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.
Do mission-driven organizations with tight budgets have any choice but to demand long, unpaid hours of their staffs?
Earlier this year, at the encouragement of President Obama, the Department of Labor finalized the most significant update to the federal rules on overtime in decades. The new rules will more than double the salary threshold for guaranteed overtime pay, from about $23,000 to $47,476. Once the rules go into effect this December, millions of employees who make less than that will be guaranteed overtime pay under the law when they work more than 40 hours a week.
Unsurprisingly, some business lobbies and conservatives disparaged the rule as unduly burdensome. But pushback also came from what might have been an unexpected source: a progressive nonprofit called the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). “Doubling the minimum salary to $47,476 is especially unrealistic for non-profit, cause-oriented organizations,” U.S. PIRG said in a statement. “[T]o cover higher staffing costs forced upon us under the rule, we will be forced to hire fewer staff and limit the hours those staff can work—all while the well-funded special interests that we're up against will simply spend more.”
A new survey suggests the logistics of going to services can be the biggest barrier to participation—and Americans’ faith in religious institutions is declining.
The standard narrative of American religious decline goes something like this: A few hundred years ago, European and American intellectuals began doubting the validity of God as an explanatory mechanism for natural life. As science became a more widely accepted method for investigating and understanding the physical world, religion became a less viable way of thinking—not just about medicine and mechanics, but also culture and politics and economics and every other sphere of public life. As the United States became more secular, people slowly began drifting away from faith.
Of course, this tale is not just reductive—it’s arguably inaccurate, in that it seems to capture neither the reasons nor the reality behind contemporary American belief. For one thing, the U.S. is still overwhelmingly religious, despite years of predictions about religion’s demise. A significant number of people who don’t identify with any particular faith group still say they believe in God, and roughly 40 percent pray daily or weekly. While there have been changes in this kind of private belief and practice, the most significant shift has been in the way people publicly practice their faith: Americans, and particularly young Americans, are less likely to attend services or identify with a religious group than they have at any time in recent memory.
It’s always dehydrated, and it's not a great swimmer, but it can somehow cross oceans.
If someone asked you to think about a global animal that has spread over much of the earth, you’ll probably think of something like the brown rat, the rock pigeon, or us humans. You probably won’t think about the yellow-bellied sea snake.
It’s a striking animal—two to three feet in length, with a black back and yellow belly. And it is extraordinarily far-ranging for a snake. It lives throughout the Pacific Ocean, which is already more area than all the continents combined, and the Indian Ocean too. Of all the tetrapods—the animal group that includes mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians—this little-known snake is one of the most abundant and widespread.
“Off the coast of Costa Rica, there are some good days where you can observe hundreds or thousands of them over a couple of hours,” says the French scientist Francois Brischoux, who has been studying this species for a decade.
Poor white Americans’ current crisis shouldn’t have caught the rest of the country as off guard as it has.
Sometime during the past few years, the country started talking differently about white Americans of modest means. Early in the Obama era, the ennobling language of campaign pundits prevailed. There was much discussion of “white working-class voters,” with whom the Democrats, and especially Barack Obama, were having such trouble connecting. Never mind that this overbroad category of Americans—the exit pollsters’ definition was anyone without a four-year college degree, or more than a third of the electorate—obliterated major differences in geography, ethnicity, and culture. The label served to conjure a vast swath of salt-of-the-earth citizens living and working in the wide-open spaces between the coasts—Sarah Palin’s “real America”—who were dubious of the effete, hifalutin types increasingly dominating the party that had once purported to represent the common man. The “white working class” connoted virtue and integrity. A party losing touch with it was a party unmoored.
A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story—a real-life Da Vinci Code, involving a Harvard professor, a onetime Florida pornographer, and an escape from East Germany—requires a big leap of faith.
On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that bore the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome.
Never before had an ancient manuscript alluded to Jesus’s being married. The papyrus’s lines were incomplete, but they seemed to describe a dialogue between Jesus and the apostles over whether his “wife”—possibly Mary Magdalene—was “worthy” of discipleship. Its main point, King argued, was that “women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.” She thought the passage likely figured into ancient debates over whether “marriage or celibacy [was] the ideal mode of Christian life” and, ultimately, whether a person could be both sexual and holy.
Two decades ago, Osama bin Laden officially launched al-Qaeda’s struggle against the United States. Neither side has won.
Exactly two decades ago, on August 23, 1996, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. At the time, few people paid much attention. But it was the start of what’s now the Twenty Years’ War between the United States and al-Qaeda—a conflict that both sides have ultimately lost.
During the 1980s, bin Laden fought alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. After the Soviets withdrew, he went home to Saudi Arabia, then moved to Sudan before being expelled and returning to Afghanistan in 1996 to live under Taliban protection. Within a few months of his arrival, he issued a 30-page fatwa, “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” which was published in a London-based newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, and faxed to supporters around the world. It was bin Laden’s first public call for a global jihad against the United States. In a rambling text, bin Laden opined on Islamic history, celebrated recent attacks against U.S. forces in Lebanon and Somalia, and recounted a multitude of grievances against the United States, Israel, and their allies. “The people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Jewish-Christian alliance and their collaborators,” he wrote.
How pharmaceutical price hikes and high-deductible plans create a perfect storm for people who need life-saving medications.
In lieu of spending $1,212 on four EpiPens, one mom in Virginia is planning to ask a doctor to fill some empty syringes with epinephrine, the drug inside the allergy injectors. She will then give the syringes to her 12-year-old son to carry around—the boy is so allergic to milk he has to wear a face mask when he goes outside.
That scenario, reported by Stat News, is perhaps the most extreme example of the many ways parents are struggling to cope with the rising price of EpiPen, a spring-loaded tool that can reverse an allergic reaction when stabbed into the thigh.
Mylan, the company that sells EpiPens, has driven up its price by more than $500 since 2009, from about $100 for a pack of two to $608.61 this year. Because they’re so essential, many people with severe allergies have more than one.
We’ve been flying around the country for the last three years, visiting dozens of towns that are reinventing themselves after some kind of big economic or demographic change. I have also, in a way, matched those flights stroke by stroke in America’s public swimming pools. On our first day on the ground in any town, I search for a public pool. I started swimming around the country as a way to maintain some sense of normal in my physical activity after all that flying. And then I came to appreciate it as another window into the culture and spirit of the towns we visited. I wish Ryan Lochte could share some of my experience.
Like much of America—and I’m betting most of the many hundreds of kids I have seen swimming in pools around the nation, too—I was glued to the Olympic swimming events. Katie Ledecky, Maya DiRado, Michael Phelps, truth-teller Lilly King. And then, enter Ryan Lochte.
The many obstacles trans men and other transmasculine people run into when feeding infants
When Trevor MacDonald started chestfeeding about five years ago, he didn't know anyone who had attempted it, nor had any of his doctors ever encountered someone who had. In fact, he was shocked that his body could even produce milk. As a trans man—someone who was assigned female at birth but has transitioned to identifying as male—he was born with the mammary glands and milk ducts required for lactation, but he'd had his breasts removed. Once he had his baby, his care providers supported his desire to nurse, but it was up to him figure out how.
MacDonald began blogging about chestfeeding from his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and soon discovered a whole community of transmasculine people around the world in the same boat, looking for guidance. For trans men and transmasculine folks, putting a baby to their chest to suckle can lead to complicated feelings about their gender. Many lactation support services are available for “nursing mothers,” which sounds unwelcoming to men and non-binary individuals. And many trans people say doctors don’t understand their bodies or experiences.