Archive for November, 2009

Holiday Weekend

By , 29 November, 2009, 1 Comment

If there’s one thing I really regret about the timing of this trip, it’s that it overlaps with some of my favorite American holidays. This weekend, I found myself pining for my aunt Susan’s Thanksgiving dinner, and in particular, the hot fruit stew she serves over turkey in lieu of cranberry sauce, the crumbly buttery goodness of her stuffing and the addictive sugar high of her almond tarts. One important thing about Thanksgiving, however, I managed to salvage, even though I’m thousands of miles away from the nearest roast turkey dinner: the madness of family gatherings.

See, I’m here in Pakistan squatting at the homes of various relatives, and in a strange convergence of the Gregorian and Islamic calendars, it’s a holiday weekend here too.

Lessons from Strange Places

By , 27 November, 2009, No Comment

This week, I’ve been reporting on the violence in Pakistan’s Baloch province, and I’ve picked up on some fascinating insights that I think have relevance to American thinking about our strategy in Afghanistan–namely, the relative merits of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency:

When Americans hear about violence in Pakistan, they think mostly of the Taliban or of jihadis on the Kashmir border. But the single greatest threat to Pakistan right now is a third insurgency: of ethnic separatists in the Baloch province, who have been pushing for secession for years.

This week, the embattled government announced its proposal for a settlement with Balochistan…As often happens with peace offerings, the federal government’s proposal pleases no one…

Read the full post at Untold Stories.

Live with Talat

By , 25 November, 2009, 4 Comments


As I’ve written previously, one of the joys of being an American abroad is the experience of encountering fellow expats: overwhelmed by our minority status, we tend to band together and overcome geographic or class barriers that divide us at home. There’s a similar experience I’m having as a journalist abroad in a country that is notoriously unsafe for journalists. At home, different publications compete for scoops; here, I’ve had correspondents from rival American papers and local media fall over themselves to hand over their sources and their leads. In no instance has that humbled me more than in the case of Talat Hussain, a local TV host whose program I’ve been watching on our home satellite subscription in New York for ages. In addition to giving me advice on my stories, he generously allowed me to sit in on a taping of his show. Here’s the episode I saw:

Musharraf’s Revenge

By , 21 November, 2009, 2 Comments

Blogging from Islamabad has been delayed this week because, as perhaps I should have anticipated, I picked up a tummy bug soon after arrival that more or less incapacitated me for 48 hours and derailed my reporting. In my defense, it was in pursuit of a scoop that I allowed myself to persuaded into eating out with a source despite knowing that it’s best to stick to home-cooked meals here. [Then again, I ate at this lovely cafe today and seem to be doing just fine.] Ever the wit, my mother has diagnosed the whole business Musharraf’s Revenge.

One upside to the whole thing: I spoke to two doctors here, one with the government who happily proscribed a number of fancy Western antibiotics and one in private practice who proscribed a strict diet of green tea. There’s a nugget of cultural learning in there somewhere, I think.

In any case, the first week has been mostly devoted to getting the lay of the land and boning up on current policy debates. The major kerfuffle at the moment seems to be an internecine media squabble over a controversial piece in a right-leaning newspaper. Here’s my take, cross-posted from the Pulitzer Center’s Untold Stories:
Read More →

Couldn’t have said it better myself

By , 20 November, 2009, No Comment

Great chat between Cato’s Julian Sanchez and American Scene’s Conor Friedersdorf about the future of media, what constitutes journalism and how politicians try to work the media narrative. The chat covers two subjects I’ve touched on before: the federal shield law and Google’s impact on media production. It’s solid stuff, the whole way through. Worth taking an hour this weekend for.

Can You Wish Yourself Bon Voyage?

By , 15 November, 2009, 1 Comment

When I started this blog, I had high ambitions of posting once a day, which soon became every other day, which soon became once in 4 days, and sometimes even once a week. But this is the first time I have gone two weeks without an update. Apologies.

I do have an excuse. I’m embarking on a four-month quest across South Asia, reporting on the intersection of economics and security; on the role that development, infrastructure, natural resources and trade currently play in the region’s instability and the role that they could play in stabilization.

I’m traveling courtesy of the folks at the Pulitzer Center, and relying on the kindness of family and friends for places to sleep and eat. I’ll be blogging for the Center’s site (and cross-posting here), and publishing the fruits of my more detailed reporting to Forbes and Newsweek. This combination—nonprofit grant, out-of-pocket expenses, handouts from friends, and freelancers’ fees—is a telling window into the economics of the new journalism. My budget says I’ll JUST break even, so it’s unclear whether there’s a business model in international reporting done this way, or whether this method can ever replace what we’ve lost with the collapse of the bureau system. Still, for the moment, reporting great stories without LOSING money suits me just fine—it’s sure to be an incredible ride.

Though I’ll be cross-posting my future items to both this page and my Pulitzer Center page, my first post is already up on the Center’s website, and I urge you to check it out.