The Common Good

Blog Posts By Duane Shank

Posted by Duane Shank 45 weeks 6 days ago
Quote of the day."We must learn others' [American] concerns about us, and express our concerns about them, and find a way to resolve this issue. These drone strikes that rain in every day have to stop." Nawaz Sharif, in his first speech to Parliament after his election as prime minister of Pakistan was ratified.(BBC)  
Posted by Duane Shank 45 weeks 6 days ago
In what was largely a formality following last month’s popular elections, Pakistan’s parliament yesterday elected Nawaz Sharif as prime minister. In Mr. Sharif’s first speech, he said that he wanted better relations with the U.S., but included among his priorities an end to drone strikes. According to the Associated Press:"This daily routine of drone attacks, this chapter shall now be closed," Sharif said to widespread applause in the parliament hall. "We do respect others' sovereignty. It is mandatory on others that they respect our sovereignty."But he gave few details on how he might end the strikes. Many in Pakistan say the strikes kill large numbers of innocent civilians — something the U.S. denies — and end up breeding more extremism by those seeking retribution with the U.S.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 46 weeks 18 hours ago
Quote of the day. “It’s the biggest fear of adoptive parents — that there is family out there looking for the child. I think people go into this with good hearts, but like many who go into the developing world and want to help, they don’t know how easy it is to hurt.” Amanda Bennett, an evangelical Christian and a lawyer in Chicago, on the pitfalls of international adoption promoted by a new evangelical Christian movement that encourages adoption as a religious and moral calling. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 46 weeks 1 day ago
 Quote of the day. "He's mostly going to be remembered as somebody who tried to help save lives. He died doing what he loved and literally put his life on the line to save others."  Jim Samaras, whose brother Tim, a leading “storm chaser” who had researched tornadoes by placing instruments in their path, was killed by a tornado Friday in Oklahoma. (Reuters) 1. In Congress, legislation and scandals vie for attention. Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Monday from a weeklong recess, facing a critical juncture on immigration legislation and controversies at the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department that will test Congress’s ability to balance its twin responsibilities of legislating and investigating. (New York Times)   2. Immigration reform deal hangs on border security. The Gang of Eight’s hopes for a Senate supermajority is running into the GOP’s push for a dramatic crackdown on border security — testing the limits of the bipartisan coalition that’s propelling the bill through Congress. (Politico) 3. Women in the Senate confront the military on sex assaults. The growing presence of women senators is most pronounced on the Armed Services Committee, where they have forced the long-simmering issue of sexual assault in the military to the forefront. (New York Times)   4. Manning court martial trial starts Monday. Amid secrecy and spectacle, the long-awaited court-martial trial of WikiLeaks linchpin Bradley E. Manning starts Monday. (McClatchy News)   5. Republican divisions over Medicaid expansion deepen further. Republican fissures over the expansion of Medicaid, a critical piece of the 2010 health-care law designed to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, continue to deepen, with battles in Arizona and elsewhere showing just how bitter the divisions have become. (Washington Post)   6. Obama can sign UN arms treaty on Monday, but advocates worry he’ll stall. President Obama is hesitant to sign an international arms trade treaty opposed by the National Rifle Association, according to advocates for the pact. Meetings with administration officials have them worried the White House doesn''t want to expend any more political capital on a treaty the NRA insists is a gun grab by the United Nations. (The Hill) 7. Protests in Turkey reveal a larger fight over identity. In full public view, a long struggle over urban spaces is erupting as a broader fight over Turkish identity, where difficult issues of religion, social class and politics intersect. (New York Times)   8. Syrian rebels and Hezbollah clash. A number of people are killed in rare clashes on Lebanese soil between Syrian rebels and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, say reports. (BBC)   9. Egypt court rules upper house of parliament elected illegally. Egypt''s supreme constitutional court (SCC) has ruled that the country''s upper house of parliament and constitution-drafting assembly were elected illegally. (Guardian)   10. Iran talks going round in circles. The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said on Monday talks with Iran have been "going around in circles" - unusually blunt criticism pointing to rising tension over suspected nuclear arms research by Tehran that has increased fears of a new Middle East war. (Reuters)
Posted by Duane Shank 46 weeks 4 days ago
Akbar Ahmed, Islamic Studies chair at American University, writes in the New York Times this morning about the effect of both violent extremist groups and U.S. drone strikes on traditional tribal societies.Drone strikes like Wednesday’s, in Waziristan, are destroying already weak tribal structures and throwing communities into disarray throughout Pakistan’s tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan. The chaos and rage they produce endangers the Pakistani government and fuels anti-Americanism. And the damage isn’t limited to Pakistan. Similar destruction is occurring in other traditional tribal societies like Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. The tribes on the periphery of these nations have long struggled for more autonomy from the central government, first under colonial rule and later against the modern state. The global war on terror has intensified that conflict.…In recent decades, these societies have undergone huge disruptions as the traditional leadership has come under attack by violent groups like the Taliban, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia’s Al Shabab, not to mention full-scale military invasions. America has deployed drones into these power vacuums, causing ferocious backlashes against central governments while destroying any positive image of the United States that may have once existed.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 46 weeks 4 days ago
Quote of the day. “We plan to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ in calling for justice, compassion and fairness for the sojourners among us and for just and fair immigration reform.” Russell Moore, incoming head of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. (Associated Baptist Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 46 weeks 5 days ago
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban confirmed that Waliur Rehman, the group’s second-in-command, was killed in yesterday’s drone strike. Ahsanullah Ahsan also announced that an offer to begin peace talks with the new Pakistani government was being withdrawn.The Associated Press reports:The militant group had said earlier that it was open to peace talks. But Ahsan said Thursday that the Taliban believe the government approves of the drone strikes so they are withdrawing their offer of peace talks."We had made the offer for peace talks with the government with good intention but we think that these drone attacks are carried out with the approval of the government so we announce the end of the talks process," he said.The incoming government, headed by Nawaz Sharif, promised in the campaign that it would work to bring about peace after years of violence. A U.S. drone has now called that into doubt.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 46 weeks 5 days ago
Quote of the day. "It may be happening, but Americans don''t like it. It is clear that a lot of Americans don''t think this is a good state of affairs." Frank Newport, Gallup''s editor in chief, on a new survey showing more than three in four of Americans say religion is losing its influence in the U.S. (CNN Belief Blog)
Posted by Duane Shank 46 weeks 6 days ago
In the news this morning are reports of a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan that killed seven people, including the unconfirmed death of the number two leader of Pakistan’s Taliban. It is the first strike since Pakistan’s election, and the first since President Obama’s speech last week on drone policy. Reuters reports:A U.S. drone strike killed the number two of the Pakistani Taliban in the North Waziristan region on Wednesday, three security officials said, in what would be a major blow in the fight against militancy.The drone strike killed seven people, Pakistani security officials said, including Taliban deputy commander Wali-ur-Rehman, in the first such attack since a May 11 general election in which the use of the unmanned aircraft was a major issue.Wali-ur-Rehman had been poised to succeed Hakimullah Mehsud as leader of the Pakistani Taliban, a senior army official based in the South Waziristan region, had said in December.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 46 weeks 6 days ago
Quote of the day. "We received nothing of what we fought for and what some of us died for. We did not get our freedoms, the rights for which people died, the economy is doing much worse than ever, and it seems like we''re in need of a new revolution." Mostafa Sherif, 29, an unemployed mechanical engineer in Cairo, on why young Egyptians are feeling disenfranchised. (Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 20 hours ago
News reports over the weekend had Pakistani reactions to President Obama’s Thursday speech on drones.DAWN reported a statement from the Pakistani Foreign Office:The Government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.The Associated Press reported that while Pakistanis welcomed the speech and its more restrictive rules on drone strikes, there was also disappointment that strikes will continue:Obama has finally responded to the popular sentiment in this country, which is fiercely against the drones, and I think that shows a certain sensitivity," said Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the defense committee in Pakistan's Senate. "But for the people of Pakistan that is not good enough unless there is a cessation of drone attacks."Several Pakistani officials and analysts noted that the President’s comments could help in improving relations between the U.S. and the new government in Pakistan.
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 21 hours ago
Quote of the day. "I think it''s easy for people to be mad at God for what''s happened. But what we''ve seen here is how God has protected and cared for so many people." Noah Hill, youth pastor at Southgate Baptist Church, in one of the areas hardest hit by the tornado in Moore, Okla. (Chicago Tribune) 1. A nation ''still at war'' honors its dead. President Obama on Monday paid homage to the nation’s military, especially troops serving in Afghanistan, using his traditional Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery to exhort Americans to honor their “sacred obligation” to veterans and to remind the country that “our nation is still at war.” (New York Times) 2. Conservative attempts to block immigration reform fails. Unlike six years ago, the loudest voices of dissent were drowned out by a disciplined performance from a bipartisan group of eight senators who teamed up to fight off the most serious threats to the bill. (Washington Post) 3. Racial diversity efforts ebb for elite careers. Nearly a half-century after a Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, helped usher in the era of affirmative action, the Supreme Court is poised to rule as early as this week on whether the University of Texas can continue to consider race as one of many factors in its admissions policy. (New York Times) 4. National and state parks suffering from budget cuts. National and state parks will be open for business this summer, but it won''t be business as usual: Washington''s sledgehammer budget cuts and fewer state dollars will result in overflowing trash cans, closed visitor centers, and fewer Junior Ranger programs. (McClatchy News) 5. Gun control supporters facing recall bids in Colo. A handful of Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado face recall petition efforts in what looks to be the first wave of fallout over legislative votes to limit gun rights.  (Associated Press) 6. Big U.S. weapons system designs compromised by Chinese hackers. Designs for many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry. (Washington Post) 7. McCain visits Syria; EU agrees to relax arms ban. Diplomatic pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad escalated Monday, as a divided European Union agreed to relax a ban on weapons shipments to anti-Assad forces and U.S. Sen. John McCain met with insurgent commanders during a surprise visit to the country. (Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times) 8. John Kerry unveils plan to boost Palestinian economy. John Kerry revealed his long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East on Sunday, hinging on a $4 billion (£2.6 billion) investment in the Palestinian private sector. (Guardian) 9. Colombia, FARC rebels reach agreement on agrarian reform. Colombia and the Marxist-led FARC rebels have reached agreement on the critical issue of agrarian reform, the two sides said on Sunday in a major step forward for the peace process aimed at ending their long war. (Reuters) 10. Malnutrition hits school performance. A quarter of the world''s children are at risk of underperforming at school because of chronic malnutrition, says U.K. charity Save the Children. (BBC)
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 4 days ago
Editor''s Note: Daily Digest and Verse and Voice will not be sent on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. We hope everyone enjoys the holiday!Quote of the day. “This was a ridiculous and draconian idea that should never have gone so far. Rather than tackling a double-dip recession, the commission is worried about double-dipped bread.” Martin Callanan, a British member of the European Parliament, on a proposal to bar restaurants from serving olive oil in cruets or dipping bowls. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 5 days ago
Saying that drone killings were “effective” and “legal,” President Barack Obama defended the program in a policy speech this afternoon at the National Defense University. He also conceded that “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”The administration, he said, has “worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists—insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.” He did not go into specific detail, but indicated it included more restrictive targeting criteria along with measures to prevent civilian casualties (“before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.”)The president said that “the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe.” And as an important part of that strategy, “we must help countries modernize economies, upgrade education, and encourage entrepreneurship.”Over the next days and weeks, we will certainly learn more, and we will see what happens on the ground.Read reports on the speech in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 5 days ago
Quote of the day. "Too many governments are abusing human rights in the name of immigration control — going well beyond legitimate border control measures. These measures not only affect people fleeing conflict. Millions of migrants are being driven into abusive situations, including forced labour and sexual abuse, because of anti-immigration policies which means they can be exploited with impunity." Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, on AI’s annual report showing that theworld has become an increasingly dangerous place for refugees and migrants. (BBC)
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 6 days ago
The Obama administration formally acknowledged this afternoon that four American citizens have been killed by drone strikes, one intentionally and three who were not targeted. The New York Times reports:In a letter to Congressional leaders obtained by The New York Times, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. disclosed that the administration had deliberately killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen.The American responsibility for Mr. Awlaki’s death has been widely reported, but the administration had until now refused to confirm or deny it.The letter also said that the United States had killed three other Americans: Samir Khan, who was killed in the same strike; Mr. Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was also killed in Yemen; and Jude Mohammed, who was killed in a strike in Pakistan.“These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States,” Mr. Holder wrote.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 6 days ago
Quote of the day. "Coming off the second deployment back into civilian life, we just had to do what we had to do. Those benefits kept my kids fed." Don Martinez, 33, an Iraq veteran protesting cuts in food stamps because of the assistance he received while he struggled with getting recognition for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. (Huffington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 6 days ago
President Barack Obama will deliver a major speech on drone policy tomorrow. And for a number of reasons—including a smaller number of important al Qaeda targets, issues such as bad weather to diplomatic problems, and concerns about the costs and benefits—the number of drone strikes being carried out is dropping. The New York Times reports:But lost in the contentious debate over the legality, morality and effectiveness of a novel weapon is the fact that the number of strikes has actually been in decline. Strikes in Pakistan peaked in 2010 and have fallen sharply since then; their pace in Yemen has slowed to half of last year’s rate; and no strike has been reported in Somalia for more than a year.In a long-awaited address on Thursday at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama will make his most ambitious attempt to date to lay out his justification for the strikes and what they have achieved. He may follow up on public promises, including one he made in his State of the Union speech in February to define a “legal architecture” for choosing targets, possibly shifting more strikes from the C.I.A. to the military; explain how he believes that presidents should be “reined in” in their exercise of lethal power; and take steps to make a program veiled in secrecy more transparent.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 47 weeks 6 days ago
In a letter sent to the White House and the leadership of key Congressional committees, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote that the use of drones in counter-terrorism “raises serious moral questions.”Even when viewed through the prism of just war principles, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for targeted killings raises serious moral questions. The Administration seems to have focused narrowly on the just cause of protecting citizens, but other elements of the tradition pose significant questions, including discrimination, imminence of the threat, proportionality and probability of success. Targeted killing should, by definition, be highly discriminatory. The Administration's policy appears to extend the use of deadly force to alleged "signature" attacks and reportedly classifies all males of a certain age as combatants. Are these policies morally defensible? They seem to violate the law of war, international human rights law, and moral norms.He concludes by asking:We understand the necessity for operational secrecy in counter-terrorism, but isn’t it critical to have a public discussion of the terms of the Administration’s policy of employing drones for targeted killings? Don’t the moral and strategic issues involved require broader discussion? Shouldn’t a policy with such wide potential consequences be subject to public scrutiny, at a minimum by representative institutions in a democratic society?Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 18 hours ago
Quote of the day.“That’s prime land. I’ve raised 294 bushels of corn an acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help. It’s over.” Ashley Yost, Haskell County, Kan., whose farm is on the southern High Plains Aquifer, which is now so low that crops can't be watered.(New York Times) 
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 20 hours ago
One of the ongoing discussions of the U.S. drone program is who should control it. Having it under the military provides more oversight and accountability; having it under the CIA provides more secrecy. The Obama administration has apparently decided to begin moving control of at least some drone operations to the military. Reuters reports:Four U.S. government sources told Reuters that the decision had been made to shift the CIA's drone operations to the Pentagon, and some of them said it would occur in stages.Drone strikes in Yemen, where the U.S. military already conducts operations with Yemeni forces, would be run by the armed forces, officials said.But for the time-being U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan would continue to be conducted by the CIA to keep the program covert and maintain deniability for both the United States and Pakistan, several sources said.Ultimately, however, the administration's goal would be to transfer the Pakistan drone operations to the military, one U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 1 day ago
Quote of the day."Today, and it breaks my heart to say it, finding a homeless person who has died of cold, is not news. Today, the news is scandals, that is news, but the many children who don't have food - that's not news. This is grave. We can't rest easy while things are this way." Pope Francis, in unscripted comments answering questions at a huge international gathering of Catholic associations in St. Peter's Square.(Reuters)
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 1 day ago
After nearly a month’s lull, two drone strikes were carried out in Yemen over the weekend, killing at least six suspected militants. Reuters reports:Two suspected al Qaeda militants were killed on Monday in a drone strike on their vehicle south of the capital Sanaa, tribal and government sources said. The strike follows another on Saturday in which at least four militants were killed in Abyan governorate, in southernYemen.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 4 days ago
A high rate of burnout among drone pilots is leading to concerns in the U.S. Air Force over how they are selected. NBC News reports:  Pilots may be thousands of miles away from the flying weapons system they're operating. They often head home at the end of the day, as if returning from any other office job, maybe picking up milk on the way. But while at work, their drones' onboard cameras put them in a unique position to watch people being killed and injured as a direct result of their actions.As psychologists learn more about the mental scarring warfare leaves on drone pilots — caused by long shift hours, isolation, witnessing casualties and those Jekyll-and-Hyde days split between battlefield and home — experts from within the U.S. Air Force are calling for a review of drone pilot selection.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 4 days ago
Congress is beginning to assert its oversight role in declaring war by examining drone attacks. Yet, in Congressional testimony yesterday, Assistant Defense Secretary Michael Sheehan said that the Pentagon sees no reason to seek additional Congressional authority for the strikes. The Washington Post reports:“At this point we’re comfortable with the AUMF as it is currently structured,” Assistant Defense Secretary Michael Sheehan said of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress in 2001. “Right now . . . it serves its purpose,” he said.“In my judgment,” Sheehan said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “this is going to go on for quite a while, yes, beyond the second term of the president. . . . I think it’s at least 10 to 20 years.”Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 4 days ago
Quote of the day. "We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal."Pope Francis in a speech yesterday on the economic and financial crisis. (Full text of the speech here.) (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 5 days ago
Quote of the day. "A lot of times families become afraid of interacting with their children because they are so sick and so frail, and music provides them something that they can still do." Elizabeth Klinger, music therapist in a newborn intensive care unit, on research suggesting that music may help those born way too soon adapt to life outside the womb. (Associated Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 48 weeks 6 days ago
Quote of the day. "I know kids look up to me, but I don''t want to be known as just a baseball player. God gave me the opportunity and blessed me to accomplish good things in this sport. But if you don''t do something with it and help people with blessings you received, what does that really mean?” Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals'' All-Star right fielder, on why he spends time off working with underprivileged kids and visiting young cancer patients. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 15 hours ago
The U.S. Navy took a new step in drone warfare this morning. For the first time, a drone was launched from an aircraft carrier. The drone did not land back on the carrier, a feat that is challenging even for piloted aircraft, but that is expected soon. According to the Associated Press:The Navy for the first time Tuesday launched an unmanned aircraft the size of a fighter jet from a warship in the Atlantic Ocean, as it wades deeper into America's drone program amid growing concerns over the legality of its escalating surveillance and lethal strikes.The drone, called the X-47B, is considered particularly valuable because it's the first that is designed specifically to take off and land on an aircraft carrier, allowing it to be used around the world without needing the permission of other countries to serve as a home base.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 18 hours ago
Quote of the day."Our research predicts that climate change will greatly reduce the diversity of even very common species found in most parts of the world. This loss of global-scale biodiversity would significantly impoverish the biosphere and the ecosystem services it provides." Dr. Rachel Warren, University of East Anglia's (UK) school of environmental science, on a study she led showing that common land animals could see dramatic losses this century because of climate change. (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 19 hours ago
Nawaz Sharif, the newly elected prime minister of Pakistan told reporters yesterday that he considered U.S. drone attacks in that country a challenge to national sovereignty. According to the AP (via the San Jose Mercury News): “The CIA's drone campaign targeting al-Qaida and other militants in the tribal regions has been extremely controversial in Pakistan, where people say it frequently kills innocent civilians -- something Washington denies -- and that it violates Pakistan's sovereignty."Drones indeed are challenging our sovereignty. Of course we have taken this matter up very seriously. I think this is a very serious issue, and our concern must be understood properly," said Sharif.”Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 1 day ago
Quote of the day. ‘‘I can’t pretend it’s not difficult to be reviled and maligned. But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people that are not like you, that’s what God calls us to do.’’ Martha Mullen, on why she helped to arrange the burial of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev at a small Islamic cemetery in rural Virginia. (Boston Globe/AP)
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 4 days ago
NPR ran a story today with an interview of a former Air Force drone pilot. He describes some of his experiences, including a death he believes was a child who ran into the target area at the last minute. It brought home to him “the reality of war. Good guys can die, bad guys can die, and innocents can die as well.”You can listen to the interview here.
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 4 days ago
Quote of the day. “The growth of this entire thing has been quite organic. People are upset that their wages are low and their working conditions are bad. The divide between rich and poor has gotten greater and people have decided that there has to be more equality.” Rev. Charles Williams Jr., a leader in the group organizing protests by fast-food workers in Detroit over low wages. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 4 days ago
A Pakistani court has ruled that U.S. drone strikes in that country are illegal. The case was filed on behalf of the families of victims killed in a March 17, 2011 strike. The Independent (U.K.) reports:In what activists said was an historic decision, the Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused “collateral damage”.Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhumane and a violation of the UN charter on human rights. The court said the strikes must be declared a war crime as they killed innocent people.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 5 days ago
Quote of the day. “In the clothing industry, everybody wears it every day, but we have no idea where it comes from. People are starting to slowly clue in to this notion of where products are made.” Michael Preysman, chief executive and founder of Everlane, an online boutique, which is adding to its website photographs of factories where that clothing is made and information about the production. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 49 weeks 6 days ago
Quote of the day. "This is the first hopeful news concerning that unhappy country in a very long time. The statements made in Moscow constitute a very significant first step forward. It is nevertheless only a first step." Lakhdar Brahimi, U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, on a U.S.-Russian agreement to convene an international conference to find a political solution in that country. (BBC)
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 16 hours ago
China is rapidly developing a fleet of drones, some of which are already patrolling its borders. The number of drones and their capabilities remains unknown, but other countries in the region are watching closely. The AP reports:China's move into large-scale drone deployment displays its military's growing sophistication and could challenge U.S. military dominance in the Asia-Pacific. It also could elevate the threat to neighbors with territorial disputes with Beijing, including Vietnam, Japan, India and the Philippines. China says its drones are capable of carrying bombs and missiles as well as conducting reconnaissance, potentially turning them into offensive weapons in a border conflict.China's increased use of drones also adds to concerns about the lack of internationally recognized standards for drone attacks. The United States has widely employed drones as a means of eliminating terror suspects in Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 17 hours ago
As the number of drone strikes against targets in Yemen has grown, the anger of the local people is also growing. The AP reports (via its covert fight against al-Qaida in Yemen, the United States has dramatically stepped up its use of drone strikes the past year, scoring key successes against one of the most active branches of the terror network. With more than 40 strikes reported in 2012 and nine so far this year, Yemen has become the second biggest front in American drone warfare, after Pakistan.But the escalation has meant more civilians getting caught in the crossfire.Civilian deaths are breeding resentments on a local level, sometimes undermining U.S. efforts to turn the public against militants. The backlash is still not as large as in Pakistan, where there is heavy pressure on the government to force limits on strikes, but public calls for a halt to strikes are starting to emerge.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 17 hours ago
Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, reviews a new book in Al Jazeera — Akbar Ahmed's The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam.In the Cold War, the US funded and supported any regime, dictatorship or democracy, that opposed communism. From US support for the cruel and brutal dictator in Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, to the Shah of Iran whose support by the US still haunts US-Iran relations, to the leader of Iraq whom the US first supported and then overthrew, Saddam Hussein, there was no virtue not sacrificed in the American quest to subvert and defeat communism. Today, that zeal - and the money and effort backing it - has morphed into US tactics to defeat terrorism.Under the Obama administration, the principal instrument of these tactics is the drone. Professor Ahmed's book provides a searing indictment of the use of that instrument.Read more here.
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 18 hours ago
Quote of the day. "The challenges are enormous. It's rare to have so many catastrophic injuries that require compensation. Solomon himself would have problems with this." Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator distributing more than $28 million in contributions raised for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings on assessing needs and disbursing the money. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 1 day ago
Quote of the day. “Sometimes, when what is officially the law is wrong, you try to get the law changed. But if you can’t, you break it.” Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, a minister in the United Methodist Church and a retired dean of Yale Divinity School, who is facing a possible canonical trial for officiating at his son’s same-sex marriage. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 4 days ago
A hunger strike by detainees has Guantánamo back in the news. But has the Obama administration been using drone strikes to kill al Qaida suspects rather than capturing them? The attorney who wrote the the first legal justification for using drones thinks so. The Guardian reports:“John Bellinger, who was responsible for drafting the legal framework for targeted drone killings while working for George W Bush after 9/11, said he believed their use had increased since because President Obama was unwilling to deal with the consequences of jailing suspected al-Qaida members."This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantánamo] they are going to kill them," he told a conference at the Bipartisan Policy Center.”
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 4 days ago
 Quote of the day. “The future of Islam here in Mali rests on many things, and it is threatened. We need a stable government, a functioning democracy and an end to illiteracy so that people can actually read the Qu''ran for themselves. Our Islam needs to continue to be an Islam of tolerance or we will all be pushed towards violence." Shiekh Thiermo Thiam, head of the Sufi Tidjania sect in Mali, on the threat of extremist ideologies to a tradition of religious tolerance. (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 5 days ago
Quote of the day. "Not paying a just wage, not giving work, only because one is looking at the bottom line, at the budget of the company, seeking only profit - that is against God." Pope Francis, at an audience on the May 1 feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  (Catholic News Service)
Posted by Duane Shank 50 weeks 6 days ago
Quote of the day. “We’re helping poor people; before we were fighting rich people. It’s still the same equation. But it’s much more glass half full, optimistic, giving, and legal.” Goldi Guerra, 45, who camped at Zuccotti Park with Occupy Wall Street, and since Hurricane Sandy has spent nearly every day helping victims on Staten Island; a shift some activists see as a sellout of the core message of income inequality. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 51 weeks 18 hours ago
Quote of the day. “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center, I’m black. And I’m gay. I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.” Jason Collins, center for the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association, becoming the first active male athlete in a major U.S. professional sports league to come out of the closet. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 51 weeks 1 day ago
This weekend saw protests on both sides of the Atlantic against drone killings.In the U.S., more than 250 people marched on an Air National Guard Base at Hancock Field in Syracuse, N.Y. At the end of a funeral procession, 30 people were arrested at the gates of the base. According to the Syracuse Post-Standard:“Protesters pounded drums, chanted and carried mock coffins. A baby doll smeared with fake blood was suspended from a tall poll carried by one protestor. A sheriff’s deputy speaking through a bullhorn warned protesters laying on the driveway in front of the gate to get up off the ground or face arrest for disorderly conduct. After they refused, the protesters were handcuffed and escorted to a Sheriff’s Department van.”The protest was organized by the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones & End the Wars.In the U.K., 700 people participated in a demonstration outside a Royal Air Force base north of London to protest the U.K.'s use of armed drones in Afghanistan. The action came two days after the news that the Royal Air Force had begun flying drones from the Waddington Base. CNN reported:"People are pretty upset about the idea that Britain will be developing this drone warfare," said John Hilary, executive director of War on Want. … The coalition also includes members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Drone Campaign Network and Stop the War Coalition.”
Posted by Duane Shank 51 weeks 1 day ago
Quote of the day. "We felt it was important, while that generation is still with us in fairly substantial numbers, to bring them together to not only honor them, but in their presence make a commitment to them that not only this institution but the people we reach will carry forward this legacy." Sara Bloomfield, Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, as elderly survivors of the Holocaust and the veterans who helped liberate them are gathering for the 20th anniversary of the Museum. (Associated Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 51 weeks 4 days ago
The U.S.-Mexico border is currently patrolled by 10 Predator surveillance drones. The immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate would increase that in order to provide constant coverage. ABC/Univision reported:“Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, could soon be patrolling the United States border with Mexico 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That's what the major immigration reform bill introduced last week by a bipartisan group of senators proposes.“The goal: 'effective control' of the border. Under the bill, no immigrant granted provisional legal status would be eligible to apply for a Green Card until the Department of Homeland Security shows it's made substantial progress toward that goal. Border hawks want the pathway to citizenship more firmly tied to border security success.”But, as Common Dreams reports:“As the new immigration reform bill moving through the US Senate puts aerial drones at the center of a beefed-up militarized approach to border security, a new report shows that the existing drone-border program has proved an 'inefficient, costly and absurd approach' to monitoring the border or enforcing current immigration laws.”The report was produced by the Center for International Policy, you can read it at Drones over the Homeland.