North Korea

Happy New War?

By Andrej Mrevlje |

At the year’s start, I called a good friend in Europe who I haven’t talked to for a while. Toward the end of the conversation, I asked him if he would come visit me in D.C., but he declined to come to America again. So we talked politics a bit; I told him how the 45th is tearing down the country. My friend, who is informed but not as passionate about politics as I am, did not want to follow when I tried to explain the consequence of Trump’s politics: the U.S. drowning in international isolation. “I do not care what Trump does in the U.S. as long as he would let us live in peace,” my friend said. We did not pronounce the word, but it was apparent that we were talking about war.

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Media

Who Will Write Tomorrow’s Papers?

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Glorious times of journalism: Malcolm W. Browne's story behind the photo he took of a Buddhist monk's self-immolation, in 1964, was one of the major revelations about the Vietnam war.

We live in a period when the journalistic need to praise one’s own industry is supported by Hollywood movies. The Post, which just came out in the movie theaters, is a prime example. I will be glad to go and see this movie considering how much I enjoyed Spotlight, the popularly-awarded movie about the investigative team at the Boston Globe. Added to the Hollywood’s journalism canon, with All The President’s Men and Citizen Kane, the picture of what journalism likes about itself becomes clear. But these movies are similar to the movies that continue to show us the battles and illuminate the personal struggles of WWII; a genre is born. This piece is about what you do not see in the movies. It is about an industry that is changing as quickly as the world spins.

Is journalism dead? The crisis of the industry began with the interminable development of the web sometime in 2002 and, by 2008, for the first time, more Americans reported getting their national and international news from the internet than from newspapers. For the last decade, the media has announced the death of the printed press, the advancing march of digitalization, whilst attempting to create its own life raft with the build-up of new platforms and, of course, the intense search for a successful and miraculous business model that will bring truth-telling back into the margins of profit.

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America

Dirty Hands

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Photo: Andrej Mrevlje

As a man, it is hard to contribute anything to the present debate on sexual harassment without being embarrassed or in fear of saying or doing something wrong. It is a moment for women to try to educate men about them and their struggle for power and equality. It is the time that women’s bodies stop being used as objects, in the same way as it’s time to end the exploitation of and systemic racism toward black Americans. I hope their moment is coming soon too. Looking forward, I am aware that during that future vindication of African Americans, I will again have to be silent because of my cultural background, so deeply rooted in customs established by and enforced for centuries by the white, Catholic world, a narrow world that lacks elements and experiences of other cultures except in their subjugation. So how could I contribute to this contemporary cause? And while, at my very adult age, I can still learn from the woman I live and work with, women I was raised by and with, and who I interact with every day, I cannot do the same with black culture. I came late to a multicultural society, have no African Americans friends I can learn from, and have taken few opportunities to make them. Now, I am asking myself, is what I just wrote racist?

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America

Who Smokes Dope Anymore

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Euflora Cannabis Dispensary, 16th St. Mall, Denver. Photo: Andrej Mrevlje

As I was about to start writing this story on Denver, I read the news in the Cannabist, an extremely interesting Denver-based online daily. The publication, which evidently spends most of its time reporting on the marijuana market in Colorado, is well researched and accurate and reported that “Denver police on Thursday raided eight Sweet Leaf Marijuana Center locations in Denver and Aurora, and arrested 12 people, as part of a yearlong investigation into illegal marijuana sales.The criminal activities alleged included the sale of cannabis in violation of the 1-ounce-per-person, per-day limits established under Colorado marijuana law.”

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America

Impeachment Menu

By Andrej Mrevlje |

Just a month into Donald Trump’s presidency, my European friends and colleagues wanted to know what I thought of the unusual behavior of 45. As I’m no expert on American law or the constitution, I could only give them my impression as a political observer, and U.S. resident. Trump, after his move to the Oval Office, continued to express seemingly thoughtless statements (Tweets) and act in an unpredictable and senseless way, far from the norm of presidential behavior; it is no wonder people desperately sought to reason. It is my opinion that a superpower like the U.S. cannot afford (and, therefore, nor can the world)  to have an erratic person lead the country for a long period of time, and since the White House did not change, or make Trump more presidential–a hope many Americans were holding onto–my gut told me that he would soon hit a wall and there will be somebody, somewhere, who will invite him to leave office. I could not imagine how this irrationality could last more than a year. He will be out by Christmas, I kept saying.  

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China

China Never Changes

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Xinjiancun, in Daxin district, in Beijing, after the demolition of the homes of the migrant workers.

For decades, China has been on everyone’s mind. Observers, economists, investors, and scholars have all been watching the country’s incredible pace of change and transformation. To my mind, what China is doing can be described in the words of Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa:  ”For things to remain the same, everything must change.”

They came with the night. They did not knock, they banged and kicked the door. They gave inhabitants little time to pack before they sealed their homes, forcing the people out on the freezing street with most of their belongings inside.

It happened several nights in a row, in the Liqiao township, in Shunyi district, the home to about 60,000 people working at Beijing Capital International Airport, according to the South China Morning Post.

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Urban stories

Bike Share War

By Andrej Mrevlje |

The war of the American city, between bikers and car drivers, is not yet over, but a new one has already been announced. It will happen between the traditional bike share companies and the ones that are now using new technologies, technologies not native to the U.S.

They are painted in every kind of color: silver and orange, yellow and green, orange, blue, you name it. These are the colors of the growing armies of bikes preparing for the next urban American street war. In Washington DC, they first appeared in September, standing alone on the corners of the sidewalks of the nation’s capital. Because nobody introduced them, they just stood there, calling the attention of bypassers with their bright colors. An obvious marketing ploy, an invitation to communicate, but not to ride. Must be an installation of some kind.

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Melania Watch

Dream from the White Chamber

By Andrej Mrevlje |

After a couple of years of effort to discover the secret life of Melania Trump – alias Melanija Knavs – turned almost into a kind of fiction reporting, I nearly gave up. Melania is not a story, she should be left alone, trapped in her golden prison and respecting whatever contract she might have with her husband, now the President of the United States. But since I am also Slovenian, as the American First Lady is, or was, I still foster a hope that one day she will wake up and tell us her story. She owes us a story, as she is in the most privileged place to unearth the mystery of this country, once the strongest in the world. And while we are waiting for her words, FLOTUS Melania, at least she showed us her infant dream, perhaps the only reason why she wanted to get to the place where she is now. At the age of the 47, she is the sweetest and one of the most privileged girls in this world.

Environment

Trees of Life

By Andrej Mrevlje |
Swann Street, NW. DC Photo: Andrej Mrevlje

As a European, I became exposed to, then fascinated by, ginkgo trees during my far away travels, and again recently, when these adorable living fossils became my neighbors. The fact that ginkgos dump all of their leaves overnight before the first frost hits the ground and that female ginkgo drop their “poops” so vehemently as to permeate the entire neighborhood with a sewage-like stench, was my first step to learning about these beautiful creatures. On my street, ginkgos rule, and owners, if they insist, have to plant their own, different tree variations in the back alleys of their houses. Both sides of the narrow main street are dominated by tall ginkgos that in one hundred years grew tall above the houses. They hover, transforming the street below into an intimate, cozy space, well protected from the outside world. Our street is a universe by itself, an awe-inspiring ginkgo universe of total silence. Not even birds sit on the branches of these sacred trees that go back to Jurassic times.

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Tabula Rasa in Saudi Arabia

By Andrej Mrevlje |

Images of the reception of members of the Saudi royal family and other dignitaries, exchanging loyalty and complicity, were boring, but the purge of last weekend in Riyadh may end all this. Could the young crown prince be Saudi’s form of populism? We do not know. We also don’t know if the announced reforms will stop the cruelty and discrimination of a regime that can only be compared to North Korea. What we do know is that the change in Saudi Arabia might shake the world.

  

When the world was focused on North Korea and the Pacific, fearing an escalation of the nuclear crisis, a bomb exploded at the other end of the globe–in the middle of the desert. President Trump was in the air, traveling to Japan on the first leg of his 12-day Asian tour when a massive purge began deep in the Riyadh night. The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old son of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, ordered the arrest of some of the most powerful and recognizable names in the country, including princes and members of the Saudi royal family, cabinet ministers, media and industry untouchables, government officials. The detainees, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a wealthy investor who owns major stakes in such companies as Twitter and Citigroup, were all locked up in Riyadh’s luxury hotels.

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