This morning I woke to see news that New Mexico-based investigative journalist Charles Bowden had passed away.* A longtime researcher of Ciudad Juarez, Bowden focused on the overlapping an intertwined effects of globalization, free trade, and drug cartel-related violence. Deeply critical of NAFTA and the 1990s era economic relationship between Mexico and the U.S., Bowden also offered clear headed analysis of an impossibly complicated city.
A few years ago when I went to Ciudad Juarez for the first time I brought a copy of Bowden’s 1998 photo book Juarez: the laboratory of our future. Bowden was among the first researchers to delve into investigating the evolution of Ciudad Juarez at the outset of NAFTA. He introduced many readers to now common images of border fences, migrants crossing the Rio Grande on rafts and police investigators at homicide scenes. His prose is careful, analytical, thoughtful. He describes Juarez as “part of the Mexican gulag, the place for the people no one wants” but also writes “I’ve eaten in Juarez, drunk in Juarez, been happy in Juarez, and been sad in Juarez…I am not sightless. Juarez has a distinct quality. It is the city wherepeople may dream and f*** and drink and sing, but it is not the city where people hope.”
Deeply pessimistic about the economic development model being implemented in Juarez at the outset of the NAFTA era, Bowden did however provide clear and even-handed analysis of the city’s evolving (or devolving?) security dynamic. In 2010 after publishing Murder City Bowden told The New Yorker’s Meredith Blake that “If you read the newspaper accounts of violence in Juárez, they fail to convey the pain, the fear, and the ruin of the city. I wrote of murders, tortures, and rapes in a spare manner because a flat tone conveys agony better than a herd of adjectives.” Bowden skipped colorful language and focused on hard analysis. “There are five hundred to nine hundred street gangs now of armed, murderous, unschooled and unemployed young people… Nothing can immediately roll back the violence, because it is now part of the fabric of the city, a place where in two years twenty-five per cent of the houses have been abandoned, forty per cent of the business shuttered, at least a hundred thousand jobs lost, and where a hundred and four thousand people have fled,” he said.
Bowden passed away in his sleep at his New Mexico home. He was 69. Journalist and friend Terry Greene Sterling said “What I will always remember him for, beyond his vast talent as a writer, is his generosity with younger writers, writers coming up.” Another friend remembered, “He kept saying that he was proud of his ability to be a witness. He was very proud of the voices he gave to people who didn’t have a voice.” Ray Caroll, another long-time friend said, “He was a journalist’s journalist. The guy drilled deep into every subject matter. Whatever Chuck Bowden did, he did with all his heart.” I didn’t always agree with Bowden’s anti-NAFTA economic viewpoint but I always appreciated his writing. Bowden once said “The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire.” He will be missed.
The heart of chile pepper country in southern New Mexico is the tiny village of Hatch, which bills itself the “Chile Capital of the World.” A new state law aims to protect this food heritage by preventing foreign peppers from being labeled as New Mexico-grown.
At the heart of the “Chile Capital” is the Pepper Pot restaurant, which exclusively serves New Mexico-grown chiles. In the kitchen of the Pepper Pot, owner Melva Aguirre churns out hundreds of plates a day of chile rellenos.
“A lot of people use Spam. A lot of people don’t eat meat, so they put cheese in them,” she says. “When it’s time for me to make it for the chile festival, I have to make up to 3,000 to use on the weekend.”
Tens of thousands of hot-pepper fans converge on Hatch each fall for the annual chile pepper festival, all devotees of the smoky, rich flavor distinct to the New Mexico variety.
CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Facing re-election, Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin, no longer talks about stopping same-sex marriage. “It’s those on the left that are pushing” the issue, he says.
Ed Gillespie, the Republican Senate candidate in Virginia, argued that Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic incumbent, was “making up my views” when Mr. Warner accused him of seeking to overturn abortion rights and ban some forms of contraception. In fact, Mr. Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said in a recent debate, he wants contraceptives available (behind the counter) at pharmacies without a prescription.
Representative Cory Gardner, a Republican in a tight Senate race in Colorado, proposed the same thing after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case exempted some private businesses from covering certain contraceptives in health insurance plans. He was shielding himself from attacks by Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat, who has spent months slamming Mr. Gardner’s “radical agenda” on abortion and family planning.
“Udall is running his entire campaign on social issues,” said Brad Dayspring of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “All they talk about is birth control, ‘personhood,’ abortion.”
So will many other Democrats this fall. They aim to match President Obama’s feat in 2012, when the incumbent used topics such as same-sex marriage and contraception as weapons to offset his vulnerability on the economy. That they would even try while facing the older, whiter, more conservative midterm electorate shows how thoroughly the politics of social issues have turned upside down.
The tumultuous social changes that began in the 1960s supplied decades of political ammunition for Republicans. Beginning with Richard M. Nixon, they rallied Americans disturbed by noisy protests over civil rights, the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War.
“Acid, amnesty and abortion” was the epithet hurled at the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern. Republicans seized on concerns about welfare, school busing and crime — memorably with a black convict named Willie Horton in 1988 — to cement their grip on white voters. As recently as 2004, Republicans used a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to rally tradition-minded “values voters” behind President George W. Bush’s re-election.
Now the values wedge cuts for Democrats. Demographic change keeps shrinking Nixon’s “Silent Majority.” President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress overhauled welfare. Fear of crime has receded enough that members of both parties propose more lenient sentencing.
American households have changed significantly. Nearly half of adults are unmarried. Fully 10 percent of opposite-sex married couples are interracial or interethnic. Acceptance of same-sex marriage has expanded with astonishing speed.
Legalization of medical marijuana has moved, in two states, Colorado and Washington, to legalization of recreational marijuana. College students from the Summer of Love are pushing 70, the elders who disapproved of their behavior are largely gone and young adults are wondering what the turmoil was ever about.
In the study, when participants were shown photos of a person with and without glasses, they registered little or no change in their view of the person’s intelligence.
However, when the photo of the same person was juxtaposed with a photo of Governor Perry, participants suddenly said that the person looked “much smarter” or “brilliant,” with some participants even using the phrase “like a genius.”
According to Davis Logsdon, who conducted the survey for the University of Minnesota, the results could be a game changer in the strategies people use to look smarter. “For people trying to appear more intelligent, it turns out that the must-have accessory is not glasses; it’s Rick Perry,” he said.
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Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty.
In Times Square, amid the dozens of Elmos, Mickey Mouses and superheroes who work the crowds for loose bills, new costumed characters have come to seek their fortunes.
They are mostly men of Chinese descent, with shaved heads, beatific smiles and flowing robes of orange, but sometimes brown or gray. They follow a similar script: Offering wishes of peace and a shiny amulet, they solicit donations from passers-by, often reinforcing their pitch by showing a picture of a temple for which the money seems to be intended. Then they open a notebook filled with the names of previous donors and the amounts given.
The men appear to be Buddhist monks; a smaller number of similarly dressed women say they are Taoist nuns.
No one seems to know who they really are or where they come from. The police have taken no official stance, stepping in only when the monks become aggressive. Various Buddhists have confronted the men, asking about their affiliation or quizzing them about the religion’s precepts. The men remain silent or simply walk away.
They have become ubiquitous — so much so that the Naked Cowboy, the Times Square performer whose real name is Robert Burck, now simply refers to them as “co-workers.”
“They’re littered all over,” he said.
Even in New York, where people soliciting money are practically a tourist attraction, these monks tend to stand out, both for their attire and for their sense of entitlement. They offer the amulet and, in some cases, a bracelet; if they are not satisfied with the donation, they unabashedly demand $20 or more.
This year, the police have arrested at least nine people who have presented themselves as monks, mostly on charges of aggressive begging or unlicensed vending.
But merely begging in the streets is not against the law. The police have largely left these men alone, to the consternation of Buddhist leaders in New York’s Chinese neighborhoods, who portray them as nothing more than beggars who undermine Buddhists’ credibility.
“They are damaging the reputation of real monks and damaging the reputation of Buddhists in America,” said Shi Ruifa, a monk in Brooklyn who is president of a confederation of nearly 50 temples.
Similarly attired men have attracted scrutiny around the world. They are a familiar presence in Australia, where the authorities heralded their reappearance in Sydney with a press statement, “Bogus Buddhists Are Back.” They have also been seen in Canada and New Zealand. In Hong Kong, their presence has merited a Facebook page, Fake Monks in Hong Kong. Overall, there have been few arrests, though the authorities in China recently arrested seven men dressed as Shaolin Temple monks on charges of swindling $26,000 from tourists.
In Toronto, the police received reports a year ago of monks asking for money and threatening to put a hex on those who did not donate, according to Constable Victor Kwong, a spokesman for the Toronto Police Service.
Toronto, like New York, prohibits aggressive panhandling. Although “people thought they were being duped,” Constable Kwong noted, “nothing is illegal about walking around dressed like a monk.” No arrests were made.
Continue reading the main story
In New York, the men have inspired a Fake Monks in New York City page on Facebook, documenting its subjects’ whereabouts, from Central Park to the city’s Chinese neighborhoods, where local monks have mostly driven them away. Last year, Mr. Shi confronted a man in orange robes in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and quizzed him on the Five Precepts of Buddhism.
The man “didn’t know even one,” he said.
In another exchange, Harry Leong, a practicing Buddhist for 25 years, said he respectfully asked a robed man in Times Square for his religious name and temple.
“He did not give me any direct answer, even after I repeated the same questions to him several times,” Mr. Leong recalled. “I then asked him if he was a fraud, and he ran away from me.”
In interviews, the robed men were evasive about where they were from and generally refused to answer any questions about their background, temple or training. They tended to speak little English, favoring Mandarin, with accents hinting of provinces all across China.
One woman dressed as a nun said her temple was in Taiwan, but declined to give specifics.
“I cannot tell you where my temple is,” answered another woman dressed as a nun, who said her family name was Lin and that people called her Little Lin. “I won’t tell you. But it’s not that I don’t have a temple.” At another point, she grabbed at the sleeves of her robe and said, “If I didn’t have a temple, why would I be dressed like this?”
Another man dressed as a monk, eating a hot dog while three topless women and a Spider-Man nearby posed for pictures with tourists, defended his actions. “I’m not a terrorist,” he said in Mandarin. “I’m not an outlaw, I’m not a thief.”
With that, he got up and began walking toward the subway, saying, “I’m going back to Flushing.”
As his heart failed a couple of summers after leaving office, former Vice President Dick Cheney slipped into a coma and, by his later account, spent weeks dreaming that he was in a countryside villa north of Rome, padding down a stone path every morning to pick up a newspaper or coffee.
Yet Mr. Cheney was never one to slip into quiet retirement in Italy or, for that matter, at his Wyoming ranch. Two years after a heart transplant reinvigorated him physically, he seems reinvigorated politically, too, as he takes on President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Clinton, radical Islam, Senator Rand Paul, his own party — and history.
Frustrated by what he considers the president’s weakness as extremist groups seize wide portions of Iraq, Mr. Cheney, 73, has blitzed the airwaves in recent weeks and formed a new organization to promote American national security in a perilous time. He has drawn nothing but scorn from Democrats and even some Republicans who view his remonstrations as the height of hubris from someone they blame for many of the country’s difficulties. To them, he is a punch line.
But Mr. Cheney’s ability to command attention speaks to his distinctive place in the public arena. He is blunt, he is unapologetic and he is seemingly immune to the barbs aimed his way. He remains driven by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and determined to guard the nation against the dangers he sees. If the rest of the world has moved on, he has not. “I’m not running for anything,” he told Charlie Rose in one of his multiple interviews of late. “I get to say exactly what I think.”
Some have no interest in listening. On MSNBC and on liberal op-ed pages and websites, his re-emergence has provided endless fodder for who-is-he-to-talk commentary. Some activists even argued he should be barred from television because they view him as discredited.
For a White House beleaguered on multiple fronts, the former vice president’s return is in fact a welcome opportunity to focus attention on decisions made by Mr. Cheney and President George W. Bush rather than defending Mr. Obama’s own handling of foreign policy, which most Americans disapprove of in polls.
“He’s like the A-Rod of politics,” said David Plouffe, the longtime Obama strategist, referring to Alex Rodriguez, the scandal-tarnished baseball star. “No one wants to hear from him, especially when he is trying to create an alternate reality to the one he is responsible for.”
Factual divides over whether Iraq had WMDs, and whether Saddam was working with Osama, set the stage for today’s battles over reality.
—By Chris Mooney | Wed Jun. 25, 2014–Mother Jones
That queasy sensation of déjà vu you’re experiencing is understandable. With Iraq back in the news, and Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol on TV sounding off about the situation, there’s every reason to worry that a new wave of misinformation is on the way.
There is no debate that the Iraq war was sold to the American public with a collection of claims that ended up being proved false. Iraq was said to have weapons of mass destruction, but this wasn’t the case. Advocates for the war insinuated that Saddam Hussein was colluding with Al Qaeda and was somehow involved in the 9/11 attacks. That, too, was false.
Yet many Americans (and some of their leaders) still believe this stuff. It’s a tragedy, but it’s also a kind of natural experiment in misinformation, its origins, and its consequences. And since 2003 social scientists, psychologists, and pollsters have been busy examining why false beliefs like these are embraced even in the face of irrefutable evidence—and what impact this sort of disinformation has on American political discourse.
The resulting research shows that the Iraq war looks like an early version of a current phenomenon: the right wing rooting its stances in simple untruths about the world (see climate change). So here’s a quick trip through some of the ground-breaking scholarship on how the Iraq war polarized the US public over the acceptance of basic facts:
The role of Fox News. In a pioneering study that laid the groundwork for much future work, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland used a series of post-Iraq war polls (conducted from June through September in 2003) to analyze the the preponderance of false beliefs about the war. The study first defined three clear falsehoods: 1) real evidence linking Iraq and Al-Qaeda had been uncovered; 2) WMDs had been discovered in Iraq following the US invasion; and 3) global public opinion was in favor of the US invasion. Then, it examined the likelihood of holding such incorrect beliefs based upon a person’s political party affiliation and habits of news consumption.
Sure enough, Fox viewers led the way in embracing these false assertions, with 80 percent of them believing at least one of the three. Seventy-one percent of CBS viewers also held one of these three false beliefs. For consumers of NPR and PBS, only 23 percent believed one or more of these pro-war myths. Notably, Republicans and supporters of George W. Bush had a much higher level of belief in these falsehoods. So what caused these misperceptions to exist? Republican ideological allegiance likely led to an initial belief in these misrepresentations, but then Fox watching bolstered these views. For Democrats, too, watching Fox worsened their misperceptions.
EVERY so often, in the post-9/11 era, an enterprising observer circulates a map of what the Middle East might look like, well, after: after America’s wars in the region, after the various revolutions and counterrevolutions, after the Arab Spring and the subsequent springtime for jihadists, after the Sunni-Shiite struggle for mastery. At some point, these cartographers suggest, the wave of post-9/11 conflict will necessarily redraw borders, reshape nation-states, and rub out some of the lines drawn by Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot in a secret Anglo-French treaty almost 100 years ago.
In 2006, it was Ralph Peters, the retired lieutenant colonel turned columnist, who sketched a map that subdivided Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and envisioned Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics emerging from a no-longer-united Iraq. Two years later, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg imagined similar partings-of-the-ways, with new microstates — an Alawite Republic, an Islamic Emirate of Gaza — taking shape and Afghanistan splitting up as well. Last year, it was Robin Wright’s turn in this newspaper, in a map that (keeping up with events) subdivided Libya as well.
Peters’s map, which ran in Armed Forces Journal, inspired conspiracy theories about how this was America’s real plan for remaking the Middle East. But the reality is entirely different: One reason these maps have remained strictly hypothetical, even amid regional turmoil, is that the United States has a powerful interest in preserving the Sykes-Picot status quo.
This is not because the existing borders are in any way ideal. Indeed, there’s a very good chance that a Middle East that was more politically segregated by ethnicity and faith might become a more stable and harmonious region in the long run.
Such segregation is an underappreciated part of Europe’s 20th-century transformation into a continent at peace. As Jerry Muller argued in Foreign Affairs in 2008, the brutal ethnic cleansing and forced migrations that accompanied and followed the two world wars ensured that “for the most part, each nation in Europe had its own state, and each state was made up almost exclusively of a single ethnic nationality,” which in turn sapped away some of the “ethnonational aspirations and aggression” that had contributed to imperialism, fascism and Hitler’s rise.
But this happened after the brutal ethnic cleansing that accompanied and followed two world wars. There’s no good reason to imagine that a redrawing of Middle Eastern borders could happen much more peacefully. Which is why American policy makers, quite sensibly, have preferred the problematic stability of current arrangements to the long-term promise of a Free Kurdistan or Baluchistan, a Greater Syria or Jordan, a Wahhabistan or Tripolitania.
This was true even of the most ambitious (and foolhardy) architects of the Iraq invasion, who intended to upset a dictator-dominated status quo … but not, they mostly thought, in a way that would redraw national boundaries. Instead, the emphasis was on Iraq’s potential for post-Saddam cohesion, its prospects as a multiethnic model for democratization and development. That emphasis endured through the darkest days of our occupation, when the voices calling for partition — including the current vice president, Joe Biden — were passed over and unity remained America’s strategic goal. But now that strategy has almost failed. De facto, with the shocking advance of militants toward Baghdad, there are now three states in what we call Iraq: one Kurdish, one Shiite and one Sunni — with the last straddling the Iraq-Syria border and “governed” by jihadists.
This means that Iraq is now part of an arc, extending from Hezbollah’s fiefdom in Lebanon through war-torn Syria, in which official national borders are notional at best. And while full dissolution is not yet upon us, the facts on the ground in Iraq look more and more like Peters’s map than the country that so many Americans died to stabilize and secure.
What’s more, we pretty clearly lack both the will and the capacity to change them. It is possible, as The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins has argued, that a clearer Obama administration focus on Iraq, and a more effective attempt to negotiate a continued American presence three years ago, could have prevented this unraveling. (Little about this White House’s recent foreign policy record inspires much confidence in its efforts in Iraq.)
But now? Now our leverage relative to the more immediate players is at a modern low point, and the progress of regional war has a momentum that U.S. airstrikes are unlikely to arrest.
Our basic interests have not altered: better stability now, better the Sykes-Picot borders with all their flaws, than the very distant promise of a postconflict Middle Eastern map.
But two successive administrations have compromised those interests: one through recklessness, the other through neglect. Now the map is changing; now, as in early-20th-century Europe, the price of transformation is being paid in blood.
WASHINGTON — He is a Democrat in a marquee Senate race, pressed by a strong Republican in a state with a challenging political environment. So when a new proposal to limit power plant emissions was seen as posing a threat to allies of the Obama administration, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado acted quickly: He embraced the plan.
“Coloradans have seen firsthand the harmful effects of climate change, including severe drought, record wildfires and reduced snowpack,” Mr. Udall said in a statement shortly after the Environmental Protection Agency plan was made public last week. “The E.P.A.’s draft rule is a good start, and I will fight to ensure it complements the work we have already done in Colorado and provides states the flexibility they need to make it successful.”
The E.P.A. proposal to reduce carbon pollution from power plants was deemed a political gift from the Obama administration to Republicans running for Senate seats in the coal-producing states of Kentucky and West Virginia, and an anchor around the necks of their Democratic opponents. Elsewhere, the threat of higher electricity bills and Republican attacks about another federal power grab were supposed to send Democrats scurrying for cover and distance from the White House.
But Mr. Udall’s example shows that not all Democrats look at it that way.
Chester Nez, one of 29 Navajo Code Talkers whose language skills thwarted the Japanese military in World War II, is shown in a November 2009 photo. Nez died on Wednesday.
The last of the Navajo “Code Talkers” who used their native language as the basis of a cipher that confounded the Japanese military during World War II has died at age 93.
Chester Nez, of Albuquerque, N.M., died Wednesday of kidney failure, member station KPCC reports. He was the last of the original 29 U.S. Marine Code Talkers, who were the subject of the 2002 film Windtalkers starring Nicolas Cage. Nez himself is the author of the book Code Talker.
Nez told KJZZ’s Laurel Morales in an interview in 2011 that “the Japanese tried everything in their power to try to decipher our code but they never succeeded.”
According to AZCentral.com, Nez was in the 10th grade when he was recruited in the spring of 1942 by representatives of the U.S. Marines, who came to his Arizona boarding school looking for Navajo speakers.
WASHINGTON — The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict, a report published Tuesday by a leading government-funded military research organization concluded.
The CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.
In addition, the report predicted that an increase in catastrophic weather events around the world will create more demand for American troops, even as flooding and extreme weather events at home could damage naval ports and military bases.
In an interview, Secretary of State John Kerry signaled that the report’s findings would influence American foreign policy.
“Tribes are killing each other over water today,” Mr. Kerry said. “Think of what happens if you have massive dislocation, or the drying up of the waters of the Nile, of the major rivers in China and India. The intelligence community takes it seriously, and it’s translated into action.”
Jeff Lowe, 63, watches as his granddaughter, Valentina, 4, climbs with help from his devoted partner, Connie Self, at Eldorado Canyon State Park in Eldorado Springs last week. “Jeff is my greatest spiritual teacher,” Self says. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
LOUISVILLE — Ever so slowly, one by one, Jeff Lowe places pills from the 10 medications he takes every morning into a cup of applesauce that will help him swallow them. One for muscle spasms, another to prevent blood clots that could be fatal. One for his bladder, another for his bowel.
There’s a steroid for pain, an allergy medication, something for reflux, a cough suppressant and more.
A legendary mountain climber renowned for his athleticism, grace and creativity in the 1970s and 1980s, Lowe was credited with an amazing 1,000-plus first ascents. He didn’t just do things others couldn’t, he did things others couldn’t imagine, including an audacious climb on the killer North Face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps. Solo. In winter.
Now, because of an unknown neurodegenerative disorder with symptoms similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), he lives in a wheelchair with a breathing tube in his nose. The disease is slowly killing him, but he is facing death with the same spirit that made him a mythic figure in mountaineering. Maybe the way he faces death will help others live better.
Lowe lives in an apartment here under home hospice care but spent a week in a hospital in January battling pneumonia and a blood clot in his leg. His devoted partner, Connie Self, can hardly bear the thought of losing him, even if the mere act of eating is an ordeal for him.
But Lowe, 63, has a contented light about him, one of peace and amusement. He is letting go with patience and grace. He sees his approaching death as the last adventure in a lifetime spent seeking them.
“He’s very interested in the process,” says Self, who serves as his translator because his speech has deteriorated to a point nearly impossible for others to understand. “He wants to be aware and awake when he crosses over. He’s real interested in what’s on the other side of that veil.”
A spiritual if not religious man, Lowe believes he had a glimpse of what lies beyond death during his epic Eiger solo in 1991.
“His life as a climber has had a huge impact on how he deals with this,” Self says. “Climbing, you do the best you can with what you’ve got, from where you are, right now. You are focused in this moment on solving this next step, this next move. You’re not saying, ‘Argh, this shouldn’t have happened. Why is this crack ending here?’ If you’re doing that, all your creativity shuts down.
“When you stay open to possibilities, you stay in the present moment and you keep moving. You can make the best possible decisions when you keep your creativity open and you’re embracing reality. That’s what Jeff calls it, ‘embracing reality’ instead of resisting reality.”
Lowe typically lets Self speak for him, because when he speaks he sounds a little like a reluctant car starter grinding on a cold winter morning. He keeps a notebook handy if he wants to communicate by writing.
“I wouldn’t wish my daily care on my worst enemy, let alone someone like Connie, who I call my better Self,” Lowe writes. “Remember, her last name is, in fact, Self. So, when I think of what she does for me by her own choice, I’m astounded by the depth of her love, and that makes my love for Connie expand all the more. She is an amazing woman.”
Self, 58, feels the same way about him.
“Jeff is my greatest spiritual teacher,” Self says, “because he models for me every day what would be an enlightened response to life.”
Man of Metanoia
Lowe, who climbed the Grand Teton when he was 7 years old, not only found new routes to the top, he inspired others to new heights.
“Jeff was known for bringing incredible athleticism to rock climbing, mountaineering, but most notably to ushering in a new age of ice climbing and mixed climbing (snow, ice and rock),” says Pete Athans, a former Boulder climber who has summited Mount Everest seven times. “He had incredible technical skills, and to match it had the passion to be able to push them up all types of terrain that other climbers not only didn’t try to do but never thought to do. His enthusiasm and his passion were infectious to the people who climbed with him.”
The North Face of the Eiger is one of the most dangerous mountain walls in the world. It even looks malevolent, Eiger meaning “Ogre” in German. The north face (Nordwand in German) is nicknamed with a macabre pun: “Mordwand,” the murder wall. It has a vertical rise of 6,000 feet, is ridiculously steep and sometimes overhanging.
When Lowe went there in 1991, his status as an iconic climber was well established but his personal life was a shambles. He was recently divorced and his business, Latok Mountain Gear, was bankrupt. Creditors were hounding him.
He had wanted to climb the Eiger’s north face since childhood when he read Heinrich Harrer’s classic book about it, “The White Spider,” but there never seemed to be the right time until his life had fallen apart. Some wondered if he was going there to kill himself.
“He felt like he needed something to keep all of his attention,” Self says. “Climbing can be like a meditation, where everything else falls away and you’re so focused for a long period of time that when you come out of that, you usually have a better perspective.”
Climbing the Eiger brought a life-changing experience. Pinned down in a snow cave in a storm with spindrift avalanches threatening to bury him, he heard a humming vibration, a sound he couldn’t identify. He found himself in an altered state — or was it a hallucination?
“He met himself, and he experienced infinity, experienced the universe in all its grandeur and all its expansiveness, his purpose in it and what he needed to do,” Self explains. “Being himself was the most important thing for him to do. It changed everything for him.”
Climbers making first ascents get to name the route. Because of what happened in that snow cave 4,500 feet up the Eiger on the eighth day of the climb, Lowe named his route Metanoia, which is defined as “a fundamental change of thinking or a transformative change of heart.”
Now he is collaborating with filmmaker Jim Aikman to produce a documentary titled “Metanoia” about his life as a climber, his experience on the Eiger and his physical deterioration with motor neuron disease.
“This movie is the last hurrah,” Self says. “It’s the last opportunity that we know of for him to share what he sees and what he’s learned from this point of view, from mountaintop to wheelchair.”
“Starting to say goodbye”
Self first met Lowe when she managed an outdoor shop in California and he came to do a clinic. As a couple, they’ve been “off and on” for 30 years but inseparable since 2009.
“He says I’m the last woman standing,” Self says. “He says it took him a long time to get it right.”
The first hint of his disease came when he slipped and fell while ice skating with his family in 1999, hitting his head hard on the ice. That was odd. He was, after all, a man with exceptional balance and coordination. Nobody suspected that fall was a warning. It went unheeded.
A year later, Lowe went for a run and fell after two steps. He got up, ran two more steps and fell again. He quit running but waited a year before going to a doctor. By then he was feeling diminishing sensitivity in his fingers plus tingling in his legs, feet and hands.
It seemed at first like multiple sclerosis, but MRIs showed no scleroses in his brain. Later he was diagnosed with olivopontocerebellar atrophy (OPCA), a shrinking of the cerebellum. Doctors advised him to get his affairs in order because he probably only had a couple of years to live. That was in 2008.
His speech was starting to get bad, but an MRI a year later showed no shrinkage of his cerebellum. It wasn’t OPCA after all, but doctors didn’t know what it was. They still don’t.
“Jeff has an as-yet-not-diagnosed chronic degenerative neurological process,” says his primary doctor, Lee Schussman, speaking with Lowe’s consent. “It at first did not meet the criteria for ALS, but in my opinion he’s getting closer and closer to reaching the diagnosis of probable ALS.”
Each day brings steep challenges. At times, Lowe has frightening coughing spells. Sometimes he needs a special breathing apparatus with a mask that helps force air into his lungs, increasing the oxygen level in his blood.
It takes a couple of hours to get him up and functioning in the morning, another hour to eat breakfast. He can write with a stylus on an iPad or computer — he is collaborating with a writer on an autobiography, and on the movie — but the process is painstakingly slow. It takes Self two or three hours to get him ready for bed at night. He has to sleep upright so he can breathe.
As the disease progresses, it will be increasingly hard for him to breathe as his diaphragm weakens. Lowe doesn’t feel sorry for himself, but he feels sorry for Self.
“He thinks it’s more difficult for me, and there are times when I think so too,” Self says while Lowe works slowly on a bowl of cereal he holds precariously on his lap. “He is so well-trained at putting one foot in front of the other, he’s just focused on getting the movie done, getting his book done, visiting with family, spending time with his daughter and granddaughter, eating this bowl without spilling it.”
Self straightens the bowl.
“He is starting to say goodbye to people, because it is becoming ever more real where this is heading.”
Sense of humor shows
The route on the Eiger that Lowe would call Metanoia had never been done. Lowe not only wanted to be the first, he wanted to climb with integrity. He would not place bolts in the rock for protection, which would make the climb easier, and safer, but seemed like cheating to him. He would do it alone, in winter, with protective devices that would not scar the mountain as bolts do.
On the ninth day of the climb, after 18 hours in the snow cave where he had his Metanoia experience, the weather cleared and Lowe made his push for the summit. He was exhausted, running low on food and fuel, anxious to finish the route and reach safety. He was rushing.
A climbing tool came loose from ice he was ascending and he fell 25 feet, hitting hard and injuring a shoulder. He was able to finish the climb but was forced to leave his pack on the mountain because another storm was bearing down on him.
“That’s very hard, to leave all your gear when you’re an alpine climber,” Self says. “You don’t want to scar the mountain, you don’t want to leave junk behind. For him to leave that was to compromise his climbing ethics and values. At the same time, he wanted to see his daughter again.”
The documentary will show climber Josh Wharton chipping the lost pack out of ice on the Eiger in 2011, then returning it to Lowe, which makes for an amusing scene as Lowe removes its contents piece by piece, cracking jokes.
Lowe always had a sense of humor. In the 1970s Lowe and his brothers helped revolutionize the business of outdoor gear with Lowe Alpine Systems, which was based in Broomfield. When Self mentions that Lowe backpacks were the first designed with the understanding that a woman’s center of gravity is lower than a man’s, Lowe jumps into the conversation and says something only Self can understand.
“He says it was from a lot of careful study,” she says.
Life powered by love
Lowe still loves to visit the mountains — in his wheelchair — and reflect on his life. He has amazing memories.
“One of the things he’s learned too is that really what it all comes down to is love,” Self says. “Love for people, love for the mountains, love for the planet, love for the outdoors.”
He’s pouring that love into the film and the book. He climbed with style; now he’s dying that way.
“People say he’s a fighter,” Self says. “What Jeff does more is let go. He embraces, ‘What’s ahead of me.’ I don’t think Jeff wakes up in the morning with dread, ever. I do sometimes … I struggle far more with reality than he does. I wish things were different than they are, and he doesn’t.”
He hasn’t given up hope for a remedy that might extend his life. But he is realistic.
“Would he love a miracle? Absolutely,” Self says. “What a great ending to the movie that would be.”
Lowe, climbing the North Ridge of Latok I in the Karakoram of northern Pakistan in 1978, made 1,000-plus first ascents during his extraordinary career. Latok is a knife-edge of granite and ice that rises 8,000 feet from the Choktoi Glacier. (Photo by Jim Donini, courtesy of Jeff Lowe)
Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica, who is known for his modest lifestyle, sits outside his home on the outskirts of Montevideo earlier this month. Under his leadership, Uruguay legalized marijuana, from the growing to the selling.
As Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica likes to say, his personal story seems like the stuff of fiction.
He was a leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned for more than a decade. He’s known for driving a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, wearing sandals to meetings and living in a simple farmhouse on the outskirts of the capital.
And more recently, his country became the first in the world to legalize marijuana, from growing to consumption. The country has also legalized gay marriage during his tenure. And while Mujica frequently criticizes U.S. policies, President Obama hosted him at the White House on Monday.
In short, Mujica is a political maverick who is full of surprises.
“When you think you’ve understood Mujica, when you think you’ve defined him, he will surprise you with something completely different and new and even contradictory,” says Pablo Brum, the Uruguayan author of a new English-language book called The Robin Hood Guerrillas: The Epic Journey of Uruguay’s Tupamaros.
Mujica grew up poor and never finished high school. As a young man, he became inspired by the then-newly minted Cuban Revolution. He was one of the founders of Uruguay’s Tupamaros — an urban guerrilla movement built around Marxist philosophy.
Brum says the group was inventive and garnered a reputation for daring escapades.
“They stole food trucks and then distributed the goods in the slums,” he says. “They attacked government facilities like the national Naval Academy … and without firing a shot, stole every gun, every vehicle in there, and left some smart propaganda banners.”
From Prisoner To Politician
Mujica was eventually captured and escaped twice from prison before being placed in solitary confinement and tortured. When he was released from jail a dozen years later, he channeled his passion into politics.
El Chapo escaped from a maximum-security prison and evaded many attempts at capture, often hiding out in the Sierra Madre.
Joaquin Guzman Loera, known as El Chapo, or Shorty, was the leader of the multibillion-dollar Sinaloa cartel, which is thought to be responsible for as much as half the illegal narcotics that cross the border every year. El Chapo was said to hide amongst the peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and to be protected by up to three hundred armed men. Mexican authorities code-named the mission to capture him Operation Gargoyle.
BY PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE
Reigning world road champion Marianne Vos was on hand at La Course’s route presentation. (James Startt)
Paris, France – With a red carpet leading the way to the opulent Jean-Louis Laurens room in the historic Hotel de Ville of Paris, it became immediately apparent that this would be no routine press conference. The grandeur was confirmed once inside, as Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme and ASO managing director Yann Le Moenner greeted the crowd along with Marianne Vos, the most decorated female cyclist in history. The event: the official unveiling of La Course by the Tour de France.
Little more than speculation less than a year ago, La Course is the Tour’s effort to shine some of its spotlight on women’s cycling. The 90-kilometer course will race up and down the Champs-Elysees on the Tour’s final day. And as a promotional video (embedded below) announced, “This year on the Champs-Elysees in the Tour de France the women will cross the finish line first.”
“I have won a lot of trophies as you know,” Vos said jubilantly. “But today is even more special. I’m happy to be here in Paris. For me it’s a dream come true. Trophies collect dust. Dreams last forever.”
While some would have preferred to see a women’s race climb one of the Tour de France’s many epic mountain passes, Vos, like the Tour organizers, celebrated the visibility of having the La Course held in Paris on the final day. While La Course may not be the most grueling race on the women’s calendar, it promises to be the most watched event of the year, as it will benefit from all of the media attention garnered by the men’s race on the final day.
For Vos and other female cyclists like Lotto Belisol Ladies racer Emma Pooley and Kathryn Bertine, film director of Half the Road, the dream of sharing the stage of the Tour de France started as direct challenge last July when they sent a letter to Prudhomme in the middle of the Tour de France. Initially discounted, the move quickly gained momentum when Harriet Harman, a high-ranking Labour Party official in Great Britain followed up with a similar call.
But while the Tour originally appeared reluctant, they quickly changed direction after a late-season meeting with Vos and other leaders of women’s cycling.
“Once we saw how confident, engaged, and motivated the women were we just had to do something,” Le Moenner said.
“I had actually discussed the idea of doing a women’s event with Yann in 2012 and we were working towards it,” said Prudhomme. “But meeting with the women really helped speed things up.”
“Once we spoke with ASO we knew that the dream could be a reality,” Vos added. “And now in barely six months and we can announce La Course on July 27. That’s fantastic!”
But while ASO insists that this year’s race is no one-off, it is also reluctant to commit to further investment and additional days during the Tour itself. “That’s not even what the immense majority of women here want,” Prudhomme said. “What they want is visibility. And to be able to use the draw of the Tour on the Champs-Elysees to spread women’s cycling to over 150 countries around the world is formidable.”
Vos seemed to be in agreement. “It is great that ASO understands that for women’s cycling to progress they must be given a stage and that they open their doors on one of the biggest days of the Tour, on the Champs-Elysees.”
Starting at noon on the final day of the Tour, 20 teams of six riders will race around the Tour’s Champs-Elysees circuit a total of 13 times. And the event promises to bring together the crème de la crème of women’s cycling as the top 10 women’s teams are invited along with the top five national teams and five invited wild-card teams.
The flat roads running up and down the main street offer no major difficulties, but victory will not come easily. And Vos, especially, knows that all eyes will be on her. “It’s going to be complicated race to win,” she says. “But that’s bicycle racing! Whoever does win, however, will have a fantastic day of cycling.”
JEMIMA DIKI SHERPA
When there are gatherings in our valley, the women sit with the women and the men sit with the men, and the children tear about evading adult arms that reach out to obstruct their fun. The men form a long line on low benches along the front wall of the house, patriarchs sitting at the end closest to the fireplace with the wide-legged weariness of ageing masculinity; down through the established householders with their roars of laughter, past the young fathers bouncing sticky toddlers on their laps, through the self-conscious new and prospective grooms, to the awkward youths who cram together and snicker and mutter and jostle each other.
Everyone wears down jackets.
In such a line as this, a gambler would have good odds that any man, picked at random, has stood atop of Everest; chances better still that he has been partway up the mountain a dozen times only to return to Base Camp, collect another load, and head off to cross the treacherous icefall again. What elsewhere is extraordinary – the raw material that can be spun into charitable foundations, movie rights, pub boasts and motivational speaking tours – is quotidian in the villages of Thame Valley. Even our monks shed their deep red robes in spring and come back snow-burnt, the marks of sun goggles etched pale across their cheekbones and their lips chapped flaking white with bleeding crimson cracks.
When I finished high school and left Kathmandu for university in New Zealand, I was conditioned for the reactions my last name would elicit. “They ask how many kilos you can carry,” says every Sherpa who has ever travelled abroad. But I was caught by a more common response: “Shuuurpa,” in the muted antipodean accent, “Seriously? That’s AWESOME!”
It is something to behold, the open-hearted enthusiasm that the Sherpa name elicits in the western mind. It is (as every random company that has capitalized on it well knows) the branding motherlode – stimulating a vague positive association founded on six-odd decades of mountaineering mythbuilding. I wondered what deep, subconscious connections, what snippets of information, what flashes of imagery were being evoked.
It is something to behold, the open-hearted enthusiasm that the Sherpa name elicits in the western mind. It is (as every random company that has capitalized on it well knows) the branding motherlode – stimulating a vague positive association founded on six-odd decades of mountaineering mythbuilding. I wondered what deep, subconscious connections, what snippets of information, what flashes of imagery were being evoked.
“Awesome” how? I came to ask myself. More importantly, “awesome” for whom? Uncharitably, I imagined them imagining themselves as conquering heroes, assisted by a legion of Sherpa faithful ready – and cheerful – to lay down sweat and lives in service for arduous, but ultimately noble and glorious, personal successes. Still, it is undeniable that, in “post”-colonial democracies where ethnic minorities carry the burden of insidious and vicious prejudices at every turn, Sherpas are fortunate. Everyone loves us, everyone trusts us, and everyone wants their own collectable one of us. Internet listsicles call us ‘badass’ and we have a very large, very coveted piece of real estate in our back yard. It is a stereotype, sure, but a positive one.
Any vague hopes my new acquaintances may have had of me selflessly and singlehandedly lugging their furniture up stairs on moving days were swiftly dashed. I lived life some, and then meandered my way home more than half a decade later. Village-born though I was, and potato farmers and yak herders though my grandparents may have been, despite the yearly trips to the Khumbu homeland I am a Kathmandu city girl. Like post-arts degree twentysomethings the world over, I was adrift. With equal parts defeat, hope, terror, self-congratulation and wildly under-informed plans and good intentions, I arrived ‘home’ to live in Thamo, elevation: 3550 metres, population: maybe fifty people on a good day.
Village life. This should be amusing.
The death of 16 Sherpas last week on Everest—the biggest single loss of life in the mountain’s history—has led to a threatened strike. Why, the Sherpas demand, should they risk their lives, while being excluded from the income generated by the rich, inexperienced climbers they look after?
“What is economics? A science invented by the upper class in order to acquire the fruits of the labor of the underclass.” August Strindberg, 1884
Sherpas on Everest have said they will abandon this year’s climbing season, in honor of sixteen of their colleagues who died on the mountain last Friday. Their announcement today came after Nepal agreed to set up a relief fund for Sherpas who are killed or injured in climbing accidents. Everest’s Sherpa guides and support staff had threatened to strike if a list of demands they presented were not met following the deaths of the sixteen Sherpas.
Last Friday, at 7 a.m., a huge block of ice fell off the West Shoulder of Everest, creating an enormous avalanche that covered a large area of the route through the Khumbu and hit 25 Nepalis working for guided climbing teams. The tragedy of 16 Sherpas killed was the biggest single loss of life in the history of climbing Everest. Many of the other Nepali Sherpas working on the mountain witnessed the avalanche as it covered their friends and fellow workers.
On Sunday night, 300 Sherpa guides and support staff held an emergency meeting at Everest base camp and worked out a list of 12 demands to be met by the Nepal government within a week. Among the demands were for the state to provide 10 million Nepalese rupees ($103,600) each to families of the deceased and critically injured, along with initiatives to increase the overall support infrastructure for local guides working in the Himalayas.
Following the Sherpas’ ultimatums, The Nepalese government considered calling off the 2014 climbing season on the world’s highest peak, in which case the $10,000 fee for all 334 permits would have to be reimbursed. “This is an unprecedented situation,” the Tourism Ministry spokesman Madhu Sudan Burlakoti told journalists. “We do not know what to do if they want their tax back. We will hold further discussions before deciding anything on this issue.” However, today guide Tulsi Gurung said from base camp: “We had a long meeting this afternoon and we decided to stop our climbing this year to honor our fallen brothers. All Sherpas are united in this.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson delivering a speech in the East Room of the White House in 1964 during the signing of the Civil Rights Act. Credit Keystone/Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Two days before joining other presidents in Texas to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, President Obama tackled enduring inequality himself on Tuesday, in this case economic disparity based on gender.
His action? Signing an executive order barring federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay and a memo seeking statistics on contractor salaries.
If the photo-friendly ceremony in the East Room was not exactly the stuff of Mount Rushmore, it did reflect a broader question about the state of the presidency a half-century after Lyndon B. Johnson enacted monumental change in American society: Is it even possible for a president to do big things anymore?
Lilly M. Ledbetter, left, watched Tuesday as President Obama signed an executive order barring federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries.
President Obama, speaking in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, said that his health law “is helping millions of Americans.” video Video: Obama on Health Care Enrollment NumbersAPRIL 1, 2014
President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Fifty years later, his relatives and admirers are working hard to highlight his initiatives. video Video: Legacy of L.B.J.FEB. 15, 2014
President Obama with female members of Congress at the White House on Tuesday. Democrats tried to highlight pay equity.Democrats Use Pay Issue in Bid for Women’s VoteAPRIL 8, 2014
For better or worse, Johnson represented the high-water mark for American presidents pushing through sweeping legislation — not just the Civil Rights Act, but the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the Fair Housing Act and major measures on immigration, education, gun control and clean air and water. No president since has approached that level of legislative success, although there are people who argue that is a good thing because government should not be so intrusive.
LBJ Legacy: Vietnam War Often Overshadows Civil Rights Feat
The 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act offers fans of Lyndon Baines Johnson a chance to reassess the 36th president. This law is obscured by his escalation of a failed war in Vietnam.
THE DENVER POST
Two Colorado Department of Transportation workers were injured Monday morning when an explosive round blew up in the barrel of an avalanche-mitigation mortar in Loveland Pass.
The two, a CDOT explosives expert and a Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster, were airlifted to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver. At 11 a.m., CDOT reported they were in fair condition.
“They were doing avalanche mitigation in Loveland Pass. They were very experienced crews doing the work,” said CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford.
The workers were firing the projectiles at about 7 a.m. into snow in the Seven Sisters area that is known for steep chasms on the east side of the pass, Ford said.
The workers, who were conscious when loaded into the helicopter, suffered head and facial injuries. The CAIC forecaster also had leg injuries, said CDOT maintenance supervisor John David. The men’s families were notified, Ford said.
The names of the injured men were not released. There also was a third crew member who was not injured when the device, which CDOT said has fired over 800 rounds this avalanche season, exploded.
David said he has been with CDOT since 1985 and had never known of even a close call when such mortars were being used. He added that the men were heeding protocol by moving behind their vehicle before the launch and that if they hadn’t, there “probably would have” been fatalities.
“We are taking this situation very seriously and will be looking into how to improve the safety of our crew members during avalanche reduction practices,” said Regional Transportation director Tony DeVito in a news release. “The safety of our crews and the traveling public are our top priority and we ask you keep these gentlemen in your thoughts today.”
The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department was investigating the scene, CDOT said.
An email from John Brennan producer of the Falcon GT Avalauncher that was involved in the accident.
There was an in-bore detonation in a Falcon GT Avalauncher today while the Colorado Department of Transportation was doing control work. I was close to the site so I spent about four hour there. I just got back home. Two gunners were injured. They had a truck bed mounted launcher and were using a second truck as their blast shield. I don’t believe it is my place release information before the Department of Transportation releases it, but from internet information the injuries are serious. Our prayers and best wishes are with the injured. The investigation is only in its rudimentary stages so not much information can be gleaned currently. I was unable to get close to the Avalauncher. The Avalauncher fired when they triggered it and the projectile detonated near the Breech end of the machine. They were using CIL Orion Classics. I was told they were the current version with deeper cap wells to accommodate the #12 caps that were being used. I understand that CIL Orion will be sending a representative to Colorado shortly. They were shooting well under 200 psi. In my opinion ALL Avalauncher operations should be suspended while this investigation continues. By this I mean any brand of Avalauncher so as to see what comes out of the investigation of the projectile system as well as the Falcon GT Avalauncher. I will update as soon as possible. Forward this info to all it may help. John Brennan
From a friend in Utah. J.R.
Photos by Jerry Roberts & Noel Peterson
old school launchers