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Remembering 9/11

Remember those we lost and those they left behind (McDonald and Osborne)

For my parents, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a pivotal moment in American history. And everyone from their generation remembers exactly where they were when the news of his death was released.

For me and those like me, however, the pivotal moment occurred on September 11, 2001 when terrorists hijacked passenger planes and unleashed hell upon the American people. Nearly 3,000 people died on that fateful day and 14 years later, the memory of what happened is as strong as it ever was.

The morning of September 11, I was working as a manager at a Mexican restaurant. Just before the attacks, I went to the bank to make a deposit and ran a few other errands. When I returned, I noticed a crowd of people standing in the bar and watching the television, their eyes glued to the screen.

My first reaction was typical of my early morning grumpiness, which would normally melt away after several cups of coffee and a handful of cigarettes. “Don’t these assholes know we open at ten?” I asked myself. “I haven’t even wiped the bar down yet.”

Of course, my demeanor changed dramatically once I saw what was unfolding on television. The first plane had hit the Twin Towers and like everyone there, I assumed it was some sort of accident. Then the unthinkable happened: a second plane crashed into the other tower.

That’s when we all knew this was no accident; it was terrorism, plain and simple. And at that moment, we all knew nothing would ever be the same.

More than a decade has passed since that horrible day—and life has pretty much returned to normal—but we should never forget those we lost on September 11. Please take a moment not to reflect on the horror of that day, but to remember those we lost.

I know that I will.

Remembering 9/11

The unforgettable image of planes crashing into the WTC (Reuters/Sean Adair)

Today is the anniversary of a very dark time in U.S. history and by far the worst tragedy that I have ever witnessed: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Twelve years ago, four passenger airliners were hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists—led by the infamous and now very-deceased Osama bin Laden—and crashed into U.S. sites that included the Pentagon and the twin towers of the World Trade Center. By the time the smoke cleared, almost 3,000 innocent people were dead, including the terrorists who implemented this deadly attack.

The physical damage of that fateful day was extensive, but nothing can compare to the loss of loved ones—brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends… no one escaped the death and destruction of that September morning. And it is something that no American will ever forget, especially those who witnessed the attacks first-hand or on television as they were happening.

Today, please take a moment to remember those who were lost on September 11, 2001. The New York Times put together an interactive site called “Portraits of Grief” that collects stories about some of the victims, so please take a look HERE as you pay tribute to those we lost on that terrible day.

Just don’t do what the management of TumbleDown Trails Golf Course in Wisconsin did when they posted this 9/11 advertisement to attract more customers:

A newspaper advertisement for the TumbleDown Trails Golf Course offered nine holes of golf for $9.11 on September 11.

Way to cash in on our nation’s misery, jackass (CNN)

There is certainly no accounting for taste…

The Body Bomb

The US embassy in Benghazi  (Nir Elias/Reuters)

The US embassy in Benghazi (Nir Elias/Reuters)

As a result of intelligence indicating al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula may be in the final stages of planning an attack against unspecified U.S. interests, the government closed 22 embassies and consulates from North Africa to the Middle East on Sunday. A global travel alert for Americans is also active, and it’s possible these precautions could continue indefinitely.

According to members of the House Intelligence Committee, the closures were based on several factors, including a warning from Interpol about all the recent prison breaks staged by al Qaeda—which flooded areas with convicted terrorists and other criminals—and specific intelligence about a potential attack in Yemen.

“I think we know a lot more about the when than the where,” Rep. Adam Shiff said recently. “But the when was very specific in terms of Sunday. Obviously, that may continue and the closures may continue. The travel warning is more extensive. But this is not the usual kind of chatter, not the more generalized ‘death to the Americans’ or ‘death to great Satan.’”

This new threat comes near the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Sunday is known as Laylet al-Qadr, the Night of Power. It’s an important day for Muslims everywhere and I sincerely hope it isn’t overshadowed by some horrible terrorist attack. It may be the bad apples that ruin the bunch—radical Islamists causing others to distrust the entire religion—but I assure you the “good apples” outnumber them.

And it’s about time good Muslims catch a break, don’t you think?

Bomb maker Ibrahim Asiri (The Daily Beast)

Bomb maker Ibrahim Asiri (The Daily Beast)

Unfortunately, it’s the bad Muslims that you see on the news regularly. And few are worse than Saudi-born Ibrahim Hassan Asiri, a bomb maker intent on wreaking havoc worldwide. According to John Pistole—chief of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)—the still-at-large fugitive represents America’s “greatest threat” and should be considered a “clear and present danger.” Asiri was responsible for numerous bomb plots—including a failed attempt by his brother to assassinate a Saudi government official with a bomb hidden in a body cavity (it exploded in what had to be his ass and only killed him, not his target)—and designed the underwear bomb worn by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab during his failed attempt to bomb a Northwest Airlines plane in 2009.

Asiri is a bad dude, and you never know where he will strike next.

I was channel surfing earlier and came across one of those political discussion shows. I can’t remember which one exactly. Anyway, they were talking about terrorism and someone mentioned Asiri—someone from the U.S. Justice Department who could only say so much, I think. This guy mentioned how Asiri recently designed an improved underwear bomb, one capable of avoiding detection at airport security checkpoints. That was nothing new, of course. And honestly, it didn’t freak me out nearly as much as his next revelation.

Although this information came out over a year ago, I’m just hearing it now: Asiri had plans to make some kind of liquid explosive that could be ingested by someone and detonated at their target. This would obviously be the ultimate suicide bomb, especially since it would be virtually undetectable. I’m not sure how you set off a surgically implanted improvised explosive device, but discovering one must be a real pain in the ass—quite literally when you consider how Asiri’s brother went out.

Honestly, news like this makes me wary of ever traveling again, at least outside the continental United States. I know that’s ridiculous since it’s only a matter of time before domestic terrorists start employing similar techniques. Now we have to wonder if that person sitting next to us on the plane or standing behind us in line drank a bomb-laden banana daiquiri before leaving the house. And if they did, how will they set it off? Do they have some kind of breath mint that reacts with stomach acid to detonate the explosive? Better yet, when is this supposed to happen?

Asiri's latest underwear bomb design (The Jewish Press)

Asiri’s latest underwear bomb design (The Jewish Press)

There is plenty of doubt, paranoia and fear out there—even twelve years after the attacks of September 11th—and things like this only make them worse. I never condone violence, murder or anything that might harm innocent people, but using a weapon like this ingestible explosive is just plain wrong. Yes, this is a different age and the rules set forth in the Geneva Convention are not always followed—especially by extremists of any kind, as if we would expect them to—but sending out suicide bombers who can slip undetected into the general population would be tantamount to pulling a gun at a fist fight. It just isn’t fair and it just isn’t right.

With any luck, Ibrahim Hassan Asiri will be found and apprehended soon. While this likely won’t prevent the development of ingestible bombs—someone will undoubtedly step up to fill his shoes—it should delay things for a while. And I certainly hope we can prevent more deaths, even of those asked to sacrifice their lives for their religion, their beliefs or their cause.

Death will come to us all eventually, so why rush it?

Rock Star Terrorist?

Dzhokhar is causing problems again! (Rolling Stone)

Dzhokhar is causing problems again! (Rolling Stone)

In 1967, college drop-out Jann Wenner borrowed $7500 from family members to launch a new music magazine with Ralph J. Gleason, a jazz critic from the San Francisco ChronicleBorrowing its name from a classic Muddy Waters song and intended by Wenner to be “not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces,” Rolling Stone magazine was born.

In its more than four decades, Rolling Stone has been on the forefront of the music scene while also providing in-depth political commentary by such notable pundits as Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O’Rourke. Of course, it is also known for its covers, some of which have been so edgy that they have sparked controversy and outrage across our great nation and around the world—check out the gallery below for some of their best efforts to piss people off.

Such was the case this month when Rolling Stone decided to feature an unlikely and infamous person on its cover: accused terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan are the suspects accused of bombing the Boston Marathon last April, an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Tamerlan was killed by police during a shoot-out in the Boston suburb of Watertown a short time later, while Dzhokhar was apprehended and now faces federal terrorism charges. He is currently awaiting trial and, believe it or not, has pleaded not guilty.

As if.

Tsarnaev surrenders to police (Sean Murphy/Boston Magazine)

Tsarnaev surrenders to police (Sean Murphy/Boston Magazine)

Since printing its controversial cover of the young bombing suspect—who looks more like a rock star than a terrorist—Rolling Stone has received criticism and backlash from nearly every direction. Businesses like CVS pharmacies, Tedeschi Food Shops and Stop & Shop—among others—have refused to sell the latest edition in their stores. And Boston Mayor Thomas Menino echoed their sentiments when he first saw the controversial cover.

“The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories,” Menino said recently. “I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them, though.”

Another person upset and disturbed by Rolling Stone’s questionable cover decision was Massachusetts State Police Sergeant Sean Murphy, who considered it to be “an insult” and “hurtful” to those who survived the Tsarnaev brothers’ terrible attack. Murphy also worried about the cover producing copycats bent on replicating this crime, so he decided to take action, even if it meant losing his job.

On Thursday, Boston Magazine published pictures of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that Murphy provided. They show the young suspect covered in blood and targeted by snipers’ laser sights on the night he was arrested by police in Watertown. And they certainly stand in stark contrast to the innocent-looking young man on the Rolling Stone cover.

“This guy is evil,” Murphy explained when asked why he would risk his career to get these photographs published. “This is the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”

Blood covers the young suspect (Sean Murphy/Boston Magazine)

Blood covers the young suspect (Sean Murphy/Boston Magazine)

As you might imagine, Murphy was relieved from duty until a status hearing can be held to determine whether he should continue to serve or face suspension. And pending the outcome of an internal police investigation, there is even a chance he could be fired for leaking these images.

Despite what happens to Murphy, I feel we all owe him a debt of gratitude for having the balls to stand up for the victims, families and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. And I hope he doesn’t lose his job as a result. If he does and you happen to work in law enforcement, though, please do me a favor and consider hiring this guy.

Trust me. You could do a lot worse.

Pop-Up Post: Joke to Jail

Michael Turley

Would-be social activist Michael Turley (courtesy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

Last year, 40-year-old Michael David Turley of Phoenix, Arizona posted a video on YouTube that recently resulted in him being charged and convicted of endangerment and a terrorism hoax.

And clearly, Turley is no terrorist.

What he is—and I know I throw this word around a lot, mostly because it applies to so many people I read about in the news—is a jackass.

Pretend terrorist on the corner (courtesy of YouTube)

Check out coverage of Turley’s video HERE.

In actuality, the actor was Turley’s nephew and this was no social experiment; it was a practical joke that landed Turley in hot water and could, in turn, land him in jail for up to five years.

I hope it was worth it.

Did Boston Bombing Suspect Kill Before?

Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev (courtesy of CNN)

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.

Terror at the Boston Marathon (courtesy of David L Ryan/AP)

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.

The Latest from Boston

The Tsarnaev brothers at Monday’s Boston Marathon (courtesy of Bob Leonard/AP)

Okay. Perhaps it was naive for me to think the news from Boston would slow down once one suspect in last week’s bombing of the Boston Marathon was killed and the other was apprehended, but apparently I was wrong.

Here are the latest developments in what will likely be a very long and drawn-out investigation and trial. And while all of this information is current now, odds are there will be even more developments by the time this post is published.

I guess I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it, huh?

At the moment, suspect number two—19-year-old Dzhokar Tsarnaev—is still hospitalized and apparently has wounds to both his neck and lower body. He is still in serious condition, but is stable and has even answered some questions despite being unable to speak—a ventilator and breathing tube prevent speech, but he has nodded his head and at one point even wrote some things down for authorities. If nothing else, at least he seems to be complying.

Everything he says could be complete horse shit, of course, but at least it’s a start.

There is also a chance that Dzhokar experienced some hearing loss after flash-bang grenades were used to flush him out of his hiding place last Friday. And given that he lost so much blood, his recovery may be a little slower than most Americans would like.

We will get answers from him, though. It’s only a matter of time.

Today also saw the federal government file formal charges against the young terrorist, who will be treated as a criminal in civilian court rather than an enemy combatant as part of a military commission. Remember that the latter classification means Dzhokar could be questioned without having his lawyer present. This way he gets a fair shake and, since he is a U.S. citizen, this is likely the best way to go.

“We have a long history of successfully prosecuting terrorists and bringing them to justice,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said recently. “The President fully believes that that process will work in this case.”

Jay Carney, White House spokesperson (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Carney went on to remind us all that “since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.” While this doesn’t make me feel much better—Who knew there were hundreds of terrorists even living among us?—it does uphold the “innocent until proven guilty” principle upon which our entire criminal justice system was built. This also removes all (or at least most) of the potential complaints about Dzhokar’s civil rights being violated.

People will still complain, mind you, but at least this allows us to “cover our bases” a little better.

Once he recovers and is fit to stand trial, Dzhokar faces one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death, as well as one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. And if you ask me, that might be the only way of ensuring that justice is served after this terrible act.

His brother Tamerlan certainly got what was coming to him. And he did so without the American public having to fork over one more dime to try, convict and potentially house him during years and years of appeals.

Speaking of Tamerlan, I heard something about him earlier that I also find rather disturbing, only far less so than the heinous crime he just committed. Apparently, he was married to Katherine Russell and even had a young daughter. While Katy worked long hours as a home health care professional, Tamerlan would stay home and care for their child.

Doesn’t sound like your typical terrorist, does it? And since Katy had no knowledge of what her husband was planning—and no clear warning signs that he may be coming unhinged—she was very upset to see him on the news and to learn about what he had been accused of doing.

“They’re very distraught,” Katy’s attorney Amato DeLuca told reporters. “Their lives have been unalterably changed. They’re upset because of what happened, the people that were injured, that were killed. And of course Katy, it’s even worse because what she lost—her husband and the father of her daughter.”

Chalk up yet another tragedy resulting from this senseless act of terrorism. Is there no end to the destruction these brothers caused?

The investigation into the backgrounds and possible motives for the Tsarnaev brothers’ actions continue, with authorities working hard to track the weapons and bomb components used, to dig through each suspect’s past history and to determine if others may have been involved in this vicious attack.

Artist’s rendering of the Prophet Mohammed from 1971 (courtesy of A.Mayid)

Most still contend that these guys acted alone, but you just never know.

Here’s another little tidbit about Tamerlan that now seems more foreboding. Last January, he apparently attended a service at the Islamic Society of Boston‘s mosque in Cambridge and “went off” on a speaker who compared the Prophet Mohammed to Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Several members of the congregation were able to calm him down—and he appeared regularly at services after the incident—but it now seems like radicalism rearing its ugly head.

If only someone had noticed and taken steps to truly help Tamerlan back then, it’s possible the bombing in Boston could have been prevented entirely. Of course, we all know that “hindsight is 20/20,” so would we have picked up on something like this and taken action? I have my doubts.

Regardless of the facts that come to light later today, tomorrow or even weeks from now, the important thing to remember is this: the recovery from what happened a week ago in Boston will go on indefinitely.

There are people who have to learn to live without limbs, families that lost loved ones (including children who lost parents, like Tamerlan’s daughter) and thousands of others who will be affected for years to come. Eventually, our great nation will heal, though.

It always does.

The Plot Thickens in Boston

An infrared image of Dzhokar hiding in the boat (courtesy of Massachusetts State Police)

Just when you thought the drama in Boston was over—as Americans breathed a little easier given all the crazy events of this past week—new information about the bombing suspects continues to surface. And with each development, another piece of this mysterious puzzle falls into place.

I know this situation is terrible and a lot of people are suffering after Monday’s deadly attack, but the facts surrounding this case are undeniably interesting and I find myself anxiously waiting for the next media nugget to drop. Like many of you, I have questions, suspicions, concerns and—as much as I hate to admit it—even a few conspiracy theories. Now all that’s missing are answers, but here is what we know so far.

And yes, my two cents’ worth will be tossed in for good measure. It’s too hard to resist when attacks take place on American soil… my home soil.

SERIOUSLY

Authorities apprehended bombing suspect two—Dzhokar Tsarnaev—on Friday night and rushed him to the hospital, where he remains intubated and in serious condition, unable to speak and thus, incapable of providing any answers. Rumor has it that despite his condition, he may be formally charged at his bedside on Sunday. Since federal charges will likely be leveled against the young suspect—in this case terrorism charges—they usually come within 48 hours of an arrest. Dzhokar may also face murder charges in Massachusetts. And though this state does not have the death penalty, he may still be executed by the feds. Either way, things are not looking good for the surviving Tsarnaev brother, and rightfully so.

Twitter profile photo of Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

Dzhokar went to parties after the bombing (courtesy of J_SA/Twitter)

PARTY ALL THE TIME

I heard something interesting about Dzhokar earlier. And if I harbored any sympathy at all for this guy—primarily for being a pawn with his brother calling the shots—this tidbit erased it from memory. After bombing the Boston Marathon, and while a huge manhunt was under way and the city shut down in fear, Dzhokar went to the campus of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and simply went about his business. He attended classes, hung out with friends and even went to a party with some soccer teammates. One student who saw him described the new terrorist as “relaxed,” even as the dragnet tightened around him. Dzhokar split on Thursday—and we know what happened after that—but students in his dorm still couldn’t accept he may have been involved in the bombing. Even after seeing images of Dzhokar on the news, they “made a joke like, that could be Dzhokar… never.” Unfortunately, they were wrong.

What kind of cold-blooded sociopath kills innocent people, calmly returns to his everyday life and even goes to parties, seemingly unaware of his actions or their consequences?

Never mind. The question and its answer are one and the same.

BAD BRO

New information about the eldest bomber—Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspect killed in the shootout on Thursday night—now seems to link him to an extremist Islamic group in the north Caucasus region, which includes his homeland of Chechnya. Authorities still believe that the brothers acted alone, mind you, but some of these new puzzle pieces have me raising an eyebrow:

  • Imarat Kavkaz is an organization that formed after the Chechen insurgency of the 1990s and pulled together a number of jihadist groups by the mid 2000s. Their leader Doku Umarov was apparently involved in the bombing of a Moscow airport, but claimed to have no interest in attacking the United States. Their enemy appears to be Russia.
  • The Tsarnaev brothers fled Chechnya for the U.S. and were granted asylum here. They later became naturalized citizens. This isn’t really new information, but it is definitely relevant in what’s to come.
  • In 2011, Tamerlan was planning to visit Russia, but was first detained and interviewed by the FBI. As it turns out, the Russian government requested this interview and believed Tamerlan to be a radical Islamist and “true believer.” Not only that, but they claimed his personality had changed dramatically in only a year’s time. Sadly, none of this mattered and Tamerlan was allowed to travel abroad.
  • During his six-month trip to Russia in 2012, Tamerlan is believed to have radicalized even more, and Homeland Security even believes that he received special training there.
  • For the last several years—as evidenced by his social media presence—Tamerlan grew increasingly radical. When he returned from Russia, he set up a YouTube channel and even posted some videos under the heading “Terrorists,” but they were deleted. Fortunately, most of us know that deleting something doesn’t always remove it from your computer, so authorities were able to recover a screen grab. It showed members of the radical Imarat Kavkaz group and bam! There’s your link.

Whether or not this radical Islamist connection proves true, the fact that there could be a connection is quite troubling. The last thing anyone needs is for this to be identified as a real terrorist attack with international ties, which would in turn launch some kind of global investigation and likely result in more attacks later. At this point, it seems as if every extremist group in the Muslim world wants America dead, so no use fueling the fire, right?

Tamerlan Tsamaev  seen in a video brandishing a pocket knife while he jokes about other Central Asian ethnicities

Tamerlan Tsarnaev: Radical Islamist or domestic terrorist? (courtesy of Abubakringush/YouTube)

I should also mention how this information about Tamerlan has me forming my own conspiracy theory, much to my chagrin. I share it only for the sake of documenting what I hope is not proven true later.

Picture this: Tamerlan and his younger brother are caught in the Chechen conflict and need a way out. America provides this, never knowing that Tamerlan already has radical views and beliefs. Granted, he may not yet be organized or belong to a specific group, but the foundation is there. And given his influence over the younger Dzhokar, it is only a matter of time before he is converted, as well. For years—allegedly—Tamerlan travels to Russia and is enlisted by the most radical group in the region, Imarat Kavkaz. They don’t give him any specific plans for an attack—only the tools and knowledge needed to plan one when the time is right—but send him home to further integrate himself into America. As time passes, Tamerlan becomes more and more disillusioned with his adopted country—perhaps in some way due to post-9/11 paranoia or the economic recession—and looks for a way to lash out. Since he’s already in Boston and knows how popular the upcoming marathon is—not to mention how well attended—he formulates a plan, convinces his brother to help and the rest is history.

This isn’t an earth-shattering or ground-breaking theory, of course, but it is very possible. And when you consider that the FBI questioned Tamerlan in 2011, knew he could have been an extremist and still let him go, it becomes even more feasible. After all, American intelligence officers received early warnings about the September 11th attacks and never acted on them. Why should this be any different?

Of course, I’m not suggesting that the federal government had anything to do with this vicious attack, but there are some who believe this to be true. And if you ask me, this is an extremely dangerous—not to mention paranoid—belief to have. Yes, the government makes a lot of mistakes and sometimes does things “We the People” cannot understand—like their recent decision to reject universal background checks with regard to gun purchases. But to think they could arrange something so complex and so heinous… something that took and changed the lives of so many innocent Americans… just doesn’t seem right. And don’t you think someone in the government would blow the whistle on something like this anyway? After all, this isn’t some evil entity we’re talking about here; it’s a conglomeration of offices, departments and organizations consisting of American citizens.

You have to assume that someone in there has a conscience.

SHOOTOUTS AND DRIVEAWAYS

I realize this is quickly becoming another very long post, but a few details about Thursday night’s shootout between the Tsarnaev brothers and police are too bizarre to ignore. The first is pretty simple: one of the bombs tossed at authorities during the high-speed chase was a pressure cooker bomb, similar to the ones used at the Boston Marathon. This obviously connects the suspects to the crime, but few doubted the police had found their men.

At one point during the chase, the brothers came to a stop, leaped from the vehicle and unloaded on the pursuing cops. Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau estimated that more than “200 shots were fired in a five- to ten-minute period,” but that isn’t the craziest part. From what I’ve heard, Tamerlan ran out of ammo and was tackled by several officers while he was still alive. Meanwhile, Dzhokar ran back to the stolen Mercedes, got behind the wheel and sped off in the direction of his brother. Officers were barely able to escape before Dzhokar ran over his brother and dragged him down the street.

If Tamerlan wasn’t dead at that point, he certainly was once he arrived at the hospital a short time later.

Thursday night’s shootout (courtesy of Mashable)

How someone could do such a thing to his own brother is beside me. At first, I though Dzhokar was simply ensuring his brother was dead so he couldn’t be forced to reveal any information to authorities later. Terrorists have been known to commit suicide or murder one another for this very reason, so why not expect the same here?

Then it occurred to me: Dzhokar was taken alive. Granted, he’s hurt badly and could still die from his wounds, but many expect him to recover and, hopefully, to provide answers to all our questions. If killing Tamerlan was necessary to protect their secrets, though, then why didn’t Dzhokar try to end things while hiding in that boat? I believe he had some explosives on him, so he could have easily detonated one and left our questions unanswered indefinitely. There’s something fishy going on, I think.

Or the opposite could be true: Dzhokar is simply insane and cares only for himself and his survival, even at the expense of his own flesh-and-blood. And though he should be placed under suicide watch immediately—and likely has already—I wouldn’t be surprised if Dzhokar finds a way to end his life. Either that or he will go to the other extreme: he will cooperate completely and “spill his guts” about everything… maybe for notoriety, maybe for sympathy… who knows?

As long as justice is served, though, I don’t particularly care what happens to him. But I will be waiting to hear more.

Cheers to Boston! Manhunt Ends!

The Boston Tea Party (courtesy of History for Kids.com)

Paul Revere lived there. A famous Tea Party happened there—and not the one with Sarah Palin and Marco Rubio. The U.S. Constitution was ratified there. Holy Cross Church can be found there. A great pops orchestra can be heard there. Games played by the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins can be attended there.

And even though this isn’t a new development, very brave Americans can be found there. Just look at the timeline from the last week and this should be more-than-obvious.

Duh, it’s Boston, Massachusetts!

If there is a human being on this planet that didn’t know Dzhokar Tsarnaev—the second suspect in Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon—was apprehended Friday evening and subsequently taken to a hospital, I would love to meet him… or her, for that matter.

The manhunt came to an end after David Henneberry of Watertown noticed something strange about the boat parked in his yard. Despite having it covered and secured all winter, a small piece of the tarp was flapping in the wind. A closer inspection revealed that the tarp had been cut, the same for the rope used to secure it.

There was also some blood on the tarp.

Although I find Henneberry’s next move to be a little risky—given the fact an armed fugitive was loose in his neighborhood—he lifted up the tarp and poked his head inside. That’s when he noticed a pool of blood, as well as something—or someone—curled up in a ball. Thankfully, Henneberry took no further risk and simply called the police, who swarmed his location and set a perimeter around his property.

After a quick search of Henneberry’s home, a SWAT team evacuated the family to their neighbors’ and moved in on Dzhokar. For roughly 40 minutes, shots were exchanged between the suspect and the surrounding officers. The cops used a bullhorn to try to lure the armed—and injured—terrorist out on his own terms, but it took a robot (to look under the tarp) and several flash bang grenades to finally end the standoff.

Police apprehended Dzhokar, searched him for explosives, checked his injuries and sped him off in an ambulance. Doctors are working to keep the young man alive so he can be interrogated later. As President Obama put it, “the families of those killed so senselessly deserve answers.” And with any luck, it won’t be long until they get them.

Local hero Dave Henneberry (courtesy of Picasa)

Dzhokar’s arrest put an end to almost an entire day of fear, terror and—in many ways—paralysis, as citizens were told to stay indoors, businesses closed and the entire Boston area locked down. When the nightmare ended and residents of Watertown finally emerged, though, they lined the streets to cheer on every law enforcement and emergency vehicle that passed by. Some slapped the roofs of cars, others tapped on the windows and peeked inside, but everyone screamed in appreciation of the swift and definitive justice. They were finally safe.

Even though this tragedy is far from over—there are still bombing victims who lost limbs and will have long, difficult recoveries, not to mention the ongoing investigation, trial and rebuilding efforts—Bostonians can at least breathe easy and get back to their lives after a stressful, terrifying week. It will take time to heal, of course, but one thing guarantees this healing will eventually come.

And that’s the strength and resilience of this wonderful city and all of its citizens.

Like many others, I could not be more impressed by how the people of Boston banded together; complied with the requests of law enforcement not only in terms of staying indoors, but also with regard to sharing pictures/video and reporting suspicious activity; protected one another; and expressed their support for the police, federal agents and emergency personnel involved in this rapidly-unfolding drama.

The images of citizens crowding the streets to cheer for the cops could easily have been a riot of people attacking the cops, which is what we’re used to seeing on the news. It’s so nice to see some unity and understanding for a change.

If you ask me, cops get a bad rap. Yes, there are some who are corrupt, do dishonest things or abuse their power in some way—beating the shit out of people seems to be popular—but the old adage that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” couldn’t be more true. For every one of these assholes, though, there are dozens of others who do this job for the right reasons. To them, “serve and protect” isn’t just a motto; it’s a way of life. And I bet if you dug deep into their pasts, you would discover that they were serving and protecting others their entire lives.

When you have goodness in your heart, you just can’t help yourself. Know what I mean?

My hope for the future—at least in terms of how we perceive law enforcement, and maybe how they perceive themselves—is that this Boston Marathon situation, especially all the public support and gratitude for cops, will spark a kind of revolution in police work. Check it out:

  • People stop hating or fearing cops because of all they did this past week.
  • This sentiment spreads across the nation as we all start viewing police differently.
  • The public starts helping cops more often: forming community watch groups, reporting anything strange or suspicious, donating to balls and other police events… things like that.
  • The cops appreciate this new support and start raising their personal standards, as well as those of their colleagues.
  • Cops that do illegal or crazy shit are immediately reported to Internal Affairs, only now other cops don’t condemn so-called “rats” for turning on their own; they expect it.
  • The world becomes a better place, or so you would think, right?

Okay. Maybe I’m expecting too much or being far too naïve, but you have to admit this would be nice… and it might work wonders. Cops and the law-abiding public working together against criminals would be like the Red Sox facing off against a little league baseball team… no contest. And without crime—or at least with heavily reduced crime—anything is possible.

Everybody liked Harry… except scumbags! (courtesy of Wikipedia)

We could finally focus on more important issues—more species-related issues—like climate change, space exploration or even the formation of a one-world government. All this gun control bullshit wouldn’t even matter because, for once, we would stop killing each other.

Whatever happens, the important thing is that we celebrate the city and the people of Boston, Massachusetts and its surrounding areas. There will be difficult times ahead, to be sure, but these Americans showed how brave, helpful, reliable, strong, courageous, intelligent, resilient and unselfish they can be… and how all Americans can be.

“We the people” isn’t just a nice turn of phrase on some dusty old document somewhere. It is a deep-seeded, soul-changing belief that lives in the hearts and minds of all Americans—those born here and those naturalized as citizens later.

When some of you read that last line, you’ll probably think of Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev and ask, “Weren’t they naturalized citizens who just committed these heinous acts?” The answer is, of course, yes, but there are special circumstances involved. Neither seemed very connected to other Americans, they shared some extreme and largely anti-American views and, who knows, one or both could have ties to fundamentalist groups or sleeper terrorist cells. We continue to learn more everyday, so it’s only a matter of time before people understand the truth: it wasn’t Americans who bombed the Boston Marathon, killed and injured so many people and brought fear to our nation.

I can say with complete confidence that real Americans would never do that. These were terrorists who simply couldn’t accept that in the United States of America, “We the people” also means “We protect the people.”

Thanks to the citizens of Boston, maybe now they understand. At least one of them.

Getting it Done!

Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, is still on the loose (courtesy of the FBI)

Shortly after the FBI released photographs of two suspects in Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon, I posted an article entitled “Help Identify Boston Marathon Bombing Suspects… Please!” In it, I made a point of saying that these men were simply suspects and should not be considered guilty until evidence linked them to this vicious attack.

I also posted about the Ricin-filled letters sent to President Obama and Senator Wicker earlier this week (“Poison Goes Postal“).

Fortunately, there have been some new developments in both cases and, as you can see from my title, it seems as if America is getting it done. And if you don’t know what I mean exactly, you will by the time you finish reading this post.

First for the case that has gripped our nation and many around the world: the Boston Marathon bombings.

The suspects in the photographs released by the FBI recently have now been identified as two brothers of Chechnyan descent (basically Russian): Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19.

The brothers came to America several years ago and have been living state-side ever since. Tamerlan studied accounting at Bunker Hill Community College, while Dzhokar attended Cambridge Rindge & Latin, a public high school. Dzhokar also served as a lifeguard at Harvard University.

For all intents and purposes, these guys seem like immigrants who came to America for more opportunities and better educations—no different from many of our citizens and their descendants. Hell, the same could be said of our Founding Fathers.

However, there are rumours circulating and I have heard terms like extremist, Islamic fundamentalist and human rights violations being tossed around in the media. Nothing has been confirmed yet—aside from the fact that they were indeed Muslim—but I suspect this investigation will uncover some disturbing things in their pasts. At least I hope they do, because otherwise finding some kind of motive for this attack may be impossible.

On Thursday night, a convenience store in the Boston area was robbed, which obviously brought police to the scene. Shortly thereafter, a report came in from the MIT campus across the Charles River. Officer Sean Collier had been fatally shot and, according to authorities in the area, the suspects appeared to be the same men wanted in connection with Monday’s bombing.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed Thursday night, but used to be a boxer (courtesy of Big Lead Sports)

After shooting Collier, the suspects carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint, confessed to the driver that they were indeed the Boston Marathon bombers—so much for simply classifying them as suspects—and took him with them as they fled. Fortunately, the driver escaped at some gas station a short time later.

At this point, things got really crazy. Using the escape vehicle’s GPS system, police tracked down the suspects and engaged them in a high-speed chase around Watertown, a residential neighborhood in the Boston area. The brothers tossed explosive devices at the officers and eventually came to a stop. Tamerlan jumped out and started shooting at the cops, but it didn’t last. Police shot and killed him and, ironically enough, his brother drove over his body and sped away.

Officer Richard Donohue Jr. of the transit system police force was shot during the altercation, but is expected to recover as far as I know.

At the moment, Dzhokar Tsarnaev is still at large and a huge manhunt is under way to try to apprehend him. The entire city of Boston was placed on lock-down and I even heard that their public transportation system was shut down. Still, no one has seen Dzhokar and residents in the area have been advised to stay in their homes and not to open their doors to anyone but a uniformed police officer or federal agent.

According to the latest reports, police had searched roughly 70% of the Watertown area and still have no idea where Dzhokar may be hiding. However, they are planning to check his previous haunts, including the area around his home in Cambridge and his school. Dzhokar is assumed to be armed and dangerous, so hopefully they will arrest or kill him soon.

Sorry if that sounds rather heartless, but I have no sympathy for terrorists. They simply cannot be classified as human when a word like inhuman seems much more applicable.

Before I move on to the whole poisoned letter thing, there are a few interesting facts about Dzhokar—as well as his brother Tamerlan—I should share:

  • Ironically, Dzhokar became a U.S. citizen on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Any numerologists in the crowd should try to contain their excitement.
  • At the time of his death, Tamerlan was wearing some kind of explosives and even had a triggering device to activate them. Fortunately, he was shot and killed before he had the chance to use them.
  • Tamerlan was apparently a Golden Glove contender in boxing, but some of his opponents describe him as being arrogant and even cowardly—he would supposedly leave the ring anytime someone landed a body shot. Also, many have described his normal attire as being “militaristic” in nature.
  • Neither of the suspects’ family members or friends can understand how they could even be capable of something like this and are having trouble accepting the fact that they are terrorists, or were terrorists in the case of Tamerlan, who was killed in Thursday night’s shoot-out. One former classmate of Dzhokar even said they were close friends throughout high school and anytime he needed someone he could rely on, Dzhokar was the first person who always came to mind. What in the hell could have happened to change him from a kind soul into a mass murderer? I guess we’ll only know if the authorities manage to take him alive once they find him.

In addition to all of this, it turns out that the Tsarnaev brothers were also active users of social media—like almost everyone else on the planet. In a posting on one of the big sites not long ago, older brother Tamerlan left these cryptic comments: “I don’t have a single American friend. I don’t understand them.” I don’t know about you, but I find this very disturbing, to say the least. I certainly hope this guy was not shunned, insulted or teased by any of my fellow Americans, especially for being foreign or Muslim. It’s a different story if he was just some cocky asshole, though.

Federal agents search for Dzhokar (courtesy of The Washington Post)

Dzhokar’s social media “weapon of choice” seems to be Twitter, and some of the things he posted there really make you think, given what he did on Monday. There were some song lyrics from Jay Z and Eminen—which I won’t repeat here—but check out what he said on April 7th: “If you have the knowledge and the inspiration, all that’s left is to take action.” Under normal circumstances, this would seem pretty motivational, don’t you think? But when you consider that this maniac bombed a peaceful sporting event and killed innocent people a week later, it becomes much darker and foreboding.

His last tweet came the day after the bombing and read simply “I’m a stress-free kind of guy.” At the time, Dzhokar and his brother Tamerlan were on the run and hiding from police. America was on high alert—and still is, to some degree—and the bombings were all over the news. Cops and federal agents were everywhere, searching for clues and suspects, while emergency personnel tried to sort out all the survivors. What’s more, the brothers had more explosives and weapons with them. Granted, their pictures weren’t released until recently—meaning they could still travel incognito—but the explosives had to be relatively unstable, making a fatal accident possible.

And this guy was “stress-free?” Something had to be seriously wrong with him.

Dzhokar posted some other Tweets in the past that are also eerie as hell now. Here are a few of the freakiest ones:

  • Last summer, he referenced the same event that he bombed this past Monday: “Boston Marathon isn’t a good place to smoke [though].” I can only assume he was smoking weed, but you never know. Crack or something worse might help explain how he became such a monster in such a short time.
  • “3rd zombie apocalypse dream in a span of like 2 weeks, i’m no golden boy but maybe, just maybe we should be expecting something soon.” Chilling.
  • It also appears that Dzhokar was a fan of September 11th, or at least felt no sympathy for those killed in the attacks. Here’s a tweet he posted on the subject: “September 10th baby, you know what tomorrow is. Party at my house!” And another: “[I don’t know] why it’s hard for many of you to accept that 9/11 was an inside job, I mean I guess fuck the facts y’all are some real #patriots.” What a jerk.

I have to say that this case gets crazier and crazier by the minute. The search for Dzhokar continues and at least one of the Boston Marathon bombers is dead. With any luck, both will be taken care of soon and we can finally get some answers. Like many of you, my main question is this: What turns two seemingly normal, naturalized U.S. citizens—people that everyone seemed to like in one way or another—into heartless terrorists bent on death and destruction… and with no regard for even their own lives?

Okay, my question might be a little longer than yours, but I enjoy being verbose, at least when I’m writing about something I believe in. Bringing justice to terrorists certainly qualifies.

Paul Kevin Curtis with an unfortunate necklace (courtesy of Facebook/AP)

As for those poisoned letters that were sent to Senator Wicker and President Obama—as well as some judge in Mississippi—it looks as if 45-year-old Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Mississippi could be our man. The Mississippi judge handled an assault case against him years ago and, believe it or not, Senator Wicker once hired him to impersonate Elvis Presley at an engagement party.

“He was quite entertaining,” Wicker recalled. “My impression is that since that time, he’s had mental issues and perhaps is not as stable as he was back then.”

Apparently, Curtis is bipolar and does fine while on his medication. When he falls of it, though, things get much, much worse. A family acquaintance mentioned how Curtis could become extremely paranoid and often felt people were “out to get him.” Curtis once thought that government drones were being used to spy on him—and why our government would spy on an Elvis impersonator, I have no idea. He was also writing a book called Missing Pieces because he honestly thought the underground trafficking of human body parts was a growing problem—and a problem being largely ignored by—you guessed it—the American government!

Sounds like Curtis is slightly left-of-center, if not way the hell out in left field. And all the “missing pieces” are there: mental illness, paranoid behavior, anti-government sentiment, blue suede shoes… okay, I’m kidding about that last one. Or am I?

Like the Tsarnaev brothers and most of us, Curtis also used social media. On Tuesday—the day before his arrest—he posted to Facebook that he was on “the hidden front lines of a secret war.” Fortunately, though, it looks as if his war has come to an end. Curtis has been charged with sending these letters and is safely behind bars. And given the recent media frenzy, this won’t be the last we hear of him, either.

Elvis must be rolling over in his grave… urn… whatever (courtesy of Reuters)

As I said before, updates in both of these cases have been coming pretty quickly. By the time you finish reading this post—and I hope there are a lot of you—there could be even more new developments. Stay tuned to your local newscasts or visit your favorite news website to learn more.

Better yet, wait for the movie. It’s only a matter of time before someone tries to “cash in” on what has to be one of the most dramatic and traumatic weeks in recent U.S. history. They always do.

UPDATE: As I mentioned, new developments in the Boston Marathon bombing case have been coming with lightning speed. And before I could even publish this post, I heard another one. Around 7:45 Friday evening, police engaged what we can only assume was the second suspect (Dzhokar Tsarnaev) on Franklin Street in Watertown, Massachusetts. Shots have been fired in what some have called “intense police activity” and residents of the area have been evacuated. In other words, STAY TUNED to your favorite news source if you want to hear how this thing ends. Based on this latest development, it could all be over before I hit “publish” again. And honestly, that would be just fine with me.

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