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Priests, Plots ... and Hugo Chávez

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© Reuters
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. It has been revealed that the country's bishops worked with rightwingers to topple the president in 2002.
WikiLeaks cables have revealed that Catholic bishops played a key role in 2002's abortive military coup in Venezuela

In 1997 Eamon Duffy, president of Magdalene College, Cambridge, brought out the best one-volume history of popes that has ever been written. He called it Saints & Sinners.

In the light of the latest news from Venezuela I would respectfully urge him to set about writing a companion volume about the leaders of the church in Latin America. I suggest that he calls it Saints, Traitors & Sinners.

The church in that region has of course produced some remarkable saints - some of them unrecognised in the upper reaches of the Vatican. Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador; the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter slain by the western-supported Salvadorean army on the campus of the Central American University; the prelates and clergy killed by the repulsive military regime in Argentina and Cardinal Raúl Silva, archbishop of Santiago de Chile at the time of Pinochet's putsch, were and are among the brightest stars in the church's firmament.

Yet the clergy had - and still has - its villains.

Among the latest revelations to emerge from WikiLeaks is that, in 2002, as plotters in Venezuela's capital Caracas were liaising with the US authorities about the conspiracy to topple President Hugo Chávez, the leaders of the Catholic church in that country were defying the instruction of Pope John Paul II to desist from having anything to do with the coup d'état. Instead they threw their lot in with Pedro Carmona, the extremist rightwing businessman, who took office for less than 48 hours during a brief military coup in April 2002.

Vader

Washington Okays Attack on Unarmed U.S. Ship

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© unknown
The Obama administration appears to have given a green light to an Israeli attack on an unarmed flotilla carrying peace and human rights activists - including a vessel with 50 Americans on board - bound for the besieged Gaza Strip. At a press conference on June 24, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the flotilla organized by the Free Gaza Campaign by saying it would "provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves."

Clinton did not explain why a country had "the right to defend themselves" against ships which are clearly no threat. Not only have organizers of the flotilla gone to great steps to ensure are there no weapons on board, the only cargo bound for Gaza on the U.S. ship are letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave who have suffered under devastating Israeli bombardments, a crippling blockade, and a right-wing Islamist government. Nor did Clinton explain why the State Department suddenly considers the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be "Israeli waters," when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships' intended route.

The risk of an Israeli attack on the flotilla is real. Israeli commandoes illegally assaulted a similar flotilla in international waters on May 31 of last year, killing nine people on board one of the vessels, including Furkan Dogan, a 19-year old U.S. citizen. Scores of others, including a number of Americans, were brutally beaten and more than a dozen others were shot but survived their wounds. According to a UN investigation, based on eyewitness testimony and analysis by a forensic pathologist and ballistic expert, Dogan was initially shot while filming the assault and then murdered while lying face down with a bullet shot at close range in the back of the head. The United States was the only one of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council to vote against the adoption of the report. The Obama administration never filed a complaint with the Israeli government, demonstrating its willingness to allow the armed forces of U.S. allies to murder U.S. citizens on the high seas.

As indicated by Clinton's statement of last week, the administration appears to be willing to let it happen again.

Rocket

U.S. Counter-Terrorism Strategy to Rely on Surgical Strikes, Unmanned Drones

John Brennan
© The Associated Press / Carolyn Kaster
John Brennan
The Obama administration has concluded in a newly released counter-terrorism strategy that precision strikes and raids, rather than large land wars, are the most effective way to defeat Al Qaeda.

"Al Qaeda seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment," John Brennan, President Obama's counter-terrorism advisor, said in a speech Wednesday unveiling the new strategy. "Going forward, we will be mindful that if our nation is threatened, our best offense won't always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us."

Brennan, a longtime former CIA officer, spoke at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, as the White House posted the new strategy on its website.

The strategy codifies policies the administration has been pursuing for 2 1/2 years, and much of it mirrors the practices of the Bush administration, Brennan said. But at its core is a repudiation of the thinking that sent large numbers of American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda's leadership has been decimated, Brennan said, thanks not to the wars but to "unyielding pressure" from U.S. operations to kill the group's leaders one by one in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

The more acute threats to the U.S. these days come from Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and perhaps Somalia, U.S. officials have said, and no one is contemplating sending large numbers of American troops to those countries.

Bad Guys

Observations On The Day

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© unknown
Americans are a doomed people for many reasons. One reason is that they are disunited and at one another's throats and, thus, cannot stand up the tyranny issuing from Washington.

For example, the governments of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, states that share borders, have been fighting for more than two decades over the water in Georgia's Lake Lanier, located a few miles northeast of Atlanta. In 2009 a federal district judge ruled that it is illegal for water to be drawn from the lake to meet the needs of Atlanta's three million residents. The judge stipulated that the three states had until July 2011 to reach an agreement, failing which Atlanta would be restricted to the amount of water it received in the mid-1970s, when its population was less than one-third of its present size.

Obviously, the ruling was a major incentive to Alabama and Florida not to compromise.
Either the judge gave no thought to this fact or he was unconcerned that three million Atlantans would find themselves in drought circumstances.

At the last moment on June 28, with two days to go before Atlanta was cut off from its water supply, a federal appeals court ruled that the district court judge's decision was incorrect and gave the US Corps of Engineers one year to make a final decision concerning the allocation of Lake Lanier's water to the three states.

The state of Alabama, displaying total callousness to its 3 million fellow American citizens in Atlanta, has announced that it is appealing the ruling, and Florida is "studying the ruling," no doubt looking for a way to get Atlanta's share of the water.

Blackbox

Lawyer for Alleged Victim in DSK Case Lashes Out at DA, Says Victim Will Come Forward

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© Getty Images
Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn (C) and his wife Anne Sinclair (L) leave New York State Supreme Court for a hearing July 1, 2011 in New York City. The Manhattan district attorney's office agreed to release Strauss-Kahn without bail after the credibility of the alleged sexual assault victim had come into question. Strauss-Kahn was arrested on May 14 on sexual assault charges stemming from an incident in a New York hotel.
Law & Order could not have produced a script with more dramatic turnarounds. As former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest Friday, the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a New York hotel room in May became the main focus of public scrutiny. To counter the wave of allegations now circulating around the 32-year-old immigrant maid from Guinea, her attorney has accused Manhattan prosecutors of sullying her reputation to distance themselves from the damaged case against Strauss-Kahn.

"We believe that the district attorney [Cyrus Vance] is laying the foundation to dismiss this case," charged the accuser's attorney, Kenneth Thompson, in a talk with journalists after Strauss-Kahn's bail hearing in a New York courtroom today. "Anyone can see that."

In a brief nine minute hearing today, Strauss-Kahn was granted release from house arrest without bail. But the court is retaining his passport, and the criminal case against him still stands, at least for now.

Weaknesses in the case were exposed in a stunning New York Times report Thursday night describing prosecutors' doubts about the credibility of the accuser.

Thompson acknowledged that his client had "made mistakes," but insisted that she is telling the truth about the alleged assault. In her account, she was the victim of a sexual assault in Strauss-Kahn's hotel room May 14--and Thompson insisted that prosecutors have physical evidence to support her version of events. He also accused Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance of leaking information to the New York Times to discredit his client in a bid to get the case dismissed.


Megaphone

US: Glenn Beck signs off from Fox News: 'This show has become a movement; it doesn't belong on TV'

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© GBTV/Mercury Radio Arts
Glenn Beck began his final show on Fox News where he'll be for the foreseeable future: outside the building, and not on TV.

"We've done some amazing things together," Beck, flanked by at least one bodyguard, told viewers as he showed them the view of the set from the street, noting the bulletproof glass windows that were installed "for a myriad of reasons."

Beck then rolled a four-minute highlight reel of his greatest hits spanning his two-and-a-half years on the air: Acorn, the 9/12 Project, the Restoring Honor rally in Washington, D.C., last summer. The montage also included testimonials from viewers found on the street.

"It's been an amazing ride," he said backstage, surrounded by some of the show's familiar props, including chalk ("We buy by the case," he said). "I've made some amazing friends, namely, you."

Beck spent most of the hour looking back. "We made a lot of enemies on this program," he said, from "the president to the Republicans to George Soros."

"We have not only survived," he said. "We have thrived."

He dismissed his frequent critics, like Jon Stewart, who Beck mocked for having a team of writers to produce a six-minute monologue on "The Daily Show." Beck boasted his two-man writing team helps him craft his 42-minutes a night. "It's easy to speak from the heart," he said.

Bad Guys

Strauss-Kahn Free From House Arrest; Charges Stand

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Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn listens to proceedings
New York- Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn walked out of court without bail Friday, freed from house arrest, after prosecutors acknowledged serious questions about the credibility of the hotel housekeeper who accused him of sexual assault.

The charges, which include attempted rape, were not dropped, but the easing of his bail conditions signaled that prosecutors do not believe the accusations are as ironclad as they once seemed.

"It is a great relief," said Strauss-Kahn's attorney, William Taylor. "It is so important in this country that people, especially the media, refrain from judgment until the facts are all in."

After his arrest, Strauss-Kahn, 62, resigned from his post leading the International Monetary Fund and watched his presidential ambitions in France seemingly crumble. He had been confined for weeks to a luxury New York City loft on $6 million in cash and bond.

The 32-year-old hotel maid accused Strauss-Kahn of chasing her through his luxury suite in May, trying to pull down her pantyhose and forcing her to perform oral sex. Authorities have said they have forensic evidence of a sexual encounter, but defense lawyers have said it wasn't forced.

The stark turn in the case came after the woman admitted to prosecutors she had made up a story of being gang-raped and beaten in her homeland of Guinea to enhance her application for political asylum, prosecutors said in a letter to defense lawyers.

Bad Guys

Washington Okays Attack on Unarmed US Boat to Gaza

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© twitpic

The Obama administration appears to have given a green light to an Israeli attack on an unarmed flotilla carrying peace and human rights activists - including a vessel with 50 Americans on board - bound for the besieged Gaza Strip. At a press conference on June 24, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the flotilla organized by the Free Gaza Campaign by saying it would "provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves."

Clinton did not explain why a country had "the right to defend themselves" against ships which are clearly no threat. Not only have organizers of the flotilla gone to great steps to ensure are there no weapons on board, the only cargo bound for Gaza on the U.S. ship are letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave who have suffered under devastating Israeli bombardments, a crippling blockade, and a right-wing Islamist government. Nor did Clinton explain why the State Department suddenly considers the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be "Israeli waters," when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships' intended route.

Dollar

US: Treasury Confirms Deadline for Raising Debt Limit

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© J. Scott Applewhite, File/AP Photo
FILE - In this June 28, 2011 file photo, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congress has one month to raise the United States' borrowing limit or the government will default on its debt, the Treasury Department said Friday. Treasury officials confirmed the Aug. 2 deadline in a monthly update that assesses the nation's borrowing situation. The U.S. reached the $14.3 trillion limit in May. Higher revenue and accounting maneuvers have allowed the government to keep paying its bills in the interim.
Washington -- Congress has one month to raise the nation's borrowing limit or the government will default on its debt, the Treasury Department said Friday.

Treasury officials confirmed the Aug. 2 deadline in a monthly update that assesses the nation's borrowing situation. The United States reached the $14.3 trillion limit in May. Higher revenue and accounting maneuvers have allowed the government to keep paying its bills in the interim.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged Congress to raise the limit and "avoid the catastrophic economic and market consequences of a default crisis."

President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans are engaged in tough negotiations over resolving the issue. Republicans are demanding deep spending cuts as a condition of increasing the limit. But Republicans will not support tax increases, which Democrats say must be part of any deal.

Dollar

Since 2009, 88 Percent Of Income Growth Went To Corporate Profits, Just One Percent Went To Wages

wages fat cat monopoly
© Unknown
After the longest recession since WWII, many Americans are still struggling while S&P 500 corporations are sitting on $800 billion in cash and making massive profits. Now, economists from Northeastern University have released a study that finds our sluggish economic recovery has almost solely benefited corporations. According to the study:
"Between the second quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2010, real national income in the U.S. increased by $528 billion. Pre-tax corporate profits by themselves had increased by $464 billion while aggregate real wages and salaries rose by only $7 billion or only .1%. Over this six quarter period, corporate profits captured 88% of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1% of the growth in real national income. ...The absence of any positive share of national income growth due to wages and salaries received by American workers during the current economic recovery is historically unprecedented."
The New York Times adds,
"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average real hourly earnings for all employees actually declined by 1.1 percent from June 2009, when the recovery began, to May 2011, the month for which the most recent earnings numbers are available."
So as average wages fall, and nearly 14 million people remain unemployed, America's economic recovery has almost entirely benefited corporations. This development adds another chapter to the decline of the middle class, whose incomes are shrinking and wages are stagnating. Last year, top executives' salaries increased 27 percent, while workers' salaries increased only 2 percent. At the moment, income inequality in America is the worst it's been since the 1920s, as the richest 1 percent make nearly 25 percent of the country's income.