Vice President Mike Pence stood before nearly 400 caged men, crowded together inside enclosed fencing, unshowered and kept warm by thermal blankets, some of them jeering. Was it smugness on his face? Or just the realization that this would be hard to spin? He was standing only feet away, looking at the migrants a bit as though they were a part of a species he regarded as similar but not quite the same.

Fifty years ago next Tuesday, at about 9:30 a.m., three astronauts sitting atop a rocket the size of a Navy destroyer packing 7.5 million pounds of thrust took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Roughly a million people had gathered on the ground to watch this historic event, including half of Congress. These three astronauts, as one newspaper back then put it, carried with them “the hopes of the world.”

President Trump’s labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, is under intense pressure to resign over his past role in a soft plea deal for financier Jeffrey Epstein now that Epstein has been indicted on child sex-trafficking charges. It’s not clear whether Acosta will survive, but Trump does seem to be trying to keep him on board, to see if it’s possible to weather the resulting political storm.

Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is no right-wing bomb thrower. Like most New England Republicans, he’s in the center-right: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage and prone to avoiding the hot-button cultural issues regularly featured on talk radio. So it was a surprise when he decided to weigh in on the controversy involving Nike, Colin Kaepernick and the American flag.

Nike has withdrawn a new Independence Day-themed shoe featuring the Revolutionary War-era flag after former NFL quarterback and Nike-endorser Colin Kaepernick complained that the flag was a symbol of the slave era, according to the Wall Street Journal. Nike offered a lame excuse that it had removed the shoe from retailers because “it featured an old version of the American flag.”

The impending death of the Youngstown Vindicator, a newspaper where I worked for 19 years, has something to do with the dire finances that plague much of American journalism and have shuttered or shrunk many newspapers nationwide. But the pain of its demise is grounded in distinctly local recent history: Youngstown, Ohio, and the Mahoning Valley in which it lies have struggled with deindustrialization, population loss, health declines and civic disengagement. The paper was wounded by those trends; its closing will help accelerate some of them, especially the widening gulf between citizens and the public institutions that we need to bind this region together.

People who truly believe in justice and equality owe Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sincere appreciation for his refusal to allow the state of Mississippi to put to death a man whose case was tainted by a senior prosecutor’s strategic and consistent exclusion of nearly all non-whites from juries deciding the accused’s guilt or innocence. The accused, Curtis Flowers, is an African American.

Baylor University, which draws from a rich Baptist tradition and defines itself with justification as a “Christian university,” at present finds itself wrestling with Baptist dilemmas such as God’s preferring the male voice in the pulpit; faith and freedom to interpret the Bible personally; and professors, students, alumni and other Baylor constituencies pressing the university to recognize LGBTQ student groups. Amidst all this, perhaps it’s time for Baylor leaders to recall the words of Pastor George Washington Truett in “Baptists and Religious Liberty,” 1920: “It is the natural and fundamental and indefeasible right of every human being to worship God or not, according to the dictates of his conscience, and, as long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others, he is to be held accountable alone to God for all religious beliefs and practices. Our contention is not for mere toleration but for absolute liberty. There is a wide difference between toleration and liberty.”

Thomas Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of his greatest achievement: authoring the Declaration of Independence. This Fourth of July is the 243rd anniversary of that achievement and 193rd anniversary of Jefferson’s death. John Adams died just five hours after Jefferson on the same day. His last words were about his friend, then adversary, then friend once more. “Thomas Jefferson survives,” he said moments before passing away himself.

Imagine dedicating your life, the entirety of your being, to pursuing your passion, using gifts given to you in the utmost way, and giving everything, absolutely everything, to becoming the absolute best in the world at whatever it is you have chosen to dedicate yourself to. Maybe you have worked to become the world’s best teacher, or police officer, or stylist, or drive-thru manager.

The photograph conforms to all the necessary standards for a media image depicting tragedy. It shows a father and his daughter, face down, at the edge of a river, their bodies floating in the muddy water. They can’t be identified and their faces are not visible, which would violate standards of “taste” at many media outlets. But the story of the two people in the photo by Julia Le Duc has been documented.

At Thursday’s Democratic debate, former vice president Joe Biden came under even more fire for bragging about his ability to work with Southern segregationists during his early years in the Senate. Sen. Kamala Harris, the only African-American candidate on the stage with Biden, attacked him in searingly personal terms, explaining, “it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”

Gerrymandering is nothing new. It happens when political insiders draw district lines to benefit themselves or their parties, or to squeeze minorities out of power. In the very first congressional election, Patrick Henry drew a misshapen district in a bid to keep James Madison from winning. But lately, with digital technology and partisan ruthlessness, gerrymandering has gotten much worse. Highly precise gerrymanders dilute the voting strength of an emerging nonwhite majority.

The race for control of the U.S. Senate in 2020 is officially underway in the key swing state of New Hampshire. On Monday, Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc (retired) formally announced his candidacy in what is likely to be a hotly contested GOP primary and will undoubtedly be a competitive general election against incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Texas quietly surpassed almost all other states recently to phase out subminimum wage for individuals with severe disabilities. This means certain employers can no longer obtain certificates from the Department of Labor and pay individuals with disabilities as low as pennies per hour. This is an excellent first step for our state, but it is just a first step. Now is the time for more employers to step up and fully include all individuals in the workforce.

The doctrine that court precedents should have momentum for respect — the predictability of settled law gives citizens due notice of what is required or proscribed — is called stare decisis. This Latin translates as: “To stand by things decided.” The translation is not: “If a precedent was produced by bad reasoning and has produced irrational and unjust results, do not correct the error, just shrug, say, ‘well, to err is human,’ and continue adhering to the mistake.”

Up and down the East Coast, state lawmakers are fighting the Trump administration’s efforts to allow natural gas and oil development in the Atlantic. These politicians recently adopted a novel tactic — they’re blocking construction of onshore pipelines, terminals and other energy infrastructure that would be needed to process offshore natural gas and oil.

President Trump’s plan to question CIA officers who collected and analyzed intelligence relating to Russia’s sophisticated attack on the 2016 presidential election should send a chill down American spines. Trump’s premise has always been that any Russian attempts to increase the likelihood of his winning the election is a fairy tale, some hoax made up by his political enemies. “You want to know who won the election? I won the election!” he said at a recent rally. The words of a deeply insecure president, no doubt, but they reflect the dangerous reasoning behind his empowering Attorney General William Barr to investigate the investigators: This president keeps a Nixon-style enemies list, and his eagerness to act on it presents a severe and potentially lasting risk to national security.

Waco has been my home for 25 years, yet I am still constantly amazed and humbled by the generosity and charitable spirit of the people who live here. I made the decision to join the Pie Society and include local charity in my estate plans because I want my legacy to provide for the future needs of the community that is so dear to my family and me. I hope to encourage others to do the same so that together we can ensure Waco’s brightest future.

We are in a blessed time now that the medical profession is more likely to heal us than to kill us by its ministrations. In the ancient world, to go to a physician was a gamble, often subjecting patients to such hair-raising horrors as bloodletting. And snake oil remedies were common. The ancients did the best they could, and we moderns don’t give them the credit they deserve. The general attitude toward physicians was summed up by the Roman poet Martial: “Until recently, Diaulus was a doctor; now he is an undertaker. He is still doing as an undertaker what he used to do as a doctor.”

Lately various quarters have coalesced around the need for presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. This includes not just the 23 Democratic candidates declared but the present occupant of the White House, the only presidential candidate or office-holder in 40 years to withhold his taxes from public view.

With so many immigrants crossing the border illegally, Congress is overlooking another growing crisis in America’s legal immigration system. The central finding of a new study this week from the Cato Institute shows legal immigrants are waiting longer than ever before for the chance to apply for green cards. If Congress truly wants immigrants to follow legal pathways, it should start by fixing the ones that already exist.

Tensions between Iran and the United States continued to build over the weekend. President Donald Trump and his lieutenants accused the regime in Tehran of launching attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, pointing to apparent video evidence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from one of the targeted ships. “It’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it,” Trump said in his distinct syntax on Friday.

On Monday, the United States ordered the deployment of an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East. This followed last week’s alleged attack by Iran on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman which resulted in the Trump administration’s increasingly inflammatory rhetoric aimed at the Islamic Republic of Iran. What are we to make of this escalating situation?

Tuesday’s death of high-tech pioneer and unorthodox but engaging two-time presidential candidate Ross Perot at age 89 constitutes passage of not only an authentic American patriot and philanthropist but an individual who represented the best of Texas in everything from innovation to independence to ready delivery of chicken-fried witticisms. And while he had maintained a low profile in the years since his grassroots presidential pursuits, his life story has much to emulate and many lessons to learn.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

One of history's most transformative human rights movements began on a steamy July afternoon 50 years ago in front of fewer than 100 spectators. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, speaking six weeks after her brother Robert was killed, stepped to the microphone at Soldier Field in Chicago and opened the first Special Olympics Games. Shriver, then 47, her voice a gravelly mix of upper-crust Hyannis Port and dockside stevedore, boldly stated that 1 million of the world's intellectually challenged would someday compete in Special Olympics.

In my freshman year of college, I frequently sat next to an extremely cute guy in my Spanish class. I was generally late, so we never arrived together, and, for reasons that now escape me, we never left at the same time either. But we did manage to flirt a lot, and we eventually arranged to meet for a study date. It was clear that we weren't going to pay any more attention to irregular verbs on this study date than we had in class.