Afternoon News Bytes: Feb. 3, 2012

Politics And Prayers; Senate Passes Insider-Trading Bill; What Childhood Poverty Means (OPINION); Nation-Building Vs. Al-Qaeda-Crushing In Afghanistan; Should All Americans Have To Earn Their Citizenship?; That Former Slave Who Wrote His Ex-Master Never Went Back To Him; NC's Heath Shuler Won't Seek Re-Election To House; Syria: It’s Not Just About Freedom (OPINION); Jobs Report: Unemployment Rate For Returning Veterans Fell 6 Percentage Points.

H.R. 1956…Shameless (Period)

“You don’t know what you have here in America, you know?” said the cabby who drove me home from the airport. When his father died in Ethiopia, he had to drop out of his American university where he was studying computer engineering to start driving cabs to support his family back in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has no social safety net.

“In America,” said my cab driver, “you have services and programs that help keep families together in hard times.” He hasn’t seen his family in nine years. His cab-drivers’ salary is hardly enough to pay for a plane ticket to Ethiopia. Besides, if he takes time off, that would be less food, education, and possible eviction for his mother, brothers and sisters.

While it is true that America has a social safety net, it is weaker than it was just forty years ago and it’s come under more intense attack in recent years. The deficit is the justification for shredding the net now. And extremists are pushing the party that claims a lock on “family values” to nullify the programs that protect at-risk American families from slipping into poverty.

In the name of “fiscal responsibility,” the Tea Party-led House GOP passed H.R. 1956, a bill that takes cash from the hands of America’s poorest working families in order to protect the richest of the rich. H.R. 1956 requires workers to present a Social Security Number rather than an IRS issued Individual Tax Identification Number to claim the child tax credit. Seems simple enough, but the bill is crafted to target working immigrant families the hardest, even if they are legal residents or have children that are American citizens. The GOP called this a compromise. H.R. 1956 is what they offered in return for the extension of the Payroll Tax cut. Congress could have paid for that extension by ending the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which were set to expire on January 1, 2012. But the GOP said absolutely not. Instead, they crafted H.R. 1956.

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 27, 2012

Marco Rubio Calls For A Shift In Rhetoric On Immigration; Davos Head Offers To Meet With Occupy Protesters; UN Rights Chief Calls For Them To Be Heard; Global Evangelical Body Plans Egyptian Summit, Calls For Worldwide Prayer; For GOP, Dislike For Obama Trumps All; Who Are Evangelicals?;congre A Scalpel, Not A Hatchet; Climate Change Goes Back To Square Zero; Rick Santorum: Gingrich And Romney ‘Bought Into The Global Warming Hoax’.

Gabby Giffords Says Goodbye to Congress (for Now)

On the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon, a year and 17 days after she was shot in the head by a would-be assassin's bullet, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords tendered her resignation as representative of Arizona's 8th Congressional District.

An unusually emotional scene unfolded in the House chamber, with many members of Congress struggling — and failing — to keep their composure as Gifford's close friend, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, tearfully read the resignation letter on Gifford's behalf.

SOPA: Why It Was So Dark Around Here Yesterday

Internet. Blackout. Image via Wylio

Surfing the Internet during the 2011 Blackout, Oceanside, Calif. Image via Wylio

You’re on the Internet right now.

Maybe you’re on your phone, or your iPad, or even your desktop at work (it's OK, your secret's safe with us). No matter what your choice of access media, if you’re reading this, you’re on the Internet.

Most of us take Internet access for granted. (Who can remember life before Google?) A seemingly endless, free-to-all source of information, knowledge and distraction, the Internet drives and facilitates transactions both inconsequential and global, simple and complex.

Certainly the Internet has a seedy underbelly, from spammers and basement-dwelling sport hackers to illicit businesses and toxic enterprises.

But who polices it? Who’s the Internet Sheriff?

Sojourners Observes Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

It's National Human Trafficking Awareness Day! Photo courtesy of the Not for Sale Campaign

Today people across the nation (and the blogosphere) are taking part in National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which encourages participants to get educated and get active in the fight to end the suffering of the estimated 27 million persons living in slavery today.

In his speech declaring January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, President Obama intimated a serious commitment to the fight to end modern slavery. This year, Obama and Congress have the opportunity to make historic, bipartisan progress toward this worthy goal.

And it’s not just government that’s getting involved. Just last week, over 42,000 young Christians banded together at Passion 2012 to raise more than $3.1 million dollars to fund organizations fighting to bring prevention, freedom and restoration to those trapped in slavery.

Sojourners has long been committed to the fight to end this abhorrent evil, and the current issue of Sojourners Magazine seeks to engage the topic head-on. 

Inside, we invite you to explore our coverage and involvement in the fight against human trafficking over the past year!

Advent or Government Shutdown, Which Matters More?

Kalenderlys (Advent candle) - Image via Wiki Commons

Kalenderlys (Advent candle) - Image via Wiki Commons

There is, once again, a threat of a government shutdown. Congress, once again, can’t get along. Even the most basic decision making has stalled as each party postures for their base.
But, it’s almost Christmas and there a better and brighter things to focus on then the latest Rasmussen tracking poll.

I’d like to share some Advent reflections from my former professor at North Park University, Scot McKnight. He is in the midst of a series that points to what Advent is supposed to remind Christians of. It’s a simple message with deep meaning: Jesus is King.

Righteous Indignation: Half of America is Poor

"Homeless and Cold" Image via Wylio

"Homeless and Cold" in New York City's Lincoln Square, 2010. Image via Wylio

There are times when a story in the news just makes one stop with a righteous indignation.The news I heard today that one in two Americans is now classified as poor makes me angry.

This means half of the people living the richest nation in the world are poor. Is this the American exceptionalism we want?

I am angry because this is a not necessary. I am angry that so many people are suffering, while our elected officials are playing games, unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to promote the general welfare of the nation.