The Common Good

Quick Read: Social. Justice. News.

Report: Climate Change Linked to Costly Natural Disasters

It’s been a good week for getting real. After Tuesday’s revelation that the majority of Americans link increased natural disasters with climate change, a new report yesterday indicates that they may be right.

In their newly-published report, reinsurance company Munich Re claimed that global climate change has been driving natural disasters and extreme weather events, and that this trend will increase as the climate continues to change.

The monetary cost of climate change is obviously a hot topic for an insurance provider:

-- The intensities of certain weather events in North America are among the highest in the world, and the risks associated with them are changing faster than anywhere else.

-- The second costliest year of the study period, 2011, was dominated by strong storms. Insured losses in the U.S. due to thunderstorms alone was the highest on record at an estimated $26 billion, more than double the previous thunderstorm record set in 2010.

-- Insured losses from disasters averaged $9 billion a year in the 1980s. By the 2000s, the average soared to $36 billion per year.

Read the full report here.

+Leave a Comment | Creation Care

Young Pakistani Activist for Girls' Education Shot by Taliban

One thing that characterized Afghanistan under Taliban rule before 2001 was their treatment of women and girls. From a society of total repression, new expressions of education, culture and human rights have slowly evolved. As you might suspect, Taliban groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are not pleased with that development.

On Tuesday, Malala Yusufzai, a 14-year-old education rights activist, was shot and seriously injured on her way home from school in the Swat Valley region of northwest Pakistan. The New York Times, using local news sources, reported on her injuries

"Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported that doctors at a hospital in Mingora, the region’s main city, said that Malala was “out of danger” because the bullet that “struck her skull and came out on the other side and hit her shoulder” had not damaged her brain. The newspaper added that the girl was later moved to Peshawar in a Pakistani Army helicopter.

"But The News, a Pakistani daily, reported late Tuesday that a bullet is still lodged in her head and arrangements were being made by the government to transport Malala abroad for emergency surgery that could not be performed at the military hospital in Peshawar. The newspaper Dawn also reported that surgeons at the military facility said “she immediately needs a sophisticated surgical procedure, which is not possible in the country” to save her life."

The Taliban is unrepentant. According to Al Jazeera,

"The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has since claimed responsibility for the attack.

"Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the AFP news agency that the groupcarried out the attack after repeatedly warning Malala to stop speaking out against them.

"She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location. "We warned her several times to stop speaking against the Taliban and to stop supporting Western NGOs, and to come to the path of Islam."

One of the challenges facing the U.S. withdrawal of troops is how to provide security for those courageous activists for women’s and girl’s rights and advancement. In a recent study, “Afghan Women Speak,” David Cortright and Kristen Wall at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies propose that

“Demilitarization and negotiation of a peace agreement should be coupled with the deployment of an interim peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations to provide transitional security protection for civilians.”

Something along those lines must be created, or we will be reading more stories of advocates being attacked.

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Adviser for Sojourners.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

BREAKING: Sandusky Sentenced to at Least 30 Years

Former Penn State Football Coach Jerry Sandusky has been sentenced to no fewer than 30 years in prison, and up to 60 years. Given Sandusky's age, 68, the ruling is basically a life sentence. 

From NBC News

"Sandusky, who was defensive coordinator and for many years the presumed heir-apparent to legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, could have faced as long as 400 years for his convictions on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, but at age 68, he is unlikely ever to leave prison, assuming he loses any appeals."

Yesterday, Sandusky released an audio statement maintaining his innocence and lashing out at his offenders. 

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

A Commitment to Find Common Ground

Thomas P. O’Neill III, son of Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, reminds us of the relationship between his father and former President Ronald Reagan. After describing some of the bruising political battles between the two, he writes:

 “Historic tax reforms, seven tax increases, a strong united front that brought down the Soviet Union — all came of a commitment to find common ground. While neither man embraced the other’s worldview, each respected the other’s right to hold it. Each respected the other as a man.

“President Reagan knew my father treasured Boston College, so he was the centerpiece of a dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel that raised $1 million to build the O’Neill Library there. When Reagan was shot at that same hotel, my father went to his hospital room to pray by his bed.

“No, my father and Reagan weren’t close friends. Famously, after 6 p.m. on quite a few work days, they would sit down for drinks at the White House. But it wasn’t the drinks or the conversation that allowed American government to work. Instead, it was a stubborn refusal not to allow fund-raisers, activists, party platforms or ideological chasms to stand between them and actions — tempered and improved by compromise — that kept this country moving.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

DRONE WATCH: This Week in Drones.

• During the week, reported drone strikes killed 3 in Pakistan on Monday and 5 in Yemen on Thursday. 

• A group of U.S. activists is in Pakistan this week protesting the drone attacks. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink writes of the reasons for the trip, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy describes a meeting with Acting U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland. The group is planning to join Imran Khan, a charismatic Pakistani politician campaigning to become prime minister, in a march Sunday into South Waziristan to protest drones. The News International in Pakistan reported that Amb. Hoagland told the group there would be no drone strikes in Waziristan during their presence there.

• In Pakistan, DAWN reported on a Wall St. Journal story about the CIA drone program. Once a month, the CIA sends a fax to a Pakistani general outlining the places where it might conduct drone strikes. The Pakistanis do not respond, which the CIA takes as tacit consent to the strikes, and then cites as legal justification for them.

• Ahmed Wali Mujeeb reported for BBC on a trip to Pakistan's tribal region of Waziristan, site of most drone attacks. Noteworthy was his description of the psychological impact on local people; fear, stress, and depression caused by the constant presence of drones hovering in the sky.

• The Christian Science Monitor wonders if drone warfare makes us safer, and takes a look at the top three dangers of drone warfare to America

• In the UK, The Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain have written to Foreign Secretary William Hague, expressing their concern over the humanitarian and legal implications of the US drone campaign and urging him to distance the UK government from it.

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

BREAKING: Jobless Rate Falls

The U.S. jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest since January 2009, President Obama’s first month in office. The Associated Press reports:

“The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month, dropping below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years. The rate declined because more people found work, a trend that could have an impact on undecided voters in the final month before the presidential election.

“The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 114,000 jobs in September. The economy also created 86,000 more jobs in July and August than first estimated. Wages rose in September and more people started looking for work.”

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

U.S. Preparing Potential Targets in Libya Attack

The New York Times is reporting this afternoon that secret “target packages” are being prepared by the U.S. for potential action against militants suspected in last week’s attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“The American military’s top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is preparing detailed information that could be used to kill or capture some of the militants suspected in the attack last month in Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, senior military and counterterrorism officials said on Tuesday.

“Preparing the “target packages” is the first step in a process that the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency are taking in preparation for, and in advance of, any orders from President Obama and his top civilian and military advisers to carry out action against those determined complicit in the attack on the United States Mission in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

“Mr. Obama has a range of options available — including drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden; and joint missions with the Libyan authorities — but all carry substantial political, diplomatic and physical risks.”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence

BREAKING: Pa. Voter ID Law Blocked

A Commonwealth judge this morning blocked a Pennsylvania law requiring a photo ID to vote from being enforced in the upcoming election. The law was one of the most stringent in the country and has sparked a divisive political debate. AP reports:

“A judge on Tuesday blocked Pennsylvania's divisive voter identification requirement from going into effect before Election Day, delivering a hard-fought victory to Democrats who said it was a ploy to defeat President Barack Obama and other opponents who said it would prevent the elderly and minorities from voting.

“The decision by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on the law requiring each voter to show a valid photo ID could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.”

+Leave a Comment | Economic Justice

A DREAM Economy

Two words are dominating our current political dialogue: jobs and economy. Everyone seems to want more of the former and a quicker revival of the latter. Logically then, our nation should take any and all sensible and easy steps towards achieving those goals. If those actions also had positive humanitarian and moral outcomes, even better, right?

Sadly, Washington seems to be devoid of logic these days. The Center for American Progress has released a study showing that passage of the DREAM Act would create an economic boom of over $300 billion dollars and create nearly 1.5 million jobs — not to mention, it is just the right thing to do.

The politics needs to stop. The DREAM Act needs to pass. Read more about the economic difference it could make if Washington would take action by clicking HERE.

Knox Robinson is a semester intern at Sojourners. He’s currently a senior at LaGrange College, where he’s majoring in Sociology and Political Science.

+Leave a Comment | Immigration

A Resurgent Anti-nuclear Weapons Movement

Ken Butigan writes on Waging Nonviolence about the emergence of a new anti-nuclear weapons movement.  The Washington Post recently reported that the U.S. government is planning to refurbish its nuclear weapons complex over the next 10 years at a cost of $352 million. In response, writes Butigan:

“So we are in the midst of the next phase of the movement for nuclear disarmament, where a series of campaigns across the U.S. are pumping life into the seven-decade struggle. … For those of us who first came to political activism by tackling the nuclear arms race in the early 1980s, the announcement that the U.S. is online to refurbish and reassert its nuclear might far into the future has a glumly déjà vu feel. At the same time, we know the power of people power movements to change history. Together we can build on this emerging next phase to take action, to stoke alternatives and to prompt a powerful nationwide debate…”

+Leave a Comment | Peace & Nonviolence