—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.
“If mayors ruled the world: a conversation with Benjamin Barber,” by Jonathan Derbyshire. Prospect, November 22, 2013.
This is an interview with Benjamin Barber, who imagines a world where “inefficient supra-national institutions” are displaced by a global system of networked urban centers. He argues that nation states are not only too massive to sustain “bottom-up citizenship, civil society and voluntary community,” but also too sovereign to competently address inter-dependent challenges like terrorism and climate change, and only a global cosmopolis led by a parliament of super mayors can lead us out of crisis. His explanation is a little muddled when he tries to explain whether there is an ideal size to which cities should grow, and his discussion of a “pragmatic, post-ideological” future induces horrible flashbacks to Obama’s first presidential campaign, but he is surely not the only thinker who feels our 17th century public institutions are too outdated to handle the challenges of the 21st.
—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.
"STEM: Still No Shortage," by Freddie deBoer. Medium, November 27, 2013.
It's become a truism that the US needs to bulk up on STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—if we want to be the hale and vigorous superpower we once were. Freddie deBoer dispels the myth, showing that job prospects for STEM grads are actually quite slim, and that humanities majors have a better chance at employment. He points out the irony that the technologies lauded for employing STEM majors are in part responsible for the displacement of professional workers and increasing automation of production.
—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.
“Girl trouble: we care about young women as symbols, not as people,” by Laurie Penny. New Statesman, November 30, 2013.
Every week I am inches away from picking Laurie Penny's column at the New Statesman as my article highlight. This time, the topic is young girls and self-esteem. A recent study by Girlguiding found that 87 percent of women ages 11-21 think they are judged more on their appearance than their ability. Penny argues that this should be expected in a society that is by-and-large addicted to treating women, young girls in particular, as symbols of sex, purity, ambition and so forth. "Girls know perfectly well that structural sexism means they can’t have everything they’re being told they must have," writes Penny.
In related news, Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny have been killing the female empowerment beat all week on Citizen Radio with their discussions of institutionalized sexism and men's rights activists. Jamie has his own uproarious rant on male privilege and how all men can and should be feminists.
—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US-Latin American relations.
“Body Snatchers of Old New York,” by Bess Lovejoy. Lapham’s Quarterly, November 22, 2013.
The 1991 discovery of an African burial ground near Chambers Street provided crucial evidence of New York City’s role in the international slave trade. Yet the story goes much deeper: this unincorporated patch of land, where most of the city’s slaves were interred, was a favorite target of Columbia Medical students, who stole cadavers from local cemeteries under the cover of night to use in their anatomy classes. Bess Lovejoy recounts how this morally dubious practice provoked one of the city’s earliest race riots and led to the passage of the first US law banning grave-robbing. Her piece offers a fascinating portrait of post-Revolutionary New York.
—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency, and investigative reporting.
“On Why Struggles over Urban Space Matter: An Interview with David Harvey,” by Hiba Bou Akar and Nada Moumtaz. Jadaliyya, November 15, 2013.
Every urban dweller who pays rent or takes on credit card charges should read this interview with David Harvey in Jadaliyya. Though not an expert on every urban uprising in Cairo, Istanbul or Thailand, Harvey can paint in broader brushstrokes what the struggle to reclaim the right to the city may signal about social inequality and its manifestations in our city neighborhoods.
—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.
“Two Gunshots On a Summer Night,” by Walt Bogdanich and Glenn Silber. The New York Times, November 23, 2013.
This is a classic piece of accountability journalism telling the story of what happened after two gunshots rang through the Florida night, leaving a police officer's girlfriend dead. The official verdict was that she had committed suicide with her boyfriend's gun, but the Times's investigation shows how the police bungled their inquiry and jumped to the conclusion that their colleague was innocent. They then stifled further investigation. Bogdanich and Silber go on to show how the problem of domestic violence in police departments is pervasive and all too often ignored as officers are unwilling to go after their own kind. This tale is a poignant reminder of how police departments must be submitted to the same scrutiny as other parts of society, as well as the pernicious role that domestic violence continues to play in the US today. it's also a reminder of how good journalism can bring these and other hidden abuses to light: Though they were stymied by a department whose officials refused to be interviewed, and by the sheer fact that most domestic violence is by its nature hard to identify, Bogdanich and Silber's thorough reporting, surveys and interviews all contribute something that could feel more academic than journalistic if it weren't such a pleasure to read.
—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.
“US man marks 4 years in Cuban prison, writes Obama,” by Jessica Gresko. Associated Press, December 3, 2013.
Almost half a decade ago, American Alan Gross was subcontracted by the US government to establish a limited and—by local laws—illegal Internet network in Cuba. He was arrested as he tried to leave the country, and his network quickly rolled up. Over a decade ago several Cuban state security agents infiltrated Miami-based Cuban American organizations in response to the 1990s terrorist bombing campaign targeting hotels on the island that was done at the behest of extremist factions within the Cuban exile community. They too were arrested, as spies. Both Gross and the Cubans have admitted working as agents for their respective governments. As pressure in the US to find a solution to Alan Gross's imprisonment rises, a representative from the Cuban foreign ministry has proposed a quid pro quo: Gross for the remaining four Cubans in the US. Both Gross and the case of the "Cuban 5" have been major stumbling blocks for any possible détente under President Obama.
—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.
“Mexican oil workers fear Pemex proposal,” by Stephanie McCrummen. The Washington Post, August 13, 2013.
Mexican President Peña Nieto is moving to pass legislation that will open the country’s oil sector to foreign investment for the first time since its nationalization in 1938. Since Pemex, the state’s oil company, lacks the capital to expand drilling operations and capture additional profit, Nieto’s energy reform is being billed as the only way forward. But foreign investment won’t address the problems that prevent Pemex from serving more than a small cadre of elites, and any form of privatization rightly remains deeply unpopular among those who labor on oil rigs and the Mexican people at large.
—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health, and East and Southeast Asia.
"Land and Blood,” by Pankaj Mishra. The New Yorker, November 25, 2013.
This is a concise but nuanced account of Sino-Japanese relations and modern world history from the perspective and timeline of Asia, interlaced with a review of two books—two revisionist histories on the topic. In light of today's escalating disputes, Anglophone readers will find this piece informative.