FOCUS/midwest

Founded in 1962 by Charles L. Klotzer

Archive for December 2008

Why there were no Christmas trees in Gondar

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This is a Christmas story, but it is an Ethiopian Christmas story.

A few days ago, in mid-December, Wossenseged failed to show up for class. He never misses school so this was notable, disturbing even in these notable and disturbing times. For nearly two years, Grazamatch Hailu and Weisero Zawaditu had sent this their youngest among several sons for schooling at the Gondar International Elementary School; every school day he would arrived in a Land Rover accompanied by a guard with a rifle held so it was visible to everyone they passed. ethiopia

Wossenseged has grown tall now. He is a big boy for seven, with a serious disposition, an expressionless face, protruding eyes and rather pale skin and a real flair for math. He is the youngest child of his father’s old age, and comes to school in scrupulously clean clothing, worn with washing, carefully patched and mended. I have wondered at Wossenseged’s demeanor and dress. Because he is the youngest in a large family of a traditional aristocrat — a Grazmatch — and his mother has the prestigious position of President of the Gondar branch of the Haile Selassie I Women’s Welfare Association, he is probably being raised by loving servant women, and cash may be a lot scarcer for such traditional Ethiopian families, no matter how respected they are, especially if you are the youngest of many. On the other hand, I sometimes wonder whether there is an effort to send Wossenseged out into the world very plainly clothed so as not to attract attention, gossip or jealousy from his father’s enemies. Whatever the case, Wossenseged contradicts the adage that the dress makes the man, for all the other boys in the class — there is only one girl in the group of 10 — look to Wossenseged for leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

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December 21, 2008 at 4:15 pm

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Obama: This isn’t just a problem with politics in Illinois

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barack-obamaPresident-elect Barack Obama, at a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 11, was asked by a network reporter, “What’s wrong with politics in Illinois?” Here’s how Obama, who on Wednesday called on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to resign, responded:

“First of all, I can’t presume to know what was in the mind of the governor during this process so I won’t speculate on that. All I can do is read what was in the transcripts — like the rest of you who’ve read it — and shake my head.

“Now, with respect to Illinois, look as I said, in Illinois as is true in American politics generally there are two views of politics. There’s a view of politics that you go into this for sacrifice and service. And there’s a view of politics that says this is a business and you’re wheeling and dealing — and [asking] ‘what’s in it for me?’

“One thing I want to make sure everybody is mindful of: There are extraordinary traditions of public service coming out of Illinois, even after Abraham Lincoln. You’ve got people like Paul Simon, Paul Douglas, our current [senior] senator Dick Durbin, and many others, on both sides of the aisle who have upheld the highest standards of ethics and have made enormous sacrifices to make sure they’re getting something done for the people of Illinois. Read the rest of this entry »

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December 11, 2008 at 11:43 am

Read the criminal complaint against the governor of Illinois

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elvis1Here’s the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested along with his chief of staff, John Harris, on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

Blagojevich is accused of soliciting bribes and mail fraud: attempting to “sell” president-elect Barack Obama’s senate seat and seeking to trade state favors in exchange for the dismissal of editorial writers for The Chicago Tribune. But the criminal complaint outlines a broad pattern of “pay-to-play” activity during the governor’s two terms.

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald, at a press conference Tuesday in Chicago, said the complaint represents an “appalling statement about what’s been happening in Illinois government.”

“We’re not going to end corruption in Illinois with arrests and indictments alone,” Fitzgerald said. “We need people in the public to stand up and say, ‘Enough!’ ”

Illinoisans elected Blagojevich, a 45-year-old Democratic congressman from Chicago, in November 2002 after enduring years of Republican corruption in Springfield. “It is time, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for a government that’s as good and as honest and as hard-working as the people of this great state,” Blagojevich said, claiming victory.

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December 9, 2008 at 11:55 am