SHOULD CONGRESS 'CARE?'
President George Bush says government is part of the solution to alleviating poverty, poor education, hopelessness and other societal ills.
Americans who have reacted to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington with an outpouring of compassion and volunteerism are the other part of the solution, according to Bush.
"Government can hand out money, but what government cannot do is put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in their lives, that's been the fallacy of the federal government-only approach to helping people help themselves," he says.
Bush is campaigning for the Charity Aid Recovery and Empowerment Act or CARE, a federal bill that would provide government grants to faith-based and community-based social service programs.
The bill also would allow taxpayers who do not itemize deductions from their taxes to deduct for charitable gifts to faith-based organizations, something taxpayers who itemize already can do. Bush also says the federal government has discriminated against faith-based groups with a star of David or religious name or symbol in their name when it comes to funding grants.
CARE would include provisions for accountability and "obviously, we're not going to use taxpayers' money to promote religion," Bush says, but efforts would be made to get federal agencies to drop regulations that "discriminate against faith-based groups."
-- Do you support granting a tax deduction for charitable contributions for those who do not itemize?
-- Should the government drop regulations that "discriminate against faith-based groups?
BIG PLANS FOR NATIONAL SERVICE
The United States needs a viable National Service program and it could expand the Clinton-era AmeriCorps program by at least 50 percent over the next year, according to the Progressive Policy Institute, affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council.
A full-fledged national service program is a long-held goal of many lawmakers, but there's been disagreement on what role government should have -- if any.
Critics of the program and of any government financial support for national service believe paying individuals even a small stipend to volunteer for civilian social work, as AmeriCorps does, undermines the underlying national service ideal since AmeriCorps workers can work side by side with volunteers.
Some call AmeriCorps a thinly disguised and unconstitutional federal jobs program that pays about $10,000 a year for tutoring students, constructing houses, vaccinating children and providing disaster relief. However, the tasks are decided locally and the program has been criticized for involvement with political work or tasks such as shoveling snow.
Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and John McCain, R-Ariz., want to increase enrollment in AmeriCorps from the current 50,000 members to 250,000 members by 2010. Half of the increase would be for traditional efforts such as tutoring, with the other half targeted at homeland security efforts, the senators say.
-- Do AmeriCorps workers replace community activists and community volunteers?
-- Is it necessary to pay volunteers in a world of two-income families and single parents who have less time to volunteer?
(Thanks to UPI's Think Tanks Correspondent Christian Bourge)
SHOULD SOSA BE TESTED FOR STEROIDS?
Baseball great Sammy Sosa says he doesn't need to take a test to prove his body has not been tainted by steroids, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The whole world knows that I'm innocent," he says.
Sosa's insistence he doesn't take steroids and his refusal to take a drug test to prove it came after Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly's column appeared on the CNN-SI Web site asking Sosa to take the drug test.
Reilly wrote he told Sosa such a test would "show everybody you're clean ... lift a cloud off you and a cloud off the game."
Sosa calls Reilly unprofessional and asks whether the columnist will ask each player to take a drug test or only those successful in the game.
Professional baseball does not require testing for steroids but Sosa says he would be "first in line" if the Players Association agreed to such testing.
Sosa is among several major-league sluggers who have been suspected of using steroids to gain bulk and power, especially since 1996 National League MVP Ken Caminiti admitted taking steroids and estimated 50 percent of major leaguers took the drugs, The Times reports.
Cubs player representative Joe Girardi says, "This guy makes accusations and Sammy is supposed to take a day away from his kids and wife to get tested to clear his name?"
-- Should Sosa be tested for steroids? What about all players?
-- Some believe steroid testing would be superficial because some performance-enhancing drugs cannot be detected. Should they be tested anyway?