Thursday, December 25, 2014

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Turkey - Erdogan declares birth control treason

By Pinar Tremblay

On Dec. 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended a wedding ceremony of the son of businessman Mustafa Kefeli. Erdogan and his wife posed with the happy couple and their families in front of the cameras at a fancy Istanbul hotel. This would normally not have been more than a short and happy news item in a magazine or on a TV show, yet the ceremony ended up on the front-page of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet. Erdogan did it again! He poked at one of the favorite nerve centers of the opposition, particularly the seculars and women. Yet, this time the results were less than satisfactory.

Erdogan directly looked into the eyes of the young couple and said, referring to the number of his children, “One [child] will be lonely; if there are two, they will be rivals; three will be a balance; four will bring abundance and for that I say Allah Kareem [God is generous].” His words could be regarded as well wishes from a family friend to a young couple, but Erdogan did not stop there. “For years, treason has been committed by means of the enforcement of birth control in this country. They aimed to dry up the bloodline of our nation,” he added.
As Erdogan continued his speech on the virtues of marriage and family, his opinion about birth control was what carried the simple wedding ceremony to the headlines.
The reactions from different sections of Turkish society and the media are interesting, to say the least. Both pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) social media accounts and newspapers surprisingly ignored the issue in the first 18 hours. Trendsetting social media accounts, on the other hand, ridiculed Erdogan’s words and the opposition media reported almost exclusively the “mockery” rather than what Erdogan had actually said.
This time, not Erdogan’s words but how they impacted social media was newsworthy for the opposition, which named themselves “the birth control lobby” and gathered around the hashtag #dogumkontrolu (birth control) and the slogan "Ey Prezervatif" (Oh Condom). Here are some examples of witty reactions from Erdogan’s opponents:
  • “In theaters now, 'President in My Bed.'”
  • “I sometimes want to grab his [Erdogan's] collar and yell at his face, “What is it to you dude!”
  • “What does “birth control is treason” mean, bro? So if we have two kids, then we can only make out twice in life?”
  • “These people, to stop the national will, attempted a coup by the method of using birth control.” (imitating Erdogan’s style of criticizing Gezi protesters)
  • “The real treason to this country was when your [Erdogan's] parents had unprotected sex!”
  • “Condoms are haram. Sex is haram. To steal the people’s money in shoe boxes is halal. This system is great, bro.”
  • “My offer is clear. From now on there has to be a warning sign on condom packages: 'Using these is considered treason to your country.' There are people who may not know.”
  • Viagra in, Condoms Out.”
  • Traitors against the nation were caught with three packages of condoms and two packs of birth control pills.”
  • “They should open up a 'Sexual Intercourse' Department under the Presidency. Erdogan should lead it. After three children, now birth control!”
  • “RTE: today is the time for verdict on [former] ministers' corruption so [please] focus on my batshit crazy comment on birth control instead #Turkey.
The most popular reports of Erdogan’s comments on birth control came from Onion-like satire websites. One website predicted 15 possible scenarios of what to expect in the news following the president’s words, such as “Justice and Development Party’s Istanbul municipality organized a men’s protest. Men marched holding banners that read, 'My body, my decision, we do not want condoms'" and “113 couples arrested on charges of making out just for pleasure have been released on probation.”
Zaytung, the most popular Turkish satire website published a long piece on what Erdogan had said. It read: “Erdogan called on the nation for normalization: Let’s talk about issues such as birth control, just like in the good old days.” Zaytung ridiculed Erdogan’s previous rhetoric on the issue of “we will disturb the birth control game.” The piece concluded with a set of ideas on how to distort and reframe the public agenda, including bringing back the fez (traditional Ottoman hat for men); asking for Friday to be a day off rather than the Sunday; insulting the sensitivities of religious minorities; reminding everyone about the plan for the Hagia Sophia mosque; and questioning the reason Turkish women are seeking Brazilian blowout hairstyles.
As opposition parliamentarians and women’s rights organizations provided the same negative reactions toward Erdogan’s comments, we can infer a few important findings from this social upheaval.
First, Erdogan’s efforts to muddy the waters and change the public focus from real policy issues to personal and social choices has run its course. Even observant Muslims find it difficult to follow, let alone defend, Erdogan’s rhetoric. A pious Muslim and mother of three told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “I supported Erdogan for over a decade and remain grateful to him, but now I can no longer understand what he is really trying to do. Even though the core of the policies he brings up I may agree with, the way he proposes them is ludicrous. I have used birth control for 20 years of my marriage. My daughter will be getting married next year. I would like her husband and her to choose a birth control method. This is the best for her health and her babies’ health. This is how we decrease infant mortality rates.”
She makes important points in that Erdogan’s statements are valid. Successful birth control education has led to the decrease of birth rates, particularly in western Turkey. Erdogan has previously voiced his concerns that Kurds will be in the majority in the future. However, one wonders if this sort of concern validates his rhetoric to declare sexual choices as treason or patriotism. Will Erdogan soon launch a program on giving tax credits to families with more than four children? Or medals of honor for mothers with five babies or more?
Regardless of Erdogan’s concerns on population trends, and the most reiterated reason of changing the public rhetoric from difficult issues such as the graft probe to women’s bodies, we must also question how Erdogan’s approach and that of other Islamist men to women’s rights is shifting in Turkey. Are the Islamists battling for freedom of wearing the headscarf, and hence a place for observant Muslim women in public long gone in Turkey? Have we now reached the stage where Islamists will battle against women’s freedom in public spaces? There are strong signs to fear the threshold has been crossed in Turkey to the detriment of women’s rights.

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Study: Arab girls closing gaps with Jewish sector, but boys still lag


Arab school girls score almost 5.5 points higher than average grade of Jewish boys, according to statistical analysis comparing children in similar economic conditions.

Despite the statistics of the Meitzav exam (a nationwide achievement test for fifth- and eighth-graders) and eligibility for matriculation, which show massive gaps between Jewish and Arab students, several new studies reveal that the situation is not black and white. Apparently in the Arab sector the girls’ achievements are closer to those of the Jewish sector, and if the socioeconomic difference between the two populations are factored in, the girls are getting even closer.
Naomi Friedman Sokuler, a doctoral student in the economics department at Ben-Gurion University, who is conducting a study on the subject, explained, “The Jewish population is stronger than the Arab population in socioeconomic terms, so a comparison between the populations is a comparison between wealthier Jews and poor Arabs.” She added that she is doing a statistical analysis comparing a Jews and Arabs in similar economic conditions.
“In such an analysis it turns out that Arab boys are miles behind the girls, and Jewish boys and Arab girls are similar except in the English matriculation exam, which is a major barrier to higher education. If we subtract the family background, the achievements of the girls in the Arab educational system are similar to those of the boys in the Jewish system in every subject,” she said.
Friedman Sokuler’s study, which was presented last week at a conference on “Measurement and evaluation in the service of learning” at the Van Leer Institute, indicates that after subtracting the socioeconomic difference, the math grades of Arab girls are almost 5.5 points (out of 100) higher than the average grade of boys in the Jewish sector. The study also indicates that 90 percent of the girls in the Arab sector take the matriculation exam, compared to 70 percent of Arab boys. However, only 50 percent of these girls are eligible for a matriculation certificate, compared to less than 30 percent of Arab boys and almost 60 percent of Jewish boys.
Another interesting pattern that was discovered in a study by the Science and Technology Ministry demonstrates that Arab girls have a greater preference for the sciences than do Jewish girls. As opposed to the Jewish sector, where girls constitute only about 30 percent in engineering tracks, in Arab society 54 percent of girls study engineering compared to 46 percent of boys. But when they come to choose a profession to study in college or university, only about 10 percent of Arab women choose science and technology, preferring education (more than 30 percent), social sciences (about 23 percent) and paramedical professions (about 12 percent).
A new Science and Technology Ministry program, Female Scientists of the Future, which is in its second year, is designed to help girls from both the Jewish and Arab sectors choose a scientific profession already in high school. This year about 400 girls are participating in the program, which is held in cooperation with the non-profit Yedidim organization. About half the girls are Arabs and Druze.

Bahraini Opposition to Hold Huge Rally Against Government

According to a statement released by opposition leaders, a massive protest rally is to be held on Friday following one month ban imposed by government on public protests.

Opposition figures has declared in the statement that the rally will be held under the title of “People’s Voice Will Remain Loud” to emphasize the political demands of Bahraini people.

People in Bahrain and the opposition parties had boycotted state-sponsored parliamentary elections.

Bahrain was rocked by massive popular protests in 2011. Although the government, backed by Saudi Arabia, managed to suppress the protests very quickly, security forces continue to attack peaceful protesters who want an end to the rule of Al Khalifa royal dynasty.

Bahrain has been severely criticized by human rights groups for its harsh crackdown on anti-regime protests.

In the early stages of Bahrain's revolution, hundreds of people were jailed, scores were tortured in prison and convicted before military tribunals, while more than 4,000 people were sacked from their jobs. Many of those inmates continue to languish in prison.

Racial Divide: The Tragedy of America's First Black President

By Markus Feldenkirchen and Holger Stark December 03, 2014
Photo Gallery: Fear and DesperationPhotos
Police killings of black youth in Ferguson and Cleveland have outraged many in the US. The tragic events show how deep the societal divide remains between blacks and whites. Many have given up hope that President Obama can change anything.

On the evening after the city burned, a man in a black leather jacket and white clerical collar is standing on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. He shakes his head and looks as though he is fighting back tears. Once again, young black men and women are standing across from older, slightly pudgy white policemen in front of the local station. They look like armies, like they are at war.
"It won't ever stop," says the man, a black pastor named Alvin Herring. He has been accompanying the protests since the beginning of August, ever since white police officer Darren Wilson shot an unarmed, 18-year-old black man named Michael Brown. "A deep, festering wound has opened up in the heart of American culture and society," Herring says.
The systematic racism that these young people are confronted with each day has made them deeply angry, Henning continues. "It is impossible for them to feel loved, or even respected. They no longer believe they are needed or that their lives are worth anything."
At exactly this moment, eight police officers rush over to a black man and pull him out of a group, accusing him of throwing an empty plastic bottle. They jump on top of him, press his cheek to the asphalt and handcuff him with zip ties before dragging him into the station.
Ever since the protests began all those months ago, Pastor Alvin Herring has hoped that Barack Obama, the country's first black president, would visit Ferguson. Henning says Obama could have sent a powerful message that he understood the frustrations of young black people by making the trip.
High Hopes Dashed
On this evening, one which would see this town north of St. Louis sink into violence yet again, Herring misses Obama particularly acutely. "The president is much too careful, much too hesitant," he says. "The president should be here in Ferguson tonight. He should demonstrate more commitment."
Herring is merely putting into words what many African Americans think about their president -- and not just since the predominantly white grand jury that decided against prosecuting the policeman who shot Michael Brown. And not just since the jury's decision propelled thousands of black people to take to the streets of 170 US cities in protest.
The black population of America had high hopes for "their" president. They had the feeling, when they cast their ballots in 2008 and 2012, that something momentous was taking place. Never before had so many blacks voted as in those two elections. When one of ours ends up in the White House, they seemed to hope, then things will finally improve for us as well.
In March 2008, when Barack Obama, then a candidate for president, gave his big speech on racism, he sounded like the one who could unite the country. But in November of this year, Obama is -- contrary to his intentions -- the president of a country that is more divided than ever before. And one of the deepest divisions runs between blacks and whites.
That is the real tragedy of America's first African-American president.
Map: The African-American population in the US.Zoom
Map: The African-American population in the US.
When Obama delivered a statement last Monday evening at the White House about the grand jury decision, he seemed more helpless than at almost any other time during his presidency. Even as he called on blacks in Ferguson to remain calm and peaceful, the first shops were being looted and set on fire. His comments seemed strangely uninspired and apprehensive -- as though he had already succumbed to resignation.
Many of the causes of the day-to-day discrimination experienced by blacks, of course, are far outside of Obama's control. Federalism in America means that he has little influence over the behavior of local police or over the judiciaries in individual states. In such areas, Obama can only resort to appeals -- something that many blacks believe he has done too little of. From the perspective of the White House, however, such speeches are often counterproductive.
Less Money, Less Education, Less Influence
"Ferguson marks the end of the Obama era," says Cornel West, professor emeritus at Princeton University and a leading African American intellectual. It is "a very sad ending," West says. "We began with immense hopes and we are ending with deep disappointment." Obama, he says, did nothing to fix a justice system that denies any form of fairness to young people with black or brown skin. He adds that the president shares some of the blame for the "race and class warfare" that is being waged against black people.
The shots fired in Ferguson have become a danger for societal peace in a country that once celebrated itself for being a cultural melting pot -- a mixture which whites in America decreasingly see themselves as being a part of. Instead, the US is a divided land with a primarily white elite and an African-American population that tends to have less money, less education and less influence. In many areas, blacks are also now being overtaken by the growing Hispanic population.
To be sure, the US has plenty of black pop stars, black sports icons and, since 2009, even a black president. Nevertheless, most people with dark skin are far away from enjoying true equality. Fifty years after the widespread reforms pushed through by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which established formal equality for blacks, the social gap remains glaring.
Institutional Racism
Making matters worse is the discrimination practiced by state institutions such as law enforcement. The chances that a young black man will be shot dead by the police, for example, is 21 times greater than it is for young white males. The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is far from abnormal. Just 10 days ago, a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by a police officer in Cleveland because he was playing with a toy pistol at a playground.
The country-wide protests of the African-American minority demonstrate just how deep the distrust between blacks and whites remains despite the 51 years that have passed since Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Many white police officers see young black men primarily as a danger to public safety that must be stopped, with a firearm if necessary. In the eyes of many blacks, by contrast, white police officers like Darren Wilson are nothing more than racist murderers.
When the grand jury last Monday decided not to press charges against the 28-year-old Wilson, many African-Americans saw it as proof that they could not expect justice from the state and its judiciary. The case was led by a white public prosecutor who has a reputation for defending police at all costs. Instead of being professionally cross-examined, Wilson was allowed to spend four hours telling his version of the story. If the goal was to definitively destroy the last vestiges of faith blacks may have had in the justice system, the grand jury in the Brown case did excellent work.
On the evening after the grand jury decision was announced, more than a dozen shops in Ferguson were set on fire, with over 1,000 blacks engaging in street battles with the police. The scenes were repeated on subsequent evenings. Last Tuesday, South Florrissant Road was the dividing line, symbolic of a line -- sometimes clearly visible, other times hidden -- that runs through all of America.
On the one side of the street, both in front of and behind a fence surrounding the police station, are police and National Guard troops, almost all of them white. They are outfitted with riot shields, batons and all manner of firearms, looking not unlike an army preparing to defend Ferguson from the Taliban. The governor of Missouri has ordered 2,100 National Guard troops to St. Louis for the evening.
On the other side of South Florrissant Road are the young blacks of Ferguson. They hold signs up reading "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace." Few of them are over 30 years of age.
Their expressions reveal hate and the word "fuck" is everywhere, in combination with words such as police, system, judiciary, government and power. In August, such faces looked different: distraught but also full of hope that something good might come out of Michael Brown's death. There was hope that change might be on the way.
'If We Don't Destroy ... They Won't Pay Attention'
One of the demonstrators on this Tuesday evening is wearing a scarf pulled up over his nose with his cap pulled down low. He is stomping on the asphalt and yelling, "They order us around and kill us like we were dogs!" The 25-year-old asks to be quoted as "Mike Monster," saying he wants to remain anonymous because he has decided this evening to turn his back on the system of rules and laws that he no longer identifies with. In August, he says, he demonstrated peacefully. But now he is ready for violence. "If we don't tear anything down, if we don't destroy anything, if we don't set fire to anything, they won't even pay attention," he yells. "We need a revolution!"
"You can't stop the revolution," the crowd around him replies.
A quote from Thomas Jefferson is scratched into the asphalt in front of the South Florrissant police station: "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." It is a slogan that many in Ferguson have taken to heart.
Marley's Bar & Grill, the only restaurant in the area that has remained open despite the protests, is just 500 meters away from the police station, but it is a totally different world. All 15 people sitting at the counter are white. Three of the televisions inside are showing ice hockey, while just one is tuned to CNN. Suddenly, "Breaking News" begins flashing on the screen: "Police car attacked in Ferguson."
Voices become raised at the counter. "They are crazy. They need to finally learn how to behave," one woman shrieks. "Like animals," her partner adds.
In the history of America, violence has occasionally paved the way for political improvements for the country's black population. When the escaped slave Shadrach Minkins was captured in Boston in 1851 under the Fugitive Slave Act, for example, slavery opponents stormed the courthouse, assaulted the court marshals and freed Minkins. The incident marked the beginning of a shift in attitudes toward slavery.
Yet peaceful movements, and the courts, have also played a role. Rosa Parks' refusal to move to the back of a public bus on Dec. 1, 1955 -- which led to a Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public transport was unconstitutional -- is just one example. But it was the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. that achieved perhaps the greatest victory for racial equality in the form of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, using peaceful protests and civil disobedience. Even so, there was a threat of violence in the background, in the form of Malcolm X and his followers.
Little Change under Obama
At the beginning of his term, Barack Obama likely never imagined that a new wave of violence would take place during his presidency. But it is not an accident. After all, he himself raised hopes that progress would be made. Yet after six years in office, little has changed for blacks in the US.
Obama held the speech that raised the hopes of black Americans on March 18, 2008 as a candidate in Philadelphia. It was a reaction to comments made by his Chicago pastor and friend Jeremiah Wright, who had accused the US government of crimes against blacks. "God damn America ... for killing innocent people," he intoned from the pulpit in a sermon that threatened to derail Obama's candidacy.
"The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society," Obama said in his speech. "It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country … is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past."
Obama was referring to a time when blacks were forced to serve whites as slaves; a time when they weren't even second-class citizens, instead being treated as commodities to be raised and sold at market. But he also was referring to the decades leading up to the 1960s when blacks were not allowed to use the same park benches as whites and were forced to sit at the back of the bus.
In that speech, Obama promised to create "a more perfect union," in reference to the preamble of the US Constitution. He sought to finally fulfill the promise made 50 years earlier by fellow Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. In remarks at the signing of the Civil Rights Bill on July 2, 1964, Johnson said he hoped to "eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country" and to "close the springs of racial poison."
Many observers believe that Obama's speech was a decisive factor in his becoming the first black president in American history half a year later. It is still widely considered to be one of his best.
But the final push to realize Johnson's dream has still not taken place. The situation today gives the impression that African-Americans are adequately represented "without giving them the possibility to really take advantage" of that representation, says Kareem Crayton, a law professor at the University of North Carolina. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, sociology professor at Duke University, agrees. "Having a black president doesn't mean much in our day-to-day lives."
Six years after Obama's race speech, more than a quarter of blacks in American live below the poverty line. Among whites, that figure is 12.8 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, the median annual income of a white household was about $27,000 higher than that of a black household in 2011, with the difference having grown over the course of the last several decades. The black "island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity," which Martin Luther King complained about 50 years ago, still exists in 2014. Every third African-American child born between 1985 and 2000 grew up in a neighborhood marked by extreme poverty.
"Today, racial segregation can be seen in social mobility," argues Richard Reeves from the Washington think tank Brookings Institution. Last year, the US Education Department released a study that analyzed data from 97,000 schools across the country. According to its results, black students were suspended and expelled at three times the rate of their white peers. Every fourth school with a high proportion of blacks and Latinos did not offer advanced courses in mathematics.
"It's the age of Obama, and yet civil rights have gone backwards. What went wrong? asked the New Republic on its cover in August. The issue, which appeared after Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, spoke of a "new racism." Indeed, the kinds of deadly events that took place in Ferguson and Cleveland have now convinced many blacks that it wasn't Obama who was right back in the spring of 2008. Rather, it was his angry pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
On the Saturday before last, 12-year-old Tamir Rice wandered into Cudell Park at 3:12 p.m. The park is in a section of western Cleveland that is poor and primarily black. Paint flakes off the homes in the area, empty lots are overgrown and shops are secured with heavy padlocks. Tamir was black, and he was carrying a toy pistol. The combination was akin to a death sentence.
Tamir lived across the street in a grim brick building, his mother, the single parent of four children, unable to afford a better apartment. In the park, a bored Tamir wandered back and forth, throwing snow. He was carrying the plastic pistol in his right hand when a passerby saw him and called 911.
'Is He Black or Is He White?'
"There's a guy here with a pistol … and he's like pointing it at everybody," the caller says. He's "probably a juvenile," the caller continues, adding that the pistol is "probably fake," a suspicion the caller later repeats. The officer taking the call wants to know what the person with the pistol looks like, asking "Is he black or white." She repeats the question three times.
The dispatcher alerted Timothy Loehmann, 26, and Frank Garmback, 46, who were in a patrol car in the area, notifying them of a black male with a firearm. The officers were not told of the possibility that the firearm was a toy.
At 3:30 p.m., the police car flew across the grass at high speed toward where the boy was playing. Tamir comes toward the car as it screeches to a halt, as though he is curious. The surveillance video of the shooting shows that he had stuffed the pistol under his jacket.
Loehmann jumps out of the passenger door and, according to the two officers, yelled "hands up!" three times. It isn't clear from the surveillance video of a nearby youth center how, exactly, Tamir responded. The police say he didn't put his hands up, grabbing instead toward his belt.
One shot hit Tamir in the breast and he collapsed. Between the arrival of the patrol car and the firing of the deadly shots, only seconds had elapsed.
The police officers could have carefully approached the boy, or they could have asked social workers at the youth club, who knew Tamir, to speak with him. But instead, they simply opened fire. Tamir Rice, who dreamed of one day becoming a professional basketball player, died in the hospital.
The American problem has many different facets, but it is accurate to say that it is mostly white men who shoot young African-Americans in the service of the state. The actor Morgan Freeman recently told German newsmagazine Stern that the color of the law is white.
Almost half of all murder victims and about 40 percent of the US prison population are black, even though the African-American share of the population is just 12.6 percent. And in many states, those with a criminal record forfeit many rights, such as access to welfare, for example. In 10 states, those who have been convicted of a criminal offense lose their right to vote for life.
'You Kill Our Children'
Since that deadly Saturday in Cudell Park, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams has tried several times to explain why the officers opened fire on Tamir Rice. Williams, who is black himself, is standing in the gymnasium of the Cudell Park recreation center, a radio dangling from his lapel and a firearm affixed to his belt. Williams has come to answer questions -- and to try and calm local nerves. Three hundred people have crammed into the hall to hear him speak.
"Our officers are trained to take someone out if he is carrying a weapon," Williams says. "Shooting someone in the arm or in the leg may happen in the movies, but it doesn't happen in real life." In a society with as many firearms as citizens, it seems the police feel like they're in a constant state of war. Police deal every day with people potentially carrying firearms, and that's how they approach every call.
Calista Cottingham, 37, is also at the Cudell Park Recreation Center, and she wants to share her story. She has six children, including four sons. One day, she says, she drove one of her sons to football practice. Cottingham says she took him to the playing field and left the other children in a parked car, an act that is illegal in some US states. She was then confronted by two police officers who ordered her to put her hands on the steering wheel and not move. When Cottingham told the officers she hadn't done anything wrong -- given that her oldest son had been sitting in the car -- she claims the police threatened her with a Taser. When she got out of the car, she says one of the policeman hit her so hard she had to be taken to the hospital.
Robin Andrews has also shown up at the recreation center this evening. She happens to be Tamir's aunt. "You guys are trained not to trust us," she says, with her comments directed at the police chief. "You kill our children and your behavior makes us sick." Andrews later explains that her own son wants to go on to study medicine, but each day she fears for his life. "The man who murdered my nephew needs to go to prison," Andrews says. "No justice, no peace." The sentence has become the slogan of these protests, one that can be heard in this recreation center in Cleveland, in Ferguson and on the streets of Washington, DC and New York.
Barack Obama has heard the rallying cry, which protestors have also been chanting during the past week in front of the White House. But the president is in a Catch 22 situation. On the one side he knows African-Americans have great expectations for him. On the other, he's prone to attacks every time he speaks out on the issue of race-linked incidents.
White Conservatives View Obama as Threat
Since Obama became president, opinions have become sharply divided within the American population when it comes to events with potentially racist backgrounds. More than two-thirds of Democrats disapproved of the acquittal of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, in Florida in February 2012. But only 20 percent of people identifying as Republicans had a problem with the verdict. And whereas more than half of Democrats surveyed said they thought the anti-slavery film "12 Years a Slave" was worthy of an Oscar, only 15 percent of Republicans thought it deserving of the award.
During Obama's time in office, Republicans have increasingly become a party of the white elite and rural regions. The party's most radical supporters viewed Obama's speeches and proposed legislation as nothing more than a black man's attempt to exact revenge against the country's white majority. Even if they don't always say so, Obama's opponents have always felt that his actions represent a threat to white people, whether he launched a federal investment programs aimed at economic stimulus or proposed making the healthcare system a little fairer.
Some white conservatives actually still believe today that they are discriminated against due to the color of their skin because African-Americans, on average, profit more from Obama's healthcare reforms. The extreme resistance to "Obamacare" wasn't motivated by economic concerns alone.
Some of his detractors even believe that Obama is seeking not only to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, but also from whites to blacks. That helps to explain some of the vehemence behind their attacks.
Obama actually has sought to help the bottom third of American society with his social and economic reforms. "The plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society," he said in February as he announced a $200 million program to improve education for African-American and Hispanic boys. "And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color," he said.
Backlash against Obama
His fight to establish a higher minimum wage is likewise one of the projects that the Republicans have fought with the same kind of fervor evident in their battle against healthcare reform. Obama signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 for people working on new federal service contracts, but he failed to get an increase in the national minimum wage through the Republicans in Congress, who view themselves as the defenders of the white middle and upper classes.
At the same time, it is also true that Obama has never really presented himself as an advocate of African-Americans during his time in office. He learned during a very early stage of his presidency the kind of fury he might unleash if he commented on conflicts with a racial element.
When the president said police "acted stupidly" when they arrested black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates in 2009, he faced fierce criticism from his white opponents. Police had accused the professor of trying to break into his own home because his key had gotten stuck in the lock. Obama felt compelled in the end to convene a reconciliatory "beer summit" at the White House to which he invited both Gates and the police officers who arrested him.
Equal opportunity was the subject of Obama's State of the Union address in January and, in it, he cited two examples. The first was Misty DeMars, a white woman from a Chicago suburb who counts among the long-term unemployed. The second was Estiven Rodriguez, a 17-year-old student from New York who immigrated to the US as a nine-year-old from the Dominican Republican without speaking a word of English.
DeMars was meant to represent the difficulty women face in advancing their careers. And Rodriguez served as an example of how immigrants can succeed when given the chance.
He didn't mention a single black person in his speech.

Video - Homeless tent city pops up in Detroit

Video - Obama and family go hiking in Hawaiian island of Oahu

World leader criticized for playing golf in Hawaii (but it’s not Obama this time)

By David Nakamura

A world leader is under fire for playing golf in Hawaii at a time of national crisis. Only this time, it's not President Obama.
Rather, it's Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who hit the links Wednesday with Obama at a course on a Marine base in Kaneohe Bay. Najib's round surprised some of his countrymen, who are calling on him to return home to deal with massive flooding that has displaced tens of thousands.
Najib's Facebook page was reportedly flooded with angry comments, and Malaysians also took to Twitter to complain that his vacation trip was inappropriate. Local news organizations picked up on the unhappiness.
"Come home, help flood victims instead of golfing in Hawaii, Najib told," the Malaysian Insider reported.
"STOP PLAYING GOLF, NAJIB!" the Malaysia Chronicle wrote.
Najib was in Hawaii on a vacation at the same time as Obama, and the White House said the president invited the prime minister for a round. Obama, who has been criticized for playing golf, including after the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by the Islamic State militant group, has played several rounds since arriving on the island late Friday.
The frustration over Najib's round was apparent on Twitter.
Can't believe our nation's leader Najib is having fun playing golf with Obama at Hawaii while we are facing the largest flood in our country
According to th  UK PM cancelled his visit to Middle East due to flooding in his country back in February 2014. Najib? Golf.

Malaysian Insider, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters: "We must be fair. The prime minister also has his time for a break as he has been working so hard. He is also a human being. I told him not to worry and to have trust in me, we will manage the issue in whatever way we can."
He added that floods were an annual occurrence in Malaysia but that they were much more challenging this year.
However, "there is no need for Najib to come back immediately," the deputy said.

Video - Weekly Address: Happy Holidays from the President and First Lady

Watch President Obama strike a blow against gendered toys

"You know what? I just want to make sure some girls play some ball," President Obama said as he knocked out the idea of gendered toys at the annual Toys for Tots volunteer event in early December.
In her opening speech, Michelle Obama welcomed her husband and promised to "break him in slowly" on his first visit. The president got right to work as he sorted toys into separate bins for boys and girls at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. A basketball, tool kit and tee ball game went straight into the girl bins as families looked on.
"I'm just trying to break down these gender stereotypes," he said.
Obama continued to tackle this issue at his press conference last week, where he called on female reporters for all eight questions.

Long-term view needed to judge Mao fairly

Today 2014-12-26 marks the 121st anniversary of Chairman Mao Zedong's birthday. In recent years, whenever the day approaches, there is always a hot debate in China on how to judge the founder of our nation. This year probably won't be an exception. 

There have been official perspectives and assessments made about Mao, but this won't suppress the active discussions among the public. Given Mao's heavy weight in China's history, we have to adopt a long-term perspective to better understand him and put the controversies surrounding him to rest.

Mao still has some bearing on today's political reality in China. Whether to praise Mao or not is not only a study of history, but often manifests some aspects of current political reality, which is inviting for some people.  

Though Mao Zedong Thought stemmed from the collective wisdom of the Communist Party of China (CPC), he was easily regarded as the embodiment of the Party and New China in its early days. Furthermore, he is considered to be both the foundation of the country's achievements and problems of today. To both Mao's supporters and detractors, his reputation carries a profound significance. 

Debate about Mao has been distorted heavily by a division of values. There cannot be a serious debate about Mao between people who acknowledge China's revolution and the choice of its path, and those who are against them. Such debate is only an extension of an ideological contention between the two groups. Mao's value rests on his deeds and legacy. To assess his role, it is necessary to consider the historical context he was in, and this is an open process influenced by the development of China at present and in the future. Mao cannot be given a final judgment simply. 

During the process of forming a consistent understanding of Mao, China's mainstream society will gradually gain cohesion and maturity. Mao's prominence makes it an attention-getting act to invoke debate over him.

Since the Internet has become a platform for public opinion in China, unofficial history surrounding Mao's personal life has been the source of extensive speculation. Extreme views, such as discrediting his moral record and demonizing his leadership, have emerged. It is rare in the world that a founding father of a nation comes under such malicious attacks.  

There has been much controversy about Mao's life. Only when the rejuvenation of China under the Party's leadership is realized can he be given a fair judgment. 

China has chosen a development path different from the Western world. It is bound to be a bumpy road, and treading it needs collective strong will. Today, support for Mao is growing, even among young people who have no experience of the Mao era. Social forces that resist demonizing Mao are also expanding, an indication that the nation's political basis is consolidating.