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The Lede, Issue #6: Political Season Heats Up, Natural Disasters Over the Last Decade, the Cost of Drugs, and More

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Spiritual leader and medicine man David Swallow Jr., who was born on the Pine Ridge Sioux reservations in South Dakota.

Spiritual leader and medicine man David Swallow Jr., who was born on the Pine Ridge Sioux reservations in South Dakota.

Early Access to Features

Premium members are now able to access two of our March/April 2018 print features well before the rest of the public. This week the two stories focus on the lessons from the Standing Rock protests and a breakdown of the history of statehood and federal governance in the United States in the search for clues to how the country has kept it together during divisive times in the past. You can read them in full by following the links below:

Next Week: Premium members will receive early access to two additional features.

  • A Guide to the Hidden Political Poetry of the American Midwest: Celebrating three poets whose work is as trenchantly political as anything on an op-ed page: a poetry of labor, of representation, of hope.
  • The Red Pill: When your brother is the new face of the white nationalist movement, finding the roots of radicalization becomes personal.
President Donald Trump speaks before signing the National Defense Authorization Act, on December 12th, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

A Voice for All

Political season is heating up. The 2018 mid-term elections are quickly approaching, and, in the era of Trump, there are signs that this cycle will be a contentious one.

Our coverage illustrates the competing forces that will be at play in 2018 and beyond. Senior staff writer Tom Jacobs has written multiple pieces about the mindset of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton voters in recent weeks, while contributing writer Seth Masket considered both how the Democrats think they can regain control of the House of Representatives, and the unrealized potential of Joe Biden—and how that relates to his current favor among party voters. Concerning potential threats to democracy, Michael Isaac Stein wrote about the potential of further interference in political issues by foreign governments via social media.

The lifeblood of a healthy democracy is a combination of open discourse and complete representation. At Pacific Standard we provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas and lend our audience to voices looking to become more involved in governance across the United States.

Recently, we posted a story that profiles three first-time female candidates who have each decided to run for office in the wake of Trump's election. Austin Monthly editor Megan Kimble spoke to Deedra Abboud, Mai Khanh Tran, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Pacific Standard about the stories that motivated each one of them to run for elected positions. These women are just one part of a national groundswell of female candidates who are seeking more equal representation of women in elected positions to better match the demographics of the country.

These profiles cohere with our history of giving voice to nascent candidates who are looking to shake up the norm. Last year, Erica Berry profiled Minnesota state representative Ilhan Omar, America's first Somali-American legislator. And, this past week, contributing writer David M. Perry spoke with his local House representative, Betty McCollum, in the same state about what the Democrats plan to do if they re-take the House in 2018.

These people are at the forefront of political change. By giving them a voice we play one role in the discourse that will promote a healthy evolution of American politics.

One Last Decade

How the world has—and hasn't—changed since Pacific Standard's first Issue.

It's been 10 years since our first print issue was published, as Miller-McCune. Over that time period we have devoted our time to covering specific issues that are constantly evolving. To track that development, Pacific Standard Editorial Assistants Jack Denton and Morgan Baskin crafted an infographic that tracks how inequality, climate change, immigration, and other subjects of our coverage have changed—for better or for worse—over that period of time:

  • Recipe for Disaster
    • 27: Number of natural disasters between 2005 and 2008 that caused more than $1 billion in damage. Hurricane Katrina, the largest of these cost $161.3 billion and rendered an estimated 300,000 homes uninhabitable.
    • 48: Number of natural disasters between 2014 and 2017 that caused more than $1 billion in damage. Initial estimates show that Hurricane Harvey, which struck Houston in August and damaged or destroyed roughly 290,000 homes, could top $108 billion in damage.
  • Occupied by Inequality
    • 62: Real-income growth for the top 1 percent between 2002 and 2007, compared to 7 percent growth for the bottom 99 percent.
    • 52: Proportion of post-recession real-income growth (from 2009 to 2015) that went to the 1 percent.

View the rest of Baskin and Denton's infographic here, available exclusively for PS Premium members.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and artist Kehinde Wiley unveil Obama's portrait during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery on February 12th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and artist Kehinde Wiley unveil Obama's portrait during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery on February 12th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

PS Picks

PS Picks is a selection of the best things that the magazine's staff and contributors are reading, watching, or otherwise paying attention to in the worlds of art, politics, and culture.

Nigerian Creatives: The next thing to do after spending hours marveling over the beautiful portrait of former President Barack Obama, done by half-Nigerian American artist Kehinde Wiley for the National Portrait Gallery, is to open yourself up the art scene in West Africa, namely Nigeria. Wiley, who was born to a Yoruba father and a black American mother, traveled to both Nigeria and Senegal for artistic inspiration, which eventually led to the creation of his art series titled The World Stage: Africa, Lagos—Dakar. Beyond Wiley, the attention given to artists of West African heritage is growing, though it is not yet enough.

A great hashtag to follow on Twitter, if you are truly interested in art produced in this blossoming scene, is #WeAreNigerianCreatives. Though the hashtag reached a peak at the end of February, it continues to be a great source for discovering Nigerian cartoonists, illustrators, graphic designers, fashion designers, costume make-up artists, and fine artists who dabble in hyperrealism, recycle art, pointillism, and pretty much every type of art under the sun. Besides being a great way to showcase their talent to a broader audience, the hashtag remains one of the few ways Africans are able to control the narrative and tell their own stories.
Chinelo Nkechi Ikem, Editorial Intern

The Cost of Drugs: The ProPublica and New York Times story, "The Price They Pay" by Katie Thomas of the Times and Charles Ornstein of ProPublica, smartly illustrates the realities around high drug prices in America. It's relatively short, plainly told, easy to digest, and compelling. In a short space, it packs in a ton of useful information and has real punch. Want to know why our drugs are so expensive, what policies make the problem worse, and how it hurts people? You can learn all that here, real fast.
Francie Diep, Staff Writer

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou's Mystical Music: March is a tweener. A mix of warm, stately sunsets, frenetic snowstorms, and gray afternoons that look at you askance, it's a month that throws the notion of categorization off balance.

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou's piano playing is similarly resistant to classification, and this is its magnificence. Her songs—always solo piano affairs—often recall the impressionism and romance of more familiar composers like Debussy and Chopin, evincing the European classical traditions she studied as a youth during stints in Switzerland and Cairo. But all is not as it seems. Guèbrou modulates playfully in and out of keys like a somnambulating Thelonious Monk, and runs her hummingbird fingers up and down the pentatonic scale in the great tradition of her church's liturgical chants. She's unbound by key, by tradition, by meter—sometimes, her right-hand melodies seem to float above the measures they're part of. I don't wish to count them.

She released two albums in the late 1960s and early '70s to fund an orphanage, compiled on the incredible Éthiopiques, vol. 21: Emahoy (Piano Solo). With songs like "The Homeless Wanderer," and "The Mad Man's Laughter," Guèbrou seems happily unmoored, and the more I listen—me as well. Sometimes gods are fallible, and you don't yearn for spring.
Jack Denton, Editorial Assistant

Art in the Age of the Internet: After more than a decade of declining participation in the arts, the majority of Americans—about 71 percent—now consume art electronically. A new exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston seeks to examine what that means for art, and how the digital age has changed the field. Featuring a broad range of works across different mediums—including painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video, and "web-based projects"—the exhibition traces the history of digital-age art from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the social movement Black Lives Matter. In that period the Internet has both created new opportunities for communication and also challenged artists to create new and inventive work.

Visitors will find modern themes of digital art, like human enhancement and government surveillance, on display, as well as enduring issues of resistance, community, and identity. The exhibition—along with its accompanying book—features artists like Ed Atkins, who creates hyper-realistic digital avatars, provide a thoughtful, sometimes disturbing, perspective on technological change. In Atkins' words, his work shows how technologies like CGI are "pushing hard at realistic and failing hard to push into real.
Kristina Kutateli, Contributing Writer

PS in the News

A look at where our stories and staff surface in the national conversation.

The Conversation

What to Do When Nazis Are Obsessed With Your Field (, September 6th)

  • They're not looking for a sense of greatness. They're looking for a sense of inferiority for everyone else to elevate themselves. They've lost their sense of greatness because now everyone else is sick of being held down and stepped on. If they're waiting for women and ethnic minorities to let them elevate themselves at our expense again, that train has left the station. —JCortese

American Hubris: The Mythologizing of Christopher Columbus (, October 9th)

  • As a college-level geography instructor, I find Mr. Keegan's short piece to be one of the most damning yet concisely informative essays on the character and reality of Christóbal Colón as the "Discoverer of the Americas" in recent print. That for more than a century, U.S. students have been told to praise Colón for his "great achievement" is a truly dark stain on our present politics. Was CC an audacious explorer and skilled mariner? My research concludes that there are no doubts he was. But to consider him a heroic icon of Euro-colonialism and American exceptionalism is fatuous, if not downright insidiously disrespectful to the entire population of "New World" inhabitants he initiated the destruction of, as is white-washing the shameful truth of the Atlantic slave trade it also enabled. The human experience is accelerating ever faster toward forgetting about or moving beyond reconciling the "truths" of our past colonial misdeeds; Mr. Keegan's essay is a refreshing reminder that the ugly social realities of 21st-century modernity are rooted in the old hates and long-running weaknesses of our species' nature. It's a point of discussion I'll not fail to bring up every semester in my courses, to compel students to consider that those who forget their history are indeed doomed to repeat it. —GeoDeveloper

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