As you may recall, the Saudi Arabian government sentenced blogger Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, two years after he started a blog where good Saudi citizens might discuss religion and politics. But it's been 12 weeks since the Saudi Arabian government inflicted his weekly punishment of 50 lashes. That could be bad news or good-but-don't-get-complacent news. The possible bad news? That Mr. Badawi is too ill to be tortured. The good-but-don't-get-complacent news? That the world outcry over his treatment has given them pause. And where does the "don't get complacent" part come in? That if we turn our attention away from his case, they might start lashing him again. So Amnesty International helps you keep up the pressure on the Saudi Arabian government to release Mr. Badawi and to stop imprisoning and torturing people merely for speaking freely. Also, Amnesty (along with other groups) plans mass demonstrations outside Saudi embassies across the world on May 7 (the first anniversary of Mr. Badawi's sentencing); more details as they arrive.
Pennsylvania residents, take note: Keystone Progress joins with MoveOn to help you tell your state legislators to pass "ban the box" legislation, as 13 other states have done. The "box," in this instance, is that box on employment applications that ask if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. Legislation "banning the box" would force employers to wait until after interviewing the applicant and making a (conditional) offer of employment before checking an applicant's criminal background, which would, at least, allow the applicant the opportunity to impress the employer in an interview, and prevent employers from simply discriminating against people with convictions in their past. Why do I call that "discrimination"? Because it is -- more than one in five Americans have a criminal conviction in their past; do 20% of Americans therefore deserve permanent unemployment? Besides, if you've committed a crime, and served your time, you're square with civil society, and you don't need to keep paying and paying for it. Only weaklings make people keep paying and paying.
Finally, the USDA, having done a good job updating school lunch standards for the first time in over 40 years (the same standards Republicans keep attacking), now turns its attention to updating meal and snack standards for its Child and Adult Care Food Program (or CACFP), which gives grants to states so they can feed over three million children and over 120,000 adults (who are either elderly or in some way disabled) in day care-type settings. And the USDA's proposed standards would increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while reducing the availability of fried foods. The proposal doesn't address sugary drinks, but certainly we can tell the USDA that's a priority of ours. So Moms Rising helps you tell the USDA to enact the most vigorous CACFP food standards possible, so that kids in day care and after-school and summer programs can eat nutritious food, and endure fewer diabetes- and obesity-related health problems during their lives. I sure would like to be able to say that the USDA did two good things under President Obama -- even if that means giving the Republicans another target to hit.