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Obama, Romney Discuss Role of Faith in Their Lives

Both President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been somewhat hesistant to discuss their faith in detail during the campaign season. In a recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, fewer than 50 percent of Americans identified Obama as a Christian. About 60 percent knew Romney is Mormon. 

The two discussed their faith in eight questions presented by Washington National Cathedral's magazine Cathedral Age. From the release

"'First and foremost, my Christian faith gives me a perspective and security that I don’t think I would have otherwise: That I am loved. That, at the end of the day, God is in control,' said President Obama. “Faith can express itself in people in many ways, and I think it is important that we not make faith alone a barometer of a person’s worth, value, or character.'

Governor Romney said, 'I am often asked about my faith and my beliefs about Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.'"

For the full story, go HERE.

 

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Indian Churches Try to Broker Peace in Assam

Interethnic violence has flashed through India during the conclusion of the Muslim holy season of Ramadan during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Catholic leaders in northern India, where Muslim migrants have been particularly targeted, has called for common ground dialogue and hosted meetings with leaders of the conflicted communities based on the Catholic churches long-standing relationships with both communities.

Anto Akkara for ENI NEWS reports:

"Churches are initiating steps to broker peace and restore harmony in the northeast Indian state of Assam, which has been rocked by bloody clashes between local ethnic Bodo people and Muslim migrants.

'We have hosted leaders of both communities twice already. We are now preparing a larger meeting of both communities after Ramadan,"'Roman Catholic bishop Thomas Pulloppillil of Bongaigaon diocese that comprises the troubled region, told ENInews on 15 August 2012.

The clashses have left 78 dead and over 400,000 refugees."

Read the rest of the article here.

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Food Price Crisis Worse Than 2008 Predicted

The advocacy group Stop Gambling on Hunger reports world food prices are predicted to rise sharply in the coming months, due partly to speculation:

"The New England Complex Systems Institute, [which has] developed a quantitative model able to very closely predicted the FAO’s food price index, released a new report predicting sharply higher food prices due in part to excessive speculation.

"Their model, originally released in September 2011 matched the FAO’s index from 2004 to 2011. Since then it has continued to closely follow the real world numbers.

"Unfortunately, the model now predicts, 'another speculative bubble starting by the end of 2012 and causing food prices to rise even higher than recent peaks.'

"While the researchers acknowledge that the drought in the Midwest U.S. will cause prices to rise, their model shows that excessive speculative activity will have an even larger effect. Though some key financial reforms passed in 2010 may finally begin to be implemented in early 2013, that may be too late to avoid the coming price bubble."

Read the rest of the article here.

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Conflict Minerals Report Card

As conflict, rape, and other human rights abuses continue in eastern Congo, armed groups are still funding themselves with conflict minerals — gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten — which are often used in the manufacture of cell phones, computers, and other electronics. Now advocacy group The Enough Project has issued a new report card about how well different corporations are doing at cleaning up their supply chain to avoid contributing to violence.

Some companies, such as Intel and HP, are doing much better than others — get an ethical clue, Nintendo! — but everyone has some room for improvement.

See the rankings here or take in the chart-at-a-glance here.

 

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DRONE WATCH: The Drone Revolution’s Next Phase

As drones continue to proliferate, the technology is behind them is speeding ahead. Wired takes a look at the next generation of drones now in development.

"Today's unmanned robotic planes only seemadvanced. A decade after the CIA and the Air Force tucked a Hellfire missile under the wing of a Predator drone, much hasn't actually changed: pilots in air-conditioned boxes remotely control much of the armed drone fleet; the robo-planes are easy for an enemy to spot; the weapons they fire weigh about the same; as much as they love the skies, they take refuge on dry land; and they're built around traditional airframes like planes and helicopters. Yawn.

Drones are moving out to sea -- above it and below it. They're growing increasingly autonomous, no longer reliant on a pilot with a joystick staring at video feeds from their cameras. They're getting stealthier; the payloads they carry are changing; and they're going global. They're pushing humans out of the gondolas of blimps. And the laboratories of the drones of the future aren't only owned by American defense contractors, they're in Israel and China and elsewhere, too. … Here's a look at the more ambitious ways drones are getting re-imagined."

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DRONE WATCH: When are Drone Killings Illegal?

Efforts to bring the rule of law to killing are not always easy or clear-cut.  Although as an advocate of non-violence, I can condemn all killing; whether killing in a conflict is “legal” or not depends on the circumstances in which it occurs. International law does not prohibit all taking of life.

Mary Ellen O'Connell, a law professor and research professor of international dispute resolution at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, is a specialist on the international law of armed conflict. In a column on CNN, she explains that under international law, killing enemy fighters during an armed conflict – a war – is legal. Outside of war, it generally is not, the human right of life prevails. Although this “dual standard for justifiable killing makes the law protecting the right to life more complicated,” it is how international law assesses violent conflicts.

O’Connell analyzes drone attacks in light of this distinction, posing the central question: Is this killing occurring in war?  She summarizes the history of the Bush and Obama administration’s efforts to defend it as part of a “war on terror,” and the efforts of a committee of the International Law Association to legally define “war.” Her conclusion:

“Targeted killing with drones in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan have generally violated the right to life because the United States is rarely part of any armed conflict in those places. The human right to life that applies is the right that applies in peace.

Today, the United States is engaged in armed conflict only in Afghanistan. To lawfully resort to military force elsewhere requires that the country where the United States is attacking has first attacked the United States (such as Afghanistan in 2001), the U.N. Security Council has authorized the resort to force (Libya in 2011) or a government in effective control credibly requests assistance in a civil war (Afghanistan since 2002).”

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DRONE WATCH: Drones that Capture?

One of the primary criticisms of using drones to kill high-level al Qaeda or Taliban leaders is that they are extra-judicial executions, and that a policy of capturing these militants and putting them on trial would be preferable. In addition, if they were captured, useful intelligence could be gathered. The rejoinder, of course, is how is it possible to capture people living in the remote tribal areas of Pakistan or Yemen?
 

It appears that the technology to answer that question may soon be available. Greg McNeal speculates in Forbes, with a scenario adapted from the Lawfare blog. Someday soon, a drone could launch a non-lethal weapon – something that stuns a person, perhaps a taser – lower a robot to the ground to retrieve the person, then return to the aircraft that returns to its base with the captured prisoner. 

McNeal concludes, Regardless of how you do it, it seems like technology is not the biggest hurdle in developing and perfecting drones that can capture rather than kill.”

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Robin Hood Returns to Europe - France Takes Up the Tax

Support for a Financial Transaction Tax is growingThe global movement to implement a small tax on some financial industry trades has gained its first European partner: France. Religious and economic reform groups have been leading the movement to implement versions of what has been called the "Robin Hood Tax" or the "Tobin Tax" since the 1990s. As global markets falter and national economies are brought to their knees by an unregulated financial industry, this financial transaction tax is one small way to impact global reform. 

With the passage of the new French budget, France becomes the first European country to impose a transaction tax on share purchases, including high-frequency trading and credit default swaps. The transaction tax, aimed at curbing market speculation, will be paid on the purchase of French stocks with market values of more than 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion).The bill’s passage into law marks “the first step toward fiscal reform and a move toward justice,” Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said in a statement.
 
Here's an excerpt:

>>On 1 August, France became the first European country to introduce a new financial-transaction tax (FTT) on equity sales and high-frequency trading.

The FTT, often called a ‘Robin Hood tax', is a tax on selected products traded by the financial sector, such as equities, bonds, foreign exchange and their derivatives. Where those countries where such a tax has been introduced (in South Korea, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, the UK and Brazil), the tax may have been tiny (ranging between 0.005% and 0.5%), but it has raised substantial amounts of revenue. The FTT discourages high-risk financial operations and makes the financial sector pay its fair share of taxes. This is sensible: a reckless casino culture in parts of the financial sector caused the financial crisis. It is also fair: our governments bailed out the banks but left taxpayers with debts of trillions.<<

Read more here.

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DRONE WATCH: Drones Over North Dakota

While most of our attention is focused on the use of armed drones attacking suspected militants in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, unarmed surveillance drones are taking to the skies across America, as the Toronto Star recently reported. The first known case of a drone assisting in an arrest occurred last year in North Dakota.

“Amid hundreds of hectares of corn and soybeans, far from the closest town, a Predator drone led to the arrests last year of farmer Rodney Brossart and five members of his family. The drone was called in after a dispute over a neighbour’s six lost cows escalated into a 16-hour standoff with police. It is one of the first reported cases where an unmanned drone assisted in the arrest of a U.S. citizen on his own property. It was also a controversial sign of how drones — in all shapes and sizes — are beginning to hover over American skies.”

And, far from being an aberration, drones at home are proliferating.

“But the federal government has been quietly expanding their use. Even as the wars abroad wind to an end, the military has been pleading for funding for more pilots. Drones cannot be flown now in the United States without FAA approval. But with little public scrutiny, the FAA already has issued at least 266 active testing permits for domestic drone operations, amid safety concerns. … While drone use in the rest of the United States has been largely theoretical, in eastern North Dakota it is becoming a way of life.”

Minnesota Public Radio also takes a look at the North Dakota scene, reporting on a drone research project at the University of North Dakota that is about to launch a program that would give sheriffs in 16 North Dakota counties access to two, and perhaps four, drones.

“With law enforcement budgets shrinking, technology is playing a greater role in policing. And for agencies that want air coverage, a camera-equipped drone, at a cost of around $50,000, can be a cheaper alternative to owning and operating a piloted airplane or helicopter. Minnesota law enforcement officials have expressed some interest, but without question, North Dakota is where the action is.”

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DRONE WATCH: Secret Drone War in Africa

David Axe, in Wired, examines America’s secret drone war in Africa.

“More secret bases. More and better unmanned warplanes. More frequent and deadly robotic attacks. Some five years after a U.S. Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flew the type’s first mission over lawless Somalia, the shadowy American-led drone campaign in the Horn of Africa is targeting Islamic militants more ruthlessly than ever. … It’s part of a broader campaign of jet bombing runs, naval gun bombardment, cruise-missile attacks, raids by Special Operations Forces and assistance to regional armies such as Uganda’s.”

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