Editor's note: Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, the Army officer who has refused to deploy to Afghanistan because, in his view, President Obama has not proved that he was born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president, entered a deferred plea at his arraignment hearing Friday morning. Watch Anderson Cooper's May 10, 2010 interview with Lt. Col. Terry Lakin below. Read his letter to President Obama posted on SafeguardOurConstitution.com.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Sasha Lezhnev and John Prendergast. Sasha Lezhnev is Executive Director of the Grassroots Reconciliation Group, a nonprofit that aids former child soldiers. John Prendergast is co-founder of Enough, the anti-genocide project at the Center for American Progress and co-author with Don Cheadle of the forthcoming book, "The Enough Moment."
Sasha Lezhnev and John Prendergast
Special to CNN
At a time when partisan politics are bitter, midterm election races are tight and almost every legislative effort is stalled, who would you expect to take the boldest step in years to address the deadliest war in the world, in the heart of Central Africa?
Congress, of course.
Quietly, over the past four presidential administrations, a powerful and deep bipartisan consensus has developed in Congress in support of a stronger U.S. policy toward Africa. The latest manifestation of this cooperation is a small but potent provision addressing Congo's "conflict minerals," folded into the recently passed Wall Street reform bill.
The trade in four conflict minerals - tin, tantalum, tungsten (the 3Ts), as well as gold - fuels the war in eastern Congo today. It's been the deadliest war in the world since World War II.
We regularly travel to eastern Congo, and on our last trip, we traced the minerals from the mines.
At the mines, we saw militiamen armed with AK-47 machine guns standing over miners and forcing them to work and pay bribes, including child miners as young as 11. We then crossed through army and rebel checkpoints, where smugglers paid off the commanders in U.S. dollars, and then witnessed how these same minerals were packed into barrels with Congolese flags on them and loaded onto planes and flown out of the country.
We've seen how armed groups on all sides of the conflict are reaping hundreds of millions of dollars per year by controlling mines and trading routes, selling minerals to international traders and smelters, which in turn sell them to electronics and jewelry companies.
By requiring that publicly listed manufacturers who use these minerals conduct independent audits of their supply chains, this legislation will help curb the conflict minerals trade.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/05/t1.bpoilwellsurface.jpg width=300 height=169]Tom Foreman | BIO
As the Gladiators of the Gulf finally drove their drilling mud beneath the sea floor this week, chasing that rogue column of oil back into its deep lair and pinning it there, you could almost hear the cheers and high-fives slapping across the water. BP, in bad need of a win, finally had one. The Obama Administration, chafing over criticism like a doughnut lover in bicycle shorts, jumped fast to declare a limited victory; Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saying "many of the doomsday scenarios… have not and will not come to fruition."
From the outset, the White Housers have insisted they took quick, decisive action; and BP officials have aired ads depicting themselves as a cross between Mother Teresa and John Muir for their dedicated care for the coast and all its inhabitants. To hear them tell it, you’d almost expect to see Thad Allen and Doug Suttles walk across the water back to shore.
But people who actually live on the Gulf have experienced a very different spill and response than the one ballyhooed by the spinmeisters. For all those pledges of transparency, many feel they were misled and kept in the dark much of the time. A survey of 1200 Gulf residents by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University produced some startling, and bleak results.
Among people living within ten miles of the water, one-in-three parents say their kids have shown either physical or psychological signs of difficulties related to the spill. One-in-five folks say they have lost income. Somewhat less than one-in-ten say they have lost a job. And about one-in-four think they will ultimately have to move away from the coast as the lasting impact of the spill becomes known. Trust in elected leaders, especially at the federal level, is as tepid as a tidal pool.
To be sure, I have met some people on the Gulf who have strongly praised BP for its efforts, but the Administration? Not so much. Maybe I just missed them.
Perhaps in time some enterprising researcher will discover how government and corporate big wigs came up with such a wildly different narrative of what happened here than the one being told by regular folks. But for now their tales are as different as oil and water.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/06/art.obama.flag.jpg]Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama has talked a good bit about immigration, and raised some important questions. But I have some questions of my own in my daily letter slipped over the White House fence.
Dear Mr. President,
I’ve been watching the immigration debate with some interest the past few weeks, and I have some questions I hope you can answer. Sorry to bother you with them, but I tried calling into a talk radio show and was left on hold. I do not have, mind you, any answers just questions which I hope are fair, unbiased and reasonable. Unlike my opinion on, oh say, the merits of bread pudding which are anything but.
Question one: Is this really about federal versus local responsibilities and jurisdiction? That was the cornerstone of your lawsuit against Arizona, right, that they are playing on your field? While the court largely agreed with your side, I still can’t help but think that this was kind of an end run around the philosophical debate over whether these people who are here illegally should be aggressively identified and thrown out, or whether they should be legalized and allowed to stay.
Question two: If you don’t want local authorities lending a strong hand in pursuing these undocumented visitors (and it at least seems you don’t, based on how you pursued this) aren’t there a lot of other things that the locals could shrug off? For example, many Homeland Security matters could be rightfully called federal business. A lot of drug smuggling, too. Yet if the locals all said “OK, you’re on your own; our police will stick to burglaries and speeding,” I think folks on your team would quickly be screaming for them to get involved again.