Digest: 15 September 2014




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In The American Fear-Mongering Machine Is About To Scare Us Back Into War Again, Trevor Timm (for The Guardian) discusses the discrepancy between the evidence showing ISIS to be a threat to the US, and the level of fear-mongering taking place in US politics and press.  Timm argues that while the public debate is increasingly centered on the threat of ISIS, experts including top intelligence officials have stated that there is no credible evidence to show that ISIS poses a threat to the US.  Little attention is being paid to such comments. Instead the US executive branch, unhindered by Congress and the public, is venturing steadily towards a conflict that has no end in sight.


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In China’s Creeping Invasion, Jackson Diehl (for The Washington Post) discusses the difference in the strategies of Russia, ISIS and China to counter the global power of the US. Putin challenged Western power in the Ukraine, and ISIS has managed to reengage the US in the Middle East just as the US was looking to disengage so as to focus on Asia. China, however, has so far pursued its ambitions while avoiding direct military conflict. Though a more patient and subtle approach, the end result may be as momentous as a war.

In Say what? A Minimum-Wage Hike Finds Hope in U.S. Heartland, Andy Sullivan (for Reuters) discusses ballot measures in the Republican-controlled states Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota to raise the minimum wage in those states. If the measures are successful it could strengthen the possibility of a national minimum wage increase. Republican state legislatures have resisted such raises and business groups have prevented action at the federal level. President Obama has been pushing for an increase in the federal minimum – the White House estimates a raise to $10.10 per hour would benefit 28 million workers.


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In With Liberty to Monitor All, Human Rights Watch presents their report into the repercussions of large-scale US surveillance on the foundations of its democracy. The report documents responses by journalists, lawyers, and government officials on the effect of surveillance on press freedom, the public’s right to information, and the right to legal counsel. Press reporters are facing considerable uncertainty regarding their ability to protect the anonymity of their sources. Lawyers are facing similar uncertainty as a result of their need to maintain client confidentiality.  This development is undermining the ability for US citizens to hold their government to account.

In Paths to War, Then and Now, Haunt Obama, Peter Baker (for The New York Times) discusses President Obama’s preference for careful deliberation despite the pressure of the rush to war that is again developing in Washington. Baker considers Obama’s position as reflected in the comments of a group of leaders and journalists recently invited to the White House to discuss ISIS. He was said to have had a firm handling of the complexities of the challenge, but different attendees did come away with different impressions overall.  Some see his deliberation as avoidance of decision making, but ISIS by killing two American journalists has forced his hand.

In Let the Middle East Govern Itself, Jeffrey Sachs (for Project Syndicate) discusses the history of intervention by the US and other foreign powers in the Middle East and argues that the Middle East should be allowed to govern itself. He points out that throughout the last 100 years outside powers have continually carved up the Middle East for their own interests, undermining political development in the region. Instead of supporting democracy, the US and European powers have undermined democracy in the region in favor of governments that will support outside economic interests. The result of such intervention has been continued economic ruin and collapsed living standards.


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In Can Technology Fix Medicine?, Nanette Burnes (for MIT Technology Review) discusses whether big data can make health care better. The question hinges on whether all of the data captured by smartphone apps can be linked to analytical systems so as to be usefully harnessed. It is currently thought to be a business opportunity worth $300-400 billion per year and many large tech companies are already invested.  Health insurers and care providers control the most medical information at this stage, and they are looking to develop ways to further monitor their patients through mobile technologies. Apple is looking to become a leading repository of information on individuals, giving consumers, Burnes says, “new ways to track and perhaps improve their health.”

In Wide Partisan Differences Over the Issues That Matter in 2014, Pew Research discusses their most recent poll leading into the US midterm elections. The poll shows that Republicans and Democratics differ not only on how they feel about specific issues, but also in some key areas on which issues are most important in the coming election. While both groups hold terrorism, health care and the economy to be top issues, the groups diverge on other matters such as foreign policy, the environment and economic inequality. Republican voters are more politically engaged than democrats, the poll shows. Notable differences of view are evident between those of different levels of education, and of difference ages and gender.