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Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

Students Rally to Occupy Graduation

On April 25, 2012, the unprecedented debt of American students surpassed the trillion-dollar mark. Consequently, students at small and large colleges and universities across the nation will use their final moments as collegians - graduation ceremonies - to wear blow up ball-and-chain shackles and other symbolic props that reflect what lays ahead for them. Institutions signed up to participate in this nationwide demonstration include, George Washington University (graduation ceremony - Thursday, May 17), CU, Boulder (Friday, May 11) and the University of North Carolina (Sunday, May 13), where New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will conduct the commencement speech honors.

Occupy Graduation was an idea formed by the collective voices and initiatives of OccupyWallSt.org, Occupy Colleges, Occupy Student Debt, Occupy Together,  Ben Cohen, from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream; Rebuild the Dream, “Default: The Student Loan Documentary,” Workhouse, OWSPR, Backbone Campaign, Occupy Student Debt, EDU Debtors Union, Forgive Student Loan Debt and Wear Your Debt.

Occupy Graduation urges students to participate. Signing up is as easy as organizing a group of 10 or more students and then visiting the Occupy Graduation website. Please note, this demonstration is meant as a way to express student frustration without unduly disrupting graduation or disrespecting the meaning of this event for classmates and parents.

Organizing students interested in more ideas on how to effectively and respectfully be “heard” on graduation are encouraged to visit Occupy Graduation. The site is even offering students interested in wearing the staple ball-and-chain props, but unable to purchase them for financial reasons, can contact Occupy Graduation for a reduced rate.

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (5/9/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

 

Laura Bolt focuses on human rights and revolution.

Russia: Investigate Police Use of Force Against Peaceful Protesters,” Human Rights Watch, May 8, 2012.

This letter, in which Human Rights Watch urges Russia to investigate abuses against protestors by police, details police misconduct during the protests of May 6th and 7th. The letter alleges that the actions of some violent protestors became a blanket excuse for police to engage in "excessive use of force against protesters and arbitrary detentions" against those participating peacefully in actions. Though protests have been occurring intermittently since December, this is the first violent action recorded by HRW.

 

Zoë Carpenter focuses on the intersection of economics, health and the environment. 

Diary: In Fukushima,” by Rebecca Solnit. London Review of Books, May 10, 2012.

Rebecca Solnit has a track record for shining new light on high-profile disasters, and this time she turns her attention to last year's tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan. In her lyrical narrative, Solnit probes the disasters' impact on the relationship between citizens and the Japanese government, focusing on the alienation and distrust that many Japanese felt after the coupled disasters.

 

Umar Farooq focuses on the world-wide movement for democracy.

For Israel, Punishing Palestinians Is Not Enough,” by Amira Hass. Haaretz, May 2, 2012.

Nearly 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel have been on hunger strike for weeks now, demanding improvements in prison conditions and the lifting of restrictions like the one on family visits. Israel's open-ended detention policy has touched the lives of many Palestinians; almost all males have been to prison or have family members who have. Since this piece by Amira Hass, Israel's highest court has refused the appeal of two hunger strikers that were challenging their detention. With international pressure from the UN and human rights groups mounting, it is unclear if Israeli authorities will make concessions.

 

Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power, and political culture. 

Military-Crippling Sequester Must Be Stopped,” by Reps. Buck McKeon and Paul Ryan. Real Clear Politics, May 9, 2012.

As Chairmen of the House Armed Services and Budget Committees, Representatives Buck McKeon and Paul Ryan wrote today of the need to “spare our troops from the consequences of Washington's failures.” With the prospect of sequestration or across the board budget cuts still looming over the inability of Congress and the White House to come to consensus on federal budgetary priorities, the Chairmen, along with an overwhelming majority of their Republican colleagues in Congress, are choosing to protect the bloated defense budget over food stamp programs and federal employee pensions. Notice how their article is wrapped around a large ad for Lockheed Martin, which is one of the largest defense contractors in the world and a company that has secured the most expensive defense project of all time. It is estimated that the F-35 fighter jet program will cost $1.51 trillion over its life cycle.

 

Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations. 

Elizabeth Warren’s Native American Question,” by Amy Davidson. The New Yorker, May 8, 2012.

Elizabeth Warren's recent remarks about her race, are, at worst, not very politically calculated. But Scott Brown and conservative pundits, predictably, used them as a jumping off point to spout more of the same, tired lines about ending or curbing affirmative action. Amy Davidson gives us, with this article, a fair, balanced account of the scuffle.

 

Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights.

Ezzedine Errousi, a Moroccan Prisoner of Conscience, Released: 134 Days on Hunger Strike.” Jadaliyya, May 2, 2012.

The Arab Spring is not over yet. It's long journey to achieve liberty and equality will most likely occupy the coming years. From the Bahrain, Saudi, Palestine to Morocco many activists, following the steps of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., are advocating for nonviolent struggle and defying dictatorships with hunger strikes, and they shall conquer.


Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender. 

Why Conservatives Believe in Anti-Gay Pseudo-Science,” by Chris Mooney. AlterNet, May 3, 2012.

Now in the wake of the passage of North Carolina's Amendment One, Chris Mooney addresses the common reasons that voters oppose gay marriage—debunking the folklore and pseudo-science that has long supported the anti-gay marriage vote.

 

James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century. 

What Football Teaches Us About Creating a Thriving Jobs Market,” by Boris Johnson. The Telegraph, May 7, 2012.

Boris Johnson, the recently reelected Mayor of London, is the Conservative Party's shining star, his popularity eclipsing that of party leader, Prime Minister David Cameron. The key to the tow-headed, nimble-tongued politician's success is his unique brand of Tory populism, illustrated perfectly in a recent Telegraph op-ed in which he uses the English football team to get to the heart of the subject of immigration.

 

Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare.

Study: Many Clinical Trials Small, of Poor Quality,” by Alexander Gaffney. Regulatory Focus, May 2, 2012.

A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that most clinical trials performed in the United States are small and of inconsistent, often poor quality. I was surprised that it did not receive more mainstream media attention because the number of registered clinical trials has increased sharply in recent years, from 28,900 between 2004 and 2007 to 41,000 between 2007 and 2010.

 

Elizabeth Whitman focuses on the Syrian uprising, its implications and the wildly varied domestic and international reactions.

Syria Uprising Creates Fear of Chemical Weapons Spread,” by Anthony Deutsch. Reuters, May 3, 2012.

Reporting on the issue of chemical weapons, of which Western countries believe Syria possesses an arsenal including mustard gas and VX nerve agent, has been surprisingly sparse since the beginning of this year. Even with coverage from Reuters, the Wall Street JournalWired, and antiwar.com on US concern about the possibility that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would use these weapons against opponents of his regime as he grows more desperate or that the weapons could fall into the wrong hands, the issue does not figure prominently in international discussion about the Syrian crisis. Whether or not the administration is cultivating, through occasional public speculation about Syria's chemical weapons and even draft plans to seize them, the justification for intervention (multilateral or not) in Syria when the situation becomes more convenient is an interesting and disturbing question to consider, particularly when this article calls attention to the obvious: the similar concerns that led to the invasion of Iraq.

Students March for Labor Rights in New Haven

This article was originally published by the Yale Daily News, the oldest college daily in the United States.

More than a thousand students, labor union members and community activists flooded Yale’s campus and downtown New Haven in a call for the University and the city to provide more youth opportunities and union jobs.

The “Let’s Get to Work” march and rally was jointly organized by the undergraduate community advocacy group Students Unite Now, the Local 34 and Local 35 unions that represent University technical, clerical and dining hall employees, the Graduate Employees Student Organization (GESO) and the non-profit progressive advocacy group Connecticut Center for a New Economy. While the organizations leading the march identified different goals, leaders from each group said protesting together provides a “show of force” to Yale administrators and city officials that youth employment and union jobs are important issues for New Haven residents.

“I’m marching today because there is a movement building across the city for economic and social justice,” said Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12 in a speech at the march. “We can only make the change if thousands of us take to the streets — it’s about all of us fighting for change.”

Organizers said yesterday’s march was designed to be this year’s equivalent of last March’s “We Are One” rally, in which students, labor unions, clergy and other activists marched on City Hall in protest of Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s demands that city employees make significant concessions on their benefits to help balance the city budget. Local 34 and 35 members interviewed said this year’s protest comes at a key time, as the Yale unions are currently in negotiations with the University over the terms of future union contracts. Leaders of the unions could not be reached for comment.

Members of GESO, Local 34 and 35 as well as Students Unite Now gathered at separate locations at approximately 5 p.m. Undergraduates convened outside Dwight Hall, where members of Students Unite Now distributed signs and delivered speeches about the importance of Yalies’ advocating for city youth and employment issues to a crowd of around 120 students by 5:30 p.m.

Following the speeches, the Students Unite Now group marched down High Street and through Cross Campus before merging with GESO and Local 34 and 35 members at the United Methodist Church on the corner of College and Elm Streets. The group shouted chants including “Together we stand, divided we fall,” “We’re coming together to make it all better” and “Jobs for youth, jobs for all.”

Police blocked off part of the College and Elm Streets intersection to vehicle traffic as a crowd of more than one thousand chanted and band of drummers and trumpeters played “The Saints are Marching In.” The crowd then marched to the center of the New Haven Green and toward the march’s final destination — the Yale School of Medicine.

“I’m excited by the turnout and the energy,” said a Local 35 union member at the protest who works in one of Yale’s residential colleges. “This kind of unity shows Yale that we mean business and we’re willing to fight for good jobs.”

Seven Local 34 and Local 35 members interviewed said that in the current contract negotiation with the University, they hope to see the preservation of the Yale’s current retiree health care policy as well as strong wages and job security. With “nothing set in stone” yet, one Local 34 member who works within IT support at Yale said Wednesday’s protest helped ensure that workers’ concerns would not go unheard.

GESO marchers also stressed the protest’s significance in the group’s nearly 20-year struggle to win recognition from the University. The organization was formed in 1991 and since then has advocated for the collective bargaining rights of graduate teachers in the humanities and social sciences without success.

“The march is really a way to demonstrate the growing consensus among graduate students that they desire to organize,” said Kate Irving GRD ’15. “We came to Yale’s graduate school because we believe in the power of teaching and shaping the school and world around us — we want to have more of a say in the shape and planning of our program.”

While undergraduates are not members of the union groups present at Wednesday’s protest, members of Students Unite Now said all students have a stake in the city and thus have a moral responsibility to be involved in advocating for progressive change.

Tom Stanley-Becker ’13, a member of Students Unite Now, said the newly formed group came about as a result of last fall’s aldermanic campaigns, as students learned about the major issues affecting New Haven. In the past several months, he said, the group has been surveying  the student body to determine which city issues Yalies care about most. With New Haven’s unemployment at 11.7 percent, Stanley-Becker said advocating for greater job accesibility, particularly for the city’s youth, is a key issue for the group.

“If you look at the endowment figures and fundraising from the Yale Tomorrow capital campaign, the University isn’t hurting in terms of cash right now. I think Yale can be a progressive partner in getting more jobs in New Haven,” he said. “Yale could put money directly into places like Dixwell Avenue and create training programs for residents.”

Stanley-Becker added that Yale could also work to ensure the continuation of strong labor contracts and hire more local residents to work on some of the University’s large-scale construction projects, such as the two new residential colleges slated to be built on Prospect Street.

But not all Yalies agree with Students Unite Now’s vision for the University’s role in the city. Three students interviewed said they do not think Yale needs to devote more money to local causes.

The “We Are One” rally, one of a series of well-attended protests on the Green last year, took place March 30, 2011.

Share Your #DontDoubleMyRate Story

On July 1, the interest rate on federal Stafford loans, which help millions of students pay for college, are set to double. If Congress doesn’t act, Stafford loans will increase to a 6.8 percent interest rate—up from 3.4 percent.

This seems obviously wrong but some recalcitrant elected officials, like Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), don’t believe that student debt is a problem. In response, our friends at Campus Progress have embarked on a campaign to demonstrate how profound an issue student is in this country today by sharing personal stories of debt.

Please share your story and tell our elected reps what impact student debt has on your ability to study, learn and enter a profession of your choice and how would your life change if the burden of debt was lifted.

Tucson's History of School Censorship

Not too long ago, a multi-ethnic education program in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) came under aggressive accusations of discrimination by district authorities. The attacks (which even included TUSD administrators threatening teachers with financial repercussions) ended with the program being terminated and its books and resource materials pulled from TUSD classrooms.

This sounds like the recent measures the Arizona State Legislature took against TUSD’s Mexican-American Studies (MAS) programs, right? But this other ban focused on a different brand of Ethnic Studies, the Middle East, and preceded the current MAS education controversy by roughly 30 years.

The target of the criticism, the University of Arizona’s then-named Near Eastern Center, had been coordinating an educational program within TUSD schools through a spring 1983 course for teachers called “Survey History of the Middle East”. The educational materials were “reportedly much in demand in the elementary and junior-high-school classrooms,” according to an article in the July 1, 1983 Tucson Citizen.

The criticisms resulted in an official investigation and TUSD released its report in mid-September of 1983 concluding that the educational program material should be banned from use in TUSD classrooms due to “discrimination” and “bias”. The report’s author, interviewed by the Arizona Daily Star, cited as justification the fact that “[t]he Israeli government apparently was not contacted for materials.”   Failing to consult Israel to help draw up the Tucson curriculum therefore resulted in a “significant bias…of a decisively anti-Israel and pro-Arab character,” in the words of the report. The recommended course of action included urging TUSD to “prohibit teachers from using biased [the] materials” and that “salary-increment pay for the course not be granted.”

Robert Gimello, head of the UA department that housed the Near Eastern Center, expressed the ultimately vain “hope that district policies are not decided on because of uncritical submission to pressure-group tactics.” Nonetheless, the TUSD School Board in its mid-October meeting of that year officially adopted the ban on the program in its public schools.

Nearly 30 years later, on May 3, 2011, elder Chicana educator and community activist, Raquel Rubio Goldsmith, spoke to TUSD board members protected by heavily armed police forces at a militarized TUSD school board meeting. The week prior nine Ethnic Studies youth had chained themselves to TUSD board members’ chairs and the dais in order to prevent the board from voting to dismantle the MAS program, which they eventually did in January 2012.

Rubio Goldsmith told the board members they should know that, like local Tohono O’odham indigenous communities, people like her have been in Tucson for decades. “I have been through many superintendents, many administrators, and many boards. And you will be gone, and we will be here.”

Community supporters of the beloved but liquidated MAS program can take heart from the lesson of the current status of Middle East Studies in TUSD. The once-terminated program is not only back in TUSD classrooms, but it is expanded to serve public school students and teachers, according to the director of today’s UA Center for Middle East Studies (CMES), the successor of the Near Eastern Center, and once-banned books and materials are now readily available from an extensive UA Middle East Studies library.

The history of Middle East Studies in Tucson affirms that education itself, and the community enriched by it, has the power to outlive and outlast any arbitrary power that tries to repress it. No matter how powerful or how intimidating those in authority may prove themselves to be, community longevity is a lively power no government or school board can hold back.

Will Occupy Create Another World or Another Left?

This article originally appeared in the Daily Pennsylvanian. It is re-posted here with permission.

“We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!”

In the fall, the Occupy movement worked to prove the first half of the chant, persisting even after physical encampments were shut down. Tuesday’s May Day marked the dawn of Occupy Spring when the movement began to make the case that “another world is possible.”

I arrived at Bryant Park early on Tuesday morning excited for the “pop-up” occupation. As a graduating senior, I see similarities between my transition and what the Occupy movement is experiencing. Just like the Occupy movement learned in the fall, I have learned in college to critique the “real world” and to believe I can change it. But this summer, those critiques will have to give way to positive proposals to address social problems.

Occupy has started to do this through specific campaigns targeting issues like housing. While these ameliorative campaigns are crucial, Occupy has not forgotten its most meaningful contribution is creating spaces that demonstrate the world it would like to see — with free medical treatment, food, shelter, education and radically democratic governance.

I began May Day eager to see a space that embodied the movement’s values. However, after 12 hours of activism, this other world that Occupy was trying to create seemed messy and racked by many of the contradictions that haunted the New Left in the 1960s.

As the day progressed, I spoke to different people and encountered many opposing perspectives. What stood out to me most were contradictions that concerned different leadership styles, activist cultures and attitudes towards confrontation.

In the morning, I marched alongside a young woman who has spoken out about the gender dynamics of Occupy’s decision-making processes. She was frustrated by the fact that a few aggressive men, including an ex-Marine, were leading the march poorly.

When the men leading the march paused at a crosswalk, the young woman became concerned that this would make it easier for the police to stop the march. After explaining this to the leaders, she led the group in another direction. Shortly after, a young man who had wandered from the sidewalk onto the street was chased down by the police and eventually arrested. The ex-Marine told me he was trying to protect the marchers and blamed the arrest on the woman, claiming that she was “on a power trip.”

This incident reminded me of the issue of white, male domination of movements of the 1960s like the Students for a Democratic Society. If Occupy doesn’t address the opposing leadership styles of its members, the movement risks splitting off, just as the march did on Tuesday.

In the late afternoon, a different scene demonstrated opposing activist cultures, particularly between young activists and their older working-class counterparts, most of whom belong to labor unions. These two groups were present at a free concert at Union Square. The lineup, which was just as eclectic as the crowd, included the New York City Labor Chorus singing “Solidarity Forever,” and musician Dan Deacon attempting to engage the crowd in an interpretive dance exercise.

It felt like a chaotic family reunion with relatives trying to bond by talking smack about their wealthy neighbor. A representative from the United Auto Workers, for example, got enthusiastic cheers by blaming the one percent for the state of unemployment. Rapper Immortal Technique was met with applause when he said, “Capitalism and democracy are not synonymous.”

But placing blame quickly becomes stale dinner conversation. While the commitment between these groups was strong, their banter felt strained. After all, complaining about common grievances cannot make a family as close-knit as designing a new home.

In the 1960s and 70s, cultural differences among labor and youth activists contributed to tragic events such as the Hard Hat Riot — where construction workers beat up young anti-war protesters. While the awkwardness I saw between these two groups on May Day was in no way antagonistic, it made me worry about divisions that could arise in Occupy’s future.

Throughout May Day, I heard a litany of opposing views about the role confrontation should play in Occupy, particularly in relation to the police. Slogans such as “NYPD, go get a real job” “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” and “This is what a police state looks like!” filled the streets. Plenty of cops — on scooters, on horses, in trucks, as walking escorts — were there to hear these chants.

Some of the more extreme confrontational chants seemed to threaten Occupy’s commitment to non-violence. While May Day protestors in New York stayed relatively peaceful, Occupy Cleveland suffered from the emergence of a small militant faction that tried to blow up a bridge. The possibility of violence in the Occupy movement threatens to create divisions like the militant Weather Underground did in the 1960s.

Still some succeeded in using a symbolic approach to protest. Joe Therrien, a member of the Occupy’s Puppet Guild, helped create a May Day Maypole at Union Square. Each ribbon hanging from the pole was inscribed with a grievance from the Occupy Wall Street Declaration. The ribbons were weaved together by protesters through a traditional Maypole dance to demonstrate the interconnectedness of the issues.

“Art convinces people in a fantastical way,” Therrien said, adding that his creative tactics are particularly successful when they “diffuse potentially tense police situations.”

Occupy has inspired this generation because it unites through creation. It has tasked itself with enacting a world with radically just social relations and decision-making processes as well as a fair way to distribute resources and labor.

However, the creation of a novel enterprise demands a critical prerequisite: humility.

As a young person, my natural reaction is to bristle whenever a veteran activist lectures me on social theory or labor history. Yes, your knowledge is valuable, but only if you intend to relinquish its authority in service of the creation of “another world.” Or else, Occupy risks breaking under the same contradictions of the New Left of the 1960s.

No one can be an authority on a world that does not yet exist. In a leaderless movement, ego, anger and personal priorities must be given up in service of collective needs.

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (5/2/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

 

Laura Bolt focuses on human rights and revolution.

How a 5-Year-Old Foreign Film Sparked a Free-Speech Fight in Tunisia,” by Massoud Hayoun. The Atlantic, April 30, 2012. 

This article highlights the tension between the State and the arts in Tunisia, where recent revolutionary efforts underscore a battle of censorship and free speech. The subject of the piece is Nabil Karoui, who is being prosecuted for allowing the broadcast of Persepolis, a popular and critically acclaimed 2007 film about a young girl growing up and testing her freedom in Iran.

 

Zoë Carpenter focuses on the intersection of economics, health and the environment.

What Money Can’t Buy,” Tana Wojczuk Interviews Michael Sandel. Guernica, May 1, 2012.

Sandel makes the compelling argument that we have undergone a transformation from a market economy to a "market society," in which markets and market-based thinking increasingly govern social spheres once organized around other values. Sandel summarizes key historical changes in economic thinking and explains how certain economic models have risen to the forefront. The importance and challenge of having a debate about market triumphalism are that doing so would raise "big and controversial ethical questions" about "the moral limits of the role of markets in our society" and their impact on health, education, the environment and democracy.

 

Umar Farooq focuses on the world-wide movement for democracy.

Mexico Weighs Law to Compensate Victims of Drug Violence,” by Hannah Stone. The Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2012. 

50,000 people have been killed in Mexico since 2006, when President Calderon deployed the army to combat drug violence. This law (now approved by legislators) sets up a national body to track drug-war related deaths, which will include representation from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and compensate relatives of victims with up to $70,000. Most crimes in the drug war are thought to remain unreported though, so it is unclear what impact this law would have. Nevertheless, it could represent a major shift in the political landscape of Mexico, as it looks for a pragmatic way to end the violence.


Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power and political culture.

Torture Isn't Fair Game, and It Isn't Effective Method,” by Retired Maj. Gen. Walter L. Stewart Jr. PennLive.com, May 2, 2012.

On the first anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the debate over torture—which is a crime—has once again reared its ugly head. It has been reignited by a new book by the former Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, who claims that torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri worked—not in gaining reliable intelligence, but in breaking these men as a means of getting them to acquiesce to the control of their interrogators. Thankfully, people of character and strategic wisdom, like Retired Major General Walter L. Stewart Jr., are responding to this dangerous and reprehensible argument. For more, read Senators Diane Feinstein and Carl Levin’s Statement on CIA’s Coercive Interrogation Techniques and watch this US Army film on the Geneva Conventions and Counterinsurgency from 1965.

 

Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations. 

The Stalking of Korean Hip Hop Superstar Daniel Lee,” by Joshua Davis. Wired, April 24, 2012.

On the surface, this is just an incredibly engaging, outrageous story of success, jealousy and cyberbullying: the saga of Daniel Kim, Korean hip hop star and frontman of the group Epik High—who was tormented by anonymous "antifans" until his career came crashing down around him. But underlying it all (in my opinion) is a bizarre, racially tinged tension: for many of these anonymous internet users, the worlds of commercial hip hop and Korean society were simply too far apart; to see them fused in Daniel Lee was so shocking to these people that they unleashed one of the most vicious cyber smear campaigns I have ever heard of.

 

Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights.

Riot Police Disperses Protest Violently and Arrests 15 Including a Journalist.” Bedoon Rights, May 1, 2012.

On May 1, in Kuwait, 200 Bedoon Kuwaitis—stateless citizens—protested for their right to full citizenship. Around 120,000 people in Kuwait are Bedoon jinsiyya (without nationality). They cannot legally obtain birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates, or even apply for driving licenses, identification cards or passports. Thousands of Bedoon in Gulf countries suffer similar discrimination, but only after the Arab Spring did Bedoon Kuwaitis dare to organize public protests.

 

Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender. 

He-Men and Virginity Pledges? Obama Administration Quietly Endorses Absurd Anti-Sex Curriculum,” Debra Hauser, Monica Rodriguez, Elizabeth Schroeder and Danene Sorace. AlterNet, May 1, 2012.

The Department of Heath and Human Services updates its list of endorsed "evidence-based" teen pregnancy prevention programs with no notice or press release. Why? Because one of these programs is the old, detrimental and disproven "abstinence only until marriage" program. AlterNet walks through the impact on teen sexual health, and women's and LGBT rights.

 

James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century. 

The Nativist Millstone.” The Economist, April 28, 2012.

With Latinos the predicted kingmakers in November, The Economist finds "Republicans’ obstreperousness on the issue" of immigration baffling. And with the Supreme Court set to rule on the controversial Arizona case later in the campaign, the issue of immigration is only going to get hotter.

 

Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare. 

Health Centers for Poor, Uninsured See Ranks Swell,” by David Morgan. Reuters, May 1, 2012.

According to a White House report, the number of patients served by community hospitals, which provide care for the poor and uninsured, increased by nearly 18 percent between 2008 and 2011. If the Supreme Court rules against the Affordable Care Act in June, it would halt the administration's plans to increase funding for these hospitals at a time when patient demand is still on the rise.

 

Elizabeth Whitman focuses on the Syrian uprising, its implications and the wildly varied domestic and international reactions.

Inside Northern Syria—In Pictures,” photographs by Rodrigo Abd. The Guardian, March 9, 2012.

Although these photos date from about two months ago or earlier, they remain powerful and poignant as scenes of daily life in northern Syria. Their focus, not just on fighting and protesting but also on quieter scenes—children on calm streets, people prayer inside homes—shows the viewer what lies behind the scenes of strife frequently depicted in most media and as a result, serve as a sobering reminder of what's at stake in the Syrian conflict.

 

New Study Says One Quarter of Young People Can't Make Ends Meet

HuffPoCollege had an interesting post on a new survey of nearly 2,000 adults by retail trend research firm WSL Strategic Retail which said that one quarter of millennials, the generation aged 18 to 34, aren’t making enough money to cover basic needs.  By comparison, only 17 percent of adults between the ages of 35 to 54, and 13 percent of those 55 and older reported having the same problem.

The results underscore the financial challenges young adults now face. At 54 percent, the employment rate for Americans aged 18 to 24 is at its lowest in more than 60 years, according to the Pew Research Center. On top of that, the current value of student loan debt is more than $1 trillion, greater than credit card debt.

As an editorial in the new issue of The Nation, the student loan crisis has had two effects. The United States, once the leader in the percentage of college graduates age 25 to 34, has dropped to sixteenth among thirty-six developed nations, with more and more students dropping out because they can’t afford the rising costs.

As a result of such finacial strain, many millennials are being forced to make serious lifestyle changes. Living at home is a big one as, last year, 5.9 million people aged 18 to 34 lived with their parents, according to US Census Bureau data cited by the Wall Street Journal.

What lifestyle choices has the recession forced on you? Please use the comments field to let us know.

Columbia Students Join New York's May Day


Photo courtesy: Swara Salih

Throughout the world, May 1 means Labor Day: a day to celebrate the contributions of workers and to protest for more equitable conditions.  At Columbia, May 1 means that it's time to start cramming for finals. But uptown from Occupy's epicenter, a group of Columbia students  abandoned their books and papers for the day to express international solidarity this past Tuesday. 

More than one hundred Columbia students congregated in the middle of campus to express solidarity with labor and their own personal frustrations with an economy that is run increasingly by the 1%, for the 1%, before heading down to Union Square to join the massive Occupy protest there.
 
As students and some faculty gathered despite morning drizzle in front of a large banner that read "Columbia Solidarity," students called out the reasons they had come.  "To stand in solidarity with labor," said one.  "Because no one is illegal," shouted another.  "For better education."  "To end student debt."  The reasons students came to protest were varied, but all of them indicted a system which is increasingly putting the American Dream out of their own reach and out of the reach of millions of Americans.
 
Student responses gave an answer to a question which hung heavy in the air: is May Day relevant anymore?  Yoni Golijov, an organizer of Columbia's protest and member of the Columbia-Barnard International Socialist Organization, gave the crowd a brief history of May Day in the United States.  The first May Day was celebrated in 1886 with a general strike when unions declared that 8 hours should constitute a legal workday.  But with deindustrialization and globalization, with the rise of the service industry and the decline of unions, in an age when America's two biggest employers are Walmart and a temp agency, does a day of protest for labor make sense anymore?
 
The answer, not just according to Columbia students but also to the thousands of protestors who came out citywide, is a resounding yes.  "May Day is more important and more relevant today than it has been in the past 80 years," said Austin Heyroth, a freshman and Columbia Democrats member.  "Real wages for most Americans have stagnated since the 1970s and the gap between the richest and everybody else makes it look like we're in the Gilded Age."
 
Golijov concurred.  "Obviously, we need to keep fighting.  Obama isn't going to legislate an 8-hour workday.  We got what gains we have by protesting and agitating." Golijov did not wholly reject the political system, however, saying, "We can work with and push Obama and the Democrats."  
 
Eric Foner, noted professor of history at Columbia, Nation magazine editorial board member and Pulitzer Prize winner, agreed with Golijov.  "Obama needs radical pressure.  Lincoln needed the abolitionists in order to be Lincoln.  FDR needed labor, and maybe even the Communist Party, to achieve the New Deal." 

In his remarks at the demonstration, Foner placed the modern-day Occupy movement in a tradition of American radical protest dating back to the American Revolution.  Foner invoked figures like abolitionist Frederick Douglass and socialist Eugene Debs as "people we can and must admire" who changed the system through their actions.  To Foner, and to many of the student activists gathered at Columbia, the Occupy movement is the logical heir of such radicals.

One distinctive characteristic of the Occupy and labor rights movements which students identified is its inclusivity.  "No one is above these kinds of issues," explained a graduating senior.  Privileged Columbia graduates are still hampered by an economy in which they can't get jobs commensurate with their education.  This May Day also had the distinction of bringing together immigrants and workers in the same demonstrations; previous May Days had seen two separate marches.  The worker's rights movement is not becoming irrelevant, it is evolving in a world where fewer workers are unionized, more people are immigrants (documented or undocumented), and the economy is increasingly devoted to the enrichment of a few at the expense of the majority.
 
"We can't think big and act small," said one student.  And by protesting on campus and then joining the demonstrations downtown, by calling for decent hours, salaries, and working conditions regardless of industry, and by refusing to stay silent in the face of ever-increasing inequality, Columbia students are doing big things. 

NYU Kicks Off May Day With Bobst Picket Against 2031

This article was originally published by the invaluable NYU Local and is reposted here with permission.

This morning, a crowd of over 60 students, faculty, and Village residents picketed Bobst, marching around the library’s red sandstone columns in the light rain. For a little under an hour, the group expressed their opposition to NYU’s 2031 plan, which its opponents characterize as aggressive real estate expansion that threatens the historic character of the Village.

The demonstration, jointly organized by NYU4OWS and NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, was the NYU kick off of May Day, a nation-wide general strike called by Occupy Wall Street.

“We’re just generally upset by NYU’s corporate strategy,” explained Peter Wirzbicki, an organizer with NYU’s Graduate Students Union. Wirzbicki expressed optimism that NYU would scale back their plans again (beyond the 16% cut the university announced last month). “We’re trying to publicize the faculty departments that voted against the plan,” he said.

Indeed, faculty represented the largest contingent at the picket. Christine Harrington, a politics professor, marched with a bright sign that read “Politics Department Opposes NYU 2031.” 

“We were the first one to do it,” Harrington said. Now, 27 departments have passed resolutions against the plan.

One art history professor who hesitated to give her name (“I’m not tenured,” she cautioned) said she had canceled her office hours in honor of the general strike. The professor, who herself holds two advanced degrees from NYU, sympathizes with her current students. “The student debt is just crippling,” she said.

Also present in force were the usual crowd of neighborhood residents, who miss no chance to oppose NYU 2031. Milton Polsky, a former faculty member at Steinhardt and current Washington Square Village resident, opposes NYU’s proposed new buildings. “We resent and object to them putting up massive towers on green space,” he said. “I don’t mind NYU,” Polsky continued, gesturing at the NYU baseball cap he sported. “What I object to is turning this residential zone into a commercial zone. Promises have been broken,” he said.

Public Safety officers stood outside the library’s revolving doors, checking IDs to enter the building. Inside the atrium, a few NYU administrators watched the crawling picket line and chatted. One public safety administrator confirmed that his department has been preparing for May Day “for weeks.”

Unsurprisingly, the protest met with the usual mix of disdain and apathy from NYU students.

“Haven’t these idiots cost us enough money in taxpayers dollars,” one Steinhardt masters student loudly exclaimed as he swiped in to the library. Shannon Foreshee, who objected to the money spent policing Occupy Wall Street events since the movement began in September, had little sympathy for NYU4OWS’ concerns about the university’s high cost. “I’ve found ways to pay for it,” she said.

Ian Sykes, a Steinhardt undergraduate, felt that he wasn’t well informed about the 2031 plan. “NYU 2031 seems like it’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said. Ultimately, he was neutral towards the protest. “As long as they keep the library open,” he said as he swiped in.

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