The Nation

The Fatah-Hamas Accord Could Rewrite the Rules in the Middle East


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

There’s plenty of reason to be skeptical, even pessimistic, about the newly announced reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the two main components of the Palestinian movement. After all, they fought a near civil war in 2007, and an earlier unity accord, in 2011, went nowhere. But with the apparent breakdown in the Israel-Palestinian talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry and the United States, whose deadline expires next Tuesday, a Fatah-Hamas accord could rewrite the rules of the so-called peace process.

Since the start of the Kerry-led talks—in which the United States hinted at, but never delivered on, a US-backed outline for what an Israel-Palestine deal should include—it has been Israel, not the Palestinians, that's refused to budge. That Israeli intransigence, fed by ultra hardliners in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, culminated earlier this month when the Israelis refused to follow through on the release of the next round of Palestinian prisoners, and both Kerry and Tzipi Livni, the Israeli justice minister who is leading the talks, blamed extremists in the Israeli government for scuttling the talks. Their failure, which was widely expected, leaves Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, with several options going forward. The accord with Hamas, which controls Gaza, could be an important first step, especially if it leads the Palestinians to aggressively seek international recognition for a self-declared Palestinian state.

But it’s hardly a silver bullet, and old animosities could easily destroy the fledgling Palestinian accord even before it gets off the ground.

Hamas, badly isolated with its Gaza stronghold under siege, may have felt that it had little choice but to accept a reconciliation offer from Abbas, whose envoys have been in constant contact with Hamas for a long while in search of common ground. The military government in Egypt has clamped down on Hamas, imposing severe restrictions on Egypt-Gaza border traffic, and blaming Hamas for violence in the Sinai peninsula. Worse, Egypt has used Hamas and its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which ruled Egypt until the 2013 coup d’état by Egypt’s armed forces, as a bludgeon against former President Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. (More recently, though, there have been signs that Egypt helped facilitate the Fatah-Hamas accord, including by allowing the passage in and out of Gaza by Fatah officials.) In addition, another Hamas patron, Syria, is embroiled in a civil war, and yet another patron, Iran, can provide only limited help. (Interestingly, Iran’s Press TV, a government-run outlet, seemed to back the Hamas-Fatah accord, headlining, “Fatah-Hamas deal nightmare for US.”)

Iranian officials, long allied with hardliners among the Palestinians, have also consistently said that they’d line up in support of any deal with Israel that the Palestinians—presumably meaning all of the Palestinians—endorse. Meanwhile, Fatah, traditionally supported by the established Arab powers, including Saudi Arabia, will campaign among the Arab states for backing for the deal with Hamas, and one of the more intriguing aspects of the Fatah-Hamas accord will be whether or not Saudi Arabia and Iran join together in support of it. A few years ago, Saudi Arabia and Iran worked together to help stabilize Lebanon when the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement threatened to upend the Lebanese national accord. And the emergence of an eventual resolution of Syria’s civil war, which has devolved into a Sunni vs. Shiite proxy war with Saudi Arabia and Iran supporting each side, will also depend on a Saudi-Iran agreement. In that context, the Palestinian agreement could be a harbinger of an end to the Saudi Arabia-vs.-Iran politics of the Middle East.

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But that’s getting way ahead of the game. The Fatah-Hamas accord has drawn outraged reactions inside Israel, and it hasn’t exactly been welcomed in the United States, either, what with US threats to cut off aid to the Palestinians. (The United States, of course, calls Hamas a “terrorist” organization and has no contact with the group.)

The accord includes provisions, still not nailed down, to form a unity government including both Fatah and Hamas officials within five weeks and a plan to hold elections in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza by the end of the year. It isn’t at all clear whether Hamas will accept the outlines of Fatah’s existing accord with Israel, or the premise that Israel exists as a state (though, to be sure, one with borders to be determined).

Abbas, frustrated with the lack of progress in the talks with Israel, has lately hinted that he’s considering dissolving the Palestinian Authority entirely and throwing administration of the West Bank back into Israel’s lap, which would truly be a stupid and self-defeating move. Now, the accord with Hamas, and the possibility of Palestinian-wide elections, holds much more promise going forward. If it holds.

Read Next: Bob Dreyfuss on how to break the Israel-Palestine deadlock.

Net Neutrality Can Be Saved, but Only If Citizens Raise an Outcry

FCC headquarters

The headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission. (Flickr/Federal Communications Commission)

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2007, he earned a great deal of credibility with tech-savvy voters by expressing support for net neutrality that was rooted in an understanding that this issue raises essential questions about the future of open, free and democratic communications in America.

Obama “got” that net neutrality represented an Internet-age equivalent of the First Amendment—a guarantee of equal treatment for all content, as opposed to special rights to speed and quality of service for the powerful business and political elites that can buy an advantage.

Asked whether he thought the Federal Communications Commission and Congress needed to preserve the Internet as we know it, the senator from Illinois said, “The answer is ‘yes.’ I am a strong supporter of Net neutrality.”

“What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites,” explained Obama, who warned that with such a change in standards “you could get much better quality from the Fox News site and you’d be getting rotten service from the mom and pop sites.”

Obama’s bottom line: “That I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

Candidate Obama was exactly right.

So was President Obama when, in 2010, the White House declared that, “President Obama is strongly committed to net neutrality in order to keep an open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, consumer choice, and free speech.”

And President Obama certainly sounded right in January, 2014, when he said, “I have been a strong supporter of net neutrality. The new commissioner of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, whom I appointed, I know is a strong supporter of Net Neutrality.”

The president expressed that confidence in Wheeler, even as concerns were raised about an appointee who had previously worked as a cable and wireless industry lobbyist.

Now, barely three months after the president identified him as "a strong supporter of net neutrality," Wheeler is reportedly preparing to roll out a proposal that our most digitally-engaged newspaper, The Guardian, delicately suggests would "axe-murder Net Neutrality."

Every indication is that the FCC is preparing to adopt a thoroughly misguided approach to issues of Internet access and functionality that is, itself, a response to court rulings that upended the FCC’s previous thoroughly misguided approach to the issues of Internet access and functionality.

According to Los Angeles Times tech writer Jim Puzzanghera, the latest proposal “would allow Internet service providers to charge companies for faster delivery of their content.”

Gabe Rottman, an American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel and policy advisor who focuses on First Amendment issues, correctly explains that, “If the FCC embraces this reported reversal in its stance toward net neutrality, barriers to innovation will rise, the marketplace of ideas on the internet will be constrained, and consumers will ultimately pay the price.”

Wheeler claims that criticism based on reports about his initiative are “flat-out wrong.” “There is no ‘turnaround in policy,’ Wheeler said. “The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original Open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted,

But, after reviewing “the outlines of the proposal released by (Wheeler’s) office on Wednesday,” Puzzanghera’s “Tech Now” report explains:

Although the plan would reinstate the agency’s prohibition against Internet providers from blocking any legal content, it would allow phone and cable companies to charge Netflix and other companies to put their content in a super-fast lane on the information superhighway.

The plan appears to violate a basic principle of net neutrality that all similar content should be treated equally.

Tim Karr, of the media reform group Free Press, says: “All evidence suggests that Wheeler’s proposal is a betrayal of Obama and of the millions of people who have called on the FCC to put in place strong and enforceable net neutrality protections.”

The Future of Music Coalition’s Casey Rae argues that any FCC initiative that establishes a model for speeding up delivery of content for paying customers is “not ‘net neutrality.’”

The risk, says Rae is that, “the Internet in America will now be carved into a fast lane for well-heeled corporations and a dirt road for everyone else.”

“These proposed rules not only don’t go far enough to safeguard consumers, they actively marginalize smaller and independent voices,” explains Rae, who says that, “Artists, developers, culture workers, media-makers, nonprofit organizations, community, civic and church groups must tell the FCC that this isn’t good enough. We need real rules of the road for ISPs to guarantee that creative expression and entrepreneurship can thrive in the online ecosystem. FMC and our allies look forward to making this case in the upcoming rulemaking after May 15.”

Rae’s point is an important one. The process that is now beginning is just beginning. It can be influenced by content creators, consumers and citizen activists who understand that in this age of digital communications a broken Internet will lead to a broken democracy. It can even be influenced by the president and members of Congress, who ought to speak up, loudly, in favor of the right approach to net neutrality.

There are two simple steps to take:

1. Recognize that there is a right response to court ruling that have rejected the complex and ill-thought approaches that the FCC has up to now taken with regard to net neutrality. The right response is to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service that can be regulated in the public interest.

When the FCC’s clumsy previous attempt at establishing net neutrality protections was rejected in January by the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the court did not say that the commission lacked regulatory authority—simply that it needed a better approach. As David Sohn, general legal counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, notes: the court opinion laid out “exactly how the FCC essentially tied its own hands in the case, and makes it clear that the FCC has the power to fix the problem.”

“The Court upheld the FCC’s general authority to issue rules aimed at spurring broadband deployment, and accepted the basic policy rationale for Internet neutrality as articulated by the FCC,” explains Sohn. “The arguments in favor of Internet neutrality are as strong as ever, but prior FCC decisions on how to treat broadband have painted the agency into a corner. Those decisions are not set in stone, however, and the ball is now back in the FCC’s court. The FCC should reconsider its classification of broadband Internet access and reestablish its authority to enact necessary safeguards for Internet openness.”

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2. Recognize that this is the time to send a clear signal of support for genuine net neutrality. The FCC has listened in the past when a public outcry has been raised, on media ownership issues, diversity issues and Internet access issues. Wheeler is a new chairman. It’s vital to communicate to him, and to the other members of the commission that President Obama was right when he said that establishing “fast lanes” on the Internet “destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

Dozens of public interest groups, ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Government Accountability Project to the PEN American Center to Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting and the National Hispanic Media Coalition have urged the FCC to do the right thing. The “Save the Internet” coalition has a track record of rapidly mobilizing Americans to thwart wrongheaded moves by the FCC.

They’re already up and at it, with a petition urging Wheeler and the FCC to “scrap” approaches that won’t work and “restore the principle of online nondiscrimination by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says that, “Our free and open Internet has made invaluable contributions to democracy both here in the United States and around the world. Whether you are rich, poor, young or old, the Internet allows all people to seek out information and communicate globally. We must not turn over our democracy to the highest bidder.”

Sanders is right about that—especially when he recognizes the vital link between technology and democracy. A free and open Internet is essential to modern democracy. But that freedom and openness will only be maintained if Americans use their great democratic voice to demand it.

There is a way to save net neutrality. And if ever there was a time for citizens to urge the FCC to go the right way, this is it.

John Nichols is the author, with Robert W. McChesney, of Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America (Nation Books), a a co-founder (with McChesney) of Free Press.

There’s a Constitutional Showdown in Oklahoma Over 2 Planned Executions (UPDATED)

Oklahoma death chamber

The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (AP Photo, File)

UPDATE (4/23/2014, 8:39 pm): The Associated Press reports that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has lifted a stay of execution for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, rejecting their claim that they are entitled to know the source of the lethal injection drugs being used to execute them before they’re put to death.

* * *

Oklahoma is playing host to a constitutional showdown over the planned executions of two men, pitting the state’s Supreme Court against its Republican governor.

Underlying the debate is whether convicted murderers Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner should be informed of what drugs will be used to kill them before their executions are carried out. Their attorneys argue that shielding the identities of lethal injection drug suppliers violates inmates’ due process rights and drugs procured from unregulated compounding pharmacies could subject them to cruel and unusual punishment. Last month, a district court agreed, declaring the state’s execution secrecy statute unconstitutional.

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court issued indefinite stays of executions for Lockett and Warner on Monday, pending state appeals to the district court’s ruling. The next day, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin asserted that the high court had stepped outside its “constitutional authority” in weighing in on the death penalty case.

She issued an executive order delaying Lockett’s execution by one week; it was originally planned for later that day. As it looks right now, Lockett, and presumably Warner, are both scheduled to die on April 29.

Here’s where things get confusing: the state Supreme Court stayed the exections only after weeks of tussling with the Court of Criminal Appeals over which legal body had constitutional jurisdiction over the case. In Oklahoma’s unique judicial system, the state Supreme Court handles civil cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals, which has refused to address the two death row inmates’ stay requests, traditionally serves as the high court on criminal cases.

“Here, the Court of Criminal Appeals’ refused to exercise its rightfully placed jurisdiction, and left this Court in an awkward position,” the majority justices wrote in their opinion. “As uncomfortable as this matter makes us, we refuse to violate our oaths of office and to leave the appellants with no access to the courts.”

Legal experts argue that Fallin does not have the constitutional or legal authority to invalidate, much less overturn, the Supreme Court. On those grounds, attorneys for Lockett and Warner filed a motion today to quash the governor’s orders.

“The order is a flagrant arrogation of this Court’s authority to say what the law is, and a patent violation of the constitutional separation of powers,” their motion reads.

Eric M. Freedman, a constitutional law professor and death penalty expert at Hofstra University, said the ongoing judicial battle distracts from the underlying issue: the question of constitutionality over Oklahoma’s secrecy statute, one of several laws in the country granting anonymoity to lethal injection drug providers.

“It highlights the desperation of a state trying to justify something unjustifiable,” Freedman told The Nation. “The bottom line is the state is heading for a day of reckoning in the Oklahoma Supreme Court as to whether it can defend this attempt to insulate its own actions by hiding them from judicial scrutiny.”

80 Percent of the World’s Fossil Fuels Must Stay in the Ground to Avert Catastrophe

To prevent the catastrophic scenario of a planet heated by more than 2 degrees Celsius, 80 percent of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. What’s standing in the way of making sure that happens? It’s not climate change denialism—it’s money. Those reserves are valued at an estimated $20 trillion, a number that seems impossible for fossil fuel companies to walk away from. “What does it take to make concentrated powerful interests relinquish their wealth on this scale?” was the question tackled on yesterday’s episode of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, as well as in his new Nation companion piece. The only time business owners have let go of a revenue source on that scale was when the United States ended slavery. It’s a tough mission, but as guest and Gasland director Josh Fox reminds us, “What is money worth when there is no civilization?”
—Corinne Grinapol

Students Mark Anniversary of BP Disaster With a Human Oil Spill

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley students stage a human oil spill to protest fracking. (The Daily Californian/Lorenz Angelo Gonzales)

This article originally appeared in the student-run Daily Californian.

A human oil spill spread across Dwinelle Plaza on Monday—a silent demonstration against fracking that is the first in a series of events to kick-start Earth Week 2014.

The day after the fourth anniversary of the BP oil spill, about twenty students, clad entirely in black, circled and sprawled around a miniature wooden oil rig covered with protest signs. Protesters wanted to illustrate the environmental effects of fracking by using human bodies as symbols of the devastation.

“An oil spill is a very visible and recognizable example of the corruption and destruction wrought by the fossil fuel industry,” said Jake Soiffer, a freshman and an actions coordinator at Fossil Free Cal, in an e-mail. “The details—lying on the floor, wearing all black—bring out the serious, pressing nature of the issue.”

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves extracting natural gas and oil by injecting water, sand and chemicals—many of them toxic—into underground shell rock.

The protest, which was planned and sponsored by Students Against Fracking and by Fossil Free Cal, comes a month after a similar demonstration on Sproul to pressure Governor Jerry Brown into banning fracking in California. Like last month’s protest, students Monday aimed to raise awareness of fracking—but, this time, through a symbolic display.

Suspended from the twelve-foot-tall small-scale oil rig was a list of chemicals involved in fracking operations that are injected into bedrock to break it up. At the foot of the rig were students quietly reclining on the ground.

The protest then kicked into another gear as a student protester wielded a megaphone, chanting, “Leave the oil in the soil” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Keystone XL has to go.”

The protest is the first of many events in UC Berkeley’s annual Earth Week festival, sponsored and organized by the ASUC Sustainability Team. The week—which lasts through Sunday—is designed to spread awareness on environmental issues and is filled with events that promote discussions on ecological issues and teach what it means to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

Founded at the beginning of this semester, Students Against Fracking focuses primarily on leading an educational campaign around campus. The organization will continue to work in solidarity with Fossil Free Cal, a campus group campaigning for the UC Board of Regents to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

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Kristy Drutman, a freshman and co-coordinator for Students Against Fracking, said the organization will begin to take a bigger step forward in their environmental campaign on campus by starting a petition. The petition would pressure Brown to approve a potential bill come November that would pause fracking in California to allow for further scientific research on the cost-effectiveness of fracking.

In addition, Fossil Free Cal is now looking to broaden student support, connect with local environmental groups and pass a resolution through the ASUC.


Read Next: Catch up on last week’s most intriguing reads.

This Is How to Create a Green Economy That Works for All

Solar panels

Reuters/Steve Marcus

For most Americans, typically, making sure this month’s rent gets paid unfortunately ranks higher than stopping a future sea-level rise. So in his first term, President Obama framed his environmental messages around “green jobs,” with a focus on the economic benefits of “clean tech,” rather than the less politically popular imperative to curb dirty power industries or avert the impending ecological catastrophe.

But today, with chaotic weather and collapsing infrastructure turning climate change into an immediate social and economic crisis right in our communities, can the economic arguments for a green transition go beyond jobs and toward changing the way our neighborhoods and workplaces operate?

While Washington dithers, a few enterprising towns and cities have been figuring out locally based strategies to decarbonize, and revealing valuable global lessons about reorganizing their economies. In Massachusetts, the Green Justice Campaign, an offshoot of Community Labor United, an alliance of unions and advocacy groups, started with a simple plan: weatherize local homes and leverage public funds to curb carbon consumption and cut energy bills.

The organizers put grassroots muscle behind Washington’s feel-good rhetoric on the green economy and went to people’s doorsteps to recruit households and local workers, negotiated with vendors and pressed state officials to enact broad emissions-reduction standards and support for renewable energy transition. Though it operated on a small scale, the green agenda was ambitious in treating the community like an ecosystem—a collaborative climate adaptation fueled by their own labor and serving families’ material needs.

The coalition’s principles of “green justice” foregrounds economic equity for immigrants and people of color. Working-class communities of color do, after all, have a special stake in the climate change battle, since they are disproportionately burdened by the social and health problems posed by carbon-driven industries.

Under a set of new state policies aimed at promoting energy efficiency and green-technology development, the coalition crafted a weatherization project around a grassroots workforce program to give local workers a deep investment in the energy transition. Advocates worked with communities to push for structural changes in the home renovation sector, which was largely non-unionized and minimally regulated, and rife with abuses such as unsafe working conditions and wage theft.

To ensure decent working conditions, the coalition built solid labor standards into the contracting process, including protections for occupational safety and regulatory oversight of workplace conditions. The coalition also helped broaden access to jobs for poor and disadvantaged workers by pushing strong protections against employment discrimination and the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. The program also included commitments by the firms to subcontract with union workers to help raise wages and job security.

In their evaluation report, the coalition concluded, “the gains we have made will ensure an estimated $14.3 million in collective wage gains for weatherization workers each year.” As more homes get fixed up, they yielded savings on residential energy bills, income gains for workers, and on the environmental side, a cleaner, less carbon-heavy environment for local communities. All that in turn saved the state tens of millions of dollars, the group says, which would otherwise supported benefits like food stamps, Medicaid and, yes, home-energy subsidies.

The big data might not mean much to local families who are more worried about making rent than preserving glaciers, but Green Justice offered them a clear “value proposition:” on top of engaging officials and mainstream environmental groups, the group observed, “We also won credibility by bringing a new dimension to the discussion—equity.”

The project is modest in scale, but stands as a model of a collective social contract that connects the dignity of work and the integrity of the environment. Rational climate policy doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to work within the complexity of human ecology, turning social tension between communities and natural resources into momentum for social change.

Labor is at the center of that equity concept. Environmental-labor coalitions advocate for high-caliber clean energy jobs programs, based on comprehensive training and apprenticeships, which track people into living wage jobs with health and retirement benefits, backed by union representation.

But a job that is labeled “green” is not necessarily better or more secure. According to a workforce analysis by Jobs for the Future, some of the workforce programs created in the wake of the Recovery Act stimulus faltered because training programs were too short-term or inadequate for tracking workers into technology-based “green collar” careers.

An investigation by Good Jobs First on the contracts awarded through the federal stimulus revealed that some companies reportedly resisted workers’ efforts to unionize, or were known to outsource production to low-wage countries. Unionization levels in the new green jobs supported by the Recovery Act are not particularly high. In this aspect, what many activists had hoped would be a Green New Deal contrasts starkly with the original New Deal labor programs, which boosted unionization and incorporated organized labor in industrial planning and regulatory policy.

But maybe the focus shouldn’t be on funneling workers into the green industries, but greening the labor movement. In Europe, where labor institutions wield more political clout, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has campaigned for a “just transition”—a social program that aims to support workers and communities affected by climate policy. While European governments have relatively strong policies on reducing emissions, labor has been a major political champion of social policies that respond to the climate crisis, including job transition programs for workers affected by an energy transition and economic supports for poor households burdened by high energy costs.

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For example, labor groups across Europe have organized campaigns to push for transportation policy reforms. They see this effort as more than just a boost for green infrastructure projects; it will also benefit workers more practically, by alleviating urban pollution, promoting public transit over car dependency, and easing the economic barriers facing poor and marginalized communities that are isolated from local labor markets.

Denis Benjamin, adviser to the ETUC, tells The Nation that as oil, gas and coal facilities are phased out, “we need strong social protection systems… We need also to enhance and enlarge the rights of workers to be consulted on environmental issues, energy issues within companies. We really think that the strength of social dialogue must be a tool of the transition, in order to allow workers to anticipate change, and also to be drivers of this change.”

When workers gain democratic control over their energy futures, they won’t just be trying to cope with climate change, they’ll be overturning entrenched economic structures, and in the process they’ll be resisting the forces that exploit their labor the same way they exploit the earth. A real green energy transition could effectively transfer power from the hierarchy of a carbon-based economy to a new system, from which workers will have a lot to gain.

Read Next: Michelle Chen asks, “Where Have All the Green Jobs Gone?

Georgia’s ‘Guns Everywhere’ Bill and How to Fight Back

Nathan Deal

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal speaks in Marietta. (Public Information Office/Flickr)

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed legislation today that will vastly expand the places where Georgia residents can legally carry firearms, a proposal that has drawn both praise and scorn from outside groups.

“People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” said Deal, adding: “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.”

House Bill 60 allows Georgians to legally carry firearms in a wide range of new places, including schools, bars, churches and government buildings. The law, which takes effect July 1, also legalizes the use of silencers for hunting, allows school staffers to carry guns in school zones and lets leaders of religious congregations choose to allow licensed gun holders inside. It also allows gun owners to carry their weapons in government buildings—including parts of courthouses. Critics have dubbed it the “guns everywhere” bill for its broad scope, and opponents including former Representative Gabby Giffords and Georgia law enforcement tried to block its passage. The National Rifle Association lauds the bill as “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform bill in state history.”

If you’re like me and think expanding gun rights will actually make society less safe, then this law looks pretty awful. The other side of the coin, though, is the increasing support for regulation of firearms propelled in part by an angry grassroots disgusted by the more than sixty school shootings since Newtown and, in part, by elite opinion and financing on the part of power brokers like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The convergence of these forces can be felt most recently in the launch of Everytown for Gun Safety, a joint project of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Everytown is a movement of moms, teachers, survivors, gun owners, mayors, faith leaders, law enforcement officials and other responsible citizens who believe we can do much more to keep our families and communities safe from gun violence. For the first time in history, a disparate group of Americans are mobilizing to create a counterweight to the NRA to fight for effective regulation at the federal, state and local level.

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Everytown will address issues like background checks, domestic violence, suicide prevention and safe storage of guns. Every day, eighty-six Americans are killed by gun violence. Who knows how high that number will go with bills like what Georgia has passed today. To learn how to resist this lethal trend, visit Everytown.org.


Read Next: Elizabeth Warren’s new book reads like she’s running for president.

Stephen Cohen: As US Rushes Into New Cold War, Where Is the Debate?

“It is one hand—the hand of war—clapping,” said Nation contributing editor and Russia historian Stephen Cohen during an appearance on the John Batchelor Show Tuesday. With US troops headed to the Baltic states, Cold War rhetoric spewing from the mouths of US officials, and Obama effectively abandoning Vladimir Putin as a negotiating partner, Cohen suggests that a prolonged Cold War–style conflict between Russia and the West is all but inevitable. And if this new Cold War turns hot, says Cohen, American journalists and our “spineless” political class are partially to blame. The absence of a substantive debate—in the media or Congress—over the prudence of the administration’s Russia policy, Cohen said, “is a crushing defeat for democracy.” He added, “I don’t understand how these people are going to explain themselves to history.”
Sam Adler-Bell

The Week of Student Sit-Ins


A sit-in at the DC office of Xavier Becerra. (Photo: CIYJA)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing—from established student unions, to emerging national networks, to ad hoc campaigns that don’t yet have a name. For recent dispatches, check out January 27, February 10, February 26, March 7, March 21 and April 8. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch.

Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with any questions, tips or proposals. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. As Congress Sits, LA Youth Storm the Capitol

This month, affiliates of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, including the Orange County Dream Team and the National Queer Trans Latino@ Alliance, rallied in DC as members sat down, and were arrested, at the congressional offices of Loretta Sanchez and Xavier Becerra. We entered with letters outlining demands that both leaders, as member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, make use of their political power to ask president Obama to stop all deportations by expanding deferred action for all. As a member of the NQTLA, I also advocated for members of the LGBTQ community who are in the process of deportation—for some, a death sentence in their countries of origin. Locally, we will continue organizing through #not1more and #migrantlivesmatter, while demanding Sanchez’s public support.

—Luis Ramirez

2. As Obama Talks Civil Rights, Students Rail on Hypocrisy

On April 10, as President Obama gave the keynote speech at the University of Texas–Austin’s annual Civil Rights Summit, the University Leadership Initiative, a United We Dream affiliate, organized more than 100 students and community members to gather in solidarity with the immigrant community. The group called out Obama, whose administration has overseen record deportations, for his hypocrisy in speaking on civil rights. Three leaders separated from the rally and moved toward the LBJ Library with the intention of delivering this message to the president. As guards told us that we were not allowed to continue, we peacefully sat at their feet, the crowd began sharing stories about family separation and we were arrested. Along with another ULI representative, the three of us had spent the previous night chained to the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on campus to stand with King’s dream.

—Emily Freeman, Alejandra Gomez and Patrick Fierro

3. EMU v. the Emergency State

In the summer of 2011, Eastern Michigan University president Sue Martin, at the behest of the university’s unelected regents, secretly signed into existence the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, the receiver and privatizing agent of Detroit’s “lowest-performing” public schools. The EAA has fired school employees en masse, subjected them to at-will contracts and stripped working-class communities of color of their democratic powers. On April 14, as part of a now five-month escalation plan, the Coalition of People Against the EAA, composed of students, faculty and residents, launched a sit-in in at the president’s office, demanding that Martin remove her signature from the agreement. Thus far, the sit-in has been the site of a noise jam, teach-ins and a concert by DC punk artist Spoonboy. Our organizing will not cease until the inter-local agreement that created the EAA is dissolved.

—Coalition of People Against the EAA and Students For an Ethical and Participatory Education

4. USC v. the Retail Empire

For eight months, students from the University of Southern California have been calling on the university to terminate its contract with JanSport, whose parent company, VF Corporation, is responsible for the deaths of twenty-nine Bangladeshi garment workers and displays a continuous disregard for worker safety. Sixteen other universities have already cut ties with VF Corporation but USC’s administration has firmly refused to change course. On April 15, eighteen students occupied President Max Nikias’s office in protest of this decision, while a group of 100 students rallied outside. Instead of engaging in constructive dialogue with students, administrators called protesters’ parents, threatening expulsion and revocation of scholarships. After four hours, we marched out of the building, vowing to continue our fight.

—Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, USAS Local 13

5. Wash U v. Peabody Coal

Students at Washington University in St. Louis are entering the third week of a sit-in at our admissions office to pressure Chancellor Wrighton to sever ties with Peabody Coal. Peabody CEO Greg Boyce sits on the Wash U board of trustees, and in 2009, Peabody donated $5 million to launch the school’s “Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization.” We believe that the school’s close relationship with Peabody legitimizes its practices—which include contributing to climate change, exploiting workers and relocating indigenous Navajo and Hopi people at Black Mesa, Arizona. The occupation, which began on April 8, comes on the heels of the student-led Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence at San Francisco State University, which brought together 200 student leaders from over 100 campuses nationwide.

—Leslie Salisbury and Brendan Ziebarth

6. #StandWithMonica

Since a wrongful arrest in May 2013, students at Arizona State University have been rallying to support the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Phoenix in demanding justice for Monica Jones, a student at the ASU School of Social Work and trans rights activist who was profiled by the police during a prostitution diversion program called Project Rose. Run by the School of Social Work in collaboration with the Phoenix Police Department, Project Rose creates a coercive environment by forcing those arrested to choose between a lengthy diversion program or a potential criminal record. ASU students have worked with SWOP Phoenix to gather hundreds of petition signatures demanding that the charges against Jones be dropped and Project Rose end its association with ASU. As Jones’s case moves forward, we will continue supporting the call to action put forth by SWOP Phoenix to stop profiling trans women of color and decriminalize sex work.

—ASU Students With SWOP Phoenix

7. #JusticeForCecily

On April 11, the trial of graduate student Cecily McMillan began in New York City criminal court. McMillan is facing seven years for felony assault of a police officer. Her supporters say that it was she who was sexually assaulted and brutally beaten into a seizure. The Justice for Cecily Team, activists from diverse backgrounds, ideologies and groups, including Occupy Wall Street and student organizers, is running court support—from social media and press outreach to fundraising and community events. The team has curated a website, Celly and ongoing event page for supporters to stay up-to-date as McMillan’s trial goes into its third week. Our overarching aim is to pack the courts with press and supporters to draw attention to this case and the underlying issues of police brutality, sexual assault and civil rights infringement that are common practices in the NYPD.

—Justice for Cecily Team

8. On Day of Silence, GSA Leader Stays Locked Up

Gay-Straight Alliance and immigrant youth activists have united behind GSA Network alum Yordy Cancino and all undocuqueer youth seeking asylum. Yordy, who worked to transform school culture in Los Angeles as GSA president at Animo Jackie Robinson High School, has been held in an ICE detention facility in San Diego since mid-March and faced a judge and potential deportation on GLSEN’s Day of Silence. More than 1,000 GSA leaders and alumni answered the call to action, contacting ICE and signing the #GSAs4Justice petition to free Yordy and all youth in detention. After several excuses from ICE, Yordy is still being detained.

—Mario Vasquez

9. With TRUST Act in Hand, Orange County Youth Blitz ICE

On April 7, Kareli Barrera was arrested by the Los Angeles sheriff’s department. After seeing a judge, she was set to be released, but the department held her to allow ICE to pick her up. While Barrera’s charges are not listed as crimes for which detention is authorized, on April 14, the department transferred her to ICE—a violation of California’s TRUST Act. Since then, Resistencia, Autonomia, Igualdad, lideraZgo, or RAIZ, the Orange County chapter of the Immigrant Youth Coalition, has bombarded ICE with calls and e-mails to demand it halt Barrera’s deportation. While the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit eventually granted Barrera an emergency stay of removal, she is still in detention in Orange County. This fight builds on RAIZ’s Keep Our Families Together campaign to end the police-ICE collaboration in Orange County and efforts resisting the high rates of undocuminor referral to ICE by the Orange County Probation Department.


10. Napolitano’s Judgment Day

On April 9, 2014, a coalition of University of California–Berkeley law students, alumni and undergraduate students came together to protest Janet Napolitano’s human rights violations, her appointment as UC president and her appearance as a judge in the law school’s esteemed McBaine Moot Court Competition. Law students demanded her removal from the competition, which those responsible for the event rejected, insisting she contributed to “intellectual diversity.” In response, a small group of law students of color organized a rally before the start of the competition, disseminated information and dropped a banner reading, “Berkeley Law Students say NO 2 Napolitano.” Additionally, a group of five law students sat through the competition and disrupted Napolitano’s concluding comments by revealing a banner and chanting, “No to Napolitano!

—Monika Y. Langarica

11. Illinois’s Coming Out

Throughout April, undocumented youth and allies held Coming Out of the Shadows actions across Illinois. At Chicago’s Federal Plaza, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Waubonsee Community College in Aurora and Bensenville, the message was clear: deportations need to end, and our universities need to create financial and academic resources for undocumented students. Universities were asked to improve opportunities for undocumented students by opening up and recruiting funding for in-house scholarships, training university counselors on best practices, assisting with post-graduation job placement and taking public stances on immigration legislation and discrimination.

—Rigo Padilla

12. I, Too, Am CU

In March 2014, students across the University of Colorado–Boulder, inspired by the spread of the #ITooAmHarvard campaign to other campuses, organized an I, Too, Am CU photoshoot and Tumblr. With Audre Lorde’s quote, “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives,” as a unifying theme, the campaign accrued more than thirty student statements and videos, as well as widespread staff support via #WeWorkatCU. I, Too, Am CU welcomes participation from anyone at CU who has experienced marginalization and institutional oppression on campus—from testimonies on in-class and peer-to-peer discrimination, to talking back to Steven Hayward, after the conservative scholar made a series of inflammatory comments about CU students. Rather than representing a singular, or racialized, struggle, our campaign will continue to push for solidarity among marginalized groups.

—Tamara Williams Van Horn

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13. Restart OU

On April 17, a coalition of student activists won a majority of seats, and effective control, of the student government at Ohio University. Campaigning as “RESTART,” with the avowed intention of radically overhauling and democratizing student government, we began as an alliance of activists from a variety of student organizations connected to the Ohio University Student Union, which has been organizing around issues ranging from the school’s tuition hikes, to the university’s plan to build a $90 million cogeneration gas plant, to the culture of rape around campus. We draw inspiration from the student movement continentally—including Montreal, where the transformation of student unionism led to a one-year strike. Moving forward, we intend to mobilize the student body around the need for a more affordable tuition model, build student associations in every department and ultimately replace the representative model of student government with a participatory one.

—Ohio University Student Union

14. Who Rules Northeastern?

For the past year, students at Northeastern University have been campaigning alongside adjunct faculty in their fight for a union. On April 16, the Empower Adjuncts Community Coalition, a group of students, workers and community allies organized by the United Students Against Sweatshops visited the deans of five colleges on campus. These visits were in response to e-mails with anti-union rhetoric sent by the deans to adjunct faculty. While students played noisemakers and ate pizza in the offices, the deans were told that pizza was only for those who did not attempt to interfere with the democratic process of unionization—a tongue-in-cheek warning that they will be held accountable for attempting to intimidate adjuncts as their voting period begins. After the delegations, Northeastern agreed to stop sending out anti-union e-mails.

—Empower Adjuncts Community Coalition

15. How to Stop Street Harassment?

On April 5, the media literacy/activist project Fostering Activism & Alternatives Now!, or FAAN Mail, joined International Anti-Street Harassment Week, a global campaign to raise awareness about gender-based street harassment. We recognize that unwanted attention in public spaces is both a global and local problem. In Love Park, we soap-boxed, muraled and performed street theater that enabled people—including children and male allies—to reclaim public space, share their stories about street harassment and address this problem in creative ways.

—FAAN Mail


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