When Troy Newman would answer the phone at Central Women's Services in Wichita, Kansas, last summer, there was a lot he didn't mention. The priests who'd been arrested for blocking the abortion clinic's door. The "truth truck" parked nearby with its billboard of an aborted fetus. The pickets at employees' homes. He didn't talk about how all of this had caused the clinic to shut down, save for its still- functioning phone system. He would press the receiver to his ear and intone, "Women's clinic!" And when a nervous voice at the other end of the line would inquire about abortion services, he would furrow his brow and ask, "Don't you know that's a baby?"
Josh Wolf holds an unfortunate record. As of today, the video blogger has clocked 183 days in federal prison, the longest period that any U.S. journalist has been jailed in modern times for refusing to testify about his sources. Of course, the distinction assumes the 24-year-old Wolf is indeed a journalist, and not everyone is willing to call him that.
In July, Wolf filmed a crowd of black-block anarchists as they protested the G8 summit, taping them as they marched through San Francisco's Mission District carrying placards that said, "Destroy the War Machine" and chanting, "Fuck the Policemen!" The protest quickly turned rowdy as the masked throngs dragged newsstand boxes into intersections, tagged a bus, and splattered shop windows with paint bombs. Many of the protesters were Wolf's acquaintances, and his video shows them being shoved by policemen and confronted by drawn weapons. "Leave or you are going to get fucking blasted," an officer appears to say. "I'm a fed, motherfucker."
Well, maybe slightly worse than Duke Cunningham. He bombed a U.S. embassy, and a French embassy, and maybe killed a Kuwaiti police officer and is maybe spying for Iran. And yep, Jamal Jafaar Mohammed is an elected member of Iraq's parliment. Let's hear it for Iraqi Democracy. Makin' us proud!
In a ruling that could make it more difficult for the USDA to speed through permits for the testing of genetically engineered crops, a federal judge halted field trials of several controversial GMOs yesterday pending a more detailed review of their potential environmental hazards. It was the first time a field trial of a GE crop has been stopped by a U.S. court. Judge Harold Kennedy found the USDA should have required environmental impact statements before approving field trials of pesticide-resistant creeping bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass in Oregon. Last year, pollen from the grasses escaped from the test area and fertilized plants several miles away in a national grassland.
The ruling was a rebuke to a common practice at the USDA of approving GMO field trials under a "categorical exclusion"--basically, an argument that field trials are too environmentally insignificant to merit detailed oversight. Although the judicial pounding has by no means driven a nail in the coffin of GMOs, it's certainly a sign that the USDA is starting to face rebukes for years of lax policies on a very poorly understood area of science.
Ryszard Kapuscinksi, the Polish foreign correspondent, astute observer of the Third World and fixture of most college courses on literary nonfiction for the last 25 years, passed away today. He was best known in the United States for the translations of his books on wars and revolutions, told through the eye of a nation that had itself been victim to conquest and subjugation. He was criticized in his later years for being somewhat essentialist on the matter of race and culture, and for being more literary than literal in his use of facts, but he remains one of the great chroniclers of post-colonial tumult in Africa and the Middle East, a journalist of exemplary courage and a writer of great empathy.
While riding the bus this week, it just so happens I've been rereading Kapuscinski. His Shah of Shahs, published in 1982, chronicles the events leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in which Ayatollah Khomeini deposed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the corrupt, US-backed autocrat. As I'd hoped, Kapuscinski shed some light on what we'd be getting into if the Bush Administration made good on its brinksmanship. Bush might want to consider this before invading:
[Iranians] have a particular talent for preserving their independence under conditions of subjugation. For hundreds of years the Iranians have been the victims of conquest, aggression, and partition. They have been ruled for centuries on end by foreigners or local regimes dependent of foreign powers, and yet they have preserved their culture and language, their impressive personality and so much spiritual fortitude that in propitious circumstances they can arise reborn from the ashes. During the twenty-five centuries of their recorded history the Iranians have always, sooner or later, managed to outwit anyone with the impudence to try ruling them. Sometimes they have to resort to the weapons of uprising and revolution to obtain their goal, and then they pay the tragic levy of blood. Sometimes they use the tactic of passive resistance, which they apply in a particularly consistent and radical way. When they get fed up with an authority that has become unbearable, the whole country freezes, the whole nation does a disappearing act. Authority gives orders but no one is listening, it frowns but no one is looking, it raises its voice but that voice is as one crying in the wilderness. Then authority falls apart like a house of cards. The most common Iranian technique, however, is absorption, active assimilation, in a way that turns the foreign sword into the Iranians' own weapon."