The U.S. Secret Service has begun protecting Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama - a full 18 months before the country's next presidential election.
The Department of Homeland Security says Obama requested the protection. His fellow senator from Illinois, Richard Durban, tells reporters he got information that made him concerned for Obama's safety, including some racist remarks on the Internet.
Obama is seeking to become the first African-American U.S. president.
Normally, protection for U.S. presidential candidates is not provided until the election year. Senator Durbin says he also was concerned about the large crowds that Obama draws at campaign events.
New York Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has Secret Service protection, but hers is linked to her status as a former first lady.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.