Nine Circles of Hell!: Tuesday, May 29, 2012
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.
US housing prices have hit a new low. That is, US housing prices rose in March. Wait, what? The Guardian reports, “US home prices reached new lows in the first quarter of the year. All three Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home-price indexes ended the quarter at new post-crisis lows. Home prices are down about 35% from their peak in the second quarter of 2006. The Case-Shiller index of 10 major metropolitan areas was down 2.8% in March from a year earlier. The 20-city index was off 2.6%. As of March, average home prices were at levels last reached in late 2002 for the 20-city measure and early 2003 levels for the 10-city composite.” Meanwhile, Reuters reports, “US single-family home prices edged higher in March, the second month in row of gains, adding to signs the housing market is stabilizing. The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.1 per cent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, falling shy of economists’ forecasts for a gain of 0.2 per cent. Prices in the 20 cities fell 2.6 per cent from a year ago, an improvement from the 3.5-per-cent yearly decline seen last month.” If you can explain how two articles can take the same statistics and come up with opposing stories and headlines, feel free to enlighten us. Here’s a bit of money news that is going unquestioned. While she blasts Greeks for not paying their taxes, IMF chief Christine Lagarde pays no taxes on her annual salary of $467,940 or her additional $83,760 annual allowance. As The Guardian reports, “Lagarde, 56, receives a pay and benefits package worth more than American president Barack Obama earns from the United States government, and he pays taxes on it.” We’re not saying the Greeks are paying their taxes, but it’s no wonder they’re upset over the criticism when it comes from someone who pays no taxes herself. The war of words between Turkey and Israel has also heated up. A Turkish court has indicted four senior Israeli military figures for involvement in the deadly Gaza flotilla raid. The New York Times reports that, “In response, a senior Israeli official said the Turkish government had apparently decided to kill what was left of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.” The Greeks are upset with the IMF chief. The Turks and Israelis are upset with each other, and the Russians are upset with the US after remarks made by a US envoy. The US ambassador to Russia claims Moscow tried to bribe Kyrgyzstan into evicting US forces from an air base. The US ambassador, Michael McFaul, said Russia had “put a big bribe on the table” to get Kyrgyzstan to kick out US forces. Reuters reports that McFaul said “half-jokingly that the United States had offered its own bribe but that it was “about 10 times smaller.’” The Russian Foreign Ministry reeled a statement saying McFaul “knows better (than Russia) what bribes Washington gave to whom.” Russia also believes they know the source of a super virus that’s making Stuxnet look amateur. The new “Flame” cyberweapon supervirus is infecting computers in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. According to The Christian Science Monitor, the Russian security firm Kaspersky Labs “found the virus accidentally, after it was hired by the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Agency to trace the source of unexplained glitches and deletions of sensitive information in the agency’s Middle East operations.” While Kaspersky says the virus’ creator “remains unknown,” they added that it’s probably a government because its huge, complex and doesn’t do the kinds of things that private criminal hackers usually do – like steal bank account information. Kaspersky warns that unlike Stuxnet, Flame evades detection, buries itself deep in code, and steals vital data for years. An expanded cyberwar, of course, can be very dangerous. However, there’s nothing quite ass deadly as real war. There are ways to make war seem less deadly, especially to innocent civilians who happen to get caught up in the violence. As The New York Times reports, “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent … This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths.” The Times goes on to report some other disturbing details in the war on terror. “Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding ‘kill list,’ poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre ‘baseball cards’ of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.” While attempts to underestimate civilian deaths in war time and the idea of ‘kill lists’ are deeply disturbing, there’s nothing quite like self-immolation. Tibetan self-immolations in protest of Chinese authority took place over the weekend for the very first time in the Tibetan capital. Suicide isn’t just for Tibetans. A rash of suicides over the weekend has stunned France, the European capital of suicides. In France, over the weekend twelve people committed suicide over the weekend by jumping in front of trains. Michelle Funk, a mental health researcher from the World Health Organization is quoted by France 24 saying that it was “very unusual indeed … It might even suggest that there may have been some form of communication between the victims. At such a high rate, it’s something that would need assessing. If these deaths are sensationalized by the media then they’re sadly likely to lead to more deaths. People who are feeling desperate may hear about this and think ‘they’ve done it, so so can I’. One of the ways we try to address suicide is by preventing the means. That means preventing access to guns, for example, or to pesticides. But in this circumstance, there’s very little you can do.”
That’s the Nine Circles of Hell! for Tuesday, May 29, 2012.
Come back tomorrow for The Nine! at Noon!