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Nation Now Alerts

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Fourth-Grade Class Says 'Vote for Somebody'

With apologies to Carly Rae Jepsen, this fourth grade class from Democracy Prep, a charter school in Harlem, worked up this song to urge people to do their civic duty and vote this election year.

Generation Vote

I Vote was founded to get out the youth vote by using a platform far different than the traditional tools of political outreach and communication, which typically fall far short with the millennial generation. This I Vote video features young people making the case to their peers about the importance of voting this Tuesday.

A Message from Millennials to Millennials

The Jewish Council for Education and Research (JCER), the folks behind recent viral election hits like Samuel L. Jackson's "Wake the F*** Up," Sarah Silverman’s "Let My People Vote," and the "Actually..." series, today released a new video by and for millennial voters.

"Childish Things" features young activists speaking to their peers about what they see as the importance of President Obama's re-election for young people.

Join the Feminist Roundup

Our free Feminist Roundup email offers a weekly recap of feminist news and commentary from Jessica ValentiKatha PollittBryce Covert and many others. Join today!

What Are You Missing?

For the better part of his American century, George McGovern was America’s most prominent advocate for peace with the world and justice at home, a progressive internationalist and prairie populist—from the cold war era when he grabbed a South Dakota congressional seat from Dwight Eisenhower’s Republicans, to the Obama era when he prodded a young president from his own Democratic Party to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.

The only way to keep up on all of The Nation's remembrances and other special content is by joining our free EmailNation list. Arriving twice week, this timely alert provides breaking news, informed opinion, first looks at newNation investigative reports, details on when Nation writers are on TV and info on critical activist initiatives. And we'll never share your name with anyone! Sign up now!

We also have four issue-specific lists you might want to consider joining: Our Feminist Roundup offers a weekly recap of feminist news and commentary from Jessica Valenti, Katha Pollitt, Bryce Covert and many others; Election 2012 helps you stay on top of the latest campaign news and analysis from The Nation's team of reporters and commentators; Books & Arts gives you links to all Books & the Arts pieces in every issue of The Nation and Take Action provides info on meaningful actions you can take and share on the critical issues written about in The Nation each week. 

Nation Student Writing Contest Winners, 2012


Reuters/Brian Snyder 

We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s seventh annual Student Writing Contest!

This year we asked students to send us an original, unpublished, 800-word essay detailing what they think is the most important issue of Election 2012. We received close to 1,000 submissions from high school and college students in forty-two states. We chose one college and one high school winner and five finalists from each category. The contest was open to all matriculating high school students and undergraduates at American schools, colleges and universities.

Congratulations to the winners, Andrew Giambrone, an undergraduate at Yale University who wrote about the human costs of unemployment and argued that the economic crisis is also an existential catastrophe, and Tess Saperstein, a junior at Dreyfoos School of the Arts in Boca Raton, Florida, who elegantly limned Susan B. Anthony’s contemporary legacy. The winners each receive a cash award of $1,000; the finalists receive $200 each. All receive lifetime Nation subscriptions.

Many thanks to all of our applicants and the many people who encouraged their participation. Please read and share the winning essays. The two winners will be excerpted in an upcoming issue of The Nation magazine and all finalists are published at StudentNation.

Winners
Andrew Giambrone, Yale University
Tess Saperstein, Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Boca Raton, Florida

College Finalists
Guido Girgenti, Occidental College
Erik Lampmann, University of Richmond
Alex Ritter, Baylor University
Gabriel Schivone, Pima Community College
Helen Yang, Princeton University

High-School Finalists
Nikolas Angelopoulos, Polytechnic High School, Pasadena, California
Kathryn Davis, Claremont High School, Claremont, California
Ethan Evans, South Warren High School, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Kristy Hong, Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, Massachusetts
Audrey Yu, Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Meet last year’s winners!

Interns' Favorite Articles of the Week (10/12/12)

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.

Interns' Favorite Articles of the Week (10/5/12)

As the election approaches, the airwaves are getting increasingly cluttered with poll numbers, “breaking” videos, and this week, debate analysis. For those suffering from election fatigue, Nation interns bring you eleven stories you might have missed, including a sobering drone report from Columbia University, a blow to domestic workers’ rights in California and the destruction of a historic market in Syria.

Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.

Alarm Grows in São Paulo as More Police Officers Are Murdered,” by Simon Romero. The New York Times, October 3, 2012.

Brazil has the fourth-largest prison population in the world. The prisons are overcrowded and inhumane, and often run by gangs, especially those in São Paulo, most notably by the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC). This article discusses the many police officers murdered in São Paulo over the past year, possibly by the PCC. This article sheds light on the power that prison gangs have beyond prison walls and their tensions with a mostly corrupt police system.

Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.

In Syria’s Largest City, Fire Ravages Ancient Market,” by Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad. The New York Times, September 30, 2012.

This story is about how an ancient souk (Arabic for marketplace) in Aleppo in Syria has fallen victim to the conflict between government forces and anti-government rebels. The souk, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, was set on fire and appears to have been severely damaged. In existential battles such as the one we are seeing in Syria, nothing, not even ancient monuments, is immune. A doctor in Aleppo is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s not just a souk and shops, but it’s our soul, too.”

Jeff Ernsthausen focuses on domestic politics and the influence of money on public institutions.

DHS Counterterror Centers Produce ‘a Bunch of Crap,’ Senate Finds,” by Spencer Ackerman. Wired, October 2, 2012.

A report released this week by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that “fusion centers,” among the largest domestic counterterrorism initiatives financed by the Department of Homeland Security, were largely useless in achieving their aims while also being prone to waste and abuse. According to the report, the seventy-plus fusion centers, created to share data between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and often criticized by civil liberties groups, failed to identify a single terrorist threat during the thirteen month period studied by Congressional investigators. The report also found that the information collected and stored in the centers possibly violated US law relating to citizens’ rights to privacy, and noted that DHS failed to keep track of up to $1.4 billion in funds earmarked for the centers.

Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the presidency and China.

The League of Dangerous Mapmakers,” by Robert Draper. The Atlantic, October 2012.

In an interesting, if over-long, article about the forces behind political redistricting, Draper lays bare the special interests behind gerrymandering and questionable apportioning of voters into ironclad safe districts. The majority is focused on Republican operatives (who were lucky enough to be voted into the majority at the time of the Census, and therefore were perfectly situated to solidify some of their strongholds for the next decade), but there is also mention of some Democratic maneuvering. The article drags a little bit towards the end, but is packed with details and examples. It’s an incredibly important issue, one that people are probably aware of to some degree, but knowing how it works is valuable, and Draper does a good job of making the subject accessible and clear.

Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media and East Asian affairs.

A promise to our NOLA.com and Times-Picayune readers.” The Times-Picayune, October 1, 2012.

The Times-Picayune switched to a thrice-weekly publishing schedule with an expanded web presence on Sunday, making New Orleans the only major US metropolitan area without a daily newspaper. In this editorial, the Times-Picayune promises to continue delivering quality journalism, despite significant newsroom layoffs to accommodate the digital shift. When perusing the comments at the bottom of the page, one notices an overwhelming sense of doubt among once-loyal readers. Can you blame them?

Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace-related issues.

Washington’s Mistaken Belief in the Greatness of Drone Technology,” by Kevin Gosztola. Firedoglake, September 30, 2012.

Recently, Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic and the Center for Civilians in Conflict released a report that should advance public discussion about the dangerous implications of drone warfare. The report describes how “as covert drone strikes by the United States become increasingly frequent and widespread, reliance on the precision capabilities and touted effectiveness of drone technology threatens to obscure the impact on civilians.” Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake does a good job of summarizing the key revelations from the report. This report was released directly after Stanford University Law School and NYU School of Law released their report about the humanitarian impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan. Given the secrecy surrounding the US drone program, it is nice to see universities do the necessary research to shed light on what’s really going on.

Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence, and regulatory capture.

The Presidential Debates: Manufacturing Consent,” by Dennis Maley. The Bradenton Times, September 30, 2012.

As John Nichols argued this week, presidential debates subvert democracy by holding smaller parties to prohibitively high and self-reinforcing standards for admission. An additional, though related, problem is the naked corporatism of these pseudo-events. But the public is increasingly waking up and connecting the dots: several sponsors—including Philips, the electronics giant; BBH New York, a financial agency; and the YWCA—withdrew their sponsorship of the debates this week protesting the Commission on Presidential Debate’s exclusion of minor-party candidates. Those decisions reflect a dogged campaign in recent weeks in support of more open debates. Perhaps by the end of the month more corporations will echo the sentiment of the League of Women Voters, which, according to Dennis Maley of Florida’s Bradenton Times, withdrew its sponsorship of debates in 1988, proclaiming, “The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

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.

Ten lessons the U.S. should learn from Afghanistan’s history,” by William Byrd. Foreign Policy, October 1, 2012.

While the United States continues to fight its longest war yet, top military and diplomatic officials have acknowledged that the time for negotiating with the Taliban is near. As The New York Times reported on Monday, officials are reconsidering their former strategy of “battering the Taliban into a peace deal.” For many familiar with Afghanistan’s post-colonial history, this was to be expected. William Byrd makes the case that the country’s history can teach us several lessons, from the relative stability of the Afghan monarchy to the failed Soviet strategy in the 1980’s. Perhaps most importantly, these are lessons that should have been learned and understood before. As South Asia and counterterrorism expert Bruce Reidel is quoted in the article: “A country rarely fights the same war twice in one generation, especially from opposite sides. Yet that in many ways describes the US role in Afghanistan today.”

Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.

Swing Voters and Climate Change,” by Anna Fahey. Sightline Daily, October 2, 2012.

With both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney trying their best to wrangle the undecided electorate, one of their best bets for victory might be paying a little more attention to climate change. Of course, neither candidate is likely to make a headlong charge at the issue. But a recent study out of Yale University suggests that both Obama and Romney could capture some of these sought-after swing voters if they add climate change to an otherwise strong platform. 

Anna Robinson focuses on gender, sexuality and social justice.

Mitt Romney’s ‘illegals’ rhetoric alienates Latinos,” by Jose Antonio Vargas. The Guardian, October 3, 2012.

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who came out as undocumented last year, draws attention to the importance of language when politicians (and the media) talk about immigration. As long as Romney remains willing to call people “illegal” (not to mention shaky on the differences between a visa and deferred action), he “risks being on the wrong side of history at this election.”

Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.

Governor Brown Denies Overtime Protection to Domestic Workers in CA,” by Jorge Rivas. Colorlines, October 1, 2012.

At a time when organized labor is under attack, it’s even harder to advocate for the informal workforce. Last Sunday, California governor Jerry Brown struck down the “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights,” which would have extended key worker protections and benefits to the state’s already marginalized domestic workforce. As the article points out, those that work in private homes are often the most vulnerable to being overworked, underpaid and abused. Most nannies, house cleaners and caregivers are immigrant females, meaning the bill isn’t simply a worker’s protection act—it’s an issue of gender, immigrant and racial equality.

Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.

Obama waives sanctions on countries that use child soldiers,” by Josh Rogin. Foreign Policy, October 1, 2012.

In a recent Foreign Policy article, Josh Rogin talks about President Obama’s decision to waive sanctions imposed by the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, South Sudan and Yemen for the third year in a row. As a result of this decision, all four of these countries are once again able to buy US arms and receive US military aid and training, despite being known to use children in their armed forces. This move comes mere days after Obama’s speech at the Clinton Global Initiative denouncing the use of child soldiers and human trafficking, making the presidential waivers a hypocritical and self-aware act of potentially contributing to human rights violations in the misguided name of national security.

Interns' Favorite Articles of the Week (9/28/12)

There are only forty days until the election and most media outlets are almost singularly focused on the latest "who-said-what" politicking. Unless, of course, they're talking about football. As a possible antidote, in this post Nation interns bring you eleven stories you may have missed, including Obama's shadow wars in Africa, the closing of the Burmese Censorship Office, and a controversial anti-prostitution campaign.

Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.

Na ONU, Dilma ataca medidas de países ricos contra crise.” Veja, September 25, 2012. (To read in English, click here.)

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff opened the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations this week. In her speech, she urged underdeveloped countries to focus on social welfare and employment to escape the financial crisis. She explained that even with relatively slower economic growth, Brazil has been able to maintain a good level of employment, keep inflation in control, reduce poverty and invest in infrastructure. Overall, Dilma's emphasis on social welfare and anti-austerity is particularly valued and important in a time of increasingly neoliberal politics.

Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.

Unarmed people power drums Libya's jihadists out of Benghazi,” by Chris Stephan. The Guardian, September 22, 2012.

While the mainstream media was focused on protests at American embassies against an Islamophobic film, the people of Benghazi, the center of the 2011 Libyan revolution against Gaddafi, staged a huge demonstration against the "Ansar Al-Sharia" militia that was believed to be responsible for killing the US ambassador. Despite the militia firing warning shots in the air, tens of thousands of people marched in an action that caused the extremist militia to flee. An extremely significant event that shows that the Islamic fundamentalist militias constantly in the spotlight are, in fact,  on the fringes of many of the societies in which they try to embed themselves.

Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the presidency and China.

This Presidential Race Should Never Have Been This Close,” by Matt Taibbi. Rolling Stone, September 25, 2012.

A good example of Taibbi's polemical style, taking pretty much everyone to task for the absurdity of the American electoral process. This is not just an anti-Romney screed (although that forms much of the piece, too). Rather, Taibbi also goes after the "rank incompetence of the Democratic Party," a party which should have every election for the next half century sewn up, but instead has been captured and corrupted by the Washington Game. He also briefly goes after the media, bemoaning the "tendency of pundits to give equal weight to opposing views in situations where one of those views is actually completely moronic and illegitimate."

Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media and East Asian affairs.

Chief Censor in Myanmar Caps His Red Pen,” by Thomas Fuller. The New York Times, September 22, 2012.

The dismantling of Burma's censorship office last month marked another surprising step in a series of recent reforms that point the once-brutal military dictatorship in the direction towards democracy. This short profile of chief censor (or "literary torturer") U Tint Swe offers fascinating insight into the psychology of totalitarian message control and its tenability in the Internet age. Orwell fans will notice that the process of redaction, revision and restriction practiced at Tint Swe's former office precisely reflects, almost banally, Winston Smith's role at the Ministry of Truth.

Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace.

US expands its secret war in Africa.” United Press International, September 24, 2012.

Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of President Barack Obama's militarism is its secrecy. He is able to wage covert wars in multiple hotspots around the world with little transparency or public discussion. This is very noticeable in Africa. Recently, United Press International published a special report on the expansion of America's secret wars in Africa.  Rather than sending actual armies to invade and occupy multiple countries, as Bush did in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama, under the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) that was established in 2007, is sending teams of special operations forces to hunt down suspected terrorists. Because these operations are carried out by JSOC and the CIA, along with small bases and drones, these wars are shrouded in secrecy. The deeper geopolitical reasons behind the increasing military penetration into Africa--gaining access to natural resources, such as oil and natural gas, and countering the influence of China and India on the continent--are also obscured. 

Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence and regulatory capture.

The Man Who Shaped History,” by Michael Ignatieff. The New York Review of Books, October 11, 2012.

In this review of a new book on the history of human rights by a man who, as the article title declares, very much dictated the course of that history—Aryeh Neier, a former Nation columnist and the founder of Human Rights Watch and later president of the Open Society Foundations—Michael Ignatieff notes one of the more interesting, underreported, and potentially depressing facts regarding the human rights movement today: the transnational establishment “machinery” which is supposed to enforce human rights “[has] been captured by the states it [is] charged to regulate.” There is a definite silver lining, however, insofar as human rights is probably the area of international law most amenable to “the activism of a global civil society movement,” Ignatieff argues. Thus, as in the US domestic arena, the upside of regulatory capture is that it opens up space for participatory democratic movements that have the potential to spill over into other vital domains of public life.

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.

New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama's drones,” by Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian, September 25, 2012.

As deadly riots gripped the Muslim world, the American public began asking itself why the followers of the Islamic faith seemingly hate the US and the West. Phrases like "Muslim Rage" were trending worldwide and bloggers and pundits attempted to answer the question. But what few seem to grasp is the deep resentment that has built up in these countries after decades of foreign policy blunders. Perhaps the most recent example is President Obama's drone policy in countries like Pakistan, where less than 2 percent of the people killed have been classified as "high level" terrorist targets. Glenn Greenwald details the findings of the Stanford/NYU study that challenges official government reports of "zero to none" casualties. And he asks perhaps the most chilling question of all: if you believe the president has the power to execute people (including US citizens) abroad, "then what power do you believe he shouldn't have?"

Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.

You get what you pay for,” by Sarah Gilman. High Country News, September 26, 2012.

When it comes to industrial expansion, money, of course, plays a big role in the technological advances that make success possible or failure imminent. In energy, that truth is no less evident. That’s why government tax subsidies for clean, renewable energy are so important—the recent success of hydraulic fracturing, an environmentally-questionable way to release fossil fuels and gases, probably wouldn’t have been possible without federal assistance and tax breaks. So take a step back if you think clean energy isn’t worth the cost because, as Gilman’s article makes clear, you get what you pay for.

Anna Robinson focuses on gender, sexuality and social justice.

A Misguided Moral Crusade,” by Noy Thrupkaew. The New York Times, September 23, 2012.

In this New York Times Sunday Review opinion piece, Noy Thrupkaew critiques the push for criminally regulating the demand for prostitution by "modern-day abolitionists" who believe that a “no demand, no supply” approach will eliminate sex trafficking and abuse of sex workers. She explores the ways in which moves in this direction will most likely do more harm than good, and suggests that efforts to listen to sex workers themselves, to hold the police accountable for their actions and attitudes, and to provide comprehensive social services that would better address these problems.

Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.

For wrongly convicted, only a ticket home,” by Brad Heath. USA Today, September 26, 2012.

The good news from North Carolina: at least seventeen wrongfully convicted individuals were released from federal prison, long after they were found to be "legally innocent." The bad: Their release came with no compensation for up to six years of their life they spent behind bars, and no more help than a bus ticket to leave the premises. Exonerees nationwide fall into a gap in post-prison support, with even less opportunity for job training and housing assistance than other inmates. The story sheds light on the broader breakdown of a supposedly "rehabilitative" system.

Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.

Telling Stories About the Stories We Tell: An Interview with Philip Gourevitch,” by Cécile Alduy. Boston Review, September 19, 2012.

My recommendation this week isn't an article, but a Boston Review interview between Philip Gourevitch and Cécile Alduy. Gourevitch, a seasoned reporter and documentarian known for covering the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, and, perhaps most notably, the Rwandan genocide in his book We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, remarks on the nature of conflict reporting, the pitfalls of memory and the proper telling of history during complicated political and humanitarian crises. Among the many insights worth noting are Gourevitch's comments on interventionism in Syria and on the dangers of applying human rights-based crime and punishment solutions to countries where the lines between abuser and victim are often blurred. I can't say enough positive things about this interview; it is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in covering or learning more about international affairs or war and peace-related issues.

Interns' Favorite Reads of the Week (9/21/2012)

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.

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