Education

Miss America: Don’t Suspend Teen Who Asked Me to Prom

Nina Davuluri
Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri at a NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Feb. 15, 2014. A Pennsylvania high school student was suspended for asking Davuluri to prom during a question and answer session at school. Nick Lisi—AP

Nina Davuluri said she was flattered when 18-year-old Pennsylvania student Patrick Farves asked her out to the prom during a school assembly. She hopes Farves' high school will change its mind about his three-day suspension

Miss America asked a Pennsylvania high school to reconsider a decision to suspend a senior who asked her to prom during a school assembly.

Nina Davuluri wrote on the Miss America Organization’s Facebook page Saturday to say that while she could not attend the prom because of her schedule, she was flattered by 18-year-old Patrick Farves’ request and has contacted the school about reversing the decision.

“Meeting and interacting with students across the country has been an important and rewarding part of my year as Miss America,” she wrote. “I always encourage students to follow their dreams through education, and I’m inspired daily by the enthusiasm and aspirations of the bright young adults I have the pleasure of meeting through my travels.”

The school was aware that Farves intended to ask Davuluri during her Thursday presentation about the importance of math and science education and discouraged him from doing so, the Associated Press reports. He received a three-day in-school suspension and later apologized for the disruption.

Accident

Sleeping Girl Killed in Alleged Drunk Driver Crash

(PALMDALE, Calif.) — A 16-year-old Southern California girl was killed while sleeping in her bed after an alleged drunken driver crashed his SUV into her home.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says that 20-year-old Roberto Rodriguez of Palmdale allegedly crashed his Nissan Pathfinder into the corner of an apartment building at 3:50 a.m. Sunday.

When deputies arrived they found the SUV embedded in the building and the girl dead inside.

Rodriguez was transported to a hospital with minor injuries and has been booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.

He’s being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Rubin Carter, Wrongly Imprisoned and Later Freed

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, who died Sunday at the age of 76, was falsely imprisoned for 19 years on later-overturned triple murder charges

Education

Miss America: Rethink Suspension Over Prom Query

(YORK, Pa.) — Miss America is asking a Pennsylvania school district to reconsider the punishment of a high school senior who asked her to prom during the question-and-answer portion of an assembly.

The York Dispatch reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1iBazDw ) that Nina Davuluri posted a statement on the Miss America Organization’s Facebook page saying she contacted Central York High School to ask officials to rethink the three-day in-school suspension issued to 18-year-old Patrick Farves.

Davuluri says her travel schedule will prevent her from attending the dance with Farves.

School officials had learned ahead of time about Farves’ stunt and warned him not to do it. They say Farves was suspended for misbehaving.

He apologized for disrupting Thursday’s event. Davuluri was there to talk about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math studies.

fire

4-Year-Old Half Siblings Die in Overnight N.Y.C. Fire

(NEW YORK) — Police say 4-year-old half siblings have died in an overnight fire at a home in New York City, and the twin of one of the children has survived.

The New York Police Department says officers responded to the home in Queens shortly before midnight Saturday.

Two 4-year-olds, a boy and a girl, were pronounced dead at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. Police have identified the boy as Jai’Launi Tinglin and the girl as Ayini Tinglin. They shared the same father.

Their 4-year-old sister is hospitalized in stable condition at St. John’s. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she was the twin of the boy or the girl who died.

A 55-year-old woman and a 63-year-old man are listed in stable condition at other hospitals.

An investigation into the fire is ongoing.

Drugs

What Would Jesus Toke?

This Sacramento pot shop sells weed-infused lollipops while spreading the gospel

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God told Moses to go down the mountain. He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. And, according to Bryan Davies, he made another commandment to a California couple circa 2005: “Open up a pot shop.”

Bryan and Lanette Davies run a medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, Calif., which they say they opened on the advice of God. The couple sells marijuana to patients battling AIDS and insomnia and arthritic disorders. They also use their shop, called Canna Care, as a vehicle for spreading their Christian faith. Bibles lie on a table in the lobby, free for the taking. And every day at 6 o’clock, all the shop’s employees stop what they’re doing to hold hands and pray. Patrons are invited to join and often do.

“It has to do with taking care of the sick and ill,” Lanette says. “Jesus Christ made a statement that all people should care for one another, and this is our way of taking that to our community.”

The shop has also become embroiled in a case with the Internal Revenue Service that could set an important precedent for the medical marijuana industry. Because of a 1982 law, medical marijuana dispensaries are not allowed to deduct ordinary expenses—like rent or payroll or the cost of providing health benefits—which would normally be standard for a small business. This is because, in the eyes of the federal government and therefore the IRS, such businesses are technically trafficking illegal drugs, even if they’re operating legally according to state laws.

The Davies are refusing to pay a $875,000 tax bill that the IRS says they owe, and have taken the issue to court. They are currently waiting for a ruling on the matter, which they say they’ll appeal if necessary. “We pay our taxes. We are completely legal in this state,” says Lanette. Time will tell if the tax court agrees. Meanwhile, the couple plans to keep selling weed-infused lollipops and the message of Jesus Christ.

Crime

Man Detained After Threats at L.A. Times Building

(LOS ANGELES) — A man suspected of making threatening statements about a shooting and forcing the lockdown of the Los Angeles Times building was being held Saturday for a mental health evaluation, police said.

A psychologist requested a 72-hour hold for the 28-year-old man at a hospital after he was detained Friday night, Sgt. Keith Green said. The sergeant didn’t identify the man.

The man works at a call center that rents office space in the Times building. Officer Norma Eisenman told the newspaper that after he was reprimanded by his supervisor, he gave her a pillowcase containing ammunition and told her: “I’m not afraid to shoot people, but I don’t want to go to jail.”

He also told his supervisor that he was depressed and that he carried a weapon because he felt bullied at work, Eisenman said.

Green said officers seized the ammunition and determined it belonged to the man.

The Times building is across the street from Los Angeles Police Department headquarters. Officers quickly searched the building and found no weapon inside.

explosion

Tenn. Ammunition Plant Explosion Ruled Accidental

(MCEWEN, Tenn.) — A preliminary investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined that a deadly explosion at a Tennessee ammunition plant was accidental.

ATF spokesman Michael Knight said it will now be up to the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration to determine fault and whether there were any safety violations at the plant.

The explosion Wednesday afternoon at Rio Ammunition killed Rodney Edwards and injured three others. Joey Clark was listed in stable condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Saturday. The other two victims were discharged earlier in the week.

A news release from Rio parent company Maxam said the Tennessee plant produced shotgun cartridges, and the blast occurred during the company’s cartridge loading operations.

Massachusetts

Body Found by Highway Is Missing Massachusetts Boy

Missing Boy Mass
Massachusetts State Police stand along Interstate 190 where police said a child's body was found Friday, April 18, 2014, near Sterling, Mass. Tom Rettig—Worcester Telegram & Gazette/AP

The body found Friday off Interstate 190 has been positively identified as 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said. Jeremiah was last seen by relatives in September but was not reported missing until December

Updated 6:02 PM ET

(WORCESTER, Mass.) — The body of a small boy apparently cast off the side of a highway has been confirmed as a missing 5-year-old, authorities said Saturday.

The body found Friday off Interstate 190 has been positively identified as Jeremiah Oliver, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said. No charges were immediately announced related to Jeremiah’s death.

He was last seen by relatives in September but wasn’t reported missing until December. Authorities had said they feared the Fitchburg boy was dead.

Early said in a statement Saturday that the autopsy report is not complete. The investigation is continuing, he said.

“It appears to be a homicide,” the prosecutor said at a news conference Friday.

Early said the body was found at about 9 a.m. Friday by a police search team about 40 feet off I-190 near Sterling, which is about 12 miles from Fitchburg. He said it was wrapped in blanket-like material and packed in material that resembled a suitcase.

He would not say what led authorities to the location or how long the body may have been there. He said the site is near an area that is regularly mowed on the side of the highway but would not have been visible to passing cars.

Jeremiah’s mother, Elsa Oliver, 28, pleaded not guilty in March to charges including kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and reckless endangerment. Her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, 23, pleaded not guilty to similar charges.

The family was being monitored by state social workers since 2011. And after Jeremiah’s disappearance, their case led to intense scrutiny of the state Department of Children and Families.

Three employees of the agency — a social worker, a supervisor and an area manager — were fired after an internal investigation. Officials said the social worker had not made required monthly visits to the family.

The governor asked the Child Welfare League of America to review DCF but resisted calls from some lawmakers to fire Olga Roche, the agency’s commissioner.

In an initial report filed by the league last month, it recommended that Massachusetts take a number of steps to shore up its child welfare system, including boosting staffing levels to reduce social worker caseload.

A separate report from the state’s Child Advocate, Gail Garinger, suggested that state social workers missed nearly one in five home visits during a recent 12-month period, though state officials said the figure was likely overstated.

Roche assured state legislators in January that DCF had accounted for the safety of all other young children in its care.

Oliver and Sierra, who were indicted by a Worcester County grand jury, are both being held on bail — $100,000 for Oliver and $250,000 for Sierra.

Three other people have been charged with interfering with a criminal investigation and misleading police in connection with the case.

Religion

The Radical Easter Proclamation

A young worshiper kisses a statue of Christ hanging on the cross during Holy Week festivities on April 18, 2014 in Paraty, Brazil.
A young worshiper kisses a statue of Christ hanging on the cross during Holy Week festivities on April 18, 2014 in Paraty, Brazil. Mario Tama—Getty Images

The Easter proclamation is perhaps the strangest and most radical message ever given: “Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” The words have become so commonplace that we’ve perhaps forgotten how weird and how wonderful they truly are. Along with that, there have been attempts by religious scholars in the past two centuries to reduce this resurrection message into a mythical story or a mere statement of God’s faithfulness to his people.

But as we come again to the great and climatic feast of our Christian faith, it’s time again to reconsider those wondrous words as if for the first time:

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

The disciples’ first reactions to this news were remarkable. You can feel their excitement jump off every page of the New Testament. The Gospel writers give an eyewitness account of what happened. Every detail mattered to them. Remember, as John tells us, the disciples were not expecting Jesus to be resurrected. After all, he was brutally executed by the Roman regime and buried in a grave. This wasn’t some hack job; this was a professional execution by the most powerful government in the ancient world.

But after an encounter with the resurrected Jesus, Peter goes back to downtown Jerusalem and—filled with a new spirit—gives the first great Christian sermon. He tells the crowds the startling news that the Nazorean who was executed and buried had been raised from the dead. It’s important to note that this wasn’t some vague claim about God’s faithfulness or about a future hope for immortality. Peter’s Easter faith wasn’t an abstraction. It was the result of a lived experience with Jesus of Nazareth. He had experienced for himself that complex drama about the goodness of creation, the pain of sin and brokenness and the power of God’s redeeming love.

Recall that Peter himself was crucified in Rome years later under the regime of Nero. He didn’t die for defending a faith in mythical and philosophical claim, but for defending a faith in a historical person and event.

For the followers of Jesus, the historical resurrection of Jesus from the dead changed everything. The excitement of the early Church even bordered on arrogance. Paul’s holy taunt embodies this: “O death where is your sting! O hell, where is your victory!” While the disciples’ journey with the resurrected Jesus transformed their lives, it sometimes appears to not have the same effect on today’s Christians. As Pope Francis has recently complained, “there are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.”

When Mary Magdalene encountered the empty tomb, she ran to tell the others the news. Today’s Christians must imitate Mary’s posture. We too must make haste to share the impossibly good news that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and that through his great love, our lives and our society can be given a new horizon and a decisive direction.

The growing temptation to make Christianity a bourgeois faith that is reduced to mere ethics and platitudes must be rejected. That isn’t a faith that will change our lives or have any effect on society. It’s a faith without a future.

This Easter invites Christians to again to re-center our faith on the person of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. We mustn’t forget the story of our people: that God pitched a tent among us and shared our human lot in Jesus Christ. To the poor, Jesus proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom and to those in sorrow, joy. In his death, our death was destroyed, and in his resurrection, our lives were restored. And that we might live no longer for ourselves, he gave us a Holy Spirit to serve others and to renew the face the earth. In spite of our continual failings as individuals and as a society, God has never grown tired of loving us.

This Easter story isn’t simply for us, but also for the transformation of our families, our communities, our Church, our country and the entire world. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead gives us a chance to reimagine and reconstruct human life and society once again.

It allows us to become collaborators in God’s great dreams for a world where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven and where every man, woman and child experiences the salvation that Christ won for us in his death and resurrection.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! This is our faith, and this is the faith of the Church. Two millennia later, and it is still good news indeed.

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Obama’s re-election campaign. You can follow him on Twitter@chrisjollyhale.

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