National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

Despite year-end budget deal, future spending trends less certain

The $1.1 trillion federal spending bill approved by Congress avoided a repeat of last year's government shutdown and largely kept in place social services spending, especially programs benefiting low-income families.

Beyond the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the future is less certain, however, as Republican victories in the November elections gave the party control of both chambers on Capitol Hill. With the new leaders come new plans on limiting federal spending and reducing the country's $17.6-trillion debt.

Rabbi David Saperstein confirmed as U.S. ambassador for religious freedom

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The Senate has confirmed Rabbi David Saperstein as the State Department's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, making him the first non-Christian to hold the job.

Saperstein, who led the Reform Jewish movement's Washington office for 40 years, focusing on social justice and religious freedom issues, was nominated by President Barack Obama in July and confirmed by a 62-35 vote on Friday.

Saperstein takes a liberal bent on domestic issues, and all but one of the votes against him came from a Republican.

CRS, nonprofits beat back clause in bill that could have cut food aid

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Catholic Relief Services and a host of other nonprofit agencies that distribute food aid overseas were successful in getting lawmakers to purge a provision in a bill that could have cut the amount of food aid they would be able to distribute in the future.

The provision would have increased from 50 percent to 75 percent the amount of food aid that must be transported on privately owned, U.S.-flagged ships. In 2012, Congress had lowered the requirement from 75 percent to 50 percent.

Ending our nation's addiction to torture

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The sickening details of the CIA's immoral torture program have been laid bare with the release Tuesday of the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report. The report describes deeply disturbing acts of torture and confirms that it produced no meaningful intelligence that could not have been obtained through other means.

It is difficult to read the report and not conclude that both morality and common sense demand that we take every step necessary to prevent the U.S. torture program from ever being reactivated.

Court hears arguments in Little Sisters of the Poor appeal, two others

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Speaking on the steps of a federal courthouse Monday in Denver, the mother provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor said the religious order cannot and "should not have to" choose between "our care for the elderly poor and our faith."

Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire said that is what the U.S. government is demanding by requiring the order to comply with the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate.

Supreme Court to decide if vanity license plates are government speech

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The Supreme Court already has heard a case this fall about a busted brake light. Why not vanity license plates?

The justices agreed to decide whether Texas was right to deny a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate flag, or whether it infringed on free speech.

In doing so, the court held in abeyance another case in which North Carolina approved a "Choose Life" license plate but denied one defending a woman's right to choose.

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