Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most 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 please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.
Angela focuses on money in politics.
“As Political Groups Push Envelope, FEC Gridlock Gives ‘De Facto Green Light,’” by Marian Wang. ProPublica, November 7, 2011.
The Supreme Court rewrote federal campaign finance law nearly two years ago with its landmark Citizens United decision, but the Federal Election Commission has yet to address key questions that have arisen in the wake of the ruling. ProPublica’s Marian Wang examines the “deep ideological divide” fueling their inaction.
Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.
“Voters Elect Presidents in Nicaragua and Guatemala,” by Brian Finlayson. NACLA Report on the Americas, November 9, 2011.
While US government officials have expressed concern that the re-election of Sandinista leader and former Marxist guerilla Daniel Ortega for a third term at the Nicaraguan presidency will signify his manipulation of the election process to run in perpetuity, a more worrying case is the election of former general Otto Pérez Molina as Guatemala’s chief executive. Pérez won the election presumably over his declaration to deal with the violence and influence of Mexican drug cartels with “an iron fist.” However, human rights advocates like Jennifer Harbury have accused the right wing politician and School of Americas graduate of actively participating in the massacres of Mayan civilians and guerillas during the country’s civil war, saying Pérez helped to direct the torture, imprisonment and possible killing of Mayans in the Quiche Highlands in 1982 and other torture campaigns between 1992 and 1993, when Pérez was head of intelligence. If the allegations are true, Pérez’s election signifies a trend of voters appealing to caudillos, the right-wing military strongmen who became notorious for their human rights abuses in Latin America throughout the 1970s and ’80s.
Teresa focuses on “Global South” politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.
“South Sudanese fear impact of farming deals,” by Katrina Manson. Financial Times, November 6, 2011.
South Sudan has only been an independent country since July—but nearly 10 percent of its land is already owned by foreign interests. A diverse group of private equity firms and hedge funds are taking part in a “land grab” throughout Eastern Africa, purchasing millions of hectares of land to (ostensibly) grow food for the global market and provide much needed jobs and development to the region. Activists accuse the companies of displacing local farmers and monopolizing precious arable land in desert countries— then hiring foreign nationals, and using the land to grow non-edible crops for biofuels. Unsurprisingly, much of the land bought by private equity firms in South Sudan also contains valuable oil and mineral deposits. This is one of several recent articles about the latest African “land grab,” which may ultimately displace millions of people. To learn more about it, check out this great report by Al Jazeera.
Paolo follows war, peace, and security.
“Highway to Homs,” by John Pedro Schwartz. Foreign Policy, November 4, 2011.
Between travel journalism and war reporting: the riveting story of a motorcycle ride across the twin flashpoints of the Syrian uprising, Hama and Homs. A trip that shows the complexity of a country slowly slipping into chaos.
Erika follows the environmental beat.
“He who pays the paupers…: Who will foot the bill for green development in poor countries?” The Economist, November 5, 2011.
At the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, the US committed to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate change aid to developing countries by 2020. The Economist article I chose for this week cites a recent study by the think tank Climate Policy Initiative, which found that around $97 billion a year in “climate finance” is already going to developing countries. There are several definitional problems with this “climate financing” though. Most of it is from private lenders in rich countries, and multinational banks, not from Western governments. Most of this financing would have happened anyways as development projects; and most of it has to be paid back, though developing countries are largely not responsible for climate change. This points toward how climate aid will be defined at the upcoming climate conference in Durban, South Africa. The Economist states that private sector financing should be the model for the Green Fund to be established at the Durban conference, because it is the only way that Western governments can “afford” it. The author also suggests developing countries look to “become more attractive recipients of investment, green or otherwise,” for example by liberalizing financial sectors. Sounds like more disaster capitalism.
Josh covers the labor beat.
“Tar Sands Protest Shows Unity, Tension in Green-Labor Alliance,” by Michelle Chen. In These Times, November 8, 2011.
As the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline heats up, so has the controversy it provokes within the labor movement. The AFL-CIO has avoided comment as some unions back the pipeline for the sake of immediate job creation and others join the movement to avert it for the sake of the climate. Chen argues that Keystone exemplifies the difficulty of sustaining progress towards a labor-environmentalist coalition in the face of persistent high unemployment.
Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.
“Libertarianism and Liberty: How Not to Argue for Limited Government and Lower Taxes,” T. M. Scanlon. Boston Review, October 19, 2011.
With liberals and conservatives frequently trading blows over such phrases as “market fundamentalism,” it’s worthwhile to consider every once in a while where the justification (or lack thereof) for complete market freedom comes from. While the identification of liberty with free markets and the right to property has been debated a fair amount over the years, Harvard philosopher T.M. Scanlon has a provocative new discussion of the issue in Boston Review.
Collier’s beat is discrimination.
“Defeating Personhood: A Critical But Incomplete Victory for Reproductive Justice,” by Loretta Ross. RH Reality Check, November 9, 2011.
Last night Mississippi became the second state in the Union to squash a proposed amendment that would effectively ban a woman’s right to choose. In the past months pro-choice organizations and supporters have poured money and bodies into campaigns designed to get Mississippians to vote down the proposition. And vote it down they did. Indeed a remarkable win for the pro-choice movement, it is important for us to pause and rejoice. Pause.
A law that did pass in Mississippi last night—a more insidious proposition resembling antiquated Jim Crowe laws—that will require voters to produce a government issued ID card at the polls should urge us go back to work. Pro-choice activist Loretta Ross gives a bone-chilling reaction to last night’s electoral victory, chiding her constituency for its tunnel vision.
Allie follows human rights.
“Congressional GOP Pushes Zygote Personhood Bills,” by Nick Baumann. Mother Jones, November 8, 2011.
In a reaction to the vote on a Mississippi amendment that would grant personhood to zygotes, Mother Jones takes a sweeping view of “nearly identical” bills with strong Republican endorsement in Congress. The extremely prohibitive bills may effect the usage of the morning-after pill and IUDs, and would make abortion “legally equivalent to murder.”
Jin follows the US’s image in international media.
“Poor countries or poor people? Development assistance and the new geography of global poverty,” by Ravi Kanbur and Andy Sumner. VOX, November 8, 2011.
Twenty years ago, more than 90 percent of the world’s poor lived in low-income countries (LICs), and now, more than 70 percent of the poorest, a “new bottom billion,” live in middle-income countries (MICs), 60 percent of them in five populous new MICs, China, Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Indonesia. The authors of this article, an economist and a development expert, argue that the new geography of global poverty needs to be considered in the World Bank’s development assistance policy making, but fail to provide a critical rethinking of the effectiveness of the apolitical development assistance framework in combating global poverty.