November 21, 2013
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
WASHINGTON (AP) —Honoring the legacy of John F. Kennedy, President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the assassinated president’s gravesite as a nation remembers that terrible day in Dallas a half-century ago Friday. Obama also recognized a group of distinguished Americans — including Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey — with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award created by Kennedy.
Obama was joined at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday by Clinton, and each president held hands with Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, as they climbed a flight of stairs to the burial site on a steep hillside overlooking the nation’s capital.
First lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped their husbands place a large wreath of white flowers in front of the roped-off gravesite of America’s 35th president, which is marked by an ever-burning flame.
Both couples placed their hands over their hearts as taps sounded near a U.S. flag at half-staff before greeting Kennedy relatives, including some who arrived in Obama's motorcade.
The day of tributes began at the White House, where Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 living and deceased Americans for their contributions in fields ranging from sports and entertainment to science and public service.
“These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,” Obama said.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, daughter Chelsea Clinton and film director Steven Spielberg were among scores of people seated in the White House East Room for the ceremony, which Obama said is “one of my favorite events every year.”
Kennedy established the modern version of the medal but was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, weeks before he was to honor the inaugural group of recipients. Hundreds of notable figures since have received the honor.
Obama continued to lionize the slain president Wednesday evening at a dinner at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in honor of the medal’s recipients. He said Kennedy stays in America’s imagination not because he was assassinated, but because he embodied the character of the people he led. Kennedy was defiant in the face of impossible odds, he said, and determined to make the world anew.
“This is a legacy of a man who could have retreated to a life of luxury and ease, but he chose to live a life in the arena,” Obama said. “Sailing sometimes against the wind, sometimes with it.”
At the awards ceremony Wednesday morning, Obama said a few words about each recipient. Of Clinton, he said the Arkansas Democrat’s presidency marked just the start of his work to make the world a better place, crediting his post-presidency humanitarian efforts as helping to save or improve the lives of millions worldwide.
“I’m grateful, Bill, as well, for the advice and counsel that you’ve offered me, on and off the golf course,” Obama said to chuckles.
As a teenager, Bill Clinton shook hands with Kennedy in the Rose Garden the summer before the assassination when he and other high school students in the Boys Nation program came to Washington.
Obama said the late Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, didn't just break the stratospheric glass ceiling. “She blasted right through it,” becoming a role model for young girls, he said.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Obama said. “Today our daughters, including Malia and Sasha, can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way.”
Receiving the award for Ride, who died last year, was Tam O'Shaughnessy, who was introduced as Ride’s life partner.
The president made a point of highlighting those who had overcome additional obstacles and stigmatization because they are gay, black, female or Asian. He noted that early in her career, Oprah Winfrey’s bosses suggested she change her name to something more relatable.
“It turned out, surprisingly, that people could relate to Oprah just fine,” Obama said.
On Friday’s assassination anniversary, Obama plans to meet privately at the White House with leaders and volunteers from the Peace Corps program, also established by Kennedy.
The Clintons’ presence at Kennedy’s gravesite was sure to spark speculation about whether Obama has a favorite in the 2016 race to succeed him.
Every move by the former secretary of state is being scrutinized for signs of whether she’ll run. Vice President Joe Biden, another potential candidate, attended only the White House ceremony.
November 21, 2013
By MARTHA MENDOZA
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — From Google to Facebook to Apple, Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe took a whirlwind tour through Silicon Valley’s most elite tech firms, persuading some of the world’s wealthiest and most successful corporate executives to share support and innovation with the poorest country in the Americas.
“Oh cool!” he said Wednesday, slipping on Google Glass — Internet-connected eyeglasses — at Google Inc.’s headquarters before a cruise in the company’s driverless car.
Lamothe joins a growing stream of politicians, celebrities and CEOs taking these popular roadshows where they do a little business, a little schmoozing and quite a bit of questioning about how technology can change lives.
“Even if we do need water, we need the technology to know the areas where we have issues with water supply in order to create a better inventory,” he said. “Technology can help us bridge the development barrier we have today.”
If there was an opposite of the affluent Silicon Valley, where entire municipalities have free Wi-Fi, it could be impoverished Haiti, where fewer than 1 percent of Haitians are regularly online.
But worlds collided in a conference room at Facebook when Lamothe jumped into a question-and-answer session and watched hundreds of Haitians’ questions pour in.
When Jean Amos Bonhomme, a father of two who lost his home in a devastating 2010 earthquake, typed in that he needs a job and included his phone number, Lamothe shocked the man by calling him directly and asking what his skills were. Bonhomme said he’s a teacher and an accountant, and speaks English. Lamothe told an aide to set up an interview.
“These are the enjoyable times for being prime minister,” said Lamothe, “when I can make a direct difference in a person’s life.”
Although Haiti lacks much infrastructure, there are Internet cafes throughout the capital Port au Prince, and cellphone use is leapfrogging landlines. Some of the millions of dollars of earthquake relief and recovery aid has been spent on trying to get the country wired, including a $3.9 million program launched this fall to deploy 65 miles of optical fiber in the country's southern region.
On Wednesday, Lamothe was sharing his vision for an even more wired Haiti, which begins with gathering data, from mapping all of the health clinics to conducting a census-like count of the population. The country has no ZIP codes and would like to replace its mail address system, which includes mentioning proximity to mango trees or intersections, with geolocation.
At Google, executives agreed to Lamothe’s request to get updated satellite images for Google Earth. Last updated after the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of tents are no longer there, and many new buildings have gone up.
Google also committed to sending servers to Haitian Internet providers that will cache information, and the tech giant re-upped its donation of a package of online services that provide email and other services for more than 3,000 government employees, a benefit that usually costs $50 per person.
At Facebook, he tried out a new app designed especially for political leaders to be closer to their constituents; he liked it, and on Monday after it's installed, he plans to be the first head of state to use it.
While this was Lamothe’s first visit to the tech titans, the Prince of Asturias made the rounds just last week and South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, Ahn Ho-young, swung through in August. The campuses are varied and impressive, with unusual features from Google’s bowling alley to a small Wizard of Oz mock-up of Dorothy’s house at Facebook, complete with smashed witch legs.
“These businesses have a very progressive culture, one that understands that investing in the employees will pay great dividends,” Lamothe said. “They take care of everything — free meals and free snacks — and that leads to being able to get maximum productivity.”
November 21, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday accused Egypt's well-organized Muslim Brotherhood of having "stolen" the revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Speaking at the State Department to leaders of multinational U.S. firms, Kerry said the Islamist group had appropriated the revolt against Mubarak from young people who started it in large part through social media in response to what they saw of other mass protests around the Arab world.
"Those kids in Tahrir Square, they were not motivated by any religion or ideology," he said. "They were motivated by what they saw through this interconnected world, and they wanted a piece of the opportunity and a chance to get an education and have a job and have a future, and not have a corrupt government that deprived them of all of that and more. And they tweeted their ways and FaceTimed their ways and talked to each other, and that's what drove that revolution. And then it got stolen by the one single-most organized entity in the state, which was the Brotherhood."
Kerry's comments are likely to raise eyebrows in Egypt where competing claims of credit for Mubarak's ouster are still a source of major division. Mubarak's ouster led to Egypt's first-ever democratically chosen president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Secular politicians could not get organized enough to provide a credible contest.
The military toppled Morsi in July claiming that he and Muslim Brotherhood allies were not governing democratically.
The United States has been accused by moderate and secular Egyptians of siding with the Muslim Brotherhood, an allegation that Washington denies.
Egypt's military-backed government and its supporters will likely look favorably on Kerry's brief remark, while supporters of Morsi will likely be angered by it.
November 21, 2013
By The Associated Press
President Barack Obama honored 16 prominent Americans Wednesday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award the U.S. gives a civilian. The ceremony at the White House opened a day of tributes to former President John F. Kennedy, who established the modern version of the medal but was assassinated 50 years ago this week as the first award ceremony neared.
A look at the individuals receiving the medal:
— Bill Clinton, the 42nd president and former Arkansas governor, who was also recognized for his post-presidency humanitarian work.
—Oprah Winfrey, broadcaster, actress, activist and philanthropist, who was an early supporter of Obama's first presidential campaign.
—Daniel Inouye, former senator from Hawaii, World War II veteran and the first Japanese American in Congress. Inouye received the award posthumously.
—Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper's coverage of Watergate.
—Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Ride received the award posthumously.
—Richard Lugar, former senator from Indiana who worked to reduce the global nuclear threat.
—Gloria Steinem, writer and prominent women's rights activist.
—Ernie Banks, baseball player who hit more than 500 home runs and played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
—Bayard Rustin, civil and gay rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin received the award posthumously.
—Daniel Kahneman, psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
—Loretta Lynn, country music singer.
—Maria Molina, chemist and environmental scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
—Arturo Sandoval, Grammy-winning jazz musician who was born in Cuba and defected to the U.S.
—Dean Smith, head coach of University of North Carolina's basketball team for 36 years.
—Patricia Wald, first woman appointed to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and became the court's chief judge.
—C.T. Vivian, civil rights leader and minister.