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    1. The impeachment trial of President Trump continued this week in the Senate with the defense resting on Tuesday, and the Q&A portion to start on Wednesday for a total of 16 hours.  While there are a lot of anecdotes about what’s happening on the senate floor (like drinking milk, falling asleep, and doing crosswords) the atmosphere is decidedly tense and now that Senators have a chance to speak, will likely ramp up that tension. Yet to be determined is if more witnesses will be called or further evidence included.

      In other D.C. news, head over to Twitter and give Sandy a follow as she shares her perspective as D.C. director!

      Asylum

      The UCC with other faith partners is co-leading a National Day of Prayer and faith vigil to call attention to the one year anniversary of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and the dangerous and unsafe conditions asylum seekers are encountering as they work to exercise their right to seek asylum in the U.S. Check out Faith4Asylum to learn more or participate.  Lots of great resources for congregations.

      Staff: Katie, Noel, Amanda

       

      Health Care Access

      The Administration is set to release approval of Medicaid block grants which if implemented will severely restrict funding and access to Medicaid, often to those who need it most.  This is seen as a way to circumvent the Medicaid expansion enacted by the Affordable Care Act.  Proponents say that states need more flexibility and allowing them to receive a big chunk of money with fewer restrictions will allow that.  Advocates, like us, know that what this translates to is loss of services and eligibility requirements that are restrictive.

      Staff: Katie

       

      Iran and Iraq

      Tension with Iran continues as last week Iran reportedly threatened to quit a global non-proliferation treaty if European countries refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council over alleged violations of a 2015 nuclear agreement.  On the hill, several votes will be taking place on related issues, including a bill by Rep. Lee to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) which has been used to justify the attack on Iran as well as conflict in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.  Another bill, the “No War Against Iran Act” offered by Rep. Ro Khanna will prohibit military action against Iran without congressional approval.  We expect a Senate bill introduced by Sen. Kaine on War Powers to be considered soon, although there have been several versions.  In Iraq, huge numbers of protestors took the streets to call for the U.S. to pull its troops out of what is now being labeled an ‘occupation’. 

      Staff:  Peter, Mike, Beka   

       

      NOAA Report

      The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US scientific climate and weather observatory had just released its new report on global temperatures, climate and anomalies in 2019. Based on an average temperatures 1901 to 2000, global average temperatures increased by 0.95 C in 2019. The second warmest year since mid 19th century. If that is compared with the IPCC/UNFCCC base years of average of 1850 to 1900 (pre-industrial), the temperatures in 2019 – as in the last four years – were above 1 C. In 2019, again as in in previous years, global warming of 0.95 C (compared to the 21st century average), has been much higher over land (1.42 C) than over the oceans (0.7 C) and stronger in the Northern (1.15 C) than in the Southern (0.7 C) hemisphere. But by now, oceans have accumulated the highest heat content since recordings started.

      For many more detailed information:

      https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/briefings/20200115.pdf

      https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature

      https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201913

      Staff: Madison, Brooks

       

      Nuclear Weapons

      On Thursday Jan 23rd, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the “Doomsday clock” to a mere 100 seconds to midnight, highlighting the dual dire threats of nuclear extinction and climate catastrophe.  The UCC continues to work with the Back from the Brink campaign and we are currently working with colleagues in Massachusetts in support of a state resolution and one in the city of Boston in support of the BftB principles. 

      Staff:  Mike, Beka    

       

      Palestine and Israel

      President Trump revealed his Middle East Peace plan (the “Deal of the Century”) at the White House on today.  The secretive deal as expected tilts an uneven playing field further toward Israel, especially since it wasn’t drafted with any Palestinian input.   Only Israeli officials will be present at the announcement, which was revealed the same day as both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu face trials in their respective countries on allegations of corruption and abuse of power.  

      Staff:  Peter, Mike, Beka

       

      Philippines:

      The United Church of Christ of the Philippines – (UCCP-SEMJA) has expressed opposition to a recent resolution that sought to stop them from providing sanctuary for 500 Lumad people in need of protection.  Lumad are indigenous people in the southern Mindanao region of the Philippines who are being targeted and forced off their lands for resource extraction.  UCCP’s Bishop Tequis has responded, “Like shepherds, there are calls for persecution of shepherding the Lumads. We are being vilified and crucified for doing so. And like Christ, we face these challenges with courage and faith.”

      Staff:  Derek, Beka, Mike

       

      Protecting the Rights of Pregnant Workers

      The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694), a long overdue bill that would hold employers accountable in making reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, passed out of the House Committee on Education and Labor with bipartisan support.

      Staff: Katie

       

      Public Charge

      Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction, clearing the way for the Trump administration to implement its revision to the definition of who is considered to be a “public charge,” and therefore
      ineligible for permanent legal status. 
      This rule forces immigrants
      to choose between citizenship and providing for their families and sets up a
      wealth
      test
      for immigrants, making it imminently more difficult for families
      looking to reunite, or start their lives in the U.S.

      Staff: Katie, Noel

       

      Refugees

      Three years after implementing his first Muslim ban, President Trump is expected to formally announce an expansion of this harmful policy to seven additional countries.  The administration also issued rules allowing visa officers broad power to block visas for women who they considered to be coming to the U.S. to have a baby. Congress is considering legislation that would better align refugee and immigration processes with our core values by ending the current bans and establishing limits so that Congress can stop discriminatory bans from being implemented in the future.  The UCC joined with Cleveland Global to denounce the proposed plan and we have an action alert live to support the GRACE Act and NO-BAN Act. 

      Staff: Katie, Amanda, Noel

       

      USMCA

      Following passage by the Senate of a new NAFTA 2.0, President Trump is expected to sign the new U.S. Mexico Canada Trade agreement on Wednesday at the White House.  Faith and trade groups are split on final assessment on the deal.  Labor has endorsed, but environmental groups remain skeptical if not opposed.  The DC office has worked through the Interfaith Working Group (IWG) on Trade and Investment to improve the deal issuing several letters and action alerts.  Here is one of our partner’s summary of the final result and position of the IWG: although the USMCA makes several positive changes, it does not quite live up to our vision of a just trade deal that will both help the poor and steward the Earth. 

      Staff:  Mike, Sekinah

       

      WOTUS

      Last week, the EPA officially unveiled the final revision to the Waters of the U.S. rule, a win for industries like agriculture, oil and gas. Specifically, the new rule will erase protections for so-called ephemeral streams, which flow only after rain or during snowmelt. Environmental groups, as well as hydrologists, note that those streams are often dry, but torrents of rain or snowmelt can carry significant pollution downstream into more consistently flowing waterways, in turn polluting favorite fishing holes and drinking water intakes. While environmental groups are taking the new rule to court, legal experts say the Supreme Court will have the final say in which streams and wetlands are protected.

      Staff: Madison

    2. The Discovery Phase of our work with Cornershop Creative is quickly concluding. Below is a summary of the findings and recommendations taken from Cornershop Creative's report to the UCC.

      Stakeholder Interviews

      To help the UCC and Cornershop Creative teams better understand user needs and pain points with the current ucc.org website, and to inform the reorganization and redesign of the site, Cornershop Creative conducted 24 half-hour phone interviews with UCC stakeholders between January 6 and January 23, 2020. Stakeholders were identified by the UCC OPTIC team in consultation with National Setting leadership. The stakeholders comprised a mixture of individuals from the National Setting, associations, and conferences. In addition, some were involved with adjacent programs, like Global Ministries.  

      Findings 

      Most stakeholders liked the general look and feel of the site. The logo design, color palette, and fonts were well respected, and several stakeholders commented that they liked the new branding better than previous branding. 

      The most frequently cited pain point for stakeholders was content organization. Stakeholders often felt like they needed to know exactly how to search for key phrases or exactly which landing page to look at before they were able to find what they were looking for.

      • Stakeholders frequently commented that there was too much content and it was hard to understand why certain things were prioritized on the homepage. 
      • Many stakeholders felt that homepage content should prioritize different content and display new, fresh content more regularly. 
      • Several stakeholders expressed an interest in seeing more images and content that conveys the UCC’s values and beliefs. 
      • Opinions varied when asked what the primary audience of the site should be. Most felt like the site content should be structured towards at least two different audiences. 

      In analyzing all feedback from our interview notes, we found that stakeholder feedback could be organized into several common themes:

      • content priorities,
      • terminology and searchability of content, and
      • effectiveness of landing pages

      Much of the stakeholder feedback reiterated desires for change that had already been identified or requested by the UCC OPTIC staff prior to this stakeholder review process, suggesting that Cornershop Creative and the UCC already have a strong sense of necessary improvements.

      Items for further exploration are:

      • use of clear terminology
      • shared event calendar
      • faceted search
      • simplified content types for shared used by content creators 
      • more white space and compelling imagery
      • real estate for presence of affiliated ministries
      • consistent branding (marks, etc.) throughout
      • user experience
      • clear information architecture and navigation 
      • clear presence of:
        • national ministries 
        • officers
        • other leadership and contacts
        • purpose of and information about programmatic work 

      Conclusions

      OPTIC and Cornershop now have a better understanding of what site users are looking for, and we look forward to using this information as we develop a new site architecture and design a new user experience. This research has proven valuable in confirming many existing plans for changes as well as pointing out new, previously unconsidered avenues for improvement. It has also provided insight into priorities and relative importance of different aspects of the site, which should guide where time and attention are spent as work progresses.

      The valuable information gleaned from stakeholders through this interview process serves to better inform the UCC OPTIC and Cornershop Creative teams as we progress in the website design process.

       

       

       

       

       

    3. John Dorhauer
      Latest Entry

       

      I have been so grateful for this time we have had over the holidays. Mimi and I took advantage and made a trip to Chicago to be with our son and his beautiful children. 

      usx7JCXZTe2GzZBdMZrI3A.thumb.jpg.5da259703e6e1c25dbff6c114da036e4.jpg276633632_Q066jqGTwKbdp1FlY2SLA.thumb.jpg.8d4e0e5c2275fb651274a83c1bb0cab9.jpg52559176_ea8xqKGTHy08ToPPataKQ.thumb.jpg.1f73c71762002bed38dedfaaa9a4bb82.jpgusx7JCXZTe2GzZBdMZrI3A.thumb.jpg.23b1b83d75a86088108352a06418b8bf.jpg

    4. I gave the message at my church on Sunday for World Communion Sunday. Since I just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka and India, I shared about that experience. I also dressed in an outfit I bought on the trip and decorated our table/altar with goodies from my trip. Here are some pics! I'll try and post the message at another time.

      I bought the piece of fabric in Delhi for the church. It's hand embroidered and has sequins! The blue and white vase is from Jaipur, a famous pottery place. The plate in the center is also from Jaipur. My outfit is from Delhi.

      IMG_2997.thumb.jpg.d3f07c29933c4d51422f31d5ec73ad77.jpgIMG_3004.thumb.jpg.c755ddc42e71b8cf0fa63eb4916e105d.jpg

       

    5. Chris Gabriel
      Latest Entry

      I quickly recorded this today, I hope you enjoy. I've spent a month working on this piece at home. Far from perfection, but very close to satisfaction. ❤️ 

       

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