News & Features

Supporting Freedom in Cuba

Charles Crawford and Pratik Chougule

Unexpected jolts can quickly unravel authoritarian regimes.  Maybe 2015 will see Cubans responding en masse to the more flexible policy adopted by the Obama Administration, massing in the streets and forcing a showdown with the Castro regime.  If they succeed in breaking the back of the communist system, how might a new democratically elected government start to put things right?

How Pope Francis Forged an Unusual Path in the Church

Laura Storch

There seemed to be two main reactions when news broke that Pope Francis invited the dubbed Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith, to perform at the Vatican's Christmas Party. The first was a collective, "Who?" from those unfamiliar with the poet-singer. Those who are familiar with her seemed to be a bit puzzled as well but for different reasons. The first line many people heard Patti Smith sing came from her first LP, Horses, released in 1975. The opening track is a cover of Van Morrison's hit "Gloria." An eerie and gentle piano begins to play as Patti Smith calmly but defiantly utters "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine." 

As Germany Welcomes New Skilled Immigrants, Old Tensions Rise

Anthony Advincula

Two years ago, the German government enacted the “blue card” system for non-EU nationals who are willing to stay and live permanently in Germany to replenish its dwindling labor force. Similar to a green card in the United States, an immigrant is eligible to apply for a blue card if he or she has a confirmed job offer or a valid work contract with a sponsoring employer, holds a university degree, and earns an annual salary of at least 35,000 euros. 

Conservative America’s Dangerous War on Abortion

Michael Odenthal

Pennsylvania seems like a liberal bastion compared to Alabama, where a minor cannot receive an abortion without obtaining parental consent unless a judge specifically allows the victim to bypass this requirement. A judge may do so in extenuating circumstances, such as, as Mark Joseph Stern points out in a Slate article from October 3rd, if it was a parent that raped and impregnated the victim. And that is by no means the end of it, as state legislatures are currently pursuing a severe new law that allows a judge to appoint a lawyer to represent a minor’s fetus. 

Messages in a Bottle: Listening to an Old Answering Machine

Andrew Lam

I bought my first apple computer at 20 when it was available at Cal for a steep discount, and because I was disenchanted with biochmestry, started writing, and I haven't stopped. In my box of college things, there are dozens of floppy disks whose contents contain amateurish writing of a broken hearted young man, but that, as they say, is another story. The answering machine was a novelty when I went to college in the mid 80's but has now become a relic, an oral journal of sort, going on history's shelf next to old postcards and the handwritten letters.

2014: The Year of the Protester

Kirsten West Savali

There have been those who have described this as the latest iteration of the civil rights movement, but as Malcolm X taught us, there can be no civil rights until we first have human rights. These protesters understand that the expectation of subdued civility in the face of the continued dehumanization of black life is evidence of the racism that this country was founded upon. 

Why Art Should Never Censor Itself

Andrew Lam

Government officials and world institutions are even worse when it comes to self-censorship. On Feb 5, 2003, before then Secretary of State Colin Powell in his infamous WMD speech at the United Nations in New York, U.N. officials rushed to cover up the giant tapestry version of Pablo Picasso's anti-war mural "Guernica." Powell held up a little vial and told the world that, had that vial really contained WMD, it could kill tens of thousands. He managed to convince the already paranoid public that US invasion Iraq is a must. 

What’s Really Behind Obama’s Cuba Move

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Obama pointed to the obvious when he said the old policies, meaning containment and subversion, didn’t “make sense.” More Cubans are travelling to wherever they can get a visa, political dissent and expression is more open than ever, and there are more private-owned businesses and farms in Cuba. While Cuba is still officially a one party-state, Cuban leaders have repeatedly made clear they are committed to real reforms. 

Dick Cheney’s Unforgivable Defense of Torture

Dave Helfert

The disappointment had faded a bit over time, but then the Dark Eminence of Iraq re-emerged, completely unrepentant, to defend the use of torture — even deny that waterboarding, starvation and anal feeding were torture, although the rest of the world is pretty clear about such practices.  And, even though the United States prosecuted Japanese army officers for using identical tactics on U.S. military prisoners in the Philippines during World War II.

Why Is There No Count of the Number of People Who Die in Police Custody?

Stephen A. Crockett Jr

The Wall Street Journal found—after a comprehensive analysis of the "latest data from 105 of the country's largest police agencies"—that federal data did not accurately report hundreds of fatal police encounters. The study also noted that "more than 550 police killings during those years were missing from the national tally or, in a few dozen cases, not attributed to the agency involved."

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