Voters are heading to the polls today in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont in a day that has been described as Super Tuesday II. Many political analysts say Hillary Clinton needs to win in either Texas or Ohio to stay in the race. During a campaign rally on Monday in Toledo, Ohio, Clinton suggested the race has a long way to go.
Sen. Clinton: “And I believe that we’re going to do well tomorrow, and I believe that that’s going to be a very significant message to the country. And then we move on to Pennsylvania and the states still ahead. So I’m just getting warmed up.”
Senator Barack Obama’s campaign stops on Monday included San Antonio, Texas.
Sen. Obama: “President Clinton has been working hard on her behalf, and so we know that this has been an extraordinary election and continues to be, and we’re working as hard as we can to try to do well. But this notion that there are particular kinds of states that you have to win just doesn’t make too much sense.”
In the Republican race, Arizona Senator John McCain could secure enough delegates tonight to win his party’s nomination.
In other campaign news, the Associated Press has obtained a memo confirming one of Senator Obama’s senior economic advisers met on February 8 with Canadian consulate officials to discuss Obama’s criticism of NAFTA. The memo said Obama’s public critque of the trade deal should be seen “as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.” Obama’s economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, says his comments about NAFTA were misconstrued by the Canadian officials.
Meanwhile, the criminal trial of one of Obama’s former friends and fundraisers has begun in Chicago. In 2006, Antoin Rezko was indicted on charges of business fraud and influence peddling. Rezko has raised as much as $200,000 for Obama since 1996 and helped Obama purchase his home.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in the Middle East one day after Israel pulled its ground forces from Gaza. Rice blamed Hamas for trying to stop the peace process by firing rockets into Israel.
Since last week, Israeli troops have killed at least 118 Palestinians. During the same period, Palestinian rocket fire killed one Israeli. Two Israeli soldiers also died in Gaza during the five-day offensive. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has determined that more than half of the Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip in recent days were civilians. On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Israel would continue to attack Gaza.
Ehud Olmert: “One thing I promise you: the armed force and security forces operations will not stop unless and until we achieve the objective […] of significant reduction in the firing of Qassam and Grad rockets at the residents of Israel.”
A group of children in Gaza staged a protest Monday, using their own bodies to illustrate the suffering of the Palestinians residing in Gaza. The youth staged a mock funeral. Some children laid on the ground emulating dead bodies, while others stood with chains around their hands.
The Washington Post reports House and Senate Democratic leaders are preparing to cave in to threats by President Bush and grant some form of immunity to the telecommunication companies that helped the government spy on Americans. The compromise bill would also expand government authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and email messages of US citizens without warrants.
In other news from Washington, President Bush is expected to soon veto a bill that would have required the CIA and all intelligence services to abide by the same interrogation standards as outlined in the US Army Field Manual. The Army manual specifically bans waterboarding, mock executions, the use of electric shocks, beatings, forcing prisoners to perform sexual acts and depriving prisoners of necessary food, water or medical care. President Bush says the Army rules are too restrictive.
In Somalia, hundreds of women and children marched through the town of Dhoble today, one day after the US attacked the town. On Monday, a US Navy submarine fired at least three Tomahawk cruise missiles into southern Somalia near the Kenyan border. Al Jazeera reports four civilians died in the attack. The US said the target was a “known al-Qaeda terrorist.” This marks at least the fourth US attack on Somalia since US-backed Ethiopian troops invaded the country in December 2006.
The UN Security Council has approved a third set of sanctions against Iran, for refusing to suspend nuclear activities. The resolution calls for more travel and financial restrictions on named Iranian individuals and companies. Iran’s UN ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee, dismissed the council’s decision as illegal and illegitimate.
Mohammad Khazaee: “The international community is once again witnessing that the credibility of the Security Council, whose primary responsibility is to maintain international peace and security, is readily downgraded to a mere tool of the international foreign policy of just a few countries.”
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the sanctions are needed in part because Iran has allegedly funded militant groups in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad: “If Iran continues down its current path, it will likely fuel proliferation activities in the region, which in turn could cause the demise of the NPT regime itself.”
The UN Security Council approved the sanctions, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was wrapping up a historic visit to Iraq. On Monday, Ahmadinejad repeatedly called on the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
In other news from Iraq, the Marines have begun investigating a video posted online showing a smiling Marine throwing a puppy off the top of a steep hillside in Iraq. In a statement, the Marines said, “The video is shocking and deplorable and is contrary to the high standards we expect of every Marine.”
In Russia, opposition activists took to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg on Monday to protest Sunday’s presidential election victory by Vladimir Putin’s handpicked successor, Dimitry Medvedev. The former world chess champion and opposition leader Garry Kasparov protested in St. Petersburg.
Garry Kasparov: “We don’t think that what happened yesterday was an election in the understanding of a normal democratic country. Today, we are staging a protest against this kind of transition of power. We are saying, 'Down with this monarchy, this dynasty.' We believe this is just the beginning of a long-lasting protest against a result which has come about not from the choice of the people, but the say-so of the clans in the Kremlin.”
In economic news, the price of oil reached a new high Monday, topping $103 a barrel for the first time ever.
Some analysts are now predicting the price of oil could jump to nearly $4 a gallon by this summer. Meanwhile, billionaire investor Warren Buffett said the US economy is essentially in a recession.
Warren Buffett: “I would say, by any common sense definition, we are in a recession. We haven’t had two consecutive quarters of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth, but I will tell you that, on balance, most people’s situation, certainly their net worth, has been heading south now for a considerable period of time.”
The jailed Florida professor Sami Al-Arian has begun a new hunger strike to protest what he calls continued government harassment. On Monday, the Justice Department called for him to testify before a third grand jury, only weeks before his scheduled release date. Al-Arian has been imprisoned for five years on charges that he was a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Two years ago, a Florida jury failed to return a single guilty verdict on any of the seventeen charges brought against him. Despite the jury’s findings, Al-Arian remained in jail. Last year, Al-Arian was sentenced to an additional eighteen months in jail for refusing to testify before a Virginia grand jury. Al-Arian could now potentially be sentenced to even more time in prison if he refuses to testify before the new grand jury. Attorney Jonathan Turley said, “The mistreatment of Dr. Al-Arian remains an international symbol of how the Bush administration has discarded fundamental principles of fairness in a blind pursuit of retribution against this political activist.”
Meanwhile, another man acquitted in a high-profile terrorism case is facing deportation based on the same charges that a jury dismissed two months ago. Lyglenson Lemorin had been charged with six others in Miami for plotting terror attacks, but he was acquitted in December. Many legal experts criticized the government’s prosecution, because the case rested almost entirely on one suspect’s conversation with an FBI informant posing as a representative of al-Qaeda. The Bush administration is now asking an administrative judge to order Lemorin’s deportation based on the same charges that the jury dismissed. The thirty-three-year-old Lemorin moved to the US from Haiti as a child. He is now a legal US resident.
And in Washington state, three unfinished multi-million-dollar homes burned down on Monday in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville. A sign left at the scene of the fire indicated it was set by members of the Earth Liberation Front. All of the homes were unoccupied. No one was injured in the blaze that caused an estimated $7 million in damage. The homes were marketed as being located on a Street of Dreams. Some environmentalists had opposed the new luxury development because of its close proximity to the Bear Creek, which is home to endangered Chinook salmon. The fire occurred while a thirty-two-year-old violin teacher named Briana Waters is on trial in Tacoma, Washington. Waters has been charged with acting as a lookout during a fire set at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001.