The Common Good

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House Passes Billions in Cuts to Food Stamps Program

The House of Representatives on Thursday evening narrowly passed a plan that cuts about $40 billion* from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps program. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the move will push nearly 4 million low-income people off of the program in 2014. USA Today reports

"The House voted 217-210 for the bill that cuts nearly twice as much from food stamps as a bill the House rejected in June. It is also far more than a Senate measure passed earlier this year that would trim about $4.5 billion in spending. The bill failed to draw the support of a single Democrat, many of whom have said the steep cuts would erode a key safety net depended upon by families with children, seniors, veterans and people looking for work."

Earlier on Thursday, Sojourners President Jim Wallis condemned the then-proposed cuts, saying, "These same politicians are not willing to go to where the real money is: the Pentagon budget, which everyone knows to be the most wasteful in government spending, or the myriad subsidies to corporations, including agribusiness subsides to members of Congress who will be voting to cut SNAP for the poor. ... They are going after cuts to the poor and hungry people because they think it is politically safe to do so. So let’s call that what it is: moral hypocrisy."

Check back with Sojourners for details on how your congressperson voted. 

Image: U.S. Capitol Building, Orhan Cam / Shutterstock.com

*The early version of this story incorrectly stated $40 million in cuts.

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

The Families of Colombia's 'False Positive' Victims Are Still Fighting For Justice

Sojourners editors Rose Berger, Elizabeth Palmberg, and photographer Ryan Rodrick Beiler have all covered stories in the Colombian drug wars.
 
We've visited the Christian base communities. We've traveled with Witness for Peace. We stood in the cash-yielding coca fields of subsistence farmers. We've met with the priests and Protestant pastors who spend more time burying their congregants than marrying them. We've prayed with the families.
 
Writing for VICE, Ellie Mae O'Hagan continues the story of dangerous peacemaking and the demand for justice in Colombia:
I was there with the NGO Justice for Colombia to hear about the country's 'false positives' scandal, which first broke five years ago and shows no sign of relenting any time soon. The scandal has its roots in the Colombian 50-year civil war between the government and the left-wing peasant insurgent group FARC. In the early 2000s, then-president Alvaro Uribe, out of an apparent concern for the army’s reputation, started putting pressure on soldiers to increase their kill figures.
 
According to media reports, soldiers were promised cash payments and more vacation time if they produced the bodies of dead FARC guerrillas—an accusation the government denies. In an effort to increase their quotas, soldiers allegedly started luring young, impoverished men away from their homes with the offer of work. Once away from their families, the soldiers executed the men, dressed them up in guerrilla uniforms, and presented them as combat kills. Many victims were dismembered and buried hundreds of miles away from their families.

Read more.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Income Gap Between Rich and Poor is Largest in Hundred Years

The income gap in the U.S. is as wide as it has been in almost 100 years, according to a new study by UC Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics, and Oxford University. The study, based on Internal Revenue Service statistics, reports that although the Great Recession hit the top 1 percent hard, the wealthy recovered more quickly than other income groups. The L.A. Times reports

The 1929 stock market crash that preceded the Great Depression, followed by World War II, reduced an earlier national income gap for decades. But it began to grow again in the 1970s, and has widened since.

Saez attributes the trend not just to technology and job outsourcing, but to the reduced power of progressive tax policies and unions, along with "changing social norms regarding pay inequality."

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

New ICE Policy Allows Detention Alternatives

On Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new guidance for its officials when detaining non-criminal undocumented parents with minor children. The new policy seeks to safeguard parents and reduce family separation. ABC News reports: 

“It clarifies that ICE officers and agents may, on a case-by-case basis, utilize alternatives to detention for these individuals particularly when the detention of a non-criminal alien would result in a child being left without an appropriate parental caregiver,” said Brandon Montgomery, a spokesperson for ICE.

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Immigration

Global Churches Alliance for Bangladesh Garment Workers

Mary Priniski wrote in the August 2013 Sojourners magazine about churches responding in solidarity with garment workers, disproportionately women, after the terrible fires in Bangladesh’s garment factories. Now, a global church alliance has been established. Ekklesia reports:

[The alliance] provides an action plan for grassroots campaigning, and a letter for consumers to send to their retailers demanding improvements to the pay and working conditions of garment workers. Real-life stories from garment workers in Bangladesh also highlight the oppression they face and the struggle to survive.

 

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

Bradley Manning, Army Private Behind WikiLeaks Leak, Gets 35 Years in Prison

A military judge sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning, the man responsible for leaking thousands of documents to Wikileaks, to 35 years in prison this morning. Manning will also be dishonorably discharged. The Washington Post reports:

Manning, 25, was convicted last month of multiple charges, including violations of the Espionage Act for copying and disseminating the documents while serving as an intelligence analyst at a forward operating base in Iraq. He faced up to 90 years in prison.

According to the military, Manning is required to serve one-third of the sentence before he becomes eligible for parole. 

The government had asked Judge Denise Lind, an Army colonel, to sentence Manning to 60 years.

Read more here.

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Egypt's Christians Under Attack: Interactive Map

Since the July 3 ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi, Christians in Egypt have faced a shocking spike in violent attacks. Human rights groups in the country claim that to date, Egyptian authorities have not prevented the persecution. 

Christians make up nearly one-tenth of Egypt's population of 80 million. While Egypt's Coptic Christians have faced longstanding persecution, many are reporting that tensions between Sunni Muslims and minority Christians are the highest they have been for decades. USA Today reports:

Churches, houses, monasteries, orphanages, schools and businesses belonging to Copts were attacked in nine provinces "causing panic, losses and destruction for no reason and no crimes they committed except being Christians," the Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic activist group, said Thursday.

Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of the Christian weekly Watani, said the recent attacks are painful and vicious but it be worse if they are allowed to divide the two faiths.

USA Today has created an interactive map with real-time updates on attacks on Christian institutions, stretching from Alexandria to Qena. View the map here.

Read more of USA Today's story here.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Former Archbishop Williams: Western Christians Complaining About Persecution Need to 'Grow Up'

Former Archbishop Rowan Williams told Christians in the West who complain of mistreatment to "grow up" in a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival today. After years of meeting with others around the world who face "murderous hostility" for their religious beliefs, Lord Williams said complaints of persecution among Christians in the U.K. and the U.S. make him him "very uneasy." The Telegraph reports

"When you have any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word persecuted very chastely," he said.

"I think (Christians in the West) are made to feel uncomfortable at times. ...Don't confuse it with the systematic brutality and often murderous hostility which means that every morning you get up wondering if you and your children are going to make it through the day.

"That is different, it's real. It's not quite what we're facing in Western society. (That) level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of — I mean for goodness sake, grow up. You have to earn respect if you want to be taken seriously in society."

Read more here.

Image: Former Archbishop Rowan Williams, Mark William Penny / Shutterstock.com

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ELCA Elects First Female Presiding Bishop

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America elected the denomination's first female presiding bishop today. In a vote of 600 to 287, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod, will take over from current Presiding Bishop Rev. Mark Hanson. Religion News Service reports:

“When I stood before you 12 years, I told you this is not an election won, this is a call received. And now this call has been extended to Bishop Eaton,” Hanson said at the assembly. “This is a humble and a holy privilege to serve the gospel as the pastor of this whole church.”

Read more here.

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This Week, a Major Shift on Crime

On Monday, a federal judge in New York found the state's stop-and-frisk policies to be unconsitutional racial profiling. The same day, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that federal prosecutors would no longer invoke mandatory minimum sentencing laws for low-level drug offenses. 

Together, the two decisions sent strong signals that the country is moving away from the tough-on-crime policies of the last generation. The New York Times reports:

A generation ago, amid a crack epidemic, state and federal lawmakers enacted a wave of tough-on-crime measures that resulted in an 800 percent increase in the number of prisoners in the United States, even as the population grew by only a third. The spike in prisoners centered on an increase in the number of African-American and Hispanic men convicted of drug crimes; blacks are about six times as likely as whites to be incarcerated.

“There was the thought that if we stop, frisk, arrest and incarcerate huge numbers of people, that will reduce crime,” Rudovsky said. “But while that may have had some effect on crime, the negative parts outweighed the positive parts.”

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Faith & Politics