Category Archives: Crime

Palestinian prisoners

Israel has released 250 (carefully selected) Palestinian prisoners in a bid to bolster Mahmoud Abbas.

The ex-inmates are almost all from Abbas’ Fatah group, with a few from smaller organisations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. None are from Hamas — releasing a Hamas prisoner would have defeated the purpose of the exercise.

All the men signed a document promising not to take part in violence against Israel.  I imagine a good many probably will — it’s a good sign when you read quotes like this:

Amjad Namura, 24, of Hebron, who was freed after serving half of a four-year sentence, said he was happy to comply with any agreement signed off by Abbas.

“We are with the decisions of the president no matter what. Whatever Fatah tells me to do I will do it,” he said.

There are always one or two nutjobs/fanatics in every group so some will have to be watched very carefully, even if none of those released were actually involved in attacks on Israelis.

It is a solid gesture from Israel to shore up Abbas, who has seen the Palestinian territories split in two. Unfortunately, it won’t give him the momentum to take power back from Hamas, which is governing a de facto state in the Gaza Strip.

What the release — and the looming early legislative and presidential elections — will do is cement the divide. Hamas won the parliamentary elections last year and in all likelihood will simply ignore any new vote. Ismail Haniyeh has yet to acknowledge having been replaced as Palestinian prime minister, so why should his party colleagues acknowledge they’ve lost their seats?

Calling new elections, which is an understandable enough course of action, runs the risk of legitimising the break-up of Palestinian territory. This is dangerous because although Gaza cannot economically survive on its own, that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to exist outside the control of centralised authority.

Both sides have repeatedly said they do not want to split. Unfortunately reality and ambition are often two very distinct entities. A commenter on my International Analyst article raised the possibility of a multinational force going in to Gaza, but that is a very remote possibility.

Abbas is about to take one of the biggest gambles of his life. For the sake of peace in the Middle East, let’s hope it pays off.

Benoit murder-suicide


I’ve been left shaken by the news Chris Benoit murdered his family before killing himself.

What exactly happened is unclear, although police say the details will seem a little “bizarre”. The 40-year-old is believed to have killed his wife and seven-year-old child over the weekend and himself on Monday.

(Update: police have said he strangled her, smothered the child and then hanged himself. The incident may be linked to steroid-induced depression or ‘roid rage’)

For those who don’t know Benoit, he was a performer with World Wrestling Entertainment. He was due to appear on Sunday night’s Vengeance pay-per-view, but was withdrawn due to “personal reasons”.

He was also one of my all-time favourite pro-wrestlers, although I haven’t followed the industry for several years.

According to WWE, the company asked authorities to check on Benoit and his family after being alerted by friends who received “several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning”.

The bodies were found in three separate rooms of the wrestler’s Atlanta home.

Born in Canada, Benoit trained in Calgary with the legendary Stu Hart and competed for Hart’s Stampede Wrestling group from 1985-89.

His strong grappling style won him legions of fans in Japan, before enhancing his reputation in the US with a stint for Extreme Championship Wrestling. He style earned the nickname “Canadian Crippler”.

His career blossomed in World Championship Wrestling after he became one of the Four Horsemen (along with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman). A lengthy best-of-seven feud with Booker T propelled him toward the upper ranks before Benoit jumped ship to WWE.

He, along with the likes of Eddie Guerrero — who died of heart failure in 2005 — were the workers who renewed my interest in professional wrestling.

Although I was always aware of the backstage booking work, I was genuinely surprised when Benoit defeated Triple H in 2004 at Wrestlemania XX (the first time WWE’s flagship PPV ended with a submission). The footage of Benoit celebrating in the ring with Guerrero, who also won a world title that night, is one I will remember for a very long time.


In an industry replete with characters, Benoit was one who stood out. He wasn’t good on the microphone, nor was he a showboater, nor was he charismatic in a traditional sense.

He won the crowd over the old-fashioned way: by working hard in the ring, using his physical strength and demonstrating one of the best technical-wrestling arsenals of recent years.

This was what brought me back to wrestling. I seldom found the storylines compelling, but the in-ring work by the likes of Benoit was compelling. He made me appreciate the traditional aspects of the industry. It was a combination of no-nonsense physical grappling and expert ring psychology. His was never a “brawl for all” style, but you could see his use of tactics to bring down his opponent.

(Yes, the finishes etc are scripted. But it’s one thing to be told what to do and something completely different to go out there and make it realistic.)

A combination of moving home for work and then night shifts for the Examiner put paid to my WWE watching. I occasionally checked in on the website but never recovered the passion.

It is disturbing to think one’s heroes could be capable of such terrible acts. There could be many reasons, but it would be uncouth of me to speculate without a deeper knowledge of the facts.

All I can say is that professional wrestling has lost a true great, and I have lost an idol.


Mob trial

Jury selection is under way in Chicago’s biggest organised crime trial in years.

Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo and four other men face various charges arising from an FBI investigation into unsolved murders allegedly linked to the the city’s organised crime family, the Outfit.

Among the 18 killings is that of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, who was killed as part of a feud within the mob. His case inspired the Scorsese film Casino, in which Joe Pesci played the Spilotro character.

But that’s not what interests me. I’m intrigued by the fact prosecutors think they can get a viable jury. To quote AP:

Prospective jurors were asked about family members, their previous knowledge of the case, whether they worked in law enforcement or had been arrested for crimes, and if they thought they could be fair.

They also were asked whether the fact that most of the defendants are of Italian descent and that they would have to listen to profanity on tape recordings would influence how they considered the case.

Do they think they can be fair? Is there ever a better chance to say no? “Uh, no I can’t be fair in this case.” “Why not?” “I don’t want to die.”

Jesus wept. I’m not sure if it’s a crime to lie during jury selection, but wouldn’t this be worth it?


Sudan has arrested 12 people accused of smuggling antiquities including two mummies.

As this Reuters mini-story points out, Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt and its rulers are sometimes referred to as the “Black Pharoahs”.

But why they’ve used a picture of Chachapoyas mummies from the Andes to illustrate the story is beyond me.

Please indulge me for a moment

I know this is especially childish of me, but please allow me just this one moment of mild insanity after hearing Paris Hilton is going back to jail for her full 45-day term:



I thank you for your patience.


Sorry. That one just slipped out.

On a serious note, allowing her to escape her punishment would be wrong, oh so very wrong. Nobody else would be allowed home from prison after three days just because he or she wasn’t adjusting very well. The lack of documentation to support this “medical reason” leads me to suspect it wasn’t valid to begin with.

Tough shit, Paris. Welcome to real life.