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.
“Follow the Dark Money,” by Andy Kroll. Mother Jones, July/August 2012.
If you think about money as water and regulations as a dam blocking our political system from the flood of dark money, argues Andy Kroll, then America’s current “dam” would look like Swiss cheese. “Political money…moves much like water, always looking for an opening to flow through,” Kroll writes, “and political operatives are only too eager to muddy those waters with anonymous, untraceable cash.”
Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.
“1996 Commencement to Wellesley College,” by Nora Ephron.
The web has been buzzing about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” the now-viral Atlantic essay arguing that feminism has lifted women to powerful position but, in doing so, has set us up to fail. While many writers have churned out smart responses to Slaughter, the late Nora Ephron’s 1996 Wellesley College commencement speech might be the cleverest retort of all. “In case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all.… It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess," she writes, poking holes in Slaughter’s unrealistic definition of “having it all.” Still, she warns, "Don’t let the New York Times article about the brilliant success of Wellesley graduates in the business world fool you—there’s still a glass ceiling."
Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.
“How can the Chicago Teachers Union win?” by Lee Susta. SocialistWorker.org, June 27, 2012.
This article analyzes why a potential Chicago teacher’s strike has emerged: one in which education is rapidly being privatized, where the unions are being busted, and where teachers are subordinated to the interests of a bull-headed Mayor and his 1% allies. The assault on public education is a way for the social divisions that inhibit national conversation to be deepened. The limitations on the right to organize, which we have seen snowball in the last two years, are another stage in this development.
Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.
“Few Iowa felons pursue voting rights,” by Ryan J. Foley. Associated Press via Salon, June 24, 2012.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s contribution to the sweep of recent GOP voter suppression measures stands out as particularly brazen: requiring felons to undergo a long and onerous process—including providing a credit report—in order to have their rights restored after being discharged from state supervision. Not only does Branstad’s order restrict voting rights for felons on the basis of financial abilities, it also disenfranchises a group of individuals more likely to be poor, black, or young than the general population, and more likely to vote Democrat. Of the 8,000 felons in Iowa who have been released since Branstad implemented the policy, less than a dozen have successfully reacquired voting power.
Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.
“Ikea won’t tell where it gets its wood — and Congress is about to give it a pass,” by Sarah Laskow. Grist, June 21, 2012.
Ikea wood is like mystery meat, and the company should tell us exactly what’s in it. That’s the argument this Grist article makes, exposing a debate in the Capitol around a relatively obscure law that the House is expected to vote on in July. As it stands now, the Lacey Act requires, among other things, that anyone importing plants or plant products—therefore almost all wood—has to report which plants were used to make it and where they came from. But Ikea, which has been tied to illegal logging in many parts of the world, is pushing hard to get the reporting requirements lifted, and seems to be getting its way.
Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.
“Why Is the US Selling Billions in Weapons to Autocrats?” by Zach Toombs, R. Jeffrey Smith and The Center For Public Integrity. Foreign Policy, June 21, 2012.
The United States is the world’s top supplier of “major conventional weapons.” The most recent Military Assistance Report from the State Department reveals that the export of American arms to nations around the world is “booming” and is predicted to increase up to 70% by next year. The US issued nearly 45 billion dollars in arms shipments to over 170 countries in the last fiscal year. Some of the biggest recipients of US arms include regimes with highly objectionable human rights records, such as United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Israel, Djibouti, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Algeria. This article provides a detailed list of the top 10 national recipients of US weapons that were cited by the State Department for human rights shortcomings.
Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.
“College boards turn to business-style approaches,” by Zinie Chen Sampson. Associated Press, June 27, 2012.
This supposition that someone with a background in business is automatically qualified to lead is—quite frankly—not very smart. It’s a supposition that nearly led to the ouster of the University of Virginia’s President Teresa Sullivan, and one that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is banking on to win the presidency. But have we so quickly forgotten the lessons from recent history? One of the biggest blunders of the Bloomberg administration was hiring publishing titan Cathie Black for the job of schools chancellor. She lasted all of three months. In terms of the presidency, our most recent businessman-in-chief was the one and only George W. Bush—’nuff said there. While I’m sure there have been, and are, people who have made successful transitions from private to public, I think for schools—particularly public institutions—to have such a keen interest in corporate-minded leadership is troubling. We’re talking about education here, not a business… aren’t we?
Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.
“The People of Arizona Won’t Comply With Hate,” by Mónica Novoa. Colorlines, June 26, 2012.
Racial profiling was made law on Monday when the Supreme Court ruled that in Arizona, and in any other state where such a law might arise, law enforcement officers are authorized to stop and question anyone. There is a long history of racialized injustice surrounding immigration in this country. And Congress’s official apology earlier this month for the Chinese Exclusion Act, only repealed in 1943, looks ridiculous next to the Court’s decision to denote other people of color as threatening and “alien” in Arizona.
Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.
“It’s Still Not A Crime To Kill Someone With Your Car Door,” by Christopher Robbins. Gothamist, June 25, 2012.
Bicycling in New York City is pretty great. You can get to some places faster than if you took the subway, and it’s a joy to ride in protected, designated bike lanes on either the waterfront or any of the bridges. There’s this one problem, though—people keep dying. Gothamist has been doing yeoman’s work on this topic, following up on how the NYPD has failed to charge reckless drivers in bicyclists’ deaths, as well as the city’s inability to ensure the safety of shared bike-lanes. With the city ready to launch a new bicycle-sharing program geared for tourists, and assuming that these tourists won’t use helmets (they probably won’t), it’s quite possible that the number of bike-deaths will sharply rise. Maybe then the city and the NYPD will begin to protect bicyclists.
Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.
Have you heard of dilbit? I hadn’t either. But now with the southern portion of Keystone XL approved for construction this week, we all really need to. Bitumen—the stuff extracted from tar sands—is nothing like its conventional crude counterpart. It’s thick and sticky, and has to be diluted to flow through pipelines. The chemical mixture used to dilute it is a trade secret, but often includes the human carcinogen benzene. It’s nasty stuff. This dilbit, or diluted bitumen, is what gushed into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010 to the tune of one million gallons—the biggest pipeline spill you’ve probably never heard of. It was a quiet disaster, but InsideClimate News has just put out this three-part investigation seven months in the making, which opens with an unsettling narrative that will keep you all the way through: “An acrid stench had already enveloped John LaForge’s five-bedroom house when he opened the door just after 6 a.m.”
Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.
“Leon Panetta checks progress of war as he arrives in Afghanistan.” The Telegraph, June 7, 2012.
Without the removal of "safe havens" in Pakistan for the Taliban and its affiliates, increased stability in Afghanistan is unlikely after ten years of war. The Haqanni network—an arm of Pakistan’s shadowy and powerful ISI and the Taliban—has been hiding in Waziristan’s “safe havens” and launching attacks within Afghanistan, most recently, an 18-hour assault on Kabul.
Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.
“Troops have withdrawn from Iraq, but U.S. money hasn’t,” by Walter Pincus. The Washington Post, June 27, 2012.
This article draws additional attention to the massive amount of US government money pouring into Iraq as our “civilian-led mission” continues. According to the article, the “diminished flow of money to Iraq” amounts to 1.1 billion dollars for the fiscal year of 2013. One can only assume that a large part of this pie will be allocated to US firms. Six months after withdrawal, the fiscal benefits of destroying and then reconstructing a country continue to be cast in stark relief.