In Moscow’s Shadows (New York):

Why has reform not stopped police abuse in Russia?

It’s a year since the Law on the Police was introduced amidst a series of genuflections towards the need to improve the cops’ human rights record, close the legitimacy gap between police and the policed and generally do something about long-entrenched habits and practices of corruption, intimidation and brutality. Heavens, the police were even banned from truncheoning pregnant women; I’d have thought this shouldn’t have needed to be said, but given the choice, I’d rather it be proscribed than permitted.

So has the world changed? It may not seem so. We are still being horrified by a litany of abuses and tragedies, from the fatal beating and torture of Sergei Nazarov in Kazan on March 9, through journalists being attacked and beaten while covering anti-government protests. (Parenthetically, Russian prisons are also still rife with violence.) So, what’s going on?

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TomCast podcast for March 18, 2012: Ever More and Ever Less
  • TomCast podcast for March 18, 2012: Ever More and Ever Less

TomDispatch (USA):

TomCast podcast for March 18, 2012: Ever More and Ever Less

Karen Greenberg, the executive director of the New York University Center on Law and Security, and author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First One Hundred Days, talks about the current status of the American legal system as it applies to the so-called war on terror and what Karen describes as ‘legal limbo.’

Ian McGibboney (USA):

Public schools should be like McDonald’s

Not in the sense that they offer questionably nutritious fare and the seats are hard — I mean in terms of what they offer. Walk into any McDonald’s anywhere in the United States, and the hamburger you get will look, feel and taste exactly the same as its counterpart 49 states away. And while franchises are everywhere, they don’t compete against each other, because they’re all connected. Likewise, the purpose of public schools is to educate every American, no matter who they are or where they live. Quality public schools should be as ubiquitous as the Golden Arches, and just as surprising to see. Which is to say, not at all.

But voucher advocates want schools to be less like McDonald’s and more like AT&T and Verizon — at each other’s throats. Or, to use an older comparison, Coke and Pepsi at the height of the cola wars. Though maybe it’s more appropriate to say Coke and Faygo, because that’s the imbalance we’d be dealing with. Awarding schools for excellence is fine, but it should be done with an understanding of why schools succeed and fail, and a desire to elevate all schools.

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The Moderate Voice (USA):

Mitt Romney: The unloved candidate and unloved front-runner

1. Mitt Romney is one of the most unloved front-runners in Republican Party history.

2. Mitt Romney (a breakdown of votes in the Southern primaries shows) has not convinced evangelical voters. This is partially due to their disbelief that he is a conservative. And, clearly, there is the “M” factor: some Republican voters don’t seem inclined to vote for a Mormon. On the other hand, it has not proven to be as big a factor as some had predicted. But it is a factor.

3. Mitt Romney is one of the most unloved candidates in recent history — forget about his front-runner status in terms of delegates. Many Republicans seem as excited over Romney as they would over a candidate for President for a condo homeowners association.

4. Mitt Romney has lost control of the news narrative and it means he’ll have another High Noon, this time in Illinois.

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Razan Zaitouneh at The Damascus Bureau (Syria):

Syrian opposition doctors struggle to save lives

It seems that Syrians can no longer benefit from treatment in regular hospitals, be they private or public. All Syrians have left are the few, ill-equipped field hospitals, which could be raided at any moment, their equipment confiscated and their staff arrested.

A field hospital is a miniature version of the inferno that lies outside its walls. Inside are people striving to chase away the spectre of death as they move from hospital to hospital and city to city, witnessing the enormous suffering that Syrians go through every day. They use their scarce medical supplies to rescue children, soldiers who have defected and even prisoners of war, captured fighting on the regime’s side. These medical activists discriminate in favour of only those who have a better chance of survival.

When measured against the total number of physicians in Syria, the number of those among them who have joined the revolution seems small. Most of them are still young and haven’t finished their medical residencies, yet they often find themselves forced to perform all sorts of medical duties irrespective of their area of expertise.

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TomDispatch (USA):

Echoes of Vietnam in Afghanistan

Somehow, over the endless years, no matter what any American president tried, The War – that war – and its doppelganger of a syndrome, a symbol of defeat so deep and puzzling Americans could never bear to fully take it in, refused to depart town.  They were the ghosts on the battlements of American life, representing – despite the application of firepower of a historic nature – a defeat by a small Asian peasant land so unexpected that it simply couldn’t be shaken, nor its “lessons” learned. 

National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was typical at the time in dismissing North Vietnam in disgust as “a little fourth rate power,” just as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Thomas Moorer would term it “a third-rate country with a population of less than two counties in one of the 50 states of the United States.”  All of which made its victory, in some sense, beyond comprehension.

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