As the UN refugee agency launches its largest aid effort in more than a decade to help the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in northern Iraq, Swati Sharma remarks on how rapidly the humanitarian disaster has unfolded:
The rate at which the situation in Iraq has deteriorated is the largest reason why it is being called one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent years. Let’s compare it with Syria.
Jason Abbruzzese examines how journalists in conflict zones have become common targets for abduction:
The kidnapping of journalists is a relatively new issue. Reporters in conflict zones well understood the risks, but occupied a relatively sheltered position. “Pre-internet and pre-social media, pretty much all parities to wars and conflicts understood that they needed journalists to communicate their message, their view, to get the word out,” [Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma director Bruce] Shapiro says. Another part of the problem: major media organizations have closed foreign bureaus and become reliant on freelancers as cheap alternatives. Without the backing of major media organizations, these freelancers tend to be at even more risk — especially if they and their families happen to live in the country where the conflict is taking place.
The killing of an innocent reporter violates what many of us would call an unwritten social contract stipulating that journalists deserve protection because they’re witnesses to history, not state actors. …
Paul Cassell previews the trial of officer Darren Wilson:
[P]roving a crime in the Brown shooting will require close attention to the details, particularly details about the shooting officer’s state of mind. Even if the officer made a mistake in shooting, that will not be enough to support criminal charges so long as his mistake was reasonable — a determination in which the officer will receive some benefit of the doubt because of the split-second judgments that he had to make. And, of course, if it turns out that Michael Brown was in fact charging directly towards the officer (as recent reports have suggested), the officer’s actions will have been justified under state law and no charges should be filed. Trial lawyers know that one thing above all else decides criminal cases: the facts. And that is what we’re waiting for now.
Yishai Schwartz expects Wilson to get off because of Missouri law:
E.W. argues against Twitter and YouTube’s decisions to scrub the video of James Foley’s murder:
Censorship proponents are of the mind that the ISIS video constitutes propaganda and that its dissemination furthers ISIS’s aims. It is true that extremist groups have been known to use social media as a means to circumvent the checks media organisations employ to stop the spread of propaganda. But the video isn’t only propaganda. And since when has that label been sufficient grounds for censorship anyway? The amount of online content that could be wiped from social media if this reasoning was applied uniformly would be staggering. …
Twitter is not television. No one is being forced to view the footage. Evening news shows can decline to show the video because not all their viewers might be comfortable seeing it. But people have to be able to access it on their own if they wish. It’s completely understandable that family members don’t want footage of a loved one’s death to spread, but it’s not clear that that’s their decision to make.
Earlier this week, J.M. Berger noted that support for ISIS on Twitter had been falling since the revelation that the group had massacred some 700 people in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor:
Though the United States lags behind other countries, the CDC says the progress made since 1991 has amounted to 4 million fewer teen births. Citing research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the CDC says this also saved taxpayers an estimated $12 billion alone in 2010 from costs associated with government-funded health care, child welfare and higher incarceration rates of teen moms. And having fewer babies born to teen mothers, the CDC points out, is good for other reasons. Teen motherhood comes with a higher health risk for the baby, educational limits for the mother and limited resources, since about 90 percent of teen births are to unmarried mothers. And babies born to teen mothers are more likely to eventually become teen mothers themselves.
The steepest declines in the teen birth rate appear to be occurring in the areas where it’s historically been the highest. Southern states — where the teen pregnancy rate has beensignificantly higher for years — have seen the largest drops, although there’s still a noticeable disparity between states in the South and states in the Northeast. Similarly, while teen births have declined across all racial groups, they’ve recently fallen the fastest among Hispanic women, who currently have the highest rate.
But what caused the decline? Jordan Weissmann addresses the question:
Lionel Beehner quibbles with Marc Lynch’s assessment that if the US had given arms to the Syrian rebels early on in the civil war, it would not have shortened the conflict or prevented the collapse of the state and the rise of ISIS. After highlighting some political science research to show that the question of whether outside interventions can help end civil wars is not settled, he throws this bomb:
Perhaps, then, the question we should be asking is not whether third-party interventions are, on average, helpful or harmful to civil war termination. The answer invariably is: Well, it depends. Rather, we should be asking: Is the world back in a 19th century multipolar paradigm, whereby civil wars were primarily fought between pro-democracy versus conservative/monarchist forces, and the latter typically won because their interventions were more robust and one-sided? …
In the current context, the anti-democratic axis as it were – that is, the Russia’s and Iran’s of this world – appear more willing to go “all in” to support their “proxies” than their pro-democracy counterparts in the West. That means we may be getting into bidding wars not that we can’t win – we have the bank and arms to outspend and out-supply just about anyone – but which we lack the will to win, whether due to flagging public support, setting too high a bar of excellence for our rebel or regime proxies (or fear of Mujahidin-like blowback), or – and this is where the 19th century comparison may be apt – because the stakes for us are perceived to be lower than they are for the Putins of this world.
Beehner can’t seriously believe that civil wars today are “primarily fought between pro-democracy versus conservative/monarchist forces”. On what side of this Manichaean divide would he place the Ukrainian separatists? Is the Muslim Brotherhood “pro-democracy” or “conservative”? What about Hamas? Which side is “pro-democracy” in Libya? Or Afghanistan? Or Sudan, or the Central African Republic, or Mali, or DR Congo? And for that matter, are all opponents of the Syrian regime “pro-democracy”? We know the answer to that one. Beehner’s broad characterization of contemporary civil wars seems breathtakingly reductive to me. Responding to it, Daniel Larison rightly warns against “projecting Westerners’ preferences onto anti-regime Syrians”:
Harry Enten thinks it has been greatly exaggerated:
Since the beginning of the year, there have been eight live-interview national polls that detail results among young voters (ages 18 to 29 or 18 to 34), and matched Paul against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Together, these polls give us the views of more than 1,000 young voters. The same polls matched Clinton against Christie. The surveys show that young voters don’t see any difference between Paul and other Republican politicians. …
The median of the eight surveys shows that among young voters, Paul trails by 17 percentage points more than he trails among all voters. That would represent a slight improvement over Romney, who lost young voters by 20 points more than he did voters overall. Still, Paul’s and Romney’s relative performances with young voters are within the margin of error of each other.
Ponnuru points out that Paul’s performance with young voters was underwhelming when he won his Senate seat:
For awhile now, I’ve been arguing against the notion of a STEM shortage, the idea that our labor problems stem in part from a failure to produce enough graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields to meet demand. This idea is, well, just wrong, plainly wrong. I aggregated a lot of the data here, and here’s a great piece from The Atlantic by Michael Teitelbaum making the case. I have been committed to debunking this idea for two major reasons. First, because facts matter, and one of the most dangerous things to us as a society are those ideas that sound good from a narrative point of view but lack factual backing. The idea of the STEM shortage plays into a bunch of our petty prejudices, most powerfully our idea of the future. But the data simply doesn’t back up that notion.
The second reason is because the notion of a STEM shortage plays into a misguided and destructive vision of our economy– a moralizing notion of our labor market where your outcomes are all a matter of choices that you have made. This is the chumps narrative, where people who have suffered in our labor market have done so because they have pursued foolish, “impractical” careers or education. Virginia Postrel has written cogently about this phenomenon in the past, pointing out, among other things, that it isn’t the case that people with supposedly impractical majors systematically underperform the average, and also that they are such a small slice of the labor force that they can’t possibly account for our problems. I’ve pointed out many times before that going to law school went overnight from being the mercenary path for those bent on riches to a pie-in-the-sky, impractical move for dreamers, as soon as the law job market collapsed. The narrative changes to preserve the idea that individuals are responsible for their own joblessness, and in so doing keeps us from pondering systemic change.
Look at the app economy, which was meant to be the hot new ticket into the land of abundance. (See this 2012 piece from The Atlantic for an indicative example of app economy woowoo.) What could better play into our notions of how to get ahead in America in this new age than the app economy? It’s dynamic! It’s innovative! It’s disruptive! Gone are the days of putting on a suit to go work in some stodgy firm. These days, it’s all about being your own boss, building an app with some buddies in your dorm room, and reaping the whirlwind. It’s a Tom Friedman wet dream, an Aspen Ideas Festival panel sprung to life, the validation of every buzzwordy Wired article and Business Insider post you’ve ever read.
It costs approximately $249,930 on average for a two-parent, middle-income family to raise an American child from birth until age 18, according to a Department of Agriculture report released on Monday. The data were adjusted for inflation for 2013, and they ultimately show that child-rearing prices have skyrocketed more than many people imagined over the course of the last half-century. The report considers the costs of housing and utilities, food, transportation, clothing and diapers, healthcare expenses, childcare and education, as well as “miscellaneous costs” such as entertainment and personal care products. As Think Progress notes, the report conspicuously fails to include birth-related costs or the costs of lost time, earnings and opportunity that many people give up (overtly or not) by deciding to have kids. Additionally, the report fails to consider the cost of college, which costs parents approximately $30,000 to $40,000 per year.