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 look beyond the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. 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.
“Record Spending by Obama’s Camp Shrinks Coffers,” by Nicholas Confessore and Jo Craven McGinty. The New York Times, August 4, 2012.
The New York Times reports that Obama has spent more campaign money more quickly than any American president. His cash advantage over Romney has vanished and, in part because of this early spending, most believe it will never return. For the third month in a row, Obama has raised less than the Republicans, burgeoning bipartisan speculation that early donations have shrunk democratic coffers. Romney’s camp believes Obama spent too much too quickly and will thus not be able to raise a sufficient monthly allotment of cash. But Team Obama insists their money has been used to build country wide grass roots programs, whose dividends will be bountiful come election day.
Marisa Carroll focuses on gender and sexuality.
“For Women in Street Stops, Deeper Humiliation,” by Wendy Ruderman. The New York Times, August 6, 2012.
Though the anti-Stop & Frisk movement has admirably shed light on the policy and put the NYPD on watch, many activists and journalists have presented the program as one only targeting black and Latino men. This picture does not account for the sexual harassment that populations like gender non-conforming people and women experience at the hand of Stop & Frisk. "Last year, New York City police officers stopped 46,784 women, frisking nearly 16,000," Ruderman reports in this important piece, supplementing her research with women’s experiences of sexual violation and trauma.
Matthew Cunningham-Cook focuses on the role of dissent in the contemporary United States.
“Mosques, Temples, and Theaters: We Need to Change the Script,” by Falguni Sheth. Translation Exercises, August 7, 2012.
In this brilliant summation of the media response to the series of domestic traumas we have experienced of late, Falguni Sheth weaves the white supremacy of everyday life in the United States to the massive state violence of the last decade to point out that deranged gunmen and white male violence are quickly becoming, once again, essential to the national character.
Andrea Jones focuses on barriers to justice in the United States and abroad.
“Is Texas’ Death Penalty Machine Executing the Mentally Disabled?” by Renee Feltz. The Texas Observer, August 8, 2012.
54 year-old Marvin Wilson was put to death in Texas on Tuesday, a saddening event and distressing reminder of how our criminal justice system deals with mental health issues among prisoners, from treatment while incarcerated (see a piece on a pending case here) to the standards used to identify defendants’ intellectual disabilities and sentence accordingly. In an affront to the Supreme Court’s Atkins v. Virginia decision, which reasoned that mentally retarded defendants were less culpable for crimes and less capable of mounting an effective defense, Texas moved ahead with the execution of a man diagnosed as mentally retarded by a board-certified specialist. The criteria used by state courts to identify mental disability is resoundingly unscientific, going as far as to rely on fictitious models of intellectual impairment such as Lennie Small from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to establish whether defendants should be subject to the death penalty. Condemning Tuesday’s events, Steinbeck’s son commented: “My father was a highly gifted writer who won the Nobel prize for his ability to create art about the depth of the human experience and condition. His work was certainly not meant to be scientific, and the character of Lennie was never intended to be used to diagnose a medical condition like intellectual disability.”
Soumya Karlamangla focuses on environmental and health policy.
“What the Mars Rover Can Tell Us About Climate Change,” by James West. Mother Jones, August 7, 2012.
This article points out one simple fact: you can’t test out hypotheses about climate change on the Earth. So, unlike a science experiment in which you can adjust the variable to see the effect, you can’t increase carbon emissions quickly to see how badly it damages the Earth just to prove that climate change is happening. This is where Curiosity comes in, which will study how carbon flows through Mars, and therefore help us learn more about our own planet.
Daniel LoPreto focuses on international relations.
“White Terrorism at Oak Creek: The Paranoid Style in American Violence,” by Juan Cole. Informed Comment, August 6, 2012.
Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, analyzes the Oak Creek shooting and observes the connection between the Islamaphobic shooter, a culture of anti-Muslim hate in the US, and American foreign policy. Cole’s piece is powerful and charged. He condemns neoconservative anti-Muslim bigots and claims that the actions of the racist shooter cannot be understood without analyzing the pervasive Islamophobia that has plagued US discourse. He observes, "Did Michele Bachmann, Peter King, Daniel Pipes and the others cause the Wisconsin shootings? No. Did they create an intellectual and cultural atmosphere that naturalized such violence against the supposed Other? Well, Bachmann publicly alleged that a minor aide to Hillary Clinton of Pakistani heritage is at the center of a vast infiltration of the American government by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. You decide."
Gizelle Lugo focuses on issues confronting students in the public and higher education systems.
“City Wages War on Scam For-Profits,” by Jessica Campbell. The Village Voice, August 8, 2012.
We’ve all seen Garvin Gittens’ face before—he’s that guy sitting on a stoop in those subway ads with a caption about how he attended a for-profit college. However—for those of you who didn’t finish reading the ad—it’s not another true life success story imploring you to call the number below: Gittens came out of the Katharine Gibbs School with $25,000 in debt and a worthless degree to boot. The ad is actually part of the "Know Before You Enroll" campaign backed by Consumer Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education, the Office of Economic Empowerment and NYC Service encouraging awareness among prospective students, as well as victims of predatory institutions to come forward and tip off 311 about their experiences. The article goes on to reveal more of Gittens’ story, as well as the efforts by legislators and the city in their crackdown of the industry. In light of the recent report by Sen. Tom Harkin, it’s heartening to know that there are officials paying attention to the dangers of for-profit colleges in their current form and are in the process of providing more regulation, transparency and liability in the industry. It’s still in its early days yet, but the campaign is definitely a step in the right direction.
Lucy McKeon focuses on race and ethnicity.
“Hate Crimes Always Have A Logic: On The Oak Creek Gurudwara Shootings,” by Hasha Walia. Racialicious, August 6, 2012.
Harsha Walia’s piece begins by dispelling any notion that the Oak Creek shooting was random or senseless rather than a racist hate crime operating through the deliberate logic of white supremacy. "White supremacy, as a dominant and dominating structuring, actually necessitates and relies on a discourse that suggests that hate crimes are random," Walia writes. Some have commented on Oak Creek’s media coverage in the context of Aurora’s, as well as the white privilege afforded these gunmen when their actions aren’t seen as reflective of their race (after Aurora, Chauncey Devega called for a "national conversation about the ties between (white) masculinity and violence.") Walia explores gunman Wade Page’s involvement with neo-Nazi groups, as well as with the US Army. By looking at white supremacy as endemic to our nation’s institutions—from immigration laws to healthcare, housing, education, labor and so on—Walia’s piece asks that readers confront the institutionalized culture that makes hate crimes like Oak Creek possible, even probable, in contemporary America.
Max Rivlin-Nadler focuses on the preservation of public institutions and the movement towards a transformed and renewed access to urban life.
“NYPD and Microsoft launch advanced citywide surveillance system,” by Paul Harris. The Guardian, August 8, 2012.
Looks like the city of New York has gotten into the business of developing domestic spying software. The program, called "Domain Awareness System" will be used and licensed by the city of New York, which looks to turn a tidy profit when other cities purchase the system. Remember when cities use to tax and use traditional bonds to make money? Not anymore, now you can exchange the civil liberties of your population for raw profit.
Zoë Schlanger focuses on environmental policy, public health and corporate influence.
“State’s ‘Medical Gag Rule’ Called An Illegal Gift to Gas Drillers,” by Erin McCauley. Courthouse News Service, July 31, 2012.
While technically last week’s news, this story has attracted hardly any press. In Pennsylvania, a doctor is suing the state for the ‘medical gag rule’ it imposed this year on fracking chemicals protected by trade secret law. In a quiet 2012 amendment to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, the state ruled that if a person comes in contact with fracking fluid and is treated for a medical emergency, the doctor treating them is allowed to obtain the confidential chemical identities, but he or she cannot disclose them to anyone, including the patient. The physician bringing the case calls the rule, which carries a punishment of license suspension for an offending doctor, a "gross and content-based intrusion" on First Amendment speech. It calls back memories of the Colorado nurse who suffered organ failure after handling fracking fluid-splashed clothing in 2008. She was unable to discover the chemical identities of the fluid, and it took weeks for the doctor treating her to find out.
This is all in light of a law signed by Obama in May that gave significant ground to fracking companies regarding trade secrets: whereas the Bureau of Land Management’s draft of the rules would require fracking companies to disclose (some of) the contents of its fluid before beginning to drill, Obama’s recent legislation lets them disclose it after they’ve finished.
Brett Warnke focuses on Afghanistan.
“Afghan civilian casualties drop for first time in 5 years – report,” by Jennifer Rowland. Foreign Policy, August 8, 2012.
Numbers ahead: Be strong! A United Nations report on Afghanistan states that between January 1 and June 30 of 2012, conflict-related violence resulted in 3,099 civilian deaths. (For perspective, this is about how many people die in the US from food poisoning each year.) But with a U.S. military that is handing over more responsibility to unprepared Afghan forces, the next 16 months will be more important. The UN says that 90% of the deaths came from the record number of spectacle-seeking attacks by the Taliban while only 10% are caused by pro-government forces. But what about drones? According to the ACLU, since 2002, drone strikes have killed 4,000 people—a rough average of about 400 people per year, a significant number of them civilians. (Again, for perspective, 9,146 people died from gun violence in America in 2009 according to the UNODC.) Drones have struck Pakistan 75 times in 2011 and killed around 126 civilians. How about U.S. soldier deaths? Here’s a sample of those numbers: Between 2002 and 2006 there were 7,901 total military deaths. But 34% (2,688) were considered "accidents," many of which were NOT combat-related. 33% (2,593) were from hostile fire and 10% (820) were self-inflicted.
Michael Youhana focuses on US foreign policy.
“When philosophers join the kill chain,” by Mark LeVine. Al Jazeera, August 8, 2012.
Recently, the website of the Guardian featured the views of philosopher, Bradley Strawser, regarding the practicality and moral righteousness of drone warfare. Mark Levine responds to Strawser in this article, arguing against the philosopher’s rosy portrayal of these high-tech instruments of war. The article can best be described as a comprehensive knockout blow. Levine tackles everything from Strawser’s disregard for legal norms to the credibility of the evidence used to support the philosopher’s arguments.