Week Five: Natural Resources Defense Council

Following January’s highly-publicized memoranda approving the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, in February three pieces of environmental legislation quietly moved through Congress to Trump’s desk. On February 3rd, the House passed H.J. Res. 36 to reverse the  Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation” and sent the resolution to the Senate. The threatened BLM rule targets the reduction of methane emissions, which are at least 25 times more potent than CO2 emissions as a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. On February 14th President Trump signed into law H.J.Res.41, which canceled an SEC regulation that required oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments. The intent of the SEC regulation was to prevent bribery, embezzlement, and the exploitative extraction of natural resources by government officials and oligarchs at the expense of a country’s citizens. On February 16th, President Trump signed legislation ending the Stream Protection Rule, which protected waterways from coal-mining waste.

This week we donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit that works to ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities. The NRDC utilizes scientific research, litigation, advocacy, community partnerships and business innovation to realize progress in program areas such as energy, climate change, oceans, and food. Recent NRDC victories include receiving commitments from Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Subway to eliminate antibiotics from their meats; achieving ivory bans; forcing the chemical company Mallinckrodt to clean up the tons of toxic mercury they dumped into Maine’s Penobscot River; securing millions of acres of protected habitats; negotiating the designation of Atlantic coastal waters off-limits to drilling; and brokering climate commitments at COP21 in Paris.

We are passionate believers in the importance of protecting the environment. This is our one and only planet Earth, and we humans are steadily and recklessly depleting its resources — and then ignoring and denying the obvious impacts of our behavior. We humans are just one species that calls Earth home, and yet we are disrupting the homes of countless other species and destroying the delicate balance of nature’s ecosystems that existed long before we came onto the scene. We believe that protecting our environment is the biggest and most pressing issue for our children and future generations. Human structures and powers and problems come and go, but our planet is permanent. This is one thing we can’t fix or get back. Given the actions of the current administration, our Earth needs us to be its voice and to fight for its health more now than ever before.

Advertisements

Week Four: Operation Hope

On February 3rd, President Trump signed an Executive Order delaying the fiduciary rule that requires financial advisers to disclose conflicts of interest and eliminate hidden fees. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently bashed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which was set up in the wake of the recent financial crisis to protect consumers. Moreover, Rep. Hensarling (R-TX), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, plans to move forward with legislation to substantially reduce the strength of the CFPB. In its short six-year tenure, the CFPB has returned over $11 billion to wronged consumers, fined offending companies over $500 million, and provided the means for consumers to reach an agency to help them. In the past six years alone there have been more than 1 million complaints filed, and over 9% of the U.S. population has received relief from a CFPB enforcement action. Here is a link to a petition you can sign imploring Congress not to gut the CFPB.

This week, we donated to Operation Hope, a non-profit organization that brings financial literacy to low-wealth communities. They serve 4,000 inner-city schools and 500 low-wealth communities. Operation Hope teaches young people basic financial literacy with the goal of helping prevent the vicious cycle of poverty. This robust organization strives to make free enterprise work for everyone. They empower youth to speak the “global language of money” and become informed participants in economic exchanges, including launching small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures.

Executive actions against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau do not just affect some of us — these actions could negatively affect ALL of us. It is alarming that this Executive Order so blatantly favors Wall Street croneyism while harming the hard-working Americans of Main Street. When you get down to it, money is a resource of empowerment. In these times, we believe it is more important than ever for us as individuals to educate ourselves about our finances and stay vigilant to conflicts of interest — and to do everything we can to help educate and equip each other. Our economy is a complex web that connects us all, and we are stronger together.

Week Three: Sandy Hook Promise Foundation

H.R.34, the Safe Students Act, was introduced to the House on January 12, 2017. This bill repeals the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which prohibits any unauthorized individual from possessing a firearm in a school zone. The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 313-1. In addition to H.R.34, on February 1st White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated that the current administration will continue to explore Executive Orders to support campaign promises, such as removing gun-free zones. Gabby Giffords, former Congresswoman and victim of gun violence, has an advocacy organization that started a petition to uphold existing gun laws.

This week we donated to the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity that was started by several family members of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that claimed the lives of 20 young children and 6 adults – the third deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Their mission is to prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide, and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless horrific loss of their child. The Foundation builds a national base of parent, school, and community organization supporters who raise awareness and deliver programs to prevent gun violence in their communities. These programs include gun safety and storage practices; advocacy for gun safety laws; and mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals.

We believe that “the right to bear arms” needs to be taken into present-day context, and that when our Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights they were not envisioning guns being used on school grounds. Schools and guns simply do not go together. It is hard to remember anything more chilling than the news of the Sandy Hook massacre — in fact, that event was what inspired Dallas to start her “year of kindness” challenge because she needed to do something in response to senseless violence and immense grief. We must do everything in our power to ensure that it never happens again. The Gun-Free School Zones Act is a vital protection of our children, and the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation is an important resource and legacy for future generations.

 

Week Two: Committee to Protect Journalists

 

On January 20th, six journalists were arrested while covering Inauguration Day protests in Washington, DC. The journalists were reporting on protests that had become violent when business windows were smashed and a limo was set on fire. Several days later, these journalists were charged with felony rioting under city law that states “every person who willfully incited or urged others to engage in the riot” can be charged, with a penalty of up to ten years in prison. However, lawyers and press associations have since stated that journalists were arrested simply for being in the same area as protesters — many of the reporters were wearing clothing or using equipment that identified them as journalists, and they repeatedly told police officers that they were not protesters. Indeed, on January 27th, the charges were already dropped against one of the reporters, and charges were dropped against three more several days later. Award-winning career journalists such as Christiane Amanpour and Dan Rather have spoken out against the current administration’s actions as threats against press freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

This week we donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, a nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide so journalists can report the news without fear of reprisal. Their advocacy services have led to the release of 51 imprisoned journalists in 2016, convictions of murderers who killed reporters, and legal reform in countries to promote free expression. CPJ’s research documents censorship, and cases of missing, exiled, killed, and imprisoned journalists around the world.

We believe that freedom of our press is a cornerstone of our democracy. Journalists cover all aspects of our news, which requires them to be present in danger zones and areas of conflict. Their job is to be observers reporting the story, and they should be not hindered by worrying about possible arrest and prosecution. As Dallas’s father, a sports columnist, taught her at a Laker’s game: “There’s no cheering in the press box.” Journalists pride themselves on reporting objectively — if these six, make that the remaining two, journalists are indeed found to have been guilty of inciting riots, then they are not true journalists. However, in our opinion, that outcome is highly unlikely. In any case, we believe that charging journalists with felony rioting sets a dangerous precedent that could quickly and steadily erode our nation’s vital freedom of the press.