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Turkish PM Briefed Bush Prior to Iraq Attack

The Iraqi government is urging the Bush administration to pressure Turkey to halt its six-day offensive into northern Iraq. Thousands of Turkish troops, backed by air support, entered last week in the largest cross-border ground offensive into Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Turkish government accuses the PKK of using northern Iraq as a base to launch attacks inside Turkey. Turkeys says it’s killed more than a hundred Kurdish militants. The Wall Street Journal reports the Turkish government briefed the White House on its plans well in advance of launching the invasion, including a personal conversation between President Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. US officials say they raised no objections.

Palestinians Form Human Chain to Protest Gaza Siege

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, thousands of Palestinians formed a human chain Monday to protest the ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Gaza’s already dire humanitarian crisis has worsened since Israel imposed a new aid and fuel embargo last month. Hamas lawmaker Mushir Al-Masri said Israel is leading Gaza’s population to a “slow death.”

Mushir Al-Masri: “We will not kneel and will not surrender. This sanction will fail. There will be blasts if this occupation will not end this siege on the Palestinians. The Zionist army and everyone that’s supporting it, especially those who are exposing the Palestinian people to slow death, are responsible for all the coming explosions.”

In Indonesia, Gates Promotes Increased US Military Aid

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Indonesia Monday for talks on boosting US military aid. Speaking in Jakarta, Gates said the Pentagon would provide the Indonesian army with weapons upgrades and other support. He also said the US has sometimes strayed from its ideals in its foreign relations.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "Throughout more than two centuries, the United States has made its share of mistakes. From time to time, we have strayed from our ideals and we have been arrogant in dealing with others. In the end, we have always realized that our own democracy’s strength ultimately depends on the strength and independence of other democracies around the world, including new ones such as Indonesia."

Gates’s visit marks a strengthening of US-Indonesia military ties, following several years of a congressional ban on arms sales. Human rights groups say Indonesia continues to lack accountability for abuses by its military.

Dodd Endorses Obama in Democratic Race

On the campaign trail, Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama has picked up an endorsement from
Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd. Dodd becomes the first former candidate in the 2008 presidential field to endorse one of the two remaining candidates. Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton meet tonight for a televised debate, the last before next week’s key primaries in Ohio and Texas. Obama spent Monday campaigning in Ohio.

Sen. Barack Obama: "Number one, your healthcare is something that you shouldn’t have to be worried about, and one of the things that I’ve proposed is making sure that everybody can get access to a healthcare plan as good as the healthcare I have as a member of Congress, and that we subsidize your premiums if you lose your job or other circumstances create a tough situation. That would give you more of a safety net in terms of healthcare."

Clinton, meanwhile, was in Washington, where she touted her record on national security.

Sen. Hillary Clinton: "Electing a president should not be an either-or proposition when it comes to national security. We need a president who knows how to deploy both the olive branch and the arrows, who will be ready to act swiftly and decisively in a crisis, who will pursue strategic demands of hard diplomacy to re-establish our moral authority and our leadership."

“Iraq/Recession” Campaign Links War to Economic Woes

A coalition of progressive groups has launched a new antiwar campaign linking the Iraq invasion and occupation to the ailing US economy. The “Iraq/Recession” campaign includes MoveOn, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and VoteVets. An ad from VoteVets features Iraq war veteran Rose Forrest criticizing Republican frontrunner John McCain.

Rose Forrest: John McCain says it’s OK with him if the US spends the next thousand years in Iraq. That’s some commitment to the Iraqi people, Senator McCain. This is [my son]. He was born a year after he came home from Iraq. What kind of commitment are you making to him? How about a thousand years of affordable healthcare or a thousand years of keeping America safe? Can we afford that for my child, Senator McCain? Or have you already promised to spend trillions in Baghdad?"

A recent Associated Press poll shows 70 percent of Americans believe an Iraq withdrawal would help the US economy.

Alabama Dems Call for Special Prosecutor in Siegelman Case

In Alabama, state Democrats are calling for a special prosecutor in the wake of a 60 Minutes report that former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was targeted by the Bush administration for political reasons. Siegelman is currently serving a seven-year, four-month prison sentence on charges of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud. But critics say Siegelman is the target of a political witch hunt. A local CBS TV station in Alabama was accused of censorship this week after it blacked out a portion of the 60 Minutes report.

Sean Bell Murder Trial Opens in New York

And here in New York, three police detectives went on trial Monday for the killing of Sean Bell. In November 2006, the twenty-three-year-old Bell was killed in a hail of fifty police bullets as he left his bachelor party. His friends Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman were also shot, but they survived. None of the men were armed. In their opening statements, prosecutors said the police officers were “careless" and “criminal” in Bell’s shooting. Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Paultre Bell, broke down on the stand as she described the moment she identified Bell’s body. Hundreds gathered outside the courthouse Monday carrying signs with the numbers from one to fifty, representing each shot that was fired.

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