Monday, March 28, 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Burmese rafters cross into Thailand on inner tubes along the Moie River between Mae Sot, Thailand, and Myawaddy, Myanmar (Burma). 
Yesterday I wrote about the hazards faced by western journalists working in Libya and the Middle East. While those hazards are real, they’re nothing compared to the risks local journalists take in those countries every hour of every day. 
Western journalists are somewhat protected by their status as foreigners. People at the New York Times started looking for their coworkers as soon as the four New York Times journalists went off the radar in Libya. The same thing when Joe Raedle and the two AFP journalists went missing. Calls were made to the Libyan foreign ministry and diplomats are notified, and wheels start turning. The seven disappeared under relatively public circumstances. No one came into their hotels in the middle of the night and snatched them. 
Local journalists are not so lucky. When one of them disappears, it seldom makes headlines here. No one raises alarms about their missing colleagues. Foreign diplomats don’t get involved. Local journalists are routinely snatched from their homes or off the street after work. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"The Air Was Full Of Metal"

The world has been riveted for the last two months on the news coming out of North Africa and the Middle East. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and most recently Libya, have seen changes the likes of which the world hasn’t witnessed since the end of World War II. Some of have said it’s the last convulsions of the Ottoman Empire (because the maps for the modern Middle East were drawn by the British and French after they defeated the Turkish Ottoman Empire in World War I). 
These revolutions have been dangerous for the western journalists who are covering them. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hail To The (Ex) Chief

Former President George W. Bush speaks at the 50th Anniversary dinner for Arizona Christian University, a small conservative Christian school in north Phoenix. 
We were allowed to photograph the first three minutes of the President’s speech and were escorted out of the building on minute four. It was stills only - no video. More than 1200 people paid $500 each to nosh with El Jefe (stuffed chicken with a cheesecake pastry dessert) and listen to him recall decision points in his administration. 
Outside the venue, about 100 anti-war protesters and social justice advocates demonstrated against the former prez, claiming policies he authorized like torture and “extraordinary rendition” are not representative of the Christian values a school like Arizona Christian University upholds. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why Is This Man Smiling?

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne leaves the grounds of the state capitol in Phoenix escorted by immigrants’ rights activists who heckled the AG the whole time he was at the capitol Monday. 
Immigrants’ rights activists have been at the capitol for weeks protesting against the anti-immigrant bills being put forward by the state’s Tea Party influenced GOP legislators. One of the bills would require hospitals to verify the immigration status of patients checking in for elective care. Another would turn school officials into ICE agents because it would require schools to verify the residency status of their students,  including home schooled children. Another would result in arrest and impoundment of the car for undocumented drivers in Arizona even if they have a driver’s licence from another state. (Arizona does not issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, but some states, like New Mexico, do.) 
Horne has been a target of the immigrants’ rights activists since he authored legislation outlawing ethnic studies programs during his time as Arizona’s education superintendent. It’s not clear why he came to the capitol Monday (his office is about three blocks east of the capitol complex). Certainly as AG he does a lot of business at the capitol, but on Monday he didn’t go into any of the buildings or meet with legislators. He walked from the parking lot into the crowd, who started heckling him as soon as they saw him, around the plaza between the buildings and back to his car (a Jaguar in case anyone is wondering). It’s almost as though he did it just to rile up the crowd. 
UPDATE 3/18: The State Senate defeated all of the anti-immigrant bills during their session Thursday. This means the Republicans defeated them since the Democratic minority is too small to defeat or block legislation. The GOP change in heart apparently came after the Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Senate saying, essentially, enough is enough. Immigration is a distraction and causing a lot of anti-Arizona backlash in other states. Get on to job creation. They seem to have listened.