For the past four months, The Nation’s 2012 Fall interns have looked past flashy headlines and cable news talking heads to bring you alternative voices. They bring you one last roundup, as a new batch of interns awaits the start of the winter 2012 session. This week: a haunting piece from Aleppo, a debate in the trans community and much more.
Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.
“The Land of Topless Minarets and Headless Little Girls,” by Amal Hanano. Foreign Policy, December 11, 2012.
This week, a different kind of Syria piece. This one doesn’t have any political analysis in it, nor does it contain any prospects of things to come. This is simply a piece by a Syrian writer about her city, Aleppo. Before the revolution, Aleppo was known for its diversity and grandeur. But today, Aleppo brings to mind images of death and destruction. In a beautiful yet melancholy piece, Amal Hanano writes about how she watched her city’s slow death from abroad.
Jeff Ernsthausen focuses on domestic politics and the influence of money on public institutions.
“Off the Record | December 7, 2012,” hosted by Tim Skubick. WKAR, December 7, 2012.
Last week, Chad Livengood of the Detroit News, Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press and Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio joined veteran political reporter Tim Skubick on the Michigan public television show Off the Record to discuss the sudden passage of right-to-work bills in their state. Scott Hagerstrom, spokesman for the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, also came on the program to take the reporters’ questions about the legislation and AFP’s vision for Michigan’s future. For insight into labor’s perspective on the issue, see the previous week’s episode, when Mike Jackson of the Michigan Carpenters Union was a guest.
Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the presidency and China.
“The Case for More Guns (And More Gun Control),” by Jeffrey Goldberg. The Atlantic, December 2012.
When I first saw that Jeffrey Goldberg had written this article, I couldn’t help but wonder if The Atlantic was pulling a Newsweek, and attempting to grab headlines with a “thought-provoking” alternative approach to gun control. After reading the piece (and obliterating it with comments in the margins), I am of two minds. To begin with, I thought Goldberg’s arguments were sometimes half-baked or contained false equivalences, which detract from the more-cogent and valid elements of the piece. He focuses a lot more on the “More Guns” part and much less on the “More Gun Control” side of his proposal, but nevertheless does offer an alternative position. And he’s not wrong to suggest that for America, “it’s too late” to ban guns entirely. This article will undoubtedly provoke debate, as I’m sure was intended.
Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media and East Asian affairs.
“Rebekah Brooks took £10.8m compensation from News Corp,” by Dan Sabbagh and Lisa O’Carroll. The Guardian, December 12, 2012.
This has been another noisy week for Fleet Street, now a year and a half since News International was caught engaged in wide-scale phone-hacking. Agreements over press regulations crumbled. Another high-profile editor stepped down. But perhaps most infuriating, it turns out Rebekah Brooks—chief of News International during the height of the scandal—left her company with £10.8 million in compensation ($17.4 million), which is £7 million more than what was originally reported. Brooks healthy reward for overseeing a criminal press culture is an egregious affront to justice and a slap in the face of accountability.
Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace-related issues.
“Normalising death: The business of drones,” by Charlotte Silver. Al Jazeera, December 7, 2012.
As drone warfare expands, it helps to understand the context that perpetuates it. Charlotte Silver lays out how the United States and Israel are defining the landscape of drone warfare. Rather than compete with each other over drone technology, the staunch allies largely cooperate. Both countries practice targeted killing, particularly with drones. While Israel is the world’s largest exporter of drones and pioneered the technology, the US carries out far more drone strikes than Israel in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Israel, meanwhile, has carried out drone surveillance missions in Gaza and along the Lebanon border, along with deadly drone strikes during the November assault on Gaza. Domestically, there is pressure from the drone industry within Congress to increase the US’s drone arsenal and strikes. Part of the reason why the US, like Israel, launches so many drone strikes is because there are powerful factions that benefit from it—politically and economically.
Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence and regulatory capture.
“Michigan Passes “Right to Work” Containing Verbatim Language from ALEC Model Bill,” by Brendan Fischer. PR Watch, December 11, 2012.
For all the well-known offenses of Michigan’s new “right-to-work-for-less” legislation—the governor’s hypocrisy, the Koch/DeVos money, the accelerated legislative process, and, of course, the content of the bill itself—there is also the generally overlooked fact that key parts of the legislation have clearly been cribbed from an American Legislative Exchange Council “model.” As one sees in this side-by-side view from the Center for Media and Democracy (a Nation partner in the ALEC Exposed project) the Michigan bill reads as if blatantly plagiarized by—dare one suggest it?—a lowly Rick Snyder intern.
Annum Masroor focuses on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Tracing Hate,” by Nadeem F. Paracha. Dawn.com, December 13, 2012.
The political role that religion has historically played, and many times enjoyed, is no secret. Throughout the world, various churches, seminaries and religious establishments have used their spiritual powers to influence political outcomes in their respective nations. Since its inception in 1947, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has battled an internal struggle to define its religious nature. Can a country founded for Muslims, on the basis that Muslims enjoy the freedom and equality that they lacked in colonial India, be secular by nature? Today, the question has evolved into whether or not Muslim minorities—those Muslims who still follow the Islamic faith but do so according to a different sect or creed than that of the predominant Sunni tradition—are welcome in Pakistan. Nadeem F. Paracha traces the roots of this question back to 1953 and later to 1974, when former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto effectively signed the religious persecution of Ahmadis into law, by declaring them a religious minority “excommunicated from the fold of Islam.” These years exemplify the process by which the Ahmadis were sidelined for the political purposes of various political parties. In typical fashion, the parties themselves suffered alongside the Ahmadis they persecuted, as did the rest of Pakistan. In trying to strengthen themselves by pandering to religious extremists, they weakened an entire nation by depriving it of any semblance of plurality, justice, and peace.
Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.
“In ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ she’s the hero; in real life, CIA agent’s career is more complicated,” by Greg Miller. The Washington Post, December 10, 2012.
Sharing a big part of the responsibility for Osama bin Laden’s death apparently isn’t enough to get you set for life—at least not in the CIA. Since America’s target number one was dispatched by a team of Navy SEALs, the intelligence officer who served as inspiration for the female protagonist of Zero Dark Thirty hasn’t seen an easy day in the agency, having been denied a promotion in that time. While her involvement with the film’s production and reported attitude problem may have something to do with it, she’s the woman who found Bin Laden! Talk about a glass ceiling.
Anna Robinson focuses on gender, sexuality and social justice.
“Debating ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ and Justice for Trans People,” by Chase Strangio. Huffington Post, December 5, 2012.
Former staff attorney at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project Chase Strangio weighs in on the recent changes to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders (DSM), altering the previous diagnosis for trans individuals from Gender Identity Disorder (GID) to Gender Dysphoria (GD). Strangio questions the instinct to celebrate the change and looks more closely at ableism that informs the stigma of disorder and mental illness. Strangio writes “it is helpful to think about what we want from the law and discrete benefits systems and advocate from that standpoint centering the most vulnerable in our communities rather than looking to those systems to reflect our identities back to us in ways that is most affirming.” As Strangio emphasizes, it is crucial to consider that ways in which changes to the DSM can impact trans folks who are low income, incarcerated and people of color in specific and often highly detrimental ways.
Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.
“Across nation, unsettling acceptance when mentally ill in crisis are killed,” by Kelley Bouchard. The Portland Press-Herald, December 12, 2012.
In the 1980s, funding was gutted for large, public psychiatric hospitals, many of which were already failing to provide adequate care for crowded patients. Instead of institutionalizing those with mental health problems, we started incarcerating them. In many cities, including my hometown of Seattle, Washington, police’s interaction with mentally ill homeless individuals results in tragedy. This report from the Portland Herald-Press in Maine shows the deadly toll of our criminalization of mental illness, and what happens at the intersection of poverty and mental health without a viable social safety net.
Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.
“A Breakdown of Trust.” The Economist, December 8, 2012.
The Economist critiques President Dilma’s economic policies. The critique, founded on the prediction that Brazil will grow only 1.5 percent this year, calls for a new economic team and more investment, as it warns against excessive government intervention in private business. It portrays Dilma as a potential detriment to all the economic work done by her predecessors, Lula and Fernando Henrique, who managed to “slew inflation” and pull millions out of poverty. Dilma responded with indignation: “Don’t they know that [the Europeans’ and Americans’] situation is worse than ours since 2008? No one here went bankrupt like Lehman Brothers. We don’t have a problem of debt.… We have 378.000 millions of dollars in reserve.”
Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.
“Gangnam Style Overshadows Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” Bill In Cable News Coverage,” by Carlos Maza. Media Matters, December 12, 2012.
In the past few weeks, the re-emergence of Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill—which would make “aggravated homosexuality” a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death—has been a growing subject of international criticism. In the past, numerous threats to drop international aid have prevented the anti-homosexuality proposal from passing, but, while that same international pressure is currently leveraged against Uganda, renewed support and the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga’s promise to pass the bill as a “Christmas Gift” is pushing “Kill the Gays” closer to passage. Despite the implications of legalizing discriminatory persecution and the bill’s strong ties to US evangelical organizations, according to MediaMatters, both CNN and Fox News have giving substantially more airtime to covering Korean pop star Psy’s chart-topping “Gangnam Style.” While major media organizations certainly can’t cover every issue all the time, the comparison here is both a laughably outrageous insight into the US media’s poor coverage of world affairs and a perfect example of why independent media is so essential.