The Common Good

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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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New Documentary Highlights Disastrous Climate Change in Bangladesh

The Atlantic profiles a new documnetary called Bangladesh: On The Frontlines of Climate Change:

"Ami Vitale's beautifully shot documentary visits the communities on the Bay of Bengal that are already suffering the consequences of global warming. Vitali, a photojournalist, made the switch to video to tell the story of one mother who, fearing that increasingly violent weather patterns will harm her family, seeks justice."
 
Watch the short film and find our more here
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Poll: No End in Sight for Economic Woes, High Unemployment

The Associated Press reports:

"A majority of economists in the latest Associated Press Economy Survey expect the national unemployment rate to stay above 6 percent — the upper bounds of what's considered healthy — for at least four more years. If the economists are correct, the job market will still be unhealthy seven years after the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. That would be the longest stretch of high unemployment since the end of World War II.

The election isn't going to be a miracle cure for the unemployment rate — that's for sure," says Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida. He thinks unemployment, which is 8.2 percent now, won't drop back to 6 percent until after 2016.
 
Economists consider a "normal" level to be between 5 percent and 6 percent.
 
The economists surveyed by the AP foresee an unemployment rate of 8 percent on Election Day. That would be the highest rate any postwar president running for re-election has faced."
 
Learn more here

 

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DRONE WATCH: Expanding Drone Surveillance in Afghanistan

Bloomberg reports:

"The Pentagon is seeking congressional approval to shift as much as $641 million in funding for intelligence and surveillance to priorities such as expanding Afghanistan operations of a Boeing Co. (BA) drone for Navy commandos.

The request for the 'reprogramming' of previously approved military intelligence funds was submitted [Monday] to the four congressional defense committees in a 20-page document."

 

Specific funding requests include:

“The $94.2 million sought for the ScanEagle drones made by Chicago-based Boeing would provide more ground stations. Six sites operated by contractors in Iraq would be moved to Afghanistan and ground stations operated by Navy SEALs would be doubled to eight from four.”  Also requested is “"$2.6 million to purchase hardware and software for an intelligence-gathering and dissemination system the U.S. Africa Command can use to share data with partner nations."

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