by by Chris Duffy

illustration by by Drew Foster

The first votes for Barack Obama won't come from California, New York, or even Illinois--they'll come from Brazil. The Associated Press reported this week that due to a "quirk in Brazilian electoral law, candidates can put any name they want on the ballot, as long as it isn't offensive." The name many ambitious Brazilians are choosing for their October 5 election is "Barack Obama."

Why would a small town mayor in Brazil decide to forego his own name in favor of Obama's? The answer's simple: people want to vote for Barack Obama, even if that vote really ends up going to Claudio Henrique dos Anjos, who told the AP that his mayoral bid jumped from a long-shot to a tie for first in the polls since he put Obama's name on the ballot.
But it's not just our neighbors down south who are ready to cut Barack Obama open and sleep inside his warm flesh. The New York Times reported this June that students all across the country are undergoing a digital rebirth, changing their middle names to Hussein on social networking sites like Facebook.
The Times' Jodi Kantor talked to girls like Emily Nordling, a 19-year-old from Kentucky who "has never met a Muslim, at least not to her knowledge" but still adopted the middle name Hussein on Facebook, "mimicking her boyfriend and shocking her father."
The son of a Kansan mother and a Kenyan father told the 2008 Democratic National Convention that the "the nay-sayers don't understand that this election has never been about me. It's been about you." And all over the world, Barack Obamas nodded their heads in agreement.


Less than two hours before Troy Anthony Davis was to be lethally injected on Tuesday, the US Supreme Court suspended the execution of the 39-year-old, prolonging a controversial trial that has lasted 21 years. This is the second time that Davis has been granted a stay of execution since he was sentenced to death for murder in 1991, and it is a cautious victory for supporters and anti-death penalty activists who have championed Davis's case as symbolic of an unjust penal system.
The Supreme Court decision--4 to 3--rejected the bid for a new trial to present new evidence, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in its Tuesday coverage. The Supreme Court will instead hear or deny Davis's appeal on September 29. In the event that the Supreme Court rejects his hearing, Davis will be executed.
Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the 1989 murder of Savannah, GA police officer Mark MacPhail, but the penalty had been delayed due to debate surrounding the trial. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted in its Saturday coverage that the case is fraught with suspicions of racism. There is a lack of physical evidence that Davis, who is black, actually had a hand in the murder of the white officer: there was no murder weapon, no fingerprints and no DNA. As is typical of 90 percent of murder cases without DNA evidence, Davis's sentence was thus entirely based on disputed witness testimony; since 1991, seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their statements and cited police for coercing them into accusing Davis, according to an article published by the ACLU on September 9.
Through the years, Davis's case has gained national and international attention, especially among anti-death penalty activists. Pope Benedict XVI and Nobel Peace Prizewinner Desmond Tutu were among those who called to stop Tuesday's execution. And earlier this month, members of the European Union issued a letter of intervention to the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles calling for the office to commute Davis's sentence.
The ACLU said in a public statement: "The Troy Davis case is yet another example of our criminal justice system's inability to ensure beyond reasonable doubt that only the guilty are convicted at trial and sentenced to death. In the last 35 years, 129 innocent people have been released from death row. Five of the exonerees are from Georgia."
Amnesty International and the ACLU have championed the Davis case as proof of a penal system prone to uncorrectable egregious mistakes, largely as a result of procedural hurdles erected by courts and legislators. Still, Tuesday's decision was really about just one thing: the life of a man.