An uplifting story of two brothers amid this week’s terror

Details are beginning to surface about Ahmad Rahami, the suspect who is accused of planting explosives in New York and New Jersey this weekend, and was subsequently arrested following a shootout with police on Monday.

Those details include the fact that his friends and associates said he became a “completely different person” following a trip to Pakistan in 2011, as well as the more intriguing revelation that FBI officials investigated Rahami two years ago after his father informed police of his possible terrorist ties.

The explosions, plus the ensuing manhunt, is obviously a story that has dominated headlines the last few days.

And it’s understandable why that is. Anytime there’s a semblance of a terrorist threat in bombing-suspectNew York City, it immediately invokes memories of 9/11.

But we have to remember that this was actually a pretty slipshod terrorist attempt. Of the four known explosives that are linked to Rahami, only two actually detonated the way they were meant to. And even so, they didn’t kill anyone.

That’s certainly not to imply that 29 injured people is insignificant, but as far as terrorist attacks go, this was on the tamer side. It was not the work of a calculated or sophisticated terrorist cell.

Furthermore, given the incredible job by law enforcement to connect all the clues to Rahami in short order, this ordeal should teach us that we are stronger when we are together.

When times get rough, be vigilant. Be alert. Help one another and don’t let fear take hold. This is a prime example of that and something we can build off.

But anyway, I want to move on to something that I feel more people should know about. A story of an athlete who shoved aside personal glory to come to his brother’s aid.

It was at a triathlon in Mexico on Sunday during the final race of the World Triathlon Series. As the competitors sprinted toward the finish line, the race leader, Jonny Brownlee, of Great Britain, suddenly started showing the extreme effects of dehydration.

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He stumbled over to a water station, where he was on the verge of passing out. Behind him, the next two runners turned the corner. One of them was Henri Schoeman, of South Africa, and the other was Jonny’s brother, Alistair Brownlee.

Without a sliver of hesitation, Alistar immediately ran to his brother, wrapped his arm around him, and ushered him to the finish line. The South African won the race, but Jonny and Alistair finished second and third, respectively. As soon as they crossed the finish line, Jonny collapsed and was admitted to a hospital.

If you watch the video embedded in the link above, you’ll see that Jonny never would have finished the race if not for his brother.

If that doesn’t make you feel good, I don’t know what will. It brings back memories of the Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino moment at this year’s Olympics, and it’s occurrences like these that remind us what it means to be human.

Winning a race is a wonderful personal accomplishment, but putting everything aside in the name of love and respect — that’s a moment that will leave your mark on this world forever.

Your own personal moment may not be caught on camera, or publicized in the media — but it doesn’t mean your acts of kindness aren’t doing their part to make this world a better place.

Remember that.

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Crowdsourcing a terrorist suspect

People in and around the New York City area today were exposed to a very unpleasant noise to begin their Monday morning, in the form of a loud, screeching alarm from their smartphone that is typically reserved for AMBER alerts and severely inclement weather.

In this instance, it was neither. Rather, residents were being alerted to be on the lookout for a dangerous terrorist suspect.

By all accounts, it’s the first time that a Wireless Emergency Alert was used to essentially deputize millions of people during an active police investigation.

Given that social media  and technology has connected us all in ways that we never thought possible, it’s no real shock that it’s come to this. In fact, in many ways, it seems quite practical.

If people’s lives are in danger, why not let them know in the quickest way possible? Word of mouth does spread fast, but there’s no way to get information to somebody quicker than through their smart phone.

But let’s take a look at the actual message.

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This was, of course, in response to the explosion in New York City of a pressure cooker bomb on Saturday night, which appears to be linked to at least three other homemade bombs that appeared recently in New York and New Jersey. Thankfully (and amazingly), they’ve killed no one.

We’ve yet to learn if the attack is linked to ISIS, unlike a knife attack that took place this weekend in Minnesota that injured nine people, which the radical Islamic group has taken credit for.

But OK, let’s unpack this. Firstly, for an alert sanctioned by the federal government for the purpose of keeping people from danger, I’d like it to be a bit more official-sounding than your average text message, or dare I say, a tweet.

My mom uses better grammar in text messages and she just got her first smart phone this year.

Secondly, “see media for pic”? You just intervened in my life with this resounding chelsea-bombingmessage, and you’re not even giving me complete information? In fact, you’re ordering me to do something?

Not including a picture in this message underlies the fundamental problem with this particular alert.

Sure, a lot of people likely saw this on their phone and either turned on the TV news or went straight to Google to learn more.

But many did not. And those people were only told that some man with a Middle-Eastern sounding name is on the loose.

If that’s not an invitation to racial profiling, I don’t know what is. Every brown man wandering New York City must have been reported to the NYPD at some point today.

And I’m not saying that Wireless Emergency Alerts are a lost cause. Like I stated earlier, it’s undoubtedly an efficient way to spread the word and incite vigilance. But if your goal is to inform people, well, why not actually include all of the pertinent details?

But I may take a page from our federal government and send out wireless alerts whenever I write a new post.

“BREAKING — NEW POST BY WEINBLOG. SEE BLOG FOR MORE.”

Furthermore, instead of an obnoxious alarm, the alert will be accompanied by a serenading harp solo.

And those who don’t have the time to read it will have the option to have it narrated to them by Morgan Freeman.

This all sounds doable.

Mourn and be angry after Brussels, but don’t forget who the real enemy is

In the Caribbean Sea some 200 miles off the coast of Miami, on an island that’s roughly the size of the state of Kentucky, two world leaders met to begin the process of normalizing a global relationship that has been nothing short of toxic for more than six decades.

On Monday, President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro joined hands — albeit very awkwardly — and expressed optimism that one day the long-isolated nation of Cuba can be reintegrated back into the international community.

It’s something that many presidents before Obama tried to accomplish, dating back to John F. Kennedy — just months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest America has ever come to nuclear war — to no avail.

Yes, Cuba still has a lot to overcome, namely the restriction of free speech through persistent jailing of government dissidents, but to see two world leaders make the effort to establish peace in an increasingly hostile world is nonetheless encouraging.

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And then, less than 24 hours later, bombs exploded in Belgium.

It’s the nightmare authorities have for months been dreading ever since they learned of an extensive terrorist network that resides within the northwestern European country following last November’s Paris attacks.

Already this week, we’ve seen hope and terror at its finest. And it’s only Tuesday.

There’s no question we’re starting to become a bit desensitized to these tragedies. It’s also easy to compare today’s death toll — at least 30 — to the 130 who died in Paris four months ago and internalize that it’s not that bad.

But let’s not forget these are 30 innocent lives, and 30 families that are gravely affected. It usually takes names and faces, and personal life stories, to make the victims resonate with most people. Maybe this time, though, until those identities do come out, let’s just grieve and take a moment to acknowledge these 30 nameless people.

Typical cliches run rampant after such incidences. Phrases urging you to not give into fear,Brussels.jpg to not let anxiety over terrorism dictate your life, and to support love over hate. You know, the usual.

Here’s another one for you: don’t be stupid.

Fear-mongers relish these situations to pedal intolerance and manipulate others in their most vulnerable states. Don’t let them.

Instead of listening to an emphatic sound byte, maybe do a little bit of research on your own to better understand who the real enemy is. And that enemy is a small fraction of disillusioned people called ISIS who long ago traded away their humanity. Nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t condemn Islam. Don’t blame all Muslims. Don’t hate someone because they’re not like you.

It’s so easy to do — I know. I understand that. But it’s also incredibly ignorant, and doesn’t do you justice as a human being. You’re better than that.

I certainly can’t tell you what to think. But if you feel like you need to point blame at some one, then I hope you’ll block out the outside noise and form your own opinion.

Because we can’t move forward unless we all understand who we’re against. And even more important, who our allies are.

I know where I stand.

Do you?

The true aim of terrorism is only successful if we let it break our spirit

It’s a shame that I even have to make this post. It’s early on Saturday morning, and yet, here I am, not even out from beneath the covers of my bed.

Paris is reeling. More than 125 are dead in what was a series of coordinated, simultaneous terrorist attacks that ISIS is taking credit for.

What can you really say? This is an unprecedented tragedy and the entire world is mourning.

But here is what I’ve decided: terrorism, sadly, is something that may never go away. There will always be extremists out there who are disillusioned enough to believe that murder and chaos is the only means to an end in order to achieve the world that they desire.

Peace for ParisAnd while they gloat about and praise these cowardly acts, the only way to properly defy them is to let them know that nothing they can do will make us cower in fear. Nothing will let us change who we are. We will not subscribe our lives to the fear of terrorism.

They can’t win, ever, because they can not break our spirit.

And that’s what needs to happen moving forward. Petty disagreements surrounding political emails, oil, the South China Sea, and a piece of paper determining how many centrifuges Iran can spin need to be be put aside so we can look at the bigger picture.

What ISIS did on Friday night in Paris is an act of war. Now it’s up to the rest of the world to decide what they want to do next. We have truly reached a defining moment in history. And that’s where everyone’s focus should lie. How we react to this, both politically, mentally, and spiritually. Most importantly, it’s something that we all need to do together.

People are still haunted by the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any mention of sending troops overseas is met with backlash. When we send special forces to Syria, the predominant question is whether there will be “American boots on the ground?” No one wants any more Americans to die in a war on foreign land.

Thus far into his presidency, Barack Obama has refrained from starting a new war for that very reason. But to say that he hasn’t tried anything to stop ISIS is flat-out untruthful. A clandestine drone campaign has been ongoing for months. The operation just recently killed a notable ISIS executioner.

Will that policy change? It’s possible. Acts of evil can change the minds of even the most staunchest pacifists.

But that’s for world leaders to decide.

As for the rest of us, we can do our part by standing together as one. Never mind your religion, skin color, ethnicity, immigration status, salary, or political views.

Let’s unite under a more simple concept.

Humanity.