We’ve Got Issues: A Weekly News & Politics Column

Sunday evening’s big news? Mitt Romney appeared likely to win the Puerto Rican primary. After learning about this, I wasn’t so preoccupied with his win — after all, the US territory only represents 20 delegates, a drop in the bucket when compared to the total of 1344 required for a candidate snag the GOP nomination.

Instead, the news led me to researching the Puerto Rican primary. Here’s an interesting fact: because the territory is not a state (primary voters will decide on statehood as well as which GOP candidate they want to nominate), its voters are not permitted to head to the polls for the US general election. In other words, they can help pick a party’s nominee, but not the country’s president.  How does that make sense, you ask?  Here’s how: according to Article II, Section I of the US Constitution, only states are permitted to appoint electors, the nifty people who actually elected Bush in 2000 (with the help of the Supreme Court, of course). So this election season, don’t forget: it’s not just Puerto Rico that doesn’t elect its president — barely any Americans do!


George Clooney

Jason Russell was not the only celebrity to deal with police last week.  On Friday, George Clooney and a small group of protesters including his dad, Martin Luther King III, Dick Gregory and several congressmen were arrested outside of the Sudanese embassy in Washington DC.  Their crime?  Repeatedly passing a police line set up near the embassy.  The Sudanese government’s crime?  Preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the country’s southern region.

For years, Clooney has been focusing on the plight of Sudanese citizens, and has been collaborating with activists from the ENOUGHProject to shed light on it.  Clooney’s arrest was a glitzy affair, one in which the movie star and his father could be seen being cheered after making a statement to the media and Clooney continued to speak to members of the press as he walked to a van gently restrained by plastic handcuffs.  It remains to be seen what long-term impact the event will have on bringing attention to the 2012 Oscar nominee’s cause, but given all the attention his arrest has already received, I would wager that it will be positive.  If you ask me, $100 bail is not a bad price to pay for a news cycle’s worth of publicity.

Quebec Student Protests

Student protests have been everywhere in the news lately.  The Chilean student protests of recent months, as well as the protests of Saudi Arabian women attending King Khalid University in Ahba, have garnered the attention of global news outlets.  But for some reason, Quebec’s student strikes have made little impact around the world.  Still, Quebec protesters deserve recognition for mounting a considerable campaign against a provincial government that has announced that it will raise tuition by $1625 dollars by 2017.  As of March 8, more than 120,000 of the province’s students were on strike (yes, students in the province have done it before), and just last week students enrolled at the Arts faculty at McGill University — the largest faculty at one of Quebec’s largest colleges – narrowly voted against going on strike.  It is true that tuition at a Quebec university is the lowest in the country – and a smashing bargain by American standards.  But as one of my friends on Facebook noted, American tuition may not have skyrocketed so quickly if students were taking actions similar to their northern neighbors.


The backlash against Jason Russell

It certainly is jarring — to say the least — that Jason Russell was arrested for public masturbation and vandalism.  After all, this man was supposed to be something of a global guardian angel, an internet age hero for the “invisible children” he and his similarly named organization represented.  He even got the famously apolitical rapper Soulja Boy to back his cause.  But for now, Russell’s breakdown seems to have eclipsed the attention that his Kony 2012 video is getting.  Shortly after news of his meltdown broke out on the internet, a schadenfreude festival erupted across the twitterverse gleefully mocking the director.  Sadly, his arrest has made him the butt of jokes.  It is true that his charity spent its money in questionable ways and many have rightfully criticized Russell’s campaign against Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony.  Still, Russell’s viral video — which has ratcheted up more than 80 million views in less than two weeks — has helped spread awareness of violence in Uganda.  That’s no small accomplishment: he has done in days what the best journalists have been doing less effectively for years.

Mike Daisey’s Apple Story

I’ve never worked for a radio station, but I imagine it to be very different from contributing to a website.  For one thing, unlike a webpage, which can be updated in a matter of clicks, the airing of content on radio cannot be taken back.  So it makes sense that NPR is trying to distance itself from a piece by journalist Mike Daisey titled The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.  The story, which was aired on October 16, 2011 as a segment on Ira Glass’ “This American Life,” became the most downloaded podcast in the show’s history.  But months later NPR and its listeners are grappling with the fact the story included a fair deal of misinformation.  It’s not that Foxconn’s workers, who assemble Apple products in China, are treated fairly.  Daisey, who apologized on his blog for having the piece aired on NPR, also wrote that he was proud for spotlighting Apple’s corporate behavior.  And in a way, he should be.  Apple still deserves criticism for choosing to contract its manufacturing to a company that disregards the safety and well-being of its workers.  But Daisy’s fabricated piece — one of the most popular and widely heeded reports yet detailing Apple’s exploitation of Chinese workers — harms the credibility of Apple’s and Foxconn’s detractors and makes it less clear what reforms need to be made.

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