Monika Bauerlein


Since taking the helm at Mother Jones in 2006, Monika and editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery have won two National Magazine Awards, launched a nine-person Washington bureau, relaunched the website, given birth, and forgotten what it’s like to sleep.

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Monika Bauerlein is CEO of Mother Jones. Previously, she served as co-editor with Clara Jeffery, who is now editor-in-chief. Together, they spearheaded an era of editorial growth and innovation, marked by two National Magazine Awards for general excellence, the addition of a 12-person Washington Bureau, and an overhaul of the organization’s digital strategy that grew's traffic more than tenfold. She has also worked as Mother Jones' investigative editor, focusing on long-form projects marrying in-depth reportage, document sleuthing, and narrative appeal, and as an alternative-weekly editor, a correspondent for US and European publications in Washington, D.C. and at the United Nations, an AP stringer, corporate trainer, translator, sausage slinger and fishing-line packager. She lives in Oakland.

Detained Hikers' Families Make Statement

| Tue Aug. 11, 2009 1:12 PM EDT

Today, the families of three hikers who've been detained by Iran since July 31st—including Mother Jones contributor Shane Bauer (whose piece we just posted today), Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal—have made a statement:

“It is now twelve days since our children were detained in Iran, when they strayed across the border while on a brief hiking vacation in Iraqi Kurdistan.  As loving parents, nothing causes us more heartache than not knowing how our children are, and not being able to talk to them and learn when we will hold them in our arms again.  Shane, Sarah and Josh are young travelers who share a great love of the world and a deep respect for different cultures, societies and religions. We believe that when the Iranian authorities speak to our children, they will realize that Shane, Sarah and Josh had no intention of entering Iran and will allow them to leave the country and reunite with their families.  We continue to hope that this misunderstanding will be resolved as quickly as possible.”
Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, are graduates of the University of California, Berkeley. 
Bauer has been living in Damascus, Syria since the Fall of 2008 and is a student of Arabic.  He is a freelance journalist and photographer who has written from the Middle East.  He has never reported from Iran.
Shourd lives with Bauer in Damascus, where she teaches English and had been studying for the Graduate Record Examination in preparation for graduate school.  She has written occasional travel pieces from the region.
Fattal is an environmentalist who worked at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon, which teaches sustainable living skills.  Fattal had a Teaching Fellowship with the International Honors Program’s “Health and Community” study abroad program in the spring semester of 2009. Fattal was visiting Bauer and Shourd in Damascus prior to their hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.
For media inquiries please contact:

We'll keep you posted as to the status of Shane, Sarah, and Josh. Please keep them in your thoughts.

Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein are Co-Editors of Mother Jones. You can follow Clara on Twitter here and Monika here.

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Detained Writer's Mother Jones Piece Now Online

| Tue Aug. 11, 2009 6:00 AM EDT

This morning, Mother Jones published a major investigative article by Shane Bauer, a journalist who is one of the three American hikers detained in Iran after accidentally crossing the border while hiking in Kurdistan. The story, in the magazine's September/October issue, was reported earlier this year and went to press before Bauer was detained on July 31. But with the issue arriving in subscribers' homes this week, we decided, in consultation with Bauer's family and the families of the other hikers, to release it simultaneously online. We felt it was important to avoid speculation and mischaracterization about the story, and to showcase the kind of top-notch journalism Bauer has been producing.

Based on numerous interviews and government documents, Bauer's article, “The Sheikh Down,” finds that millions in reconstruction funding have been used to award inflated contracts to Sunni sheikhs to keep them and their followers from taking up arms against US troops. “The program was a major part of the Awakening, which the Pentagon has touted as a turning point in reducing violence and creating the conditions for an American withdrawal,” Bauer reports. “It was also a reinstitution of a strategy started by Saddam Hussein, who picked out tribal leaders he could manipulate through patronage schemes. The US military didn't give the sheikhs straight-up bribes, which would have raised eyebrows in Washington. Instead, it handed out reconstruction contracts. Sometimes issued at three or four times market value, the contracts have been the grease in the wheels of the Awakening in Anbar—the almost entirely Sunni province in western Iraq where Fallujah is located.”

The program has had little oversight from Washington—battalion commanders are allowed to hand out contracts up to $500,000 without approval from their superiors. In one case Bauer examines, a clinic described by his military sources as a “patronage project,” a Sunni sheikh was paid $488,000. “Yet Hastings estimates that it will cost around $100,000 to build,” Bauer writes. “’That's, you know, a pretty good profit margin,’ Hastings says—close to 80 percent. In comparison, KBR, the largest military contractor in the country, cleared 3 percent in profits in 2008. Halliburton scored around 14 percent.”
While some officials defend the “make-a-sheikh” program as business as usual in a country rife with corruption, many experts warn that it could destabilize Iraq in the long term. Peter Harling, senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group, tells Bauer, “The pillaging of state resources is not a particularly good strategy. It creates a culture of predators and a lot of resentment from those who don't take part in those contracts. You might lavish one tribal leader with contracts but alienate 10 others.” Sam Parker, an Iraq programs officer at the United States Institute of Peace, is also concerned that the strategy could backfire. “Contracts are inflated because they are only secondarily about the goods and services received,” he tells Bauer. "It's very problematic. You are rewarding the guys with the guns.”

You can read Shane's whole story here. Our thoughts are with him, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and all of their families. We won't be discussing their case publicly at this time.

Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein are Co-Editors of Mother Jones. You can read more of their articles here and here and follow them on Twitter here and here.

Details on Mother Jones Contributor Shane Bauer, Missing in Kurdistan

| Thu Aug. 6, 2009 1:36 PM EDT

On July 31, three Americans went missing while on a hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan. They are presumed to have been detained by Iranian authorities. One of them is Shane Bauer, a freelance journalist who has a piece on contractor corruption in Iraq in the forthcoming issue of Mother Jones. The piece had nothing to do with Iran, and Bauer was not on assignment for us when he went to Kurdistan. Below is a statement by Shon Meckfessel, who was traveling with Bauer, but was not with him at the time of his disappearance.

I’m writing this statement to help people understand what happened to my three friends, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal, who went missing by the Iran/Iraq border. I have been close friends with Shane and Sarah for years, and
recently met Josh, a longtime friend of Shane. Shane is a language student and freelance journalist; Sarah is an English teacher; and Josh arranges student exchange trips. All of us have done some writing about our travels, and all of us share a deep appreciation for Middle Eastern cultures.

In late July the four of us decided to travel from Damascus, Syria to Iraqi Kurdistan for a short vacation. Sarah had to return to work in a week. While going there might seem strange to Americans, the Kurdish territory is actually very beautiful and quite safe. Since the Kurds gained autonomy in 1992, no American has ever been harmed there. The city of Sulaimania is increasingly popular with tourists, and a friend of ours told us it was the most beautiful area
he’d ever seen.

We arrived in Sulaimania the night of July 29th and stayed at the Hotel Miwan. Walking around town the next day, we asked a number of people--taxi drivers, hotel staff, and people on the street--for good places to experience the mountainous terrain in the area. Every one of them told us to visit a place called Ahmed Awa. Not one of these people mentioned that Ahmed Awa was anywhere near the Iranian border. In fact, on the wall of our hotel there were three photos of tourists standing near the Ahmed Awa waterfall.

Ahmed Awa seemed the clear choice for appreciating the stunning natural beauty around Sulaimania, far from any sort of risk. However, it may have been unclear to the people who encouraged us to visit Ahmed Awa that we intended to go hiking in the area, rather than simply visiting the waterfall.

There is no Lonely Planet Iraqi Kurdistan, and Ahmed Awa was not on the map we’d printed out. My sense--wrongly as it turns out--was that Ahmed Awa lay northwest of Sulaimania, in the direction of Dokan Lake (and Dokan Resort), another scenic area we’d considered visiting during our trip through Kurdistan.
On the evening of July 30th, Josh, Shane, and Sarah set out for Ahmed Awa with the plan to camp out. I stayed behind at our hotel because I was coming down with a cold, and wanted a night to recuperate. We agreed to meet up the next day near Ahmed Awa. I purchased an Iraqi SIM card for my cell phone to make sure we could find each other the next day (providing the area had a signal,
which very luckily it did).

I spoke with Shane twice that evening. I called him at around 8 p.m. and he told me they’d just been dropped off near a strip of restaurants in Ahmed Awa. A couple hours later he told me they had followed a trail up from the strip of restaurants to the waterfall, and were continuing on the same trail to camp in peace.

On July 31st I woke up feeling better and decided to join my friends. At about 11:30am I called Shane. He told me the weather had been mild all night. That morning they had woken up early and resumed hiking along the same trail. Shane sounded very calm and content, happy to be in a beautiful environment, and made absolutely no mention of any risk whatsoever. I am absolutely certain that they had no knowledge of their proximity to the Iranian border or they would have never continued in that direction. Shane told me they were planning to turn around soon. He thought we could meet up near the waterfall. I sent Shane two text messages, one at 12:50pm and one at 1:22pm, to which he did not respond. At 1:33pm I received a call from Shane during which he told me that they were being taken into custody and that I should call the embassy. I hope that people understand my friends’ presence in the area for what it was: a simple and very regrettable mistake. --Shon Meckfessel

Bauer's story will be arriving in subscribers' homes next week. We will release it online soon.

UPDATE: On Friday evening it was reported that the three Americans were being moved to Tehran.

UPDATE: Shane's Mother Jones investigation is here. The hikers' families have launched a website to build support for consular access to their loved ones.

Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are the Co-Editors of Mother Jones. You can follow them on Twitter here and here.


Video: Nomi Prins Dishes on Goldman

| Thu Aug. 6, 2009 3:30 AM EDT

Former Goldman Sachs managing director Nomi Prins challenges the math behind Goldman's record profits on Bloomberg TV. (Sorry, can't seem to get this to embed right now...). For the details on why you pay for those profits--and the big bonuses to Goldman execs--read her piece. Sample: 

Since Goldman is trading big with our money, why not also use it to pay big bonuses? It's not like there are any strings attached. For the first half of 2009, Goldman set aside $11.4 billion for compensation—34 percent more than for the first half of 2008, keeping them on target for a record bonus year—even though they still owe the federal government $53.6 billion, a sum more than four times that bonus amount.


Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho): Hey MoJo, You're Awesome!

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 2:32 PM EDT

Mary Harris Jones herself would have gotten a chuckle out of this: We've received a mash note from Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-La.) congratulating MoJo for "successfully using flexibility to meet both business and employee goals." Of course you knew that Crapo and Lincoln's offices coordinate the Senate Staff Work Group on Workplace Flexibility; the letter comes on occasion of the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexbility, which rewards how well companies deploy things like flex time, family leave, telecommuting, etc. (Yes—MoJo staffers who blog at 2 a.m. have the option of doing it from home!) Worth noting that of the more than 100 honorees, very few (including us and the Girl Scouts) are nonprofits, while most are large companies (primarily tech) or law firms, accounting firms, and such. It's not the only major award we've won or been nominated for lately, and we're proud to add it to our expanding trophy closet.

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