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StudentNation

Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

Shut Up. Raise the Debt Ceiling

Washington is obsessed with the debt ceiling. Barack Obama and John Boehner are dueling debt solutions over prime time networks. Barack Obama is making one last vain attempt to convince the American people of their potential for greatness. John Boehner is belittling and refuting each of his solutions. No one is reaching an agreement. 

Americans, particularly young Americans are tired of the noise. We just want to be and stay employed. 

This video was produced by the Roosevelt Campus Network, an invaluable student policy organization that engages new generations in a unique form of progressive activism that empowers young people as leaders and promotes their ideas for change. 

Students Take On ALEC

This post was originally published by Campus Progress and is being reposted with permission.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may be an under-the-table operation, but when activists young and old are willing to lift up that high-thread-count tablecloth and take a look, we won’t let ALEC get away with it for long. 

The bite-size version of the semi-hidden story is this: ALEC, an organization backed by high-power corporations including Wal-Mart and Exxon-Mobil and funded by right-wing donors, has been scheming with state legislators to write and lobby for “model legislation,” which said legislators then push through the lawmaking process. In short, corporations have been sneaking their way into the formal legislative process. ALEC’s efforts have resulted in high-profile and highly controversial bills, such as racist anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona, anti-union bills in Wisconsin, and anti-environmental and anti-woman bills in states across the country. In March, Campus Progress revealed that ALEC played a major role in the spate of “voter ID” legislation that President Clinton and many others have identified as extremely racist and the most abominable efforts toward disenfranchisement since the Jim Crow laws.

Campus Progress and other progressive organizations are working to expose the real story behind ALEC and its members, but the most inspiring tales come from local efforts like one in New Orleans. On August 5, the Student Labor Action Project at Louisiana State University is coordinating with other activists from the area to protest at the group’s plush, exorbitant annual summit in an effort to hold them accountable for their actions.

“We hope…to not only fight back against these attacks on working families but also to strike forward a new path of progress,” an organizer of the protest Mark Mendoza said. “We must begin to form a united front of pro-worker interests that can offer a viable and independent political movement of the working class.”

For more information on this upcoming event, visit the group’s website.

How can YOU support the movement?

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important (and Undercovered) Stories

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 Monday, and please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio:

Police brushes spark concern among Madrid officials fearing 15-M anarchy.” El País, 7/13/11.

Accompanying video.

Kevin Donohoe (web):

“Federal Judges Are Retiring At Twice The Rate New Judges Are Being Confirmed,” by Ian Millhiser. Think Progress, 7/18/11.

Carmen García:

California's Hidden Hunger Strike.” Los Angeles Times, 7/20/11.

And “Inmate Health Dwindles as Prison Hunger Strike Enters Fourth Week,” by Jorge Rivas. Colorlines, 7/19/11.

Sahiba Gill:

Do I Make a Difference?,” by Shelly Kagan. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 7/14/11.

Daniel Judt:

Here Everything is Poison,” by J. Malcolm Garcia and Darren McCollester. Virginia Quarterly Review, Fall 2010.

Marc Kilstein:

US Claims of ‘No Civilian Deaths’ in Pakistan Drone Strikes is Untrue,” by Chris Woods. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 7/18/11.

Shelby Kinney-Lang:

Tribune Outsources Local Journalism Jobs to Chicago,” by Dan Kennedy. Media Nation, 7/11/11.

The post contains a link that Shelby pointed out in particular:

More advocate layoffs.” New Haven Independent, 7/8/11.

Anna Lekas Miller (web):

The Lobbyist File: Doug Johnson,” by Nick Baumann. Mother Jones, July/August 2011.

Zach Newkirk (DC):

The GOP's Perverse Debt Default Incentive,” by Steve Kornacki. Salon, 7/18/11.

Natasja Sheriff:

Fishery Refrom Slips Through the Net,” by Rainer Froese. Nature News, 7/6/11.

Britney Wilson:

Using the Death Penalty to Get Re-Elected,” by Sherrilyn A. Ifill. The Root, 7/20/11.

Youth Vote Faces Challenges With Voter ID Legislation

Voter fraud is an “epidemic.” It supposedly abounds, stealing elections from rightful candidates and places losers into unearned elected office. Republican dominated statehouses across the country are “combating” this problem through strict voter ID legislation, where a government-issued photo identification is required in order to vote. Seven states have already enacted legislation requiring state-issued photo ID at the polls and many more are pending.

One of the states, Wisconsin, enacted what Milwaukee Common Council Alderwoman Milele Coggs accurately called “the most restrictive voter ID legislation in the country.” It requires photo IDs issued by the state or federal government and only allows a forgetful voter's provisional ballot to count if they return within three days with a proper ID.

College students are some of the unintended—or intended—citizens affected by the law. They broke for Barack Obama in 2008 by an astonishing 38 points and remained loyal to Democrats in 2010 by wide margins.

The Wisconsin law does allow limited student IDs to be used as valid identification at the polls — but only those student IDs with signatures and expiration dates within two years on them. But IDs issued by the University of Wisconsin System to its 182,000 students do not have signatures. And no university has such an ID with expiration dates within two years, Heather Smith, the president of the young voter advocacy group Rock the Vote explained to The Nation

Students would also have to jump through hoops to prove that they are current students, especially difficult for those living off-campus and those who must move every year among campus dormitories. The obstacles "start to feel intentional after awhile,” Smith said.

In Texas, student IDs are unacceptable forms of identification under the voter suppression law recently signed by Governor Rick Perry. On the other hand, concealed handgun licenses are valid.

Even having valid IDs from another state may not be enough. For the more than 40,000 out-of-state students in the University of Wisconsin system, the law “require[s] us to go to the DMV, surrender our out-of-state licenses and obtain a Wisconsin license at $28 a pop,” wrote one Wisconsin undergraduate on the Rock the Vote Blog. A state-issued voter ID card is technically free but it may take money and time to produce the proper documentation such as a birth certificate.

Access to the DMV is limited in states like Wisconsin, Smith said. Three of Wisconsin’s 72 counties—Buffalo, Menominee and Verno —don’t even have a DMV office and other single offices serve counties with hundreds of thousands of people. 

 The practice of requiring government-issued photo ID was controversial until 2008, when the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board. The law requires a photo ID with an expiration date and must be issued by the federal or state government. For out-of-state students in Indiana, having a home state drivers license, Social Security card and voter registration card wasn’t enough to be able to vote.

One dissenter to the Court’s decision, Justice Stephen Breyer, observed that attaining a driver’s license or passport costs much more than a poll tax did, a Jim Crow practice found unconstitutional in 1966. Justice David Souter rightly concluded that “the law imposes an unreasonable and irrelevant burden on voters who are poor and old.”

Yet that burden continues to spread nationwide in Republican-held statehouses.

Millions of Americans don’t even have the proper ID for these new laws, according to one study. “As many as 11 percent of United States citizens—more than 21 million individuals—do not have government-issued photo identification,” the study found, including nearly one-fifth of Americans over the age of 65 and one quarter of African-American voting-age citizens.

The shrill cries about voter fraud are regular tactics used by Republicans to limit the voting rights of unfriendly groups. As The Nation’s John Nichols has reported, the American Legislative Exchange Council’s corporate-friendly agenda has funneled money—and people—into voter suppression efforts. Wisconsin State Rep. Robin Vos, for example, chairs the state’s ALEC and co-sponsored the legislation that ushered in the law.

Allegations about voter fraud remain a great pretext to enact what one Pennsylvania lawmaker calls “a solution in search of a problem.” Indeed, another study by the Brennan Center for Justice describes voter fraud claims to be “greatly exaggerated” and notes that the push for photo ID requirements “address[es] a sort of voter fraud more rare than death by lightning.” In the 2004 presidential election, for example, there were seven cases of voter fraud —or 0.0002 percent of the nearly 3 million ballots cast in Wisconsin that year. All seven were persons with felony convictions. “None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls,” the article concludes. And Department of Justice investigations were reported to have found “virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections.”

Public officials see through these GOP plans to suppress the vote. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, along with several other members of Congress and Reverend Jesse Jackson, held a press conference in July. “If, in fact, we are going to have a society that involves all of its citizens, we cannot allow for these kinds of bills to be passed by legislature after legislature after legislature,” she said.

At a Campus Progress conference in July, former president Bill Clinton said “there has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.” Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in June characterized Republicans as those “who want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally—and very transparently—block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republican candidates.” (Emphasis hers.)

Senator Michael Bennet submitted a letter to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation into these laws. “As far as America’s civil rights trajectory is concerned, that sort of effect takes America in the wrong direction,” he wrote. The letter was cosigned by 15 of Bennet’s Senate colleagues, all Democrats.

Despite efforts to curb the vote, some activists remain positive. “Don’t let them stop you. They’re trying to keep you from voting and let’s show up at the polls and show them we can participate,” Smith told The Nation.

“This is a democracy and we take our right to vote seriously. We won’t be stopped.” 

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important (and Undercovered) Stories

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 Monday, and please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio:
Academic Purgatory: An Illegal Immigrant Earns a Ph.D. Now What?,” by Ilan Stavans. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6/26/11.

Kevin Donohoe:
State Pulling Out of Oil Spill Command Team,” by John Adams. The Lowdown, 7/7/11.

Carmen García:
Mexicans No Longer Immigrating to US? (What Will Xenophobes Freak Out About Now?),” by Joshua Holland. Guernica, 7/12/11.

Sahiba Gill:
Authoritarian Deliberation: The Deliberative Turn in Chinese Political Development,” by Baogang He and Mark E. Warren. Perspectives on Politics, June 2011.

Daniel Judt:
As Income Gap Balloons, Is It Holding Back Growth?,” by NPR staff. NPR, 7/10/11.

Marc Kilstein:
Investigate Bush, Other Top Officials for Torture: Inquiry into 2 Deaths in CIA Custody Insufficient,” press release for HRW report, “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees.” Human Rights Watch, 7/11/11.

Shelby Kinney-Lang:

The 3 Missing Pieces for Google+ to Become an Influential News Platform,” by Jeff Sonderman. Poynter, 7/1/11.

Anna Lekas Miller:
Israel Passes Law Banning Settler Boycotts.” Al Jazeera, 7/12/11.
NARAL Pro-Choice New York Statement on Court Ruling on New York City Law Regulating Crisis Pregnancy Centers.” NARAL, 7/13/11.

Zach Newkirk:
Pro-Voucher Tea Party Group Admits It Wants To ‘Shut Down Public Schools And Have Private Schools Only,’” by Zaid Jilani. Think Progress, 7/11/11.

Natasja Sheriff:
Rare Earth Elements May Affect Future Global Relations,” by Alastair Leithead. BBC News, 7/11/11.

Britney Wilson:
The State of Urban Farming: It isn't Easy Being Black and Green,” by Courtney Balestier. TheGrio.com, 7/11/11.

The Oxford Comma-otion

“Who gives a [insert expletive] about an Oxford comma,” asked the Vampire Weekend boys in 2008, shocking many an English teacher and publishing industry professional. Now, three years later, the usefulness of the oxford comma (also known as the serial comma) has come into question again. Let me preface this article by assuaging your worried souls: despite rumours to the contrary, the Oxford comma is not dead.

On Wednesday last week news that the Oxford style guide had declared that the Oxford comma as a “general rule” should be avoided went viral faster than Usain Bolt. The official entry read:

As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used —especially where one of the items in the list is already joined by ‘and’:

Later, however, the news was amended. Indeed, the OUP has cited irreconcilable differences and severed ties with the Oxford comma —but for the purposes of press releases only. The Oxford comma will continue to be used in all other publishing matters and there will be no changes made to the century-old style (much to the chagrin of the notorious punctuation mark’s adversaries).

Indeed, no other punctuation mark has seen such levels of fame. No semicolon, tilde or hyphen has a hipster ode dedicated to it. And no parenthesis’, ellipsis’ or semi-colons have inspired Eastcoast-Westcoast rap-battle style Twitterverse showdowns. So, as proverbial villagers wield torches at the door of the house of the superfluous comma, the question begs to be asked: who really does give a [insert expletive] about the oxford comma?

Turns out, there are quite a few willing to give an [insert expletive], dog, cat, and gold coin —and rightfully so.

I, a lady, writer and, maker-of-serial-lists for one am part of this liberal and plentiful domain.

Joining me are the good people at Columbia University’s Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma group who aren’t taking lightly to the decision by the “upstart group of riffraff calling itself “The Associated Press” [which] has decided that the Oxford comma become obsolete. These folks have gone ahead and pledged to “dedicate their lives to the defense of the comma that separates the penultimate item in a list from the conjunction.”

All I’m saying is: there’s a pretty big difference between “Meet my wife, my lover, and my best friend” and “Meet my wife, my lover and, best friend.” And as anyone who has tried jotting down a long list would know, chaos can ensue without the help of our good comma friend.

So to all those vainglorious copyeditors out there, don’t be so quick to abrogate the practice of Oxford comma-fying. True, the practice is a tricky one and, as some would argue, an unnecessary and tedious one only serving to slow down the always-seminal reader.

But how the ‘and’ between a list of items can be expected to act as honorary comma baffles me. Allow me to pose a hypothetical situation. Have a list of three or more items? Let’s refer to the image below and use: eggs, toast, and orange juice.

Really now —can I not rest my case that the venerable institution of the Oxford comma is a bare necessity?

But I’m just the writer at the mercy of my copy editor…and my complaints —they’ll just go to waste. So really, who gives a [insert expletive] about the writer? 

Work Smarter, Not Harder: The Debate Over Homework

In an era when many schoolchildren are “waiting for superman” to save them from the inadequacies of the education system, some people seem to think that students are working too hard.

The New York Times recently wrote an article detailing one New Jersey school district’s impending decision to join several other schools across the country in reducing the amount of homework assigned to students. The article suggests ten minutes of homework per night beginning with first graders and increasing at ten minute increments for each successive grade level, with no homework on weekends, school holidays, or extended breaks.

The argument is that young students are being overworked and overwhelmed at the expense of their social development and the carefree lifestyle that is supposed to be associated with childhood. Some educational experts also believe that too much homework can hinder, rather than help, students’ learning experiences. According to the research cited on www.stophomework.com, a website created by Sara Bennett who co-wrote the book The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It, in countries like Greece and Thailand students are assigned a lot of homework and perform worse on “achievement tests” in comparison to places like Japan and Denmark where students receive little homework and perform better on these tests.

Studies also show that students are more sedentary, getting less sleep, and reporting more experiences of anxiety than schoolchildren in the past. All of these occurrences are being at least partially attributed to increased amounts of homework.

But there's another side. While homework can sometimes be mechanical, excessive, and lack an obvious objective, one cannot deny some benefits. How many people would have learned their multiplication tables without at least some rote memorization or done those math worksheets they hated so much if they weren't required?

As a child, whenever I complained about my homework, my mother always said that she had her job and that school was mine. Stressed or not, it is the only real responsibility many children have.

Maybe students shouldn’t have to spend their entire evening on these tasks, but how much can they really accomplish in ten minutes? No student wants to spend his or her entire winter break doing homework, but how much information will be retained if no work has been done in the interim?

Some students don’t do the three hours of homework they are assigned, so what portion of their reduced assignments will they do? Also, just because students are doing less homework doesn’t mean that they are sleeping more or being more physically active. Would we prefer students spend hours playing Call of Duty or reading Call of the Wild

Homework time cannot be streamlined any more than student performance can. Rather than focusing on time quantity, education officials should focus on the quality of homework assignments in order to ensure that students are practicing skills that address their individual needs in the most beneficial manner possible, no matter how long it takes.

This article is also featured on the HOPE Scholarship blog

Nation Interns' Top Summer Books

It wouldn't be possible to publish The Nation without the critical help of our peerless interns. Their energy, passion, ideas and engagement are reflected in print each week and virtually hourly at thenation.com. We also rely on our interns to tell us what's hip, what music we should be listening to, and what hot new authors we should be considering. Now, we're sharing the knowledge by asking our interns to tell us what they're reading this summer and why.

Natasja Sheriff, Carnforth (Lancashire, UK)
The Stone Raft by José Saramago
I'm reading The Stone Raft by José Saramago. I'm enjoying the absurdity of the story (the Iberian Peninsular breaks away from the European continent) and the lyricism of the prose, both of which are very reminiscent of Latin American magical realism.

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Ridgewood, NY
Working in the Shadows by Gabriel Thompson
I'm reading Gabriel Thompson's Working in the Shadows. Thompson spends a year working alongside immigrants in a lettuce field, a poultry plant, and a Manhattan restaurant in order to understand what's at stake when we talk about immigration reform at the level of labor. It's a really solid book with an endlessly engaging narrative. Because I'm sympathetic to the issue at hand, I'm not surprised to find myself responding viscerally to some of the passages, but I often imagine a different kind of reader--someone against reform, who is perhaps prepared to respond viscerally in a wholly different way--responding in kind because Thompson presents politics as a matter of basic human decency.

Sahiba Gill, Canton, Ohio
The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848 by Eric Hobsbawm
I'm reading Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848. For anyone puzzling over what governments and societies will emerge from the Arab Spring, this sweeping 1962 account of the transformation of the West through the French and Industrial revolutions is a reminder that it was economic and societal shifts - not barricades and pamphlets (the precursors to Twitter and Facebook) that produced democracy as we recognize it today.

Carmen Garcia, Vista, CA
2666 by Roberto Bolaño
I'm reading 2666, by Roberto Bolaño. It's intriguing and fabulously unsettling.

Britney Wilson, Brooklyn, NY
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
I'm reading Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable. I honestly can't say whether I like it or not, but I appreciate Marable's attempt to delve deeper than the legend of Malcolm X in order to discover who he was and what he was about from a somewhat more objective angle. I'm very interested in African-American history and social movements, and Malcolm X is definitely an important figure to me, so I find the book interesting and informative, not just because of the information it provides, about Malcolm, but also because of the information it provides about African-American and American history in general.

Anna Lekas Miller, Bay Area, California
Intern Nation: How To Earn Northing and Learn Little in this Brave New Universe by Ross Perlin
A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance by Mary Elizabeth King
I just finished Ross Perlin's Intern Nation: How To Earn Nothing and Learn Little in this Brave New Universe which makes me shake my head at unpaid internship culture --and be grateful that I'm at The Nation. I'm moving on to A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance to get into the spirit for Flotilla 2!

Marc Kilstein, Pennington, NJ
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
An important, well-written, and accessible behind-the-scenes look at the financial crisis. While Lewis' compelling tale provides great insight into the causes of the crisis, perhaps the book's greatest strength is its thriller-esque presentation.

Zachary Newkirk, Gainesville, Florida
So Damn Much Money by Robert Kaiser
Earmarks, lobbying and exorbitant campaign donations are a regular part of campaigning and governing today. But up until the late 1970s they were rare and almost unheard of until idealists-turned-lobbyists Gerald Cassidy and Kenneth Schlossberg came along and earmarks became a regular part of appropriations, indeed of modern American governing. Robert Kaiser's entertaining and readable portrayal of Gerry Cassidy's rise to one of Washington's top lobbyists sheds light on the largely secret world of lobbying and offers new light and insight on how money truly runs Washington.

Shelby Kinney, Laramie, WY
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror by John Ashbery
John Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror is a book of poems as enjoyable as it is mystifying. Ashbery reveals nothing. His syntax often abruptly reconsiders itself. He truncates time in the name of metaphysics while dragging you into a world where body precedes soul. I've been re-reading the title poem like a mantra, though the "meaning of the music" might be that there isn't any at all.

Kevin Donohoe, North Hampton, New Hampshire
Political Fictions
by Joan Didion
In a series of probing essays, Didion shows how a small political class obsessed with "the process" and suburban, white voters have made our politics narrow and shallow — and discouraged millions of Americans from voting. Though much has changed since Political Fictions was originally published more than a decade ago, one of Didion's arguments -- that politics is driven by the stories the Washington elite invents about itself   -- remains hauntingly true today.

We love this list, but we really want to know what you're reading! Where better to turn for book suggestions than Nation readers, whom surveys tell us read, on average, one new book a week!  We're hoping to tap this collective literacy and publish a recommended reading list of reader selections. So, whether it's light beach reading or dystopian sci-fi more appropriate for a penniless staycation, please tell us what you're reading this summer.

Saudi Women Accelerating Towards Change

“The rain starts from a single drop”— Manal al-Sharif, Saudi women’s rights activist

In 1997 my family began packing the contents of our life in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in preparation for our move across the pond to the frigid and free slab of rock, Canada.

One night, shortly before we were scheduled to leave, we drove out of the city deep in to the desert for a picnic, a common activity for those seeking refuge from the sweltering Arabian heat. But this picnic was different. My sister and I sat in quiet confusion in the back as my mum and dad switched seats. My mum at the wheel — something we’d never seen before - began accelerating and slowly moving forward.

In preparation for our big move, my dad had deemed it necessary that once in Canada my mum act as a fully functioning and contributing citizen by wholly participating in Canadian society. Being able to get herself and her two daughters safely around the city was an essential task and a requirement, as far as my dad was concerned.

As my mum began to carefully get the hang of the mechanics of the car, my sister and I also began to absorb what we were witnessing.

Here we were: In a car with a woman at the wheel driving in the darkened desert. And even though, we’d never seen anything like it, we quickly internalized that this would be the norm, part of the many prerequisites leading up to the drastic change known as immigration.

But, as police sirens went off behind us, all novelty and excitement temporarily abated.

My dad quickly attempted to explain our intentions. You see, we were moving to a country where this was almost a necessity. He wished to train his wife in the basic skills of self-mobility. The police officer offered us a curious smile, wished us luck, requested that we obey the law and left us sighing in relief in the middle of the Arabian desert.

Until recently this memory had made its home in the deep recesses of my subconscious. But the memory resurfaced on May 21st when Manal al-Sharif, a 32-year-old women’s rights activist, was detained, released and detained once again — all for daring to drive in the theocratic and authoritarian country of Saudi Arabia.

In late May, al-Sharif started a Facebook campaign called Women2Drive, urging women to get behind the wheel on June 17th and take to the streets, quite literally. Al-Sharif posted a video of herself driving in the city of Khobar, with friend Wajeha al-Huwaider behind the camera. The video posted on Youtube quickly generated 600, 000 views.

Since then there has been a modest-in-size yet daring group of women who have taken to the roads as well as to the Internet, proudly and loudly advocating for their basic right.

It is interesting to note that there are no specific traffic laws restricting women from driving.

Instead, the prohibition stems from fatwas (religious edicts) handed down by Islamic clerics which along with restricting women from driving also limit them from obtaining passports, travelling out of the country and going to school without their mahrams (an Islamically-recognized male guardian).

Up until the early ‘90s there was no hard and fast ban against women taking to the wheel. But in 1991, 47 women drove cars through the streets of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, after which an official legislation was introduced. Simultaneously, these women were jailed for a day, had their passports confiscated and many lost their jobs.

Now, two decades later, as women once again are defying authority and driving, mixed reactions are being reported. Many women claim to have whizzed past, completely ignored, by law enforcement authorities. Others are tweeting a different story - one in which they are ticketed and in some extreme cases detained by soldiers and escorted back home.

Those of us, the global bystanders on the sidelines who are anxiously waiting to see how this modest protest movement will pan out, are probably most baffled by just how the House of al-Saud thinks it can so severely restrict and limit its women —a demographic comprising a hefty fifty percent of its population.

King Abdullah, reigning monarch, is noted for having said women in Saudi Arabia will one day drive. However, his voice remains constricted by the conservative religious establishment. And as far as the timing goes, it remains hazy and unclear as to just when this “right time” is slated to begin. But for some Saudi women, waiting is no longer an option, for reasons ranging from the right to having their basic humanitarian needs met to the personal to the political.

Al-Sharif argues it best. Not all Saudi women are “queens” who are able to extol the virtues of drivers. And modes of public transportation are also not an option for most women. As one friend, who wished to remain anonymous, explained to me, “most self-respecting Arab women wouldn’t get into a taxi”.

This may seem an odd statement to those of us who a la Audrey Hepburn (circa Breakfast at Tiffany’s) need to step off the curb on to the street and wolf-whistle in order to flag down the nearest taxi driver. But in a country where complaints of sexual harassment and molestation at the hands of taxi drivers are rampant, it comes as no surprise that getting into a car with a stranger is not an option for these women.

Since the self-immolation carried out by a Tunisian fruit vendor which had far-reaching consequences across the region, the world has watched the political and social transformation across the Muslim world.

Perhaps fearing a similar protest movement in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is what has led Saudi authorities to clamp down with such force on al-Sharif, who spent a week in jail.

But, as many streets across the Arab Spring take over and defy many an establishment, it is clear that change has arrived, the status quo has been challenged in the region.

And it will take a lot more to tame the spirits of these women — no matter how bumpy the road ahead.

I Have Sex

The following video was created by the student members of Wesleyan University's UNCUT chapter, and offers an effective, amusing and, ultimately moving example of what a critical role Planned Parenthood plays in the lives of so many young people coast to coast.

This message from the student creators of the video explain their goals:

"In order to 'balance the budget,' the House of Representatives recently announced the intention to strip all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. This is unacceptable. It's time to face reality: many young people have sex, and need to know how to stay safe and healthy. Even those who have chosen to wait still need to know how to be safe and healthy when begin their sexual activity. 

This extreme ideological measure threatens our youth's ability to choose their own future. In many parts of America, Planned Parenthood is the only place young people can go to learn about safe sex, access contraceptives, or have a simple question about "down there" answered. With all the rhetoric centering on 'government waste,' Congress's refusal to close multi-billion dollar corporate tax loopholes and instead eliminate essential, multi-million dollar sexual health programs is beyond hypocritical. We are starting a student movement to make sure elected leaders know: Americans have sex, and we stand with Planned Parenthood." 

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