World

George Clooney Cares About It

Yesterday I wrote about the new global campaign to end rape in conflict, and why it's a winnable goal . Today, it's time to bring home the reasons why we need to put in the required effort. We’ve all got our lives to live and our own pet issues to look after, and it’s easy for those of us in the U.S. to think of “rape in conflict” as a conceptual "Terrible Thing" that happens to those Other (Poor, Brown) People Far Away. But when we tie it in a tidy little “Over There Issue” bow, we totally erase the ways it’s a "Right Here Issue," both in that we’re complicit in it, and, relatedly, that there are things we in the US can uniquely do about it. Herewith, then, are "Four Ways Rape in Conflict is a Right Here Issue." It’s by no means a complete list—if you’ve got others, please share them in the comments. It’s a crisis in our own military. One in three women in the military are survivors of sexual violations that happened while on active service, according the Department of Veterans...

Is a Vote Against Austerity Enough?

(AP Photo / Michel Spingler)
The voters in France and Greece have rejected the parties of austerity. But it is not yet clear that the party of growth can deliver the recovery that the citizenry wants. On both sides of the Atlantic, the obstacles are more political than economic. In Europe the conventional wisdom, enforced by Germany and the European Central Bank, still holds that the path to growth is budget restraint. Unfortunately, the more that budgets are tightened, the more economies shrink and the more revenues fall. No large economy has ever deflated its way to recovery. Meanwhile, frustrated voters in nation after nation are turning away from the center-left and center-right parties that support the European project. Only governments can resolve the economic crisis, but governments are losing legitimacy with their citizens. With fragmentation of protest comes political paralysis and deepening recession, and the cycle worsens. All over Europe, left parties are making gains, but because of the multiple...

Let's End Rape in Conflict

As you'll soon notice, I'm not E.J. Graff. She's been kind enough to give me the keys to this joint for a week, and I'm going to do my best not to put too many dents in it. (I won't bore you with bio, but if you're wondering who I am, here's a good place to start .) You will either be alarmed or intrigued to hear that this temporary takeover has a very specific focus: sexual violence in conflict. Stay with me! I’m not going to flood you with statistics and sad stories until you curl up in a ball in the corner. What I hope to do here is convince you that there are things you, actual person reading these words right now, can do about the situation. That said, a few factoids are in order to set the stage, so brace yourself. Rape is as old as war itself. The ancient usage stemmed from a conception of women as property, to be lumped in with the “spoils” due the victors. This still happens today in some places, but the current relationship between rape and conflict is much more tangled...

Elections? Ooh, That's Scary

Talk about a quick campaign. The latest one in Israel lasted about a week, and there wasn't even an election at the end.

(AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool)
Just last weekend, local political commentators were enthusing about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tactical brilliance in deciding on snap elections more than a year ahead of schedule. The opposition—particularly the centrist Kadima party—was unprepared. Polls purportedly proved that Netanyahu's Likud would be the only party holding more than a quarter the seats in the next parliament; all the rest would stand in line to join his coalition. An cabinet press release on Sunday named September 4 as election day. Two days later, the nation awoke to news that Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz had cut a deal with Netanyahu to bring his party into the current coalition. Elections can wait till late 2013, as originally scheduled. Political commentators enthused again, this time about Netanyahu's brilliance in co-opting one potential rival and frustrating others. Foreign analysts wondered whether Netanyahu's deal with Mofaz, a former general, would promote or hinder an Israeli strike against...

Greece Takes Revenge

Voters kicked out the leaders who presided over their fall into crippling debt.

(Rex Features via AP Images)
For two years, Greek voters could only express their mounting disaffection with the economic catastrophe that had befallen them by demonstrating, publicly rebuking members of the political class, even occasionally beating them. Yesterday, they finally got the chance to punish their politicians, in particular those of PASOK and Nea Demokratia—the two parties which had alternated in power for the past four decades—at the ballot box. They certainly got their revenge. But the cost of their choice may well be too heavy for them to bear. The two parties—which backed the government led by technocrat Lucas Papademos responsible for Greece’s second bailout agreement—were pummeled at the polls. In the last parliamentary election in October 2009, their combined share of the vote was 77 percent. On Sunday, they eked out 32 percent. Nea Demokratia topped voters’ preferences, but its share of the vote—18.9 percent—was barely more than half of its 2009 performance, its worse ever until yesterday...

Marchons, Marchons!

François Hollande's victory in France offered a stiff rebuke to Germany's austerity regime, but the new president faces challenges in delivering on his campaign's pro-growth rhetoric.

(AP Photo/Francois Mori)
(AP Photo/Francois Mori) French president-elect Francois Hollande reacts to supporters with his companion Valerie Trierweiler while celebrating his election victory in Bastille Square in Paris, France, Sunday, May 6, 2012. France handed the presidency Sunday to leftist Hollande, a champion of government stimulus programs who says the state should protect the downtrodden - a victory that could deal a death blow to the drive for austerity that has been the hallmark of Europe in recent years. In the end, it was closer than expected. In an election that could change the direction of European economic policy, François Hollande became the first socialist to win the French presidency in 24 years yesterday. Hollande took 51.7 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff election against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, who was sent packing after a single five-year term in the Élysée Palace with 48.3 percent of the vote. Speaking from the Bastille last night, Hollande gave a clear sense of how he sees his...

Don't Adopt from Ethiopia

(Flickr / MNicoleM)
Miriam Jordan at The Wall Street Journal has published an investigative article about adoption from Ethiopia, which has for several years been riddled with allegations of fraud and unethical practices. This article tells the deceptively simple story of Melesech Roth, whose Ethiopian birthmother died of malaria, and whose birthfather (who lives in stone-age poverty) gave her up for adoption when someone came through his village, offering to take children to America who would later help support their families. The writing is so straightforward that you may not realize how extraordinary it is unless you've tried to write a similar piece. Persuading an adoptive family to talk with you on the record, and also finding the biological family and getting them to talk on the record, is a significant feat. The accompanying ten-minute video is even more powerful than the written story. You can see for yourself that Melesech, by any material measure, is far better off than her siblings, who are...

Netanyahu Wags Washington

The Israeli government stops pretending that it doesn't establish new settlements.

(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
The decision broke with a policy that Israel has held for 20 years: no new settlements will be established. Right-wing Israeli governments, in particular, have broadcast that policy as part of their international PR efforts. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his most senior ministers granted official approval last week to three West Bank settlements. No big deal, say government spokesmen. "This is only a technical matter," Netanyahu's staffers told U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, the Daily Ma'ariv reported on Sunday. There's actually a measure of truth in that claim—but that dollop of truth is an indictment of 20 years of settlement policy. The settlements of Rehelim, Brukhin, and Sansanah already exist. They are just three of the settlements erected over the last two decades with the government's aid and abetment. The ministerial decision merely relabels a rogue operation as an official action. If hypocrisy is tribute that vice pays to virtue, this is the moment when vice stops...

The Beginning of the End in Afghanistan

(White House/Flickr)
If anyone was expecting President Obama to spike the proverbial football during his address this evening from Afghanistan, they were sorely disappointed. In a sober, 11 minute message, Obama retraced the path that brought the United States to Afghanistan, and outlined the next two years of American policy in the country. First, he noted the extent to which the United States had mostly achieved its military goals in the country—“One year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” the president said. “The goal I set—to defeat Al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.” From there, he announced a strategic partnership with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that would begin the process of withdrawal for American troops, leading to their complete departure in 2014. Between now and then, the United States—with the help of its NATO allies—would transition responsibility for security to Afghan troops, and step back...

Voting Out Austerity in Europe

The elections in France and Greece this week may lead to a reexamination of how the euro zone approaches the debt crisis.

(Sipa via AP Images)
Could this week produce a turning point in Europe’s long, Sisyphean battle against the debt-and-banking crisis that has been ravaging it for the last two-and-a-half years? This coming Sunday, France will likely vote for Francois Hollande, a pro-Keynesian Socialist, as its new president. In Greece, on the same day, parliamentary elections will produce a hammer blow to the existing two-party system and will significantly increase the strength of the anti-Europeans on the far left and the extreme right. These elections will be held in the context of a continuously worsening economic picture in the continent, which has convinced almost everyone—with the crucial exception of the Germans—that the current recipe of one-size-fits-all austerity is leading to catastrophe and needs to be modified before it causes irreparable harm. The woes of Spain and the Netherlands, which have been the focus of concern in the last few days, illustrate the depth and breadth of the eurozone’s problems, and the...

Do Gay People Count?

No one knows how many LGBT Americans there are. You've surely heard the one in ten estimate, derived from Alfred Kinsey's groundbreaking studies; he claimed, based on research from a study of male prisoners, that one in ten men were " exclusively homosexual " for about three years of their lives. That's hardly generalizable to the idea that one in ten of us land somewhere to the right of center on the Kinsey Scale . More recent studies and estimates suggest that the number is somewhere between 1 and 3 percent of the population. But no one knows. And that matters for all kinds of things. If you don't count a group, that group doesn't count. Gay bashings didn't get taken seriously until the Bureau of Justice Statistics started keeping track of how many there were. The LGBT voting bloc gets taken more seriously now that sexual orientation is one of the questions asked in exit polling . (About 3 percent of voters self-identify as LGBT in those polls.) Researchers want more information...

Exporting the Anti-Gay Movement

How sexual minorities in Africa became collateral damage in the U.S. culture wars

(Brian Stauffer)
I n October 2010, a banner headline ran on the front page of the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone : “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak.” Subheadings warned of these people’s dark designs: “We Shall Recruit 1,000,000 Kids by 2012,” and “Parents Now Face Heartbreaks as Homos Raid Schools.” One of the two men pictured on the front page was David Kato, an outspoken leader of Uganda’s small human-rights movement. Inside the newspaper, his name and home address, along with those of other LGBT Ugandans, were printed. The article called for the “homos” to be hanged. Three months later, after numerous threats, Kato was bludgeoned to death in his Kampala home. Police said the motive was robbery, but human-rights advocates did not believe the official story. At Kato’s funeral, an Anglican priest condemned homosexuality. Kato’s death was international news, making him the highest-profile victim of the anti-gay hysteria that has enveloped much of sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade...

L'État Ce N'est Pas Sarkozy

Things look grim for the incumbent after a second-place finish in the first round of France's presidential elections.

(AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
(AP Photo/Michel Spingler) French Socialist party candidate Francois Hollande, center, arrives at his campaign headquarters on the morning after the first round of the French presidential elections in Paris, France, Monday, April 23, 2012. Hollande has taken his plodding, undynamic campaign to become France's next president to within spitting distance of victory over the "hyper-president" Nicolas Sarkozy, finishing first in Sunday's initial round of voting. Two things stand out about the results of the first round of France’s presidential election, which was held yesterday: One is socialist candidate François Hollande’s narrow victory over incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, which solidifies his position as the favorite to win the May 6 runoff election; the other is the robust performance by the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who came in third with a percentage of the vote surpassing even that achieved by her father in 2002—an outcome that shocked France because it placed him second ahead...

Spain's Fiscal Fanaticism

The country's newly elected conservative government is pursuing austerity with zeal.

(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza) Spain's Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro speaks during a press conference following the conservative government's weekly Cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace, in Madrid, Friday, March 30, 2012. Spain's government unveiled on Friday a euro 27 billion ($36 billion) deficit-reduction package including spending cuts and tax hikes on large companies, as it scrambles to convince the EU and investors that it won't need a bailout. It is a well-known maxim that to keep repeating the same action and expect a different result is a symptom of madness. It is hard to find a different way to account for the persistence of Eurozone leaders in inflicting punishing austerity on countries belonging to the common currency, a strategy that has proved both fiscally ineffective and socially destructive. In recent days, the focus of the crisis has returned to Spain, and for good reason. The country suffers from the highest unemployment rate in Europe: 24 percent, and it’s...

Earth to Ann Romney: The Mommy Wars Are Over

When Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney never worked a day in her life, the comment was at first touted as an enormous misstep, a jab at mothers, a slip of the lip that could sink Obama's post-contraception-scuffle 19-point lead among women. Do you see it? All I've seen is a little scuffling among pundits who are competing to say that either, a) it's true that Ann Romney has no idea what economic insecurity feels like, or b) Hilary Rosen is an elitist lezzie , or some combination thereof. But you know what? I think the "mommy wars"—which, as I wrote a few years ago, never really existed in the first place, except as a media creation—are over. Most women have to work for their families to stay in the middle class. The situation is impossible for all of us, whether we're working in an office or working at home or taking a few years out of the workforce to manage the house and children and then find it difficult to get back in at a reasonable-enough wage to ensure a decent Social Security...

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