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This Week: The Beginning of the End in Afghanistan. PLUS: A Wal-Mart Economy | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

This Week: The Beginning of the End in Afghanistan. PLUS: A Wal-Mart Economy

DRAWDOWN IN AFGHANISTAN. On Wednesday, President Obama announced a token withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2011, with another 23,000 promised by the end of next summer. Contributing Editor Robert Dreyfuss points out that such positioning is a clear sign that President Obama is trying to take Afghanistan off the table as an election issue in 2012 – a strategy that will likely work. John Nichols is less optimistic. Nearly 70,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2012, and as Nichols argues, such a tepid troop drawdown will neither satisfy nor energize the base that nominated and elected him in 2008. President Obama needs to do more. Contributor Tom Hayden, however, sees this de-escalation as a sign of progress for the anti-war movement: waning support in Congress and public opinion coupled with mounting anti-war activism. I joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe this week to argue that our country needs to abandon the "war-footing” economy that’s draining our coffers and transition to an economy that invests in education, jobs and infrastructure.

DUKES V. WAL-MART. Monday's Supreme Court decision to de-certify the gender discrimination class action lawsuit—the largest in history--against Wal-Mart was a loss for workers and women everywhere—and a major victory for large corporations afraid of being sued. But as Contributing Editor Liza Featherstone points out in “'Dukes v. Wal-Mart' and the Limits of Legal Change,” the fight is far from over. The defeat stood on a legal technicality-- the lower courts had not followed proper procedure in certifying it. On Democracy Now!, Featherstone explains how Wal-Mart systematically discriminates against women, resists unionization and underpays its workers. While Wal-Mart won the day in court, Featherstone says the company is facing increasing pressure to change from organized labor, community activists and a weak economy.

FCC COMMISSONER MICHAEL COPPS: VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS. As I wrote this week in my Washington Post column, in a time of increasing challenges to press freedoms and in the face of Republican obstructionism, Michael Copps—an unfamiliar name to many—heads the FCC with integrity and tenacity, speaking up for those whose voices are rarely heard. We’re proud to have had Copps as a longtime contributor to the magazine. Be sure to read some his articles, available here.

WECLOME BEN ADLER. We’re pleased to welcome Contributing Writer Ben Adler, who’ll be covering the Republican primaries, politics and media. He previously covered national politics and policy as a staffer at Newsweek, Politico and the Center for American Progress. His freelance writing has appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Columbia Journalism Review, The Guardian, The New Republic, The Progressive, Reuters, Salon and The Washington Monthly. His first post, “He Likes Reagan, Also Street Tacos—But Who Is Jon Huntsman?” looks at the lackluster presidential kickoff in Jersey City by former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. Read that here.

WIKILEAKS HAITI. Recently-released WikiLeaks cables reveal that Haiti's self-appointed guardians—the US, EU and UN—supported an election in the country despite obvious evidence that it was severely flawed. Although one party was shut out of the running entirely—the equivalent of the Republicans banning the Democrats—the United States government still funded the election. This is just one of the many injustices a trove of diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks have revealed as they have been released over the past several weeks. In an exclusive two-part conversation on Democracy Now! Friday morning, The Nation's Dan Coughlin and Haïti Liberté's Kim Ives explore this and other revelations from the WikiLeaks Haiti cables. Click here to watch the first part of this interview, and here to watch the second.

In this week’s report, secret US Embassy cable describes how Haiti's business elite armed and deployed police units in pro-Aristide strongholds like Bel Air and Cite Soleil after the 2004 coup. Read that here.

WORDPLAY. We’re pleased to be featured in the New York Times’ Wordplay Blog, announcing the addition of our two new cryptic crossword "setters," to replace the legendary Frank W. Lewis, who served as The Nation's puzzle master for over six decades. Joshua Kosman, classic music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and Henry Picciotto, math teacher at The Urban School of San Francisco, competed and won in The Nation's historic cryptic crossword contest. Be sure to try your hand at their debut puzzle, available here.

NETROOTS NATION 2011. Thousands of progressives gathered in Minneapolis last weekend for the annual Netroots Nation convention. The Nation was there bringing you live coverage and on-the-ground reporting: Contributing Writer Ari Berman reported that White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer's tepid appearance at Netroots is unlikely to change the White House's opinion of the "professional left." And right across the street, Berman reported on another convention taking place alongside Netroots, Right Online 2011 – a gathering of prominenent conservatives, including the now formidable Michelle Bachmann. As Berman wrote, if Mitt Romney is John Kerry, the flawed yet formidable frontrunner, Michele Bachmann could become Howard Dean, the bomb-throwing hero of the grassroots. The Nation's Ari Melber joined a panel of progressive advocates to encourage Americans to reunite and rebuild our country through demanding what we have always wanted—good jobs and decent wages. And John Nichols joined Laura Flanders to discuss political and digital organization, and a new group that he refers to as the "next roots"—the students, mothers and the once apolitical who are now mobilizing.

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