Each week, Nation interns push past the mainstream media malarkey to highlight headlines you might not have seen. Here's a rundown on what happened beyond the US presidential race, from Hugo Chavez's relelection to the ongoing appropriation of Native American culture.
Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.
“The misery of Copts in Egypt,” by Said Shehata. Ahram Online, October 2, 2012.
Coptic Christians, a minority group making up around 10 percent of Egypt's population, the rest of whom are mostly Muslim, are being discriminated against in the Egyptian legal system. Copts had high hopes after the revolution and hoped their treatment in Egypt would improve. However, faced with a government that is neglecting them as badly as Mubarak did, and an emboldened Islamist contingent in Egypt pushing for prosecution for "insults to Islam," Copts find themselves being discriminated against legally and socially in what seems to be a targeted campaign against them.
Jeff Ernsthausen focuses on domestic politics and the influence of money on public institutions.
“Canadian-owned firm's mega-donation to super PAC raises ‘legal red flags,’” by Michael Beckel. The Center for Public Integrity, October 5, 2012.
Last week, the Center for Public Integrity reported that in August, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canadian financial services firm Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited donated $1 million to Mitt Romney's super PAC, Restore Our Future. Readers of our recent issue on the Supreme Court know that even as the Roberts Court scaled back constraints on corporate electioneering, it has yet to strike down the ban on foreign political spending. But the law maintains significant wiggle room for foreign multinational corporations operating in the US, stating that political contributions are permissible as long as the money does not come from the foreign parent company and foreign nationals do not influence political spending decisions of their subsidiaries, rules which Fairfax maintains it followed. The donation accounted for about a seventh of the total raised by Romney's super PAC in August, and raises the concern that our elections could be swayed by foreign capital in the post-Citizens United era.
Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the Presidency and China.
“Romney and Obama: Dueling Bostonians,” by Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, October 7, 2012.
I have long been interested in the continuities, trends and traditions of American foreign and domestic politics. This brought Mead's most influential book, Special Providence, to my attention. In the book, he identified four foreign policy "schools" (Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian and Jacksonian) "whose ideas, rivalries and interplay have shaped American foreign policy continuously from the 18th century." It was his attempt to create an American-centric categorization of American foreign policy traditions that were perhaps clearer and more nuanced than "realist, idealist, internationalist and isolationist." In this article, Mead takes a stab at adapting his formula for domestic politics, another sphere that has experienced a tremendous amount of continuity (despite what the media and rose-tinted history books would have us believe). "The domestic story is more complicated and the issues are sometimes even more tangled, but our political quarrels about domestic issues have at least as much continuity as our national battles over foreign policy."
Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media, and East Asian affairs.
“Smashed Skull Serves as Grim Symbol of Seething Patriotism,” by Amy Qin and Edward Wong. The New York Times, October 11, 2012.
The violent, vandalistic protests in China last month, over a territorial island dispute, revealed the dangers of unhinged nationalism. Japanese products became the primary target, with rioters flipping Toyota police cars and smashing storefronts. Amy Qin and Edward Wong report the tragic story of a 51-year-old man who was assaulted for driving a Corolla, his skull smashed in and his speaking ability reduced to that of a child's. Though the perpetrator will be punished, the attack should be seen as a cautionary reminder of the horrific capabilities of flag-waving mobs.
Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace.
“Meet Jim Inhofe, The Bigoted Senator That Formed the US Senate's Drone Caucus,” by Michael Arria. VICE, October 5, 2012.
The use of drones by the United States, from surveillance to targeted killing, is expanding rapidly. Part of the reason behind this is that the drone industry has friends in high places. For three years, the bipartisan Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus in the House of Representatives has represented the interests of drone manufacturers. Now there's a similar caucus in the Senate. The Senate Unmanned Aerial Systems Caucus was recently formed by Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, and Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia—both of whom are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Inhofe's interest in drone technology is partly motivated by his strong evangelical Christian faith, which, when applied to the War on Terror, reveals his Islamophobia. He says Muslims were not tortured in Guantanamo (despite mountains of evidence proving the opposite) and supports profiling of Muslims because he believes that "probably 90 percent" of terrorists are Muslims. With a politician like Jim Inhofe leading the Senate's drone caucus, the US's drone war against Muslim countries will, unfortunately, continue.
Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence and regulatory capture.
“To Regulate Rapid Traders, S.E.C. Turns to One of Them,” by Nathaniel Popper and Ben Protess. The New York Times, October 8, 2012.
This past weekend, the New York Times reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission, in an attempt to keep up with high-speed traders that have recently made headlines for causing flash spikes and crashes, has hired one of those high-speed firms to design the software that the agency will use to keep an eye on things. One former high-speed trader said the deal between the SEC and the firm, Tradeworx, was “reminiscent of the fox guarding the hen house.” The CEO of Tradeworx told the Times that the S.E.C. had no choice but to use the firms’ software, since they’re “the only ones who possess it.” Sorry we poisoned you, now buy this cure.
Annum Masroor focuses on the draw down of the Afghanistan War and how it will shape Afghanistan's own future and that of its neighbors.
“Pakistan's almost-suicide-bombers,” by Hussain Nadim. Foreign Policy, October 9, 2012.
When Professor Hussain Nadim heard from one of his students that his cousin had been treated in a militant rehabilitation facility in Swat, he set out to interview him and a couple of others about their road to fundamentalism. Their stories were both disturbing and shocking; the motivations behind their attempted suicide bombings did not stem from jihad or Islamism. Instead, the children had essentially found themselves caught up in a war they knew little about. Born and raised in villages with little access to information and the outside world, they had for many years remained largely outside the war. But after drone strikes began to rain down on their villages with increased frequency, they realized the war had come to them. The children's candid interviews reveal a larger problem the United States has failed to grasp: that in a war of ideology, exercising heavy-handed military strength with little to no regard for the civilian population only serves to empower militants who prey on fear and vulnerability for their survival.
Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.
“PETA Creates Ludicrously Violent Parody Of Pokemon Because Of Reasons,” by Chris Sims. Comics Alliance, October 9, 2012.
One wonders if the activists over at PETA did any research on the “animals as friends and equals” values pushed by the Pokémon games and anime or simply chose to ignore them before putting out a gruesome web-based parody of the franchise. Really, PETA? What’s your target audience here? It sure as hell isn’t the kids who make up Pokémon’s fanbase. And, let me tell you, it doesn’t really resonate with those adults who grew up loving their adorable battle monsters. Maybe the game would be a more useful illustration of animal rights abuses if it actually made sense and didn’t ruin countless childhood memories in the process.
Anna Robinson focuses on gender, sexuality and social justice.
“When offensive Indian mascots hit too close to home,” by Adrienne K. Native Appropriations, October 10, 2012.
Another powerful post from Cherokee blogger, PhD student and Stanford Alumna Adrienne K. Her must-read blog, Native Appropriations, is a "forum for discussing the use of Indigenous cultures, traditions, languages, and images in popular culture, advertising, and everyday life." Here she recounts a visit to her Stanford reunion where, even though the football team has not been the "Stanford Indians" since 1971, when the name was declared offensive and dropped, the hurtful and harmful caricatured Indian mascot has not disappeared on the Stanford campus. Indian Mascots, she writes, "erase our humanity" and do the opposite of “honoring” Native people. It is time—in fact, well overdue—for sports teams with Indian mascots and names, culturally appropriative Halloween costume-wearers and fashion designers (just to name a few broad examples) to take note.
Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.
“Homeless Are Fighting Back Against Panhandling Bans,” by Dan Frosch. The New York Times, October 6, 2012.
According to a study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an increasing number of U.S. cities have imposed bans onpanhandling. But several recent legal victories in California, Colorado and Michigan have struck down such restrictions for violating the First Amendment. Despite a series of successful lawsuits, the story touches on a more concerning trend across the U.S: many metros have responded to rising poverty by criminalizing homelessness, rather than increasing support services. In some cities, Occupy backlash has resulted in harsher restrictions on sleeping in public spaces. Meanwhile, the number of beds available in shelters remains abysmally low.
Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.
“Why Chávez Was Re-elected,” by Mark Weisbrot. The New York Times, October 10, 2012.
Weisbrot explains why it isn't all too surprising that Hugo Chávez was reelected as president of Venezuela. He provides an alternative view to the generally negative American coverage of Chávez's government: under Chávez "poverty has been cut by half," "college enrollment has doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled." Weisbrot fails to discuss Venezuela's violence issues and neglect toward primary education, and he slightly downplays the country's inflation (28 percent, the highest in South America). But he does point out that Venezuela, as many other South American countries, should be commended for raising income and generally improving living conditions for its people.
Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.
“Mitt Romney's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Foreign-Policy Speech,” by Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic, October 9, 2012.
Romney's speech at the Virginia Military Institute this week highlighted some of the more alarming elements of his international ideology. In his article on the speech, Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic points out many of these flaws, including Romney's dated and dangerous belief that America needs to preside over more of the world. While there isn't much of a choice between the two candidates on foreign policy, this speech makes it clear that Romney has a simplistic understanding of international affairs that will only lead to more reckless and hegemonic foreign policy decisions.