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South African singer and musician Johnny Clegg, one of the loudest voices in pop during the anti-apartheid movement, is being widely mourned in the country following his death earlier this week.
 
The so-called “White Zulu” — so named for his use of indigenous South African music and dance – passed away at age 66, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Musician Sipho Mchunu was just 17 when he met the young man who would change his life — and South Africa’s music scene.
 
Mchunu was walking down the street when Clegg, just 16, approached him and asked him to sing him a song. He did, and the rest, he says, is history: the two formed a band, Juluka, and became known for their inventive use of Zulu songs and dance. In 1990, they became the biggest-selling world music group on the planet.

In this photo taken on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, musician Johnny Clegg on stage at a farewell concert in Johannesburg.

‘He taught me a lot also’
 
Clegg was no ordinary singer — and, Mchunu says, no ordinary South African. His goal was to unite South Africans across color lines. But Mchunu says the learning went both ways.
 
 “I’ve never been to school so I can’t read and write,” he told VOA this week in Johannesburg. “So he made me understand the white people, a little bit of the culture. I guess you could say he helped me a lot. I helped him too. But I don’t feel like, when the people they say, “you taught him a lot.’ I say, ‘he taught me a lot also.’ So in Zulu, we call that ‘izandla ziyagezana,’ the hands wash each other.”
 
‘He captured the imagination’

On the streets of the hip Johannesburg suburb of Melville, South Africans of all races mourned the loss.
 
“You can compare him to any international performer,” said music fan Philip Brook. “For instance, Queen was a true performer, a true artist. So was Johnny Clegg. He captured the imagination of the people, he told a beautiful story.”
 
He also continues to inspire a new generation of musicians, like 20-year-old student Nipo Mubaiwa.
 
“When we speak about legends and icons we’re actually speaking about people like Johnny Clegg, people like Freddie Mercury and so I think for me that’s a really iconic moment,” she said. “And you know that you created such a big impact when you pass away and so many people are just in a state of shock because of the amount of impact that you had on their lives.”
 
Mchunu taught Clegg how to dance and stick-fight like a Zulu man, and was by Clegg’s side as they rocketed to stardom with hits like “Asimbonanga” and “Impi,” a song so controversial it was banned by the apartheid regime.

In this photo taken Saturday, July 2017, South African musician Johnny Clegg, middle, and the dancers perform during “The Final Journey” concert at the Grand Arena in Cape Town, South Africa.

Fans big and small
 
But Clegg’s music, which dealt with big issues and major figures like former South African President Nelson Mandela, also touched the hearts of ordinary South Africans. Street guard Konose Kula says he will forever carry Clegg’s music in his heart.
 
“Johnny Clegg was the best,” he said. “He was a super musician. Yeah. He was a legend.”
 
Kula, too, is a musician, and plays the guitar and the piano. And, he says, the legend himself may be gone, but the White Zulu’s music will never die.

 

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Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee who will question former special counsel Robert Mueller next week plan to focus on a narrow set of episodes laid out in his report, an effort to direct Americans’ attention to what they see as the most egregious examples of President Donald Trump’s conduct.

The examples from the Mueller report include Trump’s directions to White House counsel Donald McGahn to have Mueller removed and, later, orders from Trump to McGahn to deny that happened. Democrats also will focus questioning on a series of meetings Trump had with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in which the Republican president directed Lewandowski to persuade then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller’s investigation.

Mueller laid out several episodes in which Trump tried to influence his investigation and wrote that he could not exonerate the president on obstruction of justice.

Democratic aides say they believe the McGahn and Lewandowski narratives, explained in detail in the 448-page report, are clear examples of such obstruction and will be easy to understand as lawmakers try to educate the American public on a report that they believe most people haven’t read. The aides requested anonymity to freely discuss members’ plans for questioning.

The House Judiciary and intelligence committees will question Mueller in back-to-back hearings July 24. The testimony had been scheduled for July 17 but was delayed . Time will be extremely limited under an agreement with Mueller, who is a reluctant witness and has said he will stick to the contents of the report.

To effectively highlight what they see as the most damaging parts of the report, lawmakers said Thursday that they will have to do something that members of Congress aren’t used to doing: limit the long speeches and cut to the chase.

“Members just need to focus,” said Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democratic member of the intelligence panel. “Nobody’s watching them. Keep it short, keep focused, listen to each other, work together. Make this as productive as possible.”

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on the Judiciary panel, said: “You will find little or no editorializing or speechifying by the members. This is all about allowing special counsel Mueller to speak.”

Lawmakers on the Judiciary panel said that they have been working with committee staff on which members will ask what. The staff wants to make sure that they ask targeted questions, such as on Trump’s directions to McGahn and Lewandowski.

“It’s going to be fairly scripted,” said Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, another Democrat on the Judiciary panel. “The main goal is to get Robert Mueller to say what Robert Mueller wrote in the Mueller report. And then get it on national TV, so people can hear him saying it.

The Judiciary Committee aides said that they want lawmakers to take multiple pieces of information in Mueller’s report and connect the dots for viewers. Besides the episodes with McGahn and Lewandowski, they said lawmakers also will focus on the president’s conduct toward his former lawyer Michael Cohen and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort. The report looks at how Trump praised both men when he perceived they were on his side, contacting Cohen to tell him to “stay strong” and publicly praising Manafort for “refusing to break.” There also were subtle hints that he could pardon each.

Cohen eventually started cooperating with the government, and Trump then publicly called him a “rat” and suggested his family members had committed crimes.

The House intelligence panel, which has fewer members, is expected to focus on the first volume of Mueller’s report, which details multiple contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Mueller found that there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between the two.

House intelligence committee aides, who also declined to be identified to discuss the confidential preparations, said that lawmakers on that panel are expected to focus on those contacts and on what the report says about WikiLeaks, the website that released Democratic emails stolen by the Russians.

As the Democrats methodically work through the highlights of the report, it could start to feel a bit like a class: Mueller 101.

Raskin, a longtime constitutional law professor, says he plans to use some visual aids, like posters, to help people better understand what Mueller wrote.

“We have different kinds of learners out there,” Raskin said. “And we want people to learn, both in an auditory way but also in a visual way, about these dramatic events that Mueller will be discussing.”

Republicans are preparing as well and are expected to focus more on Mueller’s conclusions that there isn’t enough evidence of a conspiracy and no charges on obstruction _ than the individual episodes detailed. The top Republican on the Judiciary panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, said his members will be asking questions that aim to confirm what is in the report.

But while the Democrats are eagerly anticipating the opportunity, many of the Republicans are weary.

“Frankly the American people have moved on,” Collins said. They “want to get it behind us.

 

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma has decided to stop testifying at a public inquiry into state corruption.

Zuma’s lawyers said Friday their client feels that he has been questioned unfairly.

“Our client from the beginning . . . has been treated as someone who was accused,” said Zuma’s lawyer, Muzi Sikhakhane.

The former president has given testimony this week at the so-called “State Capture” commission.

Raymond Zondo, the lead judge in the probe, has said, “The commission is not mandated to prove a case against anybody, but is mandated to investigate and inquire into certain allegations.”

Zuma has denied allegations of corruption, saying he was a victim of conspiracies to end his career, ruin his reputation and kill him.

Zuma was forced to resign from office last year by the ruling African National Congress party after being implicated in numerous corruption scandals.  In one instance, prosecutors accused him of using some $20 million in public funds for improvements at his private estate.

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House lawmakers voted Wednesday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

In a vote that mostly followed party lines, House members passed the Raise The Wage Act, the first minimum wage increase since 2009. The measure has not yet come up in the Senate. The bill would more than double the national minimum wage over the next 6 years, a marked increase from the current $7.25 federal minimum wage.

The bill would also raise the minimum wage for tipped employees to the same level from the current $2.13 an hour.

In the 231-to-199 vote, three Republican representatives joined the majority and voted for the bill, while six Democrats voted against it.

“This is about workers, it’s about their economic and financial security and today is a bright day because it affects so many people in our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at a news conference.

Skepticism

While the vote was nearly unanimous by Democrats, some members were skeptical.

Democrats Tom O’Halleran of Arizona and Stephanie Murphy of Florida introduced an amendment that would mandate the Government Accountability Office to track the bill’s effects and report to the House before the entire wage increase is implemented. It passed 248-181.

Republican lawmakers voiced sharp opposition, arguing it will stifle economic growth.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said that the bill would “eviscerate millions of American jobs,” referencing a report by the Congressional Budget Office that projected between 1 million and 3 million Americans could lose their jobs if the bill were to become law. 

The CBO also predicted that the bill would give over 30 million Americans raises, lifting 1 million from poverty.

In the Republican-controlled Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell questioned why the Senate would “depress the economy at a time of economic boom,” in an interview with the Fox Business Network, indicating that he would not bring the bill for a vote.
 

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that China’s mistreatment of its Uighur Muslim minority had created one of the most significant human rights crises in contemporary world history. 
 
Speaking at a conference on religious freedom in Washington, Pompeo said, “China is home to one of the worst human rights crises of our time” and that “it is truly the stain of the century.” 
 
The nation’s top diplomat also accused Chinese government officials of intimidating countries to keep them from attending the conference and said the U.S. had “taken note” of the countries that succumbed to China. While not naming them, Pompeo urged the countries to “find the courage” to stand up to China. 
 
Pompeo said earlier this week that representatives of more than 100 countries would attend the three-day conference that ends Thursday, but a State Department spokesman could not confirm the number. 
 
“We know the Chinese government called countries specifically to discourage participation,” the spokesman said, but “we cannot prove the exact number they successfully impacted.”

FILE – Uighurs and their supporters protest in front of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations in New York, March 15, 2018.

The Chinese government has dismissed accusations it violated rights to religious freedom. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a Beijing news briefing Thursday that “this situation of so-called religious persecution does not exist.”  
 
Lu also said China “demand[s] that the United States correctly view China’s religious policies and the status of religious freedom in China, and stop using the issue of religion to interfere in other countries’ affairs.” 
 
U.N. experts and activists contend China has placed at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs in detention centers. Nearly two dozen countries on the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this month called on China to stop its persecution of Uighurs in the country’s western Xinjiang region. 
 
The U.S. has been considering sanctions against Chinese officials over their policies in Xinjiang but has yet to impose them amid Chinese threats of retaliation. 
 
U.S.-China relations are already tense because of a trade war between the world powers. 

Pence offers solidarity
 
Vice President Mike Pence also addressed the conference, telling attendees that U.S. trade talks with China would not influence America’s commitment to religious freedom in the East Asian country. 
 
“Whatever comes of our negotiations with Beijing, you can be assured that the American people will stand in solidarity with people of all faiths in the People’s Republic of China,” he said. 

Pence, offering rare criticism of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, also called on the kingdom to release jailed blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Islam. 
 
Pence also demanded the release of detained religious dissidents in Eritrea, Mauritania and Pakistan and vowed the U.S. would press for religious freedom in North Korea amid efforts to denuclearize the country. 

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Anti-corruption officials in Pakistan have arrested former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for allegedly evading an ongoing investigation into corruption charges against him.

The former Pakistani leader is the latest in a series of high-profile opposition politicians targeted under the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan who accuses his predecessors of corruption and stashing away billions of dollars to foreign bank accounts. 

Abbasi together with several members of his opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) was on his way to address a news conference in the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday, when he was taken into custody by a team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the state anti-corruption body.

Authorities later took the former prime minister to Islamabad, where he will appear before an anti-corruption court on Friday, said NAB officials. Abbasi served as prime minister from August 2017 to May 2018.

NAB officials explained that the arrest stemmed from a case related to the award of a major liquefied natural gas (LNG) import contract when Abbasi was serving as the federal minister for petroleum and natural resources. They said Abbasi had been repeatedly summoned for questioning sessions, including one on Thursday, but he did not appear.

Former Pakistani president and currently a lawmaker in Parliament and leader of Pakistan People’s party, Asif Ali Zardari, center, leaves the High Court building, in Islamabad, June 10, 2019.

The arrest came just weeks after the country’s former president, Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, was arrested in connection of multiple cases of corruption and money laundering against him.

Abbasi’s predecessor and party chief, Nawaz Sharif, is currently serving a seven-year jail term after he was convicted of corruption last year.

Sharif’s brother and the current party chief, Shahbaz Sharif, denounced Abbasi’s arrest. He alleged in a statement that “the institution of NAB has become Imran Khan’s puppet but such cheap tactics cannot waiver our resolve.”

Opposition parties reject allegations against their leaders and dismiss the accountability campaign as politically motivated to divert public attention from struggling economy, soaring inflation and ballooning deficits. Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party denies the charges.

Khan defeated the PML-N in last year’s national elections, promising to crackdown on rampant corruption and improve the crisis-ridden national economy. 

 

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A Republican senator blocked a bipartisan bill that would have made sure that a fund providing compensation to 9/11 workers would remain viable until 2090. 

Rand Paul of Kentucky questioned the bill’s 70-year time frame and said any new spending should be offset by corresponding cuts so the U.S. government’s $22 trillion debt does not continue to grow. 

“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country,” Paul said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “And, therefore, any new spending … should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at the very least have this debate.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks during a town hall meeting during a campaign stop in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Presidential hopeful New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had offered the bill for unanimous consent, which would have fast-tracked its approval. 

Under Senate rules, an objection from a single senator can block a measure offered via unanimous consent, which is what Paul did. 

A spokesperson for Paul later told The Hill that Paul “is not blocking anything,” adding that he is “simply seeking to pay for it.”

The bill, which easily passed in the House last month, would extend though 2092 a victims compensation fund, essentially making it permanent. 

More than $7 billion was placed in a fund to compensate firefighters, construction crews, police and other emergency workers who rushed into the debris of the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001 — inhaling dust, smoke, chemicals and other hazardous substances.

Many are suffering from breathing problems, digestive disorders, and lung and other cancers.

The Justice Department has warned that the fund is running out of money because there was no mechanism in Congress to make sure that does not happen before the entire program is set to expire next year.

Benefit payments have been slashed and about 21,000 claims are still awaiting a decision.

Gillibrand said she was “deeply disappointed” by Paul’s action.

“Enough of the political games. Our 9/11 first responders and our entire nation are watching to see if this body actually cares. Do we care about the men and women who answer the call of duty?” she asked in an emotionally charged speech. 

“Thousands of those men and women have died,” she said. Others still have to “face the terrifying reality that they are going to die because of what they did on 9/11 and the months thereafter.”

Gillibrand and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up the bill for a vote before Congress goes on its August recess.

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The Democratic-controlled House voted Wednesday to hold two top Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas related to a decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The House voted 230-198 to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt. The vote, a political blow to the Trump administration, is largely symbolic because the Justice Department is unlikely to prosecute the two men.

The action marks an escalation of Democratic efforts to use their House majority to aggressively investigate the inner workings of the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump abandoned the citizenship question last week after the Supreme Court said the administration’s justification for the question “seems to have been contrived.” Trump directed agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, listens as President Donald Trump speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing, July 17, 2019, in Washington.

The White House called the vote “ridiculous” and “yet another lawless attempt to harass the president and his administration.”

The Justice and Commerce departments have produced more than 31,000 pages of documents to the House regarding the census issue, and senior officials from both agencies, including Ross, have spoken on the record about the matter, the White House said, adding that Democrats continue to demand documents that the White House contends are subject to executive privilege.  

“House Democrats know they have no legal right to these documents, but their shameful and cynical politics know no bounds,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. 

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., considers whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross in contempt in Washington, June 12, 2019.

Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said the contempt vote was an important step to assert Congress’ constitutional authority to serve as a check on executive power.

“Holding any secretary in criminal contempt of Congress is a serious and sober matter — one that I have done everything in my power to avoid,” Cummings said during House debate. “But in the case of the attorney general and Secretary Ross, they blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight into the real reason Secretary Ross was trying for the first time in 70 years to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.”

While Ross and other officials have claimed the sole reason they wanted to add the citizenship question was to enforce the Voting Rights Act, “we now know that claim was nothing but a pretext,” Cummings said. “The Supreme Court said that.”

At the direction of Barr and Ross, “the departments of Justice and Commerce have been engaged in a campaign to subvert our laws and the process Congress put in place to maintain the integrity of the census,” Cummings said.

The contempt resolution “is about protecting our democracy, protecting the integrity of this body. It’s bigger than the census,” he said.

Ross called the vote a public relations “stunt” that further demonstrates Democrats’ “unending quest to generate headlines instead of operating in good faith with our department.”

Democrats prefer to “play political games rather than help lead the country” and “have made every attempt to ascribe evil motivations to everyday functions of government,” Ross said.

Ross told the oversight committee that the March 2018 decision to add the question was based on a Justice Department request to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Democrats disputed that, citing documents unearthed last month suggesting that a push to draw legislative districts in overtly partisan and racist ways was the real reason the administration wanted to include the question.

Democrats feared that adding the question would reduce participation in immigrant-heavy communities and result in a severe undercount of minority voters. They have pressed for specific documents to determine Ross’ motivation and contend the administration has declined to provide the material despite repeated requests.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., speaks to the audience gathered at the 138th annual Fancy Farm Picnic, Aug. 4, 2018, in Fancy Farm, Ky.

“The real issue we should be debating” is why Democrats are afraid to ask how many citizens live in the United States, said Representative James Comer, a Kentucky Republican. Contrary to Democrats’ claims, Ross and other officials have cooperated with the oversight panel and provided thousands of documents, Comer said.

“If the Democrats can’t impeach President Trump, they will instead hold his Cabinet in contempt of Congress,” he said. “This is just another episode in political theater.”

In a letter late Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Barr and Ross asked Democrats to postpone the vote, saying they have shown a “clear record of cooperation” with Congress. The contempt vote “is both unnecessarily undermining” relations between the two branches and “degrading” Congress’ “own institutional integrity,” they wrote.

Trump has pledged to “fight all the subpoenas” issued by Congress and says he won’t work on legislative priorities, such as infrastructure, until Congress halts investigations of his administration. 

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