Senator Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, becoming the first African American to lead a major party presidential ticket. On Tuesday, Obama won the Montana primary and secured a last-minute rush of superdelegates, including former President Jimmy Carter. This pushed him over the threshold of needed delegates, ending the longest and most expensive primary campaign in history. Last night, Obama spoke before nearly 20,000 supporters in St. Paul, Minnesota, the site of this year’s Republican National Convention.
Sen. Barack Obama: "America, this is our moment. This is our time, our time to turn the page on the policies of the past, our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face, our time to offer a new direction for this country that we love."
NBC’s political analyst Chuck Todd called Obama’s victory over Senator Hillary Clinton "the greatest political upset maybe in the history of American politics." Obama is expected to officially accept the Democratic nomination for president on August 28th, the forty-fifth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I Have A Dream" speech.
On Tuesday night, Senator Hillary Clinton praised Obama’s campaign but gave no indication she was planning to end her run for the White House.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: "Now, the question is, where do we go from here? And given how far we’ve come and where we need to go as a party, it’s a question I don’t take lightly. This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight."
Speculation is mounting that Clinton may seek the vice presidency. During a conference call with New York lawmakers on Tuesday, Clinton reportedly said she would take the vice presidency, if offered. Both Obama and Clinton are scheduled to speak this morning in Washington at a meeting of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain gave a prime-time address last night attacking Obama. He criticized Obama for claiming that he is running for President Bush’s third term.
Sen. McCain: "Why does Senator Obama believe it’s so important to repeat that idea over and over again? Because he knows it’s very difficult to get Americans to believe something that they know is false. So he tries to drum it into your minds by constantly repeating it, rather than debate honestly the very different directions he and I would take the country. But the American people didn’t get to know me yesterday, as they’re just getting to know Senator Obama."
As the McCain-Obama race for the White House begins, both candidates are being accused of exaggerating Iran’s nuclear program. The McClatchy Newspapers reports McCain and Obama have both accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons despite reports from the US intelligence community that Iran halted its nuclear weapons effort in mid-2003. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency, which is investigating Iran’s program, has found no evidence to date of an active Iranian nuclear weapons project.
The Canadian House of Commons has passed a motion urging the government to allow US war resisters to stay permanently in Canada. The non-binding motion calls on the Canadian government to stop all removal or deportation actions. Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign said, "This is a great victory for the courageous men and women who have come to Canada because they refuse to take part in the illegal, immoral Iraq war." As many as 200 US war resisters are currently living in Canada.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has accused his predecessor of abusing intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. Rudd criticized former Prime Minister John Howard for failing to disclose the qualified nature of the intelligence on Iraq to the Australian people. Rudd said, "We must learn from Australia’s experience in the lead-up to going to war with Iraq and not repeat the same mistakes in the future." Australia is in the process of withdrawing its 2,000 troops from Iraq.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused Israel of violating international law by planning to build 800 new homes in a settlement outside East Jerusalem. Ban Ki-moon said, "Continuing settlement activity contravenes both international law and Israel’s obligations under the Road Map."
The head of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, Jacques Diouf, said Tuesday wealthy nations are wasting billions of dollars feeding obese people while hundreds of millions starve.
Jacques Diouf: "What is more, the excess consumption by the world’s obese costs $20 billion annually, to which must be added indirect costs of $100
billion resulting from premature death and related diseases."
Jacques Diouf’s comments came during a summit on food security in Rome. Diouf also projected that efforts to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by half by 2015 will fail. Based on current trends, the goal won’t be reached for another 140 years. Speaking in Rome, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged nations to reform their food policies to address the global crisis.
Ban Ki-moon: "Some countries have taken action by limiting exports or by imposing price controls. As I have said before, I say again now, beggar-thy-neighbor food policy cannot work. They only distort markets and force prices even higher. I call on nations to resist such measures and to immediately release exports designated for humanitarian purposes."
Two new reports by the Canadian government have revealed new details about Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who has spent a quarter of his life held at Guantanamo. The US soldiers holding Khadr believe he is a "good kid" who is a "likeable, funny and intelligent young man." The US soldiers holding Khadr believe he risks becoming a radical if he continues to be held at Guantanamo. Khadr was fifteen when he was captured in Afghanistan.
Brazil’s new Environment Minister Carlos Minc is warning the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest may be worsening. Minc said the Brazilian government has to rethink its model of economic development as rising global commodity prices fuel more clearing of land for farms.
Carlos Minc: "Our war isn’t simply against the figures of each month. The present economic development model impoverishes the people and destroys the forest. We want another model, where the forest is preserved as an important genetics bank and the people have a better life condition, with more jobs, payments and sewage systems."
In business news, General Motors has announced plans to shut down four truck plants, as the company shifts to manufacturing smaller vehicles. Demand for trucks and SUVs has plummeted in recent months due to the soaring price of gas. 10,000 workers currently work in the four plants scheduled to be closed. Meanwhile, General Motors is considering dropping its Hummer unit after sales dropped 30 percent last month. Last week, GM’s stock hit a twenty-six-year low.
In Hong Kong, thousands of human rights supporters are rallying today to mark the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on student and pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Human Rights Watch called on China to release some 130 prisoners still being held for taking part in the 1989 protests. Human Rights Watch is also urging China to publish a complete list of those killed, injured or jailed during the crackdown.
And in news from Washington, Congressman Henry Waxman is requesting the FBI turn over more documents connected to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Waxman sent a letter to the Justice Department after learning that Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby told the FBI that it’s possible he was instructed by Cheney to disseminate information to the press about Plame, the wife of Bush administration war critic Joseph Wilson. Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has also revealed more information about the cover-up. He recently said that President Bush and Vice President Cheney "directed me to go out there and exonerate Scooter Libby." Waxman said, "It would be a major breach of trust if the vice president personally directed Mr. McClellan to mislead the public."