NEWS STAND: Obama's Speech, Caucus Friction, Atlanta Stays Black, China in Africa



The brother can preach. U.S. President Barack Obama delivered another dazzling speech this morning as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, an award that many Americans say he doesn't deserve. In his far-reaching Nobel "lecture," as the speech is called, the President acknowledged the controversy and said he could not argue with those who said there were people more deserving. Compared to Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and other past winners, he said, "My accomplishments are slight."


The President's speech seemed to aim at a number of constituencies: Europeans reluctant to commit to the fight in Afghanistan, conservatives in his own country who have criticized his plan to shut down Guantanamo and adhere to the Geneva Conventions, and even his African-American base, which has stuck by him even as other Americans have become disillusioned.

Obama took on the contradiction between the Peace Prize and his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. "Make no mistake; evil does exist in the world," he declared before a capacity audience in the city hall of Oslo, Norway, " A non-violent movement would not have halted Hitler's armies."  At the same time, the President repeatedly referred to Martin Luther King to John F. Kennedy and to Mahatma Gandhi in addressing the gap between the ideal of peace and harsh reality. "There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified."

TheRoot associate editor Dayo Olopade gets into the guts of the piece in her blog post:


Blacks in Congress are not seeing eye-to-eye on everything with the Obama administration. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) who earlier led nine black members in blocking a financial reform bill backed by President Obama, said Wednesday that her group was satisfied with changes they had won from Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

On Monday, Frank agreed to put $3 billion of TARP funds into mortgage relief for the unemployed. The bill also commits $1 billion for state and local governments to buy foreclosed properties and turn them to more productive purposes. "I'm always happy when we win," Waters said.

But other members of the Congressional Black Caucus are still steaming about the President's jobs strategy. After his speech Tuesday proposing tax breaks for small businesses, road building and other incentives to encourage hiring, Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued a statement expressing disappointment that Obama had not specifically addressed the high levels of black unemployment, which are often double those of whites. "We believe that tackling systemic inequality requires specific, concrete and targeted action," Lee said. "The Congressional Black Caucus is committed to working with President Obama to address the needs of those who are hurting most and to ensure that existing disparities don't grow wider."  However, a President who won election b y standing above race is not likely to target specific groups, no matter how much they're hurting.


The full story in the Washington Post


The string of black mayors remains unbroken in Atlanta. A recount confirmed last night that Kassim Reed had defeated City council member Mary Norwood by 714 votes. A recount began after Reed's margin of victory was less than one percent of the total.


Norwood, who represents the mostly-white Buckhead section of the city, has been favored in the election because of Atlanta's growing white population and widespread disaffection with previous city administrations. African Americans have led the city since 1973, when Maynard Jackson became the first black mayor of a major southern city.

Other major cities have had black mayors only to see white politicians regain control including Los Angeles (Tom Bradley), Chicago (Harold Washington) and New York (David Dinkins). Reed, 40, will take office on Jan. 4.


You can read the Atlanta papers' take here.


China's flirtation with African countries has worried some in the West, including the U.S. Seeking natural resources to feed its giant manufacturing machine, China has become the biggest investor in a number of African countries - often those led by unsavory dictators. The big advantage for a lot of countries is that the Chinese deals come with no sticky strings like better governance or observance of human rights as preconditions. In 2006, China signed deals with African countries with $40 billion. Africa now provides a third of China's oil imports.


African experts brush off complaints about China's involvement.  Dambisa Moyo, the Zambian economist who riled western donors with her book "Dead Aid," says: "China's African role is wider, more sophisticated and more businesslike than any other country's at any time in the postwar period." She argues that business deals are more likely to be carried through than government-to-government deals where the money ends up disappearing.

Financial Times columnist David Pilling points out that other countries like Brazil and Russia are also lining up to invest in Africa, a scramble he says has got to be better than the scramble to carve up the continent by European powers a century ago.