The Common Good

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No Indictment in Ferguson Shooting

A grand jury has found that no probable cause exists to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch on Monday evening.

McCulloch said the grand jury was instructed on the law and presented on five possible indictments. He emphasized that the jurors "are the only people who have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence."

Protests throughout the St. Louis metro area — as well as nearly 100 cities across the country — are planned in response to the decision. Last week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a preemptive state of emergency and activated 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.” Rev. Traci Blackmon, a clergy leader in the St. Louis area, recently told Sojourners that while the city and county police departments have amassed weapons and riot gear to react to the protests, local community leaders and faith groups have been stocking up on bandages and first-aid materials. 

Earlier in the day Brown’s family asked for 4.5 minutes of silence this evening before protests begin — a statement on the 4.5 hours Michael Brown’s body was left in a Ferguson street following the shooting.

The Justice Department is conducting its own federal investigation, however recent reports have indicated that it is not likely to result in civil rights charges against Wilson. 

Stay tuned to Sojourners for continued updates and analysis. 

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Report: Solutions to Hunger, Poverty Must Focus on Empowering Women

Globally, women and girls are disproportionally affected by hunger and poverty. In reference to completing the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Bread for the World reported, “We will not end hunger and poverty by 2030 without ending the discrimination that women and girls face day in and day out.”

This morning, Bread for the World, released the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish, We Can End Hunger. The comprehensive analysis focuses on the imperative role the empowerment of women and girls plays in ending hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition.

Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, said:

“Eliminating barriers and empowering women around the world is key to ending hunger in our time. We must not tolerate discrimination against women and instead, [we must] demand a comprehensive approach to women’s empowerment that includes applying a gender lens to all programs and policies.”

If there is hope of eliminating poverty, as an international community, we must look holistically at the cultural, economic, social, and religious aspects of the systems that perpetuate poverty. The 2015 Hunger report effectively examines the role of gender in poverty alleviation and prescribes tangible recommendations for international and domestic reform for the common good.

Click here for the full report along with infographics, personal narratives, and a scriptural study guide.

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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.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

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.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

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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