Watching the Shadows
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man to be charged with a crime related to 9-11 in the U.S., was finally allowed to enter a plea in federal court April 22, and, in his inimitably garbled fashion, pleaded guilty to all six charges of terrorist conspiracy (for which he will likely face the death penalty) while insisting he had no involvement in 9-11. Instead, he said he was recruited for a separate series of attacks aimed at freeing Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the notorious "Blind Sheikh" imprisoned at a top-security facility in Minnesota. (CNN, April 23)
By order of Secretary Rice, the State Department will stop publishing its annual report "Patterns of Global Terrorism," ceding responsibility for counting and analyzing worldwide terror attacks to the new National Counter-Terrorism Center. The order comes despite controversy over the Center's findings, on which the State Department relied for last year's report. The report found a higher incidence of terror attacks in 2003 than in any year since the State Department began counting them in 1985. This year, the number has again risen dramatically, according to intelligence sources—from 175 "significant" attacks in 2003 to 625 in 2004. The State Department has issued a public version of the report every since 1985, and it is uncertain if the National Counter-Terrorism Center will now do so. The move to halt publication is controversial on Capitol Hill. "This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). "It should be unthinkable that there would be an effort to withhold it—or any of the key data —from the public. The Bush administration should stop playing politics with this critical report." (Knight-Ridder, April 16)
Hopes for a moderately progressive pontiff who could loosen up the Chuch line on the supposed evils of condoms in the age of AIDS--or even an African or Latin American one who could help Catholicism rally against the aggressive inroads of Islam and Protestantism on those continents—have been dashed by the choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.
The business-continuity newsletter Continuity Central and the ecologist EarthTimes.org are among the few media outlets to take note that the long-awaited study of why the World Trade Center collapsed has been released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The report notes that the unusual lack of internal support walls (a measure to increase office space) contributed to the collapse, and that lives were lost due to building occupants scrambling to find seemingly inadequate stairwells. Yet: "The report however did not blame the designers or builders for the WTC collapse..."
The death of Pope John Paul II has occassioned a great deal of speculation in the press about the influence of Opus Dei, the secretive ultra-conservative Catholic organization, in choosing his successor. One of the more strictly factual accounts, "Pope Election: Opus Dei Pulls Strings," is from India's Sify.com:
Pope John Paul II, who died April 2, leaves a mixed legacy. In his native Poland, and elsewhere in the Communist world, he was a catalyst of revolutionary change in the '80s, but this same anti-Communism caused him to ally with Reagan and the U.S. in the Cold War, and move against the Liberation Theology current in Latin America. Few eulogies recall the bitter dispute between the Vatican and Nicaraguan priests serving in the revolutionary Sandinista regime. Recounted the Haitian writer Jean-Pierre Cloutier in a 1987 essay, Theologies: Liberation vs. Submission:
From the LA Times, April 1:
Fred Korematsu, the Japanese-American whose court case over his refusal
to be interned during World War II went to the U.S. Supreme Court and
became synonymous with this nation's agonized debate over civil
liberties during time of war, has died. He was 86.
William Kristol, founder of the Project for the New American Century (a leading neo-con think tank) and a key figure in American foreign policy for over 20 years, was hit by what appeared to be a cream pie tonight in Richmond, Indiana. Throughout his speech, given at Earlham College, he defended the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive war and state terror and was in the process of comparing current policy challenges to those of the early Cold War when a young man calmly lifted himself onto the stage and quickly walked to the podium, splattering a delicious dish all over the speaker as well as the college's president (collateral damage, perhaps?).