Conservative groups across the US are planning a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment,documents obtained by the Guardian reveal. The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as “free-market thinktanks”, includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
By the third evening of the American Studies Association’s national conference, a petition calling for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions had garnered some 850 signatures. An opposing petition had just over 50. Still, there was quite a bit of controversy when on December 4, the National Council of the American Studies Association (ASA) endorsed a boycott condemning the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. In American academia, criticising Israel has often come with a heavy backlash, including lawsuits and claims of anti-Semitism. Yet American professors and students are increasingly critical of what many have called Israeli apartheid, comparing the current segregation of Palestinians to that faced by black South Africans prior to 1995.
An influential US lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses is seeking to avert a looming funding crisis by appealing to major donors that have abandoned it over the past two years following criticism of its policy on gun laws. The Guardian has learned that by Alec’s own reckoning the network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding. In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income. The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which shapes and promotes legislation at state level across the US, has identified more than 40 lapsed corporate members it wants to attract back into the fold under a scheme referred to in its documents as the “Prodigal Son Project”.
The ping-pong-pocalypse was the latest protest action by Free Cooper Union, a student group protesting the formerly-free university’s plan to begin charging tuition in 2014. The video of the ball drop (raw footage above, edited video below) marks the one-year anniversary of the group’s first major protest, when 11 students started a week-long lockdown of Foundation Hall across the street. The use of ping pong balls has a dual significance, according to student spokesperson Casey Gollan. The students were inspired by a group of Syrian rebels who used similar techniques to frustrate supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, although Gollan is quick to note they do not mean to imply a direct equivalency between the situation in Syria and East Village universities. The other inspiration goes more directly to one of Free Cooper Union’s complaints, specifically about the replacement of Linda Lemiesz, the former dean of student affairs, with Stephen Baker, dean of athletics. According to Gollan, one of Baker’s first actions was to send an e-mail to students informing them the school had purchased six championship ping pong tables and was forming a ping pong club.
Philadelphia’s public education system, with roughly 140,000 students, is struggling for survival. In 2010, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was elected on a platform that included a range of controversial, if increasingly widespread education reform ideas. He called for test-driven teacher accountability, vouchers, decreased regulations for charter schools and a larger role for private, for-profit entities. So when Corbett faced a state fiscal crisis—one that has been compounded by the loss of federal stimulus money, which was propping up the state’s education budget—he responded with a mixture of austerity measures and hardline reforms for public schools. Last year, the governor slashed $1.1 billion from the state’s K-12 budget, cuts that particularly devastated Philadelphia’s state-controlled schools. On the advice of a private consulting group, school officials announced that the district would need to close a stunning five dozen schools, and noted that the district ought to brace itself for dissolution.
As the Post-Bloomberg Era Approaches: This is our moment. It’s a new day, New York. The sun is setting on a city run by and for the 1%. A new day is dawning — and we are rising, together. In 2014, we’ll have a new mayor, a new City Council and new citywide officials. Our city and state governments can and should begin a new era – by stopping the special deals for Wall Street and the people who have rigged the system and building a city that works for all of us. To make progress, we’ll fight to to stop the unchecked power of the 1%, break the links between big-money interests and the politicians that serve them, demand development policies that build broad prosperity not wealth for a tiny few, and support organizing to boost paychecks for low-wage workers. Join us during the first week of December as we build a New York that works for #AllOfUs.
In Afghanistan, prospects may be looking up for U.S. corporate control of crucial oil pipelines in the region; for early military encirclement of anticipated superpower rival China; and for unrivalled access to some 1 trillion dollars’ worth of copper, gold and iron ore, and perhaps 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements vital to Western industry, all of it awaiting extraction from the earth beneath Afghans’ feet. While mainstream media in U.S. locales with a strong military presence may suggest that the U.S. has convincingly promised enlightenment for Afghan people, regarding women’s rights and girls education, many Afghans wonder how they will fare caught between Western nations ruling the skies above their heads and the mineral resources which those nations are so uncontestably eager to bring out of darkness and into the light. Do they have a resource curse, they wonder, as other countries will want to avail themselves of these resources and jockey for control.
When Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz stepped down three years ago, he moved back into his old faculty office. But unlike most history professors, Reinharz does not teach any classes, supervise graduate students, or attend departmental meetings. He did not bother posing for the department photo. The chairwoman for Near Eastern and Judaic Studies said she did not even know whether he was officially a member of her department. Yet Reinharz remains one of the highest paid people on campus. He received more than $600,000 in salary and benefits in 2011, second only to the new Brandeis president, according to the school’s most recent public tax returns. And that’s on top of the $800,000 Reinharz earned in his new job as president of the Mandel Foundation, a longtime Brandeis benefactor. “There is puzzlement from faculty about why he gets paid at all” by Brandeis, said Gordon Fellman, a sociology professor at Brandeis. “His term as president ended.”
“When people ask me ‘what kind of medicine are you practicing?’ I usually say, ‘I’m practicing political medicine because it’s the mother of all illnesses,’” Stein tells Bill. Flowers adds: “Once you start speaking truth to power and standing up for the right things, it’s very empowering.” Stein and Flowers serve as the president and secretary of health, respectively, for the Green Shadow Cabinet, an organization offering alternative policies to the “dysfunctional government in Washington, DC.” This week, Bill talks with them about their personal journeys fighting for policy change — including arrests for acts of civil disobedience — and the pressing challenges they’re focusing on, such as the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.
Having political smarts isn’t about brokering power. True political geniuses are bringing policy to the table and suturing it to the flesh and bones of our city. They’re working, usually behind the curtain, to change conversations about what’s possible. Seattle is wealthy. It’s educated. And the voters are liberal. We’ve got everything it takes to become a national model for building mass transit, closing achievement gaps in schools, innovating environmental policy, and treating everyone equitably. But way too often, the same cast of self-satisfied schmucks hogs the limelight while settling for a career of unmemorable civic housekeeping. For instance, the Seattle City Council lacks a vision for a citywide light-rail system while instead making noisy fanfare over largely inconsequential tweaks to the city budget.
Many parents, teachers and community activists say they are fed up with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s austerity measures and his shifting of funds from traditional public schools to charter schools. Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett, meanwhile, say that they are addressing long-festering budget problems caused by their predecessors in public office. The situation grew worse on Tuesday, when CPS officials acknowledged that they had sent layoff notices to an additional 94 employees, due to funding shortages. Chicago community activists disgruntled with the city’s approach met at a town hall meeting on Wednesday to develop their own strategy to improve the public schools. Raise Your Hand, a parent-led education non-profit in Chicago cofounded by Katten, called the meeting. Speakers mostly agreed that CPS’s next crisis is its long-term finances, and that the immediate focus should be on ways to better fund neighborhood schools. The most-discussed solution: Raise money for schools through a progressive income tax to replace Illinois’ flat tax. Currently, every resident, from Oprah Winfrey to a fast-food worker, hands over 5 percent of her yearly earnings to the state.
The national wave of resistance to standardized testing continues this week, with teachers in Chicago launching a campaign to push back against the tests they see as a “major drain on classroom time, undermine education, and stand in stark contrast to the proven student assessment tools” developed by classroom teachers. At a press conference on Thursday, a National Day of Action on Testing, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced their “Let Us Teach” campaign, which encourages parents to opt out of standardized testing and urges the Chicago Public Schools to put an immediate end to testing students in 2nd grade and younger. Among the problems with the standardized tests CTU President Karen Lewis detailed was how they are used punitively “to justify decisions about student and school rankings; to target so-called ‘failing or underperforming’ schools; and ultimately, to make decisions about school closings.”
This report puts forward evidence-based solutions that will re-start the economy and avoid placing financial burdens on future generations. For the most part these ideas are not new. They are well accepted by economists and are consistent with the views of super majorities of Americans on key issues. Further, more than three-quarters of U.S. citizens say the country’s economic structure is out of balance and “favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country.” They are right. The solutions to our economic crisis are evident but they are blocked by those who profit from the status quo and control elected officials through the corrupt U.S. political system and its money-based elections. The elites in Washington, DC seek to erase deficits that were caused by increases in war and military spending, tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, the increased cost of health care, as well as bank bailouts, and increased costs and lost revenue from the economic collapse.
On Monday October 28th as they were going to class, two student leaders at the City College of New York were approached by CUNY Public Safety officials and told that they would be suspended from campus for inciting a riot that never occurred. This comes after two weeks of successive protests following the closure of the Morales Shakur Community Center at City College. The Community Center provided books and fresh food at low prices to students and community members in the Harlem area, and was a center for political activity for two decades. Khalil Vasquez and Tafadar Sourov, both from the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, were visible leaders of the protests and are the ones being targeted by the administration for suspension and possible expulsion. The Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee is calling for a massive mobilization on Friday November 8th at 9am, right before the hearing where Khalil and Tafadar will be sentenced. They believe that this marks an intensification in what they call the militarization of CUNY, and are mobilizing the community and student body to defend their university and its leaders.