The Dispatch

Opinion: The return to flourishing

January 26, 2021 Brian Jones 0

With the advent of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the fight against SARS-COV-2, the time is ripe to foster a public conversation on how to return to a normal social life. This conversation will […]

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News Briefs

Members of Congress push for end to the federal death penalty

January 26, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- Dozens of members of Congress are urging the Attorney General-designate to stop use of the federal death penalty.

In a letter to Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland on Tuesday, 45 members of the House—led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Adriano Espillat (D-N.Y.)—asked Garland to work with Congress on legislation to end the federal death penalty, once he is confirmed.

 

In addition, they asked Garland to take specific steps to halt or end use of the death penalty nationwide, including by revoking the Trump administration’s 2019 resumption of federal executions.

“The death penalty is a stain on the United States’ commitment to advancing justice and human rights,” the letter signed by 45 members stated. “We ask that upon confirmation you partner with Congress to enact legislation to end the federal death penalty and resentence those currently on federal death row,” the members stated.

 

In 2019, Attorney General William Barr—a Catholic—announced a resumption of federal executions after a nearly two-decade moratorium.

 

Beginning in July, a total of 13 federal death row inmates were executed by the end of the Trump administration on Jan. 20. In December and January alone, five of the inmates were executed.

 

The U.S. bishops’ conference condemned the executions, and in a Jan. 11 statement asked Congress and the Biden administration to stop federal executions and abolish the federal death penalty.

 

In one of the cases, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark sent a letter to President Trump asking for clemency for Dustin Honken. Tobin noted that, while previously Archbishop of Indianapolis, he visited Honken at Terre Haute federal prison several times a year. Honken was executed in July.

 

The next chair of the USCCB’s doctrine committee, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, called the death penalty part of the “throwaway culture” in a Jan. 8 online panel.

 

While campaigning for president, Biden promised to end the federal death penalty. As a senator, however, he sponsored a 1994 criminal justice bill that expanded the number of federal offenses eligible for the death penalty.

 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that President Biden was “opposed” to the federal death penalty, but offered no details on a possible stoppage of its use.

 

Among the members’ requests of Garland on Tuesday are that he “[w]ithdraw authorization for all pending death penalty trial cases” and stop seeking the death penalty in any federal cases.

 

In addition, the members are asking that “the federal Bureau of Prisons dismantle the federal death chamber at Terre Haute prison in Indiana.”

 

“As the Trump Administration has undertaken an appalling rush to execute a historic number of Americans this year, it is incumbent upon the Biden Administration to reverse course and work to make America a more just society,” the letter stated.

 

Rep. Espillat is a Dominican-American and Catholic. He introduced legislation, H.R. 97, on Jan. 4 to abolish the death penalty under federal law.

 

Pressley, meanwhile, introduced the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021 with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Jan. 11, to end federal use of the death penalty and provide for the re-sentencing of federal inmates currently on death row.


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News Briefs

Why birth rates fell more sharply during COVID

January 26, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Recently-published data suggest that the birth rate in the U.S. declined considerably from 2019 to 2020, refuting hopes of a “baby boom” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

According to NBCLX, real-time data from several states showed marked declines in their birthrates in 2020. In Dec., 2020, Florida’s birthrates declined 8% from the previous year, Ohio’s by 7%, and Arizona’s by 5%. Several major hospital systems also reported similar drops in birthrates from Dec., 2019 to Dec., 2020.

 

The real-time 2020 data from states follows a steady decline in the overall U.S. birth rate that reached its lowest recorded level in 2019. According to CDC data published in May, 2020, only 58.2 births were registered for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44 in 2019. The birth rate has fallen steadily for more than a decade, following a peak before the 2008 economic crisis.

 

While many had wondered if widespread changes to Americans’ lifestyles—such as stay-at-home orders and cancellations of social events—could spur an increase in the birth rate, researchers told CNA that they instead had expected a continued decline during 2020. 

 

Jonathan V. Last, a journalist and author of the 2013 book on America’s demographic challenges What To Expect When No One’s Expecting, told CNA that he was “not surprised in the least” to hear the updated state figures. 

 

In the future, Last said that demographers will be curious to discover whether or not the number of births will “rebound” to the pre-pandemic years, or if the number will continue to decline. 

 

“We won’t know the answer to this question for many years,” said Last. “Probably at least a decade. But when a shock of this magnitude happens, the ripples take a long time to work their way out.” 

 

Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was similarly unsurprised by the state numbers.

 

Back in Feb., 2020, Stone predicted that not only would there be no spike in births due to the coronavirus, but also that the virus–and ensuing state measures to prevent its spread, such as mandatory lockdowns–would result in a decline. At the time, he said that many people were skeptical of this assessment but he now believes that has “been vindicated.” 

 

“Lockdowns communicate worry and a negative outlook on society, which motivates pessimism about fertility,” Stone told CNA on Tuesday. 

 

Stone said that he does “not see any reason to be optimistic” about birth rates in the United States, but he added that they may stabilize after the pandemic is over. 

 

“If early data on January births shows a decline above 10-15% for that month, that would be a negative surprise,” he said. “Alternatively, if births remain far below trend after October 2021, that would also be very worrying.”

 

Despite this, Stone does not think that people should worry about the pandemic when it comes to deciding whether or not to bring a child into the world.

“It’s always a good idea to have a kid,” he said.  

 

 


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