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Light at the End of the Tunnel for Federal Jobs Bill

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The fate of a $112 billion jobs bill that would provide relief for struggling states and fresh unemployment benefits for the nation’s jobless, faced new life as the Senate reconvened on Tuesday.

Republicans, who believe its passage would lead to an unmanageable level of additional national debt, have been stalling the bill. But Democrats are hopeful that the appointment of Carte Goodwin to fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) will provide the vote needed to release the bill from a stall generated by Senate Republicans.

Goodwin, once a key staff member for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, is to be sworn in as the interim senator and is expected to vote in favor of the bill, in the face of Republican opposition.

“What we’re not willing to do, is use worthwhile programs as an excuse to burden our children and our grandchildren with an even bigger national debt,” Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

The GOP’s resistance has outraged many of the bill’s supporters who believe it would address the unemployment issue head on.

“This is irresponsible and immoral,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement. “This legislation would create and save jobs, help families feed their children and keep Americans in their homes. We are following through on our commitment to help the people and we are being blocked at every turn.”

According to The Washington Post, the measure would also have protected doctors from a drastic cut in Medicare rates scheduled to be enacted on June 18, and would have offered emergency unemployment benefits to over 5 million people. As a result of the blocking of the bill, an estimated 1.2 million people stopped receiving checks at the close of June.

In an effort to secure Republican support, Democrats initially scaled the bill down from its original $200 billion cost. In addition, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) scaled back other parts of the bill, including a measure that would have protected doctors from the Medicare cut for six months rather than 19 months. In addition, Reid proposed deducting $25 from the checks from the millions of people receiving unemployment benefits.

President Obama and Democratic leaders vowed to continue to keep pushing for the bill, but don’t have a clear method to secure its passing. In order for the bill to advance, it would require at least one or two more Republican votes.

“We owe it to these Americans, who we have sworn to protect to get this legislation passed,” Cummings said in a statement. “Our primary focus must be putting those who are unemployed back to work. I urge my colleagues in the other body to put partisanship aside and pass this job-creating legislation immediately.”

Furor Over Painting of Mandela By White Artist

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) - A white South Africa has stirred a furor over his painting of former president Nelson Mandela as a cadaver, surrounded by prominent African figures witnessing his autopsy.

Artist Yuill Damaso called his work “a modern take on the Rembrandt oil painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.” According to Damaso, his rendition is a tribute to Mandela.

“Underneath all his great achievements, the revered former South African president is flesh and bone, like everyone else,” Damaso said in interviews.

But the work has infuriated local residents who are demanding it be removed from Johannesburg’s Hyde Park shopping centre. The African National Congress also has condemned the work, saying: "It is in bad taste, disrespectful, and it is an insult and an affront to values of our society."

In Africa, some believe it taboo to depict a living person — let alone the internationally revered, anti-apartheid icon — as dead.

Mandela, who is due to celebrate his 92nd birthday on July 18, has increasingly limited his time in the public in recent years. He made a brief public appearance at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday about an hour prior to the World Cup final match.

Ugandans Take Stock of Fatal Blasts Linked to Terror

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – Ugandans shared their grief and shock over three deadly bomb blasts Sunday whose death toll has reportedly reached 74.

Africans from the region took to the internet seeking solace over the many who died, never suspecting a threat at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala and later at the Kyadondo Rugby Club where thousands had gathered to watch the windup of the World Soccer Cup.

“After the first blast, which occurred slightly on the sidelines of the crowded area, many people ducked under their chairs, some lying down and using the chairs as shelter. Barely a minute later, I heard the second blast, right in the middle of the crowd. It was more ear-piercing and louder,” recalled Richard Wanambwa, a survivor.

"What had been a football party turned into a sea of chaos. A blanket of smoke hung over the field, with wails and groans being the signature sound,” he recalled.

Among the dead were 10 Eritreans and one American working with a missionary group. Six Americans were injured in the explosions, according to Police Chief Kale Kayihura, adding this is not new in Uganda. The country suffered similar attacks in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Norbert Mao of Uganda’s Democratic Party linked the attacks to Uganda’s deployment in Somalia. Uganda has the largest troop presence in that conflicted country. The Ethiopian restaurant may have faced retaliation over that country’s support of the isolated Somali president who despite backing from the U.S. and international community controls a tiny fraction of the capital city.

An Ethiopian-born Eritrean, Massawa, wrote to the BBC online: “I am devastated to read about the slaughter of my people by murders driven by religious zealotry. This kind of act should be denounced and stopped at its root.”

Massawa blamed “a misguided foreign policy of the United States to support the thugs and warlords who are unable to govern more than a few block of Mogadishu. Al-Shabab and other Islamic groups, though religious fanatics, govern most of Somalia and therefore should be brought-in to the negotiating table.”

“African leaders who have no vested interest in Somalia should facilitate constructive talks to bring about peace. How can you have Ugandan and Burundian "Peace Keepers" when there is no peace to keep?”

Foreign troops, he said, “only embolden Al-Shabab and others” – “The United States, AMISOM and the Ethiopian army need to stay away from Somalia and only assist the people in their endeavour to find lasting peace.”

Obama to Arizona: 'We'll See You in Court'

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By Stephon Johnson, Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News –

(NNPA) - It was in the works ever since May when thoughts of apartheid centered on the state of Arizona. Now the White House plans to challenge the immigration policy that has sparked debate and controversy.

The U.S. Justice Department has officially filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona seeking an injunction on the state’s immigration law (known as SB 1070), claiming it illegally intrudes on federal prerogatives. In the lawsuit (titled “The United States of America v. The State of Arizona; and Janice K. Brewer, Governor of the State of Arizona, in her Official Capacity”), it states such.

“In our constitutional system, the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters,” read the complaint. “This authority derives from the United States Constitution and numerous acts of Congress. The nation’s immigration laws reflect a careful and considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations and humanitarian interests.”

The complaint also established that the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the Department of State are assigned the task of enforcing laws already in place.

The law, designed to identify, prosecute and deport so-called illegal immigrants, would make the failure to carry proper identification a crime and give broad power to local Arizona police departments to detain an individual if he is suspected of being an immigrant.

Detractors have called the law open season on Hispanic Americans in Arizona, believing that the law is a direct response to immigration from Mexico.

The federal lawsuit is the fifth challenge to Arizona’s policy as lawsuits from Phoenix and Tucson police officers, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Immigration Law Center have attempted to test the policy’s legality.

But everyone isn’t happy with the federal government challenging what they believe are states’ rights.

Two Republican senators from Arizona, Jon Kyl and former presidential candidate John McCain, sent out a joint statement against the lawsuit calling President Barack Obama weak on immigration enforcement.

“It’s far too premature for the Obama administration to challenge the legality of this new law since it has not yet been enforced,” read the statement. “Most legal experts believe such a ‘facial challenge’ to the statute would be very difficult to win. Moreover, the American people must wonder whether the Obama administration is really committed to securing the border when it sues a state that is simply trying to protect its people by enforcing immigration law.

“The Obama administration has not done everything it can do to protect the people of Arizona from the violence and crime illegal immigration beings to our state,” the statement continued.

“Until it does, the federal government should not be suing Arizona on the grounds that immigration enforcement is solely a federal responsibility.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer took to her Twitter page to respond to the lawsuit. “We will be very aggressive in defending our law,” she said. Brewer also suggested that supporters donate to the state’s “defense fund” at www.az.gov to assist with the state’s “border security and immigration matters.”

Verdict in Oscar Grant Case Spurs Violence in Oakland; More Than 50 Arrested

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By Kristin Gray, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

(NNPA) - Hundreds flooded the streets of downtown Oakland on the evening of July 8 after a verdict in the trial of Oscar Grant’s shooting death.

Johannes Mehserle, a former White transit officer, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter which could land him in jail for up to four years.

However, many in Oakland believe justice had not been served and expected a harsher sentence for the former officer, who shot Grant – a 22-year-old unarmed African American on a BART train New Year’s Day 2009.

According to Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts, at least 50 people were arrested in the hours after the verdict for breaking storefront windows and throwing items onto local streets.

According to The Associated Press, rioting peaked around 8 p.m. (11 p.m. EST) with an estimated 800 people protesting in the streets.

Early that day, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums released a statement expressing his personal support for Grant’s family.

“My hope is that justice will be served. I want to reiterate that the journey to justice does not have to end here,” said Dellums, the city’s third Black mayor. “If young Oscar Grant’s parents, who out of respect should make this decision, determine that justice has not been served, then I will commit myself to work with the family and their attorney to continue this journey to justice.”

Dellums continued by urging Oakland residents to “react in a manner that respects” Grant’s life and to “show the nation that we can be a model city as a total community.”

In a more overt statement, Batts said city police “anticipate protests following the reading of the verdict and have heard of possible outside agitation in an attempt to turn the peaceful movement into acts of civil unrest.”

Grant’s shooting, which was caught on a cell phone camera and later went viral on YouTube, spurred national outrage and protests in Oakland. The victim’s family had hoped the jury would find Mehserle guilty of murder, said attorney John Burris in a press conference.

“As you can imagine we are extremely disappointed with this verdict. The verdict is not a true representative of what happened to Oscar Grant and what the officer did to him that night. This is not an involuntary man case,” said Burris. “This was a truly compromised verdict that does not truly and accurately reflect the facts and we are extraordinarily disappointed in that. We do believe this was a murder case…We are surprised that the jury came back as quickly as they did and seemed to be very dismissive of the murder charge and involuntary manslaughter.”

The jury, which did not include any African Americans, found Mehserle to be criminally negligent and did not believe he intentionally killed Grant. The former officer has repeatedly said he intended to shoot Grant with a taser gun, not his firearm.

Mehserle is set for sentencing on Aug. 6.

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