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Congress Delivers President Obama a Christmas Stocking of Mixed Partisan Blessings

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspaper –

Senate Democrats on Dec. 18 voted to repeal the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” ban on gays in the military. Republicans, however, continued their attempts to amend the arms control START Treaty while successfully blocking the immigration reform DREAM Act.

The measures were issues on which Obama issued campaign pledges during the 2008 presidential campaign. He had promised to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy governing homosexuality disclosure in the military, and to revise both immigration policy and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia.

The Senate voted 65 to 31 for a procedural measure that will begin the process of repealing the 17 year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a measure that the president said he will sign in the next few days.

In a letter, Obama thanked his Democratic colleagues and others for fighting hard to get the legislation passed.

"When that bill reaches my desk, I will sign it, and this discriminatory law will be repealed," Obama said. "Gay and lesbian service members -- brave Americans who enable our freedoms -- will no longer have to hide who they are. The fight for civil rights, a struggle that continues, will no longer include this one."

The last days of the 111th Congress reflect the storm-tossed nature of Obama’s first two years in office.

He’s made some key progress on economic recovery and health care reform, but has also seen Republicans use the lack of job growth against his party as the GOP took the House back in the 2010 mid-term elections.

On Dec. 18, the scoreboard was mixed for the president. The DREAM Act, which would have laid out a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands illegal immigrants through higher education or military service, failed to reach the Senate floor for debate. The Senate voted 55 to 41 to move the bill forward, but fell five votes shy of the 60 votes needed to bring it to the Senate floor for debate.

“I am disappointed that a small minority in the Senate continues to block the DREAM Act from consideration,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, in a statement. “This is important legislation that started out with bipartisan support but, despite substantive changes, has been twisted into something it is not. This is a compassionate bill that recognizes that we should not hold innocent children responsible for the sins of their parents.”

But Senate Democrats were able to orchestrate a limited victory for Obama on the START treaty, voting 59 to 37 to remove language from the proposed pact with Russia, a move that will allow Senate debate on the treaty to get underway.

The treaty would establish new guidelines between the two countries for inspection of nuclear weapons, and limit the stockpiles the U.S. and Russia would be allowed to keep to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers each.

The treaty passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last September. The president had indicated the Senate would take up debate of the treaty before the end of the year, but since the measure failed to progress the president is now forced to face the prospect of his administration having to maneuver through a more hostile Senate in the 112th Congress.

Charlotte, NC Council Member's New Role is National

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By Michaela L. Duckett, Special to the NNPA from The Charlotte Post –

Charlotte (NC) City Council member James Mitchell represents more than District 2 in northwest Charlotte; he’s the voice of more than 218 million Americans.

Mitchell is the new president of the National League of Cities (NLC), the nation’s oldest and largest organization representing 19,000 cities, towns, and villages across the nation.

With a mission of strengthening and promoting cities as centers of opportunity, leadership, and governance, the NLC serves as a resource and advocate for municipal governments.

“It is humbling that you are the representative for all elected officials throughout the country, and it is kind of daunting because it is a big responsibility,” he said. “In these tough economic times, cities are struggling. Revenues have fallen. Yet, the demand for services has increased.”

Mitchell will spend a great deal of his one-year term racking up frequent flyer miles, traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C., three to four times each month to discuss urban policy with members of the Obama administration. “I will spend a lot of time in D.C. lobbying and speaking on how cities and towns need to be the center of all bills passed in Congress,” he said.

This week alone, Mithcell’s schedule included meetings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, R-NC, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY. He also attended the president’s annual holiday party along with Mayor Anthony Foxx.

As NLC president, Mitchell will be charged with leading the league’s board of directors in shaping the organization’s priorities and directing advocacy, research, and membership activities.

Mitchell said his top priority is small business development. When he unveils his platform in January, Mitchell plans to announce initiatives that will help entrepreneurs gain more access to capital and advocate for tax breaks to help small business owners create jobs and venture opportunities.

He also plans to tackle the issues of economic development, sustainability, transportation, and infrastructure improvement, and immigration.

“If we as the National League of Cities do not take a proactive step in addressing immigration, then this issue can really continue to divide our country,” he said. “We need some of our leaders to step up and come up with some solutions.”

Mitchell said his role provides him with an opportunity to increase Charlotte’s visibility and increase the city’s profile on a national level. He believes Charlotte is a model for the country because it exemplifies a city thriving in the midst of economic turmoil. “We are fortunate that Charlotte has not had some of the fiscal challenges that other cities have,” he said.

Mitchell is in his sixth term on City Council. He chairs the Restructuring Government Committee and is vice chair of Economic Development and Planning and Housing and Neighborhood Developing committees. “Locally, I am trying to practice what I preach on a national level,” he said.

Mitchell has also created a National League of Cities president cabinet of 10 students majoring in public administration and political science at Johnson C. Smith University. They will accompany Mitchell to Washington in January and get hands on experience engaging in studying the impact of public policy. “That has been my legacy. As I move up, I try to bring people with me,” he said.

Civil Rights Groups Sign Ground Breaking Agreement With Comcast, NBC Universal

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspaper –

The NAACP, National Urban League, and National Action Network announced an agreement with Comcast and NBC Universal to expand current diversity initiatives intended to increase diversity in a wide range of areas including programming and employment.

The Memorandum of Understanding, filed on Dec. 17 with the Federal Communications Commission, creates initiatives to improve diversity in the areas of corporate governance, employment/workforce recruitment and retention, procurement, programming, and philanthropy and community investments.

“The NAACP stands with the National Urban League and the National Action Network in applauding Comcast and NBC Universal for committing to this memorandum of understanding,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “This agreement demonstrates the power of partnership and collaboration. We look forward to working closely with Comcast and NBC Universal and commend them for their corporate leadership in embracing the rich diversity of our nation. Business models that incorporate the importance of diversity increase prosperity and strengthen our economy. Ultimately, we must work together to create one America.”

“This agreement represents a positive step in the right direction for the principle of diversity, inclusion and economic opportunity,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “We applaud Comcast and NBC Universal for its willingness to enter into written commitments toward the goal of building a first-class communications concern. We thank them for their insight and commitment.”

"This historic agreement is a template for how major corporations should commit to concrete ways they will make equity and fairness part of their business plan. This agreement supports workers, businesses, artists, and charities in our community. It is a major step toward changing the corporate culture in how it relates to our community and will help define 21st century Civil Rights,” stated National Action Network President Rev. Al Sharpton.

Highlights of Comcast and NBC Universal’s diversity commitments include:

Adding at least eight new independently owned and operated networks where minorities have substantial participation either through ownership or operational control will be launched.

Establishing a $20 million venture capital fund intended to expand opportunities for minority entrepreneurs in the development of new digital media applications.

Creating Diversity Advisory Councils, including an African American Advisory Council, to facilitate open communication over the development, monitoring, and evaluation of diversity initiatives and to provide advice to senior executives.

Enhancing minority participation in news and public affairs programming.

Expanding investment priorities, including the building of tomorrow’s leaders, the expansion of digital literacy, and the promotion of community service.

Increasing philanthropic efforts to African American led and African American-serving institutions.

"We are proud to partner with these outstanding leaders of the African American community on this Memorandum of Understanding," said David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation. "This comprehensive commitment resulting from the Comcast NBC Universal transaction will bring key benefits in the areas of programming, investment and procurement. We look forward to continuing and deepening our relationships with these organizations and the broader African American community, as well as with other diverse communities with whom we are entering similar commitments."

“We are delighted to be working with the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Action Network as we further our shared goal of diversity in both the workplace and in the media,” commented Paula Madison, Executive Vice President, Diversity, NBC Universal. “We are also proud to be able to build on NBC Universal’s considerable progress over the past few years, and to accelerate the momentum of our commitments to minority ownership, expanded diversity programs, philanthropic efforts targeting under-served and diverse communities, and diversity among our suppliers.”

D.C. Post Office Named after Civil Rights Icon Dorothy Height

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspaper –

President Barack Obama recently signed a bill that names the United States Postal Service office in Washington D.C. after civil rights pioneer Dorothy Height.

On Dec. 15, Obama signed into order H.R. 6118, which renames the United States Postal Service facility located on Massachusetts Avenue in northeast D.C. as the Dorothy I. Height Post Office. The bill passed the House last September and passed the Senate earlier this month.

"This bill, marking it the first time a federal building in the nation's capital has been named for an African American woman, is cause for celebration," D.C. Non-Voting Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said in a statement. "Dorothy Height was an icon for social justice who lived here, and the Congress has recognized that she deserves a visible place of honor and distinction in the nation's capital. Renaming the post office next to Union Station will remind D.C. and the nation alike of the achievements of one of America's great women."

In addition to being a celebrated civil rights leader, Height also served as the Chair Emerita of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). While working with the NCNW, she devoted much of her energy to attempting to improve quality of life issues for Black women and their families, impacting education, health, and economic empowerment.

In 1994 President Bill Clinton awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Height died at Howard University Hospital of natural causes on April 20, 2010. She was 98.

Michael Vick Teaches Kids Consequences of Animal Cruelty

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By Donald Hunt Eagles, Special to NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune –

The students at Juniata Park Academy were patiently waiting in the school auditorium for a special guest to arrive. The special guest was Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

This was a big week for Vick and the Eagles (9-4). They had a big game on the road against the Dallas Cowboys (5-8) Sunday night on national television. It’s also Tuesday, which happens to be a day off for all NFL players.

But on this day, Vick is talking to the students about the consequences of getting involved in dogfighting. Vick spent 18 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting operation.

Vick has worked with the Humane Society in regards to speaking to youngsters in a number of schools. He has worked hard in trying to steer kids away from animal cruelty. He’s been getting the message out all over the country.

Vick doesn’t make any excuses for what he did. He clearly stands in a wrong person’s place. He’s been open and honest about his involvement with dogfighting and why it’s not the right thing to do. The students listen closely to him. Rebecca Glenn-Dinwoodie, a coordinator with the Humane Society of the United States, talks about Vick’s commitment to help end dogfighting in the community.

“His story is the strongest possible example of how dogfighting is a dead end,” Glenn-Dinwoodie said. “He comes off to these kids very honest. They listen to him and spread the message to the community. That’s powerful. He has spoken inside and outside of Philadelphia.

“Last week, he spoke to two different schools in (New Haven) Connecticut in regards to ending dogfighting. He’s been getting the word out. He’s definitely a busy guy. He takes time to get this message to the kids who need it who may not listen to other figures.”

Vick’s message is powerful. His story is even bigger.

In 2007, he went to prison where he spent nearly two years behind bars. In 2009, he was released from prison and Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, conditionally reinstated him. The Eagles were the only team that showed interest in him. Vick was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons before his misfortunes. He hadn’t played a game since 2006.

The Eagles signed him prior to the start of last season, when they had Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb and backup Kevin Kolb. He saw limited playing time in his first season with the Eagles.

In the offseason, the Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins. Vick became the backup to Kolb who was anointed the starter. But, Kolb got hurt in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. Vick stepped in and played lights out. He took over as the starter.

Moreover, it was announced that Vick, with 729,838 votes, leads all NFL all-stars in balloting for the 2011 Pro Bowl. He leads Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (691,146), New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (623,074), Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (591,598), and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (547,340) round out the top five in voting.

Vick knows what he’s doing on and off the field means a lot to the students. He realizes how critical it is to reach the kids who could very easily travel down the wrong path in life.

“It’s important to come out and talk to the kids and share some of the experiences,” Vick said. “I try to help them at all cost to prevent from going down the road that you went down. I think that’s very important. I just want to continue to spread that message. I want to continue to assist the Humane Society in putting a stop to dogfighting.”

The other part of Vick’s message is for people in general. He isn’t the first athlete to serve time in prison and come out to turn his life around. Bernard Hopkins is a good example of that. Hopkins, a former world light heavyweight and middleweight champion and future hall of famer, spent 56 months in Graterford State Penitentiary. He grew up in North Philly. He started boxing while he was in prison.

Like Vick, Hopkins needed a second chance. He got one. Hopkins, 45, is one of Philadelphia’s best known professional athletes. Graterford has a mural of Hopkins in his honor because of his perseverance and success. Hopkins is not just a great fighter, but also a good humanitarian. A year ago, he arranged to fight Enrique Ornelas at Temple’s Liacouras Center for all his family and friends from North Philadelphia.

Vick attended that fight and recognizes what Hopkins has done with his life.

“I draw inspiration from a lot of people,” Vick said. “There’s always going to be adversity. There’s always going to be ups and downs. It’s all about how you battle back from it. Bernard has a great story. He put in a lot of hard work. He battled back from what he went through. And, that’s what it’s all about.”

Vick has achieved a lot of success throughout his career. He was a terrific football player at Warwick High School in Newport News, Virginia. He had a great college career at Virginia Tech. His first appearance as a football player in Philadelphia was 1999 when Virginia Tech faced Temple at old Veterans Stadium. Vick led the Hokies to an incredible 62-7 victory over the Owls that day.

He was a freshman quarterback at the time. He ran for a season-high 134 yards and two rushing touchdowns while passing for two TDs. He put on a big time performance. He also led Virginia Tech to the national championship game before losing to Florida State.

In 2001, he became the first African-American quarterback to be taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. With three Pro Bowls in 2002, 2004 and 2005, he had built a great resume. This included an appearance in the NFC championship game against Eagles. In 2004, the Eagles defeated the Falcons while making its first Super Bowl appearance in 24 years. The fans have been quite familiar with Vick’s exploits as a player.

In looking back on what he’s accomplished during the years, he knows how fortunate he is to have another chance to not only play football, but also turn his life to community service. He credits his fiancée, Kijafa Frink from Philly, a graduate of Bodine High School and Hampton University, for providing him with plenty of support through the rough times.

“She’s an inspiration to me as well,” Vick said. “I don’t know where I would be especially during my 18-month prison sentence. You don’t really appreciate certain people until you really needed them or when you’re backed into a corner. That was the situation I was in and she was there for me. I will never forget that.”

Some people will never forget Vick’s quarterback performance on Monday night against the Washington Redskins. He led the Eagles to touchdowns on their first five possessions and posted franchise records for points scored in the first quarter (28) and first half (45) and in total net yards (592).

Vick had a career-high 150.7 passer rating and becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for 300 yards, rush for 50 yards, throw four TDs and rush for two TDs in a single game. As a result, Vick’s jersey is on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

That deserves high praise along with his work in the community.

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