SPRING LAURELS: We are pleased to announce that The Nation‘s United Nations correspondent, Barbara Crossette has been honored with the 2010 Shorenstein Journalism Award. The prize recognizes a journalist whose body of work has "helped American readers to understand the complexities of Asia." It is presented jointly by Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Center and the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Crossette, who writes frequently on TheNation.com, was the New York Times‘s UN bureau chief from 1994 to 2001 and, before that, its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia.
On April 24 Aram Roston was honored with the 2010 Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva. Roston won this accolade for his Nation cover story "How the US Funds the Taliban" (Nov. 30, 2009).
On May 3, longtime Nation contributer and Carnal Knowledge columnist JoAnn Wypijewski was recognized for career achievement in independent journalism by the James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism. In their twentieth year, the Aronson Awards have celebrated such distinguished writers as Mike Davis, Molly Ivins, Amy Goodman and Seymour Hersh. Wypijewski was singled out for her articles in Harper’s and columns in The Nation, which feature "original reporting on the interweaving of social and sexual issues."
A HUMAN RIGHTS HEROINE: Rhonda Copelon died on May 6 after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer. She probably would have died earlier if she had not researched her condition in the same way that she researched her legal briefs: thoroughly, creatively and passionately, leaving no stone unturned and no theory unexamined.
In her forty-year career, first as a litigator at the Center for Constitutional Rights, then as a professor and founding head of the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at the City University of New York’s Law School, she established herself as a world-class pioneer in the use of law as a tool for exposing grievous wrongs and, sometimes, redressing them.
Her work encompassed the whole landscape of human rights, with an emphasis on gender issues. A panorama of her activities would include arguing against the Hyde Amendment in the Supreme Court; lobbying for the inclusion of rape as a war crime in the Rome Treaty, which established the International Criminal Court; and testifying at the "comfort women" tribunal in Tokyo and at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica.
She was the warmest of friends to her large entourage and the steeliest adversary to establishmentarians who did not recognize basic human rights or—worse, in her opinion—recognized them in principle while claiming that the time for their implementation was "not yet." She accomplished the impossible: she made justice look easy.
GSOC LIVES: Challenging a Bush-era precedent that bars graduate students from unionizing, New York University‘s Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) has filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. The petition came just five weeks after President Obama used recess appointments to staff the NLRB with labor lawyers Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, signaling a shift in the makeup of a board that had become increasingly hostile to workers during the Bush years. If GSOC’s petition is successful, it will be the first such victory at a private university since 2004.
That year, in Brown University v. NLRB, a Bush-appointed majority stripped graduate student employees of federal labor law protections, calling their relationship to their employer "primarily educational." Dissenting board members protested that the decision was "woefully out of touch with contemporary academic reality," where graduate students are expected to perform an increasing share of the teaching workload on many university campuses. The UN’s International Labour Organization joined them in condemning the decision.
Shortly after the ruling, NYU, which had recognized GSOC in 2000 under a previous NLRB ruling, withdrew its recognition and refused to negotiate a new contract, provoking a long and bitter strike. Now, hoping for a more sympathetic hearing by an Obama majority on the NLRB, GSOC has once again organized a majority of the 1,800-plus graduate students on campus, who want a union to "achieve security and stability in the workplace." NYU opposes the renewed union drive.MICHAEL GOULD-WARTOFSKY
AU REVOIR, OBEY: The House’s most powerful progressive, David Obey, announced in early May that he would not seek re-election, with a statement celebrating his forty-eight-year battle against "American colonialism in Central America," "fiscally irresponsible Reagan budgets" and members of both parties who "let the corporate elites, big banks and Wall Street big shots and insurance company CEOs do anything they want with no regulation to protect investors and consumers." As brash as ever, the Appropriations Committee chair highlighted his authorship of last year’s House stimulus bill, declaring, "My only apology is that it should have been larger."
Obey will be missed for his willingness to do the heavy legislative lifting and fight the frustrating battles—with Republicans and cautious Democrats—to pass progressive proposals. Why did he quit? Obey believed he would retain his seat, but he worried about whether Democrats would retain a sufficient majority—and sufficient drive— to legislate boldly.
"I am, frankly, weary of having to beg on a daily basis that both parties recognize that we do no favor for the country if we neglect to make the long-term investments in education, science, health and energy that are necessary to modernize our economy and decline to raise the revenue needed to pay for those crucial investments," said Obey, who offered an ominous assessment of what may be to come. "I do not want to be in a position as chairman of the Appropriations Committee of producing and defending lowest-common-denominator legislation that is inadequate to that task—and given the mood of the country, that is what I would have to do if I stayed." JOHN NICHOLS