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Interns' Favorite Reads of the Week (9/13/12)

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

Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.

La bonanza de América Latina ignora a las universidades,” El País, September 12, 2012. (To read in English, click here.)

Having visited Brazil recently, I witnessed teacher's strikes in universities all over the country, as well as protests against a recent controversial quota that was set in place for university entry. Education is a serious issue in Brazil, and in the rest of South America. Though Brazil has of late been seen as a thriving economic power, the country has been neglecting the importance of education, resulting in an undersupply of qualified people to work.

Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.

Online trafficking of Syrian women shames all involved,” by Hassan Hassan. The National, September 10, 2012.

While most media attention on the Syrian conflict is concentrated on the battlefield, other important issues are being overshadowed, such as the plight of Syrian refugees who have left their homes to escape the violence. In this column for the UAE's The National, Hassan Hassan tells the story of how Syrian refugee women in camps are being exploited by men who say they want to "save" them from their difficult situation by marrying them. This has become a trend, whereby men post ads online requesting marriage from Syrian women, and some Syrian refugee families take up these offers as they see marrying off their daughters as preferable to having them live in refugee camps.

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

Revealed: The Dark Money Group Attacking Sen. Sherrod Brown,” by Justin Elliot. ProPublica, September 7, 2012.

Last Friday, ProPublica uncovered questionable links between a dark money group running ads in Ohio and Republican and state treasurer Josh Mandel, who is campaigning against incumbent Sherrod Brown for a seat in the US Senate. Documents filed with a Cincinnati television station showed that the group, the Government Integrity Fund, is chaired by a state lobbyist who hired a former Mandel staffer last year, and revealed that the group's office is in the same building as an office of the former staffer. So far the group—which is not required to reveal its donors because of its non-profit status—has spent over a million dollars on ads attacking Brown and praising Mandel in what is thus far the most expensive Senate campaign in the country.

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

Obama’s Way,” by Michael Lewis. Vanity Fair, October 2012.

As with many Lewis articles, the writer spends a long time setting up the piece. The article is noteworthy for a number of reasons—first, Lewis's access to the President, the fact that it morphed from a domestic economy piece to a foreign policy piece through circumstance, and how candid the president was. It sadly suffers from Vanity Fair syndrome, in that it is also a puff piece. But, as you read, you do get a picture (of sorts) of the president's character and life in the White House. 

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

Hong Kong Retreats on ‘National Education’ Plan,” by Keith Bradsher. The New York Times, September 9, 2012.

Last week, tens of thousands of protesters assembled outside Hong Kong's government headquarters to resist a Beijing-backed K-12 curriculum that would cheerlead communist China and erase Tiananmen Square from history. Under pressure, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying caved on the outrageously titled "Moral, Civic and National Education" plan, illuminating the tremendous disconnect between Hong Kong's puppet government and the citizens it purportedly represents.

Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace.

The Laws Obama is Breaking in His Relentless Drone War,” by John Glaser. AntiWar.com, September 10, 2012.

This article is important because Obama is waging relentless covert wars around the world, especially with the use of drones for targeted killings, with very little public debate. Morally, I oppose this and other wars. More importantly, I find it troubling because it violates basic principles of international humanitarian law that have developed through custom over hundreds of years. This article (and the memo) touches on that issue.

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

Trenton Mayor Tony Mack arrested but his lawyer says he won't resign,” by Anthony Campisi. The Record, September 10, 2012.

Progressives’s ire is often—quite rightly—directed at relatively obscure or complicated or novel examples of official corruption and malfeasance. It’s worth remembering that sometimes it can be as simple as an envelope of money handed over in a casino parking lot. Tony Mack, the mayor of Trenton, New Jersey, and eight associates, including his brother, were arrested on Monday and charged with accepting bribes from FBI informants posing as developers. “I like to do it like the Boss Tweed way,” “JoJo” Giorgianni, a Mack supporter and one of those arrested (and a convicted child molester), told an informant. “You know Boss Tweed ran Tammany Hall.” While we’re getting history lessons, it’s worth noting that Monday’s arrest makes Mack—known to his friends in the underworld as “Honey Fitz,” “Napoleon,” or “the Little Guy”—the 17th New Jersey mayor to be charged with corruption in the past 10 years. Who's fist-pumping now?

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.

A Pointless Blacklisting,” by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn. The New York Times, September 11, 2012.

I chose this article because it highlights some of the many features of our failed strategy in Afghanistan: our inability to understand the enemy (and our simultaneous misguided belief in the opposite), our sometimes frequent undermining of Pakistan relations and interests in a post-US invasion of Afghanistan, and our failure to embrace engagement with the Taliban through negotiations and/or a ceasefire agreement. These need to change if the US ever wishes to exit Afghanistan, and I think the bigger issues at hand will center on what will happen afterwards (particularly in Pakistan, where the spillover from the war has created many economic, social, and political ramifications).

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

Romney Promises to Revive Stealth Jet, But It Won’t Happen,” by David Axe. Wired, September 11, 2012.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been getting a lot of flak lately for his apparent inability to outline policy specifics—often from fellow Republicans. But let’s give credit where credit is due: In a September 8 interview, Romney said he would bolster the Air Force’s fleet of 187 operational F-22 Raptor jet fighters, among other military expansions. However, with the Department of Defense’s program termination and Lockheed Martin’s production operation since cancelled, it would be a few years and a few billion dollars before more of the aircraft could be put in the air. Now if only he’d tell us his big plans for creating jobs and slashing the national deficit.

Anna Robinson focuses on gender and sexuality.

NYCLU Study Shows Gaps, Inaccuracies and Bias in NY Sex Ed Instruction,” NYCLU, September 12, 2012.

The New York Civil Liberties Union released a report that reveals that the quality of sex education that New York students receive is "inaccurate, incomplete and biased," based on a study of the materials used in sex-ed instruction in eighty-two school districts. It highlights the importance of statewide guidelines, which are binding and ensure comprehensive information is imparted accurately.

Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.

Deadly poverty,” by Steve Bogira. Chicago Reader, August 22, 2012.

Steve Bogira's analysis of poverty and crime data finds that living in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods "should come with a surgeon general's warning." While we've long known homicide is higher in disadvantaged communities, research suggests poverty is the root of most health disparities, including heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses. As politicians continue to leave poverty out of the election conversation, the country's most segregated city shows the true price of ignoring such issues.

Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.

The Dividing of a Continent: Africa's Separatist Problem,” by Max Fisher. The Atlantic, September 10, 2012.

Max Fisher of The Atlantic has long been one of my go-to sources for compelling arguments about often overlooked points in international affairs. And, of course, this piece is no different. A necessary reminder of the destabilizing effects of foreign intervention and arbitrarily drawn borders, Africa's post-colonial legacy is still a major source of contention to date. However, the question remains whether further secession would alleviate or exacerbate internal fighting. In this balanced overview, Fisher carefully addresses some of that question's current complications.

Chicago Kids Supporting Teachers (Photos)

Major props to TimeOut Kids Chicago for a terrific slide show of children out on the picket lines supporting their teachers in Chicago. Check it out and send it around. It's a good antidote to those criticizing the strike on supposed behalf of the children.

"If you've spent any time around the various rallies and picket lines around the city, beyond the high-energy songs, chants and cheers, one thing has stuck out: A lot of kids are joining their teachers on the line. Some are obviously children of teachers, but just as obviously some are there on their own volition, supporting their teachers. We've collected our photos of these young protestors above. Go ahead, call 'em union thugs. We dare you."

Chicago Public School Teachers Out on Strike

More than 29,000 Chicago public school teachers and support staff went out on strike today after union leaders failed to reach an agreement with the nation’s third-largest school district over educational reforms sought by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Unresolved issues include the cost of health benefits, the makeup of the teacher evaluation system, the seniority system and job security. This morning, Democracy Now interviewed union leaders, teachers and parents about the strike and what it could portend.

Call for Ideas: StudentNation Gets a Fresh Coat of Paint

For the past five years, StudentNation has been a platform for voices from the millennial generation. Our blog has featured writing by high-school and college students, recent graduates, twenty-somethings and, less frequently than we'd like, people of college age not in school.

Recently, we’ve focused on the Occupy Colleges movement, global student protests against tuition hikes and austerity budgets, national curriculum battles and the politics of student journalism, and we've been delighted to be able to play a small role in amplifying the voices of young people in the critical debates of the day.

But we aspire to do much more. So, beginning this fall, StudentNation is expanding. We’ll be producing far more content, highlighting a wider range of voices and tapping into a broader scope of topics far beyond the specific interests of matriculating students.

Here’s where you come in: Since branding seems to be so important these days, we’re considering changing our name to better reflect the particular insight of not just students, but the generation for whom our coverage of student debt, national movements, university politics, exploitive internships and contemporary culture is immediately tangible. We’re very open to suggestions, so please post ideas for new names in the comments.

We’d also like to know what issues are important to you, and how we can better cover them. Who should be writing for us? What student and alternative publications should we partner with? What issues should we be covering? Use the comments field to let us know what you think.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

Occupy Colleges and SDS Join Forces

On August 19, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a national student group focused on anti-war efforts and student issues that re-emerged in 2006, formally approved a merger with Occupy Colleges.

A previous national vote by the Occupy Colleges National Assembly was followed by intense discussion and a corresponding vote by the National Working Committee of SDS, which resulted in an unanimous decision to band together. In partnership, the two groups produced a single organization with a shared pool of resources and common SDS identity.

Occupy Colleges chapters as they currently exist going into the upcoming school year have all been given a affiliate status within the national SDS network. Like SDS, Occupy chapters reserve full independence to make group decisions such as changing their names or becoming active members in the national committees. However, campus-based occupations have been encouraged to formally found SDS chapters with their own respective administrations.

Occupy Colleges co-facilitator Natalia Abrams spoke enthusiastically about the strength of the new collaboration and noted that “it was the dream of Occupy Colleges at our inception to join with SDS in order to strengthen the student movement.” Stephanie Taylor of the SDS National Working Committee added “this merger signifies not an end or a beginning to our respective local movements but rather a burgeoning of our critical, collective, national movement as students and youth. SDS has always stood as the largest multi-issue, multi-tendency progressive student organization in the country and we are excited to have Occupy Colleges officially join us—we know this is a positive advancement for the student movement at large.”

Details of upcoming campaigns will be discussed and plotted at the SDS national convention on October 26 at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

Censorship Battle Roils University of Georgia Student Paper

Student staff members of the University of Georgia’s newspaper, Red and Black, resigned recently following a decision by the administrative board to hire 10 full-time non-student staff members to edit and censor the publication.

Former student editor Polina Marinova released a statement on Facebook and Twitter explaining the reasons behind the walkout and defended the students’ protest against administrative censorship.  Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, recent University of GA graduate Andria Krewson explained that "the biggest threat to the students was the elevation of a professional editorial adviser to editorial 'director,' with the mission to edit and advise the students and approve content before publication." The changes were conveyed to Marinova, who had spent the summer interning at CNN, as a fait accompli, and the paper’s editorial director shared with her a poorly written draft memo from the consultant.

In the last two years, the student paper has shifted to online publication in order to communicate with “a generation which grew up with computers, cell phones and iPods” and currently only produces one print edition each week.

Krewson smartly sums up: "Perhaps the broader lessons going forward: Those who treasure the institutions that educated generations of journalists cannot let old structures ossify. More than 30 years ago, many of us felt we had solved the problems of independence for student voices when The Red and Black became independent of the university. Clearly, it’s a battle that needs to be fought time and again. We’ve been discussing it on an alumni Facebook group that grew from 165 members to more than 350 in three days, with concrete steps planned soon as well as watchful eyes. The whole thing is far from over."
 

Help End the Student Debt Crisis

Today, August 17th, Student Debt Crisis is teaming up with the crowd-funding site YouLobby.com with the goal of raising at least $100,000 to support struggling student  borrowers through individual one dollar donations.

 

 

This past March, working with student debt activist Robert Applebaum, Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) introduced H.R. 4170, The Student Loan Forgivness Act of 2012, a bill that offers significant relief for struggling student borrowers with both federal and private student loans. Student Debt Crisis and its followers have since petitioned nearly every member of Congress to co-sponsor the bill.

In July, Applebaum surpassed over one million signatures on the SignOn.org petition that he started in support of H.R. 4170 and two weeks later, he initiated a “Twitter-bomb” event, encouraging the Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) to “Listen to the Million” that have pledged their support for the bill. Within thirty minutes, #ListenToTheMillion was trending nationally on Twitter. Today, on August 17, Applebaum hopes to mobilize the millions once again.

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (8/16/12)

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

Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.

Paul Ryan Brings Fundraising Prowess to Romney Presidential Bid,” by Alina Selyukh, Alexander Cohen and Sam Forgione. Reuters, August 14, 2012.

For the last three months, Romney has outraised Obama. And the consensus among Washington insiders is that Romney’s VP pick will be a boon to his fundraising prowess, helping continue this trend in the run-up to the election. On Saturday, the Republican nominee announced his running mate to be Paul Ryan, whose Wisconsin congressional campaign is a top raiser this year. Reuters, as well as myriad pundits and journalists this week, said that Ryan is already energizing donors, especially in the securities and investment industry.

Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.

Going to Mississippi: If I Don’t, Who Will?” by Dr. Willie Parker, MD. The National Partnership for Women and Families, August 14, 2012.

We usually select reported pieces here, but this week the most important writing on gender and sexuality comes from a physician who travels to Mississippi to provide abortion care. His work is dangerous, contested and vital, but he returns because women deserve “what I want for myself: a life of dignity, health, self-determination, and the opportunity to excel and contribute.” Truly an incredible—and necessary—look at why the reproductive justice movement matters.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.

For Latinos, Anaheim gang sweep rubs riots’ wounds. Should police have waited?” by Schuyler Velasco. The Christian Science Monitor, August 14, 2012

Once again, the deep hostility of the Anaheim elite towards the Latinos that constitute a majority of the city’s population (yet not a single member of the city council) is demonstrated in this report of the gang sweep, where local community members were arrested on seemingly baseless suspicions. It’s obvious that the Anaheim police are well trained in counterinsurgency techniques—we know that the Pentagon has screenings of The Battle of Algiers—one has to ask if they are showing it in the Anaheim Police Department as well.

Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.

How the ‘Best Interest’ Bias of Family Court Threatens Immigrant Parents,” by Seth Freed Wessler. Colorlines, August 8, 2012

In sharing the story of Felipe Bautista Montes, whose three children were placed in the US foster care system after he was deported to Mexico following a series of traffic violations, Seth Freed Wessler reveals the troublesome double standards that plague family courts across the country. Conflating undocumented, detained, or deported with neglectful, abandoning and abusive, judges have frequently determined that it’s in the best interest of children to enter foster care or adoption in the United States rather than reunite with their parents—no matter how fit and willing they are. Thus the criteria changes for immigrant parents, with biases “about poor people, about undocumented people, about people of color and about what life must be like in other countries” shaping the judicial process. Granted temporary return to attend a hearing and strive for the custody of his kids, Montes, as Wessler reports, “has a fight before him.”

Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.

Wind Energy Tax Credit: More Hot Air or Key Job Creator?” by Meg Handley. U.S. News and World Report, August 14, 2012.

This story lays out what’s at stake if a President Romney were to let the wind tax credit expire. The tax credit, which has become a talking point in the presidential race, supports thousands of jobs and—in a time when anti-environment lawmakers are pushing for more oil and gas drilling—it’s a needed incentive for alternative energy production.

Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.

From Military Threats to Crippling Sanctions, U.S.-Israel Posturing on Iran Stokes Fears of War,” Amy Goodman. Democracy Now!, August 15, 2012.

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, discusses the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran before the year is out. Bennis notes that despite the fierce language and aggravating tone of certain Israeli political leaders, right-wing pundits in the United States, and some mainstream columnists, the military and intelligence leadership of both Israel and the US are staunchly against an attack on Iran by Israel. While the mainstream media inundate the public on a daily basis with news of the ‘immanent threat’ posed by Iran on Israel due to Iran’s insatiable quest for nuclear weapons, US intelligence agencies have come to an agreement that Iran doesn’t have a bomb and isn’t planning on making a bomb anytime soon. These facts are lost on people like Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who, according to scholar Trita Parsi, “has played a significant role in bringing the debate in this country to a hysterical level in which a lot of facts are just simply thrown out the window.” Bennis ominously concludes, “It is true that in the past, when Israel has preventively attacked Arab countries…it was after silence. It was not after this kind of public campaign, public ratcheting up of the war rhetoric…[but] I don’t think we can depend on those prior approaches to necessarily reflect what’s going on this time.”

Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.

Tweeting for Student Health Care Coverage,” by Leila Moore. The New York Times, August 3, 2012.

I recently watched the Frontline special from 2009 “Sick Around America” and it is (or now was) essentially a snapshot of our decrepit healthcare system with a focus on our nation’s so-called “insurance industry.” Many Americans pay into these companies in good faith so in the event that they do get sick, they will be covered. But much like the case reported in this blog with Arjit Guha, a doctoral student at Arizona State University, insurance companies find ways to elude their duties—their fundamental purpose, essentially—and end up leaving insurees out in the cold. Post-ACA, many of the issues confronting the youths in the aforementioned documentary and Guha will dissolve as the act’s reforms are implemented, such as: young people under the age of 26 being allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance plan, the elimination of coverage caps and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals based on pre-existing conditions. Specifically the first benefit regarding the under-26s gives students options, as many in years past were left with no health insurance after they graduated out of their school’s plan. In this economy and job market, with so many graduates already burdened by student loan debt, affordable—and, at the very least, dependable—healthcare is a necessity.

Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.

We’re Gonna Scapegoat Like It’s 1995: Welfare and the Never-Ending Lies of the American Right,” Tim Wise, August 11, 2012.

Anti-racist activist/writer Tim Wise reacts to the recent of Romney’s running mate by dispelling the racialized conservative belief that’s circulated since Reagan: that welfare recipients are “black and brown folks, eating bonbons and having babies out of wedlock, while salt-of-the-Earth white men break their backs and pay the taxes that help support them in their idleness.” Wise begins by confronting the fact that the number of Americans on welfare is at an all-time low—nowhere near the “over 100 million” Fox claims—and goes on to address the inaccuracy of the long-term welfare reliance myth as perpetuating a kind of culture of poverty based on character flaw rather than structural impediments to employment.

Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.

Obama vs. Poverty,” by Paul Tough. The New York Times Magazine, August 15, 2012.

At 23, President Obama went to a Chicago neighborhood, Roseland, looking to help those mired in poverty. When he left that community three years later, he felt that the only way to effect large-scale change was to collect power, power enough to change the way the government deals with poverty on an institutional level. While campaigning for president, he spoke frankly about poor people, and the injustice that ten of every ten children in the richest country on earth lived in poverty. Paul Tough explores the Obama administration’s approach to poverty and laments the fact that he no longer speaks about what was to be one of his major social initiatives.

Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.

Exxon Unit Investigates Oil Spill Near Nigeria Facility,” Reuters, August 15, 2012.

Exxon Mobil announced a new oil spill in the Niger Delta yesterday. The all-too-common occurance was discovered by fishermen whose fishing waters are now covered with a toxic film. There isn’t much known beyond the announcement now—there’s no word on how much is spilled, what environmental damage has been done, if people are hurt, etc. But with the US oil presence in Nigeria in the news for moment, it’s a good time to flag the fifty-year history of abuse by multinational oil companies in the region. A good place to begin is with the 2009 documentary Sweet Crude, a the well told story of Big Oil in the Niger Delta, and the local resistance to it. If you’ve ever wanted to know how protest struggles evolve to include guns, and how we come to see the side we see, here’s one way.

It is also a good time to bring up the poetry of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the poet and activist who was arrested and executed in 1995 after staging a nonviolent movement against Royal Dutch Shell’s ecological destruction of Ogoniland.

Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.

Is the Taliban wearing out its welcome in Afghanistan?” by Tom A. Peter. The Christian Science Monitor, August 15, 2012.

Fifty-four percent of Libyans approve of America’s leadership, no doubt residual feelings from the support the United States gave to rebels who deposed Muammar Qadaffi. The unprecedented level of goodwill is not, however, matched in Iraq: approval of the US was at 29 percent. Though, the level of violence is at its lowest level in Iraq since 2003, infrastructure is developing, and GDP and oil production are flourishing. The acclaimed support given to Libya could be a model for assisting and arming Syrian rebels shaking free from Assad. If Obama assists Syria, supports electoral politics in Iraq and an improvement of relations with Turkey, encourages civil society in Afghanistan—whose population is disgusted by Islamists—and does not betray its efforts in Libya, his contribution to assisting a new Middle East will be significant in comparison to the bungling of the Bush years.

Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.

Ecuador Grants Asylum to Assange, Angering Britain,” by Alessandra Prentice and Eduardo Garcia. Reuters, August 16, 2012.

Ecuador has granted Julian Assange asylum. The UK has threatened to enter the Ecuadorean embassy to apprehend Assange. Ecuador asserts that it is not a British colony and that such a course of action would be considered a “hostile act.” Last night, WikiLeaks reported that, “UK police have penetrated interior fire escape and foyer of Ecuador embassy building (but not yet the embassy, proper).” Storming the Ecuadorean embassy would cause a serious dilemma for US foreign policy architects. Do they steadfastly stand by an ally who flagrantly and dramatically violates international norms? Or do they hold Britain to the same standard as, say Iran—a nation that drew public condemnation from the US for not protecting the UK embassy from being stormed by protesters last year? In any case, it sure seems like Britain is going through a lot of trouble for someone wanted for “questioning.”

WATCH: Video Chat on Voting Rights with Brentin Mock, Aura Bogado and Ari Berman

Editor's Note: Readers can replay the video chat below.

From the recently upheld voter ID law in Pennsylvania to purges of voter rolls in New Mexico to state challenges to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the last few years have seen a proliferation of state laws that threaten to disenfranchise millions of voters. Passed under the guise of combating the virtually nonexistent problem of voter fraud, the laws target poor people, people of color, the elderly and students, and threaten to roll back the clock on voting rights in ways not seen since before the civil rights era. Activists and voting rights advocates are fighting back, but what will the landscape look like this November and going forward? What is the future of the Voting Rights Act? And what effect would proposed reforms, such as a national id card, have on guaranteeing the right to vote for historically disenfranchised communities?

On Thursday, August 23rd at 12 PM EST readers are invited to join us for The Nation.com’s first ever live video chat. Organized in partnership with Colorlines.com as part of our Voting Rights Watch 2012 series, the chat will feature Nation reporters Brentin Mock, Aura Bogado and Ari Berman. All three have reported extensively on voting rights, including on the voter suppression group True the Vote, discrepancies in the numbers of ID-less residents cited by the state of Pennsylvania and efforts to end early voting in Ohio.  After a discussion amongst our panelists, we’ll invite you—our readers—to submit your best questions and comments.

Readers are encouraged to RSVP and sign up for a reminder email in the chat box below. While anyone can watch the chat, you will need to be signed into Spreecast, Twitter or Facebook to submit questions. We hope to see you on Thursday, August 23rd for a lively discussion!

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (8/9/12)

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

Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.

Record Spending by Obama’s Camp Shrinks Coffers,” by Nicholas Confessore and Jo Craven McGinty. The New York Times, August 4, 2012.

The New York Times reports that Obama has spent more campaign money more quickly than any American president. His cash advantage over Romney has vanished and, in part because of this early spending, most believe it will never return. For the third month in a row, Obama has raised less than the Republicans, burgeoning bipartisan speculation that early donations have shrunk democratic coffers. Romney’s camp believes Obama spent too much too quickly and will thus not be able to raise a sufficient monthly allotment of cash. But Team Obama insists their money has been used to build country wide grass roots programs, whose dividends will be bountiful come election day.

Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.

For Women in Street Stops, Deeper Humiliation,” by Wendy Ruderman. The New York Times, August 6, 2012.

Though the anti-Stop & Frisk movement has admirably shed light on the policy and put the NYPD on watch, many activists and journalists have presented the program as one only targeting black and Latino men. This picture does not account for the sexual harassment that populations like gender non-conforming people and women experience at the hand of Stop & Frisk. "Last year, New York City police officers stopped 46,784 women, frisking nearly 16,000," Ruderman reports in this important piece, supplementing her research with women's experiences of sexual violation and trauma.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.

Mosques, Temples, and Theaters: We Need to Change the Script,” by Falguni Sheth. Translation Exercises, August 7, 2012.

In this brilliant summation of the media response to the series of domestic traumas we have experienced of late, Falguni Sheth weaves the white supremacy of everyday life in the United States to the massive state violence of the last decade to point out that deranged gunmen and white male violence are quickly becoming, once again, essential to the national character.

Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.

Is Texas’ Death Penalty Machine Executing the Mentally Disabled?” by Renee Feltz. The Texas Observer, August 8, 2012.

54 year-old Marvin Wilson was put to death in Texas on Tuesday, a saddening event and distressing reminder of how our criminal justice system deals with mental health issues among prisoners, from treatment while incarcerated (see a piece on a pending case here) to the standards used to identify defendants’ intellectual disabilities and sentence accordingly. In an affront to the Supreme Court’s Atkins v. Virginia decision, which reasoned that mentally retarded defendants were less culpable for crimes and less capable of mounting an effective defense, Texas moved ahead with the execution of a man diagnosed as mentally retarded by a board-certified specialist. The criteria used by state courts to identify mental disability is resoundingly unscientific, going as far as to rely on fictitious models of intellectual impairment such as Lennie Small from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to establish whether defendants should be subject to the death penalty. Condemning Tuesday’s events, Steinbeck’s son commented: “My father was a highly gifted writer who won the Nobel prize for his ability to create art about the depth of the human experience and condition. His work was certainly not meant to be scientific, and the character of Lennie was never intended to be used to diagnose a medical condition like intellectual disability.”

Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.

What the Mars Rover Can Tell Us About Climate Change,” by James West. Mother Jones, August 7, 2012.

This article points out one simple fact: you can't test out hypotheses about climate change on the Earth. So, unlike a science experiment in which you can adjust the variable to see the effect, you can't increase carbon emissions quickly to see how badly it damages the Earth just to prove that climate change is happening. This is where Curiosity comes in, which will study how carbon flows through Mars, and therefore help us learn more about our own planet.

Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.

White Terrorism at Oak Creek: The Paranoid Style in American Violence,” by Juan Cole. Informed Comment, August 6, 2012.

Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, analyzes the Oak Creek shooting and observes the connection between the Islamaphobic shooter, a culture of anti-Muslim hate in the US, and American foreign policy. Cole's piece is powerful and charged. He condemns neoconservative anti-Muslim bigots and claims that the actions of the racist shooter cannot be understood without analyzing the pervasive Islamophobia that has plagued US discourse. He observes, "Did Michele Bachmann, Peter King, Daniel Pipes and the others cause the Wisconsin shootings? No. Did they create an intellectual and cultural atmosphere that naturalized such violence against the supposed Other? Well, Bachmann publicly alleged that a minor aide to Hillary Clinton of Pakistani heritage is at the center of a vast infiltration of the American government by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. You decide."

Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.

City Wages War on Scam For-Profits,” by Jessica Campbell. The Village Voice, August 8, 2012.

We've all seen Garvin Gittens' face before—he's that guy sitting on a stoop in those subway ads with a caption about how he attended a for-profit college. However—for those of you who didn't finish reading the ad—it's not another true life success story imploring you to call the number below: Gittens came out of the Katharine Gibbs School with $25,000 in debt and a worthless degree to boot. The ad is actually part of the "Know Before You Enroll" campaign backed by Consumer Affairs, the Mayor's Office of Adult Education, the Office of Economic Empowerment and NYC Service encouraging awareness among prospective students, as well as victims of predatory institutions to come forward and tip off 311 about their experiences. The article goes on to reveal more of Gittens' story, as well as the efforts by legislators and the city in their crackdown of the industry. In light of the recent report by Sen. Tom Harkin, it's heartening to know that there are officials paying attention to the dangers of for-profit colleges in their current form and are in the process of providing more regulation, transparency and liability in the industry. It's still in its early days yet, but the campaign is definitely a step in the right direction.

Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.

Hate Crimes Always Have A Logic: On The Oak Creek Gurudwara Shootings,” by Hasha Walia. Racialicious, August 6, 2012.

Harsha Walia's piece begins by dispelling any notion that the Oak Creek shooting was random or senseless rather than a racist hate crime operating through the deliberate logic of white supremacy. "White supremacy, as a dominant and dominating structuring, actually necessitates and relies on a discourse that suggests that hate crimes are random," Walia writes. Some have commented on Oak Creek's media coverage in the context of Aurora's, as well as the white privilege afforded these gunmen when their actions aren't seen as reflective of their race (after Aurora, Chauncey Devega called for a "national conversation about the ties between (white) masculinity and violence.") Walia explores gunman Wade Page's involvement with neo-Nazi groups, as well as with the US Army. By looking at white supremacy as endemic to our nation's institutions—from immigration laws to healthcare, housing, education, labor and so on—Walia's piece asks that readers confront the institutionalized culture that makes hate crimes like Oak Creek possible, even probable, in contemporary America. 

Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.

NYPD and Microsoft launch advanced citywide surveillance system,” by Paul Harris. The Guardian, August 8, 2012.

Looks like the city of New York has gotten into the business of developing domestic spying software. The program, called "Domain Awareness System" will be used and licensed by the city of New York, which looks to turn a tidy profit when other cities purchase the system. Remember when cities use to tax and use traditional bonds to make money? Not anymore, now you can exchange the civil liberties of your population for raw profit.

Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.

State's 'Medical Gag Rule' Called An Illegal Gift to Gas Drillers,” by Erin McCauley. Courthouse News Service, July 31, 2012.

While technically last week's news, this story has attracted hardly any press. In Pennsylvania, a doctor is suing the state for the 'medical gag rule' it imposed this year on fracking chemicals protected by trade secret law. In a quiet 2012 amendment to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, the state ruled that if a person comes in contact with fracking fluid and is treated for a medical emergency, the doctor treating them is allowed to obtain the confidential chemical identities, but he or she cannot disclose them to anyone, including the patient. The physician bringing the case calls the rule, which carries a punishment of license suspension for an offending doctor, a "gross and content-based intrusion" on First Amendment speech. It calls back memories of the Colorado nurse who suffered organ failure after handling fracking fluid-splashed clothing in 2008. She was unable to discover the chemical identities of the fluid, and it took weeks for the doctor treating her to find out.

This is all in light of a law signed by Obama in May that gave significant ground to fracking companies regarding trade secrets: whereas the Bureau of Land Management's draft of the rules would require fracking companies to disclose (some of) the contents of its fluid before beginning to drill, Obama's recent legislation lets them disclose it after they've finished.

Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.

Afghan civilian casualties drop for first time in 5 years – report,” by Jennifer Rowland. Foreign Policy, August 8, 2012.

Numbers ahead: Be strong! A United Nations report on Afghanistan states that between January 1 and June 30 of 2012, conflict-related violence resulted in 3,099 civilian deaths. (For perspective, this is about how many people die in the US from food poisoning each year.) But with a U.S. military that is handing over more responsibility to unprepared Afghan forces, the next 16 months will be more important. The UN says that 90% of the deaths came from the record number of spectacle-seeking attacks by the Taliban while only 10% are caused by pro-government forces. But what about drones? According to the ACLU, since 2002, drone strikes have killed 4,000 people—a rough average of about 400 people per year, a significant number of them civilians. (Again, for perspective, 9,146 people died from gun violence in America in 2009 according to the UNODC.) Drones have struck Pakistan 75 times in 2011 and killed around 126 civilians. How about U.S. soldier deaths? Here's a sample of those numbers: Between 2002 and 2006 there were 7,901 total military deaths. But 34% (2,688) were considered "accidents," many of which were NOT combat-related. 33% (2,593) were from hostile fire and 10% (820) were self-inflicted.

Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.

When philosophers join the kill chain,” by Mark LeVine. Al Jazeera, August 8, 2012.

Recently, the website of the Guardian featured the views of philosopher, Bradley Strawser, regarding the practicality and moral righteousness of drone warfare. Mark Levine responds to Strawser in this article, arguing against the philosopher's rosy portrayal of these high-tech instruments of war. The article can best be described as a comprehensive knockout blow. Levine tackles everything from Strawser's disregard for legal norms to the credibility of the evidence used to support the philosopher's arguments.

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