- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 16, 2021

The White House hosted a meeting with multiple nonreligious groups on Friday and their event was “productive,” according to the Secular Coalition for America, a nonprofit lobbying organization.

“Together with our member organizations the American Humanist Association, American Atheists, Center for Inquiry, Ex-Muslims of North America, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, we highlighted priorities from our coalition’s Secular Agenda for the Biden-Harris administration and discussed what the administration can do to better uphold the rights of secular Americans,” the coalition said in a follow-up statement about the meeting.

The organization said it encouraged the White House to “engage with secular organizations the way they do religious organizations” and also to rescind “harmful and discriminatory” actions that emerged during former President Donald Trump‘s time in office.

“By participating in this meeting, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships displayed that they’re open to embracing pluralism, diversity of thought and the secular community,” the coalition said, calling the meeting “a welcomed divergence from the outlook and behaviors of the previous administration.”

Among other things, Mr. Trump launched a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative in 2018 to help faith-based organizations get equal access to government funding — somewhat similar to the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives created by former President George W. Bush in 2002. Former President Barack Obama followed up in 2012 with the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which reached out to “nonprofit organizations, both secular and faith-based, to more effectively serve Americans in need.”



The office was reestablished with an executive order by President Biden on Feb. 14; the order noted that the office “will not prefer one faith over another or favor religious over secular organizations.”

INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE COUGARS

The big cats of Los Angeles are on the road to getting their own bridge. The National Wildlife Federation’s Save LA Cougars campaign has received a record-breaking $25 million conservation challenge grant from the Annenberg Foundation to build a 210-foot bridge over a major 10-lane highway in the Los Angeles area.

“The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon over the 101 Freeway — destined to be the largest wildlife crossing in the world — will reconnect a long-fragmented ecosystem, a biodiversity hot spot, and help protect the endangered mountain lion population and other wildlife that make their home in the Santa Monica Mountains,” the wildlife organization said in a Saturday press release.

With this donation, the campaign has raised over $44 million to date, about halfway to their final goal of $85 million for the wildlife crossing. The large scale public/private partnership behind the project includes the National Park Service, the California Dept. of Transportation and three conservation groups.

“It takes a village to save our local cougars — and to build the largest wildlife crossing in the world,” the National Wildlife Federation notes in their mission statement.

SOME TELLING NUMBERS

There’s some talk that the Biden administration suddenly relaxed the rules for wearing medical masks during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to distract the public from skyrocketing gas prices. But the public, apparently, does not miss much when it comes to their pocketbooks.

“Consumer sentiment in the U.S. has unexpectedly decreased in the month of May, according to preliminary data released by the University of Michigan on Friday.

The report showed the consumer sentiment index dropped to 82.8 in May from 88.3 in April. The decrease surprised economists, who had expected the index to rise to 90.4,” notes a new report from Nasdaq — yes, the global technology company that provides insight to capital markets.

“Consumer confidence in early May tumbled due to higher inflation — the highest expected year-ahead inflation rate as well as the highest long term inflation rate in the past decade,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist of Surveys of Consumers, a monthly data report published by the campus.

“The average of net price mentions for buying conditions for homes, vehicles, and household durables were more negative than any time since the end of the last inflationary era in 1980,” he noted.

CAITLYN HAS A SAY

Meanwhile, Caitlyn Jenner has released a second strongly worded campaign ad in her quest to become the next Republican governor of California.

“Right now in California, we’re number one in regulations, we’re number one in taxes, and we’re number one in people exiting this state. It doesn’t have to be that way. They’re leaving for one reason and one reason only. And that is overbearing government, overreaching government, overtaxing us, over regulating us,” the candidate advised, amid a cascade of images to make the point.

“We need to go to Sacramento with a different approach. We need less regulations, we need less taxes, we need to compete against the other states like Texas and Florida that are taking our citizens and our businesses away. We need to compete with them. I’m very good at competing, I guarantee you that. And I like winning. But we need to compete with these states,” she continues in the spot, which includes dynamic film footage of her as an Olympic athlete in 1976, many years before she publicly came out as transgender.

“We need to change what’s happening here. We’ve got more to offer here in California than Texas or Florida, combined. We just have to have a good business environment and less regulations on the people here in this state and that’s what I plan on fighting for,” the candidate concluded.

POLL DU JOUR

51% of U.S. adults say President Biden is “very liberal” or “liberal”; 75% of conservatives, 36% of moderates and 53% of Republicans agree.

26% say Mr. Biden is “moderate”; 8% of conservatives, 42% of moderates and 34% of Republicans agree.

15% are not sure about Mr. Biden‘s ideology; 6% of conservatives, 12% of moderates and 7% of Republicans agree.

8% say Mr. Biden is “very conservative” or “conservative”; 11 of conservatives, 9% of moderates and 6% of Republicans agree.

Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 U.S. adults done May 8-11.

Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin.

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