Author: Raja

With Pope’s cardinal picks, Bernardin’s ‘seamless garment’ is back

Crux, By John L. Allen Jr., October 9

By naming Blase Cupich of Chicago, Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis and Kevin Farrell, formerly of Dallas, as cardinals, Pope Francis has moved the senior leadership of the American Catholic Church to a centrist, non-cultural warrior stance reminiscent of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s “seamless garment.”

Pope Francis on Sunday engineered what may prove to be a seismic shift in the Catholic hierarchy in the United States, elevating not one or two, but a full three new American cardinals seen as belonging to the centrist, non-cultural warrior wing of the country’s hierarchy.

The pontiff announced a consistory, the event in which new members are inducted into the Church’s most exclusive club, for Nov. 19, coinciding with the end of his special jubilee Holy Year of Mercy.

The list includes 13 new cardinal-electors, meaning those under 80 and eligible to vote for the next pope, and features three Americans after Francis bypassed the U.S. in both 2014 and 2015.

The three Americans are Archbishops Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, as well as Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, recently chosen by Francis to head his new “dicastery,” meaning a Vatican department, on Family, Laity and Life.

While none of these three figures would be seen as “liberal” by secular standards, they are perceived as belonging to the more progressive camp in the Catholic hierarchy.

China’s yuan joins elite club of IMF reserve currencies

Reuters, October 1

China’s yuan joins the International Monetary Fund’s basket of reserve currencies on Saturday in a milestone for the government’s campaign for recognition as a global economic power.

The yuan joins the U.S. dollar, the euro, the yen and British pound in the IMF’s special drawing rights (SDR) basket, which determines currencies that countries can receive as part of IMF loans. It marks the first time a new currency has been added since the euro was launched in 1999.The IMF is adding the yuan, also known as the renminbi, or “people’s money”, on the same day that the Communist Party celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
Continue reading

U.S. Military Is Building a $100 Million Drone Base in Africa

The Intercept, By Nick Turse, September 29

From high above, Agadez almost blends into the cocoa-colored wasteland that surrounds it. Only when you descend farther can you make out a city that curves around an airfield before fading into the desert. Once a nexus for camel caravans hauling tea and salt across the Sahara, Agadez is now a West African paradise for people smugglers and a way station for refugees and migrants intent on reaching Europe’s shores by any means necessary.

Africans fleeing unrest and poverty are not, however, the only foreigners making their way to this town in the center of Niger. U.S. military documents reveal new information about an American drone base under construction on the outskirts of the city. The long-planned project — considered the most important U.S. military construction effort in Africa, according to formerly secret files obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act — is slated to cost $100 million, and is just one of a number of recent American military initiatives in the impoverished nation.

The base is the latest sign, experts say, of an ever-increasing emphasis on counterterror [?!??!] operations in the north and west of the continent. As the only country in the region willing to allow a U.S. base for MQ-9 Reapers — a newer, larger, and potentially more lethal model than the venerable Predator drone — Niger has positioned itself to be the key regional hub for U.S. military operations, with Agadez serving as the premier outpost for launching intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against a plethora of terror groups.
Continue reading

Trudeau government approves Petronas’ $36-billion LNG project in BC

Daily Hive (Vancouver), By Kenneth Chan, September 27

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has provided the $36-billion Pacific Northwest liquid natural gas (LNG) production and export facility project in Prince Rupert, BC with the green light to proceed. The announcement was made by members of the federal cabinet at a press conference held in Richmond this evening.

“The Pacific NorthWest LNG Project will deliver thousands of good middle-class jobs and will help pay for schools and roads and social programs that enrich people’s lives,” said Jim Carr, federal Minister of Natural Resources.

Coincidentally: US drives rainforest destruction by importing Amazon oil, study finds

The South Is Organizing — and There’s No One to Cover It

Workers are less scared of organizing when the press is covering them. The solution? More labor reporters in the South.

Pacific Standard, By Mike Elk, September 5

The striking thing about being a recent northern immigrant to the South is how often I walk into a bar and hear people talking about Bernie Sanders. As an outsider to the region (I’m a native of the East End of Pittsburgh), I sometimes find it incredible: Go into any bar in the South and all the young folks are feeling the Bern. While Sanders lost big in these states, he did win among southern Millennials — yet another indication that the South is changing a lot faster than some folks realize.

Yet people up North are always shocked to hear this. Too often, the only depictions of the South that we get via national news are cartoon caricatures of Confederate flag enthusiasts. As a result, we often forget about the progressives in the South. In part, the Internet has played a role in creating them, in replacing local news outlets as the place to follow national politics. People in the South read the same blogs we do; their Tinder profiles include witty references to Michelle Obama. I meet young people in the South all the time who ask me, “What was it like before Obama?” These people literally don’t remember an America that didn’t have a black president or an Occupy Wall Street movement. They aren’t yokels, and they aren’t products of the Old South — they are products of a digital South in the age of Obama.
Continue reading

Secret government electronic surveillance documents must be released, judge says

Vice, By Jason Leopold, September 17

In a major victory for journalists and privacy and transparency advocates, a federal court has started the process of unsealing secret records related to the government’s use of electronic surveillance.

US District Court Judge Beryl Howell said at a hearing Friday morning that absent an objection by government attorneys, the court would post to its website next week a list of all case numbers from 2012 in which federal prosecutors in Washington, DC applied for an order to install a pen register or a trap and trace device.
Continue reading

DNA Dragnet: In Some Cities, Police Go From Stop-and-Frisk to Stop-and-Spit

ProPublica, By Lauren Kirchner, September 12

Police in Florida and other states are building up private DNA databases, in part by collecting voluntary samples from people not charged with — or even suspected of — any particular crime.

The five teenage boys were sitting in a parked car in a gated community in Melbourne, Florida, when a police officer pulled up behind them.

Officer Justin Valutsky closed one of the rear doors, which had been ajar, and told them to stay in the car. He peered into the drivers’ side window of the white Hyundai SUV and asked what the teens were doing there. It was a Saturday night in March 2015 and they told Valutsky they were visiting a friend for a sleepover.

Valutsky told them there had been a string of car break-ins recently in the area. Then, after questioning them some more, he made an unexpected demand: He asked which one of them wanted to give him a DNA sample.
Continue reading

The Biggest Strike in World History? No Thanks, We’re Focusing on the New iPhone

Trade unions in India representing some 180 million workers staged a one-day strike—and there was virtually no coverage by mainstream American media.

FAIR / Alternet, By Jim Naureckas, September 9, 2016

When tens of millions of workers go out on strike in the second-largest country in the world—and the third-largest economy in the world—resulting in what may be the biggest labor action in world history (AlterNet, 9/7/16), you’d think that would merit some kind of news coverage, right?

Not if you’re a decision-maker at a U.S. corporate media outlet, apparently.

A coalition of trade unions in India representing some 180 million workers staged a one-day general strike on Friday, September 2, in protest of what they called the “anti-worker and anti-people” policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an advocate of neoliberal policies and increased foreign investment (Democracy Now!, 9/2/16). Assocham, India’s chamber of commerce, estimated that the economic impact of the strike was $2.4 billion–$2.7 billion (Hindustan Today, 9/3/16).
Continue reading

Why prisoners nationwide are striking

CBS News, By Aimee Picchi, September 9

Prisons can’t run without inmates, in more ways than one. Prisoners wash floors, work in the laundries and kitchens, and provide a large amount of the labor that keeps their facilities running. In return, they earn pennies per hour or even no pay at all.

That’s sparking what may be the largest prison strike yet as inmates across the country plan to stop working on Friday. The strikers are calling for an end to forced labor and what they call “prison slavery.”

It’s no coincidence that they picked Sept. 9 as the strike date: It’s the 45th anniversary of the Attica riot, when prisoners at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York rioted for better conditions.
Continue reading

Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State

The Intercept, By Zaid Jilani, Alex Emmons, & Naomi LaChance, September 8

Hillary Clinton is meeting on Friday with a new national security “working group” that is filled with an elite “who’s who” of the military-industrial complex and the security deep state.

The list of key advisers — which includes the general who executed the troop surge in Iraq and a former Bush homeland security chief turned terror profiteer — is a strong indicator that Clinton’s national security policy will not threaten the post-9/11 national-security status quo that includes active use of military power abroad and heightened security measures at home.

It’s a story we’ve seen before in President Obama’s early appointments. In retrospect, analysts have pointed to the continuity in national security and intelligence advisers as an early sign that despite his campaign rhetoric Obama would end up building on — rather than tearing down — the often-extralegal, Bush-Cheney counterterror regime. For instance, while Obama promised in 2008 to reform the NSA, its director was kept on and its reach continued to grow.

Obama’s most fateful decision may have been choosing former National Counterterrorism Center Director John Brennan to be national security adviser, despite Brennan’s support of Bush’s torture program. Brennan would go on to run the president’s drone program, lead the CIA, fight the Senate’s torture investigation, and then lie about searching Senate computers.
Continue reading

Inside The Global “Club” That Helps Executives Escape Their Crimes

Buzzfeed, By Chris Hamby, August 28

A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment. Part one of a BuzzFeed News investigation — read the whole series here.

Imagine a private, global super court that empowers corporations to bend countries to their will.

Say a nation tries to prosecute a corrupt CEO or ban dangerous pollution. Imagine that a company could turn to this super court and sue the whole country for daring to interfere with its profits, demanding hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars as retribution.

Imagine that this court is so powerful that nations often must heed its rulings as if they came from their own supreme courts, with no meaningful way to appeal. That it operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret. That the people who decide its cases are largely elite Western corporate attorneys who have a vested interest in expanding the court’s authority because they profit from it directly, arguing cases one day and then sitting in judgment another. That some of them half-jokingly refer to themselves as “The Club” or “The Mafia.”
Continue reading

The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire

Counterpunch, By Mike Whitney, August 25

The main architect of Washington’s plan to rule the world has abandoned the scheme and called for the forging of ties with Russia and China. While Zbigniew Brzezinski’s article in The American Interest titled “Towards a Global Realignment” has largely been ignored by the media, it shows that powerful members of the policymaking establishment no longer believe that Washington will prevail in its quest to extent US hegemony across the Middle East and Asia. Brzezinski, who was the main proponent of this idea and who drew up the blueprint for imperial expansion in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, has done an about-face and called for a dramatic revising of the strategy. Here’s an excerpt from the article in the AI:

“As its era of global dominance ends, the United States needs to take the lead in realigning the global power architecture.

Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East are signaling the coming of a new global realignment.

The first of these verities is that the United States is still the world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power.” (Toward a Global Realignment, Zbigniew Brzezinski, The American Interest)

Continue reading

Goddess Name Inscribed in Lost Language on Ancient Tablet

Live Science, By Stephanie Pappas, August 26

An ancient tablet recently unearthed in Tuscany has revealed its first secret: the engraved name of a goddess linked to fertility.

The 500-pound (227 kilograms) stone slab, or stele, was unearthed earlier this year at Poggio Colla, a sixth century B.C. site built by the Etruscans. The stele bears a long inscription in a language that has not been used for 2,500 years, project archaeologist Gregory Warden, a professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told Live Science in April.

Now, translation is underway and archaeologists have discovered that the tablet references the goddess Uni. [Photos: The Tomb of an Etruscan Prince]

“We can at this point affirm that this discovery is one of the most important Etruscan discoveries of the last few decades,” Warden said in a statement. “It’s a discovery that will provide not only valuable information about the nature of sacred practices at Poggio Colla, but also fundamental data for understanding the concepts and rituals of the Etruscans, as well as their writing and perhaps their language.”

Via IFLScience: Archaeologists Have Discovered A Brand New Ancient God

CIA Confirms Role in 1953 Iran Coup

The National Security Archive, Edited by Malcolm Byrne, August 19

Washington – Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States’ role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq’s ouster has long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup.

The explicit reference to the CIA’s role appears in a copy of an internal history, The Battle for Iran, dating from the mid-1970s. The agency released a heavily excised version of the account in 1981 in response to an ACLU lawsuit, but it blacked out all references to TPAJAX, the code name for the U.S.-led operation. Those references appear in the latest release. Additional CIA materials posted today include working files from Kermit Roosevelt, the senior CIA officer on the ground in Iran during the coup. They provide new specifics as well as insights into the intelligence agency’s actions before and after the operation.

Suing a Debt Collector? Now They Can Buy Your Lawsuit

A federal judge opens the door for bare-knuckled agencies to avoid accountability. If upheld, a law protecting consumers may be defanged.

Bloomberg, By Paul Barrett, August 16

Can a debt collector accused of crossing the line avoid liability by buying a consumer’s legal claim out from under her?

A federal judge in Las Vegas said yes. The case deserves attention because if the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirms the judge’s ruling, you can be sure that more debt collectors will attempt this counter-intuitive maneuver to shield themselves from federal liability.
Continue reading