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Hosni Mubarak in Coma, According to Unconfirmed Report

As Egypt’s military worked to clear the remaining protesters from Cairo’s central square, an unconfirmed report surfaced that ousted President Hosni Mubarak was in a coma.

Quoting “well-informed sources,” Al-Masry al-Youm said Mubarak had fallen into the coma in Sharm el-Sheik, while pro-government daily al-Gomhuria said he was in a “severe psychological condition” but not a coma, UPI reports.

Al-Masri al-Youm reported Sunday that the former leader was being treated in his vacation home in Sharm el-Sheik. The report also stated that the 82-year-old autocrat fainted twice while recording his final speech that was broadcast on state television before he stepped down.

Egypt has been under the leadership of the state military since Mubarak resigned last week, following 18 days of widespread anti-government demonstrations.

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Israel Concerned About Egyptian Regime Change

Israel warily watched Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation unfold Friday, concerned about the countries’ peace treaty.

The 30-year autocrat’s decision to step down from power, which comes after 18 days of widespread protests in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities, was announced by Vice President Omar Suleiman in a televised broadcast Friday night.

While Israel’s government has declined official comment on the new development, Israeli officials are worried that the ouster of their Arab ally could mean trouble.

“We have a tough period ahead of us,” Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador in Egypt, told Israel TV, according to AP. “Iran and Turkey will consolidate positions against us. Forget about the former Egypt. Now it’s a completely new reality, and it won’t be easy.”

After Turkey abandoned its alliance last year, Jordan is the only remaining Arab country that still has a peace deal with Israel, AP reports.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli Labor Party Knesset member and former defense minister, voiced concern over Mubarak’s resignation.

“From this day on, I only have lots of questions about what will be, what will be the fate of the peace treaty between us and the Egyptians?” Ben-Eliezer told Israel TV’s Channel 10, as quoted by AP. “There are many questions that we don’t have answers for, how will this affect the entire region now?”

The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has been in effect since 1979.

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Republican Senators Pledge to Strip Obama Climate Power

A group of Republican U.S. senators Monday announced plans to strip the Obama administration of its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and 10 other conservative senators introduced sweeping legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating heat-trapping emissions from power stations and industrial plants without permission from Congress.

The bill would also bar all federal agencies from considering the impact of greenhouse gas emissions when implementing existing laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.

“My bill will shrink Washington’s job-crushing agenda and grow America’s economy,” said Barrasso, an outspoken skeptic of climate change.

“I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Washington doesn’t impose cap-and-trade policies in any form.”

Environmental groups and Democratic senators fired back immediately, with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry charging that Barrasso’s bill “puts the public health at risk and encourages the outsourcing of American jobs.”

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer said the legislation threatens bipartisan efforts to serve the public by protecting the environment.

“Since president Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have worked together to protect American families from dangerous pollution,” Boxer said in a statement. “The Republican effort now to turn their back on the health of the American people will be resisted by those of us who believe it is our responsibility to make life better for the people we serve.”

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey accused the Republican senators of seeking to please industrial emitters, saying: “The health of our children must come before the interests of polluters.”

While the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House can block the effort to curb powers on emissions, the proposed bill demonstrates that it will be impossible for Democrats to pass legislation on climate change. Obama’s “cap-and-trade” bill to force emissions standards halted in Congress last year.

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Davos Conference Wraps Up

The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland drew to a close Sunday after a week’s worth of debate on global debt, climate change, food shortages, and a host of other international issues.

Prominent politicians spoke to the world’s most powerful business leaders at the upscale snowbound resort in the Swiss mountains during the annual event, aimed at strengthening a globalized economy.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pushed hard for the development of an energy-efficient economy, urging the United States and Europe to lead the rest of the world in combatting climate change.

“Let me highlight the one resource that is scarcest of all: time,” Ban said, according to AFP.

Other issues that took precedence at the gathering included the ongoing anti-government revolts in North Africa, Chinese asset-price inflation, rising food prices, and Europe’s debt crisis.

The first day of the conference was rocked by news of a Moscow airport bombing, which took place shortly before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was due in Davos. The violence delayed his arrival, and the forum paused for a minute of silence prior to his opening day speech.

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Egypt Gov’t Gains Apparent Support of Israel

As violent street protests imperil President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, Israel is calling on Western countries to end criticism of the 30-year leader “in a bid to preserve stability in Egypt” and the Middle East at large, Al Jazeera reports.

The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported Monday that Israel’s foreign ministry urged the United States and Europe to “stress…the importance of Egypt’s stability” as widespread demonstrations wrack the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

Egypt has been a key ally to Israel since the two countries reached peace in 1979.

The anti-government protests present a significant threat to Israel, and although Israeli officials have remained largely silent about the unrest, they have reportedly held lengthy strategy sessions this week to address the possibility of Mubarak’s ouster.

“We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and in our region,” said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before his cabinet’s weekly meeting on Sunday, according to Al Jazeera.

“Israel and Egypt have been at peace for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these ties be preserved. At this time, we must display responsibility, restraint and utmost prudence,” Netanyahu added.

If Mubarak’s autocratic regime is booted from power, the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s strongest opposition group – could assume control over the country. In all likelihood, that group and its allies would distance Egypt from its relationship with the West and possibly nullify the peace agreement with Israel.

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Egypt Prepares for “Angry Friday”

Egypt this morning was poised for massive protests calling for the ouster of the 30-year President Hosni Mubarak.

The anti-government demonstrations today, dubbed “Angry Friday,” were organized largely with the help of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. They follow three days of bloody protests in the capital of Cairo and other Egyptian cities like Suez, where demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails and stones at police and set the town’s firehouse ablaze, according to UPI.

Bracing for more tumult, the Egyptian government blocked Internet and cellphone service early Friday to prevent anti-government activists from communicating with one another.

Protesters were told that the government was dispatching “thugs” calling themselves “Ikhwan al-Haq,” or “Brotherhood of Truth,” to patrol the streets of Cairo with knives and swords and attack or kill demonstrators if necessary, UPI reports.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry arrested hundreds of demonstrators, including a number of prominent opposition figures. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is backing the protests, told The Associated Press that at least five of its leaders and five former members of parliament had been detained.

Mubarak’s regime posted a special operations counterterrorism force in strategic positions around Cairo, including Tahrir Square.

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Climate Change Adviser Leaving Obama’s Staff

Carol Browner, a key climate policy adviser to President Barack Obama, plans to leave the White House soon, administration officials announced Monday.

The staff change is the latest in a string of departures from the Obama administration following the Republican takeover of the House in November.

Browner, the current coordinator of energy and climate policy, will remain in her post as long as necessary to guarantee a smooth transition, Reuters reports. It was not immediately clear whether she would be replaced at all.

“On the question of what will happen to the position, the president’s commitment to these issues will of course continue but any transition of the office will be announced soon,” an administration official said.

Climate change was one of the major issues on Obama’s agenda, but the ambitious cap-and-trade program he promised in his 2008 campaign has stalled.

Browner headed the Clinton-era EPA and was instrumental in the Obama administration’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last spring.

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Jean-Claude Duvalier to Remain in Haiti

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier will remain in Haiti despite accusations of corruption and embezzlement, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Defense attorney Reynold Georges told the press that the former president known as “Baby Doc” is “is free to to whatever he wants, go wherever he wants,” AP reports.

The strongman was ousted and exiled from the Caribbean island nation in 1986. He was accused of pilfering hundreds of millions of dollars from the state treasury and being responsible for the torture and killing of political enemies.

Nearly 25 years after his exile, the autocratic leader returned to his Caribbean homeland on Sunday. He had been living in Paris.

A Haitian judge is reportedly looking into whether there is sufficient evidence to try Duvalier on corruption and embezzlement charges, AP reports. That process can take up to three months.

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Hu Jintao Arrives in U.S.; Obama Calls for Human Rights Reform

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the U.S. Tuesday for a four-day state visit aimed at settling economic, global security and human rights disputes between the two nations.

In 2010, Washington and Beijing battled over China’s currency, international trade issues, China’s human rights record and the United States’ military support of Taiwan.

Hu is poised to assert China’s validity as a rising world power while soothing fears over its intentions.

Meanwhile, President Obama hopes to make progress on China’s troubling human rights issues, and will likely present Hu with the message that expanded civil rights could spur economic growth, the Washington Post reports.

On Wednesday, Hu was met with a grand arrival ceremony on the White House’s South Lawn, where Obama pushed his human rights reform agenda in a speech welcoming the Chinese president.

“History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being,” Obama said.

“Harmonious Society” is a catchphrase of Hu’s administration as his Communist Party tries to retain power in China’s budding free market economy. The Chinese sometimes use the term ironically: Web sites that suddenly vanish are “harmonized away,” the New York Times reports.

Activists have urged Obama to address concerns about worsening human rights conditions in China.

Hu said during the arrival ceremony Wednesday that U.S.-Chinese relations should be based on mutual respect. He said he hoped the state visit would “open a new chapter in cooperation as partners.”

It is Hu’s first trip to the U.S. since 2006.

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City Dwellers Are More Green-Minded, Study Finds

People who live in big cities are more likely to participate in “green” behaviors than their rural-dwelling counterparts, a new study suggests.

Researchers with the Michigan State University in East Lansing surveyed over 5,000 people living in large and small Chinese cities. They found that big city residents are more likely to recycle, volunteer for environmental organizations, and care about environmental issues.

Although the study was restricted to China, its implications are far-reaching, said head researcher Jiangua “Jack” Liu, a sustainability scientist at Michigan State University.

“China is the largest country in the world, it has had the fastest growing economy in the last three decades, and urbanization is growing really fast,” Liu said, adding that China produces more carbon dioxide emissions than any other country. “Anything that happens in China now is affecting the rest of the world.”

Participants were asked six questions about their behaviors in the last year: whether they had sorted their garbage, talked about environmental issues with relatives or friends, recycled plastic packing bags, volunteered for environmental education programs, or participated in environmental litigation.

Liu and his colleagues found that people living in the country’s largest cities — such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin — were more likely to engage in environmentally conscious behaviors than those living in smaller cities.

Despite the commonly held notion that environmentalism is more prevalent among the wealthy, researchers did not find a correlation between income and “green” behaviors. Instead, they said simply being employed was a bigger factor. Liu speculated that this was because many Chinese employers host company-sponsored events to encourage environmental action.

In addition, big city dwellers are more likely to come into direct contact with pollution and other environmental issues in their daily lives, which may make them want to do something about those problems.

“What we found was that in big cities, people are more likely to take environmental action,” Liu said. “The big question is whether those actions will be enough.”

The study was published in Tuesday’s edition of the British journal Environmental Conservation.

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