CBS4 in Denver is reporting at least four people are under arrest in connection with a possible plot to kill Barack Obama at his Thursday night acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. All of the men are being held on either drug or weapons charges. One of the suspects told authorities they were “going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a rifle sighted at 750 yards.” Law enforcement sources told CBS4 that one of the suspects was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative. On Sunday, police arrested Tharin Gartrell during a routine traffic stop in a suburb of Denver. Inside his rental pickup truck, police found two rifles, including one with a scope; a bulletproof vest; boxes of ammunition; walkie-talkies; and suspected narcotics. Authorities then went to a local hotel to arrest an associate of Gartrell named Shawn Robert Adolf. Police arrested him after he jumped out of a sixth floor hotel window trying to avoid capture. Sources said Adolf was wearing a swastika and is thought to have ties to white supremacist organizations. The FBI and Secret Service are investigating the alleged plot.
Details of the plot emerged as the Democratic National Convention opened in Denver. On Monday night, Michelle Obama gave the keynote address.
Michelle Obama: “Millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams, millions of Americans who know that Barack will fight for people like them and that Barack will bring, finally, the change that we need.”
Senator Edward Kennedy also spoke in one of his first public appearances since being diagnosed with a brain tumor in May.
Sen. Edward Kennedy: “Barack Obama will be a commander-in-chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake.”
Earlier on Monday, during a breakfast gathering, Hillary Clinton urged her supporters to unite behind Barack Obama. She said Democrats could not afford to let lingering frustrations from their nominating battle hurt Obama’s bid for the White House.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: “The McCain campaign is running ads trying to divide us. And let me state what I think about their tactics and these ads. I’m Hillary Clinton, and I do not approve that message.”
Clinton is giving a prime-time speech tonight at the convention. She is expected to meet with her delegates on Wednesday to free them from their commitment to vote for her and urge them to back Obama.
Outside the convention, Denver police arrested ninety-one protesters Monday night after a standoff near Civic Center Park. Police in riot gear fired pepper balls and pepper spray at the activists in an attempt to prevent the protesters from reaching the 16th Street Mall.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, a group of video activists say they’ve been detained and stripped of their video equipment a week ahead of the Republican convention. Members of the group Glass Bead Collective say they were stopped by three police cars as they rode their bikes in Minneapolis. The activists have been involved in grassroots media efforts to document protests and police crackdowns. They helped distribute the video showing a police officer’s assault on a bicyclist in New York City last month. The video has gotten more than one million hits on YouTube.
While thousands of Democrats were meeting and partying in Denver, Barack Obama spent part of Monday campaigning in Iowa. He told a crowd in Davenport, Iowa that the world must pressure Iran over its nuclear program before Israel feels compelled to deal with the situation itself.
Sen. Obama: “My job as president would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran, that we’ve mobilized the world community to go after Iran’s nuclear program in a serious way, to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a difficult calculation. And we’ve got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall.”
Newsweek has revealed one of John McCain’s top campaign advisers has been lobbying Congress to allow people on terrorist watch lists to buy guns. Gun control groups and the Bush administration have supported closing this loophole, known as the terror gap. But registration documents filed by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, show that he has lobbied on behalf of the National Shooting Sports Foundation to preserve the loophole. A spokesperson for the gun manufacturers trade association says plugging the loophole would deny “due process” to gun buyers. McCain’s campaign refused to answer questions from Newsweek about whether the senator supports or opposes the White House plan to close the loophole, and it also declined to say if Scheunemann had ever lobbied McCain on gun control bills.
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has announced Russia has formally recognized the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations. On Monday, both houses of Russia’s parliament called on Medvedev to recognize the separatist regions. The move is expected to heighten tension between Washington and Moscow. On Monday, President Bush said Georgia’s borders must be respected. Vice President Cheney is heading to Georgia next week.
Federal agents detained at least 350 immigrant workers in Laurel, Mississippi Monday in one of the largest immigration raids in US history. Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement descended on the Howard Industries factory early on Monday and separated all Latino workers from their white and black co-workers. By afternoon, several dozen family members of immigrants waited for news of their relatives at a local Catholic Church. Federal agents have carried out a series of large immigration raids in recent months. In May, over 400 workers at a kosher meatpacking plant were detained in Postville, Iowa. Two weeks ago, forty-two immigrant workers were picked up at Dulles International Airport.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has pulled his party out of the ruling coalition, bringing the Pakistani government to the brink of collapse just a week after the resignation of President General Pervez Musharraf. Sharif said his main coalition partner, the party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, which leads the coalition, had repeatedly broken promises on resolving a judicial dispute and on who should be the next president.
Nawaz Sharif: “We joined the coalition with full sincerity and commitment to steer Pakistan towards full restoration of democracy, independent judiciary and constitutional governance. Unfortunately, all promises made with us were not honored.”
The Los Angeles Times reports senior Pentagon officials are debating whether the US military should expand the Afghan war by carrying out military attacks against Islamic militants operating in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas. The move would be in defiance of Pakistan’s civilian government, which recently refused to accept a US military training mission for the Pakistani army. US drones have carried out a number of strikes inside Pakistan in recent years, but now the US is considering a more direct military role in Pakistan. The prominent military analyst Anthony Cordesman said the US should treat Pakistani territory as a combat zone if Pakistan does not act. Cordesman’s comment came in a new report in which he declared the US is now losing the war against the Taliban. Cordesman writes, “Pakistan may officially be an ally, but much of its conduct has effectively made it a major threat to U.S. strategic interests.”
As the US considers expanding the war to Pakistan, the Afghan Council of Ministers is calling for a review of the presence of US troops in the country following last week’s air strike that killed up to ninety civilians, including fifty children. The ministers are demanding a status of forces agreement, which would stipulate that the authority and responsibilities of international forces be negotiated. As part of such an agreement, the ministers want a stop to aerial bombings, illegal detentions and house raids by international forces.
Construction has begun on a new US prison in Afghanistan which is designed to hold up to 1,100 prisoners. The facility is intended to replace the US prison at the Bagram airbase, where allegations of detainee mistreatment first occurred in 2002. The US claims the new facility is based on a successful model first tried in Iraq, where prisoners have only fifty square feet of cell space. The new facility is seen as a sign that the US intends to continue to hold Afghans rather than leave the job to local police forces.
And a new report by Oxfam America has found only 12 percent of African American evacuees who returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina have been able to find work over the past three years. Meanwhile, 45 percent of white evacuees have been successful in finding work. Friday marks the third anniversary of Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast region. Oxfam also reports that 35,000 individuals are still living in FEMA trailers in the Gulf Coast.
On her final Middle East tour as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice used the occasion to criticize Israeli checkpoints and restrictions on travel for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. When asked about them, she told reporters that “obviously there’s more that needs to be done.” At the start of her two-day tour, she praised the release of 198 Palestinian political prisoners on the eve of her visit. Rice is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah today before flying back to Washington.
Meanwhile, the Israeli group Peace Now has issued a new report on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The group said construction had begun on more than 1,000 buildings in the West Bank since January, nearly double the number of building starts in the same period in 2007. More than half of the current construction was taking place in areas beyond the settlement blocs Israel has said it intends to keep in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Twelve states, including New York, are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries. The lawsuit, led by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York, accuses the agency of violating the federal Clean Air Act by refusing to issue standards, known as new source performance standards, for controlling the emissions.
The United States and India began work this week on redrafting an agreement that would scrap a three-decade ban on Washington trading nuclear technology and fuel with India. The fate of the deal rests with the forty-five countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The group will meet again early in September after talks broke down last week. The United States is expected to rework the waiver to the embargo, which has been in place since India tested nuclear weapons in 1974.
And four demonstrators were shot dead by Indian security forces yesterday for breaking the curfew imposed on the Indian-controlled city of Srinagar in northern Kashmir. 150 people were also injured when the police used batons and bullets to disperse the crowds. Separatist groups are currently striking in an effort to end Indian rule and have closed down banks and schools during the tourist season. Two weeks ago, twenty people were killed in a similar crackdown by Indian security forces.