- Created on 10 December 2013
Mourners sing outside the home of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg on Monday, December 9. The revered statesman, who emerged from prison to lead South Africa out of apartheid, died on Thursday, December 5. Mandela was 95.
Editor's note: Watch the Nelson Mandela memorial from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET Tuesday on CNN International. Dozens of heads of state, including Presidents Zuma, Obama and Castro, will be there with thousands of South Africans at the 90,000 seat FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Johannesburg (CNN) -- It's a moment for the ages.
Tens of thousands of South Africans, dozens of presidents and prime ministers, celebrities and street sweepers are all heading to the same place: a stadium in Johannesburg, where they'll honor Nelson Mandela at a memorial service on Tuesday.
With 91 heads of state attending, security will be tight.
Authorities are already stepping up surveillance as presidents of six nations prepare to pay tribute to the late anti-apartheid leader in a four-hour service that will likely bring much of South Africa to a stop.
Working off plans developed for years in secret, the South African government is using an elite military task force, sniper teams and canine teams to help secure the stadium, CNN's Arwa Damon reported Monday. In addition, helicopters and military jets frequently fly overhead.
"Should anybody, anything dare to disturb or disrupt this period of mourning and finally taking and accompanying the former president to his last resting place, then that person will be dealt with," Brig. Gen. Xolani Mabanga said Monday.
South African officials won't give details about their security plans -- how many police officers, how many troops, precautions to keep the stadium weapons- and explosives-free.
"But we can assure that all necessary steps have been taken, and that is why the leadership of the world and former leaders of the world have confidence to come to our country at this time to share with us this moment," said Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane.
The event promises to rival other significant state funerals in recent decades, such as that of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965 and the 2008 funeral of Pope John Paul II, which attracted some 2 million people to Rome -- among them four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers and the leaders of 14 other faiths.
At that event, metal detectors and some 15,000 members of security forces stood watch over the event.
U.S. official: South Africa experienced at hosting crowds
U.S. officials are satisfied with security arrangements.
"We have not heard any concerns," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Barack Obama flew to South Africa.
"The South Africans hosted the World Cup, so they have experience hosting significant crowds and managing events like this, although clearly this is really a unique event in world history, given the number of leaders coming to pay their respects, as well as the people of South Africa."
Given Mandela's ailing health, the U.S. Secret Service made some arrangements in advance, a Secret Service spokesman said. But work that would usually take months to complete has been done in less than a week, the spokesman said.
"It's a compressed timeline, but there are certain protocols we must have in place for any trip," the spokesman said.
Those protocols involve securing the president's motorcade route and hotel rooms and doing security walk-throughs.
The spokesman declined to offer specific details on security measures at the stadium.
While Tuesday's memorial is the first major event honoring Mandela since his death, it won't be the last.
A state funeral will be held Sunday in Mandela's ancestral hometown of Qunu in South Africa's Eastern Cape province.
Presidents set to speak at service
Among the speakers at Tuesday's memorial will be President Obama, who like Mandela was his nation's first black president. Obama has cited Mandela as his own inspiration for entering politics.
In addition to Obama, former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will attend. More than two dozen U.S. lawmakers also plan to go.
Other guests include the Prince of Wales, British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will also speak, as well as celebrities such as Bono, Oprah Winfrey and Naomi Campbell.
Crews worked overtime Monday to prepare FNB Stadium in Johannesburg for the service.
The stadium, where Mandela delivered his first major speech after his release from prison, can hold some 90,000 people, but that won't be enough to hold the hundreds of thousands clamoring to celebrate Mandela's life.
The government has set up overflow locations at stadiums and other facilities throughout the country.
With private vehicles banned from the area around the stadium, the government pressed buses from around the country into service and stepped up train service to move the crowds.
In addition to Obama and Ban, the presidents of Brazil, Namibia, India, Cuba and South Africa are expected to speak at the service, as are family members, friends and others.
One potential complication: Forecasters predicted potentially heavy rainfall during the event at the open-air stadium.
South Africa's Parliament reconvened Monday for an afternoon of speeches and memorials to Mandela. Dozens of members of parliament spoke.
"The world over, his name has evolved into a metaphor," Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said. "The name Nelson Mandela has entered the pantheon of history's sages."
Out of the public eye, friends who had not seen each other in years have been coming together with Mandela's family in his home, said Zelda la Grange, Mandela's longtime personal assistant.
Mandela called la Grange his "rock," even though she seemed an unlikely confidante. She was a white Afrikaner and an employee of the former apartheid government.
In her first interview since Mandela's death, she described the mood in his home to CNN's Robyn Curnow on Monday.
"Obviously there's sadness in the house," she said, but also, "People are celebrating Madiba's life. They are grateful." She referred to Mandela by his well-known clan name.
- Created on 09 December 2013
Photo by Huffingotn Post
The Michigan Republican Party is seeking to increase its visibility in Democratic- and minority-heavy Detroit, and last week, it brought Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to the city to open the party's African-American Engagement Office. But if anything, the launch event put into stark relief just how much work the GOP has to do, when a largely white audience turned out to hear the senator speak.
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus has said that attracting more minorities to the GOP is crucial for the party's future. He visited Michigan last month, hired radio personality Wayne Bradley to head the African-American Engagement effort in the state and launched the Michigan Black Advisory Council.
In the 2012 election, President Barack Obama earned the support of 90 percent of the black voters who turned out at the polls.
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- Created on 05 December 2013
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama prodded Congress to raise wages and secure the social safety net as he issued an overarching appeal Wednesday to correct economic inequalities that he said make it harder for a child to escape poverty. "That should offend all of us," he declared. "We are a better country than this."
Focusing on the pocketbook issues that Americans consistently rank as a top concern, Obama argued that the dream of upward economic mobility is breaking down and that the growing income gap is a "defining challenge of our time."
"The basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed," the president said in remarks at a nonprofit community center a short drive from the White House in one of Washington's most impoverished neighborhoods.
Though he offered no new initiatives, Obama blended a call for Congress to act on pending short-term economic measures with an ambitious vision aimed at rectifying a growing level of income inequality in the United States. Amid public doubts over Obama's stewardship of the economy, the speech served as a guide for the remaining three years of his term.
Still, by drawing attention to past policy proposals that have dead-ended in a divided government, Obama also laid bare the political failures and economic difficulties he has faced trying to halt widening inequality trends.
He acknowledged his administration's "poor execution" in rolling out the flawed health care website that was supposed to be an easy portal for purchasing insurance, while blaming Republicans for a "reckless" shutdown of the government.
"Nobody has acquitted themselves very well these past few months," Obama said. "So it's not surprising that the American people's frustrations with Washington are at an all-time high." Worse for Americans, he added, are their growing difficulties in trying to make ends meet no matter how hard they work.
The speech coincided with growing national and international attention to economic disparities - from the writings of Pope Francis to the protests of fast-food workers in the U.S. Obama recalled the pope's words, the deeds of past presidents as well as his own personal story as a young boy with a financially struggling mother.
And he noted that in the United States, a child born into the bottom 20 percent of income levels has less than a 5 percent chance of making it to the top income levels and is 10 times likelier to stay where he is - worse than other industrial countries such as Canada, Germany and France.
House Speaker John Boehner blamed Senate Democrats and Obama for the lack of action on jobs-related legislation. He said bills passed by the Republican-controlled House that would help the economy and create jobs have been blocked in the Democratic-controlled Senate. "The Senate and the president continue to stand in the way of the people's priorities," he said on the House floor.
Obama conceded that "the elephant in the room" is the political gridlock that has prevented congressional action. But he pointed to the health care law, despite its troubled enrollment launch, as one example that he said is already helping families by providing insurance coverage to more Americans and by pushing down the costs of health care.
Obama specifically called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour. A Democratic bill by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa would raise the threshold to $10.10 an hour in three steps and tie automatic annual increases to changes in the cost of living.
A vote in the Senate is not expected in December, when the chamber will mostly focus on stalemates over the budget and other issues. Whenever it is debated, the measure seems unlikely to win the 60 votes it would need to clear the Senate due to GOP opposition.
Obama also pressed Congress to extend jobless benefits to 1.3 million long-term unemployed people. The benefits are set to expire just three days after Christmas. The additional weeks of benefits have been extended each year since 2009, but a senior Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, said Tuesday that lawmakers in his party oppose yet another extension.
- Created on 06 December 2013
Photo by AP
Nelson Mandela's two youngest daughters found out about their father's death during the London premiere of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the highly-anticipated biopic starring Idris Elba and following the anti-apartheid fighter's life.
According to reports, Zindzi and Zenani were informed of the sad news by telephone while walking the red carpet. They "immediately left the cinema" but requested for the event to continue despite their absence. Guests in attendance included Prince William and his wife Kate.
When the film finished and the credits war rolling, producer Anant Singh took to the stage and shared the devastating news with the crowd. "It is with great sadness that President Zuma has recently announced the passing of Mandela," he said.
"I just wanted to say it's extremely sad and tragic news," he told reporters. "We were just reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. It's very sad."
Zindzi and Zenani have yet to make an statement about their father's passing.
Mandela was 95.
For more information, click here.
- Created on 04 December 2013
Anton Gunn (l) and Keli Goff (r) (NewsOne Now)
Though the wrinkles are being smoothed out of the insurance sign-up experience on healthcare.gov, many people are confused about their options and the upcoming deadlines.
Critics say the Obama administration should have done a better job of getting the word out in the months that led up to the launch of the health insurance exchanges on Oct. 1. But Anton Gunn, from the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, insists what's important is that the administration is now getting the messaging right for the people who need it.
"People focus on what's important and right in their face," said Gunn, speaking on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin. "If you can't enroll in a plan, which you couldn't do before October 1, again, effectively, no one was paying attention to what was different. But now that you can enroll in coverage, more people are paying attention. That's why we had such a demand when we opened enrollment on October 1. Four million people [visiting] in the first day or so. And we've seen that continue to grow."
Journalist Keli Goff, who participated in a roundtable discussion with Gunn, was unwilling to let him off the hook. Effective advance communication was vital, she said. "It is completely the fault of the administration if you couldn't get your base to mobilize around this issue until after October, or [reach] the people who use this and see why they couldn't use it."
Looking ahead, Gunn shared what happens after the current open enrollment period for 2014 ends on March 31. "There are some special circumstances — if you lose a job, or if you get married, you have a life event — you can enroll into a special enrollment period that happens after March 31. But for everybody else, the next open enrollment period starts that following October... and it goes until the end of the year."
Listen to the entire exchange in the clip here.