Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Will there be peace if Palestinians lay down their arms? | +972 Magazine

Will there be peace if Palestinians lay down their arms? | +972 Magazine:
by Marc Gopin and Abu Aziz Sarah

 "The irony of Israel’s argument is that Hamas is using a similar concept. Hamas’ argument goes like this: The PLO’s recognition of Israel and renouncement of armed struggle has achieved nothing. The PLO has laid down its arms, and still there is no peace. Hamas argues that its violent 2012 confrontation with Israel was able to achieve more than PLO diplomacy and negotiations have achieved. The reason Hamas is able to gain support nowadays is Abbas’ failure to achieve peace with Israel through negotiations.  Palestinians find themselves today between a rock and hard place. They know they have no chance of winning with armed struggle. They also know that negotiations are unlikely to lead to an agreement (at least not with the current Israeli government). Even non-violent initiatives like the BDS movement and weekly village protests against the West Bank wall are quickly accused of being anti-Semitic. It is absurd that Palestinians are expected to ask Israel, “What form of protest should we stage that you find acceptable and not anti-Semitic?” Many Palestinians feel that the world is blind to their grievances and aspirations for freedom. So, let’s set the record straight. Palestinians are not Nazis. Palestinians, like everyone else in the world, seek freedom, recognition of their national identity, and an end to the occupation. They long for peace and reconciliation, and are exhausted by this never-ending conflict and pain. It is ridiculous for the world to expect millions of people in Gaza and the West Bank to happily and quietly live under occupation. While laying down arms is a positive step towards peace, it is not enough to end this conflict. There must be a clear vision that ends the occupation and guarantees security and freedom for all. Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in Washington D.C. He is also the co-founder of MEJDI Tours."

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Orwell and the Gaza War // Forward Thinking

Forward Thinking –
by Daniel May

"The force of the phrase “Israel has a right to defend itself” stems from its conflation of a statement of general fact with support for a specific act: this bombing campaign, this ground incursion, this war. Its implication is that those who support Israel’s right to defend itself by necessity support this war, and those who do not support it deny Israel’s right to defend itself. It tethers support for a specific decision to support for an incontrovertible truth, and opposition to a specific decision with lunacy, irrationality, and, yes, anti-Semitism (for who would argue that the Jewish people, alone, do not have this right?)."

Orwell described the cliches of politics as “packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.” “The right to defense” is a harder narcotic. It eases the pain, but it is a poison. It eats at the notion that Jewish sovereignty could be about more than survival. That it might be about life — life with its choices and life with its responsibilities. In life we know that we can never be sure how our choices will unfold. Yet such choices are worth making because we recognize that a life of mere survival is hardly life, that we cannot become who we want to be without making choices whose outcomes we cannot fully predict.

We know the choices Israel will make to stop rockets, to continue the siege, to keep Hamas activists in jail. But what choices will Israel make to prevent these perpetual rounds of killing? To be a nation that does not live another generation ruling over others by the force of the gun? These are difficult questions, but they are the questions of a sovereign people. The catchphrase “Israel has a right to self-defense” renders these irrelevant, naive. This is its power, and this is its price.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dr. Sheik Khan, a hero of medicine, dies of Ebola

NYTimes: Sierra Leone's Top Ebola Doctor Dies From Virus

Wy Israel Won't Sign Any Ceasefire that's Fair // Jewish Daily Forward

Why Israel won't sign a fair agreement.

by Larry Derfner //

A fair ceasefire would bring major relief for Gaza, which would mean Hamas wins the war.
The ceasefire that the world is now pushing for – one that, as UN chief Ban Ki-Moon put it, not only ends the fighting but also ends Israel’s “chokehold on Gaza” – is one that the Netanyahu government will not accept. It should accept it, because Gazans have the right to be free, but it won’t. Its rejection of John Kerry’s offer on Friday – which reportedly would have allowed the Israeli army to go on destroying Gazan tunnels even during a week-long ceasefire – is a sign of this.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Watch 'Brave Photographers' Video at the Forward

Need To Know: Palestinian protesters try to block Israeli bulldozer on the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian youth try to block a bulldozer on the West Bank

Watch 'Brave Photographers' Video at the Forward

Israeli Photo Activists Shoot Against the Grain — Win Both Respect and Hatred –
by Yermi Brenner // Jewish Daily Forward
"On a recent Saturday night, during one of the most heated days of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, a group of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv and protested for an end to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Anti-war demonstrations during wartime are not unusual in Israel. They rarely bring out more than a few hundred people, as did this one. It was an event that most Israeli news outlets deemed not important enough to cover, especially when Hamas’s rockets were flying all over the country. But Oren Ziv was there with his camera.
Ziv, 28, is a co-founder of Activestills, a collective of people who are both activists and professional photographers. Documenting political and social struggles that are missed by the Israeli mainstream media is the bread and butter of Activestills. “We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here,” said Ziv, whose photos from the Saturday demonstration show a group of extreme nationalists attacking anti-war protesters. “We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”"

New LGBT nondiscrimination rule deserves applause | National Catholic Reporter

The U.S. Catholic Bishops responded to the Church's tragic failures in sexual abuse cases by becoming more homophobic.  An odd reaction given the large numbers of homosexual priests.  It mystifies me why a group of celibates should care which gender one is hopelessly attracted by.  - gwc
Editorial: New LGBT nondiscrimination rule deserves applause | National Catholic Reporter:
President Barack Obama announced July 21 a new rule protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees of corporations that receive federal contracts from discrimination and extending protection for federal employees from discrimination based on gender identity. We applaud that decision.
A statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the new rule "unprecedented and extreme" and urged that it "should be opposed." The statement is ill-thought-out and hyperbolic. Sentences like "With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent" show a willful misunderstanding of the contemporary discussion around human sexuality. The statement will not advance the bishops' cause beyond a small band of true believers intent on finding another front for the culture wars.
More distressing, however, is the failure of the nation's bishops to reflect deeply upon their own teaching. The church clearly distinguishes between homosexual persons and homosexual acts or inclinations. We have problems with that distinction on other grounds, but think it bears on the issue at hand.
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A religiously affiliated organization does not hire an inclination or an act, it hires a person, and the church has affirmed, repeatedly, that the homosexual person is to be loved and is not to be unjustly discriminated against. On what basis, then, should we decline to abide by a government regulation that we not discriminate against LGBT people in hiring? This is not just about legal or political strategy, but about being true to what the church actually teaches, instead of joining the latest culture war battle....

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Why Israeli Left Should Stop Backing Gaza Wars – Forward Thinking –

Why Israeli Left Should Stop Backing Gaza Wars – Forward Thinking –
by Rafael Magarik

"Yes, we have the right to defend ourselves; yes, the situation in Israel’s south has long been inhuman; yes, the IDF makes incredible efforts to fight cleanly. And yes, arguing against serious escalations and for limited, continuous security operations would be immediately unpopular and involve tolerating the intolerable in Ashdod and Sderot. But repeated, intensive battles with Hamas only entrench the right wing in Jerusalem and Gaza. At the end of the day, no matter how painfully, the Israeli center-left has to choose between Netanyahu’s politics of security and the possibility of real peace."

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All five kids

Photo by taiseee:

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TRANSCRIPT: Final Plea in Botched Execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III //TPM

TRANSCRIPT: Lawyer's Frantic Call To Judge During Arizona's Botched Execution: "As condemned Arizona killer Joseph Rudolph Wood III lay dying for nearly two hours on the execution table in state prison, his lawyer frantically pleaded over the phone with a federal judge to halt the botched lethal injection."

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Blind Ideological Justice | Commonweal Magazine

Dionne finds ideological bias, not reason in the Halbig decision. - gwc
Blind Ideological Justice | Commonweal Magazine:
by E.J. Dionne

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens captured our ideal when he wrote of the judge as “an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”
By effectively gutting the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, two members of a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals showed how far right-leaning jurists have strayed from such impartiality. We are confronted with a conservative judiciary that will use any argument it can muster to win ideological victories that elude their side in the elected branches of our government.
Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit ruling is unlikely to stand. On the same day the D.C. panel issued its opinion, a three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit ruled unanimously the other wayand upheld the law.
There is a good chance that the eleven-judge D.C. Circuit will take the decision away from its panel -- something it is usually reluctant to do -- and rule as a full court to affirm the ACA as commonly understood. It is virtually certain that a majority of the court’s members disagree with the panel’s convoluted reading of the law and that they want to avoid creating a needless conflict in jurisprudence with the 4th Circuit.
When Congress wrote the health law, it envisioned that the states would set up the insurance exchanges where individuals could purchase coverage. But knowing that some states might not want to set up these marketplaces themselves, it also created a federal exchange for states that bowed out. There are thirty-six states under the federal exchange.
The law includes a mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance and subsidizes those who need help to pay their premiums. The law falls apart without the subsidies, which go to its central purpose: providing insurance for those who cannot afford it.

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For Peace To Win, Hamas Must Lose –

For Peace To Win, Hamas Must Lose –
by J.J. Goldberg  // The Jewish Daily Forward
No less troubling is the longer-range prognosis. Israel was saying it would keep fighting until it eliminated Hamas’ rockets and tunnels. Afterwards it will leave Gaza. It’s only a matter of time before Hamas — or some more radical group — will rearm and start again. The prospect leaves Israelis from left to right asking anxiously if periodic warfare with Gaza terrorists is Israel’s fate forever. Is there no solution?

Actually, there is, though it seems implausible right now. When the crisis first erupted, a de facto anti-Hamas alliance emerged uniting Israel with Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. Egypt is insisting that Gaza’s borders be controlled by Abbas, not Hamas’ “international force.” If the world community stands firm and forces Hamas to accept Abbas, it might be the beginning of a new Gaza.

There’s a price, though. To bring Abbas and the Arab League on board, Israel would have to indicate it’s ready to head toward Palestinian statehood along the Arab League’s lines. That’s a tall order right now. Prime Minister Netanyahu says he’s learned that Israel can’t give up security control of the West Bank. But there’s another lesson: territorial depth isn’t what it used to be. You can’t protect yourself from rockets by pushing them farther away — only by removing the other side’s incentive for firing. That starts with reducing Hamas’s support by giving Palestinians hope.

As Henry Kissinger once wrote: “The guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win.” It’s important that Hamas loses.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Both Israelis and Palestinians are losers in this conflict | Daniel Barenboim | Comment is free | The Guardian

Both Israelis and Palestinians are losers in this conflict | Daniel Barenboim | Comment is free | The Guardian:

by Daniel Barenboim

I have deep sympathy for the fear with which my fellow Israelis live today: the constant sounds of rockets being fired, of knowing that you or someone close to you might get hurt. But I have profound compassion with the plight of my fellow Palestinians in Gaza, who live in terror and mourn such devastating losses on a daily basis. After decades of devastation and loss on both sides, the conflict has today reached a previously unimaginable level of gruesomeness and despair.

I therefore dare to propose that this may be the moment to look for a true solution to the problem. A ceasefire is of course indispensable, but it is by far not enough. The only way out of this tragedy, the only way to avoid more tragedy and horror, is to take advantage of the hopelessness of the situation and force everybody to talk to one another. There is no point in Israel refusing to negotiate with Hamas or to acknowledge a unity government. No, Israel must listen to those Palestinians who are in a position to speak with one tongue.

The first resolution that has to be achieved is a joint agreement on the fact that there is no military solution. Only then can one begin discussing the question of justice for the Palestinians, which is long overdue, and of security for Israel, which it rightfully requires. We Palestinians feel that we need to receive a just solution. Our quest is fundamentally one for justice and for the rights given to every people on Earth: autonomy, self-determination, liberty, and all that comes with it. We Israelis need an acknowledgement of our right to live on the same piece of land. The division of the land can only come after both sides have not only accepted but understood that we can live together side by side, most definitely not back to back.

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U.S. May Vet Youth as Refugees in Honduras

Migrants board a northbound freight train in Mexico

To Ease Crisis U.S. May Vet Youth as Refugees Inside Honduras
by Frances Robles and Michael D. Shear  // NY Times
Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the Southwest border, the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico, according to a draft of the proposal.
If approved, the plan would direct the government to screen thousands of children and youths in Honduras to see if they can enter the United States as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds. 

ADL Needs To Drop Thane Rosenbaum Right Now – Forward Thinking –

Thane Rosenbaum

Through some good fortune Thane Rosenbaum and his Forum on Law & Culture has moved from Fordham Law School to NYU.  I read and witnessed his anti-Islam rants and shameful treatment of Muslim-American panelist (from NYU's Brennan Center).  I was shocked by his behaviour.  This story demonstrates the depth of his moral decay. - gwc
ADL Needs To Drop Thane Rosenbaum Right Now – Forward Thinking –
by Emily L. Hauser
So. Can we talk about Thane Rosenbaum?
You probably already know that Thane Rosenbaum — who likes to talk about being a human rights professor — wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing that the Gazan noncombatants are fair game in this war, because “they” voted for Hamas and “invite [Hamas members] to dinner with blood on their hands.”
Setting aside the fact that Hamas (being awful) hasn’t held elections since 2006 — and also setting aside the fact that Gaza’s overwhelmingly young population includes hundreds of thousands of people who couldn’t have voted for Hamas had they wanted to — there are of course numerous problems with this analysis, starting with the Geneva Conventions.
To quote Articles 50 and 51:
  1. …In case of doubt whether a person is a civilian, that person shall be considered to be a civilian. 2. The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians. 3. The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.
Art 51. - Protection of the civilian population
  1. The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations…. 2. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack.
And so on.
Then there’s the fact that, as Jamelle Bouie wrote in Slate, to willfully ignore such distinctions is to “embrace the logic of terrorists” — and not just any terrorists, but Osama bin Laden himself, so, you know, we might want to avoid that kind of thing.
At the end of his column Bouie notes that, contrary to precedent, none of this is likely to cost Rosenbaum his job as Director of the Forum on Law, Culture & Society at NYU Law — but I, for one, am more curious about a different position to which Rosenbaum can as yet only aspire: Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And the win in King v. Burwell - 4th Circuit

King v. Burwell, 4th Circuit, July 22, 2014
Fourth Circuit Rules in FAVOR of Government in Obamacare Subsidies Case

by Abbe Gluck //Balkinization

Making sure our readers keep up with this roller-coaster day in health reform land: The Fourth Circuit released its own opinion (3-0, with a strong concurrence from J. Davis) rejecting the subsidies challenge pending in that court right after the DC Circuit released its own opinion sustaining the same challenge there . The Fourth Circuit went with a straight Chevron argument, but indicated it thought the government had the better reading of the statutory text in any event. Judge Davis concurred specially to make the point that Chevron wasn't even necessary: that the statute clearly requires the subsidies on the federal exchanges

Balkinization: The Loss in Halbig

Halbig if sustained could force higher premiums on millions of people, making health insurance unaffordable.   The wages of textualism is death. This is why the DC. Circuit is so important.  Is there an en banc majority that will stay this?  And then what happens upstairs at SCOTUS? - gwc
Update - see Gluc on the win in  the Fourth Circuit - a unanimous decision also issued today.
Balkinization: The Loss in Halbig:
The Loss in Halbig
Abbe Gluck

As Marty [Lederman] notes, the opinion is out. Initial quick reaction, more to come: The opinion is terribly disappointing from a statutory interpretation perspective. It relies in part on irrelevant legislative history (from the HELP committee, whose bill wasn't even the basis for these provisions--the Finance committee's was) and gets it wrong anyway (as I argued here); it bends over backwards to come up with reasons why Congress might have intended this result (which we all know it certainly did not); and it attaches far too much significance to a line in the statute that expressly deems exchanges in the territories to be state exchanges and does not replicate the special deeming language for the federal exchanges. The territories language is boilerplate language used by Congress when talking about territories in statutes even beyond the ACA, and should have been attached no significance here. What's more, applying theexclusio unius presumption (that when Congress specifies X we can assume that it meant not to specify X elsewhere) to a statute as long and complicated as the ACA -- and one that did not go through the usual linguistic "clean up" process in Conference (as I wrote here) does a disservice to textualism and all those who have defended it over the years--turning it into a wooden unreasonable formalism rather than the sophisticated statutory analysis that textualists have been claiming they are all about.
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Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses? | +972 Magazine

Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses? | +972 Magazine:
by Noam Sheizaf  //+972

"Nations will make inconceivable sacrifices in these kinds of struggles. An entire one percent of the Jewish population was killed in the 1948 war. The public accepted it painfully and with a stiff upper lip because they felt, just like the Vietnamese, that they were fighting for their lives and for their freedom. We have become so much more susceptible to loss, not because we went soft, but because we have a deeper understanding that despite all the “we’re fighting for our future” slogans, 2014 is not 1948. Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed in all three military operations in Gaza, not including the Second Intifada. Most of them were civilians. I’ve exchanged emails with people in Gaza in the past few days. These are people who don’t care much for Hamas in their everyday lives, whether due to its fundamentalist ideology, political oppression or other aspects of its rule. But they do support Hamas in its war against Israel; for them, fighting the siege is their war of independence. Or at least one part of it."

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Sentencing Law and Policy: John Oliver covers the realities of incarceration nation

Sentencing Law and Policy: John Oliver covers the realities of incarceration nation: "A whole lots of folks have sent me notes to make sure I saw the remarkable 15+ minute piece on John Oliver's HBO show about the realities of modern prison realities.  To make sure everyone gets to see this effective (and humorous) piece of journalism, here is the video."  - Doug Berman

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Bloody Weekend in Gaza - In Focus - The Atlantic

Images of war. - gwc
Bloody Weekend in Gaza - In Focus - The Atlantic:
Shijaiyah, Gaza City

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Vladimir Putin: full investigation needed on MH 17

Rather than dividing us, tragedies of this sort should bring people together. All those who are responsible for the situation in the region must take greater responsibility before their own peoples and before the peoples of the countries whose citizens were killed in this disaster.  Everything possible must be done to ensure that international experts can work in safety at the crash site. Representatives from the Donbass region, Donetsk, Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Ministry, and Malaysian experts are already working at the site, but this is not enough. It is essential that a full-fledged group of experts under ICAO aegis, an appropriate international commission set up for the task, be able to work at the crash site. We must do everything possible to ensure their complete and guaranteed safety and provide them with the humanitarian corridors they need for their work. For its part, Russia will do everything within its power to move the conflict in eastern Ukraine from the military phase we see today to the negotiating phase, with the parties using peaceful and diplomatic means alone.

MH17 blame game reflects badly on all of us » Spectator Blogs

MH17 blame game reflects badly on all of us » Spectator Blogs
For all the certainty that has attended Western vilification of Putin – and UK news-stands on Saturday and Sunday Russia showed barely one front-page that did not put him personally in the dock – two crucial facts remain unproven.
Even if anti-Kiev rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down flight MH17 because they mistook it for a Ukrainian transport plane, which appears the most likely explanation, it has not been established that the ground-to-air missile system used was supplied to them by Russia (as opposed to being looted from Ukrainian army stocks). Nor do we know how much control, if any, Putin had of the rebel forces.
Russia’s failure to help the rebels regain the military headquarters they lost at Sloviansk two weeks ago suggests to me at least that, after the election of President Petro Poroshenko, Russia was tacitly switching its support to Kiev and hanging the rebels out to dry. The rebel forces themselves seemed an increasingly fissiparous, desperate and drunken bunch. All of which, of course, would make them more, not less, dangerous.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Israel's 'Moral Army'? – Haaretz via Forward Thinking –

It has been a very disturbing week.  The distress brought on by the failure of Iraq was compounded by the Israeli attacks on Gaza; then a missile in the hands of some undisciplined tribal army brought down an airliner any one of us could have taken. - gwc
Israel's 'Moral Army'? – Forward Thinking –
by Michael Mitchell*//Haaretz

In Israel’s case, having an army worthy of the “moral” title really would serve its security interests; the possible short-term reduction in hit targets would be justified by long-term gains in the trust and respect of the international community. As international protests against Operation Protective Edge should remind us, Israel’s military operations have a major impact on how it is perceived by its neighbors, allies, and enemies. Moral military conduct could defuse the dangers posed by widespread international distrust of Israel’s behavior, not the least of which is the anger aroused by the deaths of innocent Palestinians at Israeli hands. That anger is relevant to Israel’s security; it imperils Israelis from the West Bank to around the globe.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demands during this year’s peace negotiations indicate, Israel also has a major interest in global acceptance of its own identity narrative. If Israel wants to be understood as a beleaguered Jewish democracy in a hostile region doing what it must to defend itself, its military cannot afford to act unjustly.

Deliberately firing rockets at civilians, as Hamas does, is deeply wrong. However far we can go in understanding Hamas’s actions as expressions of resistance, we cannot condone them: they are crimes. However, if Israel is not careful to respond justly, with due respect for all human life, Israel may compound Hamas’ unjust actions with its own. To its credit, the IDF is trying to avoid killing civilians, but when it comes to life and death, trying is not enough. Being relatively “more moral” than neighboring armies isn’t enough either.

For the sake of those who now live under rocket fire and (even more so) for that of those who live under air strikes, we must hope Israel’s government soon comes to recognize that killing civilians protects no one – not even those the “moral army” claims to serve. As the Torah suggests, only those willing to affirm the sanctity of all lives - of neighbor and stranger alike - deserve to flourish in the land of Israel.

Michael Mitchell is a writer living in Tel Aviv. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard International Review.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Freedom riders - film commemorates struggle

Freedom riders' bus in flames, 1961
A last will and testament for freedom | National Catholic Reporter:

by Alex Mikulich  |  Jul. 19, 2014

 At a time when there seems to be deepening conflict over the meaning of freedom, this summer, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, offers a fresh opportunity to reflect upon the sacrifices made to achieve freedom. The recently released film "Freedom Riders" teaches us about the deep yearning of African-Americans for the full human flourishing of everyone.

Take the example of Diane Nash, one of the student leaders trained in nonviolence under the tutelage of the Rev. James Lawson at Fisk University in 1959-60. Alongside John L. Lewis, among others, Nash helped lead the nonviolent sit-ins in Nashville, Tenn., in early 1960.

On May 14, 1961, Ku Klux Klan members firebombed a Freedom Rider bus outside Anniston, Ala., intending to burn to death everyone inside. Both Alabama Gov. John Patterson and Birmingham Police Chief Bull Connor declared that they would not protect the Freedom Riders from violence.

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy responded by sending John Seigenthaler, his assistant, to ensure that the Freedom Riders made it safely from Birmingham to New Orleans after the firebombing.

 In a historic telephone conversation on May 16, 1961, Seigenthaler, with all the power of his position, commanded Nash and other Freedom Riders to end the bus rides in order to prevent loss of life. Seigenthaler recalls the conversation with Nash like this:

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"You know that spiritual -- 'like a tree standing by the water, I will not be moved'? She would not be moved. And ... soon I was shouting, 'Young woman do you understand what you are doing? ... Do you understand that you're gonna get somebody killed?' "

 After a pause, Nash replied to Seigenthaler: "Sir, you should know, we all signed our last wills and testaments last night before they left [on the bus for Birmingham]. We know someone will be killed. But we cannot let violence overcome nonviolence."

Seigenthaler concludes: "That is virtually a direct quote of the words that came out of that child's mouth. Here I am, an official of the United States government, representing the president and the attorney general, talking to a student at Fisk University. And she in a very quiet but strong way gave me a lecture.""

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Crisis With Children Crossing the Border -

Lots of good facts and graphics here. I wonder how many of thosse sayng "we should take care of our own first" actually support polcies that would take care of our own - like expansion of Medicaid?  Or do they just denounce "Obamacare"? -gwc
The Crisis With Children Crossing the Border -

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

California death penalty so dysfunctional it is unconstitutional

The death chamber at California's San Quentin prison

The dysfunctionality of the California death penalty system - where 748 languish- is well established.  In a 2008 report the California Commission on the Fair Administration of justice documented it in a comprehensive report.  Now a federal judge has declared the system so arbitrary as to be unconstitutional.  When New Jersey repealed the death penalty in 2007 former Chief Justice Deboarh Poritz acknowledged that despite the court's rigorous proportionality review it had failed to treat like cases alike.  there was no way to explain why some got life in prison and others death. - gwc
Doug Berman reports at Sentencing Law & Policy

A notable new opinion by a (Republican-appointed) federal district judge in California is sure to be the talk of the death penalty community for the forseeable future and is also sure to be the basis for a intriguing coming appeal to the Ninth Circuit (and perhaps the Supreme Court). The opinion inJones v. Chappell, No. 2:09-cv-02158-CJC (C.D. Cal. July 16, 2014) (available for download below), is authored by a GWB-appointee Cormac Carney, and it is described by the judge as an "ORDER DECLARING CALIFORNIA’S DEATH PENALTY SYSTEM UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND VACATING PETITIONER’S DEATH SENTENCE." Here is how the 29-page opinion starts and ends:

On April 7, 1995, Petitioner Ernest Dewayne Jones was condemned to death by the State of California. Nearly two decades later, Mr. Jones remains on California’s Death Row, awaiting his execution, but with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, it will ever come. Mr. Jones is not alone. Since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes. Of them, only 13 have been executed. For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death. As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.
That is the reality of the death penalty in California today and the system that has been created to administer it to Mr. Jones and the hundreds of other individuals currently on Death Row. Allowing this system to continue to threaten Mr. Jones with the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment....
When an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it an implicit promise from the State that it will actually be carried out. That promise is made to the citizens of the State, who are investing significant resources in furtherance of a punishment that they believe is necessary to achieving justice. It is made to jurors who, in exercise of their civic responsibility, are asked to hear about and see evidence of undeniably horrific crimes, and then participate in the agonizing deliberations over whether the perpetrators of those horrific crimes should be put to death. It is made to victims and their loved ones, for whom just punishment might provide some semblance of moral and emotional closure from an otherwise unimaginable loss. And it is made to the hundreds of individuals on Death Row, as a statement their crimes are so heinous they have forfeited their right to life.
But for too long now, the promise has been an empty one. Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State. It has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed. And it has resulted in a system that serves no penological purpose. Such a system is unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Court hereby VACATES Mr. Jones’s death sentence.

Full opinion: Download Jones Cal DP opinion

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bordering on Heartless | Commonweal Magazine

It offends me that they make our flag a symbol of intolerance.
Bordering on Heartless | Commonweal Magazine
by EJ. Dionne
"“The church cannot be silent,” the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, wrote in Time magazine, “as angry groups of people stoking the flames of fear yell at buses filled with helpless immigrant children and women.” And Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the media director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for “a moral conscience moment” akin to the response during the civil rights era “in the welcoming of children and others escaping the violence in such countries as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.”

It is said, and it’s true, that the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act that swept through Congress and was signed by President George W. Bush in December 2008 has had the unintended consequence of encouraging the Central American children to head north. To protect victims of sex trafficking, the law guaranteed an immigration hearing to unaccompanied minors, except for those from Canada and Mexico.
As the bill was making its way through Congress, members of both parties could not stop congratulating themselves for their compassion. The bill, said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., arose from “exemplary bipartisan cooperation” and showed how big-hearted we are. “Together, let us end the nightmare of human trafficking,” he declared, “and lead the world to see, in the poignant words of Alexis de Tocqueville, that America is great because America is good.” Suddenly, although kids are still involved, we are far less interested in being “good” than in protecting our borders. All the pressure now is to change the Wilberforce Act so it would no longer apply to Central American children.
There’s a strong logic to this. The law does create a powerful incentive for unaccompanied minors from Central America (which is not that much farther away than Mexico) to seek entry, en masse, to our country. But there is another logic: that the anti-trafficking law really did embody a “good” instinct by holding that we should, as much as we can, treat immigrant children with special concern.
Do we rush to repeal that commitment the moment it becomes inconvenient? Or should we first seek other ways to solve the problem? Yes, policymakers should be mindful of unintended consequences. But all of us should ponder the cost of politically convenient indifference."

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Winning asylum in the U.S.: imminent danger of death is not enough | xpostfactoid

"Persons who flee their countries because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalised violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order."
We don't accept that.  In the land of the Statute of Liberty the tired and poor are not welcome, though those with "extraordinary talent" are.  The Refugee Act of 1980 permits the DHHS Office of Refugee Resettlement to assist only to those children and families who can prove "persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." 8 USC 1101 [42]
Winning asylum in the U.S.: imminent danger of death is not enough | xpostfactoid: by Andrew Sprung

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Access to Free Birth Control Reduces Abortion Rates | Research News | Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

USCCB LogoThe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrated  the Hobby Lobby decision as "a great day for family businesses".  They would be better off asking Pope Francis and their fellow bishops to reconsider the ban on artificial birth control - as the means most likely to reduce the abortion rate. - gwc

Access to Free Birth Control Reduces Abortion Rates | Research News | Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis:
 "A new study by investigators at Washington University reports that providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduces unplanned pregnancies and cuts abortion rates by a range of 62 to 78 percent compared to the national rate. This study, called the Contraceptive Choice Project, enrolled 9,256 women and adolescents in the St. Louis area between 2007 and 2011. Participants were 14 to 45 years of age, at risk for unintended pregnancy and willing to start a new contraceptive method. From 2008 to 2010, annual abortion rates among study participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women. This is a substantial drop (ranging from 62 to 78 percent) compared to the national rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available.  "

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Number of LSAT Test Takers in June Falls to 14-Year Low //TaxProf Blog

Chart 1

Long story short:  33,000 took the LSAT in June 2009 vs.  21,000 in June 2014.  Every American law school requires the LSAT for J.d. admission. - gwc
TaxProf Blog: Number of LSAT Test Takers in June Falls to 14-Year Low: "Lost in much of this reporting is the irrelevance of the previous lows. The old lows were from a time when LSATs were averaged by schools. Now retakes don't hurt applicants--schools/USNews takes the highest scores and students have responded by retaking the test more often. Declines in first time takers this June was a whopping 14%. Maybe there is a rebound in the fall but it seems pretty clear that we'll have even fewer applicants this cycle than last.
 Posted by: Nairb | Jul 12, 2014 9:39:37 AM"

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Palestinian Envoy Accuses Hamas Of 'Crimes Against Humanity' (VIDEO)

War crimes and crimes against humanity are a moving target.  The most heinous war crime in history - our nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - are seen by Americans as necessities to save the lives of our soldiers.  Reducing "collateral damage" was not on our agenda.  The population was the target.  But in the wake our our crimes a new moral regime took hold: that intentional attacks on civilians is criminal.  The Israelis act with the knowledge that civilians will be killed but take measures to limit the casualties.  The Hamas fighters lack the technical ability to target as accurately as doe the Israelis.  But they also seem to lack the desire to avoid civilian deaths.  The Palestinians see every non-Arab Israeli as an invader.  the Native American tribes saw us the same way.  They have a point but modern morality condemns such untargeted rocket attacks aimed civilian targets. - gwc
Palestinian Envoy Accuses Hamas Of 'Crimes Against Humanity' (VIDEO):
by Tom Kludt // Talking Points Memo

"The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva said in an interview last week that the missiles fired by Hamas against Israel represent a "crime against humanity." The envoy, Ibrahim Khreisheh, indicated in the interview on Palestinian Authority TV that such a sentiment might be politically unpopular, noting that he is "not a candidate in any Palestinian elections, so I don't need to win popularity among the Palestinians." He added that Israel is also guilty of "crimes against humanity."
 "I am not a candidate in any Palestinian elections, so I don't need to win popularity among the Palestinians. The missiles that are now being launched against Israel, each and every missile missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets. What Israel does against Palestinian civilians also constitutes crimes against humanity. With regard to crimes of war under the Fourth Geneva Convention —the settlements, the Judaization, the checkpoints, the arrests, and so on — we find ourselves on very solid ground."
Khreisheh went on to say that the Israeli army warned Palestinians living in Gaza to evacuate before a bombardment.
"However, there is a Palestinian weakness with regard to the other issue. Therefore, targeting civilians — be it one civilian or a thousand — is considered a crime against humanity. Please note that many of our people in Gaza appeared on TV and said that the Israeli army warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment. In such a case, if someone is killed, the law considers it a mistake rather than intentional killing because [the Israelis] followed the legal procedures. As for the missiles launched from our side, we never warn anyone about where these missiles are about to fall, or about the operations we carry out. Therefore, people should know more before they talk emotionally about appealing to the [International Criminal Court]."
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How liberals can reclaim the Constitution - Jack Balkin - The Washington Post

How liberals can reclaim the Constitution - The Washington Post:
by Jack Balkin
 "For years, conservatives have called for taking back the Constitution. In one sense, that claim is deeply ironic: Conservatives have dominated the appointments to the federal courts for a generation, and over the years, they’ve fundamentally reshaped voting rights, church-state relations and campaign finance regulation (to name just a few areas).  But conservative calls for restoring a lost Constitution also make sense. The Constitution is more than a legal document: It’s a shared symbol of the country and its ideals.
Conservatives are engaged in a reform project — often quite radical in its implications. And every important movement for change in the United States has proclaimed that the Constitution is on its side. You might wonder: where have liberals been all this time? Why aren’t they demanding to “take back the Constitution?”
Well, they have been, just not as loudly. In fact, 25 years of hard work by liberal scholars, lawyers and thinkers is about to bear fruit.  We are on the verge of a renaissance of liberal constitutionalism, one that I predict will blossom fully in the next decade.
 First, liberal scholars have challenged conservative dogmas about the American constitutional tradition, a tradition that extends from the Founding to today. The proudest moments of that tradition — including the expansion of voting rights and equality for blacks and women — are liberal and egalitarian. My colleague Akhil Amar’s 2005 biography of the Constitution tells a story of progress and inclusion, discomfiting conservative nay-sayers in every era."

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Gallup: Uninsured Rate Sinks to 13.4% i

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act more Americans are getting health insurance coverage. - gwc
Percentage Uninsured in the U.S., by Quarter
In U.S., Uninsured Rate Sinks to 13.4% in Second Quarter
Significant decline in uninsured rate across age groups since the end of 2013 =
by Jenna Levy

The uninsured rate in the U.S. fell 2.2 percentage points to 13.4% in the second quarter of 2014. This is the lowest quarterly average recorded since Gallup and Healthways began tracking the percentage of uninsured Americans in 2008. The previous low point was 14.4% in the third quarter of 2008."

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

20 million gain health insurance under Obamacare // New England Journal of Medicine

Health Care Coverage under the Affordable Care Act — A Progress Report — NEJM:
David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P., and Sara R. Collins, Ph.D.
July 2, 2014DOI: 10.1056/NEJMhpr1405667
"Taking all existing coverage expansions together, we estimate that 20 million Americans have gained coverage as of May 1 under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We do not know yet exactly how many of these people were previously uninsured, but it seems certain that many were. Recent national surveys seem to confirm this presumption.
The CBO projects that the law will decrease the number of uninsured people by 12 million this year and by 26 million by 2017. Early polling data from Gallup, RAND, and the Urban Institute indicate that the number of uninsured people may have already declined by 5 million to 9 million and that the proportion of U.S. adults lacking insurance has fallen from 18% in the third quarter of 2013 to 13.4% in May 2014."

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Chinese Journalists Warned Not to Work With Foreign Media -

China's leaders are fearful of criticism.  They act as though they are weak.  Despite their apparent strength they treat citizens as children.  Although they claim the mantle of science they restrict information.  I am unable to communicate reliably with friends there via Gmail which is apparently on the bad list.  In planning teaching I am unable to post materials for students on my Google blog, or, I hear, even on Dropbox or Google drive - because they are now inaccessible in China.
Through the wonders of crowd sourcing China La Translate has posted a translation of the most recent directive. - gwc
Chinese Journalists Warned Not to Work With Foreign Media -
by Kiki Zhao
"The Chinese government, which already maintains tight restrictions on the country’s media, has issued new warnings to local journalists not to cooperate with foreign news agencies. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which regulates the media, in a notice dated June 30 but posted on its website this week, alerts Chinese journalists not to pass on any information obtained in the course of their work to any foreign media groups or to domestic media where they are not employed, and it re-emphasizes that they are not permitted to write for foreign news agencies.
The directive follows an announcement in April 2013 that Chinese journalists were banned from publishing online any information acquired on the job without prior permission from their employers. The new notice defines such information in greater detail, including material gathered from documents or in interviews, meetings and other professional activities. It reminds journalists that they risk penalties if they disclose any information that has yet to be made public, particularly state or commercial secrets. And it requires media organizations to have their employees sign nondisclosure agreements, pledging not to transmit secrets."

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Bloody Gaza Onslaught Built on Foundation of Politics and Lies –

J.J. Goldberg details how Benjamin Netanyahu used the murder of three Israeli youth  to conduct thousands of  house to house searches in order to weaken Hamas.  As he escalated the rhetoric "we sanctify life, they sanctify death", the temperature rose and the Israeli leader ordered the army to begin a war the military opposed. - gwc
Bloody Gaza Onslaught Built on Foundation of Politics and Lies –
by J.J. Goldberg
"In the flood of angry words that poured out of Israel and Gaza during a week of spiraling violence, few statements were more blunt, or more telling, than this throwaway line by the chief spokesman of the Israeli military, Brigadier General Moti Almoz, speaking July 8 on Army Radio’s morning show: “We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard.”
That’s unusual language for a military mouthpiece. Typically they spout lines like “We will take all necessary actions” or “The state of Israel will defend its citizens.” You don’t expect to hear: “This is the politicians’ idea. They’re making us do it.”
Admittedly, demurrals on government policy by Israel’s top defense brass, once virtually unthinkable, have become almost routine in the Netanyahu era. Usually, though, there’s some measure of subtlety or discretion. This particular interview was different. Where most disagreements involve policies that might eventually lead to some future unnecessary war, this one was about an unnecessary war they were now stumbling into.
Spokesmen don’t speak for themselves. Almoz was expressing a frustration that was building in the army command for nearly a month, since the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli yeshiva boys. The crime set off a chain of events in which Israel gradually lost control of the situation, finally ending up on the brink of a war that nobody wanted — not the army, not the government, not even the enemy, Hamas."

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

China Rethinks the Death Penalty -

Six years ago I participated in a conference sponsored by the School of Criminal Justice at Beijing Normal University.  I was struck by how seriously the participants - professors,  prosecutors and retired judges - took the topic of capital punishment.  The Chinese Supreme People's Court had recently announced a policy captured in one of those concise Chinese four word phrases "kill fewer, kill carefully".  Since then China has been engaged in rethinking its capital punishment policies.  We don't know how many are executed there - it's a state secret and may be huge.  But the rethinking is unmistakable.  Search on this blog for "China death penalty" and you'll see what I mean. The process continues. - gwc
China Rethinks the Death Penalty -
by Mara Hvistendahl

SHANGHAI — Last month, China’s Supreme People’s Courtoverturned the death sentence of a woman who brutally killed and dismembered her husband. The landmark decision to send the high-profile case back to a provincial court was yet another sign that the country’s embrace of the death penalty is loosening.
China is believed to execute more people each year than the rest of the world combined, and 43-year-old Li Yan initially seemed a likely candidate for death row. In 2010, she beat her husband to death with an air gun, chopped him into pieces and boiled his body parts. But police photos and a medical report backed up Ms. Li’s claims that her husband had abused her — stubbing out cigarettes on her body, banging her head against the wall and threatening her with the air gun. The Supreme Court determined, rightly, that these circumstances justified a retrial.
China is putting the brakes on the death penalty. According to Liu Renwen, a legal scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, between 2007 and 2011 the annual number of executions in China fell by half. Many violent offenders are now given so-called suspended death sentences, which are invariably downgraded later to life in prison. Such restraint has drawn broad public support.

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From Freedom Riders to Vigilantes - the Decline of the Republican Party // Chris Ladd // GOP Lifer

freedomChris Ladd is a Republican because it is the only party that offers a vehicle for his small government/free market ideology.  But he is not a racist nor an obscurantist, which isolates him in today's GOP.  He reports here on the appalling responses to the refugee children and women who are fleeing to America. - gwc

GOP Lifer - Freedom Riders
A busload of desperate refugee children were being transferred this week from overcrowded facilities in South Texas to a location in California. They were greeted by a white mob blocking the road to the processing center. Morons chanting “impeach Obama” forced the buses to turn away.
Welcome to the arms of America.
Jeb Bush was right when he spoke about immigration reform this spring. It has probably ended his political career. Let’s review the sane, rational, measured comments that probably disqualified him for the Republican nomination:
“But the way I look at this — and I’m going to say this, and it’ll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”
The racists who have hijacked our immigration policy like to claim that they embrace immigration so long as it done “legally” through the “proper channels.” This infuriating lie is the cousin of the deceptive rhetoric used in the gun control debate about “enforcing existing gun laws.”

Monday, July 7, 2014

Law school enrollment fails to rebound after recession; local colleges make cuts - Metro - The Boston Globe

Law school enrollment fails to rebound after recession; local colleges make cuts - Metro - The Boston Globe:
by Peter Schworm
With a difficult job market making students increasingly hesitant to take on massive student loan debt, nearly all law schools in Massachusetts — one of the top areas in the nation for legal education — have seen enrollment suffer.
The persistent decline has forced many law schools to take drastic measures. Suffolk University, where first-year enrollment fell 15 percent last year, recently offered buyouts to all faculty with tenure or with renewable long-term contracts, and Western New England University in Springfield has pared back its faculty among a number of cost-cutting measures.
Boston University and Northeastern University have also seen enrollment fall, and even highly regarded Harvard University had seen applications dip, before rallying somewhat the past two years.
By all indications, the decline at many schools will continue this fall. Nationally, the number of applicants for the incoming class has dropped nearly 8 percent from last year, according to the Law School Admission Council.

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Pope Francis’ homily at Mass with sex abuse survivors

Pope Francis’ homily at Mass with sex abuse survivors:
(Vatican Radio)  In his homily at early morning mass at Santa Marta Monday, Pope Francis described his deep pain and suffering over Catholic religious who “betrayed their mission” and “abused innocent persons.”
6 victims of abuse were present for the mass in the Vatican guest house where they met Pope Francis and had the opportunity to speak with him privately. 
Below we publish the English translation of his homily, delivered in Spanish:
The scene where Peter sees Jesus emerge after a terrible interrogation…  Peter whose eyes meet the gaze of Jesus and weeps…  This scene comes to my mind as I look at you, and think of so many men and women, boys and girls.  I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons.  Today, I am very grateful to you for having travelled so far to come here.  
            For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering.   So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained until someone realized that Jesus was looking and others the same… and they set about to sustain that gaze. 
And those few who began to weep have touched our conscience for this crime and grave sin.  This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation.  It is something more than despicable actions.  It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence.  They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created.  Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God’s love and are eager to grow in the faith.  Today the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life long scars.

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