The New York Times has published a front-page expose detailing questionable ties between John McCain and a female Washington lobbyist. The Times reveals that during his 2000 run for the White House, McCain repeatedly wrote letters to government regulators on behalf of clients of the telecommunications lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. At the time, McCain served as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. The Times also reports that aides to McCain were concerned the senator was having a romantic affair with the lobbyist.
McCain and Iseman have denied having a romantic relationship. But former McCain aides said the senator acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Iseman. Last night the McCain campaign accused the New York Times of engaging in a "hit-and-run smear campaign."
Newly released campaign records show Senator Barack Obama raised a record $36 million in January, nearly three times what Hillary Clinton pulled in. Both candidates spent an average of one million dollars per day last month on what is projected to be the most expensive presidential race ever. Republican frontrunner Senator John McCain raised nearly $12 million in January.
The Washington Post reports wealthy supporters of Hillary Clinton have formed a new independent 527 group to begin buying television ads to help the New York senator. Under campaign finance rules, 527s can accept unlimited donations from supporters.
The newly formed American Leadership Project plans to spend $10 million to purchase ad time in Texas and Ohio.
On the campaign trail on Wednesday, Senator Clinton dismissed Barack Obama of being all talk and little substance. Clinton’s charges came on the eve of tonight’s debate in Austin, Texas. At a fundraising event in New York, Clinton belittled Obama as an inexperienced choice for commander-in-chief in a dangerous world.
Sen. Clinton: "So there are big differences in this election between me and Senator Obama and between me and Senator Mccain, whether we favor speeches or solutions to move our country forward or more of the same Republican policies. This is a debate the voters deserve to have."
Senator Barack Obama rejected the criticisms.
Sen. Obama: "Contrary to what she’s been saying, it’s not a choice between speeches and solutions. It’s a choice between a politics that offers more of the same divisions and distractions that didn’t work in South Carolina and didn’t work in Wisconsin and will not work in Texas."
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters endorsed Senator Obama on Wednesday. Teamsters President James Hoffa said "[Obama] is the candidate in the best position to lead our movement to restore the American dream for working people in this country." Hoffa is expected to begin campaigning for Obama in Ohio ahead of the state’s March 4 primary. The Teamsters represent 1.2 million truck drivers, warehouse employees and other workers.
The Chinese and Russian governments have accused the United States of promoting a new arms race in space after a US Navy warship shot down a spy satellite. President Bush had ordered the satellite shot down, claiming that it posed a health hazard if it entered the earth’s atmosphere. Russia’s defense ministry said it feared the US plan was a veiled test of anti-satellite capabilities and represented an "attempt to move the arms race into space".
In news from Burma, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is being barred from taking part in elections proposed by the country’s military leaders for 2010. Earlier this month, Burma’s military junta announced a referendum in May on a new constitution, to be followed by an election in 2010. Under the new constitution, Burmese citizens who are married to foreigners will be disqualified from running for office. Aung San Suu Kyi’s deceased husband was born in Britain. David Scott Mathieson of Human Rights Watch criticized the Burmese military junta.
David Scott Mathieson: "The military have made it very clear that they don’t think that Aung San Suu Kyi should have some kind of role in the politics of Burma. So the past twenty years really have been a process of finding ways to exclude her from the entire process. So this constitution is rigged so that Aung San Suu Kyi and people like her can’t actually contest elections in the future. Anyone who is married to a foreigner or whose children actually hold foreign citizenship are barred from actually standing for elections in Burma under the rules and provisions of this present constitution."
The military junta last held elections in 1990, but ignored them when Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has spent more than twelve of the past eighteen years under some form of detention.
In news from Africa, Kenya’s government has reportedly agreed in principle to the creation of a prime minister’s post sought by the opposition. The terms and duties are still being discussed. On Wednesday, Kenyan opposition leaders said that they would begin renewed demonstrations next week if the government does not make progress on writing a new constitution.
ODM Secretary General Peter Anyang Nyongo: "If that does not happen, the ODM hereby gives a notice that we shall immediately call our people to mass action within the next one week so that the voice of people can waken up the PNU leaders who are intent in plunging this country into further quagmire."
In other news from Africa, President Bush claimed Wednesday the U.S. was not interested in building new military bases in Africa.
President Bush: "We do not contemplate adding new bases. In other words, the purpose of this is not to add military bases. I know there’s rumors in Ghana: all Bush is coming to do is to try to convince you to put a big military base here. That’s baloney or, as we say in Texas, that’s bull!"
Last year, the United States established a new African-based military command center called AFRICOM. The Bush administration has been seeking a site to place the command post, but most African nations have refused to house it. The U.S. already has 1,800 troops stationed in Djibouti, and U.S. forces have also been active in Mali, Ethiopia, Sudan and other African nations in recent years.
In other military news, another U.S. military serviceman has been detained over an alleged sexual assault on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. It is the second reported incident in ten days. The alleged rape happened before a twenty-four-hour curfew was imposed on US troops, their families and civilians working for the military on Okinawa. The first complaint was made by a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl, the second by a woman from the Philippines who says she was attacked in a hotel. The U.S. has about 20,000 troops deployed in Okinawa.
Meanwhile, the Bolivian government has announced it will no longer send troops to the former U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Bolivian President Evo Morales said the decision was made because of the school’s historical ties to oppressive military regimes in Latin America. Bolivia has now officially become the fifth country after Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela to announce a withdrawal from the Fort Benning institution, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Cooperation.
Reporters Without Borders is criticizing a California judge for closing the website WikiLeaks.org. The U.S.-based website was built to give whistleblowers a site to post leaked documents. Last week, Californian Judge Jeffrey White ordered the website’s domain name registrar to disable the WikiLeaks.org domain name. White issued the ruling after a Cayman Islands bank sued the site following the publication of leaked bank documents. According to Reporters Without Borders, this appears to be the first time a US court has decided to close an entire website because of certain documents posted on it. David Ardia of the Citizen Media Law Project said, “There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire website.”
And finally, the peace sign turns fifty years old today. Over the past five decades the peace sign has become one of the world’s enduring icons. The original peace sign was developed in 1958 by a British textile designer and conscientious objector named Gerald Holtom. He created the symbol by combining the semaphore letters N and D, for nuclear disarmament. On Feb. 21, 1958 the symbol was accepted by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War. The symbol soon began to be used in anti-nuclear protests across Britain and then spread across the globe.