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Peter Rothberg | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

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

Foreclose the Banks

 

This spring, the Occupy movement plans to take on Bank of America in a protracted, multi-pronged campaign exposing the predatory nature of the giant lending institution’s common practices.

For the last three years Bank of America has been borrowing billions of dollars a day in “emergency lending” from the Federal Reserve at interest rates close to zero. All told, it has taken at least $2 trillion in rolling “emergency” loans since 2008. What does B of A do with that money? Lend it back to US taxpayers at 5 percent interest rates for mortgages and 20 percent or even 25 percent interest rates for credit cards. That’s how Bank of America makes its profits—it lends your money back to you at interest.

In fact, conservatives should be outraged by Bank of America because it is perhaps the biggest welfare dependent in American history, with the $45 billion in bailout money and the $118 billion in state guarantees it has received since 2008 representing just the crest of a veritable mountain of federal bailout support.

Moreover, BoA is facing more than one dozen class-action lawsuits for wrongfully foreclosing on thousands of homeowners across the country. Independent experts estimate that the bank’s electronic foreclosure system, called “robosigning,” may be responsible for illegally forclosing on the homes of 5,000 military members as well as thousands of other US citizens.

The fix is clearly in.

That’s why March 15, April 15 and May 15 will see concerted move our money actions, in which self-organized groups of individuals, community groups, organizations and congregations move their savings and checking accounts out of the big banks, specifically Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo into credit unions and regional lending institutions. It’s an easy way to take a stand against rapacious capitalism. Get more info and tell all your friends.

My Potato Project: The Importance of Eating Organic

This is one of the best (and cutest) arguments on behalf of eating organic food that I’ve ever seen or heard.

Virginia Students Hunger-Strike for Living Wage

The University of Virginia is currently in the national spotlight in connection with lacrosse player George Huguely, convicted for the murder of Yardley Love.

What the media hasn’t noticed, however, is that UVA itself is currently on trial for a long history of economic violence, as UVA English professor Susan Fraiman pointed out in a mass e-mail to the press. As a last resort to end a fourteen-year campaign for a living wage, fifteen students are now on day six of a hunger strike as part of an aggressive public campaign that includes a daily rally and march each day at 12 pm, a sunset vigil each evening at 6 and teach-in workshops from 7 to 8:30 pm.

The facts are stark, if not unfamiliar: the starting wage for UVA workers is $10.65, whereas current figures from the EPI put a living wage in Charlottesville at $13; work is increasingly outsourced to independent companies where contract workers typically earn minimum wage, with no benefits; UVA workers at the bottom of the pay scale are disproportionately African-American; and top university administrators earn over $400,000 and sometimes as much as $700,000.

The UVA Living Wage Campaign has wide support from the community. The city of Charlottesville passed a Living Wage ordinance back in 2000. “We have people going homeless here in the City of Charlottesville…some of them working full time, because of insufficient wages,” said then-Mayor David Norris. In 2010 the body passed a resolution urging the university, the largest employer in town, to do likewise. Amping up the pressure, more than 325 faculty members have signed a petition calling for a living wage.

Check out livingwageatuva.org for images and updates about the hunger strike, testimonials from strikers, information about the campaign and its demands, and suggestions for ways you can support the campaign, including signing this petition imploring UVA President Teresa Sullivan to do the right thing.

Texans Unite Against the Keystone Pipeline

A new front has opened up in the fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline, as Rocky Kistner recounts in an inspiring blog post for the NRDC.

As Congressional Republicans and their Big Oil allies continue to try to resuscitate the massive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, landowners and activists are locking arms to fight pipeline builder TransCanada over eminent domain cases that could determine new routes where construction of the 1,700-mile project will be attempted. (For details and background, the Natural Resources Defense Council compiled an extensive document making clear how problematic the project really is.)

TransCanada has used eminent domain to acquire a number of tracts, but critics of the company are challenging that authority, citing a 2011 Texas Supreme Court decision that makes it harder for pipelines to meet the definition of a common carrier.

Last Friday, protesters gathered in Paris, Texas to support Lamar County farm manager Julia Trigg Crawford’s eminent domain court fight with TransCanada, which is proposing to run the Keystone XL pipeline through her 600-acre family farm along the Red River near Paris. Crawford says the pipeline threatens Bois d’Arc Creek, which flows through the Northeast Texas region, as well as Native American archaeological remains. “My hope is that our state leaders will see that their landowners are being bullied,” Crawford told the Kansas City Star-Telegram last week.

The protest included an unusual, and encouraging, mix of tea party supporters, independents, Democrats, Republicans and Occupy Dallas protesters, as this video shows.

Implore your Senators to reject the Keystone Pipeline!

 

Help Save the Montes Family

This heartbreaking video describes the outrageously unfair detention and deportation of an innocent man and the callous means by which immigration officials casually tear families apart.

 

On February 21, Felipe Montes, husband to a US citizen and father of three US citizens, is scheduled to have his parental rights stripped away in court due to his deportation. Despite the fact that Montes was his children’s primary caregiver before his arrest and has not been charged with neglect, the child welfare department nonetheless believes that his children, who have now been in foster care for more than a year, are better off in the care of strangers than in Mexico with their parents. Seth Freed Wessler’s report in the invaluable publication Colorlines offers a detailed look at this travesty of justice.

Montes and his children are among a growing number of families separated, sometimes permanently, at the intersection of immigration enforcement and the child welfare system. In November, Colorlines.com published an investigation that estimated well over 5,000 children in foster care whose parents are detained or deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The article went on to report that the trend is a growing one nationally, and that it often strikes obscure municipalities far from the border, like the 2,000-person town of Sparta, North Carolina.

In response, the good folks at Presente.org and the Applied Research Center, Colorlines’s publisher, are rallying public support to save the Montes family from being torn apart. Their petition calls on the Allegheny County Department of Social Services to ensure that Felipe’s family is not permanently separated, but is instead reunited in either the United States or Mexico. Join the call today and forward the petition widely!

Tell Your Senators: Reject the Keystone Pipeline

The Pipeline that just won't die is rearing its ugly head again today as the Senate is considering legislation to resurrect Keystone XL by overriding President Obama's rejection of the project, and greenlighting construction of this catastrophic idea.

In response, activists and groups like 350.org, MoveOn, the Sierra Club and Climate Progress are putting together what they expect will be a massive response to show the Senate that approving Keystone is unacceptable -- politically, morally and environmentally. (For details and background, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) compiled an extensive document making clear how problematic the project really is.) The goal is to blitz the Senate with at least 500,000 messages in the next twenty-four hours imploring the reps to stop the pipeline, which would be the most concentrated burst of environmental advocacy this millennium.

As author and environmental leader Bill McKibben wrote yesterday, "This Congress is clearly not going to solve global warming -- no one expects Harry Reid to work miracles, converting implacable Republican opponents. But they can clearly hold the line if they want to. Maybe a letter or two -- or half a million all at once -- will nerve them up." Join the call today!

Watch (and share) this video with Robert Redford to understand why the pipeline is such a bad idea.

 

Mohamed Nasheed Ousted as President of the Maldives

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives has been one of the most enlightened world leaders since his election in 2008. As the first democratically elected leader of the small island nation, he has been a tireless voice for action against climate change and a strong advocate for international environmental safeguards.

“For us, this is a matter of life and death,” Nasheed has said. The 2011 documentary The Island President tells the story of Nasheed’s continuing struggle with the consequences of climate change.

 

Now it is Nasheed specifically who is at risk. A military coup forced President Nasheed from office on Tuesday morning with threats of violence. The former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience—who became the leader of 330,000 people on the island archipelago in 2008 when he ended the three-decade rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the Maldives’ first democratic election—is no stranger to the inside of his country’s jails. He’s been jailed ten times and tortured twice and now stands at great risk after being forced  “at gunpoint” to give up his office after three years and three months of his term.

As Bill McKibben told Democracy Now! this morning, Nasheed “was in certain ways the first precursor of the Arab Spring, the ‘Mandela of the Indian Ocean,’ who really brought democracy to a country where it hadn’t been before,” as well as “the most outspoken head of state around the issue of climate change on our planet.” McKibben further argues that Nasheed “was a thorn in the side [of the United States] because he kept bringing up the topic of climate change, a topic they’re not that keen on. On the other hand, he—almost to a fault—was cooperative with US efforts about climate change. The State Department owes him and I hope that they take this seriously.”

One of Nasheed’s strongest organizational allies in the United States, McKibben’s organization, 350.org, has mounted a petition drive imploring our national leaders to use diplomatic means to keep him safe in this time of turmoil, and to work for a peaceful, democratic solution to their conflict. Join the more than 30,000 of your fellow concerned citizens who have signed on and add your name today.

Occupy Press Freedoms

Last week police arrested seven journalists covering Occupy events in Oakland and one award-winning documentary filmmaker, Josh Fox, who was trying to cover a federal hearing in Congress.

This comes on the heels of repeated harassment of the press in past Occupy protests in numerous spots around the country, notably in Zuccotti Park on November 14 when the NYPD unexpectedly cleared out the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street. Overall, at least fifty journalists have been arrested covering the Occupy movement since it began last September.

Freedom of the press is under attack. The situation has gotten so bad that the United States recently plummeted twenty-seven notches in the Reporters Without Borders’ global press freedom index to number forty-seven worldwide in the wake of repeated crackdowns on journalists covering Occupy movements.

Over the next year there will be political conventions in North Carolina and Florida, global economic summits in Chicago and many more Occupy events coast to coast. Given the possibility of abuse of press rights at any of these events, it's important for all those concerned with a free and fair media's ability to function to take a stand now.

The good news is that journalists are starting to push back. A coalition of New York media groups has issued two letters calling on the NYPD to do more to protect the First Amendment. In Oakland, journalism organizations sent a letter condemning recent arrests and are calling for a meeting with city officials.

Our friends at Free Press, the tireless media reform outfit, have started a campaign to show support for press freedoms and help reporters assert their right to access. Sign on to support journalists who are fighting back for the First Amendment.

Poorest Countries Hit Hardest by Climate Change

One of the many terrible ironies of the climate change crisis is that the nations that have contributed the least to the problem are the ones who are now on the frontlines working hardest to prevent consequent disasters.

In this short video, Rushanara Ali, the British Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for International Development, returns to Bangladesh, where she was born, to witness innovative local adaptation strategies to cope with climate change supported by CARE Bangladesh.

 

New Film Takes on Komen Foundation and 'Breast Cancer Industry'

With the most fortunate timing a political doc can ever hope for, Pink Ribbons Inc. opens in Canada today and will soon be slated for US dates.

A feature documentary based on Dr. Samantha King’s book Pink Ribbons Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, the film takes the Susan G. Komen Foundation to task for its fiscal management and marketing alliances with multinational corporations and argues that the devastating reality of breast cancer, which marketing experts have labeled a “dream cause,” has been hijacked by a shiny, pink story of success.

As the doc recounts, breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns. Countless women and men walk, bike, climb and shop for the cure. These days you can row and jump for the cause. You can be a warrior in pink by driving a Ford you’ve pumped with pink gasoline, tote a pink hand gun, bake a pink cake in your pink stand mixer and, later, wipe yourself clean with pink premium toilet tissue.

Each year, these efforts raise millions of dollars in the name of breast cancer, but where does this money go and what does it actually achieve? The film takes on these questions and argues that it’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses and repoliticize the discussion.

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