Obama: Democratic Nomination “Within Reach”

Senator Barack Obama is claiming a majority of pledged delegates in the race for the Democratic nomination. On Tuesday, Obama won the Oregon primary, while suffering an overwhelming loss to Senator Hillary Clinton in Kentucky. Addressing supporters in Iowa, Obama said he is now “within reach” of becoming the Democratic nominee.

Sen. Barack Obama: "You stood for change, and because you did, a few more stood up, and then a few thousand stood up, and then a few million stood up. And tonight, Iowa, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with the majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America."

Obama is said to be within sixty delegates of the number needed to clinch. But Clinton has won five of the last seven contests and is vowing to stay in the race. She spoke to supporters Tuesday in Louisville, Kentucky.

Sen. Hillary Clinton: "It’s not just Kentucky bluegrass that’s music to my ears. It’s the sound of your overwhelming vote of confidence, even in the face of some pretty
tough odds. Some have said your votes didn’t matter, that this campaign was over, that allowing everyone to vote and every vote to count would somehow be a mistake. But that didn’t stop you. You’ve never given up on me, because you
know I’ll never give up on you."

Obama continues to lead Clinton in the fundraising race as well. On Tuesday, the Obama campaign said it received nearly $32 million in donations last month. Clinton raised close to $22 million.

Sen. Kennedy Diagnosed with Malignant Brain Tumor

In other news from Washington, Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Kennedy has been hospitalized in Boston since suffering a seizure over the weekend. He will likely undergo chemotherapy. Experts say the type of tumor, glioma, is highly lethal and usually claims the patient’s life within three years. On Tuesday, Kennedy drew praise from congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Kennedy is a champion of the underprivileged.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Senator Kennedy has been a fighter all his life. He is a fighter, a fighter for our children, for our workers, for our seniors. He is a champion fighting for healthcare for all Americans. I know that that fighting spirit will hold him in good stead in the challenge that he faces now. I know I speak for all of my colleagues when I say that our prayers and thoughts and
good wishes are with Senator Kennedy."

Kennedy has served in the Senate since 1962.

Iran Renews Diplomatic Overture on Nukes, Mideast Conflict

The Iranian government is renewing calls for international talks on a series of issues, including its nuclear program and the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to the Washington Post, Iran has offered to discuss cooperation spanning nuclear disarmament, peaceful nuclear technology, improved UN nuclear supervision and what it calls a "fair" solution for the plight of Palestinians. It was revealed last year the Bush administration rejected a similar Iranian overture in 2003.

US Denies Israeli Report of Iran Attack Plans

The news comes as the White House is denying a new report it plans to attack Iran before President Bush leaves office. On Monday, Israel’s Army Radio reported a senior member of President Bush’s entourage told a high-level meeting last week in Jerusalem that Bush and Vice President Cheney believe an attack is called for. President Bush was in Israel last week marking its sixtieth anniversary.

Bush Apologizes to Iraq over Koran Desecration

The White House has apologized to the Iraqi government after a US soldier was found to have used a copy of the Koran for target practice. Last week, Iraqi police found a desecrated copy of the Muslim holy book at a small shooting range near Baghdad. The book was riddled with fourteen bullet holes and had graffiti inside the cover. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said President Bush personally apologized to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: "The President yesterday had a regularly scheduled secure video teleconference with Prime Minister Maliki. He opened the meeting — I believe it was either the first or the second issue that the President brought up — to tell Prime Minister Maliki he had heard about the incident where a Koran was desecrated, and he apologized for that, in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously, we were concerned about their reaction, we wanted them to know that the President knew that this was wrong and that the commanders in the field had publicly reprimanded the soldier and removed him from Iraq."

Reuters Joins Call for Probe of ’03 US Attack on Palestine Hotel

The international news agency Reuters is joining calls for a new probe into the 2003 US shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk was killed in the attack along with Spanish cameraman Jose Couso of Telecinco. On Tuesday, Reuters followed the media rights group International Federation of Journalists in calling for a new investigation based on an appearance by former Army Sergeant Adrienne Kinne on Democracy Now! Last week, Sergeant Kinne said she saw the Palestine Hotel on a US military target list. She was working in military intelligence at the time. Kinne said she knew journalists were in the hotel because she was frequently intercepting their phone calls. Reuters says it will ask the Senate Armed Services Committee for a new probe. Meanwhile, in Spain, a Spanish judge investigating Couso’s death has called for Kinne to testify and agreed to enter a transcript of her Democracy Now! interview into evidence. The judge, Santiago Pedraz, has resisted Spanish government pressure to drop the case and says he plans to visit Baghdad to continue his investigation.

Audit: White House Ignored FBI Warnings of Torture at Gitmo, Foreign Jails

A new government audit says high-ranking Bush administration officials routinely ignored FBI complaints of abusive interrogations of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other US military sites. According to the Justice Department, senior White House officials began receiving reports of tactics including extreme temperatures, religious abuses and nude interrogation as early as 2003. But the White House made no effort to curb the practices. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft is said to have personally complained to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the treatment of a prisoner in November 2003. Nearly half of the 450 FBI agents who worked at Guantanamo reported witnessing or hearing about harsh techniques including sleep deprivation and the shackling of hands and feet. In a statement, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin said, “Some have suggested that the abuse of detainees in US custody was simply the result of a few bad apples acting on their own. The report released today…is proof that that is simply not true.”

Burmese Junta OKs UN Aid Flights

In Burma, the military junta has finally given permission for UN helicopters to distribute aid in areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the aid missions will begin shortly.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "We have received government permission to operate nine WFP helicopters, which will allow us to reach areas that have so far been largely inaccessible. I believe further similar moves will follow, including expediting the visas of relief workers seeking to enter the country. I am confident that emergency relief efforts can be scaled up quickly."

The flights will center around the southwestern Irrawaddy Delta, where millions have been deprived of aid.

NYPD Charges 7 Officers in Sean Bell Killing

And here in New York, the New York Police Department has charged seven officers with breaking internal rules in the killing of Sean Bell. The twenty-three-year-old Bell died in a hail of fifty police bullets on the morning of what would have been his wedding day in November 2006. He was unarmed. The officers are accused of violating several police regulations, including improperly firing their guns and failing to process the crime scene. Three of the officers were acquitted in a criminal trial last month. If the administrative charges are upheld, the officers could face penalties ranging from loss of pay to retraining to firing. Federal prosecutors continue to weigh bringing civil rights charges over Bell’s shooting.


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