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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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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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