Waters of the U.S.

Waters of the U.S.: Reform Movement Comments on New EPA Rule

Today, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission for Social Action of Reform Judaism and the Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, gave comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to expand the definition of “Waters of the U.S.”:

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900 congregations across North America include 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of Americans Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2000 Reform rabbis, I write in support of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ Proposed Definition of the “Waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act (Docket ID No. EPA‐HQ‐OW‐2011‐0880).

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Districts where there are judicial emergencies

Seeking: Benchwarmers for the Federal Courts

With the impending turnover of the Senate, pundits and political commentators are looking at the lame-duck session as a preview of how Republicans and Democrats might work together in the 114th Congress. An embattled, tense session could indicate a similar working pattern in the new Congress, while a lame-duck marked by cooperation could point to a more productive term. While it’s likely that members of two parties will not reach agreement on a number of key issues in the next few weeks, one in particular stands out as a possibility for cooperation: judicial nominations. Read more…

Beyond the ADA: Learning about the Continuous Fight for Disability Rights

When I first learned that I would be the legislative assistant (LA) working on Disability Rights at the RAC, I was very excited; disability rights was a social justice issue that had interested me for a long time but was an advocacy issue with which I had little experience . From my time attending Jewish day school, I knew that our religion emphasized the importance of equality for people with disabilities through the Leviticus verse that states “you shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind” (19:14). Ultimately, although the issue of disability rights is something I had thought deeply about before joining the RAC, I quickly realized that there was so much to learn on the subject after starting my work on disability rights as an LA.

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Sec. Kerry shaking hands

What’s New with the Iran Talks?

Just under a year ago, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany) made the historic announcement that they would be starting negotiations concerning Iran’s nuclear program. The goal of the negotiations was to, within six months, reach a deal to ensure Iran’s nuclear program could only be used for peaceful purposes (such as nuclear power), and in turn, have the United States roll back some of the economic sanctions placed on Iran. As a show of goodwill, the United States decided to relent with some of the sanctions (though most have been kept in place), while Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond a certain point (5%)—one that could be used for non-peaceful purposes. Read more…

U.S-China Climate Agreement a Positive Step

Yesterday, President Obama came to an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to curb greenhouse gas emissions in both countries. This agreement comes in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, next month.

In response to the announcement of the U.S.-China climate agreement, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action, said in a statement:

“Though far from perfect, this week’s agreement between the U.S. and China, the world’s two most carbon emitting nations, is a positive step toward addressing the crisis of climate change… We are reminded of the words of Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, that it is not our responsibility to finish the task, but neither are we free to desist from it. The U.S–China deal is a recognition by leaders of both nations that they have a responsibility to current and future generations to respond to the challenge of climate change. We will continue to work to ensure that this plan is not the end of the process of addressing climate change, but one step toward a healthier future for our earth and all its inhabitants.”

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We Need To Protect Monarch Butterflies from Extinction

Monarch butterflies are dying. Specifically, over the past 20 years, as global temperatures rise due to climate disruption, and milkweed — the monarch butterfly’s primary source of food – is killed by ever-stronger herbicide sprays, the worldwide population has declined 90 percent. It is for this reason that the butterflies, known for their spectacular migration from Mexico to Canada and back (and their recognizably symmetrical wings), need to be added to the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Otherwise, the butterflies will become one more of the 50,000 species that become extinct worldwide each year.

Jewish tradition teaches us to care for our Earth — to preserve that which God has created. The rabbis developed the principle of bal Tashchit (do not destroy), which forbids needless destruction. Rather, we are encouraged “l’vadah ul’shamrah,” to till and to tend, to become the Earth’s stewards. In Genesis after the great flood (9:9), God declares that the Covenant established is one between God and all the creatures on the planet. These principles, among many others, highlight the Jewish concern toward creation and our mandate to preserve it, for our own sake and for the sake of the Covenant. Read more…

Why Voting Rights Are Still Important, Even After Election Day

Voter turnout in this year’s midterm elections was the lowest voter turnout in any election cycle since World War II (when only 33.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots). Only 36.4 percent of the voting eligible population cast ballots this year, continuing the trend of declining participation in midterm elections. Read more…

A Woman's Place is in the House...And the Senate

100 Women in Congress: When Underrepresentation Marks a Milestone

The end of the 113th Congress will mark a milestone for women in politics: for the first time in history, 100 women will serve together in Congress. After Democrat Alma Adams (NC-12) is sworn in tomorrow (replacing Mel Watt who left Congress to the run the Federal Housing Finance Agency), the 113th Congress will close out with 20 women Senators and 80 women Representatives, up from the 79 who served for most of the term.

In the 114th Congress, the number of women Senators will remain at 20, possibility rising to 21 should incumbent Mary Landrieu (D-LA) win her runoff in Louisiana, and anywhere from 81 to 85 women will serve in the House, depending on the outcome of races still too close to call. Read more…