Hot Docs: Responding to War in Gaza, Rising Homicides Among Young Blacks

Today's selection of timely reports.

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Responding to the Gaza Crisis: The situation in Gaza is "grave" and "dire," but at this point there's not much that Washington can do to help end the violence, a Middle East expert says. In an interview, Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations says that it's "not surprising" that violence erupted when it did: Israeli and Hamas forces "quickly took advantage" of the end of a cease-fire in December, and he discusses a number of factors on both sides that contributed to the breakdown. The instability endangers U.S. interests throughout the Middle East, Cook warns, and creates an opportunity for Iran to expand its influence with other Arab nations. Neither Bush nor Obama can do much about the situation right now, Cook admits, but the incoming administration should look for ways to make advancing the peace process "a priority."

Crime Study Looks at Homicide Trends: A new study examines the fact that homicide appears to be skyrocketing in one demographic group: young African-American men. According to criminal justice professors from Northeastern University, FBI numbers showing an overall decrease in crime "obscure the divergent tale of two communities." Their analysis shows that between 2002 and 2007, the number of young black men who were victims of homicide increased by 31 percent, and the number of perpetrators was up by 43 percent. The study's authors criticize recent cutbacks in programs that have been successful in keeping kids away from gangs and violence, and they call for a "reinvestment in children and families—in essence an at-risk youth bailout during these difficult economic times."

Online, the Campaign Continues: In the wake of record online engagement during the past presidential election, the Pew Internet and American Life Project asked voters if they planned to stay involved as the new Obama administration gets underway. For many, the campaign continues: 62 percent of those who voted for Barack Obama say they expect to ask others to support the new president's policies as his administration begins. About half of Obama supporters who are active online expect that they'll continue to get regular updates from the party through text messaging and social networking sites. Across the aisle, 9 percent of those who voted for John McCain say they've gone online since the election to visit websites aiming "to rebuild the GOP."