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DRONE WATCH: From CIA to Military

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.

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Tornado Hits Elementary Schools, Levels Homes in Oklahoma

A massive tornado swept through the town of Moore, Okla., on Monday afternoon, destroying homes and hitting two elementary schools. Emergency crews were rushing to the scenes to rescue staff and students trapped in the debris. One MSNBC report indicated at least 75 children and staff were trapped in one of the schools. From MSNBC

Two elementary schools were heavily damaged, possibly completely destroyed, KFOR reported. Those schools are Briarwood Elementary in Oklahoma City and Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore.

It was unknown how many children may have been in the schools when the twister hit, but a KFOR reporter saw a student being rescued from Plaza Towers, where the roof was blown off and the cinderblock walls demolished.

Read more HERE.

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DRONE WATCH: Yemen Drone Strikes

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.

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DRONE WATCH: Drone Pilot Burnout

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.

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DRONE WATCH: Authorizing Drone Strikes

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.”

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U.S. Unemployment Claims at Highest Level in 6 Weeks

A week after reaching a five-year low, Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose by 32,000. This is the highest level in six weeks. Although the job market has improved in the lat six months, unemployment applications continue to fluctuate each week. The Associated Press reports:

"The underlying story in jobless claims continues to be one of gradual improvement," said Julia Coronado, an economist at BNP Paribas. Coronado said the small rise in applications "highlight(s) the need to take volatile weekly readings with a grain of salt."

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Climate Research Nearly Unanimous: Climate Change Caused by Human Activity

An overwhelming 97.1 percent of peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals agree that climate change is caused by humans. This finding can be used as a rebuttal against those who believe the scientific community is still debating the causes of climate change. Public opinion is still mixed with only 42 percent agreeing that human activity is the main cause of climate change. The Guardian reports:

"Our findings prove that there is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary," said John Cook of the University of Queensland, who led the survey.

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Christian leaders seek to overcome polarization

Twenty-five religious leaders gathered to commit themselves to civil discourse. The meeting brought together conservative and liberal leaders. They agreed to "move politicians, congregants and Americans in general to understand that mean-spirited debate makes it all the harder to solve the nation’s problems." The Washington Post reports:

“You need some voice to say,’OK, we get that it can win elections, but maybe that’s not the best course of action.’ Typically, we think of religious leaders as voices of conscience, calling people to a better way. So therein is the hope,” said Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development at LifeWay Christian Resources.

Read more here.

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Rand Paul Courting Evangelicals

Rand Paul has used the last few months to aggressively court evangelicals through a CBN special, a trip to Israel, and appearances with pastors. This is a shift to take Paul from a tea-party hero to a mainstream political player. Paul refers to himself as a "“libertarian Republican” to distant himself from his father's strong libertarian beliefs. The Washington Post reports:

As he openly considers a run for president in 2016, Paul’s rebranding effort is a test of his political skills as well as the state of the Republican Party. For the senator, the question is whether he can win over the establishment without upsetting his tea party base.

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House Immigration Group at Impasse

The House’s bipartisan immigration group is struggling to reach an agreement on immigration legislation. The group is divided over many aspects of the legislation including the employment verification program. Republicans want to eliminate the legalization process for undocumented immigrants if the employment verfiication program is not in place in five years. They are also divided over health care for undocumented immigrants and the number of visas to be issued to low-skilled or guest workers. Politico reports:

“I certainly will say that … there still are some outstanding issues in our negotiations,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California said in an interview Tuesday. “But I still believe that we’re so very close.”

Read more here.

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