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Pope Francis changed Catholic Church teaching to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances.
Pope Francis changed Catholic Church teaching to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances. (Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

Pope Francis threw the weight of the Catholic Church behind the death-penalty abolition movement on Thursday, releasing a new church teaching that says – quoting a speech by the pope last year – that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” That may come as a surprise to Catholics who thought the church already opposed the death penalty.

And it did, in most instances, as spelled out in Catechism No. 2267, which Francis changed in May but didn’t announce until he released a “Letter to the Bishops” on Thursday. The Church previously carved out an exception for an execution “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” Though it also said such circumstances “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent,” as Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1995 “Evangelium Vitae” on the sanctity of life.

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  • Opinion
MoviePass is now on life support. We will miss it dearly when it goes.
MoviePass is now on life support. We will miss it dearly when it goes. (Darron Cummings / AP)

These are dark times, friends.

California's on fire, again, and seemingly always will be. The economy is allegedly doing well, but the numbers on our paychecks remain stagnant. No one in the White House knows how to change the president's Twitter password. It has been 13 whole months since we last saw a new "Game of Thrones" episode.

And now, our beloved MoviePass is as good as dead. Let's call it advanced life support, with deep-pocketed investors providing infusions of cash to stop the whole thing from flatlining for good.

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  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
  • The Golden State
(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

The Trump administration announced on Thursday it would make good on its threats to end Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. 

Environmental advocates across the country are livid. And, yes, at first glance this action may like seem a catastrophic blow to the effort to curb the effects of global warming. Tailpipe exhaust from vehicles is now America’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s the thing: Obama’s fuel efficiency rules were, in actual practice, decidedly unhelpful. In many ways they made things worse. And I’m not just being a counterintuitive troll.

  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
Humanity has already spent its sustainable natural resources budget for the year - and it's only Aug. 1.
Humanity has already spent its sustainable natural resources budget for the year - and it's only Aug. 1. (NASA)

Researchers for the Global Footprint Network say the world, as of Aug. 1, has used up all the sustainable global resources for the year, meaning that we are “using nature 1.7 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.7 Earths.” And Aug. 1 marks the earliest global consumption has crossed that sustainability line — or Earth Overshoot Day, as the organization calls it.

So what does that really mean? According to GFN, we reach overshoot when “humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in that year.” Or as the Quartz website put it, it’s “the equivalent of drawing down capital rather than living off interest.”

And that’s not good.

  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
Morning commuters face very heavy traffic on I-10 West.
Morning commuters face very heavy traffic on I-10 West. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The Trump administration is so eager to roll back an Obama-era mandate that cars, light trucks and SUVs become more fuel efficient, it’s planning to throw every possible justification for doing so against the wall to see what sticks.

One assertion: People will drive less if their vehicles get fewer miles per gallon, lowering the risk of crashes. That’s according to excerpts from a draft of the administration’s proposal obtained by the Associated Press.

This is a stretch, as several experts told the AP. There is little evidence that more driving equals more crash fatalities. Since the mid-1970s, the number of vehicle miles driven each year has increased while the number of motor vehicle fatalities has decreased.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
President Trump on Wednesday again urged Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
President Trump on Wednesday again urged Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. (Saul Loeb, Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

It’s every employee’s nightmare: the boss asking — no, demanding — that you do something he knows you can’t do.

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has been living that nightmare for a year and a half. It took a darker turn Wednesday morning, when President Trump called on Sessions to do something that would cement the attorney general’s place in the history books, and not in a good way.

The key line is in the third tweet in this sequence, after the long quote from Trump apologist Alan Dershowitz:

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
ICE official Matthew Albence testified to Congress that family detention centers are like "summer camp."
ICE official Matthew Albence testified to Congress that family detention centers are like "summer camp." (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

One of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s top executives, Matthew Albence, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning and described facilities for housing detained families in the country without permission as “more like a summer camp” than a place of incarceration.

Seema Verma, center, a top Trump administration health official, has been a vocal opponent of "Medicare for All."
Seema Verma, center, a top Trump administration health official, has been a vocal opponent of "Medicare for All." (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Charles Blahous, a conservative number-cruncher with an abiding skepticism about entitlement programs, grabbed dueling headlines Monday with a paper on the cost of “Medicare for All,” the single-payer health insurance proposal championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Blahous, senior research strategist at the right-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University, projected that enrolling all Americans in Medicare would increase federal spending by almost $33 trillion over 10 years once it’s fully implemented. That’s an average of $3.3 trillion a year, which amounts to 75% of the total federal budget for the coming fiscal year. According to Blahous, by the 10th year, the increase in spending alone would consume almost 13% of the U.S. economy.

Hoo boy.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is shown here with President-elect Trump in November 2016 at a Trump golf club in New Jersey.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is shown here with President-elect Trump in November 2016 at a Trump golf club in New Jersey. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s a time-honored practice by defense lawyers to insist that their clients didn’t do what they’re accused of doing, but then to add that even if they did, it wasn’t a crime. The latter almost sounds like an admission of guilt, but it’s really just a fallback plan in case the evidence against their client proves to be strong.

Which is why eyebrows shot up when President Trump’s current lawyer, former federal prosecutor and ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told CNN on Monday that “I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russians.”

Prior to that interview, the Trump team had unequivocally denied that any collusion had occurred between the Trump campaign and agents of the Russian government. Going from “no collusion” to “collusion is not a crime” is quite a shift.

  • Opinion
  • Guns and Ammo
  • We're All Doomed
  • Rule of Law
Efforts to ban sharing of 3-D computer codes to make untraceable guns like this one aim at the wrong target.
Efforts to ban sharing of 3-D computer codes to make untraceable guns like this one aim at the wrong target. (Cody Wilson)

There have been some skirmishes in federal courts recently over efforts by a Texas pro-gun zealot to let people download software instructions that will direct a 3-D printer to create an untraceable gun. It’s a dangerously bad idea, but unfortunately, the man — Cody Wilson, who runs the nonprofit Defense Distributed — is perfectly within his rights, as the Times editorial board explained three years ago.

What? The pro-gun control Los Angeles Times siding with the gun nuts? Well, yeah, in this case, because what’s at stake is not the 2nd Amendment covering gun rights, but the 1st Amendment covering free speech. We reach dangerous ground when we let the government — federal, state or local — tell people what information they can and can’t share over the internet.

The issue first surfaced in 2013 when the State Department went after Wilson, arguing that making the computer programming available globally via the internet put him afoul of U.S. laws on gun exports. But that was an overreach. Wilson wasn’t shipping weapons, he was sharing information — specifically, computer code, which courts have held is speech.