I wonder when we're going to get around to destroying -- or at least degrading -- these people:
The country is notorious for its draconian laws, which are derived from a strict Wahhabist interpretation of Islamic doctrine. In the space of two weeks last month, according to the rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia executed as many as 22 people. At least eight of those executed were beheaded, U.N. observers say.
It appears that the majority of those executed in August were guilty of nonlethal crimes, including drug trafficking, adultery, apostasy and "sorcery." Four members of one family, Amnesty reports, were beheaded for "receiving drugs."
There’s something different about this year’s 13th anniversary of the terrorist attack on America, September 11, 2001. It’s the first one since the May opening of the museum attached to the National September 11 Memorial at the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan – an inevitable rite of transition, as the horrific and vivid images from that morning fade into the somewhat foggier haze of history.
Visitors to the museum can see the significant and the trivial reminders of that day – from the wallets of the dead and the dust-encrusted boots of rescue workers to the farewell letter written in Arabic by some of the al-Qaeda terrorists – but for some the museum’s lasting impression is its assertive and perhaps suffocating security. The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnick, in an essay on the museum this summer, wrote of his alarm at watching security guards yelling “Don’t advance” at visitors who seemed to stray from the admission line, and “You there, down!” at children who stood on the concrete benches outside…as children are wont to do.
Wrote Gopnick: “The idea that we celebrate the renewal of our freedom by deploying uniformed guards to prevent children from playing in an outdoor park is not just bizarre in itself but participates in a culture of fear that the rest of the city, having tested, long ago discarded.”
To paraphrase the cook on the Edmund Fitzgerald, "Fella, it's been good to know ya." (Actually not really.)
Homework assignment: Read this absolutely essential article in the Guardian by Trevor Timm -- I'll have some more to add later tonight. Here's an excerpt:
How many people wake up and ask themselves, “I wonder what Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger think about Isis?” Outside of a few TV bookers, absolutely no one does – but with war on the horizon, the nation’s most awful surviving warmongers get to go back on the television circuit and address members of Congress, explaining that, if we just drop a few more bombs, it’ll actually work this time! (Unlike all the other times.)
Thanks to this wall-to-wall fear mongering, a once war-weary public is now terrified. More than 60% of the public in a recent CNN poll now supports airstrikes against Isis. Two more polls came out on Tuesday, one from the Washington Post and the other from NBC New and the Wall Street Journal, essentially concluding the same thing. Most shocking, 71% think that Isis has terrorist sleeper cells in the United States, against all evidence to the contrary.
Let's be clear: There's only one person to blame for Ray Rice's firing from the Baltimore Ravens and his suspension from the NFL -- and that's Rice and his violent, reprehensible violence toward his future wife. But you have to wonder if the abysmal state of Atlantic City -- and New Jersey's bass-ackwards "economic development" policies -- played a tiny role in triggering the chain of events that caused Rice to bump ISIS terrorists off America's tabloid front pages.
Well, one angle that's failed to get a lot of focus on this whole sordid matter is how did TMZ Sports (Really? That's a thing?) even get the video? And why now, and not during the initial media frenzy earlier this year over how Janay Rice came to be knocked unconscious in an AC elevator? We don't know -- there's always a possibility that someone in local law-enforcement who was disgusted with Rice's legal wrist-slap punishment leaked it, or maybe a whistle-blower within the NFL, although the NFL has denied six ways to Any Given Sunday that it saw the footage before it was on TMZ.
You could say this was the best of times and the worst of times for journalism in Philadelphia -- which would be an embarrassingly trite cliche, so I guess you can file this sentence in the "worst of times" category. Anyway, I don't need to tell about the rest of the worst -- you probably know most it, and I'd get in trouble if I told you the stuff you don't know about. So what's the good news? Well, for one thing, the fast-shifting media environment has meant some good reporting over the last few years from startups like WHHY's Newsworks and the already departed AxisPhilly, with more creative disruption promised by the launching BillyPenn.com. among others.
But more importantly, we forget that -- amid the doom and gloom -- some of the best writing in the long history of Philadelphia has happened here in the last few decades, some of it in the last couple of years. Some of that work has been justly celebrated -- you know all about my friends and colleagues Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman here at the Daily News, who won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the corruption on the Philadelphia police force that the Establishment will still go to any length to keep covered up. But a lot of riveting storytelling -- "longform," or "long reads" as the kids like to call it -- doesn't get the glory it deserves.
A new website is trying to change that. It's called Longform Philly (here's its Twitter feed) and it's a great way to kill. um, several hours . Some of the writers over at Tommy Rowan's new joint are pretty well known -- Mark Bowden, some guy named Bissinger, and you could also check out my favorite "lede" (journalismese for "the beginning") by the late great Richard Ben Cramer of the Inquirer. Even better, some of the cool stuff that my Daily News colleagues have done both recently and in the past -- Jason Nark with a touching tale of fatherhood, David Lee Preston on his mom, a Holocaust survivor, and Stephanie Farr's own, personal Philly Jesus -- gets its due.
Until the remarkable video obtainers of TMZ did their handiwork on Ray Rice, I couldn't pass a TV screen today that didn't have the same one headline, about how President Obama is set to reveal his plan for dealing with ISIS, or ISIL (I'm hoping that the first part of his plan will be an executive decision on what to call them). No doubt, ISIS -- or ISIL, for that matter -- is a huge problem for the world in 2014. The actions of this terrorist group -- beheading innocent journalists, threatening genocide against minority groups in Iraq, imposing harsh religious law on unwilling communities -- are not only barbaric and despicable, but they threaten even more instability in the most unstable region of the world.
But ISIS also a) poses no special threat to what we now call, for better or worse, "the homeland" -- despite some embarassingly hysterical journalism to the contrary and b) is one of several lethal assaults on world stability, along with Russia's incursions into the Ukraine and Ebola in Africa, among others.
Meanwhile, the media's and the Beltway establishment's OCD-like fixation on ISIS has ground to a halt the brief conversation after Ferguson (remember that?) about something that actually poses a much greater threat to the stability of the United States: Gross inequality.
Most of the folks that I follow in my Twitter timeline are focused on current affairs, culture or especially politics...and then there's sports. Today those two worlds collided in a nuclear chain reaction, with the shock video showing Ray Rice, (then) of the Baltimore Ravens, striking his then-fiancee, now wife, in the elevator of the then-Revel casino in Atlantic City. Suddenly, no one can talk about anything else.
Within a couple of angst-filled hours, the Ravens cut Rice, the NFL suspended him indefinitely, and it seems like a star running back in the prime of his career may never play another down. And that's clearly the right thing to do; pro football needs to send a clear -- albeit ridiculously belated -- message that was Rice did was way out of bounds and that domestic violence will not be tolerated, period.
Here's what I don't get. The NFL and the Ravens knew this summer that Rice had struck Janay Palmer hard enough to knock her unconscious -- video had already been made public that showed him dragging her from the elevator, knocked out cold. Based on that, the league suspended Rice for a whopping two games. The only new information today was that we saw the film of Rice doing what the world already knew that he'd done -- throwing the punch that knocked her out.