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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.
Preliminary Deal on Iran Nuclear Program Reached
The United States and Iran agreed to a preliminary deal on Iran's nuclear program today, Politico reports. The hotly anticipated deal, following stop-and-start negotiations and vocal concern from Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will include Iran dismantling two-thirds of its centrifuges and allowing rigiourous inspections by the IAEA through 2035 and beyond. In exchange for Iran's compliance, the U.S. and the E.U. will lift longstanding economic sanctions.
President Obama was optimistic but pragmatic, saying the plan was a "good deal," according to Politico:
"'[It is] a historic understanding with Iran which, if implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I am convinced that if this framework leads to a final deal, it will make our country and the world safer,' Obama said in a statement in the White House Rose Garden. The deal would 'cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.'
... Obama stressed in particular the inspection and verification aspects of the agreement. 'If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see anything suspicious, we will inspect it,' Obama said.
...'If there is backsliding on the part of the Iranians,' he said, 'there will be no deal.'"
The Win Without War coalition called the preliminary deal "huge news" in a statement, also released today:
"At a time when much of the Middle East is engulfed in war, the United States is on the verge of achieving one of our most pressing national security goals without dropping a single bomb. Today's progress towards a comprehensive, historic agreement between Iran, the United States, and our P5+1 partners not only ensures that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, but it demonstrates precisely how America can win without war."
Details of the plan are anticipated in late June. Read more at Politico.
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.
Obama Vetoes Keystone XL
“This veto is conclusive proof that activism works.”
That’s what May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said in response to Obama’s veto, which was only the third of his presidency. President Obama rejected the construction of the Keystone XL Feb. 24, angering the Republican majority in Congress and inspiring environmental activists.
“After four years of rallies, marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience, we’re thrilled to see President Obama take an important first step by vetoing this love letter to Big Oil,” she continued.
Boeve’s comments declare hope to a generation of environmental scientists and activists who have often struggled to draw serious political attention to climate change.
Republicans in Congress, on the other hand, were deeply disappointed with Obama’s behavior.
Three Muslim Students Shot Dead in North Carolina
Craig Stephen Hicks, a 46-year-old white male, has been charged with three counts of first degree murder, according to a Chapel Hill Police Release. After shooting three students in the head early Tuesday evening, Hicks turned himself in at a local police department in Pittsboro. The victims included a married couple – Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21 – and their sister, Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
All three were currently attending or planning to attend schools in Chapel Hill. Although reports of previous of a conflict between the shooter and the victims are not confirmed, many have speculated religious bias played a significant role in the crime.
Christians Strip on Court Steps to Protest Detention of Asylum Seekers
A group of Christians protesting detention for asylum-seeking children stripped off their clothes on the steps of the magistrate's court in Perth, Australia on Wednesday.
The group, Love Makes a Way, had just pleaded guilty to trespassing in Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's electorate office in December, where they had staged an eight-hour peaceful sit-in and several members were reportedly strip-searched.
From the court steps, National Director of Common Grace and Sojourners contributor Jarrod McKenna quoted from the book of Matthew before he and others in the group began stripping off their garments — this time, willingly.
The NFL’s Chilling New Anti-Domestic Violence Ad Will Make You Stop and Listen
After the high-profile domestic violence cases of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the NFL is speaking out with a new Super Bowl Ad. The commercial features a woman pretending to order a pizza in a call to a 911 operator as the camera rolls over shots of a disheveled home. The operator eventually comes to understand that the woman is trying to ask for help without alerting her abuser.
The NFL created the ad in partnership with No More, an umbrella organization that connects groups working to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
When Florida Police Used Mug Shots of Black Men as Target Practice, Clergy Responded with #UseMeInstead
National Guard Sgt. Valerie Deant found mugshots of black men, including one of her brother, riddled with bullet holes at a police range in south Florida last month. After outraged critics drew attention to the police department, clergy across the country began to post photos of their own faces with the hashtag #UseMeInstead. The Washington Post explains why the hashtag began:
The effort was “motivated by our service to Christ and his call to love our neighbors,” Gonnerman told The Post.
“We initially started thinking if a whole lot of us, in our clergy collar and worship attire, sent our photos to them, it would make a really powerful statement,” Rev. Kris Totzke, a pastor in Texas, told The Post. “Then, it really snowballed, and we got people all over the country and of all different faiths.” …
“It’s such a desensitization thing, that if you start aiming at young black men, and told to put a bullet in them, you become desensitized,” Gonnerman said. “Maybe, to change the picture, it’s you know what, dare ya, shoot a clergy person.”
President Obama's 2015 the State of the Union Remarks
Editor's Note: President Obama delivered his seventh State of the Union address last night (January 20, 2015). Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:
We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.
But tonight, we turn the page.
Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.
Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.
America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:
The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.
FBI Investigating Explosion Near NAACP Yesterday; Twitter Protests Lack of News Coverage
A makeshift bomb placed outside a local chapter of the NAACP in Colorado went off yesterday, releasing smoke but failing to ignite a gasoline can placed beside it, Newsweek reports. There were no injuries.
The FBI has declared the bombing "deliberate," but is still investigating whether the NAACP was the intended target. The building's other tenant, a hair salon, does not appear to have been the target.
The media's slow-to-silent response to the incident has raised ire on Twitter, with many concerned that the bombing did not make news on mainstream outlets until today.
"Thankfully, no injuries were reported, but the fear it struck in the local community and in citizens concerned for issues of racial justice everywhere were felt immediately ... In a time when racial tensions in our country appear to be growing, the troubling nature of this act of domestic terrorism should be blatantly obvious, but the lack of mainstream media coverage of the bombing ... was downright disturbing," wrote Shaun King, staff writer for the Daily Kos.
According to Newsweek, the FBI has asked that anyone with information call its Denver tip line at 303-435-7787.
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