August 15, 2013
By Geoff Mulvill and Angela Delli Santi
Cory Booker brushed off three experienced opponents in a victory in New Jersey’s special Democratic U.S. Senate primary, setting up a campaign of deep contrasts with Steve Lonegan, who won the Republican nomination.
The two winners Tuesday will face off in an Oct. 16 special election called by Gov. Chris Christie to fill the last 15 months of the seat previously held by Frank Lautenberg, who died at 89 in June.
Lonegan, former mayor of Bogota, is trying to buck history and become the first Republican elected to represent New Jersey in the Senate in 41 years. Booker, mayor of Newark, is trying to make history as the state's first black senator.
Booker promised to disregard old political rules and focus on finding common ground. Lonegan, who had harsh words for Booker as a celebrity who rubs elbows with “elites” in Hollywood, said that Democrats like Booker need to be stopped so the government does not deprive citizens of individual liberty.
Booker, 44, a rare New Jersey politician who was well known statewide before seeking statewide office, easily defeated U.S. Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone — who both did well only in and near their districts — and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Despite facing experienced competition, he received around three-fifths of the votes.
A prolific social media user, Booker is a friend of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Eva Longoria, both of whom made campaign appearances.
He has become known through his story: He grew up in a well-off northern New Jersey suburb as the son of IBM executives, played football at Stanford, was a Rhodes Scholar and went to law school at Yale before moving into one of the toughest Newark neighborhoods and launching a career in public service.
As mayor of a city known for crime, corruption and poverty, he's courted hundreds of millions from philanthropists, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
In his acceptance speech Tuesday night in Newark, he talked about not following political convention and trying to find common ground with adversaries, but also about some core liberal beliefs: raising the minimum wage, rewriting the tax code, protecting Social Security and Medicare and securing equal pay for women and the right to marry for gays.
“It’s a campaign that seeks to give testimony to the truth that the lines that divide us are insignificant compared to the ties that bind us,” he said.
Lonegan, 57, who also grew up in suburban Bergen County and played college football, served three terms as mayor of the small community of Bogota and then became the New Jersey director for the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity, wasted no time Tuesday going after Booker’s approach and his celebrity, dismissing him as the candidate “anointed by Hollywood” and supported by “Silicon Valley moguls.”
“It’s going to look like a conservative versus a far-left liberal who’s going to paint a picture of a utopia where government can meet all of our needs,” Lonegan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think government is a problem.”
Lonegan, who opposes gay marriage, abortion rights and President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul, and generally wants to scale back the role of government, scoffed when told of Booker’s plan to match Lonegan’s “negative attacks with positive visions.”
“Maybe he can send out tweets from the Hundred Acre forest,” he said, referring to the setting for the Winnie the Pooh books.
During the primary campaign, Lonegan held news conferences to blast Booker on proposals for minimum wage increases, ties to a tech start-up and crime in Newark.
Lonegan received about 80 percent of the vote in a Republican primary where the only other candidate was a political newcomer, physician Alieta Eck.
While Booker is a close ally of Christie on Newark issues, the Republican governor said this week that he “fully anticipates” endorsing the winner of the Republican primary.
August 15, 2013
By Angus Shaw
Zimbabwe's longtime President Robert Mugabe said Tuesday his party won "a resounding mandate" from voters to complete a sweeping black empowerment program to take over foreign and white-owned assets.
Mugabe said the program in Zimbabwe, widely criticized by Western countries, will be "pursued to its successful conclusion."
Outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, 61, is challenging the results of the July 31 election and alleges widespread vote rigging that gave Mugabe, 89, and his ZANU-PF party a commanding victory.
Addressing military parades on the annual Defense Forces holiday, Mugabe said voters ended an unwieldy coalition with Tsvangirai's opposition that was formed after the last violent and disputed elections in 2008.
Mugabe said the vote showed confidence in his party and its drive for "total economic emancipation" for prosperity and jobs.
"I extend my hearty congratulations to all of you for showing our foreign detractors our destiny lies in our hands," Mugabe said, speaking at the main sports stadium in Harare where the parades and parachuting displays, gymnastics and a soccer match between the uniformed services of Zimbabwe and regional ally Tanzania were held.
In his first public appearance since the election on the Heroes' Day holiday Monday, honoring guerrillas in the war the led to independence in 1980, Mugabe described his rivals as an enemy he disposed of in the election "like garbage."
On Tuesday he called them "some misguided fellow countrymen" who received backing from hostile Western nations and followed a regime-change agenda to oust him.
Tsvangirai's party had called for reforms to the military and police it has blamed for state orchestrated violence in the past.
"What they call security sector reform is when the enemy's aim is to dilute the efficiency of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces," Mugabe said. "We appeal to all Zimbabweans to resist the enemy's strategies and renewed advances by our erstwhile colonizers."
Britain, the former colonial power, and the United States have questioned whether the results of the July 31 poll represent a free and fair vote.
Mugabe, who for the first time this year inspected the parades from an open military jeep instead of walking through the ranks, said Britain has opposed black empowerment since 2000 when thousands of white farmers were forced to surrender their land.
Critics of the program say it disrupted Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy, shut down industries and scared away foreign investment in mining and other businesses where owners were required to yield 51 percent control to blacks.
Mugabe, however, said empowerment succeeded in creating jobs and economic growth in other African countries in the post-colonial era where it had not drawn the same condemnation as in Zimbabwe.
In its election manifesto, Mugabe's party vowed to take control of the last 1,138 foreign and white-owned businesses in the country.
"This policy beneficial to indigenous Zimbabweans will be taken to its successful conclusion" under a new ZANU-PF government, Mugabe said.
Tsvangirai and leaders of his Movement for Democratic Change campaigned for liberalization the economy to attract Western investors. They stayed away from Tuesday's parades and Monday's ceremonies at a national cemetery outside Harare.
August 15, 2013
By Peter Orsi
Fidel Castro turned 87 behind closed doors Tuesday, with official tributes reminding Cubans that the clock is ticking on his revolutionary generation’s grip on power.
Castro stepped down as president following a near-fatal illness in 2006, and his successor, younger brother Raul, has said that his current term ending in 2018 will be his last, ostensibly ending nearly six decades of rule by the brothers.
Openly acknowledging to Cubans that change was inevitable, Raul Castro in February named Miguel Diaz-Canel, 53, as his deputy and heir apparent.
“You never talked about it until Raul said it recently. It was like something taboo,” Rey Nunez, a 42-year-old driver, said of generational leadership change. “But I think the institutions in this country are solid for whatever comes afterward.”
Fidel Castro has made only a couple of public appearances this year, and last month he skipped celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban Revolution that were attended by several allied heads of state.
He last was seen pictured with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in late July. In April he paid an emotional visit to a Havana school where he invited staffers to listen to a song eulogizing friend and ally Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer the previous month.
There's no evidence that Castro's health is in immediate danger, though his advancing age is evident in the images published through official channels.
“When you see Fidel now, you realize the calendar is irreversible,” said Dayren Silva, a 53-year-old mechanic. “Sometimes I’m very worried that the day he closes his eyes definitively it could be a debacle here, because the situation is so difficult that I don’t think Cubans can take it anymore.”
Raul Castro is in the middle of social and economic reforms that have expanded independent small-business activity and eased travel restrictions, among other things, though some criticize them as half-measures.
Paul Webster Hare, a lecturer in international relations at Boston University and British ambassador to Cuba from 2001 to 2004, said while it seems clear that Raul Castro is firmly in charge, Fidel’s presence acts as a brake on the pace of change.
“I think they’re struggling now to find a way of articulating where Cuba will be in five, ten years’ time,” Hare said, “and I think quite a lot of that is due to Fidel clocking up another year in his innings.”
In Miami, where recurring rumors of Castro’s purported demise have sparked celebrations in the past, there was neither festivity nor protest.
“I don’t know why he’s still alive,” said Ahmed Medina, 28, who left Cuba when he was 7. His family once owned a successful transportation company but lost it after the 1959 revolution.
“To me, he’s dead or dying,” Medina said.
August 15, 2013
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Michelle Obama is making a cameo appearance in a video for a hip-hop song recorded to encourage kids from minority groups to take care of their bodies.
The song, “Everybody,” is one of 19 on an album called “Songs for a Healthier America,” set for release next month. The album is being produced by Hip Hop Public Health and the Partnership for a Healthier America, both of which support the first lady’s “Let’s Move” anti-childhood obesity campaign. Statistics show higher rates of overweight and obesity among black and Latino children.
In the video, Mrs. Obama talks briefly about launching “Let’s Move” and people’s doubts about whether it will make a difference.
The song itself is sung by rapper Doug E. Fresh, along with Jordin Sparks, Dr. Oz and others.
August 15, 2013
By Travis Loller
A Tennessee judge's decision to change a baby's first name from Messiah to Martin is drawing strong reactions from people who believe the judge overstepped her powers and those who think parents' creativity should have some limits.
Thousands of people have commented online about the judge's order since WBIR-TV published its story over the weekend. Many of them said Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew went too far, but not all.
"I agree 100 percent that we only have one messiah and that's Jesus Christ," said Edith Wood, a resident of Cocke County in eastern Tennessee, where the boy lives. The mostly rural county is located in the Appalachian foothills and encompasses part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Wood said a cousin called from Atlanta and asked her to find the judge and take her out to dinner. Telephone calls to Ballew from The Associated Press rang unanswered Monday, and her voicemail was full.
The hubbub started when the boy's mother sought an order to establish paternity. It included a request for the judge to determine the child's last name.
When Ballew heard Messiah's first name, she decided it should be changed, too, saying the child could face problems with the name Messiah.
The name on his birth certificate was Messiah DeShawn Martin. The judge changed it to Martin DeShawn McCullough, giving the boy his father's last name while replacing Messiah with his mother's surname.
"The word messiah is a title, and it's a title that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ," she told WBIR-TV in an interview from her office, which had a ceramic figurine of Joseph and Mary with baby Jesus on her desk. A copy of the Ten Commandments hung on the wall.
While Messiah may not be a traditional English name, it is becoming more popular. Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, just ahead of King but behind Major at No. 1, according to the Social Security Administration's annual list of popular baby names.
And other religious names are very common, such as Mohammed in Islamic culture and Jesus (pronounced Heh-SOOS') in Hispanic culture.
Asked about the name Jesus, Ballew said it was not relevant to the current case.
A number of countries have rules about what are acceptable baby names. In Iceland earlier this year, a girl won a court battle to legally use the name given to her by her mother. Blaer means "light breeze" in Icelandic, but it was deemed to be not a proper feminine name by authorities, who referred to her in government documents as "Girl."
Hedy Weinberg, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said the U.S. is different because of the First Amendment.
"Parents, not the government, have the right to name a child," she said. "The judge cannot impose her faith on those who come into her courtroom."
The ACLU has offered to help the parents fight the decision.
Laura Wattenberg, the founder of babynamewizard.com, said she has been using the name Messiah as an example of changing baby names.
"The percentage of kids getting names we think of as normal is shrinking," Wattenberg said. "Today, Paisley is more common than Mary."
Messiah Ramkissoon, a spoken word poet based in New York City, said people sometimes assume his name is a stage name. But he said the name simply represents a messenger and doesn't refer exclusively to Jesus. He added that many people are named Emanuel, which means "God is with us" and is another term used for Jesus in the Bible.
The baby's mother, Jaleesa Martin, told WBIR-TV she chose the name Messiah because she likes the way it sounds and thinks it goes well with the names of her other two sons, Micah and Mason. She said she's appealing the decision and in the meantime will still call her son Messiah.
"I never intended on that — naming my son Messiah because it means God," she said. "And I didn't think a judge could make me change my baby's name because of her religious beliefs."