Newswire: Obama jabs U.S. response to coronavirus in commencement address

By Evan Semones, Politico

Former President Barack Obama

Former President Barack Obama on Saturday criticized the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic during a commencement address to college graduates, saying some leaders “aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
“This pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Obama said during a two-hour virtual commencement for graduates of historically black colleges and universities that streamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
The former president, who did not mention President Donald Trump by name, has generally shied away from weighing in on politics or criticizing his successor since leaving office, but has more recently spoken out against the current administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Last week during a call with some 3,000 former staffers and administration officials, Obama called the administration’s response to the pandemic “an absolute chaotic disaster.”
Trump has since pushed an unfounded “Obamagate” conspiracy theory on Twitter alleging Obama administration officials entrapped former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in a bid to undermine Trump’s presidency.
Obama also addressed the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man killed while jogging in Georgia, while acknowledging the hardships that graduates and members of the African American community also now face during the pandemic.
“Let’s be honest, a disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country,” Obama said. “We see it in the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on our communities, just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning.”
Obama told the HBCU graduates to find allies to help create change they feel is needed to fix the health and societal problems in the country.
“If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” he said. “And if you’re inactive, that will also speak volumes.”
Obama followed up his remarks with a nationally televised second commencement address on Saturday evening. The 44th president stayed clear of the politics of the pandemic response in a largely upbeat speech, but called out “so-called grown-ups” for “doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy.”
“All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? Turns out they don’t have all the answers,” Obama told graduates during the one-hour special sponsored by the Lebron James Family Foundation. “A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions.”
Former President Bill Clinton, who spoke during a separate one-hour CNN special on Saturday evening that also honored the class of 2020, encouraged graduates to build unity in “a world of growing inequalities and divisive tribalism.”
“With a tough but open mind and a caring heart you can help keep us together,” Clinton said. “Help find ways to serve others, not run away from them. Help to unite, not to divide. Help to build, not tear down. Help to support, not demean.”
A reporter asked Trump about Obama’s comments. “Look, he was an incompetent president. That’s all I can say. Grossly incompetent.”
Trump has a history of blaming Obama for his administration’s problems.

Newswire : Obama calls for gun control: ‘We are not helpless’ to stop attacks


Former President Barack Obama

Former President Barack Obama called for stricter gun control laws in a Monday statement after two mass shootings over the weekend left more than 30 people dead in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
“We are not helpless here,” Obama said in a statement posted on Twitter. “And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.”
Obama said the El Paso shooting followed a “dangerous trend” of violence motivated by racist ideologies. He compared white supremacist websites to terrorist groups like ISIS and called on law enforcement and internet platforms to reduce the influence of hate groups.
The El Paso shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime after an anti-immigrant “manifesto” posted online was connected to the alleged gunman. Posts on 8chan, an online messaging board used by right-wing extremists, have also been connected to the alleged gunman. Law enforcement officials said on Saturday that the suspect told them he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.
Obama also called on Americans to “soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.” He didn’t specify which leaders he was talking about. President Trump is known for anti-immigrant rhetoric, repeatedly referring to a migrant caravan at the U.S.-Mexico border as an “invasion.”
Obama noted that hateful rhetoric and language that demonizes others isn’t new but has been at the “root of most human tragedy.”
“It has no place in our politics and our public life,” he wrote. “And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”
Obama also called on Americans to “soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.” He didn’t specify which leaders he was talking about. President Trump is known for anti-immigrant rhetoric, repeatedly referring to a migrant caravan at the U.S.-Mexico border as an “invasion.”
Obama noted that hateful rhetoric and language that demonizes others isn’t new but has been at the “root of most human tragedy.”
“It has no place in our politics and our public life,” he wrote. “And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”
Trump delivered remarks at the White House on Monday morning, condemning the attacks as “evil” and “wicked.” While he cited “racist hate” in the manifesto, he blamed the shootings on mental illness, violent video games and the internet.
“We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts,“ Trump said. “We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.”

Newswire : Civil Rights leaders address week of hate while also focusing on Nov. 6

 By Hazel Trice Edney


Maurice Stallard (69) and Vickie Jones (67) murdered at Kentucky Krogers .

(TriceEdneyWire) – As civil rights leaders and voting advocates around the nation prepared for the Nov. 6 mid-term elections last week, they suddenly found themselves embroiled with a string of hate incidents, culminating in arguably the most politically, racially, and ethnically violent week in recent American history. It started Monday, Oct. 22, when a string of public figures who have been verbally attacked by President Donald Trump – including five Black leaders – were discovered to be targets of pipe bombs, mostly addressed to them through the mail. By Oct. 29, as many as 15 bomb contraptions had been discovered. None reached their apparent targets. The addressees on the packages included former President Barack Obama, U. S. Rep. Maxine Waters, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, and former Attorney General Eric Holder – all critical of Trump. Others were sent to former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Joseph Biden, former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton, billionaires Robert De Niro and George Soros; former CIA Director John Brennan, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, and Democratic donor Tom Steyer. Though none of the bombs exploded, the motive of terror – and possible death – were clear. Cesar Sayoc, 56, was arrested by the FBI in South Florida on Friday, Oct. 26. The Washington Post described Sayoc as a “former pizza deliveryman, strip-club worker and virulently partisan supporter” of President Trump. He was charged with a string of crimes connected with the bombs. Then, on Wednesday, Oct. 24, a White man was charged with shooting and killing two Black senior citizens at a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky after he tried, but failed to enter a Black church. The two victims, Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Jones, 67, were shot in the grocery store and the parking lot, respectively. The suspect, Gregory A. Bush, 51, was arrested shortly after the shooting. Amidst Bush’s rampage, a White witness said he pointed a gun at Bush and Bush looked at him and said, ‘Whites don’t shoot Whites.’ The FBI is now investigating the killings of Stallard and Jones and hate crimes. Ultimately, on Saturday morning, Oct. 27, the nation was devastated when hearing that 11 people had been massacred inside the Tree of Life Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The suspect, Robert D. Bowers, 46, was charged with 29 criminal counts; including using a firearm to commit murder, 11 counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation. He is also charged with a hate crime, the obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs. Bowers was reportedly armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and three handguns. Witnesses said he shouted anti-Semitic slurs as he opened fire inside the house of worship. Six other people were wounded, including four police officers. Bowers, himself, was also injured by gunfire, and remains hospitalized this week. It is unclear whether he was shot by authorities or whether his injury was self-inflicted. Civil rights organizations, dealing with get out to vote and voter protection campaigns, quickly refocused to address the injustices and the threats. “The NAACP condemns the hate-inspired killings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Our condolences go out to those who have suffered losses and injuries during this horrific event. Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and hatred represent horrible stains on our democracy. When these stains are embraced by elected officials and demagogues who prey on the fears and lowest common denominators within our nation, we all suffer,” said a statement. “We must say no to hate, fear-mongering and the demonization of differences.” The NAACP continued, “It’s unfortunate that this tragedy follows the terroristic behavior of those who feel justified in sending bombs to those who differ politically. Our nation at its best represents inclusion and opportunity. This is one side of America, yet on the other side of America exists, the often embraced idea of using violence toward those with different political views. It’s a side our community knows all too well and continues to experience. We empathize with members of the Jewish Community attending a baby naming service at a synagogue, children at a school or being separated from parents at our borders or simple church-goers seeking to worship in peace– all of it is wrong and disheartening.” The Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement on the Kroger Grocery Store and the synagogue shootings simultaneously. “It brings me great sorrow to have to recurrently address the public and console our loved ones due to acts of grotesque, racially charged hate and pure evil,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, CBC chairman. “This is not the United States of America that we should know, love, or grow accustomed to.” Richmond continued, “We cannot sit back and watch as bigots and racists take the lives of innocent Americans, and we must not stay silent while white nationalists continue to feel emboldened and empowered by the tacit approval of our highest form of leadership. At a time like this, it is clear that we must perform an audit of our core values, evaluate what we really stand for, and then take the necessary corrective steps to ending anti-Semitic and other racially charged acts of violence from becoming a common occurrence.” Despite the havoc of the week of hate, the terror was nothing new to Black people, Richmond noted. He wrote, “African Americans know well the deeply rooted pain also experienced by those in the Jewish community on the account of the flagrant racists and bigots that poison our country. Events ranging from the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama to the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, to the Freedom Summer murders in Mississippi, both African Americans and the Jewish community know what it is like to be targeted and routinely persecuted all in the name of fear and hate.” Painful reflections on the hate incidents played out through heartfelt posts on social media. Theodore Shaw, distinguished professor of law and director of University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights, who is also former director-counsel and president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, posted an extensive reflection on Facebook. “Yesterday, with all of the focus on the mail bombs sent to liberal/Democratic leadership, almost lost in the news was the Kentucky shootings of two African Americans by a white man who almost went into a black church to kill and maim African American worshipers. Today, in Pittsburgh, a hate-driven anti-Semite entered a synagogue and killed eleven people,” Shaw wrote “Jews, African Americans, Muslims, Mexicans, Central and South Americans, migrants, LGBTQ people, women, and others are objects of hatred and violence simply because of who and what they are. My heart aches for our country and what it is these days.” Shaw concluded with a skillful refocus on the upcoming election: “We cannot shoot our way out of this problem. Nor can we look to the individual who occupies the White House. He is part of the problem, not part of the solution. We have to express solidarity with one another and condemn hatred on all grounds. It is up to all people of good will to reject this madness, and to stand with any community targeted because of who and what they are. And to vote for those who share the values of inclusion, diversity, and, dare I say, the beloved community. And vote to turn out of office or stop the election of haters.”

Newswire : Commemorative events panned for Mandela Centenary

Manmdela centenary poster.jpg


June 25, 2018 (GIN) – It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.

Those were the prophetic words of President Nelson Mandela whose role in the long struggle waged against the racist system of apartheid is recalled on the anniversary of his birth on July 18, 1918.

This year, the theme of the birthday Centenary is world peace. Events will take place worldwide to commemorate the former leader.

A “Nelson Mandela Peace Summit” will take place at the U.N. with speeches by top UN officials, the chair of the African Union Commission and member staIn Johannesburg, the Mandela Concerts have pledged to raise money for literacy projects including 100 new library units for schools in South Africa and a digital library.

On July 17, former president Barack Obama will deliver the Nelson Mandela lecture, whose theme of renewing the Mandela legacy and promoting active citizenship in a changing world was developed after the passing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Former Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes commented: “The choice of Mandela and South Africa are freighted with symbolism for Obama at a time when his political legacy is being dismantled by his successor, Donald Trump, who has crudely disparaged African countries.”

At press time, however, two South African organizations disputed the invite to Obama for “cultivating a new kind of colonialism in the name of the ‘War on Terror’, spreading fear, violence and destruction, in particular among Muslim communities, rubber-stamping over 100 military actions a day throughout Africa, and many more in the Middle East.”

“US foreign policy has left destruction, division and suffering in its wake, and led to the rise of violent groups,” said Feroze Boda, spokesperson for CAGE Africa – an organization that opposes the so-called War on Terror.

Palestine Solidarity Alliance spokesperson Naazim Adam also objected to the decision to invite Obama, recalling the thousands of civilian casualties in Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria that continued under Obama’s presidency.

Mandela Foundation chairperson Professor Njabulo Ndebele defended the decision to invite Obama, noting that Madiba had great respect for the first Black U.S. President.

“In an era defined by worsening tensions between people, in which the spectre of exclusion and intolerance across the world seems to become normalized, the messages of President Obama, like those of Madiba, must be given space,” Ndebele said.

“Furthermore, the foundation’s key focus areas, including the eradication of poverty and inequality and the dismantling of anti-black racism, are causes that are close to President Obama’s heart. His historic election as the first black president of the United States does have resonance in South Africa, as do many of his pro-poor policies, such as universal healthcare.”

Newswire : Obama calls Trump’s Iran announcement ‘misguided,’ decision to withdraw a ‘serious mistake’; Congresswoman Terri Sewell also questions decision

Barack ObamaTerri_Sewell,_Official_Portrait,_112th_Congress
Obama and Terri Sewell
Former President Barack Obama has weighed in on President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
“There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.”
“The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense,” Obama added.
The former president further called Trump’s announcement “misguided” and a “serious mistake.”
“Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers,” Obama noted.
Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell issues similar statement
On Tuesday, May 8, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. International partners have urged the Administration to uphold the Iran Deal, which has substantially limited Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
“After months of deliberation and extensive conversations with nuclear experts, military officials, and constituent groups, I decided to support the Iran Deal because I believed it was our best option for ensuring a nuclear-free Iran,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “The Iran Deal was not perfect, but its collective enforcement by the international community made it the best path forward. President Trump’s reckless withdrawal from the Iran Deal has the potential to destabilize an already unstable region. As we lay the groundwork for a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea, reneging on the Iran Deal could also endanger our chances at establishing another major international agreement. Unilaterally walking away from this agreement leaves America isolated and puts our national security at risk.”

Newswire : Nigerian leader promised banned military aircraft at meeting with Trump

Nigerian President with Trump.jpg
Nigerian President Buhari with President Donald Trump


WASHINGTON, D.C.—At a long-awaited meeting between President Donald Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the U.S. president announced the approval of a dozen war planes for Nigeria whose sale had been frozen by former President Barack Obama.

Rebuking his Nigerian counterpart for the proliferation of violence throughout that country, Trump expressed concern for “the burning of churches and killing of Christians.”

President Buhari blamed the violence on militia trained by the late former Libyan President, Muammar Gadaffi. He thanked the U.S. for “giving us the aircraft that we asked for,” adding “We’re even more grateful for the presence of U.S. military advisors in Nigeria.”

President Trump called the sale of 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft “the first-ever sale of the American military weapon to Nigeria. This new aircraft will help Nigeria target terrorists and protect civilians.”

In fact, the planes were in the pipeline since the Obama administration but the sale was frozen in one of Obama’s last decisions in office after a Nigerian fighter jet mistakenly bombed a government-run refugee camp, killing over 100 refugees including Red Cross volunteers.

The 12 aircraft, with weapons and services, are worth $593 million and include thousands of bombs and rockets. The plane, with reconnaissance, surveillance and attack capabilities, is made by Brazil’s Embraer and in Jacksonville, Florida by Embraer and the Sierra Nevada Corp.

But fighting Boko Haram requires much more, commented Prof. Stephen Onyeiwu of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. “Unrest within West Africa is driven by local grievances, corruption and weak governance, human rights violations, and imported religious ideology.

“Buhari could also do with substantial non-military assistance. In particular, he needs help to address two huge social problems in Nigeria: the fact that 70% of Nigerians live in abject poverty, and that more than 50% of the country’s young people are jobless.

“But Buhari should not count on Trump to increase aid for the kind of economic transformation the country needs,” Onyeiwu continued. “In the 2017 financial year, the US budgeted a mere $608 million in foreign assistance to Nigeria, a number which eerily echoes the price tag for the 12 fighter jets Nigeria wants to buy.”

The much-heralded meeting of Trump and Buhari struck a sour note for the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria.

“One wonders if Trump is not aware or deliberately ignored the murder of several Muslims in a mosque at the University of Maiduguri, or those killed in mosques in Yobe and Zamfara and many other parts of the country,” said Saheed Ashafa, student group president.

“As Muslims, we condemn and reject all forms of terrorism, insurgency and oppression in whatever name being perpetrated. We should also remember that in Nigeria, most families are composed of Christians and Muslims alike, just as we have other faiths.

“Trump’s call for separatism when the world is advocating for collectivism is not a healthy offer.”

Newswire : Obama to deliver 16th lecture in South Africa

Obama and Mandela
Obama and Mandela

Apr. 23, 2018 (GIN) – Former president Barack Obama will deliver the annual Nelson Mandela memorial lecture at a 4,000-capacity arena in Johannesburg in July.

Obama met with Mandela in 2005 and eulogized him at his death five years ago, saying “(Mandela) makes me want to be a better man.” The lecture marks 100 years since the birth of the anti-apartheid icon.

Under the title “Renewing the Mandela Legacy & Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World,” Obama’s speech will focus on working across ideological lines and resisting oppression and inequality.

Obama is likely to address growing intolerance in a world where extremist views are finding a mainstream platform in western countries including the United States, France and Germany.

Sello Hatang, head of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said the foundation had been seeking someone with “an Africa heritage” to deliver an address that will “deal with issues of democracy” facing the world today. “We thought who can (better) represent the legacy of Madiba than the person who we believe took the baton when he became president of his own country,” Hatang said.

Hatang told the AFP news service that Mandela was “elated” when Obama was elected in 2008 “because he saw it as a moment in American history”.

Benjamin J. Rhodes, a former speechwriter for Mr. Obama who still advises him, said the former leader views this as his most important speech since leaving the White House, one that will set the tone for his post-presidency. Mandela was a beacon to Mr. Obama, inspiring what he once said was his first “act of political activism” — a speech he gave as a student at Occidental College for the anti-apartheid movement.

“Where the current administration seems to have forgotten about Africa (or just insulting it), Obama is still looking to the continent as a key future player,” observed the online news site Quartz. He will also use his visit to South Africa to launch his new program, Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa.

The five-day program will begin after the lecture and include 200 young Africans, the Obama Foundation said. Obama’s lecture will be at the Ellis Park Arena on July 17, a day before Mandela’s birthday.

Obama Presidential Center envisioned as economic engine to revitalize Chicago’s South Side

By Frederick H. Lowe

Architect’s drawing of the Obama Presidential Center

( – Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday showed off a model of the Obama Presidential Center, which will honor the nation’s first African-American president as well as help to revitalize neighborhoods on Chicago South Side where the center will call home.
The $500 million, 200,000 square-foot center is scheduled to open in 2021 in Jackson Park, near Lake Michigan, announced the Obama Foundation, which is raising money for the presidential center. The Foundation said it will strengthen its neighborhoods’ economic climate by bringing hundreds and thousands visitors to Chicago every year and creating new jobs on the South Side.
The foundation also hopes the center will revitalize historic Jackson Park.”We believe the center will restore the promise of Jackson Park as the people’s park, building on its history as a recreational destination for gathering on the South Side for families, community members and visitors,” the Obama Foundation said in a statement.
During a presentation yesterday at the South Shore Cultural Center, the Obamas said they are building the presidential center on the South Side to give back to the community, which has given them so much.
The Obama Foundation is working with other institutions in the area, including the DuSable Museum of African-American History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago.
The presidential center will consist of three buildings. The multi-story museum, the tallest structure on the site, will serve as a beacon for the Obama Center. The other two structures will be a library and a forum. They will be one-story structures with landscaped roofs that offer views of Jackson Park Lagoon and Lake Michigan.
The campus will be open to the public and the center will include indoor and outdoor spaces for events, trainings and other gatherings. The presidential center will have interactive displays to attract children and adults.
Tod Williams+Billie Tsien Architects partnered with Interactive Design Architects to design the Obama Presidential Center.