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DRONE WATCH: Sunday Drone Attack Kills Eight

The Associated Press reports

U.S. missiles fired from a drone in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border killed eight suspected militants early Sunday, officials said, as the controversial American strikes continue despite Islamabad's persistent demands that they stop.

Unidentified Pakistani intelligence officials said that four Hellfire missiles were fired at a house in the North Waziristan tribal area used by suspected militants. The eight dead included suspected members of a Taliban faction and some suspected members of the Turkmenistan Islamic Movement.

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New York City Churches Will No Longer Be Evicted from Public Buildings (For Now)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Christianity Today reports:

More than 60 churches that faced possible eviction Sunday from New York City public schools should have more room to breathe. The churches will be allowed to continue to meet in public schools, thanks to a permanent injunction issued today from a district court judge.

Read the full report HERE.

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Tensions Mount on Turkey-Syria Border

The New York Times reports:

"As diplomats prepared for a weekend meeting to revive stalled Syria peace efforts, regional tensions swirling around the 16-month-old crisis ticked higher on Thursday as Turkey said it was stationing antiaircraft batteries on the common border following the downing of one of its warplanes.
 
Word of the border fortification coincided with further suggestions within Syria that insurgents seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad were operating with increasing audacity in an and around the capital, Damascus. The state news agency, SANA, said an explosion rocked the parking lot of the Palace of Justice, a government court building, on Thursday, sending a plume of black smoke into the sky and injuring three people, just a day after a disputed attack on a pro-government satellite television station 14 miles south of the city."
 
Learn more here
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Our Values ... Charted

The Atlantic provides some insights into its recent American Values Survey, conducted in conjunction with The Aspen Institute:

"Americans say they are more tolerant and open-minded than their parents. Among the issues that rate more morally acceptable today than a decade ago: homosexuality, human cloning, pre-marital sex, and having a child out of wedlock.  At the same time, half believe the economic system is unfair to middle- and working-class Americans, and only 17 percent believe Wall Street executives share fundamental American values. In all, two-thirds think the country is heading in the wrong direction, 69 percent believe the country's values have deteriorated since the 1970s, and nearly half say values will further weaken over the next 10 years."

Read more and see the results charted here

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Religion Will Play Key Role in Presidential Election

Stephen Mansfield writes for The Huffington Post:

"There are other matters that may drive religion to the forefront of the 2012 presidential election. We cannot be certain of all of them now. What Americans ought to know by this time in their history, though, is that religion is seldom far from their politics, seldom much removed from American culture as a whole. The 2012 campaign is likely to illustrate this as much as any presidential election in the nation's history."

Read the author's full list of the key religious issues in the election here

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DRONE WATCH: NGO Appeals For Drone Stop

The Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported this morning that the National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF), a national NGO, has appealed to the U.S. to stop drone attacks. NRDF has been promoting polio vaccinations in the tribal area where the strikes occur. The appeal follows a Taliban decision to ban the vaccinations due to fear of their possible relation to CIA intelligence gathering for targeting drones.

Tehseenullah Khan, NRDF coordinator, told DAWN that “The ban will adversely affect 318,000 children in the two agencies.”  He continued, “Stoppage of drone strikes by the US could safeguard children against host of diseases. Fata [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas] is the only active hub of active polio virus transmission in the country that has contributed more than 50 per cent of the total polio cases this year.”

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Huge Cuts in Welfare on the Table in Pennsylvania

The American Prospect reports:

"Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's first stab at a budget for this year left the education community shaking. The Republican had balanced the budget in part through deep cuts not only to the state's colleges and universities but also to school districts. That's terrifying news for a state where some districts are already considering ending kindergarten to balance budgets. 

Miraculously, thanks to unexpectedly high tax collections, the state's schools have been spared the chopping block. But Corbett's other proposal, major funding cuts for human services, still looks alive and kicking."
 
Learn more here

 

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Climate Change v. Poverty: A False Dichotomy?

In the final part of its series on evangelicals and climate change, The Christian Post's Napp Nazworth writes:

"Global warming skeptics argue that while global warming activists say that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is necessary to protect the poor and vulnerable, the science is so iffy and the cost of control so high that money would be better spent on direct aid to the poor."

Read more here
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DRONE WATCH: Drone Strike Kills Taliban Militants

Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press are reporting that a U.S. drone fired two missiles at a house in northwest Pakistan late on Tuesday, killing at least four (AP) or five (AFP) Taliban militants.  All those killed were associated with local Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a security official told AFP. A week ago, the New York Times noted Bahadur as one of those who had banned a polio vaccination campaign, citing his “fears that the C.I.A. could use the polio campaign as cover for espionage.”

One wonders if today’s strike is proof of his fears?

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DRONE WATCH: Taliban Ban Polio Vaccinations Over Drones

According to Guardian, a third Taliban leader has banned polio vaccinations in the area he controls, citing fears that health workers are gathering intelligence for use in targeting drone strikes. From the report:

"Leaflets distributed in South Waziristan on behalf of Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (Fata) accused health workers who administer anti-polio drops of being US spies. "In the garb of these vaccination campaigns, the US and its allies are running their spying networks in Fata which has brought death and destruction on them in the form of drone strikes," the leaflet said."

It would seem that the concerns may have some merit. Shakil Afridi, a doctor who ran a hepatitis vaccination campaign, used it as cover to provide the CIA with intelligence that assisted in locating Osama bin Laden. Is that mixing of health care with intelligence gathering continuing?

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