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Removing Confederate flag is a start, but systemic change still needed

Photo: Flickr/The All-Nite Images

The massacre of nine African-American worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., has sent shock waves through the nation and could well blow the roof off the Confederacy. Dylann Storm Roof is accused of methodically killing the congregants, reloading his Glock pistol at least twice. He let one victim live, according to a person who spoke with the survivor, so she could tell the world what happened. This brutal mass killing was blatantly racist, an overt act of terrorism.

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Chalk one up for democracy: U.S. wins victory over TPP trade deal

Photo: Stop FastTrack/flickr

A teenager who knows me too well says I'm obsessed with endlessly refighting the battle against free trade. That rings pathetically true. And now who wins a small victory over the ancient foe? Them. The U.S.! History is cruel.

It happened last week. President Barack Obama backed the latest in free trade, the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- or TPP. The august Senate backed him. But the House of Representatives, the elected body nearest the people, voted No. It took a savvy, impassioned, grassroots campaign to make that happen and even so, it's not over. Pro-free traders are already attempting a TPP resuscitation. Victories over free trade should be celebrated swiftly. But what explains even that hiccup?

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The case of Kalief Browder underscores the cruelty of solitary confinement

Photo: jmiller291/flickr

Twelve days after his 22nd birthday, Kalief Browder wrapped an air-conditioner power cord around his neck and hanged himself. In 2010, at the age of 16, he was arrested after being accused of stealing a backpack. He would spend three years in New York City's Rikers Island prison, more than two of those years in solitary confinement. He was beaten by prison guards and inmates alike. He was not serving a sentence; he was in pre-trial detention. He declined all plea bargains. He wanted his day in court, to prove his innocence. A judge finally dismissed the case against him. After his release, Kalief Browder tried to reclaim his life. In the end, the nightmare he lived through overwhelmed him. Two years after his release, he committed suicide.

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U.S. high school censors valedictorian's message of LGBTQ tolerance

Photo: Tom Woodward/flickr

Evan Young was the valedictorian of this year's graduating class at Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School, in Longmont, Colo. On May 16, at his graduation ceremony, Evan planned to give his valedictory address. Earlier in the week, he submitted the text of his speech to the principal, as required. Just before the ceremony, Principal B.J. Buchmann told Evan he was not allowed to give his speech. Evan was shocked. He had been practicing for days. He had planned to come out as gay in the speech for the first time, to his own family, to his classmates and to the whole school community.

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A victory for nuclear disarmament: Plowshares activists released from prison

Photo: Scott Schumacher/flickr

There is a vast military complex deep in the hills of eastern Tennessee called "Y-12." This is where all of the highly enriched uranium is produced and stored for the production of the U.S. nuclear-warhead arsenal. It is in Oak Ridge, the city that was created practically overnight during the Second World War, that produced the uranium for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Today, the facility, dubbed "The Fort Knox of Uranium," holds enough of the radioactive element to make 10,000 nuclear bombs.

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Calls for justice and accountability fuel Black Lives Matter movement

Photo: Light Brigading/flickr

"What do you hope to accomplish with this protest," I asked a 13-year-old girl marching in Staten Island, N.Y., last August, protesting the police killing of Eric Garner.

"To live until I'm 18," the young teen, named Aniya, replied. Could that possibly be the American dream today?

Aniya went on: "You want to get older. You want to experience life. You don't want to die in a matter of seconds because of cops." It's that sentiment that has fuelled the Black Lives Matter movement across the country.

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Gyrocopter pilot delivers message about plutocracy to White House

Photo: Dave W/flickr

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," reads the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service. We now can add to that "nor a national security no-fly zone," as demonstrated by mailman Doug Hughes. Hughes was doing what he felt was his duty, carrying letters. He had 535 of them: one for each member of Congress, and each signed by Hughes himself. He wrote about the corrupting influence of money in politics. Hughes chose a very high-profile method for delivering his letters, though. He piloted a bicycle-sized helicopter, called a "gyrocopter," 100 miles from Maryland, and landed on the west lawn of the U.S Capitol, passing through restricted airspace.

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What will it take for the U.S. to end capital punishment?

Photo: Thomas Hawk/flickr

A jury in Boston has returned a guilty verdict on all 30 counts against the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Now the jury must deliberate on the punishment, which could be either life in prison or death. Capital punishment is outlawed in Massachusetts, but Tsarnaev was tried in federal court, where the death penalty is allowed. The jury will have to decide whether he lives or dies. The case provides a new reason to take a hard look at capital punishment, and why this irreversible, highly problematic practice should be banned.

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Indiana's anti-LGBTQ law legalizes intolerance

Image: Mike Licht/flickr

The date was August 7, 1930. The place: Marion, Indiana. Three young African-American men were lynched. The horror of the crime was captured by a local photographer. The image of two hanging, bloodied bodies is among the most iconic in the grim archive of documented lynchings in America. Most associate lynching with the Deep South, with the vestiges of slavery and the rise of Jim Crow. But this was in the North. Marion is in northern Indiana, halfway between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, and about 150 miles from Chicago. But intolerance knows no borders.

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Battle lines being drawn over corporate trade deals in U.S.

Image: DonkeyHotey/flickr

President Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress are united. Yes, that's right. No, not on Obamacare, or on the budget, or on negotiations with Iran, or on equal pay for women. But on so-called free-trade agreements, which increase corporate power and reduce the power of people to govern themselves democratically, Obama and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder. This has put the president at loggerheads with his strongest congressional allies, the progressive Democrats, who oppose the TPP, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the most far-reaching trade agreements in history. TPP will set rules governing more than 40 per cent of the world's economy. Obama has been negotiating in secret, and the Democrats are not happy.

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