Category Archives: Politics

A more personal article

American journalism schools teach reporters to put their own biases aside. That’s a cornerstone of how we report. We want to be open to all perspectives, weigh each side, and let the reader come to their own conclusions about what we cover.

Enter the era of fake news and Internet memes and advertorial and native advertising. Where are we headed? It’s a mystery that many of us trying to figure out. But one thing that seems evident is that there has been a shift in how readers/viewers perceive the neutrality stance that journalists hold to be sacred. Many are skeptical and believe that bias still finds its way into the news, and that pretending that it is unbiased is itself a lie. I for one think this raises some great questions for news professionals and we will be better for all the self-evaluation and rumination that we are undergoing right now.

On a personal level, I decided to take a leap of faith and try something new. After President Trump was elected, I had a lot of feelings about the divisiveness of the country, the political rhetoric about Muslims, and how me and my family fit into all of that.

I proposed to my editor at KCTS 9, the PBS affiliate in Seattle, a story about how Muslim parents are talking to their young kids about the political shift. Surely, the increase in hate crimes and mosque vandalism might be prompting concerns about playground bullying.

During the Iraq war, I remember my baby brother, then in middle school, being called a terrorist. And I also remember trying to get his vice principal to take action, and her dismissing it as the “harmless” bullying that goes on in those years of schooling. We have grown a lot in our understanding of bullying and its dangers since then, but the threat seems as real today to many parents.

My editor saw through my pitch, noting the very personal nature of the idea, and asked me to write it as a personal essay rather than simply report what others are doing. The result was an article that is a mix of my personal confessions around the topic, along with really valuable input from other parents and therapists on how to cope with the challenges of talking to young children about hate, racism and the darker sides of our society. It was particularly challenging because I am so private about my faith. It took a lot for me to admit where I stand and how I’m parenting my children, as I know that many in my community have thoughts on what is the right way to raise Muslim children. That being said, I felt so supported by the others parents I interviewed, who were open and vulnerable about their own struggles. And I have felt so supported since this article published, by my Muslim community and my community of journalists — many of whom welcomed such an open dialogue on a difficult topic.

I have several Muslim friends at esteemed news organizations such as NPR and Guardian US who covered the Trump campaign, and they too have written personal essays about what it felt like to be a Muslim in that role. I think that being so bravely honest in this era where the truth is becoming harder to sniff out is refreshing and reminds us all of our humanity — the ways in which we’re all connected and all the same. There isn’t that much that differentiates us; we just get hung up on all the differences.

Please give the piece a read, and share your thoughts.

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Back in the game

Trump article

KCTS 9 homepage


I took a good part of this year off to focus on raising my daughter, who was born last fall. I’ve started freelancing again, however, and I am feeling pulled back in the game now that the presidential election is over. The country voted for major, major change, and I think it’s an awakening for many of us.

I was reminded of the time I spent covering the Tea Party movement as I reflected on the Trump victory and many people’s shock that it happened. Like many people living in urban centers and the coasts, I work up Tuesday morning expecting to end the day with the country having elected its very first female president. That Donald Trump could win seemed unthinkable, and yet, many other Americans saw it coming. Why did we ignore them?

Reflecting on that led me to write a piece for KCTS 9, the Seattle-area PBS station.

I’ve received a lot of support for my words, but also a lot of anger. Some liberals believe that it is wrong to offer empathy to people who chose to back a racist or misogynist man to serve their selfish interests. They say that those same people have ignore the plight of minorities and continue to do so.

On the right, there are many college-educated, well-to-do conservatives who backed Trump even though they have not been left economically behind. They don’t believe the typecasting of Americans voting for Trump because they were so desperate is accurate, and say that they chose to back him because they see him outside of the party system, because appointing conservative Supreme Court justices will have impact way beyond four years, and because the media painted him out to be a racist megalomaniac but that he is not.

Time will help us understand what the implications of electing Trump are. I had been pretty checked out of the election, perhaps not unlike many others who were not excited by either candidate, but now I am so motivated to re-engage. I hope you are too!

And because politics isn’t everything, I am also going to revisit the food blog. I haven’t been blogging about it, but food is still my comfort and escape. I have been assisting with cooking classes at a local school, The Pantry, and am continuing to develop recipes. I’m also starting to write about food for other outlets. Stay tuned!

Lattice pie

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Potato & leek soup to warm the soul

leek-soup

Tupac and Biggie may be long gone, but the rivalry between the East and West Coasts rages on.

“It’s too fast-paced. And I could never leave this weather,” a typical West Coaster might say in conversation with someone from the other side of the country.

“I prefer four seasons,” the reply may come, not without a tint of defensiveness.

I used to scoff at that line, thinking it was a way that people out east made peace with the fact that they had bad weather most of the year. Freezing, snowy winters and hot, humid summers? No thank you.

But it’s fall in D.C., and as we prepare to pack our stuff and head west for what could be a permanent move, I’m waxing all sorts of nostalgic about the four seasons I have enjoyed for the better part of a decade.

What East Coasters mean when they say they love the seasons is not just the lazy summer days spent wading in pools and beaches or the frigid nights spent curled up near a fireplace with hot cocoa, but those transitional seasons too, when this region truly shines. Spring is so fleeting in D.C., a blip between the wintry nights and the humid summers. But fall. Oh, the fall!

Don’t get me wrong: The West Coast runs through my veins. But as I weigh the prospect of overcast, drizzly Seattle winters, springs, summers and autumns (this sums it up), I can’t help but feel like the endless spectrum of reds, oranges and yellow out my window are begging me to stay.

Fall is when D.C. struts its feathers. Parts of the city look simply ablaze. It is awe inspiring.

And it is in D.C. that I learned to love the fall harvest. Butternut squashes, beets, peppers, leeks…. Just as the shifting weather signals a change in activities, so the food a new season of tastes. Soon we’ll be gathering with loved ones at Thanksgiving tables around the country.

I learned to love fall’s bounty from a coworker, mentor and friend, Arnie, who passed away this year. I always think of him when I roast the first squash of the season, and how emphatically he explained his love of autumn to me. He loved food, and life, and enjoyed both to the fullest.

Foliage itself is a reminder of life’s fleeting nature, and I can’t help but think of Arnie and others I’ve lost. Fall is also when we lost my mother-in-law, in the midst of a mild and still-green Texas autumn. And it reminds me of the loss I am still reeling from, the brutal end of my friend Jim’s life. He went missing two years ago on Thanksgiving Day.

Loss is difficult to cope with, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t confront it. This is life, the whole cycle of it, and as trees shed their leaves in anticipation of another frigid winter, we can all rest assured that another spring is around the corner.

This potato-and-leek soup is an autumn staple for me, the recipe I jump to each time I get a leek in my hands. It’s so full of flavor and so comforting. The recipe itself is pretty standard, but the addition of the vinegar adds a little zip that I think elevates the soup. The herbs are also key, given how subtle the flavor of leeks and potatoes are otherwise, as is the pepper. I use a blend of white, pink and black peppercorns for a bit of complexity, but you don’t have to. It’s a flexible recipe, and one I hope will soothe and warm you.

To Arnie, who loved the fall. And to Jim, who deserved to see this fall.

Recipe after the jump.

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Privacy: A foreign concept?

From CQ Weekly, my first policy article as tech reporter:

The Federal Trade Commission wrapped up a multi-year review of consumer privacy issues last week, concluding that Congress should pass a bill to protect data online.

The agency’s call echoed a White House proposal last month, which outlined a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that President Obama wants Congress to enact.

The usual congressional inertia means that nothing is likely to happen anytime soon. But inaction in this field has an unusual consequence: It’s creating a vacuum, which is being filled by the European Union’s privacy policies, ensuring that they will become the global standard. That prospect does not sit well with U.S. companies.

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New gig at work

Good news on the professional front. I’m officially the tech reporter for CQ now! I covered grass-roots lobbying at Roll Call for the last year, before which I reported on the same beat for Congress.org, a joint project of CQ Roll Call. I think that makes me the only reporter to have worked on all sides of the business.

From today’s Roll Call, my last story on the lobbying beat:

GOTV a Mission of Hispanic Media
Ambreen Ali, 3/5/12

In the steamy world of Spanish soap operas, a plot about the U.S. Census may seem out of place.

But that’s just the sort of programming Hispanic media companies hope will drive millions of Latinos to the polls this fall. While their English counterparts shy away from direct advocacy, Spanish-language media executives say it is central to their mission.

“Empowering the Latino community is part of our DNA,” Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks, said in an email to Roll Call.

Read on at Roll Call.

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Fox News: Winning the Women’s Vote


I was on Fox News again Monday night discussing the birth-control issue and how it could play out in this year’s presidential race. Here is the clip.

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Keystone pipeline finds new opponents

On Roll Call’s front page today, this story about an unusual alliance between tea partyers and the Sierra Club:

The latest obstacle to the Keystone XL oil pipeline project comes from tea partyers, much to the delight of environmentalists.

Property-rights conservatives, water supply activists and landowners are banding together along the pipeline’s proposed route through Texas, challenging plans to claim land for the proposed pipeline that will run from Canada’s oil sands to Texas’ Gulf Coast.

“Crippling someone’s water supply knows no party line,” said Rita Beving, consultant to the bipartisan East Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission. A Republican mayor and a Democratic city secretary lead the group’s fight against the pipeline.

Read on here.

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