The Common Good

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This Week, a Major Shift on Crime

On Monday, a federal judge in New York found the state's stop-and-frisk policies to be unconsitutional racial profiling. The same day, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that federal prosecutors would no longer invoke mandatory minimum sentencing laws for low-level drug offenses. 

Together, the two decisions sent strong signals that the country is moving away from the tough-on-crime policies of the last generation. The New York Times reports:

A generation ago, amid a crack epidemic, state and federal lawmakers enacted a wave of tough-on-crime measures that resulted in an 800 percent increase in the number of prisoners in the United States, even as the population grew by only a third. The spike in prisoners centered on an increase in the number of African-American and Hispanic men convicted of drug crimes; blacks are about six times as likely as whites to be incarcerated.

“There was the thought that if we stop, frisk, arrest and incarcerate huge numbers of people, that will reduce crime,” Rudovsky said. “But while that may have had some effect on crime, the negative parts outweighed the positive parts.”

Read more here.

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Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church Announce Support for Bill to End Sex Trafficking in U.S.

Days after a cross-country FBI operation arrested 152 sex traffickers across the US, Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, announced his support for a bill in the House of Representatives aimed at eliminating human trafficking rings. The Christian Post reports:

The bill, which is supported by both Republican and Democrat lawmakers, is intended to help eliminate human trafficking rings by "targeting the criminals who purchase sexual acts from these organizations and ensuring that they are prosecuted as human traffickers."

"The suffering associated with human trafficking resonates strongly within the Christian community, and we know of many churches, like our own, whose compassion for its victims has moved them to act," said Joel and Victoria Osteen in a statement.

Read more here.

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Afghanistan's Children of War

The United Nations issued a report on Wednesday stating that the number of civilians killed or wounded in Afghanistan rose by 23 percent in the first six months of 2013, with women and children faring the worst — killed by roadside bombs almost every day. An earlier UN report noted that

"Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child."

Over a third of Afghans are living in abject poverty, violence is escalating as NATO forces withdraw, and years of international aid has done little to decrease the abuse of women and children.

Click here to see the Atlantic's photos series on Afghan children.

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Bradley Manning Acquitted of 'Aiding the Enemy'

A military judge ruled Tuesday that Pfc. Bradley Manning was not guilty of aiding the enemy. In 2010, he was arrested for allegedly passing classified materials to the website WikiLeaks. If Manning had been found guilty of aiding the enemy, he could have been sentenced to life in prison. The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Wednesday.

The New York Times reports:

Private Manning had already confessed to being WikiLeaks’ source for a huge cache of government documents, which included videos of airstrikes in which civilians were killed, hundreds of thousands of front-line incident reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, dossiers on men being held without trial at the Guantánamo Bay prison, and about 250,000 diplomatic cables.

But while Private Manning had pleaded guilty to a lesser version of the charges he was facing, which could expose him to up to 20 years in prison, the government decided to press forward with a trial on a more serious version of the charges, including “aiding the enemy” and violations of the Espionage Act, which could result in a life sentence.

Read more

Image: Bradley Manning photo hangs on lightpost, photo by savebradley / Flickr.com

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New EPA Leader to Tackle Climate Change

Climate change is expected to take a turn for the better following the Senate's approval of Gina McCarthy to serve as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy won over the Senate on July 18 in a 59-to-40 vote. The New York Times reports:

The president told Ms. McCarthy that his environmental and presidential legacy would be incomplete without a serious effort to address climate change.

Read more here.

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Pope Francis Says He Won’t Judge Gay Priests

Pope Francis announced Monday in an airborne news conference that he’s ‘not one to judge’ the sexual orientation of Catholic priests. On his journey home from Brazil, Pope Francis declared open-mindedness by sharing his support on behalf of the gay community. The Washington Post reports:

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked.

Read more here.

 

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DRONE WATCH: U.S. Reduces Strikes in Pakistan

In response to criticism, the U.S. has drastically reduced the number of drone strikes in Pakistan and is limiting them to “high-value targets.” The Associated Press reports:

The CIA has been instructed to be more cautious with its attacks, limiting them to high-value targets and dropping the practice of so-called "signature strikes" - hitting larger groups of suspected militants based purely on their behavior, such as being armed and meeting with known militants, said a current U.S. intelligence official and a former intelligence official briefed on the drone program. …

Two other senior American officials said the U.S. scaled back the number of attacks and tightened up its targeting criteria as a concession to the Pakistani army, considered the most powerful institution in the country and the final arbiter on the future of the drone program.

Read more here.

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Climate Change and the Church

Expressing her opinion that climate change is no longer about energy efficient behavior but rather about national policy, spiritual leader Marilyn Sewell argues the importance of what it takes to preserve the Earth’s atmosphere. Expressing her concerns about the lack of community and church involvement, Sewell insists policy immersion is crucial toward resolving future matters surrounding climate change. The Huffington Post reports:

So where is the parish church in all of this? Mostly silent, it seems. Churches continue to be concerned with individual sin as opposed to systemic sin, even in regard to climate change. Congregants may be admonished to recycle and change their light bulbs, but not to become politically active. The fact is we're way beyond changing our light bulbs. We need to bring that unhappy, startling truth to the pulpits of our land.

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

Obama Administration to Attempt to Counter SCOTUS Ruling on Voting Rights Act

The Obama administration will attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s June ruling that struck down of a key part of the Voting Rights Act. 

As part of an existing lawsuit that challenges the legality of a 2010 redistricting plan in the state of Texas, the Justice Department plans to request pre-clearance procedures for the state that are similar to the ones struck from the Voting Rights Act, Politico reports.

“Based on the evidence of intentional racial discrimination….as well as the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized, we believe that the state of Texas should be required to go through a preclearance process whenever it changes its voting laws and practices,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. "This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last.” 

 Read more here

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Evangelicals Flood Capitol Hill to Urge Immigration Reform

While many groups are focused on the upcoming congressional recess and on outreach efforts to their members of Congress in their home districts, evangelical Christians have another priority in mind this week.

Today, hundreds of evangelicals from across the country will gather on Capitol Hill to host the Pray4Reform Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action. The day includes a press conference, worship service, and a full day of meetings at congressional offices to urge immigration reform. 

You can follow the day’s events by visiting http://pray4reform.org/, where the news conference and worship service will be live streamed. Also, follow and join the conversation via social media by following the hashtag #pray4reform.

+Leave a Comment | Immigration