This week, while most media spun out endless analyses of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe and Kate Middleton’s topless photos, Nation interns turned their attention to other affairs—from new information revealing US culpability in a 30-year-old massacre, to a ballot box battle for labor rights in Michigan. The articles highlight destruction in Afghanistan, failures in the media (east and west), a positive step in the fight for transgender rights and much, much more.
Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.
“Waste Land.” PBS.
Muniz is a New York-based Brazilian artist who, in this movie, thinks of creative ways to use garbage and recyclable materials, while also inspiring socially marginalized groups to contribute to his project. This project is an example of ways in which public art can modify and draw attention to public space.
Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.
“A Preventable Massacre,” by Seth Anziska. The New York Times, September 17, 2012.
On the 30th anniversary of the Sabra-Shatila massacre of Palestinian refugees, which were committed by Lebanese right-wing Phalangist forces with Israeli backing, Seth Anziska reveals new information obtained from the Israel State Archives on the United States's role. The article details how the US had the opportunity to put strong pressure on Israel to prevent the massacre from occurring, but chose not to do so, which resulted in the deaths of at least 800 Palestinian civilians on September 16, 1982, many of whom were women and children. A must-read for those interested in US-Israeli relations, and for those who are interested in how international relations can affect history in dramatic ways.
Jeff Ernsthausen focuses on domestic politics and the influence of money on public institutions.
“Michigan a Key Battleground for Labor Rights with Votes on Emergency Managers, Collective Bargaining.” Democracy Now!, September 18, 2012.
On Tuesday, Democracy Now! traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan to spotlight critical issues facing residents in the economically depressed battleground state. In this segment, investigative reporter Paul Abowd of the Center for Public Integrity discusses two ballot proposals backed by progressives to ward off Republican efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights and limit democracy in urban areas under the mantle of fiscal austerity. Proposal 1 is a referendum on the controversial Public Act 4 of 2011, which expanded the powers of emergency financial managers appointed by the governor to takeover cities or school systems facing a fiscal crisis, giving them the power to dismiss publicly elected officials and unilaterally renegotiate collective bargaining contracts with public employee unions. Proposal 2 would create a constitutional amendment that would prioritize collectively bargained contracts over local and state legislation, preempting a possible GOP push for "right-to-work" legislation and invalidating laws infringing on negotiated contracts, such as those passed in recent years limiting teachers unions's abilities to negotiate over issues such as evaluations and tenure. Full disclosure: Paul Abowd is a friend of mine.
Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the Presidency, and China.
“‘The Dream Is Dead’: Why So Many Chinese Journalists Are Quitting,” by Yueran Zhang. The Atlantic, September 14, 2012.
Good article about the difficulties Chinese journalists face, and how things are getting even more difficult. “Although the government's control over news media has always been tight, the range and intensity of the purge this year has been rarely seen, suggesting that the censors' controlling hand is tightening.”
Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media, and East Asian affairs.
“Anti-Japan Protests in China Turn Violent, Cooler Heads Prevail Online,” by Jimmy. Tea Leaf Nation, September 15, 2012.
Out of respect for history, we shouldn't conflate the violent riots that erupted in China and the Middle East this past week. But there is something to be said for the underreported calls for peace in both regions. Like the photos of anti-rioting Libyans currently circulating the Web, this collection of Chinese tweets directly challenges the images of senseless thuggery dominating the mainstream media's coverage.
Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace-related issues.
“Afghanistan: Nato air strike 'kills eight women' in Laghman.” BBC, September 16, 2012.
Recently, according to local Afghan officials, at least eight women were killed by a NATO air strike in Afghanistan that targeted insurgents. NATO conceded that between five and eight civilians were killed by the air strike and offered condolences. Unfortunately, this is the reality of the war in Afghanistan and war, in general—people die. Yet most Americans, with the exception of those in the military, do not see this suffering. During the Vietnam War, Americans saw the deadly reality of war on their TV screens. Now the war in Afghanistan, along with the drone wars in places like Pakistan and Yemen, are rarely discussed in the media. The Obama administration's insistence on secrecy for "national security" issues adds another difficult layer in getting the truth out about America's wars. For Afghans, on the other hand, this death and destruction is a daily reality. They experience the violence of the NATO occupation everyday, along with the corruption of the US-backed Karzai government and the brutality of the Taliban and various warlords. If the American public were told the truth about these wars, maybe this country would think twice about waging them.
Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence, and regulatory capture.
“The door revolves for environmental groups too,” by Sean Higgins. The Washington Examiner, September 14, 2012.
The revolving door spun again last week, as President Obama’s special assistant for energy and the environment, Nathaniel Keohane, left government and returned to the environmental advocacy group from whence he only recently came. Keohane’s move drew considerably less attention and criticism than did ex-budget director Peter Orszag’s joining Citigroup in 2010, and the reason cannot simply be Keohane’s relative obscurity. Though we may consider environmental advocacy a more noble pursuit than global finance, the left must learn to subject itself to the same principles it bitterly attacks its opponents for disregarding. As we will swiftly learn should Romney win the election, it is only when we refrain from criticizing Democrats, and thus allow various sordid practices to become normalized, that the abuse of power by Republicans truly begins.
Annum Marsoor focuses on the draw down of the Afghanistan War and how it will shape Afghanistan's own future and that of its neighbors.
“So Much for the Good War,” by Arif Rafiq. Foreign Policy, September 19, 2012.
Arif Rafiq paints a grim picture of the Afghanistan War's stagnation. Just this week, a female suicide bomber killed a group of foreigners in Kabul, while a suicide bomb killed a bus full of Shia pilgrims in Karachi, Pakistan. As much as the President touts his record as the one to finally kill bin Laden and refocus our war efforts in Afghanistan—or the so called "Good War"—his successes there are proving fleeting. The Taliban has splintered into several offshoots, insurgencies are stronger than ever, and ethnic tensions are spilling over to violence in neighboring Pakistan. Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's foreign minister, is in Washington right now in an effort to get her country on the same track as the US Will Obama be able to take a break from his campaign to refocus his attention on the "Good War" once again?
Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.
“Finding a raw nerve, striking it, and liking it,” by David Ucko. Kings of War, September 19, 2012.
Freedom of speech has been and will forever remain a cornerstone of Western society. Just because you’ve got that privilege, though, doesn’t mean you should be an ass about it. In the wake of Mideast unrest over depictions of the prophet Muhammad, perhaps it’s a good idea to refrain from unabashedly flaunting our most sacred right—especially when doing so runs counter to our strategic and diplomatic interests.
Anna Robinson focuses on gender and sexuality.
“DC Launches First Ever Transgender Respect Ad Campaign,” by Jorge Rivas.Colorlines.com, September 14, 2012.
The District of Columbia's Office of Human Rights (OHR) has launched a Transgender and Gender Identity Respect publicity campaign, the very first of its kind. Although discrimination based on gender identity is illegal under the DC Human Rights Act, like elsewhere in America, trans and gender non-conforming folks (especially those of color) face systemic violence and discrimination in many sectors such as healthcare, the criminal justice system, employment and education, most recently evidenced in the DC area with the shooting of 23-year-old transwoman Lashay Mclean. The campaign hopes to “increase understanding and respect for the transgender and gender non-conforming communities, decrease incidents of discrimination and increase reporting of discrimination to OHR.”
Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.
“Media Not Concerned About the Very Poor,” by Mariana Garces and Steve Rendall. FAIR via AlterNet, September 16, 2012.
More than 15 percent of Americans are living in poverty, but you wouldn't know it from consuming America's news media. An analysis by the media watch group FAIR finds that poverty was mentioned in only .2 percent of recent political coverage, with outlets such as Newsweek and NBC failing to mention it at all. Election news has become the only news in the run-up to November 6—if Barack Obama and Mitt Romney don't talk about poverty, it seems few journalists will. But as FAIR points out, the media is just as responsible for relegating America's poor to the back pages. Amid the "47 percent" firestorm, journalists should start holding candidates accountable for the things they don't say about the lowest income bracket.
Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.
“China is flexing its muscles: time to worry,” by Dominic Lawson. TheIndependent, September 17, 2012.
While plenty has and is (rightfully) continuing to be said about Middle Eastern protests over a particular anti-Muslim film, not nearly enough attention has being given to the Chinese anti-Japanese protests or the escalation in tensions between the two countries occurring earlier this week. Resulting from competing territorial claims over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, mass demonstrations were staged in 80 cities across China, occasionally turning into looting sprees and clashes with riot police. This article by the Independent's Dominic Lawson provides a brief and helpful overview of the territory in question and raises concerns over China's growing nationalism in the face of extreme economic and military growth. These photographs from The Atlantic further provide a glimpse into the size and troubling nationalism embedded within the protests.