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This summer Condoleeza Rice repeatedly sought a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and was refused, reports Italy’s Corriere della Serra. The story, authored by a leading figure in the Vatican press corps, Massimo Franco, makes clear that the snub was conscious and was intended as an expression of anger with U.S. policies in the Middle East which the Vatican considers immoral and reprehensible, including the systematic mistreatment of prisoners and the use of torture techniques. Franco suggests that the Pope has also not forgotten the rude way in which Rice countered the Holy See’s expressions of concern about the invasion of Iraq in 2003:
No one will say so officially but the refusal may also have been prompted by Ms Rice’s stance in 2003, when she was Mr Bush’s national security adviser. On the eve of the Iraqi conflict, it was Ms Rice who said bluntly that she did not understand the Vatican’s anti-war stance. She treated John Paul II’s envoy, Cardinal Pio Laghi, with a coolness that bordered on disrespect when he was sent to Washington on 2 March 2003 on a desperate mission to avert military intervention. Clearly, the incident has not been forgotten.
The Vatican has also repeatedly expressed its view that the Bush Administration’s use of torture is unacceptable, and the Pope added his voice to the long list of foreign heads of state calling for the detention facility at Guantánamo to be shut down. The Vatican is also said to be deeply concerned about President Bush’s intentions concerning Iran. Franco notes that the Vatican’s relations with the United States are good, except for foreign policy matters.
The problem is that foreign policy is a constant source of discord and Ms Rice is not one of the Vatican’s favourite interlocutors. When contacts were first made for her abortive encounter with the Pope, it was explained that President Bush was also pressing for the meeting. His talks in the Vatican on 9 June with Benedict XVI had gone well and the US secretary of state’s encounter could have been a continuation. In fact, for Ms Rice to have obtained an audience on the lake at Castelgandolfo would have required willingness on the Vatican’s part, which was not the case.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”