December 6th, 2013
09:21 AM ET

"Morning Minute" with Michaela Pereira –December 6, 2013

Need to get today's top stories on-the-go? Watch Michaela Pereira's morning minute now!

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December 6th, 2013
09:16 AM ET

Branson Says Mandela Was One Flight Away From Trying to Stop Iraq War

Sir Richard Branson reflected on Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy, saying that he had “a wonderful sense of humor” and didn’t want any conflict in the world. He said that Mandela was one flight away from trying to get Saddam Hussein to step down in an effort to prevent the invasion in Iraq. However, bombing started as “the plane was due to leave South Africa.”

Branson said, “The one word I think that sums him up the most is forgiveness. And I think that he would want all of us individually, in our own lives, to pick up the phone today. Talk to somebody that you’ve fallen out with. Invite them to lunch. Embrace them. Life is too short to have any enemies. On the bigger picture, he would have welcomed the talks with Iran. It’s so much better to try to become friends again with nations that you’ve once fallen out with, rather than drop bombs on each other. He was incredibly angry about the invasion of Iraq. I spoke with him before the invasion of Iraq. And actually sent a plane to take him to Iraq to see Saddam Hussein to try to persuade Saddam Hussein to step down. Him and Kofi Anon were going on a secret mission. The day the plane was due to leave South Africa, sadly the bombing started and they never had the chance to try to get Saddam Hussein to step down in the interest of his country and the people. He was trying all the time to try to resolve conflicts, rather than encourage the starting of conflicts to resolve problems.”

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December 6th, 2013
09:05 AM ET

Mandela Made Racism Seem "Stupid," "Old-Fashioned"

Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair told CNN that Nelson Mandela’s influence on the peace process in Northern Ireland was “hugely important” and his leadership “made racism seem somehow stupid and old-fashioned and irrelevant” to people in Western countries.

“As a leader, he was just a huge inspiration. I remember when we started our own peace process in Northern Ireland, he was such an example for reconciliation, forgiveness, the ability to put the past behind you,” Prime Minister Blair said. “He was hugely important in all the work we did for Africa and for ushering in a whole new generation of leaders in Africa. But I will also remember him as a man coming and visiting me in Downing Street, and he’d come in the door and after saying hello to myself and my wife, he’d say hello to the people on the door, the people making the tea, the staff members. He had a wonderful way about him. And to be with him, by the way, was enormous fun.”

Blair added, “I think for a lot of people in Western countries, he made racism seem somehow stupid and old-fashioned and irrelevant, as well as, wrong. He had that quality because his greatness as a leader was so obvious, he just stood frankly taller than anyone else.”

“The best advice I got was particularly I remember around the Northern Ireland peace process,” Blair said. “It was very, very difficult because there was so much bitterness and suffering, actually…. And he used to always say look, ‘The suffering is there and it’s real. And you can’t wish it away.’ He said, ‘You don’t pretend it hasn’t happened. And you can’t forget it. But what you can do is embrace the future in a way. That means that you triumph over that adversity and that suffering.’ And that was for me, what he represented…. It was hugely important for us.”

 

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December 6th, 2013
07:37 AM ET

American Teacher Killed in Libya

American teacher Ronnie Smith has been shot and killed in Benghazi, according to the Facebook page of the international school in Libya where he worked.

The U.S. State Department confirmed the killing and identified the educator as Ronald Thomas Smith II.

Smith's killing was not far from the former American consulate where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed almost 15 months ago, reports CNN's Nic Robertson.

"The untimely death of Ronnie Smith has been felt by the whole school community," the International School Benghazi posted on its Facebook page. "He was a much loved teacher who supported students in their learning and always had time to help when asked. Ronnie was a professional who gave his time freely and without question. We do not understand why this has happened and it is extremely difficult for his students and his colleagues to accept."

The page was full of comments from Smith's students and those who knew him, praising him as a dedicated educator.

Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that officials are reaching out to family members and providing "appropriate consular assistance."

She told media that the State Department offers condolences.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that President Barack Obama has been briefed on the matter. Carney said that no one has taken responsibility for the death.

"We look to the Libyan government to thoroughly investigate this killing," Carney said.

The Interior Ministry has opened an investigation into the incident, according to a statement reported by Libya's state news agency LANA.

It said four unidentified assailants in a black Jeep opened fire on Smith, killing him instantaneously.

"This cowardly act in no way reflects the morals and traditions of the Libyan society," LANA reported the ministry said.

It also reported a statement from the Foreign Ministry, which vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

“Smith may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of random violence that took three other lives in Benghazi Thursday, as the country is caught up in rising militia violence,” reports Robertson.

"He was doing his morning exercise when gunmen just shot him. I don't know why. He was so sweet with everyone," Adel al Mansouri, the director at the school in Benghazi, told Reuters.

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