Coptic Solidarity honors Hill's work
WASHINGTON -- An organization that defends Egypt's Christian minority honored U.S. Rep. French Hill on Thursday for his work on behalf of the persecuted church.
Coptic Solidarity presented the Republican from Little Rock with its 2018 Leadership Award "for his leadership in Congress in support of Coptic equality and religious freedom for all Egyptians."
Hill, R-Ark., received the award at the group's annual meeting in Washington. He also held an icon honoring 21 Coptic Christian martyrs who were slain by ISIS in Libya.
Shortly before Christmas, Hill introduced a bipartisan resolution "expressing concern over attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt."
In it, he urged the Egyptian government "to end the marginalization of Copts in Egyptian society and make a legal example of any perpetrator who persecutes Egyptian Christians."
An estimated 10 percent of Egypt's 95 million residents are Christians. The vast majority of them belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Their houses of worship have been targeted by terrorists in recent years.
"Copts actually face a tremendous amount of persecution and obstacles in their daily life," said Dr. George Gurguis, Coptic Solidarity's president. "Our churches are being closed arbitrarily." New churches can't be built without government permission.
Hill, he said, has been "a consistent supporter" of the Egyptian church.
In an interview, Hill called religious freedom "a fundamental tenet of democracy and ... American foreign policy."
Central High pupil sings at D.C. game
A Little Rock Central High School student sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Nationals Park on Friday night before the the game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies.
A light rain was falling as Tania Kelley, 14, took to the field to sing.
She and her family were welcomed by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, a fellow Arkansan and part owner of the Washington Nationals.
Thousands of fans stood as the soprano paid homage to America. They cheered as she hit the final notes.
Tania didn't worry about forgetting the lyrics.
"I know the words by heart. I've been singing the national anthem for a long time now," she said.
Tania was at the Governor's Mansion in April for a reception highlighting the partnership between Arkansas 4-H and the Congressional Award program.
Slater was there. So was Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
At some point that evening, Tania sang the Etta James classic "At Last," and the crowd was impressed.
Several weeks later, she learned that she'd been invited to Washington to sing at the ballpark.
Her trip to the capital coincided with this year's Congressional Award medal ceremonies.
Tamara Kelley said music brings her daughter joy.
"She literally has been singing since she was about 18 months old when we first heard her sing a tune. She's been in the church choir, the community choir in Maumelle, school choirs. She just has a love for singing," she said.
Bowles moderates broadband caucus
When the Senate Broadband Caucus held its forum last week on "Agriculture and Broadband for Strong Rural Communities," it asked Elizabeth Bowles of Little Rock to moderate the event.
Bowles, the president of Aristotle Inc., is chairman of the Federal Communication Commission's Broadband Deployment Advisory Commission.
She was joined by officials from the FCC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Deere & Company, makers of John Deere machinery.
Bowles told the audience that Little Rock has great broadband access but that rural areas surrounding it aren't always as fortunate.
"Rural America is very close to the urban centers," she said. "It's not very far from the urban core, but it might as well be in the middle of nowhere, literally and figuratively, because it is not getting the care that it needs."
The event, held on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center complex, attracted several broadband caucus members, including senators from Minnesota, North Dakota and West Virginia.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Rogers who also serves on the caucus, said agriculture is crucial for Arkansas and all the other states represented.
"When you get out in our smaller communities, I don't care where you're at ... [agriculture's] not 25 percent of the economy. It's probably 90 percent of the economy, so it is so, so very important for rural America," he said.
The Natural State is an agricultural leader, but is playing catch-up on Internet access, he said.
"Arkansas is Number 1 in rice. They grow a bunch of everything -- soybeans, corn, cotton -- you name it. But we're 48th in broadband, so that's something that has to be fixed," he said.
Planning to visit the nation's capital? Know something happening in Washington, D.C.? Please contact Frank Lockwood at (202) 662-7690 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Want the latest from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Washington bureau? It's available on Twitter, @LockwoodFrank.
SundayMonday on 06/24/2018