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Cheney Opposed Chemical Weapons Convention

Thursday, April 03, 2008

By Noah Shachtman

Vice President Dick Cheney opposed the signing ratification of a treaty banning the use chemical weapons, a recently unearthed letter shows.

183 countries pledged never to "develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone" under the Chemical Weapons Convention, put into effect in 1997.

But in a letter dated April 8, 1997, then Halliburton-CEO Cheney told Sen. Jesse Helms, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that it would be a mistake for America to join the Convention. "Those nations most likely to comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention are not likely to ever constitute a military threat to the United States. The governments we should be concerned about are likely to cheat on the CWC, even if they do participate," reads the letter, published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The CWC was ratified by the Senate that same month. And since then, Albania, Libya, Russia, the United States, and India have declared over 71,000 metric tons of chemical weapon stockpiles, and destroyed about a third of them. Under the terms of the agreement, the United States and Russia are supposed to eliminate the rest of their supplies of chemical weapons by 2012. But that looks unlikely -- the U.S. government figures it will get the job done by 2017....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Memo justified warrantless surveillance

Secret Memo That Justified Warrantless Domestic Surveillance Comes to Light

Apr 02, 2008 19:20 EST

(AP News) For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn't apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

The 37-page memo is classified and has not been released. Its existence was disclosed Tuesday in a footnote of a separate secret memo, dated March 14, 2003, released by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations," the footnote states, referring to a document titled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States."...(Click here for remainder of article.)


US declassifies 'torture' memo

The US justice department has released a declassified 2003 memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation methods on al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects held abroad.

The memo, which was subsequently overruled, said George Bush's authority as president superseded international bans on torture.

"Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion," the memo, written by John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general for the US Office of Legal Counsel, said.

The document was released in response to a legal action launched by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) concerning the treatment of prisoners in US custody abroad.


The memo also offered a defence in case any interrogator was charged with breaking US or international laws.

"Finally, even if the criminal prohibitions outlined above applied, and an interrogation method might violate those prohibitions, necessity or self-defence could provide justifications for any criminal liability," the memo concluded.

The Pentagon, unlike US intelligence bodies, specifically prohibited its interrogators from using certain harsh methods, including a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The memo was rescinded in December 2003, nine months after Yoo sent it to the Pentagon's top lawyer, William J Haynes....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Democrats Fear Florida Backlash

A Failure to Seat Delegation Is Seen Hurting in November

April 3, 2008; Page A5

WASHINGTON -- Florida's congressional Democrats and the national Democratic Party are concerned about their November election prospects if the Florida delegation isn't seated at this summer's national convention in Denver, party chairman Howard Dean said in an interview.

Whether the state's 210 delegates are seated "makes a difference" in the congressional races in Florida, where the party hopes to pick up one or two seats, and in the presidential race, Mr. Dean said. "I don't think we can have a vote in Denver about whether or not Florida is to be seated" without prompting a divisive floor fight that could damage the party in the November polls, he added.

Florida was stripped of its Democratic convention delegates after defying national party rules and leapfrogging other states to hold its primary in January. Supporters of Hillary Clinton, who won the primary, have insisted that the delegates should be seated anyway.

Mr. Dean and Florida's state elected leaders said Wednesday that the state leaders had agreed to work together on a plan to seat the delegates. But it is still unclear how the votes would be divided or which candidate would benefit.

Supporters of Barack Obama, while agreeing that Florida should have a vote, have done little to promote a seating plan because it probably would narrow his delegate lead over Sen. Clinton. The state party's efforts to hold a mail-in revote collapsed two weeks ago....(Click here for remainder of article.)


A Reprise of the 3 A.M. Call

Published: April 3, 2008

This 30-second television commercial for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, began running statewide in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Within hours, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, released a similar advertisement as a rebuttal.

PRODUCERS The Clinton media team.

THE SCRIPT Announcer: “It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone ringing in the White House, and this time the crisis is economic. Home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering. John McCain just said the government shouldn’t take any real action on the housing crisis; he’d let the phone keep ringing. Hillary Clinton has a plan to protect our homes, create jobs. It’s 3 a.m., time for a president who’s ready.”

ON THE SCREEN The commercial opens with images of children sleeping, then the ominous ring of the telephone in the middle of the night. There is a stark image of a crumpled dollar bill, then tax forms and various worried people appear, struggling over their bills and taxes. At the end, Mrs. Clinton, dressed and wearing glasses as if she had been up anyway, answers the phone.

ACCURACY Economists and lawmakers generally agree that the country faces a crisis over the collapse of the housing and residential mortgage markets, and Congress is set to act on the matter. Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, initially said he would be reluctant to give aid to homeowners because they were speculators themselves, but after being criticized, he has said he would be open to other approaches. He has not said he would let the phone keep ringing. Mrs. Clinton has called for direct federal intervention to help affected homeowners, including a $30 billion fund for states and communities to help those at risk of foreclosure....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Why the Democratic race could end in N.C.

By Susan Page, USA TODAY

RALEIGH, N.C. — The end could be near.

Or the endgame, at least, of a surprisingly drawn-out Democratic presidential contest. Four months and 42 states after the opening Iowa caucuses, the primary in North Carolina on May 6 now looms as a pivotal final showdown between Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama starts with a double-digit lead in polls here, a state where 2,400 free tickets to his rally at the War Memorial Auditorium in Greensboro last week were gone within three hours of the announcement he would appear. But Clinton has appeal in the Tar Heel State, too, and is competing hard. The day after Obama's rally, she drew 1,000 supporters to the gym at Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville for a town hall meeting.

"I really believe May 6 has the potential to be everything," says Joe Trippi, a strategist for the presidential bids of former North Carolina senator John Edwards this year and Howard Dean in 2004. "Every day you see increased pressure on Hillary Clinton about why she's staying in, and if she could win in North Carolina it would shut down that kind of talk and open up the possibility she could get there" to the nomination.

"But if he wins in North Carolina," Trippi says of Obama, "I think you're going to see things close up very quickly. You'll see a lot of superdelegates line up behind him."

The Pennsylvania primary comes first, on April 22, with 158 convention delegates at stake. Clinton is favored there, though a Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday showed her lead narrowing to single digits, 50%-41%. An unexpected victory by Obama would dash her hopes for a comeback, but a win by Clinton wouldn't be the sort of surprise that could reshape the race. Indiana, which also votes May 6, is considered a tossup....(Click here for remainder of article.)


The Obama Doctrine

By John Fund

Barack Obama is a skillful candidate, but also one who has never had to deal with foreign policy pronouncements on the fly before. Sometimes it shows. Last year he blundered by publicly declaring he would intervene in Pakistan if that nation's government didn't cooperate in the war on terrorism.

This week, Mr. Obama stumbled again after he declared he wants to withdraw from Iraq but "leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counter-terrorism force to strike al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy."

John McCain quickly leaped on the notion of keeping a "strike force" in Iraq and noted it was in direct contradiction to previous Obama statements that he would fully withdraw almost all troops. Mr. McCain had a series of questions: "I think it might be appropriate to describe exactly what that means. Does that mean 100,000 troops? Where are they based? What is their mission?"...(Click here for remainder of article.)


Clinton’s Persistence Could Help Obama

Published: April 2, 2008

PITTSBURGH — For someone supposedly in a heap of trouble, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is looking pretty relaxed these days.

She hopped out of her motorcade at the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre airport on Tuesday afternoon, chatted with some residents and then took a relatively long stroll across the tarmac to her plane. The sun was out for the first time in days. Her bright fuchsia jacket — gone was the dark coat of winter — drew the eye, and she gave a jaunty nod as she bounded up the stairs of her plane.

Earlier, she had staged a somewhat elaborate April Fool’s stunt, with a mock-serious news conference, and later she had drolly told reporters about her days playing half-court basketball and bowling at Camp David. Thursday night she is to appear on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and on Monday, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

This is not to say she has gone soft. When it is message time, Mrs. Clinton is focused.

But at moments she seems almost carefree, which is a jarring image for someone who has been called upon by members of her party to give up her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Her rival, Senator Barack Obama, has more delegates and more total popular votes. The longer Mrs. Clinton persists, her critics say, the more damage to the Democrats in the fall....(Click here for remainder of article.)


The Obama difference

Unlike most presidential Dems in recent memory, the Illinois senator is at ease with himself -- even while bowling gutter balls in Pennsylvania.

By Walter Shapiro

April 3, 2008 | PHILADELPHIA -- "I've been running now for 15 months," Barack Obama would announce with a whiff of weary wonder in his voice at virtually every stop on his just-completed six-day Pennsylvania bus trip. Then the Democratic front-runner would add the punch line that underscored the absurdity of this presidential marathon: "Which means that there are babies that have been born and now are walking and talking."

Fifteen months from now -- if his luck holds -- President Obama will be nearing his half-year mark in the Oval Office. Which means -- if presidential history is any guide -- that the fledgling president will already have survived a contentious confirmation battle over a top appointee, signed a major piece of domestic legislation and weathered an unanticipated foreign crisis.

Yes, we are rather cavalierly dismissing formidable obstacles named Hillary Clinton and John McCain. But so much of the current campaign dialogue is fixated on the ephemeral (the latest Pennsylvania polls, the latest fracas over 3 a.m. phone calls) that it is easy to forget that the presidency will test Obama -- or either of his two rivals -- in ways that we cannot now imagine. Sometimes in the midst of a campaign (especially during slow news weeks), there is merit in stepping back and trying to envision a would-be president like Obama in a new light.

Pennsylvania provides something of a laboratory for Obama. The Illinois senator can use the April 22 primary as an opportunity to quiet doubters by increasing his vote share among blue-collar Democrats, while simultaneously beginning to test-market themes designed to sway swing voters in the fall election. At a Tuesday town meeting in Scranton both sides of the equation came together when a man with a booming voice asked Obama how he could reach out to Republicans while remaining true to his political values....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Democrats spar over Rocky, NAFTA

By Mike Dorning and Rick Pearson | Tribune correspondents
April 2, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic presidential campaigns engaged in a contentious, long-distance debate Wednesday with barbs over movie characters, NAFTA and loose-lipped advisers as they sought to fill the period before the next primary and a real debate more than a week away.

Sen. Barack Obama mocked rival Sen. Hillary Clinton for comparing herself to the Sylvester Stallone film character Rocky Balboa, and his campaign challenged her truthfulness in claims Clinton has made that she has opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Before the Obama conference call on Clinton's NAFTA record began, her campaign made a pre-emptive strike. A Clinton spokesman e-mailed reporters to suggest the call include Austan Goolsbee, an Obama adviser described in a leaked Canadian government memo as assuring a diplomat that Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric was "political positioning."

Like Rocky, Clinton released a sequel of her own—an update of her controversial 3 a.m. phone call ad that showed her as ready to handle a crisis, this time portraying presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain as unable to answer a call for economic help....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Obama Would Give Gore Key Role Shaping Climate Policy

By Kim Chipman

April 2 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said that if elected he would ask former Vice President Al Gore to be a key contributor in shaping U.S. climate policies.

Obama, in response to a voter's question today while campaigning in Pennsylvania, said he would consider offering Gore a cabinet-level position focused on tackling global climate change.

"Al Gore would be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem," Illinois Senator Obama said during a town hall meeting in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. "He's somebody I talk to on a regular basis. I'm already consulting with him in terms of these issues."

Obama is proposing a carbon credit trading system to cut global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. Such a program would generate billions of dollars to invest in alternative energy sources, he said. Some of the money also would be used to help offset higher energy bills, the likely short-term result of coal- fired power plants being required to cut their carbon emissions.

"That's going to cost them money. They are going to try to pass on those costs through higher electricity prices," Obama said today. "We are going to have to reimburse people on fixed and low incomes to make sure they don't get hurt by spikes in electricity prices." ...(Click here for remainder of article.)


Former Indiana Rep. Hamilton Endorses Obama

By Alec MacGillis and Jonathan Weisman

No, Lee Hamilton is not a superdelegate. Nonetheless, there are several reasons for Barack Obama to welcome the support of the longtime Indiana congressman and co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, who announced his endorsement of Obama this morning.

Hamilton's support helps Obama in Indiana, where the May 6 primary looms as perhaps the most evenly matched of the remaining contests, and thus a possible media bellwether. Until now, Hillary Clinton has held an edge in establishment support in the state, thanks mostly to her backing from Evan Bayh, the senator, former governor and son of a former senator.

As importantly, the nod from the respected co-chairman of the 9/11 commission bolsters Obama's claim as a credible candidate for commander in chief, a point on which the rookie senator has been hammered by both Clinton and McCain. (In fact, Hamilton is not the first 9/11 commission member from Indiana to endorse Obama -- former congressman Tim Roemer came out for him last month.) There is the added twist of the 9/11 commission co-chairman passing over the senator from the state that suffered the worst of the attacks, though the symbolism is not as stark as it was when Tom Kean, the former New Jersey governor and Republican co-chairman of the panel, endorsed McCain instead of Rudy Giuliani, the presidential candidate most closely identified with the attacks....(Click here for remainder of article.)


Wyoming governor backs Obama


CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a former Clinton administration appointee, announced Wednesday that he will support Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Freudenthal said he was impressed by the large, enthusiastic crowds that turned out to see Obama when he visited Wyoming ahead of last month's caucuses.

"They paid attention and were riveted and reactivated, and trying to be part of an America that's bigger than just their own self-interest," Freudenthal told The Associated Press. "And you hope that can work. Because something has got to dig us out of this morass that we've gotten into, where it's sort of gotcha politics."

Freudenthal is the second Western governor and former Clinton appointee to endorse Obama in recent weeks. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former energy secretary and UN ambassador under Clinton, announced his support for Obama two weeks ago.

Former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, who was the top Democrat on the Sept. 11 Commission, also endorsed Obama on Wednesday.

As governor, Freudenthal is a superdelegate to the party's national convention this summer. In the close contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Obama, the superdelegates — elected officials and party leaders — could ultimately decide the Democratic nominee....(Click here for remainder of article.)


40 years after MLK's killing, RFK's anguished words still resound

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist | April 2, 2008

Friday will be 40 years, 40 years to the day, that Bobby Kennedy climbed some steps to a platform in Indianapolis.
more stories like this

Kennedy was running for president, and he was in Indiana looking for votes. But as he looked out over a sea of black faces, the stump speech was in his pocket, and the words he spoke came from some place much deeper.

Few in the crowd knew that Martin Luther King Jr. had just been shot in Memphis. Kennedy had only found out when he got off the plane in Indianapolis. The police advised him against making the appearance, in a poor black neighborhood, fearing that news of King's assassination would trigger violence. But Kennedy climbed onto the platform and broke the news.

There was a sharp intake of breath, and then the crowd fell silent. And in that void, Bobby Kennedy spoke, as fine and as important and as dignified a speech as has ever been given by any politician anywhere. If you've never heard it, here is a link to the speech.

His plea for calm and restraint, as he reminded those tempted to lash out violently that his brother had also been killed by a white man, is raw and real and achingly poignant....(Click here for remainder of post.)



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