The Common Good

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What happens when the nuns don't agree?

Writing for The Daily BeastBarbie Latza Nadeau and Jesse Ellison examine the rift between nuns across the world:

In the U.S., where the number of religious sisters has dwindled from 179,954 to 57,544 in the past half century, the controversy cuts to the heart of what it means to be a nun. To many non-Catholics, nuns conjure up a vision of the ladies from The Sound of Music. To Catholics, they can be anything from the no-nonsense school teachers who rapped their knuckles during Catechism class to hospital workers who pray at the bedsides of the dying.

Read the full article here

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DRONE WATCH: Unleashing the CIA

As relations between the U.S. and Pakistan continue to deteriorate, the Obama administration has decided the solution is … more drone attacks.

"Expressing both public and private frustration with Pakistan, the Obama administration has unleashed the CIA to resume an aggressive campaign of drone strikes in Pakistani territory over the last few weeks, approving strikes that might have been vetoed in the past for fear of angering Islamabad."

Seems to me that killing more people in Pakistan is probably not the best way to improve relations.

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"Temporary" Recession-Era Cuts Not So Temporary

From investigative-journalism nonprofit Remapping Debate:

"When the recession hit, state revenues — made up primarily of sales and income taxes — declined dramatically, prompting deep cuts to state services. In at least 30 states, funding for K-12 education was lower in fiscal year 2012 than in 2008, despite growing student populations. States have also made deep cuts in health care programs and in higher education funding. State aid to local governments has declined, and state and local governments have shed more than 500,000 jobs since the beginning of 2009.

In state after state, politicians justified the large budget cuts on the grounds that the condition of the state budget made it temporarily necessary to reduce services. ..."

Now income and sales taxes are bouncing back, and at least 25 states are likely to be running a surplus for the fiscal year ending in June. But

"... instead of either restoring cuts in state services or increasing aid to local governments and school districts, several state legislatures are choosing to use their surpluses to cut taxes. Besides Kansas, at least seven other states have passed bills that cut taxes and reduce revenue in future years, and several more are still considering doing so."

Read the full investigative article here.

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DRONE WATCH: Drones at Home

As the use of drones for surveillance and other activities in the U.S. increases, Leslie Harris, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, argues for greater transparency and accountability.

"With Congress enacting a law giving the go-ahead for the use of drones in U.S. airspace last February, the drone industry is now poised to deploy the technology to monitor everything from neighborhood safety, to political protests, to traffic conditions. The possibilities of using drones for airborne, real-time newsgathering haven't been lost on the media, either. Drones have many positive uses, such as aiding firefighters, dusting crops, or scouting hazardous areas for workers, but -- without privacy and transparency rules -- these powerful surveillance tools also have strong potential for misuse."

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DRONE WATCH: Losing Intelligence

In addition to legal and moral concerns about targeted drone killings, a new question is being raised:

"But by killing off Al Qaeda leaders and operatives by means of the unmanned drones rather than capturing them, is the US losing out on valuable intelligence on an evolving organization – and thus on information that might also be crucial in defeating the terrorgroup?"

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Religion v. Spirituality, Right v. Left

Matthew Hutson asks an interesting question in an article for The Huffington Post - Are Conservatives More Religious and Liberals More Spiritual?

"In the United States, religion and politics have always been (fitful) bed buddies. But whether faith drives people left or right (or neither) is not obvious. On one hand, there is the Christian right, a demographic epitomized by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that values tradition and authority and opposes gay rights and the teaching of evolution. On the other hand, we owe many of our advancements in civil rights -- a predominantly left-wing cause -- to religious leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. One way to make sense of the relationship between faith and political orientation is to recognize the difference between religiousness and spirituality."

Read the full piece here

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Is the Religious Right Marginalizing Itself?

Writing for The Washington Post's On Faith blog, David Mason argues:

"Conservative Christians are starting to line up behind Mormon Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But they’re not doing so comfortably, and not without clinging to a last, non-negotiable condition that, ironically, makes the conservative Christian voting bloc the force most responsible these days for the secularization of America."

Read more here

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DRONE WATCH: Compliance with International Law

Following a four-day visit to Pakistan, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, has called for a UN investigation into U.S. drone attacks. Pillay told a news conference in Islamabad:  

“Drone attacks do raise serious questions about compliance with international law. The principle of distinction and proportionality and ensuring accountability for any failure to comply with international law is also difficult when drone attacks are conducted outside the military chain of command and beyond effective and transparent mechanisms of civilian or military control.”

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DRONE WATCH: Can Al-Qaeda Survive Drone Strikes?

In the wake of the death of Al Qaeda’s #2 leader Monday, BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner wonders  if the movement can survive the continued attrition of its leaders by targeted drone strikes. He concludes that:

"In the long term, perhaps the most serious threat to al-Qaeda lies not so much in the unseen death from the air through drone strikes but in an eventual evaporation of its cause.

Last year's mass democratic movement, dubbed by some the "Arab Spring" or "Arab Awakening", completely bypassed al-Qaeda, which had always insisted that violent jihad was the best and only path to just government.

With the recent departure of Western forces from Iraq and the imminent withdrawal of international combat forces from Afghanistan, the global jihadist movement will be deprived of a significant recruiting tool.

But it would be foolish to believe that the movement is finished."

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DRONE WATCH: Playing God in Pakistan

One of the U.K.’s leading newspapers, The Guardian, takes on President Obama’s drone policy in an editorial this morning:

"Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and John Brennan – two saints and a counter-terrorism adviser – may give the counsel a president feels he needs before adding another al-Qaida suspect to his kill list. But whatever else these authorities do, they do not constitute due process – and Barack Obama's administration knows it. It is doing everything it can to avoid scrutiny. It is refusing to publish its standards for putting people on terrorist or assassination lists. What are the target limits? When is a last resort truly a last resort, particularly in areas well back from recognised battlefields? And who is providing independent oversight?"

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