I find back-to-school signs in mid-August jarring and unwanted, but it’s undeniable that summer is quickly fading into another electoral autumn. Before yielding to the insatiable demands of fall though, I solicited thoughts on the summer’s most neglected stories.
The competition is tough, as the London Olympics, the presidential campaign and the tragic Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson break-up have sucked up most of the media oxygen in recent months. But these five issues especially demand far more attention than they’ve received this summer.
1) Jettisoning Democracy in South Carolina
Late last spring, the South Carolina state Supreme Court announced a ruling in a case it heard just days earlier. The decision was shocking: roughly 200 candidates throughout South Carolina would have their names removed from the June 12 primary ballots. Nearly 200 people who had filed to run for office were prevented from doing so—severely limiting voters’ choices at the polls in a year when all 170 South Carolina House and Senate seats were up for grabs. In many cases this meant that incumbent lawmakers had no opposition. Since then the situation has gotten even worse. Several incumbents throughout the state who lost their primary elections last June have been put back on the ballots by judicial order. The case has received virtually no national attention to date. Local investigative reporter Corey Hutchins is one of the few journalists taking the case seriously.
2) Military Suicides
Even with the Afghanistan war winding down, suicides among troops are on the rise. Among all branches, the number is up 22 percent from a year ago, and July 2012 was the worst month on record since the Army began tracking suicide rates: thirty-eight soldiers took their own lives, according to figures released by the Pentagon. Despite fervent media interest in most all things military, this epidemic of military suicides has been a severely neglected story.
3) Rise of Islamophobic Violence in the US
This year’s Ramadan holiday was marred by a dramatic uptick in Islamophobic attacks against American Muslims in their schools, homes and places of worship. Think Progress has compiled a list of recent acts of violence coast to coast, virtually none of which have received national attention. (The Nation’s special issue on Islamophobia offers more evidence that in the United States today the very ordinariness of Muslim-American life has become grounds for suspicion.)
4) The Amazon Economy Gains Steam
The increasing influence of Amazon.com over the world economy would seem to be a natural story for intrepid business reporters. But it took a series of articles in the Financial Times to explain Amazon’s astonishing economic impact and detail the corporation’s growth as not just a technology giant but a utility—providing vital infrastructure that supports and fuels the businesses of third-party retailers and other startups. At the same time, Amazon is a threat to many of those same companies, able to use its intimate knowledge of their businesses to compete with them. It’s complicated stuff, as The Nation’s special Amazon issue in June made clear. The only surprising thing is why more journalists aren’t looking into the profound ways that Amazon is changing life as we know it.
5) Rapid Escalation of Climate Change
As was indeed reported widely, July was the hottest month on record in the United States, because of a combination of global warming and widespread drought, according to a consensus of experts. The lower forty-eight US states experienced an average July temperature of 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit which was about 3.3 degrees above the twentieth-century average. Moreover, for 2012, July wasn’t an anomaly. Taken together, the first seven months of the year have been, on average, the warmest January-to-July period on record in the contiguous US states. This is serious stuff and the small spate of articles noting these unprecedented trends seems like severe neglect. As @Glinner rightly pointed out to me on Twitter, “however much has been written about the climate, it’s obviously not enough.”