Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.
Rupert Murdoch and other News Corporation executives are at the center of a shocking British media scandal that involves spying, bribery, corruption, a corporate cover-up and even murder, and which just resulted in the stunning new news that Murdoch has withdrawn News Corporation's bid for BSkyB.
And now there are reports that Murdoch's company’s alleged criminal behavior—including hacking the phones of September 11 victims—has crossed the Atlantic.
As our friends at Media Matters, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Free Press and numerous Nation investigations have documented, for far too long, Murdoch has used his enormous media power to secure sweetheart deals from Washington and insulate himself and his company from official scrutiny. If he has broken the law, Murdoch should be held accountable.
Currently, Senators Jay Rockefeller and Frank Lautenberg have called for an investigation of News Corp. Free Press is urging citizens to implore their members of Congress to join them and demand an full and fair investigation.
Where and how books fit into our digital future may be unclear, but it’s generally agreed that literacy remains one of the best predictors of a child’s future success, and even happiness. Statistics show that illiterate children have poor educational, employment and health outlooks. Many will not graduate from high school, will earn poverty-level incomes and will be more likely to engage in criminal behavior.
According to recent data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United States ranks forty-fifth in the world in literacy rates behind Cuba (#2) and Russia (#15) as well as Ukraine (#9), Tonga (#19) and Guyana (#32).
Roughly 42 million American adults can’t read at all; 50 million are unable to read at a higher than fourth or fifth grade level and the number of adults that are classified as functionally illiterate increases by about 2.25 million people each year.
First Book, a nonprofit group, was established in 1994 to take a stand in low-income communities by funding access to literacy education and ensuring continued access to books. A recognized leader in social enterprise, First Book has pioneered groundbreaking ways to provide new books and educational resources at deeply reduced prices—and for free—to schools and programs serving children in need.
And the number of children in need is growing fast. Forty-two percent of children in the United States—more than 30 million—currently live in poor households with few age-appropriate books at home, and are served by woefully under-funded classrooms with equally scarce resources.
Now, First Book is partnering with the Goodreads Book Club, the largest community of online readers in the world, in one of the coolest child literacy campaigns ever featuring Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jennifer Egan and her brilliant recent work, A Visit from the Goon Squad.
For each 10,000 Goodreads members who add Egan’s latest book to their “shelves,” the organization will donate 1,000 age-appropriate books to children in need. So far, more than 31,000 members have added the book; the initial goal is to convince at least 50,000 people to add the book by August 2, which would trigger a donation of 5,000 copies.
It’s free and easy to join Goodreads and participate in this great cause. As a special bonus, members will be able to join an exclusive live video chat with the always-engaging Egan in the climactic conclusion to the June/July book club. There’s rarely been as enjoyable and community-minded a way to help support children’s literacy.
The first sentence of The Nation's prospectus, dated July 6, 1865, promised "the maintenance and diffusion of true democratic principles in society and government," surely a patriotic sentiment, as was the magazine's name.
Since that time The Nation has attempted to represent and give voice to the best of American values and culture and has steadfastly resisted all efforts through the years to brand dissent as unpatriotic.
The Nation has always agreed with the eminent historian (and Nation editorial board member) Eric Foner, who wrote in the days after 9/11, "At times of crisis, the most patriotic act of all is the unyielding defense of civil liberties, the right to dissent and equality before the law for all Americans."
Ten years before the 9/11 attacks, in the summer of 1991 during the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the magazine published a forum exploring the question of what is patriotism -- Is there a patriotism that is not nationalistic? How does the historic internationalism of the liberal left relate to the concept of patriotism? What do you value in the traditions of your country? Why is patriotism often seen as the province of the right?
Fourteen leading writers, progressives and thinkers weighed in, including Jesse L. Jackson, Molly Ivins, Natalie Merchant, Richard Falk, Richard A. Cloward & Frances Fox Piven, Mary McGrory, Stephen F. Cohen and current Nation Editor and Publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel. Their illuminating answers encapsulate a predicament still facing progressives: how to express love for one's country while forthrightly combating its numerous defects.
Read the sadly, still relevant forum and use the comments field below to let us know how you personally define patriotism. I'd also love to see links for videos of what you consider some of your favorite patriotic music.
This post was guest-written by Nation intern and freelance writer Anna Lekas Miller. Follow her on Twitter.
Just more than one year ago, the violent attack on the Freedom Flotilla radically changed the international dialogue on Israel and Palestine. Protests in solidarity with the nonviolent activists erupted around the world, from expected global capitals like Tel Aviv and New York City to areas where one would never expect to see a Palestinian flag—like Cincinnati and Des Moines.
Palestine became less of a “controversial” issue.
One year later, Flotilla II, consisting of activists from twenty different countries aboard ten ships (including The Audacity of Hope, more commonly referenced as the US Boat to Gaza) is hoping to set sail if it can secure approval from the Greek government, which is being fierecly lobbied behind the scenes to scuttle the flotilla.
Time will tell if the ships will be allowed to proceed on their nonviolent mission. But something that is in all of our power is the ability to personally honor the the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.
Peter Rothberg described in this space last summer, the boycotts, divestment initiatives and economic sanctions that comprise the call for BDS. If anything, the last year has shown that the call is now more urgent than ever and could be effective in helping force an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza.
While it is no secret that much of the United States' massive aid package to Israel helps finance the country's illegal and inhuman occupation of Palestine, one of the better-kept secrets is the role that many popular American and international corporations play in enabling the occupation. Perhaps we don’t necessarily own a Motorola cell phone or regularly operate a Caterpillar bulldozer—but many of our universities’ endowments or retirement pension funds are actively invested in these companies.
Plenty of Americans are (unknowingly) supporting war profiteers.
Here are some of the worst offenders:
Motorola Inc. — Motorola, as in the cell phone company, plays a key role in many of sectors of the occupation. Motorola Israel, a subsidiary of Motorola Inc, is the central provider of bomb fuses to the Israeli Air Force (IAF). These fuses were highly used by the IDF during the destruction of Operation Cast Lead and the 2006 Lebanon War. In addition to manufacturing parts for weapons, Motorola is largely responsible for the Israeli Defense Force’s communications and surveillance technology. The surveillance “watch towers” that punctuate the separation barrier that segregates Palestine from the outside world are all operated by Motorola technology.
Caterpillar Inc. — Caterpillar (CAT) Bulldozers destroy Palestinian homes and olive trees (one of the primary sources of livelihood for many Palestinian families) to make room for illegal Israeli settlements, the separation barrier, and “Jewish-only” roads. American International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie died when she was crushed under a CAT Bulldozer.
Hewlett Packard (HP) — Hewlett Packard owns Electronic Data Systems, which is in charge of the technology monitoring checkpoints inside of Palestine. In addition, HP monitors the Israeli Navy’s entire IT operating system, which enabled last year’s attacks on the Freedom Flotilla.
General Electric (GE) — General Electric sells engines to Israel for a variety of military aircrafts.
United Technologies — United Technologies produces Blackhawk helicopters. These helicopters are used to attack Palestinian cities and refugee camps and are responsible for the lion’s share of Palestinian civilian deaths.
In addition, many retirement pension funds, most notably TIAA-CREF are hugely invested in several of the offending corporations. Several investors of conscience have started the “TIAA-CREF” divestment campaign, raising awareness around transparency issues with the fund and, most importantly, demanding that TIAA-CREF divest from these companies.
So what can you do?
Research any and all investments. Sign the TIAA-CREF petition. Avoid Motorola cell phones and HP Printers. Don’t buy Ahava beauty products. Do buy Palestinian olive oil.
Money speaks louder than megaphones—BDS!
For those of you concerned that there’s no good protest music out there, the English hip-hop group NxtGen is using rap to take searing aim at the British government’s austerity budget, which mandates dramatic cuts in basic human services, education, jobs re-training and transportation.
“Everybody Stand Up If You’re Against the Cuts.”
This post was guest-written byNation intern and freelance writer Kevin S. Donohoe.
Since the beginning of June, more than twenty members of the anti-hunger organization Food Not Bombs have been arrested in Orlando, Florida for the "crime" of providing free meals to the homeless and working poor.
Food Not Bombs has long been serving free, vegan food in Orlando’s public parks. That all changed last month, when the city began enforcing a 2006 ordinance limiting groups who feed more than twenty-five people in parks to only two permited events per year. Food Not Bombs unsuccessfully appealed the decision in federal court and its members are now refusing to obey the law.
As tensions escalated between the police and FNB, city officials took to the press to vilify the group's members and recipients. A spokesman for the city says that FNB recipients have been responsible for trash, public urination and crime in city parks. The mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, went even further, calling the organization's members “food terrorists” and accusing the group of having “different purposes” than helping the homeless.
FNB activist Benjamin Markeson is filing a defamation lawsuit against the Mayor for his terrorist comments -- and said that the real terrorist acts are being committed by government officials. “We think that it is terrorism to arrest people for trying to share food with the poor and hungry in the community,” Markeson told Democracy Now!.
The arrests have received international press coverage and solidarity rallies have been staged at local universities as far away as Michigan. On June 20th, hacktivist group Anonymous shut down the Orlando Chamber of Commerce’s website and posted a “boycott Orlando” message on the site of Universal Orlando Resorts. Now, local officials from across the state are watching the standoff between FNB and the city closely as they consider imposing similar permit regulations in their own communities.
This is not the first time a Food Not Bombs chapter has been targeted by local government officials. Last year officials in Middletown, Connecticut tried to shut down a chapter of the group for lacking a license. The dispute ended after Attorney General (now US Senator) Richard Blumenthal changed the state's law to accommodate food sharing. In February, Fort Lauderdale Police twice raided a home shared by local FNB activists.
The organization was founded by eight anti-nuclear activist thirty years ago, as Jennifer O'Mahoney explained in this space last September, and now has 1,000 chapters across the country. Members collect surplus food from bakeries, restaurants and grocery stores and prepare vegan meals, keeping regular hours in the same locations so that community members in need know when, and where, to find them. Although local chapters vary in organization and orientation, all are bound by a shared commitment to nonviolent social change, economic equality and the idea that access to food is an inalienable right.
You can sign the Food Not Bombs online petition asking the city of Orlando to stop arresting people for sharing food with the hungry or a petition on Change.org calling for an end to the arrests. If you would like to get involved with or support Food Not Bombs, this list will tell you if there's a chapter near you. If not, you can start your own group by e-mailing email@example.com. Money is also desperately needed so, if you can, please donate a dollar for peace here.
An aging but still spry Jimmy Cliff, the legendary Jamaican reggae master most renowned for his soundtrack to the 1971 movie The Harder They Come, recently rocked the Glastonbury Festival with a searing version of one of his biggest hits re-tooled as a cry for peace in Afghanistan. (Read the lyrics here.)
Cliff's uncompromising antiwar message was broadcast to a huge TV audience this past Saturday at England's fabled annual Glastonbury Festival.
Sign this petition calling for an immediate end to drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, for a quicker and fuller drawdown of troops that what President Obama has envisaged and for full support for Afghan-led humanitarian and economic development efforts to help rebuild that war-ravaged country.
This post was guest-written by Nation intern and freelance writer Anna Lekas Miller. Follow her on Twitter.
It would sound pretty ridiculous if a policeman were to say, “I’m sorry, we can’t help you. Your rape does not fit the narrow 1929 guidelines for a forcible rape.”
But this is not too far from the truth.
FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) definition of rape has not been updated since 1929. The 82-year-old definition currently reads,
“The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Included are rapes by force and attempts or assaults to rape. Statutory offenses (no force used–victim under age of consent) are excluded.”
What does that even mean?
Forced vaginal sex. And that’s about it.
This definition does not include oral or anal rape. It does not include male rape. It does not include rape with an object. It does not include partner rape. It does not include incest or raping a child. It does not include rape where the victim was unconscious —even if her (or his) assailant gave her (or him) a drug. It doesn’t matter that she might have unknowingly gotten pregnant or contracted an STD —it’s still not forcible enough to be tried as rape!
You got roofied and date raped? Sorry, roofies weren’t invented back in 1929, so we can’t report your rape.
You are a man? That’s impossible. (That’s odd, since the Department of Justice estimates that 93,000 men are raped each year).
Since so many rapes are misclassified (or simply ignored), there is a dangerous false sense of security and progress in reducing rape cases. For example, in 2008 the FBI UCR counted 89,000 rapes, a record low. However, the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) which includes rape cases that aren’t officially reported (or perhaps weren’t deemed forcible enough) put the number at 203,830. Still, since many women (and men) conceptualize rape as exclusively vaginal penetration, it is safe to say that the actual number is even higher.
In essence, the FBI UCR is playing a numbers game in which they are crunching rape statistics to shape their reports into what they want them to be, rather than what they actually are.
The big problem is that since law enforcement funding is allocated according to UCR statistics, one of the consequences of this false reporting is that future rape investigations lose their funding through this statistical manipulation. Thousands of rape kits remain untested and backlogged —even though the necessary DNA has been painstakingly collected by the survivor. The DNA is never analyzed and the rapist goes free. It is no coincidence that fifteen out of sixteen rapists never spend a day in jail and ninety-one percent of all rapes are committed by a repeat offender.
As long as the FBI defines rape using woefully outdated parameters, we are deceiving ourselves and only doing a sliver of the work required to combat rape and sexual violence. It is time to join Ms. Magazine and the Feminist Majority Foundation and demand that FBI Director Robert Mueller joins the twenty-first century and updates the UCR definition of rape.
Haven't heard about the Tar Sands?
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, the most environmentally devastating, energy project on earth.
TransCanada, one of the largest companies involved in tar sands exploration, has proposed a 1,661 mile, 36-inch extension of the newly built Keystone Pipeline from Alberta, Canada to oil refineries of the United States. This would expand the capacity for refining oil produced from Alberta tar sands by approximately one million barrels per day.
Time for the fight-back.
A group of leading environmental activists, many associated with the grassroots group 350.org, and many of them Nation writers, have issued a call and invitation for concerned citizens to take part in a campaign of non-violent direct action this summer in Washington, DC, in all likelihood, organizers say, during the last two weeks of August.
Why DC in the sweltering summer? That's when the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth, some of whom want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas's refineries.
The guidelines for participation are strict. Participants must pledge to:
1) Be utterly peaceful in all aspects of this action–physical and verbal.
2) Be dignified in dress and demeanor – these are serious issues, and we want to be taken seriously.
3) Attend an action training and briefing before I join the action. Knowingly and freely assume all risks, even if arising from the negligence of others, and assume full responsibility for my participation in this action.
Read the full letter below, signed by Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, Danny Glover, James Hansen, Wes Jackson, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, George Poitras, David Suzuki and Gus Speth. The missive clearly makes the case for the campaign and details the horrific consequences if TransCanada's plan proceeds.
Check out how to take part in the actions or otherwise support them and please post the letter to your social networks, forward it to your email list and talk about it with your friends and family.
This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.
The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.
The full version goes like this:
As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.
And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.
These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.
To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.
How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million. Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out. As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. "Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we're going to be stuck," said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.
Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.
And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.
So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.
And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.
We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We’ll do what we can.
And one more thing: we don’t want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest. Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won’t be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.
This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.
Winning this battle won’t save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up—that we’ll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we’ve seen this year. And we’re fighting for the political future too—for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection. You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.
If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here. As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.
We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.
p.s.—Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it.
Shifting priorities toward a more sensible approach that offers treatment rather than punishment for addicts may seem like a daunting task but public opinion is increasingly opposed to the war on drugs, and many states facing tight budgets are de-emphasizing expensive criminalization in favor of strategies that decrease the penal population.
As Sasha Abramsky explained in an extensively reported and still-timely 2009 piece, "out of economic necessity and because of shifting mores, the country will likely get more selective, and smarter, about how it uses incarceration and whom it targets for long spells behind bars."
Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report declaring unreservedly: “The global war on drugs has failed.” This strong criticism of the status quo was endorsed by the three former Latin American presidents who organized the commission — Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico — along with 16 other prominent world leaders, including former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former head of NATO Javier Solana, Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.
Meanwhile, in the US, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of police officers, judges and related professionals, held a well-attended DC rally this past Tuesday, citing its own report criticizing the Obama Administration for doing precious little to reframe drug abuse as a matter of public health rather than one of criminal justice. The report calculates that the war on drugs has brought us 40 million arrests at a cost of one trillion dollars without making even a tiny dent in drug use.
The transpartisan coalition of people who want to end the drug war is one of the most diverse, broad-based alliances in America today, drawing from all regions and most spots on the political spectrum. Join the growing call by signing the Drug Policy Alliance's national petition, and by contacting your member of Congress imploring him or her to help end the war on drugs. Drug Policy Alliance staff will hand deliver your letter to your representative on Capitol Hill.