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foreign affairs
July 24, 2014
Twitter.com/AmbassadorPower

A woman sentenced to death after refusing to renounce her faith fled Sudan on Thursday — and met Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Meriam Ibrahim was accused of converting to Christianity from Islam, but said that while her father was Muslim, she never had been. Ibrahim told a judge that her father had abandoned the family when she was young and she was raised by her Orthodox Christian mother. She was sentenced to death and gave birth to a daughter, Maya, while in prison. After international pressure, Sudan released Ibrahim in June, and she has been living in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum for a month.

Ibrahim traveled to the Vatican with her husband, son, and daughter, and met Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence, the BBC reports. "The pope thanked her for her witness to faith," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said. The 30 minute meeting showed "closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith."

Ibrahim's lawyer, Mohamed Mostafa Nour, told BBC Focus on Africa that his client was "unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It's the country she was born and grew up in. But her life is in danger so she feels she has to leave." He said that two days ago, a group named Hamza made a statement that they would kill Ibrahim and anyone who helps her. Ibrahim may be gone from Sudan, but her legal troubles are not over: Last week, her father's family, claiming she is a Muslim, filed a lawsuit to get her marriage annulled. Catherine Garcia

voters first presidential forum
August 3, 2015
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

On Monday, 14 Republicans participated in the Voters First Presidential Forum, and shared their plans for reforming immigration, combating terrorism, and uniting the country.

The event was held at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, moderated by Jack Heath of "New Hampshire Today," and attended by Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey), Carly Fiorina, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana), Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), George Pataki, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) were in Washington, D.C., and appeared via satellite. Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee elected not to attend, and Jim Gilmore announced his candidacy too late to participate.

The forum lasted roughly two hours, and was not a debate. Each person was allowed to speak twice:

  • Sen. Rand Paul said if elected, he would either visit China or Russia first, and said that he doesn't think "we should go to war as a game of risk...it shouldn't be the first resort, it should always be the last resort."
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham said as president his foreign policy would be a "clenched fist and an open hand," and he would "push back against China" and Vladimir Putin.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio stated that he does not support legalization of marijuana or "any other additional intoxicants," but said he would not be opposed to the FDA doing trials on medicinal marijuana.
  • George Pataki said his first three priorities would be getting rid of ObamaCare and Common Core and reducing the size of the federal workforce by at least 15 percent.
  • Jeb Bush called ISIS militants "barbarians," and said he wasn't sure if "boots on the ground" were necessary to fight them, but thinks special forces should be embedded and training anti-ISIS soldiers. He also said he would grow the economy at 4 percent "instead of this anemic 2 percent...the fact that Paul Krugman disagrees with me warms my heart."
  • Dr. Ben Carson spoke out against ObamaCare, saying it "flies in the face of what we are as a nation, a nation that is for and by the people. ... ObamaCare comes along with the government saying, 'We don't care what you the people think, we're shoving this down your throat and if you don't like it, too bad.'"
  • Gov. Scott Walker called himself "pro-worker and pro-taxpayer" and said he was against Obama's plan to cut carbon emissions.
  • Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would be the one to unite the country, adding, "We're all Americans. We're not hyphenated Americans, we're not African-Americans or Asian-Americans...we're all Americans."
  • Carly Fiorina said it's time to challenge the status quo, and she has a "proven track record" of doing so in her executive roles.
  • Gov. Chris Christie touted the fact that New Jersey was the first state in the country to place non-violent drug offenders in mandatory inpatient drug treatment rather than prison. "The war on drugs has been a failure," he said. "Well intentioned, but a failure."
  • Rick Perry said the border with Mexico needs to be secured, and compared illegal immigration to a "serious wound, you want to staunch the flow."
  • Rick Santorum told the audience he would focus on restoring manufacturing jobs, and enact a flat tax for corporations and individuals.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz said the nuclear weapons deal with Iran is "the single greatest national security threat facing America," and would lead to billions of dollars being sent to "jihadists."
  • Gov. John Kasich said he would eliminate sanctuary cities, and determine how many people are in the U.S. without documents. "We need to find out who they are, if they're law-abiding, God-fearing folks," he said. 'They're going to have to pay a penalty toward legalization, and wait." Catherine Garcia
it's all ending
August 3, 2015

No Doubt singer and The Voice coach Gwen Stefani has filed for divorce from husband Gavin Rossdale, lead singer of the band Bush, after nearly 13 years of marriage.

TMZ reports that Stefani cited irreconcilable differences in her divorce petition, and is asking for joint custody of the couple's three young children. She also checked a box on the form denying Rossdale spousal support. Rossdale filed his response at the same time, and is also asking for joint custody.

In a statement, the pair said, "While the two of us have come to the mutual decision that we will no longer be partners in marriage, we remain partners in parenthood and are committed to jointly raising our three sons in a happy and healthy environment." This news made it official: Love is dead. Catherine Garcia

This just in
August 3, 2015

A severe storm in New Hampshire Monday night caused a circus tent to collapse, killing two and leaving about 15 people injured.

New Hampshire State Police said that initially 250 people were trapped at the Lancaster Fairgrounds, and Gov. Maggie Hassan activated the state's emergency operations center, USA Today reports. Severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued across New England by the National Weather Service. Catherine Garcia

voters first presidential forum
August 3, 2015
Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

At the Voters First Presidential Forum in New Hampshire on Monday, Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey) said that the country needs to "embrace" people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, and provide rehabilitation instead of jail.

Christie was asked by moderator Jack Heath why more isn't being done for people with drug and alcohol addictions. The governor said that his state was "the first in the country to say for non-violent drug offenders no more prison. They're going to mandatory in-patient drug treatment, because this is a disease. The war on drugs has been a failure — well intentioned, but a failure."

Christie said that "everyone makes mistakes," and society needs to "reach out" and "embrace those people and say, 'If you're not a violent offender, if you're not dealing drugs to our children, we need to get you treatment rather than prison.'" He added that addiction can hit anyone, and "we need the country and president to stand up and say, 'This is a disease and we need to fix it.'" Catherine Garcia

voters first presidential forum
August 3, 2015
Alex Wong/Getty Images

During the five minutes he was allowed to speak at the Voters First Presidential Forum Monday in New Hampshire, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) accused China of cheating when it comes to trade, said he would take on Vladimir Putin, warned that the United States is on its way to "becoming Greece," called President Obama "weak," and said Bill and Hillary Clinton do not tell the truth.

Graham was asked by moderator Jack Heath what he would do to maintain free trade that is fair trade, and also to name a nation that was "cheating" the U.S. "China's cheating," Graham responded. "They're manipulating currency to create a discount for products made in China and we don't do a damn thing about it. They're building islands over resource-rich property owned by others because they can. They cyber attack us, steal our intellectual property, and no one pushes back. If I'm president, we're going to push back against China." He added, "Here’s my foreign policy — a clenched fist and an open hand. You choose."

Graham also said he would be a "different person" for Putin to deal with, calling Obama "weak," and said he would arm Ukrainians "so they can fight for their own freedom" and "take every bit of natural gas we can from America in an environmentally-sound way that we don't use and export it to Europe to undercut Putin's monopoly." He also wants to "rebuild NATO" and the military, and believes "we are on our way to becoming Greece." He quickly switched gears to the Clintons, saying he's been "dealing with that crowd for 20 years" and is "fluent in Clinton speak." "When Bill says, 'I didn't have sex with that woman,' he did," he said. "When she says, 'I'll tell you about building the pipeline when I'm president,' she won’t. I understand this crowd, and I can beat them." Catherine Garcia

This just in
August 3, 2015
David McNew/Getty Images

On Monday, Senate Democrats blocked a Republican effort to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood with a mostly party-line vote of 53-46, seven votes shy of the 60 needed to advance.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), was in response to videos secretly recorded by anti-abortion activists that show officials from Planned Parenthood talking about providing medical researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses. Conservatives say that the organization is doing this illegally for profit, while Planned Parenthood denies the allegations and says the videos are edited. Conservatives in the House and Senate are already saying that in the fall, they will oppose any 2016 spending bills that include federal funding for Planned Parenthood, The Associated Press reports. Catherine Garcia

you're fired
August 3, 2015

A rivalry between two Harvard University student publications hilariously escalated this summer, to the point where one group not only pranked the other in epic fashion, but also Donald Trump.

It all started when staffers from the humor publication Harvard Lampoon stole The Harvard Crimson's treasured president's chair. The group's president asked for it back, but the pranksters had bigger plans underway. Weeks later, they published a parody Crimson editorial endorsing Donald Trump for president, complete with a photo of Trump sitting in the chair, surrounded by Lampoon staffers purporting to work for The Crimson.

The editorial, which the Lampoon staff wrote to the Trump campaign about their plans to publish, was a gem, as described by The Crimson:

An article, emblazoned with the headline "Crimson Endorses Trump for President" and signed "The Crimson Staff," cropped up online, claiming to tout the newspaper's support for the billionaire Republican primary candidate's bid for the presidency in 2016. Among other points, it dubbed him "a celebrity above all" and "the most formidable and competitive candidate on the Republican side." It also espoused his job creation record—specifically the supposed good work of The Celebrity Apprentice a reality show Trump has hosted. The editorial reasoned that the show helped "inactive or troubled" celebrities regain their fame and thus created jobs. [The Harvard Crimson]

The Crimson, being a typical college newspaper, has a history of endorsing Democrats. Julie Kliegman

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