A U.S. State Department Travel Warning for Visitors to the United States [Satire]



Typically, the U.S. Department of State issues travel warnings for people heading overseas. Erring on the side of extreme caution, they are often alarmist, comically inflating the risks posed to Americans abroad.

There’s only one country the State Department won’t warn you about. It’s a country where there are almost as many guns as people and where sectarian political divisions cause complete shutdowns of the federal government. Here’s how a State Department travel advisory might look for the land of the free.

Read the full satire – originally published by Vocativ.

Is Latin America’s China Boom Even Bigger than Africa’s?

Columbia Global Reports

When Europeans began arriving in the New World at the end of the 15th century, they used the region to source silver, gold, coffee, and wool. Today, China is the foremost trading partner with several Latin American countries, and buys oil from Venezuela, Mexico, and Ecuador; iron ore from Brazil; beef from Argentina; and copper from Chile and Peru.

According to a new book, The China Triangle: Latin America’s China Boom and the Fate of the Washington Consensus, by Boston University global development professor Kevin P. Gallagher, Chinese investment in Latin America is outpacing even its famed liaison with Africa.

Gallagher argues that the Washington Consensus—by which the U.S. pressured Latin American countries to open their markets to free trade and deregulation during the 1990s—failed to help those states develop. “While the United States wasn’t paying attention, Latin America quickly became of the utmost strategic importance for China—as a source for many of the key natural resources it needs to grow its economy and the appetites of more than a billion people,” he writes.

But therein lies the hitch in Gallagher’s thesis. The antiquated notion that the U.S. and China are in a sort of dichotomous or binary economic arms race—a sense highlighted by the “triangle” reference upon which his book is titled—overlooks the fact that these two nations cannot possibly account for all of Latin America’s gains and losses during the two decades that he studies. If Gallagher’s strongest argument is that China’s Latin American presence is surprisingly large, his weakest is that it is almost singularly responsible for the region’s recent growth.

Read the full book review at Columbia University Global Reports.

How American Football Tackled the World


Field logo from ‘Futbol Americano’ game © NFL

The NFL’s Global Blitz

By Jeff Kushner and Jacob Kushner

Football is America’s most popular sport, but gaining fans abroad has been more brutal than a January playoff game in Green Bay.

While other American professional sports leagues have made inroads into Europe, Asia and Latin America, the NFL has won over dedicated fans in only a few select countries.

With the Super Bowl attracting more viewers each year than any other sporting event in the world, what has the NFL done to try and win the hearts and minds of sports fans abroad?

Read the full Timeline and photos at Timeline.com

Some students are more equal than others

The Sequester’s dirty upside.  

For all the hubbub last year about the sequester’s detrimental cuts to education and particularly financial aid, surprisingly little is being said as the schoolyear approaches. Perhaps that’s because what sounded like horrible news for America’s college-bound youth turns out to be good news for the majority of them, at least when it comes to getting admitted to college in the first place.

Upper-middle income parents (you know yourself as ‘middle class’) needn’t worry about the cuts: Your kid will still be admitted to, and enroll in, the college of her dreams, because you’ll likely find a way to afford it even without as much financial aid. In fact, cutting programs that help low-income students prepare for and apply to college is actually a helpful blow to your daughter’s competition.

Because in the case of sequestration, with its so-called ‘equal cuts’ across the board, some students are more equal than others.

Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.

It starts with preschool

The achievement gap between America’s rich kids and poor kids is getting worse—the latter need preschool, too.

This year at Stanford, a professor in the Graduate school of education discovered something startling: Contrary to the assumption that America’s youth, rich or poor, have increasingly egalitarian access to good education, Sean Reardon found education in America is actually becoming more unequal. The achievement gap on standardized test scores between wealthy students and poor ones increased by 40 percent over the last 30 years. This gap continues — or grows even more pronounced —when it comes to college. Reardon found that 15 percent of upper-income American high school graduates in 2004 went on to a ‘highly selective’ four-year college, whereas only 5 percent of middle-income graduates, and 2 percent of low-income graduates did.

A natural reaction by policymakers to this fact is to look for ways to get these qualified, lower-income high school graduates to apply to and enroll in college at higher rates (story on that coming next week). But it turns out this sort of approach is merely patchwork: “The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students,” discovered Reardon.

Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.

Diversity shouldn’t be just for the privileged.

While we focus on diversifying America’s colleges, a New York high school student may never encounter a classmate of another race.

Today in America, two-fifths of whites but only one-fifth of blacks and about one-tenth of Hispanics hold a college degree. Eight percent of blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics don’t even graduate from high school, compared with 5 percent of whites. Three-quarters of those students admitted to America’s most selective colleges come from the richest quarter of the population; only 3 percent come from the bottom quarter. Meanwhile, Americans with a college degree earn 1.5 times the median income, more than those with just a high school diploma, and more than twice as much as those who dropped out of high school altogether.

Even more startling: These disparities are getting worse. After all the progress made toward racial equality since the time of slavery, through the civil rights era and Brown v. the Board of Education, through today, is America resigning itself to let its poorest, who are disproportionally black and Hispanic, live an existence that is no longer separate, but still unequal?

The oft-cited notion of America being an educational meritocracy, in which any student, rich or poor, black or white, has an equal opportunity to advance herself, is of course a myth. But now, the tools that have been created over the past half-century to slowly create a more egalitarian reality are failing.

Read the  story at Medium.

Why the Supreme Court got Affirmative Action right (and what the pundits missed)

Legal experts are stunned by the ruling that colleges must exhaust all other options for diversity before using race. They shouldn’t be. 

By Jacob Kushner

If you followed news coverage leading up the Fisher v. Texas case decided Monday by the US Supreme Court, you may well have concluded that the Court was on the verge of ending affirmative action in higher education, forever.

MSNBC’s “The Cycle” co-host Touré said in November that if the court ruled against affirmative action, “the entire leadership of America would become entirely white.”

Even the man who led the 2003 Supreme Court case that upheld race-conscious admissions at the University of Michigan wanted you to believe that, if the present Court had overturned that precedent, it would have meant the end of racial diversity in higher education.

“It is too easy to think that striving for racial and ethnic diversity is such a powerful part of our culture that surely it will continue. But if the Supreme Court were to declare it unconstitutional, then it will not, and should not, continue,” Lee Bollinger, now President of Columbia University, told Columbia Magazine last year.

So it must have surprised Bollinger when the Court threw a curveball this week announcing it would send the case back to a lower court to determine if the University of Texas had considered race only after exhausting all its other options for diversifying the college.

Those familiar with the rich case history on affirmative action in America shouldn’t be surprised: there was no logical reason to believe that the affirmative action debate was anywhere near over.

Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.

Election night 2012 live coverage for the Columbia Journalism Review

Columbia Journalism Review

CJR, in collaboration with Columbia’s Tow Center for digital journalism, covered the Nov. 6, 2012 election coverage. Seven student journalists from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism watched and read the coverage, working with CJR editors to report on digital innovation and integration of social media by news outlets as they presented election results. Their analysis ran in real-time on this live blog.

Jacob Kushner covered the cable TV networks and published these seven posts during election night.  

U.S. Deportees to Haiti, Jailed Without Cause, Face Severe Health Risks

California Watch, Center for Public Integrity, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Huffington Post, Miami Herald, The Nation & The Nation Institute Investigative Fund, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The United States has deported more than 250 Haitians since January knowing that one in two will be jailed without charges in facilities so filthy they pose life-threatening health risks.

An investigation by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found that the Obama administration has not followed its own policy of seeking alternatives to deportation when there are serious medical and humanitarian concerns.

Click HERE to read the full investigation at FCIR. Versions of this story were published by California Watch, the Center for Public IntegrityHuffington PostMiami Herald, the Nation Institue Investigative Fund, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, among other outlets.

Impact update: Days after my investigation revealed the Obama administration was illegally deporting immigrants to Haiti where they would be imprisoned under life-threatening conditions, the White House ordered a comprehensive review of 300,000 such deportation cases.