Pulitzer Center Update

This Week: A Stillborn Democracy

Image by Lauren E. Bohn. Egypt, 2013.

This week, hundred of thousands of demonstrators are pouring into streets of cities and towns across Egypt to protest the many shortcomings of the country’s first democratically elected government. In the wake of the 2011 revolution, political power in Egypt changed hands, but the deep-rooted problems that triggered the unrest—poverty, rampant corruption and a lack of opportunity—remain stubbornly entrenched.

With nearly half its population under age 30, education is the key to Egypt’s future, but as Pulitzer Center grantee Lauren Bohn reports on CNN’s website, “Egypt rank(s) near the bottom — 131st out of 144 countries — for quality of primary education. Egypt's literacy rate is 66%, according to a 2011 United Nations report. Meanwhile, a report by London think tank Chatham House says just $129 a year is spent on each Egyptian student.” The U.S., by comparison, spends 40 times that amount.

Lauren traveled to Upper Egypt, the poorest part of the country, and found little cause for optimism: “Many schools look more like rank penitentiaries rather than hubs of learning. Students and teachers seem to be on the verge of exhaustion rather than bursting with inspiration. And forget technology. Desks and a stable electricity supply are luxuries.”


In one of the great success stories in the annals of medicine, India has not had a reported case of polio in the last two years. But what about those who contracted the disease before it was effectively eradicated?

Pulitzer Center grantee Esha Chhabra steps into the world of Dr. Mathew Varghese, an orthopedic surgeon who runs India's only polio ward, at St Stephen's Hospital in Delhi. “The ward offers reconstructive surgery, which not only gives patients greater mobility, but also gives them more chance of getting married or finding a job,” Esha writes for The Guardian's Global Development blog. “Varghese sees approximately 150 polio patients a year. The ward is filled with 20-year-olds who contracted polio in their infancy, but were unaware surgery or other assistance was available. ‘I dream to see it empty,’ says Varghese.”

Vast resources have been summoned in the fight to eradicate polio, but not so much to aid those already afflicted. Rotary clubs and other volunteer organizations try to fill the funding gap, but reconstructive surgery and prosthetics are expensive. Someday, Dr. Varghese's ward will be empty, but for now, says Esha, his BlackBerry rings constantly, his assistants are repeatedly trying to track him, his next patient is waiting.


A year ago, Tajikistan’s government sent a unit of its U.S.-trained special forces to capture four warlords in a remote frontier region that is home to the Pamiris, a Shi’a minority in the former Soviet republic. The mission backfired and the army was forced into a humiliating retreat.

“This comes at an unpropitious time for Tajikistan,” writes Pulitzer Center grantee Josh Kucera in a story for The Atlantic. “In preparation for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, scheduled to start next year, the U.S., Russia, and other partners have been trying to help Tajikistan's government bolster its shaky hold on the unstable country.” But according to Josh, the failure of last summer's operation and the hardening of resistance among the Pamiris have instead reversed that momentum.


We are honored and delighted to announce that Marvin Kalb has taken up residence at the Pulitzer Center as senior advisor. Marvin is truly one of the giants of television journalism. His extraordinary career covers three decades of award-winning reporting and commentary for CBS and NBC, including a turn as host of Meet the Press. He is the Edward R. Murrow Professor (Emeritus) at Harvard, a former guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, and author of several books. His latest, “The Road to War: Presidential Commitments Honored and Betrayed” (Brookings 2013), is a timely and critical examination of the extraordinary war-making powers we give to the president.