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On the campaign trail, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have turned their focus to Indiana, following Clinton’s win in the Pennsylvania primary. The Clinton campaign says it raised $10 million in online donations following her victory. On Wednesday, Clinton insisted her string of big-state primary wins prove she is more electable.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: "Absolutely. You know, more people have now voted for me than have voted for my opponent. In fact, I now have more votes than anybody has ever had in a primary contest for a nomination. And it’s also clear that we’ve got nine more important contests to go."
Clinton was including her victory in both the Michigan and Florida primaries as part of her calculation. But neither primary will count because of a breach of Democratic Party rules. None of the candidates campaigned in Florida, while Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards stayed off the ballot in Michigan.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans have blocked a bill that would have overturned a Supreme Court ruling limiting pay discrimination lawsuits. The Senate fell four votes short of considering the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, named for a female employee of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company who was paid 40 percent less than her male colleagues doing the same job. Ledbetter lost her suit against Goodyear after the court ruled she did not file a complaint in time. Republican presidential candidate John McCain joined forty-one other Republicans in voting against the measure.
Meanwhile, the House has voted to stop the Bush administration from cutting $13 billion in Medicaid healthcare spending over the next five years. The 349-to-62 vote would override a threatened veto from President Bush if the Senate follows suit.
The Bush administration plans to promote two military commanders who have led the US occupation of Iraq. General David Petraeus would be promoted from US commander in Iraq to head all US military operations in the Middle East. Petraeus would be replaced by Lt. General Raymond Odierno, his former deputy. Admiral William Fallon resigned as the top US commander in the Middle East in March over his apparent differences with the Bush administration on threatening Iran and boosting troop levels in Iraq.
The UN is warning it could be forced to suspend humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip today because of the Israeli blockade. The United Nations Works and Relief Agency is responsible for feeding nearly two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.4 million people. Agency officials say they expect trucks to run out of fuel this afternoon. Israel has intensified military attacks and economic isolation of the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control last June. Hamas, meanwhile, says it’s awaiting an Israeli response to its latest offer of a ceasefire in the Occupied Territories.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government is claiming the Bush administration has secretly endorsed its longstanding policy of expanding West Bank settlements it ultimately intends to keep. This week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said President Bush agreed to let Israel expand settlements, even though his so-called peace plan officially calls for a freeze. Ariel Sharon’s former chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, also said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice secretly reaffirmed White House approval of West Bank settlement expansion in the spring of 2005, right before Israel dismantled its settlements in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s so-called withdrawal from Gaza was widely seen as an attempt to solidify its hold over the West Bank. US officials are denying Weisglass’s account of a secret agreement. The news comes as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is in Washington today to meet Bush administration officials. Abbas has criticized the US for not blocking Israeli settlement activity despite the resumption of peace talks.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government is claiming Israel has offered to return the Golan Heights in return for a full peace deal. A Syrian cabinet minister said Israel relayed the offer through Turkey. Israel occupied the Golan Heights during the 1967 war.
The slain Palestinian journalist Fadel Shana was remembered Wednesday at a ceremony in the Gaza Strip. Shana was working as a cameraman for Reuters when an Israeli tank attacked his vehicle earlier this month. His final piece of footage shows the tank firing a shell just before the camera went black. Other journalists who arrived at the scene also said they came under tank fire. On Wednesday, Reuters bureau chief Alastair Macdonald paid tribute to Shana’s memory.
Alastair Macdonald: "He was surrounded here in Gaza by much suffering and chose to turn his eye on a daily basis on sights that few of us could bare to see in a lifetime. And yet, Fadel’s gentle focus on all that was beautiful in the world is among our strongest memories of him."
Five Palestinian civilians were also killed in the attack that took Shana’s life.
Leaders from Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua have announced a joint program to fight rising food costs in Latin America. Meeting in Caracas, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, says it will create a $100 million Food Security Fund. Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage said the food crisis underscores the need for radical change.
Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage: "The developed nations propose to destine each time more food for the production of energy. The developed society intends to feed the automobiles of the rich, of the wealthy society with food. It is an irrational world in which we live today. This is the world that we have to transform and that we are going to transform."
The declaration came hours after the World Food Program declared the global food crisis a “silent tsunami” that threatens to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger and poverty.
The rise in food prices is seeing new consequences back in the United States. On Wednesday, the two largest US warehouse chains said they would ration sales of rice because of dwindling supplies. Sam’s Club and Costco say the rationing will apply to bulk sales, not retail sizes.
A new survey shows 60 percent of Environmental Protection Agency scientists have witnessed political interference in their work during the past five years. The Union of Concerned Scientists says nearly 1,600 scientists responded to its voluntary questionnaire. The scientists complained of seeing data selectively used to justify agency rulings and political appointees forcing the exclusion or altering of scientific findings. House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman says he plans to question top EPA officials next month.
And the CIA has acknowledged it holds more than 7,000 documents dealing with its secret prison and interrogation program. At least nineteen have been withheld from disclosure, because the White House has claimed presidential communications privilege. In one of the documents, CIA officials request support from the Justice Department after concluding the potential for investigations into its interrogation practices is “virtually inevitable.”