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Posts by: "Mark Olshaker"

American Constitution

Some years ago, I worked on a program special for PBS, entitled “God and Country,” hosted by Gwen Ifill and Bryant Gumbel. It was about the often troubled relationship between religion and the American Constitution, so naturally, the subject of gay rights and same-sex marriage was central to the discussion.

In the course of my producing responsibilities, I interviewed a number of people – mostly men, as it turned out – who could be considered members of the “religious right.” Black or white, clergy or layman, political operative or uninvolved politically, there was an interesting consistency to their responses.

And now, with last week’s Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, we’re going to have the opportunity to see if they were correct.

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John . . . and Jack?

John . . . and Jack?

In October 1988, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of London’s Whitechapel murders, John Douglas was asked to appear on a two-hour live television special entitled “The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper.” The program, broadcast from Los Angeles and hosted by British actor, writer and director Peter Ustinov, presented a number of the known suspects and presented evidence to help several experts evaluate the best candidate.

Several of the candidates suggested included the “sexy” ones: Royal physician Sir William Gull and Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Edward Albert, Duke of Clarence. But John ended up focussing on a Polish Jewish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski, who ended his life in an insane asylum.

This past week, the British Mail newspaper announced that a shawl found by the body of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth victim, has been linked by mitochondrial DNA to  Aaron Kosminski.

How about that?

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Stephen Joel Trachtenberg

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg

Last week, my friend Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University, appeared on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show focussed on the role of fraternities and sororities on college campuses.

Before the program was over, a national firestorm had erupted over remarks he made about women and drinking, and declaring that he was guilty of the kind of retrograde attitude that blames victims for what has been done to them.

I disagree completely. What Steve Trachtenberg is guilty of is nothing more or less than common sense, a commodity apparently all too uncommon these days.

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With the acknowledgement that ISIS – the Islamic terrorist group so extreme that it has been rejected by al Qaeda – having recruited more than a thousand Americans to go fight for jihad, comes the worry that one or more of these individuals could return to the United States and wreak horror back home.

What could they do? Well, these are people who are proficient with weapons and are suicidally dedicated. That’s a bad combination.

So what are we doing about it?

Plenty. Since September 11, 2001 we have spent trillions and created entire new bureaucracies to combat homeland terrorism.

And yet. . .

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Robert Hansen

Word came yesterday that Robert Hansen, known as “the Butcher Baker,” had passed away at age 75 at a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska. He was serving a sentence of 499 years in prison for kidnapping, rape and murder. He admitted to killing 17 women; we’ll probably never know the actual number.

Like the main character in Richard Connell’s popular 1924 short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” Robert Hansen got a particular thrill from hunting humans – in his case, terrified, naked women.

The cause of Mr. Hansen’s death was not announced. But whatever it was, it could not have come soon enough.

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