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629 Pakistani Women And Girls Have Been Sold As Brides To Chinese Men: Report




LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Page after page, the names stack up: 629 girls and women from across Pakistan who were sold as brides to Chinese men and taken to China. The list, obtained by The Associated Press, was compiled by Pakistani investigators determined to break up trafficking networks exploiting the country’s poor and vulnerable.
The list gives the most concrete figure yet for the number of women caught up in the trafficking schemes since 2018.
But since the time it was put together in June, investigators’ aggressive drive against the networks has largely ground to a halt. Officials with knowledge of the investigations say that is because of pressure from government officials fearful of hurting Pakistan’s lucrative ties to Beijing.
The biggest case against traffickers has fallen apart. In October, a court in Faisalabad acquitted 31 Chinese nationals charged in connection with trafficking. Several of the women who had initially been interviewed by police refused to testify because they were either threatened or bribed into silence, according to a court official and a police investigator familiar with the case. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution for speaking out.
At the same time, the government has sought to curtail investigations, putting “immense pressure” on officials from the Federal Investigation Agency pursuing trafficking networks, said Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped parents rescue several young girls from China and prevented others from being sent there.
“Some (FIA officials) were even transferred,” Iqbal said in an interview. “When we talk to Pakistani rulers, they don’t pay any attention. “
Asked about the complaints, Pakistan’s interior and foreign ministries refused to comment.
Several senior officials familiar with the events said investigations into trafficking have slowed, the investigators are frustrated, and Pakistani media have been pushed to curb their reporting on trafficking. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.
“No one is doing anything to help these girls,” one of the officials said. “The whole racket is continuing, and it is growing. Why? Because they know they can get away with it. The authorities won’t follow through, everyone is being pressured to not investigate. Trafficking is increasing now.”
He said he was speaking out “because I have to live with myself. Where is our humanity?”

China’s Foreign Ministry said it was unaware of the list.
“The two governments of China and Pakistan support the formation of happy families between their people on a voluntary basis in keeping with laws and regulations, while at the same time having zero tolerance for and resolutely fighting against any person engaging in illegal cross-border marriage behavior,” the ministry said in a statement faxed Monday to AP’s Beijing bureau. 
An AP investigation earlier this year revealed how Pakistan’s Christian minority has become a new target of brokers who pay impoverished parents to marry off their daughters, some of them teenagers, to Chinese husbands who return with them to their homeland. Many of the brides are then isolated and abused or forced into prostitution in China, often contacting home and pleading to be brought back. The AP spoke to police and court officials and more than a dozen brides — some of whom made it back to Pakistan, others who remained trapped in China — as well as remorseful parents, neighbors, relatives and human rights workers.
Christians are targeted because they are one of the poorest communities in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The trafficking rings are made up of Chinese and Pakistani middlemen and include Christian ministers, mostly from small evangelical churches, who get bribes to urge their flock to sell their daughters. Investigators have also turned up at least one Muslim cleric running a marriage bureau from his madrassa, or religious school.
Investigators put together the list of 629 women from Pakistan’s integrated border management system, which digitally records travel documents at the country’s airports. The information includes the brides’ national identity numbers, their Chinese husbands’ names and the dates of their marriages.
All but a handful of the marriages took place in 2018 and up to April 2019. One of the senior officials said it was believed all 629 were sold to grooms by their families.
It is not known how many more women and girls were trafficked since the list was put together. But the official said, “the lucrative trade continues.” He spoke to the AP in an interview conducted hundreds of kilometers from his place of work to protect his identity. “The Chinese and Pakistani brokers make between 4 million and 10 million rupees ($25,000 and $65,000) from the groom, but only about 200,000 rupees ($1,500), is given to the family,” he said. 

AAMIR QURESHI via Getty Images

Detained Chinese nationals walk together as they arrive at a court in Islamabad after being arrested by the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials for alleged involvement in a trafficking ring, on May 9, 2019.

The official, with years of experience studying human trafficking in Pakistan, said many of the women who spoke to investigators told of forced fertility treatments, physical and sexual abuse and, in some cases, forced prostitution. Although no evidence has emerged, at least one investigation report contains allegations of organs being harvested from some of the women sent to China.
In September, Pakistan’s investigation agency sent a report it labeled “fake Chinese marriages cases” to Prime Minister Imran Khan. The report, a copy of which was attained by the AP, provided details of cases registered against 52 Chinese nationals and 20 of their Pakistani associates in two cities in eastern Punjab province — Faisalabad, Lahore — as well as in the capital Islamabad. The Chinese suspects included the 31 later acquitted in court.
The report said police discovered two illegal marriage bureaus in Lahore, including one operated from an Islamic center and madrassa — the first known report of poor Muslims also being targeted by brokers. The Muslim cleric involved fled police.
After the acquittals, there are other cases before the courts involving arrested Pakistani and at least another 21 Chinese suspects, according to the report sent to the prime minister in September. But the Chinese defendants in the cases were all granted bail and left the country, say activists and a court official.

ARIF ALI via Getty Images

Pakistani policemen escort handcuffed Chinese nationals as they arrive in court in Lahore on June 10, 2019. The men are accused of allegedly luring young Pakistani girls into fake marriages and forcing them into prostitution in China.

Activists and human rights workers say Pakistan has sought to keep the trafficking of brides quiet so as not to jeopardize Pakistan’s increasingly close economic relationship with China.
China has been a steadfast ally of Pakistan for decades, particularly in its testy relationship with India. China has provided Islamabad with military assistance, including pre-tested nuclear devices and nuclear-capable missiles.
Today, Pakistan is receiving massive aid under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global endeavor aimed at reconstituting the Silk Road and linking China to all corners of Asia. Under the $75 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, Beijing has promised Islamabad a sprawling package of infrastructure development, from road construction and power plants to agriculture. 
The demand for foreign brides in China is rooted in that country’s population, where there are roughly 34 million more men than women — a result of the one-child policy that ended in 2015 after 35 years, along with an overwhelming preference for boys that led to abortions of girl children and female infanticide.
A report released this month by Human Rights Watch, documenting trafficking in brides from Myanmar to China, said the practice is spreading. It said Pakistan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea and Vietnam have “all have become source countries for a brutal business.”
“One of the things that is very striking about this issue is how fast the list is growing of countries that are known to be source countries in the bride trafficking business,” Heather Barr, the HRW report’s author, told AP.
Omar Warriach, Amnesty International’s campaigns director for South Asia, said Pakistan “must not let its close relationship with China become a reason to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses against its own citizens” — either in abuses of women sold as brides or separation of Pakistani women from husbands from China’s Muslim Uighur population sent to “re-education camps” to turn them away from Islam.
“It is horrifying that women are being treated this way without any concern being shown by the authorities in either country. And it’s shocking that it’s happening on this scale,” he said.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed and Shahid Aslam in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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Olympic Skier Gus Kenworthy Switches To British Team For The Sweetest Reason




Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy will no longer represent the U.S.
The England-born athlete who moved to the U.S. when he was just two-years-old revealed Tuesday he will now compete for Great Britain in honor of his mother, who taught him how to ski.
“Although I was raised in the US I was born in the UK and my mum is British through-and-through,” Kenworthy wrote on Instagram. “She has been my #1 fan for my entire life and has proudly stood at the bottom of the mountain waving the stars and stripes in support of me for two Olympic cycles.”
“Now, in what is sure to be my last Olympic appearance (at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China) I’d like to return the honor by proudly holding up the British flag for her,” he added.

Kenworthy said in a statement it provided him “a great opportunity” to “start again and compete in three events in 2022.” He reportedly hopes to qualify in the slopestyle, halfpipe and the new big air event.
The International Ski Federation approved Kenworthy’s transfer to the GB Snowsport team “with immediate effect” on Tuesday.
The switch in allegiance would also benefit him “in terms of qualifying and having less to worry about, less people I’m up against, just being able to focus on the tricks that I want to be working on, the runs that I want to do,” he told NBC Sports.
The 28-year-old won silver in the slopestyle event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, he and figure skater Adam Rippon became the first openly gay male athletes to compete for the U.S. in the quadrennial competition.
Kenworthy also made headlines in South Korea, and won praise from around the world, for kissing his then-boyfriend Matthew Wilkas on live TV:
A first — NBC just showed Gus Kenworthy getting a kiss from his boyfriend Matt Wilkas on live TV at the @Olympics. https://t.co/WlAgM5edYb pic.twitter.com/5M3hP3kYCk— Outsports (@outsports) February 18, 2018

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Global Carbon Emissions Will Hit A Record High In 2019… Again.




Global carbon emissions will hit a record high once again in 2019, despite climate scientists warning louder than ever of impending environmental disaster, according to a study published Wednesday.
The report, from a consortium of researchers as part of the annual Global Carbon Budget, found countries around the world will spew more than 40.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air by the end of 2019, up about 0.6% from last year. The rise was spurred in part by increased output in China and India (though emissions in those countries were lower than expected) and comes despite a series of bleak reports released in recent months urging a dramatic cutback of carbon emissions to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
But the research also included a few silver linings: The year-over-year increase in 2019 will be much slower than past changes: In 2017, there was a 1.5% rise in emissions from the previous year, and in 2018 the number was 2.1%. Researchers also found a surprising decline in the use of coal around the world — by far the greatest emitter of carbon — due to a rise in the use of natural gas and a smaller uptick in renewable energy.
“The science is clear, CO₂ emissions need to decrease to net zero globally to stop further significant warming of the planet,” Pierre Friedlingstein, a professor at the University of Exeter and the report’s lead researcher, said in a statement. The research was published simultaneously in three leading academic journals.
The stark figures come at a time when scientists and world leaders have increasingly warned about the dire state of the planet’s reliance on fossil fuels. Diplomats from more than 190 nations are gathering in Madrid this week to hammer out the final details of the landmark Paris climate agreement.

Juan Medina / Reuters

Members of the Extinction Rebellion group stage a protest Monday outside the venue of the United Nations climate change conference in Madrid.

The United Nations Environment Program released a troubling assessment last month saying countries had largely failed to halt their greenhouse gas emissions, simply calling the findings “bleak.”
“Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global emissions,” the report found, noting that in order to keep the planet from warming dramatically — and setting off the worst effects of climate change — emissions would need to decline by an average of 7.6% annually until 2030.
“The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a news conference Sunday in Madrid. “It is in sight and hurtling toward us.”
But researchers have warned that the Paris accord won’t go nearly far enough to keep the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels (although the ideal target is less than 1.5 degrees). The World Meteorological Organization published its own findings on Tuesday, stating temperatures had already risen about 1.1. degrees Celsius since the late 19th century.
Coal is still the biggest source of carbon emissions around the globe, accounting for about 40%, followed by oil and natural gas. But researchers said Wednesday that the planet would need to transition away from fossil fuel sources completely by the end of the century to avoid climate catastrophe.

Dan Peled/AAP Image via ASSOCIATED PRESS

Scientists have warned that runaway climate change could unleash a spate of devastating effects, including mass death of the planet’s coral reefs.

“Current climate and energy policies are too weak to reverse trends in global emissions,” Corinne Le Quéré, a professor at the University of East Anglia and an author of the report, said in a statement. “We need stronger policies that are targeted at phasing out the use of fossil fuels.”
The United States, one of the planet’s biggest carbon emitters, formally began to withdraw from the Paris Agreement last month after President Donald Trump had repeatedly lambasted the pact as an expensive “disaster.” Trump has regularly cast doubt on the cause of climate change, and his administration has been vehemently anti-environment, rolling back a slew of the nation’s landmark laws.
The Global Carbon Budget did find that U.S. emissions are predicted to fall by 1.7% over 2018 levels and coal production will likely decline by about 10%. The changes in the fossil fuel industry have come about despite Trump’s efforts to prop up the coal industry, and many left-leaning states have adopted their own pro-environment policies in defiance of the decisions coming from the White House.

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U.S. House Approves Uighur Bill Demanding Sanctions On Senior Chinese Officials




WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would require the Trump administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown on its Muslim minority, demanding sanctions on senior Chinese officials and export bans.
The Uighur Act of 2019 is a stronger version of a bill that angered Beijing when it passed the Senate in September. It calls on President Donald Trump to impose sanctions for the first time on a member of China’s powerful politburo, even as he seeks a deal with Beijing to end a damaging trade war buffeting the global economy.
The bill, passed 407 to 1 in the House, requires the U.S. president to condemn abuses against Muslims and call for the closure of mass detention camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
It calls for sanctions against senior Chinese officials who it says are responsible and specifically names Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who, as a politburo member, is in the upper echelons of China’s leadership.
China has consistently denied any mistreatment of Uighurs and says the camps are providing vocational training. It has warned of retaliation “in proportion” if Chen were targeted.
The revised bill still has to be approved by the Senate before being sent to Trump. The White House has yet to say whether Trump would sign or veto the bill, which contains a provision allowing the president to waive sanctions if he determines this to be in the national interest.
The White House and the Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The bill comes days after Trump angered Beijing by signing into law congressional legislation supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.
China responded to that on Monday by saying U.S. military ships and aircraft would not be allowed to visit Hong Kong, and announced sanctions against several U.S. non-government organizations.
Analysts say China’s reaction to passage of the Uighur bill could be stronger, though some doubted it would go so far as imposing visa bans on the likes of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has called China’s treatment of Uighurs “the stain of the century” and has been repeatedly denounced by Beijing.
On Tuesday, the editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times newspaper said China might ban all U.S. diplomatic passport holders from entering Xinjiang and that Beijing was also considering visa restrictions on U.S. officials and lawmakers with “odious performance” on the Xinjiang issue.
“MODERN-DAY CONCENTRATION CAMPS”
Republican Congressman Chris Smith called China’s actions in “modern-day concentration camps” in Xinjiang “audaciously repressive,” involving “mass internment of millions on a scale not seen since the Holocaust.”
“We cannot be silent. We must demand an end to these barbaric practices,” Smith said, adding that Chinese officials must be held accountable for “crimes against humanity.”

Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi called China’s treatment of the Uighurs “an outrage to the collective conscience of the world.”
“America is watching,” she said.
Chris Johnson, a China expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said passage of the bill could lead to a further blurring of lines between the trade issue and the broader deteriorating Sino-U.S. relationship, which China in the past has tended to keep separate.
“I think there’s a sort of piling on factor here that the Chinese are concerned about,” he said.
Trump said on Monday the Hong Kong legislation did not make trade negotiations with China easier, but he still believed Beijing wanted a deal.
However, on Tuesday, he said an agreement might have to wait until after the U.S. presidential election in November 2020.
Johnson said he did not think passage of the Uighur act would cause the delay, but added: “It would be another dousing of kindling with fuel.”
The House bill requires the president to submit to Congress within 120 days a list of officials responsible for the abuses and to impose sanctions on them under the Global Magnitsky Act, which provides for visa bans and asset freezes.
Democratic lawmaker Brad Sherman said it was “long past the point when this should have been done,” adding: “It should not be linked to ongoing negotiations on trade or any other issues.”
The bill also requires the secretary of state to submit a report on abuses in Xinjiang, to include assessments of the numbers held in re-education and forced labor camps. United Nations experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in the camps.
It also effectively bans the export to China of items that can be used for surveillance of individuals, including facial and voice-recognition technology.

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Trump, Who Can’t Stop Tweeting About Stock Market: ‘I Don’t Watch The Stock Market’




President Donald Trump, who has tweeted about the stock market more than 100 times, claimed Tuesday that he pays no attention to it.
“If the stock market goes up or down ― I don’t watch the stock market,” Trump said in London, where he is attending a NATO summit. “I watch jobs. Jobs are what I watch.”
The president’s remarks followed a day of swooning financial markets ― an apparent reaction to Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. might not strike a deal settling his trade war with China until after the 2020 election.
Trump dismissed the drop as “peanuts,” adding: “We have picked up record numbers so that’s OK. That’s the way I feel.”
Trump has often pointed to the stock market as evidence of his presidency’s success. He touted gains twice last week on Twitter.
“New Stock Market Record today,” he wrote Wednesday. “AGAIN: Congratulations USA!”
Two days earlier, he applauded another record, writing, “Enjoy!”
Trump: “I don’t watch the stock market”. pic.twitter.com/QMF40KEZPj— Sven Henrich (@NorthmanTrader) December 3, 2019

Trump apparently touched off the sinking markets when he told reporters Tuesday that a future trade agreement with China “is dependent on one thing: Do I want to make it?”
“I have no deadline,” he said,  “In some ways I think it’s better to wait until after the election.”
The comments rattled investors, who had expected a trade deal soon based on assurances from the White House. The U.S. and China are still haggling over Phase 1 of a deal as Trump threatens new tariffs on over $100 billion in Chinese products on Dec. 15, including laptops, cellphones and toys. The U.S. already has placed levies on $360 billion in goods.
Tensions have been exacerbated further by Trump’s signing of two bills backing pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong who have been rallying against the Chinese government. The laws will penalize Chinese officials with sanctions if they are charged with human rights violations, and will require an annual review of Hong Kong’s special trade agreement with the U.S. 

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Fired Google Engineers Say They Were Terminated For Organizing Efforts




Last week, Google fired four employees in what they claim was a targeted effort to curtail labor organizing efforts at the company.
The engineers leveled the allegations in a statement Tuesday, accusing the Silicon Valley giant of retaliating against them for speaking up about a range of both internal and external issues they say are fostering employee discontent.
That includes having supported a successful unionization effort by “temp, vendor, and contractor” workers at Google’s office in Pittsburgh, and a less-successful effort in Zurich, Switzerland, where Google’s attempt to cancel a union meeting provoked backlash. They also protested the company’s links with “anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant” organizations, support for militarized technology, and Google’s attempts to build “a censored search engine in China.”
As a result, the four engineers who were terminated ― Laurence Berland, Paul Duke, Rebecca Rivers and Sophie Waldman ― said Tuesday they plan to file unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
(The four are not to be confused with the organizers of last year’s Google Walkout, who also say they were retaliated against for their efforts.) 
The engineers were fired less than a week after news broke that Google had hired an anti-union consulting firm to advise management, and about a month after Google installed mandatory software on employees’ computers that alerted managers about meetings involving large groups of employees.
“Google wants to send a message to everyone: if you dare to engage in protected labor organizing, you will be punished,” the group wrote in their statement. “They count on the fear, the sadness, and the anger that we are all feeling to stop us all from exercising our rights, and to chill all attempts to hold one of the most powerful organizations in history accountable for its actions.”
Federal law prohibits employers from taking retaliatory action against employees who collectively seek to improve their working conditions.
A Google spokeswoman denied the allegations in an emailed statement to HuffPost, saying the individuals were fired for violating data security policies.
“We dismissed four individuals who were engaged in intentional and often repeated violations of our longstanding data security policies, including systematically accessing and disseminating other employees’ materials and work,” the Google statement read. “No one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company’s activities.”
The group, meanwhile, disputes this. They say any claim they “leaked” sensitive information is “flatly untrue” and that in private meetings with Google leadership, the company has acknowledged this.
″[Google’s] code of conduct states unequivocally: ‘don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up!’” the group wrote Tuesday.
“So we spoke up, and how did they respond? Google didn’t respond by honoring its values, or abiding by the law. It responded like a large corporation more interested in revenue growth than in ensuring worker rights and ethical conduct.”

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U.N. Chief Warns Of ‘Point Of No Return’ On Climate Change




MADRID (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sunday that the world’s efforts to stop climate change have been “utterly inadequate” so far and there is a danger global warming could pass the “point of no return.”
Speaking before the start Monday of a two-week international climate conference in Madrid, the U.N. chief said the impact of rising temperatures — including more extreme weather — is already being felt around the world, with dramatic consequences for humans and other species.
He noted that the world has the scientific knowledge and the technical means to limit global warming, but “what is lacking is political will.”
“The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” Guterres told reporters in the Spanish capital. “It is in sight and hurtling toward us.”
Delegates from almost 200 countries will try to put the finishing touches on the rules governing the 2015 Paris climate accord at the Dec. 2-13 meeting, including how to create functioning international emissions trading systems and compensate poor countries for losses they suffer from rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.
Guterres cited mounting scientific evidence for the impact that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are already having on the planet, including record temperatures and melting polar ice.
But he insisted that his message was “one of hope, not of despair. Our war against nature must stop and we know that that is possible.”
Countries agreed in Paris four years ago to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5C (2.7F) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times. Already, average temperatures have increased by about 1C, leaving little room for the more ambitious target to be met.
Guterres said growing demands from citizens, particularly young people, have shown there is widespread desire for climate action.
“What is still lacking is political will,” he said. “Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards. Political will to shift taxation from income to carbon. Taxing pollution instead of people.”
Guterres noted that some 70 countries — many of them among the most vulnerable to climate change — have pledged to stop emitting more greenhouse gases by 2050.
“But we also see clearly that the world’s largest emitters are not pulling their weight. And without them, our goal is unreachable,” he said.
The U.N. chief said he hoped the meeting in Madrid would see governments make more ambitious pledges ahead of a deadline to do so next year.
He also said that creating a worldwide market for emissions, which is a key element of the sixth article of the Paris accord, remained one of the most contentious issues for negotiators.
“We are here to find answers for article 6, not to find excuses,” Guterres said.
Guterres also announced that outgoing Bank of England governor Mark Carney will become his new special envoy on “climate action and climate finance” from next year.
Organizers expect around 29,000 visitors, including some 50 heads of state and government for Monday’s opening, as well as scientists, seasoned negotiators and activists during the two-week meeting.
Some of the world’s largest carbon emitters — the United States, China and India — will be represented by ministers or lower-level officials.
The U.S. administration of President Donald Trump, which has announced the intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement, is represented by Marcia Bernicat, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a delegation of Democratic lawmakers to the talks.
More than 5,000 police officers are charged with keeping the summit safe, Spain’s Interior Ministry said Sunday. Although authorities have stepped-up border controls and cybersecurity measures, authorities have kept the country’s terror alert one level under the highest, where it has been ever since extremist attacks in Tunisia and France in mid-2015.

Jordans reported from Berlin.

Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://www.apnews.com/Climate

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3.7 Million Americans Would Lose Food Stamps Under Trump Administration Rules: Study




Nearly 4 million Americans would lose food stamps if the Trump administration institutes its overhaul of eligibility requirements and other aid rules, according to a new analysis of the impact of the possible changes. Millions of others would lose some food subsidy benefits. 
Seventy mayors in August called on the Trump administration not to enact the changes, noting that 85% of the benefits go to households with a child, an elderly person or someone with a disability.
The U.S. Agriculture Department has proposed three significant changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food stamps for low-income Americans for nutrition. The new rules would create stricter work requirements for eligibility, limit deductions for utility costs and change automatic enrollment for families in 40 states if they receive other federal aid.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue claimed in an op-ed in USA Today last year that the changes will “do right by the taxpayers” who pay for the program, and “restore the dignity of work to the able-bodied who receive SNAP benefits.”
Unsold farm produce, meanwhile, is mouldering in silos and on fields due to Donald Trump’s trade war with China while the federal government aims to pay farmers $28 billion in trade aid. The food stamp changes are expected to reduce benefits for Americans in the SNAP program by $4.2 billion.
Had all the proposed changes been implemented last year, 3.7 million fewer people and 2.1 million fewer households would have received food stamps in an average month, while monthly benefits would decrease for millions of other households, according to an analysis this week by the nonprofit Urban Institute. In addition, 982,000 students would lose automatic access to free or reduced-price lunches and breakfasts. Benefits would increase in some states, including Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia, according to the analysis.
Critics have blasted the proposed changes. Craig Gundersen, an agricultural and consumer economics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that even with current levels of food stamp assistance some 50% of recipients are struggling to put food on the table.
“The essential goal of the program is to mitigate hunger and its consequences in the United States,” he told NBC News. “Anything that impedes SNAP of doing that is very problematic as it leads to food insecurity in our country.”
It’s not clear when the rules might change. Thousands of negative reactions have been filed with the government on each of the proposed changes during the comment period.  
“There is no excuse that in our first world country we have children who are malnourished,” Eric Failing, executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, wrote in one comment. 

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