Cover of May 19, 2014 Issue

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May 19, 2014 Issue

Cover art by: design by Robert Best

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Snapshot: Blood for Treasure

Photographer Marcus Bleasdale spent a decade in the Congo documenting the extraction of conflict minerals. This image depicts a child gold miner and former soldier. In April, a US Appeals Court ruled that forcing corporations to disclose conflict minerals in their products would violate their free-speech rights. Read More

7 Questions for Bill Maher

The comedian on drawing blue crowds in red states, his campaign to unseat a terrible Congressman and why it’s wrong to say anyone should be taken off the air.




City Power! As a progressive city councilor in the second-largest city in Oregon, I found Michelle Goldberg’s “Power to the City” [April 21] especially timely. Eugene is a midsize city at the epicenter of a county that suffers from chronic lower-than-average wages alongside relatively high housing costs, leaving many working families struggling in near-poverty. In March, I co-sponsored a proposal for a paid sick time ordinance that would provide workplace protections and financial security for approximately 25,000 mostly low-wage workers in our city. It is modeled after a similar ordinance in Portland, implemented in January. We are hearing from union grocery store workers who can’t take sick time until they have been ill for three days, hospital workers who don’t earn sick days and workers who fear losing their jobs when they have to care for a sick child. A city ordinance would provide much-needed protection for these vulnerable workers and improve public health overall. Based on data from Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, it would not have a negative impact on employment or business. I hope we are just the first of many to take this step and build on this movement for progressive public policies that protect workers and public health. Claire Syrett Eugene City Councilor eugene, ore. May Flights of Angels… A few years ago, I met Jonathan Schell at an event at the University of California, Irvine [“Jonathan Schell,” April 21]. I bought his book The Unconquerable World, and he autographed it for me with the words “In hope.” It is one of my prized possessions. As our planet is faced with the twin perils of nuclear proliferation and climate change, we can ill afford to lose his wise and prescient voice. Joan Mortenson huntington beach, calif. World’s Oldest Work Right on, Katha [Pollitt, “Sex Work: The New Normal?” April 21]—if it’s fine to be a “sex worker,” then it’s fine to be a john. I’d like to see some neo-femo-lefto discussion of that. Chris Nielsen seattle   Nothing is more annoying and demeaning to a prostitute than comparing the work to waitressing or domestic work. Prostitution is nothing like normal work. Nor is it like being a BDSM mistress, stripping or even working in porn, because, of these types of sex work, prostitution is the least safe. There are no protective labor laws, no witnesses, nothing to prevent us from being robbed, raped or murdered. This glamorization of the “happy hooker” is perpetuated by clients, pimps, madams—even dreamy-eyed writers who fantasize about it but don’t have the courage to escort. I’ve read feminist accounts of how “empowering” sex work is, and I can tell you that it is not. Elaine So   I felt dehumanized as a waitress—or working my first job at KFC. Countless sex workers I know feel the same. I feel far more empowered and in control being a sex worker. That it is illegal is what raises the fear factor. Lilithe   I’m a retired sex worker. I’m forever grateful to the clients who helped me support two children when I was divorcing an abusive man, and couldn’t make a living wage that allowed me time to parent, even with a master’s degree and a decent CV. We “elite” sex workers do care about coerced and exploited people. Juliana Piccillo   I wish someone had validated sex work as a career choice when I was young. I suffered the horror of the majority of middle-class women, convinced that my best option was to sell my body to one man for “security.” Hotfishnora1 Return to the Cold War? Thank you, Stephen F. Cohen, for being the voice of reason on Ukraine [“Why Cold War Again?,” April 21]. Sadly, most of our mainstream media are again cheerleading us toward Strangelove II. Jack Burgess chillicothe, ohio   “Why Cold War Again?” should be required reading. From the beginning, NATO was never about “defense.” It was about US hegemony and the care and feeding of the military-industrial complex. Jordan Bishop ottawa   In the UN, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has a very small circle of supporters, including North Korea and Iran. In France, Russia’s annexation of Crimea is backed by Marine Le Pen. Hungarian neofascists wear T-shirts saying, “Crimea belongs to Russia! Transcarpathia belongs to Hungary!” And in the United States, Putin also has a whitewasher: Stephen F. Cohen, who blames the US government for driving Russia into a corner. I gather Professor Cohen does not watch Russian television or read the Russian press. He does not pay attention to the suppression of “disloyal” media outlets or the falsification of elections. He does not want to see that Putinism means chauvinism and Soviet-style hatred of the West. The Baltic countries are lucky to be members of NATO and the EU, which makes them safer from the Kremlin’s thuggish “protection” of Russian speakers. US administrations have certainly made mistakes in dealing with Russia, but it is wrong to blame them for forcing Russia to behave badly. Even Belarus and Kazakhstan do not demonstrate Cohen’s degree of pro-Putinism. Gennady Estraikh new york city   Cohen Replies Yes, I read and watch Russian media—and American as well—but clearly in ways unlike Gennady Estraikh. I do so for information and my own analysis. He does so, it seems, for an ideological purpose, as do so many with his preconceived views. (Note the defamatory, telltale “pro-Putinism.”) Stephen F. Cohen new york city Red in Tooth and Claw Re Thai Jones’s “Remembering the Ludlow Massacre” [April 21]: Colorado poet David Mason has written an epic poem, Ludlow. Through character and setting, he mines coal-dust voices from a tragic history. Let’s hope this verse novel will find a teachable moment in American literature courses. Kemmer Anderson signal mountain, tenn. Read More



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