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DRONE WATCH: Methodist Church in Britain Opposes Use of Drones

The Methodist Church in Britain has agreed to ask that the U.K. government urge the U.S. to stop using drones in killing suspected terrorists. One concern expressed by church leaders was that increased reliance on unmanned weapons could make military interventions easier. On other concerns,

"A working group of policy experts submitted a report to the Methodist Conference highlighting moral concerns surrounding the use of drones, recognising that armed unmanned aircraft has the potential to transform the use of air power in conflict and counter-insurgency. 

Steve Hucklesby, a Methodist policy adviser and member of the working group, said: "If there is a legitimate use for this technology we need a much clearer idea of the boundaries for its use.  Terrorists function outside the law. It is vitally important that the UK and its allies do not do so as well. The targeted killings carried out by the CIA in northern Pakistan demonstrate only too clearly the ethical challenges that will face us as this technology proliferates more widely."

Following the Methodist action, The United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain voiced their support for the Conference's decision.

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Mormons Quit Church in Mass Resignation

From Reuters:

A group of about 150 Mormons quit their church in a mass resignation ceremony in Salt Lake City on Saturday in a rare display of defiance ending decades of disagreement for some over issues ranging from polygamy to gay marriage.

Participants from Utah, Arizona, Idaho and elsewhere gathered in a public park to sign a "Declaration of Independence from Mormonism." ...

After gathering in the park, participants hiked a half-mile up nearby Ensign Peak, scaled in 1847 by church President Brigham Young to survey the spot where his Latter-day Saints would build a city.

At the top, those gathered gave three loud shouts of "Freedom," cheered, clapped and hugged.

Read the report in its entirety HERE.

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NY Judge Orders Twitter to Release Tweets of #OWS Protester

A judge in New York has ordered Twitter to release three month's worth of tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protester charged with disorderly conduct during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge last year.

The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., reports:

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. rebuffed one of Twitter Inc.'s central arguments, which concerned who has rights to contest law enforcement demands for content posted on its site. But the judge said the company was right on a separate point that could require prosecutors to take further steps if they want to see one particular day of Malcolm Harris' tweets and his user information....

The case began as one of hundreds of disorderly conduct prosecutions stemming from an Oct. 1 Occupy march on the Brooklyn Bridge, but it has evolved into a closely watched legal tussle over law enforcement agencies' access to material posted on social networks.

The Manhattan district attorney's office said Harris' messages could show whether he was aware of police orders he's charged with disregarding. Twitter, meanwhile, said the case could put it in the unwanted position of having to take on legal fights that users could otherwise conduct on their own....

[Harris] challenged the subpoena for his tweets, saying prosecutors' bid for user information, alongside the messages, breached privacy and free-association rights. The data could give prosecutors a picture of his followers, their interactions through replies and retweets, and his location at various points, [his lawyer, Martin] Stolar said.

Read the report in its entirety HERE.

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Hotel Replaces Bibles with Kindles

According to CNN:

Last year, Gideons International distributed more than 84 million printed copies of the Bible around the world to students, hospitals, members of the military and, of course, hotels, where they are a ubiquitous sight in bedside tables.

Starting this month, however, the InterContinental Hotels Group is modernizing that mission at one of its hotels, replacing the paper tomes with electronic versions of the Bible loaded on Kindle e-readers. Each of the 148 rooms at the chain's Hotel Indigo in Newcastle, England, will be outfitted with a Kindle Touch with Wi-Fi. Guests can use the e-ink devices to catch up on scripture, as well as purchase and read any other books available in the Amazon Kindle store.

Apparently the Gideons are supportive of the hotel group's move toward electronic versions of Holy Writ. (And if a guest is so taken with the Kindle that they take it with them when they check out, the hotel will charge the guest's credit card for the Kindle.)

Read the entire CNN.com report HERE.

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Doctor, Will You Pray With Me?

A new survey of medical patients found that prayer — with their physician — is for many an important part of the treatment process.

According to American Medical News:

About two-thirds of patients believe doctors should know about their spiritual beliefs, said a survey of nearly 500 adults from Florida, North Carolina and Vermont in the January 2003 Journal of General Internal Medicine.

One in five patients likes the idea of praying with the doctor during a routine office visit, while nearly 30 percent want to do so during a hospital stay, the study found. Half of patients would want to pray with the doctor in a near-death scenario.

About 75 percent of physicians say patients sometimes or often mention spiritual issues such as God, prayer, meditation or the Bible, said an April 9, 2007, article in Archives of Internal Medicine.

The question of whether it is appropriate for doctors to pray with patients was addressed in late May at a three-day conference organized by the University of Chicago Program on Medicine and Religion.

G. Richard Holt, MD, MPH, a recently retired otolaryngologist, gave a presentation reviewing his perspective as a head-and-neck surgeon.

During his 40-year career, Dr. Holt received about one or two prayer requests a month. He made it his practice to remain silent while the patient, a family member or religious leader prayed aloud. But Dr. Holt drew the line at initiating or leading prayer.

Read the article in its entirely HERE.

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DRONE WATCH: Strike in Yemen

The Associated Press reports a drone strike in Yemen earlier today: 

"A Yemeni official says a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed two al-Qaida militants in a car in Yemen's south. Tribal officials there said four militants were killed."

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DRONE WATCH: It’s All About the Money

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down and the Pentagon budget cuts likely, U.S. weapons manufacturers are looking for ways to keep their profits up. The Los Angeles Times reports that exporting drones might be the next step.

"Despite concerns about U.S.-made drones ending up in enemy hands, American military contractors are lobbying the government to loosen export restrictions and open up foreign markets to the unmanned aircraft that have reshaped modern warfare.

Companies such as Northrop Grumman Corp. and other arms makers are eager to tap a growing foreign appetite for high-tech — and relatively cheap — drones, already being sold on the world market by countries such as Israel and China."

If changes are made in export regulations, expect to see drones becoming common weapons in areas of conflict around the world. It’s a dangerous possibility, but … it’s all about the money.

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Even Facts Have a Point of View

Proponents of "America as a Christian nation" ideology like to point to our founding fathers' faith, however shoddy the details of said faith, to make their arguments. Case in point, David Barton of WallBuilders, whose book The Jefferson Lies touts Thomas Jefferson as an orthodox Christian.

Stephen Prothero in his latest column for USA Today, points to Barton's (and others like Glenn Beck's) talking points as indicative of the larger issue of extreme factionalism that stretches the truth for its own means. 

From the column:

"In our nation's capital, many Republicans and Democrats now treat their political opponents as mortal enemies at war with all that is good and godly in America. And the Supreme Court, which used to be seen as "above" politics, is under closer scrutiny than ever after a string of hotly contested 5-4 rulings. This fervent factionalism is not confined to politics and law, however. It is leeching into science and history. As musician David Byrne of The Talking Heads once put it, even facts now have a point of view."

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DRONE WATCH: Drone Summary for June

One of the most respected sources of investigative reporting on drones is The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organization based in London. As part of its research, TBIJ tracks drone strikes and other US military and paramilitary actions in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Yesterday, TBIJ released its summary for June. The major conclusions:

  • As relations between Washington and Islamabad continue to falter, Bureau data shows fewer civilians are being killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan than at any time in the Obama presidency.
  • US military action in Yemen is at its bloodiest ever, with the strike rate and reported casualties the highest yet recorded.
  • The true extent of US action in Somalia remain unclear, despite many claims of attacks.

The report also provides a comparison of the first 6 months of this year with 2011.

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Irony Behind Florida Governor's Medicaid Call

Florida governor Rick Scott says he won't take the federal money that would enable Medicaid to be expanded in his state, The Nation's blog reports:

"Nearly 1 million Floridians will be denied access to Medicaid they would have otherwise received under the Affordable Care Act if Governor Rick Scott gets his way. The Supreme Court ruling last week on the law  made it easier for states to opt out of an expansion, and Sunday night the governor’s office e-mailed a statement from Scott that 'since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that’s the right decision for our citizens.'”

This choice is particularly ironic, given that Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA in the 1990s: that company was found to have defrauded Medicare on his watch. Eventually it pled guilty to 14 felonies and paid fines of $1.7 billion. Scott denied knowing what was going on when he was in charge of the company. As the Miami Herald reported:

"He has denied knowing frauds were taking place while he was there, and he was never charged with any crimes.

"However, federal investigators found that Scott took part in business practices at Columbia/HCA that were later found to be illegal -- specifically, that Scott and other executives offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, in violation of federal law, according to lawsuits the Justice Department filed against the company in 2001."

 
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