- Created on 12 October 2012
Raddatz, Biden, Ryan (Getty)
As Biden and Ryan spar, a moderator shines, and yet too many Americans are ignored.
Finally. After the disappointment that was Jim Lehrer’s performance as moderator during the first presidential debate of the 2012 election (which was widely panned) viewers, and voters, were graced with a debate moderator who was cool, calm, collected and in control. Martha Raddatz of ABC News had faced pre-debate criticism from conservative corners because President Obama was a peer of her ex-husband at the Harvard Law Review and subsequently attended the couple’s wedding decades ago. (Wouldn’t the fact that the president is friends with her ex-husband -- as in former spouse -- arguably work in the GOP’s favor in the present? But I digress.) For the most part, however, her performance at the vice presidential debate last night has been received widespread praise.
Also receiving high marks? Vice President Joe Biden, who in the eyes of many progressives did what President Barack Obama did not last week: forcefully question the honesty and accuracy of the Romney/Ryan ticket’s policy claims.
It appeared the vice president had actually been sent to a debate boot camp where he was coached in using as many synonyms for the words “liar” and “lying” and “lies” as possible. Some we heard tonight: “Not true,” “Not mathematically possible,” “This is a bunch of stuff,” and my new personal favorite “malarkey” an Irish expression, as Rep. Paul Ryan explained to those of us who aren’t of Irish origin. (Both vice presidential candidates are.)
At times Biden let his passion get the better of him. I question whether there were female viewers who were as uncomfortable as I was with his continued pointing at the moderator for emphasis. It’s rude to do with any gender, but somewhat menacing when a man does it to a woman.
But when it comes to the question of which of the two candidates won the debate it was no contest, particularly on foreign policy. There were moments when Rep. Ryan looked almost as in over his head as Sarah Palin did four years ago -- only she’d never held Congressional office. He has.
As they sparred over foreign policy there was a clear knowledge and experience gap. For instance, when the vice president referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “Bibi,” this demonstrated a level of comfort in that arena Ryan simply cannot match and his expression seemed to indicate that he knew it. When it came to domestic policy, however, at times the gap was much closer. Ryan is, after all, chairman of the House budget committee.
Anyway, Ryan didn’t blow it and since people don’t vote for vice presidents separately from presidents, not blowing it was really all Ryan had to do. It was the same four years ago: No one watching that debate left it believing Sarah Palin was ready for the presidency -- even many Republicans didn’t believe that -- but she wasn’t a total disaster, and that, frankly, was enough for that night.
I doubt few people listened to Ryan debate foreign policy and believed that he would be ready to assume the presidency should the need arise any time soon. But after the president’s performance last week, which wasn’t good, Ryan’s less-than-impressive foreign policy grasp is not likely at the forefront of voters’ minds. A possibly overwhelmed, overmatched and underwhelming president is.
To be clear, while there were two clear victors tonight -- Raddatz and Biden -- Ryan wasn’t really the biggest loser. People of color and the poor were.
Yes, the words “poor” and “poverty” were actually mentioned tonight—an improvement over the last debate. Interestingly, they were mentioned by Paul Ryan while the vice president referred to, “people like my parents” and similar phrases to denote the working class.) But, there was little substantive discussion of how to help those in poverty move up, or even survive, while the middle class received a number of mentions. Ryan gets credit for referencing the fact that “fifteen percent of Americans are in poverty” but what do we do to help them? Neither candidate addressed that satisfactorily.
It’s an omission that is especially relevant to communities of color, where poverty has a greater impact and the income disparity with whites is persistent. According to the National Poverty Center, in 2010 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians. While the Obama administration recently celebrated news that the unemployment rate has finally dipped below 8percent for the first time in four years, unemployment for black Americans remains at a staggering 13.4 percent. And yet if you were to listen to watch the first two debates these statistics might come as a shock to you, because people of color have been treated virtually invisible, even in the age of a black president.
I previously speculated about the questions I thought a black debate moderator might ask, something about which I can only speculate because there will not be one this election season. While I applaud Martha Raddatz’s performance for the most part, the vice presidential debate served as a powerful reminder that the diversity of moderators can affect the diversity of the policy topics discussed in a debate. For instance, in this debate there was a question specifically relating to women, when Raddatz asked about abortion, thus sparking a conversation about it and contraception.)
Here’s hoping people of color will not be losers for the third time in next week’s town hall-style debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
- Created on 06 October 2012
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A leader for striking miners at Anglo American Platinum mines in South Africa on Saturday said they would make it difficult for the company to hire new miners after the company fired 12,000 striking workers this week.
Evans Ramokga threatened that Amplats would only hire new employees "over our dead bodies."
"Nobody will come and operate these mines. If there any people we feel must go, it is them, not us," he said, referring to the bosses of Amplats, a subsidiary of the London-listed Anglo Platinum.
The world's top producer of platinum said it fired the workers for failing to attend disciplinary hearings in the aftermath of an unlawful strike that brought its Rustenburg operations to a halt. And Mpumi Sithole, a spokeswoman for Amplats, said Saturday that the decision to fire the workers is final.
More 20,000 mineworkers at Amplats have been staging a wildcat strike since Sept. 12, demanding 12,500 rand (about $1,500) in take-home pay. Amplats managers said from the start that the strike is unlawful. On Friday, hours after renewed confrontations between armed police and striking miners on a hill near Amplats' Rustenburg mines, the company moved to dismiss the workers via text or email messages.
"Despite the company's repeated calls for employees to return to work, we have continued to experience attendance levels of less than 20 (percent)," Amplats said in a statement Friday. "Currently four of the company's mining operations in the Rustenburg area have insufficient staff to operate and only essential services are being carried out at those mines."
The labor unrest plaguing South Africa's mining sector started in August when workers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine staged a wildcat strike that led to violence which left about 46 dead, including a police shooting that killed 34 miners. That and other violence during the Marikana mine strikes is now the subject of an official inquiry even as unrest spreads, leading to renewed fears of violence.
A union representative in Marikana inquiry was shot and killed Friday night at his house, the National Union of Mineworkers, or NUM, said Saturday. The victim could have been targeted because he was "a key witness" in the inquiry, according to NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka. He said the victim assisted the commission this week when it visited the hill where the miners were killed.
There seems to be no end in sight to the labor unrest, which has spread to coal and iron ore mines as well as to the road freight sector. Some 20,000 truckers demanding a 22 percent pay raise are currently staging a strike that threatens the supply of gas and groceries. Negotiations between striking truckers and the Road Freight Association broke down Thursday.
The labor unrest has damaged South Africa's reputation as an investment destination. South Africa produces 75 percent of the world's platinum and is the No. 4 chrome producer and the fifth-biggest gold producer. South African President Jacob Zuma, the target of criticism by mineworkers who see him as aloof to their concerns, said Thursday that the violence witnessed in the mining sector was proof that "a climate of constructive social dialogue" needs to be created in the country.
"We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting," Zuma told South Africa's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
- Created on 28 September 2012
Photo caption: In this June 19, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks as he attends a bilateral meeting with China's President Hu Jintao during the G20 Summit, in Los Cabos, Mexico. Citing national security risks, Obama on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, blocked a Chinese company from owning four wind farm projects near a Navy base where the U.S. military flies unmanned drones and electronic-warfare planes on training missions. It was the first time in 22 years that a U.S. president has blocked such a foreign business deal. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Citing national security risks, President Barack Obama on Friday blocked a Chinese company from owning four wind farm projects in northern Oregon near a Navy base where the U.S. military flies unmanned drones and electronic-warfare planes on training missions.
It was the first time in 22 years that a U.S. president has blocked such a foreign business deal.
Obama's decision was likely to be another irritant in the increasingly tense economic relationship between the U.S. and China. It also comes against an election-year backdrop of intense criticism from Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, who accuses Obama of not being tough enough with China.
In his decision, Obama ordered Ralls Corp., a company owned by Chinese nationals, to divest its interest in the wind farms it purchased earlier this year near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in Boardman, Ore.
The case reached the president's desk after the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, known as CFIUS, determined there was no way to address the national security risks posed by the Chinese company's purchases. Only the president has final authority to prohibit a transaction.
The administration would not say what risks the wind farm purchases presented. The Treasury Department said CFIUS made its recommendation to Obama after receiving an analysis of the potential threats from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The military has acknowledged that it used the Oregon Naval facility to test unmanned drones and the EA-18G "Growler." The electronic warfare aircraft accompanies U.S. fighter bombers on missions and protectively jams enemy radar, destroying them with missiles along the way.
At the Oregon site, the planes fly as low as 200 feet and nearly 300 miles per hour.
The last time a president used the law to block a transaction was 1990, when President George H.W. Bush voided the sale of Mamco Manufacturing to a Chinese agency.
In 2006, President George W. Bush approved a CFIUS case involving the merger of Alcatel and Lucent Technologies.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that Obama's decision is specific to this transaction and does not set a precedent for other foreign direct investment in the U.S. by China or any other country.
China's trade advantage over the U.S. has emerged as a key issue in the final weeks of the presidential campaign. Romney accuses Obama of failing to stand up to Beijing, while the president criticizes the GOP nominee for investing part of his personal fortune in China and outsourcing jobs there while he ran the private equity firm Bain Capital.
Both campaigns are running ads on China in battleground states, especially Ohio, where workers in the manufacturing industry have been hard-hit by outsourcing.
Obama, in an interview Wednesday with The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, said the U.S. must push hard against Beijing but "not go out of our way to embarrass" China.
"We're not interested in triggering an all-out trade war that would damage both economies," Obama said.
The president has the power to void foreign transactions under the Defense Production Act. It authorizes the president to suspend or prohibit certain acquisitions of U.S. businesses if there is credible evidence that the foreign purchaser might take action that threatens to impair national security.
CFIUS is chaired by the treasury secretary. The secretaries of state, defense, commerce, energy and homeland security are also on the committee. The director of national intelligence is a non-voting member.
Earlier this month, Ralls sued the national security panel, alleging CFIUS exceeded its authority when it ordered the company to cease operations and withdraw from the wind-farm developments it bought. Ralls asked for a restraining order and a preliminary injunction to allow construction at the wind farms to continue. The firm said it would lose the chance for a $25 million investment tax if the farms were not operable by Dec. 31.
In a statement Friday, Tim Kia, a lawyer for Ralls, said the project posed no national security threat and said "the President's order is without justification, as scores of other wind turbines already operate in the area."
Ralls dropped its request for a preliminary injunction this week after CFIUS allowed the firm to resume some pre-construction work. With the lawsuit, continuing, the firm's lawyers were expected to react quickly to the administration decision, said a person familiar with the lawsuit who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive legal repercussions.
Ralls' legal team includes Paul Clement and Viet Dinh, two top law veterans of President George W. Bush's administration. Both men were key players in Bush's aggressive national security operation.
Clement, who was solicitor-general and argued administration positions before the Supreme Court, has since opposed the Obama administration's health care plan and defended the Defense of Marriage Act before the top court.
Dinh, a former assistant attorney general who was the main architect of the Bush administration's anti-terror USA Patriot Act, has lately served as a director and legal adviser to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
A second Chinese firm stymied by CFIUS urged U.S. authorizes this week to investigate their firm to quell fears of ties to China's military. Huawei Technologies Ltd. announced in early September that it would unwind its purchase of U.S.-based computer firm 3Leaf Systems after the deal was rejected by CFIUS.
Huawei, one of the world's largest producers of computer network switching gear, has repeatedly struggled to convince U.S. authorities that they can be trusted to oversee sensitive technology sometimes used in national security work. In 2008, CFIUS concerns led Huawei and private equity firm Bain Capital to abandon an $2.2 billion deal to buy a firm that produces anti-hacking software for the U.S. military
Associated Press writers Stephen Braun and Ted Bridis contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
- Created on 02 October 2012
Photo caption: A large crowd follows retired judge Ian Farlam and his team as they inspect the area where the bodies of mine workers were found, after the shootings at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana near Rustenburg, South Africa, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. An official inquiry into the killings of dozens of people near a South African platinum mine began Monday even as labor unrest continued with workers at other mines as well as truck drivers continuing protests over pay. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
MARIKANA, South Africa (AP) — A judicial panel on Monday investigated the rocky site where South African police killed 34 striking miners in August.
Crime experts showed the commission of inquiry the scene of the police shootings that were South Africa's worst state violence since apartheid ended in 1994. President Jacob Zuma ordered the judicial investigation to determine the causes of the police killings which shook the nation.
One of the experts first pointed out where police laid barbed wire fencing that blocked thousands of people gathered on large brown boulders from running back to their informal settlement on Aug. 16. Sixteen people died near the site. Another 18 were killed across the field and on the other side of the large group of boulders. The second expert pointed to bullet marks, where shotgun casings were found, bodies laid and an emergency medical care area was set up.
The judicial panel and a large crowd of representatives for those involved in the inquiry followed the experts, after a group of protesters with the Marikana support campaign greeted them with songs and signs that read: "Don't let the police get away with murder."
Among those participating in inquiry is George Bizos, former lawyer for Nelson Mandela and who now represents the Legal Resources Center and the Bench Marks Foundation in the inquiry.
In addition to those killed, some 78 were injured and more than 250 arrested in the incident.
During the tour, a crime expert pointed out where bodies and shotgun cartridges were found.
Monday was the first day of the 4-month-long investigation into the killings at the Marikana mines. At least 10 more people were killed in other violence, including two policemen. The commission puts the death toll in Marikana at 44, and an Associated Press count puts it at 46.
"This is very important to us," said a Marikana miner watching the group navigating the scene of the police shootings. "I hope those involved are found out and they must be brought to jail."
"We are still afraid," he said of the police. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The inquiry launched Monday focuses on violence from Aug. 10-16 at a Lonmin PLC platinum mine 94 kilometers (58 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.
The Marikana commission of inquiry, chaired by retired Judge Ian Farlam, will determine the roles played by the police, Lonmin, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. It will also determine whether any of those investigated could have put measures into place to prevent the violence.
"It is very important the truth of what happened should become clear as soon as possible," Farlam said Monday morning at the Civic Center in Rustenburg, where hearings began before the visit to the Marikana site. "Our country weeps for this unnecessary and tragic loss of life."
The police shootings of the striking miners were "a turning point which reveals the state is willing to break the working class organizations, and it's of particular concern that the major trade unions didn't take full action in getting permission for the gatherings," said Peter Alexander, the South African research chair on social change at University of Johannesburg.
Alexander said he can't recall so many people being killed for a strike since 1922, when he said mostly white miners went on strike and were killed. He noted the importance of the events before the Aug. 16 shootings, saying that the earlier killings and who was responsible for them may give more insight as to why the shot dead so many strikers that day.
"It's important that the investigation reveals the truth about the killings," said Alexander. "I'm very concerned that ordinary people could have the opportunity to collect information about the inquiry. And I'm very concerned that there is no relationship of trust between the people of the inquiry and the people of Marikana."
He said: "I hope that it will be established that police engaged in unlawful killings, and hopefully if we can establish what happened so that a massacre like this won't happen again."
No family members of those killed participated in the commission's visit to the site of the police shootings. Judge Farlam said that the tour would be recorded for them. At the meeting before the tour, the commission read the names of the dead and asked that any family stand, but none were present.
Families of many of the miners live far away, in the Eastern Cape, Swaziland and Lesotho. Dumisa Ntsebeza, an advocate for the families of those who died, said some didn't know an official inquiry was happening.
He asked that financial support be given to the families to enable them to attend the inquiry and that the process be postponed by 14 days. Farlam said the government would be helping the families travel to the inquiry, but did not grant a postponement.
The commission's tour of the informal settlements around the Lonmin mine and the shafts will continue Tuesday. Public hearings are set to begin Wednesday, with families of the dead given priority seating. The commission asked that news media, which has graphic videos and photos of the police shootings, hand over material for examination.
The first phase of the inquiry will look at the early events. The second phase will examine Lonmin's role in the violence and the company's conduct. The third stage will look at the unions and actions of non-unionized strikers, and the final phase will examine the actions and omissions of the police.
The nearly six-week strike at Marikana was resolved with a wage deal that saw miners gain a 22 percent pay rise and return to work Sept. 20. The strikes, however, have spread to other platinum and gold mines in South Africa and workers are increasingly rejecting their unions and instead choosing their own representatives to speak directly with management.
As those in Marikana tried to find answers to the shootings, labor unrest continued.
The National Union of Mineworkers, or NUM, said one of its officials was in intensive care Monday after a petrol-bomb attack on his house Friday night. The union said the victim is the union's top official at Anglo American Platinum's Khomanani branch and that the attack was carried out by people who are deliberately intimidating union members. The NUM did not elaborate, but a new union has purportedly been intimidating NUM leaders in its bid to gain more members and bargaining power. Workers have been on strike for weeks at Anglo American Platinum, the world's largest platinum producer.
Meanwhile South Africa's truck drivers, represented by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, or SATAWU, said it is organizing peaceful protests and meetings of its members across the country. Truck drivers have been on strike for a week for higher pay.
Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
- Created on 28 September 2012
Photo caption: This undated photo provided by Kenya's Ministry for Defence on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, is said by them to show Kenya Defence Forces troops at an undisclosed location in Kenya, engaged in recent preparations for an assault on the Somali port city of Kismayo. Kenyan troops invaded al-Shabab's last stronghold in Somalia on Friday, coming ashore in a predawn beach landing at Kismayo that appeared likely to deprive the Islamist insurgents of their last big money-making enterprise. (AP Photo/Kenya Ministry for Defense)
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Kenyan troops invaded al-Shabab's last stronghold in Somalia on Friday, coming ashore in a predawn beach landing at Kismayo that appeared likely to deprive the Islamist insurgents of their last big money-making enterprise.
African Union troops from Kenya, Uganda and Burundi have combined over the last 18 months to kick al-Shabab out of the capital Mogadishu and take a series of smaller towns that the insurgents fled to. By Friday afternoon, Kenyan Defense Forces said that its ground troops were also steadily approaching Kismayo from the west. Al-Shabab, which is allied with al-Qaida, had earned money by collecting taxes on goods arriving at the Indian Ocean port, so the loss of the stronghold would be a double blow to the armed fundamentalist group that began attacks in 2007 and ultimately controlled all but a few blocks of the capital.
The assault is likely to send al-Shabab fighters underground. Hardcore fighters may unleash suicide bombs and ambushes but less dedicated fighters could melt back into their communities, further reducing al-Shabab's strength. The African Union force said that some al-Shabab fighters have already contacted military officials in recent days, saying they wanted to defect from al-Shabab.
The assault rocks al-Shabab onto its heels and comes as the government is finally getting organized, having moved in recent weeks from a U.N.-backed transitional government to one in which parliament, which itself was recently elected by elders, chose a new president. Last month, Somali leaders endorsed a new provisional constitution that expands rights for Somalis.
Speaking on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi called the entry of Kenyan forces into the Somali port "a significant victory."
"This is a major blow to them and we think it's positive for the region and for Somalia," he said.
Residents in Kismayo contacted by The Associated Press said Kenyan troops had taken control of the port but not the whole city. Mohamed Haji said helicopters were hitting targets during the early morning fighting. He said al-Shabab fighters moved to the front line to repel the assault.
Col. Cyrus Oguna, the Kenyan military's top spokesman, said the surprise attack met minimal resistance and that al-Shabab incurred "heavy losses." Al-Shabab denied that the city had fallen and said fighting was taking place. No casualties were reported for Kenyan troops.
Oguna said guns had been placed beforehand at a jetty and warehouse in Kismayo and that Somali national army troops participated in the assault.
An al-Shabab spokesman said on Twitter that the militants still control Kismayo.
"The enemy forces have launched a desperate attack on Kismayo this morning and the mujahedeen forces are resisting their attacks," Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu-Musab said over the militants' radio station in Kismayo.
Oguna said the assault is part of a four-prong attack involving Kenyan forces currently in villages outside Kismayo. The amphibious assault landed between 10:30 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday, he said, with some of the troops equipped with night-vision goggles.
African Union troops pushed al-Shabab out of Mogadishu in August 2011, ending more than four years of control of the capital by the fighters. The Ugandan and Burundian troops that make up the bulk of the African Union force in Mogadishu have slowly been taking control of towns outside of Mogadishu.
Still, there are vestiges of the havoc that has reigned over Somalia since longtime dictator Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 by warlords who then turned on each other. One Somali journalist was killed by gunmen Friday and another was beheaded, officials and residents said, bringing the number of Somali journalists killed this year to 15. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest killings.
The expanding control by AU troops sent al-Shabab fighters fleeing south toward Kismayo, north to other regions of Somalia and across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. Al-Shabab still holds sway across many small, poor villages of southern Somalia. Al-Shabab lost another major source of financing last year when it was pushed out of Bakara market in Mogadishu, where — like at the Kismayo port — it also charged taxes.
A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Cdr. Dave Hecht, said the U.S. Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, is closely monitoring the situation but that "we are not participating in Kenya's military activities in the region." The U.S. has helped train and equip Ugandan and Burundian troops and helps pay and train members of Somalia's military.
The march toward Kismayo by the Kenyan forces has been nearly a year in the making, with the soldiers bogged down by rain and poor roads for months. Kenyan troops entered Somalia last October after a string of kidnappings inside neighboring Kenya.
With an attack imminent, more than 10,000 residents fled Kismayo in the last several weeks. Resident Faduma Abdulle said Friday that she is now leaving too. She said al-Shabab announced false propaganda on its radio station Friday to trick residents into moving toward the invading troops.
"They told residents through their radio to loot a Kenyan ship that washed up on the coast, but instead the residents who rushed there were attacked by helicopters," she said. "Some of them have died but I don't know how many. The situation is tense and many are fleeing. It's a dangerous situation."
The commander of the U.N-backed African Union troops, Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, said that more of the soldiers were headed to Kismayo to reinforce those that stormed ashore. He said the aim is to "liberate the people of Kismayo to enable them to lead their lives in peace, stability and security. Operations are ongoing to neutralize targets in Kismayo."
Odula reported from Nairobi, Kenya. Jason Straziuso contributed from Nairobi, Kenya.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.