The Democratic Party has formally nominated Senator Barack Obama as its presidential candidate. Obama becomes the first African American major party nominee in US history. The historic moment came after Senator Hillary Clinton walked onto the floor of the convention hall and asked Democratic delegates to suspend their count and back Obama by acclamation.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: "Madame Secretary, I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules and suspend the further conduct of the roll-call vote — all votes cast by the delegates will be counted — and that I move Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the roll call.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "All in favor of the motion to suspend the rules and nominate by acclamation Barack Obama as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, please say aye. All those opposed, please say no. Two-thirds of the delegates having voted in the affirmative, the motion is adopted."
Senator Joe Biden headlined the evening speakers, accepting the vice-presidential nomination. Biden used his address to criticize Republican candidate John McCain.
Sen. Joe Biden: "And in the Senate, John has voted with President Bush 95 percent, and that is very hard to believe. And when John McCain proposes $200 [billion] in new taxes for corporate America, $1 billion alone for the largest companies in the nation, but no — none — no relief for 100 million American families, that’s not change; that’s more of the same."
After Biden spoke, Obama made a surprise appearance on stage, one day before he formally accepts the nomination before 80,000 supporters at Invesco Field. Earlier in the evening, former President Bill Clinton abandoned his previous criticism of Obama during Obama’s race with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Bill Clinton: "Barack Obama is ready to honor the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States."
Former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry also addressed the convention. In his most pointed remarks on Senator McCain to date, Kerry called the Republican candidate’s campaign “insulting,” “pathetic” and “desperate.”
Sen. John Kerry: "The McCain-Bush Republicans have been wrong again and again and again. And they know they will lose on the issues. So, the candidate who once campaigned on the promise of a campaign of ideas, not insults, now has nothing left but personal attacks. How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission, question the troops. How pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy doubt America itself. How desperate to tell the son of a single mother who chose community service over money and privilege that he doesn’t put America first."
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, McCain has reportedly settled on a running mate for the November election. McCain is expected to appear alongside his vice-presidential nominee at a rally Friday in Dayton, Ohio.
In other campaign news, The Hill newspaper has revealed the Obama campaign removed one line from Congress member Dennis Kucinich’s fiery speech before the convention earlier this week. Kucinich’s wide-ranging address criticized war profiteering, the oil giants, Wall Street, pharmaceutical companies and, most of all, the Bush administration, which he said invaded Iraq for oil. But Obama staffers redacted one line suggesting Republicans should be jailed. The line read, “They’re asking for another four years — in a just world, they’d get ten to twenty.”
Outside the convention, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Denver to call on Democrats to back an immediate US withdrawal from Iraq. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War led the march to the perimeter surrounding the Pepsi Center. A tense standoff ensued as police threatened to pepper spray and forcibly disperse the crowd. But the rally ended peacefully after Obama staffers agreed to meet protest leaders. In addition to an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, the demands also included paying reparations to the Iraqi people. The march began at a concert by the band Rage Against the Machine.
Overall, 135 protesters have been arrested this week in Denver. The police crackdown has also spread to media workers. On Wednesday, a producer for ABC News was arrested as he tried to take pictures of Democratic senators and corporate donors leaving a private meeting at a downtown hotel. Video footage shows the journalist, Asa Eslocker, standing on a public sidewalk. An officer forces him across the street and shoves him. Eslocker is then put in handcuffs. Police say Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference and failure to follow a lawful order. He was taking the pictures as part of a week-long ABC News series on the role of corporate lobbyists and donors at the Democratic convention.
New details have emerged about the ongoing US-Iraqi negotiations on keeping American troops in Iraq. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told al-Hurra television the Bush administration has demanded approval to remain in Iraq until 2015.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani: "There is a written agreement. It was a US proposal for the date, which is 2015, and an Iraqi one, which is 2010. Then we agreed to make it 2011. Iraq has the right, if necessary, to extend the presence of these troops."
The Bush administration has refused to comment on details of the talks.
In other Iraq news, the US military says it plans to hand over control of Anbar province to Iraqi troops. Anbar is home to the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, where intense attacks by US troops killed and displaced thousands of Iraqi civilians in 2004.
The US military has secretly transferred more than 200 prisoners to intelligence agencies in US allies Saudi Arabi, Egypt and other countries in the past two years. This according to a report in the New York Times. The system is described as similar to the CIA’s rendition of prisoners in the so-called war on terror. Human rights groups say returning prisoners to countries like Saudi Arabia allow for even less oversight of prisoners’ treatment than what is currently allowed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Christoph Wilcke of Human Rights Watch said, “When it comes to sending people back home, there is really no way for us to find out how they are doing.”
The war contractor KBR is being sued for alleged human trafficking in Jordan and Iraq. The suit alleges thirteen Nepalese workers were hired to work in hotels and restaurants in Jordan. But upon arriving in the Jordanian capital Amman, the workers’ passports were seized, and they were immediately driven to Iraq. On the way, insurgents ambushed the workers’ vehicles, kidnapped them and later executed twelve of them. A thirteenth worker survived and spent more than a year in Iraq. A Washington, D.C. law firm filed the suit on behalf of the surviving worker and the families of the twelve dead workers. A former subsidiary of Halliburton, KBR is one of the largest US companies working in Iraq.
A government survey has revealed new details on the US reliance on private contractors. According to the National Intelligence Director’s office, more than a quarter of US intelligence employees work for outside companies under government contractors. That translates to an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 private contractors working for agencies like the CIA.
The Bush administration is pressuring the British government to limit public disclosure in the case of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner who says he was tortured in US custody. The prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, alleges his confession to terrorism charges was given only after he had his penis sliced by a blade. This week, Britain’s High Court ordered the British government to release secret documents that may help prove Mohamed’s claims. In a letter to Britain’s Foreign Office, the US State Department said releasing the documents would cause “serious and lasting damage” to security relations between the US and Britain. The letter goes on to say damaged relations would jeopardize “the national security of the [United Kingdom].”
Pakistan has reinstated eight judges removed by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last year. More judges could be sworn back in next week. But dissident Pakistani lawyers are criticizing the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party for not going far enough. Sixty judges were removed in total, and the group of reinstated judges does not include Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
In education news, controversy has erupted over plans to rename a University of Chicago research institute after the right-wing economist Milton Friedman. More than 100 faculty members have signed a petition protesting the plans. Critics are concerned the combination of private donors and Milton’s staunch opposition to social welfare policies would essentially make it a right-wing think tank.
The oil giant Exxon Mobil has reached a settlement to pay out damages for its 1989 oil spill in Alaska. Exxon says it will pay out $380 million in damages and contest the remaining $70 million in court. An Alaskan jury had initially ruled Exxon should pay $5 billion in punitive damages for the accident that spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the fishing waters of Prince William Sound. Punitive damages were cut in half in 2006. But in June, the Supreme Court cut the amount of punitive damages again and ordered Exxon Mobil to pay just $500 million — one-tenth of the original jury’s ruling.
And the pioneering lesbian rights activist Del Martin has died at the age of eighty-seven. Following decades of outspoken activism around lesbian issues, Martin and her lifelong partner Phyllis Lyon were the first couple to be married under a California law recognizing same-sex marriages.