Posts Tagged ‘Nelson Mandela

10
Dec
13

Rise and Shine: Tribute To Nelson Mandela

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President Barack Obama addresses the crowd during a memorial service for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa

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Remembering Nelson Mandela

To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of state and government, past and present; distinguished guests – it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life unlike any other.  To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.  His struggle was your struggle.  His triumph was your triumph.  Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

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It is hard to eulogize any man – to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.  How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world. Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe – Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.  Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement – a movement that at its start held little prospect of success.  Like King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice.  He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.  Emerging from prison, without force of arms, he would – like Lincoln – hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.  Like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations – a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.

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Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.  But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.  “I’m not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

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It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection – because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried – that we loved him so.  He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood – a son and husband, a father and a friend.  That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still.  For nothing he achieved was inevitable.  In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith.  He tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.

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Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.  Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father. Certainly he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.”

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But like other early giants of the ANC – the Sisulus and Tambos – Madiba disciplined his anger; and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand-up for their dignity.  Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price.  “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination,” he said at his 1964 trial.  “I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

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Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t.  He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.  He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.  And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his.

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Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions.  He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.  On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that, “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”  But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.  And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine: Tribute To Nelson Mandela’

10
Dec
13

President Obama Pays Tribute To Nelson Mandela

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President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg

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President Barack Obama pays his respect to former South African President Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel

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08
Dec
13

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, descend the Grand Staircase before delivering remarks at a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 8, 2011 ( Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

5:15: President Obama delivers remarks at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception, East Room

7:30: The President and First Lady attend the Kennedy Center Honors, Kennedy Center

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National Memo: With Unemployment At A 5-Year Low, Will Ted Cruz Finally Stop Using This Lie?

“The single biggest job killer is Obamacare,” Senator Ted Cruz told ALEC on Thursday …. The crowd leapt to its feet.

Cruz was speaking just hours after a new unemployment claims report showed layoffs falling below 300,000 in the last week, only the second time since May of 2007. The next morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low …

For 45 straight months the private sector has been growing, creating 8 million jobs. Essentially, when it comes to the employment market, things have not been this good since before the Great Recession. With more than two million jobs already created, 2013 will be the best year for payroll gains since 2005.

…. The Republican base loves to be lied to about Obamacare — as Ted Cruz has discovered and perfected. So don’t expect him to ever stop doing it.

More here

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In case you missed it yesterday:

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Michael Hiltzik: Fiscal Idiocy: What States Refusing Medicaid Will Cost Their Citizens

Sherry Glied and Stephanie Ma of the Commonwealth Fund have done the math to show how this calculation is affected by the refusal of 25 states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Thanks to Brad DeLong at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth for the tip.) The bottom line is that as a pure fiscal and budgetary matter, refusing the Medicaid expansion is insane. The cost is $57 billion a year. The Act provides for federal funding to expand the state-federal healthcare program to residents earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. The federal share will be 100% of the expansion cost through 2016, and stay at 90% or above through 2020.

The Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional, and 25 states have turned down the deal. This is entirely the handiwork of Republican governors or legislatures determined to take a dramatic stand against Obamacare. Of the 25 refusenik states, six have governors who support the expansion over the legislature’s objection; four are Democrats, including the governor-elect of Virginia, and two are Republicans. It’s already been established that the failure to expand Medicaid will deprive 5 million residents in those states of the improved access to health coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act.

More here

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LA Times: U.S. Unemployment Rate Drops To 7%, Lowest Since 2008

A surprisingly robust gain in new jobs last month helped drop the unemployment rate to a five-year low, fueling optimism about the nation’s economic recovery and raising the prospect that the government may finally start to ease a key stimulus effort this month. In its report Friday, the Labor Department said that the nation’s employers added 203,000 non-farm jobs in November and that a large part of them were higher-paying positions. The unemployment rate fell to 7%, the lowest since November 2008.

“It’s not just the quantity of the jobs but the quality,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. “These are higher-wage jobs, and a shift from a reliance on leisure and hospitality and retail gains we had seen in recent months.” The economy has averaged more than 200,000 net new jobs a month for the last four months. That’s the sustained level that central bank officials have said they wanted to see before starting to reduce the monthly bond purchases, part of their effort to spur the recovery from the Great Recession.

More here

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Jelani Cobb: Mandela And The Politics Of Forgiveness

In 1966, Senator Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech at the University of Cape Town. He began by stating that he was there to talk about a country settled by the Dutch, which fought a bloody war of independence, and had then become an international pariah for its treatment of black people. He allowed a tense moment to pass and then added, “I’m here tonight to talk about the United States of America.”

To an extent greater than most Americans recognize, but which Nelson Mandela understood implicitly, the United States and South Africa are products of kindred histories: both founded by settlers, both emerged from wars to overthrow British colonialism, both forged national identities on their respective frontiers. Before the election of Barack Obama allowed this country, albeit briefly, to indulge the idea of postracialism, Mandela was revered here as a proxy for the American past. His capacity to emerge from twenty-seven years in prison without bitterness broadcast the hope that this country’s own racial trespasses might be forgiven.

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Haaretz: Did Obama Best Bibi’s Own Red Line?

Amidst the weeping and gnashing of teeth from the Prime Minister’s office after the interim agreement on Iran reached in Geneva, it is appropriate to pause to ask how President Obama’s interim agreement actually measures up on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chosen yardstick. Who can forget Netanyahu’s UN presentation last year where he made his best case to the world about the threat Iran’s nuclear program poses to international security. To vivify this danger, Bibi unveiled a graphic sketch of a bomb on which he demonstrably drew a red line.

Especially in Israel, the Prime Minister’s speech drew withering fire. Many criticized his drawing a red line in this way as a fool’s errand. Obama’s black line bests Bibi’s red line. It pushes Iran back from the line Netanyahu drew, where Iran stood on the threshold of completion of stage 2, 90% of the way to the UEU core of a bomb, to Netanyahu’s stage 1. As a result, on the path the Prime Minister identified as Iran’s fastest track to a nuclear bomb, the Geneva agreement has extended the dash time – the period between any decision by Iran to rush to a bomb and the goal line. Thus, when judged by this bottom line, Obama’s interim agreement leaves Israel and the world safer than we would otherwise be.

More here

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Jerusalem Post: Peres Says He’s Willing To Meet Rouhani: “Iran Is Not Our Enemy”

President Shimon Peres on Sunday said that he would have no problem meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “Why not?” he said in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv. Israel and Iran are not enemies, he said. Peres also said he believed relations with the United States had not been harmed over the Iran issue, and that US President Barack Obama remained a solid friend to Israel. He stressed the importance of using the next six months to sign a final deal that would ensure Iran would not obtain a nuclear weapon. Asked his stance on gay marriage in Israel, Peres responded that everybody was born equal and had a right to love who they wanted to love.

More here

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NYT: Thousands Demand Resignation Of Ukraine Leader

Enraged by a violent crackdown by security forces, Ukrainians took to the streets with new, revolutionary urgency on Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich and a realignment of the country away from Russia toward Europe. “I want the authorities to know that this is not a protest; this is a revolution!” Yuri V. Lutsenko, a former interior minister and an organizer of the Orange Revolution nine years ago, told a vast crowd here in Independence Square that many observers said outstripped even the biggest gatherings in 2004. “Revolution!” the crowd roared back. “Revolution!”

Eleven days of intensifying protests over Mr. Yanukovich’s refusal to sign political and free trade accords with the European Union have now directly shaken the president’s prospects of remaining in power. Cracks have begun to emerge in his political base: His chief of administration was reported to have resigned, and a few members of Parliament quit his party and decried the police violence. Many Ukrainians see the agreements with Europe as crucial steps toward a brighter economic and political future, and as a way to break free from the grip of Russia and from Ukraine’s Soviet past. Now, the outcry over Mr. Yanukovich’s abandonment of the accords is pushing Russia into a corner.

More here

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Think Progress: What Americans Can Learn From The Constitution Nelson Mandela Signed

In 2012, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the impolitic suggestion that “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012,” instead pointing foreign constitution drafters to the constitution the late South African leader Nelson Mandela signed in 1996. Her statement received the predictable response from many conservative voices. One publication called for her to resign. The truth, however, is that the United States could learn a great deal from South Africa’s constitution.

As Ginsburg noted, that constitution was drafted much more recently than America’s 226 year-old founding text. Accordingly, its drafters benefited from more than two centuries of human experience that our founding fathers did not have. Ginsburg in no way impugned the genius of George Washington, James Madison or Alexander Hamilton when she suggested that these men could not possibility have known the things that we know today — and that nations drafting new constitutions should benefit from the full range of human experience.

More here

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Scott Keyes: Pope Francis Sneaks Out Of The Vatican At Night To Serve The Homeless

The leader of the Catholic Church has been quietly sneaking out of the Vatican at night to minister to homeless residents, according to a new report. “Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women,” writes The Huffington Post. The report hinted that Pope Francis had sneaked out of the enclave with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. As Almoner of His Holiness, Krajewski is the Vatican’s point person on giving charity to the poor and visits the destitute nightly.

This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has earned attention and praise for his predilection to serve the needy. Just months after assuming the papacy, he invited nearly 200 homeless people to join him for dinner at the Vatican. He also deplored the plight of homeless people in the first apostolic exhortation of his papacy last week: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

More here

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UPI: Colin Powell: Everyone Should Have Access To Quality Healthcare

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Seattle audience universal healthcare would show the world the United States takes care of “all of our citizens.” Speaking Thursday at a fundraiser sponsored by the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Powell said he doesn’t see why the United States “can’t do what Europe is doing, what Canada is doing, what Korea is doing, what all these other places are doing.” “I am not an expert in healthcare, or Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, or however you choose to describe it,” he said, “but I do know this — I have benefited from that kind of universal healthcare in my 55 years of public life.”

More here

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On This Day:

Senator Obama and Michelle Obama with Oprah Winfrey at a rally in Des Moines, December 8, 2007

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Emine Erdoğan, wife of the Prime Minister of Turkey, in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, Dec. 8, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

01
Sep
13

Rise and Shine

Sept. 1, 2010 – Photo by Pete Souza

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Presidential Daily Schedule

Today and tomorrow: The President has no public events scheduled.

Tuesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, he will depart Washington, DC en route Stockholm, Sweden.

Wednesday: The President will arrive in Stockholm. While there, he will hold a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with Prime Minister Reinfeldt. He will then participate in an event honoring Raoul Wallenberg at the Great Synagogue in Stockholm and tour an expo featuring clean energy innovations at the Royal Institute of Technology. In the evening, he will take part in a dinner with Nordic Leaders.

Thursday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with the King and Queen of Sweden. He will then depart Stockholm en route Saint Petersburg, Russia where he will attend the G-20 Summit.

Friday: Attends the G-20 Summit. Returns to Washington, DC on Friday evening.

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Secretary John Kerry will be on five Sunday shows today: NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, CNN.

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Text of the draft legislation from the President of the United States to the speaker of the House and president of the Senate regarding authorization for the use of the U.S. armed forces in connection with the conflict in Syria.

Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;

Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;

Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world’s population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;

Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;

Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;

Whereas, the objective of the United States’ use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;

Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and

Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.

SEC. ___ AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES

(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to –

(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or

(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements. –

(1) Specific Statutory Authorization. — Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) Applicability of other requirements. — Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

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Steve Benen: Congress, Be Careful What You Wish For.

The funny thing about a dog that chases a car? Sometimes it catches the car and has no idea what to do next.

Over the last several days, members of Congress have spoken out with a variety of opinions about U.S. policy towards Syria, but lawmakers were in broad agreement about one thing: they wanted President Obama to engage Congress on the use of military force. Few expected the White House to take the requests too seriously.

Why not? Because over the last several decades, presidents in both parties have increasingly consolidated authority over national security matters, tilting practically all power over the use of force towards the Oval Office and away from the legislative branch…..

That is, until this afternoon, when President Obama stunned everyone, announcing his decision to seek “authorization” from a co-equal branch of government.

It’s one of those terrific examples of good politics and good policy.

More here

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Business Insider: Obama’s ‘Blink’ On Syria Is Politically Brilliant

For much of the past week, Congress has grown louder and louder with calls that President Barack Obama go through them for any authorization of military action in Syria.

Saturday, Obama gave them their wish.

Congress is now the “dog that caught the car,” tweeted former senior White House adviser and chief Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod.

Obama blinked, but he blinked with a dare. He is daring Congress to say no to limited action against a dictator for the brutal use of chemical weapons against his own people — an attack that the U.S. says killed 1,429 people, including 426 children.

More here

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Slate: Obama’s Gamble – Seeking Congressional Approval For His Syria Strike Was Risky And Right.

President Obama is taking a monumental gamble with his Rose Garden statement on war with Syria, but it’s a worthwhile one.

In recent days he and Secretary of State John Kerry have made a powerful case that Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched the chemical weapons that killed more than 1,000 civilians …. Obama has also made a strong case that a military response is the proper action … to enforce a long-standing global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.

However, this rationale for military strikes puts him in a box. The organizations charged with enforcing international law are not joining in the attack. The U.N. Security Council is “paralyzed,” as Obama said in today’s speech, because Russia will certainly veto any resolution to use force….

….. To gain some measure of legitimacy, Obama at least needs domestic support…. Maybe we will learn – contrary to the experience of the past decade – that a democracy can go to war in a full and open vote without deceit.

Full post here

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James Fallows: A Very Wise Decision By Obama

He moves himself, and the country, out of a corner, with two important choices.

The two crucial parts of his announcement:

1) No rush about doing whatever needs to be done with Syria. This is a punitive rather than a preventive action, which should be undertaken with deliberation and — if and when it happens — by surprise.

2) Recognizing the higher wisdom — for himself, for the country, for the world — of taking this to the Congress.

This is the kind of deliberation, and deliberateness, plus finding ways to get out of a (self-created) corner, that has characterized the best of his decisions. It is a very welcome change, and surprise, from what leaks had implied over the past two weeks.

More here

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Boston Globe: Nelson Mandela Discharged From Hospital

Nelson Mandela was released from the hospital on Sunday while still in critical condition to his Johannesburg home which has been set up to provide intensive care, South Africa’s president said. ‘‘His home has been reconfigured to allow him to receive intensive care there,’’ the statement said. ‘‘The health care personnel providing care at his home are the very same who provided care to him in hospital. If there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in future, this will be done.’’

Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is feted around the world as a towering figure of reconciliation. Despite being jailed for 27 years for his prominent role in opposing white racist rule, Mandela was seemingly free of rancor on his release in 1990, becoming the unifying leader who steered South Africa through a delicate transition to all-race elections that propelled him to the presidency four years later. The United Nations has recognized Mandela’s birthday as an international day to honor themes of activism, democracy and responsibility embodied by the former leader.

More here

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Ellen KnickMeyer: Arab League Set To Meet On Syria

The Arab League is due to meet Sunday amid a flourish of diplomatic activity aimed at strengthening the group’s public stance for U.S.-led strikes on Syria. President Barack Obama’s unexpected announcement Saturday that he would wait to put U.S. military action to the U.S. Congress could change the stance of Arab leaders.

The meeting of Arab foreign ministers Sunday, two days earlier than planned, came at the request of Gulf states, Arab League and Saudi government officials said. An Arab League meeting last Tuesday on Syria identified Mr. Assad as the culprit in the Aug. 21 attack in a Damascus suburb.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have helped to arm and fund rebels fighting Mr. Assad’s regime behind the scenes, U.S. and Gulf officials say. Publicly and privately, they long have pushed the U. S. and international community for tougher action. Saudi Arabia shares some tribal ties with Syria and wants to contain Mr. Assad and his allies Iran and Hezbollah. Qatar has been more active than other Gulf states in supporting Arab Spring revolutions.

More here

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Craig Whitlock: Sarin Gas Used In Syria Attack, Kerry Says

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Sunday that fresh laboratory tests show that Sarin nerve gas was used in an Aug. 21 attack in Syria that killed more than 1,400 people, the first time that U.S. officials have pinpointed what kind of chemical weapon was used.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kerry said blood and hair samples from emergency workers in east Damascus had tested positive for Sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent. He said that U.S. officials learned of the lab results in the past 24 hours, citing the evidence as yet another reason for Congress to pass President Obama’s request to authorize the use of military force against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

More here

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Think Progress: Poverty Has Same Effect On The Brain As Constantly Pulling All Nighters

The mental strain of living in poverty and thinking constantly about tight finances can drop a person’s IQ by as much as 13 percent, or about the equivalent of losing a night of sleep, according to a new study. It consumes so much mental energy that there is often little room to think about anything else, which leaves low-income people more susceptible to bad decisions.

One of the study’s authors, Harvard economist Sandhil Mullainathan, told the Washington Post, “Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day.”

Poverty has other negative impacts. The chronic stress of growing up in poverty has been found to impair children’s brains, particularly in working memory. A study of veterans found that poverty is a bigger risk factor for mental illnessthan being exposed to warfare. The mental stress of being poor is also a major reason for why low-income people tend to have negative health outcomes like high blood pressure and cholesterol or elevated rates of obesity and diabetes.

More here

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Sept. 1, 2012: “The overview of a campaign rally in Urbandale, Iowa” (Photo by Pete Souza)

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