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Turkey’s ground invasion of northern Iraq has entered its fifth day. It marks the largest cross-border ground offensive into Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Since the attack began on Thursday, Turkey says over 100 Kurdish militants have been killed along with 15 Turkish soldiers. Both the Iraqi and Kurdish governments have called on Turkey to end the offensive.
Raul Castro has become the new president of Cuba, ending Fidel Castro’s forty-nine-year rule. After being selected by the Cuban National Assembly, Raul Castro said he would continue to consult his brother on important matters.
Raul Castro: “I assume the responsibility that you have given to me with the conviction that the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution is only one person. Fidel is Fidel. We all know that Fidel cannot be replaced, and the people will continue their work when he is not here physically.”
The Cuban National Assembly elected seventy-seven-year-old José Ramon Machado Ventura as the first vice president. Fidel Castro remains the Communist Party’s chief.
In the United States, Republican presidential frontrunner John McCain criticized his Democratic rival Barack Obama for saying he would be willing to meet with Raul Castro.
Sen. John McCain: “Raul, in many ways, has a worse record than Fidel. And again, I think it’s naive to think that you can sit down and have unconditional talks with a person who is part of a government that has been a state sponsor of terrorism, not only in the hemisphere, but throughout the world.”
In other campaign news, consumer advocate Ralph Nader has announced another bid for the White House. He announced his decision on NBC’s Meet the Press with Tim Russert.
Ralph Nader: “One feels an obligation, Tim, to try to open the doorways; to try to get better ballot access; to respect dissent in America and the terms of third parties and independent candidates; to recognize historically that great issues have come in our history, against slavery, women rights to vote, and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never won any national election. Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I have decided to run for president.”
Nader said he is running because none of the other candidates are discussing important issues, such as the military’s bloated budget, government support for nuclear power and corporate subsidies. Nader criticized the policies of John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama. He accused Obama of switching his view on the Israel-Palestine conflict once he became a US senator.
Ralph Nader: “He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state senate, during he ran — during the state senate. Now he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza, the million-and-a-half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1, 300 Palestinians to one Israeli.”
Clinton and Obama both criticized Nader for entering the race. Clinton accused Nader of preventing Al Gore from becoming president in 2000.
In other campaign news, Senator Clinton expressed outrage on Saturday over what she called Republican-like tactics employed by Barack Obama. Clinton accused Obama of distributing leaflets in Ohio that were spreading false and misleading information about her healthcare plan and NAFTA.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: “Shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That’s what I expect from you. Meet me in Ohio. Let’s have a debate about your tactics.”
Senator Barack Obama said the leaflets accurately represented Clinton’s positions on healthcare and her past support for NAFTA.
Sen. Barack Obama: “What this mailer does is point out this difference that she herself surfaced and describes what the mandate that she’s calling for would mean, which is that the government would force you to buy healthcare. That’s indisputable. So the notion that somehow we’re engaging in nefarious tactics, I think, is pretty hard to swallow.”
In news on John McCain’s run for the White House, Newsweek has uncovered more information on the McCain lobbying scandal. Last week, McCain issued a sweeping denial to rebut a New York Times story about his ties to a Washington lobbyist. According to the Times, McCain wrote two letters to the Federal Communications Commission regarding Paxson Communications, a client of the lobbyist Vicki Iseman. At the time, McCain served as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. Last week, McCain said he never spoke to anybody from Paxson or the lobbying firm about the matter. But that claim seems to be contradicted by McCain’s own past statements. In 2002, McCain said, “I was contacted by Mr. Lowell Paxson on this issue. He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business.” McCain’s quote appears in a sworn deposition from 2002 obtained by Newsweek.
Meanwhile, the McCain campaign suffered another setback Friday with the indictment of Republican Congressman Rick Renzi of Arizona. Renzi is co-chair of Senator McCain’s campaign in Arizona. He faces charges of extortion, money laundering and wire fraud.
The Justice Department has revealed its internal ethics office is investigating the department’s decision to give the CIA legal approval to waterboard prisoners. Beginning in 2002, Justice Department attorneys issued a series of rulings authorizing the use of the interrogation practice that’s widely considered a form of torture. One of the Justice Department documents declared that interrogation methods were not torture unless they produced pain equivalent to that produced by organ failure or death.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling on the United States and its allies to apologize after the International Atomic Energy Agency praised Iran for being more transparent about its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad described the UN watchdog report as a “victory over the West” which has accused Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons. UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said his agency had made “good progress” in clarifying Iran’s nuclear program thanks to increased Iranian cooperation.
Mohamed ElBaradei: “In the last four months, in particular, we have made quite a good progress in clarifying the outstanding issues that has to do with Iran’s past nuclear activities, with the exception of one issue, and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past. We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran’s enrichment program.”
ElBaradei also called on Iran to adopt, implement the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which would allow snap, intrusive inspections that could verify Tehran is not engaged in secret bomb work beyond declared civilian atomic energy sites.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to avenge the assassination of his senior commander Imad Moughniyah. Moughniyah died in a car bombing in Syria on February 12. Hezbollah has accused Israel of carrying out the assassination. On Friday, Nasrallah threatened to deal Israel a crushing blow if it attacked Lebanon again.
Hassan Nasrallah: “We will defend ourselves in the way that we choose, at a time we choose and a place we choose. It is our decision… No one, neither the Zionists nor their agents, will be able to protect the entire internal front. No one will be able to protect the internal front from our rockets.”
In Gaza, thousands of Palestinians have formed a human chain along the Israeli border to protest Israel’s economic embargo on the Gaza Strip. The human chain was expected to extend the length of the Gaza Strip, from the Rafah border to the Erez Crossing.
In New York, three police detectives go on trial today for the killing of Sean Bell. In November 2006, the twenty-three-year-old Bell was killed in a hail of fifty police bullets as he left his bachelor party. His friends Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman were also shot, but they survived. None of the men were armed. Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora are charged with manslaughter and could face up to twenty-five years in prison. Detective Marc Cooper faces misdemeanor charges and could face a year behind bars.
A local CBS TV station in Alabama is being accused of censorship after it blacked out a portion of 60 Minutes last night that dealt with the prosecution and imprisonment of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. CBS affiliate WHNT broadcasts across the northern third of Alabama. The 60 Minutes investigation examined how the Bush administration targeted Siegelman for political reasons. WHNT claimed there was a technical problem with CBS out of New York, but CBS News told Harper’s magazine that WHNT’s claim is not true and that there were no transmission problems.
And the film Taxi to the Dark Side took the Oscar last night for best documentary. The film reveals the story of an Afghan taxi driver who was detained by the United States and then tortured to death. This is director Alex Gibney’s acceptance speech.
Alex Gibney: “Thank you very much, Academy. Here’s to all doc filmmakers. And truth is, I think my dear wife Anne was kind of hoping I’d make a romantic comedy, but honestly, after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, that simply wasn’t possible. This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us: Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a Navy interrogator, who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let’s hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light. Thank you very much.”
The documentary made headlines earlier this month when the Discovery Channel announced it had dropped plans to air the film. Gibney said the network had told him that the film’s controversial content might damage Discovery’s public offering. Last week, HBO bought the rights to the film from Discovery.