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Obama "Wins" Final Debate

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October 22, 2012

Bob Scheiffer of CBS News with President Obama, left, and Republican Mitt RomneyPundits debate Romney's agreements with President; Obama said to be more assured on race; supporters in two cities struggle to honor Ida B. Wells; Dorothy Russell, first Asian American at Washington Post; French journalist attacked, groped in Tahrir Square (10/22/12)

Pundits Debate Romney's Agreements With President

Obama Said to Be More Assured on Race

Supporters in Two Cities Struggle to Honor Ida B. Wells

Dorothy Russell, First Asian American at Washington Post


French Journalist Attacked, Groped in Tahrir Square

Short Takes

Obama Said to Be More Assured on Race

Jodi Kantor, a reporter for the New York Times who has chronicled the racial aspects of Barack Obama's candidacy and then his presidency, highlighted by publication this year of "The Obamas," a book about the first family, returned to the subject Sunday in the Times.

". . . like an actor originating a role on Broadway, Mr. Obama has been performing a part that no one else has ever played," Kantor wrote, "and close observers say they can see him becoming as assured on race in public as he is in private conversation. In 2009, the new president's statement on the arrest of a black Harvard professor by a white police officer set off days of negative headlines; in 2012, he gave a commanding but tender lament over the killing of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, by a white man.

" 'As he's gotten more comfortable being president, he's gotten more comfortable being him,' said Brian Mathis, an Obama fund-raiser.

"Asked when they could sense that shift, several advisers and friends mentioned the waning hours of Mr. Obama's birthday party in the summer of 2011. As the hour grew late, many of the white guests left, and the music grew 'blacker and blacker,' as the comedian Chris Rock later told an audience. Watching African-American entertainers and sports stars do the Dougie to celebrate a black president in a house built by slaves, Mr. Rock said, 'I felt like I died and went to black heaven.'

"The president, guests recalled, seemed free of calibration or inhibition. He danced with relative abandon, other guests ribbing him about his moves, everyone swaying to Stevie Wonder under a portrait of George Washington. . . ."

Supporters in Two Cities Struggle to Honor Ida B. Wells

In this 150th anniversary year marking the birth of Ida B. Wells, the crusading anti-lynching publisher and civil rights activist, admirers in Memphis and Chicago are attempting to raise the profile of a woman they say deserves more attention.

"Ida B. Wells is a hero that we ought to be celebrating much more publicly in Memphis, one of the great intellectual leaders to come out of the city," Dr. Jonathan Judaken, the Spence L. Wilson Chair in Humanities at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., told Journal-isms by telephone. "We're very good at celebrating the music that's come out of the city, but what about the Ida B. Wellses and Richard Wrights, who enabled us to rethink our conventions about the world?"

"The occasion has revived a question that should have been settled decades ago: How should the city honor Wells?," Wendi C. Thomas, a columnist for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, wrote on Sunday.

"Today, the only formal tribute is a state historical marker erected in 1987 on Beale [Street]; her newspaper office, trashed and torched by an angry white mob that promised to kill Wells if she returned to town, was once nearby.

"To atone for the century-old slight, members of the Memphis City Council, the Shelby County Commission and others have tried again and again to install Wells in her proper place in the city's narrative.

"At the same time, a contingent that thinks fondly of the Civil War has rebuffed all efforts to reconsider the city park that canonizes a slave trader, Confederate general and leader of the Ku Klux Klan."

Judaken said he is working with the city's UrbanArt group and the National Civil Rights Museum to establish a permanent Wells memorial.

Meantime, as Thomas wrote, next week, ". . . Two public lectures, a theatrical presentation and original music will mark Rhodes College's commemoration of what would have been the 150th birthday of the city's best known journalist, Ida B. Wells."

Wells' actual birthday was July 16. On that day in Chicago, where Wells spent the last years of her life, the Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee hosted an informal reception. The Committee has commissioned Richard Hunt, a world-renowned sculptor and Chicago native, to create a Wells monument.

" We've raised a little over $50,000 and need another $250,000," Wells' great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster, told Journal-isms by email on Monday. "If 2,500 people give $100 each, we'll have the money."

The National Association of Black Journalists and the Medill School at Northwestern University annually present an Ida B. Wells Award to a journalist who has championed diversity. This columnist is to receive it in January.

Dorothy Russell, First Asian American at Washington Post

Dorothy Ing Russell, a copy editor at the Washington Post for 28 years who said she was the first Asian American on the Post editorial staff, died Friday at 84 in a Maryland hospice, her son, Matthew W. Russell, told Journal-isms on Monday. He declined to give the cause of death.

Matthew Russell said his mother worked at the Post approximately from 1968 to 1991, when she retired, in part because of carpal tunnel syndrome. She was part of a class-action lawsuit against the Post that accused the newspaper of failing to provide the proper ergonomics furniture. The Post reached a settlement, Matthew Russell said.

Russell was a co-founder [PDF] and treasurer of the Washington chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and received a lifetime achievement award from the national organization in 1995.

Dorothy Ing Russell in 2010.

Among the achievements she listed for that occasion:

". . . 1st Asian American on the editorial staff of the Washington Post; 2nd woman editor for the Post; as a national desk copy editor, edited and wrote headlines on the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination and the Pentagon Papers case; as a Metro desk editor edited the Washington Post's Pulitzer-Prize winning series on the Watergate break-in and cover-up (Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein, 1973); 1955 acting bureau chief of United Press in Jakarta during the early years of Indonesian independence from the Dutch — the period of 'living dangerously' as many plots to overthrow the Sukarno government were afoot (she had interviewed generals who later disappeared); in 1956 hired as stringer reporter from Indonesia for New York Times, was the 2nd woman stringer ever for the New York Times; 'they assumed I was a man, so I wrote under the name Ing Russell . . .' "

In 1990, Russell wrote an op-ed retort in the Post, "Jimmy Breslin, Coward and Bully," responding to a racist Breslin outburst in the Newsday newsroom directed at a Korean-American co-worker.

She was honored again by AAJA at its 2010 convention in Los Angeles.

"Dorothy was a gracious and reasonable presence on the Metro copy desk," Post colleague Donald P. Baker said on a listserve for Post alumni.

Russell was a native of Hamilton, Ontario, and graduated from journalism's Medill School at Northwestern. When she left the Post, she became a docent at the Freer and Sackler galleries, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Matthew Russell said a memorial service would be private, in accordance with his mother's wishes.

Footage from France 24 shows the moments just before journalist Sonia Dridi was attacked and groped by a group of men while filming live during protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday night. (Video)

French Journalist Attacked, Groped in Tahrir Square

"A journalist for France 24 has described how his female colleague was attacked and groped by a group of men while filming live during protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday night," Abdel-Rahman Hussein wrote Sunday for the Guardian newspaper in Britain.

"Sonia Dridi was surrounded while filming in the square, with the mob closing in on her as she was reporting. The news channel said in a statement that she was attacked at about 10.30pm.

"Her colleague from the English section of France 24, Ashraf Khalil, was by her side waiting to do his spot next for the camera but cut her off midway and led her off as the crowd began to move in. All this was caught on camera.

" 'Usually one of us goes first then the other, Sonia does the French and I do the English,' he told the Guardian. 'Usually we don't do Tahrir live shots from street level, normally we're on a balcony. We had done an earlier live shot and even then the crowd was annoying.

" 'When we went back for the second live shot the crowd was worse, it was really hard to control the crowd. If you see the video you can see me popping up on the fringe telling people let her work. By the time it was finished everybody was too close and no one was listening to us. I told Sonia to just go straight to [the shop] Hardee's and wait for me because I didn't want her to wait with this crowd of feral youths.'

". . . Numerous incidents of violence and sexual assault against women have been reported over the past 18 months whenever throngs gather in the square, with not everyone necessarily there with the aim of protesting. Sexual harassment is an endemic problem in Egypt dating back to before the revolution."

In February 2011, CBS correspondent Lara Logan "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault" while covering the jubilant celebration Tahrir Square after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS said at the time.

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