Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The FDA Is Holding Over-the-Counter Sale of Emergency Contraception Hostage

On Friday, January 21, 2005 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) once again gave in to right-wing pressure in deciding to delay its decision on over-the-counter (OTC) status for the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, for women ages 16 and older. Click on the link above for more information and to take action now.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Help Families Get Tax Credits in 2005 and Get Your Copy of Credit Where Credit Is Due -- from the NWLC

The National Women's Law Center, working with child care advocates across the country, is launching our 2005 national tax credits outreach campaign this week. The campaign is designed to help child care providers and parents who use child care learn about important tax credits and to help eligible families claim these tax credits. The Center is collaborating with advocacy organizations in eight states on intensive outreach campaigns. In addition, state-specific outreach materials are available for many other states. No matter which state you live in, tax credits outreach can help to inform low- and moderate-income families about valuable federal, and in some cases state, tax credits that can help put thousands of dollars in their pockets! We need your help to make this year’s campaign a success.
Visit our Lower Your Taxes page for tools and materials you can use to help families in your community take advantage of these valuable tax credits, including:
A Toolkit for Child Care Advocates, designed to assist advocates in a conducting a tax credits outreach campaign;
Fliers you can distribute in any state to inform families about the federal credits and how much they could be worth, including contact information for free tax preparation services (in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Vietnamese);
Specific state fliers in English and Spanish for our targeted outreach locations: California (also in Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese), Iowa, Nebraska (also in Vietnamese), New Mexico, New York (also in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian), Ohio, and Oregon;
Specific state fliers in English and Spanish for many other states that have state level Child and Dependent Care and/or Earned Income Credits, including Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin;
Federal tax fact sheets providing a brief overview of the federal Dependent Care Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credit;
Specific state fact sheets providing a brief overview of federal and state credits for the states listed above;
Commonly asked question and answer fact sheets about each of the federal credits – Child and Dependent Care Credit, Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and Dependent Care Assistance Programs;
Our tax guide, Credit Where Credit is Due: Lower Your Taxes or Increase Your Refund to Help Your Family, for advocates and families who want more detailed information (a Spanish translation will be available soon);
A National press release about the campaign kickoff;
Scripts for radio and television public service announcements;
Inserts for payroll envelopes and other mailings, in English and Spanish, for both the federal credits and for California, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Oregon and a number of additional states.
For more information, visit our Lower Your Taxes page, or contact Kimberly Glassman at (202) 588-5180 or kglassman@nwlc.org.
During the 2005 tax filing season, eligible families can claim up to $2,100 from the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit, $1,000 per child from the federal Child Tax Credit, and $4,300 from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.
In addition, 26 states and the District of Columbia have state child and dependent care tax provisions and 17 states and the District of Columbia have state earned income tax credits, which can provide additional help in paying for child care and other necessities. And in some cases, these tax credits can give cash refunds to families whose incomes are too low to owe income taxes.
As part of our tax credits outreach campaign, the Center is also releasing our tax guide, Credit Where Credit Is Due: Lower Your Taxes or Increase Your Refund to Help Your Family, updated for the 2005 tax filing season. This guide is designed to inform families about four tax breaks in the federal income tax code: the Dependent Care Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Dependent Care Assistance Program. The information provided in the publication can help families determine their eligibility to receive the credits, provide an idea of the amount of tax assistance families can expect to receive and how to claim it, and answer some other questions about these tax breaks. The guide can also help families decide whether to participate in an employer’s Dependent Care Assistance Program. The booklet is not intended to provide legal assistance but to help individuals understand their eligibility for tax breaks. Click here to view this guide. A Spanish translation will be available soon.

NWLC Home Get the facts. Visit the National Women's Law Center web site to learn more about issues impacting women and their families.
NWLC E-Update and Action Alert Network Join or update your contact info.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Stop Gonzales Confirmation

Judiciary Comm Halts; NOW Is the Time for Action Objections to a swift decision on Alberto Gonzalez, stemming especially from Sen. Kennedy's concerns about his responses to questions about torture, have delayed the vote on whether to confirm him as Attorney General.This gives us a momentary window in time to slow down or even halt the confirmation, and to make the record of the truth about the Administration's use of torture. SEE BELOW FOR HOW TO USE THIS MOMENT. Gonzalez' responses to Judiciary Committee questions about the actuality of torture were evasive, full of "I don't remember" in regard to a very important and unprecedented memo he gave the President (a surprising thing to forget) and on memos he received about it from lawyers in the Justice Department.And he explicitly repeated the Bush Administration's assertion that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to people the Administration labels "enemy combatants."Even worse, he has not been willing to repudiate the definition of torture that was so extreme that most forms of torture would be permitted. The torture carried by YUS soldiers was not only at Abu Ghraib but also at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, and in many Iraqi locations -- plus foreign prisons to which the US has "rendered" prisoners for the worst forms of torture. And the methods used were not "only" the humiliations we saw at Abu Ghraib, but beatings to death, near drownings (repeated again and again), inserting burning matches into prisoners' ears, and the use of electric shock, FBI agents who witnessed what was happening at Guantanamo were horrified, and called it illegal. So did the International Red Cross This was not the aberrant action of a few sadistic soldiers. It was policy. For factual backup from governmental documents, see the book review that is the cover story in the NY Times Book Review today, Sunday January 23. Or see the review article at --http://en.groundspring.org/EmailNow/pub.php?module=URLTracker&cmd=track&j=18890115&u=169225 In fact, Geneva provides for a special review of cases when a government claims that people it captured were not governed by the conventions. The Bush Administration, and the person it has named to "uphold" the law, refuse to apply those provisions - even though US domestic law, as well as international law, affirms Geneva. This is a crucial moment. On Monday, I urge you to call one or two Senators about this. - It has more powerful impact than writing, and takes hardly more time. Members of the Judiciary Committee who are somewhat likely to be either crucial or responsive: Sen. Arlen Specter (Rep-PA), committee chair Sen. Leahy (Dem - VT), minority leaderSen. Ted Kennedy (Dem - Mass.) Sen. Russ Feingold (Dem - Wis.) OR -call both your own Senators. You can call 202/CA4-3121 and ask for any of these offices, then ask the person who answers the phone to put you through to the staff member who is dealing with Judiciary Committee confirmation questions. Get her/his name: it might be useful to mention it a few time while urging or suggesting what you would like the Senator to do.. If you are coming from a religious or spiritual commitment, or you are a lawyer, or you are a veteran who is worried about how abandoning Geneva could impact future American captives, PLEASE MAKE THAT CLEAR when you reach the right staffer. And then simply say: "Mr. Gonzales, whom the President nominated for Attorney General, showed in the Judiciary Committee hearings as well as his own previous actions that he will not take a clear stand against the use of torture by US agents and forces, even though it violates US law and all moral values. I urge you to vote against confirming him." Thanks VERY much. Thank you, thank you -- from those of the human family who are being tortured right now, and for the people of the institutions that are perpetrating this grave sin. Shalom, Arthur (from the Shalom Center)

Monday, January 17, 2005

2nd Sunday After Epiphany, Year A
Saint David’s Church, 1/16/05
Katherine Hancock Ragsdale

Well, if you think there wasn’t enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Today is only the second Sunday after the Epiphany, yet we have only three more Sundays before Lent. Easter is early this year and with Lent coming so quickly it seems a good idea to begin preparing – or at least to begin thinking about how we will prepare.

Before I talk about Lent, let me remind you of something we’ve discussed before – the Law. You will remember me telling you, many times, that the Ten Commandments, the Law, was God’s great gift to God’s people. It was not given so much to condemn as to point the way to Salvation. These were God’s people who wanted to know how best to love and serve the God who loved them. The Law was God’s answer. When we hear Law we hear constraint and punishment. But the Law was, to the people of Israel, not so much burden as gift and means to liberation.

Similarly, we tend to think of Lent as a time of self-denial and guilt, of suffering and flagellation. But the purpose of Lent is not to make us miserable but to make us mindful – mindful of who and Whose we are. So, whose are we? Who is the one to whom we belong and whom we are expected to follow?

John asked a similar question in a recent Gospel reading. He heard about Jesus and sent his followers to ask, “Are you the one for whom we have been waiting or shall we keep looking?” And how did Jesus reply? He said, “Go back and tell John what you have seen. The hungry are fed, the sick are healed, the lonely are visited, and prisoners are set free.” We are, it seems, to be identified not by what we believe as much as by what we do. We, who wish to follow Jesus, are to feed the hungry, visit and heal the sick, set free those who are imprisoned. We are to care for one another.

When John asked who Jesus was Jesus didn’t say, “I’ve come to end hunger, and poverty, and illness, and imprisonment, and despair.” We might wish he had done just that. We may still hope that he will. But what he said was that he was one who responded to those needs, one at a time. I think many of us, facing the magnitude of the problems of our world become paralyzed. Since we can’t fix it all we do nothing. Since we don’t know how to be Martin Luther King we assume we can be no one. But I suspect that Martin Luther King, and many who have made huge differences in the world, didn’t start with a grand plan. Like Jesus, they simply did what was before them, met the need of each moment. Which is, of course, exactly what each of us is called to do.

Now I should pause here to acknowledge what you already know – I’m more a systems than a band-aid person. I don’t believe in just patching up the individual in front of me and ignoring the systemic problems that left them in need of patching up in the first place. You’ve heard me tell the story of my friend and colleague Ntsiki who says that if a bloody body floats down the river into your village a good Christian must pull the body out and bandage it and nurse it back to health. And if another battered body floats into the village the Christian must do the same thing again and again and again. But eventually, if those bodies keep coming, the Christian must go upriver and find out who’s doing that to them and put a stop to it.

We do need to take on hunger and poverty and the myriad things that maim and imprison the bodies and spirits of our sisters and brothers. But we do it one step at a time, addressing that which washes into our lives or steps into our paths. We start by healing one sick individual or comforting one despairing person.

Yet even that can seem overwhelming. We talked about this at the Vestry meeting last week. We got to talking about what one says to someone who is grieving the death of a loved one. Some of us were saying that we are so very aware that there’s nothing we can say that will make it better. Knowing that anything we could say would be inadequate, we hesitate to speak at all. Another member told of a time when she was grieving and how much a simple, “I’m sorry for your loss” meant. She reminded us that even little, inadequate things matter. We do have it within us to do the things we are called to do. By meeting each moment as it presents itself we may well discover that we have it within us to do more than we could ever have imagined.

Did you hear what Paul said in this morning’s Epistle? Talking to the church in Corinth, Paul said, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind-- just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you-- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift. You are not lacking in any spiritual gift. You, and you, and you ... you are not lacking.

Now the good news here is that this fear of our own inadequacy is not some modern, or personal, moral failing. Apparently this has been a problem, a part of the human condition, for at least 2000 years. The bad news is that it’s not just a modern moral failing – we are not excused from the call to action because our world is more complex and our problems at least seem bigger. People have, it seems, always tended toward paralysis in the face of problems bigger than we know how to address.

But we’re only commanded to deal with this day’s need, this individual’s pain. We’re instructed to follow the example of Jesus, one day at a time. And we’re assured that we have what it takes, already within us, to do that. We are not lacking any spiritual gift necessary to do the work we were created to do – to be God’s stewards, God’s partners, in caring for the world around us.

Lent calls us, not to dwell on and condemn ourselves for our failures, but to remember what Paul has told us – we are not lacking any spiritual gift necessary. Lent doesn’t command us to give things up or take things on for their own sake, or based on how difficult it will be to do it and how unpleasant we will find it. Lent invites us to choose a discipline that will keep us mindful of who and Whose we are. Lent encourages us to embrace a discipline that will help us to become aware of those gifts and strengths and talents within us – and to nurture and hone them. Lent hopes to seduce us into taking the time to know ourselves and our gifts so well that using those gifts in the service of God and God’s people becomes second nature to us. In Lent we are invited to become who we were created to be – who we already are – so that we, like Jesus, respond to the needs before us, no matter what their size, without thinking twice. If we do that we may find ourselves feeding one hungry person – or we may save a whole village, or change the world in ways as yet unimaginable. But we will not be paralyzed by our own doubts or fears of inadequacy. And, should anyone ever send someone to ask us, “Are you one of them, one of the followers of Jesus?” we won’t have to marshal a lengthy defense. We can simply say, “Tell him what you have seen. The hungry are fed, those who mourn are comforted….”

It is not too soon to begin planning and preparing for your Lent. Let me know if you need any help.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Thank our Election Heros

Jan 6 2005 Senator Boxer Joins Representatives in Challenging Ohio Election Results Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has joined with Representative John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Stephanie Tubb-Jones (D-OH), and other Democratic members of the US House in challenging the Ohio presidential election results. TAKE ACTION Thank Senator Boxer for her courage in challenging the Ohio election results. http://capwiz.com/fmf1/mail/oneclick_compose/?alertid=6790091 TAKE ACTION Urge Senator Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi to lead the fight for election law reform. http://capwiz.com/fmf1/mail/oneclick_compose/?alertid=6790171 LEARN MORE about the election irregularities in Ohio. http://www.feminist.org/election_oh2004.htm