The version of Iran that Americans see in the media can certainly seem like a
frightening, hostile place: stern mullahs, clandestine nuclear
programs, angry (if often staged) anti-American protests. Yet Iran
seen first-hand is very different, and much friendlier. Approximately
half of Iranians are willing to tell pollsters they hold a favorable
view of Americans, but when visiting the country it seems like many
more share that view. The many Iranians I've met have been eager to
tell me how much they like Americans and the U.S., the many
commonalities they see between the two countries, and of course their
desire to visit--and remain permanently if at all possible. I hope
this other side of Iran comes through in these photos I've taken on my
visits to the country. These are not nearly as disturbing or
frightening as the Iran-related images you're likely accustomed to, but they show the "real" Iran that outsiders rarely see.
Iranian-Americans, left, chat with some Iranian women outside the Imam Mosque in Imam Square, Esfahan.
A book seller displays his wares in Hamedan, on the street outside the tomb of Avicenna, not far from the synagogue and grave of Esther and Mordecai, a Jewish pilgrimage site. Iran is home to as many as 25,000 Jews.
Bazaar shoppers buy fabrics in the main bazaar in Shiraz, a city in southern Iran.
Men laugh over the poultry at a bird market in Esfahan.
A boy walks with two mullahs in the courtyard of the Madraseh-ye Chahar Barg (religious school), built in the 18th century, of Esfahan.
Children play in a fountain in Esfahan's Imam Squareon a summer evening.
A vendor grills corn at the Ganjnameh historic site, known for its cuneiform rock carvings, and near a nature area. It's a popular destination for residents of nearby Hamedan on summer evenings.
Tourists stroll past the vendors at Ganjnameh.
Women walk past the waterfall at Ganjnameh historic site.
A couple walks through a public garden in Bagh-e Eram, Shiraz
People relax at the courtyard of the Tomb of Hafez, the grounds of the tomb of the Persian poet. This Shiraz spot is also known a clandestine rendezvous/pick-up point for young Iranians.
Iranians mill outside the Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz.
On a hot summer day just outside of Kashan, a girl walks through gardens meant to represent the classic Persian view of paradise, designed for Shah Abbas I.
A man relaxes at the Fin gardens on a hot summer day.
A woman kneels to better see the flowers at Fin gardens.
A smiling boy plays in Fin gardens.
A woman and group of schoolgirls smile for the camera at Esfahan's Imam Square.
A young woman speaks on her phone at Bisotun, near Kermanshah, the site of ancient rock carvings from the sixth century B.C., and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shoppers at a market in Esfahan.
An old man stands at Bisotun.
A woman dressed in pink looks over Imam Square on a summer evening.
A man works on his pottery in Bijar, a town of many such workshops, near Hamedan.
A rally poster for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hangs above a building.
Two young girls try out rollerblades in Esfahan's Imam Square.
Young women walk through the pool at Imam Square.
The sun begins to set over Imam Square.
Relaxing men gaze over Imam Square as children play in the pool.
Two mullahs talk on a bench.
Women study at Imam Mosque in Esfahan.
Two older women smile for the camera outside of Imam Mosque.
Shoppers peruse the spices at Esfahan's bazaar.
A carriage-driver takes a group of girls on a tour through Esfahan.
A woman laughs at the chocolate tower at a snack stand near the White Palace (former summer palace of the shah) in Saad Abad, a large museum complex and park in north Tehran.
The city center near Imam Khomeini Square and the tomb of Esther and Mordecai.
Children play at Jamshidiyeh park in Tehran.
Young Iranians stroll on the popular mountain trail on the northern edge of Tehran, at the foot of the Alborz Mountains.
Men chat at a park at Sang-e Shir, the site of a famous lion statue left (some believe) by Alexander the Great.
Picnickers at popular park and walking area on the northern edge of Tehran.
A sweet maker works at a roadside gas station/convenience store/highway stop between Esfahan and Shiraz.
A European heat wave, lightning over California, a building made of 8,500 beer bottles, shrimp fishing on horseback in Belgium, the first-ever White House Campout, mine detection rats in Cambodia, and much more.
Defining common cultural literacy for an increasingly diverse nation.
Is the culture war over?
That seems an absurd question. This is an age when Confederate monuments still stand; when white-privilege denialism is surging on social media; when legislators and educators in Arizona and Texas propose banning ethnic studies in public schools and assign textbooks euphemizing the slave trade; when fear of Hispanic and Asian immigrants remains strong enough to prevent immigration reform in Congress; when the simple assertion that #BlackLivesMatter cannot be accepted by all but is instead contested petulantly by many non-blacks as divisive, even discriminatory.
And that’s looking only at race. Add gender, guns, gays, and God to the mix and the culture war seems to be raging along quite nicely.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
A new book by the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tackles arguments that the two institutions are compatible.
In May 1988, a 13-year-old girl named Ashley King was admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital by court order. She had a tumor on her leg—an osteogenic sarcoma—that, writes Jerry Coyne in his book Faith Versus Fact, was “larger than a basketball,” and was causing her leg to decay while her body started to shut down. Ashley’s Christian Scientist parents, however, refused to allow doctors permission to amputate, and instead moved their daughter to a Christian Science sanatorium, where, in accordance with the tenets of their faith, “there was no medical care, not even pain medication.” Ashley’s mother and father arranged a collective pray-in to help her recover—to no avail. Three weeks later, she died.
People labeled “smart” at a young age don’t deal well with being wrong. Life grows stagnant.
At whatever agesmart people develop the idea that they are smart, they also tend to develop vulnerability around relinquishing that label. So the difference between telling a kid “You did a great job” and “You are smart” isn’t subtle. That is, at least, according to one growing movement in education and parenting that advocates for retirement of “the S word.”
The idea is that when we praise kids for being smart, those kids think: Oh good, I'm smart. And then later, when those kids mess up, which they will, they think: Oh no, I'm not smart after all. People will think I’m not smart after all. And that’s the worst. That’s a risk to avoid, they learn.“Smart” kids stand to become especially averse to making mistakes, which are critical to learning and succeeding.
How a re-creation of its most famous battle helped erase the meaning of the Civil War.
"No person should die without seeing this cyclorama," declared a Boston man in 1885. "It's a duty they owe to their country." Paul Philippoteaux's lifelike depiction of the Battle of Gettysburg was much more than a painting. It re-created the battlefield with such painstaking fidelity, and created an illusion so enveloping, that many visitors felt as if they were actually there.
For all its verisimilitude, though, the painting failed to capture the deeper truths of the Civil War. It showed the two armies in lavish detail, but not the clash of ideals that impelled them onto the battlefield. Its stunning rendition of a battle utterly divorced from context appealed to a nation as eager to remember the valor of those who fought as it was to forget the purpose of their fight. Its version of the conflict proved so alluring, in fact, that it changed the way America remembered the Civil War.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
Former Senator Jim Webb is the fifth Democrat to enter the race—and by far the most conservative one.
In a different era’s Democratic Party, Jim Webb might be a serious contender for the presidential nomination. He’s a war hero and former Navy secretary, but he has been an outspoken opponent of recent military interventions. He’s a former senator from Virginia, a purple state. He has a strong populist streak, could appeal to working-class white voters, and might even have crossover appeal from his days as a member of the Reagan administration.
In today’s leftward drifting Democratic Party, however, it’s hard to see Webb—who declared his candidacy Thursday—getting very far. As surprising as Bernie Sanders’s rise in the polls has been, he looks more like the Democratic base than Webb does. The Virginian is progressive on a few major issues, including the military and campaign spending, but he’s far to the center or even right on others: He's against affirmative action, supports gun rights, and is a defender of coal. During the George W. Bush administration, Democrats loved to have him as a foil to the White House. It’s hard to imagine the national electorate will cotton to him in the same way. Webb’s statement essentially saying he had no problem with the Confederate battle flag flying in places like the grounds of the South Carolina capitol may have been the final straw. (At 69, he’s also older than Hillary Clinton, whose age has been a topic of debate, though still younger than Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.)
The retired general and former CIA director holds forth on the Middle East.
ASPEN, Colo.—Retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus pioneered America’s approach to counterinsurgency, led the surge in Iraq, served as director of the CIA for a year, and was sentenced to two years probation for leaking classified information to his mistress. On Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, he was interviewed by my colleague, Jeffrey Goldberg, about subjects including efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program; the civil war in Syria; ISIS and the threat it poses to the United States; and the Iraq War.
Here are several noteworthy moments from their conversation, slightly condensed:
The Risks of Attacking Iran
Jeffrey Goldberg: So you believe that, under certain circumstances, President Obama would still use military force against Iran?
David Petraeus: I think he would, actually. I know we’ve had red lines that didn’t turn out to be red lines. ... I think this is a different issue, and I clearly recognize how the administration has sought to show that this is very, very different from other sort of off-the-cuff remarks.
Goldberg: How did the Obama administration stop Israel from attacking Iran? And do you think that if this deal does go south, that Israel would be back in the picture?
Petraeus: I don’t, actually. I think Israel is very cognizant of its limitations. ... The Israelis do not have anything that can crack this deeply buried enrichment site ... and if you cannot do that, you’re not going to set the program back very much. So is it truly worth it, then?
So that’s a huge limitation. It’s also publicly known that we have a 30,000-pound projectile that no one else has, that no one else can even carry. The Massive Ordinance Penetrator was under design for almost six years. ... If necessary, we can take out all these facilities and set them back a few years, depending on your assumptions.
But that’s another roll of the iron dice, as Bismarck used to say, and you never know when those dice are rolled what the outcome is going to be. You don’t know what risks could materialize for those who are in harm’s way.
You don’t know what the response could be by Iran.
There’s always the chance that there will be salvos at Israel, but what if they decide to go at the Gulf states, where we have facilities in every single one.
This is not something to be taken lightly, clearly.
Be kind, show understanding, do good—but, some scientists say, don’t try to feel others’ pain.
In 2006, then-senator Barack Obama gave a commencement speech offering what seemed like very sensible advice. “There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit,” he told Northwestern’s graduating class. “But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit—the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us—the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.”
In the years since then, the country has followed Obama’s counsel, at least when it comes to talking about empathy. It’s become a buzzword, extolled by Arianna Huffington, taught to doctors and cops, and used as a test for politicians. "We are on the cusp of an epic shift,” according to Jeremy Rifkin’s 2010 book The Empathetic Civilization. “The Age of Reason is being eclipsed by the Age of Empathy."