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Jesse Jackson Jr., promising political scion, resigns

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Jesse Jackson Jr. is the namesake son of one of the most prominent black men in the United States, a progressive-minded activist whose ascent into public life prompted talk of a new era of African-American political power.

In the early years, speculation swirled around the Democratic representative to the U.S. House and his appetite and ambition, almost all of it positive. Would he be the next mayor of Chicago? The next U.S. senator from Illinois?

Two years after he was elected to Congress, Newsweek magazine asked if the then 32-year-old Democrat would one day capture the prize that eluded his father, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and become the first black president.

The sky's-the-limit speculation didn't appear to unnerve Jackson. "I grew up in a house with great expectations," he told the Chicago Tribune in 1995.

In recent years, the expectations withered and the speculation took a more sinister turn, especially after Jackson's name was linked to the political corruption scandal that brought down former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

In recent weeks, it was rumored and reported that Jackson would resign from the House in a plea deal with prosecutors.

On Wednesday, the 47-year-old's political career came to a halt. Weighed down by mental illness and the investigation, Jackson submitted his resignation to House Speaker John Boehner.

His career was book-ended by scandal. Jackson was sent to Congress in December 1995 after winning a special election to replace Representative Mel Reynolds, a Democrat forced to resign after he was convicted of sexual assault and other charges.

During a 17-year House career, Jackson was a reliable liberal vote, supporting minimum wage increases, expansion of environmental regulations and gay rights and the 2008 bailout of the teetering financial system. He was also an early advocate of a strict timeline for the U.S. exit from Iraq.

But Jackson sponsored little successful legislation and in recent years he repeatedly introduced a series of quixotic constitutional amendments guaranteeing rights he said were grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The amendments never got anywhere.

His other pet project was pushing for a third major Chicago airport - a facility opposed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Mayor Richard Daley. Critics considered it a boondoggle.

His fight with Daley over the airport was among the matters that led Jackson to criticize what he characterized as a "smog of corruption and cover-ups" at City Hall. He appeared to be positioning himself to run against the long-serving mayor.

But when Democrats took control of both houses of Congress in the 2006 elections, Jackson sensed opportunity in Washington and squelched talk he was interested in unseating Daley.


Jesse Jackson Jr. was born on March 11, 1965, in Greenville, Alabama, in the middle of America's civil rights struggle while his father was marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery.

He was active in his father's unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988. In between, he spent his 21st birthday in jail after being arrested during an anti-apartheid demonstration at the South African Embassy.

Jackson spent his 20s working for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the rights group founded by his father. He earned a master's degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary and a law degree from the University of Illinois. Shortly after turning 30, he ran for the congressional seat vacated by Reynolds.

After an initial burst of media enthusiasm that greeted his election in 1995, his work rarely generated national headlines.

He continued, in many ways, to be overshadowed by his father, who served as an adviser to the family of President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and then, a few years a later, admitted he had fathered a child out of wedlock.

The younger Jackson was thrust into the spotlight after Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges.

The Illinois governor was convicted on multiple counts, including a charge that he tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by then president-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder.

Jackson's attorney acknowledged his client was "Senate Candidate No. 5," an unnamed politician Blagojevich - in a conversation wiretapped by federal prosecutors - said had sent an emissary who promised to raise more than $1 million for the governor's campaign war chest in exchange for Obama's seat.

Jackson acknowledged his interest in the seat but denied authorizing any offer to Blagojevich on his behalf.

In June of this year, Jackson went on medical leave and has been treated twice at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder, a psychological condition marked by extreme mood swings.

In recent weeks, media outlets reported Jackson had hired a lawyer to handle talks with the U.S. government on a possible plea deal to settle allegations he misused campaign funds.


DRC to Host Francophone Summit

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Heads of state and other representatives from more than 70 French-speaking countries are expected in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for the annual summit of La Francophonie or the French-speaking world, to be held October 12-14. Among them will be French President Francois Hollande, who is expected to deliver a message that may be taken as critical of the host country.

As a former colonial power, France created La Francophonie, and Hollande's predecessors were often accused of trying to perpetuate a French empire through murky deals with undemocratic African leaders.

The current French president, a socialist, has said he wants to break with that past and do more to promote democracy on the continent. When he took office this year, Hollande immediately faced the question of whether to mark French disapproval of flawed elections in the DRC last year by boycotting the summit in Kinshasa.

He has decided to attend but this week described the situation in Congo as unacceptable in terms of rights and democracy. At a news conference in Paris Tuesday he was asked what his message would be in Kinshasa.

Hollande told journalists he would say that French is not just a language of France - it is a language of Africa, and it is also supposed to be a language of values and principles, among them democracy, good governance and the fight against corruption. He said he would deliver this message while in DRC, which he described as a country marked by a certain number of democratic difficulties, but also by difficulties on its borders, a reference to neighboring countries' alleged support for rebels in eastern Congo.

In response, DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende told media in Kinshasa on Wednesday that democracy is more advanced in Congo than elsewhere in central Africa, and that people would come to Kinshasa and see the country is not a failed state but a state like any other.

For French-speaking Africans in general, the French president has a more positive message, which he said he would deliver in Dakar on his way to Kinshasa.

​​Hollande said he will carry a message of France's confidence in Africans' future, of solidarity with their development and of friendship, because France needs a dynamic Africa. He added that he will tell Africa's young people they are an asset and in no way a burden, and that he would deliver this speech in Senegal which, he said, had shown in the past few years its ability to make democracy a reality.

The opposition in the DRC had called for a general strike on Tuesday to signal its dissatisfaction with the state of democracy in the country but cancelled it at the last moment and there has been no announcement of any large demonstration planned during the summit.

However, police trucks with water cannon are standing by. Political observers do not expect any major issues to be resolved at the Francophone summit but the situation in Mali will likely dominate discussions among West African leaders.


Wyclef Jean revisits Fugees, politics in 'Purpose'

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Anyone who needs to catch up with hip-hop star Wyclef Jean just has to refresh his Twitter feed.

"You know I'm direct about everything," says Jean, 42.

Some things need more than a tweet to explain, though, so Jean has written an autobiography, "Purpose" (It Books) on sale Tuesday, that explores his political, financial and personal turmoil, including an extramarital affair with fellow Fugee Lauryn Hill.

The book opens with Jean hearing the news that a catastrophic earthquake has struck Haiti, the Caribbean country where he was born. The Grammy-winning multimillionaire returned home the next morning, trying to make sense of the chaos and overwhelming loss of life.

He kicked his Yele Haiti Foundation into overdrive to help survivors, and the urgency to get Haitians back to work drove Jean to announce his candidacy during Haiti's 2010 presidential elections.

Both efforts, though, eventually left him reeling from criticism over his methods and motives. His presidential campaign was cut short, while Yele faced allegations of financial improprieties that benefited the singer.

In his book, Jean dismisses the problems at Yele as complications of a small charity's sudden growth. After a restructuring, Jean writes, "We are a completely transparent organization and I invite the world's curiosity."

In a conversation with The Associated Press, Jean compares those setbacks with the success he achieved with the Fugees, whose second album "The Score" remains one of the best-selling hip-hop records of all time.


AP: Do you think you're going to run for president of Haiti again in a couple years?

Jean: (chuckling) ... Keep in mind, right, that y'all always say "my run for the presidency" but there's something you all must add _ Wyclef never even got a chance to run for the presidency. It was sort of like, before I could even spit out who my technicians are, what are my policies, it was like, "Yo, this guy don't have no technicians, this guy don't have no policies, he's not running, get him out!" Right now, it's definitely, like, not in the focus.

AP: How was working on a book different from working on an album?

Jean: It takes you back to a place and to a time. I always tell people, the easiest thing for me in the book was talking about the Fugees. Because, you know, you're young, you're rock and roll. The hardest thing in the book was probably talking about my relationship with my dad. Growing up in a Christian household and then defying that and saying I'm going to be a rapper, and after they bring you from Haiti and the expectations, what they expect from you, and the fact that he never really came to my shows. ...

AP: The book brings up some of your personal drama (extramarital affairs, including an on-again, off-again relationship with Hill) and your wife in the books comes off as being one of the most patient people in the world. What was her reaction to the book?

Jean: The main thing about me is, I'm just bluntly honest, you know what I mean? It's like, I'm a man. Beyond my book, it's in my music. If I'm going through something, you'll hear it in my music. Like, if you've heard "The Carnival" _ "To all the girls I've cheated on before, it's a new year ... I'm in love with two women, who is it going to be now?" This is not (something) I waited like 20 years later to be like, boom. I just basically stated the stuff that happened when it happened. ... They say, what's the secret? I say, first, the person I was trying to be with had to be a friend first, and clearly I would say that's how we made it through.

AP: Was there any kind of bitterness when ex-Fugee Pras Michel came out and supported Haitian musician-turned-politician Michel Martelly instead of you early in your so-called run for the president?

Jean: No. ... There's a clear line, you know, between music and politics. And if you decide that you're going to be a political candidate or run for that, then you have to have (what are called in Haitian Creole) "iron pants." You basically have to be ready for everything to come at you, and whatever you expect, expect different. ... As you can see, it was a lot of people coming at me, so that tells me a lot about myself, you know what I mean _ my strengths, and what I possess. I always say, you come at me, I only weigh a buck-seventy-five, but you're coming after what created me and you're going to have a lot on your hands, because that's God.


Ethiopian maids in a severe Arab world

Born in a poor family in Ethiopia, Makiya says she is happy to finally follow in her friends' footsteps. Those steps have taken them far – to the Middle East – but, once abroad, what chances do they really have to get ahead? Many young Ethiopian women are choosing to work as maids in the Arab world. This occupation seems to promise a way out of poverty. But one must ask, ironically, at what price?

"In one month time, Insha'Allah, I will be in Saudi Arabia," says Makiya, her eyes full of hope. "Many of my friends have managed to turn around their family's fortune by working there." Apart from coping with their various expenses, Makiya wants to give her family something lasting. "I want to build them a house. I want to make them proud of me."

The '2012 Trafficking in Persons Report' on Ethiopia published in June by the US Department of State states: "Many Ethiopian women working in domestic service in the Middle East face severe abuses." The report cites a litany of violations, "including physical and sexual assault, denial of salary, sleep deprivation, withholding of passports, confinement, and murder".

Despite the appalling experiences she hears many women face in the Arab world, Makiya says she would rather "take my chances than sit here". The "here" she refers to is Ethiopia's Amhara region, where recent censuses report that at least 80% of the local population are Orthodox Christian.

Still, Makiya is hardly blind to the high chance that things could also go horribly wrong, especially if her migration is not always done in a legal way.

A family affair
A year has passed since Makiya's only sister went missing. She was working for a Saudi Arabian household, but then got fired for reasons still unknown to her family. They never heard from her again.

Meanwhile, Makiya's two brothers have yet to realize their dreams of reaching Saudi Arabia. Having taken an illegal route, they have been trapped in Djibouti and Yemen for many years now. "All of them had the same dream of kicking poverty out of their family, after losing hope farming in a small plot that we have," Makiya says.

"Despite the uncertainty over my sister's and brothers' situation, I could not be in school and wait for miracles to happen for my poor family – with the cost of everything rising up every day – and test my family's existence," explains the young woman.

To increase her chances at legal migration, she had to drop out of grade eight and 'age' herself from 16 to 23. "It does not mean that much when you consider...[how] some of my neighbours have gone there, abandoning their marriages and children," she adds.

Labour migration on the rise
According to the US Department of State's findings, Ethiopia's ministry of labour and social affairs reported "a fourfold increase – from 20,000 to 80,000 – in applications to work overseas in 2011". This statistic, however, is considered to represent only "some 30 to 40 percent of Ethiopians migrating to the Middle East" because "60 to 70 percent of labor migration is facilitated by illegal brokers, increasing migrants' vulnerability to forced labor".

A 2011 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN agency that promotes globally recognized workers' rights, also described "ample evidence that trafficking of Ethiopians as domestic workers for labour exploitation is highly prevalent in Ethiopia". The report added that "the practice has increased recently and the youth are deceived and sometimes coerced into migrating to the Middle East countries".
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Lifestyle gap
Some Ethiopian women who have repatriated from the Arab world urge people, like Makiya, to better prepare for what they will encounter abroad.

"There is a big gap in lifestyle in Ethiopia and the Arab world. Many employers do not want to put up with this kind of situation and start to harass us, instead," says Rosa Tamene, who returned to Ethiopia after a five-year stay in Lebanon and Kuwait, where she worked as a maid.

A concrete suggestion she makes is for women, particularly those from rural areas, to become better acquainted with home appliances, so they are less likely to stumble when dealing with demanding employers.

Tamene also cautions would-be migrant workers against officials who present themselves as helpful. "Agents, legal or illegal, who have [made promises] at recruitment stage are not only very poor at protecting migrant domestic workers safety, but may also inflict abuse on workers at times," she says. "When in need, our embassies and officials working there are not exercising their responsibility of helping us protecting our safety either. That needs to change a lot."

Binyam Tamene, RNW

Tunisian economy extends recover in second quarter

Tunisia's economy extended its gradual recovery from last year's political turmoil in the second quarter of 2012 led by a strong rebound in tourism, but remains beneath the government's growth target for the year.

"The growth rate during the second quarter of 2012 amounted to 2.1 percent compared to the same period last year...growth during the first half of the year is 3.3 percent," the country's statistics institute said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tourism revenues the first source of foreign currency grew in the first half of 2012 by 35 percent compared to the same period last year to $723 mln.

The economy shrank 1.8 percent in 2011 when the popular revolution which ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali closed factories and deterred tourists and investors.

It now faces problems as a result of the crisis in the euro zone, the main market for its exports and the source of most of its tourists.

Tunisia's finance ministry has set 3.5 percent as its growth target for 2012, rowing back on early hopes that the economy would bounce back with more than 4.5 percent growth.

The International Monetary Fund said at the start of August that Tunisia's medium-term growth prospects are favourable but maintaining economic stability is essential as the country tries to emerge from last year's political upheaval.

A moderate Islamist party won elections held soon after the revolution and now leads a coalition government. The party's leaders have sought to reassure investors and tourists but successive protests and strikes organized by left-wing secular opponents have undermined efforts to boost the economy.