Ian Gordon

Ian Gordon

Copy Editor

When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Hugo Chávez Dead at 58

| Tue Mar. 5, 2013 5:57 PM EST

Chávez, pictured here in August 2011, had his first cancer treatment in June of that year.

Hugo Chávez, the firebrand president of Venezuela who has battled cancer since 2011, died Tuesday in Caracas. He was 58 years old.

Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced Chávez's passing in a radio and television address, saying that the 14-year president died at 4:25 p.m. local time. Just hours earlier, Maduro had told the media that the socialist president was entering "his most difficult hours" due to a new, severe respiratory infection.

Chávez was last seen in public on December 10, when he traveled to Cuba two months after his latest reelection for his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months. Rumors about his health—indeed, whether he was still alive—persisted. His Twitter account, @chavezcandanga, sent a trio of tweets on February 18, after several months of silence. His last tweet read:

(Loosely translated: "I'm still holding on to Christ and trust in my doctors and nurses. Until victory forever!! We will live and we will triumph!!!")

A former paratrooper who spent two years in prison after a failed coup in 1992, Chávez took office in 1999, fought off a coup attempt in 2002 and a recall referendum in 2004, and was reelected three times, including in October, when he claimed himself healthy enough for another term. He gained fame for using Venezuela's vast oil revenues to fund his anti-poverty social programs—and for his fiery, anti-imperial rhetoric. He also rubbed plenty of people the wrong way—on both ends of the political spectrum—with his strongman tendencies, his rewriting of the country's constitution, and his alliances with the likes of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Maduro will take power until an election takes place within 30 days. He is likely to face Henrique Capriles Radomski, the Miranda state governor whom Chávez beat just months ago.

UPDATE, March 5, 3:33 PT: The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson, who first profiled Chávez in 2001 and long had great access to him, just posted an obituary. Read it.

This story has been updated.

"Owlcatraz" and 9 Other Terrible Corporate-Named Sports Venues

| Fri Feb. 22, 2013 6:01 AM EST

GEO Group, a billion-dollar private-prison firm that owns or operates 101 "correctional, detention, and residential treatment facilities" worldwide, jumped into the sports world Tuesday when it was announced that the company will pay $6 million over 12 years for naming rights to Florida Atlantic University's new football stadium. The backlash came quickly: The school's football play-by-play man suggested calling GEO Group Stadium "Owlcatraz"; a company flack was caught scrubbing the GEO Group Wikipedia page of negative press; and there's already an online petition requesting the name be changed.

This ill-conceived branding exercise got us to wondering: What are the other worst-named corporate-shilling sports venues?

1. Enron Field, Houston Astros
How bad was it to be associated with Ken Lay and Co.? As one team executive told reporters before Enron Field became Minute Maid Park, "The Houston Astros have been materially and adversely affected by the negative public perception and media scrutiny resulting from Enron's alleged bad business practices and bankruptcy." Well, that and the fact that they stopped wearing these.

2. Citi Field, New York Mets
Timing is everything, right? So don't sell the rights to your new ball field to a bank that just took $45 billion in bailouts from the federal government. (Even at $20 million a year for 20 years.) Because you're basically handing the headlines over to the New York tabloids: TARP FIELD! BAILOUT PARK!

3. University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona Cardinals
Also enticed into forking over big money for increasingly low standards: Cardinals fans.

4. Jobing.com Arena, Phoenix Coyotes
Maybe the real problem is naming a site Jobing.com.

5. O.co Coliseum, Oakland Raiders and A's
Because Overstock.com Coliseum was too hard to say, and Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was too…municipal.

6. Hunky Dorys Park, Drogheda United
Hunky Dorys is a brand of potato chips, and Hunky Dorys Park is where the Irish city of Drogheda's soccer team plays. This is sort of like naming a venue after, say, Whataburger. Wait…

7. Whataburger Field, Corpus Christi Hooks
Damn you, minor league baseball.

8 and 9. Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and KFC Yum! Center, University of Louisville
Not content to have sold its football naming rights to this guy, Louisville went back to the well and named its by-all-accounts beautiful basketball arena for a company that produces the Supremo P'Zone Pizza and the Doritos Locos Taco Supreme.

ICE Cold: US Citizens Getting Caught in Immigration Dragnet

| Thu Feb. 21, 2013 1:16 PM EST

The Obama administration has taken plenty of heat in the past couple of years for its record number of deportations. A new report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, though, highlights a different (albeit related) problem: US citizens are getting snagged in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement dragnet, too.

Of the nearly 1 million people for whom ICE issued detainers (a.k.a. immigration holds) from fiscal year 2008 to FY 2012, 834 were US citizens. As the above chart shows, that's right on par with the number of Korean, Belizean, Iranian, and Thai citizens that the government asked local law enforcement to hold after arrests. Those numbers are nowhere near those of, say, Mexican citizens (No. 1 at more than 690,000 detainers), but, as the TRAC report noted: "It is illegal for DHS to detain US citizens, and to do so is a significant violation of their constitutional rights."

Given the administration's stated focus on criminal offenders (PDF), it seems odd that only 23 percent of those who received ICE holds had a criminal record, and that just 9 percent had committed what the agency calls Level 1 crimes—a definition broad enough to include "serious" offenses like traffic violations and marijuana possession.

ICE holds by crime

ICE did change its policy (PDF) in December, restricting the use of detainers on people arrested for small-time misdemeanors, and the White House's draft immigration bill proposes to give judges more discretion when it comes to deporting such offenders. Still, for an unpopular agency already dealing with its union members' acrimonious lawsuit against the federal government and with a recent USA Today story that detailed desperate ICE efforts to reach deportation quotas, detaining Americans isn't helping its image.

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