The Common Good

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New Farm Bill Leans on Food Stamps

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas has proposed a new farm bill that saves $38 billion over 10 years. However the bill saves money by cutting funding to food stamps. Politico reports:

But in real dollars — and as a proportion of his entire package — Lucas admits he is leaning more on food stamps. Last year the nutrition title contributed about $16.1 billion in savings, or less than half of the chairman’s mark. This year it is not just up by $4 billion, but also accounts for 53 percent of the Farm Bill savings and almost 60 percent of the new cuts — beyond those attributed to sequestration.

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Religious Belief In Second Coming Of Christ Could Slow Global Warming Action

A study published May 1 from two researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Colorado found the widespread belief in "end-times" and the "Second Coming" of Christ could negatively impact the environmental policy movement. The Huffington Post reports:

A belief in the Second Coming reduces the probability of strongly agreeing that the government should take action by more than 12 percent. In a corresponding manner, a belief in the Second Coming increases the probability of disagreeing with government action to curb global warming by more than 10 percent.

Read more here.

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Arms Trade Treaty: Global Victory for Women and Girls

On April 2, the United Nations passed an innovative Arms Trade Treaty aimed at regulating the massive global trade in conventional weapons, for the first time linking arms sales to the human rights records of the buyers. For the first time arms manufacturers and dealers will have to consider the end use of their product — how will their customers use the weapons and to make that information public. The May-June 2013 issue of Maryknoll's NewsNotes explains the potential positive impact the treat could have on women and girls:

A particular element of the Treaty that is cause for much celebration is the inclusion of language that protects women and girls from armed gender-based violence (GBV). In the Preamble of the ATT, it states "that civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict and armed violence."
 
In the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, violence against women and girls is defined as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women [or girls], including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
 
Under Article 7.4 of the Arms Trade Treaty, GBV is included as a binding criterion for considering whether or not to export arms. The exporting party must consider the overriding risk of potential violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), international human rights law (IHRL) and must take into account the risk that the transfer will be "used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children."

Read the rest here: http://www.maryknollogc.org/article/arms-trade-treaty-global-victory-women-girls

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DRONE WATCH: China Developing Drones

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.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: Anger in Yemen

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 philly.com):

In 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.

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DRONE WATCH: The Thistle and the Drone

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.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

Four Additional Hurdles for Immigration Reform

Now that the Senate's Gang of Eight has published its immigration proposal, TIME has put together four hurdles to the bill becoming law.

Problem #1: Stalling tactics from the right. Conservatives may stall the bill calling for "more hearings, more transparency, more opportunities to tweak the legislation to their liking."

Problem #2: Pushback from the left. Immigrants' rights groups feel the 13-year path to citizenship is too long and gay-rights advocates want greater protections for same-sex couples.

Problem #3: The cost for taxpayers. The cost of immigration reform has not been officially calculated. Conservatives are touting a large price tag as a reason to derail the legislation.

Problem #4: The conservative media storyline. Conservative media remains split between those who support immigration reform out of "sheer political imperative" and those who hope to divide the Gang of Eight.

For more in-depth explanations of each hurdle, click here.

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Climate Change May Bring Drought to Temperate Areas

A NASA led study found climate change may increase rainfall in some areas and drought in other areas. The study predicts for every 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in global average temperature, heavy rainfall will increase globally by 3.9%. The Los Angeles Times reports.

"These results in many ways are the worst of all possible worlds," said Peter Gleick, a climatologist and water expert who is president of the Pacific Institute, an Oakland research organization. "Wet areas will get wetter and dry areas will get drier."

Read more here.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

Congress Lets Sequester Defund Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Programs

Due to sequestration, programs that fight domestic violence and sexual assault will lose 20 million dollars in funding this year. Congress has voted to restore funding to tuition aid for service members and the Federal Aviation Administration but not the Violence Against Women Act. It is estimated 70,120 fewer domestic violence victims will have access to recovery programs and shelters and 35,900 fewer people will get help obtaining non-shelter services such as restraining orders and sexual assault treatment. Mother Jones reports:

"The tower is understaffed and the rescue plane can't land," says Kim Gandy, president and CEO National Network to End Domestic Violence. "We're talking about really vital services to people who are already in a terrible situation and really in need of emergency services—and there aren't alternatives."

Read more here.

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Catholic Church in Honduras Initiates Gang Truce

The Catholic Church in Honduras is reaching out to both criminal gangs, such as Mara Salvatrucha and M18, and the government to negotiate a cessation to violence, similar to truces reached with church mediation in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia. Agenzia Fides reports:

"We are in a process of recovery of the respect for life, we are listening to both gangs, but the government has not yet given an answer," said Mgr. Romulo Emiliani Sánchez, C.M.F Auxiliary Bishop of San Pedro Sula to a local radio station, announcing the start of a dialogue with the main criminal gangs in Honduras, to reach a truce similar to that in force in El Salvador.

Read more here.

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