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More Middle East Horror

Foley and his ISIS executioner (ABC News)

Foley and his ISIS executioner (ABC News)

In 2002, American journalist Daniel Pearl was abducted by Pakistani militants and beheaded by Al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Omar Sheikh, who was subsequently hanged for this gruesome crime. Pearl’s murder ignited a firestorm of retaliation by American forces and eventually resulted in the killing of numerous Al-Qaeda leaders.

Well, it looks like the Islamic State—the extremist group formerly known as ISIS—has followed Al-Qaeda’s horrific example and beheaded another American journalist, James Foley. After being abducted last November in Syria and reportedly held near Damascus, Foley appeared in a recent video with an ISIS executioner, who apparently hacked off his head on camera.

Fortunately, the video entitled “A Message to America” was removed from YouTube shortly after being posted there, but a transcript of its message went something like this:

“This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country. As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State. You have plotted against us and have gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs. Today, your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq; your strikes have caused casualties among Muslims.”

I share this only because I’m struggling to understand why beheading innocent people seems like the right approach for ISIS or any Islamic militants, for that matter. All it really does is piss off America and lead to more death and destruction, which these days come in the form of unexpected drone attacks. If death is their ultimate goal, then this certainly is an effective way of achieving it. They may label it as jihad, but it seems much more like suicide if you ask me.

Executed journalist Daniel Pearl (AP)

Another thing that boggles the mind—at least my mind—is this: Why in the world would any journalist volunteer to cover the Middle East? Are they as suicidal as the jihadists who eventually kidnap and murder them? Or is covering the Middle East considered “paying your dues” as a journalist—kind of like those rookie meteorologists forced to cover every hurricane while high winds and rain bombard them?

Whatever the case may be, the obvious answer to the question of peace in the Middle East is this: it will likely never come. As long as violence and murder supersede love and compassion, there may never be a lasting peace. America needs to realize this and do something it should have done long ago: get the hell out of there. Otherwise, I fear more innocent people—including the 20 journalists still missing in Syria—will pay the ultimate price.

And personally, I don’t care about Middle East news coverage if it costs more American lives. Do you?

Death on the World Stage

The siege on a mall in Nairobi (Jerome Delay/AP)

The siege on a mall in Nairobi (Jerome Delay/AP)

Despite life in my world being rather uneventful at the moment—and Monday bringing the start of another tedious work week (for lots of people, I imagine)—events around the globe continue to result in the deaths of innocent people. Check the latest news stories from nearly any source and you will notice just how destructive life has become in some parts of the world… so destructive that in many cases, life itself may be in jeopardy.

About the only good news to be found comes from Nairobi, Kenya, where a standoff with Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terrorists seems to be coming to an end. The terrorists took control of Westgate Shopping Mall last Saturday and launched a siege that killed roughly 62 people. Negotiations began and some hostages were freed, but apparently things weren’t moving fast enough for authorities. Security forces moved in Monday and based on the latest reports, authorities now have control of the four-story building.

None of this changes the fact that more than 60 people died in this deadly attack.

Our next bit of international chaos comes from Islamabad, Pakistan. Sunday morning, members of All Saints Church in northwest Pakistan were attending morning services when suicide bombers entered the building and detonated their explosives among the congregation of 500 people present there. The attack left roughly 120 people wounded—at least ten of them in critical condition—and killed 81 people, including children.

Protests erupt in Islamabad (AFP)

Protests erupt in Islamabad (AFP)

The attack is being hailed as one of the deadliest against the Christian community in Pakistan. It was perpetrated by a Taliban splinter group who claimed the attack was prompted by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

“Until and unless drone strikes are stopped, we will continue to strike wherever we will find an opportunity against non-Muslims,” a spokesperson for the group said recently.

I guess what bothers me most—aside from the loss of innocent lives—is that drone strikes don’t happen in a vacuum. They are prompted by violence and destruction that warrant the use of armed retaliation, in this case armed and remote-controlled retaliation. Personally, I would love for drone strikes and other military action to never be necessary. Unfortunately, this likely will never happen since violence seems to perpetuate more violence. And until one side is willing to lay down their arms and seek more peaceful resolutions to the world’s problems, you can’t expect the other side to do the same.

Something has to give, though, because too many people are dying simply because others are too resistant to real, lasting and nonviolent change.

Our final example of “death the world over” doesn’t involve foreign governments, terrorist attacks or military actions; it involves Mother Nature.

Flooding from Typhoon Usagi in China (Aaron Favila/AP)

Flooding from Typhoon Usagi in China (Aaron Favila/AP)

The people of southern China were just slammed by yet another typhoon, this one known as Typhoon Usagi. The powerful storm with sustained winds over 100 mph made landfall late Sunday and has thus far ended the lives of at least 25 people. Usagi also left several people dead and others missing in the Philippines, while injuring a handful of others in Taiwan before finally reaching China. It has currently weakened into a tropical depression, but sadly, the damage has already been done. And there is always a chance the death toll will rise before the waters of this terrible storm recede. Let’s all hope that doesn’t happen, though.

Life is hard for many of us, but we should always remember that things could be much, much worse. The victims of these terrible events understand now just how quickly life can change, and we can all benefit from learning this valuable lesson before something similar happens to us.

Julian Assange criticizes Obama over free speech

Assange embassy plan

Assange embassy plan (Photo credit: Bedeh)

Julian Assange lashes out at Obamas UN free speech comments +video – CSMonitor.com.

Founder of WikiLeaks and fugitive from justice, Julian Assange, recently criticized American President Barack Obama for comments he made to the United Nations about free speech.

Assange is upset because Obama spoke about free speech in the Arab world, at least in the context of the violence that erupted after the controversial film “The Innocence of Muslims” appeared on YouTube. In his view, Obama has “done more to criminalize free speech than any other U.S. president.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Obama defended the right to free speech while also condemning “The Innocence of Muslims,” which he made clear did not represent the opinions of all Americans or even our government. In fact, I believe he’s referred to this film as “repugnant” on more than one occasion.

I’m no expert on the Assange situation, either, but I’m fairly certain he was persecuted not for sharing information freely, but for releasing classified information that could be threatening to America’s national security. If this was indeed the case, then I can completely understand Obama’s problem with Assange. Free speech is important, but so is the safety of our country’s citizens.

Of course, Assange also has the rape charge in Sweden to consider. Taking focus off of that isn’t a bad tactic, and I’m sure that’s what Assange is trying to do.

All of this strikes me as kind of funny since right now, Assange is trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in England. If he so much as steps out for a breath of fresh air, British authorities will immediately arrest him and ship him to Sweden to face the music.

If I were Assange, then I would probably try to shift some attention to Obama, too. And who knows? Maybe he can distract enough people and finally mount some kind of escape from his self-inflicted captivity.

At least then he would get a break from all that Ecuadorian food, which must be getting old by now!

What I Want

filedesc http://www.epa.gov/win/winnews/images...

I want to write a blog entry about the things I want in life and, if I successfully complete this, I will accomplish my goal.

I want to make a lot of money not so I can buy more bling, but because I am tired of stressing about it so much.

I want people to get along since we are all in this together.

I want my son to grow into the man I never became.

I want to be in love unconditionally, yet still have that love returned.

I want to travel the world without having to worry about terrorists kidnapping and beheading me.

I want racism to end since skin color is nothing more than a geographical consequence.

I want to be Freshly Pressed again, even though I’m still not sure how I made it there the first time.

I want more blog followers so I can convert more readers into friends.

Old Gas Pump

I want to buy a car that doesn’t take a small fortune to fill with gasoline.

I want to settle my debts so I can start to enjoy life a little bit more.

I want to connect with people through my writing and make them laugh, smile or think.

I want to retire while I’m still young enough to take full advantage of it.

I want to secure an entertainment agent and option one of my screenplays.

I want to monetize a blog so I can sit back and let the revenue stream in.

I want researchers to cure major diseases, but to allow enough of them to remain so we don’t run out of open parking spaces.

I want people to know and appreciate me for all my quirks and idiosyncrasies.

I want politicians to start serving the people rather than themselves and their bank accounts.

I want violence to end since all it does is traumatize my fellow humans.

I want peace in the Middle East even though it seems like it will never come.

I want religion to be based on love and faith rather than hate and judgment.

I want to serve as a script consultant on a film I wrote and developed.

I want to build my dream house, complete with an in-house screening room and a secret underground nerve center (think Bat Cave).

Steeler Polamalu Fan

I want the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl this year due in large part to their Steel Curtain defense.

I want to find another television show to follow that will excite me as much as “Lost” did.

I want to be happy and want everyone around me to feel the same.

I want to end this entry with sincere thanks and gratitude for anyone who took the time to read it.

Thank you!

What is wrong with people?

A Free Syrian Army soldier secures an area dur...

As I was returning to work from lunch today, enjoying an NPR newscast and catching up on my current events, a witness to the civil war currently taking place in Syria described her recent experiences there. She said that some soldiers have been targeting people’s heads and spinal cords, not to kill them, but to ensure they end up with a lifelong disability. Apparently there is no better way to break someone’s spirit than to permanently maim them.

Stories about violence around the world are nothing new. In fact, I doubt if humankind will ever reach lasting peace, at least not in my lifetime or even for generations after I’m gone. I hope so, of course, but it seems more and more unlikely with each passing day.

And under normal circumstances, nothing people do ever shocks me. After all, simple odds will tell you that whenever you are dealing with a large population—and humans certainly qualify—there will always be a variety of strange, eccentric or even violent behaviors involved. A small percentage of people might molest children or cheat on their spouses or even practice cannibalism (as evidenced by the wacko on bath salts who chewed off that man’s face not too long ago). The odds of something freakish or offensive happening will always be there. It’s simply a roll of the proverbial dice.

But intentionally shooting people in the spine so they spend the rest of their lives crippled and miserable? Something’s got to give.

Your local news is filled with stories of death, poverty, murder and every other doomsday scenario you could possibly imagine. Granted, they always throw in some human interest pieces to make the world seem like a brighter place, but the truth of the matter is that darkness is all around us.

Sometimes when I’m driving and passing neighborhoods or trailer parks, I think to myself, “You know? Someone in there could be filming amateur porn or raping their wife or even killing their child.” Play the odds and you have to admit that it’s possible.

And this always makes me shudder.

The good news is that collectively, we can help to change the odds. Injecting more positivity into our separate corners of the world can have a lasting effect on our civilization at large. We just have to be willing to take the first step and to maintain that positive approach despite the troubles that come our way.

There are over 100 million homeless people in ...

Instead of passing that homeless beggar on the street—all the time convincing yourself that any money you give him would likely end up in the cash register of some liquor store—offer to buy him a hot meal and actually accompany him to a nearby restaurant.

Or if you see someone stranded on the side of the road, don’t simply drive by and thank the Lord that it didn’t happen to you. Stop and let them know you will call the highway patrol and have help sent immediately.

Changing the world for the better is not a challenge; it is a necessity.

I will do my part. Are you willing to do yours?

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