Jealous murder

It's looking more like the knife attack on Americans in Beijing soon after the start of the Olympics has little to do with the victims being foreigners and everything to do with them being a happy family. It appears that Tang Yongming attacked them because he had severe family problems, and seeing a happy family with two parents and their daughter may have triggered a rage that made him attack. Or perhaps he was planning to attack any happy-looking family from the start: it would explain why he was carrying a knife. If this speculation is true, then the timing of the attack coming soon after the start of the Olympics may simply be a coincidence.

While the attack is still inexcusable and does not lessen the tragedy the family has suffered, it would at least indicate that there shouldn't be a repeat of the attack. The good news is that the condition of the wife is improving, so hopefully there will be only one murder victim, which is bad enough.

Murder in the Beijing Olympics

It has been less than a day since the Beijing Olympics has started, but there is already a murder of an American in the city. Was this just an attack by a deranged man? Or was it a politically motivated terrorist attack expressing anti-American sentiments? It might not be easy to figure out his motivations given that the murderer killed himself.

Questionable media coverage of anthrax attack suspect

Glenn Greenwald wrote an excellent summary of certain facts concerning the anthrax attack suspect that killed himself. It highlights the fact that most media claims concerning his instability comes from a social worker who isn't terribly credible, especially when everyone else had a very different impression of him. It strengthens my suspicion that Dr. Ivins, the suspect for the anthrax attack, was an innocent researcher on whom the pressure from the FBI investigation drove him to suicide. However, I don't think the investigation was the main impetus for his suicide; it's more probable that it had merely aggravated an already existing mood disorder. Even if the social worker was telling only the truth, it could easily have been due to a depression made worse by the investigation, rather than him being psychopathic from birth.

Of course, I'm rather removed from all the facts and the above is largely speculation, but I think it's most likely. It's still entirely possible that he was indeed the perpetuator of the attacks or that he was murdered in a way to look like suicide so that the case could be officially closed. In any case, all the evidence that has been made available to the public so far is purely circumstantial; the FBI would have to reveal really strong evidence to convince everyone that the case should be closed.

Anthrax suicide: suspect or victim?

A possible suspect for the anthrax attacks in 2001 has apparently committed suicide. He was a researcher at USAMRIID working on biodefenses such as a vaccine against anthrax. He was being quietly investigated by the FBI, which is not surprising given what happened the last time a suspect's name was leaked to the public.

He had access to anthrax and lived within 200 miles from where the anthrax-tainted letters were apparently mailed from, so it's feasible that he was indeed the culprit, although not enough details are public to even form an opinion if it really could have been him. But if he was indeed the culprit, in which case I apologize to the FBI for saying they didn't have a clue, what would have been his motive? Was it a cynical attempt to get increased funding into anthrax research? Was it a severely misguided attempt at venting his frustrations? Or was he just a patsy for certain government agencies trying to ferment a climate of fear?

On the other hand, it's quite possible he's innocent. Losing his job and being harassed by the FBI could have made him depressed enough to commit suicide. Of course, this is assuming that it was suicide. For all we know, it could have been murder by the actual culprits of the 2001 anthrax attack, killing a known suspect and making it look like suicide in order to halt any further investigations.

Tourist murdered by North Korea?

The shooting that resulted in the death of a tourist last week is unacceptable by itself. There is no way North Korea could justify the lethal shooting of a 53-year old unarmed housewife, short of her being a threat to another's life or extremely sensitive facilities. And it's laughable to think that such justifying circumstances could have occurred; if she was a threat to someone's life then they would have no reason to hide it and in fact would have every reason to publicize it, and I can't believe that even the North Koreans would be incompetent enough to locate an extremely sensitive facility near a tourist resort. Anything less, even including espionage, would at most rate a detention.

While it would be bad enough if it was just an extremely unfortunate incident caused by an undisciplined and hair-trigger soldier, North Korea seems to be doing everything it can to make it look far worse. While I'm usually skeptical of conspiracy theories, it's as if they want us to believe that this entire incident was staged by the North Korean government. The following facts make the whole thing stink:

  • Previous incursions into restricted areas were merely warned away without shots being fired.

  • North Korea is stonewalling any investigation by outside parties.

  • The account of the incident provided by North Korea is fishy.

    • If the explanation provided by North Korea were correct, then a 53-year old woman would have had to walked 3.3 kilometers, or 2 miles, on sand within 30 minutes, which doesn't sound terribly realistic.
    • Witnesses claim they heard gunshots 30 minutes after when North Korea claims the incident happened.
    • Witnesses also claim that they heard only two gunshots, despite the claim by North Korea that a warning shot was fired before the two lethal shots.
  • North Korea blames South Korea for the incident with no explanation. A North Korean kills an unarmed South Korean and somehow it's the fault of South Korea? How is this supposed to work?

What's going on here? What is North Korea aiming for? What is it they want that would outstrip their desperate need for the large amount of hard currency they earn from the tourist resort? As a non-member of all the governments involved, I feel no compunction about indulging in fanciful speculations:

  • Somehow all the facts are according to North Korea's claims, and the witnesses are just remembering incorrectly. North Korea is just being its usual obstinate self.

  • North Korea did a half-assed job of investigating what happened, and they don't want to get embarrassed by outside investigations showing how incompetent they are.

  • North Korea is trying to do a minor coverup, perhaps trying to protect the responsible solder who might happen to be the son of an important Party member, to hide the fact that he was drunk, or to dodge responsibility for the lack of discipline and sloppy maintenance of the resort boundaries.

  • North Korea is using this unfortunate incident as a chance to break off, or at least dampen, diplomatic relations with South Korea.

  • The tourist was part of an espionage operation by South Korea and was killed when discovered.

  • An internal power play is occurring using this incident as an opportunity, resulting in miscommunications and a sloppy investigation. Or perhaps false information is being deliberately fed to the higher ups in the North Korean government to weaken their power.

  • This was a deliberate act of cold-blooded murder by North Korea for political gain. Perhaps the guarding soldier had standing orders to kill any tourists straying into a restricted area at the earliest opportunity, so it could have been anyone that was shot.

What could be the truth? I have no idea. I just hope that North Korea doesn't get away with it without any negative consequences.