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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe honored at state funeral, burial delayed
By ANDREW MELDRUM and FARAI MUTSAKA | Sat, September 14, 2019 09:10 EDT
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — African heads of state joined thousands of Zimbabweans at a state funeral Saturday for Zimbabwe’s founding president, Robert Mugabe , whose burial has been delayed for at least a month until a special mausoleum can be built for his remains.
More than 10 African leaders and several former presidents attended the service and viewing of the body of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at age 95, at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare. The crowd filling about 30% of the 60,000 capacity of the Chinese-built stadium. Most of those attending were supporters of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa drew boos from the crowd, as a result of the recent attacks in Johannesburg on foreigners, including Zimbabweans. An official pleaded with the stadium crowd to let him speak. Ramaphosa apologized for the attacks.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta described Mugabe as “a great icon of African liberation” and “a visionary leader and relentless champion of African dignity.”
The announcement Friday evening that that burial will be postponed until the building of a new resting place at the national Heroes’ Acre Monument is the latest turn in a dramatic wrangle between Mugabe’s family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a once-trusted deputy who helped oust Mugabe from power.
Mnangagwa presided over Saturday’s ceremony, attended by Mugabe’s widow Grace, who wore a black veil.
“A giant tree of Africa has fallen,” said Mnangagwa, who hailed Mugabe as “a bold, steadfast revolutionary.”
He praised Mugabe for seizing land from white farmers. “To him, this was the grievance of all grievances of our people,” Mnangagwa said. “The land has now been reunited with the people and the people have been reunited with the land.” He also called on Western countries to remove sanctions imposed during Mugabe’s era.
“Go Well Our Revolutionary Icon” and “Farewell Gallant Son of the Soil” were among the banners praising Mugabe, who led the bitter guerrilla war to end white-minority rule in the country then known as Rhodesia. Mugabe was Zimbabwe’s first leader and ruled the country from 1980 for 37 years, from years of prosperity to economic ruin and repression.
He was deposed in 2017 by the military and Mnangagwa in a bloodless coup that was marked by more than 100,000 people demonstrating in Harare’s streets to demand that he step down. Following Mugabe’s resignation, Mnangagwa took power and won elections the next year on campaign promises he would improve the collapsed economy and create jobs. But Zimbabwe’s economy has lurched from crunch to crisis and some in the crowd expressed the view that life was better under Mugabe’s rule.
“Bread was less than a dollar when we marched against him (Mugabe). It is now $9,” said Munashe Gudyanga, 18. “I am just here to say ‘Sorry, President Mugabe, we didn’t know things will be worse.'”
Some in the stadium sang an impromptu farewell to Mugabe, “When you left bread was a dollar,” lyrics that implicitly criticized Mnangagwa, whose nearly two-year rule has been marked by rising prices, with inflation currently more than 175%.
The visiting leaders viewed Mugabe’s the partially open casket, followed by a 21-gun salute, a flypast by Zimbabwean air force jets and the release of 95 doves, to mark Mugabe’s 95 years.
Mugabe’s body is to be viewed in his birthplace, Zvimba, on Sunday and then will be held in preservation until the new mausoleum is ready.
In downtown Harare, many Zimbabweans were busy with their weekend errands, and expressed little interest in the funeral, which was open to the public.
“What will I get if I go there? What will Mugabe do for me now that he failed to do when he was alive?” said Amelia Tukande, who was selling cellphone chargers along Harare’s Samora Machel Avenue that leads to the stadium. “It is a waste of time. I have to work for my family.”
Others said they would have wanted to attend the funeral but cannot afford transport fares.
“I didn’t like him, but I still wanted to attend just to see for myself that he is gone … but kombis (minivan taxis) want $3.50 just to get to the stadium,” said Amos Siduna, waiting in line at a bank to get cash, which is in short supply. “That’s too much money for me just to go and say ‘bye bye’ to a corpse. Mugabe’s corpse. No.”
The mourning period for Mugabe’s death has been marked by the ongoing drama over where, when and how the ex-strongman will be buried. The new resting place will be built near the stadium at Heroes’ Acre, a national burial site for top officials of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party who contributed to ending white colonial rule
The mausoleum will be at an elevated site above the other graves, according to Mnangagwa and a Mugabe family spokesman.
Grace had previously insisting on a private burial rather than the state funeral and burial in a simple plot alongside other national heroes planned by the government.
“We are building a mausoleum for our founding father at the top of the hill at Heroes’ Acre,” Mnangagwa said on state television Friday night, consenting to the Mugabe family’s wishes.
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Congo police detain ex-health minister in Ebola funds probe
By SALEH MWANAMILONGO | Sat, September 14, 2019 10:38 EDT
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Police in Congo have detained the former minister of health amid an investigation into the use of Ebola funds as confirmed Ebola deaths rose to near 2,000 and confirmed cases of the virus exceeded 3,000 in the sprawling African nation.
Former Minister of Health Oly Ilunga was taken into custody, police said in a statement Saturday.
Ilunga resigned in July to protest President Felix Tshisekedi’s decision to take over the management of the response to the world’s second deadliest Ebola outbreak, which is ongoing now in eastern Congo, from Ilunga. As he resigned, Ilunga deplored the lack of cooperation between him, the president and the prime minister in response to the deadly Ebola outbreak.
Police said Saturday that Ilunga had been arrested less than a month ago for misdemeanor offenses involving the mishandling of funds and he was released. He has since made plans to travel to the neighboring Republic of Congo, they said, adding he was taken into custody to make sure he would not avoid legal proceedings.
Congo’s National Ebola Response Committee released the latest Ebola numbers Friday after a discussion in Goma by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church about efforts to help stem the spread of Ebola in communities. A mistrust of health workers and widespread security issues still threaten the fight against the Ebola outbreak in a region where armed groups have fought for decades over the mineral-rich land.
The committee reported there were 3,002 confirmed Ebola cases with 1,974 confirmed deaths.
The World Health Organization said Friday they recorded 40 new cases of Ebola — the lowest weekly incidence of Ebola since March 2019 — but said it was unclear if this positive trend would continue.
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Women’s Hall of Fame inducts Sotomayor, Fonda, Allred
By CAROLYN THOMPSON | Sat, September 14, 2019 04:39 EDT
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, actress Jane Fonda and attorney Gloria Allred were among the inductees at the National Women’s Hall of Fame on Saturday.
The Class of 2019 inducted into the hall in upstate New York also included activist Angela Davis , attorney Sarah Deer, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg , retired Air Force fighter pilot Nicole Malachowski, the late artist and suffragist Rose O’Neill and the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York.
Composer Laurie Spiegel was honored for her electronic music compositions, and molecular biologist Flossie Wong-Staal for work that helped prove HIV is the cause of AIDS.
Davis, a onetime leader of the Black Panther Party and the Communist Party USA who was prosecuted for her alleged involvement in a 1970 courthouse shootout and ultimately acquitted, said her activism was not hers alone.
“At each significant turning point in my life, when I was introduced to the world of progressive political activism, anti-racist prison abolition struggles, when I myself was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List and ended up spending two years in jail and on trial, when I became involved in many international solidarity efforts, intersectional feminist movements, I’ve always been one of many,” Davis said in accepting her award. “My own consciousness has been enabled always by shared endeavors and collective consciousness.”
The hall in Seneca Falls, where a landmark U.S. women’s rights convention took place in 1848, doesn’t identify a theme when it calls for nominations, said induction chairwoman Sujatha Ramanujan. But she said sometimes a theme emerges, as it has this year, that reflects the political and social mood of the country.
“It shows up in the nominations because we ask the general public,” Ramanujan said, “and in a time when women are feeling like their voices need to be heard, they’re nominating women whose voices were loud.”
She pointed particularly to Allred and her work as an advocate for women who have been abused and to Deer, a Native American activist focused on victims’ rights.
All the living honorees accepted invitations to the induction weekend events.
“I feel this connection, and I always have felt it — even before I knew I was going to be inducted — to the women’s rights pioneers who came before me,” said Allred , who at 78 continues to represent accusers in high-profile sexual misconduct cases including those against the late financier Jeffrey Epstein and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“We still have more battles to fight in this war against women,” Allred, citing the decades-long push to ratify the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution, said in a telephone interview.
Fonda’s selection led the Seneca Falls town supervisor to threaten to pull funding from the site. Greg Lazzaro wrote in a resolution, which did not pass, that Fonda’s activism during the Vietnam War “brought divisiveness to our country.”
The actress drew bitter criticism after being photographed atop an anti-aircraft gun during a 1972 visit to North Vietnam, a moment she has said she regrets.
“There’s always going to be dissent,” Ramanujan said, recalling past pickets and protests, including surrounding the induction of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger in 1981. She said that Fonda is being honored for a lifetime of achievement and that the hall stands by the selection.
“We don’t cull the list because of protest,” Ramanujan said. “We do also respect that people have different opinions, and we mean no disrespect to anyone.”
Fonda could not be reached to comment before the induction. She told The Associated Press last year that she welcomes her encounters with Vietnam War veterans because they provide an opportunity to talk.
After being nominated by the public, the inductees are chosen by a panel of experts based on their contributions in arts, athletics, business, education, government, humanities, philanthropy or science. A new class is inducted every other year.
This year, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America who helped eliminate the pageant’s swimsuit competition, was the master of ceremonies.
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Hong Kong festival marked with pro-democracy messages
By EILEEN NG | Fri, September 13, 2019 11:41 EDT
HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of Hong Kong people carried lanterns with pro-democracy messages and formed human chains on two of the city’s peaks during mid-autumn festival celebrations Friday night, sustaining months-long protests for democratic reforms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Activists and ordinary citizens climbed atop Lion Rock and Victoria Peak, two of the city’s popular hills, flashing lights to illuminate human chains around the ridges. Activists unfurled a long black banner at Lion Rock calling for democratic elections.
Thousands of others gathered at public parks, the harbor front and malls, forming links, chanting slogans and singing protest songs. Many wrote messages calling for more democracy on paper lanterns.
The demonstrations, which began in June over an extradition bill that the government has now agreed to withdraw, are expected to continue because protesters have widened their demands to include direct elections for their leaders and police accountability.
Concerns over safety or disruptions caused by the protests have led to the cancellation or postponement of a series of events including K-pop concerts, Chanel fashion shows and international conferences. This week, a tennis tournament and London musical were shelved.
Organizers said Friday the Hong Kong Open women’s tennis tournament scheduled for Oct. 5-13 has been postponed indefinitely. The event was to be held at Victoria Park, a gathering point for many previous protests.
Earlier this week, protesters in the stands at a World Cup soccer qualifier match between Hong Kong and Iran loudly booed the Chinese national anthem and chanted pro-democracy slogans. Iran’s request for a venue change had been rejected.
Lunchbox Theatrical Productions called off a monthlong run of the London West End musical “Matilda” at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Acts that was to open Sept. 20. It said the civil unrest has affected ticket sales and that it cannot guarantee the safety of its young performers.
More than 1,300 people have been arrested since the protests began in June. The unrest has further battered Hong Kong’s economy, which was already reeling from the U.S.-China trade war. Tourist numbers have plunged, and businesses have been hit as protesters refuse to yield until their demands are met.
Many saw the extradition bill, which would have allowed some Hong Kong suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial, as an example of Hong Kong’s autonomy eroding since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The city’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, said Friday he regretted that his comments over the weekend calling for a way out for the mostly young protesters had been misrepresented after he was berated by Beijing.
In a video broadcast on local TV, the billionaire had described the summer of unrest as the worst catastrophe since World War II and urged the government to temper justice with mercy. Chang’an Jian, a social media account belonging to the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, said in a post late Thursday that Li’s remarks shielded those who committed crimes, and that he was not thinking about what was good for Hong Kong.
A spokesman for Li said in a statement that he does not condone violence and illegal acts, and hopes all parties will create space and initiate a dialogue to resolve the deadlock.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s government dismissed a warning from Canadian think tank Fraser Institute that Chinese interference and the police crackdown on protesters were threatening the city’s position as one of the world’s freest economies.
“Such comments are entirely ungrounded and not borne out by objective facts,” it said in a statement late Thursday. It defended the police, saying they used reasonable force to halt increasing violence by protesters.
At a human rights conference in Taipei on Friday, Hong Kong singer and activist Denise Ho called for international support against mainland Chinese intrusions and government tyranny.
She accused China of pressuring celebrities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China to take sides. Last month, Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria denied a request by a Chinese artist to host an event that would feature a talk about democracy and Hong Kong, while Hong Kong activists were banned from a gay parade in Montreal after threats of sabotage by pro-China supporters, she said.
“We want a total political reform of the Hong Kong government,” she told the Oslo Freedom Forum. “When government institutions and corporates have their hands tied, it is up to the people to get back that authority … we can find solutions as a global community.”
China has denied meddling in Hong Kong affairs, and accused foreign powers of fomenting the unrest.
AP journalists Alice Fung in Hong Kong and Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report.
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Woman arrested after throwing liquid on California Senate
By ADAM BEAM | Sat, September 14, 2019 08:43 EDT
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California police have arrested a woman who threw a feminine hygiene device containing “what appeared to be blood” onto the floor of the state Senate, splashing onto lawmakers and forcing them to finish their work in a committee room on the final day of the legislative session.
Senators had just finished taking a vote about 5:14 p.m. Friday when a woman tossed the substance onto the floor of the Senate from the public gallery, saying: “That’s for the dead babies.”
The California Highway Patrol identified the woman as 43-year-old Rebecca Dalelio. She faces several charges, including assault, vandalism and disrupting “the orderly conduct of official business” at the state Capitol.
Police say Dalelio walked out of the gallery and did not resist when she was arrested. The news release did not give a motive, referring to the woman as a “demonstrator.” But the action came as hundreds of people protested at the Capitol against a recently signed state law seeking to crack down on fraudulent medical exemptions for vaccinations.
The Sacramento Bee reports that Dalelio posted $10,000 bail and was released from the Sacramento County Main Jail on Saturday, according to sheriff’s department records.
Several lawmakers sought to link the woman to the protesters, including Sen. Richard Pan, who last month was shoved in the back by a protester as he was walking near the Capitol.
“This incident was incited by the violent rhetoric perpetuated by leaders of the antivaxx movement,” Pan said in a news release. “As their rhetoric escalates, their incidents of violence does as well. This is an attack on the democratic process and it must be met with strong condemnation by everyone.”
The drama unfolded on the final day of the Legislative session, with lawmakers still having several key bills to debate before adjourning for the year. With authorities still investigating what the substance was, Senate leadership decided lawmakers would finish their work in a smaller committee room. Legislative aides scrambled to move the Senate’s work to the room as journalists and others watched from an upstairs balcony.
“A crime was committed today, but the Senate will not be deterred from completing the Senate’s business,” Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins told lawmakers as the Senate reconvened.
Many Republicans had opposed the vaccine bill. But on Friday, Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove condemned the act and apologized to her colleagues for the disruption.
“The person that is in question should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Grove said.
Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer said the liquid landed on his head. He also said five other senators were struck by the liquid.
“I’m going to take a shower,” Glazer told reporters crowded in the hallway outside the Senate chambers. “We have work to do.”