Forecasts look gloomy from Chicago to Greece as politicians play on economic fears, but there are patches of sunlight in places like Chile and the soon-to-be "sanctuary city" of Toronto.


— Alleen Brown focuses on education.

Meet the cross-subsidy, an increasingly painful way to pay for special ed,” by Beth Hawkins. MinnPost, February 25, 2013.

Minnesota reporter Beth Hawkins writes a powerful piece describing how a severely underfunded mandate that schools provide adequate services to all students with disabilities has become a "politically expedient place to hide the true extent to which funding for Minnesota schools has been cut over the last decade." The term "cross-subsidy" describes the deficit that forces districts to draw from general education coffers to fund special education services for the growing number of students with disabilities.


— James Cersonsky focuses on labor and education.

Disaster Capitalism, Chicago-style,” by Kenzo Shibata. Jacobin, February 22, 2013.

Without humanitarian-crisis-inducing hurricanes in the Midwest, Chicago's Democratic machine has had to manufacture a budget crisis in order to legitimate the widespread takeover and transformation of the city's public school system. There are two things that make this article cool: (1) it's some edgy prose; (2) it—edgy prose—is written by a Chicago Teachers Union staffer for a popular audience.


— Catherine Defontaine focuses on war, security and peace-related issues, African and French politics, peacekeeping and the link between conflicts and natural resources.

The rise of Europe's far-right voices,” by Mohammed Haddad and Ben Piven. Al Jazeera, February 24, 2013.

Rising unemployment, economic instability and social discontent have led to a nationalist surge in Europe. Indeed, far-right nationalist parties have gained prominence in recent years, attracting more voters at each election. Emphasizing Western as well as Christian values and opposing immigration, these parties express eurosceptic views and have a populist rhetoric that fuels racism and intolerance towards minorities. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine le Pen in France are the most well-known figures in Europe. In Greece, Golden Dawn is notorious for its use of violence against migrants and anarchists. This article reviews key far-right parties in Europe, their ideologies and results in national elections.


— Andrew Epstein focuses on social history, colonialism and indigenous rights.

Reauthorizing Indianness (or Acts of Violence Against Native Self-Determination),” by Mark Rifkin. First Peoples, June 19, 2012.

The main Republican objection to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is the right of Native courts to prosecute sexual assault committed by non-Natives on reservation land. Mark Rifkin, author of Manifesting America: The Imperial Construction of US Nation Space and a recent work on queer Native literature, historicizes this complaint. Native polities preceded and, through hundreds of international treaties, supersede US jurisdiction. Yet the notion of American Indians exercising juridical authority over non-Natives is considered anathema to the "American legal tradition," an absurd, even dangerous notion. Rifkin explains why.


— Luis Feliz focuses on ideas and debates within the left, social movements and culture.

Revolution on Stage,” by Scott McLemee. Inside Higher Ed, February 20, 2013.

C. L. R. James led a very prolific literary life. But in his capacity of leading cadre of the anti-Stalinist and Marxist humanist left, James also mentored radical students from the Caribbean and Africa, the New Left, the Black Panthers and the international working class. Yet most people know about James through his masterful work of narrative history The Black Jacobins and his splendid work on cricket and consciousness in Beyond a Boundary. Now Duke University Press adds to his body of work a rediscovered play on the tragic figure of Toussaint L'Ouverture.


— Elana Leopold focuses on the Middle East, its relations with the US and Islam.

A Palace Rift in Persian Gulf Bedevils Key U.S. Navy Base,” by Charles Levinson. The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2013.

This article, about internal divisions among the Bahraini royal family, reads like an episode of The Tudors minus the show's racy sex scenes. Chronicling the split of US aligned "reformer" King bin Isa Khalifa and the Kahwalids, "hard-line Islamist," strand of the royal family, the piece describes drama over succession, back-room wheeling and dealing between Bahraini and Saudi officials instrumental in cracking down on the 2011 uprising, conspiracy plots involving Iran and Sunni/Shiite tensions: truly the stuff of high drama. The article also highlights Bahraini political uprising and the two factions approach to public protest.


— Alec Luhn focuses on East European and Eurasian affairs, especially issues of good governance, human rights and activism.

The KGB Oscars,” by Simon Shuster. Foreign Policy, February 22, 2013.

From oil and gas to the Russian Orthodox Church (one of the country's largest real estate owners), every big industry in Russia becomes an appendage of the state, expected to do its part to foster national unity and stability of the regime. More and more, the movie industry is being co-opted, with huge government subsidies going to filmmakers willing to add to the glut of patriotic blockbusters, most of them set in WWII. Karen Shakhnazarov's White Tiger is another such epic, with an interesting twist: One of the film's main characters is a KGB secret agent. The Federal Security Service (FSB, the KGB's successor organization) has only grown in influence under the rule of its former director, Vladimir Putin. Here we see the dilemma of a director working in the political minefield of an authoritarian state as Shakhnazarov is awarded the FSB's annual film prize, a dubious honor that's difficult to refuse.


— Leticia Miranda focuses on race, gender, telecommunications and media reform.

Major Banks Aid in Payday Loans Banned by States,” by Jessica Silver-Greenberg. The New York Times, February 24, 2013.

This New York Times piece covers the underreported relationship between online payday lenders and big banks who are searching for new ways to further capitalize on the poor.


— Brendan O’Connor focuses on media criticism and pop culture.

The New Essayists, or the Decline of a Form?” by Adam Kirsch. The New Republic, February 18, 2013.

Leveling a harsh critique against some of our most prominent contemporary essayists, Adam Kirsch roots out inauthenticity and ego, continuing the investigation of that ever-present question of creative non-fiction: what is the nature of truth, objectivity and honesty in this form?


— Anna Simonton focuses on issues of systemic oppression perpetuated by the military and prison industrial complexes.

Florida Atlantic's Folly: Why GEO Group Should Not Have Naming Rights,” by Dave Zirin. The Progressive, February 23, 2013.

When Florida Atlantic University announced that it had sold naming rights of their new stadium to Geo Group, the private prison company with an egregious track record of human rights abuses, it illuminated the extent to which the prison industrial complex is not only a system of institutions that facilitate mass incarceration, but increasingly a normalized aspect of our cultural consciousness. Thankfully, this process is not without opposition. Dave Zirin describes the criticism FAU is facing and the organizing efforts by students to stop the deal from going forward. He also beautifully points out a glaring irony in this situation that no one else has addressed.


— Cos Tollerson focuses on Latin American politics and society, and United States imperialism.

Chile: From a Social Earthquake to a Political Tsunami,” by Raúl Zibechi, Translation by Rebecca Ellis. Upside Down World, February 20, 2013.

Decades after dictator Augusto Pinochet implemented an extreme neoliberal agenda in Chile and imposed the country's current constitution, a coalition of diverse social movements is challenging the legitimacy of the political and economic regime Pinochet institutionalized and threatening its stability. The massive Chilean demonstrations demanding educational reform may have peaked in 2011, but Uruguayan journalist Raúl Zibechi is confident that the movement's impact will continue to grow as students, the Mapuche and Chileans from other sectors of society connect over their mutual dissatisfaction with the country's ongoing fidelity to neoliberalism. For Zibechi, the October boycott of local elections by sixty percent of Chileans, which was organized by student activists, provides compelling evidence that there is a widespread "desire for change that is not represented by the system."


— Sarah Woolf focuses on what’s happening north of the US border.

Toronto declared ‘sanctuary city’ to non-status migrants,” by Nicholas Keung. The Toronto Star, February 21, 2013.

Toronto has become the first Canadian "sanctuary city" for undocumented residents. The result of years of efforts by city organizers, the City Council policy will affirm access to municipal services for all Torontonians, regardless of immigration status. The policy is similar to those in place in 30-odd American cities (including New York, San Francisco and Chicago). The website Torontoist points out that the policy process is not over yet—a neglected point in the Toronto Star article—because specific recommendations have yet to be presented, and "council will still need to vote to accept the recommendations once they’ve been presented.” Nonetheless, the move toward "access without fear" is a very exciting development.