PODCAST: White House Says Stimulus Checks Will Start Showing Up This Weekend (UCNN 3.11.21)

This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to the Associated Press, The White House says the $1,400 direct payments for most Americans funded by the American Rescue Plan will start showing up in bank accounts as early as this weekend. Press secretary Jen Psaki says the government will make the first direct deposits this weekend. She says payments will continue throughout the next several weeks. President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in the Oval Office on Thursday. Besides the $1,400 direct payments to individuals, the plan includes money to help distribute coronavirus vaccines, provide relief to homeowners and renters, help reopen schools, provide aid to state and local governments, and an expansion of the child tax credit, among other features.

According to Religion News Service, The leadership of Ravi Zacharias International Ministry announced plans to lay off more than half of its staff and to reboot the organization to support victims of abuse. “RZIM cannot—indeed should not—continue to operate as an organization in its present form,” CEO Sarah Davis told staff on Wednesday (March 10), according to an email obtained by Religion News Service. “Nor do we believe we can merely rename the organization and move forward with ‘business as usual.’ That, we are convinced, is not right for numerous reasons.” Because of the new focus and declining donations, RZIM will lay off about 60% of its global staff, effective immediately. “Those of you affected by this will be offered the same financial consideration as those who participated in the voluntary redundancy in recent weeks,” Davis told staff. “No employee will be asked to sign an NDA, and we encourage any of you to reach out to Guidepost with any information you may have that may be helpful in the review, regardless of your status with RZIM in the coming weeks.”

According to Christian Post, As young people across the country struggle with both their mental and spiritual health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the leader of a national Christian youth conference felt God calling him to hold events across the nation — free of charge. Kingdom Youth Conferences, a youth event designed to impact students and leaders and inspire them to live out their faith, will bring its conference to Texas, Arizona, Florida and Colorado, beginning this month through April. “Kids need a sense of hope right now,” Ryan Edberg, Kingdom Youth Conferences co-founder, told The Christian Post. “I think that there’s a season of revival coming in the church, and I think it’s coming through the youth.”

According to Religion News Service, Prison Fellowship has joined forces with criminal justice and prosecutorial organizations to support bipartisan efforts to reduce disparities in sentences that punish Black Americans more harshly than white Americans. The #EndtheDisparity campaign, a partnership with organizations such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums, has recently focused on the 18-1 ratio in federal sentencing for distributing crack cocaine versus the drug in powdered form. Advocates are pushing for a 1-1 ratio instead. “We think this is so important an issue and that action is needed now to correct this now long-standing injustice,” said Prison Fellowship President and CEO James Ackerman at an online roundtable with journalists on Tuesday (March 9). After reading from the biblical Book of Proverbs that “The Lord abhors dishonest scales but accurate weights are his delight,” Ackerman said the disparities in cocaine sentencing are unfair to all Americans but especially to African Americans.

According to USA Today, A French schoolgirl has admitted to making up a story about her teacher that resulted in him being beheaded on the street. Samuel Paty, 47, was killed in October last year after the student claimed he asked Muslim students to leave the classroom when showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a lesson on freedom of speech. At the time the 13-year-old girl, who has not been named, told her father that she had denied Mr Paty’s request to leave and was suspended following her refusal. For Muslims, depicting the Prophet is considered blasphemous. After hearing his daughter’s claims, the girl’s father lodged a legal complaint and launched an online tirade against Mr Paty, where he shared the school’s address while calling for “mobilisation” against the teacher. Days later Mr Paty was stabbed to death and beheaded on the street by 18-year-old Russian national Abdullakh Anzorov. Now, the schoolgirl at the centre of the incident has admitted to lying and spreading false claims about her teacher, her lawyer revealed.

According to the The Associated Press, A federal judge in California has ruled that Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, can obtain the names of four Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who allegedly shared graphic photos from the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, their daughter Gianna and seven others. An effort by Los Angeles County lawyers to keep the deputies’ names under seal was rejected Monday by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, the Los Angeles Times reported. The ruling means the names and details from an internal affairs investigation of the deputies could be added to Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against the county and the Sheriff’s Department. The county, however, can appeal the decision.

According to Reuters, Carla Wallenda, a member of “The Flying Wallendas” high-wire act and the last surviving child of the famed troupe’s founder, has died at the age of 85. Her son, Rick Wallenda, said on social media she died Saturday in Sarasota, Florida, of natural causes. She was the daughter of Karl Wallenda, who had founded the troupe in Germany before moving to the United States in 1928 to great acclaim. She was the aunt of aerialist Nik Wallenda. She worked through her 70s, including in a Miley Cyrus music video. She finally retired in 2017 at the age of 81 after appearing on a Steve Harvey TV special, doing a headstand atop a 80-foot sway pole. “When I am out there, all of my pain and all that goes away and I am in a world of my own,” she said in the 2017 TV interview. She is survived by her son, two daughters, Rietta Wallenda Jordan and Valerie Wallenda, and 16 grandchildren. A second son, Mario, died in 1993.

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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!