Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Following up on…

--Media coverage of Barack Obama’s religious background: First, Scott Paeth, an assistant professor of religious studies at DePaul University, has a blog entry discussing the Washington Post front-page coverage of the “Obama is a Muslim” rumor. Paeth reinforces the sincerity and consistency of Obama’s Christian practice, reminding us of how Obama differs from “Bob Dole’s switch from a moderate Methodist church to an evangelical Baptist church in 1996, which was clearly a cynical move.” Paeth also accurately hammers the implied bigotry of the rumor itself: “…people who would never breath a word of suspicion against a Catholic for being a Catholic, or a Mormon for being a Mormon, have absolutely no problem pillorying Muslims for no other reason than that they are Muslims.”

Secondly, Jeff Sharlet examines the potential religious implications of Obama and Mike Huckabee’s respective primary victories in Iowa (which is now old news in the wake of the New Hampshire results, but still remains an impressive achievement for both). There’s a lot to take away here, including his reminder that Obama isn’t maintaining close public ties with his pastor Jeremiah Wright—a factor that I should have probably mentioned in my original entry, because it leaves questions about how Obama presents his religious background, as The Revealer noted in a piece from earlier last year. Sharlet also finds that Obama and Huckabee aren’t nearly as far apart on the religious spectrum as they seem; indeed, both “look like they might represent the "third way" more and more rank-and-file evangelical[s] have been waiting for.” Nevertheless, as a follow-up story on the site notes, it’s kind of difficult to prove this argument when pollsters don’t ask religious questions about Democratic voters.

--Chiquita’s “blood bananas” business in Columbia: Corporate Counsel’s Sue Reisinger continues to research her story on Chiquita’s funding of Columbian left-wing terrorists, and has discovered a twist. Reisinger originally documented that Chiquita didn’t stop their payments to the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) until March 2004, which was just after U.S. attorney Roscoe Howard, Jr. had served a search warrant on the company for their actions. Now, both Chiquita lawyers and a U.S. Department of Justice official are disputing that account, saying that no one ever served the warrant. This turn of events complicates the story, because the timing of the warrant with Chiquita’s termination of payments suggests a correlation between the two events. Did Chiquita stop the payments due to federal coercing, or was it an (overdue) action completely of their own accord? We may never know; for his part, Howard continues to insist that the warrant was executed and accuses the Department of Justice of “stonewalling” for unclear reasons. None of this, of course, changes the fact that Chiquita continued to pay AUC long after the Department of Homeland Security had classified it as a terrorist organization, as well as the fact that the company profited handsomely from their Columbian holdings while on the terrorist installment plan.

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