This week: Tariq Ramadan calls a coup a coup, California prisoners begin a hunger strike for basic human rights, and Dinyar Godrej unpacks the exploitation of debt. 

— Darren Ankrom focuses on climate change.

Hurricanes Likely to Get Stronger & More Frequent: Study,” by Andrew Freedman.
Climate Central, July 8, 2013.

While it is generally agreed that climate change causes stronger cyclones, a recently released study by an MIT-based hurricane researcher predicts the storms will not only get worse, but will occur more often, too. His chilling results forecast a 40 percent rise in major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, a bold leap against the scientific grain. The one-two-punch of more and deadlier storms could be a knockout blow for low-lying, coastal areas.

— Humna Bhojani focuses on the War on Terror and the Middle East.

Woman’s work,” by Francesca Borri. Columbia Journalism Review, July 1, 2013.

As an aspiring war reporter, I was particularly stirred by this freelancer's brutally honest account of reporting from Syria. Journalism is ruthless enough as it is; war makes it even more so. Borri gives penetrating insight into the frustration, the fear and the flimsy financial prospects that freelancers face.

…wish me luck?

— Rick Carp focuses on media, psychology and environmentalism.

What I learned from the Tar Sands Healing Walk,” by Emma Pullman., July 10, 2013.

The author traveled with First Nations members during the fourth annual Healing Walk last week (during the same time as an oil spill in the Athabasca River and the train disaster in Quebec). The author recites old prophecies (related to a boy who was born last Thursday) that apparently came true last week, which "signal the time to act." She relates the story of one group of Cree peoples who wanted to fight against settlers who couldn't be reasoned with. The tribal elder told them it would be futile and a losing battle, but that one day "there will be a generation of their children that will be our friends. So that's the time to stand." Amid a variety of near-constant extraction-related disasters, continued conversion of diverse cultures to consumer capitalism and looming ecological catastrophe, it is clear that day has arrived.

— Keenan Duffey focuses on Middle East national politics.

Egypt: Coup d’État, Act II,” by Tariq Ramadan., July 9, 2013.

Tariq Ramadan, the renowned intellectual, dispels the justifications offered by many Westerners and secular Egyptians for the overthrow of the Morsi government and calls the events of last week what they truly are: a coup d'etat. A revolution hard won by the people has been swept away in the name of Western ideals but in reality, it is nothing more than a military power grab. The Obama administration's silence demonstrates that while the United States might speak about democratic principles, in the end it will always support those actors who will best guarantee American strategic interests.

— Prashanth Kamalakanthan focuses on racism, imperialism, and student/worker activism.

Debt—a global scam,” by Dinyar Godrej. New Internationalist, July 2013.

Reviewing the contours of global indebtedness, Dinyar Godrej makes a powerful moral argument (heard increasingly) that we can no longer view debt to global finance as "something owed"; it has become "just senseless exploitation." Across cultures there have always been boundaries for what constitutes usury and extortion, and Godrej argues we need to understand the creditor class as doing this on a global scale. Outside of this rhetorical framing, he also cites interesting research showing the current state of affairs is in strict economic terms a regression from past gains, maintained through brute force.

— Eunji Kim focuses on gender, race, media and East Asian politics.

Automatic throttle faulty in crash: pilot,” by Seo Jee-yeon. The Korea Herald, July 10, 2013.

When the initial chaos following Asiana Airline plane crash died down, officials began questioning what ended the seemingly normal flight in tragedy. Following the NTSB official's briefing that mentioned interviewing the crew of Flight 214, reports spewed out from both the US and Korean media. While two countries (or three, including China) focused heavily on the probable cause of the accident, the initial focus was starkly different, with the US weighing in on the trainee pilot while Korea pointed out Boeing 777's possible malfunction. This Korea Herald article presents Koreans' outlook on the issue, and shows how issues unrelated to politics or foreign affairs will still have strikingly different voices.

— Samantha Lachman focuses on reproductive justice, health care access and intersectionality.

Female inmates sterilized in California prisons without approval,” by Corey Johnson. The Sacramento Bee, July 7, 2013.

The Center for Investigative Reporting found that doctors contracted by California's prison system sterilized almost 150 inmates from 2006 to 2010 without state approval. Forced sterilization is just as much of a reproductive justice issue as restrictions on abortion access, but gets less attention from the media, and generates less of an outcry from the public. Every person, inmate or not, deserves control over her reproductive choices, obviously—but in a week when NC's GOP state legislators sneakily attached restrictions on abortions and clinics to a bill on motorcycle safety, we're reminded, again, that this concept needs to be fought on behalf of everyone.

— Rebecca Nathanson focuses on social movements, student organizing and labor.

From 20 cents to everything else — the struggle for the narrative in Brazil,” by Vanessa Zettler. Waging Nonviolence, July 10, 2013.

From a bus fare hike to a response to inequality embodied by new stadiums being built for the 2014 World Cup to a right-wing nationalist movement promoted by the media to a revolutionary one inspired by Turkey, the protests in Brazil have been explained in countless different ways over the past weeks. In this piece, Brazilian writer Vanessa Zettler walks through the chronology of the movement, explaining how it has, at various times, seemed to prove all of these varying explanations right and debating the balance between "breadth of discontent" and concrete demands that can produce tangible results.

— Jake Scobey-Thal focuses on human rights and conflict in Asia and Africa

Buried Secrets,” by Patrick Radden Keefe. The New Yorker, July 8, 2013.

Why do Africa's most impoverished nations fail to reap the rewards of their vast natural resources? Patrick Radden Keefe weaves the story systemic corruption in Guinea, a new reformist president—and the iron ore deposits that prop it all up.

— Aviva Stahl focuses on Islamophobia in the US and the UK and its links to racism, homophobia/transphobia and the prison industrial complex.

Pelican Bay Prison Hunger-Strikers' Stories,” by Gabriel Reyes. Truthout, July 9, 2013.

On July 8, over 30,000 prisoners from across California began a work and hunger strike to demand basic human rights. Truthout is publishing a series of first-hand accounts from prisoners on strike inside the SHU (Security Housing Unit) at Pelican Bay State Prison, all of whom are plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights to challenge conditions of long-term solitary confinement. In this one, Gabriel Reyes describes what he's faced for the past sixteen years: spending 22.5 hours each day in what he calls a "living tomb"—a tiny, windowless cell, let out only to exercise in a dark, cement enclosure.

— John Thomason focuses on pieces that situate contemporary American political debates in historical and/or intellectual contexts.


Reforming Michelle Rhee,” by Jeff Guo. The New Republic, July 8, 2013.

Too often the education reform movement is portrayed as a messianic force that descends from the heavens to fire bad teachers, close bad schools and give poor children a chance at college. This piece demonstrates that the movement (and its money) may indeed be a godsend, but only for red-state Republicans who see a once-in-a-lifetime chance to curtail public investment in a major way. A chance to make history, indeed. But even the Tea Partiers get cold feet when it comes to enacting these so-called reforms.