July 19, 2012
By KIM CHAKANETSA, Associated Press
Annah Nankie Nhlapo has been waiting 22 years for a home. On a dusty narrow road on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the foundation of her new house is finally taking shape.
Recently, to commemorate the U.N.-mandated Nelson Mandela International Day, housing charity Habitat for Humanity worked with volunteers to build 67 houses across South Africa, in honor of Mandela's 67 years of political service. Nhlapo is one of the lucky ones to be handed keys on Friday July 20.
For two decades, she and her five children have lived crowded into one of the flimsy shacks that sprawl across Orange Farm, a settlement named after its original purpose.
"I'm happy and I feel proud of myself because it's been a long time staying in a shack that is leaking water," said Nhlapo, a 47-year-old single mother.
That the house was built to honor Mandela resonates with Nhlapo, who sees South Africa's first black president as a champion of nation building.
Across the country, and even abroad, people were doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday July 18.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton got the celebrations off to an early start the day before. He and daughter Chelsea met for 1 ½ hours with Mandela in his birth village of Qunu in a remote, southeastern corner of the country. Photographs tweeted by one of Mandela's grandsons showed the Nobel Peace Prize winner comfortably seated in an armchair with a blanket over his knees and with the Clintons and his wife, Graca Machel, at his side.
Then Clinton, Chelsea and Machel each planted an avocado pear tree to mark the occasion. Clinton said he is fond of the trees, an African symbol of growth and sustenance.
Children began their school day Wednesday by singing Happy Birthday to Madiba, the clan name by which Mandela is fondly known. South Africans of all colors to whom Mandela is a hero came up with creative ways to do 67 minutes of community service.
Many volunteers collected books, distributed sanitary pads and cleaned up neighborhoods. In Pretoria, a tattoo parlor was hoping to tattoo clients with 67 images of Mandela's face, with proceeds going to charity. On Constitution Hill last Saturday, artist James Delaney used coffee cups to create a mosaic of Mandela.
Asked what would be the best gift for Mandela, Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said the greatest gift the nation could give would be "to emulate his magnanimity and grace."
"Mr. Mandela taught us to love ourselves, to love one another and to love our country," Tutu said.
Mandela's 50-year fight, including 27 years in jail, helped bring democracy and freedom to the once white-ruled South Africa. But the country remains beset by tensions over continued white minority domination of the economy, massive unemployment, poor education and health services and the millions who remain homeless or in shacks.
When Mandela's African National Congress won power in 1994, the housing shortage was a priority.
Eighteen years in, informal settlements without electricity and running water have ballooned and the lack of adequate housing for the poor is at crisis point, said Kate Tissington, a senior researcher at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa.
"You get the sense from government officials that there is a never-ending battle to eliminate the housing backlog," she said.
Some 3 million homes have been built for some of South Africa's 50 million people, according to Xolani Xundu, spokesman for the government Department of Human Settlements. But 2.2 million more homes are needed, he said.
Tissington said population growth and the influx of people into cities and towns have contributed to the crisis.
The high demand and low supply makes informal settlements, like Nhlapo's shack at Orange Farm, a viable option.
Government-subsidized housing, often built on cheaper vacant land on the outskirts of urban developments, is not always linked to bus routes or services such as clinics, making it even more difficult for people to survive.
Corruption is another factor undermining efforts, as sometimes people who do not necessarily qualify end up being allocated subsidized housing, Tissington said. This creates a lot of tension.
"A lot has been happening in political and policy circles over the years," Tissington said, "but implementation on the ground has not kicked in and people are getting increasingly impatient with living with compromised access to basic services."
Every day there are protests, sometimes violent, against the lack of housing and other basic services like electricity and potable water.
Ryan Horsfield, a volunteer who had taken two days off work to help build the homes at Orange Farm, believes citizens also have a role to play.
"I don't think it's up to us to sit back and say the government must do it or not. If something is not happening we should all get in and try make it happen," he said.
Which is exactly what Mandela had in mind when he retired from politics at age 90 and told the world that "It's in your hands to make the world a better place."
William Raspberry, who became the second black columnist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his widely read syndicated commentaries in The Washington Post, died Tuesday July 17. He was 76.
Raspberry had prostate cancer and died at his home in Washington, his wife, Sondra Raspberry, told The Post. A Post spokeswoman confirmed his death.
Raspberry, who grew up in segregated Mississippi, wrote an opinion column for the Post for nearly 40 years. More than 200 newspapers carried his column in syndication before he retired in 2005.
He won the Pulitzer for commentary in 1994. His columns often dealt with urban violence, the legacies of civil rights leaders and female genital mutilation in Africa.
Raspberry started at The Post in 1962 as a teletype operator and began working as a reporter within months. In 1965, he covered the riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles, and he began writing a column on local matters a year later.
At the time, the only nationally syndicated black columnist in the mainstream media was Carl Rowan. Raspberry’s column moved to The Post’s op-ed page in 1970.
“Bill Raspberry inspired a rising generation of African-American columnists and commentators who followed in his path, including me,” said Clarence Page, a Pulitzer-winning columnist with the Chicago Tribune.
Although he considered himself a liberal, Raspberry’s moderate, nuanced positions on issues including civil rights and gun control garnered criticism from both the right and the left. He was especially concerned with the problems of ordinary people. He told Editor & Publisher magazine in 1994 that reporters could “care about the people they report on and still retain the capacity to tell the story straight.”
He taught journalism for more than 10 years at Duke University. A collection of his columns, “Looking Back at Us,” was published in 1991.
The son of two teachers, Raspberry was born in 1935 in the northeastern Mississippi town of Okolona. He attended Indiana Central College, now the University of Indianapolis, and joined The Post after a stint as a public information officer with the Army.
By KEN THOMAS |
Second chances can be rare in politics, but President Barack Obama found Kiss Cam and an impatient crowd to be just the right motivation.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, were taking in this past Monday night's USA Basketball exhibition game when the Verizon Center’s “Kiss Cam” turned its eye their way. Their image on the huge arena screen prompted the crowd to cheer — a not-so-subtle hint that Obama plant one on the first lady.
Both smiled, but Obama just put his arm around his wife as the game resumed. That cautious reaction brought some boos.
Obama got a do-over later in the game when the Kiss Cam swung back his way. This time he delivered, giving Mrs. Obama a big kiss on the lips. And a peck on the forehead for good measure.
And the crowd roared.
By HENRY C. JACKSON and SOPHIA TAREEN,
When Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. disappeared last month for a mysterious medical leave, it took weeks for anyone in Washington to even notice.
It was a measure of the disconnect between his famous name and his stature on Capitol Hill. The 47-year-old son of the legendary civil rights leader has become simply a congressman who can deliver the pork back home.
Jackson arrived in Washington 17 years ago with a star quality that set him apart from his 434 colleagues in the House. Yet he has never lived up to those high expectations on the national stage, gaining a reputation in the nation’s capital for quixotic pursuits such as trying to impeach President George W. Bush and push through constitutional amendments that had no chance at all.
One big reason given for his failure to rise to a more statesmanlike role is the cloud of suspicion that has hung over him for more than three years because of his dealings with corrupt former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“He was, up until about 2008, clearly a rising star,” said Dick Simpson, a former city alderman and a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “After that his whole reputation collapsed, and he’s not been able to move forward.”
None of that seems to matter in his Chicago-area district, where the Democrat has brought home close to $1 billion in federal money and won every election since 1995 in a landslide.
Now, many of his constituents are willing to cut him some slack over the way he has released only scant details about his medical condition in recent weeks.
Ford Heights Mayor Charles Griffin said that Jackson’s health is a private matter and that he has no problem with the way the congressman hasn’t disclosed his location or detailed his condition beyond calling it a “mood disorder.” Griffin’s town of about 2,700 people is one of the poorest in Illinois, and Jackson was key in bringing it drinking water from Lake Michigan.
“I have no idea what his relationship is on the national level,” Griffin said. “The only thing I know is that he’s ... been successful in bringing back resources and funds to do things to get things moving. And that’s the type of approach we need.”
While Jackson clearly once had his sights set on becoming a senator or the mayor of Chicago, he seems resigned to playing the role of a politician devoted to local issues. He said earlier this year that the late-1990s water project in Ford Heights was a highlight of his career, not his role as Barack Obama’s campaign co-chairman, which earned him a speaking spot at the 2008 convention.
“When I first went to Congress, I promised to bring fresh water to Ford Heights,” Jackson said. “That promise has been fulfilled.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s eldest son was groomed for the national political scene from the beginning, it seemed.
He attended a top private school in Washington and earned a law degree and a master’s in theology. He has bragged about spending his 21st birthday in jail after being arrested in an anti-apartheid protest. He co-wrote books with his father and developed his own charismatic speaking style, one that is often punctuated by vigorous pointing with a raised index finger.
Shortly after taking office, he was deemed People magazine’s Sexiest Politician in 1997. He became one of the most outspoken and most quoted liberals in the House. An almost Hollywood buzz broke out over his svelte new figure in 2005 when he quietly dropped 50 pounds, disclosing months later that he had had weight-loss surgery.
But he also put significant time and energy behind a raft of big-ticket liberal ideas that largely went nowhere.
In 2001, after Bush took office, Jackson began to push constitutional amendments that would guarantee a right to universal health care and housing. In 2007, he was one of a small number of lawmakers to call for articles of impeachment against the president. Earlier this year, he pushed for a raise in the minimum wage, an idea that never stood a chance in the GOP-dominated House.
His highest-profile project in the district, a proposed third airport in the Chicago area, never went anywhere over questions of who should run it and whether it was needed.
Jackson was expected to have distinguished himself more by now.
“He’s got one of the most recognizable names in the country. It carries its burdens and is one that he wanted to attain some kind of national visibility,” said Alan Gitelson, a Loyola University political science professor. But “we can’t point to any area where Congressman Jackson has marked himself as a leader. His role has been relatively more homestyle than anything else.”
Political experts say one explanation was that he was too busy eyeing other offices. He is also under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations he discussed raising money for Blagojevich in 2008 so that the governor would appoint him to Obama's vacant Senate seat.
In recent years, Jackson has spent much of his time addressing both the Blagojevich allegations and an extramarital affair that became public via the former governor’s trial. For much of the past three years, Jackson avoided public appearances and largely refused to do interviews. He did not even host an election night party after he won in 2010.
Still, Jackson has a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, a perch that — until the House GOP takeover in 2010 — allowed him to steer big money to his district. That has earned him respect and loyalty.
Earlier this year, he fended off his first real Democratic challenge, crushing former Rep. Debbie Halvorson with 70 percent of the vote even after the congressional map was redrawn in a way that added rural and white voters to his largely black, Democratic and urban district.
Jackson’s two little-known challengers in November — a postal carrier running as an independent and a Republican college professor — have seized on his medical leave to talk about the congressman’s shortcomings. His colleagues have called for more information, but only when asked.
“He should be more forthcoming,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a fellow Chicago Democrat. “That’s what’s best for him ... so that all his friends can be much more supportive and it will stop giving his enemies ammunition.”
By ASHRAF SWEILAM and AYA BATRAWY, Associated Press
Two American tourists and their Egyptian guide who were abducted by a Bedouin in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula earlier this month were released unharmed July 16, after negotiations with security officials and tribal leaders.
Rev. Michel Louis, 61, and 39-year-old Lissa Alphonse, both Boston-area residents, had been kidnapped from a bus the Friday before, along with their guide, Haytham Ragab, on a Sinai road by a Bedouin who was demanding the release of his uncle, who had been detained by Egyptian police on suspicion of drug possession.
The kidnapper, Jirmy Abu-Masuh, told AP that he had handed the three over to security officials near the northern Sinai city of el-Arish after he was promised that authorities were working on his uncle's release.
"We are a people of mercy and they don't have anything to do with this," said Abu-Masuh, referring to the Americans. The three released captives later appeared at a police station in the northern Sinai city of el-Arish.
In Boston's Dorchester section, where Louis lives, about 10 family members and friends celebrated the news on the porch of his home, hugging and chanting "hallelujah."
"We are in joy after receiving such a message and we believe in God and let me tell you, He did not let us down," Louis' oldest son, the Rev. Jean Louis, said outside the house before breaking down in tears and being led back inside.
Later, Louis' children told reporters they were able to talk with their father on a satellite phone from Egypt.
"He just told us that he loved us, that he's safe, and he's coming home," said son Daniel Louis. "He sounds in good spirits."
"We're just overwhelmingly happy to hear from my father," added daughter Debora Louis.
Several joyful parishioners gathered nearby at the Presbyterian chuch where the elder Louis is the pastor.
"We are all so happy and we give all the glory to God. Everyone has been so worried, but we had faith in Christ that God will deliver him," said parishioner Roseline Inozil-Camille. "We just missed him so much. He's a man of God."
The abduction illustrated a broader breakdown of security in the Sinai, a key destination in Egypt's vital tourism industry, where lawlessness has risen since last year's ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Relations between the Bedouin and authorities have long been tumultuous, with Bedouin complaining of discrimination by the government and abuses against them by security forces.
Under the Mubarak regime's tight hold, the disputes very rarely spilled over to effect tourists. However, this year has seen a string of kidnappings of tourists, usually by Bedouin trying to wrest concessions from authorities or the release of jailed relatives. In most cases, captives have been released unhurt after a few days.
During their captivity, the two Americans and their guide were kept at Abu-Masuh's home in the harsh mountain terrain of central Sinai, and given tea and food, including at one point a roast lamb, according to Abu-Masuh and the guide, Ragab.
"We were treated just like they treat their own," Ragab, 28, told AP by phone after their release. "But we were under emotional pressure. Life for the Bedouins is tough."
He said he and the two Americans spoke a lot with Abu-Masuh about his uncle — who Abu-Masuh says was being held because he refused to pay a bribe — and about the problems of Bedouin in general.
"The issue isn't Jirmy's alone, it's the issue of all Bedouins. Among them are good people who pray. The government needs to resolve their problems. From what I saw they live a tough life and have nothing to lose," Ragab said.
It was not immediately clear whether Louis and Alphonse were going to cross into Israel to join the rest of their tour group and continue their planned tour of the Holy Land before returning to the United States or cut it short. The two Americans declined to talk to the AP by phone.
Egyptian officials made clear earlier Monday that they would not bend to Abu-Masuh's demands. Officials and heads of tribes met with him for several hours before an agreement to release the hostages was reached, according to officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The two Americans, on a tour of the Holy Land, had been heading from Cairo to the 6th century St. Catherine's Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai, said to be the site where Moses received the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments.
Abu-Masuh, 32, earlier told the AP that he had stopped their tour bus and ordered them off, along with Ragab to assist with translation, as a way to force his uncle's release.
Throughout the ordeal, Louis' family was concerned that the 61-year-old pastor was unable to take his diabetes medication with him when he got off the bus. His family said he takes natural medication, not insulin.
The Bedouins of the sparsely populated peninsula have long-running tensions with the government in Cairo and with the security forces in particular. Security officials say some Bedouin are involved in smuggling of drugs and migrants endemic to the peninsula.
The Bedouin, in turn, complain of state discrimination in the development of their region. Bedouin and Egyptian rights groups say the security forces are responsible for many abuses. Police hunting fugitives have staged mass arrests to pressure families to hand over their relatives. They frequently enter homes by force and detain women — particularly provocative acts in conservative Bedouin society.
There are also fears of an Islamic militant presence in the Sinai, where militants carried out a string of suicide bombings against tourist resorts in the mid-2000s. Israel says militants in Sinai are behind cross-border attacks into its territory in recent years.
Abu-Masuh said his uncle had been stopped and harassed on his way to the coastal city of Alexandria last week. When officials saw he was from Sinai, they harassed his uncle even more, Abu-Masuh said. He said his 62-year-old uncle, who raised him after his father died, suffers from back and heart problems as well as diabetes.
Officials said Abu-Masuh's uncle was detained on Saturday for 15 days pending investigation for alleged possession of drugs.
Egyptian security officials were in a tight spot with the latest abduction, unwilling to free the hostages by force and risk a violent confrontation with the captor's Tarbeen tribe. Any escalation with tribes there could lead to more abduction along the popular tourist route.
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