WBEZ | congress http://www.wbez.org/tags/congress Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Why Congress is Moving to Tighten Restrictions on Refugees, but Leaves the Visa Waiver Program Untouched http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2015-11-20/why-congress-moving-tighten-restrictions-refugees-leaves-visa-waiver <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/11779461853_39c1b20bca_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><header><div><figure><div id="file-93891"><div><img alt="" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_main/public/story/images/congress.jpg?itok=kMu8cqAV" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="The dome of the US Capitol is seen as a man walks past flags flying at half-staff at the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington November 16, 2015. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)" typeof="foaf:Image" /><div><header><figure><div id="file-93891">&nbsp;</div></figure></header></div></div></div></figure></div></header><div><div><article about="/stories/2015-11-20/why-congress-moving-tighten-restricts-refugees-leaves-visa-waiver-program" typeof="sioc:Item foaf:Document"><div><p dir="ltr">Of the various ways of getting into the United States, applying for political refugee status is hardly the easiest.</p></div><p>Since 2012, there have been 1,854 Syrian refugees admitted to the US. President Barack Obama has said that we will take in an additional 10,000 in fiscal year 2016, likely now with increased vetting and background checks after more than 30 governors have said they would reject refugees in their states. &nbsp;</p><p>While the refugee debate continues both in Washington and at the state level, 20 million people traveled to the US in fiscal year 2013 under the Visa Waiver Program &mdash;&nbsp;a program that allows citizens of 38 approved countries, mostly Western allies and Japan, to travel here for tourism or business for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa.</p><p>The Belgian and French citizens who were involved in the Paris attacks could have, in theory, been able to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. &nbsp;</p><p>The Congressional reaction gives a clue into how Washington works in crisis mode.</p><p>&quot;I mean, there was just overwhelming outcry from my district,&rdquo; said GOP Rep.&nbsp;Dave Brat. &ldquo;The folks want action now.&rdquo;</p><p>And action is what they got. On the House floor Thursday,&nbsp;representatives passed a bill that would suspend the Syrian refugee program. It passed 289-137, with the support of 242 Republicans and 47 Democrats.</p><p>That prompted protests from Democrats, including President Obama, who said refugees were being vilified, and that they already undergo checks that take up to two years.</p><p>Republican Rep. Mike McCaul, the chair of the Homeland Security Committee who introduced the House bill to halt the refugee program, stressed that speed is critical and that lawmakers wanted to pass a bill before going home for Thanksgiving.</p><p>&quot;The threat&#39;s real,&rdquo; said McCaul. &ldquo;ISIS has said they want to exploit it to infiltrate the West. It&#39;s not a threat I&#39;m making up. It&#39;s a threat the administration&rsquo;s own officials have warned us about.&quot;</p><p>There is indeed speculation that at least one of the ISIS terrorists in Paris entered Europe posing as a refugee. But even before McCaul introduced the bill earlier this week, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle admitted they didn&#39;t really think the refugee program posed a major national security threat.</p><p>Senator Richard Burr, GOP chairman of the Intelligence Committee, also supports pausing the refugee program. But from a threat standpoint, Burr says that the Visa Waiver Program deserves more scrutiny.</p><p>&ldquo;Were I in Europe already and I wanted to go to the United States, and I was not on a watch list or a no-fly list, the likelihood is that I would use the Visa Waiver Program before I would try to pawn myself off as a refugee and try to enter under false documents,&quot; he says.</p><p>Compared to the 10,000 proposed to be admitted by the refugee program, the tens of millions of people entering the US from Europe with the Visa Waiver Program is a flood.&nbsp;And that&rsquo;s largely by design. Ease of travel is vital to business and tourism &mdash; commerce worth billions of dollars a year to the economy.</p><p>Republicans like McCaul say they&#39;re also in favor of tightening up visa waivers. There&#39;s momentum building for possible reforms in early December. But the program is complex, with powerful stakeholders.</p><p>So going at the refugee program is a way to bring frightened and demanding voters results. More than half of all all respondents in a Bloomberg poll this week said they support halting the refugee program.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s also how the bill works that tells you a lot.</p><p>McCaul&#39;s bill is rather straightforward. It requires the FBI and other top security chiefs to ramp up vetting of refugees headed for the US. But it doesn&#39;t tell the agencies how to increase security, nor does it give them more money.</p><p>The bill essentially only does one important thing: It says that it is entirely up to the intelligence chiefs to personally certify that each and every refugee cleared for entry is not a threat. The result is that politicians will have effectively put the responsibility entirely on the intelligence community.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s why it&#39;s important that we have all three, one representing intel community, one FBI, the other Homeland Security signing off,&rdquo; said McCaul, &ldquo;Assuring the Congress and the American people that they do not poet a threat to the United States.&quot;</p><p>Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is one of the people who would have to personally certify each refugee &mdash;&nbsp;30 per day, at least.</p><p>&quot;To personally certify, with respect to 30 people a day,&rdquo; Jeh said, &ldquo;that certain requirements have been met is hugely cumbersome and I don&#39;t think the American people will think that is the best and wisest use for the Secretary of Homeland Security to be spending his time.&quot;</p><p>McCaul was clear: he&rsquo;s not out to waste Johnson&rsquo;s time.</p><p>Instead, he wants to give him, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, direct political responsibility for the refugees, and clear culpability if anything goes wrong.</p><p>McCaul continued, &quot;Because they will own it, and if they make a mistake it&#39;s their mistake.&rdquo;</p></article></div></div><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-11-20/why-congress-moving-tighten-restricts-refugees-leaves-visa-waiver-program" target="_blank"><em> via The Takeaway</em></a></p></p> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 09:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2015-11-20/why-congress-moving-tighten-restrictions-refugees-leaves-visa-waiver Is a national policy on school milk boosting lunchtime waste? http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 <p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">One day this fall, first grader Russell Muchow brought his usual bagged lunch from home to Kellogg Elementary School in the far Southwest Side Beverly neighborhood. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">When it came time for lunch, he wanted to have a cold milk. But when he asked for a carton in the lunch line, his mom Molly Muchow says Russell was told, &ldquo;in order to take the milk (he) had to take the lunch.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20151103_122235_resized.jpg" style="height: 500px; width: 281px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Inside school garbage can. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />But the 6-year-old already had a lunch and if he took a second one, he&rsquo;d just have to throw it away. It didn&rsquo;t make sense to him. So when he got home, Molly Muchow says, &ldquo;he was distraught&rdquo; over being told he had to take food he couldn&#39;t eat. &ldquo;That is not what we teach them at home. We don&rsquo;t throw out food. That is unacceptable.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Muchow says she called up the Kellogg school &nbsp;lunch director (Chicago Public Schools officials did not respond to WBEZ requests to interview the lunch director.) and basically got the same message: kids can&rsquo;t take free milk unless they take the whole meal.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;So I said I&rsquo;d just pay for the milk extra,&rdquo; Muchow recalled. &ldquo;And [the lunch director] told me it would actually be better for me to have him take the lunch even if he was going to throw it out, for budget reasons, and numbers and for them.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">This may sound outrageous from a food waste perspective, but from a school money angle, it&rsquo;s true.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That&rsquo;s because for each child who takes the full meal &mdash; which includes an entree with milk and a side of fruits or vegetables</span>&nbsp;&mdash; the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays CPS $3.15, which it shares with the food service company Aramark.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But if a child just takes a milk, the district and Aramark get nothing from the feds.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The situation recently dominated a Kellogg Local School Council meeting, but it&rsquo;s an issue that&rsquo;s rooted in federal policy.</span></p><p dir="ltr">&quot;In order for it to be a reimbursable meal by USDA the lunch needs to include all the meal components,&quot; explained USDA regional administrator Tim English. &quot;And that would be a grain, vegetable or fruit, milk and meat or meat alternate. The idea is that we want to provide kids who are taking school lunch with a well-rounded meal.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8546053033_e95eaad450_k.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Students and parents at a Chicago public school say that when kids just want a single part of a meal--like a milk to go with a home lunch--they are pushed to take an entire free lunch. The full meal triggers payment from the federal government. Some think this could be generating a lot of food waste in schools. (flickr/USDA)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But it means kids who just want an egg or banana at breakfast, for instance, must take the rest of the meal, even if it&rsquo;s tossed in the garbage.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Starting last school year, most &nbsp;districts across the country like Chicago&rsquo;s, with a lot of low-income students, adopted the Community Eligibility Provision. That&rsquo;s a USDA program that &nbsp;makes all meals free to all students in the school or district regardless of income. This reduces mountains of free lunch application paperwork and the need to collect money in the lunchroom.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Students still have the ability to pay 45 cents for milk out of pocket each day. But Northwestern University economist and professor of social policy Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach says the policy doesn&#39;t make that likely.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;Under these circumstances, if you&rsquo;re getting the same thing and you can choose to pay for it or you can choose to get it for free the vast majority of people will choose to get the same item for free instead of paying for it,&rdquo; she said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;The incentives here are certainly for kids to take what&rsquo;s free and then wastefully dispose of it,&rdquo; she continued, &ldquo;so it seems like there&rsquo;s room for a policy improvement so that kids can get just the milk for free instead of taking the whole meal and then throw part of it away.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That policy change would require an act of Congress &mdash; which happens to be reviewing the rules around school lunch right now, albeit at a slow pace.</span></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/nutritionists-raise-glass-whole-milk-new-dietary-guidelines-113390" target="_blank"><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8542429717_dfe01d4a07_k.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture have teamed up to revise the country’s dietary guidelines, as they have every five years since 1980. They aim to drop the longstanding limit on total fat consumption, which could clear the way for whole milk in school meal programs. (flickr/USDA)" /><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></a></div></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">There is, however, a window for a quicker fix. CPS could choose to pick up the 45 cent tab when a student wants just a milk, making the less wasteful option an easy option (We found at least one district in Ohio where the superintendent says he decided to start doing this two months ago in response to food waste).</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Still, CPS rejects the idea, saying it would just cost too much. And, to be fair, this appears to be the stance of most districts across the nation, according to Tim English, the USDA director for the Midwest.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">So if free milk won&rsquo;t be an option in the district, how are the existing choices presented to students? Are kids told they can bring money to buy a milk? Are they encouraged to take more than they want? </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>We asked CPS to explain exactly how lunch staff are told to present the options, but officials would not talk to us about it. The district also would not give us permission to talk to the Kellogg lunch staff about the procedure they follow on the matter.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg parent Jill Zayauskas says she pretty clear about the way the options are handled at her school, and it makes her mad.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son was five when he first saw this and if a five-year-old knows wasting food is wrong then the people who plan this program should know that,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I just don&rsquo;t understand why children are forced to throw away a complete lunch to get chocolate milk and actually encouraged to do that so someone can make their quota. It&rsquo;s all about money&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">About half of the money for each meal goes to food service company Aramark, which receives $1.31 for each lunch taken.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg mom Emily Lambert says students are getting mixed messages, right when they&rsquo;re in the middle of a food drive.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son is coming home every day asking to take food to school to give food to people who don&rsquo;t have it, while in the lunchroom they&#39;re throwing it away,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They understand that it&rsquo;s wrong to throw away food that you have and you aren&rsquo;t going to eat.&rdquo; &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The USDA is also in the middle of its own campaign to reduce food waste by 50 percent in 15 years.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Contact her at </span><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a> or follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 05:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 Railroads want a new deadline for a safety system http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-13/railroads-want-new-deadline-safety-system-113329 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/3494454701_636ae2bfb4_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" id="1" src="http://www.marketplace.org/sites/default/files/styles/primary-image-766x447/public/GettyImages-461032977.jpg?itok=GsxAeOTa" style="height: 362px; width: 620px;" title="A pair of CSX Transportation-owned C40-8 General Electric locomotives in Worthville, Kentucky, in 2014. (Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></p><div><div><div>CSX, which reports earnings Tuesday, is one of several major railroads asking Congress to extend a deadline to install a new safety system.</div></div></div><p>The system, called Positive Train Control, uses GPS to track where trains are and prevent&nbsp;<a href="http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/publicsite/Query/AccidentByRegionStateCounty.aspx" target="_blank" title="Railroad accidents">collisions and derailments</a>.</p><p>Rail carriers that transport passengers or hazardous materials have until the end of the year to install it. Larry Mann, a rail safety attorney, said the railroads have been dragging their feet.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s a matter of the railroads willing to put the assets into building it,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The freight rail industry will have already spent about $6 billion on the system by year&rsquo;s end, according to the Association of American Railroads.</p><p>Larry Gross, a consultant with FTR Transportation Intelligence, said installing the system, which he calls an unfunded mandate, has been complex. He doubts railroads will get a return on their investments.</p><p>&ldquo;In other words, it doesn&#39;t pencil out as a net economic benefit,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp;</p><p>Gross said the costs associated with the system are a drag on railroads&rsquo; finances. Still, he acknowledged the bigger issue for freight carriers has to do with the commodities marketplace and lower demand for transporting coal.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/economy/railroads-want-new-deadline-safety-system" target="_blank"><em>via Marketplace</em></a></p></p> Tue, 13 Oct 2015 17:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-13/railroads-want-new-deadline-safety-system-113329 Pope Francis speaks to Congress http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-09-24/pope-francis-speaks-congress-113057 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Carolyn%20Kaster.jpg" title="(Photo: Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/225415452&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 22px; background-color: rgb(255, 244, 244);">Examining Pope Francis&#39; message to Congress</span></p><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><p>Pope Francis addressed a joint meeting of Congress this morning. He spoke about a range of issues - everything from the death penalty to income inequality and immigration. We&rsquo;ll talk about the speech and how it may have resonated with lawmakers, Catholics and the larger American public with Michael Murphy, director of Catholic Studies at Loyola University and Father Donald Senior, president emeritus and chancellor of the Catholic Theological Union.</p><p><strong>Guests:</strong></p><ul><li><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-19601d90-00fc-f88e-97d1-1f6c77322c90">Michael Murphy is director of Catholic Studies at <a href="http://twitter.com/loyolachicago">Loyola University.</a></span></em></li><li><em>Father Donald Senior is the president emeritus and chancellor of Catholic Theological Union.</em></li></ul></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/225417037&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 22px; background-color: rgb(255, 244, 244);">Global Activism: Revisiting His Wheels International</span></p><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><p>Global Activist Alice Teisan of His Wheels International will update us on her work helping people with disabilities adjust to their challenges through bike technology. A former nurse at Rush Hospital, Alice was an avid cyclist before being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She then channeled her passion for bicycling into helping others. His Wheels International recycles old bicycles to send overseas. Alice will also tell us about the Chicago Unconventional Bike Expo (CUBE) on October 2-4, 2015. It&rsquo;s a show for &ldquo;recumbent tricycles, quadracycles, folding cycles, tandems, velomobiles, transporters, electrical bikes, special needs bikes, collectibles, cargo bikes, trailers, customized designs and accessories&quot;.</p><p><strong>Guest:</strong>&nbsp;<em><span id="docs-internal-guid-19601d90-0101-d486-6d5b-ff228d0ab103">Alice Teisan is the founder and executive director of <a href="http://twitter.com/HisWheels">His Wheels International</a>. &nbsp;</span></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 14:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-09-24/pope-francis-speaks-congress-113057 The Pope addressed a Congress that's much more Christian than America http://www.wbez.org/news/pope-addressed-congress-thats-much-more-christian-america-113056 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Members of the House of Representatives bow their heads for a prayer as they gather for opening session of the 114th Congress in January..jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res442953599" previewtitle="Members of the House of Representatives bow their heads for a prayer as they gather for opening session of the 114th Congress in January."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Members of the House of Representatives bow their heads for a prayer as they gather for opening session of the 114th Congress in January." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/23/ap_19918068793_wide-fa90c639dc729bb378c2ce4ca1a1c5dec3b55590-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 337px; width: 600px;" title="Members of the House of Representatives bow their heads for a prayer as they gather for opening session of the 114th Congress in January. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)" /></div><div><p>When Pope Francis addressed Congress on Thursday, he faced a body that is more Christian than the U.S. public as a whole &mdash; and also more Catholic.</p></div></div><p>First the numbers: Whereas nearly a quarter of the U.S. population says they have no religious affiliation, it&#39;s less than 1 percent in Congress.</p><div id="res442951752" previewtitle="More than nine in 10 members of Congress identify as Christian, including 31 percent who are Catholic. That's higher than the share of Americans who identify as Christian or Catholic."><div data-crop-type="">Congress is &quot;disproportionately religiously affiliated,&quot; said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at the Pew Research Center. &quot;That is, the share of members of Congress who say they have a religion is considerably higher than the share of all American adults.&quot;</div></div><p><img alt="Nearly a quarter of American adults are religiously unaffiliated or responded &quot;don't know/other.&quot;" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/23/ameradults_custom-d9927724f3559251eb2c999859c3ff1c6044e73a-s400-c85.png" style="text-align: center; height: 323px; width: 300px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Nearly a quarter of American adults are religiously unaffiliated or responded &quot;don't know/other.&quot; (Pew Research Center)" /></p><p>In the halls of Congress, the question of why this might be was greeted with puzzlement and some theories:</p><p>&quot;Maybe it&#39;s because we need the solid grounding and good guidance that we get from above,&quot; said Shelley Moore Capito, a senator from West Virginia.</p><div id="res442955177" previewtitle="Nearly a quarter of American adults are religiously unaffiliated or responded &quot;don't know/other.&quot;"><p>&quot;Maybe it has something to do with the magnitude of issues we deal with up here and people realize that you can&#39;t do that without a degree of reliance on spiritual need,&quot; said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.</p><p>Surveys show that the public overwhelmingly wants their presidents to have religion in their lives. So it makes sense that it would carry over to congressional elections, too. Sen. Gary Peters from Michigan is Episcopalian, and he said his spirituality is important to him and &quot;gives me comfort in rough times.&quot;</p></div><p>He figures, at least for some voters, knowing that he has a religious grounding helps them trust him.</p><blockquote><p><strong><em>&quot;Maybe it&#39;s because we need the solid grounding and good guidance that we get from above.&quot; -</em></strong><strong><em>Sen. Shelley Moore Capito</em></strong></p></blockquote><p>&quot;They want to look you in the eye,&quot; he said. &quot;They want to get a sense of what sort of man or woman that you are. ... I think it&#39;s that intangible quality ... you have to just be who you are and if your spiritual soul is part of that, then that&#39;s ultimately how they&#39;re going to make decisions as to who they support.&quot;</p><p><img alt="More than nine in 10 members of Congress identify as Christian, including 31 percent who are Catholic. That's higher than the share of Americans who identify as Christian or Catholic." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/23/index1_custom-9e0587a0d637babb8ff8787d2fd1e5758adccfeb-s400-c85.png" style="text-align: center; height: 296px; width: 300px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="More than nine in 10 members of Congress identify as Christian, including 31 percent who are Catholic. That's higher than the share of Americans who identify as Christian or Catholic. (Pew Research Center)" /></p><p>Another possible reason &mdash; members of Congress are often asked to state their religion. Chris Murphy, a senator from Connecticut, checks the box &quot;unspecified/other Protestant.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I grew up in a congregational church,&quot; he said. &quot;I&#39;m not a regular churchgoer these days, in part, because of kids. In part because of a busy schedule.&quot;</p><p>Pew found members of Congress are more religiously affiliated, but it doesn&#39;t say anything about whether they are actually more religious than the rest of America. The Senate&#39;s longtime chaplain, Barry Black, thinks they are, based at least on the popularity of his weekly interfaith prayer breakfasts.</p><div id="res442953175" previewtitle="&quot;So I think there is something about affliction — and, trust me, going through the legislative process can be an experience of affliction — that probably helps people to be more spiritual,&quot; Senate Chaplain Barry Black said."><div data-crop-type="">&quot;Now I don&#39;t think you&#39;d get a similar percentage from normal churchgoers if you were having an hour prayer breakfast each week during the workweek,&quot; he said.</div><div data-crop-type="">&nbsp;</div></div><p><img alt="&quot;So I think there is something about affliction — and, trust me, going through the legislative process can be an experience of affliction — that probably helps people to be more spiritual,&quot; Senate Chaplain Barry Black said." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/23/ap_100709126195_wide-39b9d83d7787f20abd7bf73cae8252a1197395e7-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 168px; width: 300px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="Senate Chaplain Barry Black. (Drew Angerer/AP)" /></p><p>Black cites the Psalm 119: Before I was afflicted, I went astray but now I obey your word.</p><div><p>&quot;So I think there is something about affliction &mdash; and, trust me, going through the legislative process can be an experience of affliction &mdash; that helps people to probably be more spiritual,&quot; he said.</p><p>What he seems to be saying is you&#39;d be more religious, too, if you had to serve in Congress.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash;<em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/09/24/442946219/the-pope-will-address-a-congress-thats-much-more-christian-than-america?ft=nprml&amp;f=442946219" target="_blank"> via NPR&#39;s </a></em><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/09/24/442946219/the-pope-will-address-a-congress-thats-much-more-christian-than-america?ft=nprml&amp;f=442946219" target="_blank">It&#39;s</a></em><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/09/24/442946219/the-pope-will-address-a-congress-thats-much-more-christian-than-america?ft=nprml&amp;f=442946219" target="_blank"> All Politics</a></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 14:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/pope-addressed-congress-thats-much-more-christian-america-113056 Ball could be in State Senate’s court for a temporary state budget http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-14/ball-could-be-state-senate%E2%80%99s-court-temporary-state-budget-112386 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/17123235909_bc94df9fcd_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/214536455&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">The Illinois House passed a temporary budget on Thursday and there&rsquo;s an important amendment as the bill advances. It includes a requirement to pay state workers through the end of the month. The Democrats bill would also fund many social service providers. Now, the Senate needs to vote on if it can go forward in its new form. Both sides of the aisle are attacking their colleagues for slinging for party leaders. So what do lawmakers think of the impasse and what needs to be done next? We talk to a Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul and Republican Senator Matt Murphy about what they will do to get a state budget.</span></p></p> Fri, 10 Jul 2015 13:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-07-14/ball-could-be-state-senate%E2%80%99s-court-temporary-state-budget-112386 White House asks Congress for war powers to fight ISIS http://www.wbez.org/news/white-house-asks-congress-war-powers-fight-isis-111537 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP439279241343.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In a move that is sure to set off a new round of debate over how the U.S. should fight ISIS, the Obama administration has sent Congress a request for formal authorization to use military force against the extremist group.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/02-11-15_White_House_AUMF_Text.pdf">copy of the new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF</a>, has been posted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; it says ISIS &quot;poses a grave threat to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, regional stability, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners.&quot;</p><p>We&#39;ve updated this post to reflect the news. <em>Post continues:</em></p><p>Discussing draft versions of the request earlier this morning, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/02/11/385396486/sen-kaine-pushes-for-vote-on-military-strikes-against-isis">told NPR&#39;s Morning Edition</a> that President Obama will ask Congress to authorize ground troops, with a prohibition on their use in &quot;enduring offensive combat missions.&quot;</p><p>A similar provision is in the request for war powers; it also sets a three-year limit on the powers and repeals the 2002 authorization for using force in Iraq.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not good to have these previous war authorizations kind of floating out there&quot; to be used years later, he said.</p><p>White House officials framed the request for war powers after meeting with members of both parties in Congress, where it will come under close scrutiny.</p><p>The effort has been a balancing act, with a key issue being the possible role of ground troops: Republicans say they don&#39;t want to limit the Pentagon&#39;s approach, while Democrats are wary of giving the OK to an open-ended conflict.</p><p>&quot;On Capitol Hill, there is going to be an extended debate, discussion, and argument over exactly what the Authorization for the Use of Military Force should say, what the limits should be,&quot; NPR&#39;s Tamara Keith reports.</p><p>The new AUMF would replace the authorization that was provided to President Bush in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. It would set new parameters for the U.S. to follow as it tries to combat ISIS, the violent group that has claimed territory in Iraq and Syria.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s high skepticism on Capitol Hill that the earlier authorizations cover&quot; the military operations the U.S. has already conducted against ISIS, Kaine said.</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/10/385215395/white-house-seeking-support-of-congress-in-fight-against-isis">As Tamara reported for the Two-Way yesterday</a>, the effort to shape the legislation has included a wide range of administration officials, from White House Counsel Neil Eggleston to National Security Advisor Susan Rice.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/11/385411567/white-house-will-request-war-powers-from-congress-today-senator-says" target="_blank">NPR&#39;s The Two-Way</a></em></p></p> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/white-house-asks-congress-war-powers-fight-isis-111537 State Of The Union: 5 things to watch http://www.wbez.org/news/state-union-5-things-watch-111419 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ap107344952338_custom-5a245bf3a994f32a35a8bf64bfc05290653e9088-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Even in the era of declining television audiences, President Obama&#39;s state of the union address is still the biggest audience he&#39;ll have all year. Historically, seventh-year state of the union speeches have a short shelf life. Every one of the five lame duck presidents (that is, presidents constitutionally barred from running again &mdash; Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama &mdash; have all had opposition congresses, making the prospects for passing major parts of the president&#39;s agenda slim to none.</p><p>But on Tuesday Obama will try to use his speech to frame the debates for the next two years and set the table for the 2016 election.</p><p>Here are 5 things to watch:<br /><br /><strong>1. How does the president talk about the economy?</strong><br /><br />We know he will make &quot;Middle Class Economics&quot; the centerpiece of his speech, with a tax plan that raises taxes on the wealthiest and the biggest banks in order to pay for tax breaks for working families. How will he convince the country that his policies have led to an economy that&#39;s growing fast enough that it&#39;s now time to move beyond the debate about deficits and stimulus?<br /><br /><strong>2. What tone will he take toward Congress?</strong><br /><br />The president&#39;s tax plan is a not-so-subtle populist challenge to the new Republican majority. Will they dare to defend tax breaks for inherited wealth &mdash; like what the White House is now calling the &quot;trust fund loophole?&quot; The president&#39;s tone is important. Will he reach out to his old golf buddy John Boehner in the spirit of compromise? Or will he treat the GOP leadership the way he did the Supreme Court in his state of the union address after the&nbsp;<em>Citizens United</em>&nbsp;ruling (the one that prompted much head shaking from Justice Samuel Alito)?<br /><br /><strong>3. Will Obama challenge his own party?</strong><br /><br />With his tax proposals, the president is finally giving Democrats the middle class economic agenda they&#39;ve been missing. Will he also challenge them on trade? Getting &quot;fast track authority &quot; through Congress is one area where there is potential for bipartisan action. But most Democrats are opposed. On Tuesday night the president can show he&#39;s willing to push his own party on this issue, or he can make it clear he&#39;d rather let Republicans do all the heavy lifting on trade votes.<br /><br /><strong>4. How does the president avoid looking like the &quot;small-ball&quot; president?</strong><br /><br />President Obama famously said he didn&#39;t want to play &quot;small-ball&quot; &mdash; referring to Bill Clinton&#39;s agenda of narrowly focused items like midnight basketball, or school uniforms. Now, though, the president has rolled out a series of bite size proposals and executive actions like expanded access to high speed broadband, mortgage relief, and free community college tuition. Can he wrap them all into a compelling agenda for the middle class that is bigger than the sum of its parts?<br /><br /><strong>5. How does he talk about Iran, ISIS, and the new terrorist threats?</strong><br /><br />This was going to be the year that Obama ended two wars and made a legacy-cementing deal with Iran on nuclear weapons. But the world isn&#39;t cooperating. Watch how the president talks about the attacks in France, the negotiations with Iran and the so far unsuccessful efforts to degrade and destroy ISIS in Syria and Iraq.</p><p><strong>NPR&#39;s reporters will be covering the speech, and here is some of our related coverage:</strong></p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/19/378289335/white-house-rolls-out-tax-proposals-before-state-of-the-union-address">White House Rolls Out Tax Proposals Before State Of The Union Address</a></p><p>&mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/18/378080969/obamas-trouble-articulating-the-economy">Obama&#39;s Trouble Articulating The State Of The Economy</a></p><p>&mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/17/378028524/obama-to-propose-tax-changes-in-state-of-the-union-address">Obama To Call For Tax Hike On The Wealthy In State Of The Union</a></p><p>&mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/20/377715976/working-3-jobs-in-a-time-of-recovery">Working 3 Jobs In A Time Of Recovery</a></p><p>&mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/01/16/377611438/iowas-sen-ernst-grabs-spotlight-thats-often-proven-too-hot">Iowa&#39;s Sen. Ernst Grabs Spotlight That&#39;s Often Proven Too Hot</a></p><p><em>-via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/01/20/378486364/state-of-the-union-5-things-to-watch">NPR News</a></em></p></p> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-union-5-things-watch-111419 Feds set to divert refugee funds to deal with unaccompanied minors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Refugee cuts 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Refugee assistance agencies in Illinois are steeling themselves for dramatic cuts in federal funding, which threaten to gut core services aimed at helping newcomers adjust and integrate to life in the U.S. The money instead is slated to go toward dealing with a crisis of unaccompanied minors streaming over the southern border, overwhelming temporary shelters that the U.S. is scrambling to expand.</p><p>&ldquo;This is really an impossible situation that we&rsquo;re being put in, in which we have to rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak, and have to choose between two vulnerable groups of people,&rdquo; said Erol Kekic, chair of the Refugee Council USA and Director of Immigration and Refugee services at Church World Service.</p><p>&ldquo;This is happening against the backdrop of this incredible upheaval that is plaguing our world at this point in time with (the) refugee crisis getting way out of hand in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia, etc,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;and (the) U.S. has to do its part to assist in this process.&rdquo;</p><p>In Illinois, resettlement agencies and refugee support organizations stand to lose a total of $2.7 million in funds from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agency is responsible for services rendered to refugees from their point of arrival in the U.S., to up to five years after. Refugees, unlike unaccompanied minors, are legally present in the U.S., and have already undergone rigorous background checks by the Department of Homeland Security and immigration authorities before they are admitted to the U.S. by the State Department.</p><p>Statewide, the cuts represent $1.3 million in core programming for refugees, and an additional $1.4 million in discretionary grants which fund services for K-12 children, seniors, preventative health care, and intensive case management for refugees with particularly acute need of assistance. Currently, Illinois provides these services to about 3,500 refugees, according to Deborah Covington, Vice President of Planning and Allocation for Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. That organization is Illinois&rsquo;s prime contractor for distributing and overseeing the bulk of ORR refugee funds.</p><p>Covington said programs funded by the discretionary grants will be completely eliminated. The state&rsquo;s seven refugee resettlement agencies, and two additional resettlement support organizations, will have discretion as to how to accommodate the cuts in core programming.</p><p>&ldquo;When budgetary crises happen, and we have a humanitarian crisis that&rsquo;s going on on the border, it&rsquo;s inappropriate to pit one deserving group against another,&rdquo; said Covington. &ldquo;The pie needs to be expanded, not simply rearranging the pie that&rsquo;s there.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We would pretty much be gutting our services,&rdquo; said Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeONE, which resettles the largest number of refugees in the City of Chicago. &ldquo;We have nine programs. Of the nine programs, four would totally shut down, and two programs would be drastically reduced.&rdquo;</p><p>Kano said unless Congress passes an emergency supplemental funding bill that replenishes the cuts, she will likely have to eliminate core services as soon as October 1. Slated for the chopping block would be programs for youth, seniors, intensive case management, medical case management, and English language training. In addition, she will drastically reduce regular case management services with bilingual staff and employment services. Kano anticipates she will have to cut 10 of her 33 full-time employees, and 7 of her 11 part-time employees.</p><p>&ldquo;Now, what that translates into in terms of service provision is that you have to have intensive services to help single mothers, to help individuals who perhaps don&rsquo;t have significant literacy skills, to help individuals who have been warehoused in refugee camps for several years, to be able to adjust to life in Chicago and become self-sufficient,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Kano and others said cuts would also come at a time that refugees need them more than ever. In accord with a <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/10/02/presidential-memorandum-refugee-admissions-fiscal-year-2014">Presidential Determination</a>, which announces the number of refugees that the U.S. may accept in a given fiscal year, and from which area of the world, the U.S. has increasingly been taking refugees from countries such as the Congo, Iraq, Bhutan, and starting next year, Syria.</p><p>&ldquo;These are definitely individuals who have been through war and trauma,&rdquo; said Kano, &ldquo;and without the important programs that we are here to provide for them, they would really have (a) hard time to integrate into society here and become self-sufficient.&rdquo;</p><p>Refugee advocates are hopeful that federal lawmakers will reach an agreement on a supplemental funding bill to replenish the cuts by September 30. While a proposal by President Barack Obama to provide $3.7 billion toward handling the unaccompanied minors crisis would have made the refugee services whole, neither the House nor Senate have shown an appetite for such a large allocation. In particular, funding contemplated by House GOP leaders doesn&rsquo;t appear to come close to restoring the cuts for refugee services.</p><p>&ldquo;The House leadership is interested in passing legislation that provides much less funding and is much more focused on border enforcement and limiting the President&rsquo;s authority than they are in really solving the humanitarian crisis,&rdquo; said Fred Tsao, Senior Policy Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still hoping that some kind of resolution will take place,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;but obviously the clock is running.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594 Morning Shift: An American art form in Paris http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-05-05/morning-shift-american-art-form-paris-110133 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Jazz photo for 5-5 Flickr pedrosimoes7.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We mark Teacher Appreciate Week with NEA head Dennis Van Roekel. We take a look at the race for Congress in the 10th Congressional District which includes an attempt at a comeback. And, we celebrate jazz in Paris.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-an-american-art-form-in-paris/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-an-american-art-form-in-paris.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-an-american-art-form-in-paris" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: An American art form in Paris" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 05 May 2014 10:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-05-05/morning-shift-american-art-form-paris-110133