—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.
“Prisoners of Profit Part 1: Private Prison Empire Rises Despite Startling Record Of Juvenile Abuse,” by Chris Kirkham. Huffington Post, October 22, 2013.
In this long-form investigative piece on the private youth prison industry, Chris Kirkham profiles the rise of the Youth Services International corporation under the shrewd leadership of its founder James Slattery. Slattery has turned the YSI into the most lucrative youth prison company in the nation, donating massive amounts of money to state politicians who have been more than willing to green-light the construction of more YSI houses of horror. The results of this calamitous partnership have been surging profit margins for shareholders and climbing rates of recidivism for emotionally scarred teenagers.
—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.
“Prisoners of Profit Part 2: Florida’s Lax Oversight Enables Systemic Abuse At Private Youth Prisons,” by Chris Kirkham. Huffington Post, October 23, 2013.
Chris Kirkham’s vivid, horrifying long-form piece exposes the sump of venality and abuse that is the for-profit prison system. It charts the sordid rise of prison executive James Slattery, an archetypal corporate villain whose company’s reported brutalities read like Dickens fodder: maggot-infested meals, sanctioned youth fights, unreported sexual and physical abuse, vermin infestations and staggering negligence. Bonus: a HuffPo article you can read without the usual parade of inane sidebar links (“What Victoria’s Secret Models REALLY Eat”).
—Omar Ghabra focuses on Syria and Middle Eastern politics.
“Obama’s Uncertain Path Amid Syria Bloodshed,” by Mark Mazzetti, Robert F. Worth and Michael R. Gordon. The New York Times, October 23, 2013.
This detailed timeline of the Obama administration’s decision-making process regarding the Syrian conflict paints a troubling portrait of indecision and faulty intelligence. It also reveals that Obama’s chief of staff, who the authors claim was heavily influencing the president during this debate, pushed for a policy that prolonged the war in the hopes of miring Iran in an extended quagmire. This article is a must-read for anyone who has been following the Syria debate for the past three years.
—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.
“Who Pays Writers? We Asked the Editors.” Scratch Magazine, October 22, 2013.
Scratch Magazine—which has branched out from the popular blog “Who Pays Writers?”—launched this week with an interview from this past August with three web editors: Nicole Cliffe at The Toast, Dan Kois at Slate and Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic. Each were asked for the dirty details on how they calculate what to pay their freelance writers, comment sections (yay or nay), navigating web traffic and how to pronounce “Choire Sicha.” There are also many kind words in there about Slate’s Emily Yoffe, before she told college girls they should stay sober to fend off rapists and the Internet exploded. (Note: For a slightly more Soviet take on the editorial process, check out this wonderful article from The Chronicle of Higher Education).
—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US-Latin American relations.
“Fresh Leak on US Spying: NSA Accessed Mexican President’s Email,” by Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark. Der Spiegel, October 20, 2013.
With each new disclosure of the National Security Agency’s global surveillance activities, the United States’ international credibility suffers a fresh blow. This week, details of a particularly aggressive NSA campaign in Mexico surfaced, revealing that agents have, for years, systematically infiltrated the confidential communications of high-ranking officials, including former president Felipe Calderón and his successor, Enrique Peña-Nieto. Given the geostrategic importance of Mexico as one of our key trading partners—not to mention the strain that similar disclosures have placed on diplomatic ties with other regional allies such as Brazil—these latest revelations could have serious ramifications for US-Mexico relations.
—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency, and investigative reporting.
“High-Class Pawnshops Fill a Lending Void,” by Ianthe Jeanne Dugan. The Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2013.
This investigation by Ianthe Jeanne Dugan explores the cottage industry of pawnshop lenders that has arisen in the wake of the financial collapse. Since commercial banks stopped lending to small businesses in 2008, the shadow system run by high-class pawnshops have stepped up to the plate to meet the demand for small loans. Unlike commercial banks, pawnshops do not have to abide by traditional finance laws. The result is that some pawnshops can get away with surprising lending practices, such as charging 200 percent interest annually in some states.
—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.
“Amol Rajan: Only fools will underestimate ‘weak’ Ed Miliband,” by Amol Rajan. London Evening Standard, October 23, 2013.
Living in the land, as we do, of accusations that Obamacare is “socialist” and that the Democratic Party is some kind of poisonous Fascio-Leninist beast, it was refreshing to see this from the editor of The Independent over the pond. Rajan’s ever-rambunctious prose and firebrand wit go a long way towards helping to debunk the “false narratives” about Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader (and former Nation intern) because, as he puts it, “a passing interest in epistemology, and a deep belief in the virtue of journalism, compel me to remind you that there is such a thing as truth, and that our political class has a diminishing concern for it.” The myths—that Miliband is “weak, a Marxist and lacking policy” have recently been oozing from that fortress of darkness, the Daily Mail (which, funnily enough, occupies—or should I say, haunts—office space one floor above the Standard and Independent in London’s Kensington High Street), so it’s nice to see another right-leaning paper stoking debate. As Rajan puts it, “Next time you hear one of them [a politician] call Ed Miliband weak, a Marxist or lacking in policy, remember that what they’re really saying is they don’t like his face.”
—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.
“CNBC Host’s Stunning Slam on Ted Cruz: ‘Can We Get Some…Mexican Music, Maybe?’” The Blaze, October 23, 2013.
CNBC needs a map. On yesterday’s job numbers, CNBC host Steve Liesman requested some “Mexican music” to go with their conversation about congressman Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada, and his father is Cuban.
—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.
“Al-Qaeda bunco artist rolls terrorist from KC,” by Mark Morris. The Kansas City Star, June 29, 2013.
With the release of two separate reports on US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, the secrecy of the Obama administration’s war on terror is back in the news. The NSA regularly claims that fifty-four attacks have been thwarted thanks to information collected through the organization’s surveillance programs, but there’s little evidence that this figure is accurate. In fact, only four specific cases have been identified. One involved a Kansas City man, so the KC Star decided to investigate.
—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health and East and Southeast Asia.
“She Came to Riot,” by Jennifer Pan. Jacobin, Issue 11-12.
How is the nostalgia for riot grrrl aesthetics “sanitizing” their feminist politics? And how did the subcultural in the ’90s become mainstream today? Here you’ll find a concise history of US feminist movements (up until this point as it dovetails with neoliberalism) and a sharp critique of our priority on visibility and representation. Radical redistribution needs to be at the heart of our politics, she argues. It’s bumper-sticker banality or revolution.