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Bono mixes irony with honor at Penn

Irish rocker Bono drew laughter from an audience at the University of Pennsylvania last night as he tried to diplomatically describe a discussion he had Wednesday with President Bush about aid to Africa.

Bono, an advocate for African aid for more than two decades, broke up the audience of World Affairs Council members in the cavernous Irvine Auditorium as he appeared to struggle to find a nonjudgmental way of saying he had been surprised Bush knew so much about the negative effects of American trade on Africa.

Bono backed away from using the word surprised, and also backed away from saying he was "delighted" by the level of the President's knowledge.

Finally he said he thought Bush was much better briefed about the trade problem than he was.

Trade policies, which prevent African farmers from selling their products on the world markets, are part of the developed world's "corruption" that has fed poverty and disease in Africa, Bono said.

Several hundred World Affairs Council members applauded the U2 front man, whose real name is Paul Hewson, and then went to Penn's museum for a reception and dinner.

They also awarded Bono, who wore his trademark shades and a dark jacket with even darker shirt and contrasting light-colored tie, the organization's International Statesman Award.

Bono noted that a combination of ACTUP, the gay advocacy group, and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.), who has been attacked for making allegedly anti-gay remarks, had helped get additional AIDS funding for Africa.

"If they can work together on this," Bono said, "so can we all."

Speaking of the AIDS problem in Africa, Bono pointed to the moral burden it imposed on residents of the developed world. "It would be so much easier if it was unsolvable, but it's not," he said. "It's immensely doable."

By Frederick Cusick, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct 22, 2005

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