October 25, 2012
By BEN FELLER | Associated Press
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — President Barack Obama said at the start of a 48-hour campaign trip that “trust matters” in a presidential campaign and he has kept the same values throughout his political career.
Obama is seeking to contrast himself with what he considers Republican Mitt Romney’s shifting views.
Obama told voters in Iowa’s Quad Cities on Wednesday that they can take videotape of things he said 10 years ago or 12 years ago and say, quote, “man, this is the same guy.”
Obama says he hasn't finished all the work he and his supporters set out to do in 2008, but says he has fought for people every day.
Iowa is the first stop on a 48-hour trip to key states. The president said: “We’re going to pull an all-nighter. No sleep.”
October 25, 2012
Five suburban Chicago men who were wrongfully convicted of murder as teenagers said on Wednesday October 17 that they are suing local and state police, claiming police officers framed them.
The men were sent to prison for the 1991 rape and murder of 14-year-old Cateresa Matthews. They claim Dixmoor police and Illinois State Police coerced false confessions, withheld evidence and fabricated witness testimony.
The two lawsuits claim that DNA evidence has identified a convicted sex offender for the murder who has no connection to the five men originally convicted _ Robert Taylor, Jonathan Barr, James Harden, Shainne Sharp and Robert Veal. The convicted sex offender has not been charged with the murder, according to the lawsuits.
Taylor, Harden and Barr were freed in 2011 after 19 years in prison. Sharp and Veal were released after 10 years of imprisonment.
“We went through a lot,” an emotional Taylor said. “This one incident destroyed so many lives.”
According to the lawsuits, at least one of the three who confessed was beaten by officers and all those who confessed were coerced and illegally taken advantage of by the officers who were under pressure to solve the case. The officers also falsified witness evidence to secure convictions, the lawsuits claim.
The men’s attorney, Flint Taylor, who isn’t related to Robert Taylor, said important questions need to be asked.
“Why do these cases happen? Why do young African-American men go to prison for crimes they did not commit?” he said.
Telephone calls to Dixmoor police and Illinois State Police officials for comment weren't immediately returned. One lawsuit was filed against Dixmoor police, while the other is against the state police. All five men are plaintiffs on both lawsuits.
October 18, 2012
By JASON STRAZIUSO and KIRUBEL TADESSE
Bedlu Mamo stood in middle of his field in Ethiopia and cast a wary eye at the new variety of wheat he planted for the first time.
“The price is good, better than what we get for other crops. But the companies that buy the wheat may not come to buy,” Bedlu said.
But despite the farmer’s misgivings, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center says demand for wheat is growing faster than for any other food crop in sub-Saharan Africa, where corn has long been considered the most important cereal crop. As the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization marked World Food Day on Tuesday, experts are reexamining what crops are best produced in Africa, for Africans.
Ethiopia recently hosted a conference to look at ways to increase the amount of wheat African farmers grow. Only 44 percent of the wheat consumed in Africa is produced locally.
“The first task is to convince policy makers that there is a potential to produce wheat in Africa,” said Asfaw Negassa, a consultant with the center. “With the right policy, right seed and marketing system, there can be enough wheat production in Africa to substitute the significant portion of imports that costs the continent scarce hard currency.”
The corn and wheat center says African countries in 2012 will spend $12 billion to import 40 million tons of wheat — money that could be used for other pressing needs.
Wheat production in sub-Saharan Africa dropped sharply in the 1980s after an influx of food aid made the crop unprofitable, said the maize and wheat improvement center, which is known by the initials CIMMYT. At the same time, the focus of international development shifted to corn and cassava. A growing demand for wheat has led agricultural experts to rethink the crop in Africa, the group said.
But sometimes the farmer must confront market forces that can be a disincentive to plant.
For Bedlu, the Ethiopian farmer, this season marks the first time he has planted the Mangudo variety of durum wheat. He has high hopes for it, but worries he may not find a buyer. Showing how complicated global agricultural can be, Bedlu and Asnake Fikre, the director of the Debre Zeit Agriculture Research Center, say imported wheat can often be bought for less.
Ethiopia’s government in recent months has struggled to stabilize rampant food inflation — a big burden for a country that solicits food aid. Some 3.5 million Ethiopians required humanitarian assistance this year alone. The U.S. government contributed $427 million to agricultural development, food security and emergency aid to Ethiopia in fiscal 2011, said Diane Brandt, an embassy spokeswoman.
World Food Day is dedicated to remembering the importance of global food security. The theme for 2012 is “Agricultural cooperatives — key to feeding the world.”
Hunger is declining in Asia and Latin America but is rising in Africa, according to the FAO. The World Bank says agricultural productivity must increase in Africa because African farm yields are among the lowest in the world.
One in eight people around the world goes to bed hungry every night, the FAO says. But things are turning in the right direction: The total number of hungry people in the world is 870 million, down from 1 billion 20 years ago.
Some of the efforts have been at the grassroots level. In East Africa, an American aid group called One Acre Fund is working with 130,000 farming households to increase food production through improved seeds and fertilizer. Nick Handler, the group's country director in Kenya, said the households his organization works with are becoming more aware of the benefits that improved seeds and fertilizers can have.
“On average we’re seeing a tripling of yields and a doubling of profit once you net out the additional costs for farmers who sign up for the program,” he said.
October 18, 2012
By JULIE PACE
President Barack Obama’s campaign moved swiftly Wednesday to try to capitalize on his spirited debate performance, making an aggressive push on women’s issues and Libya and pressing the notion that Mitt Romney’s economic proposals are “sketchy.”
Obama’s strategy aims to solidify his crucial lead among female voters and his standing as the candidate viewed more favorably on foreign policy, the topic of the third and final debate. Democrats had worried that both advantages could slip away after the president's lackluster performance in the opening face-off with Romney and the fallout from last month’s deadly attack on Americans in Libya.
Obama, visibly energized on the campaign trail, hammered Romney on a flurry of women’s issues, from fair pay to Planned Parenthood funding. And he poked fun at his Republican rival for saying during the debate he had relied on “binders full of women” to find more female employees while serving as Massachusetts governor.
“We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women,” Obama said at a rally in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
The impact of the second debate on the tightly contested White House race won't be clear for several days. But Obama's rebound provided much-needed reassurance to anxious Democrats, some of whom feared the president lacked the passion to fight for his job. The campaign insists the debate halted Romney’s October momentum and keeps open their pathways to victory in all nine or so battleground states.
“In those states, if the election were held today, I’m as confident as anything I’ve been in my life, that we would win the election,” said David Plouffe, Obama’s senior adviser.
The president’s top aides were energized by his performance at the town-hall style debate on Long Island. Aides watching from backstage erupted in cheers at some of his pointed attacks. And there were outbursts of applause at the campaign’s Chicago headquarters, a sharp contrast to the sullen mood there during the first face-off.
Advisers said the debate exchanges on women and Libya gave them the biggest opportunity to appeal to the narrow swath of voters in key states who remain undecided less than three weeks from Election Day.
Obama’s campaign is expected to target Romney's positions on women’s health issues. In particular, they plan to contrast Romney’s assertion that “every woman in America should have access to contraceptives” with his support for legislation which sought to reverse the administration’s policy requiring religious-affiliated institutions to cover contraception costs.
Obama’s team has run television advertisements previously on Romney’s positions on women’s health issues and may do so again.
Explaining the focus on women, Plouffe said, “There are more undecided women than men in all the battlegrounds.”
Polls have long showed Obama holding an edge over Romney with female voters. But some surveys showed Romney making gains with women after the first debate, a shift strategists in both parties attributed to the softer, more moderate tone the Republican struck in that face-off.
The Democratic ticket was also buoyed in the latest debate by the candidates’ exchange on the September attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the attack, and the Obama administration has faced intense criticism about its security levels at the consulate and shifts in its explanation about the violence.
The president countered Romney’s criticism by saying that as president, he is “always responsible” for attacks on American interests overseas. And Romney got tripped up on his accusations that the president didn’t refer to the attacks as terrorism in the immediate aftermath.
Speaking in the Rose Garden the day after the violence, Obama had referred to “acts of terror.”
The candidates have less than a week to prepare for the final debate on October 22, when they expect a fuller discussion of Libya. The president has campaign trips scheduled through Friday and plans to spend the weekend practicing with his debate team at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
Obama’s team said the debate helped sharpen their message on the economy, the top issue for voters. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Obama called Romney’s economic proposals “a sketchy deal,” a phrase voters can expect to hear frequently in the campaign’s closing weeks.
The campaign also plans to use a debate exchange on immigration in its final push for Hispanic votes. Obama needs to run up big margins with Hispanics in swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Virginia. The president used the debate to promote his administration’s efforts to provide a path to legal status for many young illegal immigrants, while Romney said he wouldn't grant amnesty to people who come to the U.S. illegally.
Obama’s aggressive debate performance calmed the nerves of many Democrats, no small accomplishment given the deep anxiety that set in among many supporters following the president’s first debate.
“I think everybody takes their cue from the leader,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s senior campaign strategist.