Beltway Insider: President Visits South Africa; Nelson Mandela Nears Death; Court Hands Down Landmark Decisions

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President Obama traveled this week to South Africa meeting with fellow heads of state to discuss the emerging democracies and the advancement of trade and economic opportunities for the Sub-Saharan region.

According to Gallup, President Obama’s job approval, over the past week, dropped one percentage point to 45% of those polled approve of his effectiveness as President and those who disapprove of his effectiveness as President gained one percentage point to 47%.

President Obama Visits South Africa

The First Lady joined the president as they visited South Africa for six days stopping in Dakar, Senegal, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town South Africa and end the trip in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The primary goals throughout this trip are to further the platform of democracy and build on the extraordinary work Nelson Mandela has done in South Africa. Laying the foundation for long term democracies, not only on the highest level, but also throughout the chain of command beginning with honest police is very much part of the president’s plan as he meets with leaders in these three countries.

The president also plans to move forward with initiatives discussed at the G8 Summit Leaders that indicated Africa is the next emerging continent and presented key points to building Africa Trade and Infrastructure. The long term goals for the continent include doubling trade and reducing delivery times, create greater transparency in business dealings, improved infrastructure and better trade facilities.

The White House has put great emphasis on the importance of this trip as it is the first extended African trip of the Obama Administration. Curbing the spread of HIVAIDS and furthering the mandates accompanied with the practices of safe sex are also part of President Obama South African agenda. The Obama administration has made the issues of global food scarcity and security a part of his agenda. His trip to South Africa will also address the needs of creating food security in the Sub-Saharan.

The President will also meet with business executives, deliver remarks, greet local dignitaries and visit areas of interest including Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for eighteen years and the Ubungo Power Plant.

 

Nelson Mandela Nears Death

Nelson Mandela, the first African President of South Africa, is hospitalized and on life support. The 94 year-old Mandela is suffering from a worsening lung infection as well as various age related ailments.

Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner. Sentenced June 12, 1964 for admitting to sabotaging the government the court found him and two co-defendants guilty. While the requested death penalty was thrown out the court sentenced the defendants to life imprisonment as communist agitators.

During this time in South Africa, apartheid, a segregated political system which not unlike southern segregation gave preference to whites, was the dominating political party and seen as normal and all other political parties including the African National Congress (ANC) were banned and considered illegal.

Mandela, 46 years old, at the time of his sentencing was already recognized globally for his role as a political leader. During the trial he was appointed as President of The University of London and citizens of the London participated nightly in non-violent candlelight protests. Global organization attempted to intervene for his release to no avail. Mandela, the prosecutors believed, needed to be silenced in order to secure the current way of life.

For the first 18 years of his imprisonment Mandela was held in the notorious Robbens Island in an 8ft. by 7ft. cell. He had extremely limited contact with the outside world. The conditions and treatment would have killed a lesser man; Mandela kept himself mentally active and spiritually focused. He was transferred in 1982 to Pollsmoor Prison where was held until 1988. Mandela was then transferred to Victor Verster Prison, a minimum security type prison, where he was held until his release in February 1990.

The wave of democracy that swept across Europe in 1989 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall were very instrumental in F.W.de Klerk’s decision to legalize banned political parties and free Mandela. The two met prior to his release.

In 1993 Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Order of Lenin as well as many other. He became an international symbol of freedom. He went on to become President of South Africa.

His family is holding vigil.

 

Supreme Court Hands Down Landmark Decisions

The United States Supreme Court handed down a series of landmark decisions this week as the nation watched and waited to see how the nine justices would respond to several hot button cases.

While the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 or the Gay Rights cases were front and center throughout the week, the court handed down other decisions that involve civil rights legislation.

Fisher v. University of Texas, a civil rights case that allows admission decisions to be based on race to allow for underrepresented minority groups without test scores or other standard determining criteria to factor into the admission process. The court determined that at this time, unless the lower court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, can sufficiently sway the opinion of the lower court justices, a long standing decision, Grutter v. Bollinger, stemming from a University of Michigan Law School case which eventually became landmark legislation.

Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, another historic civil rights decision handed down this week, which basically declared racial discrimination was no longer a factor in voting rights in the South. Layman’s interpretation is that all citizens, whites and blacks, have the same access to the voting polls, without interference, in Shelby County, Alabama.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed by President Johnson stopped haphazard change to voting laws. Article 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 called for any changes to be pre-cleared, basically it was mandatory that counties asked federal permission to make the changes.

The court in a 5-4 decision determined the pre-clearance or federal permission aspect be overturned.  They also added clearly that this decision in no way “affects the permanent, nationwide band on racial discrimination.”

As the population becomes more diverse and citizens determined to exercise the freedoms granted all under the constitution civil rights cases will become more frequent.

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a quiet case that received little fanfare over this historic week and yet at the core could become landmark legislation for other people groups who decide after adoption decisions are made to change their minds.

Behind this case are the rights of adoptive parents who have cared for a child since birth. The biological father, a native Indian, initially renounced his custodial rights paving the way for an adoption to non-Indian parents. Citing Federal Law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, the biological father attempted to block the adoption.

The court decided, in a five-to-four opinion, the protections afforded Native American children in the ICWA did not preclude the adoption outside the Native American ethnicities when parental rights were freely surrendered and the ICWA protections were created to provide safe environments for Native American children.

 

For more information on President Obama: www.whitehouse.gov 

Sources; Gallup, Wikipedia, Whitehouse.gov

 

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