This week, while the mainstream media shined the spotlight on a spacediver, Nation interns looked elsewhere. From shady billboards in Cleveland to a young hero in Pakistan, here's what you might've missed.
Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.
“Government releases ‘Red Lines’ document detailing Gaza food restrictions,” by Mya Guarnieri. +972, October 17, 2012.
An Israeli NGO has won a legal case that allowes it to obtain documents about Israel's blockade policy towards Gaza between 2007 and 2010. These documents show to what extent the Israeli government controlled Gaza, revealing that Israel calculated the minimum caloric needs of Palestinians before malnutrition would occur. Although Israel claims that it ceased to be an occupying power in Gaza after its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the control it has over residents in Gaza, including control over movement in and out of the strip and the amount of food they consume, suggests otherwise.
Jeff Ernsthausen focuses on domestic politics and the influence of money on public institutions.
“Washington group asks for Clear Channel to remove voter fraud billboards,” by Stan Donaldson. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 10, 2012.
Two weeks ago, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on billboards that had begun to appear in predominantly black neighborhoods in the Cleveland area declaring "VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY: UP TO 3 1/2 YRS & $10,000 Fine." The sponsor of the ads, which reportedly have been spotted in similar neighborhoods in Cincinnati and Milwaukee, requested and received anonymity from Clear Channel Outdoor, the company that owns the billboards. Now civil rights advocates are demanding that the communications company remove the signs, which they say aim to intimidate black voters in a bid to influence the outcome of the 2012 elections in hotly contested battle ground states.
Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the Presidency, and China.
“Abraham Lincoln: The Great Campaigner,” by Sidney Blumenthal. Newsweek, October 15, 2012.
This article takes a little too long to get going but Blumenthal marshals some nice, lesser-known examples of how Lincoln was "a master of political ruthlessness—for the sake of the highest ideals." The author shows the types of deals Lincoln was willing (not to mention able) to make in order to swing support for the proposed 13th Amendment, even from some of its staunchest opponents. Judgeships and ambassadorships were offered and given, sympathetic journalists were deployed as de facto spies and Lincoln was absolutely comfortable in utilizing the presidential bully pulpit. It’s a great look at the non-hagiographic histories of Abraham Lincoln, which all-too-often seem to take the approach of "Oh, and Lincoln did some politicking, too." I hope Blumenthal expands on this article and writes more on this.
Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media, and East Asian affairs.
“What an Academic Who Wrote Her Dissertation on Trolls Thinks of Violentacrez,” by Whitney Phillips. The Atlantic, October 15, 2012.
Last week, Gawker outted Violentacrez, Reddit's most notorious troll, depraved pornographer, and perversely celebrated moderator. In light of this exposure, digital folklorist Whitney Phillips ruminates on the subculture of trolls that bred and fed Violentacrez, and gained mainstream recognition in the past couple years. Citing her own dissertation, Phillips defines trolls as "cultural scavengers" who exploit "existing sensitivities" to lure emotional reactions. She observes that trolls almost always stand on a platform of privilege when they spew their racist or misogynistic shock bait. Perhaps most profoundly, Phillips connects troll subculture with the sensationalist mainstream media's exploitative tactics. The first trades in the currency of "lulz"—the latter, in profits.
Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace-related issues.
“Anatomy of the US Targeted Killing Policy,” by Lisa Hajjar. Jadaliyya, August 27, 2012.
During this asinine election, there's one issue you probably won't hear about—targeted killing. Professor Lisa Hajjar, of University of California at Santa Barbara, details how targeted killing replaced torture as the favored counterterrorism policy of the United States. While Bush practiced targeted killing, Obama expanded it to new heights. The Obama administration arrogated the right, unto the president, to kill anyone, including US citizens, anywhere, at any time, by drone strike or other means—and these "suspected terrorists" are all on a list designating them for death. He uses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to carry these killings out, which adds multiple layers of secrecy.
Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence, and regulatory capture.
“Why The Keystone Pipeline Won't Lower Gas Prices Here But Might In Europe,” by Matthew Yglesias. Slate, October 17, 2012.
It is depressingly probable that a re-elected President Obama will ditch his statement that “we've built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once,” as he put it in Tuesday’s debate, and approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Canada’s US Ambassador Gary Doer even took the interesting step last month of betting a six-pack of beer that the pipeline would be given the go-ahead. Much of that probability can be attributed to the fact that local protestors, who led the temporarily successful fight last fall, have been gobbled up by election campaigns leading up to November. Still, protests are heating up in East Texas, where parts of the southern portion of the pipeline—which Obama did approve—are already being built. In this brief blog post, Matt Yglesias debunks Mitt Romney’s claim that Keystone XL would even fulfill the main purpose he attributes to it: lowering gas prices for Americans.
Annum Marsoor focuses on the draw down of the Afghanistan War and how it will shape Afghanistan's own future and that of its neighbors.
“Can Malala Bring Peace to Pakistan and Afghanistan?” by Ahmed Rashid. The New Yorker, October 15, 2012.
Last week, as 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai traveled home in a van full of classmates, two members of the Pakistani Taliban shot her in the head and neck. Since the tender age of 11, Malala has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban and its medieval interpretation of Islam, and is arguably Pakistan's strongest advocate for girls' education. Today she is fighting for her life in a Birmingham hospital in the United Kingdom, and Pakistan watches her hopeful recovery with shock and sadness. Malala shook the country out of its drone-induced stupor, a national attitude that was distracted by US warfare within its borders. By attacking a 14-year-old schoolgirl, the Taliban have made clear their vision for Pakistan's future. The people of Pakistan have responded in turn: there is now unprecedented domestic pressure on the military to definitively fight the Taliban. For Rashid, this provides the US and Afghanistan the cooperation they have publicly longed for, and the three countries have an opportunity to together forge a decisive effort against the Taliban.
Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.
“Candy Crowley’s weird dismissal of climate change,” by Philip Bump. Grist, October 17, 2012.
Candy Crowley, the moderator for 2012’s second presidential debate, apparently had a question on climate change lined up but chose not to ask it in favor of focusing on the economy. But, as anybody who watched can probably attest, every topic asked of the candidates ended up being tied to the economy. Instead of calling Crowley out for setting the facts straight on Libya—you know, for doing her job as a journalist—there ought to be more talk about the questions she chose not to ask. We’ve all got a stake in issues like climate change and deserve to hear how the candidates’ solutions might interact with the nation’s economic policy.
Anna Robinson focuses on gender, sexuality and social justice.
“Kentucky Judge Rules that the Matthew Shepherd and James Bird Hate Crime Prevention Act is Constitutional: First Federal Sexual Orientation-Based Hate Crime Trial Begins,” by Katherine Franke. Columbia Law School’s Gender and Sexuality Blog, October 17, 2012.
Following news that earlier this week a federal trial court in Kentucky upheld the constitutionality of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Professor Franke looks more closely at United States vs. Jenkins, which is set to become the first federal sexual orientation-based case under this law to go to trial. It is worth noting here that considering the already harsh penalties for violent crimes, those critical of America's system of mass incarceration are questioning the efficacy of hate crimes legislation and closely watching these laws' disproportionate impact on youth and people of color. United States vs. Jenkins will certainly be a case to watch.
Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.
“Collateral Damage in the War on Women,” by Akiba Solomon. Colorlines, October 11, 2012.
Only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services are abortions—not 90 percent, as Republican legislators want voters to believe. The number that really matters is the 76 percent of Planned Parenthood's clients that live on less than $33,000 a year for a family of four. In order to restrict that small sliver of services, right-wing ideologues are cutting off millions of low-income women from vital reproductive health care. As Solomon writes, "It’s unclear how defunding conveniently located sources of free birth control, STI testing, Pap smears, clinical breast exams and other women’s health care is a pro-life activity. But this is what counts as logic in today’s abortion wars."
Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.
“Las autoridades de Río darán nombre a las calles de las favelas pacificadas,” by Juan Arias. El País, October 15, 2012. (English translation available here.)
The Rio de Janeiro favela streets are in the process of being named. The previously unnamed streets prevented people from receiving basic things such as mail, which the city did not see as a problem, due to the lack of a need to pay bills (the favela infrastructure is so weak that the use of electricity is rare). The naming of the streets to some may seem banal, but to many of the favela residents it is a symbol of social inclusion and of being recognized as a citizen of Brazil.
Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.
“100% Right 0% of the Time,” by Micah Zenko. Foreign Policy, October 16, 2012.
Despite an insistence on preventative tactics, the US has been consistently unable to predict the location of the next war. To help account for this poor strategic planning, the US has dramatically oversized its defense budget to more than 11 times the budget of the State Department and all other foreign assistance combined. As this Foreign Policy piece touches on, this massive juxtaposition in allotments is what frequently leads the US to militarize its foreign policy. What it fails to mention, however, is that this militarization is what leads to many of our national security threats to begin with.