Afghanistan

Cold: From Maine to Afghanistan

While the mid-Atlantic basks in higher than normal temperatures, it isn’t like that everywhere. Two stories from The New York Times on the struggle for warmth.

In Maine, elderly and often disabled folks who can’t afford heating oil struggle for warmth. The energy assistance program of past years was slashed as part of federal spending cuts, resulting in 65,000 households in this state alone receiving less help, while the cost of oil has risen more than 40 cents a gallon. The basic need for heat becomes a full-time struggle.

Afternoon News Bytes: Feb. 1, 2012

Searching For The Common Good In Political Discourse; Afghans Fear Downturn As Foreigners Withdraw; Romney: "I'm Not Concerned About The Very Poor"; Reducing Poverty Will Help Bring About The Kingdom Of God, Bishop Says; Introducing The Ifactory; Get Off Our Butts! (OPINION); Saudi Oil Minister Calls Global Warming “Humanity’s Most Pressing Concern”; Linebacker’s Faith Pulls Him Through Tough Spot; National Prayer Breakfast Gets A Rival: The People's Prayer Breakfast.

About Those So-Called "Honor Killings" in Canada

Front Page of Canada's National Post announcing the Shafia Murder Convictions.

Front Page of Canada's National Post announcing the Shafia Murder Convictions.

According to the Associated Press:

A jury on Sunday found three members of an Afghan family guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another woman in what the judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honor," ending a case that shocked and riveted Canadians.

Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet.

The jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

After the verdict was read, the three defendants again declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage.

Read a roundup of the ongoing coverage of the Shafia trial and the religious, political and social issues related to the so-called "honor killings" inside the blog...

2012 State of the Union Address: The Complete Text

President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address via Getty

President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address via Getty Images

From President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address:

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.

Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.

Read the full text of the SOTU Address inside the blog...

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 24, 2012

Obama To Take On Economic Anxiety In Election-Year State Of The Union, Amid GOP Attacks; Black, Latino Students Perform At Levels Of 30 Years Ago; Obama Offends The Catholic Left; Evangelicals And Romney: Should Theology Matter?; What’s Up With The Arab League?; "Self Deportation": It's A Real Thing, And It Isn't Pretty; Who Are Boko Haram and Why Are They Terrorizing Nigerian Christians?; 2011 Annual Letter From Bill Gates; Florida GOP Debate: Immigration Proposals Anger Protesters; An Occupy Prayer Breakfast: There Is Enough For Everyone!; Violence Spikes In Key Afghan Regions.

"Helping One is Better than Helping None"

Roya Shams.  Toronto Star photo by Paul Watson.

Roya Shams spends the day at Ottawa's Ashbury College. She begins classes this week. Toronto Star photo by Paul Watson.

In the nearly 20 years I have been a working journalist, occasionally I have been tempted to intervene in the stories I have been assigned to cover. Most of the time, I have not, and that was probably the right choice. But once upon a time, about four years ago, I crossed the line. In a big way. I intervened because the life of another person was at stake and I knew that my calling was to be human, to react, to help, to do whatever I could to save a life. It's the best decision I've ever made. Hands down.

As I read a remarkable story in the Toronto Star newspaper, I wondered if the paper's veteran foreign correspondent, Paul Watson, now feels the same way.

Earlier this month, Watson, who is Canada's only Pulitzer Prize-winner, arrived in Toronto from Kandahar, Afghanistan with a very special package: a 17-year-old Afghan girl  forced to flee her homeland, in the reporter's care, to escape certain death at the hands of Taliban assassins.

Assessing the Afghanistan War

Over the past few days, news sources have reported on a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Afghanistan delivered to the White House in December. NIEs represent the consensus view of the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies on national security issues, and are completed for use by high-level policy makers.

The document remains classified, and news reports have emphasized different points.

McClatchy Newspapers wrote of a warning that “Taliban leaders haven't abandoned their goal of reclaiming power and reimposing harsh Islamic rule on Afghanistan.” The article quotes “a U.S. official” as saying, "There is no indication that the Taliban are ready to settle for a goal short of total control over an Islamic emirate."

While the U.S. military has made some gains since President Obama sent additional troops a year ago, the article says the NIE concludes they may not be sustainable.

GOP Primaries and Old Country Buffet

Tim King is Sojourners' Communcations Director

Tim King is Sojourners' Communcations Director

If the GOP primaries were like Old Country Buffet, I’d be happy.

Think about it. There wouldn’t be so much money involved and we could pick only the stuff we liked and ignore  the rest.

And of course, everyone knows the basic rules of smorgasbord grazing, such as you can’t get decent sushi in the Midwest or proper social conservatives from Massachusetts.

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