Nine Circles of Hell!: Friday, January 27, 2012 Nine Circles of Hell!

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The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – today’s nine most hellish news stories, including a total of six bonus stories on Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iran, for Friday, January 27, 2012, are:

New study shows racism and prejudice are signs of stupidity

New claims Ron Paul more involved in racist newsletter than reported

Canadian govt. says natives, environmentalists “adversaries,” big oil “ally”

Euro parliament rapporteur resigns over worse-then-SOPA anti-piracy act

Twitter will censor content based on geography, sensitivity to freedom

“There is no safety” as rebel fighters still rule Libya’s streets

Syrian activists say, “There has been a terrifying massacre”

Iran to open talks with UN nuclear inspectors

UN voices concern after Iraq executes dozens in one day

New study shows racism and prejudice are signs of stupidity
LiveScience
(1/26/12)

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice

There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

“Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood,” he said.

The findings combine three hot-button topics.

“They’ve pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics,” said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. “When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it’s bound to upset somebody.”

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience.

“The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this,” Nosek said, referring to the new study. “It’s not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists.”

Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured.

New claims Ron Paul more involved in racist newsletter than reported
The Washington Post
(1/27/12)

Ron Paul signed off on racist newsletters in the 1990s, associates say

Ron Paul, well known as a physician, congressman and libertarian , has also been a businessman who pursued a marketing strategy that included publishing provocative, racially charged newsletters to make money and spread his ideas, according to three people with direct knowledge of Paul’s businesses.

The Republican presidential candidate has denied writing inflammatory passages in the pamphlets from the 1990s and said recently that he did not read them at the time or for years afterward. Numerous colleagues said he does not hold racist views.

But people close to Paul’s operations said he was deeply involved in the company that produced the newsletters, Ron Paul & Associates, and closely monitored its operations, signing off on articles and speaking to staff members virtually every day.

“It was his newsletter, and it was under his name, so he always got to see the final product. . . . He would proof it,’’ said Renae Hathway, a former secretary in Paul’s company and a supporter of the Texas congressman.

The newsletters point to a rarely seen and somewhat opaque side of Paul, who has surprised the political community by becoming an important factor in the Republican race. The candidate, who has presented himself as a kindly doctor and political truth-teller, declined in a recent debate to release his tax returns, joking that he would be “embarrassed” about his income compared with that of his richer GOP rivals.

Yet a review of his enterprises reveals a sharp-eyed businessman who for nearly two decades oversaw the company and a nonprofit foundation, intertwining them with his political career. The newsletters, which were launched in the mid-1980s and bore such names as the Ron Paul Survival Report, were produced by a company Paul dissolved in 2001.

The company shared offices with his campaigns and foundation at various points, according to those familiar with the operation. Public records show Paul’s wife and daughter were officers of the newsletter company and foundation; his daughter also served as his campaign treasurer.

Jesse Benton, a presidential campaign spokesman, said that the accounts of Paul’s involvement were untrue and that Paul was practicing medicine full time when “the offensive material appeared under his name.” Paul “abhors it, rejects it and has taken responsibility for it as he should have better policed the work being done under his masthead,” Benton said. He did not comment on Paul’s business strategy.

Mark Elam, a longtime Paul associate whose company printed the newsletters, said Paul “was a busy man” at the time. “He was in demand as a speaker; he was traveling around the country,’’ Elam said in an interview coordinated by Paul’s campaign. “I just do not believe he was either writing or regularly editing this stuff.’’

In the past, Paul has taken responsibility for the passages because they were published under his name. But last month, he told CNN that he was unaware at the time of the controversial passages. “I’ve never read that stuff. I’ve never read — I came — was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written.’’ Paul said.

Canadian govt. says natives, environmentalists “adversaries,” big oil “ally”
Montreal Gazette
(1/26/12)

Feds list First Nations, green groups as ‘adversaries’ in oil sands PR strategy

The federal government is distancing itself from its own lobbying and public relations campaign to polish the image of Alberta’s oil sands, following revelations that an internal strategy document labelled First Nations and environmentalists as “adversaries,” while describing the National Energy Board, an independent industry regulator, as an “ally.”

The descriptions were highlighted in a March 2011 document from the government’s “pan-European oil sands advocacy strategy,” released through access to information legislation.

The document outlined the government’s goals to “target” European politicians — “especially from the ruling and influential parties” — to lobby against climate-change policies that would require oilsands producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The strategy also listed key goals for the government’s diplomats in promoting the oil sands industry — considered by Environment Canada to be the fastest-growing source of global-warming-causing emissions in the country — and in lobbying against foreign climate-change policies.

“While Europe is not an important market for oil sands-derived products, Europe legislation/regulation, such as the EU Fuel Quality Directive, has the potential to impact the industry globally,” said the document, sent in an April 11 email by a Canadian diplomat in London, Kumar Gupta.

But Environment Minister Peter Kent denied that the labeling of “allies” and “adversaries” reflected the government’s approach.

“I think that’s a gross mischaracterization of reality,” Kent said after delivering a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “I think that any of our messaging, whether in Canada, elsewhere on the continent, in Europe or in Asia is based on facts and science. We do recognize there are some groups characterized by my colleague as ‘radical’ and they are very narrowly focused on certain areas they perceive to be unacceptable in a variety of ways. We intend to fully push back and to counter that but again respectfully and with facts and with science.”

Euro parliament rapporteur resigns over worse-then-SOPA anti-piracy act
BBC News
(1/27/12)

European Parliament rapporteur quits in Acta protest

Negotiations over a controversial anti-piracy agreement have been described as a “masquerade” by a key Euro MP.

Kader Arif, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta), resigned over the issue on Friday.

He said he had witnessed “never-before-seen manoeuvres” by officials preparing the treaty.

On Thursday, 22 EU member states including the UK signed the agreement.

The treaty still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament before it can be enacted. A debate is scheduled to take place in June.

Mr Arif criticised the efforts to push forward with the measures ahead of those discussions taking place.

“I condemn the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.”

Mr Arif’s decision to stand down follows protests by campaigners in Poland. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets after the agreement was signed.

Crowds of mostly young people held banners with slogans such as “no to censorship” and “a free internet”.

Earlier in the week, hackers attacked several Polish government websites, including that of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The country’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski defended the plans, telling local television: “We believe that theft on a massive scale of intellectual property is not a good thing.”

Twitter will censor content based on geography, sensitivity to freedom
The Wall Street Journal
(1/28/12)

Twitter Can Censor by Country

Twitter Inc. says it can now make content selectively available to users based on geography, and plans to use that ability to enter countries with “different ideas” about freedom of expression as a human right—reflecting the difficult ethical questions facing Internet companies.

The announcement, published on the official blog of the microblog operator, said Twitter is now able to withhold content from users in a specific country while keeping it available to the rest of the world.

The effort underscores thorny issues for Internet companies as their websites become more global and interconnected among different countries, and as they must cooperate with diverse views on Internet content control. For websites like Twitter as well as social-networking site Facebook, this has meant being blocked in countries like China where controls are more aggressive.

“As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression,” the post said, adding that in Germany, pro-Nazi content is banned. It said the ability has not been put to use yet, however.

Twitter said in the post that it would take measures to notify users if it withholds posts. “If and when we are required to withhold a Tweet,” or microblog post, “in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld, and why,” it said.

Twitter will work with Chilling Effects, an Internet freedom advocacy website that compiles content take-down notices, to publish take-down notices. Such a practice would make it difficult for Twitter to operate in China, where Internet executives say prohibited keywords are treated like state secrets.

Twitter said it would notify users if and when it is “required” to withhold a Tweet.

The company did not list countries in which it plans to use its new ability, but said that it would not be a solution for all. Some countries “differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there,” the post said, an implicit reference to countries such as China that have banned Twitter.

“There is no safety” as rebel fighters still rule Libya’s streets
The Washington Post with Foreign Policy
(1/27/12)

In Libya, rebels still dominate Tripoli streets

Despite repeated pledges by Libya’s transitional government to find jobs for the rebel fighters who forced Moammar Gaddafi from power, tens of thousands of them are still operating in armed militia groups, patrolling streets and guarding buildings in Tripoli and other cities.

The fighters’ continued presence is adding to an atmosphere of insecurity, officials and ordinary Libyans say, as efforts to incorporate more than 50,000 fighters into defense and interior ministry forces has lagged. Authorities say the presence of the irregular forces has made it difficult to distinguish between legitimate fighters and criminals, thousands of whom were freed by rebel forces and by Gaddafi during the months of fighting that eventually toppled the autocratic leader.

Adding to the problem, many of the fighters say they will respect only an elected government and do not recognize the authority claimed by the unelected, transitional government. With only the barest of police forces and only an embryonic army in place, fighting sometimes breaks out among the heavily armed men.

“There is no safety,” said Amal, a teacher who declined to give her last name, who was shopping in the capital. “There are fights between one area and another,” she added, describing how violence can quickly escalate when fighters occasionally turn to the heavy artillery they acquired during the war.

After the liberation of the Libyan capital in August by a wave of NATO-backed revolutionary fighters, there was chaos, electricity and water shortages and fighting in the streets. In some ways, life since then seems to have returned to normal, with shops and cafes open late, far fewer security checkpoints, and the rattle of celebratory gunfire largely silenced.

The unwelcome presence of fighters from outside the city has mostly ended, and heavy weapons are now rarely visible in the streets. The revolutionary fighters who remain are, for the most part, organized and orderly, patrolling alongside a rudimentary police force or guarding banks, hotels and government buildings, despite rarely being paid. Although different militias control different areas of the city, the fighters say they coordinate with one another and with authorities to provide security.

But although overall violence has lessened, there were clashes in central Tripoli between local brigades and fighters from the city of Misurata on Jan. 3 in which several people reportedly died. Fighting also flared up south of the capital on Jan. 13 when one tribal militia charged another with harboring Gaddafi loyalists, and continued for several days in a tribal clash over the capture of fighters suspected of siding with Gaddafi.

And this week, there has also been fighting in the former Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid between residents and rebel militias, as the head of the United Nations mission in the country, Ian Martin, told a meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday.

  • Here’s the GlobalPost take on the ongoing violence, “Libya: Bani Walid clashes spark rumor that Gaddafi forces are regrouping“:
    Violence and confusion after clashes in Bani Walid this week were a troubling reminder of the lingering dangers of shifting loyalties and rampant distrust that remains between many Libyan cities.
    After journalists reported Monday that soldiers loyal to slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had retaken Bani Walid, militia groups in Tripoli, Misrata and the Nafusa Mountains were put on high alert, setting up checkpoints and sending reinforcements to secure the routes in and out of the area.
    As images of the fighting played on television screens across the country, many feared the beginning of a new civil war and an outbreak of new violence between rebels and the former regime. A local security chief in Bani Walid said thousands of former Gaddafi troops had regrouped.
    But Ian Martin, a UN diplomat, and Libyan officials announced Wednesday that the reports had been false and the dispute had been a local issue. By Thursday, the streets of Bani Walid were calm. Rebel flags dotted the skyline and there was no military presence, not even a weapon, in sight. Residents denied that the recent clash was anything more than a local dispute that lasted several hours.
    “Always there are fights in Tripoli and other cities, but the media calls these ‘clashes between rebel groups,’” said local resident Nasa Gheeton as he pointed out several buildings bombed months before by NATO. “When there is fighting here they all say it’s ‘Gaddafi forces.’ Why?”
    Gheeton dismissed claims of strong support for the former regime within the town, but admitted things are difficult. Prices have risen. Jobs have become scarce and as one of the last remaining Gaddafi strongholds, the city still bares heavy scars from the rebel invasion from three months ago.
    The sign above the entrance to the local police station, riddled with bullet holes, was unreadable and a tattered rebel flag hung above the station’s marred façade. Opposite, the entrance to another government building gaped open from bomb blasts.
    Sitting at his desk, giving hurried answers between an onslaught of phone calls, Bani Walid’s head of security, Rajeb Mohammed Masoud, repeated his claim that the clash had been a planned attack by Gaddafi loyalists, a group that he said numbered in the thousands. The armed group has been a constant threat to security since rebel forces gained control of the city, he said.
    “Until now we have found no solution, because we do not have enough weapons or police officers to arrest them,” he said, adding that no one really knows just how many weapons they have with them or how much more heavy artillery they have hidden in the surrounding desert mountains.
    Masoud said on Monday that the group attacked the base of one of the two local rebel units, stealing weapons and “taking everything” before retreating back to their base.
    “If no force comes from outside to control them, they will attack again and they will try to kill us,” he said.

Syrian activists say, “There has been a terrifying massacre”
Al Jazeera
(1/27/12)

Syria activists report ‘massacre’ in Homs

Fresh violence has erupted in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, a day after armed forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad barraged residential buildings with mortars and machine-gun fire and killed at least 30 people, activists have said.

Heavy gunfire erupted for a second day on Friday in the city, which has seen some of the heaviest violence of the 10-month-old uprising against Assad’s rule. Activists said at least 33 people have been killed across the country since Thursday.

Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded on Friday at a checkpoint outside the northern city of Idlib, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said, citing witnesses. The number of casualties was not immediately clear.

The head of the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria said that the violence has risen “in a significant way” in the last three days, particularly in Homs, Hama and Idlib.

“The situation at present, in terms of violence, does not help prepare the atmosphere … to get all sides to sit at the negotiating table,” General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi said in a statement.

The Sudanese general called for “an immediate end to the violence to protect the Syrian people and clear the way for peaceful resolutions” to the crisis.

The pre-dawn assault in Homs, and reports of similar offensives against Hama and other cities, came hours after the United Nations said it could no longer keep track of the death toll in Syria, which it put at more than 5,400 over a month ago.

The Homs raid began in the Karm Al-Zeitoun neighbourhood, with the Syrian Human Rights Observatory reporting 33 people killed in Syria’s third-largest city, 160km north of the capital.

Details of Thursday’s wave of violence in Homs were emerging from an array of residents and activists on Friday, though they said they were having difficulty because of continuing gunfire.

“There has been a terrifying massacre,” Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the Associated Press news agency on Friday, calling for an independent investigation of Thursday’s killings.

  • President Assad may not be losing control of his country – yet – but according to the BBC report, “Syria unrest: Assad losing grip on Damascus suburb Saqba,” it’s getting more difficult to keep control throughout Syria:
    The BBC has seen more evidence of the extent to which the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost control of sections of the poor suburbs of Damascus.
    We had no luck following Arab League observers. They drove round a middle class, largely Christian and largely pro-Assad neighbourhood in the centre of the capital, without stopping, before returning to their hotel with their escort of regime security men.
    So a convoy of journalists, without regime minders, went alone to Saqba, a poor district about 20 minutes from central Damascus – where a funeral was due to take place of a man killed by the Assad regime’s forces.
    Once we left the centre we saw no regime security men. Then on the edge of Saqba we came upon several dozen armed and masked fighters from the Free Syria Army (FSA) …
    Local people said that the intelligence services and police conducted operations in the area, sometimes a couple of times a week, sometimes every night. They pointed out bullet holes in lamp posts.
    It’s clear that the regime forces, when they deploy enough men, can enter the rebellious suburbs of Damascus.
    But they do not appear to have the force to hold them.
    It is equally clear that the only way the president can enforce his authority in Saqba, and other suburbs of the city, is through the barrel of a gun.
    His regime faces opposition in the capital that is increasingly armed and organised.
    This does not mean that the president is about to fall. He has his own hardcore support, based on minority communities – his own Alawites, Christians, some Druze and Kurds, and also well-off Sunnis.
    Mr Assad also has well-armed forces – in and out of uniform.
    It looks as if Syria faces more blood and more bitterness.
  • Agence France Presse also reports Assad’s not all that popular in Egypt in, “Scores storm Syrian embassy in Cairo“:
    Scores of opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime stormed the Syrian embassy in Cairo on Friday before being dragged away by security forces, an AFP reporter said.
    At least 200 protesters forced their way into the building in the Garden City neighborhood in Cairo, breaking doors and windows, before security officials arrived and took them out. No arrests were made.
  • Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports, “Report: 11 Iranian pilgrims kidnapped in Syria“:
    Iran’s official IRNA news agency says gunmen in Syria have kidnapped 11 Iranian pilgrims traveling by road from Turkey to Damascus.
    Friday’s report says a bus with 49 Iranians was stopped after leaving the town of Halab on Thursday. It says gunmen abducted 11 young men from the group but let go the other passengers, who included women, elderly men and three children.
    IRNA says thieves later attacked the rest of the group, stealing their money and valuables.
    Iranian pilgrims routinely visit Syria — Iran’s closest ally in the Arab world — to pay homage to Shiite holy shrines.
    Last month, 7 Iranian engineers building a power plant in central Syria were kidnapped. They have not yet been released.
    Tehran has staunchly backed President Bashar Assad during Syria’s 10-month-old uprising.

Iran to open talks with UN nuclear inspectors
The Guardian
(1/27/12)

Iran to restart IAEA nuclear talks

Iran is due to open talks with UN nuclear inspectors on Sunday in an attempt to allay their suspicions of a covert Iranian weapons programme, the first such discussions in more than three years.

The three days of meetings in Tehran between Iranian nuclear officials and a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) represent the only diplomatic progress in more than a year, as tensions mount over Iran’s nuclear programme and western attempts to cut off the country’s oil trade.

Diplomats familiar with the visit said that the IAEA team would seek assurances that they will be able to interview key Iranian scientists suspected of past involvement in weapons research, visit sensitive sites and see documents concerning the procurement of dual-use technology. The Iranian government denies it is seeking to make nuclear weapons, insisting its research is for scientific or civil power-generating purposes.

Diplomats and analysts have played down prospects of a quick breakthrough.

If the talks were to collapse, the pressure on Iran could intensify. The IAEA has warned that Tehran could be referred to the UN security council for possible further punitive measures if it fails to cooperate.

On Thursday the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Tehran was ready to resume broader talks with the international community, broken off over a year ago, but the office of Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief who coordinates a six-nation group handling negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme, said that Tehran had made no formal move towards restarting the dialogue.

The IAEA team, led by the agency’s chief inspector, Herman Nackaerts, and an assistant director general, Rafael Grossi, is seeking Iranian explanations for evidence, described as “credible” in an IAEA report in November, pointing to past experimentation on nuclear weapons design.

“We are not saying that Iran has one, two or three nuclear devices. We are saying that Iran has, at different stages of development, technology that is directly linked to the development of a nuclear device,” Grossi, an Argentinian diplomat, told the Buenos Aires Herald.

At the Tehran meeting, he said that the IAEA team would “try to draft a road map to see how we tackle specific issues, including those related to the PMDs”.

  • Why does it seem like every time there’s the slimmest ray of hope for avoiding a military conflict with Iran, stories like The Associated Press’s, “Israel says Iran ‘drifting’ toward nuke goal line” come out?“:
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday the world must quickly stop Iran from reaching the point where even a “surgical” military strike could not block it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
    Amid fears that Israel is nearing a decision to attack Iran’s nuclear program, Barak said tougher international sanctions are needed against Tehran’s oil and banks so that “we all will know early enough whether the Iranians are ready to give up their nuclear weapons program.”
    Iran insists its atomic program is aimed only at producing energy and research, but it has refused to consider giving up its ability to enrich uranium.
    The United Nations has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran, but veto-wielding Russia and China say they see no need for additional punitive measures. That has left the U.S. and the European Union to try to pressure other countries to follow their lead and impose even tougher sanctions.
    “We are determined to prevent Iran from turning nuclear. And even the American president and opinion leaders have said that no option should be removed from the table and Iran should be blocked from turning nuclear,” Barak told reporters during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
    “It seems to us to be urgent, because the Iranians are deliberately drifting into what we call an immunity zone where practically no surgical operation could block them,” he said.
    But while Barak called it “a challenge for the whole world” to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, he stopped short of confirming any action that could further stoke Washington’s concern about a possible Israeli military strike.
    Iran has accused Israel of masterminding the killing of Iranian scientists involved in the nuclear program, but Barak declined to comment on that.
    Earlier, he told a panel discussion that “a stable world order” is incompatible with a nuclear-armed Iran because countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt will all want the bomb.
    “This will be the end of any nonproliferation regime,” Barak said. “The major powers in the region will all feel compelled to turn nuclear.”

UN voices concern after Iraq executes dozens in one day
Reuters
(1/24/12)

U.N. rights chief shocked at numerous Iraq executions

The top United Nations human rights official criticized Iraq on Tuesday for carrying out a large number of executions, including 34 on a single day last week, and voiced concern about due process and the fairness of trials.

“Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, in a statement referring to executions carried out on January 19.

“Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure,” she added.

At least 63 people are believed to have been executed since mid-November in Iraq, where the death penalty can be imposed for some 48 crimes including a number related to non-fatal crimes such as damage to public property, Pillay said.

“Most disturbingly, we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress,” she said.

Iraq executed 12 people on November 24 for their involvement in the 2006 killing of 70 people at a wedding in central Iraq, the justice ministry said.

  • Of course, that’s not the only violence taking place in Iraq, as Al Jazeera reports in, “Dozens dead in Baghdad blast“:
    At least 32 people have been killed, half of them police officers, after a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives at a funeral procession in southeastern Baghdad.
    Police officials said the blast occurred on Friday morning in the mostly Shia neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, where mourners had gathered for the funeral of Mohammed al-Maliki, a real-estate agent who was killed along with his wife and son a day earlier.
    They said 65 people were wounded in the explosion, including 16 officers, which struck as the procession was transporting Maliki’s body for the funeral services.
    Hospital officials confirmed the death toll, and said that at least four of those killed were women.
    Salam Hussein, a 42-year-old grocery store owner in Zafaraniyah said he was watching the funeral procession, which was heavily guarded by police, when the blast blew out his store windows and injured one of his workers.
    “It was a huge explosion,” Hussein said.
    As he took his worker to the hospital, Hussein said he saw cars engulfed in flames, “human flesh scattered around and several mutilated bodies in a pool of blood” around where the attacker’s car had exploded.
  • In other Iraq news, The Washington Post reports, “Baghdad landing by U.S. helicopter sparks rumors U.S. troops still in Iraq“:
    A helicopter operated by the U.S. Embassy made an emergency landing near the Tigris River on Friday, setting off rumors among Iraqi citizens that U.S. combat troops hadn’t actually left.
    The helicopter was on a routine flight transporting embassy personnel over Baghdad, according to embassy officials.
    “The helicopter experienced a mechanical problem, requiring it to land. The pilot controlled the landing and set it down near the Tigris River. No one was injured and no property was damaged,” Michael McClellan, an embassy spokesman, said in a statement.
    Last month, U.S. combat troops left Iraq, but the U.S. Embassy maintains a large diplomatic presence here.
    According to one Iraqi media report, a U.S. Embassy helicopter experienced mechanical failure and landed in Baghdad. Residents wondered whether it was a U.S. military mission, according to interviews with people who asked not to be named to protect their privacy. Other residents wondered how a U.S. helicopter, with all its advanced technology, could have such problems.
    For weeks, many Iraqis have had trouble believing that the combat force that invaded their country has fully left, and U.S. troops are quietly stationed somewhere.
    Embassy officials, who operate out of a heavily fortified and guarded compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone, said the incident was handled without much incident.
    After the helicopter touched down, diplomats called Iraqi security forces, which quickly responded and secured the area, McClellan said. A U.S. embassy flat-bed truck arrived, and took the helicopter back to the American Embassy under Iraqi security escort.
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Nine Circles of Hell!: Friday, January 27, 2012
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