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Los Angeles Backs Plan to Raise Minimum Wage to $15

The city council of Los Angeles agreed to draft a plan to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 on Tuesday, the LA Times reports.

The plan would raise minimum wage by $6 — from $9 an hour to $15 — by 2020 for some 800,000 workers.

Not all are in favor of the plan, according to the LA Times

The council’s decision is part of a broader national effort to alleviate poverty, said Maria Elena Durazo, former head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Raising the wage in L.A., she said, will help spur similar increases in other parts of the country.

Some labor leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the gradual timeline elected leaders set for raising base wages. But on Tuesday the harshest criticism of the law came from business groups, which warned lawmakers that the mandate would force employers to lay off workers or leave the city altogether.

“The very people [council members’] rhetoric claims to help with this action, it's going to hurt,” said Ruben Gonzalez, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for public policy and political affairs.

Los Angeles joins Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle in raising the wage in recent months. Read more here.

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Asian-American Groups File Complaint Against Harvard Admissions, Citing Racial Quotas

More than 60 Asian-American groups came together to file a federal complaint against Harvard University last week, saying Harvard and other Ivy League schools should stop using "racial quotas or racial balancing" in their admissions, according to the Associated Press.

The groups contend that Harvard is using racial quotas that deny admittance to qualified Asian-American students.

 

 

The AP reports:

"We are seeking equal treatment regardless of race," said Chunyan Li, a professor and civil rights activist, who said they'd rather universities use income rather than race in affirmative action policies.

Harvard says its approach to admissions has been found to be "fully compliant with federal law." Officials also say the number of Asian students admitted increased from 17.6 percent to 21 percent over the last decade.

"We will vigorously defend the right of Harvard, and other universities, to continue to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions," said Robert Iuliano, Harvard's general counsel.

The groups are challenging Harvard to make its admissions practices public to prove nondiscrimination. Read more here

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House Amendment Would Deny DREAMers Opportunity to Serve in the Armed Forces

Last week, America’s DREAMers were once again at the center of Congressional debate. On Wednesday evening, the Rules Committee approved 135 amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. One of these amendments, offered by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), struck language that encouraged DACA-mented DREAMers to enlist in the U.S. armed forces.

The Brooks Amendment, which passed in the House on Thursday, is another example of Republican members going to extremes to deny any opportunities for those who most recently migrated to America.

The Brooks Amendment denies DREAMers, like Alejandro Morales, who have been in the United States since childhood the chance to serve the only country that they know. Morales was the highest ranking cadet in Chicago JROTC but the brokenness of our immigration system prevents him from achieving his largest dream — to serve in his country as a U.S. Marine.

Brooks, who authored the amendment, said, “taking military service jobs from Americans and from lawful immigrants in order to give them to illegal aliens is outrageous and unconscionable.”

Yet, does offering an opportunity to Alejandro or Hina Naveed, a trained nurse who speaks Urdu and came to the U.S. when she was 10 years old, seem outrageous? Does allowing courageous young men and women the chance to serve the country they love seem unconscionable?   

DREAMers should no longer be used a political bargaining chips for Tea Party extremists like Mo Brooks and Steve King to oppose President Obama’s executive actions. The passing of the Brooks Amendment is another sign the brokenness of Washington’s immigration discussion needs to be healed.  

Kaeley McEvoy is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.

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Vatican Recognizes State of Palestine

The Vatican announced it will recognize the state of Palestine in a treaty concluded May 13.

The treaty is awaiting formal approval and signing, but it is already being recognized as a major statement of support for a Palestian state in the historically contested region. 

The pope has long signaled his support of a state. The language of the treaty, while not yet signed, has alarmed Israelis but invigorated the Palestinian case for statehood, The New York Times reports

 

For the past year, the Vatican had informally referred to the country as “state of Palestine,” in its yearbook as well as in its program for Francis’ 2014 visit to the Holy Land.

Formal recognition of a Palestinian state by the Vatican, which has deep religious interests in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories that include Christian holy sites, lends a powerful signal of legitimacy to the efforts by the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, to achieve statehood despite the long paralyzed Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Read more from The New York Times here.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Officers Charged in Freddie Gray’s Death, Ruled a Homicide

In an unexpected announcement Friday, Baltimore lead prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby said there is “probable cause” to file criminal charges against police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody on April 12 and died a week later.

From NPR:

The most severe charges were leveled against Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., the driver of the police van that transported Gray to a police station. He is charged with second degree depraved heart murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

The prosecutor's investigation found that there had been no reason to detain Gray — and that his arrest was in itself illegal, Mosby said. She said that the knife that police officers had found Gray was carrying turned out to be legal.

For full coverage, see NPR’s report.

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WATCH: What You Didn't See — Clergy March in Baltimore

As thousands took to the streets in Baltimore on Monday night to protest the death of Freddie Gray on the day of his funeral, nearly 100 clergy joined the protesters.

Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black male, died April 19 while in police custody, one week after his arrest. Although one of the officers reported Gray “was arrested without force or incident,” Gray died of severe spinal injury, prompting citizens to question how Gray was treated in custody.

Clergy members marched arm-in-arm with peaceful protesters — providing an example of how to seek justice. 

WATCH:

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After Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, Deborah Weiner of local Baltimore station WBAL-TV 11 reported the clergy’s response.

“There’s been a state of emergency way before tonight,” the clergy said. “An emergency of poverty, a lack of jobs, disenfranchisement from the political process.”

According to baltimoreuprising.org, a resource developed by Ferguson organizers Johnetta “Netta” Elzie and Deray Mckesson, multiple churches have been listed as safe harbor sites.

Three Baptist churches, Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, Northside Baptist Church, and St. Marks Institutional Baptist Church, as well as one Methodist church, Metropolitan United Methodist Church, are listed in the document.

Please join us in praying for the people of Baltimore.

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One Year Later, Girls Kidnapped by Boko Haram Still Missing

One year after the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls by terror group Boko Haram, more than 200 kidnapped children remain missing. 

The kidnapping on April 15, 2014, provoked international outrage and a viral twitter hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls. Many prominent personalities — including First Lady Michelle Obama and comedian Ellen DeGeneres — joined the global outcry, prompting Nigeria to launch a military offensive against the group. Also in the last year, the U.S. military and others have offered Nigeria assistance in finding the children. 

But few children to date have escaped from what is widely counted among the most ruthless terror groups operating in North Africa.

According to NBC

"The Chibok girls were just one group of many, many others who have been kidnapped since last year," said Biu, a woman's rights activist and professor in Maiduguri, Nigeria. "I cannot say that the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has made women and young girls in the northeast feel any safer."

While a few dozen of the Chibok girls have escaped Boko Haram captivity, more than 200 are still missing. To Biu, the international campaign to release the girls did little to bring them home — or stop countless others from being taken since.

Since then, NBC reports, Boko Haram's campaign of terror has continued "largely unabated." 

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Boston Marathon Bomber Guilty on All 30 Counts

Jurors have found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all counts related to the Boston Marathon bombings. Dzhokhar carried out the attacks with his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev on April 15, 2013, killing three people and injuring 264 others. Tamerlan died resisting police on April 19.

The jury will now move into the penalty phase of the trial, in which the primary question will be whether or not to assign Tsarnaev the death penalty. Seventeen of Tsarnaev's 30 counts are legally punishable by death. CNN reports:

The defense disputes little about what happened and instead focused on why it happened. Lead defense attorney Judy Clarke all but conceded that Tsarnaev is guilty, and is focusing instead on persuading jurors to spare him from the death penalty in the trial's next phase. ...

She asked jurors to keep their minds open to what is to come -- a case based heavily on the Tsarnaev family's troubled history and the control and influence Tamerlan Tsarnaev held over his younger brother. Tamerlan was the mastermind of the bomb plot, Clarke said. ...

But prosecutors insisted the brothers were "partners in crime," working together to punish Americans for what they perceived as crimes against Muslims.

A date for the penalty phase of the trial has not yet been set.

Read more at CNN.

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At Least 147 Killed, Hundreds Rescued in Kenyan University Attack that Targeted Christians

Somalia’s al-Shabab militants shot and killed more than 147 people, wounded dozens of others and held hundreds hostage April 2 at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya.

Five hundred of the hostages were reportedly rescued as the day went on, but it was unclear immediately whether the standoff had ended and exactly what the death and injury toll was.

The gunmen reportedly arrived at the university at 5:30 a.m., killed the guards at the gate and began shooting indiscriminately before taking hundreds of students hostage. The Kenyan military tried to end the siege and rescued hundreds of the hostages during a shootout.

Most of the hostages are believed to be Christians.

“It is very sad that this attack is happening during the Easter festivities,” said Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Alessandro, who is based in the town of Garissa, where the attack occurred.

“Most of the students in the college are not from here, they are not Somali, and they are not Muslims,” he added.

More than 80 percent of Kenyans are Christian. But in northeastern Kenya, nearly 90 percent are Muslim.

President Uhuru Kenyatta urged Kenyans to remain calm as the government worked to resolve the siege.

The Muslim militant group al-Shabab took responsibility for the attack, according to Agence France–Presse, and confirmed it had taken non-Muslims hostage.

“When our men arrived, they released Muslims. We are holding others hostage,” AFP quoted Ali Mohamud Rage, an al-Shabab spokesman, as saying.

The university, the only academy of higher learning in the region, opened in 2011 and has a student population of about 800.

In December, 64 Christians were killed in Mandera town, further north of Garissa, in two separate incidents. The gunmen spared Muslims but shot Christians at close range.

In September 2013, al-Shabab attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people and wounding 175. Those who could recite the Quran were spared.

Al-Shabab was launched in Somalia in 2006 with the aim of establishing a government led by Shariah. Recently, it spread in East Africa, establishing networks across the region.

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more than 15 years, he has written about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment, and wildlife. Tonny Onyulo of USA Today contributed to this report. Via RNS.

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White House Releases Blueprint for Cutting U.S. Greenhouse Gas Pollution 26-28 Percent by 2025

On Tuesday, the White House revealed President Obama’s blueprint for cutting U.S. greenhouse gas pollution by 26-28 percent before 2025. The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) is in accordance with the United Nations formal effort to come to forge an international climate agreement in Paris in December.

In November, the United States released a historic joint agreement with China that both countries would work toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions but until this morning no further details of this agreement had been seen.

The release of INDC has generally been supported by the environmental community because the pollution cuts in the Administration’s plan can be achieved without new action from Congress. As Greenpeace representative Kyle Ash said, “By announcing its plan ahead of Paris as agreed, the U.S. has at least shown it is committed to the negotiation process and willing to push the other nearly 200 countries to deliver.”

Ash continues that there is still much room for improvement in the outline:

“We welcome the US submission as a first step, but it would not do enough to avert global catastrophe…The Obama Administration’s [plan] begins to treat the wound, but does not stop the bleeding. As the world’s second largest emitter, the US must strengthen its commitment to climate solutions before Paris to ensure an agreement that immediately spurs the necessary transition away from fossil fuels and towards 100 percent renewable energy.”

In preparation for the Paris 2015 Climate Negotiations, all countries were asked to by the United Nations to submit individual outlines for greenhouse gas reduction by April 2015. So far only the European Union, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland and now the United State have submitted their national plans to the U.N.  It is hoped that the announcement of the United States’ reduction plan will spur other countries to announce their own contributions to the U.N. negotiations. 

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care