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Must reads: Death care, Kickstarter performance art, Obama’s legacy

This week we’re digging in deep on topics from all around the world from Obama’s Middle East policy to death care in Britain and its implications for the rest of the globe. Join us for our must-reads, and add your own in comments.

The Obama Doctrine‘ (The Atlantic)

This longread on President Obama’s foreign policy and America’s evolving role as a superpower under the Obama Administration is a sharp look at one of the most important legacies of the presidency. His struggles with balancing a desire for noninterventionist policy with the need to assert human rights doctrine have been a continued tension throughout his presidency, and this analysis is a deep, thoughtful exploration of the subject.

I have come to believe that, in Obama’s mind, August 30, 2013, was his liberation day, the day he defied not only the foreign-policy establishment and its cruise-missile playbook, but also the demands of America’s frustrating, high-maintenance allies in the Middle East—countries, he complains privately to friends and advisers, that seek to exploit American “muscle” for their own narrow and sectarian ends. By 2013, Obama’s resentments were well developed. He resented military leaders who believed they could fix any problem if the commander in chief would simply give them what they wanted, and he resented the foreign-policy think-tank complex. A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as ‘Arab-occupied territory.’

Cook County’s State’s Attorney’s Race is a Watershed Moment for Black Lives Matter‘ (Think Progress)

In Chicago, Anita Alvarez has been sparking controversy and frustration for months — but she was virtually unknown on the national stage until the weekend, when a rally against Donald Trump dovetailed with a rally against her, and America’s eyes were drawn to a government official whom many argue engages in routinely unjust behaviours that endanger Chicago’s low-income community and people of colour.

Friday’s protest was the latest in a string of demonstrations against Alvarez. In the last three weeks alone, protesters from Black Lives Matter and the closely affiliated group Assata’s Daughters disrupted an Alvarez fundraiser in Oak Lawn, a state’s attorney forum at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and a speaking engagement before the City Club of Chicago. Activists criticize Alvarez for mishandling cases involving police brutality and miscarriages of justice against men and women of color in Chicago. Members of these activist groups have started to coalesce around Alvarez’s opponent Kim Foxx, a Chicago native whose campaign hinges on reforming the Cook County justice system and enforcing greater police accountability.

Venezuela’s Meltdown Crisis‘ (Foreign Affairs)

Like many Latin America nations, Venezuela is struggling with a legacy of American interventionism, debt, unemployment, and a flailing public infrastructure. Now, the nation is beset by Zika virus. Can it rise from the ashes?

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the economy contracted ten percent last year, and it is projected to shrink at least eight percent this year. Inflation is forecast to reach 700 percent. All over the country, energy shortages leave the streets in darkness for hours every day. The capital, Caracas, has one of the highest murder rates in the world. And in a country with a barely functioning health system, an estimated 400,000 people have contracted the Zika virus, and the numbers keep rising.

We’ll never live forever: let’s look at end of life care differently‘ (The Guardian)

Death care has become a complicated and fraught subject in an era when progress is medicine makes it possible to provide a huge number of treatments to patients, but the moral calculus surrounding such treatments often goes uninterrogated. Sometimes, perhaps it’s better to let go, allowing patients to embrace death on its own terms.

After speaking to more than 500 doctors and members of the public, the report concludes that we sometimes keep treating terminally ill patients after it stops doing them any good – not out of any properly reasoned concern for their best interests, but because death means defeat. We’re culturally squeamish about death, and naturally this exerts a certain pressure on doctors; and family members, completely understandably, may struggle to accept that at a certain point, nothing more can be done. The report (which is a hefty piece of work, and which I should say that I’ve only read summaries of) quotes one doctor who says that once it is recognised that a patient is dying, the care they receive is good, ‘but for the patients who are dying but no one’s actually worked that out yet, it’s much less good’.

Cuban Agitator Turns Crowdfunding Into Performance Art‘ (Vice)

A Cuban artist is using Kickstarter to fuel a fascinating, ambitious, and bold campaign for public political art, relying on the crowdfunding platform as a form of public art itself, but also with the goal of making government suppression of her work more challenging by way of the huge numbers of backers. Her project includes rewards like participation in a truth or dare project, starting rumours, digging up blackmail material, and getting possession of her Instagram password.

For me the question in the arts right now is not ‘How?’ (form), ‘When?’ (place/time), ‘By/for whom?’ (authorship/audience), but ‘What for?’ which is locating the projects in a political and ethical path. The time when people lived under the impression that they could avoid being political is gone, people now are aware that politics are in all aspects of our everyday life and that we can’t remain indifferent.

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Photo: ThomasLife/Creative Commons