The Skinny is Keach Hagey's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.
Is kung fu a meditative path to enlightenment, or merely a really cool-looking way to deliver a beating?
It's a question at the center of many a poorly dubbed martial arts movie. And lately it's been in the headlines of Chinese newspapers, the Wall Street Journal reports, after the monks at the famous Shaolin Temple declined to join one of the biggest kung fu battles of all times - a competition to be staged in tandem with next year's Olympic Games in Beijing.
The monks at the 1,500-year-old temple, which has become synonymous with Chinese martial arts in the popular imagination (though only some of the thousands of varieties of kung fu actually can be traced back there), say they don't fight unless they have to.
But their rivals say they're just chicken.
"We are the best wushu competitors," said 21-year-old Ma Lingjuan, referring to kung fu by its other name. A Chinese world champion, she's been training at spinning and jabbing a spear since she was 10. "Our goal is the medal," she said. "The monks in the temple do it as a hobby."
Oooh, snap! And how do the monks, who claim they learn the kung fu moves as part of their meditation, respond? The monastery's abbot says they practice kung fu "with an understanding of Zen Buddhusim and love of the temple. On the other hand, athletes use wushu as a way to find honor. It is easy to tell which one is more sustainable and deep."
And, a little later, another monk adds: "We could win that. But we don't want to hurt anybody."
British Terror Plot Had Iraqi Al Qaeda Links
The New York Times has a scoop today on the inquiry into this year's bungled terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow. The Times says British investigators have linked the plotters to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. That's the homegrown Sunni extremist group in Iraq that American intelligence officials say is led by foreigners.
The evidence pointing to the involvement of the Iraqi group includes phone numbers of its members found on the plotters' cell phones recovered in Britain.
The plotters include Bilal Abdulla, a British-born doctor of Iraqi descent, and Kafeel Ahmed, an Indian aeronautical engineer. They parked two vehicles laden with gas canisters and explosives near a popular night club in central London at the end of June. The next day, they rammed a Jeep Cherokee loaded with gas canisters into the Glasgow airport.
The main source for all this comes from - of course - an unnamed American intelligence official, whose was granted anonymity because he was spilling secret intelligence information. (In other words, take all this with a large grain of salt. After all it's not the first time we've seen front-page Times stories attributed to unnamed American officials with their own agendas to push about Iraq's dangerousness.)
The official noticed several similarities between the events in Britain and attacks in Iraq attributed to al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, including the use of vehicle-borne explosives aimed at multiple targets. Other officials backed the first official's claims, but cautioned that the terror plots should be viewed as "A.Q.I.-realted, rather than A.Q.I.-directed," referring to the initials of al Qaeda In Iraq.
None of them would divulge the exact nature of the group's involvement with the operation.
Welcome To The New Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal appeared to be its good old self this morning, with the fun kung fu story above tucked just under a massive story about Goldman Sachs' eerily good luck in the face of the mortgage meltdown.
Yet a three-page ad for News Corp. in both the Journal and the Times reminded print readers what was different: There's a new sheriff in town, his name is Rupert Murdoch, and he does garish stuff like take out megalomaniacal ads in his own paper to crow about how he's going to change it.
The ad tracks News Corp.'s Napoleonic march to conquer all media, beginning with Murdoch's purchase of the Adelaide News in 1954 and ending with his company's recent acquisition of Dow Jones & Co. (Dow Jones shareholders just voted to approve the company's sale to News Corp.) The final words confirm many people's worst fears: "'The Wall Street Journal will never be the same.' Exactly. And that's a promise."
An editorial introduced the five-person committee charged with safeguarding Dow Jones' editorial integrity under the new regime - called, rather hilariously, the Special Committee. One wonders just how special they're going to have to be to compete with bold promises like the one above.
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