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African Lion Safari

Little love was lost between Theodore Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan. In 1902, Morgan, then the most powerful investment banker on Wall Street, fell afoul of Roosevelt's administration over an antitrust action involving one of his companies.
Seven years later, Roosevelt left office and promptly set off on an African safari. Morgan, upon hearing the news of his rival's departure, raised a glass and proposed a toast: "America," he declared, "expects every lion to do its duty!"

[According to another version of this story, Morgan is said to have offered a toast: "Health to the lions!" - with a sign reading "WALL STREET EXPECTS EVERY LION TO DO ITS DUTY" gracing the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).]

Morgan, John Pierpont, Sr. (1837-1913) American banker, financier, and patron of the arts,president of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art [noted for his reorganization and dominance of the railroad industry, his consolidation of the U.S. Steel Corporation (1901), his impressive art collection, and his establishment of the Morgan Library in New York City]

Jack Assoumani

In 2002, Azali Assoumani won a national election on the tiny African island nation of Comoro. Though he credited his victory to believing in himself, impartial observers offered a different explanation: The tyranical Assoumani ran in the election unopposed.

Karimov, Islam (?- ) African politician, president of Comoro (2002- )

School Boycott

"In the nineteen-seventies, school boycotts became a popular form of civil disobedience against apartheid. Although the coloreds typically joined blacks in striking, [the white South African activist Zackie Achmat] noted that his ethnic kin were often the first to cave in and scurry back to school. Achmat decided that a new approach was necessary. 'Instead of convincing colored kids to continue the boycott, I thought it might be easier if I just made it impossible for them to attend school,' he said. During the Soweto uprisings of 1976, Achmat, who was fourteen years old, set his high school on fire."

[Though no one was injured, Achmat was jailed for three months and endured severe beatings. By eighteen, Achmat had embraced Trotskyism and been arrested five times.]

[Trivia: Achmat was among those who initially believed that Western governments were exaggerating the dangers of AIDS. "It seemed far-fetched that a disease would conveniently kill fags, prostitutes, drug users, and blacks," he recalled. "Doesn't it sound like propaganda? It was a Reaganite wet dream!"]


Zimbabwe Farce

As the Zimbabwe's economy collapsed at the turn of the millennium, artists and comedians struggled to find humor in the buffoonish dictatorship of president Robert Mugabe.
"Twice nightly in a small theatre in Harare, the capital," The Economist reported, "Edgar Langeveldt jokes about race, repression, economic collapse and invasions of white-owned farms by 'war vets'. Dressed in drag, as a prostitute-turned-politician, he calls himself a 'whore vet'. He is of mixed race and moans: 'I'm half indigenous, but I haven't been given even half a farm!' The all-race audience hoots."

Langeveldt, Edgar (?- ) Zimbabwean comedian

Jeffrey Sachs in Africa

When Jeffrey Sachs visited Bolivia to observe its 60,000 percent hyperinflation first-hand in 1985, he was amazed to find that he was virtually the only Western economist in the country.
In 1989, Sachs flew to Poland to advise that nation's new government on its economic reformation (the so-called Big Bang). "The Berlin Wall was coming down," he recalled, "communism was falling, and I was pinching myself, because I was at the center of this, absolutely the epicenter of it, saying, 'Where is everybody?'" Three years later, he had a similar experience in Russia.

Then AIDS began to devastate Africa. "I would say to myself," Sachs later remarked, "'Of course the world is going to descend on this for a hundred reasons - the humanitarian reason, the ability to do something, the puzzle of how you could have a pandemic of this scale...'" Yet, once again Sachs was virtually alone.
Sachs, Jeffrey (?- ) American economist and advisor [noted for his role in the privatization of the Russian economy and the reformation of various developing economies]

The Human Circus

In 1878, the twenty-one-year-old Joseph Thomson served as geologist and natural historian in Alexander Keith Johnston's African expedition. Some six weeks after departing Zanzibar for the interior, Johnston died, leaving Thomson to lead the expedition to the great lakes and beyond.
Some time later - having returned to London and written his celebrated book (To African Lakes and Back) - he was asked by J. M. Barrie to describe the most dangerous leg of his incredible journey. Thomson's Reply? "Crossing Piccadilly Circus."

Thomson, Joseph (1858-1994) English explorer, geologist and natural historian

Verwoerd Assassination

South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd was assassinated in Cape Town in 1966. As the chief architect of South Africa's apartheid regime, Verwoerd was widely loathed. Ironically, however, the murder was not racially motivated. The culprit was Dimitri Tsafendas, who insisted that he had been ordered to assassinate Verwoerd by the tapeworm in his stomach!

[Trivia: Tapeworms range in length from .04 inches to more than 50 feet.]

Verwoerd, Hendrik Frensch (1901-1966) South African politician, prime minister (19581966) [noted for his apartheid policies, for his removal of South Africa from the British Commonwealth (1961), and for his assassination in Cape Town (1966)]

Electric Chairs

As part of a vigorous campaign to modernize Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1890, Emperor Menelik II eagerly ordered three electric chairs from New York. Only when the chairs arrived did the emperor learn that electric chairs would generally function suboptimally in a land like Ethiopia - which completely lacked electricity.
Criminals across the nation heaved a collective sigh of relief as Menelik tossed two of his new toys away and had the third converted into a throne.

[The Sultan of Turkey had the opposite problem. When it was first suggested that Constantinople be electrified, it was explained that dynamos would be required. The Sultan promptly vetoed the project; "dynamos" sounded too much like "dynamite." Several years passed before the Turks saw the light.]

Menelik II, (1844-1913) Ethiopian emperor (1889-1913) [noted for his role in securing Ethiopian liberation from Italian domination (1896)]

Gambian Gift

"Sir Michael Adeane, the Queen's Private Secretary, would send out a six-thousand word document in advance to hosts explaining the royal requirements. There were detailed instructions about gifts. Animals were not really welcome, explained Adeane's briefing, but his warning was not always heeded. Touring the Gambia in 1961, the Queen was offered a baby crocodile in a biscuit tin. It had to spend a night in the bath of Sir Martin Charteris."

Elizabeth II, (1926- ) British monarch, Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (from 1952), daughter of George VI

Central African Republic

Fortunately for geographically-challenged viewers, NBC sports commentator Bob Costas was on hand during the Parade of Nations at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. "Next up is the Central African Republic," he helpfully remarked, "located in central Africa."

Costas, Bob (1952- ) American sports commentator

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