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Senator John Kerry effectively wrapped up the Democratic party presidential nomination last night by winning nine states on Super Tuesday including New York and California. His top opponent John Edwards is scheduled to announce today that he is dropping out of the race. Edwards won no races on Tuesday. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean who is not running anymore won his home state blocking Kerry’s attempt of a Super Tuesday sweep. President Bush last night called Kerry to congratulate him on his victories. We’ll have more on this in a few minutes.
In Iraq, the death toll in yesterday coordinated attacks in Karbula and Baghdad has topped 180. Another 400 people were injured. The attacks came while Iraqi Shiites celebrated one of their holiest days of the year, Ashura. It marked the deadliest day in Iraq in the 11 months since Baghdad fell. And in Pakistan the death toll has reached 40 in another attack on Shiite Muslims.
In Haiti, rebel leader Guy Philippe announced yesterday "The country is in my hands." He claimed he was the chief of Haiti and that he would oversee the reformation of the Haitian military. He also threatened to arrest Prime Minister Yvon Neptune whose home has already been torched and looted. The New York Times reported Haiti "seemed to be falling into the clutches of a self-appointed armed junta." The U.S. made efforts to distant itself from Philippe and other gang leaders. A State Department spokesman said, "The rebels do not have a role in the political process," said a State Dept. spokesman. And Haiti’s former dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, better known as Baby Doc, announced yesterday that he would return to Haiti. Meanwhile Haiti’s President Jean Betrand Aristide has been incommunicado since Monday when he accused the US of kidnapping him and overthrowing him in a coup. His attorney Ira Kurzban said Tuesday that he was being denied access to a telephone in the Central African Republican where he was taken.
In Venezuela, the National Electoral Council ruled yesterday opponents of President Hugo Chavez have fallen short in its drive to collect 2.4 million signatures to force a referendum vote on the future of Chavez. Opponents submitted 3.4 million signatures but the election council ruled that it could validate only about 1.8 million of the signatures. Another 900,000 signatures may be valid–if citizens confirm that they indeed signed the petition. Anti-Chavez protests have been taking place every day since Friday and they intensified yesterday following the ruling. The Associated Press reported that the protests intensified yesterday when opponents of Chavez yesterday hurled rocks and gasoline bombs at soldiers. Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel denounced the demonstrators. He said "They are terrorists. They attack the public, fire against the forces of order and want to impede the process." Two weeks ago Hugo Chavez accused the U.S. of being behind a 2002 coup and of continuing opposition attempts to overthrow him. Chavez said, "The Government of Washington is using the money of its people to support not only opposition activities but acts of conspiracy."
In business news, former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, was indicted yesterday on charges that he helped plan and execute the biggest accounting fraud in U.S. corporate history. Under Ebbers, WorldCom booked at least $11 billion in false earnings and WorldCom suffered the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
In Gaza. a longtime Palestinian journalist and advisor to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has been assassinated. Press reports indicate that Khalil al-Zaben, was killed by fellow Palestinians.
On Capitol Hill, Senate sponsors of legislation to shield the firearms industry from lawsuits abruptly killed their own bill yesterday after it was amended to renew an expiring ban on assault weapons and to require background checks for gun show purchases.
The mayor of New Paltz New York was charged yesterday for breaking state law by marrying 19 same sex couples over the past week. The mayor Jason West faces up to a year in jail and a $500 fine. West, who was elected last year on the Green Party ticket, vowed to keep marrying same sex couples. Meanwhile in Oregon, the state’s most populous county, Multnomah County, will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples today.
In other election news, voters in Humboldt County California rejected a campaign bankrolled by Pacific Lumber Co. to recall the county’s district attorney who had accused the timber company of fraud. The district attorney, Paul Gallegos, said "It’s a triumph of the people over the influence of money and lies in politics." In Menocino County, voters passed the nation’s first ban on raising genetically engineered crops or animals. Biotech giant Monsanto spent over $500,000 in an attempt to defeat the measure.
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