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July 11, 2009 at 6:27 PM
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Obama: 'Africa's future up to Africans'

ACCRA, Ghana, July 11 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, in a speech Saturday, told the Ghanaian Parliament "Africa's future is up to Africans."

Obama used his own family history, his grandfather's life as a servant in Kenya, to say he understands the wounds from the colonial past. But he said prosperity depends on letting go of violence and corruption, not just on U.S. and European aid.

"We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans," Mr. Obama said in an address to Parliament that was televised across the continent. "I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world."

Obama has received an enthusiastic welcome during his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since his election as president, The New York Times reported. His itinerary Saturday included visits to a women's clinic and Cape Coast Castle, a fortress where slaves were held awaiting shipment to the Americas.

Obama said African nations that respect the wishes of their people will find prosperity while those that do not will struggle.

"History is on the side of these brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power," he said. "Africa doesn't need strongmen. It needs strong institutions," adding that the United States will back leaders who "stand up to inhumanity in our midst."

Obama arrived for a breakfast with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills and other dignitaries to the background music of a reggae song with the words "Barack, Barack, Barack Obama."

Obamas visit slave fortress in Ghana

CAPE COAST, Ghana, July 11 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama, after visiting Ghana's best-known slave castle Saturday, compared it to one of World War II's most infamous Nazi concentration camps.

The president toured Cape Coast Castle with his wife Michelle, and their daughters Malia and Sasha. The castle, about 100 miles west of Accra, was built by Europeans as a gold and timber depot and later converted to a holding pen for slaves about to be shipped to the Americas.

"It is reminiscent of the trip I took to Buchenwald because it reminds us of the capacity of human beings to commit great evil," Obama said in brief remarks after the tour that referenced the death camp that was part of Nazi Germany's efforts to exterminate Jews and other ethnic minorities they deemed undesirable.

"One of the most striking things that I heard was that right above the dungeons in which male captives were kept was a church, and that reminds us that sometimes we can tolerate and stand by great evil even as we think that we're doing good."

Obama said his daughters, "who are growing up in such a blessed way," learned of the "cruel turns" history takes. He added that for African-Americans the castle is a place of "profound sadness" but also the place where their unique history began.

Egypt reacts to Libyan plague outbreak

CAIRO, July 11 (UPI) -- Egypt has declared a state of emergency along its shared board with Libya over an outbreak of bubonic plague, authorities said.

Since June 21, one person has died and four others were recovering from the outbreak in the eastern Libyan town of Tubruq, about 93 miles from the Egyptian border, Dr. John Jabbour of the World Health Organization said Friday.

Health checks were being conducted on anyone entering Egypt from Libya and pest control teams were spraying all vehicles coming through the border town of Sallum. The plague is spread by fleas on rodents.

WHO specialists were advising Libya about how to contain the outbreak, Jabbour told the IRIN news agency in a story published Saturday.

"What we can say here is that the situation is under control," Jabbour said.

Algeria, which also shares a border with Libya, has reported 50 cases of bubonic plague and two deaths in recent weeks, the London newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reported Friday.

The plague has an incubation period of three to seven days, with most patients recovering if treated in time, Jabbour said.

Lightning delays shuttle launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., July 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour's launch was delayed 24 hours after lightning struck near the Florida launch pad, NASA officials said Saturday.

None of Friday's 11 strikes hit the shuttle or its fuel rockets but the strikes did hit a nearby water tower and lightning mast, said Mike Moses, a NASA manager.

The launch pad has a protection system of wires intended to draw bolts of lightning away from the spacecraft, but Friday night's strikes were strong enough to trigger an evaluation of Endeavour's many sensitive systems, Moses said.

"We need to be 100 percent confident that we have a good system across the board," Moses said.

Pending the outcome of the evaluation, the launch was rescheduled for 7:13 p.m. EDT Sunday with weather forecasts showing acceptable conditions.

Missing woman's body found in air duct

NEW YORK, July 11 (UPI) -- New York police found the body of a missing woman Saturday morning in an air-conditioning duct in the office building where she worked as a cleaner.

Eridiana Rodriguez's body was between the 11th and 12th floors of 2 Rector St. in Lower Manhattan, the New York Daily News reported. The floors are under construction, and investigators had noticed a smell of decomposition in the area.

She had not been seen or heard from since Tuesday night, when a security camera showed her boarding an elevator with her cleaning equipment about 7 p.m. and she talked to her daughter on the phone. Co-workers said she did not join them during the 9 p.m. dinner break.

Her purse and street clothes were in a changing room.

Rodriguez, 46, lived in northern Manhattan with her children.

After Rodriguez disappeared, police interviewed an elevator operator at the building.

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