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 Taliban Are Inadvertently Really Good at Endangered Falcon Conservation

| Wed Apr. 3, 2013 5:21 PM EDT
Lovers of falcons?

The Taliban, the violent Islamist movement, is responsible for a lot of bloodshed, many human rights violations, and some really mediocre and chauvinist poetry.

They are also at the forefront of protecting endangered falcons, however unintentional their conservation efforts may be.

Ashfaq Yusufzai has the story:

While the Taliban's military activities continue to plague Pakistan's northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the incessant violence has been a blessing in disguise for one creature: the falcon.

Declared endangered by the [International Union for Conservation of Nature], this bird of prey suffered for years at the hands of poachers and hunters, whose unfettered access to FATA and the adjacent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province guaranteed the birds a short life span in the wild, with most destined to be trapped, killed or sold.

But "continued militancy has kept the poachers (and hunters) away," Khalid Shah, an official at the KP Wildlife Department, told IPS, adding that the survival rate of falcons and some other migratory birds has "increased tremendously". In 2005 only 2,000 falcons lived in these northern territories, but by 2008 wildlife officials had recorded an increase of up to 8,000 birds.

Experts trace this population growth to the beginning of the insurgency here, which began after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the government in Kabul and sent scores of Taliban and Al Qaeda members across the border into Pakistan's sprawling mountainous terrain. Being the U.S. 's ally in the so-called "war on terror", the Pakistan army has engaged in a military offensive to root out the insurgents...Under fire from both sides, civilian residents say militancy has made daily activities – among them hunting and poaching — impossible.

On a related note, after the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan, the regime made it illegal to own birds in cages. Also, a study conducted by scientists from the New England Aquarium determined that whales greatly benefited from the September 11 Al Qaeda attack on New York's Twin Towers. But Islamist violence is probably not a net positive for local wildlife; during the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in the '90s, they ransacked the Kabul zoo, slaughtered animals, maimed a bear, threw a grenade at a lion, and left the other creatures to starve to death.

Accidental falcon conservation aside, the Taliban's treatment of animals often mirrors their treatment of women.

h/t Jon Mooallem

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The War On Drugs Is Still Not Working

| Tue Apr. 2, 2013 3:17 PM EDT

Four decades ago, President Nixon launched the US-led global War on Drugs. It has cost the nation over a trillion dollars. 50,000 people have lost their lives to shootouts, bombings, torture, and execution, and that's only counting six years in Mexico.

And it is still not working. Here's an excerpt from an AP investigation released on Monday:

Mexican drug cartels whose operatives once rarely ventured beyond the U.S. border are dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States — an emboldened presence that experts believe is meant to tighten their grip on the world's most lucrative narcotics market and maximize profits.

If left unchecked, authorities say, the cartels' move into the American interior could render the syndicates harder than ever to dislodge and pave the way for them to expand into other criminal enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering.

[...]

"It's probably the most serious threat the United States has faced from organized crime," said Jack Riley, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago office..."People think, 'The border's 1,700 miles away. This isn't our problem.' Well, it is. These days, we operate as if Chicago is on the border."

The nonprofit Chicago Crime Commission recently named Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, the city's "Public Enemy No. 1," even though Guzman has never even been to Chicago.

The AP investigation notes recent cases indicative of cartel expansion in suburbs and cities of non-border states like Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

On a related note, here's a chart, courtesy of filmmaker Matt Groff:

This is your tax dollars on drugs. Read the whole AP report here.

Nelson, Georgia, Passes Meaningless Law Requiring All Households to Own Guns

| Tue Apr. 2, 2013 11:16 AM EDT

Reuters published this story on April Fools' Day, but it does not appear to be a joke:

A small Georgia town on Monday passed a law requiring the head of each household to own a gun as a way to keep crime down.

The ordinance, approved unanimously by the City Council in Nelson, is symbolic, however, because there is no penalty for violating it, according to Councilman Duane Cronic, who introduced the measure last month.

It serves as an expression of support for gun rights and sends a message to would-be criminals, Cronic said.

The measure was passed amid the debate over gun laws in the United States following the December shooting rampage in which a gunman killed 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school.

The Nelson ordinance exempts convicted felons, residents with physical and mental disabilities and those who do not believe in owning firearms, Cronic said.

Crime in Nelson, which has only one police officer, consists mainly of petty theft, Cronic said.

The measure, dubbed the Family Protection Ordinance, was modeled on a law passed in nearby Kennesaw, Georgia in 1982; towns in Idaho and Utah have considered similar laws. For instance, the 140 residents of Byron, Maine rejected a mandatory gun law last month (the proposal was nixed even by the guy who proposed it, after he concluded he should have simply made it a recommendation).

Because Nelson's new law is symbolic and unenforceable, there is zero chance of a resident being punished for not buying a gun. It's like the law in Kentucky that makes it illegal to have ice cream cones in your back pocket. "I likened [Nelson's new law] to a security sign that people put up in their front yards," Cronic told the AP. "I really felt like this ordinance was a security sign for our city." 

The city council's agenda notes that the ordinance will also serve as "opposition of any future attempt by the federal government to confiscate personal firearms."

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation": The Anti-Obama Conservative's Fantasy

| Fri Mar. 29, 2013 5:26 PM EDT

#YOLO.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Paramount Pictures
115 minutes

G.I. Joe: Retaliation—sequel to American Classic G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra—is escapist filmmaking for the paranoid wingnut.

Before I get to why, let me just state for the record that Retaliation is no Battleship—which is to say it is not a coruscating beacon of unimpeachably fantastic moviemaking. Yes, they are both Hasbro movies; but this one lacks a certain joy and self-aware humor—even though it was written by the same guys who wrote Zombieland and Spike TV's The Joe Schmo Show. The brightest part of the movie is the fact that rapper/producer RZA * plays a blind ninja dojo master named Blind Master. (Click here to see RZA as a ninja-dojo-master action figure.) The film also has Channing Tatum, The RockNorth KoreansAdrianne Palicki fighting North Koreans, and 3D visual effects.

Thu Jun. 12, 2014 5:51 PM EDT
Mon Apr. 28, 2014 12:48 PM EDT
Fri Apr. 25, 2014 6:05 AM EDT
Sun Apr. 20, 2014 11:00 PM EDT
Thu Apr. 17, 2014 6:00 AM EDT