Editors’ Choice

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President Obama: “We don’t have religious tests to our compassion”

President Obama spoke in Antalya Turkey on Monday from the G20 Summit. Following his statement, he answered questions from the press

President Obama on ISIL and Islam and the refugee crisis:

The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. […]

And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem. […]

One of the places that you’re seeing this debate play itself out is on the refugee issue both in Europe, and I gather it started popping up while I was gone back in the United States. The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism. […]

… the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable. […]

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. And whether you are European or American, the values that we are defending — the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.

(full transcript below)

Weekly Address: President Obama – Giving Veterans Their Chance

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, President Obama honored our nation’s veterans, who have served and sacrificed in defense of our country. This past week, Americans came together on Veterans Day to pay tribute to those men and women in uniform who have risked their lives to protect our freedom.

In recent years we’ve worked to reduce the veterans’ unemployment rate to 3.9 percent and slash the disability claims backlog at the VA by nearly 90 percent from its peak. But there is still more that can be done. Since day one of his Administration, the President has remained committed to serving the brave men and women who have served us. And in his address, he reminded us that we all have a role to play in ensuring that veterans have the opportunities and support they deserve.

(In this week’s address, President Obama honored our nation’s veterans, who have served and sacrificed in defense of our country.)

North Cascades National Park and the North Cascades Highway Loop

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Late October, 2015
North Cascades Mountains
Washington State

A trip in late October took me over the North Cascades Highway, through the North Cascades National Park and to Chelan where I met my two brothers for our annual three day exploration of the region’s natural wonders. We traveled to the Grand Coulee and its Dam along with other remarkable remnants of the giant Ice sheets that carved out large segments of Washington State. At Chelan, we boarded a foot ferry for a 100 mile round trip up Lake Chelan to the isolated village of Stehekin. Finally I returned home to Bellingham via Stevens Pass to complete the North Cascades Highway Loop. I took too many photos for a single diary so I’ll break the trip into segments: the North Cascades National Park, Lake Chelan, and the Grand Coulee. All along the way the residue of the summer’s massive forest fires was prominent.

‘Concerned Student 1950,’ the history of black students at Missouri University, and black people in Columbia MO.

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By now we all know that University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe, and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin have resigned after protests by Concerned Student 1950, a hunger strike by grad student Jonathan Butler, and the support of the protests by faculty, members of the football team and its coaching staff.

Dave Zurin’s piece at The Nation, 3 Lessons From University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe’s Resignation, makes an important point:

The emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement threatens the operating of this machinery like nothing since the black athletic revolt of the 1960s and 1970s. These conferences, particularly the Southeastern Conference, field teams that, in the words of sports sociologist Harry Edwards, “look like Ghana on the field and Sweden in the stands.” In other words, black football players in particular have a social power often unseen and not commented upon. It’s there all the same.

These athletes are a sleeping giant. At a school like Mizzou, where just 7 percent of the students are black but a whopping 69 percent of the football players are, one can see how their entry in the struggle had a ripple effect that tore through Columbia and into the college football–crazed national consciousness.

This is not the first time that racism has reared its ugly head on college campuses across the U.S., and it won’t be the last. It is the first time in recent years that black student protest has had such powerful results.

The protests involved a list of demands from the student group. They have achieved some of them, and it is important to see how the University will deal with the rest.

President Obama: “We are going to lead by example””

Today, President Obama has announced his decision to not approve the building of the Keystone XL pipeline:

President Obama announces that his Administration is rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline. November 6, 2015.
President Obama:

This morning, Secretary Kerry informed me that, after extensive public outreach and consultation with other Cabinet agencies, the State Department has decided that the Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States. I agree with that decision. […]

America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. And that’s the biggest risk we face — not acting.

Today, we’re continuing to lead by example. Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.

President Obama: “Ban the Box”

On Monday, President Obama appeared at an event in Newark NJ to announce actions the Administration is taking to help rehabilitate Americans who have paid their debt to society.


Now, a lot of time, [a criminal] record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society — even if you’ve already paid your debt to society. It means millions of Americans have difficulty even getting their foot in the door to try to get a job much less actually hang on to that job. That’s bad for not only those individuals, it’s bad for our economy. It’s bad for the communities that desperately need more role models who are gainfully employed. So we’ve got to make sure Americans who’ve paid their debt to society can earn their second chance. […]

Number one, my administration is announcing new grants to help returning citizens seize that second chance through education and job training and housing and legal help and children’s services. (Applause.) […]

Point number two, I’m taking action to “ban the box” — (applause) — for the most competitive jobs at federal agencies.

Now, the federal government is a big employer, as you know, and like a lot of big employers, on many job applications there’s a box that asks if you have a criminal record. If you answer yes, then a lot of times you’re not getting a call back. We’re going to do our part in changing this. The federal government, I believe, should not use criminal history to screen out applicants before we even look at their qualifications. We can’t dismiss people out of hand simply because of a mistake that they made in the past.

(Full text of transcript below the fold)

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated

Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. Advancing policies and programs that enable these men and women to put their lives back on track and earn their second chance promotes not only justice and fairness, but also public safety. That is why this Administration has taken a series of concrete actions to reduce the challenges and barriers that the formerly incarcerated confront, including through the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a cabinet-level working group to support the federal government’s efforts to promote public safety and economic opportunity through purposeful cross-agency coordination and collaboration.

Weekly Address: President Obama – It’s Time To Reform our Criminal Justice System

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President spoke to the need for meaningful criminal justice reform in America. America faces a cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. The President believes that we can disrupt the pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, and make our criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more effective. That’s why in recent weeks, he has been traveling the country and meeting with Americans who are working to improve the criminal justice system, from law enforcement officials working to lower the crime and incarceration rates, to former prisoners who are earning their second chance. And on Monday, the President will travel to Newark, New Jersey to highlight efforts to help Americans who’ve paid their debt to society rejoin their communities.

He sang, fought for freedom, and was blacklisted. RIP Leon Bibb

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Leon Bibb. Born February 7, 1922 Died October 23, 2015

Some of you are too young to have lived through parts of the civil rights movement that included singers and musicians who used their voices and instruments to advance the struggle for racial justice. They are often referred to as “folk singers.” Some of those names, like Pete Seeger’s may be familiar to you, and others not.

I was blessed to grow up with parents who surrounded me with political activists. Among those activists were actors and musicians. When we moved to Hollis, Queens NYC when I was going into the 5th grade, a few blocks away from us was the home of friends of my parents—Leon Bibb, his wife and children. I got to spend a lot of time in and out of that home—the Bibbs had twins, Eric and Dorie, four years younger than I was and a younger daughter Amy. Through their doors would came Paul Robeson (Eric’s godfather), Theodore Bikel, Peter, Paul and Mary, and numerous other performing artists, including Leon’s brother-in-law pianist and jazz composer John Lewis.

Weekly Address: President Obama – Protecting Our Planet for Future Generations

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President laid out the importance of serving as good stewards of the environment and maintaining the planet for generations to come. Since taking office the President has prioritized protecting the places that make America special. He has repeatedly said that no challenge poses a greater threat to our future than a changing climate, which is why he’s taken bold actions at home and encouraged historic action abroad on the issue. In his address, he encouraged Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund which has protected more than 5 million acres of land for more than half a century, without costing taxpayers a dime. Republicans in Congress let the fund expire despite strong bipartisan support. And he reminded us that we all have to do our part to address climate change, promote clean energy and energy efficiency, and ensure a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations.

“We’re better than that!” Thank you Rep. Elijah Cummings

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There are many moments that will stand out for me, from the 10 hour abusive bullying “Benghazi hearing” circus conducted by Republicans which attempted to break former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and failed.

Of course there is Mrs. Clinton herself.

Brava Hillary!

I will never forget Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who came powerfully to her defense, and to the defense of what democracy is supposed to look like, and not the 10 hour travesty we witnessed.

“We’re better than that!”

Elijah Cummings Offers Passionate Defense of Hillary Clinton

Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi committee, offered a full-throated defense of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s honor, apologizing to her for his colleagues who suggested that she did not care for the people who died on her watch.

“I don’t know what we want from you,” Mr. Cummings said, accusing Republicans of using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign. “Do we want to badger you over and over again until you do get so tired so we get the gotcha moment?”

Clearly touched by his words, Mrs. Clinton thanked Mr. Cummings and said that she had done all that she could to answer more than ten hours of questions. She then expressed hope that, somehow, statesmanship could overcome partisanship.

“It is deeply unfortunate that something as serious as what happened in Benghazi could ever be used for partisan political purposes,” she said. “I’m hoping that we can move forward together.”