"ThinkFast: January 28, 2011"
“Protests have erupted in cities across Egypt following Friday midday prayers, with angry demonstrators demanding an end to Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year presidency,” Al Jazeera reports. “In response, the government has promised to crack down on demonstrations and arrest those participating in them. It has blocked internet, mobile phone and SMS services in order to disrupt the planned demonstrations.” Watch live coverage.
Thousands of protesters filled the streets of Yemen yesterday, as unrest and calls for change continued to spread across the Arab world. The protesters vowed to continue demonstrations today and for “weeks to come.” Unlike Egypt, the peaceful protests were not run by young people but rather by a largely traditional, Islamist opposition.
The economy gained “solid momentum at the end of last year,” as Americans spent more freely and U.S. companies sold more abroad. “The economy grew at a solid 3.2 percent annual rate in the final three months of 2010,” after expanding at a 2.6 percent pace in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released this morning.
At the first Senate Tea Party Caucus meeting yesterday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) pledged to filibuster legislation to increase the debt ceiling unless Senate leadership agrees to “first pass out a balanced-budget amendment.” Lee joins Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) in this pledge, and if they succeed in blocking the debt limit increase next month, “Congress may have to vote two more times this year to increase the federal government’s authority to borrow.”
Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and David Vitter (R-LA) are introducing legislation that would end birthright citizenship. The proposal, which is likely unconstitutional, would require at least one parent be in the country legally for the child to be deemed a citizen.
Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Eric Cantor (R-VA), heavyweights in their respective parties, sent a letter to Obama requesting a U.S. veto of any U.N. resolution condemning Israel’s settlements policy. “Mr. President, the passage of this resolution would simply isolate Israel and embolden the Palestinians to focus on further such pyrrhic victories,” their letter states.
Reaching a “gentleman’s agreement” on Senate rules reform yesterday, Senate leadership squashed filibuster reform in favor of equal restraint on Reid’s amendments and the GOP’s filibuster use. While they didn’t pursue the “nuclear option” to change rules by 51 instead of 67 votes, the Senate limited senators from blocking legislation anonymously and limited the number of executive branch staff confirmations.
President Obama has nominated J. Paul Oetken to be a federal judge in Manhattan, and if the Senate approves the nomination, Oetken would be the first openly gay man to serve on the federal bench in the United States. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) recommended Oetken to be nominated, saying he has “sterling legal credentials,” and also that “I was shocked to learn there were no openly gay male judges on the entire federal bench.”
And finally: Jackie Kennedy’s famous bubblegum pink pillbox hat she wore the day her husband was assassinated has gone missing. The National Archives has the matching wool suit she wore that tragic day, but the Los Angeles Times reports that the hat’s location, to the surprise of many Kennedy historians, is unknown. It “was sold to a private collector, or stuck away in somebody’s attic, lost to the nation, a hole in history.”
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