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State Department: Release Pastor Nadarkhani

The State Deparment yesterday released a statement on the imprisonment of Iranian Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned for over 1000 days on charges of apostasy.

Organizations and countries has been calling for his release since he was imprisoned, but Iranian authorities has yet to agree to release him. A new date for Pastor Nadarkhani's trial has also been set recently.

Read the statement in full below:

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              July 9, 2012

2012/1118

 

STATEMENT BY VICTORIA NULAND, SPOKESPERSON

Continued Imprisonment of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and
Repression of Minorities in Iran

We note that July 8 marked 1,000 days Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has spent in an Iranian prison.  Pastor Nadarkhani still faces the threat of execution for simply following his faith, and we repeat our call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately.

Unfortunately, Pastor Nadarkhani is not alone in his suffering.  The Iranian regime continues to deny and abuse the human rights of its citizens, in particular those of its many ethnic and religious minorities.  We are troubled by reports of the execution of four members of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab community, whose sentences were carried out with little due process.  In March 2012, Iranian state media broadcast the forced confession of one of those executed.

We are also concerned by credible reports that prominent author Mohammad Soleimani Nia is missing following his release in May after five months in prison on unspecified charges.

We call upon Iranian authorities to respect and protect the freedoms and dignity of all its citizens, and to uphold its own laws and international obligations which guarantee such rights to all Iranians, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.

# # #

 

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New Study Finds Fracking Can Pollute

Salon reports on a new study which suggests that "fracking" can pollute water sources:

"A new study, published in the formidable Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, upends that common-sense argument. It shows that fluids may have traveled from deep within Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, one of the formations at the center of the gas boom, into shallow aquifers hundreds of feet above. These fluids aren’t products of fracking, but if they can travel up through layers of rocks, close to the surface, it means that fracking fluids could, too."

Read more about the study here

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How Do We Improve Work-Family Balance?

From The Nation:

"One might expect that the workplace would have adapted to accommodate these changes. With nearly double the number of available workers, and the fact that all employees now likely need to pitch in to share domestic duties, we might hope that employers would lower workers’ expected output. Yet exactly the opposite has happened."

Read the full article here

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What Do the President's Tax Proposals Mean for Us?

Writing for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson takes a look at what the President's tax plan actually does:

"In the long run, historically low tax rates for the "bottom" 98 percent aren't sustainable. For President Obama, demanding higher taxes on rich people is the easy part. Three in five people told Gallup that "upper-income people" were paying too little in federal taxes, Molly Ball reported. The hard part is facing up to the long-term reality that historically low tax rates on 98 percent of Americans is no way to pay for historically high entitlements for 100 percent of Americans."

Learn more here

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North Carolina Continues to Ignore Science

According to the Atlantic Cities, lawmakers in North Carolina have chosen to ignore studies that show sea levels are rising faster than previously expected in favor of developing new housing along the coast. 

According to the rerport, state Rep. Pat McElraft, a not-scientist, said in a floor debate that the state should assume sea levels will rise at the same rate they have in the past: 8 inches over the past century. 

From Kelly Henderson's Switchboard blog post

"The scientific findings that North Carolina coasts will likely experience a 39-inch sea-level rise created quite a stir and were challenged by NC-20, a coastal economic development group, who cited flaws in the research. The group fears losing dollars if coastal planning begins now to prepare for the 39-inch rise since over 2,000 coastal miles will become restricted to development."

And, from Mr. Colbert, on N.C.'s logic in only considering historical data: 

"If we consider only historical data, I've been alive my entire life. Therefore, I always will be."

 

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. Follow her on Twitter @Sandi.

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Dollars By the Gallon

You probably have a gallon of milk in your fridge. 

It might be fat free, soy, or maybe even 1 percent.

Most of us drink milk in some form.

But how long does it take for us to earn enough to buy it?

As part of their ‘Raise The Minimum Wage’ campaign, 99 Uniting produced this telling infographic, comparing how long it takes a minimum wage earner, a median wage earner and ‘CEO Guy’ to earn a gallon of milk. It makes for some sad and frustrating reading …

Jack Palmer is Communications Associate for Sojourners.

 

 

 

 

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How Should U.S. Respond to Syrian Crisis?

The Atlantic's national correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg, on the Syrian crisis and how the US should respond:

"Secretary of State Clinton has again stated that it is only a matter of time before the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad collapses. Speaking in Tokyo to reporters, she said: "The sand is running out of the hourglass," and went on to say, "There is no doubt that the opposition is getting more effective in their defense of themselves and in going on the offense against the Syrian military and the Syrian government's militias. So the future, to me, should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime: the days are numbered."

But what is the number? And could the Administration be doing more to move that number down? When it comes to Syria, this administration has a very elastic sense of time.  "

Learn more here

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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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