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    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Reuters - Obama weathers Wright storm as new details emerge

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    Obama weathers Wright storm as new details emerge

    Thursday, Mar 27, 2008 9:36PM UTC

    By Steve Holland

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A controversy over Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's former pastor has not hurt Obama, a new poll found on Thursday, even as more potential trouble surfaced involving his church.

    A poll by the Pew Research Center said videos of sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama's subsequent speech on race in America last week have attracted more public attention than any events thus far in the 2008 presidential campaign.

    The March 19-22 survey of 1,503 American adults found that despite the flap, Illinois Sen. Obama had maintained a 49 percent to 39 percent advantage over New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

    While he seemed to have weathered the storm so far, the poll said most voters aware of the sermons were offended by them.

    Wright argued from the pulpit that the September 11 attacks were payback for U.S. foreign policy and expressed anger over what he called racist America.

    The new survey was released as new information came to light about Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which Obama attended for two decades.

    A Christian publication called Baptist Messenger reported that the church published a pro-Hamas, anti-Israel opinion article in a church bulletin in July.

    It said the church republished the article from The Los Angeles Times. In the article, an official from the Palestinian group Hamas defended the group's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.

    Baptist Messenger said the column was posted on Wright's "Pastor's Page."

    In addition, Trumpet Newsmagazine, of which Wright is the chief executive officer, published an article written by Wright in which he described the crucifixion of Jesus as "public lynching Italian style."

    "(Jesus') enemies had their opinion about Him," Wright wrote in a eulogy of the late scholar Asa Hilliard in the November/December 2007 issue, according to CNSNews.com. "The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans."

    Obama was asked about the latest information about Wright during a CNBC interview.

    "I've, I think, talked thoroughly about, you know, the issue with Rev. Wright. And, you know, everybody, I think, who examines the church that I attend knows that it is a very traditional, conventional church," he said.

    He said Wright had made some "troubling statements and some appalling statements that I have condemned."

    T.I. Cops a Plea

    US/World News

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Rapper T.I. pleads guilty on federal weapons charges

    Thursday, March 27th 2008, 2:38 PM

    ATLANTA - Rapper T.I. pleaded guilty Thursday to federal weapons possession charges, and will receive a sentence that includes prison time after he completes a period of community service.

    In the year that he is awaiting sentencing, T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, must complete at least 1,000 hours of a total 1,500 hours of community service, talking to youth groups about the pitfalls of guns, gangs and drugs.

    Officials said after completing the community service he will be sentenced to serve about 12 months in prison.

    His prison time could be increased or reduced, depending on his fulfillment of the terms of the deal and good behavior, they said.

    The rapper, dressed in a gray business suit, told the judge he understands the terms of the agreement.

    He pleaded guilty to possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers, unlawful possession of machine guns and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.

    U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said Harris will remain "under strict bond conditions" during the next year. He said Harris' sentencing was deferred "to allow him to perform a unique and extensive program — at least 1,000 hours — of community service. That service will focus on using his high public visibility and his talents to tell at-risk young people about the mistakes he has made and to educate them about the dangers of violence, guns, gangs and drugs."

    Nahmias said under the agreement, Harris will have to serve a year in prison and three years of supervised home detention, perform a total of 1,500 hours of community service and pay a $100,000 fine.

    Failure to fulfill his obligations will net Harris a "much longer prison sentence," Nahmias added.

    T.I. spoke to the media briefly after the hearing.

    "I'd like to thank God for blessing me with a second chance in life and success," he said, adding that he takes the charges against him very seriously.

    "I'm looking forward to turning this negative time in my life into a positive. I know I have a long road of redemption to travel."

    Harris was arrested Oct. 13, just blocks away and hours before he was to headline the BET Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta.

    He was charged with possession of unregistered machine guns and silencers, as well as possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.

    Harris was allegedly trying to buy unregistered machine guns and silencers. He initially pleaded not guilty, and has been under house arrest since he was released on $3 million bond on Oct. 26.

    Harris is co-CEO of Grand Hustle Records and is one of Atlantic Records' most successful artists.

    U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr. must approve the deal.

    T.I. grew up in Atlanta and was selling crack by the time he was a teenager. After years of hustling to launch his rap career, his first taste of success came with his 2003 album, "Trap Muzik." In 2004, warrants were issued for his arrest on probation violations for a drug conviction, and he was sentenced to three years behind bars.

    In May 2006, T.I.'s best friend, Philant Johnson, was killed and three others were injured in a gun shootout after a post-performance party in Cincinnati. The killer remains at large.

    T.I.'s sixth album, "T.I. vs. T.I.P.," was released July 3 and debuted at No. 1. In November, T.I. starred in "American Gangster" alongside Academy Award winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.


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    Casualties in Basra

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    CNN - Dozens killed as Iraq fighting rages

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    Dozens killed as Iraq fighting rages


    Forty-two people were killed Thursday in Kut, southeast of Baghdad, Iraq's Interior Ministry said, the latest casualties in three days of clashes between militias and Iraqi security forces.

    Iraq's offensive against what it characterizes as "outlaws" of hard-line Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia began Tuesday in Basra, Iraq's second largest city.

    Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has been overseeing the operation in southern Iraq, has given militants an ultimatum to surrender their weapons by Saturday.

    The fighting, which also saw Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone -- home to the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government -- come under fire, has threatened to unravel a delicate al-Sadr cease-fire credited with reducing bloodshed between Sunnis and Shiites.

    Since Tuesday, clashes in Basra and throughout Iraq's Shiite heartland have left more than 100 dead and many wounded in Basra, Baghdad, Hilla, Kut, Karbala and Diwaniya.

    Also Thursday, a U.S. government official was killed when militants fired rockets into the Green Zone, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said.

    Casualty figures from Basra weren't available Thursday, but the number of deaths is expected to rise from the 40 to 50 that had been reported Wednesday.

    In Baghdad on Thursday, dozens of gunmen kidnapped the spokesman of the Baghdad security plan, Tahseen Sheikhly. Three of his guards were killed and his house burned in the attack, which an Interior Ministry official said was carried out by "outlaws," a reference to al-Sadr's militia.

    Also Thursday, a car bomb explosion killed three people and wounded five others near a police patrol in central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. There are no apparent links to the violence in the Shiite regions.

    Witnesses in Basra report smoke rising and gunfire and explosions ringing out across the city, where Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. and British troops, have been taking on fighters using grenades, mortar rounds and machine guns.

    There was fighting Thursday in Jamhouriya, one of five neighborhoods the Mehdi Army controls, and Muqal, according to an official from Basra province and witnesses.

    Speaking on a condition of anonymity, the provincial official said weapons such as machine guns and grenades were stolen from a military post in the Muqal area.

    Al-Maliki briefed city and provincial officials Wednesday about the offensive and vowed to finish the job, even if it takes a month.

    Provincial officials expressed reservations about the operation, saying Basra will fall into the hands of "outlaws" if al-Maliki fails to restore order.

    Since the fighting started, Sadrists and government officials have spoken by phone in efforts to quell the violence, but no face-to-face talks have been scheduled. The Sadrists, who say security forces have unfairly targeted them in recent weeks, have been urging their followers to stage protests against the government. But so far, the cease-fire has not been rescinded.

    Basra has been relatively quiet during the war, but the southern city has seethed with intra-Shiite tensions as Sadrists, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Fadhila party have jockeyed for power.

    Much of the fighting in the Shiite heartland involves followers of al-Sadr and security forces aligned with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's militia, the Badr Brigade.

    The council dominates the ruling United Iraqi Alliance, but the Sadrist movement left the government last year after al-Maliki refused to demand a timeline for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Both groups have strong contingents in the Iraqi parliament. Read how the conflict could doom Iraq's future

    A provincial council official also said insurgents sabotaged an oil pipeline Thursday in Zubeir, a town near Basra. The attack sparked a large fire on the pipeline, which transfers crude oil to tanks in the city.

    Meanwhile, the FBI identified the remains of two U.S. contractors who had been missing in Iraq for more than a year, a bureau spokesman said Thursday.

    Minnesotan Paul Johnson-Reuben, 41, and Californian Joshua Munns, 25, were among four men kidnapped in November 2006 during an ambush in the southern Iraqi town of Safwan. All four worked for the Crescent Security Group, a Kuwaiti-based firm that escorts convoys.

    The other two men -- Jonathon Cote, 25, and Bert Nussbaumer, 26 -- are still listed as missing. The FBI has the remains of one more body, which the bureau is trying to identify.

    Tensions escalate in Basra

    Peace

    Reuters - Iraq's Maliki says he'll fight militia to the end

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    Iraq's Maliki says he'll fight militia to the end

    Thursday, Mar 27, 2008 6:33PM UTC

    By Aref Mohammed

    BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraq's U.S.-backed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed on Thursday that security forces would battle Shi'ite militia in Basra "to the end", despite huge demonstrations to demand his resignation.

    Mehdi Army fighters loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr remained in control of much of Basra, Iraq's second biggest city and main oil hub, defying a three-day government offensive that has led to violence spreading across the south and Baghdad.

    Saboteurs blew up one of Iraq's two main oil export pipelines from Basra, cutting at least a third of the exports from the southern oilfields, a Southern Oil Company official said. U.S. oil prices briefly rose more than $1 a barrel.

    Maliki, who has traveled to Basra to oversee the crackdown, told tribal leaders it was sending "a message to all gangs that the state is in charge of the country".

    "We entered this battle with determination and we will continue to the end. No retreat. No talks. No negotiations."

    More than 130 people have been killed and hundreds wounded since the government began the operation on Tuesday, exposing deep divisions between powerful factions within Iraq's majority Shi'ite community.

    The clashes have all but wrecked a truce declared last August by Sadr, which Washington had said helped curb violence.

    The government says it is fighting "outlaws", but Sadr's followers say political parties in Maliki's government are using military force to marginalize their rivals ahead of local elections due by October.

    U.S. President George W. Bush praised Maliki's "boldness" in launching the operation and said it showed the Iraqi leader's commitment to "enforce the law in an even-handed manner".

    Tens of thousands of Sadr supporters marched in Baghdad in a massive show of force for the cleric, demanding Maliki's removal. In the vast Sadr City slum, named after the cleric's slain father, crowds of angry men chanted slogans.

    "We demand the downfall of the Maliki government. It does not represent the people. It represents Bush and Cheney," marcher Hussein Abu Ali said.

    The slum of 2 million people is in a virtual state of siege.

    "We are trapped in our homes with no water or electricity since yesterday. We can't bathe our children or wash our clothes," said a resident who gave his name as Mohammed.

    Demonstrations were also held in the Kadhimiya and Shula districts, among the largest anti-government protests Maliki's government has faced. An Interior Ministry source said hundreds of thousands took part.

    A Reuters correspondent in Basra said Iraqi forces had cordoned off seven districts but were being repelled by Mehdi Army fighters inside them. Helicopters swooped overhead.

    Reuters television pictures showed masked Mehdi fighters firing mortars, waving rocket launchers in the air and dancing with children in the streets. Some showed off captured government vehicles sprayed with Mehdi Army slogans.

    Authorities imposed curfews in other Shi'ite towns to halt the spread of the violence. Many shops in Baghdad were shut and the streets largely empty as people stayed at home.

    BOMBARDMENT

    An Interior Ministry source said 51 people had been killed and more than 200 wounded so far in Basra alone. Basra's police chief survived a roadside bomb which killed three bodyguards.

    Clashes have spread in the past two days to the southern cities of Kut, Hilla, Nassiriya, Diwaniya, Amara and Kerbala, as well as 13 predominantly Shi'ite neighborhoods of Baghdad that have a Mehdi Army presence.

    The "Green Zone" in central Baghdad came under repeated rocket attack during the day in some of the worst barrages aimed at the government and diplomatic compound in recent months. One rocket landed inside the grounds of the U.S. embassy complex.

    Many of the rockets fell short and landed in surrounding neighborhoods. The U.S. military blamed rogue elements of the Mehdi Army for the attacks, which it said killed one Iraqi and wounded 14 others.

    Forty-four people have been killed and 75 wounded in Wasit province, police chief Abdul Hanin al-Imara said. U.S. planes flew over the provincial capital Kut and gunfire rang out as troops entered the streets, a Reuters witness said.

    Ali Bustan, head of the health directorate for eastern Baghdad, said 30 bodies and more than 200 wounded had been brought to two hospitals in Sadr City.

    Reuters television pictures showed fighters in T-shirts and jeans firing rocket-propelled grenades and rifles on the streets of the northern Shaab district. Police said Sadr followers had set ablaze a building of Maliki's Dawa party.

    U.S. and Iraqi checkpoints near Sadr City came under fire, said U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Stover.

    Gunmen also burst into the home of a government security spokesman, set it on fire and kidnapped him, police said.

    Sadr's aides say his ceasefire is still formally in place. But his followers have staged a "civil disobedience" campaign, forcing schools and shops to shut, and Sadr has threatened to declare a "civil revolt" if the crackdown is not halted.

    (Additional reporting by Aseel Kami, Wisam Mohammed, Ahmed Rasheed, Waleed Ibrahim and Ross Colvin in Baghdad; writing by Peter Graff; editing by Andrew Roche)

    Sen. Obama

    I'm so Presidential

    Reuters - Obama calls for $30 billion stimulus plan

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    Obama calls for $30 billion stimulus plan

    Thursday, Mar 27, 2008 4:12PM UTC

    By Matt Bigg

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called for greater government regulation of the U.S. financial system on Thursday and proposed a new $30 billion economic stimulus plan to help homeowners.

    Obama said an era of financial deregulation had created conditions that led to the housing and credit crisis that has pushed the U.S. economy to the brink of a recession.

    "It is time for the federal government to revamp the regulatory framework dealing with our financial markets," the Illinois senator said in a wide-ranging speech on the economy.

    "Our capital markets have helped us build the strongest economy in the world," Obama said. "They are a source of competitive advantage for our country. But they cannot succeed without the public's trust."

    Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton are in a heated battle for the Democratic nomination to face likely Republican nominee John McCain in the November presidential election.

    Obama was introduced by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who flirted with his own presidential bid and pointedly noted that he had not endorsed a presidential candidate.

    Obama said there were good arguments in the 1990s for changing government rules to cope with technological change and globalization in financial markets.

    But instead of establishing a new regulatory framework, the government simply dismantled the old one, encouraging a "winner-take-all, anything-goes environment that helped foster devastating dislocations in our economy," he said.

    He outlined six "core principles for reform" that he would pursue if elected, led by this one: "If you can borrow from the government, you should be subject to government oversight and supervision."

    In a month when the U.S. Federal Reserve helped shore up the ailing financial system and financed the takeover of a major Wall Street investment firm, Obama said it was time to help the most vulnerable Americans.

    He proposed a $30 billion stimulus plan that would provide relief to areas hardest hit by the housing crisis, and an extension of unemployment insurance for those out of work.

    "If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street when they get into trouble, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling through no fault of their own," Obama said to applause.

    OTHER IDEAS

    Clinton, who would be the first woman president, called last week for a $30 billion emergency housing fund to help ease the housing crisis. An estimated 4 million American homeowners are in danger of losing their houses.

    A two-year, $168 billion stimulus aimed at propping up the U.S. economy is about to take effect, with $152 billion to be doled out this year.

    Arizona Sen. McCain in a statement reiterated that he wanted reforms aimed at "improving transparency and accountability in our capital markets -- both of which were lacking in the lead-up to the current situation."

    "However, what is not necessary is a multibillion dollar bailout for big banks and speculators, as Sen. Clinton and Obama have proposed. There is a tendency for liberals to seek big government programs that sock it to American taxpayers while failing to solve the very real problems we face," he said.

    Traveling in North Carolina, Clinton proposed a $12.5 billion package to provide job training for displaced workers.

    The package would include $2 billion a year over five years to create universally available job retraining services for the unemployed and $500 million a year for on-the-job training and worker education.

    (Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Deborah Charles and John Whitesides, writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

    (To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http://blogs.reuters.com/trail08/

    Gotta have the shades

    I was

    'Fracture of the Dems'

    Clinton 'I hate your guts'

    Reuters - Democratic race over? Clinton doesn't think so

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    Democratic race over? Clinton doesn't think so

    Thursday, Mar 27, 2008 3:45PM UTC

    By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Somebody forgot to tell Hillary Clinton the Democratic presidential race is over and Barack Obama won.

    Obama has captured more state contests, more votes and more of the pledged convention delegates who will help decide which Democrat faces Republican Sen. John McCain in November's presidential election.

    But Clinton, a New York senator who has flirted with disaster before in the back-and-forth nominating battle with Obama, shrugs off growing predictions of doom and still sees at least a narrow path to victory.

    "I hear it in the atmosphere," Clinton said of the increasingly loud chatter about whether she should drop out and let Democrats focus on the general election campaign.

    "But the most common thing that people say to me ... is 'Don't give up, keep going. We're with you.' And I feel really good about that because that's what I intend to do," she told reporters on Tuesday.

    Clinton has not been hearing those words of encouragement from a chorus of media commentators and Obama supporters who have questioned why she is pursuing her uphill fight to catch the Illinois senator.

    The Politico newspaper declared Clinton "has virtually no chance of winning." A New York Times columnist called her campaign "the audacity of hopelessness" -- a pun on Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope."

    New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Cabinet member for her husband Bill, the former president, said it was time for Democrats to rally around Obama -- and was called a "Judas" by Clinton loyalist James Carville for his views.

    Clinton and her campaign aides have worked hard to debunk the idea the race is over, holding daily conference calls to tout their viability and issuing a lengthy memo to rebut the "myth" that Clinton cannot win.

    "In a campaign with dozens of unexpected twists and turns, bold prognostications should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism," the memo said.

    But Clinton needs almost everything to go her way in the next few months.

    She had a setback last week when her push for revotes in Michigan and Florida failed. Her victories there did not count because the contests were not sanctioned by the national party. She also faced an uproar this week over her misstatements about coming under sniper fire on her arrival in Bosnia in 1996.

    TARGET: SUPERDELEGATES

    The Clinton case for victory in the Democratic nomination fight is built on the backs of nearly 800 superdelegates -- elected officials and party insiders who are free to support anyone.

    With 10 nominating contests remaining, Clinton lags Obama by more than 100 in the count of pledged delegates won in the state-by-state voting since January and has little chance of catching Obama.

    But neither candidate is on track to win the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination -- making superdelegates the ultimate kingmakers.

    Both camps have wooed them heavily, with Obama contending they should follow the will of Democratic voters. By the last nominating contests on June 3 in Montana and South Dakota, Obama says, he will have won the most votes and delegates.

    Clinton says she offers the best chance of beating McCain in November.

    To help her make that argument she needs to close the gap on Obama by rolling up big wins in many of the remaining contests, beginning on April 22 with Pennsylvania.

    "The Obama campaign is trying to persuade everybody that this is over. I hope they don't get their hands on the federal budget because they surely can't count," said Clinton adviser Harold Ickes.

    "We think that both candidates are going to be within a hair of each other by the time the last state votes. At the end of this process, neither candidate will have the nomination" and superdelegates will decide," Ickes said.

    Clinton says she has won more big, diverse states crucial to Democratic hopes in November like Ohio, New Jersey and California, proving her worth in a general election battle.

    The longer she continues, the more chance Obama might slip up and make a mistake that turns the tide of the campaign. Clinton has made it clear she will not consider bowing out of the race until all of the states have concluded their voting.

    At that point, Democrats hope, a winner will emerge without the battle continuing all the way to the August party convention in Denver.

    "I think that what we have to wait and see is what happens in the next three months, and there's been a lot of talk about what-if, what-if, what-if. Let's wait until we get some votes," Clinton said.

    (Editing by Patricia Wilson and Frances Kerry)

    (To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http:blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)

    Image of Nancy. Pelosi

    What me worry

    Reuters - Clinton backers warn Pelosi on superdelegate rift

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    Clinton backers warn Pelosi on superdelegate rift

    Thursday, Mar 27, 2008 12:3PM UTC

    By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of prominent Hillary Clinton donors sent a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday asking her to retract her comments on superdelegates and stay out of the Democratic fight over their role in the presidential race.

    The 20 prominent Clinton supporters told Pelosi she should "clarify" recent statements to make it clear superdelegates -- nearly 800 party insiders and elected officials who are free to back any candidate -- could support the candidate they think would be the best nominee.

    Pelosi has not publicly endorsed either Clinton or Barack Obama in their hotly contested White House battle, but she recently said superdelegates should support whoever emerges from the nomination contests with the most pledged delegates -- which appears almost certain to be Obama.

    "This is an untenable position that runs counter to the party's intent in establishing superdelegates in 1984," the letter from the wealthy Clinton backers said.

    "Superdelegates, like all delegates, have an obligation to make an informed, individual decision about whom to support and who would be the party's strongest nominee," said the letter signed by some of Clinton's biggest fund raisers.

    Superdelegates have emerged as likely kingmakers in the fight between Clinton and Obama. The letter was another sign of growing Democratic tension over their nominating battle.

    Neither candidate is expected to have enough pledged delegates won in state-by-state contests to clinch the nomination when voting ends in June, leaving the choice in the hands of the superdelegates.

    Both candidates have wooed them heavily, with Obama contending they should follow the will of Democratic voters and Clinton arguing they should vote for the candidate with the best chance of winning the presidential election in November -- which she says is her.

    Among the signees of the letter were prominent Democrats and Clinton supporters like Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television; Bernard Schwartz, former chairman of Loral Space and Communications; and venture capitalist Steven Rattner.

    The signees reminded the House leader from California of their support for the party's House campaign committee and said "therefore" she should "reflect in your comments a more open view" about superdelegates.

    "We appreciate your activities in support of the Democratic Party and your leadership role in the party and hope you will be responsive to some of your major enthusiastic supporters," the letter said.

    The Obama campaign said the Illinois senator would support the election efforts of House Democrats no matter what the outcome of the nomination fight.

    "This letter is inappropriate and we hope the Clinton campaign will reject the insinuation contained in it," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.

    Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said Clinton had made the case superdelegates should exercise independent judgment about who would be the best for the party and the country.

    "Few have done more to build the Democratic Party than Bill and Hillary Clinton. The last thing they need is a lecture from the Obama campaign," he said.

    (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

    (To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http:blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)

    Sen. John McCain

    Sen. John McCain 'i can see into the future'

    Reuters - McCain works to answer age and health questions

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    McCain works to answer age and health questions

    Thursday, Mar 27, 2008 11:54AM UTC

    By Steve Holland

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain is the ultimate survivor. Not only did he live through 5-1/2 years as a Vietnam prisoner of war, he also has stared down the deadly cancer melanoma.

    As a young Navy pilot, he narrowly escaped death in a fire aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier Forrestal in 1967. Later that year his fighter jet was shot down over Hanoi. He ejected from his plane and broke a leg and two arms and was said to have nearly drowned when he parachuted into a lake.

    As a POW, he underwent torture that included fractures in both shoulders, which left him barely able to raise his arms above his shoulders, as well as broken ribs and a badly injured knee.

    In the past 15 years, he has been treated four times for melanoma, the most serious case being in 2000 when he underwent surgery on his face for the cancer, leaving him with a bulge and a long scar on the left side of his face. He has been cancer-free since then.

    At age 71, McCain would be the oldest person ever to serve a first presidential term. Both Democratic and Republican strategists expect his age to be a campaign issue.

    But so far, McCain has kept any doubters at bay with a tough work schedule. He holds lengthy town-hall meetings that include a speech and question-and-answer session, and he holds court with reporters on his bus on the way to events.

    McCain impresses his much-younger aides with his stamina, although some of those around him have advised him to cut back on the junk food that is prevalent on all political campaigns.

    "I just spent most of the time with him from Labor Day (in September) through early March, when he worked seven-day weeks, 14-hour days, and I'm 10 years younger than him, and I couldn't keep up with him," said senior McCain adviser Charlie Black.

    In mid-April, McCain's team plans to release details of his medical history. He underwent a physical earlier this month that included a stress test and he also had a skin exam to see if there was any sign of the melanoma returning.

    He was fine on both counts, his campaign said.

    HIKES HILLS

    Black said when McCain took the treadmill stress test to determine the strength of his heart, he reported afterward that "I had the performance of a 47-year-old man."

    McCain is known to take the medication Vytorin to keep his cholesterol low. He also takes vitamins. For exercise, he hikes up and down the hills near his Sedona, Arizona, ranch.

    Doctors say there is no reason why McCain would not be able to serve as president.

    But they note that certain health risk factors come into play for Americans in their 70s, such as the potential for heart disease and cancer.

    Harvard-trained cardiologist James Rippe, who wrote about the impact of stress and diet in his book, "Your Plan for a Balanced Life," says running for president is remarkably stressful and that it is important to eat well and get enough sleep and exercise.

    "I think for somebody who is in their 70s who is doing something inherently stressful, really throwing his life out of balance, it is a legitimate question for all of us to ask, is his health adequate to be in the White House, to be in arguably the world's most stressful job," Rippe said.

    David Carr, clinical director of the division of geriatrics and nutritional science at Washington University in St. Louis, said the fact that McCain has gone five years without a melanoma recurrence is good news.

    He said since McCain has had multiple episodes of the lethal cancer, it means "people are watching him closely" for signs of a recurrence and the earlier a new episode is found, the better.

    Democratic strategist Jim Duffy said he doubts the Democratic presidential nominee will address McCain's age directly but that if Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, 46, emerges as the victor in his party, an argument over generational change likely will be made.

    Obama will honor McCain's lengthy service but argue that "it's time for a new generation of leadership," Duffy predicted.

    (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

    Shitzer

    Ha! She look like transvestite!!

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