—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.
“Corporations Rewriting US Labor Laws,” by Ramy Srour. Inter Press Service via Truthout, November 2, 2013.
The left-liberal Economic Policy Institute examined new labor laws in all fifty state legislatures over the past two years, and their research revealed a broad, corporately funded attack on workers nationwide. The swath of assaults is long and disheartening, and includes enhanced restrictions to bargaining rights, extinguished benefits for the unemployed and eroded child labor laws (in Idaho, 12-year-olds can be “employed” as labor hands in their schools). From the mountains to the prairies the class war rages on, bankrolled by austerity-minded groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.
“New Report: Mentally ill adolescents in isolation on Rikers Island,” by Abigail Kramer. Child Welfare Watch at the New School, November 4, 2013.
Three teenagers—two diagnosed with bipolar disorder and one with depression—were held in solitary confinement for more than 200 days at Rikers Island, according to a new Department of Corrections report. The blog’s author notes that over a quarter of the adolescents at Rikers are held in “punitive segregation” at any given time, and that among these, 70 percent have diagnosed mental illnesses. It’s heinous that we condemn troubled kids with mental illnesses to extended solitary confinement in adult prisons. It’s baffling that we call it “correction.”
—Omar Ghabra focuses on Syria and Middle Eastern politics.
“Thomas Jefferson’s Quran: How Islam Shaped the Founders,” R.B. Bernstein. The Daily Beast, September 29, 2013.
I chose this book review because of the timely nature of its subject, a new book I am reading that closely examines the relationship between Islam and the Founding Fathers of this country. This is surprisingly somewhat unchartered territory, which allows this book to fill an important need in the post-9/11 discourse surrounding Islam’s place in America. From the fact that there were tens of thousands of Muslim West African slaves brought to the US in the 1700s to numerous examples of our leading Founders including “Mahometans“ in their early arguments for freedom of religion, this book undermines any notions that Muslims are any less entitled to the same standing in this country than any other group.
—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.
“Anatomy of the War on Women: How the Koch Brothers Are Funding the Anti-Choice Agenda,” by Adele Stan. RH Reality Check, November 5, 2013.
By now you probably already have hateful feelings towards the Koch brothers, or, at the very least, they make you uncomfortable. And if this didn’t didn’t cause you to wince inwardly (or this or this) then probably nothing else will. But consider this: Koch-linked nonprofits like the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Freedom Partners have given “tens of millions of dollars to groups whose mission it is to end reproductive rights.” Stan reveals in sharp detail where the money goes and how it gets there.
—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US-Latin American relations.
“Mr. Zuckerberg Goes to Washington,” by Kate Losse. Dissent, Fall 2013.
Kate Losse dissects the mission and media campaigns of FWD.us, Mark Zuckerberg’s pro-immigration reform political lobby. In her telling, the organization overlooks the needs of agricultural laborers and undocumented immigrants, focusing instead on securing a steady supply of highly skilled, foreign-born tech workers. The takeaway: “the target of FWD’s reforms is efficient corporate recruiting, not improving the lives of all immigrants.”
—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency, and investigative reporting.
“The A-Team Killings, by Matthieu Aikins. Rolling Stone, November 6, 2013.
If the allegations made in this Rolling Stone’s investigation are true, it should send a message to American journalists that military operations can only be covered on unembedded reporting trips and with an eye to human rights violations and war crimes committed on a staggering scale. The investigation begins in February this year, when the body of an Afghan student named Nasratullah was found underneath a bridge in the remote valley of Nerkh, where a US Special Forces unit known as the A-Team had been operating. Up until the discovery, the US military had refused to budge in its plea of innocence, not only insisting that the Special Forces unit was not responsible for Nasratullah’s death, but also ten other villagers whose bodies were found buried near the US base. Matthieu Aikins interviews witnesses, family members and neighbors of the victims, and even was able to speak with the Special Forces translator, the only person arrested so far in an investigation that has galvanized local politics and brought Afghans into the streets in protest.
—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.
“Amnesty Int’l terms mutineers’ death penalty ‘perversion.’” The Daily Star (Dhaka, Bangladesh), November 6, 2013.
“152 to die for murders,” by Muktadir Rashid. New Age (Dhaka, Bangladesh), November 6, 2013.
Even informed readers of Wednesday’s New York Times may not have noticed, below news of de Blasio’s mayoral victory, rediscovered Nazi art and the defeat of M23 rebels in Congo, a small piece noting that 152 people are to be sentenced to death in Bangladesh. A hundred and fifty-two people—that’s the largest mass death sentence I can remember (and, incidentally, that analysts quoted by the Times can remember). The sentenced were members of the Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary unit that, in protest of poor working conditions, took their officers hostage and killed seventy-four people at a place called Peelkhana in 2009. Amnesty International has called the court’s actions a “perversion of justice” and has detailed torture of the detainees. The article from New Age I’ve included above (the best and most detailed of news reports) also notes that some people claim that they’ve been mistakenly identified as mutineers. While we should condemn the original violence, and fair and free trials should be conducted, I don’t think mass death penalties are a solution. Violence begets violence.
—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.
“Hijacker Returning to US After 30 Years in Cuba,” by Peter Orsi. Associated Press via ABC News, November 5, 2013.
American hijacker William Potts is voluntarily returning to the US after almost thirty years in Cuba. Potts had taken over a Florida-bound plane from New Jersey in 1984. Using a gun he had hidden in an arm cast, he forced the plane to continue further South to the Communist island of Cuba. Upon arrival he had hoped for guerrilla training, receiving instead thirteen years in jail on charges of “air piracy.” He lived to the east of Havana and married a Cuban woman, though they are now divorced. His explanation of his recent decision is that he is looking for “closure.”
—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.
“The limits of investigative journalism,” by Jay Rosen. American Review, November 2013.
The relatively new phenomenon of government insiders leaking not one piece but huge troves of classified materials has had enormous consequences. The Obama administration has begun pushing back against transparency, and the relationship between the media and the government is being challenged and redrawn. In this piece, Jay Rosen pivots slightly to focus on the potential this information has to incite reform. He compares the effect of ongoing Snowden revelations to a seemingly forgotten investigative series, “Top Secret America,” launched by The Washington Post in July 2010, and later adapted into a documentary film by Frontline in September 2011.
—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health, and East and Southeast Asia.
“A discourse on brocialism,” by Laurie Penny. New Statesman, November 2, 2013.
With urgency, insight and (feminist) humor (the best kind), Laurie Penny and Richard Seymour have a conversation about sexism within the Left and the failure of brocialists and manarchists alike to “confront [their] own bullshit” and understand how intersectionality—or “basic equality,” since the term is too important to remain only as a jargon and not be intrinsic to the broad concept of equality—works.