Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to look beyond the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.
Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.
“In 2013 Races, New York Prepares for ‘Super PAC’ Effect,” by David W. Chen. The New York Times, July 31, 2012.
The largesse of Super PAC donations, currently debasing the presidential campaign, is coming to local NYC elections. Because “moneyed interest groups and wealthy individuals are watching the ‘super PAC’ phenomenon…and preparing to adapt it for local use,” as the Times reports, the city will implement mandatory disclosure of independent expenditures next year in the 2013 races. By posting spending not associated with a campaign online and archiving the advertisements run by these groups, the NYC elections will be among the most financially transparent since the Citizens United ruling.
Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.
“Here’s How to Score Copay-Free Birth Control, Coming This Week to a Pharmacy Near You,” by Erin Gloria Ryan. Jezebel, July 30, 2012.
You get free birth control, and you get free birth control, and you get free birth control! August 1 marked what some activists are calling “No Copay Day”: The day the Affordable Care Act kicked in for American women, who no longer have copays on seven categories of medical services (including breast exams and birth control). At Jezebel, Erin Gloria Ryan explains how to get your hands on your free medical goodies as well as the exceptions to the August 1 launch date.
Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.
“Mayor: ‘We’ll Listen’ To Anaheim Residents,” hosted by Michel Martin. NPR, August 1, 2012.
This NPR interview with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait demonstrates the effective PR campaign that Anaheim’s predominantly white elite is running in the context of mass protests against police brutality in the city. While Tom Tait attempts a listening, open posture and calls for an “investigation,” he refuses to provide any immediate policy implications—such as demanding an immediate end to police brutality in the city, placing officers involved in the shooting of children with rubber bullets on unpaid leave, or discussing any of the broader systemic issues of disempowerment that have made Anaheim the way it is today. The NPR interviewer asks one slightly difficult question, and the rest are softballs. The interviewer neglects to ask, for example, why Anaheim, in a city that is 53 percent Latino, has no Latino elected officials.
Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.
“‘Voluntary’ Work Program Run in Private Detention Centers Pays Detained Immigrants $1 a Day,” by Yana Kunichoff. Truthout, July 27, 2012.
Yana Kunichoff points out a disturbing irony in her exposé of the Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) “voluntary” work program for detained immigrants: “the unfairness of people criminalized as workers detained and then made to work.” Not only that, but detainees are denied protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act (facilities in Arizona, California, and New York pay a maximum wage of $1 per day under the program, despite the fact that federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour). Plus, the money they make circles directly back to the CCA (a private, profit-making company—see a chilling piece on the value of its stock here) because detainees usually spend their meager earnings on food and hygiene products at CCA-run stores inside detention centers. These facilities house individuals while their immigration cases are being processed—usually, detainees have “committed low-level crimes, or none at all.”
Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.
“The Power Gap Behind India’s Mass Blackouts,” by Andrew C. Revkin. The New York Times, July 31, 2012.
Power might have been restored Wednesday to the 600 million people in India who lost it earlier this week, but that doesn’t mean the problem’s gone. Andrew Revkin aggregates on his Dot Earth blog current and old news articles, videos and some tweets that are a good way to start understanding how not only a blackout like this, but a long-term energy shortage, has been in the cards for India for years. The country is developing fast, and way faster than it can support with its resources or infrastructure.
Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.
“Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy,” by Robert Fisk. The Independent, July 29, 2012.
Legendary British reporter Robert Fisk weighs in on the situation in Syria. He focuses on the hypocrisy of US policy in the region, and points out that just a few years ago the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar’s torturers to tear their fingernails out for information. These torture victims were “imprisoned at the US government’s request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week.” He stresses that the same Bashar we are condemning today “was our baby” for many years. In addition, Fisk offers a scathing indictment of the BBC for spending a week broadcasting the preparations for the Olympics and allowing the games to take precedence over the most recent Syrian atrocities. Fisk concludes that mainstream commentators are missing the “big truth” concerning Syria—that the attempt to defeat the Syrian dictatorship is “all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans—if they exist—and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies.”
Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.
“For-Profit Colleges Only a Con Man Could Love,” by Chris Parker. The Village Voice, August 1, 2012.
(Shout out to Marisa for sending this one my way!) Oh boy, where to begin. I’ve been following the debate on for-profits for a while, starting with some really eye-opening Frontline programs that I highly recommend, such as “Educating Sgt. Panzke” and “College Inc.” It’s simply angering. Angering because, much like Brooksley Born’s warning in the ’90s regarding OTC derivatives that led to the financial crisis, alarm bells are going off about this parasitic industry fueled by greed and the simple dreams of those who simply want to make a better life for themselves—it’s an all-too-familiar bubble that is going to burst big time. And just how seedy are these for-profits? Parker begins his piece with a 14-year-old—a high school freshman—being solicited and eventually gouged by a recruiter. He also cites a Bloomberg story in which a for-profit recruiter visited a Wounded Warrior barracks, quoting the opening lines, “U.S. Marine Corporal James Long knows he’s enrolled at Ashford University. He just can’t remember what course he’s taking.” Hopefully Senator Tom Harkin’s recent report on for-profits will gain traction—unlike with Born, hopefully this time government will listen and take action.
Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.
“Modern Love In Mumbai’s ‘Wild West’: A Critique Of Orientalist Fantasies In Contemporary Travel Narratives,” by Aditi Surie von Czechowski. Racialicious, July 31, 2012.
Columbia graduate student Aditi Surie von Czechowski briefly explores the New York Times’s coverage of India through the year-old “India Ink” blog and a recent Modern Love column, placing both in the context of imperialism, Orientalism and the history of the travel narrative. The majority of reporting on “India Ink,” von Czechowski argues, is based on a Western neoliberal discourse of rights and “progress,” portraying India as “not yet fully modern.” In Modern Love, the East/West dichotomy and “familiar eroticization” of the former work to recreate the tired trope of the traveling Westerner’s experience of the enticingly wild East, used as a tool for cultural consumption and self-discovery.
Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.
“A People’s Budget for New York City,” by Youjin B. Kim. Policy Shop, July 19, 2012.
Participatory Budgeting, where city council members meet with their constituents to actually decide on how some of their tax money will be spent, is a revolutionary and expanding project. It seems to be gaining substantial momentum, and as the New York City Council regains a modicum of power after Bloomberg's exit in 2013, should factor heavily in the agenda of its ascendant Progressive Caucus. Participatory Budgeting is gaining traction throughout the country, and its application in New York City could either make or break the movement. Should be an interesting few months ahead.
Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.
“Climate change study forces sceptical scientists to change minds,” by Leo Hickman. The Guardian, July 29, 2012.
Climate change skeptics are hard to come by among scientists, with the overwhelming majority firmly in the anthropogenic warming reality camp. But there are still a few who are unconvinced, and very vocal, amplified by the skeptic community beyond their numbers. This week, however, the Guardian ran a story about a new study that convinced a few scientists that “humans are almost entirely the cause” of what it identifies as the one-to-five-degree Celsius land temperature rise over the past 150 years, which is due to double over the next fifty years (or twenty, if China continues its coal use at the present rate). The physicist in charge of the study, Richard Muller, was himself a skeptic prior to its completion. Perhaps most interesting is the $150,000 in funding for the study that came from Charles Koch—certainly a spot of light in the midst of much disheartening talk of industry-influenced academic research. Meanwhile, at the Senate meeting on climate change this week (the first in almost three years), senators were told point-blank by UN scientists that our summer of drought and extreme storms is the direct result of climate change.
Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.
“Afghan war: Did US commanders cover up ‘horrific’ conditions at hospital?” by Anna Mulrine. The Christian Science Monitor, July 25, 2012.
This story details testimony regarding bribes for care, surgery with no drugs and accusations of ongoing efforts by the military to manipulate public opinion. In a prepared statement, Col Schuyler Keller said, “Today, not just in 2010 or 2011, individuals wearing ANA uniforms, being paid salaries that US taxpayers support and who perpetrated or allowed to be perpetrated unspeakable abuses upon Afghan soldiers, civilians and family members walk the halls of the Daoud Khan Hospital unrepentant, unscathed, enriched and still unprosecuted.”
Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.
“Dependence on Middle Eastern Oil: Now It’s China’s Problem, Too,” by Damien Ma. The Atlantic, July 19, 2012.
A highly speculative article that features noteworthy perspectives on the future of US policy towards the Middle East. The argument, put forth by Chinese commentators, is as follows: With future technological improvements in the energy sector, the United States will likely become less interested in oil as a source of energy. However, it will take time for those technological improvements to proliferate to competing states—the commentators focus exclusively on China—who continue to grow more dependent on petroleum, as we become less dependent. Consequently, US interest in Middle Eastern oil output will not diminish until our competitors on the global scene are also weened off of oil. Damien Ma, author of the Atlantic article, dismisses the argument as “China-centric.” I disagree with that point. However, he flatly equates the US definition of Middle East “stability” with stability of oil—and on that point, how could I disagree?