1. Barbara Ehrenreich: Can Marriage Fix Poverty?:
If the point is simply to increase the number of wage earners per rent bill, then marriage is hardly the only solution. There’s grandma, for example. According to the NY Times, one of the fastest growing types of households in American is the multigenerational household—grandparents, parents, and children. Grandma may have thought she was going to spend her golden years dancing in her living room to old Doors albums, but her kids and their kids need a place to stay, plus free babysitting thrown in. Even some of the more affluent are taking the multigen route, opting for houses with “bedroom suites” with private entrances – for the college grad child who has embarked on his or her life as a waitperson.
And let’s face it, what gives immigrant workers a leg up is their ability to tolerate residential crowding. Anyone who thinks that there are jobs that native-born people won’t put up with has probably never seen a native-born American sweat outside of a gym. We native-borns will do anything – clean houses, dig ditches, pluck poultry. We just hesitate to share a bedroom with three or four unrelated folks.
2. Tom Regan: What if civics class were an online game?:
But for Joe Twyman, the special projects director for YouGov, a British polling firm, the interaction between the Internet, online game-playing, and online communities like MySpace.com is redefining the idea of what it means to be a citizen. Last week, Mr. Twyman (who has helped coordinate studies of the habits of British voters) talked about his idea at a media conference in Quito, Ecuador, where we were both speakers.
Twyman pointed out that MySpace.com currently has 83 million members - almost one-third more members than there are people in the United Kingdom (60 million). And many of the members of MySpace feel a greater loyalty to that community (or to the small subsection of it to which they belong) than they do to the physical community in which they live.
"It's a two-stage process," Twyman told me later. "Social-networking sites like MySpace and MMORPGs take the notion of citizenship outside what the state has defined - a common language, region, etc. Instead, in these online groupings, the members find themselves in communities that are multiracial, multinational, and multilingual. And they can break this into smaller subsections of people they like or [those] with similar interests.
3. Gideon Mendel: The long march to freedom:
On the morning of June 16 1976, a crowd of 10,000 black students gathered in the South African township of Soweto. They were demonstrating against a decree from the apartheid government that all pupils must learn Afrikaans in school. The protest was peaceful, but police opened fire, and at least 566 people were killed in the events that followed. The massacre brought the brutality of the racist regime to the attention of the world - and, some say, marked the beginning of the end for apartheid. Thirty years on, award-winning photographer Gideon Mendel travelled to Soweto to find out how life is now.
4. Meghan O'Rourke: Casual Perfection
Why did the publication of Elizabeth Bishop's drafts cause an uproar?:
Elizabeth Bishop was a famously meticulous writer. In a poem Robert Lowell once wrote for her, he asked, "Do/ you still hang your words in air, ten years/ unfinished, glued to your notice board, with gaps/ or empties for the unimaginable phrase—/ unerring muse who makes the casual perfect?" It's no wonder, then, that the recent publication of Bishop's hitherto uncollected poems, drafts, and fragments in Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, edited by Alice Quinn, encountered fierce resistance, and some debate about the value of making this work available to the public. In an outraged piece for The New Republic, Helen Vendler labeled the drafts "maimed and stunted" and rebuked Farrar, Straus and Giroux for choosing to publish the volume. But the posthumous publication of drafts is hardly an uncommon practice. What exactly is it about publishing her drafts that seems so troubling to so many?
The answer, I think, has to do with the mystery at the core of Bishop's work: the way her poetry evokes powerful, intimate feelings without devolving into mere self-revelation.
5. Samuel Loewenberg: Starving season:
Nearly 3 million of Niger's 12 million people currently face acute malnutrition. Most of them are children. In some areas, emergency feeding centers are already admitting 1,000 children a week. Childhood hunger is a perennial problem in this landlocked country on the southwestern edge of the Sahara; however, it is very unusual to be seeing so many acute cases so close to the harvest season. The hunger season has come early.
This will be news to most Americans, who, if they've heard of Niger at all, know it only for its unwitting role in last year's "Plamegate" scandal. The West African nation, one of the poorest in the world, made a rare media appearance after the Bush administration claimed -- falsely -- in the run-up to the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy uranium there.
Today, despite the looming food shortages, Niger has passed again into obscurity.
In fact, the current crisis is a holdover from last summer, when images of starving babies from Niger were seen briefly on television screens across the U.S. and Britain. The ongoing hunger crisis in Niger is not due to war, a crazed dictator or a natural catastrophe. The problem is more straightforward: prolonged and severe poverty.