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The Nation

June 17, 2008
Robert Dreyfuss
Bob Dreyfuss

John McCain says he won't talk to Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Barack Obama might talk to Syria, but he's having nothing to do with Hezbollah and Hamas. I guess they know something that the Israeli government doesn't.

Over the past couple weeks, it's become increasingly clear that Israel is simultaneously, but separately, conducting talks with Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

The Israel-Syria talks, involving two top aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, are sponsored by Turkey. Haaretz, the Israeli daily, reported: "Two days of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria in Turkey ended Monday, Israeli and Turkish officials said, adding that the atmosphere was positive and the contacts would continue." In India, where he arrived for a five-day visit, President Bashar Assad "said that India could play a 'direct' role in the ongoing talks between Syria and Israel." Talks will resume next month, the Turkish foreign minister said, and according to the New York Times, "The Israeli news media have been rife with reports that the Israeli team will try to persuade the Syrians to have their leaders meet face to face in Paris in mid-July at the conference, organized by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, to establish a Mediterranean Union." For Assad, the stumbling block for a face-to-face meeting is that he wants the United States to broker the deal, and the White House ain't playing. Possibly for that reason, the French are insisting that a direct meeting isn't likely.

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June 17, 2008
Christopher Hayes

If you happen to be in DC today, check out Beyond Broadcast, a conference about the future of public media up at American University.

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June 16, 2008
Laura Flanders
Laura Flanders

If there was one topic that focused media attention this weekend, it was the death of one of the industry's own: Tim Russert. Russert's passing provoked praise and grief and mourning across all the media and a good amount of talk about journalism and its practitioners. It's no surprise. Over decades at NBC Russert, host of the flagship Sunday program Meet the Press had become a massively influential media presence.

For me one moment stood out. It was Friday, soon after the news of Russert's death broke. NBC anchor Brian Williams was interviewed on camera from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. Calling Russert's death "an unfathomable loss", he appeared to choke up. You could hear the pain in his voice.

Watching him there -- in Afghanistan, but it could as well have been Iraq -- I couldn't help but think. After how many hundreds of thousands dead in the US's two assaults on those two countries -- what if Williams, or Russert or any of the big power news men ever expressed emotion about other deaths. What if we saw them pause and choke up – even once – at the slaughter of an Afghan family in a misguided US missile attack, or swallow hard while reporting the blowing-to-bits of an Iraqi father as he lined up to buy food or find work?

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The Notion
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June 16, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Interested in joining the Progressive Book Club? Find out more here.

"Books have always played a pivotal role in our nation's history,changing America in remarkable ways. Imagine the American Revolutionwithout Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Where would the abolitionistmovement have been without Uncle Tom's Cabin? How would the socialreforms of the Progressive Era ever have been enacted without UptonSinclair's The Jungle? What would be the condition of the naturalenvironment today if Rachel Carson's Silent Spring had never beenpublished?"

This strong articulation of the power of books--and the ideas theybring to our politics and culture--comes from the mission statement forthe newest organization in the progressive firmament, the ProgressiveBook Club (PBC). At this defining moment in our nation's history--a time which demands we examine complex issues from new perspectives, ask toughquestions and press for real change--it's very good news that a venturelike PBC, dedicated, like The Nation, to enriching our political andcultural conversation and debate, launches today.

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June 14, 2008
Ari Berman
Ari Berman

The state of Iowa was the star of this political season for over a year. The Hawkeye state launched Barack Obama's candidacy, derailed Hillary Clinton's and turned Mike Huckabee into a GOP power-broker. All eyes were on Iowa--and then the political circus left, on to New Hampshire and the 48 caucuses and primaries that followed.

Now Iowa needs your attention again. Key parts of eastern Iowa, in case you haven't heard, are underwater, the result of catastrophic flooding. Nearly half of the state is considered a disaster area. "The economic costs of the devastating floods were also beginning to seep in," the New York Times reported today, "tourism officials, who depend on the short summers, were bracing for washed-out seasons; farmers in many states stared out at ponds that had once been their fields of beans and corn; and officials were preparing to shut down 315 miles of the Mississippi River, a crucial route for millions of tons of coal, grains and steel."

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The Notion
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June 13, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

It started with one simple question posed by Senator Bernie Sandersto his constituents in an invitation to a town meeting: what does the decline of the middle class mean to you personally?

Over 700 people replied.

A second question was askedin his e-newsletter, The Bernie Buzz: do you have a story to tell about how gas prices are affecting you?

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June 13, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

The passing of Tim Russert leaves us in the midst of an essential election season without the man who had been the steadiest and most serious inquisitor of the powerful during the darkening period when broadcast journalism was degenerating beyond parody.

There will be praise for the host of NBC's "Meet the Press" whose interviews of presidential candidates were often revealing, who still steered discussions toward the neglected concerns of working Americans, who gave rare forums to the dissenting voices of Russ Feingold (five times, most recently as he emerged as the clearest anti-war voice in the Senate) and Ralph Nader (regularly, even after other media outlets stopped asking the consumer advocate to appear), and whose love of politics -- and respect for frequently disregarded constituencies -- was infectious.

There will, as well, be criticism of Russert's 2003 interview of Vice President Dick Cheney on the Sunday before the war in Iraq began; and the fact that when the moment demanded an Edward R. Murrow interrogation we got instead a Larry King-like nod-along with power. Every journalist makes mistakes and this was Russert's most serious. Unfortunately, it came at a time when most media outlets -- broadcast and print -- were making the same mistake of trusting an administration that was owed nothing but skepticism.

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June 13, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

As John Cavanagh and Chuck Collins write in the current issue of The Nation -- a special look at rising inequality, "Over the past three decades, market-worshiping politicians and their corporate backers have engineered the most colossal redistribution of wealth in modern world history, a redistribution from the bottom up, from working people to a tiny global elite."

Historians divide history into epochs. We've all heard of the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. Our current epoch, however--a period that has seen soaring fortunes for a new American superrich and a fading American Dream for nearly everyone else--lacks a label.

Some commentators have tried to supply one. Paul Krugman calls our past three decades of growing inequality the Great Divergence. Berkeley economist Harley Shaiken speaks about the Great Disconnect, his tag for years of stagnant and declining wages amid a growing economy. But neither has really caught on. That's why The Nation is joining the Institute for Policy Studies in a new contest.

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June 13, 2008
Robert Dreyfuss
Bob Dreyfuss

Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt, two Iran experts at the pro-Israeli thinktank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, have published a primer for bombing Iran that looks at the costs and consequences. It's called "The Last Resort," but it might have been called "Making the Unthinkable Thinkable."

They make it look easy.

Would Iranians "rally 'round the flag" if Iran is attacked? Maybe, maybe not, they say. "One cannot assume that a preventive strike against Iran's nuclear infrastructure would necessarily prompt a nationalist backlash."

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