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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Mourning two journalism greats: Anja Niedringhaus and Heather Robertson

In beauty, business, culture, journalism, news, photography, travel, war, women, work on April 7, 2014 at 3:01 am

By Caitlin Kelly

We recently lost — we being the global community of journalists — two women who made profound differences in the lives of their many grateful editors, colleagues and readers.

Too often, journalism appears to be a business dominated by men: publishers, editors-in-chief, front-page bylines.

Talented, brave women also shape much of what we see, hear and feel.

One, shot dead while sitting in a car in Afghanistan, was Anja Niedringhaus, 48, a news photographer from Germany; in the car with her, also shot (but recovering) is Associated Press veteran correspondent, and Canadian, Kathy Gannon.

Heather Robertson

Heather Robertson

The other, Heather Robertson, is a Canadian journalist who led a life-changing lawsuit against Canadian publishers who, in a land grab, decided to “re-purpose” thousands of articles and earn handsome profits from them — without bothering to share those profits with the writers who had actually created them and their economic value.

Two lawsuits took decades to move through the Canadian courts, but they gave many writers fantastic windfalls; I got two five-figure payouts thanks to her work, which allowed me to breathe more easily in lean times, which every freelancer faces at some point.

Here’s Heather’s obituary from The Globe and Mail,written by my friend, Toronto writer David Hayes:

“Heather was a Canadian nationalist and a feminist,” says her friend and fellow writer, Elaine Dewar. “Her voice was clear, honest and rigorous in a way that was uncommon at the time.”

She embodied her grandfather’s crusading convictions outside of her writing life, too. Aware that writers were underpaid and often treated churlishly by publishers, she co-founded both the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Her biggest coup, though, came in the 1990s when she became the lead plaintiff in two lawsuits against the country’s largest media corporations, including The Globe and Mail, over the electronic rights of freelance journalists. (Ms. Dewar remembers that Ms. Robertson was smart enough to be afraid of the responsibility and brave enough to ignore her doubts.) The eventual settlement of more than $11-million remunerated many freelancers for lost income and established that publishers could not simply re-purpose a writer’s work on databases or the Internet without credit or payment.

Here’s a long, thoughtful appreciation of Anja — with many of her photos — from The New York Times’ Lens blog:

She was long accustomed to the field, and to the dangers getting to it, and back to it. She wrote an essay, ‘Emotions Speak Through Images,’ for Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, in which she wrote of her compassion for civilians she met in Bosnia, Iraq, Gaza and elsewhere. She said she wanted to ‘understand the situation through their eyes’ during an American raid on a house in Baghdad in 2004. But she was also struck by the youth of the American Marines, ‘just out of school, young boys.’

In a passage, she described how after the 2003 invasion of Iraq she slipped across the border from Kuwait into Basra by hiding inside a Kuwaiti fire brigade truck, then joined up with her A.P. colleagues.

“I remember watching a fierce battle around the city’s university. Shells started to land nearby, and most journalists left the scene,” she wrote. “I had just put on my bulletproof vest when another shell landed so close to me that it injured three of my colleagues. I escaped with bruises and was able to drive them to safety in our Jeep, even though it was also hit, and two of its four tires were flat. One of my colleagues, a Lebanese cameraman, had shrapnel close to his heart and was immediately operated on by a British Army doctor in a makeshift tent. We were flown out to Kuwait for further treatment. Three days later I returned to Iraq in a rented Jeep from Kuwait.”

And, another, from AP colleague David Guttenflelder:

I honestly don’t think that the AP could have covered that war without her influence. Our entire staff was raised in her image. I’m sure that even now, when they go out the door with their cameras they ask themselves “What would Anja do?” I think maybe every AP photographer has asked themselves that at one point…

“She was one of the best people I’ve ever known. I was so lucky to have known and worked with her. I’m just one of countless people all over the world to have loved Anja. We are all totally devastated,” Guttenfelder said.

Petraeus and Broadwell — and the moral is?

In beauty, behavior, domestic life, family, life, love, news, the military, US, women on November 11, 2012 at 1:54 am
Portrait photo

Portrait photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here we go again.

A high-ranking alpha male, CIA director David Petraeus — considered “the most respected and decorated soldier of his generation”, according to the front page of the Financial Times — has resigned after having an affair. Not just any affair, but one with a jock/soldier/Harvard grad/author/hottie with whom he was doing six-minute runs in Afghanistan.

His wife of 37 years? Toast.

Take it from someone whose arguably semi-alpha husband was poached: a clarinet-playing, tall, handsome, funny MD who now earns in a month what I make in a (lousy) year.

Like Petraeus, he was gone a lot, working long days and many “on call” overnight shifts at the hospital, long before cellphones, emails or texts could have given me a way to reach out easily. And medical culture, like military, can be damn hard to penetrate, highly protective of its members. When they say people “close ranks”, they mean it.

Petraeus was hotly pursued by Paula Broadwell, a fine-looking high-achieving woman with plenty of determinationdespite her own marriage and two children.

Let’s be clear. I’m not defending infidelity. Petraeus was a fool to throw away a stellar career.

His marriage? Who knows?

That’s the dirty secret of the adulterer.

For every shocked, stunned wife (or husband), there is one more honest with herself, who knew things were crappy in their marriage — or knows they chose to marry and have kids with and stay with someone with a weak ego, a man/woman who needs to cat around to feel strong and sexy and desirable.

And a husband physically distant from his wife for long periods of time, a man spending a lot of private time with  a woman whose behaviors push all the right buttons, let alone a wife who’s given up on her skills and/or appearance?

Sound the sirens!

The woman my ex-husband is now married to was clearly going to become his second wife. I met her twice, spoke to her once, and felt it. Many of the issues — a la Petraeus/Broadwell — were similar:

 — They worked together

 — She saw him every single day, well-dressed and well-spoken and high-earning and authoritative, all catnip

– She flattered him deeply

– She was intensely competitive

 –They spent a lot of time together away from work; she was a single mother

And, in my case

 — She makes three times my income

– She’s highly educated and flatters his intellectual ego

I was financially dependent on him, which left me essentially powerless to act decisively

My ex made clear to me from the start of our seven-year relationship he wanted to marry a high earner. Not only was I a journalist — a field in which $100K is a lot, (peanuts in medicine) — but I also had to re-boot my career when I left Canada and moved to the U.S., just in time for the 1990 recession, severely curtailing my earning power.

His second wife, with whom he had two more children, is fat, not pretty and dresses, apparently, in the dark. I saw her in my retail job three years ago and she still looked like hell. So it’s not all about looks.

Every marriage has its frayed, weakened bits. Every marriage hits rough spots, some of which last months, or longer.

Which is why, in my second marriage, (13 years together now), Jose and I are very aware that marriage is not forever, that people can and will lose interest, carry toxic secrets or private resentments and stray. Addressing the issues, whatever they are, can be messy and painful — and may well lead to divorce court if both people admit these are utterly un-resolvable.

I spent a lot of years examining which of my own behaviors had allowed my marriage to end so quickly. One of them was simply having married the wrong man, which I knew at the time. I also painfully examined what I might do if I re-married, and I do treat my second husband very differently. An affair, or divorce, is a miserable, frightening wake-up call.

A woman who loses her man to a poacher — and they are poached, as surely as a hunter sights his prey — needs to do a little self-examination as well. Who did she marry? What’s not working between them? Or in the rest of his life?

It’s too easy to call him names and cut his clothes into shreds and call a divorce lawyer.

No matter what happens after an affair comes to light, the cuckold has ask what their role in it was as well.

What say you?

A War Photographer Loses His Legs: Joao Silva’s Sacrifice

In behavior, business, Crime, Media, men, news, photography, politics, religion, the military, travel, work, world on December 1, 2010 at 12:45 pm
The New York Times building in New York, NY ac...

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Here is a new slide show on The New York Times‘ photo blog, Lens, of the images up to the moment that Joao Silva, one of the world’s top war photographers kept shooting — and stepped on a land mine.

He lost both his legs. He is now recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His wife and two children live in South Africa.

It is almost unbearable to me as a fellow career journalist who relies heavily on the bravery of men like Joao and his many colleagues to bring us the unvarnished news — that, in simply doing his job, he has been so grievously and permanently injured while I work safely at home at a suburban computer.

He even squeezed off three more frames after the explosion.

I write freelance for the Times and my partner has been a photographer there and now a photo editor, so Joao, and his work, feels like family.

Those who put themselves in harm’s way every workday do not always wear a military uniform. We have a camoflauge Kevlar vest — it’s so heavy! — in our storage locker that my sweetie wore every day he worked for the Times shooting the Bosnian war.

Every journalist, videographer, cameraman, fixer and translator telling these dangerous, possibly lethal and important stories is risking his or her life for us, for the truth, for the facts. For us. For our ability to know what’s happening before it it’s spun, twisted, hidden or omitted.

We  need to know what is going on in the world and we will always need, and rely heavily on, people like Joao to show us.

We owe them.

Alaina Podmorow, 13, Raises $300,000 For Afghan Women

In behavior, women on July 22, 2010 at 12:07 pm
Topography

Image via Wikipedia

“The worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Alaina Podmorow heard those words — from Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong — during a speech on the treatment of Afghan girls and women. She was nine.

Now, Podmorow heads a non-profit, Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan:

Poised and confident, Podmorow, 13, now gives inspirational speeches herself as the founder of the nonprofit Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan, a fundraising organization that channels money for teachers’ salaries and training through Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.

“I found that it doesn’t matter how little or young you are, you can make this difference,” she said in an interview during a conference on Afghanistan hosted by the Canadian Federation of University Women.

Her first fundraising effort in her hometown of Kelowna was aimed at raising $750, the amount she was told would pay an average salary to a teacher for a year in Afghanistan.

“We raised enough for four teachers’ salaries for one year and I was so amazed because that was more than I could have ever imagined raising at nine years old,” she said.

Chapters of Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan have sprung up around the country and fundraisers have been held in many cities. The groups have raised about $160,000 from the public and almost the same amount again in matching funds from the federal Canadian International Development Agency, the foreign-aid wing of the federal government.

Canadian kids helping other kids overseas in so organized and sophisticated a fashion isn’t new. In 2002, Craig Kielburger — then 19 — was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his aid work, which he began at the age of 12. Kids Can Free The Children has built 316 primary schools around the world, allowing 20,000 children to attend school. It has 100,000 members in 35 countries.

I’m proud of kids like these. I wish their names and actions were widely-known — not morons like Lindsay Lohan.

Why McChrystal Sang Like A Bird To 'Rolling Stone'

In Media, the military on June 23, 2010 at 10:23 am
President Barack Obama meets with Army Lt. Gen...

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Right now, there is much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth over Gen. McChrystal’s overshare with Rolling Stone — written by (yay!) fellow True/Slant writer Michael Hastings. Among fellow journalists…

How on earth, did he — of all the journalists in the world — manage to get this extraordinary career-making (his), possibly career-ending (McChrystal’s) scoop?

A few reasons, all of them classics of the genre:

1) Frustration By all accounts, Gen. McChrystal was totally fed up of being ignored and over-ruled by politicians and policymakers who he felt barely knew who he was and whose reputations were riding on the backs of his men.

2) Use the media It’s a time-honored way to speak truth to power — using the conduit of a popular publication as your loudspeaker and a willing journalist, editor and publisher as your microphones. If the people in charge aren’t listening to you, take them out of the loop.

2) Access Michael Hastings has been reporting on war, on the ground, for years. As a result of that commitment and the widsom it helped him accumulate, he knew the right people and they allowed him into their circle. From today’s New York Times:

As a result, Mr. Hastings waited in Paris with the general and his staff as they tried to get to Berlin by bus. Mr. Hastings traveled to Berlin separately. He later rejoined the general’s inner circle at the Ritz-Carlton hotel there, where they all spent the week waiting for the ash cloud to clear so they could fly to Afghanistan.

“I was so amazed by it myself,” Mr. Hastings said in a telephone interview from Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he is now reporting on another story for Men’s Journal. “At times I asked myself that question: Why are they giving me all this access?”

Though Mr. Hastings said that most of the eyebrow-raising comments in the article came from the general during the first two days in Paris, he found him and his staff to be more welcoming as time went by.

Initially, Mr. Hastings was not scheduled to travel with General McChrystal to Afghanistan. Only after he arrived in Europe did Mr. Hastings learn that the general’s staff was eager to take him with them. “They suggested the idea,” Mr. Hastings said.

Mr. Hastings ended up spending about a month on and off with the general and his staff while they were in Afghanistan — most of the time in settings and interviews that the general allowed to be on the record. “The amazing thing to me was that no ground rules were set,” Mr. Hastings said.

3) Time One of the most crucial elements of getting a story of this magnitude, in its full-on candor, is having a lot of time to spend with your subject(s.) For once, being a freelancer — with no editor demanding he shift his attention to a blog or TV report or the next story in order to look productive or beat the competition – paid off.  Michael was able to spend a month with his subjects., almost unheard-of for anyone with a staff job.

No subject, even the most private and protective, can spend a month around a journalist and not, eventually, let their hair down — even a high and tight. You get tired, you (as his subjects did) get drunk, your tongue loosens, you repeat the same ideas in a dozen ways. Whatever’s really bugging you will show up on  regular basis and all a reporter has to do is have the time, energy and attention to get every scrap of it down. Thanks to the volcano eruption in Iceland, McChrystal had a lot more time to spend with Michael than is typical for either of them. Both men, in the normal course of events, would have been on tighter leashes with much more constrained schedules. No one can report a story like this after one 20-minute interview.

4) Trust Closely linked to time. It takes a lot of time, certainly between military or police and journalists, to build any sort of trust. I recently heard journalist Sebastian Junger, who has just made a war documentary, Restrepo, describe the months he spent in-country, including sustaining several severe injuries, over which the soldiers of the platoon in Afghanistan that was his focus began to include him in their circle.

5) Street cred Michael is young, but he’s written a well-reviewed book about the Iraq war and losing his fiance there. He’s smart, well-published, knows the players and the issues.

6) Luck. A volcano eruption? No J-school diploma can get you that lucky…

This is a story many talented and ambitious journos would have killed for.

Few had the magic combination.

One Female Soldier's Story, (With Thanks To All Soldiers), On Memorial Day

In the military, women on May 31, 2010 at 9:15 am
The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Expedient ...

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From O magazine, a powerful story of Ashton Goodman, a young female soldier who served in Afghanistan, and who died there:

Under leaden winter skies, nine air force and army soldiers, bulky with gear and weapons, waited on rain-darkened gravel near tan, mud-splashed Humvees to begin the drive north to their small forward operating base (FOB) in Panjshir Province. The youngest, Air Force Sr. Airman Ashton Goodman, 21, stood beside me in camouflage uniform with pistol, carbine, knife, heavy boots, and helmet, explaining that as a vehicles “op” (short for vehicle operator dispatcher), she maintained and drove Humvees, Land Cruisers, “whatever has wheels.” She added that she couldn’t wait to drive one of the newer Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected all-terrain vehicles, a paleolithic-looking monster built to survive roadside bombs, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and ambushes. A former supply truck driver on mine-infested roads in Iraq, Goodman was about two months into her new deployment in this relatively peaceful, “model” province.

Established in 2005 by combined American military, civilian, and NATO forces, the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), working closely with the Afghan people, was responsible for diverse humanitarian efforts, from medical clinics and vaccination programs to schools and engineering and agricultural projects. Although at the time its 70-member team was the smallest of the 26 PRT sites throughout Afghanistan, FOB Lion was considered a showcase. I was going there to write about the five female soldiers on that team.

My initial impression of the diminutive, blue-eyed, athletic Sr. Airman Goodman that bleak afternoon at Bagram was of a wholesome G.I. Jane action figure come to life. She’d missed her dream of becoming a fighter pilot, she later told me, by being one inch under air force height requirement.

I wish I’d met Goodman. I’ve interviewed female — and male soldiers; Kayla Williams’ book “Love My Rifle More Than You” offers a searing look past the headlines to the gritty (no showers) life she lived. After she returned home, she and her husband, a fellow soldier, suffered from PTSD and TBI, traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, caused by the explosions of IEDs. Coming home sometimes offers little peace.

I once interviewed the father of a soldier whose helicopter had toppled off a mountaintop, killing all aboard. When he answered my call, he offered to email his son’s eulogy, which he was in the middle of writing. Until you speak to a soldier or their loved ones, the personal cost of war can remain something distant and abstract, a photo or a story or something on TV.

Their collective sacrifice is invisible to most of us, and extraordinary.

Thanks to all who have served, and still do.

Eighty Afghan Schoolgirls Poisoned — Taliban Suspected

In education, women, world on April 26, 2010 at 9:32 pm
Emblem of Afghanistan

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Nice.

It’s hard to imagine behavior so misogynist and vicious, but last year several girls in Kandahar had acid thrown in their faces for daring to…attend school.

In the past three weeks, in its ongoing efforts to deter young women from getting an education, the Taliban have allegedly poisoned more than 80 schoolchildren with noxious gas, sending them to the hospital, reports msnbc:.

The Taliban and other conservative extremist groups in Afghanistan who oppose female education have been known to target schoolgirls. Girls were not allowed to attend school when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan until they were ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Last year, dozens of schoolgirls were hospitalized in Kapisa province, just northeast of Kabul, after collapsing with headaches and nausea. An unusual smell filled the schoolyard before the students fell ill…

Teachers stricken as well
Anesa, a 9-year-old girl who was among those hospitalized Sunday, said she noticed a strange odor and then saw two of her teachers fall unconscious.

“I came out from the main hall, and I saw lots of other girls scattered everywhere. They were not feeling good,” said Anesa, who gave only her first name. “Then suddenly I felt that I was losing my balance and falling.”

Azizullah Safar, head of the Kunduz hospital, said many of the girls were still suffering from pain, dizziness and vomiting.

“I was in class when a smell like a flower reached my nose,” said Sumaila, 12, one of the girls hospitalized. “I saw my classmates and my teacher collapse and when I opened my eyes I was in hospital.”

Reports The Independent:

But the militants denied responsibility. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “We strongly condemn such an act that targeted innocent schoolgirls by poisonous gas.”Some rights advocates suspect that opposition to female education is no longer the exclusive preserve of the Taliban. Instead, they claim that Islamists unaligned with the insurgency may sometimes be responsible.

A million girls attend school in Afghanistan – an unprecedented number but a sixth of the number of boys.

Learning The World — Face to Face, Voice To Voice; Kristof Picks His Newest Africa Sidekick

In education, Media, world on March 11, 2010 at 10:25 am
View of Kabul from TV-Hill, Afghanistan

Kabul. Image via Wikipedia

Just listened to British kids talking to Afghan students on BBC World News — powerful and moving stuff; there is a nine-minute audio embedded in this link.

The British children were clearly shocked to hear that simply heading off to school every morning, something they dread or fight, might mean facing a bomb blast for their Afghan counterparts:

As the children in Kabul shared their experiences, the atmosphere in the studio changed. The School Reporters from Bristol listened carefully to the harsh realities of every day life in Afghanistan – a life so different to the one they know.

They freely admitted they knew very little about what was going on and hadn’t previously thought much about what it was like to live there. Dom said he had no idea how difficult things were. He asked why they would risk their lives just to go to school.

Speaking from Kabul, Hawaa replied that it was because she felt it was important to have an education. Hawaa and Yasin said they had to try and get the best education they could, so that they could help their country in the future.

I could see how moved all six Bristol students were at the determination and enthusiasm of the children in Kabul to seize any opportunity they could to go to school.

As we came to the end of our time together, a subdued and thoughtful group paid tribute to the young people in Kabul.

Callum found the students from Kabul inspiring and praised them on their ability to cope, admitting he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do the same. Dom didn’t think he’d want to risk dying just to get to lessons and Kavita, Morgan and Eleanor discussed the bravery of young people in Kabul living in such a dangerous place.

Nick Kristof has picked his latest traveling companion, Mitch Smith, a journalism student from Nebraska who will accompany The New York Times columnist to Africa.

Here’s a bit from Smith’s winning essay:

My life to this point has been a series of double-quarter-pounders at McDonald’s, history tests and reporting assignments for my campus newspaper about the women’s rifle shooting team (feel free to insert a joke about the fact that my college has a women’s rifle team).

And it’s been a lovely ride. I attended a great high school, I am going to a fine college and – judging by the fate of most in my situation – I will land a moderately satisfying job, go on a cruise to Cancún, take an elderhostel to Dublin and then die.

Thing is, I’m not OK with that. I’m a quarter of the way through my life and still haven’t applied for a passport. As much as I hate it, I have truly done NOTHING on a global scale to make the world better (and no, I don’t put community service at elementary schools and my Eagle Scout project in that category).

But I’d like to think of my life to this point as a preparation for bigger and better things. I have been in love with journalism since picking up the sports page of the Kansas City Star when I was in first grade. I wrote for the teen section of The Star a few years ago and was also editor-in-chief of my high school paper.

But the reason I love journalism isn’t seeing my byline at the top of a story or winning awards. No, I love journalism because nothing else gives you permission to ask questions about the most intimate topics and then entrusts you to tell a person’s life story. It’s this love of telling people’s stories and inspiring action that has me interested in accompanying you on this trip.

In today’s column, Kristof also proposes a new plan to get more young Americans out of their borders and into the world:

Teach for the World also would be an important education initiative for America itself. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans have passports, and only one-quarter can converse in a second language. And the place to learn languages isn’t an American classroom but in the streets of Quito or Dakar or Cairo.

Here’s a one-word language test to measure whether someone really knows a foreign country and culture: What’s the word for doorknob? People who have studied a language in a classroom rarely know the answer. But those who have been embedded in a country know. America would be a wiser country if we had more people who knew how to translate “doorknob.” I would bet that those people who know how to say doorknob in Farsi almost invariably oppose a military strike on Iran.

(Just so you don’t drop my column to get a dictionary: pomo de la puerta in some forms of Spanish; poignée de porte in French; and dash gireh ye dar in Farsi.)

American universities are belatedly recognizing how provincial they are and are trying to get more students abroad. Goucher College in Baltimore requires foreign study, and Princeton University has begun a program to help incoming students go abroad for a gap year before college.

The impact of time in the developing world is evident in the work of Abigail Falik, who was transformed by a summer in a Nicaraguan village when she was 16. As a Harvard Business School student two years ago, she won first place in a competition for the best plan for a “social enterprise.” Now she is the chief executive of the resulting nonprofit, Global Citizen Year, which gives high school graduates a gap year working in a developing country.

OK, I speak French and Spanish and no, I didn’t know the word for doorknob in either.

But he is right to be utterly passionate about getting Americans, literally and physically, into the rest of the world, and not just Paris/London/Cancun.

I was 25 when I won an eight-month Paris-based fellowship, along with 28 journalists from 19 nations — Togo, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Brazil. I became close friends with Yasuro, a Japanese man, in French, as I did with Mila, a Brazilian woman. Most of us had never left our homes and families behind for so long, had to work with people with profoundly different ideas of what constitutes a story (let alone what English words to use) and simply get along.

Our work that year meant traveling alone for 10-day reporting trips on politics, social issues, culture and economics. I covered Cruise missiles in Sicily; squatters in London, Paris and Amsterdam; the Royal Danish Ballet and spent eight day in a French truck driving from Perpignan to Istanbul to understand the challenges faced by drivers in the EU. Most fun ever.

No other time in my life so radically changed forever how I thought and felt about my place in the world. True/Slant has writers right now reporting from Russia, Hanoi, Rome, Beijing, Tel Aviv, India, Kabul — even Bhutan. I can’t wait, daily, to see what they’ve got for us.

My passport, (and my green card allowing me back into the States) remains my most treasured possession. Next to my unquenchable sense of curiosity.

I wish everyone had both and could use them frequently. There is no better way to understand the world than to experience it firsthand with someone of another culture — sharing a meal, laughing with someone you’ve just met on a bus or ferry, or (worst case, as I’ve done) waiting together in an ER or doctor’s office, in a place far, far away from anything comforting and familiar to you.

American college students, though, insanely burdened by educational debt, graduate with chains on their ankles, which makes taking off with a backpack for even three months, a bare minimum to start to feel truly (and usefully) disoriented, tough.

In this global economy, where understanding and working effectively with other cultures is more crucial than ever, this remains a cruel irony.

The Hurt Locker — On-Screen Winner, But How True to Life?

In entertainment, the military on March 8, 2010 at 9:42 am
The Hurt Locker

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Not so true?

Here’s what some soldiers in-country had to say about the veracity of “The Hurt Locker”, Oscar’s Best Picture.

From The Globe and Mail:

But the film’s admirers don’t include those who actually do the job – defusing or destroying makeshift bombs. Canadian explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) soldiers in Kandahar, one of Afghanistan’s most volatile and bomb-laden provinces, say their life is no Hurt Locker.

“First reaction was, ‘This is pretty Hollywood,’ ” says EOD soldier Lieutenant Caroline Pollock. “All of us were laughing at the movie, at parts in the movie where no one else would laugh. Like, this is ridiculous.”

The Canadians, for example, think Guy Pearce’s character – killed early on while wearing the heavy bomb suit and running from an explosion – shouldn’t actually have died.

“The guy was 100 metres away and running when it exploded? I was surprised he died,” said Leading Seaman Doug Woodrow, a 13-year Forces veteran who has donned the suit himself.

In one scene, the boys get into a sniper fight alongside some mercenaries. Sniper and EOD skills are not typically offered as a joint course, nor are bomb experts expected to clear massive industrial buildings on their own, as Sgt. James and his team do.

“I was like, ‘Who the hell does this? Can I have their job?’ ” Lt. Pollock says, laughing. “It was a good movie, but I didn’t think it was that great … I don’t think it was accurate of what EOD operators do.”

Here’s a book by a British soldier about his job defusing bombs.

Reporter Michelle Lang Killed By IED In Afghanistan, First Canadian Journalist To Die There In Seven Years

In Media, women on December 31, 2009 at 8:21 am
michelle-lang-calgary

Image by Oldmaison via Flickr

Newly engaged, on her first assignment to Afghanistan, 34-year-old Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang was killed yesterday when an IED exploded, also killing four Canadian soldiers.

Lang was the Herald’s full-time health reporter and captured a National Newspaper Award earlier this year for her coverage of the health beat.

Shortly before Christmas, Lang blogged about the atmosphere at the base.

“I am currently at Kandahar Airfield, the sprawling military base near Kandahar City perhaps best known for its dusty conditions and a very busy Tim Hortons. At the moment, Afghanistan’s winter rains have turned that famous dust into a giant mud pit,” she wrote.

“Life here, though, has been made considerably brighter by Christmas decorations. Many soldiers have decorated their sleep tents with Christmas lights. One bike near the media work tent has a wreath attached to its handlebars.”

Lang was on a six-week assignment in Afghanistan, her first trip to the country, and was filing daily news stories and blog posts for the Herald and other Canwest papers across the country.

She was the fourth Herald reporter to cover the Afghan war in the last three years.

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