By Kevin Merida
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008; A01
Danielle Ross was alone in an empty room at the Obama campaign headquarters in Kokomo, Ind., a cellphone in one hand, a voter call list in the other. She was stretched out on the carpeted floor wearing laceless sky-blue Converses, stories from the trail on her mind. It was the day before Indiana's primary, and she had just been chased by dogs while canvassing in a Kokomo suburb. But that was not the worst thing to occur since she postponed her sophomore year at Middle Tennessee State University, in part to hopscotch America stumping for Barack Obama.
Here's the worst: In Muncie, a factory town in the east-central part of Indiana, Ross and her cohorts were soliciting support for Obama at malls, on street corners and in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and they ran into "a horrible response," as Ross put it, a level of anti-black sentiment that none of them had anticipated.
"The first person I encountered was like, 'I'll never vote for a black person,' " recalled Ross, who is white and just turned 20. "People just weren't receptive."
For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.
The contrast between the large, adoring crowds Obama draws at public events and the gritty street-level work to win votes is stark. The candidate is largely insulated from the mean-spiritedness that some of his foot soldiers deal with away from the media spotlight.
Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: "It wasn't pretty." She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: "Hang that darky from a tree!"
Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across "a lot of racism" when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: "White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people."
Obama campaign officials say such incidents are isolated, that the experience of most volunteers and staffers has been overwhelmingly positive.
The campaign released this statement in response to questions about encounters with racism: "After campaigning for 15 months in nearly all 50 states, Barack Obama and our entire campaign have been nothing but impressed and encouraged by the core decency, kindness, and generosity of Americans from all walks of life. The last year has only reinforced Senator Obama's view that this country is not as divided as our politics suggest."
Campaign field work can be an exercise in confronting the fears, anxieties and prejudices of voters. Veterans of the civil rights movement know what this feels like, as do those who have been involved in battles over busing, immigration or abortion. But through the Obama campaign, some young people are having their first experience joining a cause and meeting cruel reaction.
On Election Day in Kokomo, a group of black high school students were holding up Obama signs along U.S. 31, a major thoroughfare. As drivers cruised by, a number of them rolled down their windows and yelled out a common racial slur for African Americans, according to Obama campaign staffers.
Frederick Murrell, a black Kokomo High School senior, was not there but heard what happened. He was more disappointed than surprised. During his own canvassing for Obama, Murrell said, he had "a lot of doors slammed" in his face. But taunting teenagers on a busy commercial strip in broad daylight? "I was very shocked at first," Murrell said. "Then again, I wasn't, because we have a lot of racism here."
The bigotry has gone beyond words. In Vincennes, the Obama campaign office was vandalized at 2 a.m. on the eve of the primary, according to police. A large plate-glass window was smashed, an American flag stolen. Other windows were spray-painted with references to Obama's controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and other political messages: "Hamas votes BHO" and "We don't cling to guns or religion. Goddamn Wright."
Ray McCormick was notified of the incident at about 2:45 a.m. A farmer and conservationist, McCormick had erected a giant billboard on a major highway on behalf of Farmers for Obama. He also was housing the Obama campaign worker manning the office. When McCormick arrived at the office, about two hours before he was due out of bed to plant corn, he grabbed his camera and wanted to alert the media. "I thought, this is a big deal." But he was told Obama campaign officials didn't want to make a big deal of the incident. McCormick took photos anyway and distributed some.
"The pictures represent what we are breaking through and overcoming," he said. As McCormick, who is white, sees it, Obama is succeeding despite these incidents. Later, there would be bomb threats to three Obama campaign offices in Indiana, including the one in Vincennes, according to campaign sources.
Obama has not spoken much about racism during this campaign. He has sought to emphasize connections among Americans rather than divisions. He shrugged off safety concerns that led to early Secret Service protection and has told black senior citizens who worry that racists will do him harm: Don't fret. Earlier in the campaign, a 68-year-old woman in Carson City, Nev., voiced concern that the country was not ready to elect an African American president.
"Will there be some folks who probably won't vote for me because I am black? Of course," Obama said, "just like there may be somebody who won't vote for Hillary because she's a woman or wouldn't vote for John Edwards because they don't like his accent. But the question is, 'Can we get a majority of the American people to give us a fair hearing?' "
Obama has won 30 of 50 Democratic contests so far, the kind of nationwide electoral triumph no black candidate has ever realized. That he is on the brink of capturing the Democratic nomination, some say, is a testament to how far the country has progressed in overcoming racism and evidence of Obama's skill at bridging divides.
Obama has won five of 12 primaries in which black voters made up less than 10 percent of the electorate, and caucuses in states such as Idaho and Wyoming that are overwhelmingly white. But exit polls show he has struggled to attract white voters who didn't attend college and earn less than $50,000 a year. Today, he and Hillary Clinton square off in West Virginia, a state where she is favored and where the votes of working-class whites will again be closely watched.
For the most part, Obama campaign workers say, the 2008 election cycle has been exhilarating. On the ground, the Obama campaign is being driven by youngsters, many of whom are imbued with an optimism undeterred by racial intolerance. "We've grown up in a different world," says Danielle Ross. Field offices are staffed by 20-somethings who hold positions -- state director, regional field director, field organizer -- that are typically off limits to newcomers to presidential politics.
Gillian Bergeron, 23, was in charge of a five-county regional operation in northeastern Pennsylvania. The oldest member of her team was 27. At Scranton's annual Saint Patrick's Day parade, some of the green Obama signs distributed by staffers were burned along the parade route. That was the first signal that this wasn't exactly Obama country. There would be others.
In a letter to the editor published in a local paper, Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball explained his support of Hillary Clinton this way: "Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him.
"No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office."
Obama's campaign workers have grown wearily accustomed to the lies about the candidate's supposed radical Muslim ties and lack of patriotism. But they are sometimes astonished when public officials such as Ball or others representing the campaign of their opponent traffic in these falsehoods.
Karen Seifert, a volunteer from New York, was outside of the largest polling location in Lackawanna County, Pa., on primary day when she was pressed by a Clinton volunteer to explain her backing of Obama. "I trust him," Seifert replied. According to Seifert, the woman pointed to Obama's face on Seifert's T-shirt and said: "He's a half-breed and he's a Muslim. How can you trust that?"
* * *
Pollsters have found it difficult to accurately measure racial attitudes, as some voters are unwilling to acknowledge the role that race plays in their thinking. But some are not. Susan Dzimian, a Clinton supporter who owns residential properties, said outside a polling location in Kokomo that race was a factor in how she viewed Obama. "I think if it was somebody other than him, I'd accept it," she said of a black candidate. "If Colin Powell had run, I would be willing to accept him."
The previous evening, Dondra Ewing was driving the neighborhoods of Kokomo, looking to turn around voters like Dzimian. Ewing, 47, is a chain-smoking middle school guidance counselor, a black single mother of two and one of the most fiercely vigilant Obama volunteers in Kokomo, which was once a Ku Klux Klan stronghold. On July 4, 1923, Kokomo hosted the largest Klan gathering in history -- an estimated 200,000 followers flocked to a local park. But these are not the 1920s, and Ewing believes she can persuade anybody to back Obama. Her mother, after all, was the first African American elected at-large to the school board in a community that is 10 percent black.
Kokomo, population 46,000, is another hard-hit Midwestern industrial town stung by layoffs. Longtimers wistfully remember the glory years of Continental Steel and speak mournfully about the jobs shipped overseas. Kokomo Sanitary Pottery, which made bathroom sinks and toilets, shut down a couple of months ago and took with it 150 jobs.
Aaron Roe, 23, was mowing lawns at a local cemetery recently, lamenting his $8-an-hour job with no benefits. He had earned a community college degree as an industrial electrician, but learned there was no electrical work to be found for someone with his experience, which is to say none. Politics wasn't on his mind; frustration was. If he were to vote, it would not be for Obama, he said. "I just got a funny feeling about him," Roe said, a feeling he couldn't specify, except to say race wasn't a part of it. "Race ain't nothing," said Roe, who is white. "It's how they're going to help the country."
The Aaron Roes are exactly who Dondra Ewing was after: people with funny feelings.
At the Bradford Run Apartments, she found Robert Cox, a retiree who spent 30 years working for an electronics manufacturer making computer chips. He was in his suspenders, grilling shish kebab, which he had never eaten. "Something new," Cox said, recommended by his son who was visiting from Colorado.
Ewing was selling him hard on Obama. "There are more than two families that can run the United States of America," she said, "and their names aren't Bush and Clinton."
"Yeah, I know, I know," Cox said, remaining noncommittal.
He opened the grill and peeked at the kebabs. "It's not his race, because I got real good friends and all that," Cox continued. "If anything would keep him from getting elected, it would be his name. It might turn off some older people."
"No, older than me," said Cox, 66.
Ewing kept talking, until finally Cox said, "Probably Obama," when asked directly how he would vote.
As she walked away, Ewing said: "I think we got him."
But truthfully, she wasn't feeling so sure.
Staff writer Peter Slevin and polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
Selasa, 13 Mei 2008
Jumat, 02 Mei 2008
United Nations, Apr 30 (Prensa Latina) A specialized UN agency warned that an entire generation of children have their normal development threatened due to lack of food as a result of the hike in food prices.
"Even if deprivation of nutrients required by children to grow is temporary it can atrophy their physical development and intelectual potential," warned a communique revealed by the World Food Program (WFP).
The UN agency stressed that the negative effects of this problem are no longer reversible and indicated that it has long term consequences on economic productivity of countries.
The WFP took advantage of the occasion to remind the world that its assistance of 73 million hungry children has had to be cut in 78 countries.
Referring to this issue, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon launched a dramatic call to the world community in Berne, Switzerland, to help cover the 755 million additional dollars requested by the WFP to continue its task.
The scarcity of food and fuel for its distribution has caused severe inflation in operational costs of WFP this year.
"If we do not obtain these funds we run the risk of generalized famine in addition to malnutrition and unprecedented social disturbances," the secretary general warned the UN Board of Executives.
Kamis, 24 April 2008
Indonesia does not want money for its bird flu virus samples - it wants governments and
pharmaceutical companies to come up with a mechanism that will ensure future pandemic vaccines are accessible to developing nations.
That could include creating a multilateral trust that would enable price tiering or bulk purchasing of lifesaving vaccines, an adviser to Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said Wednesday.
Widjaja Lukito was responding to comments made by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, who accused Indonesia of withholding virus samples from the World Health Organization since early 2007 because it wanted royalties or other monetary benefits.
"This is not a line we want to cross," Leavitt told The Associated Press at the end of a quick stopover in Indonesia last week. "Because it means the next unique virus we come across, wherever it is, we'll end up with people who say there is a price to pay for the virus."
He repeated the allegation on his blog, saying Supari's bottom line appeared to be "share samples, get paid."
Indonesia - seen as a potential hotspot for a pandemic because of its high density of chickens and humans - denied that was the case.
Lukito said he thought there may have been poor communication on both sides.
"There are many types of benefit programs that can be discussed," said Lukito, noting that the U.S. and Indonesia agreed during Leavitt's visit to set up an expert panel on the issue. "One could be a kind of revolving fund developed by pharmaceutical companies."
Another, he said, could be to create a multilateral trust - funded by contributions from governments, influenza vaccine manufacturers and individuals - to make sure vaccines could be produced and distributed in a fair and equitable manner.
Suggestions at a WHO meeting in Geneva late last year included tiered pricing of vaccines, bulk purchasing, and other procurement mechanisms that take into consideration how much governments could afford for vaccines, Lukito said.
Indonesia has been hardest hit by bird flu since it began plaguing Asian poultry stocks in late 2003, with its 107 human deaths accounting for nearly half the 240 recorded fatalities worldwide. The virus remains hard for people to catch, but scientists worry it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic that could kill millions.
Under the existing virus-sharing system, poor countries are obliged to send samples to WHO, which then makes them available to a handful of pharmaceutical companies to use in vaccine production. Wealthy nations have stockpiled tons of bird flu vaccines, while Indonesia and other developing countries have limited supplies.
Many international health experts said Supari had a point when she bucked WHO's decades-old virus sharing system. But by withholding bird flu samples, health experts note, she is impeding the global body's ability to monitor whether the virus is morphing into a more dangerous form.
Leavitt wrote in his blog April 15 that his patience was wearing thin.
Supari was trying to put a price tag on virus samples, he said, something the U.S. could not support.
"We cannot be party to an arrangement that will undo 60 years of one of the world's great public health successes," he said.
"Linking sample-sharing to payment in any form will immediately begin to erode our ability to make vaccines at all, because once the practice of free and open sharing of viruses stops, the slope is slippery, and there will be no end to the demands." (**)
The Associated Press , The Jakarta Post | Thu, 04/24/2008 3:12 PM | World
Sabtu, 19 April 2008
Singapore (ANTARA News) - It is not easy for the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore to trace Indonesian corrupters who absconded with public money to this city state, Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore Wardana said here Saturday.
"We first have to see the data on corrupters who have fled to Singapore as there are also data showing that many of them have fled to other countries like the Philippines and China," the envoy told ANTARA.
Many Indonesian businesspeople are in Singapore and they are in general professionals, he said, adding "so we have to differentiate between professional businessmen and those who have been categorized as corrupters."
Hundreds of Indonesian businesspeople were working in Singapore very professionally and making significant contributions to efforts to develop the Indonesian economy, Wardana said when visiting the ongoing Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) 2008 in which Indonesia is also taking part.
"We lack clear data on Indonesian corrupters who have fled to Singapore. Jakarta must have such data. We, the Indonesian embassy, have no clear idea whether some of them are still here whereas we learned that many of them have fled to other countries," he said.
Asked about present relations between Indonesia and Singapore, the ambassador said there were indeed still some pending issues.
"For the time being, we have to put these issues aside until conditions are more conducive to discuss and solve them," he said.
However, in general, bilateral relations between Indonesia and Singapore were improving as indicated by the increasing number of reciprocal visits by the two countries` leaders and the signing of agreements in different sectors.
"The agreements are expected to further strenghten the foundation of the two countries` relations in different sectors," Wardana said.
Sumber: Antara 04/19/08 23:55 Selengkapnya...
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) said the late former president Soeharto does not deserve the title of "national hero" because a number of legal cases against him have not been resolved.
"In our view, it will be far from right or proper for the government to reward Soeharto with the predicate of `national hero," YLBHI chairman Patra M. Zen said here Monday.
He was commmenting on Golkar Party legislator Priyo Budi Santoso`s proposal to grant the title of national hero to the former strongman.
"Like Soekarno (Indonesia`s first president), Soeharto is one of the nation`s best sons who deserve the title of national hero because of their services to the state and nation," Priyo said.
Patra said Soeharto was one of the parties in the country who had to account for a number of cases of violence and human right violations that had happened during his regime.
The cases that had so far remained unsettled included the slaying of people accused of involvement in the abortive communist coup in October 1965, the mysterious extra-judicial shooting of people suspected of being hardened criminals, the Tanjung Priok affair, the people who became victims of the `Military Operations Zone` in Aceh and human right violations in Papua.
Apart from the cases of violence, Soeharto was also suspected of having committed corruption and misappropriation of state funds, he said.
Therefore, YLBHI called on the public not to be rash in showing their respect or appreciation for Soeharto, Patra said.(*)
Sumber: Antara 01/29/08 00:27 Selengkapnya...
Rabu, 16 April 2008
Manila, Apr 14 (Prensa Latina) Philippine Minister of Agriculture Arthur Yap said that his country is in favor of an Asian meeting on the rice crisis and rising food prices.
A declaration of the International Rice Research Institute includes the call of the Philippine minister for a ministerial meeting to discuss the issue.
The forum would also study provisional assistance to the most affected populations due to the lack of rice and the increase in prices, said IRRI as backing the proposal.
Philippines is one of the world"s main rice importers and makes great efforts to guarantee the supply to its 90 million inhabitants.
The price of a ton of rice ton on the international market has risen from 400 to 750 US dollars from January to March.
"We are in a world food crisis," said in this capital the vice president of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development, Kevin Cleaver.
Other countries of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), such as Cambodia and Indonesia, joined the Philippine call, also considering urgent the need to hold a meeting which includes China, South Korea, and Japan.
Senin, 14 April 2008
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia and the United Nations shrugs and crime agency UNODC organized an international experts group meeting on International Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Illicit International Trafficking in Forest Products, in Jakarta, recently.
The forest products included timber, wildlife and other forest biological resources, according to a press statement of the Indonesian forestry ministry here on Friday.
The meeting was attended by 47 experts from 15 member countries and observers from ASEAN-WEN, AFP, FLEGT, UNEP, UNFF, World Bank, and CIFOR.
In the two-day meeting officially opened by Indonesian Forestry Minsiter MS Kaban on March 26, the participants emphasized the importance of international cooperation in combating and preventing illicit international trafficking in forest products.
The international cooperation in environmental crime could be carried out by using legal instruments of the UN Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption (UNCTOC), the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), or the UN model Treaties on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance.
The (UNODC) is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime. Established in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Center for International Crime Prevention, UNODC operates in all regions of the world through an extensive network of field offices. (*)
ANTAR NEWS 04/11/08 18:24