Sen. Hillary Clinton is set to suspend her presidential campaign and endorse Senator Barack Obama. In a letter issued last night, Clinton announced plans to hold an event in Washington Saturday to thank her supporters and express her support for Obama and party unity.
Several prominent Clinton supporters are now pushing for Obama to select Clinton as his running mate. But former President Jimmy Carter has publicly warned against what some Democrats are calling the dream ticket.
Jimmy Carter: "I think it would be the worst mistake that could be made. I’m on the outside; I’m not involved in the internal affairs of the Democratic Party at all. But I think that would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates."
On Wednesday, Obama named former President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, to be part of a three-person team to lead his vice president search committee. Obama also named Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and longtime Washington insider Jim Johnson to the committee.
On his first day as the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Senator Barack Obama traveled to Washington to address AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Sen. Barack Obama: "Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper, but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
Al Jazeera reports Obama’s comments appalled many Palestinians who see occupied East Jerusalem as part of a future Palestinian state. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, "This is the worst thing to happen to us since 1967...He has given ammunition to extremists across the region." Here in this country, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader criticized Obama for not mentioning the humanitarian disaster in Gaza caused by the Israeli blockade. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri also criticized Obama’s speech.
Sami Abu Zuhri: "These statements assure that there is a total agreement between the two American parties, the Democratic and the Republican, on support for the Israeli occupation at the expense of the rights of Arabs and Palestinian interests. And these statements slash any hope in any change in the American foreign policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict."
During his speech at AIPAC, Senator Obama also discussed the Iran situation.
Sen. Barack Obama: "We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything."
On the campaign trail, Senator John McCain accused Obama of being naïve for his stance on Iran.
Sen. John McCain: "My friends, they are developing nuclear weapons. Also, what is totally unsatisfactory is that the Iranians are making — are manufacturing and shipping into Iraq the most lethal explosive devices that are killing young Americans. That’s not acceptable. And Senator Obama wants to sit down without any precondition across the table and negotiate with this individual. My friends, that’s not right, and that’s naive, and that shows a lack of experience and a lack of judgment."
But during his speech before AIPAC, Obama defended his call for diplomacy.
Sen. Barack Obama: "Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as president of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leaders at a time and place of my choosing, if and only if it can advance the interests of the United States. That is my position. I want it to be absolutely clear."
In other campaign news, Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a former top fundraiser for Obama, has been found guilty of sixteen felony corruption counts, including wire and mail fraud, money laundering, and aiding and abetting bribery. The Chicago developer was accused of influence-peddling in Illinois state politics. Obama was unconnected to the criminal case.
The Independent of London is reporting a secret deal is being negotiated in Baghdad that would perpetuate the US military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election in November. Patrick Cockburn reports the deal would allow the US to keep fifty military bases and give legal immunity for US troops and contractors. American negotiators are also demanding the right to carry out arrests, control Iraq’s airspace and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government. Critics in Iraq say the plan will destabilize Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country. The Independent reports President Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called "strategic alliance," without modifications, by the end of next month.
The private military contractor Blackwater is expected to begin holding training sessions today at a new facility in San Diego, California, just blocks from the Mexico border. On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled Blackwater could open its new 61,000-square-foot center, despite attempts by San Diego officials to stall the plan. Blackwater has been accused of secretly setting up the border facility by applying for city permits under the names of affiliated companies.
In news from Africa, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court has implicated top Sudanese officials in a series of recent attacks in Darfur. Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the whole state apparatus can be linked to crimes against humanity. Sudan’s ambassador to the UN called the report "fictitious and vicious."
US food policy is coming under criticism in Rome at the UN emergency summit on food. The Los Angeles Times reports Bush administration officials have found themselves on the defensive on a wide range of policies, from biofuel production to genetic engineering to farm subsidies. Delegates have clashed over how much blame can be assigned to biofuels such as ethanol for the meteoric rise in food prices. Many nations and aid agencies contend that too much food is ending up in fuel tanks and not on dinner tables, deepening a threat of global starvation.
World Environment Day is being marked around the world today. It comes as four countries are competing to become the first nation to go entirely carbon neutral. Iceland, Norway, Costa Rica and New Zealand are all attempting to reduce their net emissions of greenhouse gases to zero. Jeanette Fitzsimons of the Green Party in New Zealand said great progress has already been made.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: "Our electricity system is nearly 70 percent renewable now, mainly from hydro, but with some geothermal and increasingly a little bit of wind. We have a goal, a government goal, to raise that to 90 percent renewable by 2025."
Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting the United States will announce next month that it cannot meet an international goal of making big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Chief US climate negotiator Harlan Watson said, "It’s frankly not do-able for us."
In other environmental news, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared California has fallen officially into drought for the first time since 1991. California has suffered its driest spring in eighty-eight years.
A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of the Cuban Five but vacated the sentences of three of the men. The five Cuban nationals were arrested in 1998 and convicted of spying for the Cuban government. They maintain they were sent to the United States to monitor violent exile groups plotting to overthrow Fidel Castro. On Wednesday, the judges vacated the life terms of two of the men and the nineteen-year sentence of another, after concluding that their sentences were improperly configured because no "top secret information was gathered or transmitted." The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five denounced the decision to uphold the convictions. Gloria La Riva said, "The five men are not guilty of any crime. They were saving lives by stopping terrorism. They never had weapons. They never posed any harm to the people of the United States."
The former foreign minister of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has been elected president of the United Nations General Assembly. The Rev. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann is a longtime critic of the United States. In his inaugural address at the UN, Brockman condemned the "scourge of war among member states and acts of aggression such as those occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Israel is continuing to come under pressure for its decision to build 800 new homes in a settlement outside East Jerusalem. On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the settlement expansion threatens any future Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Mahmoud Abbas: "We are for a just and comprehensive peace, but peace and security cannot be achieved by guns of occupation and bulldozers of settlements. The Israeli decisions to annex Jerusalem and build settlements in it and in the West Bank and building the racist separation wall are null and void, and peace cannot be established on that basis."
Massachusetts authorities have sued H&R Block, alleging that its mortgage unit discriminated against black and Latino borrowers and escalated a foreclosure crisis in the state. The lawsuit is the first by a state in the current crisis to accuse a subprime mortgage lender of civil rights violations. The complaint says that H&R Block’s Option One unit charged black and Latino borrowers higher points and fees to close their loans than similarly situated white borrowers.
The Centers for Disease Control has awarded an $11 million contract to a company headed by a former Bush cabinet official to track the health of thousands of workers who worked at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks. The company, Logistics Health, is headed by former secretary of health and human services Tommy Thompson. Thompson has previously been criticized for largely ignoring the health risks facing Ground Zero workers. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said, "It is ironic that former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson’s firm won the contract to provide the services, given the history of delay from the Bush administration when he was secretary and now."
And a candlelight vigil was held last night in Hong Kong to remember those killed by the Chinese military after pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. Last month’s devastating earthquake in Sichuan province also weighed on the minds of event organizers. This is Lee Cheuk Yan of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.
Lee Cheuk Yan: "Today we are mourning for those who sacrificed for democracy nineteen years ago. And also, we also mourn for those who died in the earthquake disaster. And when we look at the earthquake, of course it’s a natural disaster, but also there’s an element of man-made mistake. Look at all the schools collapsing. They should not have collapsed."