Cyrus on CBC’s Search Engine

I had the honor of being interviewed by Jesse Brown on his CBC show, Search Engine (now sadly relegated to just podcast status), to talk about the whole Hossein Derakhshan situation. You can download the 15 minute podcast here.

As of Thursday, I got a call from Ottawa, saying that the Canadian government had put in a request to their embassy in Tehran to find out if in fact, Derakhshan was arrested. I will check back in with them today.

November 21: Cyrus on PRI’s The World

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my radio piece on the possible arrest of Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan will be airing today.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

New York – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM –
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM –
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM –
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM –

You can also find it on The World’s site later in the day and on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!

Update: Audio is here. launches!

Ok, so it actually launched nine days ago. Still, big ups to my buddy David Cohn and his new communityfunded journalism site,!

I’ll let him explain:

Spot.Us is a nonprofit project of the Center for Media Change. We are an open source project, to pioneer “community funded reporting.” Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories. All donations are tax deductible and if a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, your donation will be reimbursed. Otherwise, all content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate.

Was Hossein Derakhshan really arrested in Tehran?

Iranian-Canadian blogger HosseinHoderDerakhshan may or may not have been arrested recently in Tehran.

One Iranian site, Jahan News, is reporting that he has been — citing “reliable sources” — and up until now, that’s all we have.

And yet, UPI, the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, The Guardian and others are all treating this as fact, using one possibly dubious Iranian newspaper as the sole source. It’s even made the Iranian equivalent of Digg, Balatarin (“Highest”). For the record, NPR is taking a more skeptical view, and reports: “A spokesman for the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, however, told NPR that he had no information about the incident.”

So, a little background: Hoder is largely credited as being one of the early pioneers for Persian-language blogging. He wrote a lot about blogging and tech for Iranian newspapers and helped spawn what’s become one of the largest blogging communities relative to its linguistic size.

However, over the last couple of years, he’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, to say the least. He’s taken some pretty strong political stances, and has apparently made attacks against many people who perhaps at one time considered him as a friend, or at least an icon.

Since I woke up this morning, I’ve been trading emails with various people in the US and Iran to try and sort this all out. Some believe that it’s real — he hasn’t posted on his English blog since October 6 2008, nor his Persian blog since October 19 2008. Others wonder about the legitimacy of the whole affair, thinking that it might be staged, given that he wrote on October 15 2008:

[Translation by Hamid Tehrani]:

If something happen to me I do not want any news, declaration . . . to be published in English, in international scene, in Persian media in USA, Netherlands . . . and so on . . .

Still, no one I’ve talked to has been able to find anything that isn’t sourced from Jahan News. One source simply isn’t enough to go on.

November 17: Cyrus on PRI’s The World

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my radio piece on Inveneo will be airing today.

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams):

New York – 3 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM –
Washington, DC – 8 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM –
Los Angeles – 12 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 4 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM –
San Francisco – 2 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM –

You can also find it on The World’s site later in the day and on my site if you miss the broadcast.

Also, don’t forget about The World’s Tech Podcast, hosted by my boss, Clark Boyd. It comes out every Friday.

Lemme know if you hear it!

Update: Audio is here.

The Baguette Theory of Europe

It’s a quiet, early Sunday morning in Lyon. I probably should head down to the baker, buy a couple of perfectly balanced crust and crumb baguettes and get my day started. I looked outside my window and all I see is fog. I didn’t even know fog existed this far inland. I take in a pasty white ambling mass of fuzziness and cold just hovering above and beyond the houses a short distance from my window. I can’t see towards Lyon’s downtown like I usually can.

I got up early this morning to make sure that our new friends, Amber and Michael, got out ok. They’re roaming Europe for a few months before they take over running the Pastorius Haus in Bad Windsheim, Bavaria (Southern Germany). They’re a 29-year-old married couple from Ohio and Iowa (although they’ve spent the last four years in Arkansas) who uprooted themselves at the opportunity to become houseparents (read: managers) of a small, non-profit 50-bed house named for Francis Daniel Pastorius, a 17th-18th century German immigrant to America who founded Germantown, Pennsylvania. They take over in January 2009 and will be there “for at least a year.”

There’s this strange romanticism that even we are guilty of having about Europe, which in some ways is sort of the reverse of the romanticism that probably Pastorius and other European immigrants to the US had back in the day. Europe is a land that’s largely figured it out. Everyone gets high-quality quasi-free health care and education. There are bike-sharing programs, and trains that run across entire nations in mere hours, and when they don’t, they connect right to the airport. Sure, there are problems, but overall, there’s this idea that things just make sense here, and that there’s an unparalleled joie de vivre fueled by French wine, German bread, Polish sausage, Dutch cheese, Belgian beer, Italian olives, Greek beaches, Austrian pastries, British music, Croatian coastline, Estonian forests and Finnish vodka.

When we actually come here, and see for ourselves, the surface cracks a little bit. How is it that our students have studied English for eight years and can’t string a sentence together? What’s up with the constant strikes? Why is every shop closed on Sunday, and 2-3 hours in the middle of the day? And why does every bureaucratic office require half a dozen photos to fill out any form?

I’m sure the reverse is true. Why don’t Americans get more vacation? Why does our bread suck so bad? Why does it take 12 hours to ride a train 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco? Why are Americans so fat and gun-crazy?

To Europeans, it’s shocking that we had slavery until the 1860s and racist laws until well into the 20th century. To us, it’s astonishing that Europe doesn’t know how to apply the lessons of multiculturalism and Obama’s campaign to its own societies. French magazines couldn’t believe it: “Could he lose because he’s black?” To Europeans, America represents creativity, inventiveness, openness, popular culture and at the same time, atrocious poverty and racism bubble to the surface during and after events like Hurricane Katrina of 2005 or the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Meanwhile, Americans are slowly learning how Europe brushes its inter-ethnic and inter-religious problems with a broad veneer of secularism and the theory that everyone is all the same, or at least should be. Oh, and don’t pay any attention to those Muslims.

But those baguettes. Dude, those baguettes.

Oakland International Airport to get free WiFi!

Hellz yeah. Oaktown is getting free WiFi! Waiting for my next Southwest flight will now be WAY better.

Says the company presser:

The launch marks FreeFi’s second deployment at a major U.S. airport in 2008. In January, FreeFi partnered with Denver International Airport to replace daily-fee Internet service with free Wi-Fi access. The Port of Oakland, owner and operator of Oakland International, awarded FreeFi a multi-year contract with the airport which commenced Oct. 1.

[via Wi-Fi Net News and A Better Oakland]

Time: My Chance Encounter With Obama in Hawaii


Wednesday, Nov. 05, 2008
My Chance Encounter With Obama in Hawaii
By Pico Iyer

It was three days before the new year in late 2006, and I was eating a burger with the traveler and writer Paul Theroux on Oahu’s North Shore. Beside us in the rickety little shack was a quintessentially Hawaiian group of Chinese Americans, African Americans, semi-Southeast Asians and kids who could have been any or all of the above, waiting for the dad in the group to bring over their avocado burgers from the counter. It took Paul and me a few seconds to realize that the dad in question — who looked like a skinny teenager — was, in fact, the freshman Senator from Illinois, who was expected to enter the presidential race in the next week or two. (See pictures of presidential First Dogs.)

We couldn’t help breaking in on his private moment to say hello, and Barack Obama, intruded upon in a place he’d probably come to get away from people like us, could not have been more friendly and engaged; we felt we could have talked burgers — and places and books — with him all day. But you expect that of a politician, whose livelihood depends on winning hearts. The more remarkable thing, we both felt, was that this sparkling stranger was so much like the kind of people we meet in Paris, in Hong Kong, in the Middle East: difficult to place and connected to everywhere. Like the air of his home island (not really Eastern or Western, but a vibrant mingling of the two), he spoke for the dawning global melting pot of today. (See pictures of Barack Obama’s family tree.)

It has become part of the familiar story now, repeated so often we can barely hear it, but anyone who steps out of the U.S. today, in any direction, quickly sees that the American Century has become the Global Century and that where a generation ago much of the globe was trying to look like America, now it’s America that needs to get in tune with the rest of the globe. The very presence of someone like Obama shows this is possible. But the story of the 21st century so far has been of a fast-moving train that the U.S. (like its enemies) declines to board.

Everywhere I’ve been this year — from Jerusalem to Japan to Colombia to Italy and back again — I’ve heard people essentially say that America is an overweight, white plutocrat who is not only out of touch with the world but also shows no signs of wanting to grow closer to it. This is as unfair as any image — contradicted at every moment by the kindness and curiosity of many Americans — but it remains a potent one in a world where people communicate more with images than ideas and assumptions travel faster than truths. The best way to begin to correct it is to show the world a leader who can’t really say how much he’s African or Asian or American or just a product of their mixing in Hawaii. The point is not just that Obama will bring globalism to America; in his name, his face and his issues, he’ll bring America back to the globe.

You could, in fact, say it is the questions that he draws from his experience that are as important as any answers he may come up with. How to make a peace between the black and the white inside him (or inside our cities and our country)? How to do right by our relatives in Africa without dishonoring the grandparents from Kansas who raised us? How to bring the modest Muslim school in Java together with Harvard Law School? The questions Obama has been thinking about all his life are the very ones that dominate the world today. And the mounting economic crisis only makes the construction of a wider identity — and conversing across the waters — more urgent, not less so. I happened to be in Alaska the week Sarah Palin was introduced to the world, and around me I saw the America I had grown up on: full of open space and possibility, blessed with great oil reserves and immigrants from everywhere, scenically gorgeous — but tied to the go-it-alone spirit of a “last frontier.” It looked as much like the America of my boyhood as Hawaii and the burger joint looked like the America of tomorrow. The kids next to us in the North Shore shack seemed much less concerned with where they came from than with where they were headed.

Barack Obama the man is sure to disappoint some of the expectations his fans have; any man would, especially in the age of the 24/7 news cycle. But the past and the future that he speaks for are precisely the ones that belong so uniquely to the new century and the 95% of humans who are our neighbors at the global burger table. It’s more than possible to make your fortune in Alaska — but I’d much rather find the future in Hawaii.

Newsweek: Secrets of the 2008 Campaign

Big ups to Newsweek for this massively amazing set of reporting on the Obama and McCain campaigns and the behind-the-scenes strategy and play-by-play of the buildup to the election.

I’ve just finished part four of the seven part series, which closes with this fantastic kicker:

The power of the Obama operation could be measured: doubling the turnout at the Iowa caucuses, raising twice as much money as any other candidate in history, organizing volunteers by the millions. (In Florida alone: 65 offices, paid staff of 350, active e-mail list of 650,000, 25,000 volunteers on any weekend day.) The ultimate test would come Nov. 4. In the meantime, there were indications of a great storm brewing. At the end of August, as Hurricane Gustav threatened the coast of Texas, the Obama campaign called the Red Cross to say it would be routing donations to it via the Red Cross home page. Get your servers ready—our guys can be pretty nuts, Team Obama said. Sure, sure, whatever, the Red Cross responded. We’ve been through 9/11, Katrina, we can handle it. The surge of Obama dollars crashed the Red Cross Web site in less than 15 minutes.