The Great Debate

Is the Rev. Al Sharpton still president of black America? Was he ever?

By Jamal Eric Watson
December 15, 2014

McSpadden and Sharpton smile as they lead the national Justice For All march against police violence, in Washington

The Rev. Al Sharpton didn’t rocket to stardom.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he was, at best, a regional activist who had successfully used outrageous tactics to call attention to the plight of dozens of unarmed black men who had lost their lives at the hands of angry white mobs and police officers.

Feds can help reform police, but watch out for unintended consequences

By Inimai Chettiar
December 15, 2014

People take part in a protest against Eric Garner grand jury decision in Manhattan in New York

In the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, protesters across the nation are looking to Washington for action and answers. This seems a strange disconnect, however, because policing is regarded as a local matter. The federal government, the public is told, has no jurisdiction over local law enforcement issues.

Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil

By Mohamad Bazzi
December 15, 2014

Saudi King Abdullah sits before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Kerry at the Royal Palace in Jeddah

In August 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat paid a secret visit to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to meet with King Faisal. Sadat was preparing for war with Israel, and he needed Saudi Arabia to use its most powerful weapon: oil.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Ukraine’s frozen war brings dramatic changes to world economy

By Anatole Kaletsky
December 12, 2014

Pro-Russian separatists from the Chechen "Death" battalion take part in a training exercise in the territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic

The “day of silence” observed this week by the Ukrainian army and its pro-Russian rebel opponents was an event of enormous economic importance for global economics as well as geopolitics.

Cops scan social media to help assess your ‘threat rating’

By Brent Skorup
December 12, 2014
minority-report1

Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

A national spotlight is now focused on aggressive law enforcement tactics and the justice system. Today’s professional police forces — where officers in even one-stoplight towns might have body armor and mine-resistant vehicles — already raise concerns.

The best way to spend the $6.2 billion Congress set aside to fight Ebola

By Bill Frist
December 12, 2014

Ebola treatment facility specifically built for medical workers who become infected is seen in a U.S. Army handout picture in Monrovia

If we have learned anything from the Ebola epidemic, it’s that managing and treating infectious disease globally and at home is a continual commitment — not just the latest issue in the news cycle. As we search for a vaccine, rapid diagnostic test or wonder drug, the best-known strategy is still containment and access to adequate healthcare resources. The chink in our infectious-disease armor is preparedness and training, not the lack of a blockbuster drug.

Torture, deny, repeat: ‘Enhanced interrogation’ never works, the CIA never learns

By Tim Weiner
December 12, 2014

A Guantanamo detainee's feet are shackled to the floor as he attends a "Life Skills" class at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base

When the United States was attacked on 9/11, every member of the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine services had a rule book on the conduct of interrogations. It was clear and concise.

Details of how U.S. rebuked foreign regimes while using same torture methods

By James Ross
December 11, 2014

A protester dressed as a detainee of the US government demonstrates outside the White House in Washington

So the CIA doesn’t consider “waterboarding” — mock execution by near drowning — to be torture, but the U.S. State Department does.

Will cheap gas last? The answer and nine other predictions for 2015

By John Lloyd
December 11, 2014

A customer fills up his tank in a gasoline station in Nice

It’s something of a tradition in journalism to gaze into the crystal ball and give readers a view of what we believe will come with the New Year. Below are my 10 predictions for 2015.

Ghost army: You, too, can command an Iraqi division for only $2 million

By Peter Van Buren
December 10, 2014

Members of Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters eat on their vehicle on the outskirts of Baiji

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi recently revealed that there are 50,000 “ghost soldiers” who haunt the payrolls of the Iraqi Army. Many see the phenomenon as a factor in the army’s defeat at the hands of the Islamic State, and as an example of how Prime Minister Abadi is trying to initiate reform.