GOOD

How Political Posturing Kept Two Americans Imprisoned in Iran

From accusations of espionage to a proposed prisoner swap, a glimpse into the two-year process to win release for two Americans.

Mother Jones journalist Shane Bauer, who was released from Iranian prison yesterday, with his girlfriend

Two Americans arrested by Iranians while hiking more than two years ago in the Kurdistan region started their way home yesterday after the sultan of Oman paid $1 million on their behalf. Iranian officials had initially accused the men of spying, but without any evidence of espionage, the delay was mostly due to political posturing by President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

It’s been clear for months that releasing the hikers—Shane Bauer, a Damascus-based journalist for Mother Jones, and his friend Josh Fattal—was inevitable, but political factors combined to slow the process. The men were arrested in July 2009 with Bauer’s girlfriend, Sarah Shourd, in what they mistakenly believed to be the Iraqi side of the Kurdistan region. While Shourd was released after paying $500,000 to the Iranian government in September 2010, the men went on trial last year. And despite the fact that Iran presented no evidence to support the claim of espionage and Iranian officials suggested Bauer and Fattal would be released as a goodwill gesture, the duo was sentenced last month to eight years in jail for espionage and entering the country illegally.

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, connected the families with their lawyer in Iran, Masoud Shafii. Ghaemi says as it became clear that the Iranians had no evidence to try the Americans, Ahmedinejad tried to make the case about other issues, including his accusation that the United States is holding at least 10 Iranians in American prisons on illegitimate charges. “Let me ask a question: are they really the problem?” Ahmedinejad told reporters last week. “You know how many Iranians are now in the American jails? They’re all human beings. It’s not about only two people in Iran.”

It’s not clear whether most of these prisoners actually exist, but William Beeman, an anthropologist and expert on Iran at the University of Minnesota, says there is at least some basis to Iran’s concerns. Beeman has tracked the case of Shahrzad Mir-Qolikhan, who was arrested in 2007 in connection with her husband allegedly selling night-vision goggles to Iran from Austria. While her husband was never arrested, Beeman says Mir-Qolikhan was recently transferred to a prison in Minnesota after she was sentenced to five years in 2009. “Iran claims they are here in an unjustified manner, but there's silence on the part of the United States,” Beeman says. “Here's an actual person.”

It’s worth noting that regardless of how many Iranians are being held in U.S. prisons, Ahmedinejad did not raise the concern until it became clear that the espionage charge was baseless. “As time went on, since there was not much political gain for them they wanted to exchange them for Iranians in prison here,” Ghaemi says.

After the State Department refused to meet Ahmedinejad’s demands for a prisoner swap, the Iranian president began using the hikers’ release as a way to score political points, positioning himself as a renegade against the Islamist leaders who hold much of the real power in Iran. While Ahmedinejad called for Fattal and Bauer to be released a week ago, the process was delayed when Iran’s judiciary branch said the president overstepped his powers.What initially seemed like an embarrassing political fight resulted in Ahmedinejad looking like the reasonable, diplomatic Iranian leader.

“Ahmedinejad was trying to portray himself as a humanitarian,” says Raymond Tanter, cofounder of the Iran Policy Committee, which has suggested that the United States support opposition groups within Iran. “The hostages’ release was part of that strategy to claim that humanitarian label.”

Of course, the timing likely wasn’t coincidental, as Ahmedinejad is in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly. Shourd’s release in September 2010 also occurred around Ahmedinejad’s annual visit to the United Nations building. Ghaemi says the timing was particularly interesting this year, as the special U.N. investigator appointed earlier this year to investigate human rights issues in Iran hasn’t been allowed in the country.

As Beeman put it, the release of the two men was a “foregone conclusion” that has played itself out as other cases involving Iran had in the past. With the United States refusing to talk to Iran directly and Iran having its own domestic political troubles to address, expect similar cases in the future to play out in the same prolonged manner.


Photo via (cc) Flickr user Bombardier

Articles
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture
NASA

Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less
Science

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less
Health