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'Smoking gun' memo proves Pope Francis collaborated with junta

Pope Francis
© Wikimedia Commons
Buenos Aires - Allegations that Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, collaborated with Argentina's brutal military dictatorship have been circulating for decades. The Pope, and the Vatican he now heads, have vehemently denied these allegations. The Vatican has dismissed the allegations against the new Pope as a "left-wing anti-clerical attack on the church." Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi insisted there has never been a "concrete or credible accusation" against Bergoglio.

On Sunday, an Argentinian newspaper published a government memo that seems to definitively prove that Bergoglio did indeed provide information to the murderous dictatorship, informing authorities about allegations against two Jesuit priests who were kidnapped, tortured and imprisoned for five months for allegedly contacting anti-regime leftist guerrillas. Furthermore, Gregoglio is alleged to have sold the priests out even while he personally promised them his protection.

On March 13, Digital Journal published a lengthy article detailing Jorge Bergoglio's-- and the Argentine Catholic church's-- alleged role in collaborating with that country's brutal, US-backed military dictatorship, a regime characterized by kidnapping, torture, murder and disappearance.

As many as 30,000 people, from students, trade unionists, journalists and leftists and their sympathizers to children and even pregnant women (whose babies were stolen), were killed or disappeared during the 1976-1983 'Dirty War,' which was fully supported by the Carter and Reagan administrations. Many of the most brutal regime figures, including the dictator Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, were trained by the US military in kidnapping, torture, assassination and democracy suppression.

Stock Down

Economists warn Cyprus will face a recession 'for decades'

cypriot protest
© Yiannis Kourtoglou/AFP/Getty Image
Cypriots protest against the EU bailout, which would require a one-time tax on bank deposits.
Russians are preparing to withdraw billions of euros from Cyprus and the island will plunge into a recession lasting for decades due to the onerous terms of a EU bailout, economists warned on Monday.

"The Russians are already indicating they want to withdraw their money. Why should they stay? They will go somewhere where they can be protected; we can't protect them," economist Simeon Matsi told AFP.

"We have indications that billions (of euros) will be withdrawn, we already know of about three billion that is ready to move. They are already asking lawyers to draw up documents to withdraw money."

As a condition for a desperately-needed 10-billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout for Cyprus, fellow eurozone countries and international creditors Saturday imposed a levy on all deposits in the island's banks.

Deposits of more than 100,000 euros will be hit with a 9.9 percent charge, while under that threshold the levy drops to 6.75 percent.

The controversial tax is seen hitting Russian pockets hard, with experts estimating that Russian deposits in Cypriot banks amount to at least 15.4 billion euros ($20 billion) of the estimated 67 billion euros of deposits held by Cyprus banks.

Pistol

EU takes shot at Moscow with Cyprus bailout as Russians own 22% of deposits

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© Associated Press/Petros Karadjias
Protestors gather outside the Cypriot parliament buildings in Nicosia in opposition to the bailout deal as MPs thrash out revisions to the punitive proposals

Pictures of long lines of angry Cypriots trying to pull money out of empty ATMs made the rounds on Monday, as the world woke up to a decision by the Troika and President Anastasiades to impose haircuts on the nation's depositors. While Cypriot savers and opposition politicians protested the one-time levy, the unprecedented move appears focused on Cyprus' large foreign depositor base, particularly Russian citizens and banks, which account for approximately 22% of total deposits, which are nearly four times larger than the island-nation's yearly GDP.

Global markets were shaken out of complacency on Monday as a new episode in the European sovereign debt crisis took a hit at confidence and the reigning positive risk-sentiment of the past few weeks. News broke over the weekend that the Troika (European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the IMF) told Cyprus to raise €5.8 billion ($7.5 billion) of the total €10 billion ($13 billion) bailout that will be used to recapitalize their embattled banks from depositors. Cypriot citizens, who hurried to ATMs only to see them fully drawn out as the expected bank run materialized, were enraged. So was Vladimir Putin.

Eye 2

Business lobby moves to criminalize filming animal abuse on factory farms

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© screenshot via YouTube
Bills being shopped in six states by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would make it a crime to film animal abuse at factory farms or lie on job applications, in hopes of shutting down animal rights activists who infiltrate slaughterhouses to expose ghastly conditions.

"The meat industry's response to these exposes has not been to try to prevent these abuses from taking place, but rather it's really just been to prevent Americans from finding out about those abuses in the first place," Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), told Raw Story. "What they're doing is trying to pass laws throughout the country that don't just shoot the messenger, they seek to imprison the messenger."

The proposals mandate that evidence of animal abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours, or face a financial penalty. Several of the bills bills also make it a crime to lie on slaughterhouse job applications, which activists commonly do in order to get footage like the content of a video published by the HSUS, embedded below.

Smoking

Michael Bloomberg announces New York City anti-tobacco legislation

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© AP
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is announcing legislation to keep tobacco products out of sight in retail stores.
A new proposal would require New York City retailers to keep tobacco products out of sight under a first-in-the-nation proposal aimed at reducing the youth smoking rate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.

The legislation would require stores to keep tobacco products in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots. They could only be visible when an adult is making a purchase or during restocking.

Bloomberg said similar prohibitions on displays have been enacted in other countries, including Iceland, Canada, England and Ireland.

"Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity," Bloomberg said. "And they invite young people to experiment with tobacco."

Stores devoted primarily to the sale of tobacco products would be exempt from the display ban.

The mayor's office said retail stores could still advertise tobacco products under the legislation.

USA

Venezuela's Maduro accuses U.S. of assassination plot

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In a military museum in Caracas, adorned in the trappings of national mourning, the focus is on grieving for the man who ruled Venezuela for 14 years. But the void left by the death of Hugo Chavez is being filled with polemic and posturing.

Acting President Nicolas Maduro has made fresh claims about an alleged US plot to assassinate one of the candidates in the country's April presidential election - right wing opposition leader Henrique Capriles - and then to put the blame on the Venezuelan government.

Eye 2

Costly Iraq war left U.S. no stronger in Middle East

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© AFP Photo
The US-led invasion of Iraq overthrew a dictator, but 10 years on the war is seen to have destabilized the Middle East, exposed the limits of military power and left America no stronger than before.

With US forces having withdrawn after the deaths of almost 4,500 American troops and an estimated $1 trillion outlay, there is little soul-searching in Washington today about a war that has faded from public consciousness.

And 10 years after the "shock and awe" that launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, removing Saddam Hussein from power, most analysts and diplomats agree the Iraq war did nothing to improve the US position in the Middle East.

"Regardless of whether genuine democracy is viable or even sustainable, the Iraq war did not serve any strategic net gain for the United States," said Ramzy Mardini, a fellow at the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies in Beirut.

On the contrary, "misplaced certainty" about the ability of US military power to do the job and a lack of regard to Saddam's role as an Arab counterbalance to Iran have harmed American interests, he said.

Star of David

Israel to pressure Obama on air strikes against Syria

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© AFP Photo
Israel will use President Obama's visit on Wednesday to try to persuade the US to carry out air strikes on Syrian missiles if there is evidence that they are being to handed over to Hezbollah in Lebanon, or at least to give full support to Israeli military action to stop the transfer.

On this week's trip to Israel and the West Bank, Obama will also come under Israeli pressure to lower the US threshold for military action against Iran, while the US president will try to extract greater Israeli commitment to a peace process with the Palestinians. Neither side is likely to be successful, leaving Syria as the most promising arena for US-Israeli agreement.

The Obama administration has made clear that it would intervene militarily to stop the Assad regime using its chemical or biological weapons or transferring them to extremist groups, but Israeli officials say they feel they have been left alone to deal with the threat of the spread of Syria's arsenal of anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles.

Israeli warplanes destroyed a Syrian convoy at the end of January that Israeli officials say was taking sophisticated Russian-made ground-to-air missiles to Hezbollah. The government of Binyamin Netanyahu has made clear that it would strike again in similar circumstances. A senior official said: "Maybe it would be better if Israel doesn't do it, but who is going to deal with it?"

Arrow Down

Cyprus: The 'rescue package' designed to destroy the economy

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© Bojesen
Even though the haircut of bank deposits had been on the agenda of the EU for more than a month now, featuring in Commission memos and being openly discussed by European politicians, most of whom, refused to rule it out, few people thought the Eurogroup would go ahead with it. It was an idle threat, to force Cyprus privatise SGOs and increase the corporate tax, was the prevailing view.

And after all, President Anastasiades had emphatically declared in his inauguration speech that "absolutely no reference to a haircut on public debt or deposits will be tolerated," adding that "such an issue isn't even up for discussion." Finance Minister Michalis Sarris made similarly reassuring statements, arguing that it would be lunacy for the EU to impose such a measure because it would threaten the euro system.

Germany and the leaders of the Eurogroup opted for this lunacy, calculating that Cyprus is too small and inconsequential for the haircut on its bank deposits to cause contagion in the eurozone. Of course, the markets could view the decision differently, perhaps not when they open on Monday, but a few weeks later as it becomes apparent that not even deposits in European banks are safe from raids by the Eurogroup.

It is obvious from the statements made that Anastasiades was blackmailed into accepting this euphemistically called 'solidarity levy'. If he did not accept it, the European Central Bank would not provide Emergency Liquidity Assistance to the Cypriot banks, after the March 21 deadline (it had been extended by two months in January) and the banks would have collapsed on the same day, with people losing much bigger parts of their deposits than the seven to 10 per cent that would be taken now.

Magnify

Justice Department investigated Wall Street Journal for claims reporters bribed Chinese officials

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© AFP Photo
The US Justice Department last year opened an investigation into allegations that employees at The Wall Street Journal's China news bureau bribed Chinese officials for information, the newspaper reported.

But citing government and corporate officials familiar with the case, the paper said a search by the Journal's parent company found no evidence to support the claim.

According to the paper, the Justice Department approached News Corp.'s outside counsel in early 2012 and said it had received information from a person it described as a whistleblower, who claimed one or more Journal employees had provided gifts to Chinese government officials in exchange for information.