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Q&A: Infamous past for Obama friend

Infamous past for Obama friend

Bill Ayers is often mentioned as a friend of Sen. Barack Obama. What is Ayers' background? Has he ever been charged or convicted of any crimes?

Bill Ayers was a founder of the Weather Underground, a radical group that claimed responsibility for bombings between 1970 and 1974. Ayers and his wife spent years on the run. Ayers surrendered in 1980, but charges against him were dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct. He is now an education professor in Chicago.

In the 1990s, Ayers was instrumental in starting the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, for which Obama was chairman. Ayers lives in Obama's former state Senate district in Chicago, and has known Obama for more than a decade. Ayers hosted a party for Obama early in his career and gave him a campaign donation.

Smoking habit hard to break

I heard that Barack Obama was trying to kick a smoking habit. Was he a smoker, and if so, has he been successful in quitting?

Obama first admitted his smoking addiction to Illinois voters when he ran for the Senate in 2004. He began trying to kick the habit in early 2007 as his presidential campaign began heating up. Obama's wife, Michelle, had long urged him to give up smoking, but being in the public eye apparently made him serious about stopping. He has made progress toward stopping, but admitted as recently as this summer that he had "fallen off the wagon" occasionally.

Obama's sister lives in Hawaii

What happened to Barack Obama's sister? Why hasn't she been seen in the news?

Maya Soetoro-Ng is the half sister of Obama. She's nine years younger and teaches in Honolulu. She and Obama had the same mother, Ann, who is deceased. Soetoro-Ng's father, Indonesian Lolo Soetoro, and her mother were divorced when she was a child. Soetoro-Ng is married to Konrad Ng, a Chinese-Canadian who is a professor at the University of Hawaii. They have a daughter, Suhaila.

Campaigning senators still paid

Are sitting senators i.e. John McCain and Barack Obama — paid their full salaries when they are campaigning for office and spending so little time on their senatorial duties?

No senator has ever given back any of his or her $169,300 yearly Senate salary while running for president, says Senate historian Donal Ritchie. He said senators still run their offices and carry out many of their duties to constituents even when they are on the presidential campaign trail.

The 1996 Republican nominee took a different approach. Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., resigned as majority leader and gave up his seat when he ran against Bill Clinton. Dole said he couldn't run the Senate and campaign effectively at the same time.

Q&A: Infamous past for Obama friend 09/29/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 4:00pm]
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