- Created on 27 September 2013
Voices from the Westgate Mall
Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- To anyone shopping at Nairobi's Westgate Mall, it would likely have seemed just another store.
But according to a Kenyan intelligence official, the small shop concealed an ominous secret. It was rented by the Al-Shabaab terrorists, or their associates, who within a year would carry out an attack on the upscale shopping mall.
The information -- revealed Friday to CNN by the source, who is close to the investigation into the attack -- suggests the Somalian terror organization had been planning the operation at least that long.
How the team of terrorists got their weapons and explosives into the mall without notice is a central part of the investigation into the attack, which left at least 67 people dead and parts of the upscale mall in ruins.
The Kenya Red Cross said Friday that 61 people remain unaccounted for. Some could be buried in the rubble of the partially collapsed mall.
At least five of the terrorists also died before Kenyan forces were finally able to bring the siege to an end on Tuesday. The terrorists stormed the building Saturday.
On a Twitter account believed to be run by Al-Shabaab, the group promised more attacks to come.
"The mesmeric performance by the #Westgate Warriors was undoubtedly gripping, but despair not folks, that was just the premiere of Act 1," according to a tweet posted Thursday.
CNN could not confirm the authenticity of the tweet, but CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said the account, which has also posted links to statements from Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, appears to be legitimate, even if not "100% authenticated."
Several Twitter accounts attributed to Al-Shabaab have been shut down in recent days, likely for violating the company's rules against promoting violence in tweets.
While Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said Friday that eight suspects are being held for questioning in the attack, authorities are increasingly concerned that some of the attackers managed to escape alongside fleeing civilians in the aftermath of the initial attack, U.S. law enforcement officials told CNN.
On Thursday, a Kenyan counterterrorism source told CNN that one of the suspects is an injured Kenyan who was being evacuated when a machine gun magazine fell out of his pocket, leading to suspicion he was among the automatic-weapon toting terrorists who roamed the mall killing civilians. He is being held in a military hospital, the source said.
Among the suspects are three people picked up near the Ugandan border, the Kenyan official who revealed information about the mall store told CNN.
- Created on 27 September 2013
From mental health issues to chronic health illnesses, there is a growing stream of black men choosing to end their own lives.
One of the most prevalent views within the African-American community is that we do not intentionally kill ourselves. That suicide is something only white people or spiritually-weak people do. That suicide is a cop-out, and that to even consider it is a “punk move”. However, these apparent suicides and clinical research clearly indicate that African-Americans do commit suicide.
The Sad (And Real) Facts On Black Suicide
According to the American Association of Suicidology, in 2005, 1,992 suicides were completed by African-Americans and that suicide was the third leading cause of death among African-American youth. The Centers for Disease Control reported that between 1999 and 2004, young African-American...
- Created on 26 September 2013
"Why are you so sad?" a TV reporter asked the little girl with a bright pink bow in her hair.
"Because they didn't like my dreads," she sobbed, wiping her tears. "I think that they should let me have my dreads."
With those words, second-grader Tiana Parker of Tulsa, Okla., found herself, at age 7, at the center of decades of debate over standards of black beauty, cultural pride and freedom of expression.
It was no isolated incident at the predominantly black Deborah Brown Community School, which in the face of outrage in late August apologized and rescinded language banning dreadlocks, Afros, mohawks and other "faddish" hairstyles it had called unacceptable and potential health hazards.
A few weeks earlier, another charter school, the Horizon Science Academy in Lorain, Ohio, sent a draft policy home to parents that proposed a ban on "Afro-puffs and small twisted braids." It, too, quickly apologized and withdrew the wording.
But at historically black Hampton University in Hampton, Va., the dean of the business school has defended and left in place a 12-year-old prohibition on dreadlocks and cornrows for male students in a leadership seminar for MBA candidates, saying the look is not businesslike.
Tiana's father, barber student Terrance Parker, said he and his wife chose not to change her style and moved the straight-A student to a different public school, where she now happily sings songs about her hair with friends.
"I think it stills hurts her. But the way I teach my kids is regardless of what people say, you be yourself and you be happy with who you are and how God made you," he said.
Tiana added: "I like my new school better." As for the thousands of emails and phone calls of support the family has received from around the world, she said she feels "cared about."
Deborah Brown, the school's founder, did not return a call from The Associated Press. Jayson Bendik, dean of students at Horizon in Lorain, said in an email that "our word choice was a mistake."
In New York City, the dress code at 16-year-old Dante de Blasio's large public high school in Brooklyn includes no such hair restrictions. Good thing for Dante, whose large Afro is hard to miss at campaign stops and in a TV spot for his father, Bill de Blasio, who is running for mayor.
There is no central clearinghouse for local school board policies on hairstyles, or surveys indicating whether such rules are widespread. Regardless, mothers of color and black beauty experts consider the controversies business as usual.
"Our girls are always getting messages that tell them that they are not good enough, that they don't look pretty enough, that their skin isn't light enough, that their hair isn't long enough, that their hair isn't blond enough," said Beverly Bond of the New York-based esteem-building group Black Girls Rock.
"The public banning of our hair or anything about us that looks like we look, it feels like it's such a step backward."
Bond founded the organization in response to an episode in 2007 when radio host Don Imus called members of the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." He later apologized.
In Chicago, Leila Noelliste has been blogging about natural hair at Blackgirllonghair.com for about five years. She has followed the school cases closely. The 28-year-old mother with a natural hairstyle and two daughters who also wear their hair that way said it is a touchy issue among African-Americans and others.
"This is the way the hair grows out of my head, yet it's even shocking in some black communities, because we've kind of been told culturally that to be acceptable and to make other people kind of comfortable with the way that we look, we should straighten our hair, whether through heat or chemicals," she said. "So whether we're in non-black communities or black communities, with our natural hair, we stand out. It evokes a lot of reaction."
Particularly painful, said Noelliste and others, is the notion that natural styles are not hygienic.
"Historically natural hair has been viewed as dirty, unclean, unkempt, messy," she said. "An older black generation, there's this idea of African-American exceptionalism, that the way for us to get ahead is to work twice as hard as any white person and to prove that if we just work hard and we look presentable we'll get ahead, and that's very entrenched. My generation, we're saying that that's not fair. We should be able to show up as we are and based on our individual merit and effort be judged on that."
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said legal rulings on hair and other issues pertaining to school dress codes have been fairly clear.
"For decades now, Supreme Court precedent has reaffirmed that clothing, including hairstyle, is part of a student's speech, and if you're going to interfere with that, then the school district has to make some findings beforehand demonstrating that there is an immediate threat to the academic environment," he said. "That wasn't the case here and in most dress-code cases."
Denene Millner in Atlanta created a blog, Mybrownbaby.com, for other African-American moms and also followed the school hair controversies. She went natural nearly 14 years ago for the sake of her daughters, now 11 and 14.
"I didn't want them to grow up with the same idea that I had when I was little, that there was something wrong with the way that my hair grew out of my head," said Millner, 45. "It's something that we've grappled with for a very, very long time. There's a whole lot of assumptions made about you that may not necessarily be true: that you're political, that you're Afro-centric, that you might be vegetarian, that you're kind of a hipster."
She said watching Tiana sob on camera "about these grown-ups, black folks, who are supposed to not just educate her but show her how to love herself, it tore my heart to shreds."
- Created on 26 September 2013
A volunteer for Enroll America explains what open enrollment for Obamacare could mean for people in Kansas City, Missouri.
(CNN) -- Amy Braun-Gross is counting the hours until October 1.
It's not her birthday nor her anniversary.
October 1 is the day that marks the first time ever she will be allowed to buy health insurance.
Like more than 48 million other Americans, the Wisconsin stay-at-home mom does not have insurance to pay for doctor bills if she gets sick. It's particularly disconcerting when she thinks about her husband, Chris, who runs a tree-cutting business. Being an arborist is physically demanding. He has fallen out of trees.
"You know something as simple as a sprained ankle, none of that is covered right now, none of it," Braun-Gross said. "To add the cost of that to the debt we already have, we'd basically be up a creek."
Braun-Gross and her husband have tried to get insurance before, but they don't qualify. They both work hard, and they're college educated. But because of some pre-existing conditions, including Braun-Gross' weight, insurance companies haven't wanted their business.
Obamacare will change all that. The law forbids insurance companies from rejecting people like Braun-Gross because of their pre-existing conditions. To make that affordable, though, one of the most controversial parts of the Affordable Care Act is about to go into effect.
By 2014 every American, with some very few exceptions, will have to have some form of health insurance or be fined. The idea is that more healthy people will buy insurance, and the money the insurance companies save on them will cover the costs of insuring the older and sicker people who will now be in the insurance system.
Employers will provide insurance for three out of every five Americans in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Another 12% get it through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. For those Americans and for the Americans covered by Medicare, October 1 won't mean much.
But for people without insurance, October 1 will be the first time they will be able to shop for private insurance in health insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges. Many will be eligible for government help to pay for those plans.
With so many politicians fighting over this controversial legislation, the details about how to sign up may have gotten a little lost. So, here is what Braun-Gross and the other millions of Americans like her need to know when open enrollment starts on Tuesday:
Open enrollment runs between October 1 and March 31. You don't have to sign up that first day. In fact, you may want to put off paying for it until December. Plans bought through the exchanges won't start until January 1.
December 14 is the cut-off date if you want your plan to start January 1. Open enrollment runs through March 31. If you sign up in January or February your coverage will start the following month.
When Massachusetts rolled out a similar health insurance mandate in 2007, the biggest spike in enrollments came in the two months before people would be charged a penalty for not having coverage, according to Jon Kingsdale who ran the state's health benefit exchange then. He also noticed many people came back to the state's website to evaluate the potential plans more than once.
The experts advise you to take your time. Comparison shop to find the policy that works best for you.
Where to start
If you have Internet access, start with the Web. Beginning October 1, Healthcare.gov will have the information you need. The government site will link to where you sign up for the program.
Go first to "get insurance." That tab will get you to a page that will walk you through whatever marketplace is available to you. Some states set up their own; the federal government runs the rest. On this site you can also compare the plans available in your area.
You may also want to see if you are eligible for Medicaid here. So far, 26 states are moving toward expanding who is eligible for the federal government-funded health program for lower income families and individuals.
You can also enroll by mail.
The government has set up call centers to help people with open enrollment. Call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). The number is staffed around-the-clock. Information is available in more than 150 languages.
There will also be specially trained advisers in communities. These "navigators," as they are known, can help you in person. There will also be federally authorized marketplace-designated organizations. They will be based in community health centers, at the mall, in drug stores and in churches. Depending on state law, traditional agents and insurance brokers can also help.
Unlike brokers or agents, navigators and marketplace-designated organizations can educate you about the plans, but they cannot tell you which plan to pick. Their advice is free. If someone who is a navigator or a federally designated organization tries to charge you, it is a scam.
The health care plans
There are several. The bronze level will be basic, silver midrange, while gold and platinum will be higher-end. There will also be a catastrophic option. Catastrophic insurance covers three doctor visits per year at no cost and preventive care such as screenings and vaccines. This plan will carry a higher deductible.
All plans bought through the exchanges must offer the same coverage benefits. All offer free preventive care. Nearly all cap out-of-pocket costs to $6,350 and $12,700 per family. No one can be turned away. No one will be penalized because of their gender (women often paid more in the old insurance system). Only smokers may be penalized in some plans and some older people may pay more.
What varies with the plans is cost. Some will carry higher deductibles. Some ask for higher co-pays. Costs will vary based on where you live. If you want to see what your bill may look like, be sure to check out the calculator the Kaiser Family Foundation put together. The nonpartisan foundation's tool provides an estimate of your costs depending on where you live and based on the kind of coverage you pick.
The majority of people uninsured today can find a policy for $100 or less a month, taking into account subsidies and Medicaid eligibility, according to the Obama administration.
No matter what the cost, you will pay a monthly premium, and may also have a co-pay or be asked to meet a deductible when you go to the doctor or hospital.
The good news is if you go through the exchanges rather than buy directly from an insurance company, you will likely be eligible for tax breaks and subsidies to pay for your insurance. The assistance is available to those with incomes of up to four times the federal poverty level -- this year, that's $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four -- and will be calculated on a sliding scale.
You can take this subsidy as a tax credit or the government will pay the insurance company directly.
Some Americans will be exempt from the health insurance mandate, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
These are people who can't afford it: For example, people who make so little they don't have to file a tax return are exempt.
People who are in this country without authorization are exempted, as are members of a federally recognized American Indian tribe who are eligible for services through an American Indian health care provider and people with certain religious beliefs that conflict with acceptance of the benefits of private or public insurance.
People with certain hardships are also exempt; so are people in states that don't expand Medicaid.
If you don't get insurance
If you don't sign up to get insurance, you'll list that on your 2014 tax return.
The fee for the first year is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 per family), or 1% of your income, whatever is higher.
In 2015, it jumps to 2% of your income, or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child. In 2016, it will jump to 2.5% of your income.
While some may rather pay the small fee the first year than pay premiums that would cost more, experts predict most people will sign up for insurance.
"I think the penalties should be higher, but they are still enough to make the law effective," said Jonathan Gruber an economist at MIT who was an architect on both the Massachusetts and U.S. health plans. "In Massachusetts we had people flooding in to sign up. You know Americans are almost uniquely law-abiding people, we massively overpay our taxes in terms of what people do in the rest of the world. When you say it is the law to have health insurance I think people will get health insurance."
Enroll America, a nonpartisan nonprofit that is helping educate Americans about the program, said it has had a positive response once people have an explanation of what's coming.
"For the most part the people we encounter are thrilled that they will finally have health care," said Enroll America's Jessica Barbara Brown. "For many people this will be the first time they have ever had access to care. This can be life changing."
Brown cautions that while we will keep hearing about October 1, really this is a "marathon" and people should take as much time as they need to figure out which plans are best for them.
Amy Braun-Gross said she will be doing just that.
"Once Obamacare is in effect, I am excited that I will not have to worry about pre-existing conditions any longer," Braun-Gross said. "I will be getting quotes online and making some phone calls to get the ball rolling for my husband and me."
- Created on 26 September 2013
Newly-declassified documents reveal that the National Security Agency targeted one of America's most revered civil rights icons.
The National Security Archive at George Washington University released the information Wednesday, showing that Martin Luther King Jr. was on the agency's watch list during the 1960s. Also mentioned as targets in the report were fellow civil rights leader Whitney Young, boxer Muhammad Ali, and two prominent members of Congress, Sens. Frank Church (D-Idaho) and Howard Baker (R-Tennessee). The program was also viewed by some officials as "disreputable if not outright illegal," the report adds.
According to the report, knowledge of King as an NSA target first emerged in the 1970s, but Wednesday's release marks the first time that the documents were classified. The FBI had him as a wiretap target shortly after the 1963 March on Washington, thanks to worries over his connections to chief adviser and former Communist Party member Stanley Levison.
Back in July 2002, The Atlantic analyzed Levison's role in drawing FBI attention to King. Communist informants by the names of Jack and Morris Childs had provided firsthand details that Levison was a chief financier for the party for a period of time before he met King. By 1956, he was no longer tied to the Communist Party, and the FBI learned of his work with King by 1962, according to the magazine.
Fast forward to Oct. 10, 1963, where the Atlantic report added that the man behind the authorization of FBI wiretapping on King was none other than U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The magazine noted that Kennedy's decision was a reluctant one, remaining a secret until May 1968. That year proved to be a tragic time as King (April 4) and Kennedy (June 6) were both assassinated.
By 1969, the spying program involving King was known officially known as MINARET, the Washington Post noted Wednesday. According to the National Security Archive report, it was an effort designed to create lists of threats to the president, drug dealers and "domestic terrorism." President Lyndon B. Johnson spurred the concerns in the fall of 1967, worrying that "the major threat we have is from the doves" and consequently ordering the FBI to check security on all writers of critical letters and telegrams of one of his speeches.