The White House was discussing a plan in which Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would resign immediately with Egyptian officials, The New York Times reported Thursday evening. The plan would place newly-appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman in charge of a transitional government with the support of the country's military establishment, according to the report. Another White House official, however, disputed the New York Times' suggestion that the two countries were close to reaching a deal, telling CNN that "It's simply wrong to report that there's a single US plan that's being negotiated with the Egyptians." U.S. National Security Countil spokesman Tommy Vietor told the cable news network that in addition to the proposal outlined in the Times, Washington was discussing "a variety of different ways" for bringing an Egyptian transition to democracy. He emphasized, however, that "all of those decisions must be made by the Egyptian people." Officials quoted in the report, in an attempt to lower expectations, pointed out that there was have not been any signs that either Suleiman or Egypt's army were willing to participate in such a plan as long as Mubarak opposed it. Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Times that Mubarak fears that even if he steps down that he will be subject to further demands, pointing out that "he's not dealing with a legal entity, but a mob." U.S. officials have reportedly been putting forth several scenarios to Egyptians in the past days, but clarified that their preferred outcome was a plan that saw Omar Suleiman heading a transitional government... The embattled president said in the interview that he was ready to leave office, but could not, for fear his country would sink deeper into chaos.
II. RIANOVOSTI - Russia calls on Egypt to put end to attacks on journalists
Russia is urging all sides in the current conflict in Egypt to immediately provide security for media representatives covering the ongoing disorder, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday. A RIA Novosti cameraman in Cairo said on Thursday that police and supporters of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had started attacking photo and television reporters. "We [Russia] believe that the oppression of media representatives...is unacceptable. We also urge an end to the violence and a start to the resolution of the crisis," the statement said. According to the Reporters without Borders organization, 26 journalists in Egypt have been subjected to attacks, 19 were arrested or kidnapped, three are missing and one is in coma. There are suggestions that the authorities have informally instructed their supporters to prevent any photo and video coverage of the ongoing events so the moment a person with a camera appears in the street, he is attacked. In the best-case scenario his camera is taken away but physical violence has become common. Anti-government protests broke out in Egypt on January 25. The unrest has already claimed the lives of at least 300 people and injured several thousand across the North African state.
III. REUTERS - U.S. general "militarily uncomfortable" with Afghan date
A senior U.S. military commander said on Tuesday setting a 2014 goal for halting NATO combat operations in Afghanistan weakened the Taliban's arguments although he was "militarily uncomfortable" with it. NATO agreed at a Lisbon summit last November to hand control of security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 and said the NATO-led force could halt combat operations by the same date if security conditions were good enough. President Barack Obama has also said his aim is to halt major U.S. combat operations by the end of 2014. Some critics argue that setting a target date plays into the hands of Taliban insurgents by encouraging them to wait out NATO forces. General James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command which oversees the war in Afghanistan, said he was not concerned about the approach the United States was taking in Afghanistan "so long as it is done in concert ... with the allies." In the short term, a target date may give the Taliban heart "to some degree," he said, speaking at an event in London hosted by the Policy Exchange thinktank. But he said: "Having a conditions-based withdrawal is also a way to refute the enemy line that somehow we are there to occupy this country forever. I think there is actually a strength to it. "Militarily, I'm uncomfortable with it, as all military men are, with the uncertainty, the unpredictability of war,... But we fight wars for a political reason. I hope we do. I hope we are not just fighting for the fun of it.".. Mattis said the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan were under the most significant pressure since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion "and we intend to keep it that way. The security progress is undeniable. In key areas in Afghanistan the enemy is disoriented and on the defensive," Mattis said, although he said there would be very tough fighting ahead.
IV. UPI - Britain warned of home-grown terrorists
The British secret service was warned the country faced threats from home-grown terrorists still unknown to British intelligence, a leaked document indicated. The alarm was raised during a private briefing in from a senior M16 official to visiting U.S. congressional members in 2008 on growing concern in America about British-born radicals who receive training and become "suicide operatives," The Daily Telegraph reported Friday. British officials would be "hard pressed" to prevent an attack by home-grown terrorists, a counter-terrorism official in the Secret Intelligence Service said. Details of the warnings and concerns were in diplomatic cables that are part of a cache of more than 250,000 U.S. State Department documents obtained and released by WikiLeaks and distributed to certain media outlets, including The Daily Telegraph. During the April 2008 meeting, a top British intelligence officer told the U.S. delegation Britain faced threats from terrorists abroad and "internal home-grown" terrorists, making the situation "uniquely challenging," the leaked information indicated. "Moreover, the internal threat is growing more dangerous because some extremists are conducting non-lethal training without ever leaving the country," the U.S. Embassy's secret record of the meeting indicated. "Should these extremists then decide to become suicide operatives ... intelligence resources, eavesdropping and surveillance would be hard pressed to find them on any 'radar screen.' [The intelligence officer] described this as a 'generational' problem that will not go away anytime soon." Simultaneously, documents indicated the U.S. government was growing more frustrated with what it saw as British leaders' inability to appreciate an increasing threat from Somalia, where growing numbers of British Muslims reportedly received terrorist training, the Telegraph said.
V. RADIOSRBIJA - KFOR/КФОР Commander: Northern Kosovo Priority
KFOR Commander of the Multinational Battalion North, Colonel Benoit Roux said that the situation in the zone controlled by this unit is peaceful, yet fragile, and that, even after reduction of the number of troops, northern Kosovo will be a priority for KFOR. Our job is primarily to protect the population, and both multinational maneuver battalions will not abandon the regional responsibility and will be able to react in all circumstances, Roux told a press conference at KFOR Camp Belvedere, near Kosovska Mitrovica. Roux said that KFOR will provide security in Kosovo, which, as he says, of course, includes UN SC Resolution 1244. He added that as of March 1, some 500 KFOR soldiers will be in northern Kosovo. KFOR announced earlier that 5,000 international soldiers, i.e. two battalions, will remain in Kosovo until spring.
VI. EKATHIMERINI - Greece and Cyprus ready to cooperate on gas
Following a meeting in Athens, Prime Minister George Papandreou and Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias have suggested that the two countries could cooperate on the exploitation of what are thought to be substantial reserves of natural gas. “Greece and Cyprus have converging interests, including in the energy sector,” Papandreou told journalists. “As in all matters, we are coordinating closely on the issue of delineating sea zones... Solon Kassinis, the head of the energy department at Cyprus’s Commerce Ministry, said last month that there are indications of some 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits beneath the seabed in the island's waters near Israel's giant Tamar and Leviathan gas fields. “The facts have changed dramatically… and Cyprus could begin exploiting its natural gas reserves in the area in three to five years, much sooner than anticipated or planned,” said Kassinis, who produced a study last month that reportedly urged the Cypriot government to concentrate on exploiting the country’s own natural resources rather than a possible long-term deal to import liquefied natural gas. However, Turkey objects to Nicosia exploring in Cyprus's 51,000-square kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which lies south of the island. Christofias told reporters after his meeting with Papandreou that Cypriots and Greeks had to be careful not to get carried away with the idea of tapping into gas reserves. “We are coordinating daily [with Greece] but I want to pause for a moment to stress the seriousness with which we should approach the issue because we have a tendency to overreact, which is one of our characteristics,” said the Cypriot president. “We have to be sure about what [reserves] exist and we have to be sure about the actions that we may take.”
VII. - ORTHODOXWAYOFLIFE - Advice on Dealing with Stray Thoughts in Church
One of the problems we all face is the tendency for our minds to take over while we are in church where we are supposed to be in prayer. This happens to all of us as it i the nature of our mind to be always active unless we command through our soul to stop. This part of our mind is part of the body and needs to be controlled by the higher part of our being. Here is some advice from Saint Theophan the Recluse: First we are to pray as follows - Pray with sincere warmth, with an outpouring before God, with feelings of contrition, humility and reverential fear and with diligent petitions for your spiritual needs. When we even approach prayer in church with this attitude we will still be faced with stray thoughts. Here is how how recommends to deal with them: As soon as you notice your thoughts have left church, turn them back and do not ever allow yourself consciously to daydream or to stray in thought... When the thoughts stray unbeknownst to you, this is also a small sin; but when you begin wandering off in thought purposely while you are in church , this is as sin...It is like a man who has gone to the king in order to ask him for something who then begins to make faces and fidget in the king's presence, without paying any attention to him... With respect to thoughts there are these two rules: 1) As soon as you notice this straying, turn the thoughts back, and 2) do not consciously allow the thoughts to wander. A remedy against straying thoughts is mental attention, attention to the fact that the Lord is before us and we are before Him... The attention is attached to the Lord by fear of God and by the desire to please God. From these come warmth of the heart, which draws the attention to the One Lord... Without labor and mental effort you will not attain anything spiritual.