Senate Intelligence Committee Votes to Release Its Report on CIA Torture–Urge the President to Make it Public

From the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (http://www.nrcat.org):

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to release critical portions of its report on CIA torture.  The vote was bi-partisan and it represents a significant step toward ensuring that our government will share the truth about our nation’s past use of torture with the public.

Please go to http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2162/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15451 to email the President to tell him that you believe the report should be made public as soon as possible, with minimal redaction. It is important that the President exert the full authority of his office – otherwise the CIA may try to redact almost everything.

Thank you for taking action.

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2 Million 2 Many—April 5, West Chester

Rally to protest the 2 million deportations under President Obama.

Beginning at 10:45 am and ending at 12:00 pm

Location: 2 S High St., West Chester, PA 19380

https://www.facebook.com/events/1435578286688127/

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PA Companies Like PPL, Heinz Paid Little or Nothing in State Income Taxes

From the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (http://www.pennbpc.org):

As PA corporate tax collections erode, it becomes difficult to invest in schools, communities

HARRISBURG, PA (March 20, 2014) — Many profitable Fortune 500 companies including Pennsylvania-based PPL, H.J. Heinz, Airgas, Allegheny Technologies, Hershey, and Comcast are paying little or nothing in state income taxes thanks to loopholes, tax breaks, and crafty accounting, according to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).

The new study, 90 Reasons We Need State Corporate Tax Reform, was co-released with the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Thursday. It examined 269 Fortune 500 companies, including 16 based in Pennsylvania, that were profitable every year between 2008 and 2012. Of those, 90 companies avoided state income taxes altogether in one or more years.

“St. Patrick’s Day is behind us, but for corporations like PPL and H.J. Heinz, it’s four leaf clovers all year round,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “When profitable corporations don’t pay taxes, other businesses and the rest of us pay more.”

Corporate tax collections in Pennsylvania have declined as a share of total tax revenue over the past 30 years. The phase out of the capital stock and franchise tax, corporate tax loopholes, and other tax breaks are the primary reasons for the decline.

A law passed last year to close corporate tax loopholes in Pennsylvania failed to get the job done, leaving companies free to continue to avoid paying income taxes. New tax credits and other policy changes mean that corporations are paying a smaller share of taxes overall in Pennsylvania, leaving other taxpayers to contribute more.

This erosion of corporate tax revenue threatens Pennsylvania’s ability to make investments in the future, including funding increases proposed by the governor for public schools, a new college scholarship program, domestic violence prevention, and other human services.

Business tax cuts have also done very little to bring new jobs to Pennsylvania. Job growth in the commonwealth has lagged well behind most other states, ranking 48th out of the 50 states in 2013.

“If we are going to get our economy back on track, corporations must pay their share of taxes like the rest of us,” Ward said. “Only then will we be able to invest in strong schools and other building blocks of our economy.”

The ITEP/CTJ report found:

  • 90 companies paid no state income tax at all in at least one year, and 38 companies avoided taxes in two or more years.
  • 10 companies, including Boeing, Merck, and Rockwell Automation, paid no state income tax at all over the five-year period covered by the study.
  • The average weighted state corporate income tax rate is 6.25 percent, but the 269 companies paid an average rate of just 3.06 percent.

In Pennsylvania, PPL and PNC Financial Services Group paid average income tax rates over the five-year period of less than 1 percent; Cigna, Airgas, H.J. Heinz, Allegheny Technologies, and Air Products & Chemicals paid between 1 and 2 percent on average; Wesco International and AmerisourceBergen paid between 2.1 and 3 percent on average; Consol Energy, Hershey, and Comcast paid between 3.1 and 4 percent on average; PPG Industries, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Universal Health Services paid between 4.1 and 5 percent on average; and UGI paid 6 percent on average.

The 269 companies examined collectively avoided paying $73.1 billion in state corporate income tax.

“The first step in any state’s corporate tax reform should be ensuring corporations are actually paying taxes,” said Meg Wiehe, Director of State Tax Policy at the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. “At a time when public services that ordinary people rely on face inadequate funding, we shouldn’t be having a conversation about lowering taxes for profitable corporations, which only means the rest of us have to pay more. We should be talking about how to ensure corporations are paying their fair share.”

To view the study, go to http://www.ctj.org/90reasons/.

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Report: National Parks Bring $444 Million to Pennsylvania

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA

Posted at http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/38197-1

(03/19/14) HARRISBURG, Pa. – National parks, monuments, trails and historic sites are pumping more than $444 million into Pennsylvania’s economy each year. Numbers from the National Park Service show more than 9 million visits to Park Service lands in Pennsylvania in 2013.

While there’s often criticism that public lands don’t generate local income unless they’re drilled or harvested for timber, the report outlines other income streams, said Craig Dalby, chief of public information programs for the Park Service.

“The flight to a place, renting a car, getting to the place – and then, of course, spending money at the location or near the park,” he said. “That all generates economic activity.”

Eighteen national parks and almost 200 national natural and historic landmarks lie within Pennsylvania. The report shows that national-park tourism returns $10 to local economies for every $1 invested in the National Park Service.

Park Service lands are connected to about 7,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, Dalby said.

“The economic activity that is generated from visitors going to parks does have that effect of creating work for people,” he said.

According to the report, 39 percent of visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores. Lodging accounts for 27 percent, and other amusement and recreation account for 20 percent.

Pennsylvania statistics are online at nps.gov/state/pa/.

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Sign the “Demand a Vote” Petition to Bring Comprehensive Immigration Reform to the House Floor for a Vote

From the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (http://www.civilrights.org):

Take Action: Send a letter to your representative at https://secure3.convio.net/leader/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=529 and urge her/him to sign the “Demand a Vote” petition to bring comprehensive immigration reform to the House floor for a vote. Now is the time!

Just hours ago, House Democratic leaders filed a discharge petition, or a “Demand a Vote” petition to force a vote on the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (H.R. 15), the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.

If the “Demand a Vote” petition gathers enough signatures from House members, the petition could force a vote in the House on H.R. 15 without House Speaker John Boehner’s, R. Ohio, approval. (You can read more about what a discharge petition is here).

For the last several months, despite support from bipartisan members of Congress, Boehner and House Republican leadership have refused to permit a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. Last summer, the U.S. Senate passed comprehensive reform with bipartisan support. The House bill, H.R. 15, currently has 200 co-sponsors.

Prevailing on the discharge petition will be an uphill battle – but the status quo is unacceptable. Every day families are being torn apart because leaders in Washington refuse to take action. It is now time to act. Let’s “Demand a Vote” and hold representatives accountable to the change we need.

Take Action: Send a letter to your representative and urge him/her to sign the “Demand a Vote” petition to bring comprehensive immigration reform to the House floor for a vote. Now is the time!

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Ryan Budget Recycles Failed Proposals for SNAP

From the Food Research and Action Center (http://www.frac.org):

Statement attributable to FRAC President Jim Weill.

Washington, D.C. – April 1, 2014 – Sadly, it’s not an April Fool’s Joke. Today, April 1, for the fourth time in as many years, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has released a budget that slashes deeply the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other low-income programs. He recycles the failed idea of converting SNAP into a block grant, adds the failed attempt to remove low-income seniors and working families from SNAP by ending the state option known as categorical eligibility, and pledges to end the program that links SNAP with energy payments to low-income people.

Ryan has opted to perpetuate myths rather than look at SNAP and how it’s helped millions of people navigate challenging economic times by providing essential food assistance. Here are the facts:

  • First, SNAP reaches the neediest and most vulnerable people in our country, including seniors, children, people with disabilities, unemployed and low-income workers, veterans, and low-paid enlisted active duty military families.
  • About 72 percent of SNAP recipients live in households with children. More than one-quarter live in households with seniors or people with disabilities.
  • 82 percent of all benefits go to households with a child, senior, or person with disabilities.
  • More than $98 million in SNAP benefits were redeemed at military commissaries during Fiscal Year 2012.
  • Half of all new SNAP participants receive benefits for 10 months or less and 74 percent of participants leave the program entirely within two years.
  • The share of SNAP households that work has risen steadily. Over the last decade, the number of households that were working, albeit at typically low wages, while receiving SNAP more than tripled.
  • More than half of SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult work while receiving SNAP. This rate is even higher for families with children — more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP.
  • Nationally, SNAP lifted 4.9 million people out of poverty in 2012.

It’s time for Rep. Ryan and others concerned with the budget to stop asking how much to cut from SNAP, and start asking what is going to help struggling families across this nation and thereby reduce long-term health and other costs. Making benefits more adequate is a start – people can afford healthier food when they have more resources. The SNAP benefit now averages only $1.40 per person per meal and on average, households have less than a quarter of their benefits remaining by the middle of the month. That was true even before across-the-board SNAP benefit cuts affecting more than 47 million people were made in November 2013, as well as additional cuts made by the recently passed Farm Bill. Spending time on old and failed ideas does nothing to advance the fight to end hunger and poverty in this country, and Congress should – as it has in the past – reject this callous budget.

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New Report Stacks Up Paul Ryan, President Obama, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Against Americans’ Priorities

From the National Priorities Project (http://nationalpriorities.org/):

Representative Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chair, just released his budget proposal for 2015. We compared Ryan’s vision against the proposals previously released by President Obama and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Here’s how they stacked up.

Our new report (http://nationalpriorities.org/analysis/2014/budget-proposals-2015/) highlights what the public wants — from job creation to tax loopholes — and what each budget proposes.

  • On Job Creation, 74 percent of Americans say restoring the job market is a top priority.
  • On Education, 69 percent of Americans say improving the U.S. education system should be high priority.
  • On Taxes, 67 percent of Americans want corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers to pay more in taxes as a result of fewer tax breaks.

What do Ryan, Obama, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus say about each of these issues, and more?

Find the answer in our complete side-by-side comparison of budget proposals.

In case you missed it, check out these other reports from NPP on the 2015 budget proposals and what they mean for Americans:

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#2Million2Many Day of Action Against Deportations—April 5, Norristown

What: March in Norristown PA against Deportations
When: Saturday April 5th, 2014 at 1:00pm
Where: Starting at La Plazita, 506 Marshall St. Norristown PA

Come join Juntos and the community of Norristown, PA as we all stand up and raise our voices against the deportation machine that is separating and destroying our communities with more than 1,000 deportations every day. We are fast approaching the Obama administration’s two million deportation mark, That’s two million families that have been devastated by the current administration’s inability to take charge and put a stop to this unjust system. We need you to join us on April 5th (go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1420712218186212 to RSVP) as we and other communities across the country take a stand and demand that President Obama use the power that he has and puts an end to all deportations and put an end to the suffering of our families. To see all the other actions that are happening across the country make sure to check out the Not1More Deportation website at http://www.notonemoredeportation.com/take-action/april-5th-day-of-action-against-deportations/.

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Please Sign On to Letter Calling for Administration Action for Changing Immigration Policies–Deadline April 16

From the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (http://www.interfaithimmigration.org):

Please see the faith sign on letter below with various recommendations to President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about how the administration should change immigration policies.

We are asking that you consider signing on to this letter as a faith leader. To sign on, please fill out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1LQBi-w3tyULchpbzaI-xK8W056xgFNqCSrcYsSsq9ZM/viewform by COB Wednesday, April 16th.

Dear President Obama and Secretary Johnson,

As faith leaders and faith-based organizations, we call on you to both continue to champion immigration reform and to also take administrative action to stop harmful enforcement practices, reunite families and promote community wholeness. As a diverse array of faith groups, we seek to raise concerns faced by immigrant communities that must be prioritized as the President and Congress do their part to reform our nation’s broken immigration system. We urge you to use all your resources, contacts, and the political capital necessary to ensure that Congress enacts legislation that will meet the standards set forth in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s 2014 Congressional Recommendations, enclosed with this letter. We also call on you to ensure that administrative policies and practices protect the dignity and rights of all people by implementing the following recommendations:

Renew and Expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
We celebrate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. We urge the Administration to renew DACA status for those who have it, to extend the application timeline, and to implement a similar process for the family members of DACA recipients and for all undocumented immigrants who make contributions to their communities. These contributions should include those who volunteer in local organizations in their communities, those who serve or provide assistance to others in need, those who hold memberships in congregations or places of worship, those who might have criminal records in the past but who have showed a change in character and behavior, and those with criminal record or who are currently incarcerated, but who have participated in victim/offender mediation programs. Expanded DACA recipients should also include those who are unable to work due to social, physical, or emotional challenges. We also urge the Administration to include DACA recipients in Affordable Care Act implementation and to clarify that DACA recipients should not be restricted by state policies or practices from receiving drivers licenses or access to higher education.

Expand Use of Prosecutorial Discretion and Amend Civil Enforcement Priorities
We support the Administration using its prosecutorial discretion to prevent deportations, but we are dismayed that record levels of deportations continue, including valued members of our congregations and communities. Many continue to be apprehended, detained, and placed into removal proceedings, including individuals who are parenting children, who have severe mental health issues, and who are survivors of torture or persecution. We urge the Administration to more broadly and consistently utilize prosecutorial discretion to keep families together and preserve communities. Individuals should not be deemed enforcement priorities for violations that are immigration related such as re-entry; traffic related offenses; minor criminal offenses; or actions that are retroactively considered deportable offenses. In addition, individuals should not be considered “recent border crossers” or enforcement priorities if they have lived in the United States for more than 30 days, are found more than 25 miles from the border, or have U.S. children, spouses, or parents.  All individual cases, including those deemed enforcement priorities, should be reconsidered if the individual has family members in the United States. The Administration should create a process for individuals to proactively apply for prosecutorial discretion. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should issue and enforce agency-wide enforcement priority guidance for all enforcement actions, including apprehensions, detainers, issuance of Notices to Appear, detention and removal orders, and should review all individuals placed in removal proceedings to determine whether they are eligible for prosecutorial discretion or another form of relief.  DHS should also establish clear appeals and review processes for all deportation cases to assess why individuals did not receive prosecutorial discretion. The practice of expedited removal should be stopped altogether, or at a minimum drastically limited, as it has resulted in many individuals being removed who should have qualified for prosecutorial discretion.

End Secure Communities and 287(g) Agreements
The Secure Communities (S-Comm) program purports to identify and remove the most dangerous criminal offenders; however, tens of thousands of hardworking families have been caught up in this dragnet deportation system. We call on the Administration to end all S-Comm collaborations and 287(g) programs and to rescind all current agreements. In accordance with DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) positions, immigration law must be enforced by federal officials and not by local law enforcement. Collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police compromises community policing efforts and causes victims and witnesses to fear reporting crimes, which jeopardizes community safety. States and localities should not be required to participate in immigration enforcement programs, including the forwarding of fingerprints and other biometric information to DHS. Immigrant communities and law enforcement have warned that this makes immigrant communities vulnerable to being the targets of crimes. Laws that encourage racial profiling and discrimination feed xenophobia, reduce community safety, and send an undeniable message to immigrant communities that they are not welcome. At a minimum, DHS should undertake nationwide reform of its immigration detainer policies to permit the use of detainers only when there is documented probable cause to believe that individuals are enforcement priorities, and to require supervisory headquarters review.

Reform Deportation Policies and Practices
While ICE has made progress in partnership with civil society to address concerns about the treatment of immigrants in their purview, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continues to struggle with transparency and accountability. Establishing clear guidelines for professional conduct and a streamlined process for reporting complaints will assist the Administration to address accountability failures. The Administration should address inhumane conditions in Border Patrol short-term detention facilities, and create enforceable standards to ensure that those in CBP custody are informed of their rights, have access to counsel, are properly screened for eligibility for humanitarian relief, and are able to receive visits from their families, lawyers, and non-governmental organizations. The conditions under which CBP implements deportations should be reexamined in light of the Administration’s obligation to ensure repatriations are carried out in a way that is “safe, dignified, orderly and humane.” DHS should immediately take steps to ensure its practices do not place deported migrants at unnecessary risk of physical harm or death. Service providers and civil society groups should be part of a consultative process to assist DHS in determining appropriate locations and hours of deportations. To ensure the safety of migrants deported to Northern Mexico, DHS should inform Mexican counterparts with adequate advance notice of a planned deportation, particularly when deporting elderly, pregnant or infirm individuals; establish a uniform and effective process for determining familial relationships to ensure that family members are not deported to separate ports of entry; end the practice of deporting migrants without their identification documents, money, cell-phones and other belongings; implement deportations during daylight hours only; and refrain from deporting migrants to towns experiencing public order emergencies or where no migrant shelter or services are available.

Reform Detention Policies and End the Detention Bed Mandate
The federal government currently requires that 34,000 immigrant are detained on a daily basis. While we appreciate the Administration’s reduction of detention beds to 30,461 in its FY15 budget, we urge the Administration to eliminate the bed quota altogether. Immigration officials should never have to meet an arrest or detention quota and they should utilize alternatives to detention whenever possible. At a cost of $119 per day to detain one immigrant, the bed quota fuels the mass deportation system while needlessly wasting government resources in an era of fiscal cuts. We encourage the Administration to expedite the release of individuals from detention who pose no risk to the community and expand the use of community-based alternatives to detention, which are more humane and cost effective. For individuals who must be held in custody, ICE standards must ensure safety, dignity, and fairness and must be enforceable. We urge the Administration to fully implement the 2011 ICE Performance-Based Detention Standards at all facilities that detain immigrants, and to terminate contractual relationships with facilities that refuse to integrate these standards. We likewise recommend that the Administration integrate proposed Civil Immigration Detention Standards adopted by the American Bar Association’s General Assembly in 2012 to guide the transition to a truly civil immigration detention system. In addition, the Administration should establish a clear review process of detainer policies to reduce erroneous detainers and increase oversight on individuals who can issue detainers. We also urge the Administration to reexamine the Bureau of Prison’s use of private prison contractors, as this has led to lower standards and less accountability.

Expand Implementation of the Rule on Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers
We applaud the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rule change to allow immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for unlawful presence waivers in the United States before returning to their home countries for final visa processing. We encourage its continued and generous implementation and also encourage the Administration to expand eligibility criteria to immediate relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents and other priority relatives of U.S. citizens and expand and consistently apply the definition of “extreme hardship.”

Respect Department of Labor Actions and Parental Rights
ICE has continued to conduct I-9 Audits at the same time as labor disputes, potentially infringing on the labor rights established in the National Labor Relations Act. We urge DHS to honor and implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DOL fully and consistently. ICE should continue implementing the new parental rights and segregation policies, including regular input from stakeholders on progress. ICE should also continue to operate its community outreach operations, including the helpline. These are important opportunities for the agency to hear directly from the community and the detained population regarding how its policies and procedures are affecting individuals.

Increase Opposition to Anti-Immigrant State Policies
We applaud the Department of Justice for recognizing that Arizona’s SB 1070 and similar legislation in South Carolina, Georgia, Utah, Indiana and Alabama are preempted by federal immigration law and therefore unconstitutional. We urge the Administration to continue to aggressively challenge anti-immigrant state laws and practices. The DHS decision to not collaborate with Arizona or Alabama in the enforcement of SB 1070 or HB 56 has been an important policy stance. However, we urge DHS, including ICE and CBP, to more consistently refuse to collaborate in the deportation of individuals identified through these unconstitutional anti-immigrant state laws. In addition, we urge the Administration to promote pro-immigrant state policies that are not federally preempted, such as California’s TRUST Act, which are consistent with the Administration’s stated policies.

Prioritize Funding to Promote Immigrant Integration and Protect Vulnerable Populations
We call for a faithful budget that will find savings by reducing funding for immigration detention, S-Comm, the current employment verification program, and all enforcement programs that separate families and create fear in communities. Those resources should be redirected to fund welcoming initiatives, translation services, citizenship programs, visa adjudications, tax credits, education regarding anti-human trafficking efforts, refugee protection and resettlement, community-based alternatives to detention, the Legal Orientation Program for immigrant detainees, and direct services for immigrants, including healthcare coverage for DACA recipients. We also urge the Administration to reduce the cost of applying for citizenship, as we should encourage rather than prevent immigrants from becoming U.S. citizens.

We stand ready to support the Administration in exploring and implementing all of these reforms, as they would improve the lives of our community members and reunite separated families. Combined with legislative reform that will create a path to citizenship, these reforms will begin to rectify the many problems caused by our broken immigration system.

Sincerely,

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