No federal public funding for Obama
Having already raised $265 million in campaign funding, Sen. Barack Obama announced today that he will forgo federal public financing for the general election. "It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," Obama said in a video message. "But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system." Earlier in the campaign, Obama said he would accept public financing if his Republican opponent agreed to accept the money as well. But the Obama camp now says that John McCain, who is expected to accept public money eventually, has already begun spending privately raised funds. With the decision, Obama becomes the first candidate since the 1970s to wave off federal money for a presidential run.
Hamas and Israel try a cease-fire
A scheduled six-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip took effect today, although Mideast political observers say they are doubtful that the agreement will hold for its full duration. Since 2007, when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, fighting between Arab militants and the Israeli Army has resulted in the deaths of at least seven Israelis and 400 Palestinians. As part of the deal, Israel has agreed to end a controversial blockade along the Gaza coast that has been blamed for exacerbating the humanitarian situation in the war-ravaged territory. Hamas militants, for their part, have pledged to stop firing rockets and other weapons into southern Israel. A similar cease-fire went into effect in November 2006 but collapsed within a few weeks.
President Bush visits flood-ravaged Iowa city
Floodwaters from the Mississippi River are threatening small towns in Missouri and Illinois. In some locations, rising waters are expected to crest either today or tomorrow at near record levels. President Bush is on the ground assessing damage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which suffered extensive flooding earlier in the week. At least 24 people in six states have been killed by the flooding and associated storms, and nearly 150 have been injured. In Iowa, officials estimate damage in the range of $1.5 billion. Federal officials warned today that at least 10 more levees could break before the flooding stops, which could further devastate farmland and wreak havoc on food and energy prices.