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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Saudi Arabia: Prison, lashes for liberal Saudi website founder; apostasy charges dropped

Riyadh: The founder of a liberal minded website in Saudi Arabic has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes after angering Islamic authorities in the country, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Raif Badawi, through his website known as Free Saudi Liberals, had urged Saudis to share opinions about the role of religion in the country, which follows a strict form of Islam that includes harsh punishments for challenging customs. A judge in the Red Sea port of Jiddah imposed the sentences but dropped charges of apostasy, which could have brought a death sentence, the Al Watan newspaper reported.

Badawi has been held since June 2012. The newspaper did not name the judge who sentenced Badawi, nor did it say when the ruling was handed down. It was unclear Tuesday whether Badawi would receive any credit for the time he’s already served.

Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the US was “deeply concerned” by the sentence given to Badawi. “We believe that when public speech is deemed offensive, be it via social media or any other means, the issue is best addressed through open dialogue and honest debate,” Psaki said.

Hard-line Saudi clerics have raised repeated objections to social media, including one prominent Islamic scholar describing Twitter as a path to hell. He later withdrew the comment.

Source: Agence France-Presse, July 31, 2013

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