Wednesday morning news: December 26, 2018

Pope’s Christmas Wish » AUDIO: [Trumpets]

Speaking to 50,000 pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said his Christmas wish was for fraternity among the world’s nations and cultures.

AUDIO: [Pope message]

He urged the international community to set aside partisan divisions and work together to end wars in Syria and Yemen, solve the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, and find lasting peace in Israel.

AUDIO: [Pope praying]

Pope Francis closed his Christmas address by praying for international religious freedom. He noted that some Christians were celebrating in quote—“difficult, if not hostile, situations.” While he did not mention any countries by name, China’s recent crackdown seemed the most likely focus of the Pope’s comments.

Ag Department proposes SNAP work requirements » The Department of Agriculture has proposed a new rule that tightens limits on work requirements for able-bodied recipients of food assistance. The move came days after Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and 13 other senators urged the Trump administration to make the change.

SASSE: The stuff that makes life great—families, communities, and work—doesn’t come from government, but Washington should help by rolling back bad policy and promoting the dignity of work.

The proposed change would limit the work requirement waivers states can request. The House included those limits in the farm bill it passed earlier this year. But the Senate took them out before passing its version.

The proposed change must go through the formal rulemaking process before becoming official. That includes a 60-day public comment period.

IRS issues interim guidance for nonprofit tax » The Internal Revenue Service has issued interim guidance for nonprofits subject to a new transportation and parking tax.

Nonprofit advocacy groups spent most of 2018 blasting the little-known provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It would require churches and other nonprofits to pay taxes on fringe benefits, such as staff parking spaces.

The new IRS guidance gives entities until March 31st, 2019, to reduce or eliminate reserved parking spaces that would incur the tax.

But nonprofits want lawmakers to fix the problem. Travis Wussow is with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He said the provision will cause nonprofits to file tax returns for the first time and extract some $1.7 billion over 10 years.

WUSSOW: That hurts the organizations themselves, but ultimately, it hurts the vulnerable, the poor that these organizations are serving, both in the United States and all across the world.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation to repeal the tax, but those bills stalled. Wussow said Congress could still pass a retroactive fix for 2018 up until about February.

WUSSOW: There’s still time for Congress to fix this tax, if they don’t get it done by the end of the year.

Wussow said there’s bipartisan support for repealing the tax. He’s optimistic the effort will move forward when Democrats take control of the House next week.  

Tsunami Update » Indonesian officials raised the confirmed tsunami death toll to more than 400 on Tuesday. Sutopo Nugroho is spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Agency:

NUGROHO: Indonesia does not have an early warning system for tsunamis caused by underwater landslides and volcanic eruptions. So when something like this occurs, people in Indonesia don’t have the opportunity to flee in time.  

The weekend tsunami displaced over 16,000 residents, and nearly 150 people are still missing. A high-water warning continues through today as secondary flooding may occur in coastal villages across the region.

During Christmas services, Indonesia church leaders called for Christians around the world to pray for the victims of the predominantly Muslim nation. Many in these areas are still rebuilding after a September earthquake and tsunami that killed at least 2,100 people.

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Pope Francis arrives to deliver the Urbi et Orbi Christmas’ day blessing from the main balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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