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Embassy official won’t return

Thu., Feb. 14, 2008

A U.S. Embassy official accused of asking an American student and Peace Corps volunteers to keep tabs on Venezuelans and Cubans in Bolivia will not return to the country. Embassy spokesman Eric Watnik confirmed that U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg had informed officials during the meeting that assistant regional security officer Vincent Cooper, recalled to Washington for consultations on the issue, would not return.

In July, according to embassy officials, Cooper mistakenly gave a group of newly arrived Peace Corps volunteers a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them only to report “suspicious activities.”

Last week, scholar Alex van Schaick said Cooper asked him to pass along information on Venezuelan and Cuban workers he might meet in the country.


Bush issues new sanctions on Syria

President Bush ordered new sanctions on Wednesday to punish Syria for its alleged efforts to undermine stability in Iraq and undercut Lebanon’s sovereignty and democracy.

Bush, in an executive order, said he was expanding penalties against senior government officials in Syria and their associates deemed to be responsible for – or to have benefited from – public corruption. The order did not specifically name any officials.

The White House said the order built on one Bush issued in May 2004 that banned all U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine. His earlier action followed long-standing complaints that the Middle Eastern nation was supporting terrorism and undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq.

The 2004 order also banned flights to and from the United States; authorized the Treasury Department to freeze assets of Syrian nationals and entities involved in terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, occupation of Lebanon or terrorism in Iraq; and restricted banking relations between U.S. banks and the Syrian national bank.

Vatican City

Pope supports Sister Lucia

Pope Benedict XVI has put Sister Lucia, the last of three shepherd children who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary during apparitions in 1917, on a fast-track to possible sainthood, the Vatican said Wednesday.

The customary waiting period before beginning the process that can lead to sainthood is five years after a person’s death.

The case of Sister Lucia, who died in 2005 at age 97, was granted the same waiver as was given in the cases of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican said Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, made the announcement during a Wednesday evening Mass at the cathedral in Coimbra, Portugal, marking the third anniversary of Lucia’s death.

Sister Lucia, whose birth name was Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, was buried at the Carmelite convent where she had lived since 1948. Her body was later placed in a tomb at the Fatima shrine’s basilica alongside her cousins Jacinta and Francisco. The shrine is visited by millions each year.


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