By Lisa Lambert WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Possible contenders for the U.S. Republican presidential nomination are speaking out in support of Indiana's new 'religious freedom' law, addressing controversy over the legislation with conservative views of faith and liberty. "This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to be able to be people of conscience. I think once the facts are established people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all," said Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor who is expected to announce a presidential bid, in a radio interview on Monday. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, also a Republican, last week signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to keep the state government from forcing business owners to act against their religious beliefs.


Building on his commitment to address instances of unfairness in sentencing, President Obama granted 22 commutations today to individuals serving time in federal prison. Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.

In total, the 22 commutations granted today underscore the President’s commitment to using all the tools at his disposal to bring greater fairness and equity to our justice system. Further, they demonstrate how exercising this important authority can remedy imbalances and rectify errors in sentencing. Added to his prior 21 commutations, the President has now granted 43 commutations total. To put President Obama’s actions in context, President George W. Bush commuted 11 sentences in his eight years in office.

To further this progress, the President has established a clemency initiative to encourage individuals who were sentenced under outdated laws and policies to petition for commutation. At his direction, significant reforms have followed, such as the promulgation of new criteria for potential commutation candidates to meet, including those who pose no threat to public safety, have a clean record in prison, and have been sentenced under out-of-date laws. In addition, the Department of Justice has raised awareness about how to petition for commutation to ensure that every federal inmate who believes they are deserving of this invaluable second chance has the opportunity to ask for it.

Underscoring the responsibility that a commutation brings, the President penned a letter to each of the 22 individuals receiving clemency today, recognizing their potential to overcome the mistakes they made and encouraging them to make good choices moving forward.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) offers a substantial opportunity to advance American interests and values, including a once-in-a-generation chance to protect our oceans, wildlife, and the environment.

The Asia-Pacific Region and TPP parties encompass some of the world’s most ecologically significant regions, are home to major markets for wildlife and wildlife products, and include eight of the top 20 fishing nations, together accounting for a quarter of global marine catch and seafood exports. Taking action in the region is of critical importance given that five of the TPP parties are among the world’s 17 “mega-diverse” countries, a group covering less than 10 percent of the earth’s area, but supporting more than 70 percent of the earth’s species plant and animal species.

Through TPP, the Obama administration is doubling down on its commitment to use every tool possible to address the most pressing environmental challenges. We aren’t just talking about holding trading partners accountable for protecting wildlife, forests, and oceans; we plan to make those environmental commitments fully enforceable in the core of the TPP agreement, on equal footing with the economic obligations our trading partners take on.

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