Donald Trump: Not a Reader

Donald Trump: Not a Reader

Dear Donald Trump, They say you're not a reader; that you don’t have time for books. “I never have,” you told the Washington Post this summer. “I’m always busy doing a lot.” Wow. I can’t imagine walking out the door every morning without having read some part of a book to start my day. (Imagine, actually doing things without reading!) Oh, but wait—what’s that you say? You do read magazines, and ...
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Nanaimo Pride: The Resistance of Memory

Nanaimo Pride: The Resistance of Memory

During the summer of 1993, as I was settling into a short-lived stint as the first publisher and editor of Xtra! West, Vancouver’s brand-new gay and lesbian biweekly, I received an overstuffed legal-size envelope in the mail from Don Hann. Best known as Vancouver’s first openly gay city hall daycare worker, Don Hann was a Stonewall generation LGBT activist who was also an amateur poet and self-appointed local queer historian/media ...
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After Paris: Getting our heads around ISIS

After Paris: Getting our heads around ISIS

We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea. -- Major General Michael K. Nagata, Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, on the mysterious appeal of ISIS (December 2014) The morning after the Paris attacks, a friend in Jakarta posted the following message on Facebook: Fuck Isis, fuck Al Qaeda, fuck Boko haram, fuck Jemaah Islamiah. Fuck all terrorist[s] in this ...
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Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Somewhere before the one-month point of this seemingly interminable, 78-day federal election campaign, New Democrats awoke to a sobering reality. Few said it openly, but everyone was thinking it: We peaked too early. After several months at the top of the polls as Canada’s government-in-waiting, the NDP saw their numbers tacking unmistakably in the other direction—to the point that, by Thanksgiving weekend, nearly every poll in the country was placing ...
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Pope Francis and Me: A Fantasy

Pope Francis and Me: A Fantasy

The scene: A sitting room in the papal residences of Domus Sanctae Marthae, The Vatican  The ambience: Warm, dim lighting. In the middle of the room between two comfy chairs is a coffee table bearing a plate of fruit, cheese and bread, two wine glasses, and a ceramic decanter filled with the finest Malbec. Pope Francis: My son, you have wandered long and far in the wilderness of doubt, but you ...
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Vatican News Flash: Gays are People, Too

Vatican News Flash: Gays are People, Too

First, all you snickering cynics out there—including my fellow Catholic atheists and otherwise gay brethren—let’s not make fun of what rhymes with “relatio.” Instead, let’s take the Vatican document released today, relatio post disceptationem (Report After Debate), seriously and at face value. One of the report’s 58 sections, “Welcoming homosexual persons,” has prompted the usual hysterical responses, both from outraged conservative Roman Catholics who think the Church is being ...
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What's In a Name? Everything.

What’s In a Name? Everything.

Last night I was chatting with a friend when we somehow got onto the topic of the Washington Redskins. Now, I’m not much of a football fan, but controversies about race and ethnicity in popular culture tend to hover fairly close to my radar. This one—surrounding the name and logo of the U.S. capital’s NFL team—involves two subjects right up my alley: branding and media optics. Everyone, it seems--from the National Congress ...
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An Independent Newsroom Where Self-Censorship Rules

An Independent Newsroom Where Self-Censorship Rules

With the state once again targeting journalists, press freedom in post-dictatorship Myanmar remains elusive. But it’s not just the government that inhibits free expression: the country’s leading independent news daily routinely betrays the ideals of press freedom by promoting hatred against a persecuted minority. Two years ago, Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government officially lifted pre-censorship rules governing domestic non-state media. This was a good sign: after half a century of military dictatorship, ...
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So Long, Myanmar—and Au Revoir, Burma

So Long, Myanmar—and Au Revoir, Burma

Back in February, while sitting down for lunch in Mandalay with Karen Connelly, I reminded the award-winning author of The Lizard Cage of something she had said while promoting her 2009 memoir, Burmese Lessons. Connelly had told an interviewer that, after finishing her epic novel, she thought she was “done with Burma”—meaning as a destination, as place to live, and as a subject for writing. However, having found that she ...
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Defying the Politics of Hate

Defying the Politics of Hate

Octogenarians from opposite ends of Myanmar's religious divide offer a progressive example with their friendship SPECIAL TO THE NATION - May 9, 2014 YANGON—In Myanmar these days, it is often said that the only obstacle to genuine democracy is the older generation: those who remember the 1962 coup, served under the military dictatorship, and continue to cling to old ways of thinking. Get the geriatrics out of the way, it ...
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Welcome to the Post-Totalitarian Disneyland

Welcome to the Post-Totalitarian Disneyland

NAYPYIDAW—Ever since arriving in Myanmar back in September, I have harboured a nagging desire to visit the country’s new capital city. Naypyidaw, unveiled by former dictator Than Shwe in November 2005 (although not actually given its name until four months later), has become somewhat legendary for all the wrong reasons. Apparently it was so unattractive a place that, when the regime invited foreign embassies to relocate from Yangon, Bangladesh was ...
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The Lady, the Cult, and the Dented Halo

The Lady, the Cult, and the Dented Halo

YANGON—Last month, while I was up in Mandalay for the Irrawaddy LitFest, I attended my first public event in the presence of Aung San Suu Kyi. Yes, “The Lady”: Burma’s democracy icon, Nobel laureate, and living legend. Scion of legendary independence hero/martyr Aung San. Exemplar of peaceful, non-violent resistance who spent the better part of two decades under house arrest. Heroine who left behind her family and comfortable life in ...
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