Faith leaders, community groups protest GOP budget in Syracuse, NY
The Nuns On A Bus tour that made stops at 10 congressional offices in nine states in July is back on the road protesting the House Republican budget’s damaging cuts to programs that benefit the poor and middle class. The tour, comprised this time of a different set of faith leaders and community action groups, made its second stop in upstate New York today, visiting Syracuse, New York to again draw attention to the “devastating” budget authored by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the GOP’s vice presidential nominee.
The budget came under fire from religious leaders for its substantial cuts to food assistance programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety net programs — overall, 62 percent of its spending cuts come from programs that benefit the poor and middle class. In a release, the religious leaders blasted the budget for “eviscerating…programs that provide pathways out of poverty for millions of families”:
“The proposed cuts of Representative Ryan in the Ryan’s Budget are immoral and unjustifiable and will be putting the burden on the poor,” said Father Fred Daily of All Saints Church. “I think that all people of faith should be in the streets proclaiming the immorality of these proposed cuts.”
The protest also called on Rep. Anne-Marie Buerkle (R), who represents Syracuse and the surrounding area, to repudiate the budget cuts. Buerkle voted for the budget’s passage in April. “I ask you Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle, as a graduate of Saint Joseph School of Nursing; whose mission is to follow the gospel message and to be at one with the poor and marginalized, to consider your vote and vote against the Romney/Ryan budget. If this budget does go through many of our friends and neighbors here in Syracuse will have drastic cuts to their services,” Sister Pat Bergan of Saint Lucy’s Church said in the release.
The House budget, which GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney called “marvelous” earlier this year, has been roundly criticized by faith leaders as an “immoral disaster” that contains cuts to food assistance and other programs that, in the words of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are “unjustified and wrong.” The nuns recently challenged Romney to spend a day with them in order to see what those spending cuts would mean for the poor, but his campaign has yet to respond.
Perhaps the largest convention of climate science deniers in history — otherwise known as the 2012 Republican National Convention — starts Monday in Tampa, Florida. Unfortunately for the GOP, they are in the bull’s-eye of the latest track for tropical storm Isaac:
Even worse, Tampa Bay has unique geography that puts it atop the list of U.S. cities most vulnerable to a direct hit from a major hurricane. As meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Jeff Masters explained last week:
About 1/3 of the 4-county Tampa Bay region lies within a flood plain. Over 800,000 people live in evacuation zones for a Category 1 hurricane, and 2 million people live in evacuation zones for a Category 5 hurricane.
Masters points out that in a worst-case scenario, the “Tampa Bay convention center would go under 20 feet of water, and St. Petersburg would become an island, as occurred during the 1848 hurricane”: Minnesota Public Radio chief meteorologist Paul Huttner pointed out today:
“If major evacuations are called for, Tampa’s geography makes it almost impossible to get everybody out of town to safer locations. In fact, possible last hour variations in the eventual track of Isaac may make it impossible to tell residents where to evacuate to.”
That is why the Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn takes any forecast of a major storm headed toward his city very seriously. If Isaac turns out to hurricane and bears down on the GOP convention in Tampa, Buckhorn told CNN, “Absolutely, we’re prepared to call it off”:
The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be…. The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10 % effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes. The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring.
Global warming fuels more intense deluges from major storms like hurricanes. At the same time, warming-driven sea level rise makes storm surges more destructive.
“More than half the total hurricane damage in the U.S. (normalized for inflation and populations trends) was caused by just five events,” explained MIT hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel in an email to me a few years ago. Trenberth has said that because the extremes are disproportionately more destructive and because manmade warming makes them disproportionately more likely, climate change can become the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
The irony of a hoard of GOP climate science deniers descending on this climate-endangered city was underscored when the Tampa Bay Tribune published an article Sunday by Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, president-elect of the American Meteorological Society, on the many serious climate impacts the city faces: Sea level rise, brutal heat waves, ever-worsening deluges and urban flooding, and more intense hurricanes.
Because of the combination of these impacts, major conventions are likely to skip the coastal cities of the Gulf during hurricane season in the coming decades. Sea level rise and ever-worsening storms will make the risks too high. And in the second half of the century, temperatures routinely exceeding 100°F in the summer will ruin many southern cities as convention sites.
Of course, it’s not too late to avert the worst of climate change, but a certain obstructionist party would have to come to its senses and support preventive action now. That may seem impossible today, but consider the final irony. Here’s what Paul Ryan just said about “your President, or your Congressman, or your Senator” (on a different subject):
What if they knew approximately when it was going to happen, and what if they knew how to prevent it from happening and they had the time to do that but they just decided not to because it wasn’t good politics?
What if? People who live in green houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Note: The storm track has been updated. You can find the latest one here.
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has flooded the airwaves with advertisements criticizing the Obama administration’s changes to the 1996 welfare reform law, accusing the administration of “gutting welfare reform” and removing the work requirements the law mandates. The ads are blatantly false, a point noted by independent fact-checkers, multiple media outlets, and even the newspaper cited in one of the ads.
This afternoon on CNN, Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer took Romney campaign chairman John Sununu to task over the false ads, reading directly from the Dept. of Health and Human Services directive that outlines the waiver program and the letters from Republican governors who asked for the waivers:
BLITZER: I’ll read to you, governor, the precise language from the Health and Human Services memo outlining what the states who seek this flexibility, and you were once a governor, and I’ll read to you what it says. It says the Department of Health and Human Services will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The secretary will not approve a waiver for an initiative that substantially likely to reduce access for assistance or employment for needy families.
SUNUNU: That’s correct.
BLITZER: They’re not going to approve anything unless it leads to greater opportunities for moving people from welfare to work.
SUNUNU: Look, to quote the president who signed the bill, it depends on what your definition of access is and expands is and background discussions were. The background discussions talked about broadening it to the point where you soften the hard reality of the work requirement. [...]
BLITZER: I don’t know, governor, if you’ve actually read the letters from the governors’ offices from Utah and Nevada, which I have here in front of me.
SUNUNU: I only heard their comments. I have not read their letters.
BLITZER: You should read the letters. Because I’ve read them in depth. [...]
BLITZER: We’ll make sure we’re precise. on this one, governor, on this — hold on a second. Hold on one second. On this one it’s not just CNN. It’s every major fact checking organization out there says he has not — has not gutted, has not gutted by any means the work requirements.
Sununu isn’t the first Republican to struggle to defend the false attacks on television. Last week, MSNBC host Chuck Todd called out Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) for defending the ads. Todd noted the same directives and letters Blitzer cited to make the case, and Branstand was unable to defend Romney’s stance.
The proposed changes, it bears noting, are being made because the 1996 welfare reform law, which celebrated its 16th birthday today, has failed to help many of the neediest Americans. The law may be an “unprecedented success” in the eyes of the Romney campaign, but the reality is that it achieved much of its reductions to welfare by kicking people out of the program, not by getting them jobs.
Another Ohio County Calls For Weekend Voting Hours |
Following Montgomery and Mahoning counties, Ohio’s Medina County is seeking a way around Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive banning early voting on weekends. The board of elections voted to ask Husted to modify the directive to allow early voting on Saturdays leading up to November 6. While Montgomery and Mahoning simply voted to hold weekend hours in defiance of the uniform schedule set by the Secretary of State. Medina, unlike the other two counties, leans Republican and voted for McCain in 2008. Elections officials said 7.6 percent of in-person early voters in the county cast ballots on the two Saturdays the board office was open.
As part of its latest round of secret-money attack ads, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS is running a highly misleading and hypocritical attack spot hitting Democratic Senate nominee and former Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA). The ad, entitled “Cost,” slams Kaine for a comment he made last month that the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011 “was the right thing to do.” The compromise saved the country from a potentially disastrous default on its national debt.
Republicans insisted that the debt-ceiling adjustment be paired with massive spending cuts. In the ad Crossroads GPS notes that because the spending cuts in the bill include cuts to the Defense budget, Virginia may see significant job losses, claiming:
Kaine called a plan that puts Defense spending at risk “the right thing,” but newspapers report that that plan could cost Virginia 200,000 jobs — second highest in the country — hitting [the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads] regions hardest. That’s Tim Kaine not putting Virginia first. Tell him: support a plan that protects Virginia jobs.
The premise of the ad — that spending cuts cost jobs — flatly contradicts another ad the same group is running against Kaine. Their “Holes” ad attacks criticizes Kaine for being too big a spender and concludes with the tagline: “Tell Tim Kaine taxes & spending don’t create jobs. Push to cut the debt.”
Watch the video:
Either governments spending cuts cost jobs or they don’t. Taken in tandem, these ads almost suggest Crossroads GPS is more concerned with attacking Kaine than with presenting a consistent public policy argument.
CBO: Medicare Spending Growth Remains Slow |
In an update to a January report, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that Medicare spending is growing more slowly than expected for the third year in a row. CBO Director Doug Elmendorf said the slower Medicare growth is consistent with the slower growth of health care costs in general, but he said the reason behind the slowdown is unclear. “Presumably, the weak state of the economy is a factor, but given the magnitude of the slowdown in national health spending and the timing of that slowdown…we and most analysts think there are probably structural factors at work as well,” he said.
When a group of pre-teen Ugandan baseball players arrived in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series early this month, they couldn’t believe what they saw: nice uniforms, brand new cleats, an immaculately-kept field with shiny green grass and a capacity of 40,000. The Ugandans, the second African team to qualify for the World Series and the first to actually make it to Williamsport, played their home games on a dusty field in the central part of the country — they had never played in front of a crowd and sometimes practiced or played barefoot.
That all changed last week in the team’s first game against Panama. The team from Lugazi, Uganda lost, and they would lose again two days later to Mexico, meaning the first team to arrive in Williamsport was one of the first teams eliminated. All wasn’t lost: Uganda became the first African team to win a LLWS game Tuesday, when it beat a team from Oregon in a consolation game. The team’s on-field results, however, will pale in comparison to what it achieved just by making it to Williamsport.
Baseball, long popular in the Americas and East Asia, was a late arrival in Africa. There are no specific participation numbers for the continent’s youth, but six countries have joined the African Baseball League and others have teams in the developmental stages. The game has also been used to help bring awareness to the public health fights that consume swaths of the continent. South Africa and other countries have pushed baseball as a way to fight and prevent AIDS and other health epidemics, attracting young players to the game to “Strike Out AIDS.” In Ugandan schools, baseball is fast encroaching on soccer’s popularity as students flock to the game.
Despite that growth, the challenges facing baseball in Uganda and other African countries are immense. Many children use balls made of paper and improvised bats. Gloves are rare, and games are often played barefoot on dusty fields with little or no grass. Even the Ugandan schools where baseball is popular struggle to find places to play.
Charities and other organizations, however, are working to fix that. Right To Play, a humanitarian organization, raised $100,000 to fund a game between Uganda and Canada earlier this year; some of the money will also go to building a new stadium in the country. Uganda’s appearance in Williamsport will undoubtedly raise the sport’s profile in Africa, and, hopefully, it will bring even more money in to help kids play.
The Ugandan team may not have won the Little League World Series, but just by making it to Williamsport, they made history and progress for their country and their sport. And as one of the players told Al Jazeera English, their dreams don’t stop in Williamsport. “My dream will be to play baseball,” he said. “Major League Baseball, in America.”
Today's rally at the City Hall for the Paid Sick Day Act. (Photo credit: New York Communities for Change)
34-year-old Felix Trinidad died last month after a battle with cancer that wasn’t diagnosed until it was too late, in part because he lacked the ability to take paid sick leave from the job he depended on.
As his health declined, Trinidad could not afford to take time off from his job at a Golden Farm supermarket in Kensington, NY, because his employers did not provide him with any paid sick leave — and by the time he eventually made it to a hospital emergency room, he was told he had advanced stomach cancer. As he underwent chemotherapy, he was unable to miss as much work as his doctors recommended to help facilitate his recovery.
Trinidad — who was also an activist in a local campaign for better working conditions and paid sick days at Golden Farm — was one of the more than one million New Yorkers who are forced to choose between their health and their job when they come down with an illness, underscoring the need for New York City’s proposed paid sick leave bill. The Paid Sick Days Act would set a minimum for paid sick days for the city’s employees, requiring businesses with 20 or more employees to provide at least nine days of annual paid sick leave, and those with 19 or fewer employees to provide at least five. Despite widespread support for the measure, however, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D) is blocking it from coming up for a vote in city council.
To honor Trinidad’s memory and pressure Quinn to reconsider her stance on the Paid Sick Days Act, local clergy members and community activists held a prayer vigil on the steps of the City Hall today at noon. Activists hope Quinn will honor Trinidad’s memory by advancing legislation that could help others in his situation. “Félix didn’t take a day off when he needed chemo because he was afraid of being fired,” Lucas Sánchez of New York Communities for Change explained.
Progressive organizations, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, have partnered on a petition pressuring Quinn to bring the proposed bill to a vote. Local activism has also sprung up in other cities where paid sick leave is under attack, such as Orange County, Florida, where residents are fighting to get paid sick day legislation on the November ballot despite resistance from the big businesses that oppose it.
Chow with her partner, Sarah Morningstar, and their daughter
Cheryl Chow served on the Seattle City Council. She was a school principal and a school board member. And before she dies, Chow wants to do one more public service: Come out, and encourage others to feel more comfortable to do the same.
Despite a ten-year relationship with her partner, Sarah — the two even have a child they are raising together — Chow has kept her sexuality secret from her family and the public. But now that she’s facing cancer of the central nervous system, the 66 year-old woman is coming out. She said she wants to be a role model for young gay people, including the girls on her Chinese Community Drill team. “I wanted them to feel good about themselves and I wanted them to have a role model that wasn’t afraid to say anymore. I’m gay and that’s okay,” she said:
Asked if she still thinks she’ll get some pushback from the Chinese community, Chow says, “No, they can’t do anything to me now. What are they going to do, kill me?” [...]
“If I can save one child from feeling bad or even committing suicide because they felt terrible because they were gay, then I would have succeeded in my last crusade,” said Chow.