The Learjet Repo Man

From Salon:

It was snowing hard when the bank called Nick Popovich. They needed to grab a Gulfstream in South Carolina now. Not tomorrow. Tonight.

All commercial and private planes were grounded, but Nick Popovich wasn’t one to turn down a job. So he waited for the storm to clear long enough to charter a Hawker jet from Chicago into South Carolina. There was just one detail: No one had told Popovich about the heavily armed white supremacist militia that would be guarding the aircraft when he arrived.

But then again, no one had told the militia about Popovich, a brawny and intimidating man who has been jailed and shot at and has faced down more angry men than a prison warden. When Popovich and two of his colleagues arrived that evening at a South Carolina airfield, they were met by a bunch of nasty-looking thugs with cocked shotguns. “They had someone in the parking lot with binoculars,” Popovich says, recalling the incident. “When we went to grab the plane, one of them came out with his weapon drawn and tells us we better get out of there.” Undeterred, Popovich continued toward the plane until he felt a gun resting on his temple.

(via Kottke)

The Genius of George Orwell

From The Telegraph:

If you want to learn how to write non-fiction, Orwell is your man. He may be known worldwide for his last two novels, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. But, for me, his best work is his essays.

Who would have imagined that sixteen hundred words in praise of the Common Toad, knocked out to fill a newspaper column in April 1946, would be worth reprinting sixty years later? But here it is, with many of the characteristic Orwell delights, the unglamorous subject matter, the unnoticed detail (”a toad has about the most beautiful eye of any living creature”) the baleful glare, the profound belief in humanity. Because what the piece is really about, of course, is not the toad itself, but the thrill of that most promising time of year, the spring, even as seen from Orwell’s dingy Islington flat.

When he produced articles like this, hair-shirted fellow socialists got cross. Why wasn’t he spending his time promoting discontent, denouncing the establishment, glorifying the machine-driven future? It is a mark of his greatness that Orwell didn’t care. They – whoever they might be – cannot stop you enjoying spring. The essay ends: “The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.”

Reporters Euna Lee & Laura Ling Get 12 Years in Labor Prison in North Korea

From CNN:

Two U.S. journalists who were detained in North Korea while covering the plight of defectors living along the China-North Korea border have been sentenced to 12 years in labor prisons, the country’s state-run media said Monday.

The Central Court of North Korea sentenced Laura Ling and Euna Lee for the “grave crime they committed against the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

As a result, the court sentenced the women to “12 years of reform through labor,” meaning they will serve out their sentence in a labor prison.

A U.S. State Department spokesman, Ian Kelley, said the Swedish ambassador in North Korea confirmed the sentence with North Korean authorities. Sweden represents U.S. interests in North Korea; the United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with North Korea.

“We are deeply concerned by the reported sentencing of the two American citizen journalists by North Korean authorities, and we are engaged through all possible channels to secure their release,” Kelley said in a statement. “We once again urge North Korea to grant the immediate release of the two American citizen journalists on humanitarian