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The 2011 Nation Student Writing Contest

We're delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s sixth 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This year we asked students to send us an original, unpublished, 800-word essay detailing what they think is the most important issue facing their generation. We received hundreds of submissions from high school and college students in forty-one states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total.

Congratulations to the winners, Bryce Wilson Stucki, an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, and Hannah Moon, a 2011 graduate of Brooklyn College Academy in Brooklyn, New York, and to our ten finalists! The winners each receive a cash award of $1,000; the finalists receive $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions.

Many thanks to all of our applicants and the many people who encouraged their participation, and many apologies for our delay in naming the winners. The two winning essays will be excerpted in an upcoming issue of The Nation magazine and all finalists will be published at StudentNation on Monday, December, 5.

Winners

Bryce Wilson Stucki, Virginia Tech
Hannah Moon, Brooklyn College Academy, Brooklyn, NY

Finalists

College
Zoe Carpenter, Vassar College
Alex Klein, Yale University
Matthew Hickson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Melanie Muller, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Jake Shoemaker, Dartmouth College

High School
Ashley Arkhurst, Manlius Pebble Hill School, DeWitt, NY
Sakib Ahmed, Herricks High School, Manhasset, NY
Conor Beck, South Portland High School, S. Portland, ME
Kevin Xiong, Cambridge Rindge & Latin, Cambridge, MA
Stephanie Weiner, Spanish River Community High School, Boca Raton, FL

What You're Missing

From its inception, photography ignited debates about objectivity, artistry and, ultimately, authenticity: can a beautiful image also accurately capture a moment in time? Can a documentary photograph also be an object of thoughtful reflection? As Jana Prikryl explains in her article in The Nation's Fall Books issue, Erosion: On Errol Morris, "photographs, first and last, freeze time"—so how can any moment of time be less authentic than any other? In this audio slide show, Prikryl goes back to the beginnings of photography to explore how the medium's warring artistic and documentarian impulses first arrayed themselves in opposition to each other.

The only way to keep up on all of The Nation's culture coverage is by joining our free EmailNation list. Arriving three times each week, this timely alert provides breaking news, informed opinion, first looks at new Nation 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!

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important Stories (12/1)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week, and please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

— Angela Aiuto:

Angela focuses on money in politics.

How Paulson Gave Hedge Funds Advance Word,” by Richard Teitelbaum. Bloomberg, Nov. 29, 2011.

A Bloomberg investigation reveals that former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had tipped a roomful of Wall Street executives to the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during a July 2008 meeting, seven weeks in advance of the takeover. Short interest in Fannie peaked that month, with short interest in Freddie following a similar path. The worst part? Paulson’s actions were entirely legal.

—Cal Colgan:

Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.

Mexico activists seek ICC investigation of drugs war.” BBC, Nov. 25, 2011.

A Mexican human rights lawyer has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, asking the international law body to to investigate the deaths of the hundreds of civilians slain at the hands of both cartels and security forces, in addition to cases of torture and rape. If the ICC rules that war crimes and crimes against humanity have indeed been committed by security forces as well as the cartels, the ruling could put a damper on President Felipe Calderon's strongman approach to fighting the drug war in Mexico. The Calderon administration has been outspoken in its denial that its policies have resulted in international crimes, but a Human Rights Watch report released in early November reveals that Mexican security forces were involved in several extralegal killings and disappearances in five states. If the ICC agrees to investigate these claims, it will be the first official investigation the body has done outside of an African country.

— Teresa Cotsirilos:

Teresa focuses on "Global South" politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.

The Stories You Missed in 2011,” by Joshua Keating. Foreign Policy, Dec. 2011.

India's military build up. Thailand and Cambodia's shooting war. Rwanda's potential backslide into despotism. Welcome to some of the least reported events in 2011—most of which took place in non-Western countries, and all of which could have a game changing geopolitical effect in the future.

— Paolo Cravero:

Paolo follows war, peace, and security.

After NATO attack, truckers face hard times,” by Mujib Mashal. Al Jazeera, Nov. 30, 2011.

The Pakistani ban on trucks carrying NATO supplies is a comeback to the recent NATO raid on Pakistan territory. Islamabad's authorities described the act as a deliberate act of aggression despite the Atlantic Alliance having ordered the "most formal level of investigation" into the raid. It seems that Pakistan has opted for a quite muscular—but economic detrimental—position towards NATO.

— Erika Eichelberger:

Erika follows the environmental beat.

New Study Links Climate Change to Higher Medical Costs,” by Frances Beinecke. Think Progress, Nov. 25, 2011.

A recent blog post at Think Progress concerns a first-of-its-kind study published in Health Affairs revealing the healthcare costs due to climate change in the US over the past decade. The study found that illness and injury due to extreme weather and smog accounted for over $14 billion in healthcare costs and more than 760,000 interactions with the healthcare system. This points to another way in which economic disparity will manifest itself in the future. Disadvantaged communities without the resources to cope with changing weather and associated healthcare costs will find themselves increasingly polarized from the rest of society.

— Josh Eidelson:

Josh covers the labor beat.

Rolling Sympathy Strikes Harass Food-Service Giant,” by Jane Slaughter. Labor Notes, Nov. 25, 2011.

Earlier this month thousands of Teamsters in nine states took part in brief rolling strikes against the second largest food service company in the country, US Foods.  Despite being under contract, and under the United States' strike-averse legal regime, workers were able to pull it off because of a hard-fought contract clause protecting their right not to cross picket lines.  After a bargaining unit of two janitors went on strike over alleged unfair labor practices by US Foods, one of them traveled from city to city, setting up quick pickets that gave local Teamsters a justification not to work.

— Eli Epstein-Deutsch:

Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.

America Beyond Capitalism,” by Gar Alperovitz. Dollars & Sense, Nov/Dec 2011.

In the wake of the tremendous failure of modern market capitalism to provide for the social and economic needs of great numbers of its constituents, it was inevitable that alternative forms of commerce would come to thrive. Post-industrial decay in the rustbelt is among the most quintessentially American examples of this failure, so it is natural that the heartland would be where some of the most (quietly) radical and thoroughly American experiments in different modes of organization would arise. This article from Dollars and Sense details a variety of cooperative initiatives in Ohio and beyond, ranging from worker-owned firms, community land trusts, to public asset reclamation for popular benefit. The writer who has a forthcoming book on the subject, both dispels the notion that grassroots communitarianism is merely a creature of wide-eyed sixties radicalism, while also calling for greater politicization of these often unsung institutions-in-formation.

— Collier Meyerson:

Collier’s beat is discrimination.

Inmates, Vermont prisons in conflict over Muslim prayer services,” by Terri Hallenbeck. Burlington Free Press, Nov. 28, 2011.

The rights of Muslim inmates at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, Vermont are being unmercifully infringed upon. Among the numerous offenses, Muslim prisoners were being denied the right to gather for Friday night Jum’ah services under unsupported suspicions that they were planning to use the time as an opportunity to organize a gang.  During the religion’s holiest month of Ramadan where adherents fast during the day, one staffer wrote in an e-mail: “Why do we continue to struggle with the Ramadan mess every August 1st?” It comes as no surprise that the Muslim prisoners complained of cold food and unfair treatment from officers throughout that month. The Vermont Department Of Corrections claims to have resolved the issues but Muslim prisoners say the discrimination persists.

— Allie Tempus: 

Allie follows human rights.

In Haiti, U.S. deportees face illegal detentions and grave health risks,” by Jacob Kushner. WisconsinWatch.org, Nov. 27, 2011.

This extensive investigation reveals the horrible conditions and illegal practices surrounding US deportation of Haitians. Produced as a collaborative project of several independent news organizations, this piece is a powerful example of the evolving structure of investigative journalism. And as we round the second anniversary of the devastating Haiti earthquake that prompted an outpouring of US charitable efforts, it serves as a reminder that humanitarianism begins at the policy level.

— Jin Zhao:

Jin follows the US’s image in international media.

‘Climategate’ Redux: Conservative Media Distort Hacked Emails ... Again.” Media Matters, Nov. 30, 2011.

Despite overwhelming evidence showing that climate change is happening at an alarming rate, conservatives continue to deny it, and one of such efforts recently was the "leak" of purportedly incriminating material taken from email exchanges among members of a climate research group at the University of East Anglia in 2009. However, anonymous hackers recently released a batch of emails showing that the email excerpts conservative media used to claim that climate change was a "hoax" and "conspiracy" cooked up by scientists were truncated and taken out of their contexts.

VIDEO: Fighting Back Against Student Debt

Monday was a day of action for university students on both coasts angered by the rising cost of tuition and the crackdowns on their recent protests. In California, students temporarily shut down a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents to protest a series of tuition hikes and the violent response to protests at UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis. Wary of a massive demonstration, the regents met by conference call from four different campuses but were still forced to switch venues after being confronted by chanting students at three of the four sites. In New York City, about a thousand students marched outside a meeting where City University of New York trustees voted to authorize annual tuition increases through 2015. The protests were the latest in a long-running battle against tuition hikes and education cuts that originated on UC campuses two years ago and quickly spread across the country. This morning, the invaluable new sprogram Democracy Now! spoke with two guests who helped launch the "Occupy Student Debt Campaign" Pledge of Refusal, which asks student signatories to refuse their student loan debt until a number of education reforms are implemented, including free public education. Pamela Brown is a Ph.D student in Sociology at The New School, and Andrew Ross is a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University.

Chris Hedges to Occupy Harvard

Tonight, Monday, November 28, Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent and Nation magazine writer Chris Hedges will embed with Occupy Harvard, spending the night in a tent in Harvard Yard. Hedges will address Occupy Harvard and its supporters at a 5:00 pm rally at Thayer Gate outside of Harvard Yard.

Also on Monday, Harvard students will undertake a day of action, centered on a 3:30pm rally, to express support for University of California students’ strike in response to police violence and to galvanize yet broader support for the Occupy movement on campus and nationwide.

As both the 5:00 pm address and the 3:30 pm rally take place outside the confines of Harvard Yard—which remains unnecessarily on lockdown—they are therefore open and accessible to the media.

Hedges, a vocal supporter of the Occupy movement, is a senior fellow for the Nation Institute and writes regular columns in The Nation and Truthdig. Originally invited by the University to give a talk as part of the Harvard University Humanities Center series, Hedges has chosen instead to use his presence on campus to express solidarity with and support for the Occupy Harvard movement. In so doing, he will leave unoccupied the room booked for him by the University at the Harvard Faculty Club.

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important Stories (11/25)

 Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week, and please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

— Angela Aiuto:

Angela focuses on money in politics.

Inside the Corporate Plan to Occupy the Pentagon,” by Adam Weinstein. Mother Jones, Nov. 21, 2011.

In 2001, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld created the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board, a task force composed of corporate executives and charged with creating “a cost effective military.” Over the past decade, the board’s recommendations to that end have reflected its decidedly pro-business bias, boosting the salaries of “management talent” while putting military pensions and job security on the chopping block. With the Pentagon now facing a potential $1 trillion in cuts over the next ten years, will the board’s recommendations be considered in a new light?

—Cal Colgan:

Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.

A narco’s case against the U.S.,” by Michelle García. Salon, Nov. 14, 2011.

This piece from Salon provides an overview of the US government's alleged support of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. Michelle Garcia notes that various government agencies' use of the Sinaloa cartel for information on key players in the drug war extends farther back than the ATF's botched Fast & Furious campaign. Garcia writes that agencies like Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) have used informants in the cartel since at least 2003, when Sinaloa cartel smuggler Guillermo Ramirez Peyro was on ICE's payroll, even as he participated in the Juarez cartel's "House of Death." Such information may add credence to high-ranking Sinaloa cartel member Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla's claims in court that U.S. agents often ignore the Sinaloa cartel's criminal activity to use them as an unlikely ally in the drug war.

— Teresa Cotsirilos:

Teresa focuses on "Global South" politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.

“Cheers to the Silicon Valley of [insert country name here],” by John Sutter. CNN, Nov. 17, 2011.

Gamers in Argentina. App developers in Kenya. This article provides a brief survey of some of the burgeoning hubs of technological innovation throughout the world—and show cases some pretty ingenious new programs that could go a long way to improving the quality of life in certain developing countries. My personal favorite: Ushahidi, a Kenyan open-source platform for mapping crises in real time. Rumor has it that it's already being used by activists in Egypt to protest more safely and effectively.

— Paolo Cravero:

Paolo follows war, peace, and security.

Revolution 2.0,” by Steven A. Cook. Foreign Policy, Nov. 22, 2011.

An interesting analysis of the role of the military junta in Egypt as Cairo is on the verge of another revolutionary wave. A clarifying moment in Egyptian political transition or the beginning of a descent into chaos?

— Erika Eichelberger:

Erika follows the environmental beat.

Energy Dept. offered to put private investors ahead of taxpayers if Solyndra went bankrupt,” by Ronnie Greene. The Center for Public Integrity, Nov. 16, 2011.

This week's article from the Center for Public Integrity details the way in which the DoE sold taxpayers short when it refinanced Solyndra's loan last year. As it became clear that the the floundering solar start-up faced possible bankruptcy, the DoE made an offer to Solyndra's investors: if they raised an additional $75 million to help keep the company afloat, investors--one of whom is an Obama bundler--would collect bankruptcy funds before taxpayers, meaning they now have the first chance to recover.

— Josh Eidelson:

Josh covers the labor beat.

Rank and File Slate Takes Over Giant California Campus Local,” by Marie Choi. Labor Notes, Nov. 21, 2011.

A challenger slate swept internal leadership elections last month in an AFSCME local covering 20,000 University of California employees.  The election may have turned on questions facing labor across the country: in an age of unnecessary austerity and existential threat, what (if any) concessions are acceptable?  How do unions build strong partnerships with students and social movements?  

— Eli Epstein-Deutsch:

Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.

High executive pay 'corrosive' to the UK economy, report warns,” by Allegra Stratton. The Guardian, Nov. 21, 2011.

If austerity is what one seeks, a reminder that the boardroom is the ideal place to start. The Guardian has an excellent account of the broadly negative economic effects of outsize executive pay, which has major ramifications across the Anglophone world (where it is most pronounced.)

— Collier Meyerson:

Collier’s beat is discrimination.

Secrecy Surrounds Inmate Suicides in California State Prisons,” by Julianne Hing. Colorlines, Nov. 21, 2011.

Colorlines reports that in the last month, 3 male prisoners of the California state penitentiary system have committed suicide. Ironically, all of the men had been taking part in a hunger strike aimed at reversing dire prison conditions in their state.  Their deaths would have gone unnoticed had it not been for The Prison Solidarity Hunger Strike Coalition, a Bay Area group that had been working with the men during their fast. A spokesperson for The California Department of Corrections denied the mens involvement in the hunger strike and - as they are notorious for doing - withheld any information on their suicides. The dubious deaths are a grave accent to the tireless work being done by advocacy groups to penetrate our justice system's opacity.

— Allie Tempus:

Allie follows human rights.

Interview with a pepper-sprayed UC Davis student,” by Xeni Jardin. Boing Boing, Nov. 20, 2011.

This is interview is great because it is candid and from the heart of an anonymous student who told Chancellor Katehi at University of California Davis "I hold you personally responsible for inflicting pain on me." Important on-the-ground context at UC Davis is provided, as are graphic descriptions of the harmful effects of police-grade pepper spray: "I got up crawling. I crawled away and vomited on a tree. I was yelling. It burned. Within a few minutes I was dry heaving, I couldn't breathe." The engaging immediacy of accounts like these is what continues to fuel the fire of the Occupy movement. This interview helpfully captures last weekend's dark moment with more than a snippet or sound-byte or fleeting conversation.

— Jin Zhao:

Jin follows the US’s image in international media.

China: United States Begins 'Pacific Century,' Online Nationalism Follow,” by John Kennedy. Global Voices, Nov. 20, 2011.

The Obama administration's "Pacific swing" that will increase the US's presence in the Pacific Ocean through, among other diplomatic efforts, a trade deal that excludes China and a new permanent US military presence in Australia, has triggered a surge of nationalist expressions online from Chinese public. Many Chinese are unhappy about Chinese leaders' "soft" response to the US's perceived threat, and believe that China should strengthen its military and take a hardline position when dealing with the US, a position nevertheless very unlikely to materialize in China's foreign policy, contrary to the author John Kennedy suggests.   

Video: What Is Occupy Duke Doing?

In this video commentary, Jacob Tobia, a Duke sophomore and participant in the Hart Leadership Program, talks about some of the issues Occupy Duke protesters are working on since they began their encampment four weeks ago.

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important Stories (11/18)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week, and please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Angela Aiuto
Angela focuses on money in politics.

Colbert Super-PAC Members Flood FEC with Fundraising Comments,” by Rachel Leven. The Hill, Nov. 10, 2011.

After Rove-led Super PAC American Crossroads asked the Federal Election Commission last month to allow candidates to appear in so-called “issue ads,” comedian Stephen Colbert filed a public comment with the commission and, in a hilarious letter, urged Colbert Super PAC members to do the same. (Both statements can be read on the Super PAC’s website.) The FEC has since been barraged with comments critical of the request. It’s hard to deny the educative and awareness-raising value of Colbert’s Super PAC saga, but this may be the first time the comedian has moved beyond simple trolling to put real public pressure on the FEC.

Cal Colgan
Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.

Purging Schools of Crime,” by Thelma Mejía. IPS, November 9, 2011.

Explanation: human rights organizations, government officials and former police chiefs are reporting an extensive underground network of rogue police officers in Honduras. These police officers have operated in so-called “cartels of crime,” engaging in extortion of businesses for protection money, car theft, drug trafficking and even murder. The most recent case of the murder of Honduran civilians by police officers involves corrupt cops gunning down two National Autonomous University of Honduras students, one of whom was the son of a former official with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating the state repression following the 2009 coup that overthrew Manuel Zelaya. This leads some investigators to speculate that these rogue cops’ actions might sometimes be politically-motivated.

Teresa Cotsirilos:
Teresa focuses on “global South” politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.

Syria’s Revolutionary iPhone App Helps Fight the Assad Regime,” by Babak Dehghanpisheh. Daily Beast, November 16, 2011.

As the Syrian uprising escalates, young and persecuted activists have developed a novel way to disseminate information about the Assad government’s brutal crackdown. “Souria Wa Bas” (“Syria and That’s All”), the movement’s new iPhone app, features links to news, raw video, and interactive maps of opposition hot spots, and provides an alternative to the government-controlled news media within Syria. The app is relatively new, and it seems like only a matter of time before the Assad regime attempts to either block access to it or monitor who’s using it. Thus far, however, it’s been a surprisingly effective organizing tool, and has proven to be yet another example of the ways in which new media can enable revolution.

Paolo Cravero
Paolo follows war, peace, and security.

Obama takes on the LRA: Why Washington Sent Troops to Central Africa,” Foreign Affairs, Nov 15, 2011.

A strong, multi-layered analysis of the domestic and international political aspects regarding Washington’s deployment of troops searching for LRA’s commander, Joseph Kony. A piece for those interested in keeping up with the evolvement of American foreign policy.

Erika Eichelberger
Erika follows the environmental beat.

Head-Exploding Compilation of Fox News Clean Energy Coverage,” by Stephen Lacey. Think Progress, November 16, 2011.

This week, some entertainment. In the form of Media Matters’s compilation of the most painful moments of Fox’s coverage of clean energy, on Think Progress’s Climate Progress blog. Talking heads call green energy “a fantasy” that “will never work” and “too expensive,” saying the only solution is to “drill, baby, drill.” Media Matters points out that while the right portrays the Obama administration as regulation-crazed and anti–Big Oil, domestic oil production has risen every year under Obama, despite the BP oil spill, and fracking faces little federal oversight. Fox lambastes clean energy as being unable to “survive without government subsidies,” ignoring both the huge subsidies the oil industry receives, as well as the fact that significant technological advances in US history—from computers to nuclear power—have relied upon government support. The blog cites a Deutsche bank report that warns that if the US continues its “climate policy drift,” it will be left in the dust by states like China and Germany that have committed to long-term climate planning.

Josh Eidelson
Josh covers the labor beat.

There Is Power in Community Allies,” by Jake Blumgart. In These Times, November 16, 2011.

Blumgart reports on an innovative campaign by ACORN off-shoot New York Communities for Change and Retail Wholesale and Department Store/ United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 338 that won a union contract and hundreds of thousands in back pay from Master Food grocery store.  Faced with the weakness of legal protections against union-busting or wage theft, workers and allies combined a union organizing campaign and a wage theft lawsuit to maximize leverage against management.  It’s a model worth studying, and a strategy which is already underway elsewhere.

Eli Epstein-Deutsch
Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.

Occupy Econ 101,” by Kono Matsu. Kick it Over, November 4, 2011.

Last week, students in Harvard economist professor Greg Mankiw’s classroom staged a walkout, complaining of neoclassical bias in his introductory economics course (for which he also made students purchase his own authored textbook at $175—another bone of contention for the class). Beyond the typically debated niceties concerning the protest’s efficacy, the action indicates a growing awareness of the relationship between free-market dominance in the academic discipline of Economics and the inequality-producing policies that have received widespread attention since the Occupy movement began.  Kickitover.org, a project of Adbusters that posted a report on Occupy Mankiw, has been hosting a conversation since 2009 among radical, heterodox economists who seek to challenge the neoclassical consensus enforced across academia. The econ 101 section of the site presents a series of postings laying the groundwork for a broader reconsideration of the field.

Collier Meyerson
Collier’s beat is discrimination.

National Review: Cain Is More ‘Authentically Black’ Than Obama,” by Adam Serwer. Mother Jones, November 9, 2011.

The right continues to come to the defense of Herman Cain as allegations of sexual harassment pile up. The most recent and vexing appeal to Cain came from Victor Davis Hanson of the right-wing publication National Review.  The article I chose for this week is a response piece by Adam Serwer of Mother Jones. Serwer maps out all the ways in which Hanson’s piece was just another “cliche of right-wing victimhood, infantile racial identity politics and gender stereotypes.”

Allie Tempus
Allie follows human rights.

Opponents begin massive effort to recall Gov. Walker,” by Mary Spicuzza and Clay Barbour. Wisconsin State Journal, November 16, 2011.

Civil unrest from last winter is resurging again in Wisconsin, this time in a flurry of effort to recall Governor Walker. as of November 16, volunteers are able to start collecting signatures that would bring about a recall election. The obstacles are steep—an average of 9,000 signatures a day for the governor and lieutenant governor each!—and the action has little historical precedent. But the fervor with which Wisconsin citizens are seeking retribution for the violation of their rights is hopeful and indicative of the renewed influence of grassroots power.

Jin Zhao
Jin follows the US’s image in international media.

Pepsi says Tingyi Alliance Won’t Affect Workers,” by Yang Ning, Chen Xin & Huang Zhiling, China Daily, Nov. 16, 2011.

Thousands of workers for PepsiCo Inc. in several cities in China went on a strike Tuesday to protest the possible laying-off after an acquisition deal between the company and Tingyi, a Hong Kong–based company was submitted for government approval. The company promised that management of the new company would not change for two years, and a lay-off plan has to be approved by the authority, workers, especially older workers, are still worried that (1) they will not be paid adequate severance after termination by PepsiCo and (2) their new deal with Tingyi involves less favorable terms. 

Students for a New American Politics Endorses Murphy & Griego for Congress

Students for a New American Politics (SNAP PAC), the nation’s largest student-run political action committee, just announced its first Congressional endorsements of the volatile upcoming election cycle: Representative Chris Murphy (CT-Sen) and New Mexico State Senator Eric Griego (NM-1).

“Now more than ever, it is clear that Congress needs bold progressive leaders like Chris Murphy and Eric Griego who will not just stand up to Republicans, but usher in a new era of progressive solutions,” said Matt Breuer, Executive Director of SNAP PAC. “Chris and Eric are going to be more than just two Democratic votes in Congress - they are going to be bold voices standing up against the Republican right-wing agenda.

“Chris and Eric are both running strong grassroots campaigns against opponents who will happily vote to gut critical programs like Social Security and Medicare against the wishes of their constituents, while offering more and more tax breaks for the wealthy. The American people deserve senators and representatives who are going to defend the vital programs their citizens depend on, and Americans can depend on Eric and Chris.”

Since its founding in 2005, Students for a New American Politics has awarded over 50 fellowships to college students to spend a summer working full-time on Congressional campaigns across the country. SNAP PAC only endorses progressive candidates running in the most competitive races around the country.  Instead of donating money directly, SNAP PAC sends paid Organizing Fellows to work as organizers on endorsed candidate’s campaigns. College students can apply online to become a SNAP Organizing fellow at www.snappac.org.

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important Stories (11/11)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week, and please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Angela Aiuto
Angela focuses on money in politics.

As Political Groups Push Envelope, FEC Gridlock Gives ‘De Facto Green Light,’” by Marian Wang. ProPublica, November 7, 2011.

The Supreme Court rewrote federal campaign finance law nearly two years ago with its landmark Citizens United decision, but the Federal Election Commission has yet to address key questions that have arisen in the wake of the ruling. ProPublica’s Marian Wang examines the “deep ideological divide” fueling their inaction.

Cal Colgan
Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.

Voters Elect Presidents in Nicaragua and Guatemala,” by Brian Finlayson. NACLA Report on the Americas, November 9, 2011.

While US government officials have expressed concern that the re-election of Sandinista leader and former Marxist guerilla Daniel Ortega for a third term at the Nicaraguan presidency will signify his manipulation of the election process to run in perpetuity, a more worrying case is the election of former general Otto Pérez Molina as Guatemala’s chief executive. Pérez won the election presumably over his declaration to deal with the violence and influence of Mexican drug cartels with “an iron fist.” However, human rights advocates like Jennifer Harbury have accused the right wing politician and School of Americas graduate of actively participating in the massacres of Mayan civilians and guerillas during the country’s civil war, saying Pérez helped to direct the torture, imprisonment and possible killing of Mayans in the Quiche Highlands in 1982 and other torture campaigns between 1992 and 1993, when Pérez was head of intelligence. If the allegations are true, Pérez’s election signifies a trend of voters appealing to caudillos, the right-wing military strongmen who became notorious for their human rights abuses in Latin America throughout the 1970s and ’80s.

Teresa Cotsirilos
Teresa focuses on “Global South” politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.

South Sudanese fear impact of farming deals,” by Katrina Manson. Financial Times, November 6, 2011.

South Sudan has only been an independent country since July—but nearly 10 percent of its land is already owned by foreign interests. A diverse group of private equity firms and hedge funds are taking part in a “land grab” throughout Eastern Africa, purchasing millions of hectares of land to (ostensibly) grow food for the global market and provide much needed jobs and development to the region. Activists accuse the companies of displacing local farmers and monopolizing precious arable land in desert countries— then hiring foreign nationals, and using the land to grow non-edible crops for biofuels. Unsurprisingly, much of the land bought by private equity firms in South Sudan also contains valuable oil and mineral deposits. This is one of several recent articles about the latest African “land grab,” which may ultimately displace millions of people. To learn more about it, check out this great report by Al Jazeera.

Paolo Cravero
Paolo follows war, peace, and security.

Highway to Homs,” by John Pedro Schwartz. Foreign Policy, November 4, 2011.

Between travel journalism and war reporting: the riveting story of a motorcycle ride across the twin flashpoints of the Syrian uprising, Hama and Homs. A trip that shows the complexity of a country slowly slipping into chaos.

Erika Eichelberger
Erika follows the environmental beat.

He who pays the paupers…: Who will foot the bill for green development in poor countries?The Economist, November 5, 2011.

At the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, the US committed to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate change aid to developing countries by 2020. The Economist article I chose for this week cites a recent study by the think tank Climate Policy Initiative, which found that around $97 billion a year in “climate finance” is already going to developing countries. There are several definitional problems with this “climate financing” though. Most of it is from private lenders in rich countries, and multinational banks, not from Western governments. Most of this financing would have happened anyways as development projects; and most of it has to be paid back, though developing countries are largely not responsible for climate change. This points toward how climate aid will be defined at the upcoming climate conference in Durban, South Africa. The Economist states that private sector financing should be the model for the Green Fund to be established at the Durban conference, because it is the only way that Western governments can “afford” it. The author also suggests developing countries look to “become more attractive recipients of investment, green or otherwise,” for example by liberalizing financial sectors. Sounds like more disaster capitalism.

Josh Eidelson
Josh covers the labor beat.

Tar Sands Protest Shows Unity, Tension in Green-Labor Alliance,” by Michelle Chen. In These Times, November 8, 2011.

As the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline heats up, so has the controversy it provokes within the labor movement. The AFL-CIO has avoided comment as some unions back the pipeline for the sake of immediate job creation and others join the movement to avert it for the sake of the climate. Chen argues that Keystone exemplifies the difficulty of sustaining progress towards a labor-environmentalist coalition in the face of persistent high unemployment.

Eli Epstein-Deutsch
Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.

Libertarianism and Liberty: How Not to Argue for Limited Government and Lower Taxes,” T. M. Scanlon. Boston Review, October 19, 2011.

With liberals and conservatives frequently trading blows over such phrases as “market fundamentalism,” it’s worthwhile to consider every once in a while where the justification (or lack thereof) for complete market freedom comes from. While the identification of liberty with free markets and the right to property has been debated a fair amount over the years, Harvard philosopher T.M. Scanlon has a provocative new discussion of the issue in Boston Review.

Collier Meyerson
Collier’s beat is discrimination.

Defeating Personhood: A Critical But Incomplete Victory for Reproductive Justice,” by Loretta Ross. RH Reality Check, November 9, 2011.

Last night Mississippi became the second state in the Union to squash a proposed amendment that would effectively ban a woman’s right to choose. In the past months pro-choice organizations and supporters have poured money and bodies into campaigns designed to get Mississippians to vote down the proposition. And vote it down they did. Indeed a remarkable win for the pro-choice movement, it is important for us to pause and rejoice. Pause.

A law that did pass in Mississippi last night—a more insidious proposition resembling antiquated Jim Crowe laws—that will require voters to produce a government issued ID card at the polls should urge us go back to work. Pro-choice activist Loretta Ross gives a bone-chilling reaction to last night’s electoral victory, chiding her constituency for its tunnel vision.

Allie Tempus
Allie follows human rights.

Congressional GOP Pushes Zygote Personhood Bills,” by Nick Baumann. Mother Jones, November 8, 2011.

In a reaction to the vote on a Mississippi amendment that would grant personhood to zygotes, Mother Jones takes a sweeping view of “nearly identical” bills with strong Republican endorsement in Congress. The extremely prohibitive bills may effect the usage of the morning-after pill and IUDs, and would make abortion “legally equivalent to murder.”

Jin Zhao

Jin follows the US’s image in international media.

Poor countries or poor people? Development assistance and the new geography of global poverty,” by Ravi Kanbur and Andy Sumner. VOX, November 8, 2011.

Twenty years ago, more than 90 percent of the world’s poor lived in low-income countries (LICs), and now, more than 70 percent of the poorest, a “new bottom billion,” live in middle-income countries (MICs), 60 percent of them in five populous new MICs, China, Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Indonesia. The authors of this article, an economist and a development expert, argue that the new geography of global poverty needs to be considered in the World Bank’s development assistance policy making, but fail to provide a critical rethinking of the effectiveness of the apolitical development assistance framework in combating global poverty.

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