Thought for the day

"War will exist until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today" -- John F.Kennedy

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The New York Times reported this morning that the pandemic reversed 20 years of progress in reading and math among elementary school students in the United States. Commentators emphasized the dire effect this would have on life prospects for these children and, by implication, the American economy at an especially challenging moment in its history. 

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Angered by a months-long political crisis, thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets of the capital, Baghdad, days after deadly clashes between rival Shia groups sparked fears of widespread unrest.

The non-partisan protesters streamed into western Baghdad’s Al-Nusoor Square on Friday, brandishing banners and Iraqi flags to demand a complete political overhaul.

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Shiite militias in Basra, Iraq, opened fire on each other early Thursday morning in what the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw described as “heavy confrontations,” just days after Shiite followers of anti-Iranian cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the capital, Baghdad, prompting riots that left at least 30 people dead.

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Violent protests in Iraq earlier this week were met with international concern about the stability in the region, or lack thereof. Rumors of Embassy evacuations and differing numbers of fatalities have regional partners closing borders and international partners wondering what this might mean for gas prices and the possibility of another war erupting on the planet.

To be fair, Iraq hasn’t been stable since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. But this recent public violence, coupled with questions over the alleged stability in the region, has the world paying attention again.

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Roughly 2,500 U.S. service members are currently in Iraq as the country’s political paralysis has erupted into the most serious outbreak of violence in years.

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Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, carrying guns and driving tuk-tuk vehicles, have begun withdrawing from Baghdad's Green Zone after the influential Shia cleric called on Tuesday for them to end their actions.

Following the move, the Iraqi military's Joint Operations Command said it had been decided to lift the nationwide curfew in the capital Baghdad and other provinces, following two days of violence.

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Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to stop protesting Tuesday after violent clashes between rival Shiite Muslim groups continued for a second day following his announcement that he was withdrawing from politics. The violence prompted Iran to close its air and land borders with Iraq just as millions of Iranians were preparing for an annual pilgrimage to Shiite sites.

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Baghdad's high-security Green Zone came under attack on Monday after Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr said he was quitting politics, sparking chaos in which 15 of his supporters were killed - and forcing the United States to deny they had evacuated the embassy.

John Kirby, National Council spokesperson, on Monday said there was no truth to online rumors that the US embassy had been evacuated - but said the situation was changing rapidly.

'There's no evacuation going on at the moment and no indication that that's going to be carried out at this time,' Kirby said. 

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THIS is the shocking moment hundreds of furious protesters stormed Iraq’s government palace after months of political unrest.

Violence erupted in the capital of Baghdad on Monday after rioters tore down the Republican Palace gates and barged into the building.

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