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Air Force erases drone strike data amid criticisms

Quietly and without much notice, the Air Force has reversed its policy of publishing statistics on drone strikes in Afghanistan as the debate about drone warfare hits a fever pitch in Washington. In addition, it has erased previously published drone strike statistics from its website.

Since October, the Air Force had been providing monthly updates on drone strikes -- or in its words "weapons releases from remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)." But today, Air Force Times reporters Brian Everstine and Aaron Mehta discovered something was amiss: The statistics published for February "contained empty space where the box of RPA statistics had previously been." In other words: The drone strike data was gone. But that's not all. The Air Force had also scrubbed drone strike data from earlier monthly reports. In the graphic below, we've provided a before and after of the Air Force reports:

So why the change in policy? 

The Pentagon told Air Force Times it had nothing to do with the change, while Air Force Central Command didn't respond to a request for comment. But Everstine and Mehta point out that the timing of the changes is a tad suspicious given recent actions by a certain Kentucky senator:

On Feb. 20, two days before the metadata indicates the scrubbed files were created, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sent a letter to Brennan saying that he would filibuster the nomination over concerns about using RPA strikes inside the U.S., a threat he carried out for over 12 hours on March 6 (Brennan was confirmed the next day).

That same day, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., told a crowd in South Carolina that strikes by American RPAs have killed 4,700 people.

Coincidence?

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What is Ashley Judd’s foreign policy?

After several months of will-she-won't-she, today brought a fresh wave of speculation that actress Ashley Judd will challenge Mitch McConnell for his Kentucky Senate seat in 2014. It's still unclear whether Judd, a Democrat, could pose a serious challenge to the Senate minority leader, and, given that Kentucky's unemployment rate continues to hover around 8 percent, it's unlikely either candidate would run a foreign-policy focused campaign. Still, just what would the foreign policy of a Senator Ashley Judd look like?

Judd doesn't appear to have staked out positions on U.S. drone policy, defense spending, or Iran just yet. But where Judd has spoken out publicly is on women's issues in the developing world like family planning, public health, and in particular rape -- perhaps as a result of being a rape victim herself. She's given a speech before the U.N. General Assembly on human trafficking and testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She's on the board of the D.C.-based Population Services International, and her role as global ambassador for their YouthAIDS program has taken her to countries such as Cambodia, Kenya, and Rwanda (the picture above shows her in Thailand). In 2010, she made a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo to highlight how valuable minerals like tin and tungsten fuel violence against women. She's also chronicled her travels on her blog, ashleyjudd.com, where she at times gets intensely personal in her reflections:

Here's what she wrote about traveling to Congo and using Apple products made with minerals potentially mined in Congo:

Apple is known for the clean lines of their products, the alluring simplicity of their designs. Dare I....go so far....as to suggest...this signature cleanness is stained by the shit and urine of raped women's leaking fistulas?

On interviewing a women whose mother was raped three times:

I am still holding her child. I have been crying some. She tells me I am not like other white women. I confide in her, telling her I have chosen not to have children because I believe the children who are already her [sic] are really mine, too. I do not need to go making "my own" baby when so many of my babies are already here who need love, attention, time, care.

Judd has made this last point before, and Republicans have sought to highlight a 2006 statement Judd made in which she called it "unconscionable to breed, with the number of children who are starving to death in impoverished countries."

While Judd may not have a fully fleshed out foreign policy platform yet, it is clear she's passionate about some issues. But whether advocacy on rape in Congo will win her traction in Kentucky remains to be seen.

PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images