—Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy/affairs, international conflict (including US involvement abroad) and human rights issues abroad.
"America's Longest War Could Get Even Longer," by Yochi Dreazen and Gopal Ratnam. Foreign Policy, September 30, 2014.
The conflict in Syria and Iraq has brought the US back into the region, as we drop bombs on both countries, hoping to eliminate a "threat" by remote control. As this article demonstrates, the deteriorating situation in Iraq has the possibility of making our nation's longest war even longer, as both Pakistani and Afghani officials fear a revival of the Taliban when US forces leave in 2016. The possibility of our foreign occupation entering a second decade may become a sad reality. The idea that a child born at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan would enter college and we would still be at war is frighteningly plausible.
Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and progressive critiques of Zionism.
“Belabored,” hosted by Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen. Dissent.
Hosted by Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, this podcast (produced by Natasha Lewis) is my go-to source for labor news. This Week: The Unfinished History of Labor Feminism.
Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses on queer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.
"Latina, at the white, male New York Times: 'Why are people thinking it’s OK to say racist sh-t in front of me?'" by Daisy Hernández. Salon, September 28, 2014.
As an intern at a leftist political magazine, I think a lot about the intersections of journalism, identity and power. This excerpt from Daisy Hernández's new memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, is an account of her experience at The New York Times, from her first days as a researcher for Gail Collins to the ever-present racism that intensified in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal. Hernández's candid, intimate writing style and the vignette structure make her story all the more disquieting—as it should be. This is a frank look at the newsroom delivering reading material to breakfast tables across America, and it's not pretty.
Ted Hart focuses on criminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.
"Before the Law," by Jennifer Gonnerman. The New Yorker, October 6, 2014.
At 16, Kalief Browder was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent the next three years on Rikers Island without a trial—much of that time in solitary confinement—before the charges against him were dismissed. What makes this story so important is that we know that what Browder went through is just an extreme example of systemic problems in the criminal justice system. While Browder’s friends were going to prom and graduating, he couldn’t get a trial date because of the backlogged Bronx criminal courts. On Rikers, he experienced firsthand the abuse that prisoners were subjected to. Jennifer Gonnerman’s harrowing account of what Browder went through is infuriating and inconsolably sad, but this narrative should force us to think about how the criminal justice system didn’t fail just Browder.
Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.
"The Destruction of Mecca," by Ziauddin Sardar. The New York Times, October 1, 2014.
This week, millions of Muslims from around the world arrived in Islam's holiest city, Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, for the annual pilgrimage known as Hajj. The pilgrimage culminates on Eid al Adha, one of the holiest times of year for Muslims. The pilgrimage is a spiritual journey that is required of all Muslims, if they are financially, physically and spiritually able, at least once during their lifetimes. An unfortunate, but unavoidable, part of preparation for this journey is visa approval to visit Mecca from the Saudi government. The Saudi monarchy declares itself the steward of Islam's most sacred sites. The Saudis impose a strident Wahhabi, Salafi interpretation of Islam on all who are granted visas and the holy sites themselves. They also run one of the world's most repressive and discriminatory regimes. They regularly deny visas for Hajj to North, East and West Africans because of institutional racism and colorism. They live ostentatious lives of wealth, greed and privilege while many in their kingdom go hungry and live lives of deprivation. The Saudi government denies women in Saudi Arabia the freedom to drive and restricts their travel. The behavior of the Saudi monarchy goes against the bonds of community and universality that the Hajj pilgrimage is meant to strengthen. In addition to their general terribleness in terms of governance and human rights, their urban planning has been an utter failure as well. In a world where UNESCO World Heritage Site status is sought after and coveted, Saudi Arabia bulldozed the ancient buildings and places in Mecca to make way for high rise luxury hotels and shopping malls. Worse yet, these monstrous looking buildings obscure the view of the Kaa'ba, within the Grand Mosque, which is the most sacred place in the world for Muslims. This New York Times opinion piece highlights the Saudi destruction of Islamic historical places and the inclusive, global, multiethnic, multicultural history of Hajj as well.
Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology
"Mostly Black Cities, Mostly White City Halls," by Richard Fausset. The New York Times, September 29, 2014.
This story underscores an alarming reality in American society: the political underrepresentation of African-Americans—especially in the South. Focusing on Conyers, Georgia, the piece explores the causes of the lack of black Americans in city halls, citing civic disengagement as an essential factor. It makes the point that political apathy within the African-American community and underrepresentation can turn "toxic" and lead to situations like Ferguson's. I believe this story raises very important issues that a democratic society must urgently address.
Jessica McKenzie focuses on technology and politics, transparency and accountability.
"How Tor protects and serves transgender service members," by Patrick Howell O'Neill. The Kernel, September 28, 2014.
Maybe it should be obvious that the deep web—the Internet you have to go out of your way to find and access, to put it simply—is a haven for people who have been marginalized, ostracized or persecuted by society. O'Neill's story about transgender service members using Tor to anonymously communicate with each other and access information vital for their health and safety is an important read nonetheless. The value of that anonymous access should not be underestimated: transgender service members, who are still officially banned from the military, often endure discrimination, harassment and physical and sexual violence if they are found out.
Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements (youth/millennial movements in particular), using an intersectional, Black feminist lens.
“Ello, goodbye,” by Aral Balkan. Aralbalkan.com, September 26, 2014.
Recently, in the wake of a scandal in which the Facebook profiles of drag queens, performers and others who use pseudonyms were shut down, Ello, a new social media network, launched. Branding itself as the anti-Facebook, Ello promises to center privacy concerns and reject money from advertisements. It's a brand new beta, and it's designed to look clean and beautiful, but will it live up to its promises? Designer Aral Balkan, who consulted on the project, thinks not. His personal blog post on his experience with Ello elucidates the key fact that Ello is founded on venture capital seed money which stipulates that a digital network like Ello must be made into something that can be monetized as a back up plan—likely at the expense of users.
N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.
“Ferguson Police Told to Stop Wearing 'Darren Wilson' Bracelets,” by Lynette Holloway. The Root, September 27, 2014.
In a letter written last Friday, Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the ligation section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, intervened to stop Ferguson police from wearing "I Am Darren Wilson" bracelets. Lopez cited that the bracelets "reinforce the very 'us versus them' mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exist." It could be implied that police officers wearing these bracelets is an act of solidarity, but it's troubling to believe such a claim when the Ferguson police chief was unaware of members of his staff wearing those bracelets. Accessorizing one's wrist with a bracelet that invokes, “I support Darren Wilson,” who fired at least six shots and one fatal shot to the head that caused the death a 17-year-old unarmed black teenager. I support Darren Wilson who has not been arrested for seven weeks. I support Darren Wilson who remains on paid administrative leave. I support Darren Wilson who joins the bank of police officers who have shot and killed black and brown men. Solidarity means you stand with the victim, and not the one whose actions caused someone to die before he reached adulthood.
Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.
"Grad School's Mental Health Problem," Ted Scheinman. Pacific Standard, September 30, 2014.
In this post, PhD candidate Ted Scheinman explores the notion that grad school is expected to be a place for failing mental health. Current professors reflect on their own grad school days, in which they toiled away on typewriters, as a mental "Vietnam," and expect their students to have similar experiences, which means they offer little support. Although no one forced these students to spend six years of their lives earning advanced degrees, it's still important to recognize the poor mental health can have deadly consequences. As Scheinman writes, "'Acceptance' of mental illness is excellent if it means dispelling a toxic stigma; what’s no good is the prevailing presumption that graduate school is supposed to be hell, and that madness is the natural communal reaction."