Family of Jacobo Arbenz receives apology for CIA coup — from Guatemala’s current president — not the United States

Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown as president of Guatemala in a CIA-backed coup in 1954, a seminal event that historians say set the Central American country on a path of dictatorships and civil war that would last for decades.

Even though he was democratically elected and popular at the time, after Arbenz was deposed, his reputation was ruined and he was written out of Guatemala’s history books. He died in exile in 1971.

This week, 57 years later, current President Alvaro Colom made a public apology to the Arbenz family, a large gesture in Guatemala. There is also a larger rehabilitation of the image of Arbenz under way. Textbooks are being rewritten and a new biography will soon be published.

But this clearing of Arbenz’s reputation does not console everyone. Some ask: When will the United States, which was behind the coup, apologize for its meddling..?

The apology “doesn’t have a lot of resonance in the United States — though it should,” said Stephen Schlesinger, an Adjunct Fellow at the Century Foundation and co-author of a book on the 1954 coup.

The United States, after all, was the power behind the event.

I figure the US government will apologize for the Guatemalan coup about 3 years before never – which is just before they apologize for for overthrowing Iran’s first democratically-elected government and reinstating the Shah on behalf of Big Oil.


Our track record of admitting to criminal acts — for whatever political reasons used to justify them at the time — sucks big time. Reactionary politicians and so-called think tanks spend a portion of their annual budgets rewriting history and offering the latest rationales to cover our buns before American voters and international politicians. Liberal politicians just blush and say someone else was responsible. Ignoring the fact that Democrats collaborated with Republicans for most of these crimes – including when the roles were reversed. As in the Gulf of Tonkin.

The rest of the world has a clear recollection of what we have done.

Imagine cleaning out a shed and finding a bag of old pipe fittings — and a scientific instrument from 1396

You just never know what you’ve got in the shed. This horary quadrant was found in a bag of old pipe fittings in a shed on a farm in Queensland, Australia, forty years ago. Last year the owner of the quadrant was surfing the internet and came across this article where he recognised not just the same tool, but the same stag-coronet insignia that was on his quadrant (he thought it was an astrolabe) signified it was made for King Richard II (of England).

He subsequently contacted the British Museum, which identified the item sitting on his desk for the last forty years as a 1396 horary quadrant. It will be auctioned next month and is expected to fetch between £150,000 and £200,000.

Perhaps even more remarkably, the simple quadrant which is used for telling the time, and had been in use for at least 1500 years prior to the making of this piece in 1396, has turned out to be the second oldest British scientific instrument ever discovered, the oldest being the Chaucer astrolabe, dated 1326, which is housed in the British Museum.

Dated 1396, the quadrant is one of four similar quadrants found to date (the others have been dated 1398, 1399 and circa 1400 respectively), two of which can be found in the British Museum, and the other in the Dorset County Museum, Dorchester.

The horary quadrant was the most commonly used way of telling the time prior to the invention of the clock. One edge of the quadrant was pointed directly at the sun, and a plumbline attached to the centre of the quadrant signified the hour of the day.

I imagine some settler or other brought the critter along to Oz because [a] it had been hanging around in the family long enough for folks to know it was very, very old — or [b] figured on using it to tell time — even though it would only be close to accurate in London.

Glaxo paying $3 Billion fine for fraud and deceptive marketing

The British drug company GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday that it had agreed to pay $3 billion to settle United States government civil and criminal investigations into its sales practices for numerous drugs.

The settlement would be the largest yet in a wave of federal cases against pharmaceutical companies accused of illegal marketing, surpassing the previous record of $2.3 billion paid by Pfizer in 2009. In recent years, drug companies have been prime targets of federal fraud investigations, which have recovered tens of billions of dollars for Medicaid and Medicare.

The cases against GlaxoSmithKline include illegal marketing of Avandia, a diabetes drug that was severely restricted last year after it was linked to heart risks. Federal prosecutors said the company had paid doctors and manipulated medical research to promote the drug…I keep forgetting about the “high standards” of our medical professionals.

The agreement to settle its biggest federal cases should be completed next year, the company added in the statement. It said $3 billion would settle not only the Avandia case, but also a Justice Department investigation of its Medicaid pricing practices and a nationwide investigation led by the United States attorneys in Colorado and Massachusetts into the sales and marketing of nine of its drugs from 1997 to 2004…

Critics of the settlements made with drug companies argued for stiffer penalties, including prison sentences for corporate officials…How about prison sentences for Congress-thugs who enabled a lot of the fraud?

Patrick Burns, spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, an advocacy group for whistle-blowers, said, “Who at Glaxo is going to jail as a part of this settlement? Who in management is being excluded from doing future business with the U.S. government..?”

Mr. Burns said the health care sector accounted for more than 80 percent of the $4 billion in overpayments recovered by the government in 2010 as a result of whistle-blower lawsuits and resulting fraud investigations by federal and state agencies.

But, don’t worry. The Republicans in Congress just ran a bill through the House to remove jury trials from whistleblower lawsuits. They feel safer relying on judges.

Perish the thought we should have a system of laws and sanctions which involves ordinary Americans who might not understand about treating really important corporations with the proper respect.

Coppers bust suspect with mummified remains of 27 women

Police investigating Russian grave robberies are holding a man after the remains of at least 20 women were found in his flat…Mummified remains of 27 women were found in the flat in Nizhny Novgorod, a police source told government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

The suspect, 45, is a local historian..

He is believed to have dug up the remains of young women at various cemeteries and put dresses on them…

The remains are believed to have been stolen from local graves in Nizhny Novgorod, a city on the Volga. The suspect may be charged with desecrating human remains…

He apparently specialised in exploring cemeteries and was planning to publish a guide book.

Uh, OK. What sort of guidebook? Where to pilfer the sexiest mummies?

Ireland decides to close their embassy to the Vatican

Will they continue to send the weekly checks?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Catholic Ireland’s stunning decision to close its embassy to the Vatican is a huge blow to the Holy See’s prestige and may be followed by other countries which feel the missions are too expensive – and useless, unproductive.

The closure brought relations between Ireland and the Vatican, once ironclad allies, to an all-time low following the row earlier this year over the Irish Church’s handling of sex abuse cases and accusations that the Vatican had encouraged secrecy…

This is really bad for the Vatican because Ireland is the first big Catholic country to do this and because of what Catholicism means in Irish history,” said a Vatican diplomatic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity…

Over time, this will be seen as only the first of many departing a seat at the foot of the papal throne.

Dublin’s foreign ministry said the embassy was being closed because “it yields no economic return” and that relations would be continued with an ambassador in Dublin.

The source said the Vatican was “extremely irritated” by the wording equating diplomatic missions with economic return, particularly as the Vatican sees its diplomatic role as promoting human values…

Promoting human values? Only if your values are stuck into the 14th Century, your concern for your flock is cemented in 19th Century politics.