The Common Good

Blog Posts By Duane Shank

Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 38 weeks ago
Reuters reports on a rare drone strike in northern Yemen, near the Saudi border.“At least four men suspected of being al Qaeda members were killed in what a local official said was a U.S. drone strike on Islamist militants in northern Yemen on Sunday.“It was a rare attack on al Qaeda-linked targets in northern Yemen, an area dominated by Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels battling Yemeni government forces for control of the rugged mountainous region.“The official said that a drone attacked two houses in the Abu Jabara area in Saada Province, killing four people.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
This week, the Washington Post published a major three-part series, written by three veteran correspondents, titled “The Permanent War.” The series is an in-depth look at U.S. counterterrorism policies, particularly targeted killings.In part one, Greg Miller focuses on the “kill lists” for drone strikes and other covert operations, and how they have evolved.Over the past two years, the administration has worked on a “next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix,’  which is a“single, continually evolving database in which biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations are all catalogued. So are strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols.”Miller concludes that “Privately, officials acknowledge that the development of the matrix is part of a series of moves, in Washington and overseas, to embed counterterrorism tools into U.S. policy for the long haul. … For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
In drone news this week:• The Washington Post reported that Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, and  Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will investigate the use of drone attacks and other targeted assassinations by the U.S. and other governments. According to Emmerson, “I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [U.N.] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks, and other forms of targeted killings conducted in counterterrorism operations, in which it has been alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted.”• Sixteen people from the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars were arrested Thursday while blocking gates at the New York National Guard’s Hancock Field near Syracuse. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported that “The protesters believe that such operations are wrong and use the protests and arrests as a way to educate the public about the issue, said Ellen Grady, a protester from Ithaca.”• The British High Court is hearing a case brought by Pakistani Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a suspected drone attack. According to the BBC, “Judges are deciding whether there should be a full judicial review into the legality of any UK co-operation with the Central Intelligence Agency.” In the same case, the Washington Post reported that James Eadie, lawyer for Britain’s Foreign Office, told the Court, “Ties between Britain, the U.S. and Pakistan could be jeopardized if a judge grants a request for a court inquiry into the possible role of U.K. spy agencies in aiding covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region…”• In Pakistan, DAWN reports that a two-member panel of the Peshawar High Court has served notice on former president Pervez Musharraf to appear before the court. The Court is hearng a petition that has been filed against drone attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), in particular the killing of innocent people including women and children.  • On Slate’s Map of the Week, a map showing the location of the 284 drone attacks reported in Pakistan under the Obama administration.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "It''s looking like a very serious storm that could be historic. Mother Nature is not saying, `Trick or treat.'' It''s just going to give tricks." Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground, on a rare mix of three big merging weather systems expected to bring high wind, heavy rain, extreme tides and maybe snow to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. beginning early Sunday. (Associated Press) 1. Whites’ support for Obama eroding. The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago.(Washington Post) 2. Both Romney and Obama avoid talk of climate change. For all their disputes, President Obama and Mitt Romney agree that the world is warming and that humans are at least partly to blame. It remains wholly unclear what either of them plans to do about it. (New York Times) 3. California eyes vote to end death penalty. California hosts nearly a quarter of the nation''s death row prisoners, but has executed none in six years. In November, voters will decide whether to save hundreds of millions of dollars by instead jailing the worst killers for life.  (Reuters) 4. Secret ops expand at U.S. base. DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti — Around the clock, about 16 times a day, drones take off or land at a U.S. military base here, the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. (Washington Post) 5. ‘Fiscal cliff’ already hampering U.S. economy. The “fiscal cliff” is still two months off, but the scheduled blast of tax hikes and spending cuts is already reverberating through the U.S. economy, hampering growth and, according to a new study, wiping out nearly 1 million jobs this year alone. (Washington Post) 6. Pakistani girls walk path of teenager shot by Taliban. As Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai recovers from bullet wounds in a British hospital, her classmates say they will not let the Taliban extremists who put her there force them to quit school. (USA Today) 7. Iran military action not ''right course at this time.'' The UK government has reiterated that it does not believe military action against Iran would be appropriate at the moment, following the disclosure that Britain has rebuffed US requests to use UK military bases to support the buildup of forces in the Gulf. (Guardian) 8. Syria Eid al-Adha ceasefire marred by clashes. Syrian activists have reported a series of clashes in violation of a ceasefire to mark a four-day Islamic holiday. Violence appeared to have died down as the ceasefire period began on Friday morning, before reports of fighting in several cities. (BBC) 9. Israeli operations in Sudan aimed at disrupting Gaza arms trade. Israeli intelligence officials said Thursday that their military has been conducting operations inside Sudan for several years in an effort to disrupt weapons supplies and training for militants in the Gaza Strip – tacit acknowledgement that Israel was responsible for the bombing Wednesday of a weapons factory in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. (McClatchy News) 10. Farewells and Memories. South Dakota bids farewell to former Sen. McGovern. A large memorial service was to follow a more intimate prayer service held Thursday night and attended by the state''s luminaries and Vice President Joe Biden. (Associated Press)  Wellstone''s passion recalled 10 years after he was killed in plane crash. On the 10th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone and seven others, speakers remembered the liberal Minnesota firebrand Thursday for his activism and his ability to care for others. (Minneapolis StarTribune)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “The American people do want us to govern from the center, in a sense. But it is not the center the pundits and politicians in Washington talk about. Citizens want us to deal with issues that are at the center of their lives.” Paul Wellstone, in the February 19, 2001 edition of The Nation. Ten years ago today, Sen. Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, their daughter Marcia, three staff members, and two pilots were killed in a plane crash while campaigning in Minnesota. (The Nation) 1. Obama says he’ll renew push for a ‘grand bargain’ on federal budget. In an interview made public Wednesday, Obama said he would pursue a “grand bargain” with Republicans to tame the national debt and would quickly follow that with a push to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. (Washington Post) 2. Crucial subset: Female voters still deciding. Whether or not the term “waitress moms” endures, it defines a distinct demographic: blue-collar white women who did not attend college. And they are getting a lot of attention from both campaigns as the presidential race barrels toward its conclusion because even at this late date, pollsters say, many waitress moms have not settled on a candidate.  (New York Times) 3. U.S. sues BofA for $1 billion for mortgage fraud. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan sued Bank of America for $1 billion on Wednesday, alleging the bank defrauded government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Charlotte Observer/McClatchy) 4. Shifting mood may end blank check for U.S. security efforts. The looming federal budget crunch, a sense that major attacks on the United States are unlikely and new bipartisan criticism of the sprawling counterterrorism bureaucracy may mean that the open checkbook era is nearing an end. (New York Times) 5. CIA veteran reshapes counterterrorism policy. In his windowless White House office, presidential counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan is compiling the rules for a war the Obama administration believes will far outlast its own time in office, whether that is just a few more months or four more years. (Washington Post) 6. Activist girl's dad vows she'll return to Pakistan. The father of a 15-year-old Pakistani activist girl who was shot and wounded by a Taliban gunman vowed Thursday that she would return home after finishing medical treatment abroad despite new insurgent threats against her. (Associated Press) 7. Syria violence flares ahead of possible truce. There has been fresh violence in several Syrian cities, opposition activists say, just hours before the Syrian government was due to announce a final decision on an Eid al-Adha ceasefire proposed by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN, and Arab League envoy. (Al Jazeera) 8. Egypt brokers informal Israel-Gaza truce: Israeli official. Palestinian militants held fire overnight on Thursday and Israel refrained from air strikes as an informal truce brokered by Egypt appeared to take hold following two days of violence along the Israel-Gaza border. (Reuters) 9. Sectarian violence worsens in volatile Myanmar. Hundreds of homes burned and gunfire rang out as sectarian violence raged for a fifth day between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in western Myanmar, testing the nascent democracy in one of Asia's most ethnically diverse countries.  (Reuters) 10. China to approve new nuclear plants. China is ready to approve new nuclear power plants as part of ambitious plans to reduce reliance on oil and coal, ending a moratorium it imposed because of Japan's Fukushima disaster last year. (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “There is no alternative. For some of these more radical groups, it’s going to take military force.” Jack Christofides, a top official in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which is playing a leading role in planning a possible military strike to recapture Mali’s Islamist-held north. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
DAWN reports a drone attack Wednesday in the North Waziristan region.“At least five people were killed Wednesday when a US drone targeted a suspected militant compound about 10 kilometres from the main town in volatile North Waziristan region, intelligence sources said.“The US drone fired three missiles in Tappi village, about 10 kilometres southeast of Miramshah, on a compound which intelligence sources said was a militant facility. Two missiles hit the house and one struck a vehicle resulting in the death of four suspected militants. A woman was also killed in the strike, sources added. The official sources also said that three cows have also been killed as the house was completely destroyed.”CNN reported three killed, and added that two children were injured.“The latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children, military officers said. Militants lived in the compound, but so did civilians, the officers said.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Women play a significant role in development. [But] their abilities to contribute to rural development and family wellbeing are limited by inequalities in choices of occupations, wages and incentives; responsibility for care work; and access to, and control over, productive resources." Paula Kantor, a senior gender scientist at the Malaysia-based WorldFish Center, on the gender gap in agricultural development. (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
The second drone strike in four days killed four in Yemen. AFP reportsFour members of the Al-Qaeda extremist network including a local chief were killed in Yemen Sunday in a strike presumed to have been carried out by a US drone against their vehicle in Maarib province, tribal and police sources said. "A drone fired a missile at a car which had four Al-Qaeda militants in it, destroying the vehicle and killing the occupants," the tribal source said,  
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
As Al-Qaeda-linked rebels strengthen their control over northern Mali, France has taken the lead in plans for possible military intervention. In an exclusive report, AP revealed that as French and U.S. military leaders and diplomats are meeting in Paris this week, France will send drones to the area.France will move surveillance drones to West Africa and is holding secretive talks with U.S. officials in Paris this week as it seeks to steer international military action to help Mali's feeble government win back the northern part of the country from al-Qaida-linked rebels, The Associated Press has learned.France and the United Nations insist any invasion of Mali's north must be led by African troops. But France, which has six hostages in Mali and has citizens who have joined al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, is playing an increasing role behind the scenes.Many in the West fear that northeast Mali and the arid Sahel region could become the new Afghanistan, a no-man's-land where extremists can train, impose hardline Islamic law and plot terror attacks abroad. And France, former colonial ruler to countries across the Sahel, is a prime target.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
The U.K. has had five Reaper drones, which it has used for combat and surveillance missions against insurgents in Afghanistan. They have been piloted, however, from Creech Air Force base in Nevada as Britain has not had the capability. Now, according to the Guardian, five additional drones are being added, and they will be controlled from an air base in the U.K. The Guardian reports on the U.K.’s use of drones,The most recent figures from the Ministry of Defence show that, by the end of September, the UK's five Reapers in Afghanistan had flown 39,628 hours and fired 334 laser-guided Hellfire missiles and bombs at suspected insurgents.While British troops on the ground have started to take a more back-seat role, the use of UAVs has increased over the past two years despite fears from human rights campaigners that civilians might have been killed or injured in some attacks.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 39 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “We were more interested in ending the war in Vietnam and getting people out of poverty and being fair to women and minorities and saving the environment. It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.” Former Senator George McGovern, who died Sunday at the age of 90, reflecting on his 1972 presidential campaign in a 2005 interview. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
Former Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern died early Sunday morning at a hospice in Sioux Falls, S.D. He had been suffering from a number of conditions related to age, and was admitted to the hospice earlier this week. In a statement announcing his death, his family said:“We are blessed to know that our father lived a long, successful and productive life advocating for the hungry, being a progressive voice for millions and fighting for peace."
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
The Washington Post reports this morning that the CIA wants more drones.“The CIA is urging the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones, a move that would extend the spy service’s decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force, U.S. officials said.“The proposal by CIA Director David H. Petraeus would bolster the agency’s ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots, officials said. 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "I never thought there was the possibility of getting that close to a dog before. There were nights when it was so cold out that I would have him crawl into my sleeping bag with me just so I could stay warm." Marine Cpl. Joseph Singer, on his bonding with a bomb-sniffing dog while in Afghanistan. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl who was shot by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan for her activism, is recovering at a hospital in Britain. The Guardian reported this morning“Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl flown to Britain for treatment after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan, has the potential to make "pretty much a full recovery", her doctors have said.“She is able to stand with help and is writing notes, and although the bullet grazed her brain she has not shown "any deficit in terms of function", doctors at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham said on Friday. She was "not out of the woods but is doing very well", said Dr. Dave Rosser, medical director of the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS foundation trust.”The shooting has attracted a mass outpouring of support, both in Pakistan around the world. And Yousafzai is apparently aware of that support. According to Dr. Rosser"She is keen that people share the details. She is also keen that I thank people for their support and their interest. She is obviously aware of the amount of support and interest this has generated around the world. She is keen to thank people for that." 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
Nearly two weeks ago, Israeli jets shot down a drone that had crossed into its airspace. For several days, there was speculation that it had been launched by Hezbollah, speculation that Prime Minister Netanyahu turned into an accusation.Last Thursday, Reuters reported a confirmation“Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged on Thursday sending a drone aircraft that was shot down last weekend after flying some 25 miles into Israel. Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the drone's parts were manufactured in Iran and it was assembled by members of the Shi'ite Muslim militant movement in Lebanon.”Iran then acknowledged that the drone had been manufactured in that country and assembled in Lebanon. The purpose of the flight over Israel was seen as monitoring and gathering intelligence on Israel’s nuclear research center. McClatchy News reports“This was a crude device, but it was a drone with all the capabilities that unmanned aerial crafts offer, and for that reason it is worrying,” an Israeli military official told McClatchy under the condition that he not be identified because he was not authorized to discuss sensitive information with a reporter. “We are studying the drone now to learn more about what it accomplished and what Hezbollah intended with it.”Today, Haaretz reports on the continuing situation, now involving the U.N.“United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon submitted an especially harsh report on the situation in Lebanon, including sharp criticism of Hezbollah, to the 15-member Security Council on Thursday. The report, a copy of which was attained by Haaretz, warned that the Iranian drone launched into Israel by the organization earlier this month was a “reckless provocation” which could lead to a regional conflict.”As the rhetoric rises, the chances of a greater conflict grow. 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it. … In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format.”  Tina Brown, editor-in-chief and founder of The Newsweek Daily Beast Co., announcing that after 80 years, Newsweek will end its print publication and shift to an all-digital format. (Associated Press) 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
Christopher Swift, adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University, traveled to Yemen this summer to interview 40 Yemeni tribal and religious leaders about the increasing U.S. drone attacks on that country. He found that the Yemeni public does not support the attacks. According to National Defense magazine, in a recent panel discussion at Georgetown, Swift said“There is currently a shift in Yemen from drone attacks that target a particular individual to attacks that are “based upon generalize patterns of what we believe are militant characteristics and militant behavior," he said. Swift advocated a decrease in these “signature strikes,” saying they add to Yemeni concerns about civilian casualties and the United States impeding on their nation’s sovereignty.”A report this morning by Reuters came to the same conclusion:“Yemen's interim president has won U.S. praise for cooperating in a war on al Qaeda, but his recent public support for drone strikes that sometimes kill civilians could undermine his domestic popularity and stir sympathy for militants. ... Yemenis complain the U.S. focus on militants is a violation of sovereignty that is driving many towards al Qaeda and diverting attention from other pressing issues such as unemployment, corruption, water depletion and economic revival.” 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
A U.S. drone attack early Thursday morning killed nine suspected militants. Reuters reports:"Nine suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in what a security source and residents said was a U.S. drone attack on a farmhouse outside a town in southern Yemen that was held by militants last year."The farmhouse just west of Jaar, one of two southern towns that Yemen's army took back from rebel control this summer, was hit by three separate missile strikes at dawn, they said."The residents said they found six charred bodies and the scattered remains of three other people, including Nader al-Shaddadi, a senior al Qaeda militant in the southern Abyan province who led the group that occupied Jaar."
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "We've fought wars for it. We stood our ground at the Alamo for it. There's a lot of reasons that Texans are very proud of their land and proud when you own land that you are the master of that land and you control that land." Julia Trigg Crawford, who is fighting the condemnation of a parcel of her family's 650-acre Red'Arc Farm in Sumner, TX, for TransCanada to build an oil pipeline. (Associated Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 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 40 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "When you are in the culture of doing good deeds, taking care of the poor, taking care of the widow, the orphan, not as a means to something else but because this is what true religion should be doing, even the nonbeliever would say, 'Look at that.’ There is a certain respect that comes from that." Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, on the organization moving away from culture war-style politics and widening its goals to include everything from immigration reform to decreasing poverty.  (Huffington Post) 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 40 weeks ago
Quote of the Day. "Let me tell you — when I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble. You don't think about breaking records anymore, you don't think about gaining scientific data — the only thing that you want is to come back alive." Felix Baumgartner, who on Sunday became the first skydiver to go faster than the speed of sound, reaching a maximum velocity of 833.9 mph, and set a new record of 128,100 ft (24 miles), for the highest ever freefall. (BBC)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “The niqab and the prayer room are pretexts. The aim is another vision of society.” Habib Kazdaghli, dean of the arts, letters and humanities faculty at the University of Manouba, Tunisia, on the issues ultra-conservative student protestors are demanding.  (Washington Post) 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell, Professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, has been fighting against drones since the first CIA drone strike in 2002. The Los Angeles Times has a story calling her “a fierce critic of America's drone attacks outside a war zone,” and writing about her insistence that the targeted killings are illegal under international law."We wouldn't accept or want a world in which Russia or China or Iran is claiming authority to kill alleged enemies of the state based on secret evidence of the executive branch alone," O'Connell said. "And yet that's the authority we're asserting."
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
Last weekend, the government of Pakistan prevented an anti-drone protest from entering the tribal regions. Led by former cricket star and now politician Imran Khan and including a delegation of 30 US activists, the caravan was blocked by barricades guarded by riot police.The Guardian reported:“Makeshift roadblocks, security threats and warnings from Pakistan's army forced Imran Khan to abandon his unprecedented attempt to lead a cavalcade of anti-drone protesters deep into the country's restive tribal belt on Sunday. Leading a convoy of thousands, the former cricketer was within striking distance of South Waziristan, where the CIA uses remote-controlled planes in the fight against Islamist militants, when he abruptly turned back.“Later Khan said he had changed plan because of warnings from the army and the risk of becoming stuck after the military-imposed curfew. Addressing an impromptu rally of his supporters, he said the convoy had still been a huge success because he had gone to areas his political rivals "can only look at on maps." "We want to give a message to America that the more you carry out drone attacks, the more people will hate you," Khan told the crowd of around 2,500 supporters.”On Wednesday, the drone strikes resumed. BBC reported“A US drone strike targeting a militant base has killed five insurgents in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, security officials say. … "Several US drones flew into the area before dawn and fired four missiles on a compound, killing five militants," a security official told the AFP news agency after the strike in Hurmuz area, east of Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan.”Thursday, another major strike in which Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported 16 people were killed.“A US drone attack killed 16 suspected militants and injured six others in the Orakzai agency of Pakistan’s tribal region on Thursday. Four missiles were fired in the Buland Khel area of the Orakzai agency, which is close to the borders of the North and South Waziristan tribal regions in Fata.”The Associated Press added that according to a government administrator, as many as 12 others were injured and that “Drones were still flying over the site of the attack and locals were reportedly staying away from the site.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "The pope prays for all people who speak Arabic. May God bless you all." Pope Benedict XVI, adding Arabic as one of the official languages at his weekly general audiences on Wednesday as part of a Vatican attempt to reach out to Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. (Reuters)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “I wish Angela Merkel could walk the streets of Athens on Tuesday and see the suffering Germany is causing us today. I wish she could see just how harsh she is being with our country.” Maria Kelermeni, 16, on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trip to Athens that provoked large anti-German protests over budget austerity measures being demanded from Greece. (Washington Post) 1. Biden-Ryan debate highlights nation's Catholic political divide. It would be hard to find better representatives of the two poles of American Catholicism. Both men are deeply steeped in their faith, yet they disagree on issues of critical importance to the church and to society: abortion, health care, and the government''s role in caring for the poor. (Los Angeles Times/McClatchy) 2. Tax battle returns to forefront on the Hill. An issue that has taken center stage in the presidential campaign — how to rewrite the U.S. tax code — is rapidly moving back onto the front burner in Washington as policymakers brace for another epic battle over the budget days after the Nov. 6 election. (Washington Post) 3. Weather disasters target N. America. The number of natural disasters per year has been rising dramatically on all continents since 1980, but most notably in North America where countries have been battered by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, searing heat and drought, a new report says. (USA Today) 4. North Carolina CEO starts program to help undocumented students pay for college. In a move likely to spark debate, a Charlotte-area CEO has given $1 million to launch a nonprofit that will help the undocumented children of immigrants pay for college in the United States. (Charlotte Observer/McClatchy) 5. Sandusky headed to prison, but scandal persists. Headed to prison for the rest of his life, Jerry Sandusky leaves behind a trail of human and legal wreckage that could take years to clear away. (Associated Press) 6. Prayers offered for Malala's recovery. Prayers are being offered across Pakistan for the recovery of Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old education rights activist, who has undergone surgery to remove a bullet lodged in her skull. Yousafzai was shot on Tuesday on her way home from school in Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley region of northwest Pakistan. (Al Jazeera) 7. U.S. military is sent to Jordan to help with crisis in Syria. The United States military has secretly sent a task force of more than 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the armed forces there handle a flood of Syrian refugees, prepare for the possibility that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons, and be positioned should the turmoil in Syria expand into a wider conflict. (New York Times) 8. Mohamed Morsi issues wholesale pardon for Egypt's political protesters. Egyptian protesters detained and tried in incidents relating to the country's uprising have received a blanket pardon from the president, Mohamed Morsi, to mark his first 100 days in office. (Guardian) 9. Hunger stalks refugees despite oil deal between Sudan, South Sudan. The deal didn’t address the most pressing crisis in either country: the ravaged war zones on Sudan’s side of the border, where old conflicts broke wide open last year after South Sudan became independent, spewing out 200,000 refugees and trapping hundreds of thousands more in a cycle of hunger and fear largely unseen by the rest of the world. (McClatchy) 10. Netanyahu calls for early elections in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Tuesday called for elections early next year instead of as scheduled in October 2013, saying that conversations with his coalition partners had proved it would be impossible to pass “a responsible budget” with deep cuts. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
One thing that characterized Afghanistan under Taliban rule before 2001 was their treatment of women and girls. From a society of total repression, new expressions of education, culture and human rights have slowly evolved. As you might suspect, Taliban groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are not pleased with that development.On Tuesday, Malala Yusufzai, a 14-year-old education rights activist, was shot and seriously injured on her way home from school in the Swat Valley region of northwest Pakistan. The New York Times, using local news sources, reported on her injuries"Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported that doctors at a hospital in Mingora, the region’s main city, said that Malala was “out of danger” because the bullet that “struck her skull and came out on the other side and hit her shoulder” had not damaged her brain. The newspaper added that the girl was later moved to Peshawar in a Pakistani Army helicopter."But The News, a Pakistani daily, reported late Tuesday that a bullet is still lodged in her head and arrangements were being made by the government to transport Malala abroad for emergency surgery that could not be performed at the military hospital in Peshawar. The newspaper Dawn also reported that surgeons at the military facility said “she immediately needs a sophisticated surgical procedure, which is not possible in the country” to save her life."The Taliban is unrepentant. According to Al Jazeera,"The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has since claimed responsibility for the attack."Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the AFP news agency that the group carried out the attack after repeatedly warning Malala to stop speaking out against them."She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location. "We warned her several times to stop speaking against the Taliban and to stop supporting Western NGOs, and to come to the path of Islam."One of the challenges facing the U.S. withdrawal of troops is how to provide security for those courageous activists for women’s and girl’s rights and advancement. In a recent study, “Afghan Women Speak,” David Cortright and Kristen Wall at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies propose that“Demilitarization and negotiation of a peace agreement should be coupled with the deployment of an interim peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations to provide transitional security protection for civilians.”Something along those lines must be created, or we will be reading more stories of advocates being attacked.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "We wouldn't accept or want a world in which Russia or China or Iran is claiming authority to kill alleged enemies of the state based on secret evidence of the executive branch alone. And yet that's the authority we're asserting." Mary Ellen O'Connell, University of Notre Dame law professor, on why she believes drone killings are illegal under international law. (Los Angeles Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 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 of this week’s books.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
Thomas P. O’Neill III, son of Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, reminds us of the relationship between his father and former President Ronald Reagan. After describing some of the bruising political battles between the two, he writes: “Historic tax reforms, seven tax increases, a strong united front that brought down the Soviet Union — all came of a commitment to find common ground. While neither man embraced the other’s worldview, each respected the other’s right to hold it. Each respected the other as a man.“President Reagan knew my father treasured Boston College, so he was the centerpiece of a dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel that raised $1 million to build the O’Neill Library there. When Reagan was shot at that same hotel, my father went to his hospital room to pray by his bed.“No, my father and Reagan weren’t close friends. Famously, after 6 p.m. on quite a few work days, they would sit down for drinks at the White House. But it wasn’t the drinks or the conversation that allowed American government to work. Instead, it was a stubborn refusal not to allow fund-raisers, activists, party platforms or ideological chasms to stand between them and actions — tempered and improved by compromise — that kept this country moving.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 41 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “Canada was invaded, the invasion was repelled and we endured, but we endured in partnership with the United States. It’s a very compelling story.” James Moore, minister of Canadian heritage, on a campaign to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
• During the week, reported drone strikes killed 3 in Pakistan on Monday and 5 in Yemen on Thursday. • A group of U.S. activists is in Pakistan this week protesting the drone attacks. Medea Benjamin of Code Pink writes of the reasons for the trip, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy describes a meeting with Acting U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland. The group is planning to join Imran Khan, a charismatic Pakistani politician campaigning to become prime minister, in a march Sunday into South Waziristan to protest drones. The News International in Pakistan reported that Amb. Hoagland told the group there would be no drone strikes n Waziristan during their presence there.• In Pakistan, DAWN reported on a Wall St. Journal story about the CIA drone program. Once a month, the CIA sends a fax to a Pakistani general outlining the places where it might conduct drone strikes. The Pakistanis do not respond, which the CIA takes as tacit consent to the strikes, and then cites as legal justification for them.• Ahmed Wali Mujeeb reported for BBC on a trip to Pakistan's tribal region of Waziristan, site of most drone attacks. Noteworthy was his description of the psychological impact on local people; fear, stress, and depression caused by the constant presence of drones hovering in the sky.• The Christian Science Monitor wonders if drone warfare makes us safer, and takes a look at the top three dangers of drone warfare to America• In the UK, The Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain have written to Foreign Secretary William Hague, expressing their concern over the humanitarian and legal implications of the US drone campaign and urging him to distance the UK government from it.
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
As an antidote to all the stories of killing by drone, I’ve been collecting stories of the good things unpiloted aircraft can potentially do, or are already doing. Many are tasks now being carried out by piloted airplanes and helicopters, but drones bring advantages. They can fly higher, can stay in the air longer, and can fly in more dangerous terrain or situations with no risk to pilots.Here are 10 things.1. Monitoring crop watering. “A researcher from Ohio State University envisions the day — less than a decade from now — when a farmer waters the crops then launches an unmanned aerial vehicle to monitor precisely where the water went.” (Dayton Daily News)2. Acting as lifeguards for beaches. “Surf Life Saving Australia says unmanned aerial drones will patrol some Queensland beaches this summer. … the drones, which have a wingspan of one metre, use cameras to search for swimmers in distress. … the drones will be fitted with flotation buoys that can be dropped down to the ocean.” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)3. Monitoring endangered species. “For the past few months, drones have been flying over the tropical forests of south-east Asia to map endangered species. A dozen of these unmanned aircraft, fitted with a video camera and an autopilot, have been deployed and will be joined by several more.” (Guardian)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "The federal spigot is not just being cut off, it's being smashed. We've got a crash coming." Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota on funding for public health infrastructure being cut at a time when cases of hantavirus and West Nile virus are rising. (USA Today) 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
The Daily Digest is not available today. But here are some links to Duane's usual sources to browse until his return tomorrow.  The New York Times The Washington Post The Washington Times The Los Angeles Times The Boston Globe The Chicago Tribune McClatchy The Christian Science Monitor The Wall Street Journal USA Today The Globe & Mail Toronto Star BBC Guardian Haaretz Al Jazeera
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “Every voter restriction that has been challenged this year has been either enjoined, blocked or weakened. It has been an extraordinary string of victories for those opposing these laws.” Lawrence Norden, Brennan Center for Justice, on a series of legal victories for those opposed to laws that they charge would limit access to polls in this presidential election.  (New York Times)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
The New York Times is reporting this afternoon that secret “target packages” are being prepared by the U.S. for potential action against militants suspected in last week’s attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.“The American military’s top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is preparing detailed information that could be used to kill or capture some of the militants suspected in the attack last month in Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, senior military and counterterrorism officials said on Tuesday.“Preparing the “target packages” is the first step in a process that the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency are taking in preparation for, and in advance of, any orders from President Obama and his top civilian and military advisers to carry out action against those determined complicit in the attack on the United States Mission in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.…“Mr. Obama has a range of options available — including drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden; and joint missions with the Libyan authorities — but all carry substantial political, diplomatic and physical risks.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Millions of people are living in slums, on railway tracks, under plastic sheets … They should have a piece of land to call their own. Others have to make way for factories, roads, airports, mines. I do not accept industrialization at this cost." PV Rajagopal, veteran Indian activist leading tens of thousands of peasant farmers on a 200-mile protest march on Delhi. (Guardian) 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
Quote of the day. “Everybody thinks we’re extinct, that we’re historical figures and not real people.” Amanda Clinton, spokeswoman for the Cherokee Nation, commenting on the controversy over whether Elizabeth Warren has Cherokee ancestry. (Washington Post)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
Ken Butigan writes on Waging Nonviolence about the emergence of a new anti-nuclear weapons movement.  The Washington Post recently reported that the U.S. government is planning to refurbish its nuclear weapons complex over the next 10 years at a cost of $352 million. In response, writes Butigan:“So we are in the midst of the next phase of the movement for nuclear disarmament, where a series of campaigns across the U.S. are pumping life into the seven-decade struggle. … For those of us who first came to political activism by tackling the nuclear arms race in the early 1980s, the announcement that the U.S. is online to refurbish and reassert its nuclear might far into the future has a glumly déjà vu feel. At the same time, we know the power of people power movements to change history. Together we can build on this emerging next phase to take action, to stoke alternatives and to prompt a powerful nationwide debate…”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 42 weeks ago
In a speech last week at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadiexpressed his support for U.S. drone strikes in that country.  According to the New York Times,“They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” said Mr. Hadi, a former army officer and the successor to Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after protests against his three-decade rule.The United States “helped with their drones because the Yemeni Air Force cannot carry out missions at night,” he said. “The electronic brain’s precision is unmatched by the human brain.”In an interview with reporters and editors from the Washington Post, Hadi said that he personally approves all drone strikes in Yemen. According to the piece:“Every operation, before taking place, they take permission from the president,” Hadi said in an interview with reporters and editors from The Washington Post in his hotel suite in the District. …“Hadi’s comments mark the first time he has publicly acknowledged his direct role in a campaign of strikes by U.S. drones and conventional aircraft targeting an al-Qaeda franchise that is seen as the most potent terrorist threat to the United States.”
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 43 weeks ago
Quote of the day.“This is a kingdom thing. In order for us to involve all churches, it has to be distinct from any one church.”Walter Draughon III, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Fla., on why the church founded Rise Up, St. Pete! as a 501(c)3 ministry dedicated to racial and economic healing that could be shared by all of the churches after a wave of violence that deepened racial divisions in the city. (Associated Baptist Press)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 43 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "Silent Spring is such a watershed event. Very few books have had the same impact on public policy." William Souder, author of On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson. 50 years ago today Carson published Silent Spring, widely credited with spurring the modern environmental movement, prompting grass-roots activism that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.  (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 43 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "The right to vote is something that the African-American church has fought for for decades. To see policies put in place that could diminish someone's ability to be able to vote? This is a civil rights issue. This is a democracy issue. This is a human rights issue.” Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, inviting ministers across the nation to find and register thousands of young voters before the Oct. 9 deadline. (Chicago Tribune)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 43 weeks ago
Researchers at Stanford University and New York University law schools released a major study on the U.S. use of drones in Pakistan, commissioned by a London-based human rights group Reprieve. The study, Living Under Drones, took nine months to complete, including two trips to Pakistan and more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses and experts. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is cited in the report for “the best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes.”The four major conclusions of the study, highlighted in its executive summary, are:“First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.“Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.“Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%.“Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US.”You can read the entire report, along with data, victim’s stories, and resources.News stories on the study include BBC, Guardian, Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times, and CNN. 
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 43 weeks ago
Quote of the day. "We're much safer than we were before. That's now a proven fact."  Linda Jackson, president of the Lower 9th Ward Homeowners Association in New Orleans, on weathering Hurricane Isaac behind new floodwalls built since Hurricane Katrina. (USA Today)
Posted by Duane Shank 1 year 43 weeks ago
In the second attack in three days, a drone attack late Monday in northwest Pakistan killed five militants, including two linked to al Qaeda. DAWN reports“Two key al Qaeda linked operatives, including an operational commander have been killed in Monday’s US drone strike in North Wazirsitan Agency, official sources said.“The al Qaeda linked militants killed in the drone strike have been identified as Abu Kasha Al-Iraqi and Saleh Al-Turki, an intelligence source told Dawn.Com.“Abu Kasha Al-Iraqi, hailing from Iraq, had arrived in North Waziristan Agency in 2001 and had since been one of the key operational commanders of the al Qaeda in North Waziristan tribal region, intelligence officials said.”The Associated Press and Agence France Presse carried earlier reports of the story, before the identifications were made.