News & Current Affairs

June 14, 2008

NBC Newscaster Tim Russert Dies at 58

Tim Russert, the veteran journalist best known as the moderator of NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” collapsed and died of a heart attack Friday while at work in Washington. He was 58 years old.

Russert, vice president of NBC News, was recording voice-overs for Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press” when he collapsed, NBC said in a statement.

Known for posing hard-hitting questions to America’s leading politicians and newsmakers, Russert joined the network in 1984 after working as an aide to New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

In his 24 years at NBC, Russert worked as a political analyst for “Nightly News” and the “Today” show, and served as the NBC News Washington bureau chief.

The longest-running host in the 60-year history of the “Meet the Press,” Russert took the helm in 1991, earning a reputation for asking his guests tough questions, often playing them previous statements they had made that contradicted comments or positions they professed to have.

Russert was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 7, 1950, the son of a sanitation worker. He was a graduate of John Carroll University in Cleveland and later the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. In 1976, he went to work on Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Senate campaign, and in 1982 he worked on Mario Cuomo’s New York gubernatorial campaign.

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Navy: Pilot killed in jet collision over Nevada

Two fighter jets from the U.S. Navy’s elite training school collided Friday over northern Nevada’s high desert, killing one pilot and injuring two others who parachuted to safety.

The pilot who died was based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., said Jeffery Wells, a spokesman at Fallon Naval Air Station. He was at the controls of an F/A-18C Hornet at the time of the crash.

The two pilots who ejected from a two-seater F-5 Tiger were rescued about 50 miles east of the air station, said Zip Upham, another base spokesman. They were in stable condition and being treated for minor injuries at Banner Churchill Medical Center in Fallon.

The two were assigned to the Fallon Naval Air Station, where both jets had taken off.

The names of the three were being withheld pending notification of the pilots’ families, Wells said. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

The air station, about 60 miles east of Reno, is home to the Navy’s elite Strike and Air Warfare Center. The center was formed in 1996 with the consolidation of the Navy fighter Weapons School known as “Top Gun” and the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School, or “Top Dome.”

The F-5 Tiger is a Vietnam-era fighter aircraft. The F/A-18C Hornet, which was used in Operation Desert Storm, is a fighter-attack aircraft that can carry air-to-air missiles and infrared imaging air-to-ground missiles.

The two aircraft collided about noon near the town of Middlegate, some 110 miles east of Reno, Upham said.

Travis Anderton, of Middlegate, said he had seen the two jets before the crash.

“Then I heard a crash, looked up and saw them coming out of the sky, falling,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Then it was smoke and you couldn’t see any more.”

Nevada Highway Patrol spokesman Chuck Allen said some of the wreckage landed about a mile from a highway.

The most recent fatal crash involving aircraft from Fallon was in May 2007. Five crew members were killed when their SH-60 Seahawk helicopter crashed during a nighttime training mission in north-central Nevada about 140 miles west of Reno.

Upham, who has served as base spokesman since 2001, said that crash was the worst in recent memory. Over the previous six years, he said there had been four separate jet and two helicopter crashes, resulting in one death.

In Midwest, Rising Waters and Fears of Worse

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — All around the Midwest, the water just kept rising.

Even as this city was nearly shuttered on Friday, its sandbagged downtown submerged in the biggest flood ever recorded here, people in Des Moines began evacuating and other Iowa towns thought about it. In Wisconsin, stretches of major roads were closed and tornadoes struck. Some in Michigan had no power. Elsewhere, there was no train service, no drinking water, no end in sight.

The economic costs of the devastating floods were also beginning to seep in: tourism officials, who depend on the short summers, were bracing for washed-out seasons; farmers in many states stared out at ponds that had once been their fields of beans and corn; and officials were preparing to shut down 315 miles of the Mississippi River, a crucial route for millions of tons of coal, grains and steel.

By now, one prospect — a notion no one wants to ponder but is impossible to avoid — has begun to emerge in Iowa, as well as in Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois: the possibility that this summer might prove to be something like 1993, when the torment of flooding resulted in widespread personal misery and loss, as well as economic cost of $20 billion.

“Right now, we can’t see anything as devastating as 1993 along the Mississippi, but we’re gearing up,” said Ron Fournier, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers’ district in the central Midwest, which just ordered three million more sandbags, 25 large pumps and a vast array of extra supplies.

“The hard part is as simple as not knowing how much rain we’ll get,” Mr. Fournier said. “Beyond what we saw 24 hours ago, and what we predict in the next 24 hours, we just don’t know what’s coming. We want the rain to stop.”

In this eastern Iowa city of more than 120,000, the rain had stopped by early Friday morning. In fact, the sun was out. But as the Cedar River crested at more than 31 feet — far higher than it had been in 1993, when it reached more than 19 feet — residents, rain-weary after several drenching weeks, seemed skeptical of the authorities’ suggestion that the worst might be over.

“If there’s one more drop of rain, I’ll be looking to pack up some stuff,” said Fernando Albino, 36, who sat outside his second-floor apartment, staring at the lapping waters just down the block.

Lia Mikesell took her three children on a walk to the water near their apartment building, and reflected back on 1993. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” she said.

Remarkably, officials have reported no flood-related deaths in this city, and only one injury — a twisted ankle. But the effects have been felt all around. Many businesses were closed. A hospital sent its 176 patients, including babies and the elderly, to other facilities. More than 15,000 people had no power. And Cedar Rapids’ water shortage remained severe, prompting officials from the chamber of commerce to issue a plea on Friday that businesses suspend heavy water use, lest the city impose mandatory restrictions.

Hotels were asked to stop refilling their pools. Restaurants were asked to use paper plates. Beauty salons were asked to cut back on shampoo.

While the water was expected to recede here, it may take days, perhaps weeks, and that is if it does not rain.

“There are going to be some trying times coming up in the near future,” said Brian Fagan, the mayor pro tem of Cedar Rapids, who described in stark terms a boat tour he took of the most heavily flooded areas: churches inundated above their stained glass windows, restaurants with water to the roof. The flooding has caused more than $700 million in damage here.

Elsewhere, other rivers were still rising, and officials say the worst may be yet to come, perhaps next week. In some parts of the Midwest, more rain was forecast for the weekend, followed by, forecasters say, a period of dryness. Most of Iowa’s counties were considered disaster areas, and new troubles were mounting in other states, as shelters opened, government buildings were soaked and sandbags seemed to be everywhere.

The aptness of comparisons to the flooding of 1993 seems to depend on where one lives. In a few towns along some tributaries of the Mississippi River, the recent flooding has already done more damage; elsewhere, along the Mississippi itself, nearly every community from the Iowa-Minnesota border into parts of Missouri is above flood stage, Mr. Fournier said, but not approaching the levels of 15 years ago, when about 50,000 homes in nine states were damaged or destroyed.

So far, weather experts said, the rain had come faster and more intensely in the weeks since late May, but not for as sustained a stretch as it did in June and July 1993. “What would make this like 1993 is if it lasts a little longer,” said Michael Palecki, a regional climatologist with the Midwestern Regional Climate Center.

Along the Mississippi on Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers was closing locks that had become inoperable because of high waters, and removing electrical equipment that could be damaged. By Monday, 14 such locks will be closed, Mr. Fournier said, effectively blocking all barge traffic for more than 300 miles between Bellevue, Iowa, and Winfield, Mo.

“The cost of this is easily going to be in the millions here, and that doesn’t even begin to count all the ripple effects of not being able to move things,” said Lynn Muench of the American Waterways Operators, a trade group of tugboat, towboat and barge operators and owners. Some barges already carrying loads may now get stuck en route, she said. Others may choose alternative shipping means or simply wait, she said, losing costly time.

“They are all concerned that 1993 is where we’re heading,” she said of her trade group members. “It was devastating. It basically shut down the river for the whole year. It was a total loss.”

In other areas, the economic fallout was stark. Some cornfields sat under water and wheat fields were smashed by tornadoes and high winds. The delays and troubles have pushed up commodity prices, already high.

“Is there a good time for a flood? No,” said Ernest Goss, an economist at Creighton University in Omaha. “Is there a worse time? Yes, and this is it. This is really going to add to the pinch on the consumer nationwide and to some degree internationally.”

In the Wisconsin Dells, a popular summer tourist region for Chicagoans and others, the Tommy Bartlett Show, a water ski show, reopened on Friday afternoon with jugglers, acrobats and daredevils — but no skiers and no water. Earlier this week, some of the flooding had actually caused the waters in Lake Delton, where the skiers had performed for decades, to cut a new path and vanish, leaving a muddy lake bed.

But even the scaled back show faced new problems as flooding elsewhere had caused major roads to be closed.

In Cedar Rapids — where tourism officials had, long before these events, deemed 2008 “the year of the river” in honor of the Cedar River — dazed-looking families were still trickling into two shelters the Red Cross set up in public schools on Friday evening. At the Prairie High School shelter, two neighbors — Richard Wells, 62, and Richard Branscom, 81 — drank Cokes on a cafeteria bench.

Both men had only their bags of medicine. “We couldn’t get nothing out, just ourselves,” said Mr. Branscom, a retired hotel worker, who was evacuated in a boat after the waters rose to his neck.

Supreme Court: Habeas corpus is terror detainees’ right

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court rebuked the Bush administration yesterday for a third time for its handling of the rights of terrorism detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, saying those in custody there have a constitutional right to challenge their captivity in federal courts.

By a 5-4 vote that brought strongly worded and remorseful dissents from the court’s conservative justices, the majority held that an alternative procedure designed by the administration and Congress was inadequate to ensure that the detainees, some of whom have been imprisoned for six years without a hearing, receive their day in court.

“The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.”

Justice Antonin Scalia took the unusual step of summarizing his dissent from the bench, calling the court’s decision a “self-invited … incursion into military affairs,” and was even stronger in a written dissent in which he was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. “America is at war with radical Islamists,” Scalia wrote, adding that the decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”

June 10, 2008

Consumers Can Have Paint Tested For Lead

Filed under: Uncategorized — expressyoureself @ 11:48 am

Presented by House To Home Inspections.

There are do-it-yourself kits available. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has not evaluated any of these kits. One home test kit uses sodium sulfide solution. This procedure requires you to place a drop of sodium sulfide solution on a paint chip. The paint chip slowly turns darker if lead is present. There are problems with this test, however. Other metals may cause false positive results, and resins in the paint may prevent the sulfide from causing the paint chip to change color. Thus, the presence of lead may not be correctly indicated. In addition the darkening may be detected only on very light-colored paint. Professional testing is available from professional home inspectors in many areas.
Another in-home test requires a trained professional who can operate the equipment safely. This test uses X-ray fluorescence to determine if the paint contains lead. Although the test can be done in your home, it should be done only by professionals trained by the equipment manufacturer or who have passed a state or local government training course such as the Bellbrook Ohio home inspectors, since the equipment contains radioactive materials. In addition, in some tests, the method has not been reliable.
Consumers may choose to have a testing laboratory test a paint sample for lead. Lab testing is considered more reliable than other methods. Lab tests may cost from $20 to $50 per sample. More information about home inspection can be found at the Ohio Certified Home Inspections site.

June 8, 2008

French Open

Filed under: Latest — Tags: , — expressyoureself @ 6:38 am

Ana Ivanovic said the success that she and fellow Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic have enjoyed helped inspire her to French Open glory.

Courtesy: BBCSPORTS

Ivanovic, who becomes world number one on Monday, beat Jankovic in the last four, while semi-finalist Djokovic won the Australian Open in January.

“Going into today’s final I thought of Novak’s victory earlier this year,” said Ivanovic.

“And I thought, ‘Why not? I can win a title as well.'”

She added: “It’s something that will motivate us and I’m sure he will also reach his goal of being number one one day. He has great potential.

“Jelena, on the other hand, she also is a great girl and I really hope she can achieve her dreams.”

Ivanovic, 20, beat Russia’s Dinara Safina 6-4 6-3 in one hour 38 minutes to take the title at Roland Garros.

The second seed went into the final having lost heavily to Justine Henin at the same stage last year, before also making the Australian Open final in January, while Safina was appearing in her first Grand Slam final.

“Obviously when I was in the court I realised she was nervous,” said Ivanovic. “I try also to look back at the way I felt last year, and it made me more calm because I had those experiences and I went through that.”

And that calm came to the fore when Ivanovic let an early lead slip in the opening set.

“I knew she was a great fighter, and I knew I had to take any chance I had. I had lot of chances in the first set which I didn’t use.

“She came back, and it was 4-4, and it was tough because a lot of emotions build up inside. You knew you had a chance, double break, and then all of a sudden you’re equal again.

“So to keep my composure at that point, it was huge for me.”

After wrapping up the victory, Ivanovic was handed the trophy by Henin herself.

“I was surprised,” admitted Ivanovic. “But at the same time I was glad to see her there. She’s a great champion. She won this tournament so many times.

“When she handed me the trophy, it was a very thrilling moment. She said, ‘Well done, you really deserve it.’ It meant a lot to me.”

And the newly crowned queen of Roland Garros does not plan to stop at one Grand Slam title.

“I feel so happy,” she said. “I have no words to describe that. But winning a Grand Slam is something I dreamt since I was a little kid, so achieving that goal, it’s very thrilling.

“You know, you work so hard and you’re off the court, on the court, and you put so much effort into it. I loved the game and I enjoy playing, so this is the best reward I can get.

“It’s my incentive to keep working hard and win more of these trophies.”

Looking ahead to Wimbledon later this month, she added: “I go there wanting to win a title because every tournament you play you want to win.

“I think I have a good chance. I’ve been working really hard, and this hard work gives results.

“So, next week I have time to relax a little bit, recover, and also prepare on the grass before Eastbourne and Wimbledon.”

Safina admitted that she had run out of gas after a dramatic run to the final that saw her save match points against both Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva.

“I was a little nervous before the start but I felt good once I stepped on the court,” said the Russian.

“If I was a little fresher maybe things would have been different. Those comebacks took a lot from me and against Ana you have to be really aggressive. I was missing a little.

“She was fresher and she was doing to me what I wanted to do to her.

“I tried but there wasn’t the fire there any more. I was tired mentally and physically and my heart and body just couldn’t do it.

“But now I have reached a Grand Slam final I will keep working harder because I believe in myself. I’ll be a lot tougher. I am a perfectionist.”

Portugal 2-0 Turkey

Portugal’s Euro 2008 campaign opened in impressive fashion with victory over Turkey in Geneva.

Pepe opened the scoring after 61 minutes, surging from defence to beat Turkey keeper Volkan Demirel after a slick exchange with Nuno Gomes.

Portugal deserved their win, with Cristiano Ronaldo hitting the post from a first-half free-kick and Gomes twice denied by the woodwork after the break.

And Raul Meireles slid home the second in injury time after a flowing move.

Portugal were runners-up in their own country to Greece four years ago, but this vibrant performance was a clear statement that they intend to go one better this time around.

Turkey, with former Sheffield United midfield man Colin Kazim-Richards prominent, were always in the game but lacked a crucial cutting edge.

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and Ronaldo were finally able to put the speculation that has provided the backdrop to their Euro 2008 build-up behind them and get on with the action.

Scolari continues to be linked with the vacancy at Chelsea, despite his insistence that he will not discuss his long-term future until after the tournament.

And Ronaldo’s Manchester United future continues to be the subject of daily debate as Real Madrid maintain their pursuit of the man who played a pivotal role in the Premier League and Champions League to Old Trafford.

Portugal dominated a lively opening 45 minutes in which they were unlucky not to take the lead.

They thought they had taken the lead in the 16th minute when Pepe powered a header past Turkey keeper Volkan Demirel from Simao Sabrosa’s cross, but the celebrations were cut short by a linesman’s flag.

Ronaldo had been quiet in the early stages, but he burst into life on the half-hour with a trademark run that ended with a shot that was pulled disappointingly wide.

He came within inches of giving Portugal the lead eight minutes before the interval, but a dipping 25-yard free-kick from an angle was brilliantly turned on to the post by Volkan.

The woodwork denied Portugal again four minutes after the break when referee Herbert Fandel played an excellent advantage when Gokhan Zan flattened Simao, but Gomes flicked the loose ball against the post.

Ronaldo then tested the excellent Volkan again with a precise low finish after escaping the attentions of Hamit Altintop, but the Turkey keeper was once more equal to the task.

Turkey had shown great resilience, but they were broken after 61 minutes thanks to a moment of real adventure from central defender Pepe.

He surged forward and played a slick exchange with Gomes before sliding a finish past the onrushing Volkan from 12 yards.

Portugal had played some wonderful flowing football – but fortune was against them again as they almost doubled their lead three minutes after Pepe’s strike.

Ronaldo curved in an inviting cross from the left, and Gomes rose only to see his header bounce off the bar to safety.

It was his final contribution of the game as he was quickly replaced by the more youthful figure of Manchester United winger Nani.

Turkey had battled manfully, but they had shown little as an attacking force, although Portugal keeper Ricardo had to be alert to come off his line and deny Middlesbrough’s Tuncay as he tried to get in on the end of Nihat Kahveci’s cross.

Substitute Emre Asik wasted Turkey’s best chance with nine minutes left, heading Nihat’s corner wide when unmarked only eight yards out.

And as Turkey pushed forward, Portugal broke to add a second in the dying seconds as Ronaldo found Joao Moutinho, who set up substitute Meireles for a side-footed finish.


Portugal: Ricardo, Bosingwa, Pepe, Carvalho, Ferreira, Petit, Joao Moutinho, Ronaldo, Deco (Fernando Meira 90), Simao (Raul Meireles 82), Nuno Gomes (Nani 68).
Subs Not Used: Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Hugo Almeida, Miguel, Jorge Ribeiro, Quaresma, Veloso, Postiga, Quim.

Goals: Pepe 61, Raul Meireles 90.

Turkey: Demirel, Altintop (Senturk 76), Cetin, Zan (Asik 55), Balta, Kazim-Richards, Emre, Aurelio, Erding (Sarioglu 46), Sanli, Nihat.
Subs Not Used: Rustu, Zengin, Topal, Karadeniz, Metin, Gungor, Turan, Boral, Akman.

Booked: Kazim-Richards, Zan, Sarioglu.

Att: 31,000

Ref: Herbert Fandel (Germany).

Trivia

Portugal extended their unbeaten streak in competitive matches to 12, their joint second best ever sequence. They have now won a record equalling six successive group phase matches at European Championships and World Cups.

Pepe’s goal was his first at club or international level since April 2007, when he scored for Porto against Benfica.

Nuno Gomes equalled the Portuguese record by appearing at his third European Championship, a total also achieved by Fernando Couto, Luis Figo and Rui Costa.

Mevlut Erding (21 years 103 days) became the youngest player to take the field for Turkey at the European Championship. His teammate Colin Kazim-Richards is the second youngest at 21 years 286 days.

Emre Asik (34 years 177 days) became the oldest player to participate for Turkey at the European Championship, breaking the 12 year old record set by Oguz Cetin (33 years 120 days at Euro 96, also against Portugal).

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Big business in US prefers Democrats to Republicans

WASHINGTON: For the first time in a generation, most major US business sectors are donating more campaign money to Democrats than to Republicans, according to a political fund-raising watchdog group.

Six of 10 business sectors tracked by the Centre for Responsive Politics had given more money to Democrats as of late April in all federal races, marking a shift over the past year with profound implications for Republicans.

For as long as the non-partisan centre has tracked donations by sector, beginning in the late 1980s, Republicans have enjoyed an edge in giving among a majority of sectors. Today, only four of 10 sectors still lean Republican, a party that has long traded off a reputation as being “pro-business”.

“It reflects both the dismay in the business community with the Bush record and the state of the economy, and the fact that Democrats control both houses of Congress,” said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank.

Energy, construction, transportation and agribusiness continue to send more money to Republican candidates, based on the centre’s most recent analysis of Federal Election Commission records for the 2008 election cycle.

Democratic-leaning sectors include lawyers, health care, defence, communications and electronics, and the massive finance, insurance and real estate sector, as shown by data on the centre’s website at http://www.opensecrets.org. A sixth “miscellaneous” sector also leans Democratic and includes retailers, food and beverage, chemicals and a wide variety of other business services and manufacturing concerns.

“There are two factors at work here,” said Douglas Weber, a senior researcher at the centre.

“First is that the Democrats have taken control of Congress. Second is that Democrats have dramatically out-raised Republicans in presidential fund-raising, and presidential fund-raising is at a higher level than we’ve ever seen.”

In the 2008 election cycle, $1.3 billion has been raised in federal races by both parties, with the presidential race accounting for two-thirds of that, the center said.

“Both Clinton and Obama have each raised over $200 million,” Weber noted.

The centre analyses giving by sector based on donations made by the employees of companies, those employees’ families, and companies’ political action committees (PACs).

No company has been the source of more political donations in this election cycle than Goldman Sachs Group Inc, the powerhouse Wall Street investment bank, with donations of more than $3.6 million 73 per cent of it going to Democrats.

With the markets struggling through a deep housing slump, other Wall Street firms are on the centre’s list of the 100 largest contributors, including Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, UBS AG and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc all of them giving more to Democrats.

“The terrain is heavily tilted against Republicans at all levels for 2008,” Ornstein said.

“This does not mean that business leaders are suddenly becoming Democrats my guess is that if there were a 50/50 chance, even a 40/60 chance, of Republicans recapturing the House or Senate, the donation patterns would be different.”

Howard Reiter, head of the political science department at the University of Connecticut, added that both Obama and Hillary until this week are “not hostile to business interest in general”.

Obama praises ‘valiant’ Clinton

Democratic hopeful Barack Obama has paid tribute to Hillary Clinton for her “valiant campaign” to become the party nominee for US president.

Courtesy: BBCWORLDSERVICE

He said his former rival had “shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere”.

The praise came after Mrs Clinton formally abandoned her bid for the nomination at a rally in Washington.

She said Mr Obama had proved his “grace and grit”, and she urged her supporters to put their energy into electing him.

Mr Obama is expected to face the Republican presumptive nominee, John McCain, in November’s presidential election.

In a statement, Mr Obama said he was “thrilled” to have Mrs Clinton’s endorsement.

He credited her with reaching out to many American voters and making him a stronger candidate.

“She inspired millions with her strength, courage and unyielding commitment to the cause of working Americans.”

Mr Obama also said Mrs Clinton’s presence on the American political scene would continue.

“No one knows better than Senator Clinton how desperately America and the American people need change, and I know she will continue to be in the forefront of that battle this fall and for years to come.”

His campaign website asked supporters to send a message of thank you to the Clinton campaign.

Angry supporters

Earlier, Mrs Clinton formally suspended her 16-month-long campaign with a speech at the National Building Museum in Washington.

She opened by saying: “This isn’t exactly the party I planned but I sure like the company.”

Mrs Clinton thanked the “18 million of you from all walks of life” who voted for her and threw her support behind Mr Obama.

Although she had not succeeded, she said there were now “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” preventing a woman from winning the White House.

Referring to her formal rival, she said: “I’ve had a front-row seat to his candidacy and I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit.”

The BBC’s Kevin Connolly at the venue says there was an angry feeling among many of her supporters that Mr Obama only won because the complex rules of the Democratic Party process suited his campaign.

Mr Obama won enough delegates to effectively secure the nomination after the final primaries on Tuesday.

Intense speculation remains about whom he will choose as his vice-presidential running mate.

Mr Obama has announced a team to help him make his selection but has said he will not be rushed.

The BBC’s Kim Ghattas in Washington says that Mr Obama needs to find a candidate who can help him deliver key swing states and who can help broaden his appeal among white middle classes and middle-aged women – who were strong supporters of Mrs Clinton.

Meanwhile the Republicans have launched a “Clinton vs Obama” page on their party website drawing attention to her criticism of Mr Obama during the campaign.

Each Party Is Set to Hunt The Other’s Usual Ground

The 2008 general election will pit the best-organized nomination campaign in the history of modern Democratic politics against the battle-tested machinery of the Republican Party, with both Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) determined to shake up an electoral map that has been virtually static over the past two elections.

Democrats enjoy a highly favorable electoral climate at this start of the general election, created by gloomy attitudes about the state of the country and economy, President Bush’s low approval ratings and negative perceptions of the GOP. But as Obama shifts his attention from his primary victory over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) to his test against McCain, the electoral map nonetheless foreshadows another highly competitive race in November.

McCain and Obama offer a rare combination of nominees able to poach on the other party’s turf. Both have proven appeal to independents. McCain will target disgruntled Clinton supporters; Obama will target disaffected Republicans. Women, Latinos and, especially, white working-class voters will find themselves courted intensely by the two campaigns.

On issues, the differences are stark, beginning with views on Iraq but also including the economy, now the dominant issue in virtually every region of the country.

Officials from both campaigns confidently predict that they will steal states that have been in the other party’s column in recent elections, and an early analysis suggests there will be new battlegrounds added to the map this year, with Virginia, Colorado and Nevada among them. The Midwest remains the most concentrated competitive region of the country, but advisers to McCain and Obama agree that the election could turn on the outcome of contests in the Rocky Mountain States and the South.

Obama plans to deploy his grass-roots forces, now hardened by the grueling campaign against Clinton, to every corner of the country. “We’re going to be playing a lot more offense than they are,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe predicted.

Obama advisers hope the energy and enthusiasm around the senator’s candidacy will not only help him win the White House but also aid down-ballot Democrats, even in Republican states that may be out of reach in the presidential race. “We will have organizations in all 50 states,” Plouffe said. “Some will be battlegrounds; some won’t. But all will have something to contribute.”

Plouffe said Obama’s route to the necessary 270 electoral votes starts with holding every state won by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004 and then focusing on a handful of red states that Obama advisers think are ripe for conversion.

The Kerry map gives Obama 252 electoral votes. To pick up the next 18 electoral votes, Obama will target Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. His list also includes Ohio, where he lost the primary to Clinton but which, in the 2006 midterms, shifted dramatically toward the Democrats.

McCain’s advisers expressed equal confidence that their candidate can hit the 270 mark, despite a political environment that Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, called “a major hurdle for us.”

McCain’s team thinks that his potential appeal to independents and some Democrats makes it possible to prevail in what otherwise looks to be a very tough year.

“We understand how to do this,” said Mike DuHaime, a senior adviser to both the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee. “We have operatives who understand how to do this. . . . It’s going to give us a tremendous opportunity to turn out voters who wouldn’t normally be Republicans.”

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