-According to Reuters, a remote control bomb was detonated in a Hazara Shi’ite quarter of Quetta, Pakistan today, killing at least 15 people. In recent months, Pakistan’s Shi’ite Muslims have been systematically targeted by Sunni hardliners.

-Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, a suicide bomber killed a senior army intelligence officer and two bodyguards. According to Reuters, while violence is less frequent now than it was in 2006 and 2007, religious tensions have boiled over in recent weeks. “Increasing sectarian violence has accompanied growing political unrest in Iraq as thousands of Sunni Muslims in western provinces rally against Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, accusing him of marginalizing their minority sect. More than 10 suicide attackers have struck security forces, Shi’ite targets and a lawmaker since January.” Violence in neighboring Syria is also threatening the fragile peace in Iraq, as Sunni militias there battle against the Assad regime’s mostly Alawite Shi’ite loyalists.

-The farce that is the Chuck Hagel nomination process, writes Salon’s Jonathan Bernstein, will pale in comparison to the vote to replace a Supreme Court Justice, should a SCOTUS vacancy arise in the next few years. “It will be a circus — and unlike the situation in 2009 and 2010, Republican activists and members of Republican-aligned interest groups will know that all they need to defeat the nominee is a unified GOP voting against cloture.”

-Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC is injecting a mound of cash into the special election in Chicago being held to fill the Congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr. According to POLITICO, the group tied to the New York mayor is set to spend “at least $2 million” in an effort to thwart Debbie Halvorson, an NRA backed Democrat and current frontrunner. “It’s a none-too-subtle statement of Bloomberg’s intention to take on the NRA after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting — though it’s debatable how much of a test case it is since the NRA is staying out of the race.”

-The conversation about religion in America is going to drastically change over the next two decades, if this piece on college atheist groups published by Religion Dispatches is any indication. The number of Secular Students Alliance (SSA) affiliates has increased exponentially over the past few years: “By 2007, 80 campus groups had affiliated with them, 100 by 2008, 174 by 2009, and today there are 394 SSA student groups on campuses across the country. ‘We have been seeing rapid growth in the past couple of years, and it shows no sign of slowing down,’ says Jesse Galef, communications director at SSA. ‘It used to be that we would go to campuses and encourage students to pass out flyers. Now, the students are coming to us almost faster than we can keep up with.’”

Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.