avoid that fight among themselves? Ravens cornerback Dominique Foxworth nailed the owners’ strategy: “Let’s take it from them.” Mike Brown doesn’t care if Jerry Jones is making too much money; Brown wants only to be making what he deems to be enough for himself. So by giving the players a smaller slice of the pie, Brown’s team will receive enough cash each year to offset the effect of high-revenue teams on labor costs.

With the union searching for viable pressure points aimed at getting a new deal done, the best strategy would be to expose the notion that the owners are simply hoping to give the players less money in order to permanently solve the problem of supplemental revenue sharing. To the amazement of some owners, the union has yet to make that argument, and possibly won’t.

The union should. We’re told that the owners hope to continue to keep their internal disputes under wraps, and then to work out a long-term solution to revenue sharing after getting the best deal possible from the players.

9. It takes only nine owners to kill a deal.

It’s widely believed that a group of hard-line owners want to push the union to the breaking point and beyond, even if it means losing an entire season.

Though the number of owners who potentially feel that way isn’t known, it only takes nine owners to block any proposed deal.

Unlike the union, which can push a new agreement through via a simple majority vote, 75 percent of the owners must agree to the move. With 32 owners, 24 votes are needed to approve an agreement.

And that means (abacus engaged) nine votes can keep the league from agreeing to terms with the players.

10. The NFL is starting to bungle the P.R. war.

During the February 11 ProFootballTalk Live, a portion of the monologue was devoted to the question of whether the league could be starting to lose the P.R. battle with the players.

Here’s the condensed version.

For months, both the league and the union have tried to win the hearts and minds of the fans and the media via various public relations strategies. And all of them have failed.

Folks who get it won’t be falling for the notion that the Commissioner is cutting his pay to $1, or for the efforts of the union to align with real unions that represent people who make far less money than pro athletes. But with the news that the league stormed out of the room after the union reportedly made a reasonable opening proposal to collect 50 cents of every dollar that passes through the cash register, the pendulum finally has swung toward the players — even if it happened without the players trying to make it happen.

Report: Postal workers expensed private travel and 'adult entertainment'

If the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service wants to save money it should ensure that its workers aren't booking pricey hotel rooms and airplane tickets or buying pornography, according to a new watchdog report.

Over a two-year period, some postal workers used credit cards meant for travel and lodging expenses to buy family members flights to Spain and Italy, purchase Apple computers and make more than 50 purchases at "adult entertainment" stores.

The findings, detailed in a Postal Service Inspector General report, also reveal that USPS didn't cancel 2,491 credit cards issued to former employees, including 53 who were listed as deceased. Two former employees were still using their cards after they left, according to the report.

All told, the mail agency could have saved more than $600,000 in excessive travel costs during fiscal 2009 and 2010 if it had cracked down on non-compliant workers, the report said.

Despite the fraud, the Postal Service cut its travel budget by 17 percent in fiscal 2010 to $94.8 million.

USPS employs 583,000 workers and funds itself through the sale of postal products and services instead of taxpayer dollars. It plans on cutting about $2 billion in costs this year -- mostly by eliminating 40 million work hours -- but still forecasts a $7 billion loss after losing a record $8.5 billion in fiscal 2010. It warned again this week that it will likely run out of money by the end of the fiscal year after exceeding its borrowing limit with the U.S. Treasury.

The report reviewed 155,104 lodging transactions and found that more than 21,000 exceeded government lodging rates established by the General Services Administration. In one case, a worker claimed 326 nights of hotel bills that exceeded government rates by $17,877. Workers who attended the largest postal customer convention in 2009 and 2010 -- mostly mid-level executives and sales personnel based in regional offices and Washington headquarters -- collectively exceeded lodging rates by almost $89,000.

The inspector general's office further investigated several cases of employee misconduct unearthed by the investigation and some of the workers were later fired, the report said. Investigators also recommended tighter enforcement of the lodging and travel reimbursement policies and suggested USPS retrain workers on the rules.

Responding to the report, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who closely tracks postal affairs, said she was alarmed by the findings.

"It is very frustrating that an organization that was $8.5 billion in the hole last year, has not adopted a frugal culture. The proper controls are not in place to either prevent or uncover frequent credit card abuses. I am alarmed that at various levels of approval, no one at the Postal Service balked at the purchase of airline tickets to Spain and Italy, the purchase of an Apple computer, or more than 50 charges at adult entertainment establishments. It is unconscionable that these charges were rung up and the bill sent to the American taxpayers. The U.S. Postal Service must reform."

Officials quoted in the report said they won't retrain workers due to the high costs of doing so, but will closely monitor travel transactions and remind workers of the existing policy. A Postal Service spokesman declined to comment further on the report.

Huge demonstrations across Egypt; crowds reject Mubarak's stance

CAIRO - Egyptian state television reported that President Hosni Mubarak and his wife left their home in an affluent Cairo suburb Friday, as hundreds of thousands of citizens across the country gathered to demand his ouster.

The televised statement did not say where Mubarak was headed, but the Associated Press, citing a local official, reported that he was going to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

The apparent departure came hours after Egypt's military chiefs pledged to back the Mubarak's decision to remain in office, but cede some powers to his hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman. The supreme military council said it would guarantee "free and honest" elections after Mubarak's term expires, and a lifting of Egypt's 30-year-old state of emergency once calm returned to the streets. The military encouraged protesters to go home, citing the need to "return to normal life."

Instead, throngs of people gathered cities across the country, and anger and frustration mounted as word spread of the military's stance. "Mubarak must go! He is finished!" protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square shouted as a sea of people waved red-white-and-black Egyptian flags.

The armed forces did not move against the demonstrators.

At the state Television and Radio Tower, which is north of the square and flanks the east bank of the Nile, thousands of protesters toppled makeshift barricades erected by the military and swarmed around the building.

Soldiers stood by and watched. For the moment, protesters did not force entry into the building, instead chanting: "this is the people's army, not Mubarak's army." The television channel, a reliable producer of propaganda for Mubarak, continued to broadcast.

On the Mediterranean coast, massive crowds packed public squares in Alexandria, Egypt's second-largest city, jeering Mubarak and insisting that he resign. Protests also erupted in Suez, where crowds surrounded 10 government buildings, according to the Egyptian news Web site al-Ahram Online. Large demonstrations were also reported in the cities of Tanta, Mahalla and Assuit.

In the affluent Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, a smaller demonstration was underway at Mubarak's presidential palace. There, 26-year-old Taha Nahas predicted that the military's statement would backfire and that Egyptians who had seen the armed forces as an honest protector of their interests would change their minds. "This is what we've heard before from Mubarak and Omar Suleiman," Nahas said. "We have lost our trust in the military. It's a corrupt organization."

A group of counter-demonstrators congregated nearby, chanting support for the president and urging the other side to disperse. Soldiers kept the two sides separated. "We are afraid. If there is anarchy, looters will come to our homes," said Serge Simon, 60, an Armenian-Egyptian pianist from Heliopolis. "What we are seeing here is hooliganism."

In Tahrir Square, scores of thousands prostrated themselves to the muezzin's prayer call at midday, many of them weeping. Organizers of Egypt's popular rebellion predicted the biggest turnout so far in their 18-day revolt.

Parts of the square grew so packed that it was difficult to walk around. Soldiers in riot gear manned entrances to the square, but did not stop those who were streaming in. Dozens of ambulances were parked on nearby side streets.

Protesters said that three soldiers turned in their weapons and joined the protests an hour before Friday prayers. Many chants focused on the need for a civilian, rather than a military, government.

"The military is now in an embarrassing situation," said Tamer Oweiss, 31,, a superviser at Cairo's airport. "They're trying to stand in the middle. They feel loyalty to Mubarak, an officer, but at the same time, they dont want to hurt the people."

The plaza, next to the Nile River, has served as the heartbeat of the rebellion.

In a rambling televised speech late Thursday, Mubarak ceded some authority to Suleiman but refused to quit, insisting that he would stay in office to oversee a drawn-out transfer of power. His defiance stunned and angered hundreds of thousands of protesters in the capital, who responded with chants of "revolution, revolution."

Enormous crowds, which had gathered in anticipation that Mubarak would announce his resignation, expressed disappointment and fury as the message sunk in that the president had no intention of leaving.

"Oh Mubarak, be patient! The people will dig your grave," protesters shouted. As dawn broke Friday, the Muslim holy day and the start of the weekend here, more and more people came to the square.

Around 200 people had gathered at the presidential palace, al-Ouruba, by midday, outside a wall of barbed wire and two tanks. The mood was calm as soldiers directed traffic.

Said Younis, a 26-year-old advertising executive, said he marched 10 miles from Tahrir Square to the presidential palace immediately after Mubarak's speech, arriving about 2 a.m. "He ridiculed us," Younis said. "We want him to hear our voices from up close."

Mubarak "is an idiot," said Ahmed Suleiman, 62, a physician. "We're very upset about what he said yesterday.

Some protesters vowed to storm the palace. But others appealed for restraint, saying they would not clash with the military.

"The people and the army are continuing their march together!" they chanted.

Younis said military officers stationed at the palace offered their sympathy and support, providing tea and juice to the handful of protesters who pulled an all-night vigil. "They told us, 'Don't worry, we will never fire on you,' " he said.

Outside the palace gate, some protesters appealed to soldiers across the barbed wire to join their cause.

"I'm with you!" one officer shouted back.

"Then come to this side!" one woman demanded.

Mubarak's rejection of the rebellion capped a confusing day of contradictory messages, exultant expectations and, ultimately, flattened hopes. It left Egyptians and the rest of the world anxious and afraid of how the conflict would unfold in the hours and days ahead.

"This stalemate cannot continue forever," Finance Minister Samir Radwan told BBC radio. "I think the military is highly disciplined and they have taken a decision not to fire at the young people."

Some opposition leaders warned that Mubarak was risking a bloody revolt.

"There is no way the Egyptian people right now are ready to accept either the president or the vice president," Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader, told CNN. "They have lost all authority, all legitimacy. . . . My fear is that the situation will turn violent."

The developments not only shocked Egyptians but seemed to catch the world by surprise, including the highest levels of the U.S. government. In a written statement, President Obama said "it is not yet clear'' whether the transition to democracy pledged by Mubarak would be "immediate, meaningful or sufficient.''

Earlier Thursday, CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress that "there is a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening." In an afternoon speech to university students in Michigan, Obama gave no indication that he expected otherwise, calling the events in Egypt "a moment of transformation that's taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change."

After 17 days of swelling protests and labor unrest, demonstrators in Cairo thought they were on the cusp of forcing Mubarak from power Thursday afternoon when Egypt's military chiefs pledged in unequivocal-sounding language that they backed the protesters' goals.

Crowds had thundered their approval when Gen. Hassan al-Roueini, military commander for the Cairo region, strode into the square and declared: "All your demands will be met today."

Anticipation soared even higher when Egypt's supreme military council announced that it had convened an emergency session - in its commander in chief's absence. In a statement, the military chiefs pledged "support for the legitimate demands of the people" and promised "to oversee their interests and security."

About five hours later, at 10:45 p.m., Mubarak addressed the nation on television from his palace. Standing next to an Egyptian flag, he tried to assure the public that he had heard their grievances.

He promised to investigate the deaths of an estimated 300 people during the demonstrations, which began Jan. 25. But he took no responsibility for the actions of his police and security forces, which have been widely accused of instigating the violence.

"I speak to the youth of Egypt in Tahrir Square and all around Egypt. I speak to you as a father speaks to his children," he said. "I say to you before anything else that the blood of your martyrs will not be in vain and that I will hold perpetrators to account."

"I say to you that my response to your message and your demands is a commitment that I will not go back on," he said. "I believe that the majority of Egyptians know who is Hosni Mubarak, and it hurts me how some Egyptians talk about me."

But as he continued for 15 minutes, he never uttered the lines that many assumed were coming, instead insisting that he would remain in office until the end of his term in September so he could oversee what he called a transition to "free and transparent" elections.

"This is the pledge that I've made before God and the nation, and I swear that I will honor this pledge," he said. "I have lived for the sake of this nation. I will not leave it nor depart it until I am buried in the ground."

Mubarak said he was transferring power to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, Egypt's longtime intelligence chief. He also said he had ordered several constitutional amendments. One would expand the field of candidates eligible to run to succeed him in September, and another would provide for judicial monitoring of elections.

Afterward, Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's ambassador to the United States, asserted that Mubarak had transferred all authority to Suleiman, making the latter the de facto president. "For undertaking all decisions and responsibilities under the constitution, it is Omar Suleiman," the ambassador told CNN.

But there were few signs that Mubarak was about to recede into the background, and few Egyptians believed that he had entirely relinquished his control of the state.

Shortly after Mubarak finished speaking, Suleiman followed with a televised address in which he defended his boss and tried to soothe widespread concerns that Egypt's revolutionary struggle could turn ugly.

"The president puts the supreme interests of the country above everything else. He has empowered me to preserve its achievements and restore stability and happiness," Suleiman said. "We have opened the door to dialogue, and the door is still open to dialogue."

Earlier in the week, Suleiman had made public statements in which he warned protesters that they faced a choice between a "coup" and a "dialogue" and implied that a military crackdown was possible. On Thursday night, he once again urged demonstrators to back off, saying it was for the good of the country.

"Youth of Egypt, go back home. Go back to work. The nation needs your efforts to create and build a bright future," Suleiman said. "Do not listen to television and radio reports and foreign influences whose aim is just to cause chaos and tarnish Egypt's image."

The allusion to outside intervention echoed a warning from Mubarak, whose advisers have expressed anger with the United States, Egypt's longtime ally, for sternly urging the Cairo regime to repeal its state-of-emergency law and to embrace democratic reforms.

"We will prove that we are not followers or puppets of anybody, nor we are receiving orders or dictations from anybody," Mubarak said. "No one is making the decision for us."

The audio of Mubarak's speech was broadcast on loudspeakers mounted in Tahrir Square. His remarks were repeatedly interrupted by the crowd, which shouted, "Go away, go away," even as most people strained to listen so they could comprehend the president's message.

As Mubarak concluded, the response was instantaneous and ear-splitting. "The people want to put the president on trial," the crowd roared. There seemed to be little doubt that the speech had set the stage for decisive and possibly violent confrontation.

"He was provoking us," said Osama Hassan, a 35-year-old Cairo resident. "What he's doing is putting us in conflict with the military. This here is a camp of revolution. And he will need the military to get us out."

After the speech, the European Union signaled a tougher line on Mubarak's handling of the unrest.

"The demands and expectations of the Egyptian people must be met," said Catherine Ashton, the E.U. high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. She added: "The time for change is now."

Craig Whitlock, Ernesto Londono and Leila Fadel
Washington Post

Ron Paul Supporters Heckle Cheney, Rumsfeld at CPAC

WASHINGTON -- Most of those preparing for the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this week anticipated a division over social issues, but the real conflict at the convention today erupted between young libertarians and supporters of the Bush administration.

The annual convention has attracted about 11,000 conservatives to the nation's capital, many of them young supporters of libertarian icon Ron Paul. They were ready this afternoon to show their opposition to the Bush administration when former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was presented with the conference's "Defenders of the Constitution" award.

Loud boos resounded through the convention hall as Rumsfeld's name was announced on stage. The numerous young attendees got up from their seats and filed out of the room in protest.

The 2012 GOP Presidential Field: Strengths and Weaknesses for the Top Contenders

The commotion only grew when former Vice President Dick Cheney surprised the audience by showing up to honor his longtime friend and White House colleague.

The crowd was on its feet, some cheering "Cheney for president!" The boos from CPAC's libertarian contigent continued and at times interrupted Cheney's remarks.

"America is stronger and more secure" because of Rumsfeld's service, Cheney said, prompting one person to loudly shout, "Where's bin Laden at!"

Some of the vice president's supporters shouted, "Shut up!" and started a loud chant of "USA, USA!"

The jeering continued, with some yelling "draft dodger!" at Cheney.

As he accepted his award, Rumsfeld articulated the neoconservative position that has angered libertarians as the United States continues to spend hundreds of billions a year on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Isolationism is a luxry America and the world cannot afford," Rumsfeld said to applause. "Radical Islamists are not cutting back from their recruiting [or other investments]... Neither can we."

Woman In Rep. Christopher Lee Sex Scandal Named (another GOPer Family Values weirdo comes out!)

Woman In Rep. Christopher Lee Sex Scandal Named
She Is Yesha Callahan, 34-Year-Old Single Designer, according to Washington Post

Congressman Christopher Lee's astonishing fall from grace reverberated on Capitol Hill Thursday.

"I think he made the right decision for himself and for his family," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters.

But, reports CBS News correspondent Whit Johnson, Boehner refused to address rumors he warned Lee to stop partying with female lobbyists.

It turns out the woman at the center of the sex scandal surrounding Lee, an upstate New York Republican, is Yesha Callahan, a single, 34-year-old African-American designer, according to the Washington Post.

In an interview with a blogger on a website called, the woman, whom the site didn't name, spoke out about why she decided to post on Craigslist.

"I thought it would be fun to see what type of men would send me their photos … because dating in D.C. sucks," she's quoted as saying.

Thirty men responded, among them the second-term congressman, with a now infamous shirtless photo.

Though Lee told her he was a lobbyist, when she realized he was in Congress, she told TheLoop21, her "first reaction was holy -- -. Second was, he's probably done this before. Third was, he's married. Fourth was, oh my god he's 46-years-old."

She said she doesn't feel badly about what happened to Lee. "Chances are," she remarked to the website, "he's probably met more women online and, you know, cheaters eventually get caught. He didn't have to resign. He made that choice himself," she told TheLoop21.

She added she thinks Lee quit because he's hiding bigger things, telling the website there's "probably a bigger picture. E-mails were exchanged. Something bigger is going on in his background. You never get caught the first time."
Callahan waited three weeks before sharing her discovery with, effectively ending Lee's career.

"How dumb is he to let himself be in this position?" one resident of his district asked.

Workers have already removed Lee's name from his Buffalo-area office.

He hasn't been seen in public since last Wednesday.

Mubarak Steps Down, Ceding Power to Military

CAIRO — President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt turned over all power to the military and left the Egyptian capital for his resort home in Sharm el-Sheik, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced on state television on Friday.

The announcement, delivered during evening prayers in Cairo, set off a frenzy of celebration, with protesters shouting “Egypt is free!”

The Egyptian military issued a communiqué pledging to carry out a variety of constitutional reforms in a statement notable for its commanding tone.
The military’s statement alluded to the delegation of power to Mr. Suleiman and it suggested that the military would supervise implementation of the reforms.
Mr. Mubarak “has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country,” he said in his statement.

President Obama increases pressure on Mubarak's government

President Obama tried Thursday night to exert more pressure on the Egyptian government, saying that President Hosni Mubarak has not convinced his countrymen that his handover of powers "is immediate, meaningful or sufficient" and must do more.

"Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world," Obama said in a statement.

The statement was released several hours after Mubarak went on national TV in his country, and said he would reject international calls to resign. Instead, Mubarak said he would hand over some powers to his vice president, Omar Suleiman.

Obama said, "The Egyptian people have made it clear that there is no going back to the way things were," and he advised the Mubarak government "to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step-by-step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek."

Obama closed by underscoring that the Egyptian people "must know that they will continue to have a friend in the United States of America."

The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient.
Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world.
The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.

As we have said from the beginning of this unrest, the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. But the United States has also been clear that we stand for a set of core principles.
We believe that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected, and their aspirations must be met. We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change, and a negotiated path to democracy.
To that end, we believe that the emergency law should be lifted. We believe that meaningful negotiations with the broad opposition and Egyptian civil society should address the key questions confronting Egypt's future: protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens; revising the Constitution and other laws to demonstrate irreversible change; and jointly developing a clear roadmap to elections that are free and fair.

We therefore urge the Egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek.
Going forward, it will be essential that the universal rights of the Egyptian people be respected. There must be restraint by all parties. Violence must be forsaken.
It is imperative that the government not respond to the aspirations of their people with repression or brutality. The voices of the Egyptian people must be heard.

The Egyptian people have made it clear that there is no going back to the way things were: Egypt has changed, and its future is in the hands of the people. Those who have exercised their right to peaceful assembly represent the greatness of the Egyptian people, and are broadly representative of Egyptian society.
We have seen young and old, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian join together, and earn the respect of the world through their non-violent calls for change. In that effort, young people have been at the forefront, and a new generation has emerged.
They have made it clear that Egypt must reflect their hopes, fulfill their highest aspirations, and tap their boundless potential. In these difficult times, I know that the Egyptian people will persevere, and they must know that they will continue to have a friend in the United States of America.