06 26 2016
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  • ST. LOUIS (AP) — A draft of the Democratic Party's policy positions reflects the influence of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign: endorsing steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocating a $15 hourly wage, urging an end to the death penalty. Hillary Clinton's supporters turned back efforts by Sanders' allies to promote a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system and a carbon tax to address climate change, and freeze hydraulic fracking. While the platform does not bind the Democratic nominee to the stated positions, it serves as a guidepost for the party moving forward. Party officials approved the draft early Saturday. The Democratic National Convention's full Platform Committee will discuss the draft at a meeting next month in Orlando, Florida, with a vote at the convention in Philadelphia in late July. Sanders said Friday he would vote for Clinton, the presumptive nominee, in the fall election, but so far has stopped short of fully endorsing the former secretary of state or encouraging his millions of voters to back her candidacy. The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform to reflect his goals — and those representing him at a St. Louis hotel said they had made progress. "We lost some but we won some," said James Zogby, a Sanders supporter on the committee. "We got some great stuff in the platform that has never been in there before." Added Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders ally: "We've made some substantial moves forward." Deliberating late into Friday, the group considered language on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an issue that has divided Democrats. The committee defeated an amendment led by Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with "an end to occupation and illegal settlements" and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza. The draft reflects Clinton's views and advocates working toward a "two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict" that guarantees Israel's security with recognized borders "and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity." In many cases, Clinton's side gave ground to Sanders. The document calls for the expansion of Social Security and says Americans should earn at least $15 an hour, referring to the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a "starvation wage," a term often used by Sanders. Sanders has pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Clinton has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to that level but has said states and cities should raise the bar as high as possible. Sanders' allies wanted the draft to specify calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage indexed with inflation. Clinton's side struck down a direct link, noting the document elsewhere included a call to "raise and index the minimum wage." The committee also adopted language that said it supports ways to prevent banks from gambling with taxpayers' bank deposits, "including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall." Sanders wants to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities. Clinton does not, but says her proposed financial changes would cast a wider net by regulating the banking system. Also in the draft is a call for the abolition of the death penalty. Clinton said during a debate this year that capital punishment should only be used in limited cases involving "heinous crimes." Sanders said the government should not use it. Sanders, a vociferous opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was unable to get language into the document opposing the trade deal. As a result, the party avoided an awkward scenario that would have put the platform at odds with President Barack Obama. Clinton and Sanders have opposed the deal. Committee members backed a measure that said "there are a diversity of views in the party" on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal "must protect workers and the environment." In a setback for Sanders, the panel narrowly rejected amendments that would have imposed a tax on carbon and imposed a national freeze on fracking. The panel deliberated for about nine hours following several late nights and long hours of policy exchanges between the two campaigns and the Democratic National Committee. Sanders, in a statement, said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that the group voted down the measure opposing the TPP. But he was pleased with the proposals on Glass-Steagall and the death penalty — and vowed to fight on. "Our job is to pass the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," he said.
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Portland will become a national epicenter for progressive Christians this week when it plays host to the United Church of Christ's national Convocation on Racial Justice, titled "God is Still Seeking Racial Justice." The Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, whose columns on racial and social justice are often printed in The Skanner, will be among the convocation's featured speakers.

The gathering takes place from Nov. 10 through 13 at the Ambridge Event Center, 300 N.E. Multnomah St. It evolved out of plans to celebrate the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Hector E. Lopez, co-conference minister of the church's Central Pacific Conference. Lopez wasn't interested in a banquet or a party in his honor, said Andrea Cano, western regional organizer of UCC's Justice and Peace Action Network. Instead, she said, he wanted to go out the way he came in — focusing on pressing issues of racial, social and economic justice.

"Instead of having a big retirement party," said Cano, "(the Rev. Lopez) said, 'Let's have a convocation on racial justice and see where we are.' "

The convocation's four days will encompass a busy schedule of seminars, speeches, panel discussions, worship services, performances, breakout groups and workshops. Some of the topics to be discussed include "The Journey," with historical retrospectives on the nation's African American, Pacific Islander, Asian and Native American communities; "The Present," with presentations on modern multicultural ministries; and "The Future," with breakout discussions on the progress yet to be made in racial, social and economic justice.

The journey ahead will very much be a focus of the convocation. The United Church of Christ, which traces its roots back to the Mayflower pilgrims, has always made equality and justice a priority in its ministries, Cano said.

"We were part of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement in the 1860s, and we are continuing our legacy in moving in a progressive direction," Cano said. "We helped to establish many of the major Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the South, and we have journeyed into being more inclusive as the demographics have changed in this country."

Although the UCC has long been a diverse denomination, Cano said, for many years it remained largely segregated into individual African American, European American, Latino American and other churches. About 20 years ago, she said, the Rev. Lopez advanced the policy that each congregation should strive to be culturally inclusive. She cited the Ainsworth United Church of Christ, Portland's most diverse and inclusive congregation, as an example of what the denomination is striving for.

But the church also has exerted itself toward the larger goal of equal justice outside its congregational walls. While the United States is certainly a more equitable place than it once was, Cano said, much progress remains to be made.

"The nature of racism changes as systematically as do the attempts to eradicate it," she said. "The expression of racism in one decade changes and shifts, so that it emerges as something else later on. When you think you've taken care of it, you haven't."

Readers of the Rev. Jackson's columns in The Skanner will recall that incidences of injustice in this country and around the world have been recurring themes for her.

"We're in the aftermath of two hurricanes, one of which devastated a whole region and forced the evacuation of a million people," the Rev. Jackson wrote in the Oct. 5 edition of The Skanner. "But while Americans were forced to look at the fault lines of race and poverty revealed by the disaster, we seem already to be denying what we saw with our own eyes.

We seem to be moving on to the next news item without dealing with the twin evils of racism and classism found not only in New Orleans, but across the nation."

The Rev. Jackson is slated to address the convocation at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12.

Ultimately, Cano said, the convocation is intended not only to develop a general assessment of the state of racial and social justice today, but to formulate practical solutions that people can put into effect in their everyday lives.

"One of the last plenary sessions is when people will offer some, hopefully, inspired solutions," she said. " … We've come together, we've listened, we've deliberated, we've decided, and now we're going to go back to our respective places and hopefully effect some change."

For a complete schedule of events and speakers, or to register for the convocation, visit cpcucc.org, e-mail centralpacific@cpcucc.org or call 503-228-3178. Registration cost is $75, and includes a Saturday evening banquet.

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