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Ramadan: A Time for Reflection and Study

The Muslim American Community RVA at Masjid Bilal
announces that the first day of Ramadan will be

Monday May 6, 2019

Taraweeh Prayers will be performed nightly at 10pm following Isha Prayer.
Community IFTARS/FAST BREAKING will be held on
Friday and Saturday nites throughout the month of Ramadan

Call Masjid Bilal at 804.222.9825 for additional information
regarding scheduled activities throughout the month.

RAMADAN IS A TIME TO DEEPEN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ALLAH
& STUDY OF THE QUR’AN DAILY
HERE IS AN EXCELLENT PLACE TO START…
THE COMMENTARY OF IMAM W.DEEN MOHAMMED, RAA

RAMADAN- A Time For Reflection & Study

May ALLAH (SWT) reward you and your family with the benefit
of this Sacred month

Ramadan 2019

Rules of the Fasting of Ramadan

Prepared by Mohamed Baianonie, Imam of the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC

Allaah says in the Qur’aan what may be interpreted as, “O’ you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may achieve Taqwaa (righteousness, God-fearing).” [Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 183]

The prophet Muhammad said, “Whoever observes the fast during the month of Ramadan, (while) believing in Allaah and seeking His rewards, will have his past sins forgiven.” [Reported by Imaams Bukhaari, Muslim and others]

Fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the main pillars of Islam. It is obligatory upon every sane, healthy Muslim whose reached puberty and is not traveling during the time of fasting. As for women, they must not fast if they are menstruating or having post-childbirth bleeding.

The Essential Elements Of The Fast

There are two essentials elements for your fast to be valid and accepted. They are:

Intention
You must have the intention to fast before fajr (dawn) every night during the month of Ramadan. The intention does not need to be spoken, because in reality it is an act of the heart, which does not involve the tongue. It will be fulfilled by one’s intention from the heart to fast out of obedience to Allaah seeking His pleasure.
Abstaining from acts that nullify the Fast
The second essential element for your fast to be accepted is that you abstain from the acts that nullify the fast from dawn to sunset.

If you maintain these two essential elements during fasting, then your fast will be valid and accepted.

Six Actions That Invalidate Or Nullify The Fast

All scholars have agreed that the following acts will invalidate the fast. They are:

Intentional Eating or Drinking
If someone eats or drinks due to forgetfulness, a mistake, or coercion, then his fast is still valid and should continue to fast. If you choose to eat or drink, for any reason, then your fast will become invalid.
Intentional Vomiting
If one is overcome by the urge to vomit, and vomits unintentionally, then he should continue to fast. If someone chooses to vomit, for any reason, then his fast will become invalid.
Intentional Sexual Intercourse
If one has sexual intercourse while fasting, then he must perform kaffaarah, expiation of the sin. (Fasting continuously for sixty days or if unable then one should feed sixty poor people).
Menstrual or Childbirth Bleeding
The fast becomes invalid during menstrual or post-childbirth bleeding. Even if such bleeding begins just before sunset, the fast of that day is invalid and the day must be made up at a later time.

All the actions mentioned above are agreed upon by all scholars. However, there are some other actions that are not mentioned above which are not agreed upon.

Actions That Are Permissible During Fasting

There are some actions that are permissible to do while fasting, which will not nullify the fast. For example:

Taking a shower
It is permissible to shower, for any reason, even if you are showering due to thirst or being overheated.
Rinsing the mouth and nose
It is permissible to rinse the mouth and nose without exaggeration; using too much water may cause you to swallow water, which may invalidate your fast.
Applying eyeliner or eye drops
It is permissible to apply kohl (eyeliner) or eye drops or anything else to the eyes, even if some taste from it finds its way to the throat.
Taking injections
It is also permissible to take injections for nutritional or medical purposes; there is no text that proves this invalidates the fast.
Taking suppositories
Similarly, it is permissible to have an enema or douche. The injection of liquid into the rectum through the anus for cleansing, as a laxative, or for other therapeutic purposes, or the use of a suppository (a solid medication designed to melt within a body cavity) or any other medicine that can be used in the private parts, whether in the front or back is permissible. There is no text that considers these acts to nullify the fast.
Accidental consumption
Your fast will not become invalid if you consume something that you could not protect yourself from. For example, swallowing your saliva or accidentally swallowing dust or sifted flour that has accidentally entered your mouth.
Tasting food with the tongue
Your fast will be valid even if you taste food with your tongue or use toothpaste or mouthwash as long as nothing is swallowed.
Breathing in different scents
Kissing and embracing one’s spouse
It is permissible to kiss and embrace your spouse as long as one is able to control oneself.
Drawing blood
It is also permissible to draw blood in any amount for any reason. If drawing blood weakens the person, it will be considered a disliked action.
Being in a state of janaabah
Your fast will still be valid even if you find yourself in a state of janaabah (a major ritual impurity) after fajr (dawn) has arrived. Ghusl (a full bath) can still be performed once the time of fajr has begun.

Who May Be Excluded From Fasting?

There are certain situations when it is optional to fast during the month of Ramadan, however, the fast must be made up at a later date. This is the rule for the sick or for the one who is traveling.

  • However, women who are experiencing post-childbirth bleeding or are in their menses are not allowed to fast until their bleeding ends. They must make up the days they missed fasting at a later date.
  • For those who cannot fast due to a permanent illness or old age, they have to pay fidiya (feeding one poor person) for each day that they have missed.
  • Pregnant and nursing women, who are afraid that fasting may weaken them or the child, have the option of fasting or not. After Ramadan ends, they have the choice of fasting or paying fidiyah (feeding one poor person) for each day that they had missed during Ramadan. However, according to the Hanafi School of jurists, such women are only to make up the missed days of fasting, and they are not supposed to feed one poor person a day. On the other hand, Imaams Ahmad and Ash-Shaaf’i, hold the opinion that if such women fear only for the baby, they must pay the fidiyah and make up the days later. If they fear only for themselves or for themselves and the baby, then they are only to make up the missed days at a later date.

Recommended Acts During Ramadan

There are some acts that are recommended, and if you practice them, you will gain more rewards from Allaah such as:

  • Having suhuur (pre-dawn meal) and delaying it until just before fajr (dawn) time.
  • We should also hurry to break the fast iftaar at sunset.
  • Another recommended act is that we break the fast by eating an odd number of fresh or dry dates, and if those are not available, then having a drink of water would be sufficient.
  • Also we can earn rewards by supplicating at the time of breaking the fast, as the prophet used to say, Dhahabadh-dhama-oo wabtallatil-‘urooqu, wa thabatal-ajru inshaa’Allaah. Which can be translated as, “The thirst has gone, the veins are moistened and Allaah willing, the reward is confirmed.”
  • Another recommended act is that we pray taraaweeh daily after Isha
  • To gain even more rewards, it is recommended that during Ramadan we increase our recitation and study of the Qur’an. This is because the revelation of the Qur’an began during this time, and also Angel Gabriel used to review the Qur’an with the Prophet during this month.

We can also gain rewards by using Miswaak (a piece of root from the Araak tree found in the Hijaaz region of the Arabian Peninsula used to clean the teeth), if not available, any other cleaning tool to clean the mouth is sufficient.

We ask Allaah to strengthen us in Ramadan, accept our fasts, and reward us with His forgiveness and the highest place in Paradise. Ameen.

The Best Charity is that Given in Ramadan…Help us feed the Needy

The Masjid Bilal Food Bank has operated for more than 20 years under the direction of Dr. James H. Rasheed . Residents from all over the Richmond Churchill community receive grocery items including produce, meats, baked goods and canned goods. Feeding more than 1000 people monthly, the program has been the recipient of numerous community awards. The Masjid Bilal Food Bank, one of the principal ministries of the Muslim American Community RVA , works in collaboration with the Central Virginia Foodbank.

Future plans include merging this project into a Job Readiness, Financial/Computer Literacy Initiative, Restoration of Voter Rights and Integrated Family Visitation Services.

This initiative has relied upon the volunteer efforts of many Churchill residents working side by side with members of the muslim community. The program receives no grants and relies solely upon individual contributions.

This program which is vital to so many families is in jeopardy of closure due rising cost and a reduction in contributions. We need your help!

This Ramadan 2019, The FOOD BANK has a fundraiser for upgrading our refrigeration facilities with a Walk-In Freezer. Our Goal is to raise 10,000 dollars by June 30, 2019. Help us reach our goal by giving a generous  gift of $200 or more.

Become a sustaining supporter of this community program. Please give a generous tax-deductible one time or monthly contribution.

It’s Easy! Just click on the Link below.

http://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=tmcF2vYJqbyldMCyM4wB_OESXHsxUGL4Q8uK2ntO2cYSQWCS6ijTat_Nx6itmpbLWZz9W0&country.x=US&locale.x=US

We invite you to come by and see your dollars in action! The food bank operates the fourth weekend of each month, Fridays 2pm-4pm and Saturdays 9am –12 noon. To find out more about this initiative, contact James Rasheed at jhrasheed@aol.com.

Because of your donation, your elderly neighbors and children won’t have to go to bed hungry again.

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Black Women Create a Force Field of Support Around Ilhan Omar

From Angela Davis to Ayanna Pressley, Black women leaders rallied in DC in defense of Omar—and called on Democrats do the same.

By Rebecca Pierce/The NATION

On April 30, over 100 Black women activists gathered in Washington, DC, to support Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar in the face of Islamophobic incitement from the Trump White House. Rallying under the banner “Black Women In Defense of Ilhan,” organizers included Angela Davis, Barbara Ransby, Black Lives Matter co-founders, and participants from around the country. Together they called for Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to censure President Trump for tweeting out a video of the 9/11 attacks, complete with flaming images of the Twin Towers, falsely accusing Omar of minimizing the attacks. The tweet was the latest incident in a cycle of incitement against Omar and spurred a spike in death threats targeting her.

Throughout the last few months, Omar has come repeatedly under fire for her comments criticizing America’s pro-Israel policies and the role of AIPAC in pushing US support of the occupation. She has also become a scapegoat for right wing commentators who have sought to turn her into a symbol of left-wing antisemitism, at a time when white nationalist violence against both Jewish and Muslim places of worship is on the rise.

The protest came as a moment of Black women’s unity in the face of Islamophobic misogynoir, with speakers such as Representative Ayanna Pressley contextualizing the attacks on Omar as part of a longstanding pattern of silencing of Black women’s voices. Speaking at the event, Omar described the attacks on herself as part of a broader context of white supremacy, including anti-Jewish violence like the attack on the Poway Synagogue, saying “We collectively must make sure that we are dismantling all systems of oppression.”

Ahead of the rally Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who helped organize the event but was unable to attend, spoke to The Nation about the critical significance of Black women showing up to support Ilhan Omar.

Rebecca Pierce: What are the goals you set out to accomplish with this event, and why were these demands so important?

Patrisse Cullors: I think one of the first things is that people need to understand that part of the mission of the Black Lives Matter Global Network is to protect Black women and girls, and that at the height of BLM we were labeled as terrorists and very few people came to our aid. Rep. Ilhan is an elected official, she was voted in. She has been treated terribly the entire time she has been in office by the right, and I think it is important that Black women stand up for her—and visibly stand up for her.

RP: Why do you think Ilhan is such a target not only for the far-right, but also some Democrats?

PC: It’s simple. She’s Black, she’s Muslim, she’s hijab-wearing. That is literally the image of fear that Trump has invoked in order to win over his base. She is a scapegoat for him and the right wing. I also think the Democratic Party doesn’t know what to do with her. They don’t know how to protect her, and they aren’t being the fierce advocates that we need them to be.

RP: One reason Ilhan has come under attack is her support for Palestinian rights, how does this fit into a larger context of attacks on Black leaders in solidarity with Palestine?

PC: I think there is a long history of Black people being in solidarity with Palestinian people. This isn’t in a vacuum. Rep. Ilhan’s support or my support or Marc Lamont Hill’s support or Angela Davis’s support [is part of] a long legacy of Black people and Palestinian people fighting for each other and being in solidarity with one another. And so, I think that the minute that Ilhan was open and transparent and not afraid to talk on behalf of Palestine, she really became a target of the right.

RP: Why is it so important to defend Palestine solidarity in Black organizing?

aPC: The first time I went to Palestine was in the winter of 2015 right after the Ferguson Uprising, and I was invited by the Dream Defenders delegation. I had studied a lot about Palestinian rights, I was not new to the issue of the Occupation, but nothing prepares you for that level of violence. For that level of, honestly, dissonance. Dissonance from Zionists in America. So, when I sat and had conversations with Palestinian people, especially Palestinian elders, one of the first things they said is “Black people and Palestinian people have a natural alliance.” I think part of that history, whether it was Malcolm X or other Black leaders that were thinking about self-determination, these are some of the themes that are at the intersections of Palestine and Black American people.

RP: Do you think that these kinds of coalitions are a threat to the status quo?

PC: Everybody knew you don’t talk about Palestine, especially in social justice spaces. That if you agreed with that you kind of kept it to yourself. I would say in the last five-to-seven years we have seen a significant shift when it comes to the cultural conversation about Palestine and Israel and that more and more young people, more and more white Jews, more and more folks of color are having a much more honest conversation about the occupation. That we don’t want our tax dollars going to Israel’s Apartheid country. So, we are in a position now, a cultural shift position, and I think Ilhan is in some ways the messenger of that.

RP: What do the attacks on Ilhan say about the fight against white supremacy in this moment where there is a threat not only on Black and brown people but also Jewish communities and other minorities?

PC: Ilhan has become the latest representation around how the right wing is establishing what is white nationalism. And I think for our movement, protecting Ilhan means we are fighting against white supremacy. We actually have to be better at that, at protecting her as a symbol really, at protecting the rights of Jewish people, at protecting the rights of communities of color, of women, of trans folks, of queer folks. This is that moment where we have the opportunity to really fight hard for everybody.

Rebecca PierceRebecca Pierce is a writer, activist, and documentary filmmaker. Her journalism has been featured in +972, Jewish Currents, The Jewish Daily Forward, The Nation, Mondoweiss, and Electronic Intifada.

 

For Democrats, a midterm election that keeps on giving

In the early hours of election night on Tuesday, a consensus began to take hold that the vaunted Democratic blue wave that had been talked about all year was failing to materialize. Now, with a handful of races still to be called, it’s clear that an anti-President Trump force hit the country with considerable, if uneven, strength.

Democrats appear poised to pick up between 35 and 40 seats in the House, once the last races are tallied, according to strategists in both parties. That would represent the biggest Democratic gain in the House since the post-Watergate election of 1974, when the party picked up 49 seats three months after Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency.

Republicans will gain seats in the Senate, but with races in Florida and Arizona still to be called, their pre-election majority of 51 seats will end up as low as 52 or as high as 54. Meanwhile, Democrats gained seven governorships, recouping in part losses sustained in 2010 and 2014, and picked up hundreds of state legislative seats, where they had suffered a virtual wipeout in the previous two midterm elections.

The Democrats’ gains this week are still far short of what Republicans accomplished in their historic victories of 1994 and 2010. But they would eclipse the number of seats Democrats gained in 2006, the last time the party recaptured control of the House, as well as the 26-seat gain in 1982, when the national unemployment rate was at 10 percent. This year, the election took place with the unemployment rate at just 3.7 percent.

Day by day, the outlook for Democrats in the House has improved. At the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, already high spirits have been rising all week as more races fell into the party’s column. One joke that has been making the rounds there goes like this: “This is actually turning out to be more of a Hanukkah than a Christmas election,” meaning day after day of gifts, rather than just one.

This was always an election that would test the strength of the economy, which favored the president’s party, vs. the president’s low approval ratings, which, along with the record of past midterm elections, pointed to Democratic gains. In the end, history and presidential approval combined to give Democrats control of the House by what appears to be a comfortable margin.

The Democratic wave hit hardest in suburban districts, many of them traditional Republican territory, where college-educated voters — particularly women — dissatisfied with the president backed Democratic challengers. Ronald Brownstein of the Atlantic and CNN, who has closely tracked these changes over many elections, noted in a post-election article that, before the election, two-thirds of Republicans represented congressional districts where the percentage of the population with college degrees was below the national average. After the election, he estimated, more than three-quarters of GOP House members now will represent such districts.

Democrats flipped about two-thirds of the competitive districts won by both Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012 or by Clinton in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012. They also picked up one-third of districts won by Trump in 2016 and Obama in 2012. In districts where both Trump and Romney had won in the previous two elections, Democrats gained about a quarter of the competitive seats.

Also striking in House races was the number of narrow victory margins — on both sides. About 20 Democrats won or are leading in races where the margin is fewer than five percentage points, while about two dozen Republicans who won or are leading are in races with similarly small margins.

That indicates that the outcome in 2018 could have been substantially better for Democrats or significantly worse, had the political winds been blowing differently. It also foreshadows another fiercely contested election for the House in 2020.

The final outcome in the Senate races this year will also have a bearing on 2020. The difference between a majority of 54 seats or 52 seats would have a sizable impact on the odds of Democrats being able to win control two years from now.

Republicans expect to defend 22 seats up for election, compared with only 12 seats held by Democrats. These include the Colorado seat of Sen. Cory Gardner (R), the Maine seat of Sen. Susan Collins (R) and the Arizona seat now held by Sen. Jon Kyl (R). Senate Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are likely to face competitive races. Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, who won a special election last year, also will face a serious challenge to hold his seat.

Beyond the tally of victories and defeats, the 2018 election was notable for the ways in which it deepened many of the divisions and shifts in allegiance that are changing the political landscape across the country. That carries implications for politics in 2020 and beyond.

Democratic strategists have been cheered by exit polls that show the underlying national demographic trends that drove their gains, particularly in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Voters under the age of 29 voted for Democrats over Republicans by 67 percent to 32 percent, a margin which beats the previous record in the 2008 presidential election. Latino voters matched their national 11 percent vote share from the higher-turnout 2016 election, with Democrats winning 69 percent of the Latino vote nationwide, slightly more than the 66 percent share when Trump was elected. Asian voters, who make up about 3 percent of the voting population, sided with Democrats by a margin of 77 percent to 23 percent.

“The emerging electorate, the one which will dominate U.S. politics for the next generation or two, supported Democrats in record numbers,” said Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist. “Democrats not only won the 2018 election handily, but won it in a way which should worry Republicans about 2020.”

Said Republican pollster Whit Ayres: “To me, the big story is that the 2018 midterm election reinforced and accelerated the patterns we saw in 2016. You had smaller, overwhelmingly white, rural counties become more deeply entrenched in the Republican Party, and suburban counties, particularly those with high proportions of well-educated voters, going exactly the opposite direction.”

New returns have been raising Republican concerns in western states. Chuck Coughlin, a Republican adviser to former Arizona governor Jan Brewer (R), said it was clear that Trump’s approach to immigration in the final weeks of the campaign did not have the nuance required for a state like Arizona, where immigrants play a central role in the economy.

“One thing is for certain, that the caravan rhetoric doesn’t resonate in this state as well as it resonates in the Midwest,” Coughlin said. “We have done a lot of research, and we have consistently shown that border security is a big issue, but the immigration reform side of that question is integral to the future of the state.”

Republicans in the state, however, have been hemmed in by Trump’s support among Republican primary voters, which forced Rep. Martha McSally, the Republican nominee for Senate, to tack to the right, particularly on immigration. “She didn’t ever modulate,” said Coughlin. “She didn’t create any separation.” Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic Senate nominee, now has a narrow lead in that race.

In neighboring Colorado, Democrats won every statewide race, picked up a House seat, took control of the state Senate, and swept most down-ballot races as well. “We are not Ohio, Michigan or the Midwest. The college-educated suburban voter — they don’t like Trump because of his behavior,” said Dick Wadhams, the former chairman of the state GOP.

In Nevada, Democrats picked up a Senate seat and the governorship and held on to two competitive House districts, in a sign of a continued shift left in what has been a closely contested state in most recent elections.

Democrats fell short in two other evolving Sun Belt states. In Texas, Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rouke lost the Senate race to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz but managed to win 48 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Democrats picked up two suburban congressional districts.

In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams trails Republican Brian Kemp in the gubernatorial race, but the changing dynamics of voting patterns there worry some Republicans for future elections.

“When you have someone like Stacey Abrams carrying a major Atlanta suburban county like Gwinnett, like Hillary Clinton did, then the formula for Republican victories in Georgia has been completely upended,” Ayres said.

Other results point in a different direction, however, which offers some encouragement to Republicans beyond adding to their narrow Senate majority.

Ohio appears to be moving steadily away from the Democrats, largely because of cultural issues. Since 1994, Republicans have won nearly nine of every 10 statewide contests. The GOP’s victory in the open gubernatorial race on Tuesday was the latest blow for the Democrats, though Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown held his seat.

Democrats also failed to pick up the governorship in Iowa, though they gained two House seats. They struggled to make inroads in House races in Republican strongholds such as Kentucky, North Carolina and Nebraska.

Florida remains a top concern heading into the 2020 elections, when the state will probably play a crucial role in any path for Trump to win a second term. Contrary to the Latino vote elsewhere in the country, the Cuban, Puerto Rican and Central American populations in the Sunshine State split more evenly, as Gov. Rick Scott (R) mounted an aggressive outreach effort.

“The Democrats underestimated just how much Hispanic support Republicans were able to capitalize on in Florida,” said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster in Miami. “It’s about the margins.”

Of the 15 percent of voters in the state who were Latino, Scott was able to win 45 percent, according to exit polls, including a slight majority of Latino men. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, former congressman Ron DeSantis, was able to win 44 percent of Latino voters.

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Lebron James Launches “I Promise School” for at Risk Youth

Brian Windhorst/ESPN Senior Writer

The path of LeBron James‘ foundation has, in some ways, mirrored the path of his career.

Always a potential powerhouse because of James’ wealth and influence, the operation was somewhat unfocused early on. For example, for several years its major annual event — a city-wide bike-a-thon for kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio — ended up losing money and straining the city’s budget.

But as James was finding his footing as a superstar and a leader during his time in Miami, his foundation was doing the same back in Ohio, as it became focused specifically on at-risk children and their education. They’ve both been on a roll ever since.

Many times over the past decade, James has said, “I’m just a kid from Akron” and “I’m not supposed to be here, I’m supposed to be a statistic.” It can sound like a slogan, but to him, it isn’t. As is well known, he faced poverty, lack of stability and periods of homelessness when he was a child. His small family was directly impacted by drugs and violent crime, and things crashed down on him to the point that he’d stopped attending school regularly by the time he was in fourth grade.

The circumstances pointed toward James’ life not having a good outcome, on the verge of being lost before he knew where basketball could take him. These are the statistics he’s trying to fight with his money and ability to rally huge corporations and schools to a cause.

Over the past four years, as he played again for the Cleveland Cavaliers, James’ career became fully mature. It culminated in both the 2016 NBA championship, and this past season, when he played in every game and had one of the best playoff performances in NBA history as he pulled his underdog team to one more Finals appearance.

The same could be said for his foundation, which reaches a milestone more than a decade in the making on Monday when it launches its own school in coordination with the Akron Public Schools. It will eventually draw hundreds of at-risk children, kids who are walking in the same shoes James was in at elementary school age. The new school has a longer school day and a longer school year, and its educators will be tasked with trying to overcome historic disadvantages the attendees face.

If the children follow the program the foundation has worked to mold, James has arranged for them to have free college tuition at the University of Akron. Along the way, the foundation has set up a program to also help the parents earn their high school diplomas and other continuing education.

It’s a brave experiment. Instead of disadvantaged children being mainstreamed, James’ school will group the at-risk students from across his hometown together to try to streamline the support system. If it works, James and his foundation’s leaders dream, it could change the way cities and school systems view these challenges. It could spread to other cities in Ohio that need help. And then, who knows?

The 2020 Census at Risk and What’s at Stake

By Jim Tankersley & Emily Baumgaertner    New York Times

WASHINGTON — The United States census is so much more than just a head count. It is a snapshot of America that determines how congressional seats are apportioned, how state and federal dollars are distributed, where businesses choose to ship products and where they build new stores. To do all that properly, the count needs to be accurate.

The Commerce Department’s decision to restore a citizenship question to the census beginning in 2020 is prompting concerns about curtailing participation and possibly undercounting people living in the United States, particularly immigrants and minority groups who are expressing discomfort with answering questions from census workers.

Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, acknowledged concerns about decreased response rates in a memorandum released on Monday night. But he said asking about citizenship would enhance the results by helping calculate the percentage of the population eligible to vote.

An undercount of the population would have far-reaching implications. It could skew the data that are used to determine how many congressional representatives each state gets and their representation in state legislatures and local government bodies. It would shape how billions of dollars a year are allocated, including for schools and hospitals. It would undermine the integrity of a wide variety of economic data and other statistics that businesses, researchers and policymakers depend on to make decisions, including the numbers that underpin the forecasts for Social Security beneficiaries.

Here are several of the commercial, political and research efforts that depend on accurate
census data:

Divvying up seats in Congress, state legislatures and more

The Constitution requires the government to enumerate the number of people living in the United States every 10 years, and to use that data to apportion the seats in Congress among the states. The calculation is based on total resident population — which means citizens and noncitizens alike — and it generally shifts power between the states once a decade, in line with population and migration trends.

States including Texas, Florida, Colorado and Oregon are projected to gain seats after the 2020 numbers are in. Illinois, Ohio, New York and West Virginia are among the states expected to lose seats. An undercount could shift those projections.

Lawmakers also use census data to draw congressional district boundaries within states, an often-controversial process that can help decide partisan control of the House. Census data also underpin state legislative districts and local boundaries like City Councils and school boards.

Handing out federal and state dollars

The federal government bases a large amount of its spending decisions on census data. Researchers concluded last year that in the 2015 fiscal year, 132 government programs used information from the census to determine how to allocate more than $675 billion, much of it for programs that serve lower-income families, including Head Start, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college and reduced-price school lunch programs. Highway spending is also apportioned according to census data.

Influencing business decisions

To sell products and services, companies large and small need good information on the location of potential customers and how much money they might have to spend. The census provides the highest-quality and most consistent information on such items, and businesses have come to depend on it to make critical choices.

Census data help companies decide where to locate distribution centers to best serve their customers, where to expand or locate new stores and where they have the best chance of seeing a high return on investment. That is why business groups have been particularly concerned about the integrity of that data.

“The 2020 census is used to help construct many other data products produced by the federal government,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who writes frequently on the importance of census data for policymakers and the private sector.

“Some of those products are heavily used by businesses when determining where to open new stores and expand operations, or even what items to put on their shelves. This affects retail businesses, for sure, but businesses in many other sectors as well,” he added.

Planning for various health and wellness programs

Low response rates from any one demographic group would undermine the validity of various population-wide statistics and program planning.

Scientists use census data to understand the distribution of diseases and health concerns such as cancer and obesity across the United States population, including drilling down to race and ethnicity to identify health patterns across demographics. Public health officials then use the data to target their interventions in at-risk communities. Inaccurate census data could lead public health officials to invest in solving a problem that does not exist — or worse, to overlook one that does.

“It’s getting harder to conduct the census, due to a variety of factors, including increasing cultural & linguistic diversity, and distrust of the government,” said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist who directs the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. “The addition of the citizenship question will make the enumerators’ jobs even harder by heightening privacy concerns and reducing participation among immigrants, who may fear the information will be used to harm them or their families.”

Gaming out Social Security

An undercount in the census could also impact forecasts about Social Security payouts, which are already increasing as a share of the federal government’s revenue.

When Congress plans for the costs of the country’s Social Security needs, lawmakers rely upon demographic projection about the population’s future: the number of children expected to be born, the number of people expected to die, and the number of people expected to immigrate. If baseline data regarding the current population are inaccurate, future projections could be skewed, causing financial challenges down the line.

‘People Who Are Different Are Not the Problem in America’

By James Lankford & Tim Scott/Politics-THE ATLANTIC
JAN 12, 2018

Two members of the U.S. Senate urge Americans to honor the legacy
of the Martin Luther King Jr. by engaging with others of different backgrounds.
This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day carries additional significance, as it marks the 50th anniversary of his tragic death. In April of 1968, King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, at the hands of a ruthless murderer who was filled with hate and racism.One of the reasons we, as Americans and citizens around the world, remember King’s legacy is his call to freedom and racial unity through love and engagement for all people—a message he still shares with the world a half-century later. Love is the consistent theme throughout many of his writings and remarks: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend,” or “I have decided to stick with love … Hate is too great a burden to bear,” or “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.

Perhaps the words King wrote to fellow ministers while he was in the Birmingham Jail in 1963 are the most impactful: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

King’s words still ring, but his work is not complete. Americans have come a long way since the 1960s, but the dream is not yet fully realized.After the 2016 police shootings in Dallas, Minnesota, and Louisiana, we challenged our constituents and people everywhere we went with a simple question, “Have you or your family ever invited a person or a family of another race to your home for dinner?”  We called it “Solution Sundays.”Sunday is a slower, yet significant day, for most Americans. So, we challenged each family to give one Sunday lunch or dinner for building relationships across race and ethnicity, to literally be part of the solution in America. Any other day of the week would work as well; the goal is for people to engage on a personal level in their own homes, to break down walls, to listen, and to build trust across communities. It is harder to stereotype people that you know.

When is the last time you or your family had dinner in your home with a person or family of another race?

We are convinced that we will never get all the issues about race on the table, until we get our feet under the same table and talk like friends. At its core, racial divisions are a heart issue, not a skin-color issue. Our children need to see their parents developing friendships around the dinner table with people who look different, so that the next generation can be different.

The same goes for civil discourse in America. The love and respect that King spoke about do not require absolute uniformity or watered-down viewpoints. They require respect for cultures and views that are different, and an understanding that people who are different are not the problem in America; they are our brothers and sisters in humanity.

Sadly, our cultural discourse often looks like hate trying to drive out hate, rather than allowing light and love to drive out hate.

Our national leaders should model this truth rather than just reflect the culture. Just take a glance at social media and cable news, and you’ll see disrespectful shouting and shaming that descends on our country and our children like a cold rain. In fact, you can test that theory by posting this op-ed to your social media account, and you will probably see what we’re talking about within minutes. This sort of rhetoric threatens our ability to weave together multiple communities together to form a single nation; it loses sight of the fact that all people are made in the image of God and have worth and human dignity.

After two centuries, we are making progress on race, but we seem to be rapidly losing our “melting pot” of ideas, respect, and acceptance. A trend has emerged that encourages people to listen only to people who are the same or share their values, philosophy, and ideas, then dismiss or belittle anyone who is different or disagrees, even if they only disagree on a few issues. A good burn is the new goal, rather than a good word. We still need the reminder that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

Let this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day be a time where we, as Americans, honor his memory and legacy by engaging neighbors who are different. If the national pendulum is ever going to swing, it will require role models in every community who don’t just call out for respectful engagement, but live it.

Worried about Russian Collusion? Gerrymandering & Voter Suppression are worst threats

From Electoralgeographies.web

 Gerrymandering / Congressional Redistricting

Manipulating congressional districts through gerrymandering  has become a pervasive problem in the United States since its utilization by Elbridge Gerry in 1812. The point of gerrymandering is to cram “all of [your opponents’] supporters into a small number of districts. This method allows the legislature to spread its own supporters over a larger number of districts” (Ingraham, 2014b).

The graph above shows data on 8 states’ gerrymander index scores. It is clear that these data, in general, indicate that states are becoming more gerrymandered over time.

North Carolina and Maryland are regarded as the most gerrymandered states in the United States.  North Carolina’s 12th district is one of the worst in the nation, stretching over 77 miles from Winston-Salem to Charlotte in a snake-like pattern. (below)

NorthCarolinas12thcongressionaldistrict

There are certainly regional and demographic factors at play in the more recent gerrymandering efforts, such as those that we saw in 2010. Republicans gained a majority of House seats and state legislatures that year, and as a result were in charge of districting after the 2010 census. Redistricting’s original intent (after the census every 10 years) was to provide fair representation for people in different states as their populations increased or decreased, but it has largely become a political tool dominated by  whomever controls the state’s legislature.

From the graph below, you can see that the South, and the East Coast in general, is becoming more gerrymandered than the rest of the United States. The darker reds represent states that are more gerrymandered on the index score, and the lighter colored states represent those that are less gerrymandered.Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 7.51.11 PM

Gerrymandering the Electoral College?

Republican victories and the subsequent Congressional districts established by Republicans in 2010  gave the party momentum to propose legislation regarding alterations to the electoral college. Their goal is to set up a congressional district system in their respective states, which would ultimately determine the outcome of the Presidential election through dividing electors amongst state districts.

over-timegerrymander

Nebraska and Maine already have a congressional district system in place, and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia are all considering legislation (Henderson & Haines, 2013). Systems such as this in Ohio and Virginia, key swing states during the 2012 Presidential election, would have indicated a victory for Mitt Romney (Berman, 2012). But such law, if implemented, would also change presidential campaign strategies, and would generate and eliminate different battle-grounds.

Voter Suppression Laws 2014

Similar to gerrymandering, voter suppression laws are a way for political parties to gain an advantage through manipulation.  The 2014 midterms witnessed minority populations in the South, and other parts of the country being targeted by such legislation. A major issue at hand were voter ID laws. Many states introduced newly established ones this cycle. 11 states had new voter ID laws, which excludes states where these laws will be implemented in future elections-such as NC.imrsimrs

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21 states featured new voting laws more generally which included elimination of same day registration, elimination of out-of-precinct voting, limitation of early voting days, and longer wait times for criminals to regain their voting rights.

Research indicates that affected states “tend to have large black and Hispanic voter populations” (The Economist 2014). As an example, 1/3 of North Carolina’s African American voters utilized same day registration in 2012, a privilege which was eliminated in the state this cycle.  The portion of the Voting Rights Act which was struck down by the Supreme Court in a 2013 decision may be to blame for some of the problems in the South. Southern states are largely dominated by Republicans, and are no longer required to receive federal approval before changing legislation.

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