Senator Barack Obama is riding a wave of momentum after Saturday’s landslide victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary. On Sunday, former President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, endorsed Obama in a column in the New York Times titled “A President Like My Father.” And today, Senator Ted Kennedy is scheduled to announce his support for the Illinois senator at a campaign rally at American University in Washington. On Saturday, Obama won 55 percent of the vote in South Carolina.
Sen. Obama: “Tonight, the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina. And in nine days, nine short days, nearly half the nation will have the chance to join us in saying that we are tired of business as usual in Washington, we are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again.”
Senator Hillary Clinton placed second with 27 percent. John Edwards, who was born in South Carolina, placed third with 18 percent. On Saturday, former President Bill Clinton attempted to downplay Obama’s victory.
Bill Clinton: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice in '84 and ’88. And he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama's run a good campaign here. He’s run a good campaign everywhere.”
Democrats are now focusing on February 5, Super Tuesday, when voters in twenty-two states will cast ballots. On the Republican front, the campaigns remain focused on Florida, where voters head to the polls tomorrow. Mitt Romney and John McCain appear to be the frontrunners. In other campaign news, Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz Cheney has become a senior foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney.
In economic news, stock prices plummeted again today in trading in Asia. In Shanghai, shares fell over seven percent. The main stock indices in Tokyo and Hong Kong dropped about four percent.
As fears mount over a worldwide recession, President Bush is expected to call on Congress to approve a $150 billion stimulus package during his State of the Union address tonight. Bush’s final State of the Union comes at a time when his approval rating has dropped to new lows. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found Bush’s overall approval rating to be just 32 percent. Only 28 percent of respondents approve of his handling of the economy.
In other economic news, the National Association of Realtors has revealed the median price of single-family homes fell last year for the first time since at least 1968. The group’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said: “It’s the first price decline in many, many years and possibly going back to the Great Depression.”
In Switzerland, the World Economic Forum has wrapped up after five days of talks. Joseph Stiglitz, the former chief economist of the World Bank, was one of several economists attending the summit in Davos to issue grave warnings about the state of the economy.
Joseph Stiglitz: “There really are some deep structural problems. The fact that the US had to borrow in 2006 $850 billion from other countries, the richest country in the world; fundamental global imbalances; financial systems that don’t know how to manage risk — these are not symptoms of what you might call a fundamentally strong economy.”
Former Indonesian dictator General Suharto has died at the age of eighty-six. He ruled the country from 1966 to 1998 and oversaw the murder of over one million people in a series of political purges of dissidents and wars on the populations of East Timor, Aceh and West Papua. Despite his human rights record, Suharto remained a close US ally and a recipient of US military aid. On Sunday, the US Ambassador to Indonesia, Cameron Hume, said in a statement, “Though there may be some controversy over his legacy, President Suharto was a historic figure who left a lasting imprint on Indonesia and the region of Southeast Asia.” Meanwhile, human rights activists in Indonesia said justice still needs to be served for the hundreds of thousands of victims of Suharto’s regime.
Usman Hamid, head of the victim rights organization Kontras: “We’d like to express our condolence to the family of Suharto who loved Suharto. But I think Indonesia has to move on. Indonesia has to solve past human rights abuses. We cannot forget the past. We have to remember the past. By remembering the past, we, as a country, can work together to solve the past in order to be a great nation. There are many people, thousands of people, who lost their parents, who lost their fathers, their mothers, their sons, and I think they need justice.”
The Boston Globe is reporting President Bush’s plan to forge a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could commit the US military to defending Iraq’s security for years to come may be unconstitutional. Legal specialists and lawmakers of both parties said this marks the first time such a sweeping mutual defense compact has been enacted without congressional approval.
The New York Times has revealed the nation’s top two US intelligence officials traveled secretly to Pakistan early this month to press President Pervez Musharraf to allow the Central Intelligence Agency greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories of Pakistan. According to the Times, Musharraf rebuffed the proposals of CIA Director Michael Hayden and Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence. Instead, Pakistan and the United States are discussing a series of other joint efforts, including increasing the number and scope of missions by armed Predator surveillance aircraft over the tribal areas.
In news from Afghanistan, an Afghan court has sentenced a twenty-three-year-old newspaper journalist to death after he was accused of mocking Islam and the Koran. The journalist, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, was detained three months ago for distributing articles downloaded from the internet which said the Prophet Muhammad had ignored the rights of women. He was accused of mocking Islam and the Koran, convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death during a secret trial where he had no legal counsel.
In other news from Afghanistan, gunmen have abducted an American aid worker named Cyd Mizell in Kandahar. She worked as a staffer for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation.
Meanwhile, in Gaza, Palestinians streamed home through the breaches in Gaza’s border with Egypt on Sunday, as Egyptian authorities choked off supplies to the area and moved to restore control. Egypt has struggled to re-seal the border and contain hundreds of thousands of needy Gazans who poured across after Palestinian militants blasted openings in the wall last week to evade an Israeli blockade on Gaza. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports Egyptian security forces and members of Hamas have begun stringing barbed wire across some of the breaches in the border.
In other news from the Occupied Territories, George Habash has died at the age of eighty-two. He was the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. To many of his supporters, he was known as the “the conscience of the Palestine revolution.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “Without a doubt, the passing of the historical leader Dr. George Habash is a big loss for the Palestinian people. Dr. Habash was one of the leaders of the Palestinian revolution. He was one of the Palestinian people’s biggest heroes, and he was one of the people who began fighting, while still young, for the freedom and independence of the Palestinian people.”
The PFLP gained international notoriety when the group simultaneously hijacked four Western airliners in 1970. The aircraft were blown up in the Middle East after passengers and crews disembarked.
In news from Washington, Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced on Friday he does not plan to appoint a special counsel to investigate why the CIA allegedly destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the interrogation of two detainees. During the same press briefing, Mukasey again refused to say whether he views waterboarding as a form of torture.
A group of Iraq war veterans and peace activists protested outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington Saturday calling on the Canadian government to allow hundreds of US war resisters to remain in Canada. Protests were also held in over a dozen US and Canadian cities as part of a day of action dubbed Let Them Stay Day. The protests were organized to urge the Canadian government to make it possible for US war resisters to obtain permanent Canadian resident status. In November, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear appeals from Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, who sought refugee status on the grounds of their opposition to the war in Iraq. Max Diorio of the group Courage to Resist said, “We believe that these war resisters should be allowed a safe haven from persecution on the basis of resisting an illegal and immoral war and occupation.”
And in Kenya, police have made over 250 arrests after a weekend of violence in the Rift Valley that left dozens dead and injured hundreds more. Eight people were burned to death locked inside one house. More than 800 people have now died since the disputed December presidential election. On Sunday, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met opposition leader Raila Odinga to try to resolve the month-long crisis. Annan said the conflict in Kenya is much broader and deeper than an electoral problem. He called for an investigation into the widespread abuses that have been committed over the past month.
Kofi Annan: “We saw gross and systematic abuse of human rights of fellow citizens, and it is essential that facts be established and those responsible held to account.”