The Common Good

Quick Read: Social. Justice. News.

What good is oil when there's nothing to eat?

For Salon, Fred Pearce writes:

Saudi Arabians have grown colossally rich on the country’s oil reserves. They have grown used to the idea that petrodollars can buy them anything. But Saudis are waking up to the fact that all their wealth will count for nothing if they have nothing to eat. And — despite the conference tables heaving with French, Persian, American and Arab cuisine — that is a growing threat. “If we want our grandchildren to live as we are, we need to change now, or we will be like an African country in 50 years, asking for aid,” Adil Bushnak, a former member of the Saudi Supreme Economic Council, told me during a conference session I was chairing

Learn more here

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Tutu: To live sustainably, we need to talk

Writing for The Huffington Post, Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, a Nobel Peace Laureate and Chair of The Elders writes on why inter-generational dislogue is so important in tackling the big issues of the day:

For the sake of our planet, a conversation that needs to be heard is the one between generations, between elders and young people around the world -- and those who are in between.

I leave you with this Kenyan proverb a young activist from Dubai sent us: "The world was not given to you by your parents; it was lent to you by your children."
 
The words are beautiful. Their global nature, in our digital age, is inspiring.
 
Read Archbishop Tutu's full article here
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DRONE WATCH: Drone War Needs Accountability

Cynthia Tucker, a visiting professor at the University of Georgia and winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary,writes on the lack of accountability in the drone war:

"Obama’s “targeting killing” campaign has a glaring flaw: It has remained shrouded in semi-secrecy, a classified program that flouts the full disclosure and public debate that democracy demands. The president has protected the United States from the murderous impulses of Islamists, but he has not defended the constitutional principles he is sworn to uphold. …

The public needs more information about the president’s drone war, not less. At the very least, the Obama administration ought to release the memos its lawyers have written to justify its “targeted killings.” That would be a step toward the accountability that the citizens of a democracy deserve. After all, the Obama administration is carrying out its drone war in our names."

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DRONE WATCH: The Switchblade is Coming

It’s 2 feet long, weighs only 6 pounds, and can fit into a soldier’s backpack.  It’s the “Switchblade,” the next generation of drones. They’re about the size of model planes, with tiny explosive warheads that the soldier firing it can accurately aim at a target. Its accuracy is being touted as a way to minimize civilian casualties.

According to the Los Angeles Times,

"The 2-foot-long Switchblade is so named because its wings fold into the fuselage for transport and spring out after launch. It is designed to fit into a soldier's rucksack and is fired from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, it begins sending back live video and GPS coordinates to a hand-held control set clutched by the soldier who launched it. When soldiers identify and lock on a target, they send a command for the drone to nose-dive into it and detonate on impact. Because of the way it operates, the Switchblade has been dubbed the "kamikaze drone."… "This is a precision strike weapon that causes as minimal collateral damage as possible," said William I. Nichols, who led the Army's testing effort.”

Sound like a future fantasy? Think again, “About a dozen Switchblades were tested last year by special operations units in Afghanistan, according to Army officials, who said the drone proved effective.”

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Elie Wiesel on Syria: Charge Bashar al-Assad with Crimes Against Humanity

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel offers his thought on the Syrian crisis in The Washington Post:

Syria’s story is now both tragedy and scandal. Day after day, its police and army humiliate, frighten and kill scores of its citizens. Old and young, educated and ignorant, rich and poor: All have become targets. One day alone, two weeks ago, youngsters were massacred individually — with bullets in their heads.

 
And the so-called civilized world isn’t even trying to stop the massacre. Its leaders issue statements, but the bloodshed continues. A situation that has lasted 13-odd months is not about to end.
 
His suggest for how to bring the crisis to an end?
 
Why not warn Assad that, unless he stops the murderous policy he is engaged in, he will be arrested and brought to the international criminal court in the Hague and charged with committing crimes against humanity?
 
Such a charge would have discouraging aspects. He would lose any support, any sympathy, in the world at large. No honorable person would come to his defense. No nation would offer him shelter. No statute of limitations would apply to his case.
 
If and when he realizes that, like Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, he will end up in disgrace, locked in a prison cell, he might put an end to his senseless criminal struggle for survival.
 
Why not try it?

 

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Jonathan Merritt on the changing political culture among young Christians

Author Jonathan Merritt sets our the seven reasons why Christians should "change their political tune":

Aristotle is credited with saying, "Change in all things is sweet." And perhaps no change of late is as sweet as that among young Christians in the public square. While the last several decades of Christian engagement have often been marked by partisan tactics and a polemical tone, a new generation is changing its political tune. These individuals aren't leaving the public square altogether, but they are looking for less divisive and less partisan ways to engage. They want to follow Jesus without fighting the culture wars.

Read the full list here

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North Carolina Senate: We're Not Interested in Climate Change

For Talking Points Memo, Eric Lach reports on the 'progress' of the North Carolina bill that restricts state agencies’ ability to take global warming into account when making sea-level rise projections:

The language in the bill was toned down from the version that had been circulating — the original version of the bill stated starkly that rates of sea-level rise could use only historical data, extrapolated linearly, despite the fact that most scientists expect sea-levels to rise faster over the next century as a result of global warming — but the version of the bill approved Thursday still contains the following language:

[Rates of sea-level rise] shall be determined using statistically significant, peer-reviewed historical data generated using generally accepted scientific and statistical techniques. Historic rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise unless such rates are from statistically significant, peer-reviewed data and are consistent with historic trends.

Read the full story here
 
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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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