James West

James West

Climate Desk Producer

James West is senior producer for the Climate Desk and a contributing producer for Mother Jones. He wrote Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008), a far-reaching account of modernizing China’s underground youth scene. James has a masters of journalism under his belt from NYU, and has produced a variety of award-winning shows in his native Australia, including the national affairs program Hack. He's been to Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.

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Fly Through Pyongyang With This Gorgeous Timelapse Video

| Fri Aug. 8, 2014 5:35 PM EDT

Enter Pyongyang from JT Singh on Vimeo.

Timelapse videos of mega-cities like New York have become something of a viral video cliché in recent years. (If you're anything like me, you lap them up without shame, all the same). But I bet you've never seen the capital of the world's most reclusive nation, North Korea, quite like this before. The filmmakers—JT Singh and Rob Whitworth—spent six days in Pyongyang filming this video that delivers you right into the very-human nitty gritty of a place that looks far less creepy than those "Mass Games" videos would lead you to believe.

Even so, how much can we rely on this portrait for an accurate take on North Korea as a whole? Not a lot: the capital is home to the ruling elite, and used by the regime as a showcase city; people here are hardly representative. For example, 16 million of North Korea's 24 million people suffer from critical food insecurity, relying only on state-rationed food, according to the UN; one out of every three children is too short for his or her age. Hunger, poverty, lack of electricity, brutal repression and political reprisals... you name it: A UN special inquiry recently described North Korea's human rights violations as without "parallel in the contemporary world."

It's also true that the video is effectively an advertisement for a company operating out of Beijing called Koryo Tours, which has run tours into North Korea since 1993; the group covered the filmmakers' travel expenses. (Full disclosure: I'm pals with Vicky Mohieddeen, who accompanied the film crew, and works for Koryo).

But I think it adds vital perspective to a place shut away from the world by its repressive government. It's oh-so-interesting taking a look inside.

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Colbert Wishes Your Kid a Good Night's Sleep With This New Pro-Gun Illustrated Book

| Wed Aug. 6, 2014 3:46 PM EDT
"My Parents Open Carry" Lorna Bergman, Brian G. Jeffs, Nathan R. Nephew.

I first saw this children's book going around Facebook yesterday. You know the one: it celebrates 13-year-old Brenna's Mom and Dad for "open carrying" their hand guns. At first I thought, "the illustrations and dependence on Comic Sans are so eye-bleedingly bad it must be a perfectly conceived Masters project by some NYU Tisch grad." The website promoting the book carries the kind of knee-slapping prose that must be satirical, right? "Before writing this, we looked for pro-gun children's books and couldn't find any." Couldn't find any! Ha, ha, ha. Which non-profit/government agency/university supplied the grant to fund this brilliant take-down of gun culture in America? Was it Bloomberg himself?

But then I paid my $3.95 for the PDF (you'll pick up the tab, Mother Jones), and it dawned on me: It's real. Then I thought, "Wow, this seems custom-made to be pilloried by Stephen Colbert!"

Enjoy:

Fri May. 9, 2014 7:07 PM EDT
Tue Jan. 7, 2014 3:51 PM EST
Tue Nov. 19, 2013 3:11 PM EST
Tue Nov. 12, 2013 1:44 AM EST
Tue Jun. 25, 2013 11:56 AM EDT
Fri Jun. 21, 2013 3:47 PM EDT
Fri Jun. 7, 2013 6:56 AM EDT
Fri May. 10, 2013 6:01 PM EDT
Wed Feb. 27, 2013 1:18 AM EST
Thu Feb. 21, 2013 7:01 AM EST
Fri Jan. 18, 2013 7:01 AM EST