The Common Good

Blog Posts By Duane Shank

Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 25 weeks ago
 Quote of the day. “We must continue to be an open and caring congregation that reaches out to everyone and realize that makes you somewhat vulnerable. That’s just part of being present in the world and being present with those people who are deeply broken and hurting.” David Blackmon, coordinating pastor of Asheville, N.C., First Baptist Church on churches having to balance security against the call to ministry in the community. (Associated Baptist Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 25 weeks ago
Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks from this week’s books.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 25 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying — too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.” Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a statement at a Senate hearing on gun control. (Politico)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 25 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "It's hard growing up with all this violence that seems to be happening all the time, in public and at school. But most people my age, we say it's terrible, we mourn on the day, and we move on. Because we have to. I think it pushes us to be the best we can be, so we can make a difference for the future." Colin Janison, 16, a high school junior in Las Vegas, on how his generation copes with the events of our times. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 25 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “Facing the collapse of a state and society, it is Islamist groups that risk gaining ground if we do not act as we should. We cannot let a revolution that started as a peaceful and democratic protest degenerate into a conflict of militias.” Laurent Fabius, foreign minister of France, warning countries that support the Syrian opposition to honor their pledges of aid. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 25 weeks ago
The New York Times reports that the U.S. is preparing to establish a base in northwest Africa so that it can fly drone surveillance missions against the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups. “For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens. …“A handful of unarmed Predator drones would carry out surveillance missions in the region and fill a desperate need for more detailed information on a range of regional threats, including militants in Mali and the unabated flow of fighters and weapons from Libya. American military commanders and intelligence analysts complain that such information has been sorely lacking.”This morning, Reuters reports that Niger has given permission for the drones to be based in that country. According to a “senior government source,” the U.S. Ambassador to Niger made to the request to the country’s president, who accepted it.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 25 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "With today''s development, I am devastated for my husband and my family. We must now pursue every effort, turn every rock, and not stop until Saeed is safely on American soil." Naghmeh, wife of Saeed Abedini, an American pastor of Iranian origin sentenced to eight years of prison in Iran on charges of attempting to undermine state security by creating a network of Christian churches in private homes. (Associated Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
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Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “It’s some change in a Senate committed to no change. So that’s important.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on a Senate agreement to make small changes in filibuster rules. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
 Quote of the day."Congress is a place where good ideas go to die," she said. "There is a tremendous amount that his administration can do without Congress. He has the authority; he doesn't have to wait for Congress."Melinda Pierce, legislative director for the Sierra Club, urging the president to focus more on executive orders and regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency than on legislation to address climate change.(CNN)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
Ben Emmerson, a U.N. special rapporteur, is beginning an investigation into drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, according to the Guardian.“About 20 or 30 strikes – selected as representative of different types of attacks – will be studied to assess the extent of any civilian casualties, the identity of militants targeted and the legality of strikes in countries where the UN has not formally recognised there is a conflict.“The inquiry will report to the UN general assembly in New York this autumn. Depending on its findings, it may recommend further action. Emmerson has previously suggested some drone attacks – particularly those known as "double tap" strikes where rescuers going to the aid of a first blast have become victims of a follow-up strike – could possibly constitute a 'war crime.'"Several nations, including Pakistan, have requested the investigation.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
Several months ago, the Washington Post reported that presidential counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was developing a “playbook” of rules for drone attacks:“The “playbook,” as Brennan calls it, will lay out the administration’s evolving procedures for the targeted killings that have come to define its fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It will cover the selection and approval of targets from the “disposition matrix,” the designation of who should pull the trigger when a killing is warranted, and the legal authorities the administration thinks sanction its actions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.”On Sunday, the Post followed with a report that the playbook was nearing completion, and would provide clear rules. “In Yemen, officials said, strikes have been permitted only in cases in which intelligence indicates a specific threat to Americans. That could include “individuals who are personally involved in trying to kill Americans,” a senior administration official said, or “intelligence that . . . [for example] a truck has been configured in order to go after our embassy in Sanaa.“The playbook has adopted that tighter standard and imposes other more stringent rules. Among them are requirements for White House approval of drone strikes and the involvement of multiple agencies — including the State Department — in nominating new names for kill lists.”But there is one exception to the new rules. The CIA drone program in Pakistan gets an exemption for at least a year.  That exemption is described as “a compromise that allowed officials to move forward with other parts of the playbook.” The disputed point that apparently led to it was the CIA’s use of so-called “signature strikes,” attacks based on behavior seen as suspicious rather than in specific identified targets.It also appears that the coming withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will lead to more and more drone attacks. The Post quotes a former official involved in the playbook, “There’s a sense that you put the pedal to the metal now…” 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
While Washington, D.C., reveled in the ceremonies and parties surrounding Inauguration Day, U.S. drones were busy in Yemen. According to Reuters, four attacks in four days, from Saturday to Tuesday, killed at least 14 people. The attacks led to a protest blockade by angry tribesmen:“On Sunday armed tribesman, angry at what they said was a drone attack on an area inhabited by civilians, blocked the main road linking Maarib with Sanaa. Earlier this month, dozens of armed tribesmen also took to the streets in southern Yemen to protest against drone strikes that they said had killed innocent civilians and fuelled anger against the United States.”In another protest, Reuters reported a rare criticism of drone strikes by a member of the Yemeni cabinet. Human rights minister Hooria Mashhou, who was formerly a top activist in the movement that ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh a year ago, said during a U.N. Yemen humanitarian appeal meeting in Dubai:"I am in favour of changing the anti-terrorism strategy. I think there are more effective strategies. We're committed to fighting terrorism but we're calling for changing the means and strategies. These means and strategies can be applied on the ground without harming civilians and without leading to human rights violations."
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
Among my must reads are the Sunday New York Times Book Review and other book reviews I come across in various media outlets. There are too many books being published that I would love to read, but just don’t have the time. So, I rely on reading book reviews as one way of keeping in touch with what’s being written. Here are my picks from this week’s books.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “To many Americans, we feel like a house divided that cannot stand. We find ourselves divided and desperately longing to find common ground,” “This may be, this bringing together of our country, a more important issue than anything else we face.” Rev. Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, in his sermon at the inaugural prayer service at Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 26 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Silence is not an option when 30 million of our brothers and sisters live in poverty. Silence is not an option when 11 million undocumented individuals continue to live in the shadows. And by the way, they are undocumented and not illegal. Because a human being made in the image of God cannot be illegal."  Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, preaching at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. (CNN Belief Blog)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "It's not just 'brain drain.' It's a loss of institutional knowledge and experience and how the Senate works and how to get things done." Jennifer Duffy, a Cook election analyst, on the 43 percent turnover rate in the Senate since 2008.   (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor and nominee for CIA Director, is one of the architects of the administration’s drone policy. The New York Times and the ACLU recently lost a case in court that attempted to make public the secret legal memos that are claimed to justify the policy. The confirmation hearings coming up will offer another chance.Salon reports that Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote a letter to Brennan in light of his nomination asking to see the legal opinions that justify killing American citizens.  He wrote:“Senior intelligence officials have said publicly that they have to authority to knowingly use lethal force against Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations, and have indicated that there are secret legal opinions issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and explain the basis of this authority. I have asked repeatedly to see these opinions, and I have been provided some relevant information on the topic, but I have yet to see the opinions themselves.”From a broader viewpoint, Mary Ellen O'Connell, law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a specialist on the international law of armed conflict, expresses surprise that anyone would need to see the memos.  Comparing it to the legal memos that claimed to justify waterboarding and secret detention by the Bush administration, she writes:“It is surprising to me that anyone feels the need to actually see these secret memos. International law clearly makes waterboarding, secret detention and targeted killing away from battlefields unlawful. The fact these practices have continued after the writing of the memos demonstrates the analysis is window dressing.”But, she adds:“The greater importance of the secret memos does not concern what they contain, but the fact our democratic government believes legal analysis can be secret -- that how the government understands the law that regulates its conduct need not be made public.” 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) writes in a Washington Post op-ed of the many unanswered questions about drone strikes. He points out that:“The heart of the problem is that our technological capability has far surpassed our policy. As things stand, the executive branch exercises unilateral authority over drone strikes against terrorists abroad.”And as a way of changing that unilateral authority, he proposes three major points that should be considered by Congress to create a “legal framework to guide executive action.”“First, we must do more to avoid innocent civilian casualties.“Second, Congress must require an independent judicial review of any executive-branch 'kill list.'“Third, the United States must collaborate with the international community to develop a widely accepted set of legal standards.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "We have a dream that our president will understand the intergenerational injustice of human-made climate change. That he will recognize our duty to be caretakers of creation, of the land, of the life on our planet. And that he will give these matters the priority that our young people deserve." James Hansen, NASA scientist, at a White House rally on climate change. (McClatchy Newspapers) 1. Obama to 'put everything I've got' into gun control. In the aftermath of the Connecticut school massacre, Mr. Obama vowed to rally public opinion to press a reluctant Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expand background checks, and toughen gun-trafficking laws. (New York Times) 2. Experts applaud Obama’s sweeping gun-control plan. President Barack Obama’s wide-ranging plan to curb gun violence in America isn’t likely to be enacted in full, but experts say the sheer breadth of his proposal will provide a national blueprint for action that can guide lawmakers, fuel a powerful lobbying effort, and sustain a national dialogue on gun control.  (McClatchy Newspapers) 3. More conservatives plead with GOP to abandon debt-ceiling ultimatum. With the U.S. likely to hit the limit on its borrowing authority as early as mid-February, more and more Republicans are publicly beseeching their party to drop the game of chicken — calling it both bad policy and bad politics — and focus instead on other, less-risky opportunities to push for spending cuts. (Christian Science Monitor) 4. Military suicides rise to a record 349. The U.S. military lost more service members to suicide than combat last year as the number of troops who took their lives rose to a record high. (Washington Post) 5. Deficient levees found across America. Inspectors taking the first-ever inventory of flood control systems overseen by the federal government have found hundreds of structures at risk of failing and endangering people and property in 37 states. (Associated Press) 6. Attackers warn of explosive end in Algeria. A tense and confusing standoff developed Thursday between government forces and armed attackers holding dozens of hostages, including Americans and other foreigners, at an internationally managed gas field in Algeria. News reports said that some captives had escaped and others had been caught up in fighting. (New York Times) 7. Panetta ‘confident’ that U.S. will clear legal hurdles to helping France in Mali. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday that he is “confident” the United States can overcome legal obstacles to provide military help to France for its drive against al-Qaeda-linked militants in Mali. (Washington Post) 8. Afghanistan national security agency attacked by suicide bombers. A team of suicide bombers attacked a compound belonging to Afghanistan's spy agency Wednesday, killing at least one guard and injuring 33 civilians in a brazen strike at the heavily fortified heart of Kabul, the capital, officials said. (Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times) 9. Syria allows U.N. to step up food aid. Syria's government has authorized the U.N. World Food Program to extend its reach in the country where 2.5 million people are suffering from hunger, according to officials. (Al Jazeera) 10. Prospects for nuclear talks with Iran dim. Four weeks after agreeing in principle to nuclear talks, Iran has gone silent about its plans for the negotiations, baffling U.S. and European diplomats while also signaling internal discord over what analysts on both sides see as the best chance in years for a nuclear bargain with the West. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "President Obama has lived in the district now for four years, and has seen firsthand how patently unfair it is for working families in D.C. to work hard, raise children and pay taxes, without having a vote in Congress."Keith Maley, White House spokesman, announcing that President Obama's limousine will display the D.C. license plate reading "Taxation without Representation" during inauguration activities and through the remainder of his term. (Chicago Tribune)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Everybody who comes through our door are people with problems, not problem people. There's a big difference. We treat everybody with respect when they arrive here.” Joe Wojton, co-director of God’s Love homeless shelter in Helena, Montana. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
For a number of months, I’ve reported and commented on news of drone strikes, the drone program, and legal and political challenges to it. But with the administration’s refusal to officially acknowledge the program, there’s a a lot we don’t know. Cora Currier at Pro Publica has an informative summary of what we know and what we don’t know about drone strikes. 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
Ross Douthat posits that President Obama’s nominations of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and John Brennan as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency represent the synthesis of two strains in former President George Bush’s foreign policy. Hagel as one of those who turned against the war in Iraq, and Brennan as one of those who defended controversial counterterrorism policies.“To the extent that it’s possible to define an “Obama Doctrine,” then, it’s basically the Hagel-Brennan two-step. Fewer boots on the ground, but lots of drones in the air. Assassination, yes; nation-building, no. An imperial presidency with a less-imperial global footprint.“This is a popular combination in a country that’s tired of war but still remembers 9/11 vividly. Indeed, Obama’s foreign policy has been an immense political success: he’s co-opted foreign policy realists, neutralized antiwar Democrats and isolated Republican hawks.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 27 weeks ago
Counter-insurgency wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, frequently place soldiers in morally ambiguous situations. What they did or didn’t do in those situations can leave lasting moral effects. Following an epiphany at an antiwar rally, Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock:“… has devoted the years since then to tending the spiritual wounds of warriors, seeking theological answers to the condition among veterans called “moral injury.” In her current position at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, she has begun the first program in the nation to develop a treatment that she terms 'soul repair.'“Moral injury might best be defined as an affliction of the soul, as distinct from a specific mental health condition like post-traumatic stress disorder. It arises, to speak in a very broad way, from the way a combatant’s actions in war seem to violate and thus undermine the most deeply held moral beliefs.”Her “Soul Repair Center” is now teaching congregational leaders how to address moral injury among veterans.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “As we have this important debate, let’s remember who we are and where our families would be today if earlier generations of Americans had decided to slam the door shut. The door to the American dream must always remain open.” Tom Donohue, US Chamber of Commerce President, on why immigration reform is a priority this year.  (Christian Science Monitor)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
Since the start of the year, drone attacks in Pakistan have been escalating. In the first ten days of January, seven attacks have been reported.Thursday morning, according to the Global News/AP:“U.S. drone-fired missiles hit a house in Pakistan's northwest tribal region Thursday, killing five suspected militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said. It was the seventh such attack in less than two weeks.“The recent spate of strikes has been one of the most intense in the past two years, a period in which political tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan led to a reduced number of attacks compared to 2010, when they were at their most frequent.”Tuesday, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported:“In twin strikes CIA drones killed at least six people, including up to two reported civilians. There were conflicting accounts of the events that night. Some sources reported there was a single strike that killed up to nine people. However multiple sources reported up to 17 missiles were fired on two close but separate targets at least 15 minutes apart. The first of the potentially coordinated attacks killed at least four in Haider Khel village shortly after midnight. …“The Agency’s drones killed at least two people in the second strike in nearby Hesso Khel village. As many as 11 missiles were fired on a ‘two room house‘ belonging to Noor Mohammed – his fate was not reported. Villagers said there was no way to tell the identity or nationality of the ‘mutilated bodies’. Many drones were reportedly seen overhead after the strike making tribesmen panic.” 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “The moment I feel like I can move, I will go back to the mountains, rearm myself and fight you again.” Eidi Mohammed, a former Taliban commander who renounced violence and sought amnesty under the Afghan government’s reconciliation program, but is now jobless and losing hope he will ever find work. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
The United Nations wants to use drones in peacekeeping missions, but some developing countries are opposed, fearing that it will become  a new way for Western countries to gather and control intelligence. According to the Washington Post:“The United Nations, looking to modernize its peacekeeping operations, is planning for the first time to deploy a fleet of its own surveillance drones in missions in Central and West Africa. The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping has notified Congo, Rwanda and Uganda that it intends to deploy a unit of at least three unarmed surveillance drones in the eastern region of Congo.”As the tension between China and Japan over disputed islands increases, both are in a “drone race.” The Guardian reports:“Drones have taken centre stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan as they struggle to assert their dominance over disputed islands in the East China Sea. China is rapidly expanding its nascent drone programme, while Japan has begun preparations to purchase an advanced model from the US. Both sides claim the drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn the possibility of future drone skirmishes in the region's airspace is "very high".USA TODAY notes a “global arms race” in acquiring drones:“The success of U.S. drones in Iraq and Afghanistan has triggered a global arms race, raising concerns the remotely piloted aircraft could fall into unfriendly hands, military experts say. The number of countries that have acquired or developed drones expanded to more than 75, up from about 40 in 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “I have some pretty strong feelings that those who have been to war are the best to keep us out of it. They have felt the wounds of war, physically, mentally and emotionally. They bring to the table all that they need to bring, and that is that wars are disastrous.” Max Cleland, a former Democratic senator from Georgia who lost three of his limbs fighting in Vietnam, speaking of the nominations of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. (New York Times) 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian group that supports persecuted Christians, reminds us what real persecution is. There are more than 65 countries where Christians face imprisonment, torture, or death because of their faith. Reuters Faith World reports “About 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world, with conditions worsening for them most rapidly in Syria and Ethiopia, according to an annual report by a group supporting oppressed Christians worldwide.“Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian group, listed North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as the three toughest countries for Christians last year. They topped the 50-country ranking for 2011 as well.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
PASSINGS, 2012I always begin a new year by remembering those who passed in the just concluded year. These aren’t necessarily the most famous, and I didn’t know them personally (or, at best, had met several briefly), but their lives touched mine in three of my passions.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
Michael Boyle, an assistant professor at La Salle University, who served on President Obama’s counter-terrorism advisory group during the 2008 campaign, has written a new, critical article on drones for the journal International Affairs.The Guardian reports:“The United States' use of drones is counter-productive, less effective than the White House claims, and is 'encouraging a new arms race that will empower current and future rivals and lay the foundations for an international system that is increasingly violent,' according to a study by one of President Obama's former security advisers.“Michael Boyle, who was on Obama's counter-terrorism group in the run-up to his election in 2008, said the US administration's growing reliance on drone technology was having 'adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists.'"
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
The secrecy of the U.S. drone program often makes it difficult to follow what is happening. News reports cite unnamed intelligence or security officials, sometimes tribal sources, usually with different information.For example, on Sunday a large number of people were killed by drone strikes in Pakistan's South Waziristan region. The story was reported by Al Jazeera, Reuters, DAWN, Associated Press, and CNN; among others.The strike involved “several missiles” (AP), “eight to 10 missiles” (Al Jazeera), or “four unmanned drones fired ten missiles” (DAWN).  It was aimed at “a suspected Taliban compound” (Al Jazeera), “three Taliban compounds” (Reuters), “three militant hideouts” (AP), or “three houses” (DAWN). The casualties were “sixteen killed and several others wounded” (Al Jazeera), “seventeen dead, three wounded” (CNN), “between ten and twelve dead” (Reuters), “seventeen dead” (DAWN), or “nine dead” (AP). They were “believed to be militants” (CNN), “suspected to be Taliban fighters” (Reuters), or “fighters belonging to the Punjabi Taliban” (Al Jazeera),So, how many people were killed? Who were they? You decide.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “I would imagine that even people who are made somewhat uncomfortable by the allusions to religion in such public moments will find an invocation by the widow of a martyr to be moving and poignant.” Jon Meacham, who has written on religion in American history, on President Obama’s selection of Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers, to deliver the invocation at his public swearing-in later this month. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
 The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has a comprehensive year-end report on U.S. drone strikes in 2012, month-by-month and country-by-country.“Drone strikes in Pakistan are now at their lowest level in five years, as Islamabad protests almost every attack. The CIA also appears to have abandoned ‘signature strikes’ on suspected militants fitting certain patterns of behaviour – at least for the present. Almost all attacks in recent months have been against named al Qaeda and other militant leaders.“As drone strikes fell in Pakistan they rose steeply in Yemen, as US forces aided a major military campaign to oust al Qaeda and other Islamists from southern cities. A parallel CIA targeted killing programme killed numerous alleged militants, many of them named individuals. Yet US officials took more than three months to confirm that American planes or drones had killed 12 civilians.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 28 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "I think there's something really attractive about the sense of service. Feeding people, the need for new farmers, the sense of mission. When you come out (of the military), that's what you miss." Michael O'Gorman, founder of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, which assists returning veterans become small farmers. (McClatchy News)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 29 weeks ago
Drone strikes are being escalated in Yemen with the fifth attack in the past ten days occurring on Thursday. Reuters reports:“At least three suspected al Qaeda militants including a local commander were killed on Thursday in Yemen by a strike from an unmanned aircraft, residents and a local official said.”Today, in response, Yemeni tribesmen organized a protest in front of a government administration building. According to Reuters:“Dozens of armed tribesmen took to the streets in southern Yemen on Friday to protest against drone strikes that they say have killed innocent civilians and increased anger against the United States. …“One tribesman participating in a sit-in in front of the government administration building in Redaa told Reuters by telephone that at least seven innocent civilians were killed in the recent raids.”Unlike Pakistan, the Yemeni government openly supports the U.S. strikes.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 29 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “The women, I think, are going to reach across the aisle a lot more. We’re a lot more pragmatic, but we do come from all different backgrounds.” Rep. Tammy Duckworth, (D-IL), on the record number of women in Congress. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 29 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me.” Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in her ruling that the Obama administration acted lawfully in refusing to disclose information about its targeted killings of terrorism suspects. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 29 weeks ago
 Over the last two days, multiple drone strikes in Pakistan killed at least 13 people. According to the Associated Press,“Two U.S. drone strikes on northwest Pakistan killed a senior Taliban commander who fought American forces in Afghanistan but had a truce with the Pakistani military, intelligence officials said Thursday.“The commander, Maulvi Nazir, was among nine people killed in a missile strike on a house in the village of Angoor Adda in the South Waziristan tribal region near the border with Afghanistan late Wednesday night, five Pakistani security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. … “Fighters under Nazir's command focused their attacks on American forces in neighboring Afghanistan, earning him the enmity of the U.S. But many in Pakistan's military viewed Nazir and militant chiefs like him as "good Taliban," meaning they focus attacks only on foreign forces in Afghanistan, keeping domestic peace by not attacking Pakistani targets.”In a separate drone strike, at least four people were killed early Thursday morning near Mir Ali in the North Waziristan tribal region.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 29 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "A new year is like a trip. With the light and the grace of God, may it be the start of a path to peace for every person, every family, every country, and for the entire world." Pope Benedict XVI, in his New Year’s message. (Reuters) 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 29 weeks ago
Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor imprisoned for nearly three years for “apostasy” until his release in September when the charge was changed to "evangelizing," was reportedly re-arrested on Christmas Day and ordered to serve the remaining 45 days of his prison sentence.Morning Star News reports:“An Iranian pastor freed from prison in September after nearly three years of detainment was re-arrested on Christmas Day in a move that human rights groups consider intentional harassment for rejecting Islam. …“Those close to the case and Nadarkhani’s family said the re-arrest may also have served as a direct message for the pastor to leave the Islamic Republic, according to Jason DeMars of PTM [Present Truth Ministries].“It appears that it is a move to harass him,” DeMars told Morning Star News. “Perhaps they want him to leave the country permanently.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 31 weeks ago
 Quote of the day. "It is long past time to give these American citizens who have chosen Washington as their home full participation in our democracy.” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), introducing the New Columbia Admissions Act to make Washington D.C. the 51st state. (Chicago Tribune)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 31 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “Everyone in this city seems to be in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.” The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, in his sermon Sunday. (New York Times) 1. Boehner works to rally GOP behind ‘Plan B’ as Obama threatens veto.  House GOP leaders scrambled to rally their members Wednesday behind a plan to extend tax cuts on income up to $1 million, defying President Obama’s veto threat and setting up a showdown that could send Washington over the year-end “fiscal cliff.” (Washington Post) 2. Obama vows fast action in new push for gun control. President Obama declared on Wednesday that he would make gun control a “central issue” as he opens his second term, promising to submit broad new firearm proposals to Congress no later than January and to employ the full power of his office to overcome deep-seated political resistance. (New York Times) 3. State Department officials quit after report on Benghazi attack. Four senior State Department officials resigned under pressure Wednesday after an independent review board determined that they had operational responsibility for "grossly inadequate" security when Islamic militants killed four Americans at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. (Chicago Tribune/L.A. Times) 4. Rep. Gowdy selected to head key immigration committee. House leaders chose a vocal opponent of illegal immigration to head up the chamber's immigration subcommittee, which will play an integral role in the upcoming debates on how to reform the nation's immigration laws. (USA Today) 5. Lean times for America's 'undeserving poor.' The American welfare state has grown, but so have the ranks of the poor. As the U.S. tries to focus help on those deemed most worthy, millions of adults are getting squeezed.  (Reuters) 6. Syrian crisis triggers massive U.N. aid appeal. The U.N., which estimates it will need $1.5 billion to slow a "dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Syria, made the plea for aid in unusually strident terms. (Guardian) 7. U.N. vote planned on Mali security. The United Nations Security Council was expected to vote Thursday on a resolution that would approve the deployment of a multinational African force in Mali, along with Western training and equipment for the Malian Army, to help retake the northern part of the country from Islamist militias. (New York Times) 8. Troops gone, U.S. increasingly sidelined in Iraq. A year after troops withdrew from Iraq, American officials have all but disappeared from the streets of Baghdad. When U.S. officials emerge from their embassy, they are no longer the de facto rulers of the country they once were.  (Reuters) 9. Israel settlements: U.N. steps up pressure. The U.N. is stepping up pressure on Israel over its settlement building on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The secretary general and all Security Council members except the U.S. demanded an immediate halt to new construction. (BBC) 10. South Korea's Park stresses 'grave' North Korea challenge. South Korea's President-elect Park Geun-hye spoke of a "grave" security challenge from North Korea but called for "trust-based dialogue". (BBC)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 31 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “I see them coming back day after day, more defeated, more tired out, wondering, ‘When will it be my turn?’ And it’s heartbreaking. This is the age when you want to show the world you have value.”  Kristine Cunningham, executive director of Roots. a shelter for young adults in a church basement. Tens of thousands of underemployed and jobless young people, many with college credits or work histories, are struggling to house themselves in the wake of the recession.  (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 32 weeks ago
The Syracuse Post-Standard reports that 13 people were found guilty of trespassing yesterday in DeWitt, N.Y,. for a protest in June at the gates of Hancock Air Base. Five who had been previously arrested were sentenced to two weeks in jail, the rest given a conditional discharge and community service requirement.“The protesters were charged after they spent more than two hours on June 28 at Hancock Air Base’s main entrance while attempting — and failing — to deliver a “citizens’ indictment” for what they are calling reaper drone war crimes committed at the base. They were convicted by Judge Robert Jokl in DeWitt Town Court. The 13 defended themselves without using attorneys.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 32 weeks ago
Joshua Hersh reports on Huffington Post that the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing yesterday on the use of drones in targeted killings. There was bipartisan unhappiness over the lack of transparency from the administration, yet the committee voted down a bill that would have required more information.“The House Judiciary Committee hearing was held on Thursday to discuss a resolution put forward by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) that would order the White House to turn over to Congress all documents related to the government's targeted killing program.“The measure was dismissed as overly broad and aggressive, but legislators took the opportunity to vent their frustrations about the limited amount of information the administration has shared with the public and Congress about the use of drones.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 32 weeks ago
 Quote of the day. “I’ve been called names all my life from the ultraconservative reactionary position, but this is a level of demeaning that I’ve not seen before. Demeaning not just of me, but of the Muslim faith, of this organization, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran.” Rev. J. Edwin Bacon Jr., rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif., on the criticism he’s receiving for allowing the Muslim Public Affairs Council to hold its annual convention at the church. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 32 weeks ago
University of Notre Dame Law School Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell writes in Peace Policy of the “high-tech killing” made possible by drones, and the apparent violations of international law this creates.“The arguments for drones continue to mutate as the technology advances to ever more powerful killing machines:  Predators, Reapers, and now the Avenger. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced on November 20, 2012, that the Pentagon plans to expand the use of drone attacks in Libya, Mali, and Nigeria. He said that al Qaeda has “metastasized to other parts of the global body.’’ Now the policy of targeted killing with drones is spreading to other parts of the globe.”