The Nine Circles! Thursday: Blame It On The Dog Nine Circles of Hell!

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Wal-Mart’s CEO knew of Mexico bribes since 2005.
Bloomberg News explains, “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke knew about allegations of bribery in the retailer’s operations in Mexico in 2005, two U.S. Congressmen said.
“Documents obtained by their staffs show that Duke and senior Wal-Mart officials were informed about allegations of corruption regarding a store in Teotihuacan, Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Elijah Cummings of Maryland said today in a statement.
“Wal-Mart is investigating allegations that executives in Mexico paid more than $24 million in bribes to speed the retailer’s expansion there. The company also is the subject of a U.S. Justice Department criminal investigation, a person familiar with the probe has said.”
Meanwhile, in India Wal-Mart is embroiled in yet another controversy over payments that the company may view as ‘lobbying’ but critics may see as ‘bribes.’
Back in the US, ‘real Americans’ continue to ‘vote with their dollars’ and support the world’s largest retailer.

UN mediator says ‘too little, too late’ on Assad’s promise of reforms.
The Telegraph reports, “President Bashar al-Assad was rebuked by the UN-backed mediator on the Syrian crisis on Wednesday for hardening his line on concessions to the opposition in a bleak assessment of the chances for peace.
“Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian troubleshooter in conflict, said that President Assad had hinted that he was prepared to make a gesture of conciliation in response to the nationwide uprising in a meeting last month.
“However a speech on Sunday, President Assad merely reiterated discredited promises of internal reforms and was ‘more sectarian and one-sided’ than previous offers of talks.”
Brahimi continues, “The time of reforms granted magnanimously from above has passed. People want to have a say in how they are governed and they want to take hold of their own future.
“In Syria, in particular, I think that what people are saying is that a family ruling for 40 years is a little bit too long.
“So the change has to be real. It has to be real, and I think that President Assad could take the lead in responding to the aspiration of his people rather than resisting it.”
Walid Saffour, an opposition spokesman in Britain, said in response, “The statement of Lakhdar Brahimi has been long-awaited. He hasn’t criticised Bashar al-Assad before. But now after he despaired after Assad’s Sunday speech, he had no other alternative than to say to the world that this rule is a family rule, and more than 40 years is enough.”
So much for negotiations.

Three Kurdish women — including ‘the founder of the PKK’ — were murdered in Paris.
Radio France Internationale tells us, “French anti-terrorist police are searching for the murderer of three Kurdish women activists, shot dead in Paris on Wednesday. There is no doubt that the killings were an execution, Interior Minster Manuel Valls said on Thursday morning.
“One of the victims, Sakine Cansiz, was ‘one of the founders of the PKK’ – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that has been conducting a guerrilla struggle in Turkey since 1984 – according to the Kurdish Associations Federation in France.
“Another, 32-year-old Fidan Dogan, worked at the Kurdistan Information Centre, where the murders took place.
“The third, Leyla Soylemez, was described as a ‘young activist.’
Interior Minster Valls said, “Three women have been shot, killed, without doubt executed. That’s serious and that’s why I’m here. It’s completely unacceptable.”
RFI concludes, “The killings come amid reports that jailed PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan has reached an agreement with the Turkish government to stop attacks as from March as part of a staged end of hostilities in exchange for increased rights for Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
“The vice-president of Turkey’s ruling Truth and Justice Party (AKP), Huseyin Celik, claimed on Thursday that the killing appeared to be the result of internal disputes within the PKK.”
Some Kurds, however, believe this was an attack by Turks against Kurd activism. And they blame the killing on French President Francois Hollande.
It’ll be interesting to see how the French Kurds — and Kurds in general — react, and who eventually will be fingered for the crime.

One of India’s gang-rape suspects said police tortured him.
Times of India finds, “One of the five men charged with the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman said police tortured him in custody and he and at least three of his co-defendants say they are innocent, lawyers said on Thursday.
The times continues, “One of the men, Mukesh Singh, the brother of a bus driver who police say was the leader of the gang, will base his defence on police brutality, his lawyer said.
Lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma said, “Mukesh was illegally tortured in the custody of the police.”
The Times explains, “For days after their arrest, soon after the December 16 assault on the woman and a male companion, none of the men had a lawyer. Most members of the judiciary refused to represent them because of the outrage over the attack.
“Police conducted extensive interrogations of the men in the absence of any lawyer and they say they have recorded confessions.
“The hearings, which are closed to the media, are taking place in a court across the street from a cinema where the victim watched a movie before boarding the bus with a friend who was also severely beaten …
“[L]egal experts had said the earlier lack of representation for the five suspects could give grounds for appeal if they were found guilty. Convictions in similar cases have often been overturned years later.”
Humans the world over may never learn that committing a crime against those who committed a crime simply ain’t right.

There’s been another deadly Indo-Pak incident at the Kashmir border.
The Express Tribune observes, “The Pakistani military said Indian troops shot and killed a Pakistani soldier on Thursday, the third deadly cross-border incident reported in five days in divided Kashmir.”
The Express continues, “The two countries have largely observed ceasefire along the LoC in the last ten years and have also taken steps to normalise relations. Kashmir, one of the oldest UN-recognised unresolved disputes, however, remains the underlying cause of tensions between the two South Asian nuclear powers.
“On January 8, India claimed that firing across the LoC by Pakistani soldiers had killed two of its troops, with the spokesman for the Indian Army’s Northern Control stating this was a violation of the ceasefire agreed on by the two sides.
“Pakistan has denied being involved in any incident of unprovoked firing, but cites an incident on January 6, when it says Indian troops attacked a base and killed one of its soldiers. In turn, India denies this and said its positions had been bombarded for five hours by Pakistan.”
Happy New Year!

Dozens of Pakistanis have died bombings.
According to Reuters, “Bomb blasts in two Pakistani cities killed 32 people and injured more than 100, police and hospital officials said.
“A bomb in Quetta, the capital of the eastern province of Balochistan, killed 11 people and injured more than 40, police officer Zubair Mehmood said. A local militant group claimed responsibility.
“Another 21 were killed and more than 60 injured in a bombing where people had gathered to hear a religious leader speak in Mingora, the largest city in the northwestern province of Swat, police and officials at the Saidu Sharif hospital said.”
Reuters explains, “It has been more than two years since a militant attack has claimed that many lives in Swat.
“The mountainous region, formerly a tourist destination, has been administered by the Pakistani army since their 2009 offensive drove out Taliban militants who had taken control.”
Reuters concludes, “The United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for the blast.
“The group is one of several who are fighting for independence for Balochistan, an arid and impoverished region with substantial gas, copper and gold reserves.
“It constitutes just under half of Pakistan’s territory and is home to about 8 million of the country’s population of 180 million.
“Human rights groups say hundreds of bodies have been recovered in the region since 2011. Many have broken limbs, cigarette burns or other signs of torture. Local activists blame the security services.
“The state denies the accusations and says that insurgents sometimes put on military uniforms before kidnapping people.
“Sectarian attacks are also on the rise, and militant groups frequently bomb or shoot Shia passengers on buses travelling to neighboring Iran.”
So this wasn’t the Taliban but yet another faction attacking Pakistan.
There’s talk of when the US will leave Afghanistan. Any word when the US will leave the whole Af-Pak area?

Mali has lost another city to rebels.
The Associated Press informs us, “Mali’s Islamist rebels seized control of the central city of Konna Thursday, encroaching further on government-held territory, said the rebels’ spokesman.
“Konna, a city of 50,000 people 700 kilometers (435 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, fell from the government to the rebels, Sanda Abu Mohammed, spokesman of the Ansar Dine rebels, told The Associated Press on the phone from Timbuktu.
“The fall of Konna marks a significant push by the rebels to Mali’s center.”
For those of you who don’t know about the simmering war in Mali that we’re all about to get stuck in, the AP says, “Since April the Islamist rebels have occupied the vast desert of northern Mali, an area the size of France. The Islamists took advantage of a power vacuum in Mali following a March coup that overthrew the democratically elected president.
“The Islamist rebels — a coalition of three groups including Ansar Dine, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO — have been implementing a strict version of Islamic law in the north, carrying out public executions, amputations and whippings.
“The Islamists are carving out their own country in northern Mali and making it a center for extremism, threatening neighboring countries, according to security experts.
“The United Nations Security Council has authorized military action to help the government regain control of the north, but says there must first be political progress made following the military coup last year.”
To be honest, I’m surprised the west hasn’t already sent in the troops. They’ve said they will, they simply haven’t done it yet.

Lula to be investigated in Brazilian vote-buying scandal.
Buenos Aires Herald finds, “Brazilian prosecutors will likely investigate former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s alleged involvement in a vote-buying scheme in Congress that led to the conviction of several of his closest aides for corruption, two newspapers reported.
“O Estado de Sao Paulo and Folha de Sao Paulo newspapers said the government’s chief prosecutor Roberto Gurgel has recommended that the allegations be heard in court after the businessman at the center of the corruption case, Marcos Valerio, alleged Lula not only knew about the illegal scheme but received money from it.
“Government sources told reporters that Gurgel had decided not to investigate the allegations himself and has sent the case to a lower federal court where Lula can be probed because he no longer has immunity from prosecution.
“Lula led Brazil from 2003-10 and is the political mentor to current President Dilma Rousseff. Although Rousseff has so far avoided any negative political fallout from the years-old scandal, that could change if Lula is found to have been directly involved.
“Valerio was sentenced to 40 years in jail for channeling public money to politicians during the early years of Lula’s presidency, and his credibility as a witness is in some doubt.
“The vote-buying scandal that erupted in 2005 almost brought down Lula’s government and led to the biggest political corruption trial in Brazilian history that ended last year.
“Three top leaders of Lula’s Workers’ Party, including his former chief of staff Jose Dirceu, were sentenced in November to more than 10 years in prison for running a political bribery scheme in which congressmen received monthly payments to vote for legislation proposed by Lula’s minority government.
“The case, heard by Brazil’s Supreme Court, gripped Brazil for months, bringing an unprecedented level of accountability to a country long used to widespread corruption.
“Lula was not charged in the scandal. He has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the vote-buying scheme and has even suggested it never existed. Though Lula remains Brazil’s most popular politician, the convictions have tarnished the memory of his time in office and marred his legacy.
“Among the more serious accusations he made, Valerio said Lula authorized loans from state banks to the Workers’ Party that provided the funds to bribe politicians.”
If anyone can find an article telling me this is nothing more than a witch hunt against a true reformer, Lula, send it to me because I cannot find ONE.

Mexican police are blaming killings on packs of wild dogs — but not everybody’s buying it.
The Guardian gives the grim details: “Crime scene tape strung between trees in a hilly park in the working class Mexico City suburb of Iztapalapa marks the place where a teenage couple were found dead last weekend, the flesh torn from their bones.
“A week earlier, a young mother and her baby were found similarly mutilated. A cuddly toy and solitary, deflating gas balloon are the only remaining signs of the grim discovery.
“It might all look depressingly familiar in the context of Mexico’s drug wars, in which tortured bodies dumped in the dust no longer even shock. But in these cases the Mexican authorities have discounted human depravity and are instead blaming a marauding pack of stray dogs, conjuring up a different kind of horror – and a new furore.
“City investigators said the victims died from loss of blood due to wounds – including severed limbs – caused by many dogs, and that no other kinds of wounds were found. They said 56 wild dogs had now been rounded up and samples from their claws, hair and faeces were being analysed for human remains. DNA tests would determine whether there were any matches with the four victims.
“Authorities said on Wednesday that the death of a teenage girl in December in the same area was also being linked to the dogs.”
They quote María, who lives in a shack about 50 meters from where the couple died, saying, “It just isn’t credible. There are a lot of dogs here but they run away from us and the night it happened we didn’t hear anything. No barks, no screams, nothing.”
The Guardian adds, “Even officers from the Animal Vigilance Brigade don’t seem completely convinced. Returning from a patrol of the area, officer Armando García said that when rounding up the dogs the brigade found a pack living inside abandoned drains. They were aggressive –normal seeing as their territory was being invaded – but the bodies were not found near that part of the hill …
Surveying the scene with tears in her eyes, Ana María Martínez finds it hard to accept that the death of her brother and his girlfriend was due to atypical animal behaviour and is convinced that people must have been involved – perhaps with trained attack dogs.”
The Guardian continues, “animal rights activists have made ample use of photographs showing a motley collection of rather docile-looking animals now behind bars. Twitter hashtags buzz with ironic taunts claiming that the dogs are scapegoats. Demonstrations are planned for the weekend.”
The Guardian concludes, “Whatever the truth, the case has highlighted a genuine problem of abandoned pets both in the capital and across Mexico. It is reportedly particularly acute in Ciudad Juarez, where dogs left behind by families fleeing drug violence have since produced several new generations.
“Authorities in Mexico City, who say hospitals treat around 1,000 serious dog bites a year, are now promising free mass sterilization, as well as educational campaigns and the promotion of adoption. This seems set to begin with the alleged killers of Iztapalapa who, guilty or not, they have promised will not be put down but given to animal welfare groups.”
Detroit, Tehran and now Juarez. This is the third time I’ve reported on dog packs since beginning this show in 1996.
If you have one, post your favorite dog pack story.
Dog pack stories are a sure Circle of Hell!

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The Nine Circles! Thursday: Blame It On The Dog
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  • Ram Stedler

    Thanks for the “9 circles”. I find myself coming back to the site to read these every morning with my coffee.