The national protest on April, 24, 2014 called by the American Postal Workers Union APWU and other postal unions is an important step in fighting the privatization and destruction and looting of our US post office. The privatization is being implemented to benefit capitalists like Mitt Romney who owns Staples and is part and parcel of the destruction of public services from the privatization of the schools through charters and corporate testing to the privatization and outsourcing of public transit by Veolia and other companies. We need to unite the 11 million public workers in the United States to launch a real political education campaign against the privatization of Staples and all other profiteers and union busters. This is not only a US issue but a global struggle and in Canada they have already ended postal delivery to homes harming the seniors and tens of millions of working people.
In both mail and in-person, I’ve often been asked, “Why are you changing your name?” The answer couldn’t be simpler: because it’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been –a woman named Chelsea. But there is another question I’ve been asked nearly as much, “why are you making this request of the Leavenworth district court?” This is a more complicated question, but the short answer is simple: because I have to. Unfortunately, the trans* community faces three major obstacles to living a normal life in America: identity documentation, gender segregated institutions, and access to healthcare. And I’ve only just jumped through the first one of these hurdles.
As a CPA who, for the last decade, has prepared pro bono tax returns for citizens at the Jersey Shore, I’ve seen a lot of suffering: homelessness, unemployment, chronic illnesses, bankruptcies, suffocating student loan debt, unconscionable medical bills, and the scars of incarceration. Many taxpayers are overwhelmed and depressed, resulting from job losses through economic downsizing and privatizing schemes. They wonder how they’re going to get through the week. Living paycheck to paycheck, their struggles are life-altering, causing anxiety, relocations, and uncertainty. They’re constantly beaten down by public officials who sell them out at every turn. It is a downward spiral from which many never recover. Through my research on abuse at nonprofit hospitals who aggressively pursue the poor, un and under-insured for hospital bills (puffed up by as much as 1,000 percent) while doling out million dollar compensation packages
The New York Times editorial board finally gets it right about trade in its Sunday editorial, “This Time, Get Global Trade Right.” Some excerpts: Many Americans have watched their neighbors lose good-paying jobs as their employers sent their livelihoods to China. Over the last 20 years, the United States has lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs. People in the Midwest, the “rust belt” and elsewhere noticed this a long time ago as people were laid off, “the plant” closed, the downtowns slowly boarded up and the rest of us felt pressure on wages and working hours. How many towns — entire regions of the country — are like this now? Have you even seen Detroit? “This page has long argued that removing barriers to trade benefits the economy and consumers, and some of those gains can be used to help the minority of people who lose their jobs because of increased imports,” the editors write. “But those gains have not been as widespread as we hoped, and they have not been adequate to assist those who were harmed.”
The effectiveness of Portland students’ support of their teachers is part of an important trend on US campuses. Despite the fact that they pay thousands of dollars in tuition each semester, students often find themselves with little to no substantive representation on campus, and in recent years, many have turned to building student unions (no, not the confusingly named “student union” buildings on campus). And especially since the widely celebrated, though little publicized, success of the 2012 student strike in Quebec, a veritable student unionism movement been spreading across the country – a trend which bodes well not only for students themselves, but also for teachers increasingly being squeezed by austerity policies in education.
There are two very different ways of recognizing Earth Day In the Northern Plains and Washington, perhaps illustrating, what Native people call the choice between two paths, one well scorched and worn, the other green. This past week, Henry Red Cloud, a descendent of Chief Red Cloud and President of Lakota Solar Enterprises, was recognized as a Champion of Change by President Obama for his leadership in renewable energy. Red Cloud’s work has included installation of over 1000 solar thermal heating units on houses in tribal communities across the Northern Plains. Those units can reduce heating bills by almost one quarter, and cost, less than $2000 to install. The solar thermal panels harken a future with less reliance on propane and fossil fuels, something which proved deadly this winter, as the price skyrocketed, and many homes spent at least that amount to heat. Henry Red Cloud is one of many Lakota people who has been in DC this past month, and a large number of other Oglala tribal members will descend on Washington for theCowboys Indians Alliance encampment against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Typically, when a war ends, so does the combatants’ authority to detain the other side’s fighters. But as the conclusion of the US war in Afghanistan approaches, the inmate population of Guantánamo Bay is likely to be an exception – and, for the Obama administration, the latest complication to its attempt to close the infamous wartime detention complex. In December, when President Barack Obama and his Nato allies formally end their combat role in Afghanistan, US officials indicate there is unlikely to be a corresponding release of detainees at Guantánamo who were captured during the country’s longest conflict. The question has been the subject of recent internal debate in the Obama administration, which is wrapped up in the broader question of future detention policy. Already human rights groups and lawyers for the detainees say they anticipate filing a new wave of lawsuits challenging the basis for a wartime detention after the war ends – the next phase in more than a decade of attempts to litigate the end of indefinite detention.
Organizations from throughout the United States held an Earth Day ceremony to launch a nation-wide campaign to clean up hazardous abandoned uranium mines (AUMs). Clean Up The Mines! calls for effective and complete eradication of the contamination caused by the estimated 10,000 abandoned uranium mines that are silently poisoning extensive areas of the U.S. Clean Up The Mines! volunteers from across the country toured abandoned mines this week. They donned hazardous materials suits at Mount Rushmore and carried a large banner to raise awareness of the 169 AUMs in the Southwestern Black Hills near Edgemont. There are another 103 AUMS in the Northwest corner near Buffalo. The Northern Great Plains Region of Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota contains more than 3,000 AUMs. In Riley Pass, one of the largest AUMs in South Dakota, the deadly effect of the mine was apparent. As the group approached the bluff, the tree line ended abruptly at the edge of the mine. At Ludlow, the group measured radioactivity with a Geiger counter at an elementary school playground that was 44 microrems/hour.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) are a First Nation who hunt, fish, trap, and harvest on more than 10,000 square kilometers of territory north of Ottawa in what is now called Quebec. An estimated 450 Algonquins live within the traditional territory, or rely on the land to feed our families and to preserve our language and culture. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have attempted to promote co-existence with other users of the territory through agreements, such as the Trilateral Agreement, signed with Canada and Quebec in 1991. The Trilateral Agreement was supposed to give the community a say in forestry and wildlife management, in order for the community to protect wildlife breeding areas, fish spawning areas, and sacred or historical sites. While an estimated $100 million worth of resources is extracted from our traditional territory every year, the community does not derive any financial benefit. In recent years, Quebec has allowed the destruction of sensitive areas and Canada has interfered with community governance. Both governments have refused to adequately address the extremely difficult living conditions in the community.
On the eve of an international forum on internet governance, efforts by the United States to strip protections for web freedom were exposed on Tuesday as activists blasted the global meet as a “farce,” saying the internet is all of our “common good.” As representatives from 80 countries headed to Sao Paulo, Brazil on Tuesday for the two-day Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, or NETmundial, WikiLeaks revealed a draft (pdf) of edits proposed by the U.S. to a set of international guidelines, entitled the “Internet Governance Principles.” The principles are meant to guide discussions during the meeting as they purport to set international standards to protect web users worldwide. Among the changes revealed in the leaked State.gov draft, the U.S. delegation recommends stripping the word “equal” from the section on the Open and Distributed Architecture of the web.
Hidden from public view by barbed-wire fences and windowless concrete walls, a movement is brewing in Alabama that could change America. This Monday, hundreds of men incarcerated in St. Clair and prisons across the state will stop work, adding economic muscle to their demands for wages for their labor, an end to overcrowding and inhumane conditions, an end to the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration of African-Americans, and the repurposing the prison system as a tool for genuine rehabilitation in a wounded world. The demands of the peaceful strike action are outlined in detail in the Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness Bill (FREEDOM Bill), which was presented to the state legislature by the Free Alabama Movement in January. Melvin Ray, spokesperson for the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) said, “When we look at our situations inside of the Alabama Department of Corrections, we have no choice but to engage in this nonviolent and peaceful protest for civil and human rights. We sleep with rats and roaches. We work for free and eat slop unfit for human consumption. We serve decades in prison solely to provide free labor and without any real prospect for parole, and without any recourse to the courts for justice or redress of grievances.
Today, the same Wall Street crowd that caused the crash is not merely rolling in money again but aggressively counterattacking on the public-relations front. The battle increasingly centers around public funds like state and municipal pensions. This war isn’t just about money. Crucially, in ways invisible to most Americans, it’s also about blame. In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America’s states and cities. Not only did these middle-class workers already lose huge chunks of retirement money to huckster financiers in the crash, and not only are they now being asked to take the long-term hit for those years of greed and speculative excess, but in many cases they’re also being forced to sit by and watch helplessly as Gordon Gekko wanna-be’s like Loeb or scorched-earth takeover artists like Bain Capital are put in charge of their retirement savings. It’s a scam of almost unmatchable balls and cruelty, accomplished with the aid of some singularly spineless politicians. And it hasn’t happened overnight. This has been in the works for decades, and the fighting has been dirty all the way.
An 18-day bus drivers’ strike in Burlington, Vermont, ended in a win April 3 when drivers ratified a new contract 53-6. Strikes are rare these days, and fewer still result in victories—so why was this one different? What generated public support for the strike, despite management’s aggressive plan to blame drivers for the loss of bus service for nearly three weeks? This strike succeeded through a powerful combination of workers organizing on the job and organized community solidarity, the roots of which go back to at least 2009. In the face of aggressive management and worsening working conditions, and dissatisfied with the response of their union, Teamsters Local 597, some drivers began to meet as the Sunday Morning Breakfast Club. They reached out to Teamsters for a Democratic Union in 2009 as they were getting ready for contract negotiations. According to driver Jim Fouts, “When I first came here the union was weak, because it was a business-as-usual union. Then some activists started saying, ‘This is wrong. We can vote on things. This is supposed to be a democracy.’ And really it was a bottom-up movement to change our union.”
Stacey Armato, the lawyer and mother who was bullied, harassed, and made to miss her flight by the TSA in 2010, has reached a settlement in her lawsuit against the TSA. We’ve written about Armato and her case several times. Information about her case is also in the Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses. Armato, a frequent flyer, was trying to take breastmilk through the checkpoint, which is perfectly legal and acceptable, but the TSA clerks on duty at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport were in a bad mood and wanted to lord their power over her. They refused to let her pass. From the complaint: She requested an alternate screening process for the breast milk so it was not exposed to radiation. Plaintiff even had a printout of the TSA’s own guidelines – guidelines that had been in effect since July 20, 2007. These TSA agents, however, remembering her from the week before, retaliated against her for requesting alternate screening of her breast milk. Plaintiff was forced to stand in a glass enclosure in front of all the other passengers for over 40 minutes, where she was frequently harassed and abused by TSA agents. Plaintiff was specifically singled out for no other reason than to humiliate. Regular readers will recognize that this a common practice by TSA agents.
Pittsburgh is the perfect urban laboratory,” says Bill Peduto, the city’s new mayor. “We’re small enough to be able to do things and large enough for people to take notice.” More than its size, however, it’s Pittsburgh’s new government—Peduto and the five like-minded progressives who now constitute a majority on its city council—that is turning the city into a laboratory of democracy. In his first hundred days as mayor, Peduto has sought funding to establish universal pre-K education and partnered with a Swedish sustainable-technology fund to build four major developments with low carbon footprints and abundant affordable housing. Even before he became mayor, while still a council member, he steered to passage ordinances that mandated prevailing wages for employees on any project that received city funding and required local hiring for the jobs in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ new arena. He authored the city’s responsible-banking law, which directed government funds to those banks that lent in poor neighborhoods and away from those that didn’t.