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2009 has been a pretty tough year. The honeymoon with President Obama came to a screeching halt, the economy remained in bad shape, and there was an avalanche of celebrity deaths this summer. But it wasn’t all bad news! In the spirit of the holiday, here are 10 news stories we were thankful to read this year:

Judge Finds Government At Fault For Levees Breaking During Katrina -“In a ruling that could leave the government open to billions of dollars in claims from Hurricane Katrina victims, a federal judge said late Wednesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had displayed “gross negligence” in failing to maintain a navigation channel — resulting in levee breaches that flooded large swaths of greater New Orleans.”

Why we’re thankful: This ruling will give New Orleans residents an opportunity to get financial help recovering from devastation that might have been avoided with better oversight. That’s justice.

Obama Signs Bill Expanding Hate Crime Laws To Cover Gay People – The measure expands current hate crimes law to include violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. To assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to the must-pass defense policy bill over the stern objections of many Republicans.

Why we’re thankful: Crimes perpetrated out of bias against people due to sexual orientation have been on the rise since last year. Thanks to the passage of this legislation, victims are now afforded protection under the law. While there’s more work yet to be done on the issue of gay rights, this is a start.

“Princess & The Frog” Merchandise In High Demand – “More than 45,000 dolls have sold in less than a month with 17,000 selling last week alone. At one major retailer, The Princess and the Frog bedding has sold nearly triple the amount of regular Disney Princess bedding. At Disney Store locations nationwide and, the Princess Tiana role-play dresses are selling above all other Disney Princess characters.”

Why we’re thankful: The more people vote with their wallets and support “The Princess and the Frog,” the more Disney will realize there is an audience out there for characters of color. Tiana may be the first and only Black Disney princess now, but with enough positive reinforcement, she won’t be the last.

Rihanna Speaks To Diane Sawyer About Chris Brown Beating – “Rihanna warned other women facing domestic violence to not let themselves become blinded by love. She also said she regretted going back to Brown, saying it sent the wrong message to her fans.”

Why we’re thankful: Rihanna’s willingness to speak out let young domestic violence victims know that they aren’t alone, and hopefully even gave some the courage to leave their abusers.

Landmark Health Care Bill Narrowly Passes The House – “The Democratic-controlled House has narrowly passed landmark health care reform legislation, handing President Barack Obama a hard won victory on his top domestic priority. Republicans were nearly unanimous in opposing the plan that would expand coverage to tens of millions of Americans who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry.”

Why we’re thankful: While we won’t know for a while what the Senate will decide on health care, the passage of this bill in the House brought the nation one step closer to caring for the health of all citizens at prices that won’t bankrupt families. We hope health care reform makes it all the way to President Obama’s desk.

“Precious” Breaks Box Office Records In Limited Release – “Oscar hopeful ‘Precious: Based On The Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire’ was a hit with audiences its opening weekend. The gritty inner-city drama, executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, made $1.8 million at 18 theaters in its first weekend of limited release, according to Variety. The film scored an average of $100,000 per theater — reportedly a record.”

Why we’re thankful: Overweight, dark-skinned, poor — people who meet these descriptions don’t often find their stories told in skinny, white-washed, and glamorous Hollywood. “Precious” not only changed the face of the movies, it did so while receiving widespread critical acclaim and box office success, showing that there’s room for a greater diversity of perspectives and actors in the mainstream.

Number Of Black Americans With 4-Year Degrees Reaches New High – Nearly 4.6 million African-Americans hold a four-year college degree, a new high, but a large racial gap in degree attainment still exists and does not appear to be shrinking, according to a report in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

Why we’re thankful: Making strides in education can only mean future uplift for our community, and that’s something worth celebrating.

Mattel Introduces Black Barbies With More “Authentic Features”“Mattel announced Tuesday that it is launching a line of black dolls with more ‘authentic facial characteristics’ than the company’s dolls have featured until now. The dolls, which are part of the ‘So In Style’ line have ‘fuller lips, a wider nose, more distinctive cheek bones and curlier hair,’ according to the world’s biggest toymaker.”

Why we’re thankful: Given the chance to see themselves reflected in their dolls, more little girls will undoubtedly come to see that beauty comes in all shades.

Lou Dobbs Leaves His Nightly Show -“CNN’s Lou Dobbs stepped down from his controversial role as an advocacy anchor at the network at the end of his show Wednesday night, saying he plans to seek a more activist role.”

Why we’re thankful: CNN is the network many look to for straight, unbiased news. Freed from Dobbs’ special brand of xenophobia and general craziness, CNN just became a little more trustworthy.

And finally, the one thing we’re as thankful for today as we were last year …

The president is (still) Black.

Happy Thanksgiving from NewsOne!