The following are the day's top general news stories:
1. Egypt Violence Flares as Mubarak's Supporters, Protestors Clash in Cairo 2. Cyclone Yasi Slams Into Australia's East Coast, Downgraded to Category Two 3. Netanyahu's Economic Peace Tested by Palestinian Construction Roadblocks 4. Senate Democrats Defeat Republican Bid to Repeal Obama's Health Overhaul 5. Chinese SAT Takers Seek Perfect 800 in Trek to Hong Kong for U.S. College
1. Egypt Violence Flares as Mubarak's Supporters, Protestors Clash in Cairo
Molotov cocktails flared in the night as supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak clashed in central Cairo with demonstrators demanding an immediate end to his autocratic 30-year reign. Mubarak loyalists rode horses and camels yesterday into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of anti-government protests since Jan. 25, swinging whips and clubs. The two sides hurled rocks, bottles and concrete chunks, sometimes from rooftops, and some pro-government marchers carried machetes. Egyptian soldiers didn´t intervene, except to use water cannon to extinguish fires, and there were no uniformed police present. More than 600 people were injured and at least three killed in the clashes, according to state television, as the nine-day crisis formed into battle lines, with government supporters challenging the demonstrators who reject Mubarak´s plan to remain in power until September elections. In Washington, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stopped short of blaming the Mubarak regime but said "if any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately."
2. Cyclone Yasi Slams Into Australia's East Coast, Downgraded to Category Two
Tropical Cyclone Yasi, packing winds stronger than those from Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans, struck Australia´s northeast coast early today, lashing communities with the force of a storm described by authorities as the largest in the nation´s history. Yasi hit shore as a Category 5 storm about 165 kilometers (103 miles) south of Cairns in Mission Beach, a resort town of about 3,000 people, battering Queensland state´s coast with wind gusts of as much as 290 kilometers per hour, the Bureau of Meteorology said. The cyclone has been downgraded to Category 2 and continues to weaken, according to the bureau´s website. Though the towns of Mission Beach, Tully and Innisfail suffered the worst damage, larger population areas such as Cairns and Townsville escaped the brunt of the storm, authorities said. Yasi also ripped a path through key sugarcane growing areas in the state. "We certainly seem to have areas like Cairns with serious damage to vegetation, trees and roofs," Premier Anna Bligh told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, adding she was thankful the cyclone didn´t hit land at a major population center and that no deaths or injuries had been reported. "Some of the towns worst affected are smaller and more remote places."
3. Netanyahu's Economic Peace Tested by Palestinian Construction Roadblocks
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed two years ago to help strengthen the Palestinian economy, developer Bashar Masri set out to test his word. Masri, the Palestinian-American chief executive of closely held Massar International Group, has since watched his $500- million Rawabi project to build a new West Bank city delayed for almost a year by Israeli objections. His bid for a failed housing complex in east Jerusalem was turned down by bondholders -- because of his Palestinian origin, the winning buyer said. Netanyahu, 61, took office for the second time in March 2009 advocating "economic peace" with the Palestinian Authority, even as negotiations on resolving the political conflict stalled. The very policy that was aimed at improving relations now risks undermining them as frustrations grow and Palestinian builders fight back with a boycott of goods made in Jewish settlements. Palestinian leaders say the economy cannot continue to advance without building up private industry. "This idea that you can have economic peace without political peace is a cruel joke," said Samir Abdullah, director of the Palestinian Economic Research Institute in Ramallah and the former Palestinian planning minister.
4. Senate Democrats Defeat Republican Bid to Repeal Obama's Health Overhaul
Senate Democrats defeated a Republican effort to repeal the U.S. health-care overhaul in a test of their continuing support for the law amid court challenges and signs public support for it may be slipping. The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 51-47 against the repeal effort in a procedural tally. Two weeks earlier, the House´s new Republican majority voted to revoke the law. The 2010 overhaul, which would expand health-insurance coverage to another 32 million Americans, is President Barack Obama´s biggest domestic achievement. Republicans campaigned against it in last year´s elections as an unwarranted expansion of government and cite the issue as a major reason they won the House majority and picked up six Senate seats. "It´s not every day that you can get a second chance on a big decision after you know all the facts," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the chamber´s floor today. "This is that second chance."
5. Chinese SAT Takers Seek Perfect 800 in Trek to Hong Kong for U.S. College
As a high school student in Beijing, Xi Zhao faced a hurdle getting into U.S. colleges that her American counterparts don´t have to worry about. The SAT college-entrance exam, required by many top U.S. universities, isn´t offered in mainland China, so Zhao flew to Hong Kong and South Korea to take it. She earned the maximum 800 on its math section and 2080 of 2400 overall -- a score that helped her gain admission to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. China´s SAT policy "is a hassle," said the 20-year-old, now a junior with a 3.8 grade-point average, in a telephone interview. "It´s not fair that other students can just take the test at their high schools and we have to travel for hours." The number of Chinese undergraduates in the U.S. has quadrupled in the past four years to almost 40,000, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Feb. 7 issue. Preparatory courses and tests for U.S. colleges are starting to make inroads in China. Now the nonprofit College Board, which owns the SAT, PSAT, and Advanced Placement programs, is asking Chinese education officials to allow it to offer the SAT on the mainland. "We´ve had serious discussions with Chinese officials about the policy," Gaston Caperton, the board´s president, said at its New York headquarters. "They recognize it´s a big burden on parents."
-0- Feb/03/2011 00:35 GMT