RAP Sheet

Inside Rand Paul’s Jewish Charm Offensive

posted on July 22, 2014

In The National Journal, Shane Goldmacher reports on Senator Rand Paul’s efforts to reach and persuade the Jewish community as part of his presidential campaign strategy. Paul’s “charm offensive” involves pushing pro-Israel policy and creating tight relationships with generous Jewish donors and important Jewish voters, though his apparently isolationist foreign policy (and wariness of his family name) works against him. As Goldmacher puts it, “He may not win them over, but not losing them could be enough.”

Read at The National Journal

The Explosive, Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan—and Watched it Crumble

posted on July 21, 2014

In The New Republic, Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon have penned an investigative report on Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts over the past year to achieve a comprehensive Israel-Palestine peace plan. Between March 2013 and April 2014, Kerry led a long round of peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Although they appeared to make a fair amount of progress, the talks ultimately collapsed in April, leading to further pessimism regarding the prospects for reaching a long-term solution in the near future. Avi Dichter, the former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency, said, “The American effort will always be multiplied by the amount of trust between the two leaders. So if Kerry’s pressure represents the number five, and then Obama’s helps bring the American effort to ten, it really doesn’t matter. You’re still multiplying it by zero. The final result will always be zero.”

Read at The New Republic

Are Gay Rights and Religious Liberty Compatible?

posted on July 21, 2014

At The Atlantic, Molly Ball reports on the current debates around the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and a potential religious exemption to the law, which would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by federal contractors. After the Hobby Lobby decision, which exempted some corporations from covering contraception, religious groups–including progressive ones–and LGBT-focused groups have clashed over the question of whether President Obama should include a similar exemption in his nondiscrimination executive order, raising fears that the issue could drive a more permanent wedge between gay rights supporters and religious groups. “The religious exemption debate has now been polarized to the point where people are saying, ‘All or nothing,’” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of social policy for the center-left think tank Third Way. “The narrative that’s now beginning to form is that Democrats are against religion. It’s not true and it’s very dangerous.”

Read at The Atlantic

Neighborhood Ravaged on Deadliest Day for Both Sides in Gaza

posted on July 21, 2014

In The New York Times, Anne Barnard and Isabel Kersher report on the ongoing ground offensive being waged by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. On Sunday, the fighting was concentrated in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in Gaza City where at least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Overall, Sunday was the deadliest day in the conflict so far. “We are not deterred,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a televised address. “We will continue to operate as long as necessary.”

Read at The New York Times

Concern and Support for Iraqi Christians Forced by Militants to Flee Mosul

posted on July 21, 2014

In The New York Times, Tim Arango reports on the reaction that Christians were forced to flee Mosul over the weekend, as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria gave them until Saturday to flee, convert to Islam, or be killed. The situation has led to an outpouring of support from a variety of communities, both in Iraq and abroad, including from members of Iraq’s Parliament and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, as well as from international figures such as United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis. In his public address Sunday, the pope expressed concern for Christians around the Middle East, “where they have lived since the beginning of Christianity, together with their fellow citizens, offering a meaningful contribution to the good of society.”

Read at The New York Times

Family Behind Hobby Lobby Has New Project: Bible Museum

posted on July 17, 2014

In The New York Times, Alan Rappeport reports on the Green family–the owners of Hobby Lobby–and their quest to build a large museum dedicated to the Bible in Washington, D.C. The $800 million museum, which will open in 2017 in a half-block space near the National Mall, will include a variety of rare biblical artifacts. In a speech last year, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said, “The nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There are lessons from the past that we  can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. If we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”

Read at The New York Times

Faith Communities Are Dumping Their Fossil Fuel Investments

posted on July 17, 2014

Religion News Service’s Lauren Markoe reports on the increasing number of churches and faith communities that are choosing to divest from fossil fuel companies. In the past month, several religious groups—including the World Council of Churches, the Unitarian Universalists, and the United Church of Christ—have voted to remove their money from investments in fossil fuel companies. Serene Jones, president of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, said, “While we realize that our endowment alone will hardly cause the fossil fuel giants to miss even half a heartbeat, as a seminary dedicated to social justice we have a critical call to live out our values in the world. Climate change poses a catastrophic threat, and as stewards of God’s creation we simply must act.”

Read at Religion News Service

The Prison that Dared to Pray: Angola Used Faith, Family to Stem Violence

posted on July 17, 2014

In The Washington Times, Ralph Hallow reports on the use of faith and religion to try to stop violence in one of America’s most notorious prisons, the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. According to Warden Burl Cain, who arrived at the prison in 1995, “We are teaching these people things like how to be certified mechanics and how to respect themselves and each other. But that alone would only make them smarter criminals. We teach them morality through our Christian ministries and the examples we try to set. We change them spiritually.”  The numbers suggest that this approach is working: from 1988 to 1994, the average annual number of homicides, suicides, escapes, and assaults on staff and other inmates was 1,400. Over the last four years, that number has been less than 275.

Read at The Washington Times

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