Romney ate with the president. A man wants his face tattoo removed. Election season ended a month ago, but that's not stopping the media's obsession with presidential politics. And when they're not speculating about 2016, we get Powerball coverage. For a change, Nation interns scanned the headlines for stories you might've missed, from the revolving door aspirations of Obama aides to the plight of Pakistan's Shia Muslims.
Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.
“Aftermath of Gaza Assault: Black Eye for Israel and Strengthened Hamas,” by Alex Kane. Mondoweiss, November 26, 2012.
This article provides an excellent analysis of the aftermath of the Gaza Assault for Israel and Hamas. Kane argues that Israel failed to achieve any strategic objectives, failed to enhance its position in the region and failed to strike any fatal blows to Hamas, all while tarnishing its image internationally due to the high civilian death toll. Hamas emerged strengthened and will probably benefit from the assault in the long run. Hamas will be seen in a more positive light by Palestinians all over, it has enhanced its stature in the region, and possibly improved the economic situation in Gaza if the blockade on Gaza is eased, as stipulated in the ceasefire agreement. All in all, despite overwhelming military might, Hamas is the party that emerged stronger in the aftermath of the Gaza war.
Jeff Ernsthausen focuses on domestic politics and the influence of money on public institutions.
“Special Report: How gaming Libor became business as usual,” by Carrick Mollenkamp, Jennifer Ablan and Matthew Goldstein. Reuters, November 20, 2012.
Reuters released a special report last week on the Libor manipulation scandal that cost Barclays hundreds of millions in fines this summer and prompted lawsuits against—and on-going investigations of—many of the world's largest banks. The report takes an in-depth look at how the practice of manipulating a key set of interest rates for profit by those trusted to report them became an everyday activity at Barclays, and how regulators in the US were warned as early as the mid-1990s that the Libor system was ripe for corruption.
Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the Presidency, and China.
“Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan Apparently Can't Remember Anything,” by Matt Taibbi. Rolling Stone, November 27, 2012.
I really like the way Taibbi covered the various, plentiful, objectionable practices of the banking industry. His profiles of CEOs and other shady characters who operate in and around global finance are engaging and filled with scathing, intelligent polemics. In this piece, he takes apart a Moynihan deposition in the MBIA vs. Bank of America case. It highlights a broader issue with these types of depositions. Taibbi lays out the facts, explains everything clearly and concisely. Reading accounts like this always makes me sad that the UK's "Spirit of the Law" approach is not used more widely. Apparently, CEOs and government officials are, as a group, highly prone to amnesia.
Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media, and East Asian affairs.
“North Korea Joke Slips Over China’s Great Firewall,” by Alexa Olesen. Associated Press, November 28, 2012.
The People's Daily accidental republication of the Onion went viral this week. In case you missed it, the Communist state-run web site picked up an article announcing Kim Jong-un as the "Sexiest Man of 2012" and posted it alongside a 55-photo slideshow of the chubby Korean dictator. In case you're wondering how a piece of obvious satire made it into the Communist party's English speakerphone, the AP has it covered. Also check out this hilarious analysis in The Economist that points out China is unintentionally "flexing its soft power."
Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace-related issues.
“The 'both-sides-are-awful' dismissal of Gaza ignores the key role of the US government,” by Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian, November 21, 2012.
Typical discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict follows a familiar script. The conflict is portrayed as a distant war between two sides, Israeli and Palestinians. While Israel is always given support in public discourse, the US is assumed to be an innocent, uninvolved party that only wants peace as two foreign entities continue to fight each other. But, as Glenn Greenwald rightly points out, this narrative is massively false. The US, for more than forty years, has lent Israel unyielding political, diplomatic, military and economic support. It gives Israel $3 billion a year in foreign aid, most of it military, and vetoes any UN resolution that holds Israel accountable for its oppression of the Palestinians. This unyielding support gives Israel carte blanche to do whatever it wants, such as maintain its cruel, illegal and immoral occupation of the West Bank, a crippling blockade and occasional bombings of the Gaza Strip, thereby ensuring the conflict will continue. If Americans want to seriously address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they need to hold their own government accountable for bankrolling Israel's atrocities.
Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence, and regulatory capture.
“With second term assured, Obama aides eye jobs as lobbyists on K Street,” by Kevin Bogardus. The Hill, November 24, 2012.
Despite a toothless executive order issued on President Obama’s first day in office meant to limit former government officials’ ability to lobby their ex-employers—Obama called it “a clean break from business as usual”—the infamously well-greased revolving door has continued to spin. Just since Election Day, Joe Biden’s deputy chief of staff left to become Pepsi’s new senior vice president of global public policy and government affairs, according to this article in The Hill by Kevin Bogardus, who provides an unintentionally comedic portrait of Washington DC insiders jockeying for lucrative positions after leaving the administration. One headhunter said Obama’s executive order hasn’t been an issue even once, as everyone involved recognizes the new restrictions can be easily addressed. Even so, the transition might not be so easy, Bogardus warns: “Former administration officials will have to compete with ex-lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides,” who tend to “have larger networks”—the rascals.
Annum Masroor focuses on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Pakistan's Shia genocide,” by Murtaza Hussain. Al Jazeera, November 26, 2012.
As Pakistan's Shia population celebrated the religious holiday of Ashura last week, they were met with a series of bomb attacks and violence throughout the country. In Rawalpindi alone, 23 people were killed as a suicide bomber hurled a grenade into the religious procession before detonating his vest. Dozens more were killed in cities elsewhere, from cosmopolitan centers like Karachi to Khyber-Pakthunwa's Dera Ismail Khan. Sadly, such bloodshed is common for Shias in Pakistan, and especially common during religious holidays. As Murtaza Hussain explains, Pakistan's Shia population has been targeted by a wide range of extremist groups, including the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), the notorious anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and its offshoot Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP). Some lay the blame on rising extremism in Pakistani society, while others blame the Gulf (and Saudi Arabia in particular) for tampering with Pakistan as a weight against Iran. But perhaps the sad irony of Pakistan's continued rejection of its Shia population is the way it has continued to reject itself; the country has enjoyed a long, inclusive history with its Shia members, including the founder of Pakistan himself. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, sometimes referred to as the "Father of the Nation," was Shia. But his vision of a modern, free, secular state has failed the country's 20 percent Shia population.
Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.
“Darrell Issa Denounces Internet Regulation In Reddit AMA,” by Rebecca Berg. Buzzfeed, November 28, 2012.
California Representative Darrell Issa is well known for two things: Pretending to be an awesome government watchdog by performing ridiculous witch hunts in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and trying his hardest to look internet savvy and seem sympathetic to web culture. But his latest attempt at the latter comes with a commitment to stand against new Internet rules for two years. Now let’s wait and see if he can successfully pull that off, and then hold him to pushing for hands-off web regulatory policies into the future.
Anna Robinson focuses on gender, sexuality and social justice.
“Your Brain on Fashion,” by Minh-ha T. Pham. Huffington Post, November 26, 2012.
Minh-Ha T. Pham is one of the two "two clotheshorse academics" (the other being the fantastic Mimi Thi Nguyen) whose blog Threadbared discusses "the politics, aesthetics, histories, theories, cultures and subcultures that go by the names 'fashion' and 'beauty'" and in doing so "considers the critical importance of taking clothes—and the bodies that design, manufacture, disseminate, and wear them—seriously as an entry point into dialogue about the world around us." This post argues against fashion anti-intellectualism—that is, treating fashion as something that is simply frivolous and/or has aesthetic value only—is too closely linked with misogynistic devaluations of the feminine. Furthermore, she writes, this allows fashion folks who engage in sexist, classist, culturally appropriative and racist behavior (in runway shows, advertising, prints and styles used) off the hook because "it's only fashion." Her work is vital in turning our attention to the complex cultural work fashion does in our society.
Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.
“Why Mass Incarceration Defines Us As a Society,” by Chris Hedges. Smithsonian, December 2012.
Alabama was once a hub for the slave trade. Today, it sentences more people to death per capita than any other state. While they seem disparate realities, civil rights champion and founder of the Equal Justice Institute Bryan Stevenson argues they are merely two points along the same long line of racial injustice. Chris Hedges travels to Montgomery to profile Stevenson, whose work was integral in striking down mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders. “You have to understand the institutions that are shaping and controlling people of color,” Stevenson says.
Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.
“Amazon deforestation 'at record low.’” BBC, November 27, 2012.
The deforestation rates in Brazil are at their lowest, having dropped 27% from the previous year. Nonetheless, over 1,780 miles of the rainforest were wiped out, and we might expect a return to higher rates given the recent deforestation code that Dilma only partially vetoed. Moreover, these general statistics do not reflect the unevenness of the situation, as some states have witnessed a rise in deforestation as high as 33%.
Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.
“Africa For Norway: Viral Video Pokes Fun At Stereotypes In Aid Efforts,” by Suzanne Lennon. NPR, November 28, 2012.
My pick this week is less my typical analytical article about a grave topic, and more coverage of a particularly brilliant satirical campaign. Comprised of Norwegian and South African students and academics, the group Africa for Norway purports to be raising awareness, money and radiators for freezing Norwegians dying of frostbite. Complete with an inspiring ballad modeled after "We are the World" and "Do they know its Christmas," the group is a smart rebuke to the oversimplified aid organizations claiming to help African countries, but doing so without any sense of nuance, information or investigation of real need. Instead of donating to causes simply for a warm feeling of altruism, the group is aggressively calling for people to actively get involved in "positive developments in Africa and developing countries" instead of falling for humiliating stereotypes.