In my article about Haiti in the current issue, I mention how I was sexually threatened by a man whose job was to drive me around. Though that was the worst/most egregious instance, it wasn't the first time something like that happened in my five months on assignment last year, nor was it the last time on that trip to Haiti. Two nights before I left, an argument outside my hotel about my refusal to sleep with another man who was in my employ turned ugly enough that I ultimately begged protection from a passing patron carrying a gun. And as Judith Matloff explains in this excellent 2007 article from the Columbia Journalism Review, this kind of stuff happens to lady-reporters all the time.

Which is obviously horrible. But additionally horrible, and less obvious, is that however common it is for correspondents to be sexually harassed, threatened, or assaulted, it's hardly ever talked about. Reporters themselves often fail to bring it up: You don't want to make it sound like you can't handle your assignment, or, worse, your job in general, especially given the difficulty of avoiding perpetrators, who are often men you are paying to assist or protect you and the only people you know in a foreign country—translators, drivers, guards.

And the journalism institution isn't helping to facilitate the dialogue. There are, as Matloff points out, some unforgivable industry oversights, like "no sections on sexual harassment and assault in the leading handbooks on journalistic safety, by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists."

Read the article.

When I was in Haiti this fall, a leader of PAPDA, the grassroots Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development, got a little pissed at me. During an interview across a stately wooden table in PAPDA's quiet, clean office, Ricot Jean-Pierre raged against the thousands of NGOs that are  ostensibly helping Haitians but, in his opinion, more often helping themselves. Haitians need to get control of the recovery process, he explained, get fired up, take back their country from the Americans and the UN and all the other self-serving interfering foreign powers.

This is where our rift occurred. The 12,000 troops running Haiti's streets are from the UN; the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission is co-chaired by Bill Clinton—whom, as Jean-Pierre himself had just reminded me, locals often call the governor or president of Haiti. So I asked Jean-Pierre, gently but a little skeptically, if he thought his foreigner-ousting goal was realistic.

He was instantly agitated. And he reminded me, not so gently, that Haitians OVERTHREW THE FRENCH.

The rebellion of Saint-Domingue, as the French colony was called back then, started on an August night in 1791 when slaves set fires and massacred ruling whites. It took 12 years, but after the defeat of plantation owners, and local French troops, then an army of Spaniards, a British invasion, and ultimately Napoleon's army in 1803, the Republic of Haiti was born. It was the most successful slave revolt in history. It created the first independent state in Latin America, and the first black-led nation in the world. As a footnote, it also helped ensure the survival of another fledgling republic: the United States.

How? Well for starters there may not have even been a United States to save by 1803 had Haiti not been such a fabulously profitable colony. French aid to America's revolutionaries was delivered not only because they wanted to stick it to the British, but also to protect Saint-Domingue, which provided 40 percent of the world's sugar. The treaty of alliance between America's Continental Congress and France explicitly stated that the US would help them do so. Haiti was also a critical way station for French naval assistance and weapons smuggled to US rebels, including dozens of French ships and thousands of French troops that helped take Savannah.

However when, in 1802, the United States found out Spain secretly ceeded the Lousiana Territory to France, an alarmed Thomas Jefferson wrote of our erstwhile allies: "There is on the globe, one spot the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market. The day that France takes possession of New Orleans...we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation."

Napoleon, meanwhile, needed to quell the Haitian rebellion to keep sugar profits flowing and maintain a foothold in the New World. He wanted to invade England. He even had an eye on invading the American mainland to assert control over the Louisiana Territory. But without Haiti as a base, that was going to be tough. And who needed the port of New Orleans if France didn't have to supply or defend a Caribbean colony? By the spring of 1803, French victory in Haiti was looking less likely. Napoleon didn't need the Gulf Coast, and didn't have the troops to spare on it, either; the war for Haiti had taken out more than 40,000 French soldiers. What he did need was money to fund his war against England. And so the historic deal was struck. We got 828,800 square acres and control of the Mississippi for $219 million in today's dollars. Not bad.

There's of course a lot of sociogeographipolitical context surrounding the fall of France's New World empire. The above version is oversimplified. But, with apologies to Ricot Jean-Pierre, let me never imply again that Haitians don't have a history of radically altering history despite the interference of the world's superpowers. As one historian wrote, "Napoleon's decision to divest himself of his North American ambitions was not due to one or two factors, but was rather part of a complex calculus. Timing, shifting circumstances, and his own ambitions had as much to do with his decision to sell the Louisiana Territory as did Haiti's victory over France. However, it is undoubtedly true that rebel army's stubborn resistance combined with [the French commander in Haiti's] losses in men and materiel would force the First Consul's hand, and this fact would forever alter America's destiny."

Read my feature on Haiti's reconstruction hell and a photo essay on its tent cities.

[Read also: The Mother Jones editors-in-chief on Haiti vs. pot.]

When I turned in a story about Burmese refugees late last year, my mom thought (based partly on the sheer staggering size of it—it came in at more than 10,000 words) that it was going to be on the cover of Mother Jones. When it wasn't, because this creepy dude was, she dragged my uncles Ted and George, my aunts Paula and Kim, and my 80-year-old grandmother into a friend's studio to complain about it to the tune of Dr. Hook's "The Cover of the Rolling Stone," then sent the recording to me. 

Well, guess what. Despite one of my coworkers telling me she couldn't read it past the first paragraph and another saying it gave her nightmares, my Haiti feature is on the cover of the new subscribers' issue of Mother Jones. (The newsstand version sports a more fun/less horrifying topic: pot.) In honor of my mother's wish being fulfilled (and because I have a really high threshold for embarrassment), I'm sharing the best song-present ever. (Speaking of pot, comma, my mother's affinity for, be prepared for congas. And kind of a nonsequitur about my father, her ex-husband, being a pervert. I think the song's writer, Shel Silverstein, would be...pleased?)

Let's say last night you couldn't sleep for the panic of having done nothing for the people you want or have (damn organized gift exchanges) to buy presents for this Christmas. Allow me to recommend this post about socially conscious gifts, like donating a goat to a rural family in a developing nation. I originally put it together due to a similar panic around Mother's Day, but the links are all still valid. Now all I have to do is decide whether my 16-year-old cousin will feel warm and fuzzy and like she gained important perspective or totally shafted if I give her a card that says Merry Christmas: An AIDS orphan has been educated in your name! 

Did you know that the state of New Hampshire (Live Free or Die!) has only one person on death row? Also FYI, as Amnesty International reports, New Hampshire Republic Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte's friends think that guy's death sentence is hilarious. Read this email exchange, which occured between Ayotte and close political adviser Robert Varsalone just as she kicked off her plans to run for senator, for the punchline:

"Have you been following the last 2 week.  A police officer was killed and I announced that I would seek the death penalty," Ayotte responded to Varsalone in the Oct 27, 2006 e-mail.

"I know, I read about it.  Where does [then-Attorney General] Ayotte stand on the Death Penalty? BY THE SWITCH."

See what he did there?

Some Mother Jones end-of-the-year fundraising copy came across my desk yesterday (you'll probably see it in the box to the right), and the part that points out that our content is "expensive for us to produce" has inspired me to share the numbers from my very long assignment reporting on the BP oil spill. So what did it cost to keep me covering the Gulf all summer long?

Well, first, here's what it should have cost: $45,000, at least.

There were plane tickets, car rentals, cabs to and from airports. Meals and snacks and enough water to combat a heat index of 105°. A place to sleep for 120 nights. Four months worth of paychecks plus benefits like health care. Then add in all sorts of random extras like steel-toe boots so I could walk around on the relief well, laminated nautical maps for kayaking around the Louisiana barrier islands, gas to drive to Pensacola, and the pricey door charge of female-oil-wrestling events.

But this was a trip of great resourcefulness and thrift. I persuaded people I knew in New Orleans, as well as Grand Isle-based Twitter followers, to let me stay at their houses. I bribed these people. Generally it was with bottles of nice booze. Often it also involved going to the grocery store, plus cooking meals and/or doing the dishes; sometimes it was a matter of watching some kids, driving the kids to school, giving the whole house a hardcore Midwesterner's scrub-down. As a result, 16 weeks of lodging—one of the biggest pieces of the reporting-budget pie—cost Mother Jones about $2,000. I also cut my exorbitant car rental charges in half when I ingratiated myself with someone who was going out of town and lent me his pickup truck for a month, then worked a combination of public transit, occasional cabs, and borrowed rides for another month.

So in the end, the bill for my reporting extravaganza was deeply discounted, but it was still far from cheap: about $30,000. And that doesn't include institutional overhead, or web costs, or all the hours my brilliant editor had to spend untangling my sentences and reminding me via email that I swear too much. Nor does it include the wages and expenses of the rest of the (award-winning) Mother Jones oil-spill-reporting team, with Kate Sheppard busting ass in DC and Julia Whitty briefly joining me down South and editors blogging and webmasters staging and so on.

And then I went straight from the Gulf to Haiti, which is like the most expensive place in the world.

There's your partial breakdown from just one-half of a year from my little corner of the magazine. It's what our editors in chief call The Price of Truth. "Sure, information wants to be free," they wrote in an ed note last year. "Alas, it's not." 

(You can contribute to Mother Jones via credit card or PayPal. Just btw.)

Lucas Oleniuk/Zumapress.comLucas Oleniuk/Zumapress.comThe results of Haiti's election are in: Former first lady Mirlande Manigat and Jude Celestin are the front-runners who will move on to the next round on January 19. President Rene Preval, who's backing Celestin, is not particularly popular, but Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, one of the candidates who did not make it to the runoff, is. Now the populace is engaging in the important Haitian political tradition of setting shit on fire.

Preval took to the radio to tell people to stop trying to burn the country down, but observers say his speech is unlikely to calm the protesters. Nor is Sweet Micky, a superfamous singer whose performances mix camp with sociopolitics (and cousin of another wildly famous musician, Richard Morse, best known outside Haiti as Twitter user @RAMhaiti), backing down on his vow to challenge the results.

Haitians aren't the only ones doubting the race's legitimacy. Canada is threatening to not recognize the results. A leaked memo sent last year by a US ambassador to Haiti said Preval's "overriding goal is to orchestrate the 2011 presidential transition in such a way as to ensure that whoever is elected will allow him to go home unimpeded. Based on our conversations, this is indeed a matter that looms large for Preval." On Tuesday, the US Embassy said that it was skeptical Celestin could have advanced to the runoff. One freelance journalist in Port-au-Prince says an elections commission member straight-up told him that the government fixed the elections (h/t @lisahoashi):

"President Preval put pressure on us," he explained, "we were forced to include Celestin in the second round." I was shocked, this man was clearly scared for his life, yet he was divulging this huge bomb of information that the President of Haiti forced one candidate out of the run-off, and inserted his own hand-picked candidate into his place. 

Whether or not the anonymous worker's fraud claims are true, he is probably right about the end result: "We kicked Martelly out of the race, and now the people are going to destroy the city."

You can keep tabs on them doing so on the Flickr stream of the always excellent user Gaetantguevara.

UPDATE: The president of the electoral council has announced a recount, which international observers and the top three candidates are invited to attend. Questions of ballot-stuffing and thrown-out votes have yet to be resolved.

I didn't even realize Proposition L had passed—it doesn't seem like something that would in San Francisco—until a whole day after Election Day. I started to sit on a sidewalk to wait for an outside bar table on one of our five annual warm nights when my friend said, "Oh, this is illegal now."

The law that bans sitting or lying on city sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. passed with 54 percent approval after Mayor Gavin Newsom put it on the November ballot, after he put it before the Board of Supervisors in June and they were like, no way. Put to the popular vote, the pros of "afford[ing] everyone accessibility and civility on our sidewalks" and protecting the world from "hostile" and "confrontational" homeless people beat out the cons of infringing on citizens' right to sit in a lot of the city's public areas. (Some of the opponents of the law awesomely pointed out that the sidewalk campaigning the proponents are doing in this picture would be illegal.) 

So what happens now that "Civil Sidewalks" are law? It's time for the San Francisco Police Department to train its officers how to enforce them. Lieutenant Lyn Tomioka explained to me that City Hall, the mayor's office, homeless and youth groups, businesses, and the officers' commission are working together to come up with a training manual. The exact details are still up in the air, but whatever form it takes, Tomioka stressed several times, "it will be very thoughtful." And I really don't doubt it. Every interaction I've ever seen a San Francisco cop initiate with a homeless person has been superpolite. 

This law isn't aimed at me, and enforcement may or may not be, but what would police say to two upwardly mobile white gals sitting outside a Mission bar? What would they do if said gals become "hostile" or "confrontational"? We should know what the new sit/lie manual calls for soon. Tomioka says the cops' training will likely start in January, and that I can sit in. 

Read human rights reporter Mac McClelland's dispatch from Haiti, or see the full Mother Jones special report on Haiti's reconstruction.

Since I live-tweeted about my day with a rape survivor in Haiti and ran this story about a displacement camp in Port-au-Prince—and now, additionally, there's the cholera crisis—we've gotten a LOT of letters from people who want to know who's making a difference in the beleaguered country. This info will appear as a handy sidebar in the January issue of Mother Jones, but in the meantime, here are some groups doing great on-the-ground work—plus a bonus charity involving underpants.

KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims) and FAVILEK (Women Victims Get Up Stand Up)
Founded and run by Haitian rape survivors, both of these organizations assist victims with medical, legal, and moral support, in addition to building a movement against sexual violence. Visit them here and (through an American partner) here, respectively. 

Partners in Health
The group cofounded by American superdoctor Paul Farmer has been battling health care problems in Haiti since 1987, and now it's at the forefront of the cholera response. The J/P Haitian Relief Organization, Sean Penn's charity, is also teaming up with PIH to tackle the disease.

KONPAY (Working Together for Haiti)
Provides assistance and support to grassroots environmental, women’s, and human-rights groups. Since the quake, KONPAY has also fought to get Haitian voices included in foreign-run relief and reconstruction meetings.

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
In addition to providing legal support to Haitians and creating a force of Haitian human-rights lawyers and advocates with its partner, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, Boston-based IJDH publishes extensive reports that keep a light on conditions in the displacement camps.

Somebody gave me a pair of this company's organic man-panties recently, so I can personally attest to their awesomeness. But more important, every pair you order from the Winter Lights collection gets a solar-powered lantern donated to a displaced woman or family in Haiti.  

I just spent a few minutes on the website of the Population Institute, and according to the fast-moving, somewhat panic-inducing ticker in the upper right corner of the home page, the world population grew by some 6,000 people in that time.

What's the problem? These stats from Julia Whitty's recent Mother Jones cover story:

As recently as 1965, when the world population stood at 3.3 billion, we collectively taxed only 70 percent of the Earth's biocapacity each year. That is, we used only 7/10 of the land, water, and air the planet could regenerate or repair yearly to produce what we consumed and to absorb our greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Global Footprint Network, a California think tank, we first overdrew our accounts in 1983, when our population of nearly 4.7 billion began to consume natural resources faster than they could be replenished—a phenomenon called "ecological overshoot." Last year, 6.8 billion of us consumed the renewable resources of 1.4 Earths.


The only known solution to ecological overshoot is to decelerate our population growth faster than it's decelerating now and eventually reverse it—at the same time we slow and eventually reverse the rate at which we consume the planet's resources. Success in these twin endeavors will crack our most pressing global issues: climate change, food scarcity, water supplies, immigration, health care, biodiversity loss, even war. On one front, we've already made unprecedented strides, reducing global fertility from an average 4.92 children per woman in 1950 to 2.56 today—an accomplishment of trial and sometimes brutally coercive error, but also a result of one woman at a time making her individual choices. The speed of this childbearing revolution, swimming hard against biological programming, rates as perhaps our greatest collective feat to date.

Check out what all we're up against here. And this excellent companion piece about how it's kind of the Vatican's fault here.