April 18, 2013
By Frank J. Phillips
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Two African-American generals made history this year by simultaneously taking charge of major regional commands.
President Barack Obama nominated Generals Lloyd Austin and Vincent Brooks to head U.S. Central Command and U.S. Army Pacific, respectively. Each powerful command position allows the generals to oversee operations in either the Middle East or Asia. Brooks will earn his fourth star upon assuming command, while Austin is already a four-star general.
Although the nominations highlight a first for African Americans, both generals have had a career of firsts. A year ago, Austin became the first African American to hold the Army’s second highest position, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. In 1979, Brooks became the first African-American to assume the cadet First Captain position at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, the highest position a cadet can hold.
Along with their graduations from West Point, their honorary doctorates degrees and their 6-foot, 4-inch frames, these generals also share an ability to understand, counsel and inspire others toward excellence.
“Gen. Austin …is an outstanding illustration of what a Black male can achieve in America,” said Craig Hanford, president of Hanford Consulting and Austin’s West Point classmate. “He’s a great leader, decorated warrior, and compassionate mentor.”
“Lt. Gen. Brooks is a soldier’s soldier,” said Col. Rivers Johnson Jr., public affairs officer for U.S. Cyber Command. “I’ve never worked so hard in my Army career as I did when I was his executive officer. He was the consummate mentor, teacher and dedicated leader.”
Both generals have legacies rich in military service. Austin, who hails from Thomasville, Ga., traces his military roots back to his distant relative, 2nd Lt. Henry O. Flipper, the first African American to graduate from West Point in 1877.
Brooks, born in Anchorage, Alaska, comes from a family of generals. His father, and older brother, Leo Brooks Sr. and Jr., retired as general officers. Brooks’ family service dates back to the Civil War, when his great-great grandfather, an escaped slave, joined the Union Army.
While some may see these nominations as the reasoned and strategic choices of a wise president, Foster Payne II, retired Army Col., also sees their value to others.
“In a society that searches for role models for our youth, both generals are trailblazers not only for their service to the nation but to mankind,” said Payne.
Whether defending America’s interests, developing soldiers or inspiring youth, these storied generals continue to make history.
April 18, 2013
City News Service
A man charged with murder and other counts in a shooting and fiery crash on the Las Vegas Strip nearly two months ago has been extradited from Los Angeles to Nevada. Ammar Harris, 27, was released just after 11:30 p.m. Monday to Nevada law enforcement officials, according to jail records. Harris was returned to Clark County, Nev., where he was awaiting a court appearance on Wednesday, according to Tess Driver of the Clark County District Attorney's Office.
He had been jailed in Los Angeles since his arrest at a Studio City apartment complex on February 28. After examining photographs and fingerprints, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba said she determined last month that Harris is ``the same individual'' being sought by the state of Nevada. Authorities allege that Harris opened fire Feb. 21 from a Range Rover on Oakland-based rap artist Kenny Clutch, legally known as Kenneth Wayne Cherry, after a verbal altercation.
The fatally wounded Clutch crashed the Maserati he was driving into a cab that burst into flames, killing taxi driver Michael Boldon and passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund. A criminal complaint filed Feb. 22 in Nevada charged Harris with 11 counts, including three counts of murder with use of a deadly weapon, one count of attempted murder, two counts of discharging a firearm at or into a vehicle and five counts of discharging a firearm out of a motor vehicle.
April 18, 2013
By VERENA DOBNIK
NEW YORK (AP) — A Rwandan genocide survivor who became a U.S. citizen Wednesday says she was saved because her father trusted an exceptional member of an enemy tribe that slaughtered the rest of her family.
“My father always used to tell us, ‘Never judge people by putting them in boxes, because of their country, their race, their tribe,’” Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Tutsi, told fellow immigrants at a Manhattan naturalization ceremony.
The 43-year-old mother of two is the author of “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust” — a best-selling book translated into 35 languages that has turned her into a successful speaker around the world.
Eyes brimming with tears, she received her citizenship 14 years after being granted asylum in the United States. Then, as the ceremony's keynote speaker, she took 50 other immigrants on the personal journey that transformed her from an angry, emaciated young Rwandan hiding from ethnic killers into a radiant American who forgives them and feels “that no tragedy is big enough to crush you.”
The 1994 civil war claimed more than a half-million African lives, with members of the Tutsi tribe pitted against the ruling Hutus.
Life for her family — four siblings with parents who were teachers — changed on April 7, 1994, when she was a college student visiting her village and her brother announced that the Rwandan president died in a plane that was shot down.
He belonged to the Hutu tribe, and the Tutsis were blamed. The killings began.
Ilibagiza said her father decided she should flee to the home of a neighbor he knew and trusted — a Hutu.
She told fellow immigrants from 16 countries that “if I am here today, it's because my father had trust in the man from that tribe” — whose members “were supposed to be our enemies.”
She spent three months locked into a tiny bathroom in his house with seven women and girls, sleeping practically upright and eating what little he could shove through the door daily. She was 23 and weighed 65 pounds, her bones protruding from her limbs.
“I was angry a lot; I thought, if I ever come out, I was going to be a killer,” she said.
In despair, she said her Catholic childhood prayers. But when she got to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” — she stopped.
“How do you forgive somebody who is killing you?”
Suddenly, one day, something unexpected happened inside her.
“I felt God was showing me there are two parts of the world: a part that was love, and a side that was hate — people like Hitler, and like people causing genocide in Rwanda,” she said. “And people like Mandela, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King — people who have suffered but who will do everything to make sure that those who are wrong change their mind.”
She began to think of those doing the killing “as people who were lost, who were blind,” she said. “And if I did not let go of the anger, I would not be here today; I would have tried to kill people, and they would have killed me.”
The eight captives left their hiding spot when the genocide was over.
The Hutus had won the civil war.
Everyone in Ilibagiza’s family was killed, “my mom, my dad, my two brothers, my grandpa, my grandma, my aunts, neighbors, schoolmates, best friends.”
She got a job with the United Nations in Rwanda, and eventually moved to New York.
Here, “I saw Koreans, and Indians and Chinese and I thought, ‘Those are not Americans,’” she said. “But no, they are Americans; every nationality here is accepted as Americans.”
And they had their stories too — some equally tinged with tragedy.
Friends who watched her thrive, despite her past, urged her to write her story. They wondered, she said, “how can you be happy after what happened to you? Why are you smiling today?”
“Something in my heart was born anew; I did not have to hate no matter how much you hate me,” she said.
She gets hundreds of emails and letters “telling me, ‘because of your story, I’m a better mom, I’m a better dad, I can forgive my wife, I can forgive my husband, my friends.’”
Ilibagiza’s life now is not so different from other Americans. She's divorced and bringing up her two children — a 14-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy — on Manhattan’s East Side.
On Wednesday, Ilibagiza planned to join friends for a celebratory lunch, “and I want a really good hamburger, because I’m feeling so American today,” she said with a carefree laugh.
April 18, 2013
By JULIE PACE
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama pronounced the deadly Boston Marathon explosions an act of terrorism on Tuesday as individuals close to the investigation said the two bombs were made of pressure cookers packed with ball bearings and metal shards that cut into the victims.
Speaking at the White House, Obama said investigators do not know if the attack was carried out by an international or domestic organization, or perhaps by a “malevolent individual.” Three people were killed, including an 8 year-old boy, and more than 170 were wounded.
In his second public statement in less than 24 hours since the explosions, the president said, “Clearly we are at the beginning of our investigation.” He urged anyone with information relating to the events to contact authorities.
Individuals briefed on the probe said the two bombs were made up of pressure cookers, one packed with ball bearings and the other with shards of metal, presumably to inflict maximum injuries. The bombs were placed inside black duffel bags on the ground near the finish line of the annual race, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation remains active and they were not authorized to be quoted by name.
Obama said investigators “don’t have a sense of motivation yet” as they begin to evaluate the attack.
Despite the loss of life and limb, Obama declared, “The American people refuse to be terrorized.”
As he had on Monday, he said those responsible for the attacks would be brought to justice.
The president had avoided labeling the incident a terrorist attack when he stood at the same White House lectern shortly after the explosions. Members of Congress quickly concluded on Monday afternoon that's what it was, and White House officials said the FBI was investigating the attack as a terror incident.
The administration’s public assessment began to shift when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress in a morning appearance that the attacks were “a cruel act of terror.”
Appearing on television a short while afterward, Obama said the events in Boston were a "heinous cowardly act, and given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism.”
“Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why. Whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual. That’s what we don’t yet know.”
The president praised those who had come to the aid of the injured.
“If you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that’s it: selflessly, compassionately, unafraid,” he said.
Obama stepped to the microphone after receiving a briefing at the White House from Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other top aides.
The bombs exploded on Monday afternoon near the finish line of the famed Boston Marathon, an annual 26 mile race through the neighborhoods of the city.