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President Obama Pens Pope Francis Piece for Time's 100 Most Influential List

Time magazine has released its annual 100 Most Influential people list, and, to no one's surprise, Pope Francis is featured. What may be surprising is who the magazine chose to write about the pontiff — President Barack Obama. The president points out Pope Francis' dedication to the poor and the "least of these."

In the blurb for Time, Obama says the pope's: "message of love and inclusion, his regard for 'the least of these,' distills the essence of Jesus’ teachings and is a tonic for a cynical age. May we heed his humble example."

Obama recently met with Pope Francis, saying at the Easter Prayer Breakfast:

So I had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality. And I invited him to come to the United States, and I sincerely hope he will.

Image: Pope Francis in Rome on April 18, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

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WATCH: Boy Won't Leave Pope Francis' Side

At a speech in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis was joined on stage by an incredibly cute young boy.

As NPR reports:

Protocol is a concept that's often lost on young children and this boy – part of a group of children invited to sit near the pontiff during a speech — didn't see any reason why he shouldn't hang out for a bit with the guy in white.

The Telegraph provides a video and this quote:

The unidentified boy refused to leave the Pope's side, clinging to his legs while two Cardinals tried to encourage him to sit back down with sweets.

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U.N. Women's Ad Series Shows Sexism Through Google Searches

Gender inequality is an international issue. Striving to empower women and call attention to the sexism of popular opinions worldwide, U.N. Women released a series of ads using text from Google real searches. The ads show women's face with their mouths obscured by the text of the searches, visually silencing their voices.

From unwomen.com:

 “When we came across these searches, we were shocked by how negative they were and decided we had to do something with them,” says Christopher Hunt, Art Director of the creative team. The idea developed places the text of the Google searches over the mouths of women portraits, as if to silence their voices. 

“The ads are shocking because they show just how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality. They are a wake up call, and we hope that the message will travel far,” adds Kareem Shuhaibar, copy writer.

U.N. Women is hoping to use the ads to start conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag: #womenshould

Image Credit: Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai/UN Women

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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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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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Mandela Said to Be ‘Steadily Improving’ on 95th Birthday

Nelson Mandela turned 95-years-old today and in honor of his parity work throughout South Africa, people of all races are joining together and celebrating his legacy in the form of song and offerings. Although Mandela spends this year's birthday under close medical attention, hospital officials believe his condition is improving. The New York Times reports:

On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered outside the Pretoria hospital where Mr. Mandela has been treated for the past 40 days. Officials from the African National Congress brought a birthday cake, while well-wishers added more posters and flowers to the mountain of tributes outside the hospital, ululating and breaking out into freedom songs from the struggle against apartheid.

Read more here.

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Senate Reaches Tentative Deal to Avert Filibuster Showdown

Following Monday’s three hour closed-door caucus, members of the Senate have begun the confirmation process of President Barack Obama’s executive branch nominees, avoiding what the Washington Post calls a "constitutional showdown.” The Washington Post reports:

Senate negotiators met until about midnight searching for a deal that would avert a showdown on the Senate floor. Rank-and-file senators came out of the meeting late Monday reporting progress on the confirmation prospects of Obama’s selections to head low-profile but influential agencies.

Read more here.

 

 

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Farm Bill Passes House, Without Food Stamp Funding

For the first time in 50 years, the House of Representatives cut mention of food stamps in the Farm Bill, which passed the House yesterday. The Supplemental Nutrion Assistance Program has historically made up nearly 80 percent of funding in such bills. Following the 216-to-208 vote, the House's decision to go through with the ruling has both parties defensive on this issue. The Washington Post reports:

"The vote made clear that Republicans intend to make significant reductions in food stamp money and handed Republican leaders a much-needed victory three weeks after conservative lawmakers and rural state Democrats revolted and blocked the original version of the bill that included food stamp money."

Read more here.

 
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Napolitano to Resign DHS Seat, Head to University of California

After serving four years as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Janet Napolitano is set to resign on Friday. The Los Angeles Times reports Napolitano will become president of the University Of California system.  

“While some may consider her to be an unconventional choice, Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university," Sherry Lansing, the regent and former film industry executive who headed the search committee, said in a statement being released Friday. "She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility -- not only to UC, but to all of California. She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges.”

Read more here.

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House to Vote on Obamacare Delay

House Speaker John Boehner promised today that the House will hold a vote over whether to delay a key part of Obamacare. Politico reports:

The GOP’s message is that President Barack Obama is choosing big business over ordinary Americans after the White House postponed a provision that requires employers provide health insurance for their workers.

The Speaker also called the Administration's actions "wrong" and "outrageous." Read more here.

 

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6 Things Congress Needs To Do in July

The month of July stands as an important time for Congress as members of the House and Senate attempt to make decisions about six major U.S. issues. Some vital decisions that need to be agreed upon before next month’s recess involve: immigration reform, student loan debates, budget planning, and fiscal issues. The Washington Post reports:

Significant debates await the House and Senate in the coming weeks over a new budget, a new farm bill, federally-subsidized student loans, several key Obama administration nominees and an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, which remains the year’s biggest political fight.

Read more here.

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BREAKING: Morsi Is Out as Egyptian President

Egypt's military forcefully seized power from President Morsi on Wednesday. An emergency meeting of top civialian and religious leaders has convened to create an interim government and plan for  new elections. The whereabouts of Mr. Morsi remain unknown. The New York Times reports:

The developments followed the lapse of a 48-hour deadline imposed by the military generals on the increasingly isolated president to meet the demands of millions of Egyptians disaffected with the one-year-old governance of Mr. Morsi, the first democratically elected leader of Egypt.

Read more here.

WATCH LIVE: 


Live video from your Android device on Ustream

Image: Egyptian protestors on June 30, Mohamed Elsayyed / Shutterstock.com

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GOP Fault Lines Emerging on Social Issues

Following last week's Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, social ideals within the Republican Party are being brought to the forefront as Republican’s begin to strategize ways to gain support for the 2016 election. The Associated Press reports:

At the same time, the Supreme Court rulings supporting gay marriage attracted broad criticism from most 2016 hopefuls, though Paul suggested that Republicans need to "agree to disagree on some of these issues." That foreshadows likely fissures ahead, as Republican contenders face increasing pressure to show more tolerance toward gay marriage with many Republican voters in their 20s, 30s and 40s calling for acceptance

Read more here.

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DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional; SCOTUS Declines Ruling on Prop 8

The Supreme Court this morning struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, 5-4, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states.

From the opinion

"DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. The Constitution’s guarantee of equality 'must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot' justify disparate treatment of that group."

Read the full opinion here.

Following the court's announcement, President Barack Obama Tweeted his support. 


 

The Washington Post reports:

“The federal statute is invalid,” wrote Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion, “for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

Read more here.

Also on Wednesday, in another 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the appeal to the lower court's decision overturning California's Proposiion 8 — the state ballot measure that ruled that only marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized — had no standing, in effect, allowing same-sex marriage to continue on the state. 

Read the opinion here.

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