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BREAKING: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel To Resign Under Pressure

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the third Secretary of Defense to serve under President Obama, will resign under pressure from the White House, according to officials.

Former Senator Hagel is the only Republican serving on the president's national security team. Officials report Hagel struggled to be a strong voice at the Pentagon, but his removal may also be related to the recent midterm elections. According to MSNBC

“He often had trouble articulating the details of many of the operations, many of the incantations, of what goes on here at the White House and he had a difficult time expressing those thoughts,” said NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski. “It appeared he sometimes didn’t even have a grasp of them. And quite frankly, according to one senior official, the White House and the DOD leadership pretty much lost confidence in Hagel.”

Pentagon officials and members of the administration have said Hagel struggled to lead at the Pentagon and be a strong voice within the president’s inner circle. Still, he is the not the first defense secretary to lose his job following midterm losses for the president he serves. Donald Rumsfeld also was fired by former President George H.W. Bush following midterm losses to the Republican party in 2006. 

Read more here

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White House Announcement on Executive Action on Immigration Tonight

Yesterday, President Obama released a short video providing more information on a much-anticipated executive action announcement on immigration policy. While the details remain unclear on how many of the 11 million undocumented and aspiring Americans will be covered, relief is rumored to the following:    

  • Temporary legal protection for undocumented parents of children who are legal U.S. citizens.
  • Temporary legal protection for undocumented immigrants with a longstanding presence in the United States.
  • Extension of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The president will address the nation tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Watch the speech live here.  

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Shooting at Florida State University

Early Thursday morning a gunman opened fire in a library at Florida State University, wounding three students before being fatally shot by police officers. Wielding a handgun, the shooter entered the library and forced hundreds of students studying for exams to flee or take cover behind bookshelves. NBC News reports:

FSU Police Department Chief David Perry said the library was “packed with students studying for final exams” and estimated that there were 300 to 400 people in the building. One group of students sought refuge behind rows of bookshelves. “Everyone started running to one side of the library, then to the back,” one 20-year-old communications student who asked not to be identified told NBC News. “People were saying, ‘Gun! There’s a shooter! Go! Go! Go!’" She said her group hid among bookcases for what she said felt like 20 minutes. Once given the all-clear, the group was escorted to a campus building next door where they stayed until 4 a.m.

Although the identity of the shooter is unknown, police officers believe he was acting alone and that there is no further threat to students at FSU.

WATCH the police report:

Read more.

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Occupy Wall Street Artist Turns Police Brutality Into Art

As the nation continues to wait for the grand jury’s decision whether or not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown, one artist has connected the violent police acts in Ferguson to a broader narrative of state-sanctioned violence.

Molly Crabapple, known for her artistic contributions to Occupy Wall Street, combines the fast-paced style of dry-erase animation with colorful watercolor illustrations in her new video, ‘How Ferguson showed us the truth about police.’

Apart from its depiction of violent police acts in Ferguson, from tear gassing children to macing older women, Crabapple's video demonstrates a much more terrible truth: This brutality is not the isolated and unfortunate misbehavior of one county's police, but rather the pervasive norm of a racist society.  

WATCH:

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon Declares State of Emergency in Missouri, Activates National Guard

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive action this afternoon declaring a state of emergency in Missouri and activating the National Guard to respond to “any period of unrest that might occur following the grand jury’s decision concerning the investigation into the death of Michael Brown.”

KMOV-St. Louis reports:

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Gov. Nixon said in a news release. “These additional resources will support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech. The National Guard is well-suited to provide security at command posts, fire stations and other locations as well as perform other functions that will free up law enforcement officers to remain focused on community policing and protecting constitutional rights.”
 

In his ‘Open Letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon,’ Jim Wallis asked Governor Nixon to “prioritize talking to community leaders, allowing public spaces to remain open and safe, and the law to be upheld in ways that protect all life.” Wallis specifically petitioned Gov. Nixon not to deploy the National Guard as a first response to protests. Although Governor Nixon has already activated the National Guard, you can still support Sojourners’ call for peace by adding your name to the letter.

Read more here.

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Congress Voting on Keystone XL Pipeline Today

Today the House of Representatives is set to vote, yet again, on the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. This pipeline would move bitumen, a tar-like version of oil, from the Alberta tar sands in Canada down to the oil refineries and export areas in Texas. The pipeline is controversial because of the high carbon content of tar sands oil, the sensitive farmland, aquifer, and Native American land it passes through, and the risk of pipeline spills.

The Senate will vote on the Keystone pipeline – which would require President Obama’s signature since it crosses an international border with Canada – on Tuesday, but if it passes the House and the Senate, Obama will be faced with a choice: veto or sign. He has been silent on his final decision, stalling as the State Department goes through the review process (which raised conflict of interest concerns, as a contractor working for the pipeline company also wrote State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement).

You can call your Member of Congress to let them know where you stand on Keystone XL – find their phone number here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

U.S., China Strike Agreement Limiting Greenhouse Gases

This morning, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China made a historic announcement that their countries would limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States and China are the world’s two largest consumers of energy and two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Together, they account for 40 percent of the world’s emissions.

This announcement is a milestone for two reasons. First, this is the first time that China, the world’s No. 1 producer of greenhouse gas pollution, has made any pledge to limit its rapidly growing emissions. Second, this is a major breakthrough in U.S.-China relations that highlights what’s possible when the two superpowers work together on an issue.

Both leaders hope that this statement will inject momentum into global climate negotiations by putting pressure on other major countries to reflect on their own plans for major emissions reductions.

A written statement alone will not alter the course of climate action internationally. However, this announcement has laid a foundation for an international collaborative relationship on climate change. As President Xi told President Obama on Tuesday evening, “A pool begins with many drops of water.” For the sake of God’s creation let’s hope that the drops of climate change collaboration continue to gather.

For more on this story The Hill’s report.

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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases, Upholding Legal Right to Marry in 5 States

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear several cases where federal appeals courts upheld the Constitutional rights of same-sex couples to marry, causing a seismic, if quiet, shift in several states' debates over same-sex marriage. The decision to not hear cases leaves intact lower appeals rulings that had overturned same-sex marriage bans. For five states and potentially six more, this guarantees the legal right for same-sex couples to marry.

USA Today reports:

The unexpected decision by the justices, announced without further explanation, immediately affects five states in which federal appeals courts had struck down bans against gay marriage: Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah.

It also will bring along six other states located in the judicial circuits overseen by those appellate courts: North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming. Lower court judges in those states must abide by their appeals court rulings.

Read more here.

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California Judge Rules the Death Penalty Unconstitutional

A U.S. District Court judge declared the death penalty "unconstitutionall" in the State of California.

In the ruling that was released today, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney wrote that, an "inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State."

NBC Bay Area first reported the ruling:

In his 29-page ruling on the Jones vs. Chappell case, Carney wrote that when an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it the promise that it will actually be carried out.

That promise is made to citizens, jurors, victims and their loved ones and to the hundreds of individuals on death row, he wrote.

However, Carney argues, “for too long now, the promise has been an empty one.”

Read the full story here.

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Detained Journalist, Activist Jose Antonio Vargas Has Been Released

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, detained earlier today by border patrol at McAllen-Miller International Airport in Texas after having visited the border town‘s shelter for unaccompanied Central American refugees, has been released, reports say.

His trip included participating in a vigil to honor the children who have embarked on a dangerous journey to the U.S. to save their lives.

Vargas wanted to shed light on the crisis occurring at the border and highlight the need to address the issue in a humanitarian way.

“I’m the most privileged undocumented immigrant in the country," Vargas said to the Dallas Morning News on Sunday. 

"And with that privilege comes responsibility—the responsibility of tying my specific story to the story of 11 million undocumented people like me and using every skill and resource I have to tell stories and insist that we talk about this issue humanely and fairly.” 

Read the full story here.

+Leave a Comment | Immigration