By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
Less than a month after disastrous National Assembly elections in 2005, U.S. officials met with the Vatican’s third highest ranking archbishop to discuss the church’s outlook on Venezuela along with the Vatican’s positions on a number of other Latin American leaders, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable published Wednesday by WikiLeaks.
During the conversation, recounted in a cable composed on Dec. 23, 2005, Vatican internal affairs chief Archbishop Leonardo Sandri said the church views a number of Latin American leaders as “dangerous,” including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and then-Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Obrador was defeated by rival Felipe Calderón, but continued to campaign for months thereafter, insisting the election had been stolen through fraud. The Vatican saw him as a threat similar to Chavez or former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, according to the cable.
U.S. officials also gave Sandri an idea: having the Vatican order the U.S. Catholic church to supply more aid to the Venezuelan Catholic church so they could build up social programs, enlarging their platform to speak out against Chavez. He responded “positively” to the suggestion, according to the cable.
In Mexico, Sandri was less apt to press the church into becoming more vocal, largely due to “Masonic groups and some segments of Mexican society,” who he saw as “ready to pounce on bishops or clergy who strayed into the political realm.”
Aug. 24, 2011
Nation’s Largest Environmental Organizations Stand Together To Oppose Oil Pipeline
Washington, DC — The heads of the nation’s largest environmental organizations—often at odds on the best strategy for combating climate change—released a letter today calling on President Obama to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would span from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. (1)
As another 56 people headed to jail today in the largest civil disobedience protests in the environmental movement’s recent history (2), the leaders of groups as diverse as Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense Fund told the president, “there is not an inch of daylight between our policy position on the Keystone XL pipeline, and those of the protesters being arrested daily outside the White House.”
“On an issue as complicated as climate, there will often be disagreements over tactics and goals—just recall the differences over the Senate climate bill this time last year,” said Bill McKibben, one of the organizers of the protests for tarsandsaction.org. “But there are some projects so obviously dangerous that they unify everyone, and the Keystone XL pipeline is the best example yet.”
The leaders of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Rainforest Action Network also made it clear they counted on President Obama to take decisive action to block the pipeline. “We expect nothing less,” they said, describing the pipeline battle as “perhaps the biggest climate test you face between now and the election” and adding that denying the permit would trigger a “surge of enthusiasm from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last election.”
In their letter, the leaders cited dangers to the climate, the risks of disastrous spills and leaks, and the economic damage that will come from continued dependence on fossil fuel in their letter, concluding, “this is a terrible project.”
The civil disobedience protests—now in their fifth day, and scheduled to last through September 3—played some role in the leaders’ decision to take a stand, though many of the organizations do not themselves engage in such protest.
“I have worked in the environmental movement since the first earth day in 1970, and this is reminding me of the spirit and unity we had back then. We are all together on this,” said Gus Speth, a founder of the NRDC in the 1970s and head of the Council on Environmental Quality under President Carter, who was among those arrested last Saturday and spent two nights in DC’s Central Cell Block.
“For those of us out there in front of the White House, the best thing about this ringing statement is that the administration won’t be able to play one group off against another by making small concessions here and there,” said McKibben. “They’ve all shown that there is one way to demonstrate to the environmental base that the rhetoric of Obama’s 2008 campaign is still meaningful—and that’s to veto this pipeline. Since he can do it without even consulting Congress, this is one case where we’ll be able to see exactly how willing he is to match the rhetoric of his 2008 campaign.”
1. The text of the letter follows:
Dear President Obama:
Many of the organizations we head do not engage in civil disobedience; some do. Regardless, speaking as individuals, we want to let you know that there is not an inch of daylight between our policy position on the Keystone Pipeline and those of the very civil protesters being arrested daily outside the White House. This is a terrible project–many of the country’s leading climate scientists have explained why in their letter last month to you. It risks many of our national treasures to leaks and spills. And it reduces incentives to make the transition to job-creating clean fuels.
You have a clear shot to deny the permit, without any interference from Congress. It’s perhaps the biggest climate test you face between now and the election. If you block it, you will trigger a surge of enthusiasm from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last election. We expect nothing less.
Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund
Michael Brune, Sierra Club
Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council
Phil Radford, Greenpeace
Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation
Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth
Rebecca Tarbotton, Rainforest Action Network
May Boeve, 350.org
Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters
Margie Alt, Environment America
2. To date, 275 people have been arrested at the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.
By Robert Scheer
Posted on Aug 23, 2011
They will get away with it, at least in this life. “They” are the Wall Street usurers, people of a sort condemned in Scripture, who have brought more misery to this nation than we have known since the Great Depression. “They” will not suffer for their crimes because they have a majority ownership position in our political system. That is the meaning of the banking plea bargain that the Obama administration is pressuring state attorneys general to negotiate with the titans of the financial world.
It is a sellout deal that, in return for a pittance of compensation by banks to ripped-off mortgage holders, would grant the banks blanket immunity from any prosecution. That is intended to short-circuit investigations by a score of aggressive state officials, inquiries that offer the public a last best hope to get to the bottom of the housing scandal that has cost U.S. homeowners $6.6 trillion in home equity in the past five years and left 14.6 million Americans owing more than their homes are worth.
The $20 billion or so that the banks would pony up is chump change to them compared with the trillions that the Fed and other public agencies spent to bail them out. The banks were given direct cash subsidies, virtually zero-interest loans, and the Fed took $2 trillion in bad paper off their hands while the banks exacerbated the banking crisis they had created through additional shady practices, including fraudulent mortgage foreclosures.
Yet the administration has rushed to the aid of the banks once again and is attempting to intimidate the few state attorneys general who have the gumption to protect the public interest they are sworn to serve. As Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times reported:
“Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, has come under increasing pressure from the Obama administration to drop his opposition to a wide-ranging state settlement with banks over dubious foreclosure practices. …
Continue reading at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/amnesty_for_the_indefensible_20110823/
BY Celeste Katz
August 24, 2011
After being pushed off a national panel of state attorneys general looking into subprime mortgage abuses, Eric Scheiderman is basically telling the guys who ousted him where to file their briefs.
As we noted in Wake-Up Call, Reuters reported that Schneiderman, a Democrat in his first term as AG, “has voiced concerns over a proposed settlement between major banks and a coalition of federal and state officials over claims of foreclosure abuses. He has come under increasing pressure to approve the deal.”
Schneiderman is certainly framing himself as the good guy in this situation — someone who wants to delve deeply into mortgage irregularities instead of simply reaching a fast settlement and getting the whole thing over with.
In an email to campaign supporters today, which came with the subject line “Standing Up For You,” he wrote:
By DJ Pangburn
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
In Hepting vs. AT&T, the EFF sued AT&T on behalf of its customers for its collaboration with the NSA “in the massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.”
The Jewel v. NSA case has the EFF suing the NSA and other government agencies “on behalf of AT&T customers to stop the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records” in the warrantless wiretapping program. Jewel v. NSA was brought by five AT&T customers and is currently on appeal.
Jewel v. NSA “also targets the individuals responsible for creating, authorizing, and implementing the illegal program, including former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and other individuals who ordered or participated in the warrantless domestic surveillance.”
Hepting v. NSA included undisputed evidence from former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein, who demonstrated that AT&T routed internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA.
The EFF is arguing that the FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA) “is unconstitutional in granting to the president broad discretion to block the courts from considering the core constitutional privacy claims of millions of Americans.” (FISAAA, signed by George W. Bush, allows the U.S. Attorney General to require dismissal “of the telecoms’ participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president.”