Thousands of Democratic delegates have gathered here in Denver today for the start of the Democratic National Convention. The convention begins two days after Senator Barack Obama tapped fellow Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware to be his running mate. Obama made the announcement in a text message early Saturday morning. The two appeared at a rally on Saturday in Springfield, Illinois before 35,000 supporters.
Sen. Barack Obama: "Joe Biden is that rare mix. For decades, he has brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn’t changed him. He’s an expert on foreign
policy whose heart and values are rooted firmly in the middle class."
Senator Biden criticized Republican candidate John McCain for not knowing how many homes he owned.
Sen. Joe Biden: "Ladies and gentlemen, your kitchen table is like mine. You sit there at night before you put the kids — after you put the kids to bed, and you talk, and you talk about what you need. You talk about how much you’re worried about being able to pay the bills. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s not a worry John McCain has to worry about. It’s a pretty hard experience: he’ll have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at."
Biden has served in the Senate since 1972 and is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 2002, Biden was one of twenty-nine Democratic senators to vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq. He later said his vote was a mistake. He has also taken the controversial position of advocating for the partitioning of Iraq into three or more regions.
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader described Biden as the MasterCard Senator. One of Biden’s biggest corporate backers is the Delaware-based credit card company MBNA. Biden was the key architect of the 2005 bankruptcy law which made it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection. At the time, Biden’s son was working as a consultant to MBNA. Nader also criticized Biden for helping to create the modern drug war by pushing the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act.
Hours after Barack Obama selected Biden, Senator John McCain released a commercial about Biden.
Narrator: "What does Barack Obama’s running mate say about Barack Obama?"
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: "You were asked, 'Is he ready?' You said, 'I think he can be ready but right now, I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.’"
Joe Biden: "I think that I stand by the statement."
Narrator: "And what does he say about John McCain?"
Biden: "I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off."
John McCain: "I’m John McCain, and I approve this message."
Over a thousand protesters here in Denver marched from the state capitol to the Pepsi Center on Sunday in the first major demonstration of the Democratic National Convention. Organized by the group Recreate 68, the protest temporarily blocked access to the convention site before police ordered the crowd to disperse. Speakers at the rally included antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney, and Vietnam veteran and antiwar activist Ron Kovic.
Ron Kovic: "Senator Obama took a very strong position against the war in the beginning. We’d like him to remain opposed to this war and continue to speak on behalf of bringing the troops home immediately."
In Afghanistan, US and Afghan forces have been accused of killing up to ninety Afghan civilians, including over fifty children, in an air strike in the village of Azizabad last week. A statement from the Afghan Interior Ministry said it was one of deadliest strikes on civilians since the 2001 US-led invasion. On Saturday, hundreds of Afghans staged a protest against the US attack. One of the victims’ father, Abdul Karim, angrily held up his child’s shirt.
Abdul Karim: "Those hypocrites who said that there was the Taliban here and they’re killing innocent people should come and see that all of those who have died are kids, not the Taliban."
On Sunday, President Hamid Karzai dismissed an Afghan army general and another officer for their part in the commando operation. The US military initially said thirty suspected Taliban fighters were killed in the attack, but the military has announced plans to investigate the killings.
Russia’s upper house of parliament has voted unanimously for a resolution calling on President Dmitry Medvedev to recognize Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. On Friday, Moscow withdrew the bulk of its forces from Georgia’s heartland, but Russia said it would maintain a residual force to protect the separatist regions. Meanwhile, a US Navy destroyer arrived in Georgia Sunday carrying fifty-five tons of aid as part of what the Bush administration called a humanitarian mission. The USS McFaul is the first of three warships that are due to arrive this week. The ship is outfitted with a wide range of weaponry, including Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
Two boats carrying dozens of human rights activists and humanitarian aid arrived in the Gaza Strip on Saturday despite an Israeli naval blockade. Israel had earlier said the Free Gaza boats would not be allowed in. Passengers on board included Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former British premier Tony Blair. The activists said they hoped their trip would help bring an end to the siege on Gaza.
Free Gaza Activist: "What can I say? We are so glad to be here. We are so happy to be here to be able to stand with you against the occupation. We have longed for so many, many months to arrive, and now it’s like a dream for us to meet you."
Israel has imposed a strict blockade on Gaza for the past fourteen months. The Free Gaza group plans to spend ten days in Gaza and then, on its return voyage, bring ten Palestinian students to Cyprus. Israel has prevented the students from leaving Gaza to study abroad.
In Iraq, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest at a dinner banquet in western Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib district on Sunday, killing twenty-five people. The attack took place at the home of a local Sunni sheikh who was holding a feast to celebrate the release of his son from US detention. Police said women and children were among the dead, as were some men believed to be members of US-backed neighborhood patrols.
In other news from Iraq, the US military says it has captured an Iraqi man who allegedly planned the kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll in 2006. Carroll was held for nearly three months in captivity before being released. The military said the man, Abu Uthman, and his associates were also involved in the 2004 kidnapping and murder of Margaret Hassan, the director of Care International in Iraq.
In Lebanon, the United Nations has announced much of its efforts to clear cluster munitions scattered by Israel in south Lebanon will have to stop this month for lack of funds. Donors have failed to come up with a promised $4.7 million needed to fund the program in 2008. The UN has identified over 1,000 cluster strike locations across the south. Only about half of the land contaminated by cluster munitions has been fully cleared over the past two years. The process was slowed in part because Israel refused to hand over detailed data on the cluster strikes. Since the war ended, twenty-seven civilians and thirteen bomb disposal experts have been killed. Over 200 civilians have also been injured by the unexploded ordnance.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports the US and Israel have agreed on the deployment of a high-powered early-warning missile radar system in southern Israel. The Joint Tactical Ground Station will be staffed by US military personnel. Haaretz reports the missile radar system is widely seen as a kind of parting gift from Washington to Jerusalem as President George W. Bush prepares to leave office.
As the Olympics closed in Beijing on Sunday, China deported eight jailed Americans connected to the Students for a Free Tibet movement. The Americans had been sentenced to ten days of detention for holding an unauthorized pro-Tibet demonstration last week. Among those held was Brian Conley, an independent journalist and video blogger.
A British resident being held at Guantanamo Bay has won a ruling in Britain’s High Court, which ordered the British government to release secret documents that may help prove he was tortured by American forces. Thirty-year-old Binyam Mohamed alleges that his confession to terrorism charges was given only after he had his penis sliced by a blade. The case is likely to reveal in more detail the level of cooperation between the US and British governments in the program of "extraordinary rendition," which sent terror suspects to secret locations around the world to be tortured.
And American war resister Robin Long has been sentenced to fifteen months in prison after he pleaded guilty to desertion with intent to remain away permanently. In 2005, Long left his tank unit after learning that it was bound for Iraq. He then fled to British Columbia. He lived in Canada up until last month, when he was deported.
The Bush administration’s use of patronage when appointing immigration judges has adversely affected the success of asylum seekers in the United States. This according to an analysis published by the New York Times. The policy of using a conservative litmus test when appointing judges was revealed in an internal Justice Department report last week. An analysis of sixteen judges appointed by this litmus test showed that they disproportionately rejected the asylum applications of immigrants when compared with other judges ruling in their vicinity.
And in economic news, bank regulators have closed the Columbian Bank and Trust Co. of Topeka, Kansas. It is the nation’s ninth bank to collapse this year.