The first time I inhaled tear gas was in 2012. I was in Tahrir Square, in downtown Cairo, where just one year earlier, half a million Egyptian protesters declared victory over the military dictator Hosni Mubarak, who formally resigned as president after 30 years of rule. After the elections that followed, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi won and promptly attempted to grant himself broad autocratic powers, which drew large crowds and journalists like me right back to the square. The tear gas canisters I breathed that day bared bold block letters: "Made in the USA." It forced my eyes closed.
LAX's new private terminal for the rich and famous makes flying easier, but at a steep price. L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez went to check out the rarefied atmosphere of air travel for the wealthy. "I walked out the door of the plane and there was a guy standing there with a little sign, come with me," one movie producer told Steve. After a deal was struck in the early hours Tuesday morning and a strike was averted, a sense of relief spread through Hollywood. The film and television industry was terrified that a work stoppage would have had a widespread impact throughout the business.
People versus power: This is how most of us remember Egypt's 2011-13 upheavals. Crowds fight the police under clouds of tear gas on a Nile bridge, bringing down the dictator Hosni Mubarak. Later, they rise to challenge his replacement, the Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, but are ultimately betrayed and crushed by a revived military regime. Such dramatic street clashes feature heavily in works like the documentary "The Square," telling a story in which the protagonist is the Egyptian street -- or more specifically, the left-leaning activist networks with the most talent in organizing demonstrations. Their courage may have failed to create a democracy, the story goes, but it was only because the forces of reaction were too cunning and too ruthless.
On this week's episode of my podcast, I Have to Ask, I spoke to David D. Kirkpatrick, an international correspondent for the New York Times and the author of the new book Into The Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East. Currently based in London, Kirkpatrick reported extensively throughout the Middle East for the Times, especially in Egypt, where he lived with his family during the fall of Hosni Mubarak. His book is a portrait of Egypt during the Arab Spring, as well as an examination of the ways that Egypt's depressing path over the past several years has both initiated and mirrored the path of the region as a whole. Below is an edited excerpt from the show. In it, we discuss exactly where the Egyptian revolution went off the rails, the ways in which American presidents have differed in their approach to the Middle East, and how the Obama administration helped undermine the Arab Spring. You can find links to every episode here; the entire audio interview is below.
"Cairo is jazz: All contrapuntal influences jostling for attention, occasionally brilliant solos standing high above the steady rhythm of the street." Perhaps, but Cairo is also where Egyptian liberals recently found themselves lodged between the theocratic-minded Muslim Brotherhood and the power-hungry Egyptian military. In a way, it was their beloved Cairo (Umm al-Dunya, or "mother of the world" in Arabic) that disabused them of their peculiarly noble hubris. Consider the sobering title of Omar Robert Hamilton's debut novel: "The City Always Wins." Hamilton's story portrays the street turmoil that followed dictator Hosni Mubarak's ouster in early 2011 and provides a peek into the minds of a group of left-liberal youth.