Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng


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

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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 His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

People Used To Feast Upon Small, Prehistoric Pandas, Scientist Says

| Mon Oct. 15, 2012 9:51 AM PDT

Via the AP:

A Chinese scientist says that humans used to eat pandas.


[Wei Guangbiao], the head of the Institute of Three Gorges Paleoanthropology at a Chongqing museum, says many excavated panda fossils "showed that pandas were once slashed to death by man." The Chongqing Morning Post quoted saying: "In primitive times, people wouldn't kill animals that were useless to them" and therefore the pandas must have been used as food. But he says pandas were much smaller then.

/ShutterstockEva Vargyasi/ShutterstockHave a lovely day.

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Ben Affleck's "Argo," & Other Crazy-As-Hell CIA Plots That Would Make Good Movies

| Fri Oct. 12, 2012 12:49 PM PDT

Warner Bros. Pictures
120 minutes

Ben Affleck is officially done atoning for Pearl Harbor, and for shanking hundreds of thousands of American moviegoers in the face back in 2003.

Argo, the actor/director's Iran-hostage-crisis movie, is a taut and funny spy thriller. Loosely based on a 2007 Wired article by Joshuah Bearman, the film focuses on the rescue of six American diplomats who escaped the besieged embassy in Tehran and holed up in the Canadian ambassador's residence for nearly three months. The rescue mission, executed with tight cooperation between the US and Canadian government, was led by CIA officer/professional "identity transformer" Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) in early 1980.

argo wikiThe CIA-made poster for Argo, with a fake screenwriter credit, and all. Wikimedia Commons The goal was to get the six Americans the hell out of hostile territory. The means to extraction were, literally, a bad movie: The CIA sets up a dummy production company with the help of two sympathetic Hollywood crewmen, starts fake production on a Star Wars knock-off/"sky god" epic called "Argo" (phony business cards, planting stories in the Hollywood press, the whole elaborate-black-op nine yards), and sends Mendez to meet with Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for "location scouting. "The United States government has just sanctioned your science-fiction movie," an agency high-up (a cameo by the great Philip Baker Hall) reluctantly informs Mendez.

Once in Tehran, Mendez coaches the six Americans on their new backstory (they're a Canadian film crew, wink wink), and how to get through the Iranian international airport without getting caught.

Yes, this is indeed a thing that American tax dollars paid for in real life. (Click here, to read more about the operation on the CIA's own website.)

Affleck's movie, co-produced by Grant Heslov and George Clooney, falls respectably into good-not-great territory. Sure, the film fudges the facts here and there (what film "based on actual events" does not?) and suffers from underdeveloped supporting characters (namely, the escaped embassy staff). But Argo enthralls at a brisk pace, deftly balancing the quirkiness of the Hollywood-CIA collusion with the  tension and upheaval of early-'80s Tehran. The opening sequence, in which the embassy is stormed as personnel scramble to burn every document they can get their hands on, is notable for its controlled intensity and attention to historical detail.

The dialogue is sharp ("Argo fuck yourself" is in the running for movie catchphrase of the year), the soundtrack is solid (The Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, Van Halen), and the acting is uniformly strong (Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Kerry Bishé, Victor Garber, and Tate Donovan, especially).

Argo is, thankfully, a nonpartisan and apolitical affair. Some conservative moviegoers might groan at having to hear Jimmy Carter's voice, as the former president pops up in archival footage and in a end-credit voiceover commenting on the secret mission. And there may be some who feel uneasy about watching a movie centered around a US embassy crisis, given the recent news out of Benghazi. (Taken 2, released one week earlier, also included an attack on an American embassy.) Otherwise, it's a clever movie about a deeply fascinating chapter in the history of American covert operations—one that both sides of the aisle should appreciate.

In honor of the unequivocal coolness of the so-called "Canadian Caper" dramatized in Argo, here's a brief list of other far-out, real-life CIA plots that would make great Hollywood elevator pitches:

No, Darrell Issa Didn't Call For an Investigation Into the "Jobs Number Conspiracy"

| Thu Oct. 11, 2012 1:03 PM PDT

On Thursday, Fox Business Network reported that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was preparing to convene a hearing on September's positive jobs report. The surprising drop in the official US unemployment rate, from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent last month, inspired something of a "job truther" movement—a group comprising the likes of ex-GE CEO Jack Welch and tea party congressman Allen West (R-Fla.) that has put forth the theory that the Obama administration cooked the books in an election year to make the economy seem far rosier than it actually is. (If you're looking for a swift debunking of this claim, click here.)

Here's the clip of Fox Business breaking the story, using an excerpt from an interview with Greta Van Susteren:

ThinkProgress, going off the Fox Business segment, reported that Issa was preparing a "congressional investigation into [the] September jobs number conspiracy," and that Issa was "buying into a widely-discredited conspiracy theory" when he "promised to look into the matter."

The claim was widely circulated on Twitter and picked up by other news outlets.

There's just one problem: Nowhere in the Fox clip does Issa actually say he's going to hold a hearing on any jobs report "conspiracy" involving the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or that he believes the Obama administration orchestrated a massive conspiracy. Fox Business reported that Issa had told Van Susteren he "wants to have hearings" on the "fluky" jobs report and methodology, but the report does not include a soundbite of Issa saying so.

Photo: Mitt Romney Breaking Ground at Public Broadcasting Station, 2005

| Wed Oct. 10, 2012 3:28 PM PDT

Yes, we've all heard and seen the meme: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney loves Big Bird and PBS, but still pledges to cut off government funding, due to the fact that PBS is a drain on the federal budget and requires money borrowed from China to stay afloat. (No.)

Here's a photo of then-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, at a WGBH groundbreaking ceremony in Brighton, Boston back in 2005:

WGBH is  WGBHWGBH provides non-commercial educational public radio and television, and is a PBS member station. WGBH.orgClick here to read about how Gov. Romney signed a bill that would later ensure millions of dollars in funding for nefarious, budget-killing public TV in Massachusetts for years to come.

And in case you were wondering, yes, WGBH does indeed carry Sesame Street.

ABC's "Nashville": A Shameless, Sexy Fall Drama, With Country Songs & Dirty Politics

| Mon Oct. 8, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

Country songs, dysfunctional families, Southern accents, sex, and big-city politics.

That could be the elevator pitch for Nashville, a nighttime soap opera debuting this Wednesday (10 p.m. Eastern) on ABC. The show jumps right into the Tennessee-fried swagger and sleaze in its first hour. The pilot, directed by political documentarian R.J. Cutler and penned by Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri, introduces the swelling feud between 40-something music icon Rayna James (played by the fantastic Connie Britton), and 20-something country-pop seductress Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere, returning to television).

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