News In Focus: A Look At This Week’s Most Interesting Stories

Hong Kong: For years, proponents of democracy have called for a law that gave registered voters in Hong Kong a direct say in selecting their leader, the chief executive.

But such a proposal came up for a legislative vote this week… and it was voted down. Why?

Well, some may argue it was because the law was backed by mainland officials and could not have created a true democracy. According to the plan, each voter would have been able to cast an individual ballot for one of several candidates, but those candidates would have had to be pre-approved by a nomination committee.

But in reality that’s not why the proposal failed… In fact, the majority of lawmakers supported the idea.

So if the votes were there, then what happened?

In a dramatic turn — when the election plan was put to a vote in the 70-member legislature — most of the pro-establishment lawmakers suddenly walked out without taking a vote, leaving the dissenters to out-vote their remaining counterparts in the chamber by 28 to 8.

Really? Yup, seems so.

The pro-establishment members later explained that they had wanted to vote in support of the proposal, and they walked out to buy time for one of their members to return to cast a vote.

What the majority did not realize was that despite their temporary absence, there were enough remaining members for the voting to proceed.

So what happens next?

For years, Hong Kong’s chief executive leader has been elected by a committee of 1,200 members selected from among professional and business sectors in the community – and now it looks like it’s going to stay that way.

For more, we go to a Reuters report:


U.S.: Nine people were killed on Wednesday evening at the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and state senator, was among the victims.

Local religious and political leaders believed the shooting was racially motivated, as one female survivor quoted the gunman as having said, “I have to do it…You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.  And you have to go.”

After an intensive 14-hour manhunt, Shelby police arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof.

It’s believed that the gun used in the mass murder was a .45-caliber pistol that Roof’s father gave him for his birthday in April.

A day after the shooting, President Barack Obama spoke about the tragedy:


Vatican:  The Pope selected climate change as the theme of his papal encyclical, which was released on Thursday.

In the 184-page document, Pope Francis acknowledged that “climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods.”

It is the first time that a Catholic pope featured environmental damage in a papal address.

The Washington Post suggested that the encyclical was timed to influence global climate meetings, but others surmised that Pope Francis was linking environmental issues with his concern for inequality and global poverty.

Read the full encyclical here:

Here’s a Yale University discussion about the importance of the Pope’s environmental announcement:


Diplomacy: Investigations into the breach of a U.S. government database suggest possible hacking activities were backed by the Chinese government.

Office of Personnel Management officials revealed last Friday that security clearance information for millions of federal employees and contractors might have been breached.  Another database — containing personal information for about 4 million current and former federal employees — was also believed to have been hacked.

Data at risk included information about friends, family members and associates of the federal employees, as well as files related to intelligence officials working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, defense contractors and other government agencies.

Investigators suspect the hackers belong to a Chinese group who might be working freelance for the Chinese government.

The Chinese foreign ministry has dismissed the hacking allegations, criticizing them as “irresponsible and unscientific.”


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