Peter Rothberg | The Nation

Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Why Are Students Protesting Wendy’s and Publix?

Immokalee tour

Immokalee "Now is the Time" tour (Photo credit: Forest Woodward)

The indefatigable Coalition of Immokalee Workers recently wrapped up its "Now is the Time” Tour—a ten-day, ten-city tour designed to pressure Wendy’s and Publix supermarkets—two of the remaining hold-out retailers—to embrace the highest standard of farm labor protections and increased pay in US agriculture, the Fair Food Program.

Wendy’s now stands alone as the only major fast-food brand that has refused to join the FFP, a unique farmworker-driven initiative consisting of a wage increase supported by a price premium paid by corporate purchasers of Florida tomatoes, and a human-rights-based Code of Conduct, applicable throughout the Florida tomato industry.

More than 800 consumers marched on Wendy’s headquarters in Columbus, OH, and over 1,000 faith, student and community supporters joined farmworkers on March 14 for a 24-hour vigil and march in Publix’s hometown of Lakeland, FL.

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Another big step in the direction of equity and justice is National Farmworker Awareness Week. Five days of action for students and community members to raise awareness about farmworker issues, the annual event is currently marking its 15th anniversary in 2014. Honor the occasion by learning how you can help advance the cause of farmworker justice and equity by calling Wendy’s management, delivering info to Wendy’s franchises, educating your community about the issues and helping spread the word about the campaign.

The Fight Against Mass Surveillance

Fight Against Mass Surveillance

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Today more than 5,000 organizations, including The Nation, are participating in “The Day We Fight Back” a worldwide day of activism in opposition to the NSA’s mass spying. The coalition is asking Americans to support the USA Freedom Act, a bipartisan effort to rein in the worst abuses of the NSA. Write to your representative and senators now and tell them to support the USA Freedom Act. To amplify your voice, call the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 or tweet using the hashtag #StoptheNSA.

Read Next: additional actions you can take to rein in the NSA.

Youth Plan Mass Civil Disobedience to Protest Keystone XL

Keystone XL Protest

A protester holds up a sign in front of the White House. (Emma Cassidy, tarsandsaction/Flickr)

Here we go again. With President Obama on the cusp of a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, on March 2, hundreds of students and young people are expected to risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience at the White House to pressure President Obama to reject the project.

The sit-in is expected to be the largest act of civil disobedience by young people in the recent history of the environmental movement and it will be led by just the demographic that helped propel Obama to the presidency. The protest, known as “XL Dissent,” is meant to send a clear signal to President Obama that the base that helped elect him sees Keystone XL as a decision that will define his entire legacy.

“Obama was the first president I voted for, and I want real climate action and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a senior at Tulane University. “The people that voted him into office have made it absolutely clear what we want, and that’s to reject Keystone XL.”

The tar sands, also known as the oil sands, are one of the largest remaining deposits of oil in the world, and efforts to extract the resource from a mix of clay and other materials underneath Canada’s Boreal forest have created the biggest, and by the accounts of numerous scientists and environmental groups, one of the most environmentally devastating energy projects on earth. For details and background, the Natural Resources Defense Council has compiled an extensive document.

The Keystone XL fight has become an iconic issue for environmentally minded young people across the country, many of whom are involved in local campaigns to help stop the pipeline or the broader fossil fuel divestment campaign, which has spread to over 300 universities across the United States.

As 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben aptly puts it:

As the fight to stop KXL enters its final stages, it’s truly inspiring to see young people at the forefront. This pipeline is scheduled to last 40 years—right through the prime of their lives. President Obama needs to look them in the face.

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The “XL Dissent” protest on March 2 will begin with a march from Georgetown University to the White House. After a rally in Lafayette Square, hundreds of students and young people are expected to risk arrest at the White House fence. The day before the protest, students will meet for a nonviolent direct action training and fossil fuel divestment conference.

Get more info and sign up for the march; find out exactly what’s being planned and see how you can help the cause, whether you can be in DC on March 2 or not.

Read Next: Wen Stephenson on voices from Keystone XL’s front lines

Pete Seeger’s Top Ten Songs

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger performs in 2013. (wfuv/Flickr)

The first concert I ever saw was Pete Seeger playing Carnegie Hall in 1970 when I was a toddler. (“What took your parents so long?” my friend John Nichols asks.) Since then, I was privileged to see him sing at numerous shows, labor rallies, anti-apartheid protests, annual Clearwater Festivals, an environmental fundraiser, an early Farm-Aid benefit, after breakfast at my lefty summer camp and, most recently, on the streets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan at an Occupy rally in the fall of 2011.

Seeger, who died on January 27 at the too-young age of 94, was everywhere. It’s a cliché, but wherever people were struggling for their rights and their dignity, Seeger was there. He spearheaded an American folk revival while championing a long litany of social justice causes and lived an extraordinary life marked by hard work, skilled musicianship and kindness,

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Musically, Seeger was both a songwriter and, like his idol Woody Guthrie, a great interpreter of America’s deepest folk traditions. He didn’t write “We Shall Overcome,” the iconic anthem of the civil rights revolution, but no one played a greater role in popularizing the song. His most famous original compositions, “If I Had a Hammer,” an immortal tale of perserverance and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” a haunting lament over the absurdity of war, are now and forever a core part of the culture of protest in the United States and around the world.

Seeger’s life and legacy resonated deeply with generations of artists and activists of all stripes and inspired considerable musical tribute; this list is meant simply as a starting point for discussion (and listening!) Please use the comments field below to let me what I missed.

Pete Seeger’s Top Ten Songs

1. If I Had a Hammer

2. Where Have All the Flowers Gone

3. Midnight Special with Arlo Guthrie

4. What Did You Learn in School Today

5. Little Boxes

6. Turn, Turn

7. Guantanamera

8. This Land is Your Land with Bruce Springsteen

9. We Shall Overcome

10a. Worried Man Blues with Johnny and June Cash

10b. Kisses Sweeter than Wine

Read Next: Pete Seeger moves the crowd at Vietnam Moratorium Day

Top Ten Civil Rights Songs

In honor of today's national holiday marking the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., I embarked on the impossible task of selecting a top ten list of songs about civil rights. The theme has resonated deeply with generations of artists of all stripes and inspired considerable musical tribute; this list is meant simply as a starting point for discussion (and listening!) Please use the comments field below to let me what I missed.

In Fairly Random Order:

1. Mavis Staples, We Shall Not Be Moved

2 The Impressions, People Get Ready

3. Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come

5. Phil Ochs, Here's to the State of Mississippi

6. Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A Changin'

7. Sweet Honey in the Rock, Eyes on the Prize

8. Gil Scott-Heron, 95 South (All of the Places We've Been)

9. The Roots, Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round

10. The Staple Singers, Freedom Highway

Top Ten Songs About Nelson Mandela

Few, if any, of the towering figures of the twentieth century inspired as many people, or as many songs, as Nelson Mandela. Artists of all genres and stripes found different ways to pay tribute to Mandela, the architect of the ANC’s resistance strategy, as he served twenty-seven years in prison before emerging to lead his country into a peaceful transition to majority rule. As the world mourns the loss of Mandela, 95, here are ten of my favorites presented in tribute. Please use the comments field below to let me know what I missed. RIP.

1. Free Nelson Mandela, The Specials

2. Mandela (Bring Him Back Home), Hugh Masekela

3. Asimbonanga, Johnny Clegg

4. When You Come Back, Vusi Mahlasela

5. Nelson Mandela Song, Nomfusi & The Lucky Charms

6. Give Me Hope Joanna, Eddy Grant

7. Black President, Brenda Fassie

8. House of Exile, Lucky Dube

9. Sooner Than Later, Kent O’Shea

10. Number 46664, Bono, Joe Strummer and Dave Stewart

This Commercial Should Make Every Parent Vow to Never Shop at Toys“R”Us

Toys“R”Us Ad

This one commercial should be enough to make every parent vow to never ever again shop at Toys“R”Us. The spot, airing in numerous markets coast to coast, suggests that trees are boring and nature sucks while a stroll through the plastic corridors of Toys“R”Us is just what young minds need to stimulate their inner creativity and happiness. It views like satire but it’s no joke. Join Climate Parents in telling Toys“R”Us to stop pushing anti-environmental messages on our kids.

How to Help in the Philippines

Wreckage left by Typhoon Haiyan

Typhoon Haiyan, the Category 5 mega-storm that pounded the eastern Philippines on November 8, has left at least 10,000 people dead and many more injured while destroying critical water, electricity and transportation infrastructure. Towns and villages are leveled in an already impoverished region. There’s little water to drink or food to eat. According to all accounts, the need for outside assistance is urgent.

Here’s an incomplete list of groups on the ground working to immediately aid the victims. Please use the comments field to let me know what other relief groups deserve support.

If you’re looking or have information on a missing person, Google Person Finder has launched a Typhoon Yolanda page. A Google crisis map is also available for evacuation and relief information.

Oxfam’s work combines immediate, practical assistance post-disasters with an intelligent, tough-minded approach to the longer-term needs for development, justice and sustainability. Oxfam aid teams are on the ground in the Philippines and reporting urgent needs of food, clean water, medicine and shelter. Communication lines between some provinces are cut and many areas are experiencing total black outs. Oxfam teams are assessing the extent of the damage now and are ready to deploy water and sanitation materials to those affected but urgently need help to scale up.

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) has created a disaster relief fund for victims in the Philippines.

The American Jewish World Service, which has worked extensively in the Philippines, is collecting funds to provide urgent aid to local groups in the country that know their communities and what they need to help survivors.

Shelterbox is providing tents, kitchen equipment, blankets, water purification systems and classroom supplies to refugee families in the Philippines. You can help with an online donation or by using one of these methods.

The UN’s World Food Program has allocated an immediate $2 million for Haiyan relief, with a greater appeal pending. The organization is also sending 40 metric tons of fortified biscuits in the immediate aftermath, as well as working with the government to restore emergency telecommunications. Americans can text the word AID to 27722 to donate $10 or give online. Learn more here.

World Vision has a long history of relief and anti-poverty work in the Philippines and is mobilizing nearly 500 staff around the country to respond to the disaster. Donations are accepted online and the organization also lets you sponsor a child in the Philippines.

Join the Largest Privacy Protest Ever This Weekend

Daniel Ellsberg

US Representative John Conyers Jr., Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and actor Maggie Gyllenhaal join a chorus of prominent voices calling for an end to mass suspicionless surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) in a new short video released by the StopWatching.us coalition.

The video is a call to action released in support of the Stop Watching Us: Rally Against Mass Surveillance being held in Washington, DC, on Saturday, October 26, the twelfth anniversary of the Patriot Act. Formed in June 2013, the StopWatching.us coalition comprises more than 100 public advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum demanding that Congress investigate the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.

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The protest should be the largest privacy protest in the history of the republic. The demand is for a full congressional investigation of America’s surveillance programs, reform to federal surveillance law and accountability from public officials responsible for hiding this surveillance from lawmakers and the public. Sign the coalition’s petition and find out how you can support the campaign, whether or not you can get to DC on October 26.

Busting Food Myths for Two Generations

There may be no family in the history of the republic which has done more to promote culinary awareness, sustainability and food justice than the indefatigable Lappé clan.

Frances Moore Lappé’s seminal and best-selling 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, launched one of the first substantive critiques of the industrial food industry and was groundbreaking for arguing that world hunger is not caused by a lack of food but by an unfair system of resource allocation.

Lappé’s husband, the late toxicologist Marc Lappé, was an early, persistent and perceptive critic of the agrichemical industry and what its products do to human beings.

In 1975, Lappé and Joseph Collins launched the California-based Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First) with a mission to end the injustices that cause hunger, poverty and environmental degradation throughout the world. Having evolved into the country’s leading food think tank, Food First currently sponsors countless projects coast to coast aimed at building local agri-food systems.

Building on the success of Food First, Lappé later founded the Small Planet Institute in 2001 with her daughter Anna Lappé to reveal how people on every continent are creating living democratic models to establish their own food security and power to remake societal rules and norms to serve widely shared values.

Then, in 2006, Anna Lappé took Small Planet a step further with her book, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It, in which she revealed the disturbing connection between food production and climate change and outlined how we can eat food that’s better for both people and the planet.

Delving deeper into the myths that lead so many people to eat against their own interests, as it were, the younger Lappé’s latest campaign and series of short movies, Food Myths, seeks to unpack the often stealth marketing of junk food to kids and counter the billion-dollar annual investment by the fast-food industry in shaping the public conversation about our food system.

In the second and most recent movie, Lappé debunks one of the most pervasive myths propagated by the junk food industry—the myth of personal choice—and calls into question the industry’s defense of its marketing: that parental authority is the sole factor in deciding what kids eat. Citing a range of studies and reports, Lappé explaines how junk food industry marketing is designed to undermine parental authority and exploit children’s vulnerabilities.

Lappé explains how children like her daughter, Ida (and my daughter, Claudia!), are inundated with marketing throughout their lives—from the Internet to the classroom to the sports field—despite the best efforts of their supposedly enlightened parents. Today, the food industry reaches our children far beyond commercials during Saturday morning cartoons. Big Food marketing pops up in the classroom and lunchroom; on sports leagues jerseys and playground equipment; on branded websites and social media platforms. This constant onslaught shapes our childrens’ habits and preferences, undermines parental guidance and helps drive the nation’s growing epidemic of diet-related disease.

“For decades, McDonald’s and its junk food cohorts have worked to convince Americans that bad parenting, not aggressive marketing, is the reason for exploding rates of diet-related disease,” said Lappé. “It’s time we stood with parents to end the tsunami of marketing that targets kids and creates an environment devoid of healthy choices.”

In conjunction with the campaign launch, Lappé cobbled together a Food MythBusters coalition and, as its first campaign, its members are calling on McDonald’s to shut down its flagship website for kids, HappyMeal.com.

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Happy Meals are a staple of McDonald’s youth-targeted playbook, featuring toys from children’s movies and cartoons. To reach young people, McDonald’s has enlisted role models like Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas and cartoon characters like Shrek. As parents and health professionals become increasingly critical of such tactics, the fast-food giant has moved to digital marketing aimed at reaching kids in spaces where parents often exercise less vigilance.

Join the call for McDonald’s to turn off the lights on HappyMeal.com and find out how to watch and share the films and help support the project.

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