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“All men are created equal.” Few words in American history are invoked as often as the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, published nearly 250 years ago. And are few more difficult to define. The music, and the economy, of “all men are created equal” make it both universal and elusive — and adaptable to viewpoints otherwise with little or no common ground. How we use them often depends less on how we came into this world than on what kind world we want to live in. It’s as if “All men are created equal” leads Americans to ask: “And then what?”

AP
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Kathy Gannon has reported on Afghanistan for the AP for the past 35 years, during an extraordinary series of events and regime changes that have rocked the world. Through it all, the kindness and resilience of ordinary Afghans has shone through for her – which is also what has made it so painful for her, she says, to watch the slow erosion of their hope. Gannon says she has always been amazed at how Afghans stubbornly hung on to hope against all odds, greeting each of several new regimes with optimism. But by 2018, a Gallup poll showed that the fraction of people in Afghanistan with hope in the future was the lowest ever recorded anywhere. It didn’t have to be this way, Gannon says.

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Pope Francis is urging the people and leaders of Congo and South Sudan to “turn a page” and forge new paths of reconciliation, peace and development. Francis issued a video message on the day he had planned to begin a weeklong pilgrimage to the two African countries. He canceled the trip last month because of knee pain that makes walking and standing difficult. In the message delivered Saturday, Francis said he was “greatly disappointed” by the turn of events and promised to reschedule “as soon as possible.” He sent his No. 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to visit both Congo and South Sudan on the days the pope was supposed to have been there.

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Abortion, guns, religion. A major change in the law in any one of these areas would have made for a fateful Supreme Court term. But in its first full term together, the court’s conservative majority ruled in all three and issued other significant decisions limiting the government’s regulatory powers. And that majority has signaled it has no plans to slow down. With former President Donald Trump's three appointees in their 50s, the six-justice conservative majority seems poised to keep control of the court for years to come, if not decades. Its remaining opinions issued, the court began its summer recess Thursday, and the justices will next return to the courtroom in October.

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FILE - Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. Seated from left are Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left are Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

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FILE - President Donald Trump watches as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administers the Constitutional Oath to Amy Coney Barrett on the South Lawn of the White House White House in Washington, Oct. 26, 2020. Holding the Bible is Barrett's husband, Jesse Barrett. Eight of the last nine Republican nominees to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, from the Reagan to the Trump presidencies, have had Catholic pedigrees including Barrett. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

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FILE - Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito testifies before the House Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 7, 2019. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, five justices voted to overturn Roe — Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. All five were raised Catholic. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

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FILE - Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh stands during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, on April 23, 2021. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, five justices voted to overturn Roe — Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. All five were raised Catholic. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

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FILE - Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, five justices voted to overturn Roe — Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. All five were raised Catholic. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

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FILE - Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch stands during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, five justices voted to overturn Roe — Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. All five were raised Catholic. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool)