The Common Good

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NYT: Struggling in the Suburbs

A New York Times op-ed this week examined the growing phenomenon of poverty in the suburbs:

"Hardship has built a stronghold in the American suburbs. Whatever image they had as places of affluence and stability was badly shaken last year, when reports analyzing the 2010 census made it clear that the suburbs were getting poorer.

While the overall suburban population grew slightly during the previous decade, the number of people living below the poverty line in the suburbs grew by 66 percent, compared with 47 percent in cities. The trend quickened when the Great Recession hit, as home foreclosures and unemployment surged. In 2010, 18.9 million suburban Americans were living below the poverty line, up from 11.3 million in 2000."

Learn more here

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Committing to End Poverty

Writing for The Huffington Post last Friday, Richard C. Leone asks:

"So is a renewal of the war against poverty in the offing? The current balance of political forces suggests that, rather than muster all the weapons we have to fight for the poor, many are willing to settle for uneasy neutrality. This is one "war of choice" we choose not to wage. Austerity is the watchword of the day defined somewhat differently but accepted by the mainstream of both parties as the bedrock of policy for the foreseeable future…

It's past time to connect the dots and see that by ignoring the poor we undermine the welfare of everyone in the 99 percent living from pay check to pay check. We must revive our generous national nature. And more selfishly come to see that we might find ourselves in their shoes. It may be that the poor will always be with us, but that doesn't mean it's OK to ignore them."

Read more here

 

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DRONE WATCH: Just the Facts, Ma’am.

The first news stories Friday afternoon (from AP and AFP) wrote of 4 suspected militants killed by two missiles fired from a drone in northwest Pakistan. It was soon updated to 9 dead, which is what we reported at the end of the day.

This morning, I checked my Reader and found 30-some new stories overnight (many just repeats of updated wire stories.) But the stories and death totals were all over the map. Some still echoed the earlier AP story; there were also reports of 12 deaths, or 15, or 21, and a few 24.  The most comprehensive stories told of three drones. According to the Pakistani newspaper The Nation:

"The initial strike on a house killed 13 militants, five more were killed in a second attack when they drove to the site to recover dead bodies, and a third drone killed six more five minutes later, a senior security official in Peshawar said."

Other stories also recounted the 3 drone strikes, but gave varying numbers of deaths in each of the three.

Here is a more detailed version from DAWN, another Pakistani newspaper, which tells of multiple drones and 20 deaths:

"According to sources, six missiles hit the fortress-like residence of tribesman Muhammad in Zoi Nari locality of tehsil Dattakhel at around 8:45pm.

Local people rushed to the site of the attack and started rescue work while drones continued to hover over the area. They retrieved 17 bodies and two injured persons from the rubble of the house.

At about 10:30pm, the drones fired another two missiles on the compound, some 35km from the agency’s headquarters of Miramshah, when tribesmen were still carrying out rescue work. Three people died and two others were injured in the attack.

Local tribesmen feared the number of the people killed or injured might go up because they had to stop work due to the hovering drones. They said most of the bodies retrieved were mutilated beyond recognition."

These details raise two questions:

First, will we ever know how many deaths there were on Friday? And if they were militants, civilians, or both?

Second, even if  one accepts the U.S. rationale for targeting militants (which I don’t), if it is true that after the initial strike, a second strike was launched some time later against rescue and recovery efforts, experts consider that a violation of international law – a war crime.

Perhaps in another day or so we will get the complete story, with timeline and casualty totals.  But what is already clear is that these attacks must stop.

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New Trial Date for Iranian Pastor

Youcef Nadarkhani, the 35-year-old Christian pastor has been imprisoned in Iran since October 2009 after protesting a law that all children read the Quaran and being charged with evangelizing to Muslims. The trial date has been set for Sept. 8. 

From the Christian Post

"According to Present Truth Ministries, which has been closely monitoring the pastor's case, Nadarkhani will presumably be tried for crimes against security. 'We assume by implication that this means the charges of apostasy have been dropped since the new charges have been issued, but we have no confirmation of that,' the ministry said Thursday."

 

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DRONE WATCH: Drone Strike Kills 9 in Pakistan

The Associated Press and Agence France Press  (via The Nation in Lahore, Pakistan) are reporting this afternoon that a drone strike killed at least nine suspected militants in a small village near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district. At least three others were injured.

AP reports “The militants were believed to be fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a militant commander whose forces frequently target U.S. and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan. A similar drone attack on Sunday killed eight of Bahadur's fighters.”

As always, the necessary disclaimer is that we may never know whether all or only some of these “suspected militants” were in fact militants. Remember that the U.S. definition is that anyone in a strike area is assumed a militant unless there is clear evidence after the fact. And after a direct hit from a Hellfire missile, there may not be any evidence left to examine. 

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FBI Investigating Second Fire at Missouri Mosque

From the Associated Press via STLToday.com:

JOPLIN, Mo. — The FBI has joined an investigation into the second fire at a Joplin mosque in four years.

The blaze early Wednesday burned a 4-by-6-foot section of shingles atop the Islamic Society of Joplin's building. Firefighters extinguished the flames before they could do further damage, authorities told The Joplin Globe.

Capt. Kelly Stephens of the Jasper County Sheriff's Department said investigators were studying security camera footage but he would not say what the tapes showed.

About 50 families are members of the Islamic Society of Joplin, which opened the building in 2007 as a mosque and community center, society officials said. The FBI led an investigation in 2008 when the mosque's sign was torched; that crime remains unsolved.


Read more: HERE
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DRONE WATCH: Who Selects the Targets?

Talks between the U.S. and Pakistan that concluded with a U.S. apology for a mistaken airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers resulted in the reopening of supply routes into Afghanistan. Talks on the expanded U.S. use of drones to attack militants inside Pakistan are continuing. While the public line of the Pakistani government is to demand a halt to the strikes, The Express Tribune reports a different picture behind the scenes.

"Pakistani authorities are not pushing the US to halt drone strikes inside its tribal regions and are instead seeking control of human intelligence on the ground for target specification of their choice.

“This is the maximum they have been seeking. Nothing more,” said an official privy to talks held this week between civilian and military leaders from Pakistan and the US that culminated in breaking a seven-month deadlock on the resumption of Nato supplies.…

Control on human intelligence, or Humint as it is technically called, would give Pakistani secret outfits a chance to select targets of their choice to be hit by drones."

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DRONE WATCH: The Drone Zone

Mark Mazzetti, national security correspondent, writes in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about the training of drone operators at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

"Stationing pilots in the United States has saved the Air Force money, and pilots at Holloman who have flown drone combat missions speak glowingly about a lifestyle that allows them to fight a war without going to war. Craig, an Air Force captain who is a trainer at the base, volunteered to fly Predators while in flight school. He calls his job “the perfect balance of mission and family.”

And yet this balance comes at a cost. Pilots have flown missions over Afghanistan in the morning, stopped for lunch, fought the Iraq war in the afternoon and then driven home in time for dinner. Lt. Col Matt Martin, formerly a trainer at Holloman, wrote about the disorienting experience of toggling among different war zones in a memoir, “Predator,” calling the experience 'enough to make a Predator pilot schizophrenic.'"

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Archbishop Tutu: End Sudanese Suffering Now

Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes for CNN on his hopes for peace in Sudan and South Sudan:

"My fellow Elders Martti Ahtisaari, Mary Robinson and I are going there to try to ensure that the terrible lessons of war are not forgotten - and to share our hope that these two beautiful countries can find a path to peace. We will relay the world's fears of another deadly conflict that would shatter the hopes of both nations and the broader region. And we will tell the leaders that, while it will take time and patience, we believe - as a result of our own experience - that peace can be achieved.

One of our main reasons for going to Sudan and South Sudan now is the humanitarian situation, which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. We are already witnessing an unbearable catastrophe with the fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan in Sudan, and the ensuing outpouring of refugees into South Sudan and Ethiopia."

Read the full article here

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