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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Elusive Equality

Bush's White House

Mr McClellan has been the public face of the White HouseWhite House spokesman Scott McClellan has announced his resignation, amid a shake-up of US President George W Bush's senior advisers.

"It's going to be hard to replace Scott, but... he made the decision and I accepted it," Mr Bush said.

Mr McClellan has been in the job for nearly three years.

Mr Bush said Mr McClellan had had "a challenging assignment", which he had handled with class and integrity.

"One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days," Mr Bush said.

The president's public approval ratings remain in the doldrums, while Iraq and high oil prices hang like dark clouds over the presidency.

Iraq seems to have become more militant than ever, with gay Iraqis the most recent minority to speak out in fear for their lives. They say that since the US-led invasion, gay people are being killed because of their sexual orientation.

They blame the increase in violence on the growing influence of religious figures and militia groups in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was ousted.

Meanwhile, back in the White House, the recent wave of criticism of the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld by former top-ranking generals is all but unprecedented in the past generation.

At least seven retired generals have questioned his abilities in the past month, sparking a firestorm of debate and forcing the president to interrupt a holiday weekend to issue a statement of support.

Bush still continues to back his old ally over Iraq. Yet another man to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days.

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Race activists finally pardoned

The days of open discrimination are gone - for the most partAlabama has voted to pardon those who protested against race segregation, some 50 years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.

Hundreds of people got arrest records in Alabama during the civil rights struggle galvanized by Ms Parks' act of defiance in Montgomery in 1955.

The "Rosa Parks Act" lets survivors or relatives purge their records of crimes related to opposing racial segregation.

Descendants of the slaves, life is very different for black people in Montgomery, Alabama today compared to 1955.

Then, they were forbidden from drinking from the same water fountain as white people, using the same restrooms or the same restaurants, or going to the cinema to watch a film beside white people.

If they were looking to buy clothes in a store, and wanted to try a hat on, they had to have a special device so that their head wouldn't touch the top of the hat.

Parks' stand triggered a boycott of the buses. Nearly a year later the US Supreme Court declared local laws requiring segregated buses were illegal.

More boycotts, sit-ins and protest marches followed, culminating in 1960s legislation that outlawed racial discrimination and established voting rights for black people.

But decades on, asked whether America's 37 million black people have achieved equality with white Americans, the chairman of the civil rights group NAACP, Julian Bond, laments that they are "far, far from it".

According to Mr Bond, a few icons of "black success" obscure the continued poverty and discrimination experienced by many.

Images from the stricken city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina revealed that many of those suffering in its streets and shelters were black and poor.

The plight of those stranded amid the filth and the dead highlighted a side of the city most tourists did not see - one in which two-thirds of its residents are black and more than a quarter lived in poverty.

All pictures courtesy of BBC News online

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