A wind turbine complex in southern Wyoming (Reuters/Ed Stoddard)
—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.
“How to Be More than a Mindful Consumer,” by Annie Leonard. Yes! August 22, 2013.
Annie Leonard presses us to transcend “conscientious-consumer” activism and start basing our social self-conceptions in citizenship rather than consumerism. She’s probably more optimistic than most about our collective ability to do this, but she does recognize that any lasting social revolution must first begin with the inception of many individual ones.
—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.
“Wind power now competitive with conventional sources,” by Erin Ailworth. The Boston Globe, September 23, 2013.
Consumers will appreciate the fact that the largest-ever state purchase of renewable energy undercuts carbon-based power by 20–30 percent. Moreover, it has the added perks of being infinite in supply and not boiling the planet. It’ll be fascinating to see how the oil and gas industry responds when this grows widespread.
—Omar Ghabra focuses on Syria and Middle Eastern politics.
“The Shadow Commander,” by Dexter Filkins. The New Yorker, September 30, 2013.
This riveting, in-depth profile of the head of Iran’s Quds Force sheds light on the extent of the Iranian government’s investment in the Syrian conflict. As a window for negotiations with the West appears to be opening, this piece contributes to the understanding of what role the Iranians would be willing to play, if any, toward achieving a diplomatic Syrian solution.
—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.
“Give Yourself 5 Stars? Online, It Might Cost You,” by David Streitfeld. The New York Times, September 23, 2013.
The New York Attorney General’s office has conducted a yearlong study of phony reviews online, and now a crackdown on vindictive Yelp users is in motion. The study began with investigators going deep undercover as the owners of a Brooklyn yogurt store that was receiving unduly harsh reviews. After adequate finger-pointing, the Times reports the investigation’s findings with this treacherous tongue twister: “faking reviews often begins with faked reviews of the company faking the reviews.” In other news of flagrant online identity heist, the two formerly anonymous operators of the Horse_ebooks Twitter account were unmasked and one of them turned out to be a writer for Buzzfeed, rather than a spambot as previously assumed. Oh the humanity.
—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US–Latin American relations.
“The village warriors of Guerrero,” by Judith Matloff. Al Jazeera America, September 22, 2013.
Though Mexico’s drug trafficking wars have largely faded from the headlines here, gruesome murders, frequent kidnappings and unreported incidents of rape and extortion continue unabated in many Mexican states. In Guerrero, a mostly rural area in the country’s south, local laborers and farmers have taken matters into their own hands, forming a civilian militia that monitors roadside checkpoints, patrols the streets at night and tracks down suspected narcotraficantes. According to Wired, nearly half of Mexico’s 31 states now have some form of citizen militias. Though the potential for unchecked vigilante justice is unsettling—and most of the cases brought to trial by these militias have been thrown out—the formation of local action groups underscores the abiding lack of faith among Mexican citizens in the ability of regional authorities, military officials or the justice system to prosecute crimes and protect them from bodily harm.
—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency and investigative reporting.
“Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves,’” by Pete Pattisson. The Guardian, September 25, 2013.
Still in the planning stages of your trip to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup? Don’t act too soon. The Guardian published an investigation this week into the conditions faced by Nepalese laborers hired to help build World Cup infrastructure. “This summer, Nepalese laborers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar,” Pete Pattisson writes. Key findings include evidence of forced labor, salaries being withheld, passports confiscated and laborers denied free drinking water in the desert heat. This investigation proves that there’s more than fun and games to the global sports event held every four years.
—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.
“Sikhs Protest PM’s Address to UN.” Sikh News Network, September 25, 2013.
When I asked a Sikh man about the Khalistan (Sikh nation) movement here in the US early this week, he excitedly explained that he was going to Washington Friday to protest the death-row sentence of Davinderpal Singh Bhullar. Bhullar is a Sikh professor who has been convicted in complicated circumstances of a 1993 bombing in Delhi. He went on to tell me that many Sikhs moved here after violence engulfed their community after Indira Gandhi was assassinated (triggered by her attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar). It turns out the Indian government is worried about the Sikh nation movement’s growing power in the corridors of Washington and an officer who led the 1984 Amritsar attack was targeted by sympathizers in London. In the SNN story above, the protesters demanded Indian PM Singh (a Sikh himself) sack Kamal Nath, the country’s minister for urban development for his alleged role in violence against Sikhs after Mrs. Gandhi’s death.
—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.
“Cuba bids to lure foreign investment with new port and trade zone,” by Marc Frank. Reuters, September 23, 2013.
The Cuban government announced special regulations for the new port facilities at the port of Mariel, in a call to foreign investment. Despite many incentives and special reprieves from taxes, some companies still have qualms over state controls and policy. The port project is the best known in a public works campaign that simultaneously feeds off the recent economic growth in the legalized private sector, and aims to foment future economic growth.
—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.
“Freedom’s Ill Fortunes,” by Katherine Rowland interviews George Packer. Guernica, September 16, 2013.
Katherine Rowland talks to New Yorker staff writer George Packer about his new book, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. The book traces social and economic decline in America over the past three decades through a series of personal histories, augmented with critical essays on some influential figures, including Colin Powell, Jay-Z and Oprah Winfrey.
—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health and East and Southeast Asia.
“American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene?” by Henry Porter. The Guardian, September 21, 2013.
This article brings a curious twist to the question of the international community’s responsibility to intervene in times of crisis and violence—which so often smacks of (a US-led) imperialism—by turning the gaze inwards and examining American gun use.