Today in History: June 17

Now that Raif and I were forcibly separated from one another, we were behaving as we had done at the start of our relationship: we constantly wrote each other messages. We sent chats or spoke on the phone … When I woke up, I was usually greeted by one of his little hearts sent to my phone during the night.
 
This morning, however, I didn’t find a single heart, and no missed calls. […] I had an extremely bad feeling, and called his number. […] I don’t know how often I tried that morning. Twenty times? Fifty times?
 
At about the fifty-second attempt someone suddenly answered. I was almost speechless with surprise when I heard a deep man’s voice at the other end. But it wasn’t Raif’s voice. “Who the hell is this?” it asked angrily. “You’re getting on our nerves!”
 
I gave a terrible start. “Where is my husband?” I asked shrilly.
 
“He’s in jail.”
Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story, Ensaf Haidar, Andrea Claudia Hoffmann

Four years ago today, writer Raif Badawi was arrested for violating article 6 of the Saudi Anti-Cybercrime Law. He has been incarcerated since that day. In the subsequent four years he was convicted of “insulting” Islam in his writings, sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years imprisonment, and even had his sentence re-considered but made harsher: 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes.

On January 9, 2015, he was whipped 50 times. One year ago today, his sentence was re-affirmed and Saudi authorities published a statement expressing official dismay at the international attention his story was attracting, largely thanks to the incredible efforts of his wife Ensaf Haidar.

In the last year, he won the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament (the photo at top) and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet he is still in prison.

I have written almost 30 articles about Raif Badawi and Ensaf Haidar and also about his heroic sister Samar Badawi and her husband, Raif’s lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair, who is in prison with Raif. I have also written about the movement that has grown around Ensaf’s tireless efforts to teach the world about her beloved husband.

* * * *
Five men were arrested for breaking in to the Democratic National Committee’s offices in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC, shortly after midnight 44 years ago tonight. They were there to install listening devices on the phones and copy any documents that might look worth copying.

Within days, it was known that the five had connections in President Richard Nixon’s White House; by the time the Watergate Scandal concluded, two years and two months later, it was known that Nixon himself had participated from the start in the process of covering up those connections to his administration. He resigned after articles of impeachment passed the House Judiciary Committee, but before the impeachment trial started.

In all, 69 individuals who worked in the Nixon Administration were indicted and 48 were found guilty or pleaded guilty and were incarcerated, including officials as high up as the Attorney General, John Mitchell.

* * * *
On this date in 1994, former football star O.J. Simpson and several dozen Los Angeles Police Department vehicles became must-watch television for an evening. Simpson was going to be arrested in connection with the brutal murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. (Their names should always be included and never forgotten in articles concerning the former football star.) Rather than take him by force, because they had no reason to, the LAPD and news copters throughout the city followed his leisurely, wandering, return home at a slow speed.

* * * *
Jeff Chandler died 55 years ago today. Kate Smith died 30 years ago today. Kate Smith sang other songs besides “God Bless America.” Here she is with “Dream a Little Dream of Me” in the early 1950s:

 
* * * *
Igor Stravinsky was born on this date in 1882. Ruth Graves Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, was born in 1903 on this date. John Hersey was born 102 years ago today. David “Stringbean” Akeman was born 101 years ago on this date.

* * * *
Barry Manilow is 73 today. “Could It Be Magic”:

 
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is 73. Joe Piscopo is 65. Mark Linn-Baker is 62. Jello Biafra is 58. Bobby Farrelly is 58. Thomas Haden Church is 56. Greg Kinnear is 53. Will Forte is 46. Venus Williams is 36.

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