July 26, 2012
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) spoke at an event recently, marking the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall, reading the names of individuals who died of HIV/AIDS and who are remembered on the quilt. The quilt is currently on display for the international AIDS 2012 Conference. Waters, a leader in the fight to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS through increased awareness, testing, treatment, and funding, was scheduled to speak at the conference July 26.
“I am so deeply honored and humbled to be here to participate in this extraordinary quilt,” Waters said.
“This quilt is a powerful reminder of the AIDS pandemic and the toll it has taken on our world.”
Gay rights activists who wanted to make certain their friends who had died of AIDS would not be forgotten started the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It was displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987. Since then, the quilt continued to grow as the disease continued to spread. Today, the quilt is so large that the National Mall cannot fully contain it, she explained.
“The quilt is the largest community art project in the world, and it was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. It is a poignant testimony to love, peace, and possibilities, and I believe it will one day receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which it so richly deserves,” Waters continued.
“It is only fitting that it has become the centerpiece of the International AIDS Conference, a conference at which we rededicate ourselves to working for the day when AIDS is eradicated from our world…”
According to Waters, the quilt has always reflected the evolution of the epidemic. In the early years, most of the panels represented young gay men whose lives were tragically cut short by AIDS. Today, a new series of panels has been added to remember African American men and women who died of AIDS, illustrating the devastating toll that AIDS is now taking in the black community.
“And as we look across the National Mall at the thousands of quilt panels, we see that AIDS affects us all,” said Waters.
“There are men, women and children of every race, creed, and color and every walk of life remembered in these beautiful, memorial panels. Yet, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is not just a memorial to those who have died, It is a celebration of their lives. The quilt reminds us that every person who died of AIDS was a human being.
“Every person who died of AIDS had hopes and dreams. Every person who died of AIDS had family and friends who loved them and miss them. Every person who died of AIDS had a name…”
July 26, 2012
Recently, the House adopted Congresswoman Richardson’s Amendment (The Richardson Amendment) to H.R. 6082, the “Congressional Replacement of President Obama's Energy-Restricting and Job-Limiting Offshore Drilling Plan. The Richardson Amendment asks the Secretary of the Interior to consult the California Governor and State Legislature before leasing areas off the coast of California. It also extends to California the same consideration that the bill’s drafters accorded the state of South Carolina.
“Residents of California should have the right to participate in the leasing process that affects waters off their coast,” said Richardson.
“The State of California has within its borders more than two-thirds of the nation’s Pacific coastline, a far greater percentage than South Carolina has with respect to the Atlantic coastline. California’s coastline is an international treasure and our state’s residents should have input on drilling off our shores. Offshore drilling could put the California coastline at risk, endanger tourism, damage fisheries, and devastate coastal recreation.
“Previous oil spills have stained our beaches and killed marine life, California has seen firsthand the destructive power of an offshore oil spill.”
On January 28, 1969, a blowout on a Unocal rig six miles off the coast of California spilled more than four million gallons of oil into the waters off Santa Barbara. The blackened beaches and oil-soaked birds and seals eventually brought oil exploration off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States to a halt. A congressional moratorium on offshore drilling expired October 1, 2008 and the California Legislature requested that the United States Congress extend the 27-year-old moratorium on offshore oil drilling through fiscal year 2009 and beyond. That request fell on deaf ears. Congress in 2008 reopened waterways for offshore drilling.
“In 1969, California learned valuable lessons on environmental protection and now is a leader in protecting our national coastlines,” Richardson said.
“California understands the economic and health impact of irresponsible offshore oil drilling. Creating federal legislation that allows offshore drilling that bypasses California’s immense experience and expertise on this subject without as much as consultation is simply reckless.”
July 26, 2012
By FRANCIS KOKUTSE and KRISTA LARSON,
President John Atta Mills’ election victory secured Ghana’s reputation as one of the most mature democracies in West Africa, a position further solidified this week when the vice president took over only hours after the 68-year-old president died five months before finishing his first term.
John Mahama’s swift inauguration underscored Ghana’s stability in a part of the world where the deaths of other leaders have sparked coups.
“We are deeply distraught, devastated as a country,” Mahama said after his swearing-in ceremony, where he raised the golden staff of office above his head.
Ghanaian state-run television stations GTV and TV3 broke into their regular programming to announce the president's death the afternoon of Tuesday July 24. Government officials did not release the cause of his death, which came three days after his 68th birthday.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “President Mills will be remembered for his statesmanship and years of dedicated service to his country,” according to a statement from his spokesman.
“At this time of national mourning, the secretary-general renews the commitment of the United Nations to work alongside the government and the people of Ghana in support of their efforts to consolidate the country’s democratic and development achievements,” the spokesman said.
Rumors had swirled about Atta Mills’ health in recent months after he made several trips to the United States, and opposition newspapers had reported he was not well enough to run for a second term.
Some radio stations even announced that he was dead during one of his recent trips to the States. When Atta Mills returned to Ghana, he jogged at the airport and blasted those who had falsely reported his death.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “President Mills will be remembered for his statesmanship and years of dedicated service to his country,” his spokesman said. Ban pledged that the United Nations would support Ghana's efforts “to consolidate the country's democratic and development achievements.”
On the streets of Cape Coast, [80 miles] from Accra, people held radios to their ears on the street, listening to the funeral hymns playing on FM stations and waiting for more information about the president’s unexpected death.
“His speeches were full of a spirit of love and peace,” said Efua Mensima, 45. “He was soft-spoken. I wept when I heard of his death.”
In a predominantly Ghanaian section of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, a group of 10 men tried to organize a bus to take them to Ghana for the president's funeral.
“The Ghanaian people were happy with this president and his program for the development of the country,” said Nour Ousmane Aladji, 27, a taxi driver who moved to Abidjan in 2000.
Chris Fomunyoh, the senior director for Africa for the Washington-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, said that Ghana’s democracy could weather the death of a president.
In other nations in West Africa, the death of a ruler usually spells a coup, as it did in neighboring Guinea following the 2008 death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte, and Togo, where the military seized power after the president’s death in 2005 in order to install the leader’s son.
“Ghanaian democracy has been tested and its institutions function well,” said Fomunyoh. “There’s no reason to think that Ghana and its democracy will not handle this event properly.”
Atta Mills was elected in a 2008 runoff vote that was the closest in the country’s history — and his third presidential bid.
“People are complaining. They’re saying that their standard of living has deteriorated these past eight years,” he told The Associated Press at the time. “So if Ghana is a model of growth, it's not translating into something people can feel.”
He went on to serve as president as Ghana began grappling with how to deal with its newfound oil wealth from offshore fields discovered in the last five years. The country of about 25 million saw a growth rate of more than 14 percent last year, though some analysts say the handling of his time in office was less than stellar.
The government got involved in a dispute with Kosmos Energy, the owner of the country’s Jubilee oil field, a spat that resulted in a delay in the proceeds from the country’s nascent oil trade, said Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.
Atta Mills also was one of the only leaders in West Africa who didn't back plans for an intervention force during last year’s near-civil war in Ivory Coast. Because of its shared border, Ghana became the main smuggling route for Ivorian cocoa.
The late president spent much of his career teaching at the University of Ghana. He earned a doctorate from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies before becoming a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Atta Mills also served as vice president under Jerry Rawlings, a coup leader who was later elected president by popular vote and surprised the world by stepping down after the 2000 vote.
Richard Downie, the deputy director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that Atta Mills may be remembered more for what his election in 2008 symbolized than for what he did as president.
He defeated the ruling party by the slimmest of margins, marking two successful handovers of power in Ghana, a benchmark used by political scientists to measure a mature democracy.
“It showed just how robust Ghana’s democracy was, and it proved here in the U.S. what a success Ghana had become in terms of its political maturity,” he said.
AP Photo/Richard Drew
In this file photo taken on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, President of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills, waits to address the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly. State-run television in Ghana announced Tuesday, July 24, 2012, that Atta Mills died at age 68.
July 26, 2012
The mother of an unarmed black Florida teen who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer says she is mentally prepared to handle whatever verdict or sentence is handed down to the shooter, even an exoneration.
Sybrina Fulton made the statement to reporters July 25 after she and husband Tracy Martin tearfully addressed a town hall on violence and racial healing in Cincinnati.
The couple talked mostly about their grief and the importance of preventing similar shootings.
The February shooting of their son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, led to nationwide protests over race and self-defense laws after police didn't arrest the shooter, George Zimmerman, for more than a month.
One of the protests was held in Cincinnati in March.