Weekly Roundup 8/1/2011

Famine in Somalia: world’s largest refugee outpost strained
Kate Snow, NBC News, July 31, 2011

Chronicle of a famine foretold
The Economist, July 30, 2011

Synopsis: A devastating drought has combined with political instability in the Horn of Africa to cause a deadly famine that has affected 12 million people across four countries. NBC correspondent Kate Snow’s report on NBC “Nightly News” on Sunday began a series of reports to continue over the week. Meanwhile, The Economist, the British newsweekly, explored whether the world reacted too late to the coming of the disaster.

Takeaway: “The response by donors has been patchy,” The Economist reports. “Of the $2 billion the UN says the region needs, it has received less than half.”

Note: NBC News provides a list of charitable organizations fighting the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.

For background, see Jason McLure, “The Troubled Horn of Africa,” CQ Global Researcher, June 2009; and David Masci, “Famine in Africa,” CQ Researcher, Nov. 8, 2002.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Next Election: The Surprising Reality
Andrew Hacker, The New York Review of Books, July 21, 2011

Synopsis: America’s historically low voter turnout, a candidate-nomination process dominated by the strictest party faithful and constitutional checks and balances that help strengthen minority views in Washington have made it possible for a Republican House majority to prevail on many issues, despite attracting far fewer voters in the 2010 elections than President Obama did in 2008. Less clear, however, is whether the wide field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates can capitalize on those gains.

Takeaway: In the 2010 election, “current House Republicans received 30,799,391 votes, compared with Obama’s 69,498,215 total” in the 2008 election, but they turned that apparent overwhelming numerical disadvantage into a strong force to shape future policies.

For more, see the following CQ Researcher reports: Marcia Clemmitt, “Gridlock in Washington,” April 30, 2010; Peter Katel, “Democrats’ Future,” Oct. 29, 2010; Kenneth Jost, “Campaign Finance Debates,” May 28, 2010; and Kenneth Jost, “Redistricting Debates,” Feb. 25, 2011.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Life on the Line
Andrew Rice, The New York Times Magazine, July 28, 2011

Rice’s richly detailed piece reports on the latest chapter in the intimate relationship between the twin cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Physically speaking, they are really one city split by the Rio Grande River and U.S.-Mexico border. Yet the differences are stark. El Paso is a safe city, a distinction becoming ever more important as war between Mexico’s drug gangs keeps claiming lives – a war in which some military and police have by all evidence taken sides with one syndicate or another (an angle that Rice mentions only in passing). Yet, despite the claims by some politicians of a “spillover” into the United States, Rice makes clear that El Paso, in fact, is benefiting from an exodus of Juarez businesspeople and professionals. He reports on one company owner who manages his Juarez business by remote control because his life would be endangered if he went back home. Rice also notes that El Pasoans don’t forget an element of the Mexican drug business that U.S. politicians tend not to dwell on – the demand that drives the commerce is American. “A generation-long effort to stanch the flow of drugs and desperate people across the border had reached its logical endpoint,” he writes, “the approach favored by ancient empires: the raising of a wall.” Freelance journalist Rice is the author of a book on Idi Amin’s murderous reign in Uganda.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer