The Great Debate

Is the U.S. really against torture? It can be hard to tell

By Elisa Massimino
November 14, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Organizing for Action's "National Organizing Summit" in Washington

President Barack Obama brought the U.S. commitment against torture into sharper focus on Wednesday. For a president who prohibited torture as one of his first official acts, this shouldn’t be news. But it is.

Documents raise fresh questions about thalidomide criminal trial

By Harold Evans
November 13, 2014

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The dark shadow of the drug thalidomide is still with us. The original catastrophe maimed thousands of babies and killed far more: it remains one of the greatest man-made global disasters.

A one-state solution: Israel’s settlements aren’t going away

By Dimi Reider
November 13, 2014

Jewish youth hold Israeli flags at the beginning of a rally march in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, near Nablus

Bursts of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, once the subject of intense news coverage, have become almost routine.

Why Palestinians are back fighting on Jerusalem’s streets

By Rashid I. Khalidi
November 13, 2014

Palestinian youths throw stones towards Israeli border police during clashes at a checkpoint between the Shuafat refugee camp and Jerusalem

Once again, widespread popular unrest has broken out in Jerusalem. Since July, there have been clashes between young Arabs and Israeli security forces using tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and truncheons.  

from John Lloyd:

U.S. ‘soft power’ hits another hard reality in the Middle East

By John Lloyd
November 12, 2014

Relatives of detained activists cry and pray for them as the activists stand trial at a court in Cairo

On Sunday, June 22, 1941, Winston Churchill’s private secretary, John Colville, woke him with the news that Nazi Germany had invaded the Soviet Union. In a radio address that same evening, the British prime minister repeated his “consistent” opposition to communism, but said that “all this flashes away … the Russian danger is therefore our danger.” In a later House of Commons debate, Churchill quipped -- “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

from Stories I’d like to see:

Should Obamacare be derailed by a single sentence?

By Steven Brill
November 11, 2014

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Most disputes that end up at the U.S. Supreme Court are about the interpretation of the Constitution and statutes, not about facts. The press is mostly left to provide the basic background of the dispute and then quote each side’s lawyers. Little independent digging is required.

from Ian Bremmer:

Oil price plummet won’t help U.S. with Iran or Russia

By Ian Bremmer
November 11, 2014

A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in London

Plummeting oil prices — down more than 25 percent since June to three-year lows — should relieve pressure on consumers at the pump. But is it pushing oil-exporting regimes past the breaking point?

from Jack Shafer:

Stop or I’ll write! Why cops shouldn’t fake being reporters.

By Jack Shafer
November 11, 2014

FBI Director Comey testifies before a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James B. Comey waved his truncheon at the New York Times last week in a concise letter of protest addressed to the paper's editor. The FBI, denounced in a Nov. 1 Times editorial for impersonating an Associated Press reporter in a 2007 Seattle-area case, had nothing to apologize for, insisted Comey. While the impersonation was "unusual," he wrote, it was still proper, appropriate, and lawful.

from Alison Frankel:

Novel suit to determine if soldiers can sue over wartime terrorism

By Alison Frankel
November 10, 2014

Exterior of the Federal Court building is seen during the Adis Medunjanin sentencing hearing in the Brooklyn borough of New York

Soldiers die in wartime. Charlotte Freeman knew that when her husband, Brian - a West Point graduate, world-class bobsledder and Army Reserve captain - went to Iraq in 2006. Patrick Farr knew it when his son Clay called home on his 21st birthday to say he'd been wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq but not badly, so he'd be back in action right away. After Brian Freeman and Clay Farr were killed - Farr by another roadside bomb a week after he was first injured in 2006, and Freeman in an attack on the provisional U.S. military headquarters in Kerbala in 2007 - their families grieved terribly. Charlotte Freeman was left to raise two tiny children on her own. Patrick Farr mourned the grandchildren he would never have.

Is saying hello sexual harassment?

By Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
November 10, 2014

Morning commuters walk the city sidewalks of New York

A video documenting a woman’s experience walking through the streets of New York City for a day went viral. The reason? In the space of 10 hours, she was harassed more than 100 times.