Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

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VIDEO: Elton John Denounces Russia's Anti-Gay Law at Moscow Concert

| Sat Dec. 7, 2013 2:06 PM PST

On Friday, singer-songwriter Elton John dedicated his concert in Moscow to Vladislav Tornovoi, a 23-year-old gay man tortured to death in southwest Russia in May. He also took a moment during the show to address Russia's new anti-gay law, which allows for fining and detaining gay and pro-gay individuals, and bans what is deemed homosexual propaganda to minors. Via Joe Jervis, here's the transcript:

You took me to your hearts all these years ago and you've always welcomed me with warmth and open arms every time I visited [Russia]. You have always embraced me and you have never judged me. So I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia. In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating. Some people have demanded that because of this legislation, I must not come here to Russia. But many, many more people asked me to come and I listened to them. I love coming here.

I want to show them and the world that I care and that I don't believe in isolating people. Music is a very powerful thing. It brings people together irrespective of their age, their race, their sexuality, or their religion. It does not discriminate. Look around you tonight. You see men, women, young and old, gay and straight. Thousands of happy Russian people enjoying the music. We're all here together in harmony, and harmony is what makes a happy family and a strong society.

The spirit we share tonight is what builds a future of equality, love and compassion for my children and for your children. Please don't leave it behind when you leave tonight. Each and every one of you, please, keep this spirit in your life and in your heart. I wish you love and peace and health and happiness. And this show is dedicated to the memory of Vladislav Tornovoi.

Russian gigs by pop stars Madonna and Lady Gaga—who both expressed support for the LGBT community during their performances—were met with legal backlash and controversy. The artists' St. Petersburg shows in August and December 2012, respectively, resulted in court cases. A $10 million lawsuit against Madonna was thrown out; Russian concert promoters of Lady Gaga's show were fined a symbolic $614. It is not clear at this time what the legal consequences will be for John.

Here's more footage from his Friday performance in Moscow:

The Weirdest Pearl Harbor Tribute You'll See All Weekend

| Sat Dec. 7, 2013 4:48 AM PST

Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the surprise strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy, which left more than 2,400 Americans dead and forced the United States to enter World War II.

This is how the SpaghettiOs Twitter feed marked the occasion:

SpaghettiOs Pearl Harbor anniversary tweet
@SpaghettiOs/Twitter

Weird, right? For what it's worth, @SpaghettiOs celebrated Thanksgiving in a far more tasteful manner.

The Campbell Soup Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the backlash to this bizarre canned-spaghetti-product Pearl Harbor tweet.

UPDATE: On Saturday, a spokeswoman for Campbell's emailed Mother Jones the following statement:

We apologize for our recent Tweet as we meant no harm and felt it was best to remove it from Twitter.

@SpaghettiOs also tweeted this:

 

The Worst Reactions to Nelson Mandela's Death

| Fri Dec. 6, 2013 10:27 AM PST

Yes, some of the reactions to Nelson Mandela's death have been less than ideal. As a few have pointed out, the comments on, say, this National Review blog post or Sen. Ted Cruz's Facebook page regarding Mandela (the guy was a commie, racist murderer, yada yada) are fairly disgusting. To be fair, some commenters on the internet are always nasty and dumb, whatever the topic. But how about people who (maybe?) should know better? Here are the worst reactions to Mandela's passing, courtesy of…

1. Rick Santorum: With a straight face, the former Republican senator and failed presidential candidate, who is now making pro-Christian movies, compared Mandela's long struggle against the apartheid regime to Republicans' battle against…Obamacare: "He was fighting against some…great injustice," Santorum said on Fox News yesterday, "and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that."

There are a few key difference between the Affordable Care Act and a racist tyranny, but whatever.

2. Bill O'Reilly: During the same Fox News segment, host Bill O'Reilly emphasized that "great man" Nelson Mandela was a "communist." This is not true, but it is true that South Africa has a partially socialized health care system.

3. Nikki Finke: The famous Hollywood blogger tweeted this gem:

Nothing like keeping your eye on the prize.

4. PJ Media: The conservative opinion website went with this sure-to-please-O'Reilly headline:

nelson mandela communist
Screenshot: pjmedia.com

5. Gaz from Geordie Shore: The star of the MTV UK reality show, who claims he "should have a degree in pulling women," sent this (since-deleted) tweet:

Gaz Twitter Nelson Mandela
@GazGShore, via metro.co.uk

Because nothing says "mourning the loss of a towering hero" than "free launch party tickets for a debut single."

Update: This one, too, courtesy of Rick Clark, sheriff of Pickens County, SC, who wrote on Friday that he would defy President Obama's order to lower American flags to half-staff in honor of Mandela.

"Nelson Mandela did great things for his country and was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!!" Clark writes. "The flag should be lowered at our Embassy in S. Africa, but not here. Our flag is at half staff today for a Deputy in the low country who died going to help his fellow Deputy. He deserves the honor. I have ordered that the flag here at my office back up after tomorrow's mourning of Pearl Harbor Day!"

Rick Clark sheriff Nelson Mandela
Rick Clark/Facebook

 

Which Hollywood-Style Climate Disasters Will Strike in Your Lifetime?

| Thu Dec. 5, 2013 4:00 AM PST
How likely are extreme climate scenarios like those featured in The Day After Tomorrow?

In a just-released report, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has taken an extensive look at the scary side, the dramatic side…let's face it, the Hollywood side of global warming. The new research falls under the heading of "abrupt climate change": The report examines the doomsday scenarios that have often been conjured in relation to global warming (frequently in exaggerated blockbuster films), and seeks to determine how likely they are to occur in the real world.

So here's a list of some of the most dreaded abrupt changes (where abrupt means occurring within a period of a few decades or even years), and the probability that they'll happen—even if nothing like the Hollywood version—before the year 2100:

 

Global warming freezes the Earth in 2004's The Day After Tomorrow.
20th Century Fox/Wikimedia Commons

Disruption of the Ocean's "conveyor belt"

As seen in: The scientifically panned 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow.

What would happen: The great overturning circulation of the oceans, driven by the temperature and the salt content of waters at high latitudes, transports enormous amounts of heat around the planet. If it is disrupted or comes to a halt, there could be stark changes in global weather patterns.

Chances it will happen this century: Low. For future generations, however, The Day After Tomorrow might be slightly less laughable (if still wildly exaggerated). In the longer term, the NAS rates the probability of a disruption as "high."

 

CBS/Wikimedia Commons

A sharp increase in extreme precipitation events

As seen in: The over-the-top Category 7 and the even more over-the-top Sharknado.

What would happen: The frequency and/or intensity of extreme precipitation events—including heavy rains, damaging flooding, droughts, and hurricanes—would show a relatively sudden increase. The consequence would be not only the potential for more weather disasters and their associated costs but also, the NAS warns, the possibility of "increased conflict" following disasters. No Category 7s, but still something worth worrying about.

Chances it will happen this century: According to the NAS, we can already detect a clear trend towards more extreme flooding, although trends in other extreme weather phenomena, such as droughts and hurricanes, are more murky for the moment. As for an abrupt change this century? NAS rates the outlook as "moderate."

 

Universal/Wikimedia Commons

Extreme Sea Level Rise Due to Polar Ice Sheet Collapse

As seen in: The 1995 Kevin Costner classic Waterworld.

What would happen: Here is arguably the scariest global warming scenario—the collapse of all or part of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, leading to rapid and extreme sea level rise. (But no, the continents would not disappear as in Waterworld. Not remotely.)

Chances it will happen this century: Fortunately, this risk is not likely to materialize before 2100, according to the NAS—with one possible exception, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which contains the equivalent of three to four meters of sea level rise. The NAS judges that an abrupt change here during this century is "plausible, with an unknown although probably low probability." In the longer term, meanwhile, the probability is high that some of the great ice sheets of the planet will indeed melt substantially and drive sea level rise on a scale measured in meters, rather than inches.

 

Universal/Wikimedia Commons

Worse Heat Waves, More Often

As seen in: Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (which isn't directly about global warming, of course, but is definitely about heat).

What would happen: Heat waves can be devastating. Not only can they kill significant numbers of people (and spark conflict), but they also can imperil agriculture and water supplies.

Chances it will happen this century: According to the NAS, a climate-related trend towards more intense and frequent heat waves has already been detected. And the outlook for an abrupt change for the worse in this century is "moderate."

 

Catastrophic Methane Release from the Arctic

As seen in: Amazingly, to our knowledge Hollywood hasn't made use of this one yet.

What would happen: One oft-touted climate fear is that undersea Arctic deposits of methane hydrate will be destabilized or even explode, releasing large volumes of gas into the atmosphere that, in turn, trigger rapid global warming. This scenario is particularly frightening because methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. By worsening global warming, an Arctic methane "bomb" would also increase the risk of other dangerous abrupt climate changes.

Chances it will happen this century: "Low," says the NAS. Over the longer term, however, the risk rises to "moderate"; and when it comes to a related threat—the release of stored carbon from the thawing of northern permafrost, which would also amplify global warming—the long-term risk is "high."

 

Warner Bros.

disappearing Arctic sea ice

 
 
 
 

As seen in: The 2012 Imax film To the Arctic (yes, a documentary).

What would happen: The loss of summer Arctic sea ice has profound effects, ranging from opening up dramatic new opportunities for shipping and resource exploitation, to reshaping ecosystems and native cultures, to changing global weather patterns.

Chances it will happen this century: The NAS considers the ongoing changes in the Arctic region to be an abrupt climate change that is already upon us. So you can watch this one in a documentary, or even in satellite images.

 
 
 
 
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