Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.
Buster Brown focuses on campaign donations in the 2012 election.
“Romney’s Personal Touch Pays Off With Campaign Donors,” by Michael Barbaro. The New York Times, June 20, 2012.
Fueled by big spenders, Romney raised $78 million, $18 million more than the President. By keeping donors informed about up-to-the-minute political strategy, quickly responding the emails, and providing unfettered access to the candidate himself, the Romney campaign could end up outraising Obama.
Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.
“Stop our sperm, please,” by Irin Carmon. Salon, June 14, 2012.
In a week that brought us Michigan legislators getting rid of “vaginas” and the Catholic Health Association refusing to compromise on hormonal birth control, Irin Carmon at Salon brings men into the contraceptive picture. Her piece profiles the “reversible male contraceptive” Vasalgel and explores the ongoing struggle to place equal burden for birth control on men.
Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the United States.
“Stop Charles Barron, Now.” The New York Observer, June 20, 2012.
This factually challenged editorial is indicative of the manner in which dissent is managed in the United States–candidates who pose even the slightest threat to established dogma on US foreign policy and the system of white supremacy in the United States are presumed to be “racial arsonists” and “refugees from the 1960s.”
Andrea Jones focuses on focus on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.
“An American Gulag: Descending into Madness at Supermax,” “Supermax: The Faces of a Prison’s Mentally Ill,” and “Supermax: The Constitution and Mentally Ill Prisoners,” by Andrew Cohen. The Atlantic, June 18, 19, and 20, 2012.
On June 18th, inmates filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons and officials at the high-security “Supermax” facility in southern Colorado. In this three-part series, The Atlantic chronicles the allegations set forth—that mentally ill prisoners were chronically neglected and subjected to inhumane treatment—as well as the personal stories of the plaintiffs and legal issues at hand.
Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.
“Broken heartland: The looming collapse of agriculture on the Great Plains,” by Wil S. Hylton. Harper’s, July 2012.
Harper’s lengthy story outlines all the problems the Great Plains face, and the contentious solutions that have been proposed for that ever-depopulating part of the country. After decades of unsustainable agriculture dried out the earth and tipped the ecosystems out of balance, debates now rage over whether to allow current farming practices to further destroy the land or to turn them into wind farms or national parks. This article nicely explains the issues at hand using the quirky characters who have each come up with their own solutions to these problems.
Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.
“US in No Position to Condemn Alleged Russian Transfer of Helicopter Gunships to Syrian Regime,” by Stephen Zunes. Foreign Policy In Focus, June 18, 2012.
US Secretary of State Clinton recently claimed that Russia is arming the Syrian government with attack helicopters. Political scientist Stephen Zunes argues that it is important to oppose Russian military assistance to Syria, but stresses that the US is "in no position to preach to the Russians about the sanctity of arms." Drawing from the history of US foreign policy since the 1980s, Zunes provides essential context and highlights the fact that the US has a deplorable record of transferring "deadly technologies" to dangerous regimes that used them to attack civilian populations.
Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students.
“Should Colleges Consider Legacies in the Admissions Process?” The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2012.
In this article, president emeritus and university professor of George Washington University, Stephen Trachtenberg, and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, Richard Kahlenberg, argue for and against, respectively, legacies in college admissions. Personally, as someone whose parents got as far as attaining a GED/Associates, I can’t help but be against the practice of choosing “legacies” over another applicant. It’s one thing if I wasn’t picked because I’m naturally handicapped where numbers are concerned, but it’s another if I’m considered handicapped simply because my parents weren’t afforded the kinds of opportunities that would have propelled them to go to college like there are now. The practice is simply unfair, and given the nature of its origins, has no place in our present day admissions process.
Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.
“Meet Your Cousin, the First Lady: A Family Story, Long Hidden,” by Rachel Swarns. The New York Times, June 16, 2012.
NYT reporter Rachel L. Swarns’s recently published American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama uses public record, interviews, letters, and DNA testing to reconstruct several generations of the first lady’s black and white ancestors. Since the 300-plus-year span of American slavery is one defining force in this country’s history, the results of which—political, psychological, interpersonal— are often still not dealt with in contemporary America, it is hoped the book will spark conversation. This excerptnot only brings to light a shared history (raising the necessity of talking about multiracialism in a broader social context) but in grappling with painful historical questions, it urges us to confront how race functions and is discussed today—and, specifically, gives us one further angle on the discussion of race with respect to The White House.
Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.
“Our Billionaire Philanthropists,” by Maria Bustillos. The Awl, June 13, 2012.
Maria Bustillos’ comprehensive article calls out the destruction caused by the accelerating transfer of social services from the public sector to the private world of foundations and non-profits. Noblesse oblige isn’t an answer in our age of austerity—it’s an unreliable and shady state of affairs that further empowers the wealthy and diminishes the power of ordinary citizens. Because most of these billionaires are the reason that people are impoverished in the first place, their charity only works to soften their public image and maybe provide some balm for their (hopefully) tortured souls. Or they just like telling poor people how to behave. Either way, a great read on a woefully underreported phenomenon.
Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.
“Enbridge Elk Point Spill Pumps About 230,000 Litres Of Heavy Crude In Alberta,” by Mary Jo Laforest. The Canadian Press via Huffington Post, June 20, 2012.
Several major oil sands pipeline projects are in the works, and the Canadian government has been pushing hard to convince people in British Columbia and the US that they’re a good idea. One proposed project is Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which would transport oil sands oil from Alberta to the BC coast, and which is currently facing serious opposition from First Nations and environmental groups in public hearings. The thing is, Enbridge has a terrible history of spills. In 2010, an estimated one million gallons of diluted bitumen crude (or dilbit) gushed into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River from an Enbridge pipeline. It’s still being cleaned up two years later. Last week’s spill in Alberta, though not nearly to that scale, is another reminder of the risk that is installed with each section of pipe. Here’s a map and database of the tar sands pipelines that are planned to or already crisscross the US. There are a lot more than you think.
Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan
“Afghanistan suspends political party sparking fears over freedom of speech,” by Emma Graham-Harrison. The Guardian, June 14, 2012.
Afghanistan has slipped down (along with Iraq) on the 2011 Failed State Index and the elimination of a small, left-wing party should trouble progressives who have been inspired by gender and political reforms by the government since 2002. Spokesmen for the government stated that Solidarity had "violated article 59 of the constitution" which reads that no one can misuse his or her rights and freedoms to damage Afghanistan’s national sovereignty or unity.
Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.
“Assange’s appeal to Ecuador is no surprise,” by Richard Gizbert. Al Jazeera, June 20, 2012.
Assange’s dramatic decision to hole himself up in the Ecuadorian embassy has been the subject of much scrutiny this week. While unfolding events in London are providing some easy fodder for journalists eager to write fluff-pieces about the Wikileaks founder’s personal eccentricities, Richard Gizbert manages to touch upon a more important scoop—how the cable dump helped to clarify the State Department’s contemporary policy towards Latin America.