- Created on 10 December 2013
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
CENTURION, South Africa (AP) -- The comparisons are perhaps inevitable. President Barack Obama and former South African leader Nelson Mandela each served as their nation's first black president, living symbols of struggles to overcome deep-seated racial tensions. Each was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
But as Obama prepares to honor Mandela at a memorial service Tuesday in South Africa, people close to the U.S. president say he is well-aware that his rapid rise through America's political ranks pales in comparison to Mandela's 27 years in prison fighting against a repressive government that brutally enforced laws that enshrined racial discrimination.
Rather than view himself as a counterpart to Mandela, Obama has said he sees himself as one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Mandela's life.
"Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live, I will do what I can to learn from him," Obama said in somber remarks after Mandela died last week at the age of 95.
In the days following Mandela's death, Obama began crafting the 20-minute speech he will deliver during Tuesday's service in Johannesburg, where tens of thousands of South Africans and dozens of foreign dignitaries are expected to pack a sports stadium. Obama is expected to speak of Mandela's influence on South Africa and on his own life, while also reflecting on the complexity of Mandela's rise from anti-apartheid fighter and prisoner to president and global icon.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama - along with former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura - arrived Tuesday morning on Air Force One at a military base near Johannesburg after a 16-hour trip from Washington. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were traveling to South Africa separately. George H.W. Bush, the only other living U.S. president, will not attend because the 89-year-old is no longer able to travel long distances, his spokesman Jim McGrath said.
Also traveling with Obama were national security adviser Susan Rice, Attorney General Eric Holder, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was meeting her husband in South Africa.
For Obama, who was too young to be active in the American civil rights movement, it was Mandela's struggle against apartheid that first drew him into politics. He studied Mandela's speeches and writings while studying at Occidental College from 1979-81 and became active in campus protests against the apartheid government.
"My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid," Obama said last week. "The day that (Mandela) was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears."
By the time Obama became president, Mandela had retired from public life. But they did have one in-person meeting, a hastily arranged 2005 encounter while Mandela was visiting Washington. The South African leader had been encouraged to meet a young black U.S. senator who was a rising star in American politics and invited Obama to visit him at his hotel.
A single photo from the meeting shows the two men smiling and shaking hands, with Obama standing and Mandela sitting, his legs stretched out in front of him. The photo hangs in Obama's personal office at the White House, as well as in Mandela's office in Johannesburg.
Obama and Mandela had sporadic contact after that meeting, including a congratulatory phone call from Mandela after Obama's 2008 election and a condolences call from the U.S. president after the South African's granddaughter was killed in a 2010 car accident.
In 2011, Mrs. Obama and her two daughters held a private meeting with Mandela during a visit to South Africa. But the elderly leader was hospitalized and too sick to meet with Obama when he traveled there earlier this year.
Mandela's ailing health cast a shadow over that trip, heightening the emotion when Obama and his family visited the Robben Island prison where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. Obama also met with members of Mandela's family during his July visit and the White House said he hopes to spend time with them again on Tuesday.
Follow Julie Pace on Twitter: HTTP://TWITTER.COM/JPACEDC
- Created on 09 December 2013
President Barack Obama continues to inform the public about the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act. The latest message of his administration explains that 6 out of 10 uninsured African Americans who may be eligible for coverage may also qualify for financial assistance with Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax breaks by way of the Health Insurance Marketplace.
A report from the Department of Health and Human Services, which was released Monday morning, outlines that 4.2 million African Americans can qualify for health insurance assistance to help meet their monthly premium rates.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius addressed the report with a brief statement:
Through the Health Insurance Marketplace, 6.8 million uninsured African Americans have new options for Affordable Health coverage that covers a range of benefits, including important preventive services with no out of pocket costs.
The report also lists the rates of the uninsured state to state and highlights examples of what premiums for individuals in those areas may cost. To add to the national focus, 2 million uninsured African Americans might be eligible for coverage through Medicaid or the CHIP program as well.
About 2.2. million eligible uninsured African Americans with household incomes below 100 of the federal poverty level live in states that will not be expanding Medicaid coverage. However, the number of the uninsured eligible for lower health insurance costs would increase from 60 to 95 percent if all states allow Medicaid to be expanded.
The Obama administration has stated it will ramp up efforts to educate and inform the African-American community via town hall discussions, blog posts, meetings with Congress, and even hosting Google Hangouts.
For more info, click here.
- Created on 09 December 2013
Photo by AP
Flights are canceled, cars are piling up in icy crashes, and millions are stranded -- many at home, others along roads. And this isn't just typical winter fare slamming the Northeast. It's part of a rare pattern walloping virtually the entire United States at once.
"It's very unusual," CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said Monday. "This literally spreads across the entire U.S., and we're 12 days from the official start of winter."
Temperatures have plunged below freezing in parts of California and Nevada, including Las Vegas. Wind chills are 40 below zero in the Midwest. Snow and ice have blanketed a large swath of the Northeast, all the way up to Maine.
It was warmer in Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday morning than it was in St. Louis and Denver.
In New York City, the temperature with wind chill was 25 degrees Monday morning. But that was balmy compared to Bismarck, North Dakota, at 29 below zero.
Across the country, most temperatures are between 10 and 20 degrees below average.
And some places are receiving record snowfall. Philadelphia broke its daily record Sunday, with more than 8 inches.
In Washington, federal agencies opened two hours late Monday due to the weather.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, about 20,000 customers were without power Monday, according to power company Oncor.
More than 2,600 flights were canceled nationwide Sunday, and about 1,500 have been nixed Monday, according to the website Flightaware.com. Hundreds of flights were canceled in and out of Dallas due to freezing fog.
Dangerous travel conditions
At least seven people have died in storm-related incidents in Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico since Thursday, officials said. Most were involved in traffic crashes.
In Arizona, a Saturday night snowstorm stranded 300 vehicles along Interstate 15. Rigs jackknifed and passenger cars slid into rigs, causing chain-reaction crashes and an enormous backup, Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Bart Graves said. Authorities shut the interstate for more than 12 hours to clear the road.
"We had travelers running out of gas. They provided them food, water, and blankets," Graves said.
Some residents in the Dallas suburb of Plano had to deal with an unusual danger: sheets of ice cascading from buildings to the sidewalks and streets.
"The apocalypse has started," one man said shortly before layers of ice fell onto cars.
Late Sunday night in New York, there was a 20-car pileup on the Bronx River Parkway. Forty people were injured, none seriously, authorities said.
Freezing rain is expected to fall from central Virginia to southeast New York on Monday. Some parts could see up to 1/4 inch of ice.
Stillness, frustration, and beauty
"My wife, 8-year-old daughter, and I had started to head to a holiday party about 11:30 yesterday morning, but after 2 1/2 hours of trying to drive in the snow, we turned around and headed back home," said Mark Schroy of New Castle, Delaware.
When they got back to their house, they had to shovel out the driveway all over again from the inches of snow that had poured down in the meantime.
Schroy shared a panoramic photo of the snow with CNN iReport.
Jeffrey Beer photographed the icy aftermath of the storm in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas. "Ice pellets were 'raining' down, stinging my eyes and any exposed skin," he said.
"For me, the highlight is how beautiful everything looks. It contrasts strongly with how it feels, and how it restricts activities. ... I'm still housebound, as are most of the people that live along side streets in this region."
In Eugene, Oregon, Steve Gladfelter photographed the wintry conditions that accompanied subzero temperatures over the weekend. He's never seen anything like it in the town where he's lived for 17 years.
"This weather is not at all typical for this area at this time of year, or at any other time of year. Snow is rare, and extended deep freezes are very rare," he said.
Stranded in airports
Canadian James Archibald has spent four days living at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in the bizarre deep freeze.
"I just don't understand why they can't get the ice off the runway," he said. "I know it's for our own safety, but it's getting a bit silly."
About 650 passengers spent Sunday night at DFW airport -- fewer than the previous night, the airport said.
- Created on 09 December 2013
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A powerful storm that crept across the country dropped snow, freezing rain and sleet on the Mid-Atlantic region and headed northeast Sunday, turning NFL playing fields in Pennsylvania into winter wonderlands, dumping a foot of snow in Delaware and threatening a messy Monday commute in the northeast corridor.
The storm forced the cancellation of thousands of flights across the U.S. and slowed traffic on roads, leading to a number of accidents, including a fatal crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Morgantown that led to a series of fender-benders involving 50 cars that stranded some motorists for up to seven hours. More than two dozen vehicles were involved in another series of crashes on nearby Interstate 78.
What was forecast in the Philadelphia area to be a tame storm system with about an inch of snow gradually changing over to rain mushroomed into a full-blown snowstorm that snarled mid-afternoon traffic along Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania from the Delaware to New Jersey state lines.
Paul Jones, 24, a youth hockey coach from Warminster in the Philadelphia suburbs, was on his way to a game in Lancaster when he got stuck - along with his fiancee, another coach and three players - in a major backup on the turnpike.
The roadway was "snow-covered, slick," Jones said in an interview from the car, where he was a passenger and had been at a standstill for more than an hour.
"People are in and out" of their vehicles, he said. "Kids are having a snowball fight on the side of the road, making snow angels, people are walking their dogs."
The National Weather Service said the low pressure system from North Carolina north to New England was being fed by disturbances from the southwest and moist air off the Atlantic.
A foot of snow was reported in Newark, Del. Philadelphia International Airport received 8.6 inches Sunday, more than it had all of last year. Other areas received far less: a little over an inch was reported in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, which usually is hit harder than downtown Philadelphia.
The forecast for early Monday remained up in the air for the northeast, depending on how quickly the system moves and temperatures rise, according to the National Weather Service.
The expectation was for another weather system moving out of Virginia to follow the same path as Sunday's storm overnight. It was expected to dump icy drizzle and eventually freezing rain from Philadelphia northward through the New York City area and into Boston, National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Heavener said.
"The commute for people in the Philadelphia area and north, to northern New Jersey and New York will likely be disrupted by freezing rain," Heavener said.
The snow fell so heavily in Philadelphia on Sunday that yard markers at Lincoln Financial Field - where the Eagles beat the Detroit Lions - were completely obscured. It was almost as bad in Pittsburgh, where the snow intensified after the opening kickoff.
Philadelphia fan Dave Hamilton, of Ivyland, layered up for the game, wearing an Eagles shirt topped with an Eagles sweatshirt and Eagles winter coat.
"Twenty-seven years I've been a season-ticket holder, I've never seen snow at the game like this," he said. "It just kept coming down. But we are all having fun out there."
The tracking website Flightaware.com estimates more than 2,500 flights were cancelled nationwide as of Sunday evening and more than 6,000 flights were delayed. That follows two days of similarly difficult travel conditions.
Philadelphia International Airport had a temporary ground stop Sunday afternoon with snow totals around 4 to 6 inches. Spokeswoman Stacey Jackson said a number of passengers were expected to remain in the airport overnight since area hotels had been full for several days. She said staff would hand out pillows and blankets to travelers to make them "feel at home even though they are not."
Air passengers in the Washington-area experienced increasing delays as the season's first real snowstorm set in. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said many flights had been delayed at Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports.
Virginia, parts of West Virginia and the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area braced for blackouts under steady freezing rain, wet snow and sleet. Parts of northwest and southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia were getting snow, while sleet and freezing rain prevailed west and north of Richmond.
In Maryland, a chain-reaction accident on Interstate 81 in Washington County involving more than 20 vehicles delayed snow removal efforts for hours. The highway was closed for more than three hours after a tractor-trailer ran into the median to avoid cars that had spun out. It was hit by another tractor-trailer that overturned and spilled its load. Several other tractor-trailers ran off the road and jackknifed as their drivers tried to avoid the crash.
North Texas started to thaw out slightly Sunday after two days of a near standstill with icy roads and low temperatures. About 400 departures from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport were canceled Sunday. It will likely be a couple of days before the ice that's coated the region melts completely.
The snowstorm raised fears about a potentially dangerous Monday morning commute, with snow-laden cars and perilous, icy roads. New Jersey's new U.S. senator, Cory Booker, tweeted a promise to a Mount Holly resident to help him shovel out his car if he still needed the help in the morning.
But the heavy snow wasn't limited to the East Coast. A snowstorm that hit along the Utah-Arizona border left hundreds of travelers stranded on Interstate 15 overnight into Sunday. The Arizona Highway Patrol said passengers in about 300 vehicles became stranded after up to 10 inches of snow and slick road conditions prompted the closure of part of the highway. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.