April 11, 2013
By JAY REEVES
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The lone survivor of a 1963 Alabama church bombing that killed four black girls said Wednesday she wants millions in compensation for her injuries and won't accept a top congressional award proposed to honor the victims.
Sarah Collins Rudolph, in an interview with The Associated Press, said she feels forgotten 50 years after the blast shocked the nation. Rudolph lost an eye in the Sept. 16, 1963 bombing at Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and says she never got restitution.
“We haven’t received anything, and I lost an eye,” said Rudolph, who lives north of Birmingham. “They just want to throw a medal at us.”
Congress is considering whether to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the four girls who died: 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair. Addie Mae was the sister of Rudolph, who was 12 at the time and was in a downstairs washroom with the four girls when the blast occurred. At least two dozen others were injured.
The brother of Cynthia Wesley said he isn’t interested in the award either and wants compensation, partly because history didn’t even record his sister's name correctly.
U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell, a Democrat, and Spencer Bachus, a Republican, announced a bipartisan effort in January to award the medal to the church bombing victims. The medal represents the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow. Recipients have ranged from George Washington to civil rights figure Rosa Parks, Pope John Paul II and “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz.
The church bombing shocked the nation and was a galvanizing moment in the civil rights movement.
The five girls were preparing for Sunday services in the washroom near the wall where the bomb was planted outside.
It was more than a decade before any successful prosecutions were brought in the case.
Juries convicted three Ku Klux Klansmen in the bombing years later, and one suspected accomplice died without ever having been charged; one of the four is still in prison and the others are dead.
But Rudolph said she still hasn’t gotten justice like other crime victims who receive restitution payments.
“My sister was killed and I lost my eye. Why should I be any different?” said Rudolph, who says she still suffers from painful memories, physical scars and posttraumatic stress syndrome.
Rudolph said she wants compensation “in the millions” for her injuries and the death of Addie Mae, but she hasn’t settled on an exact amount.
Fate Morris said he also will refuse the medal and wants compensation like Rudolph for the death of his sister, typically referred to as Cynthia Wesley. Morris said her real name was Cynthia Morris, and no medal will replace the mistake.
“It’s a smoke screen to shut us up and make us go away so we’ll never be heard from again,” Morris told AP.
Morris said his sister was staying with a family named “Wesley” at the time of the bombing to get into a good school, but she still came back to the Morris household on weekends. Authorities mistakenly recorded her last name as “Wesley” and never fixed the error, he said, until the family sought an amended death certificate decades later.
Morris said he vividly recalls hearing the blast that morning and running to the church with friends to help dig through the rubble. He remembers people calling out about finding bodies amid broken bricks but said he left in fear before his sister’s remains were found.
Morris, sobbing during an interview, said a friend told him moments later that Cynthia’s decapitated remains had been found. He said he’s never shaken the pain.
“I left her buried in a pile of bricks. That’s all I could think of,” he said through tears.
Stephanie Engle, an activist who is publicizing the families’ push for compensation, said victims of the bombing deserve reparation just like Japanese Americans who received payments through a $1.6 billion program decades after being held in internment camps during World War II.
Birmingham’s entire Jim Crow structure of racial segregation created a climate of fear and hate that resulted in the girls’ deaths, she said. Engle said “medals, statues, and ‘pomp-and-circumstance ceremonies’ are not a substitution for justice, moral, and historical accountability.”
Press aides to Sewell and Bachus did not return messages seeking comment on the status of the legislation for the medals.
The Alabama Crime Victims’ Compensation Commission helps crime victims and families with expenses stemming from a crime, but Executive Director Cassie Jones said state law does not allow it to address crimes that occurred before the agency was created in 1984. She said it doesn’t matter if the conviction occurred after 1984, as happened in this case. “We are not able to compensate anyone where there was a crime before it became an agency,” she said.
She said the Justice Department has a program to assist crime victims, but she doesn’t know how far back it can go.
Robert Sedler, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who has litigated major civil rights cases, said Congress has the power to approve compensation to victims such as Rudolph.
“These people are victims of a long and tragic history of racial discrimination in the southern states and Congress on behalf of the people can provide compensation for the victims,” he said.
As for the church bombing victims and families, Sedler said their argument is strengthened by the fact that Alabama authorities were nor protecting the rights of blacks at the time. He noted that Birmingham’s public safety commissioner then was the notoriously racist Bull Connor.
“Violence was encouraged,” he said. “Local law enforcement officials did not enforce the law to protect minority rights... The people who blew up the church, they believed that they could do it with impunity.”
The viciousness of the bombing drew national attention to Birmingham, where authorities used fire hoses and police dogs to turn back black marchers months earlier the same year. Congress passed the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act within a year of the bombing, which came to symbolize the depth of racial hatred in the South.
Rudolph’s comments come a week after Alabama lawmakers address another major episode in civil rights history. Legislators voted to allow posthumous pardons for the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine black teens who were wrongly convicted of raping two white women more than 80 years ago.
April 04, 2013
By JEAN H. LEE
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Ratcheting up the rhetoric, North Korea warned early Thursday that its military has been cleared to wage an attack on the U.S. using “smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear” weapons.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, said in Washington that it will deploy a missile defense system to the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam to strengthen regional protection against a possible attack from North Korea. The defense secretary said the U.S. was seeking to defuse the situation.
Despite the rhetoric, analysts say they do not expect a nuclear attack by North Korea, which knows the move could trigger a destructive, suicidal war that no one in the region wants.
The strident warning from Pyongyang is latest in a series of escalating threats from North Korea, which has railed for weeks against joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises taking place in South Korea and has expressed anger over tightened sanctions for a February nuclear test.
Following through on one threat Wednesday, North Korean border authorities refused to allow entry to South Koreans who manage jointly run factories in the North Korean city of Kaesong.
Washington calls the military drills, which this time have incorporated fighter jets and nuclear-capable stealth bombers, routine annual exercises between the allies. Pyongyang calls them rehearsals for a northward invasion.
The foes fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. The divided Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war six decades later, and Washington keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect its ally.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Washington was doing all it can to defuse the situation, echoing comments a day earlier by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan and also the threats that the North Koreans have leveled directly at the United States regarding our base in Guam, threatened Hawaii, threatened the West Coast of the United States,” Hagel said Wednesday.
In Pyongyang, the military statement said North Korean troops had been authorized to counter U.S. “aggression” with “powerful practical military counteractions,” including nuclear weapons.
“We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means,” an unnamed spokesman from the General Bureau of the Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by state media, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation.”
However, North Korea’s nuclear strike capabilities remain unclear.
Pyongyang is believed to be working toward building an atomic bomb small enough to mount on a long-range missile. Long-range rocket launches designed to send satellites into space in 2009 and 2012 were widely considered covert tests of missile technology, and North Korea has conducted three underground nuclear tests, most recently in February.
“I don’t believe North Korea has to capacity to attack the United States with nuclear weapons mounted on missiles, and won’t for many years. Its ability to target and strike South Korea is also very limited,” nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said this week.
“And even if Pyongyang had the technical means, why would the regime want to launch a nuclear attack when it fully knows that any use of nuclear weapons would result in a devastating military response and would spell the end of the regime?” he said in answers posted to CISAC’s website.
In Seoul, a senior government official said Tuesday that it wasn’t clear how advanced North Korea's nuclear weapons capabilities are. But he also noted fallout from any nuclear strike on Seoul or beyond would threaten Pyongyang as well, making a strike unlikely. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly to the media.
North Korea maintains that it needs to build nuclear weapons to defend itself against the United States. On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un led a high-level meeting of party officials who declared building the economy and “nuclear armed forces” as the nation’s two top priorities.
April 04, 2013
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon said Wednesday it was deploying a missile defense shield to Guam to protect the U.S. and its allies in the region in response to increasingly hostile rhetoric from North Korea. The North renewed its threat to launch a nuclear attack on the United States.
The threat issued by the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army capped a week of psychological warfare and military muscle moves by both sides that have rattled the region.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced it will deploy a land-based, high-altitude missile defense system to Guam to strengthen the Asia-Pacific region’s protections against a possible attack.
Pyongyang, for its part, said that America’s ever-escalating hostile policy toward North Korea “will be smashed” by the North’s nuclear strike and the “merciless operation” of its armed forces.
“The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation,” said the translated statement, which was issued before the Pentagon announced plans to send a missile defense shield to Guam.
The Pentagon had no immediate reaction to the latest statement, but earlier Wednesday Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel labeled North Korea’s rhetoric as a real, clear danger and threat to the U.S. and its Asia-Pacific allies. And he said the U.S. is doing all it can to defuse the situation, echoing comments a day earlier by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan and also the threats that the North Koreans have leveled directly at the United States regarding our base in Guam, threatened Hawaii, threatened the West Coast of the United States,” Hagel said.
He said he believes that the U.S. has had a “measured, responsible, serious responses to those threats.”
Deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System is the latest step the U.S. has taken to bolster forces in the region in a far-reaching show of force aimed at countering the North Korean threat.
In recent months, North Korea has taken a series of actions Washington deemed provocative, including an underground nuclear test in February and a rocket launch in December that put a satellite into space and demonstrated mastery of some of the technologies needed to produce a long-range nuclear missile. Then, several weeks ago, the North threatened to pre-emptively attack the U.S.
In response, the Pentagon announced it would enhance missile defenses based on the U.S. West Coast, and it highlighted the deployment of B-52 and B-2 bombers, as well as two F-22 stealth fighters, to South Korea as part of an annual military exercise.
As the exchange of rhetoric grew, U.S. officials this week said the Navy would keep the USS Decatur, a destroyer armed with missile defense systems, near the Korean peninsula for an unspecified period of time. Another destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, was shifted to the waters off the southwest coast of the Korean peninsula.
Tensions have flared many times in the six decades since a truce halted the 1950-53 Korean War, but the stakes are higher now that a defiant North Korea appears to have moved closer to building a nuclear bomb that could not only threaten the South and other U.S. allies in Asia but possibly, one day, even reach U.S. territory.
Even without nuclear arms, the communist North poses enough artillery within range of Seoul to devastate large parts of the capital before U.S. and South Korea could fully respond. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in the South, and it could call on an array of air, ground and naval forces to reinforce the peninsula from elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific.
U.S. officials have said that the Pentagon’s military response to Pyongyang’s threats has so far been aimed more at assuring South Korea and other allies in the region that America is committed to their security. U.S. military leaders also have said that despite the escalating rhetoric, they have seen nothing to suggest that North Korea is making any military moves to back up its threats.
Hagel told an audience at the National Defense University that there is a path to peace on the troubled Korean peninsula, but it doesn't include making nuclear threats or taking provocative actions.
The land-based THAAD missile defense system includes a truck-mounted launcher, tracking radar, interceptor missiles, and an integrated fire control system. The Pentagon said the system will boost defenses for American citizens in Guam, a U.S. territory, and U.S. forces stationed there.
April 04, 2013
By JOHN HEILPRIN and
GENEVA (AP) — It is one of the cosmos' most mysterious unsolved cases: dark matter. It is supposedly what holds the universe together. We can’t see it, but scientists are pretty sure it’s out there.
Led by a dogged, Nobel Prize-winning gumshoe who has spent 18 years on the case, scientists put a $2 billion detector aboard the International Space Station to try to track down the stuff. And after two years, the first evidence came in Wednesday: tantalizing cosmic footprints that seem to have been left by dark matter.
But the evidence isn’t enough to declare the case closed. The footprints could have come from another, more conventional suspect: a pulsar, or a rotating, radiation-emitting star.
The Sam Spade in the investigation, physicist and Nobel laureate Sam Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he expects a more definitive answer in a matter of months. He confidently promised: “There is no question we’re going to solve this problem.”
“It’s a tantalizing hint,” said California Institute of Technology physicist Sean Carroll, who was not part of the team. “It’s a sign of something.” But he can’t quite say what that something is. It doesn’t eliminate the other suspect, pulsars, he added.
The results from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, are significant because dark matter is thought to make up about a quarter of all the matter in the universe.
“We live in a sea of dark matter,” said Michael Salamon, who runs the AMS program for the U.S. Energy Department. Unraveling the mystery of dark matter could help scientists better understand the composition of our universe and, more particularly, what holds galaxies together.
Ting announced the findings in Geneva at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the particle physics laboratory known as CERN.
The 7-ton detector with a 3-foot magnet ring at its core was sent into space in 2011 in a shuttle mission commanded by astronaut Mark Kelly while his wife, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. The device is transmitting its data to CERN, where it is being analyzed.
For 80 years scientists have theorized the existence of dark matter but have never actually observed it directly. They have looked for it in accelerators that smash particles together at high speed. No luck. They’ve looked deep underground with special detectors. Again no luck.
Then there’s a third way: looking in space for the results of rare dark matter collisions. If particles of dark matter crash and annihilate each other, they should leave a footprint of positrons — the anti-matter version of electrons — at high energy levels. That’s what Ting and AMS are looking for.
They found some. But they could also be signs of pulsars, Ting and others concede. What’s key is the curve of the plot of those positrons. If the curve is one shape, it points to dark matter. If it’s another, it points to pulsars. Ting said they should know the curve — and the suspect — soon.
The instrument will be measuring cosmic rays, where the footprints are found, until 2020 or so.
Other scientists praised the results and looked forward to more.
“This is an 80-year-old detective story and we are getting close to the end,” said University of Chicago physicist Michael Turner, one of the giants in the field of dark matter. “This is a tantalizing clue and further results from AMS could finish the story.”
March 28, 2013
By Edith Billups
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Audri Scott Williams walked thousands of miles to promote peace, now she’s on the move again, this time to bring attention to the environment.
Williams, 57, is a little more than two weeks into a six-week walk from Washington D.C. to Tuskegee, Ala., her home. She struck out with a group of supporters March 1 from the Martin Luther King. Jr. Memorial in Northwest Washington. She expects to conclude the walk on April 13. She is collaborating with the Heal the Atmosphere Association, a Tuskegee-based organization, to raise environmental awareness.
“We want to raise awareness of the damage being done to the planet through pollution. We also want to shift the consciousness about Mother Earth so that all realize that we are in relationship with her and all things,” Williams said.
From 2005-2009, Williams, a former Maryland resident, led seven others in a walk around the world in the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk. They traveled to 17 countries. The current walk, dubbed the Out of Washington Comes RESPECT (Real Environmentally Safe Practices—Embracing Change Together) Walk. Two members of The Trail of Dreams World Peace team, Karen Watson, 62, and Tony Shina, 51, are joining Williams. Other walkers include Charles and Harriet Davis, founders of The Heal the Atmosphere Association; students from Tuskegee University. The youngest walker is 6-year-old Elijah Sims.
A grandmother of 12 who holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a master’s in indigenous science, Williams resigned as dean of continuing education and community services from Charles County Community College in 1993 to fulfill a greater calling—walk for peace, healing and reconciliation.
“In 1993, I had a heart attack,” she said. “The cardiologist said I was lucky. He said I was here to do something and I needed to figure what that was if I wanted to be here. I knew what he meant. After the heart attack, I made a commitment to follow the path of my dreams. My dreams led me to walk to affect peace and healing in our relationships because how we are in relationship to ourselves, our families, our communities and mother earth will determine the fate of humankind,” she added.
Williams noted that in 12 years, she estimates that she has walked more than 50,000 miles. Because of the young walkers accompanying the group, the walkers are covering eight to 10 miles a day, “but our goal is 40 miles a day,” she said.
Along the way, the group will stop to give talks on peace and the need to protect the environment.
“We are walking in solidarity and bringing attention to environmental issues that impact poor and indigenous people around the world,’ she said.
Her experiences have taken her on four life-changing journeys, including The Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk for Peace on six continents where she visited sacred sites, engaged in sacred ceremonies, and connected with communities, Williams said. She noted that leaders throughout history, including Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandi and Harriet Tubman, have used walking to inspire change. The walk route includes Richmond, Va., Greenville, N.C., Atlanta and Montgomery, Ala. Organizers invite community groups to provide food and sleeping accommodations.
“Walking is powerful and transformational,” she said. “I walk because the power of love is present and it sweeps away the lies that keep us blind and brings us face-to-face with our deepest truths—about ourselves and the world around us. I choose to engage and change the world, one step at a time. If one person’s life is healed or transformed because they walked with us then my prayers are answered because they very well may be (the) leader the world is waiting for.”
For more than a decade, The Heal the Atmosphere Association has offered “green education,” officials said. In Tuskegee, it created Shanti Villa, a model green community that attracts young environmentalist and artists who are committed to healing the planet. The organization also has been leading small walks in the community for years to raise environmental awareness, authorities said.
“From my standpoint, our survival as a human species depends on us recognizing and honoring Mother Earth,” she said.
Williams said the Davises, who founded Shanti Villa with their three sons, inspired this latest journey. “We all were talking about environmental issues and decided to start our walk in D.C. because it symbolically represents the political powers of our country and we wanted to connect with that to make a statement,” she said.