Five Best Wednesday Columns

Heather Barr on Afghanistan's women, Sean Sullivan on Obamacare's cost for Obama, Maria Konnikova says snoozers are losers, Alec MacGillis thinks Obama should talk about inequality, and Kevin Roose on the Volcker Rule. 

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Heather Barr at The New York Times on Afghanistan's women. "The last 12 years have been a time of significant achievements here [in Afghanistan], hard-fought by Afghan activists. Millions of girls have gone to school, women have joined the police and the army and the civil service. 28 percent of the members of Afghanistan’s Parliament are women, and a 2009 law made violence against women a crime," Barr, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, explains. "But signs are everywhere that a rollback of women’s rights has begun in anticipation of next year’s deadline for the withdrawal of international combat forces." For example, "reported cases of violence against women went up by 28 percent in the last year, prosecutions increased by only 2 percent." Most egregiously, "virginity" tests have been used to prosecute women for morality crimes. Jayne Huckerby, a human rights lawyer and Duke professor tweets, "Afghanistan: 600 women & girls imprisoned for moral crimes after vaginal examination to test virginity."

Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post on Obamacare's cost to Obama. "Even if Obama has moved past the lowest low of his presidency, there is no way around the reality that his image has been badly damaged since he triumphed at the polls last fall," Sullivan argues. "The percentage of Americans who say Obama is 'not trustworthy' has jumped from 30 percent to 45 percent since the start of 2013." But "nothing is set in stone. Obama still has time to turn things around. And we may be witnessing the beginning of his comeback. But the hill he has to climb could hardly be any steeper." MSNBC's Karen Finney tweets, "the worst may be behind Obama. But it cost him dearly."

Maria Konnikova at The New Yorker says health-wise, snoozers are losers. If you hit the snooze button in the morning, "it may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts," Konnikova, a psychologist, writes. "But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out. If you manage to drift off again, you are likely plunging your brain back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the worst point to be woken up — and the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept." She argues, "if we could just synchronize our sleep more closely with natural light patterns, it would become far easier to wake up." Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch tweets, "If you hit the the snooze button each morning, you'll want to read this piece on the health concerns." Awl contributor Brendan O'Connor notes, "I read this while I was trying to wake up."

Alec MacGillis at The New Republic argues Obama should talk about inequality. "Last week, the centrist Democratic group Third Way caused quite a dustup with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal warning Democrats against pursuing the populist path forged by Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio," MacGillis writes. But "a Bloomberg poll released Tuesday night found that by a ratio of 64 percent to 33 percent, Americans say the U.S. no longer offers everyone an equal chance to get ahead, [and] that 68 percent of Americans say the income gap is growing." Democrats would be wise to campaign on this. University of Wisconsin democracy professor Harvey J. Kaye tweets, "Beltway pundits caution Obama that focusing on inequality is bad. They're wrong — and it shows their bias."

Kevin Roose at Daily Intelligencer on the Volcker Rule. "Yesterday was Volcker Rule Day on Wall Street – the long-anticipated day when the rule reining in risky trading at big Wall Street banks was released, and a phalanx of $800-an-hour lawyers descended on the 71-page document with the tenacity of a pit viper, trying to figure out what it all meant for their big-bank clients and, more important, looking for loopholes," Roose explains. Journalists are arguing over whether the rule works, but Roose says the "Volcker Rule already has worked." He explains, "The goal of the Volcker Rule was never to eliminate risky trading altogether. It was to eliminate the most blatant types of prop trading, and make it easier to examine the other types of trading for evidence of prop-ness. That's more or less what the Volcker Rule will do."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.