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More than 100 countries have agreed to ban cluster bombs. The agreement does not include the United States, which boycotted the talks in Dublin. Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan also did not take part. But the deal got a boost when the British government ignored US pressure and signed on in a last-minute intervention. Thomas Nash of the Cluster Munition Coalition said the deal is robust.
Thomas Nash: "It’s an incredibly strong document. It’s an incredibly strong document, because it will ban forever all cluster munitions. There’s a very strong restrictive definition in here that doesn’t allow for any cluster munitions to be ever used again."
Clusters bombs are packed with bomblets that spread out over a large area and often don’t explode on first impact. They have been particularly lethal to children who pick them up off the ground, sometimes years down the line. Simon Conway, director of Landmine Action, said the deal would affect tens of thousands of lives.
Simon Conway: "This is massive. This will make a huge difference in the world. We’re talking about tens of thousands of people who would otherwise lose their
lives or their limbs."
The Bush administration defended its boycott by saying eliminating cluster bombs would endanger US soldiers. Despite its opposition, US officials apparently worked behind the scenes to affect the final language. Anti-cluster-bomb activists say US pressure was likely decisive in ensuring a provision allowing signatories to engage in military operations with non-signatory states.
The Bush administration is dismissing scathing criticisms from former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. In a new memoir, McClellan accuses the administration of deliberately manipulating the public to wage the war on Iraq. McClellan also criticizes his former bosses for the handling of Hurricane Katrina and the CIA leak case. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino called McClellan a “disgruntled” former employee. She continued, “It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew.” McClellan, meanwhile, was questioned by reporters outside his home in Arlington, Virginia.
Scott McClellan: "Well, I hope people get a chance to take a look at it. I think it’s got an important larger message, and I wanted to let it speak for itself today, and I look forward to doing some interviews tomorrow, beginning tomorrow. I look forward to getting out and talking about it then."
Reporter: "What was your reaction to Karl Rove’s comments last night on FOX, that it was like the work of a left-wing blogger?"
Scott McClellan: "Well again, I’m going to be doing my interviews tomorrow. And so, I hope people will get a chance. I think there have been a lot of comments. People haven’t had a chance to really look at the book, and it’s got an important message that I think people need to take a look at. And today I want to let it speak for itself, let people get a chance to take a look at it, and then tomorrow I look forward to going on the air and talking about it."
Meanwhile, McClellan has come under criticism for what some say is speaking out too late. Former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke said McClellan should have shared his beliefs while at the White House.
Richard Clarke: "Most Americans figured out a long time ago that the war in Iraq was sold to them as a bill of goods through the Bush propaganda machine. So thank you, Scott, for telling us a blinding flash of the obvious. It wasn’t obvious in 2004, however. And when I said it in 2004, McClellan was part of the White House machine that attacked me for criticizing the Bush Administration and criticizing the war in Iraq."
McClellan resigned in April 2006, after nearly three years as Bush’s press secretary.
On the campaign trail, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has been dealt a new setback in her bid for the Democratic nomination. On Wednesday, lawyers for the Democratic National Committee ruled Michigan and Florida must forfeit at least half their total delegate vote as punishment for holding primaries ahead of schedule. Clinton won both contests, although candidates had agreed not to campaign in either state and Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. The Obama campaign says it’s willing to forfeit part of its delegate lead as a compromise to end the dispute. Democratic Party officials will issue a final ruling on Florida and Michigan at a meeting this Saturday. Clinton, meanwhile, was in South Dakota Wednesday ahead of the June 3rd primary.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: "So as you go to cast your votes, I hope you consider not just what I’ve said but what I’ve done and what I will do to be your champion. If you stand with me today and on Election Day, I will stand for you
Obama, meanwhile, campaigned in Colorado, where he promised to double spending on scientific research.
Sen. Barack Obama: "The fact that we’ve seen our investment in research and development flatlined, critical parts of our government like NIH that are not receiving substantially more money, that inhibits our ability to train
engineers and scientists, and that’s something that I’m going to reverse. I’m going to double the amount of money that we put into scientific research and discovery, when I’m president of the United States of America."
In South Africa, tens of thousands of immigrants have been displaced in a wave of xenophobic attacks. The violence broke out earlier this month when mobs attacked immigrant communities across the country. An unidentified Somalian refugee urged international intervention.
Unidentified: "We run from fight. We run far away from our country. We get killed here. We get killed in our country. We don’t know where we belong. We don’t know. So what we need: United Nations and government. Wherever you are, Thabo Mbeki, I’m telling you that, wherever you are now, if you’re listening to this, you killers, you are the one who support this, you are the one who did everything in this problem, because you are the head of this country, you are president, you could stop this immediately. You’ve got heavy army, heavy police. You could have stopped it long time before xenophobia attacks started."
Officials in South Africa’s Western Cape have asked the government to declare the province a disaster zone. Another unidentified immigrant said the makeshift camps are uninhabitable.
Unidentified: "By the time we came, more than 2,000 people, only provided two tents, something unreasonable. There’s no toilets, there’s no dispensary, there’s no clinic. Then they say that the government’s providing that place. So if you reach there, you find that even a dog you can’t keep it at that place, so just like with the truth is being revealed that government and South Africans, all in general, they don’t like us."
In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing new calls to step down over allegations he took bribes from an American entrepreneur. Earlier this week, Morris Talansky said he loaned Olmert hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover what he called Olmert’s lavish lifestyle. On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Olmert should take a leave of absence or resign.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak: "I do not think the prime minister can simultaneously run the government and deal with his own personal affair. Therefore, out of a sense of what is good for the country and in accordance with the proper norms, I think the prime minister must detach himself from the day-to-day running of the government."
In Iraq, residents of Fallujah are claiming US soldiers are handing out Bible-themed coins aimed at converting them to Christianity. According to the McClatchy Newspapers, the coins quote passages from the New Testament. Fallujah was the site of two bloody US assaults in 2004 that killed scores of Iraqis and left tens of thousands displaced. Sunni groups have called on the US military to crack down on soldiers handing out the coins.
And here in New York, Governor David Paterson has directed state agencies to begin recognizing same-sex marriages. New York would become the first state that simultaneously bars gay marriage yet accepts it if legally performed elsewhere.