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August 2006 Archives

Senator has a front-row seat as lion devours wildebeest

MASAI MARA, Kenya - "Nice fresh kill," said Sen. Barack Obama to his family, mesmerized, as were a string of other people on safari, at the remarkable sight of a lion eating a wildebeest.


NAIROBI, Kenya -- The African journeys of Sen. Barack Obama are paid for by U.S. taxpayers who foot the bills for hotels, food, ground transportation, commercial plane rides, military aircraft put at his disposal and Navy escorts who accompany him wherever he goes.

NAIROBI, Kenya—At the first of two tree plantings on the Monday schedule of Sen. Barack Obama, he appeared with a Kenyan hero, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

NAIROBI,Kenya--The Keynan government took out an ad in a Monday paper to dispute Sen. Barack Obama's charge that Chicago TV crews had to pay bribes to get their equipment through customs when they entered the country.



NAIROBI, Kenya—The African journeys of Sen. Barack Obama are paid for by U.S. taxpayers who foot the bills for hotels, food, ground transportation, commercial plane rides, military aircraft put at his disposal and Navy escorts who accompany him wherever he goes.

The unusual amount of publicity surrounding Obama’s trip to South Africa, Kenya, Djibouti and Chad (the Congo leg was dropped) has raised a number of questions from readers about how all this travel is financed.

NAIROBI, Kenya—Swamped by thousands of Kenyan fans at the memorial to victims of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy here, Barack Obama also on Friday pressured the Kenyan government to refund what he said was shakedown money two Chicago tv crews were forced to pay at the airport to get their equipment out of customs.
On Friday night, Obama foreign affairs advisor Mark Lippert showed up at the hotel where Obama and traveling press was staying with wads of cash in brown envelopes—one for CBS2 Chicago with $1,000 and another of about 59,000 Kenyan shillings, about $800 to the Chicago based Media Process Group, which is taping Obama’s Africa travels.

NAIROBI, Kenya---Sen. Barack Obama told Kenyan President Kibaki on Friday that two Chicago TV crews faced shake-downs at the Nairobi airport and paid bribes of $800 and $1,000 to get their equipment past customs agents.

Obama made the statement during a morning meeting with the Kenyan president and a number of other ministers. The Illinois Senator, who already planned to deliver a speech on government corruption here, mentioned the incidents during a discussion, a source in the U.S. embassy in Nairobi told me.

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Streets leading from the Jomo Kenyatta airport closed Thursday for Barack Obama's motorcade in a visit to his father's homeland, where the Illinois senator is being treated as a head of state.

There was a costly welcome two camera crews covering Sen. Barack Obama's African trip got when they tried to get past customs at Nairobi's airport

NAIROBI, Kenya-A 12-car motorcade sped Barack Obama from the airport here to his hotel as streets were closed down to give a head of state welcome to the U.S. Senator considered a native son.

Sweet Column: Obama frenzy in Kenya?


PRETORIA, South Africa -- Barack Obama flies from here to Kenya today, and dispatches from a Kenyan medical student vividly describe the soaring expectations over the return of the almost native son.

On to Nairobi with CODEL OBAMA

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa---Sen. Barack Obama and the U.S. based press corps traveling with him move on to Nairobi today.

Once in Kenya, the group of 11 or so writers and photographers who have been covering Obama's African trip--enough to fit into a van--will swell into a convoy. Both Chicago papers sent staffers on the trip who started with the Illinois Senator in Cape Town. At least three Chicago television stations place a Chicago-based wire reporter are expected to be coming on board in Nairobi.

PRETORIA, South Africa -- In this country, Sen. Barack Obama is having trouble getting a meeting with the president. When he gets to Kenya in a few days, his deceased father's homeland, Obama will be treated practically as if he were a head of state.

"Now, I just have to remind everyone that I'm not a Kenyan politician,'' Obama said Tuesday.

PRETORIA, South Africa-- Sen. Barack Obama cancelled a Congo sidetrip after fighting erupted following the nation’s first presidential balloting in more than 40 years, triggering a runoff election.

The U.S. embassy asked Obama to drop the visit set for later this week, not because of specific danger to the Illinois Democrat but because embassy personnel who would have been detailed to the Obama delegation were needed elsewhere in the wake of events.

CAPE TOWN , South Africa-- Sen. Barack Obama, in a dramatic gesture aimed at African men who won't confront the dangers of a deadly disease, said he will publicly take an HIV test in the village where his Kenyan father once lived.

Tutu: Touts Obama for president


Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu just met with Sen. Barack Obama at his office in a drab office mall outside of Cape Town.

He volunteered that Obama would make a good president.

Obama's camp has given up dousing talk of a White House run.

Tutu bringing up Obama's future was extremely off message.

"You are going to be a very credible presidential candidate," the impish Tutu cackled.

Obama flinched. "Oh no, don't do that."
"Fortunately, because he has my complexion, we can't see that he is blushing," Tutu said.

As the two headed to a private meeting, Tutu was asked why he was high on Obama's prospects.

"People are looking for leaders of whom they could be proud."

Such incongruity this morning for CODEL OBAMA.


" One of the things I will be doing in Kenya is probably getting an AIDS test myself in front of the cameras,'' said Obama, whose celebrity in Kenya--where his father was born far exceeds his name recognition in South Africa.

Obama says that he wants to be "leading by example.''

We travel from our plush oceanfront Table Bay hotel to a shantytown in Khayelitsha Township, a horrific legacy of apartheid. I go from photographing a chance encounter Sen. Barack Obama has with jazz freat Ramsey Lewis--in South Africa for a concert in Johannesburg--to looking through a viewfinder at homehuts no bigger than yard shed in Chicago--and hearing militant South African AIDS activist Zackie Achmat denounce the policies of the U.S. Congress when it comes to putting strings on AIDS money--stressing abstainance programs instead of condom use.

I'm filing this in the few minutes I have with an internet connect before we move on--Obama is to meet with former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Sweet Column: A humbling visit to Mandela's cell

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- It took Nelson Mandela 18 years to travel round trip between the coast of this city and Robben Island, just off the shore. On Sunday, Sen. Barack Obama, after ferry rides of less than 30 minutes each way, saw for himself where the most famous opponent of apartheid was imprisoned.

Just after 7 a.m., Obama walked from the luxurious oceanfront Table Bay Hotel to the launch that would take the Illinois senator and a press entourage in tow to the former prison, now a museum, historic site and nature preserve, this particular morning hosting hundreds of African penguins sunning themselves.



Back at the Table Bay Hotel, where we are staying in Cape Town, I ran into Sen. Barack Obama in the workout room in the late afternoon.

He was exercising with weights, wearing a t-shirt and running pants. Though I now walk around armed with a still camera and video recorder—a newly spawned converged journalist—Obama said he preferred I not shoot him working out.

In all the new places CODEL OBAMA will be in the next few days—especially Kenya and refugee camps in Chad—it seemed arguing about photos and Obama’s zone of privacy could be put off for later.

I pondered all this as I did some pushups.

En route: Obama Amsterdam stop


Blogger Sweet here--filing short on Blackberry from airport in Amsterdam. I'm with Sen. Barack Obama's traveling party en route to Cape Town, South Africa for the first leg of his African visit.

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barack Obama leaves today for a 17-day, six-country African visit, returning to his deceased father's Kenyan home, scrambling to retool the trip at the last minute because of the reluctance of Sudan to grant him a visa.

First Lady Laura Bush hits Chicago on Monday as the name draw at a fundraiser for GOP 6th District candidate Peter Roskam.

It's the first of a string of GOP fundraisers for the first lady in the coming days.

Former President Bill Clinton lands in Chicago Oct. 23 for an event to benefit Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) and Dem contender Tammy Duckworth, who is running against Roskam.

Duckworth--who has been raising more money than almost any other House candidate in the country--in the next few weeks starts getting the help from celebs who want to be the draw for her events. Make that songwriters singers Burt Bacharach and Carole King plus former veep now movie star Al Gore.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Ct.) lost his Democratic primary on Tuesday...

The former vice presidential candidate--Al Gore's runningmate in 2000--vowed to stay in the race....and get on the November ballot as an Independent.

I just wrapped up a live guest shot on ``The Bob Edwards Show' on XM Public Radio on XM Satellite Radio channel 133. Beautiful studios--the visuals are great. But wait wait! It's radio!.

I was filling in for David Broder, the dean of political reporters, who writes for the Washington Post. Edwards and I talked about the big political and government stories of the day--with Fidel Castro ill, the transition in Cuban leadership; why there is an uptick on President Bush's approval ratings; and the GOP ploy in linking a hike in the minimum wage to a cut in the inheritance tax.

Edwards is recovering from a softball injury.

XM radio is based in Washington.

Helen Thomas' new book, Watchdogs of Democracy? -- her missive on the failings of the Washington press corps, especially on reporting surrounding the Iraq war -- may as well have saved the question mark in the title and just been named "Lapdogs." Thomas has covered every president since John F. Kennedy, and her latest book is a combination memoir, press critique, tutorial on various White House message management techniques and an assessment of assorted White House press secretaries.

It's the biggest Democratic gathering in Chicago since the city hosted the Democratic National Convention in 1996.

Dems from across the country will meet in Chicago later this month as the Democratic National Committee holds its annual summer meeting. DNC chairman Howard Dean will preside. On the agenda: selection rules for the delegates to the 2008 presidential nominating convention. In a city to be determined.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the boss of the House Democratic political operation, has scooped up tv ad time in 32 of the top tier congressional district races--including the two biggies in Illinois.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $2.33 million in air time for Dem Tammy Duckworth, running against Peter Roskam in the west suburban 6th CD and $2.32 million for Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) who is being challenged by David McSweeney in the north suburban eighth CD.

These numbers come from The Hill, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) are asking Congress to allow Lebanese nationals already in the U.S. to stay for a year because of the Israeli-Hezbullah fighting in Lebanon.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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