Nine Circles of Hell!: Thursday, May 31, 2012 Nine Circles of Hell!


Your bitter blind broke gap-toothed radio show host Chuck Mertz‘s blog, ‘The Nine Circles of Hell!,’ is now posted every week day, Monday through Friday, at Noon (US central). It’s all the news that give you fits in print, today’s nine reminders that ‘This is Hell!’

Click on any of the Nine Circles! in bold to go directly to the original article.

“The massacre of civilians of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into catastrophic civil war – a civil war from which the country would never recover,” says UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can foresee “a civil war in a country that would be riven by sectarian divides, which then could morph into a proxy war in the region.” Meanwhile, US envoy to the UN Susan Rice described what she called a worst case and most likely scenario in which “the violence escalates, the conflict spreads and intensifies … It involves countries in the region, it takes on increasingly sectarian forms, and we have a major crisis not only in Syria but in the region.” Reuters also quotes someone they call a ‘senior army commander in Israel’ who said Syria was heading for collapse and would become a “warehouse of weapons” for Islamist militants. Rebels inside Syria issued a 48-hour ultimatum to President Bashir al-Assad to comply with Annan’s peace plan. Then, some guy Reuters calls ‘Syria’s main rebel commander’ – who happens to be based in Turkey – tells Annan to declare the peace plan dead so insurgents can be freed from current constraints on fighting. The ‘commander,’ a Colonel Riad al-Asaad said, “There is no deadline, but we want Kofi Annan to issue a declaration announcing the failure of this plan so that we would be free to carry out any military operation against the regime.” Syria’s foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, however, says that in the massacre in Houla, “Women, children and old men were shot dead. This is not the response of the heroic Syrian army.” The Guardian reports that the killers are likely “armed civilian militias from nearby Alawite villages, who are known to Syrians as shabiha.” These groups are pro-Assad, reportedly have had a relative legal immunity under his government, and have done much of the suppression of the uprising, including the intense violence in Homs. So, who’s paying the shabiha? Sunni, not Alawite, businessmen who found their riches in post-2005 Lebanon pullout Syria. The Guardian reports, “As profit moved away from smuggling and towards more legitimate business interests, a small core of well-connected operators grabbed control of industries, equipment, franchises and car dealerships – one of the central complaints of ordinary Syrians as the uprising has gathered momentum in the last year.” Baghdad was rocked by its worst violence in over a month as 16 were killed in separate bombings throughout the city while, according to Agence France Presse, “international energy companies met in the center of the capital to bid on nationwide oil and gas exploration blocks.” An “Al Qaeda front group in Iraq” claimed responsibility for last month’s attack that killed 17. In April, 126 Iraqis were killed according to official records, and that’s called an improvement. There’s no question it’s getting worse in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Samuel Dixon, Oxfam’s policy adviser in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, says, “The crisis in Congo is the worst it has been for years. The activity of armed groups has exploded, with militias making the most of the chaos to prey on the local population. Large areas of [North and South] Kivu are under the control of different armed groups – some villages are being terrorized from all sides, with up to five groups battling for power. Local people are bearing the brunt of extreme violence, facing the risk of massacre, rape, retaliation, abduction, mutilation, forced labor or extortion … In less than two months, more than 100,000 people in North Kivu have been forced to flee.” While people are fleeing Congo, they’re being rounded up in Tibet. Sunday’s two anti-China self-immolation actions, the first to take place in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa, were followed up by detentions of hundreds of suspected anti-Chinese Tibetans. As Reuters reports, “At least 35 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March 2011 in protest against China’s six-decade rule over Tibet, according to Tibetan rights groups. At least 27 have died.” It seems that despite all the horrors we have experienced, we never learn our lesson. A whistleblower won $31 million from Citigroup accusing its home-loan division of systematically violating US mortgage regulations. Citigroup didn’t dispute any of the whistleblower’s facts and didn’t even mount a defense in public or in court. Bloomberg Markets reports, “Citigroup admitted approving loans for government insurance that didn’t qualify under Federal Housing Administration rules. Prosecutors kept open the possibility of bringing criminal charges, without specifying targets.” In February, Citigroup agreed to pay $158.3 million to the US government to settle. The fact that this is still going on led Neil Barofsky, former special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, to say, “This case demonstrates that the notion that the bailed-out banks have somehow found God and have reformed their ways in the aftermath of the financial crisis is pure myth.” Big banks not learning their lesson from the financial crisis isn’t a surprise, but it is frighteningly disappointing. It’s also not a surprise to find out that corporations are still trying to greenwash their images. The disappointing part is when you find out how frighteningly hard they work behind the scenes to continue their climate warming ways. A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “A Climate of Corporate Control,” shows some major US corporations that support climate science in public also work hard in private to derail measures meant to address global warming. For instance, ConocoPhillips’s website claims it “recognizes” that human activity is leading to climate change but argued against the Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling that heat-trapping greenhouse gases were pollutants that endangered the public. The report points out how General Electric backs six environmental and non-partisan research groups that accept the scientific consensus on climate change, but also funds four organizations that reject or question the consensus, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation. GE is also a member of several anti-environment groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. When it comes to Caterpillar, for every member of Congress the corporation has given money to who accepts climate change, it has backed five who don’t. The analysis found that while all companies said they were taking voluntary steps to fight climate change, “half of them also misrepresented some element of established climate science in their public communications.” While those corporations posture and profit, the world burns. The Associated Press reports, “The world’s air has reached what scientists call a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide, the main global warming pollutant. Monitoring stations across the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. It’s been at least 800,000 years — probably more — since Earth saw carbon dioxide levels in the 400s … Until now.”

That’s the Nine Circles of Hell! for Thursday, May 31, 2012.

Come back Sunday forThe Nine Circles of Hell!: Sunday Morning Edition!