TPM Cafe: Opinion

In 1972, at the young age of sixteen, Jigme Singye Wangchuck became the fourth king of the mountain country of Bhutan. Nestled in the high Himalayas, Bhutan is a landlocked country about the size of Switzerland (or a bit larger than Maryland). It sits north of India, south of China, and on the way to nowhere.

The British left India in 1947, but two centuries of their rule still marked the region, and the once and future king had been sent away to English schools in Darjeeling, India, and then in London. He came back to Bhutan as a teen to learn about his future kingdom, which at the time had fewer than a half million people. Most lived in remote fertile valleys in the south. In the vertiginous and steep mountains of the north, the few inhabitants tended herds of sheep and yak. Isolated geographically and culturally—television was banned until 1999—Bhutan was an unlikely venue for a bold experiment.

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In the annals of corruption in America, 2014 is off to an explosive start. Federal officials are investigating whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) used Hurricane Sandy relief funds to produce tourism ads starring his family while the Hoboken mayor accused him of threatening to withhold disaster relief money from her city. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been convicted by a federal jury of accepting bribes to rebuild a city reeling from Hurricane Katrina. While these scandals in cities historically rife with backroom deals might shrink in comparison to the global spectacle of the Olympic games, they all pose a unique 21st century challenge. They are examples of corruption in response to extreme weather, and such instances are piling up.

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The events in Ukraine have grabbed international attention but have usually been explained by recent history. With the deposition of Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovich, and reports of people from eastern Ukraine waving Soviet, or, as it is happening in Crimea, Russian flags, while western Ukrainians clamor for Ukraine to ally itself with the European Union, it is worth taking a look at the recent events, which led to dramatic violence, in a longer historical perspective.

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With her first major film role and already-earned legendary spot on the fashion scene, Lupita Nyong’o — best known for her phenomenal performance as Patsey in 12 Years A Slave — has marked her presence in Hollywood. From her endearing award acceptance speeches to her delightful interviews, Nyong’o has proven she can handle stardom with aplomb, but we’ve seen the story of a rising black actress before, only to not hear much of her ever again. Will Hollywood avoid its biases and allow her to continue to shine?

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Last week thousands of emails from Scott Walker and his staff were released as the result of one of two lengthy investigations into Walker's political operation. We’ve learned a lot about how his team does business, but so far there’s no smoking gun proving Walker was directly involved in misconduct.

The investigation into Walker’s closest advisors isn’t getting the attention that’s going to Chris Christie’s controversies, and it isn’t as easy to understand as the grubby corruption surrounding former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Indeed, even though Walker’s talking like a guy who really wants this to go away, the Beltway press seems happy to oblige.

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Following the devastating trend of eroding abortion rights over the last three years, Alabama lawmakers have decided to begin 2014 with an egregious and draconian bang. On Tuesday, a committee in the Alabama House of Representatives advanced four separate anti-abortion bills — one of which aims to essentially end safe and legal abortion in the state altogether.

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Earlier this month, venture capitalist Tom Perkins — who rose to recent notoriety for comparing fights against inequality to the Nazi’s ‘Kristallnacht’ — offered an idea to reduce the voting power of poor and middle-income voters who might want America’s wealthiest to share some of their bounty. He explained, “The Tom Perkins system is: You don't get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes. But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How's that?”

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In 2012, the conservative “campaign for religious liberty” looked like a smart and possibly winning strategic gambit. Aimed specifically at the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, nestled in a broader claim of institutional and individual exemptions from complex and sometimes unpopular laws and regulations, the campaign linked the Conference of U.S. Catholic Bishops with conservative evangelicals and both to the Republican politicians (including presidential candidate Mitt Romney) who made it a new front in both their anti-Obamacare and “family values” messaging.

Some leading Catholic Democrats (e.g., E.J. Dionne) feared it would become a crucial wedge issue. And it gave a nice First Amendment gloss to unseemly culturally reactionary impulses, while providing mainstream respectability to the “constitutional conservative” claim that church-state separation was a threat to faith itself.

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