In his 184-page papal encyclical released today, Pope Francis had harsh words for how humanity has treated the earth. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he wrote. "Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain." Encyclicals—papal letters that represent some of the Catholic church’s most important documents—are typically addressed directly to the Catholics around the globe. But this year, the pope had a larger audience in mind, saying the letter was addressed to “every person living on this planet.”
The pope took more than a year to write the encyclical, which was released in at least five languages and cites research from dozens of scientists and scholars. In it, he acknowledged that humans are primarily at fault for the large change in global temperatures. He argued that climate change is having serious consequences, including hurting the poor, and that developed countries have a responsibility to help less developed countries take steps to fight climate change. Slowing down the destruction of the earth will take a “bold cultural revolution,” he argued, which will require people in all areas of society to combat consumerism and structural injustices and practice responsible stewardship.
"We are not God," he wrote, "The Earth was here before us and has been given to us" ... Discuss
Way back in 1980, a court overturned Jerry Hartfield’s murder conviction and ordered a new trial. But today, 35 years later, Hartfield is still behind bars. Three years after his sentence was overturned, then-Texas Governor Mark White commuted his death sentence to a life sentence, despite the fact that the conviction had been overturned. Hartfield, who is estimated to have an IQ of 51, wasn’t aware that his case should have been retried until a fellow inmate informed him in 2006. He filed for a retrial and started working on his case with a state-appointed attorney. Two years ago, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said the life sentence wasn’t valid, but prosecutors still intended to retry him and he stayed in prison. A judge argued that Hartfield did not take the steps to ask for a new trial, but others have argued that the state violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Despite the court’s ruling on the case, Hartfield is still awaiting his new trial. In an interview with the Associated Press, he explained that he had become a Christian in prison, and that “being a God-fearing person, He doesn’t allow me to be bitter. He allows me to be forgiving” ... Discuss
The investigative journalism organization ProPublica has teamed with NPR for a new report that looks at “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes.” The story—which you can listen to here—looks at how in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, the charity organization raised hundreds of millions of dollars to help the country recover, but after five years, there was not much to show for it: “The Red Cross' legacy in Haiti is not new roads, or schools, or hundreds of new homes.” Most concerning is the American Red Cross’ claim that they provided homes for 130 thousand people in Haiti, when they only actually built six houses. Though they did provide immediate disaster relief, like food and blankets, it’s unclear where the organization spent much of the money it brought in following the earthquake. Even top government officials in Haiti aren’t sure how the massive amounts of donations were used.
The country’s former prime ministry even pointed out that the organization’s claim to have helped 4.5 million Haitians doesn’t make sense. He told the reporters: "We don't have that population in the area affected by the earthquake. 4.5 million was 100 percent of the urban area in 2010." Though the organization says they helped repair 4,400 homes in addition to providing “clean water, sanitation, vaccinations, disaster preparedness, cholera prevention,” NPR says the Red Cross will not show exactly how all of the donations were spent. Internal emails show that Red Cross officials appeared to be confused at how to spend the money it had raised. At the same time, other charities built more than 9,000 houses in the country.
In a response to the story, the American Red Cross wrote, “The Red Cross is disappointed, once again, by the lack of balance, context and accuracy in the most recent reporting by ProPublica/NPR, which follows the pattern of all their previous Red Cross stories. It is particularly disappointing to see our work misrepresented considering we answered more than 100 questions in writing and provided an interview with the head of our international programs” … Discuss
Last week, Jack Black was among the celebrities to take part in Red Nose Day, an effort to raise money to help children around the world living in poverty. The event raised more than $21 million, though they are still accepting donations. In the video below, Black visited with a young orphan in Uganda, who is forced to sleep on the street and dreams of being able to get an education and a better life ... Discuss
The Dress exhausted its five minutes of viral fame this week, but it's already become a national talking point, the source of Buzzfeed's most-trafficked post of all time and a terrible tattoo. Now it's become something with a little more gravity: the subject of an ad about domestic violence. Salvation Army whipped the ad together awfully quick, making this a nice case of using something trivial to raise awareness about something important. Click here to see the full ad. Discuss
In 1997, Kelly Gissendaner killed her husband and was sentenced to death row. In the ensuing years, she has evidently experienced a radical life transformation, becoming a Christian and a pastor, and encouraging many women behind bars. Yet, despite testimonies from numerous character witnesses and pleas from her two children, Gissendaner's death sentence remains unchanged. She has been scheduled for execution on Monday night at 7 p.m. EST. The movement to stop her execution and commute her sentence to life in prison has garnered many prominent voices, and an online petition that has 65,000 signatures as of this writing ... Discuss