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House votes to extend

Patriot Act provisions

WASHINGTON — The House on Monday voted to reauthorize and extend through Dec. 8 three ways in which Congress expanded the FBI’s counterterrorism powers after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Last week, an effort to extend these provisions of the Patriot Act and a related intelligence law failed to pass after falling just short of the two-thirds’ majority needed under a special rule. On Monday, however, the bill was able to pass with only a simple majority — and it did so, 275 to 144.

The provisions allow investigators to get “roving wiretap” court orders allowing them to follow terrorism suspects who switch phone numbers or providers; to get orders allowing them to seize “any tangible things” relevant to a security investigation, like a business’ customer records; and to get national-security wiretap orders against non-citizen suspects who are not connected to any foreign power.

Without new legislation, the provisions would expire on Feb. 28. House Republicans pressed the short-term extension so the Judiciary Committee, which is now under Republican control, could hold hearings on them.

During the debate Monday, most Republicans argued in favor of the bill, while many Democrats criticized it. Still, the debate did not break down entirely along partisan lines. Sixty-five Democrats voted for it, and 27 Republicans against.

Racehorse Uncle Mo leads
way to Kentucky Derby

It was Red Smith who best distilled the irrepressible optimism that washes over any horseman with a promising 3-year-old at this time of the year: “Owners still believe that anything with a leg on each corner has a chance in Louisville.”

Sure enough, 364 horses have been nominated to contest the 2011 running of the Triple Crown.

And why not? It costs only $600 to hold a place in the gate for the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, or the 136th renewal of the Preakness Stakes, or the 143rd Belmont Stakes. Showing that a horse belongs in the field is a whole lot harder.

The Derby, of course, is the most celebrated of the three, and only 20 horses — decided by earnings in graded stakes — make it into the gate of America’s greatest horse race. Barring injury, an inexplicable reverse in form, or a horse-napping, Uncle Mo is the colt to beat on May 7 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Uncle Mo, a son of Indian Charlie, is the undefeated 2-year-old champion who was last seen effortlessly running away with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by four and a quarter lengths. Not since Easy Goer in 1989, not even Arazi in 1992, has there been such early anticipation of a preternatural horse taking dead aim at the Triple Crown and hitting all three targets, a feat that has not been accomplished since Affirmed in 1978.

Violence erupts on fourth

day of protests in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen — More than 100 pro-government demonstrators clashed Monday with hundreds of student protesters who were participating in a sit-in at Sanaa University that called for an end to the authoritarian rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

As anti-government protests continued for a fourth straight day, the state-run media reported that Saleh would cancel a planned trip to the United States at the end of February “due to circumstances in the region,” referring to the revolution in Egypt.

In the capital, Sanaa, the police stepped in to separate the rival groups as pro-government demonstrators — some carrying posters of the president — beat the young protesters with sticks near the university’s main gate.

“The people want to expel Ali Saleh!” students shouted, adapting a chant commonly heard during the demonstrations in Egypt.

The pro-government group borrowed the same rhythm in responding: “The people want to start dialogue!”

Similar clashes occurred in the southern city of Taiz, where pro-government crowds have attacked the hundreds of anti-government protesters who are camping out in the streets and vowing not to go home until Saleh steps down.

At one point, the police in Taiz, unable to control the rival groups as the crowd swelled to more than 1,000 people, fired shots in the air to separate them. At least 21 people were injured, but the young protesters said they would continue to camp out, emulating the Egyptians who occupied Tahrir Square in Cairo for more than two weeks.

Palestinian PM dissolves cabinet

JERUSALEM — The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority dissolved his cabinet Monday and was immediately reappointed by the president to form a new one. It was the latest in a series of political steps taken by the authority after the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Ghassan Khatib, the spokesman for the authority’s government in the West Bank, said there had been plans for a cabinet shuffle for months, but that the process had “taken longer than expected.”

Speaking by telephone from Ramallah, the site of the authority’s headquarters, Khatib said the timing of the move had more to do with the Palestinian Authority’s timetable for statehood. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad`s two-year plan for building the institutions of a state is supposed to be completed by September.

That same month, the one-year time frame runs out for direct peace talks with Israel, which the Palestinians have suspended because of continued Israeli settlement construction. And in the absence of a negotiated agreement, the Palestinians hope they will have enough international support by September for a United Nations resolution recognizing their right to a state within the 1967 boundaries.