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.

The Latest Republican Talking Point on Al Qaeda Is Spectacularly Wrong

| Mon Aug. 5, 2013 3:08 PM EDT

On Friday, the Obama administration announced the temporary closure of more than 20 embassies and consulates, and the State Department issued a global travel alert warning of potential terrorist attack, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. The closures and warning were prompted by intercepted communications indicating an Al Qaeda threat linked to Yemen.

"This is probably one of the most specific and credible threats I've seen, perhaps since 9/11—and that's why everybody's taking this so seriously," Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), House Homeland Security chairman, said on Face the Nation on Sunday. Other Republicans, however, took things a step further during the Sunday talk shows.

"This is a wake-up call," Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said on This Week. "Al Qaeda is in many ways stronger than it was before 9/11, because it's mutated and spread, and can come at us in different directions." Jim DeMint, Heritage Foundation president and former tea party senator, made similar comments on Fox News Sunday: "Well, it's clear that Al Qaeda may be more of a threat to us than they were before 9/11 now. And the perception of weakness in this administration is encouraging this kind of behavior."

There is virtually no evidence that this is true. Yes, the group maintains some frightening affiliates in Yemen, parts of North Africa, and elsewhere. But Al Qaeda's leadership has been severely crippled by the Obama administration's aggressive and controversial anti-terror operations abroad. Under Obama, there has been a noticeable uptick in the number of Al Qaeda-affiliated operatives and suspected extremists taken off the battlefield.

Also, Osama bin Laden was very much alive pre-9/11 attacks. He was killed during President Obama's first term. So there's that.

Furthermore, the embassy closures and travel alert have inspired another round of conservative media personalities taking shots at the Obama administration over last year's deadly attack on the US compound in Benghazi—an obvious tragedy, and an obvious nonscandal. "If you're looking at it from a terrorist perspective, you say, 'Well, here's an administration that's pulling back, that's timid, and an opportunity to go after additional embassies,'" Rick Santorum, former Republican senator and 2012 presidential candidate, said on Meet the Press on Sunday. To that, here is a chart demonstrating the overall decline in attacks on American diplomatic targets since 1970:

chart attacks on US diplomatic targets

Just another reminder that there are some talking points out there that just might verge on hyperbolic and gratuitously scary-sounding.

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Republicans Won't Stop Trying to Name Ocean Waters After Ronald Reagan

| Thu Aug. 1, 2013 6:23 PM EDT

The saga continues. Via The Hill:

Republicans and Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee argued colorfully Wednesday over a GOP bill that would name 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean after the late President Ronald Reagan.

The panel is weighing Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) bill that would rename the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which generally extends from 3 miles to 200 miles offshore, as the Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone.

"While certain left-wing organizations have characterized this legislation as trivial, there is no debate our 40th president served with the highest distinction," said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), speaking in favor of the bill that honors Reagan's 1983 designation of the EEZ.

Republicans in Congress have been at this for a while now. It keeps with their pattern of attempting to name virtually everything in sight after our 40th president. In 1998, Washington National Airport was officially renamed, via legislation, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, even though it was already named after a man who most credible historians can agree was a considerably superior president to Reagan. Deification has reached such a point that during the 2012 Republican National Convention, rumors swirled that the convention's "mystery speaker" was going to be a hologram of Reagan. (It turned out to be a non-hologram version of fellow actor Clint Eastwood instead, to the disappointment and anger of many.)

Liam Neeson Joins UNICEF's Campaign To Stop Violence Against Children, Citing "Taken" As Inspiration

| Thu Aug. 1, 2013 4:33 PM EDT

Liam Neeson.

Actor Liam Neeson—recently famous for playing a good-natured CIA torturer who massacres ethnic stereotypes who've kidnapped his daughter—has a long history of working with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). In 1997, Neeson was the celebrity face of Change for Good, a partnership between UNICEF and international airlines. Since then, he has traveled to Mozambique in support of HIV and AIDS prevention programs, and became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011.

And this week, UNICEF began promoting their new public service announcement starring Neeson. The PSA is part of a campaign to combat violence against children around the world, from gang rape to cyber-bullying. "As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, I have long followed the issue of violence against children and the devastating impact it has on children, families and communities," Neeson said. "It was a topic that became increasingly real to me as a child growing up in Ireland and during the filming of Taken, which focuses on one aspect of violence and abuse against children in the form of trafficking and sexual exploitation." (Neeson has lent his time and celebrity to a number of causes and charities, including that time he stripped almost completely naked to raise money for breast cancer research.)

Watch the PSA here:

"By generously giving his time and talent...Liam Neeson helped garner attention to UNICEF's #ENDviolence initiative," Marissa Buckanoff, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, told Mother Jones in an email. "His compassion and dedication to the issue will make a real difference in children's lives as this powerful video message is one more way to urge everyone...to join forces and make the invisible visible and help stop violence against children."

Other celebrity Goodwill Ambassadors include "Twitter Nazi hunter" Mia Farrow and Orlando Bloom. UNICEF works with famous entertainers on a regular basis; for instance, pop singer Katy Perry traveled with the organization to visit slums and villages in Madagascar earlier this year.

Here's Why Some People Think the Smurfs Are Jew-Hating Communists

| Wed Jul. 31, 2013 3:58 PM EDT

Smurfette Katy Perry invades Czechoslovakia.

The Smurfs 2
Columbia Pictures
105 minutes

Ever since The Smurfs—the Belgian TV and cartoon franchise—kicked off in 1958, the little blue creatures have gained an enviable international presence. The Smurfs have been on money. They've been featured in a UNICEF ad campaign in which the peaceful Smurf village is indiscriminately carpet bombed. And in summer 2011, the big-screen Smurfs adaptation, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Sofía Vergara, was a box-office hit; the Smurfs even got to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

And with The Smurfs 2 hitting theaters this week, it's a good time to revisit another important piece of the Smurf legacy: The lovable blue-skinned animals might also be rabid totalitarians and raging anti-Semites.

The Onion Predicts Real Life: Republicans Block NASA's Asteroid Plan

| Tue Jul. 30, 2013 4:45 PM EDT

President Obama's plan to have NASA lasso an asteroid, tow it toward Earth, place it into the moon's orbit, and claim the space rock for the United States of America has hit a congressional snag. The New York Times reports:

NASA wants to launch an unmanned spacecraft in 2018 that would capture a small asteroid — maybe 7 to 10 yards wide — haul it closer to Earth, then send astronauts up to examine it, in 2021 or beyond.

But the space agency has encountered a stubborn technical problem: Congressional Republicans...[T]he science committee in the Republican-controlled House voted to bar NASA from pursuing that faraway rock. In a straight party vote — 22 Republicans for, 17 Democrats against — the committee laid out a road map for NASA for the next three years that brushed aside the asteroid capture plan, the centerpiece of the Obama administration's agenda for space exploration. The plan, instead, included new marching orders, telling NASA to send astronauts back to the Moon, set up a base there and then aim for Mars (and to do so with less money than requested).

Not only would the asteroid-lasso initiative have astronauts travel to the space rock to conduct mining operations and test technology for missions to Mars—it would allow NASA to research strategies for deflecting future, potentially world-ending asteroids.

In a way, the Times got scooped on this story. By the Onion. More than two years ago:

The Onion asteroid obama
The Onion

The Onion, one of America's leading satirical news outlets, has predicted the future before. Al Qaeda squabbling with 9/11 truthers, for instance. Or the Onion's piece on George W. Bush ushering in an era of war and economic recession...published in January 2001.

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