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Senator Barack Obama and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee have won the Iowa caucuses, the first of the 2008 campaign. Obama won 37 percent of the delegate support in the Democratic caucus easily beating his top rivals. He is the first African American presidential candidate to ever win in Iowa, a state that is 95 percent white. Obama addressed supporters after his victory was announced.
Sen. Barack Obama: "You have done what America can do in this new year, 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, we are one people and our time for change has come."
Former Senator John Edwards narrowly beat Senator Hillary Clinton for second place. Both received just under 30 percent support. At a campaign rally, Edwards was introduced by his wife Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Edwards: "I’m glad to introduce the next president of the United States and the second place winner in Iowa, John Edwards."
John Edwards: "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Elizabeth, very much. The one thing that’s clear from the results in Iowa tonight is the status quo lost and change won."
Clinton’s third-place finish comes just months after polls showed her with a wide lead over her Democratic rivals. Speaking to supporters in Iowa, Clinton vowed to continue her bid.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: "What is most important now is that as we go on with this contest, that we keep focused on the two big issues, that we answer correctly the questions that each of us has posed. How will we win in November 2008? By nominating a candidate who will be able to go the distance and who will be the president on day one. I am ready for that contest."
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson placed fourth with two percent. Senators Chris Dodd and Joseph Biden both announced they are dropping out of the race after placing in fifth and sixth place. On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee won over 34 percent of the vote in what the Washington Post described as a devastating blow to former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.
Mike Huckabee: "Because tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics. A new day is needed in American politics, just like a new day is needed in American government, and tonight it starts here in Iowa, but it
doesn’t end here. It goes all the way through the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
Romney received 25 percent of the vote after outspending Huckabee seventeen-to-one. Former Senator Fred Thompson narrowly beat Senator John McCain. Both had about 13 percent of the vote. Congressman Ron Paul placed fifth with about ten percent. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani placed sixth with about four percent of the Republican vote. Although Paul easily beat Giuliani and raised $19 million in the last quarter, Fox News has barred him from participating in Sunday’s debate in New Hampshire. The Des Moines Register reports an unprecedented 346,000 Democratic and Republican Iowa caucus-goers turned out this year. Despite the record-breaking turnout, it means that only about 12 percent of Iowa’s total population took part in the caucuses.
The Bush administration is restricting state efforts to expand eligibility for receiving healthcare under Medicaid. The New York Times reports White House officials have told state negotiators they plan to impose the same curbs as those on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program last year. The administration has rejected a proposal from Ohio to cover 35,000 more children under Medicaid. It’s also indicated it will block proposals to cover tens of thousands of children in Oklahoma and Louisiana.
A two-year probe into the killings of twenty-four civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha has ended with no murder charges for any of the Marines involved. Two Marines and two marine officers will be charged with manslaughter and failing to properly investigate the crime. The Haditha massacre came to light after U.S. officials falsely claimed fifteen civilians were killed by a roadside bomb.
New figures show the number of Iraqi refugees allowed into the U.S. has declined for the third straight month since the Bush administration promised to boost admissions. Just 245 Iraqis were accepted last month. The U.S. will have to admit more than 1,200 Iraqis per month to meet its target of 12,000 by October of this year.
California Democratic Congressmember Jane Harman has revealed she warned the CIA against destroying videotapes of prisoner interrogations in 2003. On Thursday, Harman released a letter she wrote to then-CIA general counsel Scott Muller. The release came one day after the Justice Department opened a criminal probe into the destruction of the tapes.
In Kenya, police have blocked a rally disputing last week’s election for the second day in a row. Thousands of police are massed around the capital Nairobi to prevent opposition members from demonstrating. More than 300 people have been killed and 70,000 displaced since President Mwai Kibaki beat out challenger Raila Odinga. The opposition has alleged fraud after initial results showed Odinga well ahead. William Ruto of Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement vowed continued protests.
William Ruto: "We do not want confrontation, we do not want violence, we do not want destruction of property. That’s why we are peacefully dispersing now, but we are telling the commissioner of police that we will be back on Tuesday, January 8th, 2008, at Uhuru Park."
Meanwhile, the South African anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu has arrived in Kenya to help mediate a solution to the crisis.
Desmond Tutu: "We believe, as so many people believe, that the carnage, the killing, the violence, these will not end until the people see the two major leaders come together."
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, at least nine Palestinians were killed Thursday in an Israeli attack on Gaza. The dead included four civilians. Three were members of the same family killed when Israeli tanks fired on their home. A relative said the family had been eating breakfast when the shells hit.
Muhammad Atiat: "She was sitting here with her daughter and sons. They were eating breakfast. Suddenly, Israeli tanks fired a rocket. Then my aunt was killed. Her daughter and other two, four people were injured. One of them is my cousin, who is in the hospital now."
Israeli tank fire also injured several Palestinians, including three schoolchildren. A fourteen-year-old boy was left in critical condition. Israel says its trying to stop Palestinian rocket fire on nearby Israeli towns. A Palestinian rocket landed in Ashkelon Thursday, but no injuries were reported. Meanwhile, Israeli troops also invaded the West Bank city of Nablus. Nineteen Palestinians were injured, mostly schoolchildren throwing rocks.
In Turkey, at least four people were killed and more than fifty injured in a bomb attack on a Turkish military vehicle in a southern Kurdish city. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack would only reaffirm his determination to attack Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "These kind of events will never stop us and set our determination back. We will keep fighting against terrorism with the same determination, whether domestically or internationally. Our determination on this matter is for sure."
In France, the farmer and activist Jose Bove has launched a hunger strike to promote a ban on genetically modified crops. On Thursday, Bove set up a trailer outside the French environment ministry in Paris.
Jose Bove: "This will be an observation post during the whole length of the hunger strike. It is to symbolize the action which is starting today. This hunger strike is followed by fifteen citizens who won’t eat until France puts a true moratorium on genetically modified organisms."
Bove will be joined by fifteen other activists.
And back in the United States, a wrongly convicted prisoner was freed Thursday after nearly twenty-seven years in a Texas jail. Charles Chatman was released after DNA testing exonerated him of a 1981 rape conviction. Chatman is the fifteenth Dallas-area prisoner to be cleared by DNA testing since 2001.