via Saad Abedine CNN
CAIRO (Reuters) – President Hosni Mubarak held onto power Monday, defying a popular uprising against his autocratic rule, after the government opened talks with opposition groups to resolve Egypt’s deepest crisis in 30 years.
The banned Muslim Brotherhood was among the groups who met with officials over the weekend, a sign of how much has already changed in 13 days that have rocked the Arab world and alarmed Western powers.
But opposition figures said their core demand that Mubarak must go immediately was not met. Some expressed concern that the government was playing for time in the hope that Mubarak would hang on until September, when his current term expires.
People in central Tahrir Square, focal point of an uprising that has seen hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets and clashes in which an estimated 300 people have been killed, said they would intensify their battle to oust him.
After nightfall Sunday, soldiers fired shots in the air to try to disperse the crowd. But the demonstrators, who on Saturday lay down in front of army tanks, remained and the troops abandoned the attempt.
The nation got back to work Sunday and banks reopened after a week-long crisis with lines of customers seeking access to their accounts.
Government ministers will hold their first full cabinet meeting Monday since Mubarak reshuffled his cabinet on January 28 in an attempt to mollify protesters enraged by years of corruption, economic hardship and political oppression.
But it was far from certain that the situation had been defused, despite appeals from longtime Mubarak backer the United States for an “orderly transition” to more democratic rule.
The presence at the talks of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, whose members have for years been repressed by Mubarak’s feared security forces, was a significant development.
The United States, which had bankrolled Mubarak and the army to the tune of $1.3 billion a year, was taken by surprise by the uprising against a ruler it saw as a bastion against Islamic militancy and a friend, albeit a reluctant one, of Israel.
It has called for gradual change and an orderly transition but has given confused messages about when exactly it thought Mubarak should step down.
In Washington Sunday, President Barack Obama said he believed Egypt was “not going to go back to what it was,” and that the time for change was now. But in an interview with Fox News, he said only Mubarak knew what he was going to do.
Obama also said he believed the Muslim Brotherhood was only one faction in Egypt and that strains of their ideology were anti-American — comments that could the anger the powerful Islamist group.
~ Shows you what Obama knows or is lying, Muslim Brotherhood comprises about 25% of Cairo. The gaain Obama thinks they are a social club so…~JP
Thousands of people gathered in Tahrir Square again on Sunday but in the evening, soldiers fired shots in the air in a failed attempt to disperse the crowd.
“The coward is a coward and the brave is a brave and we will not leave the square,” said Sameh Ali, a protester in his 20s.
Nearly 10 months after the BP oil spill, there are new claims that the disaster is causing big health problems. A Louisiana chemist and microbiologist said Saturday that independent blood tests show people who are sick were exposed to crude oil and the chemicals used to break it up.
“My parents throughout the summer had told me not to get in the water,” said 22-year-old Paul Doom. Still Doom said he spent a lot of time last summer swimming in the Gulf of Mexico off Navarre Beach where he lives. Today, Doom has no feeling in his left leg and suffers with seizures daily.
He said, “in July, I started getting really bad headaches and internal bleeding. I would have nose bleeds and what not daily.” Doom said doctors haven’t been able to give him answers. Worried he could have been impacted by the Gulf oil disaster, he traveled with his family from Florida to New Orleans for a forum on the issue.
Wilma Subra, Ph.D., who’s a chemist and microbiologist based in New Iberia, is working with people who are sick and says they were exposed to the crude oil and dispersants released into the environment. She explained that she conducted 50 independent blood tests on spill cleanup workers and people who live in coastal communities from New Iberia, LA to the Florida panhandle.
She said the tests “shows the results and compares it to the normal background, and we have some that are 10 times over the normal background for like benzene, ethylbenzene, and hexane, which correlate back to the BP crude and also correlate to air samples that have been performed where the crude has been present so the cause and effect is there. It makes the link.”
According to Subra, she’s not finding the positive test results in people who eat seafood, but people who handle seafood such as shrimp trawlers who bring up oily samples. She said, routes of exposure include skin contact, inhalation and ingestion.
Helena Davis of Bridge City hasn’t worked in oil spill cleanup, but told people at the forum she has the same chemicals in her blood. She said, “I also did a urine sample showing those chemicals. Nobody knows what to do.”
Longtime commercial fisherman of Biloxi, MS, James Miller said, “I’ve had nausea, passing out, nose bleeds, vomiting, diarrhea.” He said, “you name it. I lost my vision for a while.”
Subra said even if people get treatment to remove any exposure, she explained they could be faced with a long-term health situation. “Long-term cardiovascular, long-term kidney, liver impacts, and we’re having a lot of people bleeding internally because it impacts the red blood cells,” said Subra.
Doom, who had been training for the U.S. Marines just before he became sick, is now confined to a wheelchair and has many unanswered questions. He said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.. I hope it’s nothing to do with this (BP oil spill). I pray it’s nothing to do with this. I pray it’s fixable.”
Subra said she’s shared her findings with state and federal agencies, and says she’s been told they’re evaluating the data.
For more information about the independent testing, go to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network website
Activist, Mother, and Voice of the Gulf People, Kindra Arnesen sat down with the Project Gulf Impact team, Matt Smith, Heather Rally, and Gavin Garrison recently to reveal shocking new information about the BP oil disaster and why the whole world should be paying attention to the Gulf. A must watch for anyone wanting new information on the Gulf of Mexico, she reveals shocking new information sure to send waves through the country.