Liberia Ebola Crisis Worsens, Ukraine Faces New Challenges, Gaza Talks Collaspe into Chaos and Islamic State Militants Up the Pressure

On Wednesday, acting on their president’s orders, riot police and soldiers used scrap wood and barbed wire to quarantine 50,000 people inside their Liberian slum in order to contain the Ebola outbreak that has killed 1,350 people and counting across West Africa, according to Jonathon Paye-Layleh and Wade Williams, Liberia Seals Off Slum To Control Ebola, Angry Residents Clash With Troops. The World Health Organization said the death toll has risen quickly in Liberia accounting for 576 of the fatalities, while 2,473 people have been sickened across West Africa making this outbreak larger than the caseloads of all the previous two dozen combined. The U.N. health agency warned of food shortages, water shortages, and other essential supplies in West Africa’s population centers. In West Point, a densely populated slum surrounded by floating sewage, suffers from government neglect in the best of times and mistrust of authorities with open defecation being a major problem. Drinking water is carried in wheelbarrows and people need the market for their food. Mohamed Fahnbulleh, a resident, said: “Why are you ill-treating people like this? How can we take this kind of government to be peaceful? It is not fair — We are human.” Days earlier, residents ransacked a screening center where people in contact with Ebola victims were being monitored causing dozens of potential carriers to be taken somewhere else in the city. In a national address late Tuesday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf imposed a nighttime curfew and ordered the quarantine of West Point and Dolo Town adding: “There will be no movements in and out of those areas. We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government. Fellow citizens, these measures are meant to save lives … May God bless us all and save the State.” Via telephone, Deputy Police Chief Abraham Kromah said, “Please remain law-abiding; throwing stones at police officers and security officers is not the best way out.” While counties and districts have been sealed off in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guinea has imposed internal travel restrictions. The agency responded to shortages of food, fuel and basic supplies, by saying: “WHO is working with the U.N. World Food Program to ensure adequate food and supplies, but calls on companies to make business decisions based on scientific evidence.” Nigeria’s heath minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said Tuesday that a fifth person has died of Ebola, but all reported cases have been people in direct contact with a Liberian American man who arrived already infected. On Monday, Jonathan Paye-Layleh reported, 17 who fled Liberia Ebola clinic still missing, authorities were looking for the dozen or so patients who abandoned the Ebola quarantine center in Liberia’s capital during looting last weekend, even though several were still being tested and under observation. During the raid, 37 patients left possibly to return to their own communities, according to Information Minister Lewis Brown, however, 20 have been brought back to two hospitals. Meanwhile, the experimental drug from California based pharmaceutical company, ZMapp, was given to three Liberian health workers who contracted the virus are showing signs of recovery, officials reported Tuesday, Jonathon Paye-Layleh and John Heilprin report, Liberia: 3 receiving untested Ebola drug improving. In addition, two infected American received the treatment and are improving, while a Spaniard who also received the treatment died.

Turning our attention to a different kind of war, on Thursday, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, 5 Ukrainian troops killed; fierce battles reported, five troops and two civilians were killed in the past 24 hours in rebel held areas of eastern Ukraine as government forces try to regain territory from pro-Russian separatists. So far, the conflict has claimed 2,000 lives and displaced 340,000 people from their homes. Ukraine celebrates Independence Day on Sunday, while government forces aim to achieve a breakthrough by that date. On Monday Ukraine accused rebels of killing dozens of civilians in an attack ear on a convoy fleeing a besieged rebel held city, according to Vasilyeva, Refugee Convoy In Ukraine Hit By Rocket Fire, Dozens Reportedly Killed. The rebels denied any attack, while the U.S. confirmed the shelling of the convoy but did not know who was responsible. Col. Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine’s National Security Council spokesman, told reports: “Many people were killed, among them women and children” between the towns of Khryashchuvate and Novosvitlivka adding: “We are not able to count the death toll at this point.” Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky, a Ukrainian government’s military operation spokesman, told the Associated Press 15 bodies had been recovered from the smoldering vehicles and servicemen were collecting the body parts of at least 10 more people. Donetsk rebel chief Alexander Zakharchenko said no attack took place and Andrei Purgin, his deputy, said he had no information either: “If someone was killed, it wasn’t us but the Ukrainian military.” The U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told report in Washington: “We strongly condemn the shelling and rocketing of a convoy that was bearing internally displaced persons in Luhansk and express our condolences to the families of the victims. All sides must take every precaution to protect innocent lives. We are unable to confirm reports of who was responsible for the shelling and rocketing.” Residents of Luhansk have had no running water, electricity or phone connections for 16 days as fighting continues around the city and food is short in supply making it harder to secure food. Tensions have increased as Russia over the past week said it plans to send a massive aid convoy to help rebel held eastern Ukraine. A Red Cross spokeswoman in the region told the Associated Press that they are still waiting for security guarantees as 200 Russian aid trucks.

In the Middle East on Tuesday, Egyptian attempts to make a deal to end the month long conflict between Israel and Hamas has collapsed into heavy fighting Tuesday as Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets and Israeli responded with airstrikes across Gaza killing two people, Ibrahim Barzak reports, Egyptian cease-fire efforts collapse. The violence erupted hours before the temporary truce ended as Israel withdrew its delegation from Cairo Tuesday afternoon and quickly resumed its airstrikes following rocket fire. The two fatalities were the first since a temporary truce last Wednesday started. An Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said, “The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities. When Hamas breaks the cease-fire, they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly, the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today’s rocket fire.” No one knows if the team will return to Cairo or whether Israel will continue to talk as Egyptian security officials are still pressing the two sided to agree to a ceasefire. So far, more than 2,000 Palestinians mostly civilians have been killed, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials, with tens of thousands displaced compared to 64 Israeli solider, two Israeli citizens and a guest workers dying.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, U.S. officials said military planners were weighing the possibility of sending a small number of additional U.S. troops into Baghdad as insurgents threaten to kill a second American captive in retribution for airstrikes that have pounded Islamic state militants, Lolita C. Baldor and Lara Jakes reports, Military Considering Sending Additional Troops To Iraq, Officials Say. The strike came hours after militants released a gruesome video Tuesday showing U.S. journalist James Foley being beheaded and underscored President Barack Obama’s promise Wednesday to continue attacks against the group. According to senior U.S. officials the number would be fewer than 300 additional troops. The militants threatened to kill Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who is being held captive, if the U.S. continues to conduct airstrikes. According to Baldor and Jakes: “Currently there are about 748 U.S. forces in Iraq, in addition to the approximately 100 troops that have routinely been assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation in Baghdad. Under the current war powers resolutions sent to Congress, Obama authorized up to 775 U.S. troops for security assistance, assessment teams, and advisers at two joint operations centers in Baghdad and Irbil.” Foley, a 40 year old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, went missing in northern Syria while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013 and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine. Larak Jakes reports, Obama: US won’t stop confronting Islamic State, while the execution of journalist James Foley drew international condemnation as western nations stepped up their efforts to counter the militants, in capitals across the Middle East, Foley’s death was met with silence even in Syria and Iraq. On social media, people condemned Foley’s killing, but stressed the Islamic State has been committing atrocities against Iraqis and Syrians for years. On Wednesday, outside their home in Rochester, New Hampshire, Diane and John Foley addressed reporters: “We are just very proud of Jimmy and we are praying for the strength to love like he did and keep courageous and keep fighting for all the people he was fighting for. We pray for all the remaining Americans.” Obama, from Martha’s Vineyard, said: “Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim,” Obama said. “All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us mourn his loss.” Since August 8, 84 airstrikes have been carried out in Iraq on Islamic State targets including security checkpoints, vehicles and weapons caches. The New York based Committee to Protect Journalist said more than 80 journalist have been abducted in Syria and estimates 20 are still missing. On Monday, Pope Francis endorsed the use of force to stop Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq but said the international community not one country should decide how to intervene, Nicole Winfield reports, Pope Francis Endorses Use Of Force In Iraq To Stop Persecution Of Religious Minorities. Francis responded as follows to whether or not he approved of U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State militants: “In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.” However he said, in history, such excuses to stop an unjust aggressors has been used by world powers to justify a war of conquest in which entire people have been taken over. He added, “One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor. After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.” The Associated Press reported Wednesday, US mission to rescue hostages in Syria failed, that the administration disclosed that President Barack Obama sent special operations troops to Syria this summer on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including journalist James Foley, held by Islamic State extremists, but they did not find them. Lisa Monaco, Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor, said in a statement: “The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens. Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”

Gaza Truce Holds for Second Day, While Fighting Continues in Other Parts of the Middle East and Ukraine

Luckovich cartoon: Mideast fighting

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For the second day now, a ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas has ended the month long fighting ahead of negotiations in Cairo for a long term truce and broader deal for the Gaza Strip, the Associate Press reports, Cease-fire in Gaza holds for second day. On Wednesday, delegations from both sides plus Egyptian mediators met in Cairo to work out a deal with some of Hamas’ negotiating points including an internationally funded reconstruction of Gaza, which would be overseen by a Palestinian unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas. The ceasefire is the longest pause in the war that killed 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis including three civilians. The lull in the violence allowed people to return to their devastated homes and inspect the damage.

In Ukraine, the story changes as Ukrainian government forces backed by warplanes advanced their military offensive to reclaim lost territory from pro-Russian separatists on Tuesday and cautiously watched Russia’s military exercises over the border, according to Richard Blamforth, Ukraine Fighting Intensifies Amid Tensions With Russia. In the 24 hours up to Tuesday morning, Kiev’s military said government forces clashed 26 times with separatists in the east as fighter jets struck at rebel positions and concentrations of military equipment. In addition, Ukraine condemned Russian war games near the joint border as provocation and violating Ukrainian air space by Russian warplanes and drones as well as cross border shelling. Defense officials said separatist on Tuesday opened fire on unarmed Ukrainian Soldiers crossing back into Ukraine from Russia where they took shelter from fighting. Ukraine confirmed Monday that 311 soldiers and border guards were forced by fighting to cross the border saying they destroyed their weapons before crossing back, however, the rebels said they left them behind allowing separatists to seize them. In the past 24 hours, three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 46 wounded in action against separatists. Fighting since April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said more than 1,100 people including government forces, rebels and civilians have died, while 730,000 Ukrainians have left the country into Russia this year due to fighting according to the European head of the United Nations agency for refugees. Defense spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that Ukrainian forces had come under mortar and artillery attack from Russia and Russia has been violating Ukrainian airspace with Russian planes. In addition to a foreign ministry statement calling for Russia to pull back its forces, he said, “Ukraine regards the carrying out of such unprecedented military exercises on the border with Ukraine as a provocation.”

On Wednesday, a senior Kurdish official told Reuters that Kurdish forces attacked Islamic State fighters 25 miles from Arbil in norther Iraq, the Kurdish regional capital, Reuters reports, Kurds, Islamic State clash near Kurdish regional capital. Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the ministry of the Kurdish peshmerga fighters, said: “We have changed our tactics from being defensive to being offensive. Now we are clashing with the Islamic State in Makhmur.” Yawar also confirmed that the Kurds have re-established military cooperation with Baghdad after a dramatic weekend offensive in the north by the Sunni militants prompted the Kurdish leadership and the Shi’ite led governments of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to bury the hatchet. The two, who previously fought over oil, budgets and land, now are working together against the biggest threat to Iraq’s security since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Yawar said 50,000 members of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority are hiding in the mountains near Sinjar and risk starving to death if they are not rescued in 24 hours.

Meanwhile Wednesday, in Lebanon, state media reported clashes breaking out in a border town held by Islamic extremists from Syria after negotiating a cease fire, mediate by Muslim clerics, collapsed overnight, the Associate Press reports, New clashes break out in Lebanese border town. The ceasefire was meant to help end four days of fighting in Arsal and allow for the negotiations for the release of captive Lebanese solders, however, the National News Agency reported fighting again early Wednesday with militants firing on troops. So far, 17 Lebanese troops have died and 22 soldiers and an unknown number of police are missing.

While fighting continues, migrants flow into Europe in alarming numbers causing tension in France where clashes between asylum seekers in camps and police broke out as tear gas is fired to quell the chaos, Elaine Ganley reports, Migrants clash in France as camp tensions soar. Sudanese and Eritreans battle the heat in Calais, a port city in France, while Africans fight for space and try to sneak into Britain some 20 miles away. British police tried to prevent people from crossing over as their french counterparts fired tear gas Tuesday to break up this third battle which left 51 injured and one critical, according to the Calais prefecture. Migrants fleeing poverty and war in African and the Middle East arrive in Calais with hopes of crossing the channel using the ferry or on cargo laden trucks. Their numbers have increase up to 1,300 in the city at the edge of the English Channel overwhelming the city, aid agencies and police. Deputy Mayor Philippe Mignonet, in charge of security, said, “There are migrants who arrive each day and each day some who succeed in getting to Britain. Calais has been taken hostage.” The Monday night and twice Tuesday clashes were a culmination of a month long tug of war between Calais and migrants after the city bulldozed makeshift camps in May and the migrants then occupied a food distribution center but were expelled. Now, authorities want to expel hundreds in two abandoned factories causing migrants to turn on each other. Noemie Bourdet of aid group Secours Catholique in Calais believes the clashes are over a place at a parking lot where smugglers didn’t ask for payments, even though, migrants are usually forced to pay for a place in line in a parking lot where trucks leave for Britain. In addition, Bourdet addressed the charge that Calasi migrants are simply a security problem: “They expel them without solutions.” However, Mignonet disagrees: “It is a doubly catastrophic situation for us. People only talk of Calais for its migrant problems … This seriously hurts the city’s image.”

Relief for the VA, Paul Ryan Rants, Saving Chicago, DC Gun Laws and Fast Food Worker’s Rights

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After six weeks of negotiations, House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a compromise to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays and deaths. Matthew Daly reports, After 6 weeks, finally a deal on VA health care, the chairman of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees will hold a news conference on Monday afternoon to unveil a plan to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care. An agreement Sunday by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House panel, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate veterans panel chair, was reached after many private meetings, no shows and public spats with only days left until Congress goes on a five week recess. A partisan impasse loomed which both sides hoped to avoid what Miller called the “sort of bickering and name-calling for which Washington has become infamous.” Three days later, via telephone from Florida and Vermont, Miller and Sanders were on the same page. The tentative deal requires a vote by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators and a full vote in the House and Senate. The plan announced Monday, according to Miller and Sanders, is intended to “make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.” Luis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, said on Sunday: “There is an emergency need to get veterans off the waiting lists. That’s what this is all about.” Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said: “It’s about time they’re doing their jobs. You don’t get a medal for doing your job.” An updated audit by the VA this month shows 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics still wait 30 days for an appointment with 46,000 veterans waiting at least three months for an initial appointment and an additional 7,00 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade that never got them. The Senate and House are set to adjourn at the end of the week until September and lawmakers from both parties see the VA bill as a top priority. Meanwhile, the Senate is also expected to vote this week to confirm former Procter Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary, replacing Gibson.

While one problem may potentially be resolved this week, on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) condemned the federal government’s approach to poverty reduction claiming the Obama administration is responsible for the system that “perpetuates poverty” in America, according to Ashley Alman’s article Paul Ryan Accuses Obama Administration Of System That ‘Perpetuates Poverty.’ On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Ryan came to discuss his new poverty proposal involving consolidating 11 federal anti-poverty programs including food stamps and housing vouchers into one program coordinated by each state. Host David Gregory commented that Ryan sounded like he had little “sympathy” for impoverished Americans. Ryan responded by saying: “We don’t want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. The federal government’s approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty, in many ways it has disincentivized people from going to work. Able-bodied people should go to work, and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential.” Ryan announced his poverty proposal Thursday saying it is an opportunity for reform that would be “budget neutral.” However, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) disagrees: “The core idea of the Ryan proposal is not a new idea at all: it’s nothing more than a block grant gussied up with some bells and whistles. If you look at the block grant proposal in the context of the Ryan-Republican budget, it would dramatically slash the resources available to help struggling families.”

As families to continue to struggle to keep their heads above water, cities are not only struggling to keep people working, but keep gun violence to a minimum. Glenn Minnis reports, Can Noah’s Arc save streets of Chicago?, Joakim Noah, an NBA All Star Center, on Friday spoke to a room full of teens and adolescents at a Major Adams Community Center room about gun and gang violence culture so out of control it has brought his hometown of Chicago to its knees. Noah spoke of his motivation to start his “Stand up Chicago” campaign: “It’s very important that we understand that this is not just a problem that’s going on on the South Side, the violence is not a problem that’s going on on the West Side. This is a Chicago problem.” Noah also enlisted the help of teammate and Chi-town native Derrick Rose who appeared on a 60 second PSA for his initiative. Join by rapper and Chicago native Common, he states in the PSA: “I stand for my city.” In a statement on his Noah’s Arc Foundation site, Noah and his mom, Cecilia Rodhe, called on all Chicagoans to “take a stand against violence and become ambassadors for peace and positivity.” Over the first seven months of the year, 207 homicides have taken place in Chicago with the most recent incident on July 4 weekend where the L.A. Times reported at least 16 people killed and 82 injured over three and half days. In response, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has added seven more ATF agents to its former roster of 45 in hopes of somehow of corralling all the madness, according to Minnis. Noah summed up the goal of his organization by saying: “As somebody who plays for the Bulls, I feel like I’m somebody who represents the city, and I think that helping our youth is important. The summer months bring a lot of violence, and we felt it was urgent to get a public service announcement out now in order to bring some hope, change and support to the community. We have to find a way together, whether you’re rich, poor, black, white, whatever you are, to come together and solve this together. To me personally, this is just as important as winning a championship.”

Meanwhile, gun advocates in Washington, D.C. this weekend celebrate following a federal judge ruling that struck down the city’s ban on handguns in public, the AOL article, D.C.’s gun laws take another hit in handgun carry ruling, explains. District Judge Frederick Scullin reached the conclusion many other district courts reached in similar cases: “The Second Amendment secures an individual right … to carry a common weapon outside the home for self-defense.” The ruling prevents D.C. officials from enforcing public gun bans until licensing regulations are put in place. In 2008 a Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, overturned the city’s total ban on handguns ruling the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own weapons for self-defense, AOL reports. The latest decision comes from an Aug. 2009 lawsuit that, according to SCOTUSblog notes, got tangled up in the D.C. district’s legal red tape for five years frustrating the plaintiffs. “The challengers to the D.C. law tried repeatedly to get a ruling, even asking a federal appeals court to step in to command that the case be decided.” In addition, Congress is challenging gun control in D.C. House Republicans approved an amendment to the district’s funding bill that would prevent D.C. from enforcing their gun laws. However, it will still be illegal to bring to a gun into a federal building. D.C. officials have yet to announce plans to appeal the ruling, but a spokesman told reporters the city is looking into options.

As the gun fight rages on, on Saturday, fast food workers across the nation voted to escalate efforts for $15 an hour pay and union membership using nonviolent civil disobedience. More than 1,300 workers came together at a convention center in Chicago to discuss the future of a campaign to spread to dozens of cities in less than two years, Tammy Webber reports, Fast Food Workers Vow Civil Disobedience. The Service Employee International Union provides financial and organizational support to fast food protests. They began in 2012 in New York City including daylong strikes and peaceful demonstrations outside this year’s McDonald’s Corp. shareholder meeting where 130 protestors were arrested for stepping onto company property. Saturday’s convention in Villa Park, Illinois, included session on civil disobedience and leadership training. Rev.William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, said: “People should not work and be willing to work and then be denied living wages and be denied health care because of greed. This movement is saying that America is less than she promises to be, morally and constitutionally, by denying living wages. If you raise wages for workers, you buoy the whole economy.” The movement comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats try to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wage which stands at $7.25 an hour for federal wages or about $15,000 per year for40 hours a week. Obama and others want to increase it to $10.10. The restaurant industry argues that a $15 hourly wage would lead to business closing and job cuts. According to Webber: “The National Restaurant Association said last week that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership.” Scott DeFife, the association;s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said protesters are “demonizing” an industry that employs all ages, backgrounds and skill levels instead of focusing on policies to increase education and job training. Unfortunately, many workers say that people stay in these jobs for years because they are the only ones available. Barber believes that “this movement is intensifying and it is going to shake the moral consciousness of this country.”

The History of Gay Religious Activism in the U.S.

LGBT RELIGIOUS HISTORY

Not unlike the thousands of public parties held this past June during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, hundreds of gay San Franciscans gathered on New Year’s Day 1965 for the much anticipated Mardi Gras Ball held at 625 Polk Street in the Tenderloin District. The most interesting aspect of the San Francisco ball was the fact it was held as a fundraiser for pro-gay clergy, according to Jaweed Kaleem’s article Unearthing The Surprising Religious History Of American Gay Rights Activism. Although today Americans for (homophiles or gay right activists) and against gay rights typically use their religious beliefs as the reasons, those who oppose same sex marriage and other rights for LGBT individuals have continued to declare that God is on their side. However, in the mid 1960s, LGBT activists often looked to men of the cloth as allies in the fight for justice and human rights, according to historians. Just months before the event, two dozen Bay Area Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal and United Church of Christ clergy and gay activists joined together to form the Council on Religion and and Homosexual in order to promote “need for a better understanding of human sexuality” and its “broad variations and manifestations.” Clergy and lawyers had negotiate with the police on behalf of the group to let the dance happen, but according to contemporary new articles, police showed up to take pictures of those attending the ball in order to intimidate them. When cops wanted to come inside, the lawyers blocked them causing six people to end up in jail for interfering with police and disorderly conduct. The clergy fought back with a press conference the next day and mobilized the city’s gay community and the pastors. In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit over the arrest making it the first time the ACLU had joined in the fight for gay rights, according to the LGBT Religious Archives Network.

According to Kaleem’s article: “‘That was years before the 1969 Stonewall riots, which is popularly considered the beginning of the gay rights movement,’ said Heather White, a visiting assistant professor of religion at the New College of Florida who has spent years combing through LGBT archives for an upcoming book, tentatively titled Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights. ‘And that’s just one of the best-known stories. There were Councils on Religion and Homosexuality and similar groups in D.C., Pennsylvania, Ottawa, Hawaii.””

The LGBT Religious Network along with a growing group of scholars such as White have documented hundreds of stories like the San Francisco clergy since it was found 13 years ago at the United Church of Christ-affiliated Chicago Theological Seminary based now in Berkely, California, at the Pacific School of Religion’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. The organization’s website offers a series of profiles of and oral history interviews with Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Pagan LGBT clergy and religious activists, living and dead, Kaleem reports.White, part of the network advisory committee, explains that the expectations about how religion would view gay rights changed after the 1960s.

White explains, “What we know of the face of religion and gay rights has been shaped by a shift that occurred in the 1970s with the rise of conservative Christianity. It’s a consolidated political force that wasn’t in place before then. There were certainly conservative people and religious people who were involved in politics, but in the 1950s and 1960s, homophile organizations saw religious leaders as likely allies. That is less of the case today, though things are changing.”

A Pew Research Center survey released last Thursday reported that 62 percent of American believe homosexuality should be accepted rather than frowned upon by society, but there is still a clear division between religious Americans as far as gay rights are concerned especially same sex marriages. Recent polls show that white evangelicals strongly oppose gay marriage, while the nation’s largest churches do not support same sex marriage e.g. the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Catholic American individuals tend to support gay marriage with several additional denomintaions allowing clergy to perform same sex marriages or blessings e.g.  the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and both Reform and Conservative Jews. According to Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry and an associate professor of cultural and historical studies at the Pacific School of Religion, “Some of the biggest gay rights activists and organizations started their work in churches.” Additionally, Schalger believes the inaccurate and widespread perception of religion firmly opposing gay right has changed as well, Kaleem reports. He explains, “It’s come to the point that sometimes people today say it’s more difficult to come out as a person of faith than it is to come out as LGBT in religious circles.” Melissa Wilcox, who also sits on the LGBT Religious Archives Network’s advisory committee and is an associate professor of religion and gender studies at Whitman College, has this to say: “With the increasing visibility of the marriage rights movement, we have started to see LGBT-supportive groups [within religious communities] being able to get their message out more clearly. That’s a battle for them, but many have been there all along.”

After decades of church activism, the Presbyterian Church General Assembly in the Unites States last week voted to allow pastors to officiate gay marriages in states where it is legal. An additional vote will take place to determine if the definition of marriage should be changed to cover two people not just a man and woman. Wilcox sums it up best by saying,”A lot of people are still wary of anything you’d call religion. A lot of people have been burned. But there’s a rich history out there of gay religious activism for us to appreciate and uphold.”

It’s the Little Things that Lead to Big Change

The news ain’t all bad here. Some stories highlight the good deed of a few that are bringing attention to the important issues of this generation and maybe thr next. As the world’s leader continue to struggle to find the answers and some sort of conclusion to the ever growing problems of peace, population, climate change and a plethora of other issues, these individuals have found a way to make their voice heard whether to help others or bring the issues to light. So here we go, some good news to help keep your faith in humanity.
Banana vitamin: Altered to increase Vitamin A levels, super banana saves
According to AOL.com and Agence France-Presse, ‘Super bananas’ may save millions of lives in Africa, Australian researchers are pioneering a new project to enrich bananas with alpha and beta carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A in order to provide poor and subsistence farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food. The project, if successful in its mission to grow the special variety in Uganda by 2020, will save million of lives. The Researchers as of June 16 have announced the bananas are being sent to the United States to start the six week trial to measure how well the bananas will raise vitamin A levels in humans.

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In Mexico City, as the world watches with bated breath to see who will win the World Cup, for the past 18 years another kind of soccer championship has been going on. AOL.com reported on the 17 of June about the men of the Ignacio Trigueros Soccer League for the Blind and Visually Impaired who spend their Sundays traveling from their homes to Mexico City to play the country’s most popular sport. Each team has one sighted player or two visually impaired players who use their eyes on the court, while others wear blindfolds to make sure the match is fair. Without their sight, they rely on sounds the ball makes when it hits the boards or rolls at their feet. The six team league allows a rare chance for the blind and visually impaired community to come together and play their favorite sports while family watches, according to the league president Javier Mosqueda Lomeli.

Ad courtesy of Jim Romenesko

HuffPost’s Eleanor Goldberg’s on June 18 reported the story of a Chinese multimillionaire has decided to come to New York city to tackle the issue of poverty.  In the article, Chinese Mogul To Throw $1 Million Lunch In Central Park For The Poor, Goldberg explains that Chen, a recycling tycoon, wants people to see how generous people are in his country by “taking out a half page ad in the Wall Street Journal and a full-page ad in The New York Times on Monday June 16, inviting people who are struggling in New York City to lunch at Central Park’s Boathouse on June 25, the South China Morning Post reported.” The idea? To spread the message that not all well to do Chinese millionaires are crazy spenders and are good philanthropists, according to the South China Morning Post. The guest list will allow 1,000 people to attend the free meal and will cost $1 million. In addition, diners will get $300 to be used toward occupational training. This is not the first time Chen has created a spectacle to get people talking about important issues. Last January, Chen handed out free cans of fresh air in Beijing to draw attention to the increasing pollution problem reported the Guardian.

ronnie goodman

Another article posted by Eleanor Goldberg of HuffPost, entitled Homeless Artist To Run Half Marathon For Charity That Helps People On The Streets, posted on June 17, tells the story of Ronnie Goodman, as homeless man himself, who has decided to run a 13.1 mile half marathon for charity next month. The 53 year old man has been living under the freeway in San Francisco, according to San Francisco Chronicle, and trains every day to fulfill his dream of running in the event. His fans have stepped up and donated $120 to cover the entry fee for the July race. Instead of using the race to raise money for himself, Goodman has decided to give the money to Hospitality House who has helped him get back on his feet. The organization empowers the homeless and low income people through a number of initiatives including the art program Goodman takes part in. Goodman hopes to raise $25,000 and donors will be entered to win one of his original works. If you would like to help click here.

In an Associate Press story covered on AOL.com entitled Obama Expands Government Benefits For Gay Couples, the article covers the plethora of newly approved benefits allocated to same sex couples granted on June 20 by the Obama administration including those who live in states where gay marriage is against the law. The new measures range from Social Security and veterans benefits to work leave for caring for sick spouses. The effort to expand protections to states that don’t recognize gay marriage have been confounded by laws stating that benefits are conferred only to couples whose marriages are recognized by the state they live in rather than the states where they were married. In order to get around this, the Veterans Affairs Department and Social Security Administration are letting gay people who tell the government they are married to apply for those benefits only allocated to married couples i.e. veterans can now be buried alongside their same sex spouse in the national cemetery and apply for survivor and death benefits regardless of the state they live in. In additions, the Labor Department will start drafting rules that make it possible for gay and lesbian workers to receive unpaid leave to care for a sick spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act. On top of everything else. last week, the Obama administration with support of gay rights advocated has announced he will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Please Help: He Served His Country in WWII Now He’s Served with An Eviction


To help out grandpa please click here.

The worst part is the eviction is coming from an unlikely place…his daughter and son in law. With so many people suffering around the world due to the financial crisis, so many people have come together to help their fellow man in this time of need without any incentive to do so. To all those everyday heroes, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The man above of course is not my grandpa, but refers to himself on YouTube as grandpa who reminds me of my grandfather and other men who dutifully served their country in its greatest hour of need. It tugs at my heart strings to see the payback veterans of wars and let’s be honest the elderly in general get which is zilch. Sometimes people look at them as a forgotten relic of history inching every closer to deaths door (just look at nursing homes), however I see them as an insight into the past and the greatest story tellers. Some witnessed, participated and influenced the greatest moments in history and hold true to oral traditions the way they happen not the way we as Americans hear it. So a tribute to the man above is in order, I want to tell his story in hopes of everyday heroes coming to this humble mans rescue with help from an AOL article.

While scrolling through the myriad of articles on AOL, I happened upon this man’s story. Why did it touch me so? I have a grandfather like everyone else and like his granddaughter I have had to deal with feuding among family member over sorry to say some really stupid things. My goal as I am sure her goal is to ensure his quality of life remains the same and stays surrounded by the memories built in his home and not what works for everyone else. According to the article, a family feud between father and daughter could leave this 91 year old World War II veteran out on the street after his daughter gained ownership of his southern Ohio home and served him with eviction papers. His granddaughter, Jaclyn Fraley, is trying to keep him in his home he built as the deadline approaches on June 12.

The back story seems even more tragic. Fraley told AOL that when the elderly Potter fell ill he signed over his power of attorney then transferred his Zaleski, Ohio home to his daughter, Janice Cottrill (Fraley’s mother) in 2004. The man built his home 54 years ago according to WCMH-TV in Columbus. When Cottrill took custody of her autistic brother who was living in the home with the elderly Potter, a feud erupted between Cottrill and Potter over visitation rights ending in Cottrill serving Potter with eviction papers. His granddaughter sees how much it hurts her grandfather and has not spoken to her mother except through her lawyers over the past two years. When the two went to court to try and get the home back, the court sided with Cottrill in a May 2012 decision saying the statue of limitations had expired. The judge is expected to hand down an eviction time frame to Potter on June 12 according to AOL.

Both Janice Cottrill and her husband Dean declined to comment as their attorney, Lorene Johnston, told AOL that the two are “attempting to stir up public sentiment for themselves.” The craziest part of the story as most attorney would say is the case has been reduced to nothing more than a “a simple eviction process for someone who doesn’t own the home and doesn’t pay any rent.” Call me crazy but the man own the home and built it so I am confused. Dean Cottrill did say to WCMH that Potter had filed suit against him and Janice for visitation rights with his song and “For him to stay in that home, it is real simple. Leave Joe alone and stop the lawsuits.” Imagine a father that wants to see his son…hmmmmm…oh yeah this old man deserved everything he gets for being a good dad (I am being sarcastic if you could not tell).

Here is where the help comes in pay attention. Now the granddaughter (pictured left with grandpa) has decided to try and raise the money to keep her grandfather in his house. The goal is $125,000 so she can buy back the house from her mother, so far she has raised as of Wednesday evening $9,442 through donations and a lot of support. She’s set up a fundraising site on GoFundMe.com and says her grandfather is overwhelmed with the support he has received so far. “I hope he gets his house back, and lives out his best years in his house,” donor John Pirrone wrote on Fraley’s fundraising page. “Thank you for coming through for us in WWII, I hope that we can come through for you,” wrote donor Robert Sharpe. One veteran even donated $1,000 to her effort, she said. “The veterans community has been overwhelmingly supportive,” Fraley said. “To see this go almost viral, it’s what happens when one of your wildest dreams come true.” Thank you AOL for reporting on this as the news doesn’t report enough about the good people are doing on a daily basis. If you would like to help out this grandpa representing all of our elderly, please go to the site underneath the YouTube video and pledge your support.

Poverty has an Expiration Date?

According the World Bank, it does. What is the difference between extreme poverty and poverty? Who defined it? While the governments of the world figure this out, the World Bank has set a deadline for 2030 to end extreme global poverty emphasizing that the poorest benefit from strong growth and rising prosperity in developing nations Reuters reports. According to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Saturday following a meeting of the World Bank’s Development Committee, “For the first time in history we have committed to setting a target to end poverty. We are no longer dreaming of a world free of poverty; we have set an expiration date for extreme poverty.”  The goal plans to reduce extreme poverty to 3 percent and target the bottom 40 percent of people living in each country of the developing world.

The target of the World Bank aims to guide the institution and work with the United Nations to make plans post-2015 poverty strategy to replace existing goals. The developing world has seen a growth of about 6 percent annually in their economies with millions of people being lifted out of poverty creating a new global middle class which has also allowed for increases in growing inequality. As the Committee explains, “We recognize that sustained economic growth needs a reduction in inequality. Investments that create opportunities for all citizens and promote gender equality are an important end in their own right, as well we being integral to creating prosperity.” This week the World Bank released figures that show extreme poverty has plunged since 1990 with 21 percent from 43 percent and that most of the poor are heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while China has slashed extreme poverty according to Reuters. Kim also said climate change and investments in heath and education were discussed as well.

The meeting also called for donor fundraising campaigns by the World Bank’s fund for its poorest borrowers urging strong participation by all countries. Every three years according to Huff Post, donors from rich and developing economies alike raise funds for the Bank’s International Development Association or IDA, while the United States, Britain and Nordic nations are usually the biggest funders for the past several years Brazil, India, China, Chile, Argentina and Peru have also donated funds. However with the current financial climates in Europe and the United States, the World Bank will be more restrictive when it comes to how the money is used so not to impact the poor. The emphasis according to Kim should be on helping fragile  and conflict hit countries.