TPM Cafe: Opinion

Dear Mr. Will,

I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria.

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A terrorist organization once expelled from al Qaeda for excessive brutality is now a rapidly advancing army, whose forward lines carve out a territory roughly the size of Maryland. In less than a week, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has routed elements of the American-trained and -equipped Iraqi Army, seized control of Iraq’s second largest city, and advanced to within a hundred miles of the capital. The hallmarks of Mosul’s new masters, established during their bloody rise in Syria’s civil war, include summary executions, public crucifixions, and the imposition of a medieval religious code upon every facet of human life.

Like many who served there, I have long suspected that Iraq’s fate would turn out to be darker than the one we fought and hoped for. We watched Maliki’s tragic failure to make use of the political and military space we bought him, at such cost, to reach across sectarian boundaries and unify his nation. We watched as violence returned to the streets, and as Anbar returned to insurgency. We watched as extremist groups across the border in Syria latched onto the rebellion against Assad, twisting it for their own purposes and gathering strength. My fears for the Iraqi people have been dark indeed, but none were dark enough to anticipate what has befallen many of them this week.

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The 2 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) is about to make history in the Middle East, yet again. In the coming days, local delegates from the Church will travel to Detroit to attend the 221st Presbyterian General Assembly to consider a set of eight overtures that ask church leaders to review support of two states for Palestine and Israel in light of unfolding facts on the ground. Other issues to be considered are backing of equal rights and unblocked economic development for all inhabitants of Israel, and divesting from the likes of Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. The Church is clearly stepping up to the plate and realigning its policies with its values.

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This time, 20 women are missing, forcibly kidnapped at gunpoint and driven away the nether regions of Nigeria’s Borno State, while the world awaits the fate of 200 missing schoolgirls taken from Chibok weeks ago. Tuareg rebels continue to hold off the Malian government in the Sahara. Diplomats, from Washington to Brussels, have praised a new openness in Naypyidaw but remain largely silent about Myanmar’s unwillingness to reign in violence targeting the Muslim Rohingya. And election observers bruited free, fair elections in Kiev this week, as the Ukrainian army opened fire on Russian-backed militias in the east.

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Who is David Brat, the out-of-nowhere college professor who beat Eric Cantor in the GOP primary?

John Judis has an interesting article in the New Republic suggesting that Brat is in the tradition of right-wing populism that is both anti-Wall Street/big business AND libertarian. Judis writes that in his campaign, "Brat and his Tea Party backers gave equal weight to denouncing Cantor as a tool of Wall Street, the big banks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable."

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The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar that has primarily lived in Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh in western Myanmar for at least 200 years. The Myanmar government and others in the country refer to them as “Bengalis” or “illegal migrants,” a reference to the nineteenth century migration of laborers and merchants from India under British rule. Denied citizenship for decades, they have suffered from discrimination, forced labor, and campaigns of violence, which the Irish Centre for Human Rights and others have characterized as crimes against humanity.

Over 230,000 Rohingya refugees have subsisted in squalid camps in Bangladesh for over 30 years, with minimal access to jobs, services, or citizenship there. Sexual and physical attacks against refugee women and girls have also been documented. Other nations in the region have not welcomed Rohingya refugees, holding them in crowded detention centers or literally pushing their rickety boats back to sea. The Rohingya thus represent one of the world’s most protracted and desperate cases of statelessness.

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It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

American politics took a Game of Thrones-worthy plot twist on Tuesday as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary by a 12-point margin to Dave Brat, an underfunded right-wing challenger.

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For the first post-primary Wednesday this year, I’m not having to poke holes in the pre-ordained MSM narrative for this campaign cycle, The Year of the Republican Establishment, wherein the Great Big Adults of the GOP were supposed to put down the unruly Tea Folk and position their “pragmatic” party perfectly for smashing victories in 2014 and maybe 2016 as well. I’d say the Republican voters of the 7th congressional district of Virginia put that meme to rest for the immediate future.

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It’s no secret that Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada has earned a lot of love in the education community. On Wednesday, Canada dropped by the Capitol to discuss the past, present, and future of Promise Neighborhoods in the United States. It wasn’t exactly a One Direction concert, but to a dorky education researcher (and fellow Bowdoin College alum) like me, Canada is something of a rock star.

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Once in college, a friend and I were talking about unplanned pregnancy, and I mentioned that I knew five or six women that had had abortions. “Wow,” my friend replied, “I don’t know anyone that’s had one.”

“Or maybe you do and they just haven’t told you,” I pointed out.

I thought of our long-ago conversation the other week, after seeing Obvious Child.

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