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How low will he go? Obama gives Japan's Emperor Akihito a wow bow (Updates with videos, pic)

Democrat president Barack Obama bows to Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko 11-09

(New UPDATE: Monday 5:02 p.m. OK, it's not funny if you work at the White House. But for everybody else a new video at the bottom of this post will provide some chuckles about how the rest of the world chooses to greet the Japanese Emperor. Hint: It's different than President Obama.)

(UPDATES: 12:22 p.m. Saturday. A brief news video has been added below, showing the greeting in this photograph. Contrary to some claims, the video shows no reciprocal bow by the emperor, who traditionally bows to no one. And we've added a file photo from 2007 of Vice President Dick Cheney greeting the Japanese Emperor at the same residence in a different fashion.)

How low will the new American president go for the world's royalty?

This photo will get Democrat President Obama a lot of approving nods in Japan this weekend, especially among the older generation of Japanese who still pay attention to the royal family living in iRepublican vice president Dick Cheney is received by Emperor Akihito in 2007ts downtown castle. Very low bows like this are a sign of great respect and deference to a superior.

To some in the United States, however, an upright handshake might have looked better. (See Cheney-Akihito photo, right).

Remember Michelle Obama casually patting Britain's Queen Elizabeth on the back during their Buckingham Palace visit? America's royalty tends to make movies and get bad reviews and lots of money as a sign of respect.

Obama could receive some frowns back home as he did for his not-quite-this-low-or-maybe-about-the-same-bow to the Saudi king not so long ago. (See photo here)

How times change under Democratic presidents.

Back in 1994 when President Bill Clinton appeared to maybe perhaps almost start to bow to Akihito at a White House encounter, U.S. officials rushed to deny it was any such a thing. And the N.Y. Times chronicled the comedic drama here.

Akihito, who turns 76 next month, is the eldest son and fifth child of Emperor Showa, the name given to an emperor and his reign after his death.

Emperor Showa is better known abroad by the life name of Hirohito. He became emperor in 1925 and died in 1989, the longest historically-known rule of the nation's 125 emperors.

Hirohito presided over his nation's growth from an undeveloped agrarian economy into the expansionist military power and ally of Nazi Germany of the 1930's.

And, later, Japan became a global economic giant. Hirohito, along with Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who authorized the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, were much reviled abroad during World War II.

Historically, debaDemocrat president Barack Obama bows to the Saudi kingte has simmered over how much of a political puppet Hirohito was to the country's military before and during the war.

Even after Democratic President Harry Truman ordered the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945, there were strong forces within Japan that wanted to continue to fight the Americans in the spirit of kamikaze suicide pilots.

But Akihito's father went on national radio, the first time his subjects had ever heard Hirohito's voice, and without using the inflammatory word "surrender," pronounced that the country must "accept the unacceptable." It did.

As the conquering Allied general and then presiding officer of the U.S. occupation, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, decided to allow Japan to keep its emperor as a ceremonial unifying institution within a nascent democracy.

Tojo, on the other hand, was hanged.

MacArthur treated Emperor Hirohito respectfully but, as his body language in this blacU.S. General Douglas MacArthur meets with Japan's Emperor Hirohitok and white postwar photo demonstrates, was not particularly deferential. 

(But then MacArthur was not known as a particularly deferential person, as Truman discovered just before firing him later. But that's another war.)

Akihito was born during Japan's conquering of China and was evacuated during the devastating American fire-bombing of Tokyo, which was built largely of wood in those days.

The future emperor learned English during the U.S. occupation, but, inexplicably, his father ordered that his oldest boy not receive an Army commission as previous imperial heirs always had.

Akihito assumed the throne on Jan. 7, 1989. Within weeks he began a series of formal expressions of remorse to Asian countries for Japan's actions during his....

...father's reign. In 2003, he underwent surgery for prostate cancer.

In 1959, Akihito married Michiko Shoda, the first commoner allowed to enter the Japanese royal family. That was two years before the birth of Akihito's future presidential guest, Barack Obama.

Joe Biden was already 17 by then. But he wasn't a senator.

(UPDATE: Here's a new video assembled by some clever College Republicans at the University of Connecticut. It's even got music and requires no explanation.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty; David Bohrer / White House (Vice President Dick Cheney greets Emperor Akihito somewhat differently in 2007); Reuters (Obama bows to the king of Saudi Arabia earlier this year); U.S. Army Archives (Gen. Douglas MacArthur not bowing to Emperor Hirohito after World War II).

 
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There is a much simpler explanation for the bow. Anyone who has spent time in Japan knows that when you greet someone, whether it is your neighbor, a teacher, a chambermaid, you bow, without fail. It's more common than shaking hands is in the States. Is it just possible that Obama meant to express nothing more than a gesture of what is understood as common courtesy in Japan? Please, guys, give it a rest!

In Japan, BOWING doesn't mean apologize. It means "nice to meet you". When in Rome do as the Romans do. Mr. Obama was just trying to be POLITE. You guys can't call Mr.Obama muslim. He is NOT. Racist conservatives. That's why conservatives are called "NATI".

These comments are ridiculous, everyone's implied claim that he is "groveling" and "helping to speed America's decline as a superpower" are ludicrous. None of you seem to understand that Dick Cheney's meeting with the Japanese emperor is in fact, more culturally offensive.

Bowing is traditional in Japanese culture, in fact in malls throughout Japan women greet every customer who enters with a bow, they are not being deferential they are being hospitable and kind. Frankly, I respect a leader who respect another nations culture and realizes that social conventions are different in other nations and that bowing is not considered a gesture of weakness but one of kindness and respect.

The defenders of Obama stated that he was following a protocol when bowing to the Japanese Emperor. This must be a new protocol, invented by the Obama's State Department, that a head of state and a head of government, such as the President of the United States, would bow to another head of state. Normally, when two heads of states meet a simple polite firm handshake would be appropriate.

However, considering the huge amount of the US Treasury bills that Japan holds (more than $600 billions) it's quite appropriate for the U.S. President to bow to the Emperor of a creditor nation of the U.S. And with the Healthcare bill looming ahead one would have to wonder how much lower the US President's bow before the Japanese Emperor would be as more likely Japan will amass more of the US Treasury bill to finance Obama- and Pelosicare.

Also, this talk of "this Muslim aiding and abetting terrorists"? Absolutely absurd, all you are pointing out is your political and cultural ignorance.

JFK, Jr. had a nice, discreet nod in his behavioral repertoire -- which was probably taught his mother, First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.
Look at video of his introductions to others, at the start of his speeches.

A nod of recognition is sufficient respect.

1. The bow to a Japanese person is considered a mark of respect. That's Business in Japan 101. How could you not know that.

2. He wasn't bowing to the Saudi King, he was listening to what the translator was saying in his ear - that guy on the left of Obama.

Although you'd probably think he was just selling our country out anyway, so it's almost pointless to try and argue with you.

What's next? Going to his knees? Maybe roll on his back and expose his tummy?

yes obama bows to emperor of japan and gives U.S. his rear end !!! yes our goverment representative OBAMA acorn plant seed grow president from illinois! reminds me of japans representative ambassador to united states who shook hands with president eisenhower back in the 1950's who ate a down U.S. service airmens liver during the world war two who was in japans captivity" history fact!!! obama the president of united states with illegal alien aunt living in massachusetts on social service! CLASS honor bows to japans emperor. this our president of united states! trust! illinois representative? change we can believe in? 30 million out of work liar to the people of united states of america! clue caterpillar workers? CONgress we must obey the obama way? obama our noble peace prize winner!! the american public will support this war i assure you! just who is he speaking too anyway? we want troops home sweet home for how many years now? we want illegal immigration enforcement for how many years now? we want job security how many losing more jobs each and every year now? yet reality shows are goverment selling U.S. out!!! economy is good? yet standard of living going down? yeah economy is good for who goverment employees? yes we lose jobs goverment gets bigger nice! obama bows to jap emperor" we get his rear end view salute! independent truth justice and the american way. peace AMEN.

Cultural ignorance is something liberals usually impute to conservatives, however, when living in Japan, I learned that too much deference on behalf of a person who is a social equal is actually worse than a healthy respect. This is especially true for Japanese regarding non-Japanese, whom they do not necessarily expect (or even want) to know the protocols of Japanese culture. For a Japanese, the worst emotion by far is embarrassement, and too much deference where inappropriate they find just as embarrassing as not enough. Learn about the culture before you bow, kiss or hug (Michele hugging the Queen of England! Quel horreur!) Mr. Obama, you humiliate America every time you go abroad.

By the way, Japan is not Korea. Get your countries and your cultures straight.

Though I don't agree with many of our president's policies I do admire him for representing our nation. He is a highly aducated man with a great sense of other cultures. To all the people that criticized him for bowing, well, the only thing I can say is grow up and learn other cultures. Far out Mr. president.

Obama is not interested in the American culture or ways. He never has been and never will be. He is a man of the world and both him and his wife are against the american culture and way of life. They both need to leave this country and live in a country that better suits their needs and interests. He is a very shady character and dupped 53% of the american voters in 2008. He is proud of that. He never has been a part of the American culture and this is an obvious fact.

It is time that Americans learn about respect and humility towards others, especially 'non-white' races, having 'Dick's photo as a comparison is absurd, as he is one of the all time worst VP we can have in our history of this country. President Obama is simpliy trying to undo what we have done the past 8 years of creating this image of an 'ugly, arrogant American' image that Bush and Cheney did so well. If anyone of you think this act is treason, then what would you say about all the illegal horrific acts done by our past president Bush and Cheney??
come on people, it is time to throw away your bias and get your head out of your arrogant sand dune, don't you see that there is nothing to gain from perpetuating this american image of arrogance and superiority??
Obama is brave enough to take the first step,
what about the rest of you???

A patriotic american.

It is time that Americans learn about respect and humility towards others, especially 'non-white' races, having 'Dick's photo as a comparison is absurd, as he is one of the all time worst VP we can have in our history of this country. President Obama is simpliy trying to undo what we have done the past 8 years of creating this image of an 'ugly, arrogant American' image that Bush and Cheney did so well. If anyone of you think this act is treason, then what would you say about all the illegal horrific acts done by our past president Bush and Cheney??
come on people, it is time to throw away your bias and get your head out of your arrogant sand dune, don't you see that there is nothing to gain from perpetuating this american image of arrogance and superiority??
Obama is brave enough to take the first step,
what about the rest of you???

A patriotic american.


Before all of you rabid conservatives go jumping to conclusions, you may want to consider that it's very possible that our president wanted to see, close up, the high shine on the emperor's shoes and compare it to his own.


Before all of you rabid conservatives go jumping to conclusions, you may want to consider that it's very possible that our president wanted to see, close up, the high shine on the emperor's shoes and compare it to his own.

Is this really news on the LA Times? NO ONE CARES ABOUT THIS.

He continues to put the US under all nations instead of putting us in the lead or above nations in a leadership position. Equality doesn't mean subserviance.

He Mr, President should owe us 2 bows for each atomic bomb dropped on Japan country.

I don't think there is anything that OUR President can do that the other side won't be upset about. I used to think that it was because his opponents were racist but now I know it is less nuanced than that. They are just whinny crybabies who lost and can't accept it. Losing sucks, I know. My side lost twice back in 2000 and 2004. President Obama isn't the worst president ever. He's not a communist, or a socialist or a muslim foreigner. He's just another democratically elected offical. Stop crying and making up new fake excuses to be upset about the President actions. Just get ready for 2012 if you want the White House back

i know WHY obama is bowing because he knows in his 4 years he cannot do anything regarding about WAR, RECESSION AND ETC so he is telling other countries be nice to us, so he dont panic.
why not japan... president bow at the same time obama was bowing. thats their tradition right, that bow at the same time. obama is bowing and japan.. president is shaking a hand. something is missing here. and michelle touch the queen, never do that, she is the queen. michelle does not know queen very personal , not friend, not a family member. first time met. their is a distance when anyone talk to queen and king. dont touch. dont pat even. and do not say we are united states of amercia and we should not bow. this is a WORLD AND NO COUNTRY SHOULD BOW TO ANY COUNTRY. THEIR SHOULD BE A PRIDE TO EVERYONE FOR THEIR COUNTRY. and i am waiting for HASAN TO GET DEATH SENTENCE, THEIR IS NO INVEST.... NEEDED , HASAN HAD KILLED 13 people and a baby and injured 29. AND THATS THE CRIME AND WHAT ELSE WE NEED.

i know WHY obama is bowing because he knows in his 4 years he cannot do anything regarding about WAR, RECESSION AND ETC so he is telling other countries be nice to us, so he dont panic.
why not japan... president bow at the same time obama was bowing. thats their tradition right, that bow at the same time. obama is bowing and japan.. president is shaking a hand. something is missing here. and michelle touch the queen, never do that, she is the queen. michelle does not know queen very personal , not friend, not a family member. first time met. their is a distance when anyone talk to queen and king. dont touch. dont pat even. and do not say we are united states of amercia and we should not bow. this is a WORLD AND NO COUNTRY SHOULD BOW TO ANY COUNTRY. THEIR SHOULD BE A PRIDE TO EVERYONE FOR THEIR COUNTRY. and i am waiting for HASAN TO GET DEATH SENTENCE, THEIR IS NO INVEST.... NEEDED , HASAN HAD KILLED 13 people and a baby and injured 29. AND THATS THE CRIME AND WHAT ELSE WE NEED.

Oh for crying out loud, saying you're "conservative" is not a justification for being stupid. It IS possible to be a right-winger and not be a total cretin. anothaexpat and Anthony Shin are the only ones on this entire comment board who seem to understand that other cultures, languages, and customs even exist, let alone the idea that what is respectful comes forms that may be strange to us. People saying "a handshake would have been enough" don't understand that touching people is a faux pas in some cultures, and so bowing is appropriate. The loudmouth idiots running around claiming to be conservative or liberal or anything else without making a sincere effort to support our president are not patriotic and are NOT any "more American" than anyone else. They're nothing but jingoists.

Even if you don't agree with Obama's priorities or his way of doing things, he needs the people's support. His success, and ultimately the success of the USA depends on the people giving him advice that will help him do better. If you have a gripe, send the White House a letter of grievances. These same people are the ones quick to say "if you don't like it, leave". Right back at ya, folks. Take it with a grain of salt when you see that Congress is by FAR left-wing and that our president is the polar opposite of Dubya. You had your chance with McCain (who's a moderate anyway). Make an effort to make a difference, unless you think that jumping on the butt-hurt GOP bandwagon is actually making anything better.

when obama is bowing and japan.. president is shaking a hand that look disgusting. as i know their is a tradition that jap... bow when they greet . whats wrong, something is missing.

To those who say Obama was simply showing respect, I would ask, why didn't the Japanese Emperor BOW BACK?? I would have much less of a problem with this if BOTH SIDES bowed to each other. But that didn't happen here. Why? Because foreign monarchs NEVER bow to anyone. That is their custom. So Obama should uphold our American custom, over 200 years long, which says the President of the United States DOES NOT BOW to anyone. He needs to remember that he doesn't just represent himself, he represents every American when he is abroad. The Office of President is always much bigger than the current occupant. And it is always a temp job. When he is out of office, he can bow or show respect to whomever he wants, but not when he is in office. Too many young men and women lost their lives fighting the Japanese for Obama to bow to the son of Hirohito.

I would like to congratulate President Obama for the gesture. He's a respectable and polite man. And he deserves my respect. He's no afraid of being kind and understand how other people on this planet see each other.

AND FOR ALL YOU AMERICAN'S WHO FEEL ANYTHING OTHER THAN PRIDE ON THIS:

THERE'S NO LONGER ROOM FOR YOUR ATIQUATED POINTS OF VIEW! OPEN YOUR EYES!
TAKE A LOOK A YOUR PRESIDENT ICONOCLAST GESTURE AND GET PROUD!

You guys are kidding me, right? Another poster, Anthony Shin, hit the nail on the head. It's a greeting, people! Gah, could we Americans stop acting like we own the world and show some respect for once? I lived in Korea, and even though I believe we are all EQUAL in the eyes of God, we ALL bowed to the elderly people at church. It's very, very disrespectful not to do that. Using Cheney as an example is ridiculous. I'm not even a Democrat, so don't chalk this up to blindly taking sides. I can see that we all look like egocentric jerks to the rest of the world. If you lived in another country (with the people, not just on a military base), you'd find out how people feel about America. Mixed feelings, mostly. They'll blast Britney Spears on one street, while holding an anti-American rally on the next. I was humiliated MANY times by young American soldiers acting with total disrespect while out touring the city. Unbelievable stuff! They're young, of course, so they shoud've been told better. Anyway, their actions seemed to say: "We don't care about your country, your customs, your culture, or your language. Treat us like kings or else!" (Yes, it was THAT bad.) Bowing simply shows that our President is sophisticated, yet humble. If he starts out being disrespectful in Japan, do you think ANYONE would listen to his ideas? No, because we've got such a bad reputation. It needs to be fixed. SERIOUSLY.


I've been to Japan and spent time with the people, lived with them, eaten with them and conversed with them. The Japanese culture is one of respect. The bow is a gesture of respect and recognition, not of groveling and submission. It is very similar to the handshake. And to be honest, whenever I did offer my hand in a handshake they found it quite odd, because it is not there custom to shake hands. I find it very sad when the President of the United States is negatively criticized for showing a culturally respectful gesture to another world leader. Why do we have this idea in our heads that we are better than everyone else? Why don't we stick to worrying about the real problems that face this nation, and not to bashing our President over something so insignificant!

I am not a supporter of Obama, just a supporter of common sense and decency!

Yea seriously, remember when BUSH HELD HANDS WITH THE SAUDI KING AS THEY WALKED ALONG THE ROAD. And no conservatives came out yelling then. Nothing was on Fox news etc and none of you cared as they gently stroked eachothers hands LOL. You guys are seriously just racist. And need any excuse to hate on Obama.

People like cindy need to chill out and go back to living in the mountains. You have a lot of common with the Taliban, Cindy. Maybe you should go there.

A little respect goes a long way..........

It is good to see the US building relationships again.

Moral authority is the hardest to earn and Bush And Cheney squandered it

Obama loves himself so much I think he was actually looking at the reflection of himself in the shoes of the emperor.

OUR "AFFIRMATIVE ACTION" IDIOT PREZ - - can't do anything right!

You clueless, sad people. A bow in Japan is like a handshake in the US. He shakes a hand, you say nothing.

Get a clue, you cultural illiterates!

The majority of these comments are laughable. What are you loonies smoking? The President is simply being respectful to another culture while in their part of the world. This should be a standard, not a red meat topic to the foxnews/teapartying cult. Seriously though, read a book (by a historian or industry participant, not beck, hannity and the like). I no longer wonder why our issues have spiraled out of control, why a giant portion of america has made seemingly moronic financial decisions, blamed wall street, created more entitlements and cheered while taxes (and thus tax receipts) have been systematically taken down. The collective intelligence of this comment board can be equated to a pre school classroom. Wow.

I like how you guys think it's the end of the world because the president of the United States was trying to be respectful.

Yeah, he did it wrong for bowing AND giving a handshake at the same time, but it's the thought that counts.

You're all a bunch of idiots, that need to learn more about other cultures.

I wouldn't even expect a 13 year old kid with common sense to say the stuff most of you guys have been saying.

Obama bowed to a foreign leader, so that implies the U.S is a 2nd rate country?

Obama and Michelle are uncultured buffoons.... Why?

The person that said that, is the uncultured buffoon =o

So many idiots in the U.S

Makes me sad for being an American.

Once again the American news and culture pops its head to remind us living outside the country: "Damn they're stupid!" and "Thank God we don't live there!". I'm guessing manners don't apply in politics now then? People expect guests to follow manners in these situations. "When in Rome", a phrase that in my language directly translates to "When being in another person's country, you should act accordingly to the country's customs that you're in". Mind you, it's much shorter than that, but it means exactly that.

You wouldn't want a guest acting however they wanted in your house, your home or your country, you want them to respect your customs and habits. This is a simple universal rule and works just the same in politics. God forbid if you did the right thing, like Obama did here. If he ever came to my house, he'd better take off his shoes, or would you consider that "a sign of weakness" as well? Time for you silly people to wake up to modern times from whatever Stone Age you reside in.

Shouldn't even be an issue, a Bow is tradition in that part of the world and certainly not a sign of being inferior. It surprises me just how simple minded some of my fellow Americans can be. I imagine Obama critics will say or do anything to down him, even though World relations are already on the right track as the damage done during the Bush years is beginning to be undone.

If he goes any farther, he'll be kissing his own arse.

How long will the people of the United States of America put up with this type of behavior?
They voted for change but I don't think they envisioned The Commander-In-Chief of the greatest nation in the world bowing down to others. This is absolutely not acceptable. Our founding fathers would turn over in their graves and throw-up at such behavior. This is a slap in the face of America. May God have mercy on us as a nation.

dosn't the white house have people who suggest what's proper in visits? They used to, I guess the Acorn apontees only know what you do in the hood. This Obama guy continues to lower America's standing day by day. Maybe this is the hope and change he talked about?

If a person bows lower than the other one, the other can bow back lower than that to indicate his lower status and higher respect. The last person to bow is the person of lower status. The emperor of Japan did not bow back at all, just a gesture of acknowledgment.

Any pic of his bow to the Queen. Our histoey says we will never bow to anyone but our GOD.

This has to be the worst article I have ever read, our country just reached a new low when a major newspaper can print such junk. He is respecting a culture plain and simple. Something you obviously don't.

Hey, conservative shills! You're the reason everyone hates America; no respect. This bow is the equivalent of a handshake in Japan; it certainly isn't a deferential gesture. If anything you should be upset that the Emperor didn't bow back. People like you make me sick to be an American; every damn week Bush would screw up policy and you would say "We must back our President in times of war." Obama makes one tiny, probable social faux pas and you're all over him, insulting his name, his race, and being the worst sort of American possible.

Why don't you all crawl back into whatever dark isolationist holes you came from instead of pissing off potential allies we'll need now that America is no longer the world's only superpower?

Having spent a good part of my life in Japan - here's how it works:

Either bow _or_ shake hands - not both. Definitely not both at the same time.

Doing both at the _same time_ looks idiotic. Not just in Japan, but in Arab land as well. Getting all cheeky with QEII is another sign of the buffoonery that never ends with these people.

Oh well, you can take the boy out of the 'hood - but not the other way around - as the saying goes.

hahahahaha, just like a democrap...

In America, we consider bowing to be a sign of subservience, almost a "continuation" of slavery. I have to admit, it's painful for me to look at this picture of Obama bowing so low.

I think that the Prez needs to discuss this with us here in the U.S. and tell us why he does it. This is not just a Republican vs. Democrat issue. Many in both parties are disturbed by it. (As they were disturbed when President Bush guided a Saudi prince hand-in-hand through Camp David.)

A number of posters here said that it is "customary." I too have traveled widely and bow slightly as a greeting to people whom I meet in other cultures where it is a common courtesy, but NEVER a deep bow. Even though I am an atheist I still put my hands together and greet an Eastern Indian person with "Namaste."

I think it may be OK to bow slightly, but NEVER deeply. I would suggest that Obama, if he insists on it, follow that principle. It is just too irritating to his own population.

sanjosemike

I can't believe the drivel I'm reading. Barry the Bower did something no other president has done. He did something no other major head of government has done. And he it very badly. An exaggerated bow more appropriate for a rectal exam (which as a physician I have performed, and a male over 60 have had performed upon me---prostate check, you see) while simultaneously shaking hands. One should shake hands and look his opposite in the eyes, not in his navel. My goodness some folks can justify anything B.O. does.
And if courtesy is so important, it is, in fact irrelevant to this issue, will he bow when he meets Benedict XVI (another head of State)? What will the great liberal unwashed think then. Okey-Dokey, he was just being courteous???

Not sure if he understands the culture at all other then just the bow. Having done business in Japan, bowing is a sign of courtesy and respect. Not bowing or something akin to a light bow or nod of the head is discourteous, bowing too low is a sign of "kissing up" so to speak. In other words, what is implied is that you are trying to get something outside of just giving the man respect and asking for it. A good courteous bow is Ok, but President Obama bowed too low implying that he did not trust the relationship or the respect the Emperor of Japan would have offered if he had bowed well.... he did not bow well.....

 
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A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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