Bombs strike Baghdad in 2003. According to a recent study published in the PLoS Medicine journal, almost 500,000 people were killed during the Iraq War. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.
“The Latest News in Fossil Fuel Addiction,” by Michael Klare. TomDispatch, October 15, 2013.
Part of the transition to a post-capitalist, locally based society involves reconfiguring our living arrangements so that we’re less dependent on fossil fuels to get around. It beggars the mind to think of what this would look like among the tentacled metropolises of highways, retail stores and suburbs like Houston and Phoenix, and the oil industry would prefer that we not try. In fact, they’ve begun singing a new chorus, heralding the coming of an American “industrial renaissance” thanks to surging levels of petrol production brought about by innovative drilling techniques. In his piece, Michael Klare kills the euphoria of the energy industry and their government stooges by reminding everybody that more drilling means more carbon emissions means a more hostile planetary environment.
—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.
“The Not-So-Hidden Cause Behind the A.D.H.D. Epidemic,” by Maggie Koerth-Baker. The New York Times, October 20, 2013.
It might be reductive to imagine an apparatus connecting the pharmaceutical industry with American public schools designed exclusively to deliver psychostimulants into children’s bodies. But if it does exist, Maggie Koerth-Baker’s op-ed on spiking ADHD identifies one of the system’s levers: standardized testing. Koreth-Baker relates how early adopters of No Child Left Behind, the federal education law that penalizes low-scoring schools, saw their ADHD rates jump to double that of states that signed on later; nationwide, ADHD diagnoses rose 22 percent within four years of the law’s enactment.
—Omar Ghabra focuses on Syria and Middle Eastern politics.
“New Study Estimates Nearly 500,000 Died in Iraq War,” by Courtney Subramanian. Time, October 15, 2013.
This article describes a recent study in the peer-reviewed PLoS Medicine journal that estimated the death toll from the Iraq War to be almost 500,000. What I found particularly significant was the fact that almost half the deaths were nonviolent ones caused by the destruction of health-related infrastructure. Syrian doctors are currently sounding the alarm that this catastrophe is now repeating itself in Syria. This timely study serves as a reminder that the situation in Syria can get much worse, and the window for providing the humanitarian aid that could save hundreds of thousands of lives is still wide open.
—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.
“US Accuses 2 Rabbis of Kidnapping Husbands for a Fee,” by Joseph Goldstein and Michael Schwirtz. The New York Times, October 11, 2013.
This headline pretty much says it all. The article begins like a lot of good Jewish jokes, and ends with a lot of lawsuits. Plus in the middle there’s torture, a rabbinic council in Williamsburg and FBI agents posing as observant Jewish wives with murderous intent.
—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US-Latin American relations.
“Privacy Fears Grow as Cities Increase Surveillance,” by Somini Sengupta. The New York Times, October 14, 2013.
Big data has long been the ally of Silicon Valley start-ups, NSA operatives and online retailers, but it recently cozied up to a new partner: local law enforcement. In cities from Oakland to Boston, police forces have established elaborate, centralized surveillance systems—linked networks of license plate readers, radiation sensors and high-tech cameras—aimed at reducing crime. There is no doubt that such tools assist officers with their work, nor that the security firms who produce them are reaping extraordinary profits from these programs. What remains unclear is the benefit, for the average law-abiding person, of having his or her everyday movements recorded.
—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency, and investigative reporting.
Published only a week apart, these two profiles of tech darling Jack Dorsey in The New York Times Magazine (actually an adapted excerpt from Nick Bilton’s forthcoming book Hatching Twitter) and The New Yorker offer slightly different interpretations of the power struggles that befell Twitter while it was still a Silicon start-up. While Bilton’s piece makes the bolder claim that Dorsey was instrumental in pushing out Twitter co-founder Noah Glass and later playing dumb, Max appears to draw on a wider range of sources and former Twitter employees who back up Dorsey’s claim that he “didn’t give the ultimatum.” Regardless of their differences, both these profiles have succeeded in ruffling some feathers in Silicon Valley where founding myths are hallowed ground and the personalities of tech-innovators like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs are endlessly scrutinized. They ask, who takes credit for an idea? Who profits off it? And who wins a spot in the public limelight whether deserved or only carefully cultivated?
—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.
“US directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans,” by John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke. Reuters, August 5, 2013.
“Our big fear was that it wouldn’t stay secret.” Thus speaks an unnamed source in a story that is full of them, the tale of the DEA’s Special Operation Division and the way they’ve gleaned information from NSA wiretaps. Shiffman and Cooke have worked with sources and documents in an artful way to get this important story, which is already raising eyebrows in the legal profession. As prosecutor Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. opines: “You can’t create this subterfuge. These are drug crimes, not national security cases. If you don’t draw the line here, where do you draw it?” The scariest thing about this article is that the agency covered up the information gleaned from the wiretaps in court using a technique known as “parallel construction”—and that this procedure seems to have been so regular that a source described it as part of “normal investigative techniques to recreate the information.” Perhaps most incriminatingly, Finn Selander, a former DEA agent, told the reporters, “It’s just like laundering money—you work it backwards to make it clean.”
—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.
“Starbucks to take on Juan Valdez in Colombia,” by Marina Villeneuve. The Washington Post, October 12, 2013.
Coffee giant Juan Valdez is set to duel for Colombian consumers with the Seattle-based mega-chain Starbucks. The enormously successful American company has declared its intention to open fifty stores in that Latin American country within the next few years. Smaller Colombian coffee chains have expressed hope that the new competitor will break Valdez’s grip on the market, but only time can tell who will end up benefiting most.
—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.
“Portrait of an Afghan Assassin,” by Matthieu Aikins. Mother Jones, October 7, 2013.
Aikins investigates a “green-on-blue” attack in Afghanistan, calling attention to a conflict that much of America, including the media, seems to have forgotten, and challenging the notion that the US military won’t be there much longer.
—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health, and East and Southeast Asia.
“Malala Yousafzai and the Missing Brown Savior Complex,” by Taufiq Rahim. The Huffington Post, October 12, 2013.
This article responds to an earlier post entitled “Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex.” I think this piece can further flesh out its argument on why and how the anti-imperial criticisms of the “chattering classes,” as he calls them, don’t look closely enough at the complex geopolitical realities and “will bring no one closer to emancipation,” though his call for the local media to support indigenous leadership and activism is important. In any case, these corresponding articles are engaging critically with the players and symbols in our media that over-hype and don’t do enough at the same time.