Texas Voter Turnout Was Higher On Its First Day of Early Voting Than It Was In 2010

Say no to vote suppression

Image: The Nation


Wendy Davis with help from groups that support her is leading the way in the people’s fight against vote suppression.

While Greg Abbott dedicates his efforts to disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of eligible voters in Texas, Wendy Davis is encouraging voters to exercise their franchise and Davis’ efforts are paying off.

Monday was the first day of early voting in Texas and according to figures released by the Secretary of State, voter turnout in the six largest counties were higher than the first day of early voting in 2010.

This is a direct result of the hard work and dedication by groups who support Wendy Davis. Led by Battleground Texas voter registration groups rolled up their sleeves and got to work registering millions of voters, many of whom are minorities. While Greg Abbott decided it better served his interests to disenfranchise these voters, Texans with the help of voter registration groups had a different idea.

So far, there have been no reports of problems at the polls.

No doubt, supporters of vote suppression laws will argue this proves that the laws in question do not and never were intended to suppress the vote. The fact is, people will be disenfranchised be it under the strictest voter ID law in the United States for reasons I and others have stated on numerous occasions.  While some states may offer “free voter ID” the costs involved in getting the documents needed to get that “free ID” still amount to an unaffordable poll tax.  Often Republicans will say the ID is “free” for people who can’t afford it, but fail to mention the costs that go with getting the ID needed to get the “free voter ID.”  Aside from the costs of those documents, it means taking time off work.  That means aside from the costs, voters are hit with the additional financial penalty of losing income.

The fact is, Republicans know it and some, are saying it.  Chris Christie said categorically that Republicans have to win gubernatorial elections so that they can control “voting mechanisms.”

Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?

Rick Scott, Scott Walker and John Kasich have all been before the courts defending “laws” that amount to perpetrating a fraud on the public under the pretense that they care about stopping election fraud.

Republicans like to muddy the waters by suggesting that being a Republic and having honest, fair and open elections are mutually exclusive. The truth is that Republicans they are willing to throw free and fair elections under the bus because they can’t win by honest means.

It’s up to us to send Republicans a loud and clear message that rigging elections has consequences.  Stealing people’s votes will not be tolerated.

The groups led by Battleground Texas are showing us how it’s done.

Voter ID Law Struck Down in TX, WI

Gov. Rick Perry R-TX | Tom Pennington

The Daily Beast

Sorry Rick…

The Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from implementing its new voter-ID law on Thursday, the same night that a federal judge in Texas struck down that state’s law requiring voters to produce government-issued identification before voting. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos, an Obama appointee, ruled that Texas’s law amounted to an “unconstitutional poll tax” intended to discriminate against Hispanic and black citizens. She said that although she found no “smoking guns” of racist intentions in the 2011 session in which the law was passed, the law’s sponsors “were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter-ID law’s detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate.” A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that the state will “immediately appeal” the ruling. The Supreme Court gave no reason for its ruling, but Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissented, arguing that they cannot block an appeals court unless it “clearly and demonstrably erred in its application of accepted standards.”

10 things you need to know today: October 3, 2014

An ambulance waits outside of the Dallas apartment where an U.S. ebola patient was staying.

U.S. journalist in Liberia is stricken with Ebola, Appeals judges uphold Texas abortion rule, and more

The Week

1. U.S. journalist in Liberia stricken with Ebola
An American freelance journalist working for NBC News in Liberia has been diagnosed with Ebola, the network said Thursday. The 33-year-old man, whose name is being withheld at his family’s request, began showing symptoms on Wednesday, one day after NBC hired him as a second cameraman for NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman. The rest of the crew members, including Snyderman, are being monitored but have shown no symptoms of Ebola. [New York Daily News]


2. Appeals judges uphold Texas abortion rule, forcing 13 clinics to close
A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Texas can enforce a law requiring abortion clinics to be built according to the same standards as hospitals, effectively ordering 13 of the state’s 21 remaining abortion clinics to shut down immediately. The law had been struck down as unconstitutional in August and placed on hold pending appeals. Abortion rights activists said the latest decision “gutted Texas women’s rights” to safe abortion. State officials said it vindicated lawmakers trying to ensure that clinics are safe. [Los Angeles Times]


3. 76 million JPMorgan Chase customers’ data exposed to hackers
A cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase that was disclosed in July exposed personal information from 76 million households, the company said in papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. The information included names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Data from seven million small businesses also was compromised. JPMorgan said it found no evidence that the hackers had acquired account information, such as account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers. [USA Today]


4. Health officials place Ebola patient’s family in isolation
Authorities have placed four relatives of Thomas Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S., in isolation after they allegedly failed to comply with an order to stay home. The apartment where Duncan stayed before he was admitted at a Dallas hospital still had not been cleaned, and sheets and towels had not been taken out, out of fear of contagion. Health officials are trying to find at least 80 people who might have come into contact with Duncan since he arrived on a flight from Liberia last week. [The New York Times]


5. Turkey joins the coalition against ISIS
Turkish lawmakers on Thursday voted to authorize the country’s military to attack Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants. Turkey also will let other members of the international coalition against ISIS use its soil. The decisions came as ISIS forces advanced to within a mile of the predominantly Kurdish Syrian border town of Kobani. “Most civilians have left the city, and any minute Isis will be inside Kobani,” said Rami Abdulrahman of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [The Guardian]


6. Four suspects arrested in killing of 920 chickens during farm break-in
California authorities have arrested four teenage boys for the slaughter of 920 chickens at a poultry farm. Some of the birds were beaten to death with golf clubs during a break-in last month at a Foster Farms facility in Fresno County. One of the suspects, 18-year-old Gabriel Quintero, was charged with burglary and felony cruelty to animals. The other three — all juveniles — were not immediately publicly identified but were booked on the same charges. [Reuters]


7. Hong Kong leader agrees to meet with democracy advocates
Fewer pro-democracy demonstrators showed up in the streets of Hong Kong on Friday, after the city’s Beijing-backed chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, agreed to meet with protest leaders. Thunderstorms and fatigue after a week of protests also reportedly contributed to the dwindling crowds, so it was unclear whether the crowds would grow again over the weekend. Leung, however, refused to resign, as protesters have demanded, or to guarantee that 2017 elections to pick his successor will be free of the Chinese government’s influence. [The Associated Press]


8. Two suspects charged with killing two British tourists in Thailand
Two unidentified workers from Myanmar have been arrested for the murders of two British tourists on the resort island of Koh Tao last month. The bodies of David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were discovered Sept. 15 on the beach not too far from their hotel. Witheridge had been raped. Police said DNA evidence linked the two suspects from neighboring Myanmar, or Burma, to the crime scene. Thai police have pinned crimes on migrants in the past, but one official said they wouldn’t dare try “bringing in a scapegoat” in such a high-profile case. [CNN]


9. Google threatened with $100-million lawsuit over leaked nude celebrity photos
Google responded on Thursday to the threat of a $100 million lawsuit for allegedly facilitating the posting of leaked nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities. A Hollywood entertainment lawyer representing affected celebrities sent Google a letter accusing it of not trying to remove the pictures from search results even though it knew they were stolen private property. Google said it had removed tens of thousands of photos from its websites within hours of being notified they were there. [The Hollywood Reporter, The Telegraph]


10. Royals accuse paparazzi of harassing 14-month-old Prince George
Lawyers for Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are threatening legal action against a photographer if he doesn’t “cease harassing” Prince George. The palace said in a statement that the paparazzi, Niraj Tanna, appears to have placed the 14-month-old royal baby “under surveillance” and monitored his daily activities to plot opportunities to snap photos to sell. Tanna’s lawyers say he is “fully entitled” to take pictures of George in a public park. [BBC News]

John Oliver presents: The enduring influence of Ayn Rand, ‘selfish *sshole’

Ayn Rand via Last Week Tonight (YouTube)

The Raw Story

On HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver presented an informational segment on the enduring influence of libertarian writer Ayn Rand on politicians and captains of industry, asking, ‘Ayn Rand: How is she still a thing?”

Noting that Rand is popular with conservatives, despite the inability by many of them to pronounce her name correctly, the narrator explains that Rand became famous for her philosophy of objectivism, “which is a nice way of saying, ‘being a selfish asshole’.”

Rand is shown in interview saying, “Why is it good to want others to be happy? You can make others happy and when and if those others mean something to you selfishly.”

Rand is noted for her two novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Foutainhead, “Stories about rapey heroes complaining about how no one appreciates their true genius.”

“Ayn Rand has always been popular with teenagers,” we are informed. “But she is supposed to be something you grow out of, like ska music or handjobs.”

The segment notes that Rand is still popular with “a certain type of adult,” using tech billionaire Mark Cuban as an example, pointing out Cuban’s “287-foot yacht is named ‘Fountainhead,’ because sometimes having a 287-foot yacht just isn’t enough to warn people you’re a douchebag.”

Partucular attention is paid to Rand’s popularity with conservative politicians and commentators such as former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and TV host Glenn Beck, noting that her views on subjects near and dear to conservative hearts — such as abortion, atheism, and love of Ronald Reagan — are in direct conflict with mainstream conservative thinking.

The segment concludes by wondering why people still love Rand when there are so many “other advocates for selfishness they could choose, like Donald Trump, or Drake, and basically anyone on Bravo.”

Watch the video below, via Crooks & Liars:


Texas is not a Red state. It’s a nonvoting state wanting a reason to vote

attribution: Creative Common/Joyous

Kos got it right in the above headline…

Daily Kos

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, a Green, or a member of any other party. Many have diedin order toprovide every Texan, every American, the right to vote.Many consider Texas a Red state. There has been much talk about Texas becoming a purple state or even a blue state, but Texas will be neither if most of its citizens are not voting. To believe that a Texas that suddenly starts voting will make it a Purple or Blue state is wishful thinking. Demographics is not necessarily probative. Making the case that any specific demographic would do better if they vote is the answer.

Many Texas Democratic politicians buy into the outdated narrative that Texas is a conservative state. As such, many of them come across as run-of-the-mill Republicans. A Battleground Texas volunteer working at a large outdoor event recently attempted to register several young people. Their response was predictable—they didn’t want to be bothered because they perceived no significant differences between candidates. In other words, none of the candidates spoke to them. None of the candidates asked for their vote in return for a specific value.

Luckily, this volunteer spoke to them, and provided the narrative that these Texas candidates should be spreading. State Sen. Wendy Davis never mentions the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), yet many of the new voters she must win over have either benefited from it or would benefit from it if she were elected and accepted the Medicaid expansion to Obamacare. In fact, it was just reported that the Latino uninsured rate plummeted, thanks to Obamacare, and we all know the Latino population in Texas is large.

Many Texas Democrats, like many national Democrats, fail to realize that they do not stand a chance of getting the vote of those predisposed to vote for Republicans. A few months ago, I wrote the following in an essay:

As the 2014 and 2016 elections approach, it is imperative that Democrats reaffirm what they stand for. It is not enough to simply win—it is important to differentiate. It is important toensure voters know that when they pull the lever for a Democrat, they are voting for a Democrat who will govern with the tolerant middle-class centric values who will work toimplement those policiesaccordingly.Democrats should embrace the criticisms from activists who are pointing out where the party has failed to live up to its ideals, its tenets and its platform. The embrace would mitigate the rightward creep that makes policies, once anathema to the party, somewhat plausible

Texas voters will begin voting when they believe that there are differences between candidates. They will start voting when they believe there are differences between parties.Are Texans better off or are they about the same under the Republican government of the last several decades? Do they believe a change is in their best interest?

Those attempting to hold on to power must convince Texans that it gets no better than the current status quo, which is what most Texans have believed for a long time. That has been the reality of many Texans and Americans throughout the country.

For those attempting to get into power, they must convince Texans that the current government is an existential threat to their economic, social, and health well-being. This is not at all difficult, given the realities staring every working-class Texan, every working-class American, in their faces from dawn to dusk.

The question is whether the challengers of the status quo, the challengers of the ingrained corruption, the challengers of the misinformation, the challengers of those who are destroying our education system, the challengers of those who have returned women to the ills and mistreatments of the past, and the challengers of those attempting to restrict your right to vote will do so with the necessary unequivocal passion and fortitude to make one sprint to the voting booth to make a change.

It is not a difficult task if one is unhindered by the status quo. It is not at all difficult if these challengers tell you and prove to you why they will be a better representative for you.

I will repeat the phrase I passionately believe in: political involvement should be a requirement for citizenship. It is not now, but it should be, in our hearts. Learn about your candidate. Vote in your interest, the interest of your state, and the interest of your country.


Paul Krugman: California proves the GOP's "extremist ideology ... is nonsense"

Paul Krugman | (Credit: Reuters/Chip East)


The New York Times columnist explains how California’s success puts conservative dogma to shame

In his latest column for the New York Times, award-winning economist and best-selling author Paul Krugman argues that California’s recent success — and Kansas’ ongoing failure — is yet more proof that conservative anti-tax dogma “is nonsense.”

After citing Justice Brandeis’ famous claim that America’s states are laboratories for democracy, Krugman turns to compare and contrast California and Kansas, noting that while the former state has seen economic growth and a successful implementation of Obamacare, the latter has had a stagnant economy and a ballooning deficit.

Not incidentally, these states decided to take opposite approaches to economic policy, with California embracing “a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage” while Kansas “went all-in on supply-side economics, slashing taxes on the affluent” only to see paltry growth and a darkening fiscal picture.

“If tax increases are causing a major flight of jobs from California, you can’t see it in the job numbers,” Krugman writes. “Employment is up 3.6 percent in the past 18 months, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent; at this point, California’s share of national employment, which was hit hard by the bursting of the state’s enormous housing bubble, is back to pre-recession levels.”

Does Krugman expect the California example to change conservatives’ minds? Hardly. “Has there been any soul-searching among the prophets of California doom, asking why they were so wrong?” he asks. “Not that I’m aware of. Instead, I’ve been seeing many attempts to devalue the good news from California by pointing out that the state’s job growth still lags that of Texas, which is true, and claiming that this difference is driven by differential tax rates, which isn’t.”

Krugman then explains why Texas and California diverge — and how it’s not for the reasons right-wingers think:

For the big difference between the two states, aside from the size of the oil and gas sector, isn’t tax rates. it’s housing prices. Despite the bursting of the bubble, home values in California are still double the national average, while in Texas they’re 30 percent below that average. So a lot more people are moving to Texas even though wages and productivity are lower than they are in California.

And while some of this difference in housing prices reflects geography and population density — Houston is still spreading out, while Los Angeles, hemmed in by mountains, has reached its natural limits — it also reflects California’s highly restrictive land-use policies, mostly imposed by local governments rather than the state. As Harvard’s Edward Glaeser has pointed out, there is some truth to the claim that states like Texas are growing fast thanks to their anti-regulation attitude, “but the usual argument focuses on the wrong regulations.” And taxes aren’t important at all.

Fox hosts outraged that Texas 911 operators are ‘forced’ to help dying non-English speakers


Fox News host Steve Doocy | screenshot

Steve Doocy’s hatred of the “other” is clearly demonstrated in his facial expression here.  The problem with the above picture is that the expression appears to be permanent, not unlike an old episode of The Twilight Zone entitled: The Masks.

The Raw Story

The hosts of Fox & Friends on Wednesday were shocked to learn that emergency responders were “forced” to serve non-English speakers in life-threatening situations even if the callers were suspected of entering the country illegally.

“They stumbled across the border illegally and now they need your help!” Fox News host Steve Doocy complained, pointing to a 911 call in Brooks County, Texas where a man who could only speak Spanish asked for a helicopter rescue because his cousin was “turning purple.”

“A small Texas town forced to answer 911 from stranded illegals in Spanish!” Doocy exclaimed.

“Not only are they understaffed and lacking resources, now they’ve got to deal with illegal immigrants who have no business being here,” co-host Brian Kilmeade opined.

Brooks County Chief Deputy Urbino “Benny” Martinez pointed out to Kilmeade that his department had a duty to respond to all 911 calls.

“So, those calls you have to respond to, even though for the most part when you get there, you realize, they’re not an American citizen?” the Fox News host pressed.

“That’s correct, but they’re on U.S. soil, and due process comes into play, and that’s the way we’re taking them as,” Martinez explained.

The chief deputy added that he wanted Republicans and Democrats to drop partisan ideology and have a “sincere dialog” because his department was running out of funds.

Earlier this week, sheriffs of Texas border counties said that Gov. Rick Perry (R) was wasting money on a “political” stunt by sending 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.

Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio told the Dallas Morning News that the state should be spending money to fund police officers who were empowered to respond to the border crisis.

Watch the video below from Fox News’ Fox & Friends, broadcast July 23, 2014.


KS:  I always think of the text that appears on the Statue of Liberty.  In part it reads…

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus 

Rick Perry to Barack Obama: No shake, but yes to meeting

Perry has criticized the handling of the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. | AP Photo


Texas Gov. Rick Perry and President Barack Obama will meet in Texas on Wednesday to discuss the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, a governor’s spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“Gov. Perry is pleased that President Obama has accepted his invitation to discuss the humanitarian and national security crises along our southern border, and he looks forward to meeting with the president tomorrow,” spokeswoman Lucy Nashed wrote in an email to POLITICO. Nashed said that the meeting will be in Dallas.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed the meeting at Tuesday’s press briefing, saying that the administration is “pleased” that the two will have a chance to discuss the border situation on Wednesday.

The announcement comes after a back and forth this week between the governor and Obama, who will be in the state for two days this week.

Perry declined an official White House offer to greet President Barack Obama when he lands at Austin’s airport Wednesday.

The Republican governor, who has repeatedly criticized Obama for his handling of the situation on the border, wrote the president and asked for a more “substantive meeting.”

“I appreciate the offer to greet you at Austin-Bergstrom Airport, but a quick handshake on the tarmac will not allow for a thoughtful discussion regarding the humanitarian and national security crises enveloping the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas,” Perry wrote in a letter on Monday to the president, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “I would instead offer to meet with you at any time during your visit to Texas for a substantive meeting to discuss this critical issue. With the appropriate notice, I am willing to change my schedule to facilitate this request.”

Obama will be in Texas primarily to attend private Democratic fundraisers in Dallas and Austin. On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest downplayed criticism that Obama would be raising money rather than visiting the border during his visit, saying that the president isn’t worried about the “optics” of his visit.

The American-Statesman later reported that White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett responded to Perry, inviting the governor to a roundtable discussion on the border situation with local officials and faith leaders.

“The president would welcome a meeting with you while he is in Texas,” Jarrett wrote in a letter to Perry. She also reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to addressing the “urgent humanitarian situation” along the border.

The Texas governor, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has exchanged barbs with the White House over the recent influx of children trying to enter the U.S. illegally along the border. Perry has been increasingly critical of the president, most recently on Sunday saying Obama isn’t personally invested in solving the issue.

“I don’t believe he particularly cares whether or not the border of the United States is secure,” Perry said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Last week, Earnest said Perry is “playing politics” in his criticism of Obama and that the governor should instead work to support comprehensive immigration reform.

“The reason that some people are suggesting the president should go to the border in Texas is because they’d rather play politics than try to address some of these challenges,” Earnest said.

Gun Extremists: Why Are You ‘Defending Liberty’ in a Coffee Shop and Not on the Battlefield?

IRAQ WAR | Shutterstock / StockPhotosLV

Best question ever on this issue…

The Huffington Post – Tom Young

As the Fourth of July approaches, a number of “open carry” gun activists plan to celebrate American freedom with a show of weapons. According to the Texas Firearms Freedom website, three events are planned in Texas alone.A Facebook page advertises a Citizens for Liberty gun march in Pennsylvania. Yet another event is set for Salida, Colorado.

I can think of a lot of good ways to celebrate liberty. Intimidating my neighbors with my guns isn’t one of them. A march of people brandishing weapons looks more like something that would happen in the Third World than in the world’s leading democracy.

However, these armed demonstrators crowding into restaurants and other public spots remind me of a place where such a show of force might have found better purpose. Display of weapons was not only allowed, but required.

During my last deployment with the Air National Guard, I arrived at Bagram Air Base in 2012 following a number of “green-on-blue” attacks: Afghan soldiers or police turning their weapons on Americans. Because of that threat, nearly every U.S. service member was required to carry a loaded weapon at all times.

Signs on the doors to the rec center, to the dining hall, and to just about every other building or tent read: STOP. DO YOU HAVE YOUR WEAPON? BE A FORCE MULTIPLIER!

It felt surreal to see soldiers and airmen off duty, kicking back and watching a movie, with M4 carbines on their shoulders or M9 pistols at their sides. Though they faced far more danger than anyone back home in the U.S., not one of them seemed as angry as some in the armed “patriot” movement.

Which begs a question for the folks toting assault rifles into the local coffee shop or Home Depot parking lot: Why are you defending liberty in a stateside coffee shop instead of where it counts, in a combat zone?

Some of these right-wing activists use words like “tyranny” and “oppression.” But ever since 9/11, there’s been plenty of call for people willing to fight true tyranny. During my two decades in the military, I visited countries where people had lived under such tyranny. They knew they’d been oppressed; they didn’t need talk radio blowhards to tell them so. When you see real tyranny, it’s unmistakable, and it looks nothing like the United States, the most free and prosperous nation on the planet.

There are those in the open carry movement who have spent time in the military, and I thank them for their service. But there are others who need to realize that bringing a Glock into Starbucks doesn’t make you a freedom fighter.

So, if you want to carry a weapon and wear tactical clothing, here’s an idea: Go see a recruiter. The weapons and cool clothes are free.

You might find serving a challenge, though. It’ll take more commitment than shooting a few holes in a paper target whenever you feel like it. It’ll take more time than slapping a “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker on your windshield.

You’ll take an oath to follow lawful orders and defend the Constitution. All of it, not just the parts you like.

And you won’t get to intimidate other Americans; you might have to face real enemies.


Tom Young served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Air National Guard. He is the author of a series of military novels published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. His latest novel, Sand and Fire, will be released July 10, 2014.)

Follow Tom Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ThomasWYoung

10 things you need to know today: June 21, 2014

The U.S. is sending additional judges and attorneys to Texas to expedite asylum claims.

The U.S. is sending additional judges and attorneys to Texas to expedite asylum claims. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

The Week

The Obama administration addresses illegal immigration, an Egyptian court sentences more than 180 to death, and more

1. Obama administration announces new measures to counteract illegal immigration
The United States will not tolerate a surge of women and children crossing the Mexico border into Texas, administration officials said on Friday as they announced new measures to stymie the recent immigrant influx. Many of those crossing the border are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and the White House said it will invest $9.6 million to help those countries repatriate their citizens. The administration is also sending additional immigration judges and attorneys to Texas, in order to expedite asylum claims. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, and 39,000 adults with children have been apprehended along the border so far this year. [The Washington Post]


2. Egypt court sentences more than 180 to death in mass trial
In what is considered the largest mass trial in recent Egyptian history, a court handed down more than 180 death sentences today, stemming from an August attack on a police station that killed one officer and one civilian. Those sentenced to death include the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie. However, the international community has condemned the mass death sentences, saying Egypt’s government is becoming increasingly politicized. One man sentenced, Mustafa Youssef, “was born blind,” noted his lawyer. “How would he kill, burn and loot?” [The Associated Press]


3. Ukraine begins unilateral ceasefire as Russia redeploys troops to border
Following weeks of fighting, new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko instigated a week-long, unilateral ceasefire on Friday, although he was quick to note that while forces would not take offensive action against pro-Russian militants, they would still defend themselves against any attacks. During the week, separatists have a chance to turn in weapons, although the Donetsk People’s Republic gave no sign of relenting as the ceasefire began. Meanwhile, U.S. officials said that Russia had sent tanks and heavy artillery back across the border on Friday, although Moscow claimed it was merely bolstering troops on its side of a border steeped in fighting. [The Washington Post]


4. U.N.: Number of displaced people reaches more than 50 million
For the first time since World War II, more than 50 million people are living under forced displacement, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. At least 51.2 million people, roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Spain, are currently seeking refuge or asylum, and at least half of that number are children. And with renewed violence in Iraq, the U.N, says the number may increase this year. “We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars,” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says. “Peace is today dangerously in deficit.” [NPR]


5. Iran, six powers remain in stalemate after nuclear settlement talks
Saying Iran will not reach an agreement until six big powers “abandon excessive demands,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left this week’s nuclear talks in a stalemate. The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany met with representatives from Tehran in an attempt to broker a deal to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for more regulations on the country’s nuclear work. The major powers are aiming for a July 20 deadline, in the midst of renewed fears of Middle East wars. [Reuters]


6. Report: Pentagon, VA not assessing success rate of PTSD treatments
A report released on Friday by the Institute of Medicine says neither the Department of Veterans Affairs nor the Pentagon is tracking the success of PTSD treatments offered to troops. The VA spent more than $3 billion on PTSD care in 2012, but it failed to study whether the treatments actually helped soldiers. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s treatments “appear to be local, ad hoc, incremental, crisis-driven, with little planning devoted to the development of a long-range approach to obtaining desired outcomes,” the IOM reports. While five percent of all troops report cases of PTSD, the number is much higher for those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. [Time]


7. Presbyterian Church will allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages
Changing its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Thursday to allow ministers in states that have legalized same-sex marriages discretion to perform the nuptials. Actually changing the language in the church’s Book of Order to reflect the amendment requires a year-long ratification process, and conservative members of the General Assembly may still push against that measure. “There were some of us with tears of joy, and some of us with tears of grief,” Rev. Susan De George, a lesbian minister of the Hudson River Presbytery, in New York, said of the vote. [The New York Times]


8. Scientists discover new species of Neanderthal in Spain
Researchers published a description in the journal Science on Thursday of a new, Neanderthal-esque prehistoric human species. The remains, found in a cave in northern Spain, do not dramatically alter the current theory of human evolution. They do, however, suggest that there were several isolated, unique human species existing at the same time in different parts of the world, which may have eventually fought for the same land. [The Washington Post]


9. Disney taps Rian Johnson to write, direct Star Wars: Episode VIII
With production just barely underway on Star Wars: Episode VIIDisney and Lucasfilm have already selected director Rian Johnson to helm the next film in the series. Best known for Looper, a sci-fi action film featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, Johnson also directed several episodes of Breaking Bad and was on the shortlist for the Star Trek reboot. [Variety]


10. Peanut the mutt wins ‘World’s Ugliest Dog’ title
As far as titles go, “World’s Ugliest Dog” sounds like one most canines would rather not win, but that’s too bad for 2-year-old mutt Peanut. Peanut’s owner, Holly Chandler, entered the dog in the 25th annual competition in California to bring attention to the traumas of pet abuse, and she said she will use the $1,500 prize to pay for other injured animals’ veterinary expenses. While Peanut is healthy now, he was seriously burned as a puppy, resulting in the unsightly, hairless patches all over his body that earned him Friday’s victory. [The Associated Press]


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