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What They Really Teach You About Sex at Jerry Falwell's 'Bible Boot Camp'

Sunday, April 05, 2009

In this exclusive excerpt from The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University, learn the shocking secrets of the Christian Right when it comes to love and marriage

By Kevin Roose
Esquire

I thought we'd try something new before class today," says Nathan, the Evangelism 101 teaching assistant. "A little cheer."

My roommate Eric turns to me. "God is good. Bet you ten bucks."

Before I can ask what he means, Nathan sets down his microphone and shouts through cupped hands, "God is good!"

"All the time!" responds the class in unison. Eric pumps his fist.

"Awesome!" says Nathan. "You guys must remember this from your youth groups. Now, let's see if you remember the second part: and all the time..."

The class shouts back: "God is good!"

Nathan waves his arms with brio, conducting the class like John Philip Sousa leading a parade march.

"God is good..."

"All the time!"

"And all the time..."

"God is good!"

I've been back from spring break for two days now, and I'm starting to settle back into my classes. As you might guess from a lecture that begins with a cheer, Evangelism 101 is somewhat of a gut. Our professor, Pastor Andy Hillman, conducts the class like a large, for-credit session of Sunday school, with test questions like:

God wants to be your ____.
a) Slave
b) Best friend*
c) Priest

The ultimate goal of the universe is to show ____.
a) the love of God
b) the glory of God
c) the power of God
d) all of the above*

(Click for remainder).

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The End of Christian America? (I certainly hope so.)

The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now—and what, as a nation, we are about to become.

By Jon Meacham
Newsweek


It was a small detail, a point of comparison buried in the fifth paragraph on the 17th page of a 24-page summary of the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest on earth—read over the document after its release in March, he was struck by a single sentence. For a believer like Mohler—a starched, unflinchingly conservative Christian, steeped in the theology of his particular province of the faith, devoted to producing ministers who will preach the inerrancy of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life—the central news of the survey was troubling enough: the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Then came the point he could not get out of his mind: while the unaffiliated have historically been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the report said, "this pattern has now changed, and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified." As Mohler saw it, the historic foundation of America's religious culture was cracking.

"That really hit me hard," he told me last week. "The Northwest was never as religious, never as congregationalized, as the Northeast, which was the foundation, the home base, of American religion. To lose New England struck me as momentous." Turning the report over in his mind, Mohler posted a despairing online column on the eve of Holy Week lamenting the decline—and, by implication, the imminent fall—of an America shaped and suffused by Christianity. "A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us," Mohler wrote. "The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture." When Mohler and I spoke in the days after he wrote this, he had grown even gloomier. "Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society," he said from his office on campus in Louisville, Ky....(Click for remainder).

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Conyers Wants Holder to Appoint a Special Counsel to Probe Bush Crimes

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record


On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers quietly released the final draft of an extensive report he first unveiled in January documenting the Bush administration’s “unreviewable war powers” and the possible crimes committed in implementing those policies.

In order to determine whether Bush officials broke laws, Conyers has recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal inquiry to investigate, among other things, whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against alleged terrorist detainees violated international and federal laws against torture.

“The Attorney General should appoint a Special Counsel to determine whether there were criminal violations committed pursuant to Bush Administration policies that were undertaken under unreviewable war powers, including enhanced interrogation, extraordinary rendition, and warrantless domestic surveillance,” Conyers’s report says. “In this regard, the report firmly rejects the notion that we should move on from these matters.”

An earlier draft of the report contained a similar recommendation, but the final version includes additional evidence that has surfaced since January to support Conyers's reasoning s for a special prosecutor. The updated version “highlights significant source materials and Judiciary Committee accomplishments, and accounts for the final days of the Bush Administration.”

However, Conyers has not formally asked the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel as he had last year when he and 55 other House Democrats signed a letter sent to Attorney General Michael Mukasey seeking a special prosecutor to investigate the growing body of evidence that Bush administration officials had sanctioned torture, which had been documented by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Not unexpectedly, Mukasey – a staunch defender of Bush’s theories about expansive presidential powers – ignored the letter. It’s unknown whether Conyers or any other Democrat intends to issue a similar letter to Holder....(Click for remainder).

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Estate Tax Idiocy

By Hilzoy
Washington Monthly


As Steve [Benen] noted earlier, the Senate voted Thursday to eliminate the estate tax for estates worth less than $5 million, or $10 million for couples (estates worth less than $3.5 million, or $7 million for couples, are excluded now), and to lower the tax on estates over that amount from 45% to 35%. (Note: you only pay taxes on the value of the estate after you subtract the excluded amount. Thus, if you now leave an estate worth $3,500,001, the estate will have to pay all of 45 cents in taxes.) Luckily, it seems unlikely that this will make it into the final budget. But it's worth stopping to note just what a stupid idea this is. From the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:
"The proposal would benefit only a tiny number of estates but carry a large cost. Only the estates of 2.8 of every 1,000 people who die would benefit from the Lincoln-Kyl proposal; Tax Policy Center data show that those are the only estates that would owe any estate tax in 2011 if the 2009 estate rules are extended. Yet the proposal would cost $91 billion more in the first ten years that its effects would be fully felt (2012-2021) than would making the 2009 rules permanent, based on Joint Tax Committee estimates. Relative to current law, under which the tax will revert to pre-2001 parameters in 2011, the total cost of the Lincoln-Kyl proposal would be $442 billion over this 2012-2021 period.

These new cost estimates are lower than last year's estimates for a similar proposal, probably because of the sharp drop in the stock market, real estate values, and other asset values. But over time, as asset prices recover, the long-term cost projections of the proposal would also increase -- and by quite substantial amounts."
Like a lot of conservatives, I am very worried about the deficits. Unlike some of them, I was also worried about it several years ago. Also unlike them, I am at present more worried about getting out of the recession, and I am willing to run deficits in the short run to accomplish that. But because I am worried about the deficit, I want these deficits to be well targeted and stimulative....(Click for remainder).

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It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly


Remember the Clinton presidency? A popular center-left Democratic president, with a popular domestic agenda, drove the right into apoplexy. Conservatives came up with bizarre conspiracy theories, casually threw around truly insane rhetoric, raised a lot of fears about the U.N. and America "sovereignty," and Fox News did its level best to whip uninformed right-wing activists into a frenzy.

I wonder why that seems familiar.

The New York Times' Charles Blow explains today that he's been "consuming as much conservative media as possible" lately in order to "get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right." He's found that conservatives are not only "apocalyptic," but after two months of a Democratic administration, they feel "isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged."

And what seemed at first like "harmless, hotheaded expostulation," with right-wing media personalities deceiving a right-wing audience with bogus demagoguery, has actually led Blow to believe "it's not all just harmless talk."
For some, their disaffection has hardened into something more dark and dangerous. They're talking about a revolution.

Some simply lace their unscrupulous screeds with loaded language about the fall of the Republic. We have to "rise up" and "take back our country." Others have been much more explicit.

For example, Chuck Norris, the preeminent black belt and prospective Red Shirt, wrote earlier this month on the conservative blog WorldNetDaily: "How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?"

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, imagining herself as some sort of Delacroixian Liberty from the Land of the Lakes, urged her fellow Minnesotans to be "armed and dangerous," ready to bust caps over cap-and-trade, I presume.

And between his tears, Glenn Beck, the self-professed "rodeo clown," keeps warning of an impending insurrection by saying that he believes that we are heading for "depression" and "revolution" and then gaming out that revolution on his show last month. "Think the unthinkable" he said. Indeed.
(Click for remainder).

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Gay Marriages Expected To Begin In Iowa April 24

Time to move to Iowa.  I hear Des Moines is lovely.

By Amy Lorentzen
Associated Press via The Huffington Post


DES MOINES, Iowa — Gay marriage, seemingly the province of the nation's two coasts, is just weeks away from becoming a reality in the heartland and apparently it will be years before social conservatives have a chance to stop it.

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday unanimously upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected a state law restricting marriage to a union between a man and woman. Now gays and lesbians may exchange vows as soon as April 24 following the landmark decision.

The county attorney who defended the law said he would not seek a rehearing. The only recourse for opponents appeared to be a constitutional amendment, which couldn't get on the ballot until 2012 at the earliest.

"I would say the mood is one of mourning right now in a lot of ways," said a dejected Bryan English, spokesman for the Iowa Family Policy Center, a conservative group that opposes same-sex marriage.

In the meantime, same-sex marriage opponents may try to enact residency requirements for marriage so that gays and lesbians from across the country could not travel to Iowa to wed.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, urged the Legislature to do so, saying he feared without residency requirements Iowa would "become the gay marriage mecca."...(Click for remainder).

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Chavez Says He Wants to 'Reset' Relations With U.S.

This guy is such an egomaniac.  The only reason he's saying this is because Obama is more popular around the world that he is.  Unlike Bush, whose popularity ranked somewhere between Ebola and dysentery, Obama actually has a brain in his head, and he uses it.  Chavez's ego it feeling threatened.

By Rachel Jones
Associated Press


CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez said Saturday he hopes to "reset" relations with the United States at an upcoming summit.

Despite recent criticism of President Barack Obama, Chavez said he wants to bring relations between the two governments back to a "rational level."

"I'll be willing to press the reset button," he said in a telephone call to Venezuelan state television from Iran. "I hope that will be the policy of President Obama."

Venezuela's relations with Washington grew increasingly strained under former President George W. Bush _ reaching a low point in September, when Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador and withdrew Venezuela's envoy to Washington. His visit to Iran is part of an effort to build ties with other countries at odds with the U.S.

The socialist leader last month called Obama "ignorant" after the U.S. president accused Chavez of "exporting terrorism" and being an obstacle to progress in Latin America.

But Chavez said Saturday that the April 17-19 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago could "be the place to reset all types of relations between the United States and Venezuela."...(Click for remainder).

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George Will, Malignant Narcissist?

By Paul Rosenberg
Open Left


Grand Theft. Pathological Lying About Global Warming. Attempted Genocide.

Back in February, George Will went into a paroxym of lies about global warming, and WaPo editor Fred Hiatt and Ombudsman Andy Alexander both vigorously defended him.  I wrote about this (as well as the work of debunkers--Hilzoy, The Wonk Room) in "George Will, Washington Post: Traitors To Humanity".  Now Will is up to his same old tricks.  A deeper look is called for this time around--a look into Will's class-based criminal pathology.

George Will is a criminal. In 1980, he helped Ronald Reagan prepare for the presidential debate with Jimmy Carter, using a stolen Carter debate book.  Receiving stolen property is a crime.  The value of the stolen debate book was incalculable.  Possibly enough to cost an election.  But certainly enough to qualify as grand theft.  That makes receiving it a felony. And George Will is guilty of it.  One should always remember this about George Will: He is a criminal.  A felon.  An unrepentant one.  But, then, he is a member of a criminal class--the aristocracy.

When I wrote a diary about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) last weekend, several commentators made the point that the aristocracy as a class suffered from NPD, and while there are certainly plenty of individual exceptions, the point is most certainly true.  And a perfectly straightforward way to show what this means is to look at George Will, and his steadfast refusal to acknowledge any error whatsoever when he gets absolute everything wrong about global warming.

Sane, mature adults make factual claims based on facts, to the best of their knowledge.  When challenged in a reasonable manner, they either defend their claims by marshaling facts in support of those claims, or they admit to having made a mistake.  But narcissists cannot be bothered with any of this.  Engaging in good faith arguments is beneath their exalted sense of dignity.  Indeed, the only way that aristocrats know how to settle factual disputes is the same way they settle all disputes: by dueling.  Which is to say, by ritualized attempted murder....(Click for remainder).

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Na Zdorovie

By Scott Horton
Harper's Magazine


As I learned during a recent visit to Russia, it’s common to lay blame for every woe that Russians face—from the weather to the downturn of the economy—on the United States. But Russia has also made trouble for itself. As Nicholas Eberstadt explains in World Affairs:
A specter is haunting Russia today. It is not the specter of Communism—that ghost has been chained in the attic of the past—but rather of depopulation—a relentless, unremitting, and perhaps unstoppable depopulation. The mass deaths associated with the Communist era may be history, but another sort of mass death may have only just begun, as Russians practice what amounts to an ethnic self-cleansing. Since 1992, Russia’s human numbers have been progressively dwindling. This slow motion process now taking place in the country carries with it grim and potentially disastrous implications that threaten to recast the contours of life and society in Russia, to diminish the prospects for Russian economic development, and to affect Russia’s potential influence on the world stage in the years ahead.
Eberstadt feels that the Putin-Medvedev government’s almost maniacal focus on its natural resource position, which it hopes to leverage to great power status in the European theater at least, was misplaced. An investment in health care might have been a much better investment in the future....(Click for remainder).

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California Dems and DNCC Target 8 Vulnerable GOP Districts

By Carla Marinucci
The San Francisco Chronicle


California GOP voter registration is "dropping like a rock," a new study shows, declining so fast that Democratic Party officials see an unprecedented opportunity to gain voters and House seats in the 2010 election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted 35 districts across the country represented by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives - including eight in California - that were won by Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, said Jennifer Crider, the committee spokeswoman.

The Democrats plan increased appeals to voters in those areas and will make aggressive efforts to recruit Democratic candidates to run against the Republican incumbents, she said.

A new study suggests that Republican numbers in California are falling precipitously, even in the historically strongest bastions of GOP voters.

"The big picture is that, currently, there is not one single state legislative or congressional district that has a majority of the voters registering Republican," says Allan Hoffenblum, who just finished an analysis for the California Target Book, a nonpartisan publication that regularly analyzes state congressional and legislative races....(Click for remainder).

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McCain gets angry at Hispanics: "You People"

By John Amato
Crooks and Liars


We wrote a lot about John McCain's temper during the election, but this latest one is a doozy.
“He was angry,” one source said. “He was over the top. In some cases, he rolled his eyes a lot. There were portions of the meeting where he was just staring at the ceiling, and he wasn’t even listening to us. We came out of the meeting really upset.”

McCain’s message was obvious, the source continued: After bucking his party on immigration, he had no sympathy for Hispanics who are dissatisfied with President Obama’s pace on the issue. “He threw out [the words] ‘You people — you people made your choice. You made your choice during the election,’ ” the source said. “It was almost as if [he was saying] ‘You’re cut off!’ We felt very uncomfortable when we walked away from the meeting because of that.”
The idea that when he said that "you people" were just voters who didn't back him rings very hollow. His intent was quite clear. If you brown people would have backed me--I would have won the election. There were a lot of people that didn't back McCain for the election and losing his temper just shows how unhinged these privileged men in power actually are. He did push the Bush immigration deal, but you know it was just response to the anger many Latinos felt over Sensenbrenner's HOUSE bill.
But, as National Journal notes, “one person’s straight talk is another person’s vitriol”:
But one person’s straight talk is another person’s vitriol. “My hands were shaking,” one source said. “I was nervous as no-end.” The senator’s comments went on for several minutes at least. And by the end of the meeting, another participant, who had supported McCain in last year’s presidential election, was so shaken by the display of temper that he decided it is good that McCain isn’t in the White House.
(Click for remainder).

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WPost Sees Neocon Hope in Obama

When reading Washington Post editorials, one often is reminded of the famous question from “Shawshank Redemption”: “How can you be so obtuse?”

By Robert Parry
Consortium News


Of course, in the movie, the warden wasn’t being “obtuse” as much as he was obfuscating and obstructing. And similarly, one has to wonder if the Post’s apparent obtuseness is really something willful, that there is a method to the maddening stupidity.

Such was the case with the Post’s lead editorial on April 4, “New Words of War,” in which the newspaper’s neoconservative editorial writers equate ex-President George W. Bush’s “global war on terror” with President Barack Obama’s more targeted strategy against al-Qaeda.

The Post apparently still won’t accept that Bush’s blunderbuss GWOT against “every terrorist group of global reach” was a geopolitical and constitutional disaster. Instead, by cherry-picking a few words here and there, the Post argues there’s no real difference between Bush’s conflict against all “terrorists” everywhere and Obama’s targeted assault on al-Qaeda and its allies along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

In criticizing the Obama administration for allegedly playing word games by dropping the GWOT phrasing, the Post was itself playing word games....(Click for remainder).

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President Obama Weekly Address: Challenges of Our Time


THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
_________________________________________________________________
EMBARGOED UNTIL 6:00 AM ET                                               Saturday, April 4, 2009

WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Hails
Unprecedented G-20 Action to Address Global Economic Downturn


WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Barack Obama praised the agreement of the G-20 nations to act together as a turning point in this global economic slump. With the American economy inextricably linked to the global economy, global coordination is needed to restore lending, spur job growth, reform financial regulation and ultimately fix our economy. The President also discussed his meetings with Chinese President Hu, Russian President Medvedev, and America’s NATO allies.

The audio and video will be available at 6:00am Saturday, April 4, 2009 at www.whitehouse.gov.

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Saturday, April 4, 2009


In this new century, we live in a world that has grown smaller and more interconnected than at any time in history. Threats to our nation’s security and economy can no longer be kept at bay by oceans or by borders drawn on maps. The terrorists who struck our country on 9/11 plotted in Hamburg, trained in Kandahar and Karachi, and threaten countries across the globe. Cars in Boston and Beijing are melting ice caps in the Arctic that disrupt weather patterns everywhere. The theft of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union could lead to the extermination of any city on earth. And reckless speculation by bankers in New York and London has fueled a global recession that is inflicting pain on workers and families around the world and across America.

The challenges of our time threaten the peace and prosperity of every single nation, and no one nation can meet them alone. That is why it is sometimes necessary for a President to travel abroad in order to protect and strengthen our nation here at home. That is what I have done this week.

I began my trip by attending a summit of the G20 – the countries that represent the world’s largest economies – because we know that the success of America’s economy is inextricably linked to that of the global economy. If people in other countries cannot spend, that means they cannot buy the goods we produce here in America, which means more lost jobs and more families hurting. Just yesterday, we learned that we lost hundreds of thousands more jobs last month, adding to the millions we’ve lost since this recession began. And if we continue to let banks and other financial institutions around the world act recklessly and irresponsibly, that affects institutions here at home as credit dries up, and people can’t get loans to buy a home or car, to run a small business or pay for college.

Ultimately, the only way out of a recession that is global in scope is with a response that is global in coordination. That is why I’m pleased that after two days of careful negotiation, the G20 nations have agreed on a series of unprecedented steps that I believe will be a turning point in our pursuit of a global economic recovery. All of us are now moving aggressively to get our banks lending again. All of us are working to spur growth and create jobs. And all of us have agreed on the most sweeping reform of our financial regulatory framework in a generation – reform that will help end the risky speculation and market abuses that have cost so many people so much.

I also met this past week with the leaders of China and Russia, working to forge constructive relationships to address issues of common concern, while being frank with each other about where we disagree. President Hu and I agreed that the link between China’s economy and ours is of great mutual benefit, and we established a new Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the U.S. and China. President Medvedev and I discussed our shared commitment to a world without nuclear weapons, and we signed a declaration putting America and Russia on the path to a new treaty to further reduce our nuclear arsenals. Tomorrow, I will lay out additional steps we must take to secure the world’s loose nuclear materials and stop the spread of these deadly weapons.

Finally, I met yesterday with our NATO allies and asked them for additional civilian support and assistance for our efforts in Afghanistan. That is where al Qaeda trains, plots, and threatens to launch their next attack. And that attack could occur in any nation, which means that every nation has a stake in ensuring that our mission in Afghanistan succeeds.

As we have worked this week to find common ground and strengthen our alliances, we have not solved all of our problems. And we have not agreed on every point or every issue in every meeting. But we have made real and unprecedented progress – and will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.

Because in the end, we recognize that no corner of the globe can wall itself off from the threats of the twenty-first century, or from the needs and concerns of fellow nations. The only way forward is through shared and persistent efforts to combat fear and want wherever they exist. That is the challenge of our time. And if we move forward with courage and resolve, I am confident that we will meet this challenge.

Thank you.

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The First Lady at the Notre Dame Cathedral

By The White House Blog


(First Lady Michelle Obama and Hayrunnisa Gul, right, the wife of Turkey's President Abdullah Gul, listen to a french interpretor during a tour at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, France, Saturday, April 4, 2009. White House Photo/Lawrence Jackson)


(First Lady Michelle Obama is joined by fellow spouses of NATO Summit leaders as they conclude a tour Saturday, April 4, 2009, of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, France. White House Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

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‘Holy Hell’ Over Torture Memos

Attorney General Eric Holder wants to release classified Bush-era interrogation memos. But U.S. intel officials are fiercely lobbying the White House to block him from moving forward.

By Michael Isikoff
Newsweek


A fierce internal battle within the White House over the disclosure of internal Justice Department interrogation memos is shaping up as a major test of the Obama administration's commitment to opening up government files about Bush-era counterterrorism policy.

As reported by NEWSWEEK, the White House last month had accepted a recommendation from Attorney General Eric Holder to declassify and publicly release three 2005 memos that graphically describe harsh interrogation techniques approved for the CIA to use against Al Qaeda suspects. But after the story, U.S. intelligence officials, led by senior national-security aide John Brennan, mounted an intense campaign to get the decision reversed, according to a senior administration official familiar with the debate. "Holy hell has broken loose over this," said the official, who asked not to be identified because of political sensitivities.

Brennan is a former senior CIA official who was once considered by Obama for agency director but withdrew his name late last year after public criticism that he was too close to past officials involved in Bush administration decisions. Brennan, who now oversees intelligence issues at the National Security Council, argued that release of the memos could embarrass foreign intelligence services who cooperated with the CIA, either by participating in overseas "extraordinary renditions" of high-level detainees or housing them in overseas "black site" prisons.

Brennan succeeded in persuading CIA Director Leon Panetta to become "engaged" in his efforts to block release, according to the senior official. Their joint arguments stalled plans to declassify the memos even though White House counsel Gregory Craig had already signed off on Holder's recommendation that they should be disclosed, according to an official and another government source familiar with the debate. No final decision has been made, and it is likely Obama will have to resolve the matter, according to the sources who spoke to NEWSWEEK....(Click for remainder).

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