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    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Reuters - Obama: "We are a better country than this"

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    Obama: "We are a better country than this"

    Friday, Aug 29, 2008 2:35AM UTC

    By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

    DENVER (Reuters) - Barack Obama, preparing to take a historic step as the Democratic presidential nominee, launched a sharp assault on Republican rival John McCain on Thursday and promised to reverse the economic failures of the last eight years.

    Obama, the first black White House nominee of a major U.S. party, said McCain had supported the policies of President George W. Bush that were responsible for the faltering U.S. economy and decline in U.S. global standing.

    "We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight," Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Democratic convention.

    "On November 4th, we must stand up and say: 'Eight is enough,'" he said. "We are a better country than this."

    Obama said McCain was out of touch with the day-to-day concerns of Americans and had been "anything but independent" on key issues like the economy, health care and education.

    "It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it," said Obama, who has been criticized by some Democrats for not taking a tougher line against McCain.

    "The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans -- have built, and we are to restore that legacy," he said.

    Obama was set to deliver the biggest speech in a career filled with big speeches later in Denver's open-air football stadium before an expected 75,000 supporters on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- a landmark in the U.S. civil rights movement.

    The televised acceptance speech by Obama, who was formally nominated on Wednesday, gives the first-term Illinois senator his biggest national audience until he meets McCain in late September in the first of three face-to-face debates before the election.

    The speech kicks off a two-month sprint to the general election against McCain, who tried to steal the limelight with word that he has chosen his running mate and will appear with the choice on Friday in Ohio.

    "Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time?" Obama asked, citing McCain's voting record in the Senate.

    "I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change," he said.

    Former Vice President Al Gore, the Nobel Prize and Academy Award winner who lost a disputed election to Bush in 2000, said things would have been very different if he had won.

    "I doubt anyone would argue now that election didn't matter," Gore told a stadium filled nearly to capacity with flag-waving Democrats, describing Obama as "a clean break from the politics of partisanship and bitter division."

    Obama, an early opponent of the Iraq war, promised to "end this war in Iraq responsibly" but said he would finish the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and would be willing to use U.S. military power when necessary.

    "As commander-in-chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home," Obama said.


    "I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," he said.

    Obama is running even with McCain in most opinion polls, although a Gallup daily tracking poll on Thursday showed him beginning to get an edge from the convention and moving out to a 6-point advantage, up five points.

    Obama addressed criticism he has not offered enough specifics along with his sometimes soaring rhetoric, restating an ambitious domestic agenda that includes a tax cut for 95 percent of Americans and an end to dependence on Middle East oil in 10 years.

    He said McCain's emphasis on new offshore oil drilling was a stop-gap measure and not a long-term energy solution. He promised to invest $150 billion over the next decade to develop affordable, renewable energy sources.

    While Obama's policy proposals were not new, national conventions are often the first time voters pay attention to a presidential race. Opinion polls show many still unfamiliar with Obama and concerned about his readiness for the job.

    Supporters were slow to make their way into the stadium, with many seats in the upper decks still empty as the sun set during performances by singers Stevie Wonder and Sheryl Crow.

    McCain launched an advertisement on cable television in which he spoke directly to Obama through the camera.

    "Too often the achievements of our opponents go unnoticed. So I wanted to stop and say, congratulations," said McCain, who has been scathing in his criticism of Obama.

    "How perfect that your nomination would come on this historic day. Tomorrow, we'll be back at it. But tonight, senator, job well done."

    The last presidential candidate to accept the nomination in an open-air football stadium was John Kennedy, who spoke to the Democratic convention at the Los Angeles Coliseum before 80,000 supporters in 1960.

    (Editing by David Wiessler)

    CNN - Putin accuses U.S. of orchestrating Georgian war

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    Putin accuses U.S. of orchestrating Georgian war

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia to benefit one of its presidential election candidates.

    In an exclusive interview with CNN's Matthew Chance in the Black Sea city of Sochi Thursday, Putin said the U.S. had encouraged Georgia to attack the autonomous region of South Ossetia.

    Putin told CNN his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate -- Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush -- although he presented no evidence to back it up.

    "U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict," Putin said. "They were acting in implementing those orders doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader."

    White House spokeswoman Dana Perino blasted Putin's statements, saying they were "patently false."

    "To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate just sounds not rational," she said.

    U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood concurred, and labeled Putin's statements as "ludicrous."

    "Russia is responsible for the crisis," Wood said in an off-camera meeting with reporters in Washington on Thursday. "For the Russians to say they are not responsible for what happened in Georgia is ludicrous. ... Russia is to blame for this crisis and the world is responding to what Russia has done."

    When told that many diplomats in the United States and Europe blame Russia for provoking the conflict and for invading Georgia, Putin said Russia had no choice but to invade Georgia after dozens of its peacekeepers in South Ossetia were killed. He told Chance it was to avert a human calamity. First-person accounts from the center of the conflict

    The former Russian president, still considered the most powerful man in the country, said he was disappointed the U.S. had not done more to stop Georgia's attack.

    Putin recalled he was watching the situation in Georgia and South Ossetia unfold when he was at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games on August 8.

    He said he spoke to U.S. President George W. Bush, also attending, who told the Russian prime minister he didn't want war -- but Putin spoke to CNN of his disappointment that the U.S. administration didn't do more to stop Georgia early in the conflict.

    Also Thursday Putin announced economic measures which he said were unrelated to the fighting with Georgia. Nineteen U.S. poultry meat companies would be banned from exporting their products to Russia because they had failed health and safety tests, and 29 other companies had been warned to improve their standards or face the same ban, Putin said.

    Putin said Russia's health and agricultural ministries had randomly tested the poultry products and found them to be full of antibiotics and arsenic.

    While Putin repeated that the bans were not related to the Georgian conflict, they indicate the measures some Western countries -- particularly in Europe -- fear if Russia goes on a diplomatic offensive.

    Russia is trying to counterbalance mounting pressure from the West over its military action in Georgia and its recognition of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

    But Russia's hopes of winning international support for its actions in Georgia were dashed Thursday, when China and other Asian nations expressed concern about tension in the region.

    The joint declaration from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, said the countries hoped any further conflict could be resolved peacefully.

    "The presidents reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of respect for historic and cultural traditions of every country and efforts aimed at preserving the unity of a state and its territorial integrity," the declaration said, The Associated Press reported.

    "Placing the emphasis exclusively on the use of force has no prospects and hinders a comprehensive settlement of local conflicts," AP reported the group as saying.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had appealed to the SCO at a summit in Tajikistan Thursday to support its actions, saying it would serve as a "serious signal for those who are trying to justify the aggression."

    On Wednesday a U.S. ship carrying aid docked in Georgia, while Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband traveled to the Ukraine, which is worried about Russia's intentions in the region, to offer the UK's support.

    Miliband equated Moscow's offensive in Georgia with the Soviet tanks that invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring democratic reforms in 1968, and demanded Russia "change course," AP reported. Do remember the Cold War?

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