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President Obama Looks to Reduce Deficit with Bipartisan Proposals

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers –

In an attempt to reduce the national deficit and improve his political standing, President Barack Obama is making bipartisan moves, which so far has been met with mixed reviews by congressional Democrats.

The president opened last week with a directive for a two-year salary freeze for federal employees, which is expected to save $2 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, $28 billion during the next five years, and more than $60 billion during the next 10 years.

Non-voting Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D- D.C., hailed the move, saying that Obama had already staked out the high moral ground in January 2009 by freezing the pay of his staffers long before proposing a similar move for the rest of the federal government.

However, not all Democrats are as supportive as Norton. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-MD, said the freeze is unfair to federal employees, who should not have to carry the burden. “I am disappointed that President Obama’s proposal for a two-year pay freeze for federal employees comes without additional steps to share the burden and sacrifice of reducing our federal deficit,” Edwards said in a statement. “Unfortunately, our civil servants will continue to work alongside contractors, including military and defense contractors, who will not see their pay frozen. Our dedicated public servants are willing to do their part, but they should not bear this burden alone.”

The pay freeze proposal comes as Obama works with congressional Republicans to extend tax-cuts for every American family, a move that would also introduce new spending into the economy. The issue boiled over to the point that Senate GOP members said they would block any legislation until the tax-cut situation was resolved.

“Republicans have pleaded with Democrats to put aside their wish-list, to focus on the things Americans want us to focus on,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R.-KY, said on the Senate floor. “They've ignored us. The voters repudiated their agenda at the polls. They've ignored them.”

Seeing that things were at an impasse, Obama reached out to the Republicans, and in return for extending Bush-era tax cuts to certain wealthier individuals, asked for an extension in unemployment benefits and another year of his “Making Work Pay” tax cut for working households.

“Our hope and expectation is that unemployment insurance--something that traditionally has had bi-partisan support—is something that once again will be dealt with as part of a broader package,” Obama told The Washington Post.

However, his potential alliance with the Republicans is not been embraced by Hill Democrats, who still want to see a repeal of the Bush tax cuts. House Democrats, in a flurry designed to demonstrate support for the middle class, passed, in a 234-188 vote, a bill that would make the tax cuts permanent for families earning less than $250,000 a year but ending the cuts spawned during the Bush years for the wealthiest two percent of Americans.

“I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues and President Obama to implement additional steps to reduce our deficit, starting with allowing tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to expire,” Edwards said.

NNPA Chairman Welcomed to the White House

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By Yussuf J. Simmonds, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

Since becoming the chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. has been working aggressively to make sure that the members of the nation's largest Black newspaper organization have a voice at all levels of society and government--especially in areas of policy-making.

Recently Bakewell met with senior presidential advisor, Valerie Jarrett, to make sure that NNPA can be in a position to readily articulate the President's agenda effectively to the community and by becoming more actively involved in that agenda as a national organization. The meeting covered a wide range of topics that discussed ways both the NNPA and the administration could jointly affect the quality of life for African Americans throughout the country.

According to Bakewell, "I would not divulge the specifics of the meeting at this time, but Ms. Jarrett was extremely committed to ensuring that the Black Press had full access to the President's agenda." He also added that the meeting was very fruitful and that he would put off discussing the full details, until a later date. "I will be releasing a list of activities which will be undertaken by NNPA and the President, as a result of the meeting and that story would depict future plans and involvement between NNPA and the President."

Some of the actions that Bakewell has taken on behalf of the African American community and as chairman of the NNPA, include testifying before Congress during the census count; seeking ways for NNPA members to get their fair share of stimulus dollars; holding elected officials accountable; and raising the organization's profile to act on, instead of reacting to, problems within the African American community.

Somali-Americans Issue Call for Peace

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Close to 50 people gathered recently outside Portland City Hall for a "Peace and Unity" rally sparked by the recent arrest of 19 year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born U.S. citizen, who police said attempted to set off a bomb at a local Christmas-tree lighting ceremony.

Speakers maintained that the youth’s involvement in a fake bomb plot at Pioneer Courthouse Square reflected local Somali youths' need for support.

"We are gathered here in the cold rain because we care about our Somali community,” said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, “and it takes all of us to keep us all safe… We also recognize that due process will be had and we will be stronger together because of this challenge."

Bashir Warsame, head of the Somali Community Services Coalition in SW Portland, said: "All Somali people are sad and I believe we want to show this as well as show that we want to increase support for our troubled youth."

Muna Obshir Mohamud of the Portland Office of Human Relations added: “"Islamaphobia is very real and we all hope that it will not be re-ignited… It may be too late for this Mohamud, but there are many, many Mohamuds out there. We need to make sure these Muslim men have our support."

The accused teenager, a college student who lived in Beaverton, Oregon, this week pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism. Defense attorneys say their client was "groomed" by the FBI who provided a van and the fake explosives that were supposed to terrorize the crowds at the tree lighting.

Officials say they didn't direct the plot, Mohamud did. He not only chose the venue for the attack, they said, but shrugged off attempts to derail the plot when it was under way.

But civil liberties advocates respond that these sting operations, particularly since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have ended up focusing on people who pose no real danger but are susceptible to being lured into pretend plots by law enforcement officials. At

At this week’s court appearance, lead attorney Stephen Sady told the court that “quite sophisticated” government agents were “basically grooming the individual.” He called the arrest “obviously timed for maximum impact and maximum publicity.

Mohamud was indicted on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. A conviction would result in a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Mugabe, Mandela and Others Named in Wikileaks Secret Cables

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Networks –

The publication of confidential diplomatic cables on the website Wikileaks gave ammunition to some African leaders who have complained, without previous proof, of U.S. interference in their country.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe for example, learned from the cables that the U.S. is leading efforts to remove him from power. In the leaked memos, former U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell wrote that the U.S. was taking a leading role to bring Mugabe down and that former colonizer Britain could not do the job because it was hamstrung by its colonial past. “Thus it falls to the U.S., once again, to take the lead, to say and do the hard things and to set the agenda,” Dell said in a cable posted on the Wikileaks site.

As to Kenya, classified U.S. diplomatic messages called Nairobi “a swamp of flourishing corruption” and had little good to say about the current coalition government. Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said: "We do not know the details of the leaked cables, but if what is reported is true then it is totally malicious and a total misrepresentation of our country and our leaders…. We are surprised and shocked by these revelations."

Mutua said the U.S.'s Africa envoy Johnny Carson had called Prime Minister Raila Odinga this week to apologize for the expected leaks.

Finally, the secret cables revealed that former President Nelson Mandela was resolutely against the Iraq war, and that he believed President Bush ignored calls by the United Nations for restraint because the UN’s then-General Secretary Kofi Annan is Black.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Showcases Progress

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By Dorinda White, Special for NNPA Wire Service –

On the anniversary of the historic actions of Rosa Parks on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation showcased the progress of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Wednesday, December 1)

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project is fifty percent completed. It is situated on one of the most prestigious sites remaining on the National Mall. “The Memorial will capture the essence of Dr. King’s passion and vision for all to enjoy a life of freedom, opportunity, and justice,” said Harry Johnson, President and CEO of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

“As such, it will serve as a stage to honor his national and international contributions to humankind, acknowledging his unbridled teachings for achieving social change through non-violent methods. The Memorial will remind the world of his dedication to the idea of achieving human dignity through global relationships, and instill a sense of duty within each of us to be responsible citizens and conscientious stewards of freedom and democracy.”

The Foundation’s presentation highlighted how the entire site will look upon completion. A combination of inscribed granite walls and green space areas will surround the “Mountain of Despair” leading to the “Stone of Hope” and the imposing statute of Dr. King. Under the gray skies of Washington, D.C. with scaffolding surrounding it, the statute seemed ready to step forward out of the stone encasing it.

“The Memorial is a memorial to a man who was a citizen of the world whose messages of democracy, justice, hope and love transcended racial barriers and resonated around the globe,” stated Johnson.

“This was confirmed when he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.”

Johnson reminded the audience that the fundraising for the Memorial has not met its goal stating, “We have not met our fundraising goals, but the Memorial project is moving ahead as scheduled. We hope that each American and those around the world will make a contribution towards the completion of this Memorial. Dr. King touched lives on an international level and we know that in the end, those who believed in his words and actions will contribute to his Memorial.

The press conference held on the site of the Memorial included remarks from John T. Montford, GM Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Memorial Foundation’s Executive Leadership Cabinet, Robert G. Stanton, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., Executive Architect of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc.

For more information and to make a contribution go to www.buildthedream.org

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BVN National News Wire