Senator Barack Obama is expected to win enough delegates in today’s primaries in Kentucky and Oregon to clinch a majority of pledged delegates awarded in the primaries and caucuses. But Obama will still be short of the total number of delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination outright. On Monday, Obama spoke at a campaign rally in Billings, Montana.
Sen. Barack Obama: “Everybody’s surprised that I’m standing here. Nobody thought — [Someone in the crowd says “We’re not”) — you know, now, well, I appreciate you, but let’s face it, nobody thought a forty-six-year-old black guy named Barack Obama was going to be the Democratic nominee.”
Obama’s campaign is denying reports that he will declare victory tonight at a rally in Iowa. During a campaign stop in Maysville, Kentucky, Senator Hillary Clinton said the race for the nomination is not over.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: “We have a very close contest — the votes, the delegates — and this is nowhere near over. None of us is going to have the number of delegates we’re going to need to get to the nomination, although I understand my opponent and his supporters are going to claim that. The fact is we have to include Michigan and Florida.”
Barack Obama continues to pick up prominent endorsements. On Monday, he received the backing of five more superdelegates, including Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the longest serving member of the US Senate.
Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports one of Hillary Clinton’s top financial supporters recently offered $1 million to the Young Democrats of America while he pressed for the organization’s two uncommitted superdelegates to endorse Clinton. The billionaire entertainment magnate Haim Saban reportedly made the offer in a call to the group’s president, David Hardt. The group turned down Saban’s offer. Saban has not denied talking to the Young Democrats of America, but he says the report in the Huffington Post is not true.
In military news, the Pentagon has announced the upcoming deployments of more than 42,000 troops, including 25,000 active-duty Army soldiers who will be headed to Iraq. The new deployments will allow the US to maintain a presence of 140,000 troops in Iraq through the end of the year.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, US-backed Iraqi troops have raided the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in an attempt to wrest control of the area from supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. The operation comes one week after Sadr and the Iraqi government signed a deal to end weeks of fighting.
The International Federation of Journalists is calling for a full probe into the 2003 US shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad that killed two foreign journalists: Spanish cameraman Jose Couso of Telecinco and Ukrainian-born Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk. The media rights group called for the investigation after former Army Sergeant Adrienne Kinne told Democracy Now! that she saw the Palestine Hotel on a target list. At the time, Kinne was working in military intelligence. She said she knew journalists were in the hotel, because she was frequently intercepting their phone calls.
Sgt. Adrienne Kinne: “One of the instances was the fact that we were listening to journalists who were staying in the Palestine Hotel. And I remember that, specifically because during the buildup to Shock and Awe, which people in my unit were really disturbingly excited about, we were given a list of potential targets in Baghdad, and the Palestine Hotel was listed as a potential target. And I remember this specifically, because, putting one and one together, that there were journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel and this hotel was listed as a potential target.”
Aidan White of the International Federation of Journalists said, “This latest information adds to our concern that the failure to properly investigate and report on this attack is covering up the reality that the US was recklessly putting media lives at risk.”
Former Pentagon official Douglas Feith admitted Monday the Bush administration made mistakes in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, but he said the decision to invade was justified. Feith, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy, claimed Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the region even though he had no weapons of mass destruction.
Douglas Feith: “And so, while it was a terrible mistake for the administration to rely on the erroneous intelligence about WMD, and, I mean, it was catastrophic to our credibility, first of all, it was an honest error and not a lie… But even if you corrected for that error, what we found in Iraq was a serious WMD threat, even though Saddam had chosen to not maintain the stockpiles. He had put himself in a position where he could have regenerated those stockpiles, as I said, in three to five weeks.”
The UN’s children’s agency UNICEF is warning six million children in Ethiopia are at risk of acute malnutrition. Paulette Jones, of the World Food Program said a combination of events has led to the dire situation. Jones said, “We have drought, a really poor rainy season, and, of course, we have high food prices worldwide.” UNICEF said more than 60,000 children in two Ethiopian regions require immediate specialist feeding just to survive.
In China, a thirty-one-year-old man was rescued Monday after being trapped for nearly 179 hours following last week’s devastating earthquake. Ma Yuanjiang was pulled from the rubble of a power plant after a thirty-hour rescue operation. The official death toll of the earthquake has now topped 40,000. Chinese officials say another 245,000 people have been injured, and 32,000 people are missing.
The military junta in Burma has agreed to let other Southeast Asian nations help coordinate foreign relief assistance for cyclone victims, but Burmese officials said aid groups will not be given uncontrolled access to the country. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to visit Burma Wednesday to urge the military junta to allow more foreign assistance to help survivors of the cyclone. A three-day period of mourning began earlier today.
In news from Latin America, the Venezuelan government is accusing the US military of violating its airspace by flying a Navy plane over a Venezuelan island on Saturday. A US military official said a Navy S3-Viking may have accidentally crossed into Venezuela’s airspace. Venezuelan officials said the Navy plane practically flew over the island of La Orchilla, where Venezuela operates a military base.
Meanwhile, Cuba is a accusing the top US diplomat in Havana of ferrying funds from an anti-Castro exile group in Miami to opposition figures on the island. The cash is said to come from Santiago Alvarez, who was once convicted in the US of conspiring to collect military-style weapons to overthrow Cuba’s government. Alvarez is currently serving a ten-month prison term for refusing to testify against airline bomber Luis Posada Carriles. Cuban Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal Ferreira said the cash payments reveals a direct connection between dissidents in Cuba and terrorists in Miami.
Josefina Vidal Ferreira: “The Cuban government has always condemned as illegal the use of federal funds to promote internal subversion in Cuba, as is the case with the direct implication of the department of US interests. But what is doubly scandalous and infuriating is that US diplomats in Havana serve as emissaries and go-betweens for terrorists and Cuban mercenaries.”
In Waterloo, Iowa, hundreds of people marched on Sunday to protest last week’s immigration raid at the Agriprocessers kosher meatpacking plant. Immigration agents detained nearly 400 immigrant workers in what has been described as the largest single immigration raid in US history. The raid resulted in more than ten percent of the town of Postville, Iowa being locked up. On the day after the raid, half of the school system’s 600 students were absent, including 90 percent of Latino children, because their parents were arrested or in hiding. Many of the workers have been held at a fairgrounds usually used for exhibiting cattle. No charges have been filed against the owners of the meatpacking plant, Agriprocessors.
In other immigration news, the Rio Grande Guardian reports emergency officials in Texas have developed new evacuation plans during hurricane season that could prevent undocumented immigrants from escaping storms.
According to the paper, school buses will be used to help evacuate local residents during a hurricane. But prior to boarding, all passengers will be screened by Border Patrol agents. Anyone who is not a citizen or legal resident will be barred from the evacuation bus. Instead, they will be detained at a nearby Border Patrol facility that is alleged to be made to withstand hurricanes.
In Philadelphia, four city police officers have been fired and four others demoted or suspended after they were caught on videotape beating three unarmed African American men. On May 5, eighteen police officers surrounded a car in North Philadelphia. A local television news helicopter videotaped officers pulling the victims from their car and kicking and punching them as they lay on the ground. The beating occurred after the shooting death of a police officer who had been pursuing three robbery suspects, two of whom were later caught.
And the New York Post has fired a Jamaican-born reporter after he filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department for racial profiling. Leonardo Blair sued the police department after two officers stopped and frisked him near his Bronx home moments after he parked his car on the street. Blair filed the lawsuit on the same day the New York Post ran an editorial defending the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy. During the first three months of the year, the New York police stopped and frisked a record 145,000 people. The majority of the stops targeted African Americans and Latinos.