Early Wednesday, FBI agents and Massachusetts State Police officers met with Ibragim Todashev in the kitchen of his Orlando, Florida home. Their objective was to question him about his relationship with Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—the men responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing last month—in an effort to determine whether or not he was involved in that horrific attack.
Like the Tsarnaev brothers, Todashev was a Chechen who was granted political asylum in the United States, his coming in 2008. He met the brothers several years ago in Boston—which has a tight-knit community of Chechens—and was a member of the same mixed martial arts forum as Tamerlan: Sherdog.com. Todashev even had Tamerlan’s number in his cell phone and, according to his friend Khasuen Taramov, had spoken with the soon-to-be terrorist just one month before the bombing.
Supposedly, though, he had no knowledge of what was to come. Not that I believe that for a second, especially given what happened later in Todashev’s interview.
At first, the conversation between the new suspect and law enforcement officials seemed to be going well. Todashev was forthright with information and even confessed to being involved in an as-yet-unsolved triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts two years ago. Of course, he also claimed to have had help in the brutal crime from—you guessed it—Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
From what I understand, Tamerlan and Todashev were involved in some drug deal that went horribly wrong. By the time it was all over, they had murdered three people—slitting their throats from ear-to-ear and pulling their heads back—sprinkled marijuana over their bodies as some kind of “symbolic gesture” and fled before authorities could discover their identities. Some have even claimed one of the victims was a former sparring partner of Tamerlan’s.
For years—and until the revelations of earlier this week—the Chechen killers escaped prosecution and weren’t even suspected in the unsolved crime. That obviously changed on Wednesday.
After delivering his confession to authorities—and knowing full well he would face criminal charges as a result—Todashev suddenly grabbed a knife and lunged at the officers. An FBI agent who was present had no choice but to shoot his attacker, killing him instantly and bringing the interview to a rather abrupt end.
What happens next remains to be seen, but I get the feeling this latest development is only the tip of the iceberg. Investigators are still trying to determine how involved Tamerlan Tsarnaev—and now Ibragim Todashev—were in Chechen extremist groups, especially those that engaged Russian forces in 2012 when both men were in the region. And I’m sure one clue will lead to another until an entire network of Islamist extremists is revealed.
I just hope that I’m wrong.
Some disturbing news has just come from London where a British soldier was hacked to pieces and killed by two alleged Islamic fundamentalists in broad daylight.
And it was so shocking—and so surreal—that even I couldn’t believe it at first.
The attack happened on Thursday near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, a working-class and multicultural area in the southern part of the city. The victim—whose family has asked that he not be identified—was apparently a soldier returning from duty in central London when he was suddenly struck by a car on a busy Woolwich street.
Two men armed with knives, cleavers and a gun leapt from the car, approached the injured solider and did the unthinkable before pedestrians even knew what was happening: they started stabbing, cutting and slashing him to bits. One witness said it seemed as if they were trying to remove the man’s organs.
“These two guys were crazed,” the witness known only as James explained. “They were just not there. They were just animals.”
What happened next, though, was even more bizarre.
With the bloody corpse of the dead solider still lying in the street—and with dozens of witnesses struggling to make sense of the gruesome scene—the men did not flee or even attempt to leave. Instead, one of them approached a bus and started asking people to take his picture and to film him.
An unidentified man on his way to a job interview stumbled across the scene, whipped out his phone and started filming. Before he could react, he was approached by one of the killers, who still held the cleaver and knife and was covered in blood. Of course, to say this freaked the cameraman out would be an understatement, but the killer did his best to put him at ease.
“No, no, no. It’s cool,” the killer told him. “I just want to talk to you.”
At this point, the blood-soaked murderer went off on a tirade that went something like this: “You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we can all live in peace… We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone… The only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily.”
Easy for him to say after slaughtering an innocent person in the street, but there’s more. The killer noticed some women walking by and apologized to them for having to witness such carnage. He also said, “But in our lands, our women have to see the same.”
You can view coverage from the scene by going HERE, but I warn you. The images are kind of graphic.
Police received the first call regarding this terrible crime around 2:15 p.m. and it took them nearly half an hour to respond. Once they arrived, though, the killers apparently rushed them and both men were shot and injured. They now reside in local hospitals where they are being kept under armed guard.
Authorities are investigating this horrific attack and searched an address in Lincolnshire in connection with the killing, but few details have been shared with the public. A clear motive also has not been established, but based on some of the killers’ comments, it seems they object to British interference and “warmongering” in Muslim countries and felt an extreme act like this was the only way to bring attention to this issue.
Yet another case of Islamic fundamentalism, I suppose, but one that members of the Muslim community themselves have condemned. A prominent and radical leader in the British Muslim community—Anjem Choudary—had this to say of the attack: “This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life; it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act. The fault lies solely with the sickening individuals who carried out this attack.”
And if nothing else, this is the thing we must all remember: Islam wasn’t responsible for this slaughter; two crazy Muslims were. It’s like that old saying that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” From an American perspective, this is what seems to be happening in terms of our perception of Islam, but this certainly should not be the case. There are crazy people everywhere, in every country and in every religion. And it’s them we should blame when their actions harm others, not the religion they blindly follow or twist to their evil purposes.
After all, Americans like Reverend Jim Jones and David Koresh were Christians, and we know what happened to them. Jones led hundreds of his congregation members to South America and convinced them to participate in a mass suicide that claimed 908 lives. And Koresh persuaded his fellow Branch Davidians to participate in a siege against agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, one that ended in the deaths of the cult leader, 54 adults and 28 children.
It’s the PEOPLE who bring evil into this world, not their RELIGIONS. At least that’s not what their religions intend to happen. Unfortunately, no one can control how people will act, even when those acts claim to have some basis—albeit a misguided one—in religious doctrines.
Have we learned nothing from the Crusades?
Believe me. As an American—one who experienced the horror of attacks like the ones on September 11th (and had friends deeply affected by the losses of loved ones they suffered on that fateful day)—it would be all-too-easy for me to blame Islam and to label every Muslim as a potential terrorist. However, doing so would not be fair and certainly would not be accurate.
I have Muslim friends now who would never do something so terrible, especially something that would cost innocent lives. And you know why? Because they are good, decent people and because at its heart, Islam is not a religion of evil; it’s a religion of love.
In this context—and having heard nothing new in the London case (at least not yet)—I leave you with a quote from a song that may not seem to apply, but whose message is undeniably applicable to our species at large. It comes from the late, great pop superstar Michael Jackson and his duet with Paul McCartney in 1982—the hit single “Ebony and Ivory.”
There is good and bad in everyone. We learn to live, we learn to give each other what we need to survive, together alive.
It’s about time we started doing just that, don’t you think?
Singer, rapper, songwriter, American Idol judge, fashion nightmare… actress?
All of these terms describe one of the strangest women in music and arguably one of the weirdest sights you will see in theaters next year: Nicki Minaj.
It was just announced by The Hollywood Reporter that Minaj is in final talks with Cameron Diaz to appear in her next film—The Other Woman—which is scheduled to begin production in New York this spring or early summer.
Internet Movie Database describes the upcoming film like this: “After realizing she is not her boyfriend’s primary lover, a woman teams up with his wife and plots mutual revenge.”
It certainly sounds like a Cameron Diaz movie, don’t you think?
Diaz will, of course, assume the lead role. Leslie Mann from HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones will play the wife whose husband “two times” her while the voluptuous Kate Upton is slated to play her husband’s other lover.
Choosing between Leslie Man and Kate Upton? Sounds like a problem that I would love to have, but where does Nicki fit into all of this?
I’ll tell you.
Minaj is going to portray Diaz’s smart-mouthed, opinionated and thrice-married assistant. It will be her first live-action role since her actual film debut came in the form of voice talent in 2012′s Ice Age: Continental Drift—she played Steffie, a Woolly Mammoth who makes fun of Peaches, a teenage Mammoth.
Do me a favor and keep the word mammoth in mind. You’ll see why in just a moment.
Although I have never been a fan of Nicki Minaj—and actually find her to be rather irritating—I am glad she is getting the opportunity to appear in film. My reason for feeling this way, however, is a bit odd and I certainly hope people don’t take this the wrong way.
To me, film is the ideal medium for Minaj since the Big Screen is likely the only surface large enough to contain her mammoth ass!
Now do you see why remembering the word mammoth was so important! Ha ha!
I confess to being a little behind in writing about the terrible tornado that tore through Moore, Oklahoma on Monday, but there have been some new developments that warrant mentioning.
The twister—which has just been classified as an EF5, the strongest tornado category measured by the National Weather Service—tore through the small town (population 55,000) on Monday. Winds in excess of 200 miles per hour turned homes into rubble as the mile-wide tornado destroyed everything in its 17-mile path.
According to the latest reports, 24 people are dead and countless others were injured in the freak storm. Nine of the victims were children caught in Plaza Towers Elementary School when it collapsed. Initial reports indicated that they drowned in the school basement, but these were recently proven to be incorrect.
Not that this makes it any better, of course.
“We got full allocation last year with the Sandy supplemental funds. We are looking to continue the response here as well as the previous disasters,” FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said recently. “But if we have another hurricane, we may need more money.”
And we all know how hard money is to come by these days. Yikes.
The damage to Moore was so bad that city officials even had to print new road signs so survivors and rescue workers would know where to go. Obviously, the town looks like little more than a war zone, as evidenced by the picture included here.
As horrible as this storm and its impact were, the only good things to come from this disaster were the stories of heroism as people struggled to protect one another.
At Briarwood Elementary School, for instance, teachers used their bodies to shield students from harm and even sustained injuries in doing so. Suzanne Haley was one of them and ended up being impaled by the leg of a nearby desk.
“We crowded the children under desks,” she said later. “And me and a fellow teacher put ourselves in front of the desks that the children were under.”
In my opinion, Haley and everyone else who risked bodily harm to protect others deserve to be called heroes. Of course, she disagrees.
“It’s nothing anybody wouldn’t do,” Haley claimed in true hero fashion. “These children—we see their smiles, their tears, every day, in and out, and we love them.”
However, the one thing that we can control is how we react and respond to situations like this one. And based on what I’ve read and heard, the people of Moore are doing the best they can in a situation that many of us will be lucky to never experience. But they still need help.
If there is anything you can do to lend a hand to these folks, please consider doing so. Donations can be made directly to the American Red Cross by going here. And since every little bit helps, I hope you will join me in donating something to aid in the recovery. If you’re hesitant, though, please remember this:
What if it happened to you?
As I am writing this, Jodi Arias is standing before the same jury that convicted her of murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008, tugging at their heart-strings and trying her best to convince them not to sentence her to death.
Of course, this comes roughly a week after Arias told reporters that she preferred death, which she viewed as the ultimate freedom. Personally, I (and many others) felt this proclamation was little more than reverse psychology designed to influence the jury to spare her life so she could “suffer the consequences” of her crimes behind bars.
And based on what Arias has been telling jurors today, it appears that we were right. She does want to live, and she has plenty of reasons why, at least in her mind. Jodi also seems to regret her actions and the pain she’s caused to so many. I don’t buy it, but I suppose the jury might.
Here are a few highlights and notable quotations from the convicted murderer:
- Arias apologized to Alexander’s siblings for causing them so much pain, which she said she never intended.
- She referenced suicide: “Every time that I’ve had the thought or desire to commit suicide, there’s one element that has always—almost always—caused me to waiver. They’re sitting right over there. They’re my family.”
- Arias mentioned how her time in prison could be used for something positive and beneficial to society: “If I get permission, I’d like to implement a recycling program… each week huge loads of waste are hauled off to landfills. A substantial proportion of that could be kept out of landfills and recycled instead. It may even create new jobs for the people there. This is one small thing that could have a positive and far-reaching impact on the community and planet. I’d like to start a book club or reading group. Something that brings people together in a positive and constructive way so that we can share and recommend other good books and stimulate discussions of a higher nature.”
- Some family pictures were shared with the jury, obviously in an attempt to humanize Arias more. Having people view you as something besides a heartless murderer is always a good idea, I think.
- On the fact that she will never be a mother: “Because of my own terrible choices I have to lay that dream to rest.”
- At one point, Arias claimed that she never knew herself to be capable of such violence. She also apologized for “throwing mud on Travis’ name.” I think that’s the least of her concerns since a muddied name is far better than a bloody corpse, don’t you?
Aside from a few other comments here and there, this is pretty much the gist of Arias’ presentation. After closing arguments and a rebuttal from Kirk Nurmi, Arias’ defense attorney, it will be up to the jury to determine her fate. Either Arias will receive the death penalty—which will undoubtedly be followed by years of appeals—life in prison without parole or life with the eligibility for parole after 25 years.
Either way, Jodi Arias is going away for a long time… perhaps even forever. And nothing she said today convinced me that she deserves anything less than death for what she did. I only hope the jury agrees.
More to come!
I guess it had to happen sooner or later, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
Originally from Chicago—my home town, incidentally—Ray ended up in California during the tumultuous times of the early 1960s. He studied film at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and could easily have enjoyed a long and lucrative career in the movie industry if not for one life-changing event.
In 1965, Ray was walking along Venice Beach and happened upon a long-haired, modern-day poet: the one and only Jim Morrison.
Jim had written some song lyrics, which Ray immediately asked to hear. Against his better judgement—and never really considering himself to be much of a singer—Jim sang the first few lines of what would later become “Moonlight Drive.”
Check out a pretty good performance of this tune live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968 by going HERE.
And the rest, as they say, was history.
Together with guitarist Robby Krieger and percussionist John Densmore, Ray and Jim formed The Doors and provided part of the soundtrack from one of the most turbulent eras in modern American history. Songs like “The End,” “People are Strange,” “Love Her Madly” and the quintessential Doors’ hit “Light My Fire”—complete with unmistakable keyboard work from Manzarek (check it out HERE)—set the tone for the 1960s and paved the way for a multitude of singers and musicians to follow.
Bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Iggy and the Stooges, Alice in Chains, The Strokes, Fatboy Slim, Bon Jovi and countless others all cite The Doors as a major influence on their own careers and successes.
Sadly, The Doors in their original incarnation only lasted until 1971, the year of their last recorded studio album, L.A. Woman. Following the recording, Jim moved to Paris with his girlfriend Pamela Courson and started to drink and use drugs more heavily. He did manage to record a little more—taking some musicians he met on the street to an impromptu recording session—but was found dead in his bathtub on July 3rd. He was 27 years old.
Ray and the surviving members of The Doors kept their legacy alive—the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993—but life without their flamboyant front man just wasn’t the same. Each of them went on to different projects and garnered some degree of success in their professional careers, but their fame would never approach what they experienced at the height of their popularity.
For Ray, life after The Doors meant playing with other groups—including Nite City, Echo & the Bunnymen and the Los Angeles band X, which he also produced—writing poetry and a memoir—1998′s Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors—and even hosting a radio program on the BBC. Ray also managed to cut an album with slide guitarist Roy Rogers—2011′s Translucent Blues—which ranked at number three on the Top 100 Roots Rock Albums of 2011.
In other words, he lived a full, productive, successful and inspirational life. And even though he just lost his battle with cancer and passed away, his influence on music, art and film will be felt indefinitely.
I never knew Ray Manzarek personally—even though I wish that I did—but I definitely feel the loss because of how much I loved (and still love) The Doors and their music. Like many others, I started listening to Jim, Ray and the guys at an early age—during my so-called “formative” years—and even though they disbanded the year I was born—and the year Jim died—there has always been a deep connection between us. And there always will be.
Of course, Ray’s death also reminds me that no matter how much we fight it, time simply catches up to us all. It just sucks when the heroes and idols of your youth start dying off, you know? For me, Ray Manzarek was on that list. I’m going to miss him, but at least he’s in a better place.
And if I know Ray, he and Jim are probably jamming in the Great Beyond as we speak. I can almost hear those sweet keystrokes now…
“Live the life you love and love the life you live.” - Bob Marley
This quote from one of my favorite modern-day prophets—the late, great reggae pioneer Nesta Robert “Bob” Marley—was also a huge inspiration to 21-year-old Hofstra junior and public relations major Andrea Rebello.
The shooting occurred last Friday night after authorities were called to the off-campus house in Uniondale that Andrea shared with her twin sister Jessica and two friends. An unknown intruder—now identified as 30-year-old Dalton Smith, a fugitive with a long arrest record wanted for jumping his parole on first-degree robbery charges—entered the home during the early morning hours and held Andrea and one of her roommates hostage.
Fortunately, her roommate was able to escape and immediately called the police, who arrived at the address to find Smith holding a gun to Andrea’s head.
Smith threatened to kill Andrea and at some point in the action raised his gun as if he was preparing to fire at the responding officers. Gunfire was exchanged and sadly, Andrea was caught in the crossfire.
She was accidentally shot in the head and died almost instantly. Smith was also shot seven times and died at the scene. All in all, it was a pretty horrific turn-of-events.
Here was this young, intelligent and… let’s face it… drop-dead gorgeous woman so full of life and potential, only to have it all ripped away from her not by her captor, but by the law enforcement officials tasked with rescuing her.
The word unfair doesn’t even begin to describe it…
Please, please, please let this be a trend forming!
In early May, three young women in Cleveland, Ohio—Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight—were rescued after being held captive for a decade or more by Ariel Castro, a former public school bus driver.
And now it looks as if another young woman—missing for more than 18 years—has been found: Ashlyn Wilson of Oregon.
Ashlyn was abducted by her mother Tara in 1995, right after her father Dan won a custody battle with his estranged wife. Before he could even meet his new daughter, Tara kidnapped the child and kept her hidden for nearly two decades. Ashlyn has been on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children registry since her disappearance and despite working closely with law enforcement officials during her absence, Dan never knew what happened to his little girl.
At least not until this week, when Tara and Ashlyn walked into the Polk County Sheriff Department’s office in Dallas, Texas and turned themselves in.
“Both Tara and Ashlyn just showed up,” Sergeant Mark Garton told reporters recently. “Probably coinciding with Ashlyn now being 18.”
“It gets me pretty emotional when I think of speaking with her and opening the door and giving her a hug,” the overwhelmed yet ecstatic father said as he clutched the only photo he had of his daughter, taken when she was just eight months old. “I’ve been familiar with the anguish roller coaster for the past 18 years, but that set a new high and a new low.”
The low being that deputies never took a picture of his now 18-year-old daughter. It matters little now since if things go according to plan, Dan will get to meet Ashlyn in the flesh very soon.
As heart-warming as this story is—and as exciting as the release of Amanda Berry and the other women in Ohio was earlier this month—my hope is that captors everywhere are starting to realize the error of their ways and to release the children they abducted years and even decades earlier.
In other words, let’s all hope that stories like these will continue to come at a more rapid pace than they have recently… if that’s even possible!
The first time I saw Jodi Arias she was in the courtroom and on trial for murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Her hair was brown, her expression was blank and honestly, she seemed kind of mousy. Nevertheless—and due to the dramatic nature of this high-profile case—I started writing about the trial and searching for pictures of Arias to include with each blog post.
That’s when it suddenly occurred to me: Jodi Arias was once pretty cute. That may sound sexist and superficial, but she’s a bloodthirsty, vicious, crazy-as-hell, cold-hearted killer. Sue me.
I started thinking about how shocked people were to see a beautiful young woman like Arias convicted of something so evil and heartless. No one saw it coming—least of all Travis—and that is due in large part to the perception of beauty in American society.
Sorry if it sounds like I’m writing a journal article or something. Bear with me.
In America, we love and revere the beautiful people. Whether they are celebrities, sports heroes, politicians, band members, physicians… whatever… the prettier they are, the more we embrace them. And the more likely we are to believe that they can do no harm.
Jodi Arias—even in her mousy, vulnerable and nearly-condemned-to-death state—is proof that sometimes, the beautiful package holds something dark and disturbed within. And I admit. I’m a sucker for a beautiful woman, as I suspect most heterosexual men are. But just because a woman is beautiful, sexy or appealing doesn’t mean she isn’t bat-shit crazy and capable of hacking you to pieces while you sleep.
The cautionary tales involving luscious bombshells and drop-dead gorgeous ladies are many, but here are some of the more notable ones. They all involve “The Big M”—murder—in one form or another. Some were convicted while others escaped imprisonment despite being guilty as hell. In every case, though, it’s the ladies that prove when it comes to homicide, nobody does it better than the femme fatales.
Once upon a time, Caleb Lawrence McGilvary was a hero—a Good Samaritan with crazy hair and an even crazier personality.
This past February, Caleb—known only as “Kai” at the time—found himself in a car with Jett Simmons McBride, a man who claimed to be Jesus sent down from Heaven to save the world. Unfortunately, his methods were rather twisted.
In Fresno, at the Pacific Gas and Electric company, McBride drove his car into an employee and then attacked a woman who came to help the injured utility worker. And that’s when Caleb saw his opening.
Using a hatchet as his weapon of choice, Caleb clubbed McBride repeatedly, foiled the attack and saved the day. The interview he later gave to a local news crew even went viral and before he knew it, Caleb was an Internet sensation.
Rumor has it that Caleb and Galfy were lovers and spent last weekend together at Galfy’s home in Clark, New Jersey. Actually, police recovered text messages between the guys that said things like “I’ll be there at this time” and “come pick me up,” so it likely isn’t rumor at all. There were even some clues on Facebook, though nothing specific has been released yet.
Police know that Caleb and Galfy were together last Sunday night—and Galfy’s semi-nude and ultra-dead body was found Monday morning—so the dots certainly connect.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how quickly you can go from hero to villain in this crazy world of ours. Of course, this transformation is easier for people already “left of center,” if you know what I mean.
If not, then just ask Caleb. If he’s not left of center—far, far left of center—then I don’t know who is!