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For some reason the editors-in-chief, who have been closely following this case because Bauer last wrote for Mother Jones, wanted me to chop the last two paragraphs. I’ve included that upbeat bit added-value reporting to this version of the post. (The Daily Show segment I link to at the end is funny, fascinating, and highly recommended.)

UPDATE: My update was included on today’s Must Reads list.

Investigative journalist Shane Bauer and two companions “will be tried by Iran’s judiciary system and verdicts will be issued,” the Islamic republic’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, announced at a news conference Monday. The group was arrested in July after allegedly straying into Iran during a hiking trip near the Iraqi city of Sulaimaniya. While Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, accused the three University of California-Berkeley grads of espionage in November—a charge that can carry the death sentence—Mottaki said only that “relevant sentences” would be issued.

After the statement by Mottaki, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made another call for the release of Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27. “The three young people who were detained by the Iranians have absolutely no connection with any kind of action against the Iranian state or government,” Clinton told reporters. “We appeal to the Iranian leadership to release these three young people and free them as soon as possible.”

“When we hear this, the roller coaster goes again,” Shourd’s mother, Nora told the New York Times. “It’s like we just have to pull ourselves back and realize that nothing has happened yet. They’re waiting in their way, and we’re waiting impatiently in ours.”

Diplomatic tensions have complicated the fate of the wayward hikers. For several years, Iran has been pursuing nuclear power in the face of opposition from Western governments, which suspect it is trying to assemble materials for a nuclear bomb. In a September interview with NBC News, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alleged that America is holding several Iranian citizens “in US prisons right now with no good reason.”

The US has relied on Swiss diplomats for updates on Bauer and his friends. The US government ended direct diplomatic relations in the wake of Iranian hostage crisis and now works with Switzerland’s embassy in Tehran to communicate with the Iranian goverment. The Swiss, who have visted Bauer and the hikers twice in the infamous Evin prison where they are being held, say the Americans are healthy.

In spite of the troubling announcement from Iran, there is still reason to believe the three prisoners could be released soon. A handful of other foreigners and journalists have been freed in recent months after being detained under similar circumstances.

Last month five British sailors, who were picked up by the Revolutionary Guards when their yacht strayed into Iranian waters, were let go after only a week in custody. In May Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison before being released on appeal three months after her arrest. Iranian-Canadian Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari was released on bail in October, even though he called Ahmadenajad “a moron” in a Daily Show segment prior to the disputed election in Iran.

The MoJo blog post is available here. Go to FreeTheHikers.org to learn more about the plight of Shourd, Fattal, and Bauer, who is a fellow Minnesotan.

Photo courtesy of the Bauer family.

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2552191337_240b64d637_mI wrote this on Sunday night in between stoppages of play during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Wings won and my piece got posted the next evening so I was pretty happy with the results.

Hockey fan or not, be sure to watch the ad I refer to in the post–I asked my editor to embed the YouTube video in the text but she just made it another hyperlink, for some strange reason.

Also, I touched “the ultimate prize” when I was in high school, thus ruining my chance at becoming a successful player in the NHL.  It was worth it.

UPDATE – My editor emailed me: “Okay, fixed those issues and embedded the video (I didn’t at first because it was all starting to seem a bit too worshipful, like you were on the NHL payroll….). But added now, because your pathological adoration of hockey may have company.”  Oh what I would not give to be on the NHL payroll…

 

On May 31st the Detroit Red Wings earned a two-game lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals, the championship series of the National Hockey League (NHL). The hard-fought games showcased hockey at its finest and fiercest. Indeed, a fight broke out with 18.2 seconds left in the second game—something common in the regular season and nearly unheard of in the finals, when a two-minute penalty can cost a team its season.

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs passions run high. Perhaps this is because players are not competing for gaudy rings, silly trophies (designed to look like a collection of giant cocktail toothpicks) or cash bonuses, per se, unlike in other major North American sports. Rather, they are battling to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup, “perhaps the world’s best known piece of folk art,” according to the authors of the book “The Ultimate Prize“.

 

Click here to read the rest of the blog post and make a comment. 

Photo credit: michaelrighi (via Flickr)

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Although The Nation is legally registered as a for-profit company, it has lost money for nearly all of the magazine’s 144 year history and has only survived through the unwavering support of what are now some 30,000 Nation Associates. This profile was written for The Associate, the quarterly newsletter that goes out to all those rabid Nationistas.   Click here if you’d like to learn more about the Associates.

As one might expect of someone who donates to a for-profit corporation without the benefits of a tax deduction or voting shares, the Nation Associates are very passionate about the magazine so the content of each newsletter (the full PDF version of which can be downloaded here) is very Nation-centric.  The topic I wrote on, a profile of a Pulitzer Prize-winning contributing editor now living in Nepal, was already formulated when I agreed to write it up.  Although it was time consuming and uncompensated (!), I really, really enjoyed the experience–this is perhaps the first piece I’ve written since my “Green.view” articles where I was almost entirely removed from the frame of the article.  Kai Bird is the focus feature and he’s a fascinating subject.

 

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 “George Orwell once pointed out that political chaos may be both a cause and an effect of the decay of language, adding, ‘A man may take a drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.’ Nowhere is this semantic vicious cycle more apparent than in the American vocabulary of Middle East politics.”

This analysis could easily apply to the Israel lobby’s character assassination of Charles Freeman, the failed nominee for National Intelligence Council Chairman, or the Obama administration’s urge to double down the troop count in the failing war in Afghanistan, yet it first appeared in the opening article of a special issue, Myths of the Middle East, which was published on December 5, 1981. That unsigned editorial, like many written between 1978 and 1987, was authored by Kai Bird. During those nine years, first as associate editor in the New York office and four years later as a Washington editor, Bird played a major role in both the weekly production of The Nation as well as the broader progressive discussion about the focus of American foreign policy.

 

This was a role for which Kai was uniquely well suited. Bird was born in Eugene, Oregon, but at age four he moved to East Jerusalem in what was then Jordan and, with the exception of two years spent in Washington, DC, lived abroad until he returned to the US for college. The experience of growing up as the son of a Foreign Service officer sparked Bird’s interest in American foreign policy and led him to major in South Asian and Middle Eastern history at Carleton College. Before graduating he managed to get arrested protesting the Vietnam War with a young professor named Paul Wellstone and to do an independent study in India and Bangladesh during the tumultuous months that followed the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. His experience abroad helped him win a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to return to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. After completing a one year master’s in journalism at Northwestern, Bird married his wife, Susan, who had also recently graduated from Carleton and been awarded a Watson Fellowship. The couple—who now live with their 16-year-old son in Nepal, where Susan is the country director for the World Bank—took their first trip abroad together using her Watson money to travel by land from Europe to Bangladesh for 15 months.

 

Throughout his time with The Nation, Bird, regardless of what it said on the masthead, was thought of as the “foreign editor,” as senior editor Richard Lingeman referred to him in an interview for this profile. Along with Max Holland, Bird wrote the “Dispatches” column from Washington about American foreign policy and even managed to string together a couple of trips abroad. (more…)

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dc1The rejected title was “The View From Capital Hill.”

When my sister graduated from Lafayette College in May of 2008, she was unsure about what to do with her political science degree and newfound freedom. I had loans, a lease and a day job (where I spent most of my free time reading political blogs) so, in the hopes that I could live vicariously through her experiences on the campaign trail, I put my sister in touch with a friend on the Obama campaign who got her a field organizer position. Three hundred and sixty-five electoral votes later, I’m in my sister’s apartment on Capital Hill about to reap the final rewards from the (admittedly limited) assistance I gave to her half a year ago.


Click here to read the rest of the article.

Photo credit: AnyaLogic (via Flickr)

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On a trip to Beijing in the days before the hub-bub, Corbin Hiar finds a mixture of excitement and dread. He gazes back while taking in the five-ring circus …

The first thing we noticed stepping out of Beijing Capital International Airport was the smog. It hung heavy in the humid night like ozone after a violent thunderstorm. My mother, sister and I loaded our bloated backpacks into an idling cab. Its headlamps sent beams of light into the hazy evening air. In the waning days before the 2008 Summer Olympics, the much-needed subway line connecting the airport to the city centre had yet to be completed.

Fuwa, the five “good-luck dolls” that are the city’s Olympic mascots (pictured), swung from the mirror of our cabdriver’s Hyundai as he merged onto the airport expressway. We soon saw the first of many huge, flashing Olympic countdown clocks, as if anyone needed to be reminded of the declining sum of seconds before the opening ceremonies on August 8th. We passed over the recently completed Sixth Ring Road, fringed on both sides with bamboo. Gleaming new hotels shone in the dirty night sky as we followed the expressway into the heart of Beijing, where we would be staying for the week.

The transformation of the city from the imperial capital laid out by Kublai Khan in the 13th century to the current smoggy sprawl of glass, steel and the occasional slum began largely with Mao Zedong, who tore down most of the historic city walls. He began the grand project of the Second Ring Road–a mislabelled rectangular highway that circumscribes most of medieval Beijing and the entire Forbidden City. Mao destroyed most of Beijing’s distinctive hutong neighbourhoods of single-storey courtyard houses huddled along narrow alleyways, replacing them with massive Soviet-style concrete buildings. He also shut down many ancient temples or converted them into factories.

It wasn’t until 1980, with Deng Xiaoping’s awkwardly capitalist “Reforms and Opening up”, that Mao’s Second Ring Road was finally completed. A new wave of creative destruction began to reshape the city in earnest. When Beijing was awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2001 (seven years after narrowly losing out to Sydney), the building frenzy intensified. We arrived in time to witness this most recent wave wash over the city.

Click here to read the rest of the article. (And see the Fuwa!)

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