The Common Good

Weekly Wrap

The Top 10 Stories of July 31, 2013

Quote of the day.
“What this research reveals above all is that poverty is hugely complex and controlled by myriad forces. The interconnectedness of the world through globalisation means the poorest and most marginalised face negative pressures from all quarters making it harder and harder to sustain a livelihood." Neva Frecheville, post-MDGs policy analyst for the Catholic aid agency Cafod, on a new report that the wellbeing of many poor people has deteriorated over the past 15 years as a result of factors beyond their control.
(Guardian)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 30, 2013

Quote of the day.
"Remaining silent is not an option because it''s nearly impossible to survive on $7.25 an hour." Kareem Starks, a McDonald''s worker in Brooklyn, as hundreds of low-wage workers at fast food chains protested in New York, starting a week of demonstrations in several major cities demanding the federal minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour.
(Chicago Tribune/Reuters)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 29, 2013

Quote of the day.
“I think one of the great questions of our age for any faith group, is ‘What does the current generation owe succeeding generations?’ I am very much committed to working for a government that is in fact interested in handing off a safe planet, to handing off a peaceful rather than violent world to the next generation.” Shaun Casey, professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, named to head a new office in the State Department dedicated to outreach to the global faith community and religious leaders.
(Washington Post)

1. 80 percent of U.S. adults face near-poverty, unemployment.
Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty, or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.
(CBS News/AP)

2. Americans’ frustration with gridlocked Washington grows.
Americans are eager for Washington to act on a host of issues they care deeply about, but instead they’ve just witnessed another week of sharp rhetoric and political finger-pointing.
(McClatchy News)

3. Despite ambitious goals, millions would be left out of immigration deal.
Even if the Senate legislation favored by Obama became law tomorrow, more than one in four illegal immigrants would remain undocumented and outside the system, according to federal estimates.
(Washington Post)

4. Momentum builds against N.S.A. surveillance.
What began on the political fringes only a week ago has built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties, and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.
(New York Times)

5. Obama expresses reservations about Keystone XL pipeline project.
Barack Obama has given the strongest indication to date that he holds reservations about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying the project would not create many jobs and could raise gasoline prices.
(Guardian)

6. Pope Francis heads home; Vatican sees Brazil trip as success.
Pope Francis wrapped up his first overseas trip Sunday with one of the largest papal Masses in recent history and a final entreaty for Catholic youth and their ministers to get out and spread the faith.
(Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times)

7. EU urges Egypt rulers to end stand-off with Brotherhood.
Europe's top diplomat pressed Egypt's rulers on Monday to step back from a growing confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, two days after 80 of his supporters were gunned down in Cairo.
(Reuters)

8. Mideast talks to resume amid deep skepticism.
Israeli and Palestinian teams flew to Washington on Monday to end five years of diplomatic stalemate and prepare for a new round of Mideast peace talks, though optimism was in short supply after two decades of failed attempts to reach a deal.
(Associated Press)

9. France praises Mali's election.
France hails Mali's presidential election, the first since a coup and an Islamist-led insurgency which it helped repel, a "great success".
(BBC)

10. Scores killed in Darfur tribal clashes.
Two days of fighting between rival tribes in Sudan's Darfur region has killed up to 94 people, tribal leaders said.
(Al Jazeera)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 26, 2013

Quote of the day.
“This is the beginning of the end of mass incarceration.” Natasha Frost, associate dean of Northeastern University’s school of criminology and criminal justice, on statistics showing the prison population in the United States dropped in 2012 for the third consecutive year.
(New York Times)

1. White House prepares for budget showdown.
Senior White House officials are discussing a budget strategy that could lead to a government shutdown if Republicans continue to demand deeper spending cuts, lawmakers and Democrats familiar with the administration’s thinking said Thursday.
(Washington Post)

2. Justice Department to take on states over voting rights.
The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will legally contest a series of laws around the country as part of an aggressive campaign to fight a recent Supreme Court ruling that it says could reduce minority voting.
(McClatchy News)

3. Juror says Zimmerman 'got away with murder.'
A juror in the trial of George Zimmerman says the former neighborhood watch volunteer "got away with murder" when he was acquitted earlier this month in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
(Reuters)

4. Spy agencies under heaviest scrutiny since abuse scandal of the '70s.
On three fronts — interrogation, drone strikes, and now electronic surveillance — critics inside and outside Congress have challenged the intelligence establishment, accusing officials of overreaching, misleading the public, and covering up abuse and mistakes. 
(New York Times)

5. Pope Francis urges Catholics to shake up dioceses.
Pope Francis has shown the world his rebellious side, urging young Catholics to shake up the church and make a "mess" in their dioceses by going out into the streets to spread the faith.
(Associated Press)

6. Army accuses Morsi of murder, kidnapping.
Ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is under investigation for an array of charges including murder, the state news agency said on Friday, stoking tensions as Egypt's opposing political camps took to the streets.
(Reuters)

7. Iran is said to want direct talks with U.S. on nuclear program.
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq told the Obama administration this month that Iran was interested in direct talks with the United States on Iran’s nuclear program, and said that Iraq was prepared to facilitate the negotiations, 
(New York Times)

8. Japan plans marine force and drone fleet.
The Japanese government has said it needs to create a U.S. Marines-style force and a fleet of drone aircrafts as it faces territorial threats from China and North Korea.
(Al Jazeera)

9. Honduran gangs offer peace from prison.
The 18th Street gang and its arch rival, Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have taken small, ­suspicion-filled steps in recent weeks toward what church leaders and their supporters at the Organization of American States are calling “a peace process,” careful to avoid the term “gang truce.”
(Washington Post)

10. Report says 220,000 died in Colombia conflict.
Almost a quarter of a million Colombians have been killed in the country's internal conflict since 1958, most of them civilians, a government-funded report has said.
(Al Jazeera)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 25, 2013

Quote of the day.
"The impact of counter-terrorism measures on humanitarian action has been the source of growing concern within the humanitarian community. A particular fear has been that people in areas controlled by non-state armed groups designated as terrorists may have no or diminished access to humanitarian assistance and protection." Kyung-wha Kang, U.N. assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs, on a new report showing counter-terrorism legislation is having a direct impact on humanitarian action.
(Guardian)

1. Obama says, ‘Washington has taken its eye off the ball.’
President Obama on Wednesday said the fragile economic recovery is being undermined by worsening partisan politics in Washington and urged the country to stand behind him as Republicans try to roll back his vision of government.
(Washington Post)

2. NSA vote splits parties, jars leaders.
A $512.5 billion Pentagon appropriations bill cleared the House Wednesday evening after the leadership narrowly beat back efforts to curb the National Security Agency’s authority to collect private call records and metadata on telephone customers in the U.S.
(Politico)

3. With little argument, House limits U.S. military involvement in Syria, Egypt.
The House of Representatives approved measures Wednesday that would prevent the Obama administration from spending money on U.S. military operations in Syria without consulting Congress and would forbid funding U.S. military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.
(McClatchy News)

4. Louisiana agency sues dozens of energy companies for damage to wetlands.
Louisiana officials filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against dozens of energy companies, hoping that the courts will force them to pay for decades of damage to fragile coastal wetlands that help buffer the effects of hurricanes on the region.
(New York Times)

5. The cost of child poverty: $500 billion a year.
The United States has the second-highest child poverty rate among the world’s richest 35 nations, and the cost in economic and educational outcomes is half a trillion dollars a year, according to a new report by the Educational Testing Service.
(Washington Post)

6. Slum trip, mass youth meeting await Pope in Rio.
Pope Francis will bless the Olympic flag, visit a slum, and address upward of 1 million young Roman Catholics in Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach on Thursday, as Latin America's first pope continued his inaugural international trip as pontiff.
(Associated Press)

7. Leaving zero troops in Afghanistan? It's a serious option, Pentagon says.
Following through on the so-called “zero option” for Afghanistan — in which no U.S. troops would remain in the country past 2014 — would be a dangerous way forward for the Pentagon, warn some lawmakers who say they are increasingly concerned about the prospect.
(Christian Science Monitor)

8. Egypt rallies defy army chief's call.
Thousands of pro-Morsi supporters filled Nasr City on Thursday, repeating their weeks-long demand that the deposed president — who was removed by the army on July 3 — is reinstated.
(Al Jazeera)

9. Israeli-Palestinian talks to begin next week.
The first talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators for almost three years are scheduled to begin in Washington next Tuesday, according to an Israeli minister. 
(Guardian)

10. South Sudan: food fears for thousands in Jonglei as violence intensifies.
Tens of thousands of people face severe food insecurity as they hide in the bush in Jonglei state, South Sudan, after another wave of violence cut off access to aid.
(Guardian)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 24, 2013

Quote of the day.
“Ramadan is a wonderful time of year for me. It’s the time to reflect. ... Your hunger is supposed to remind you that there are people who are fasting involuntarily all over this world. … I think what you do is you dial your energy level back just a tad. Instead of running, you walk …” Rep. Keith Ellison on being Muslim in Congress during Ramadan.
(ABC News)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 23, 2013

Quote of the day.
"There''s little doubt that things are getting worse. Aside from the fact the New Mexico economy has been so slow to turn around, the systems that generally serve people who are the working poor and suddenly lose their jobs or face greater hardship, all those systems have been strained beyond the max." Kim Posich, executive director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty on the Kids Count survey released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that showed New Mexico with the highest child poverty rate in the U.S.
(Huffington Post/AP)

1. Poll finds black, white reactions to Zimmerman verdict vary wildly.
The not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman has produced dramatically different reactions among blacks and whites, with African Americans overwhelmingly disapproving of the jury’s decision and a bare majority of whites saying they approve of the outcome.
(Washington Post)

2. Obama seeking to take credit and set course for economy.
President Obama is restarting a major effort this week to focus public attention on the American economy, a strategy aimed at giving him credit for the improving job market and lifting his rhetoric beyond the Beltway squabbles that have often consumed his presidency.
(New York Times)

3. Pelosi rolls out economic agenda for women.
The California Democrat launched a legislative agenda of family-friendly policies, such as paycheck fairness for women, an increased federal minimum wage, and President Barack Obama''s proposed early childhood education initiative.
(McClatchy News)

4. Michelle Obama speaking out on gun violence.
It''s a second term for Michelle Obama, too, and she''s shifting her social-issues emphasis to kids and gun violence after spending four years stressing better physical fitness for the young.
(Associated Press)

5. Al Qaeda growing, but less focused on U.S.
The number of Al Qaeda affiliates has expanded, as has their geographic scope, but the terror network has become more diffuse and decentralized, the RAND study found.
(Christian Science Monitor)

6. Pope Francis tries to bolster church in Brazil.
Brazil is a huge battleground for souls. It has one in 10 of all the world’s Catholics, making it enormously important to the Vatican. But for years now, Catholicism has been on the losing end of a pitched struggle with increasingly influential evangelical churches.
(Washington Post)

7. U.S. military intervention in Syria would create ''unintended consequences.''
The top U.S. military officer warned senators on Monday that taking military action to stop the bloodshed in Syria was likely to escalate quickly and result in "unintended consequences," representing the most explicit uniformed opposition to deeper involvement in another war in the Middle East.
(Guardian)

8. Top U.S. general urges approval of continued military presence.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that he wanted the United States and Afghanistan to complete a security partnership agreement by October, allowing for the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
(Washington Post)

9. Egypt starts amending constitution despite political divisions.
A panel of legal experts started work on Sunday to revise Egypt''s Islamist-tinged constitution, a vital first step on the road to fresh elections ordered by the army following its removal of Mohamed Mursi as president.
(Reuters)

10. 4 decades after war ended, Agent Orange still ravaging Vietnamese.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force sprayed more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over parts of southern Vietnam and along the borders of neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The herbicides were contaminated with dioxin, a deadly compound that remains toxic for decades and causes birth defects, cancer, and other illnesses.
(McClatchy News)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 22, 2013

Quote of the day.
“It doesn’t matter that Pope Francis doesn’t use the expression ‘theology of liberation.’ What is important is that he speaks and acts on behalf of the liberation of the poor, the oppressed, and those who have suffered injustice. And that is what he has done, with indubitable clarity.” Leonardo Boff, theologian and former Franciscan priest who in 1985 was ordered not to write or speak publicly for a year because of his views, now emeritus professor of the philosophy of religion at the state university in Rio de Janeiro.
(New York Times)

1. Across U.S., people rally for 'Justice for Trayvon.'
Crowds chanted "Justice! Justice!" as they rallied in dozens of U.S. cities Saturday, urging authorities to change self-defense laws and press federal civil rights charges against a former neighborhood watch leader found not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.
(Associated Press)

2. Ex-city workers on edge in Detroit.
The battle over the future of Detroit is set to begin this week in federal court, where government leaders will square off against retirees in a colossal debate over what the city owes to a prior generation of residents as it tries to rebuild for the next.
(Washington Post)

3. Immigration faces critical weeks.
August is certain to become a storm of dueling town halls, rallies, and lobbying efforts on both sides, so how lawmakers handle the next two weeks will be critical. Three factions are emerging that could help decide what — if anything — the House does on immigration.
(Politico)

4. Strain on military families felt by young children.
At a time when the U.S. military has the highest number of parents among its active-duty service members and is engaged in the longest sustained military conflict in history, in Iraq and Afghanistan, new research is showing that the strain on military families is being felt acutely by even its youngest members, children under the age of 6.
(Washington Post)

5. In climbing income ladder, location matters.
The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas.
(New York Times)

6. New frontiers for U.S. military spy drones.
As the Obama administration dials back the number of drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, the U.S. military is shifting its huge fleet of unmanned aircraft to other hot spots around the world.
(Washington Post)

7. Pakistan battles polio, and its people's mistrust.
Anger … over American foreign policy has led to a disastrous setback for the global effort against polio. In December, nine vaccinators were shot dead here, and two Taliban commanders banned vaccination in their areas, saying the vaccinations could resume only if drone strikes ended. 
(New York Times)

8. Unexploded ordnance killing Afghan civilians as bases abandoned.
The U.S.-led coalition is failing to clear unexploded munitions from the Afghan bases it’s demolishing as it withdraws its combat forces, leaving a deadly legacy that has killed and maimed a growing number of civilians, United Nations demining officials charge.
(McClatchy News)

9. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks' resumption put in doubt by both sides.
Moves towards a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were mired in rumours, rebuttals, criticism, and confusion on Sunday in an indication of the political and diplomatic swamp facing key negotiators and their mediator, the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry.
(Guardian)

10. Passing: Pioneering reporter Helen Thomas aged into legend.
Covering 10 presidents over five decades, Helen Thomas aged into a legend. She was the only reporter with her name inscribed on a chair in the White House briefing room — her own front row seat to history. Starting as a copy girl in 1943, when women were considered unfit for serious reporting, Thomas rose to bureau chief.
(Associated Press)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 19, 2013

Quote of the day. “If there is a law that I feel that does not conform with the Pennsylvania constitution and the U.S. Constitution, then I ethically cannot do that as a lawyer.” Kathleen Kane, Pennsylvania Attorney General, on why she won’t defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, joining a growing number of state officials who are refusing to defend state laws they believe are unconstitutional. (Washington Post)  

1. Billions in debt, Detroit tumbles into insolvency. Detroit, the cradle of America’s automobile industry and once the nation’s fourth-most-populous city, filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the largest American city ever to take such a course. (New York Times)  

2. Senate negotiators strike deal on student loan rates. Instead of a fixed rate set by Congress as in the past, the rates for college and graduate school will go up and down with the market. They will be set once a year based on the Treasury’s 10-year borrowing rate, (McClatchy News)  

3. Sensenbrenner and Lewis partner again on Voting Rights Act. The white Wisconsin lawyer and the black preacher from Georgia strode into the Senate hearing room together and took their seats, shoulder-to-shoulder, at the witness table. Veteran lawmakers and experts in civil rights law, they had been here before. (Washington Post)  

4. Senate confirms nominees as G.O.P. discontent rises. President Obama’s executive branch nominees continued to cruise through the Senate on Thursday, including his controversial pick to be labor secretary, Thomas E. Perez, as Republican anger over a deal to avoid a weakening of the filibuster seeped into the open. (New York Times)  

5. Catholic college heads appeal to Catholics in House on immigration. Nearly 100 current and former heads of Catholic colleges and universities are appealing directly to Catholic members of the House of Representatives to "draw wisdom and moral courage from our shared faith tradition" in supporting comprehensive immigration reform. (Catholic News Service)  

6. World pays tribute as 'improving' Mandela turns 95. South Africa and the world showered tributes on Nelson Mandela on Thursday as the anti-apartheid leader turned 95 in hospital and his doctors reported he was "steadily improving" from a six-week lung infection. (Reuters)  

7. Kerry to meet Palestinian president in peace talks bid. The state department announced the plan after Mr Kerry met the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in Amman. Palestinian officials who met earlier did not endorse a new US plan. (BBC)  

8. USAID announces assistance program for Afghan women. The U.S. Agency for International Development announced a new $200 million assistance program for Afghan women Thursday, amid fears that gains in women’s rights and development made over the past decade will dissipate after the withdrawal of foreign combat troops next year. (Washington Post)  

9. Obama considering military power in Syria, top general tells Senate. The top US military officer told a Senate panel Thursday the Obama administration is deliberating whether to use military power in Syria, where a civil war entering its third year has killed almost 93,000 people. (Guardian/AP)  

10. Egypt’s military and Islamists are far from a deal. More than two weeks after the military removed President Mohamed Morsi from power, intense efforts to bring the generals and the ex-president’s Islamist supporters to an agreement have so far come up empty, deepening Egypt’s political crisis. (New York Times)

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The Top 10 Stories of July 18, 2013

Quote of the day.
“This year’s commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day comes at a moment of deep reflection on the life and work of Madiba, as the universally revered leader remains in the hospital.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his message for Nelson Mandela International Day. Mr. Mandela is 95 years old today.
(United Nations)

1. Immigration could hinge on August recess.
The White House and its immigration reform allies are banking on the August recess as their next — and possibly last — major opportunity to compel House Republicans to act.
(Politico)

2. Florida case spurs painful talks between black parents and their children.
For many black residents, the verdict has spawned conversations that are personal and raw: discussions of sad pragmatism between parents and their children.
(New York Times)

3. In Senate, emotional appeal to restore 'heart and soul' of Voting Rights Act.
Rep. John Lewis (D) of Georgia, an icon of the civil rights movement, urged members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to quickly restore a key section of the Voting Rights Act that recently had been struck down as unconstitutional.
(Christian Science Monitor)

4. Racial disparities in life spans narrow, but persist.
The gap in life expectancy between black and white Americans is at its narrowest since the federal government started systematically tracking it in the 1930s, but a difference of nearly four years remains, and federal researchers have detailed why in a new report.
(New York Times)

5. Skeptical Congress turns its spycam on NSA surveillance.
In an unusually critical oversight hearing Wednesday, lawmakers from both parties warned national security officials that they must change their use of sweeping National Security Agency surveillance programs or face losing the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that have allowed for the agency’s mass collection of telephone metadata. 
(McClatchy News)

6. UN nominee calls Syria inaction a disgrace.
A U.S. ambassador nominee to the United Nations has called the U.N. Security Council's response to Syria's civil war a "disgrace" at her confirmation hearing. Samantha Power, who was President Barack Obama's nominee for the position, made the statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.
(Al Jazeera)

7. Arab League backs Kerry peace plan.
The Arab League has given its backing to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's plan for restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
(BBC)

8. Flow of U.S. military gear out of Afghanistan disrupted amid row.
An escalating dispute between the Afghan government and the United States over customs procedures has halted the flow of U.S. military equipment across Afghanistan’s borders, forcing commanders to rely more heavily on air transport, which has dramatically increased the cost of the drawdown.
(Washington Post)

9. Panama charges North Korea ship's crew.
Panama has charged the crew of a North Korean ship detained in Panama after it was found to be carrying weapons. Prosecutor Javier Caraballo accused the 35 crew members of endangering public security by illegally transporting war material.
(BBC)

10. Climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt.
A study has shown that the speed of evolutionary change is far outstripped by the rate of global warming, meaning many creatures will face extinction.
(Guardian)

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