Cross-posted at CreativeResistance.org. Against this calamitous backdrop, we are starting to see hope in the country’s next generation of campaigners, organisers and even artists. These new hybrid cultural activists have been dubbed “artivists” and are continuing the struggles of their predecessors with a new approach. The author MK Assante describes the artivist as someone who “uses her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression by any medium necessary”. For two weeks in February, I had the privilege of joining almost 200 activists, organisers and artivists in a Nairobi community centre (unnamed for security reasons) for an Artivism Lab.
Chanting, “This system – let’s stop it! Our health is not for profit!” and “What do we want? Single payer! When do we want it? Now!” a two-block-long river of medical and other health professional students – most in white lab coats – marched down Chicago’s crowded Michigan Avenue and rallied outside the gleaming skyscraper known as Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower last Saturday. “We will no longer tolerate private insurance companies putting their bottom line above the health of our patients!” declared James Besante, a third-year student at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, in front of the BCBS offices. “No more!” The crowd roared back, “Patients, not profits!”
Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir, who first rose to international attention for their music-based challenge to consumerism, have turned their attention to big corporations’ role in climate disruption. They take up the plight of the Honey Bee in their new campaign, HoneyBeeLujah!, which launches with an hour-long action this Thursday, April 17, in Times Square. The event will begin in front of the U.S. Armed Forces Times Square Recruiting Station at6pm with the Reverend delivering the Choir’s new manifesto. Then the activist-performers, adorned and accompanied by hundreds of Honey Bees handmade by Savitri D. and the Choir, will move throughout what Reverend Billy calls the “Stonehenge of Logos” at New York’s most famous intersection.
The attempt to impose sanctions is driven by Congress members from Florida and New Jersey with strong ties to extreme rightwing Cuban-American groups who support the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Sadly, the Obama administration has also indicated that it is considering targeted sanctions against the Venezuelan government. Currently, no other country in the hemisphere besides Cuba is subject to U.S. sanctions. As President Pepe Mujica of Uruguay recently stated, “when the entire world asks the U.S. to shelve its economic blockade policy against Cuba, voices emerge from within that government threatening sanctions against Venezuela. Are the lessons of history never learned?” Tell your elected officials that their vote for sanctions would be a vote for further bloodshed by anti-democratic forces.
The malignancy of mass incarceration did not arise from a sudden epidemic of crime. Nor did it result from people making poor personal choices. Instead it arose from cold political calculations made in response to the massive and heroic struggle for the rights of Black and other minority peoples that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s, and in response to the enormous economic and social changes brought about by globalized production. This cancer of mass incarceration has been, from the beginning, nothing but a new Jim Crow in place of the old one. Like the old Jim Crow, it drew on, fed off and reinforced the deep-seated roots of the racism that grew up with slavery. Like the old Jim Crow, it has been, from the beginning, unjustifiable, utterly immoral and thoroughly illegitimate. This must stop – NOW! Not the next generation, not in ten years, not any time off in some promised future that never seems to come. NOW!
Next Tuesday, April 22, 2014, Honor is joining with Native peoples and ranchers (called the Cowboy and Indian Alliance) from along the pipeline route in Washington, DC, to show Obama and the world that Native Nations will stand firm in asserting our human and constitutionally protected treaty rights in saying NO to the Keystone XL Pipeline. We won’t be leaving DC until the voices of our people are heard. We invite you to visit us at the tipi camp on the National Mall during the week, but urge you to participate on Saturday the 26th in a day of action. Click here to RSVP, and to donate to Honor the Earth’s work to support this action, and the frontline groups opposing this pipeline in their territories. Just as we keep a close watch on the Keystone XL, we must also work to oppose the pipelines of the north, many of which are as big or bigger than the KXL. Honor has been focusing our efforts on the Sandpiper pipeline.
“We owe it to all the mothers and fathers of those killed in product safety disasters to say, ‘Never again.’” Consumer advocate Ralph Nader announced last week he is supporting two corporate accountability bills aimed at warning the public about dangerous and deadly products and tracking corporate crimes. Introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the bills come in the wake of revelations of GM’s deadly ignition switch defect, which the company kept from the public for years. “Corporate crime has long swept our nation, draining people’s hard-earned savings and severely harming the health and safety of millions of people,” said Nader. “The executive and corporate perpetrators of this crime wave, far more often than not, [are] getting away scot-free and sometimes promoted.” The Dangerous Products Warning Act would force companies to be transparent about any dangers their products or services pose to the public and hold product supervisors criminally liable for cover-ups. It would also outlaw retaliation for whistle-blowing on such dangers.
The controversy over a Senate investigation documenting the Central Intelligence Agency’s post-9/11 regime of global torture continues to generate headlines—even though the report has yet to be released. The Senate report has sparked a bitter war between the CIA and senators like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who accused the CIA of spying on those looking at CIA documents on torture. But while the official inquiry has not been published, dogged journalists have published key—and disturbing—details of what is contained in it. Based on CIA documents, senators on the powerful committee conducted a four-year long, $40 million inquiry into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which included torture tactics like the waterboarding of terrorism suspects, beatings and the smashing of suspects’ heads into walls. While the public may be aware of some of these practices due to past revelations, the information carries heavy weight because it is the Senate confirming many of those claims, which has oversight power over the agency.
The Wobblies, my friends, refers to the IWW, and for those of us whose standard education conveniently glossed over this knowledge, that stands for International Workers of the World. It was not a glorified title of a handful of disgruntled activists. It was – and still is – a description of the common fate of the world’s workers. Today, labor organizers like Richard Monje and activists like the Occupiers recognize that the struggle continues to be global. When US workers went on strike against toxins and the jobs went overseas to poison others – that was not justice for workers. When we protested pollution and the smokestacks closed over our cities, but rose to pollute Beijing – that was not justice for workers. When we demanded healthcare, shorter hours and better wages only to see our offices outsourced to India – that was not justice for our workers or theirs. When we were sold our identity as consumers, but then lost our ability to buy in – that was not justice for workers. When we see the same destructive cycle being packaged up for the rest of the world, we know that is not justice for workers, humanity, or the planet.
The Senate gave a decisive 26-2 vote Tuesday for a bill that would require labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, a strong indication that Vermont could become the first state in the nation to enact such a law. “We are saying people have a right to know what’s in their food,” said Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Windsor. Campbell and other supporters argued that they believe they have written a bill that is legally defensible. They nonetheless created a fund in the legislation to help pay the state’s legal bills, as many assume that food manufacturers will sue. The bill would require food sold in Vermont stores that contain genetically modified ingredients to be labeled starting July 2016. The legislation is up for another vote in the Senate Wednesday before it goes back to the House, which passed a slightly different version last year. Gov. Peter Shumlin has indicated he’s likely to sign the bill. Two other states — Connecticut and Maine — have passed labeling laws, but both delayed implementation until neighboring states join them, a strategy designed to insulate them from being sued. Voters in Washington and California defeated labeling measures there.
Jimmy Carter wants Barack Obama to block Keystone XL, the controversial pipeline to funnel Canadian oil-sands crude to Gulf Coast refineries. Carter is the first former U.S. president to urge the current occupant of the Oval Office to reject TransCanada’s long-delayed $5.5-billion project. Carter – who is outspoken on human-rights issues – added his voice to nine other Nobel Peace Prize winners as political pressure for Obama to decide the project’s fate ramps up. As the President decides on “the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, please do not underestimate its importance,” the Nobel laureates’ open letter urges. Other signatories include South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero, Desmond Tutu, and Jody Williams, who, along with the Canadian government, led the global campaign to ban land mines. Rejecting Keystone, they said, would show whether Obama was serious when he pledged to act against global warming in the interests of future generations.
On a recent Saturday morning, 500 protesters poured out of a parade of school buses, signs and megaphones in hand, and tried their best to shame a single Staples store just outside Chicago. Among them was Mike Suchomel, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service, who traveled all the way from New Jersey for a nearby labor conference. What has infuriated Suchomel and many of his fellow postal union members is a new arrangement struck between USPS and the office supply retailer. Under the premise of a pilot program, a limited number of Staples locations are now offering most of the same services provided at post offices, to be handled by Staples employees rather than postal workers. “It’s just a big step toward privatization,” said Suchomel, who hopped a bus to the protest from the Labor Notes conference, a biannual gathering of labor activists held in Chicago. “I think it’s a terrible thing that the postmaster general would even think about this.”
The next big thing in solar energy could be microscopic. Scientists at MIT and Harvard University have devised a way to store solar energy in molecules that can then be tapped to heat homes, water or used for cooking. The best part: The molecules can store the heat forever and be endlessly re-used while emitting absolutely no greenhouse gases. Scientists remain a way’s off in building this perpetual heat machine but they have succeeded in the laboratory at demonstrating the viability of the phenomenon called photoswitching. “Some molecules, known as photoswitches, can assume either of two different shapes, as if they had a hinge in the middle,” MIT researchers said in statement about the paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry. “Exposing them to sunlight causes them to absorb energy and jump from one configuration to the other, which is then stable for long periods of time.”
Entering its second week, the inspiring Washington University sit-in against Peabody Energy has already gone beyond its goals to cut school ties with the St. Louis-based coal giant, and forced the rest of the nation to ask themselves an urgent question in an age of climate change and reckless strip mining ruin: Which side are you on? Will other schools, alumni groups — and investors in Peabody Energy — follow the lead of the Washington U. students? Case in point: Tonight in my native Saline County in southern Illinois, the county commissioners genuflected to short-term Peabody coal dollars over the “negative impact on about a dozen homeowners who live near the site of the proposed mine,” according to one cynical commissioner, and voted to allow the company to close off Rocky Branch road for a proposed strip mine expansion, despite the lack of EPA permits, and documented evidence of flooding, blasting and emergency access problems. Facing financial ruin, grave heath problems and displacement, the Rocky Branch residents will fight on, thanks to the Wash U. students, and continue to tell the truth: We all live in the coalfields now, in this age of climate change, and it is no longer acceptable to allow anyone to be collateral damage to a disastrous energy policy.
CBS News has hired former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, as their senior security correspondent. Morell has been a frequent guest on CBS’ Face the Nation, where he has disseminated CIA propaganda and misleading information, raising questions about CBS’ journalistic integrity. Morell also works for Beacon Global Strategies, a DC consulting firm which peddles its government connections to defense contractors, raising even more questions about his role at CBS. On December 23, 2013, Morell appeared on Face the Nation, where he promoted the government’s campaign to prosecute Edward Snowden. On this day Morell stated: “He violated the trust put in him by the United States government. He has committed a crime, in my view. You know a whistleblower doesn’t run. A whistleblower does not disclose information that has nothing to do with what he says his cause is which is the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.