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From Nation Interns: This Week's Top Stories (2/16)

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.

From Tamil Film, a Landmark Case on Free Speech,” by Samanth Subramanian. New York Times, February 14, 2012. 

Free speech in India has had a rough few months, what with the police being accused of inventing bogus threats on Salman Rushdie in a perverse attempt at crowd control and the banning of a controversial play due to the resemblance to a public figure. With this in mind, the NYT takes a look at an important 1989 case that continues to define art, social stature and free speech in India.


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

Remember HIV/AIDS? It’s Still Raging in the U.S.,” by Kai Wright and Hatty Lee. ColorLines, February 7, 2012.

Kai Wright makes the simple but invaluable point that illness is not merely a biological condition—it's also a socioeconomic phenomenon. Wright's argument that "infection rates are an excellent measure for who societies don’t give a damn about" highlights an intimacy between health and power that has often been overlooked in healthcare policy.


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

Observations From the World Social Forum in Brazil: The Life and Death of Liberal Democratic Capitalism,” by Aaron Schneider. Upside Down World, February 6, 2012.

Despite very limited media coverage, the World Social Forum attracts tens of thousands of grassroots thinkers and activists each year, providing an alternative to the World Economic Forum in Davos. Latin America, perhaps the only region of the world where a leftist, socialist ethos holds political power today, has been the natural host for most of the Social Forums. This short piece discusses whether or not the uprisings "defy the predictions of liberal, democratic capitalism" and signal a shift in our global paradigm.


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

City Buys Face Shields to Protect Cops From G-8 Protesters,” by Fran Spielman. Chicago Sun-Times, February 14, 2012. 

The G8 and NATO are planning to hold major summits in Chicago, from May 19-21, and the city is preparing for an emergency. Ad Busters is calling for 50,000 protesters to take to the streets and, in turn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel—who does not want to let a serious crisis go to waste—is assuming expanded executive powers; bypassing the City Council and bidding process to award contracts for new police gear. As the world’s great powers meet to negotiate and discuss security and our shared future, out in the streets, police officers and protesters should seize the opportunity to do the same. Open dialogue, discipline and nonviolent deescalation tactics could prove beneficial to all.


Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations. 

NYCLU Analysis Reveals NYPD Street Stops Soar 600% Over Course of Bloomberg Administration.” NYCLU, February 14, 2012.

A new NYCLU analysis out Tuesday shows both a huge increase in NYPD stop-and-frisks over the last ten years, and more alarmingly, that these searches disproportionately target minorities—adding to the department's already-long list of racially and religiously charged PR disasters in recent months. (In case you missed these, the recent incidents include spying on Muslims, an effort to cover up involvement in and complicity with the hateful training video, "The Third Jihad," and various charges of brutality). It will be interesting to see if this new data proves provocative enough to effect any real change.


Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights.

The Hamza I Know,” by Omar al-Tamimi. Mashallah News, February 14, 2012.

This sincere letter written by an acquaintance of Hamza Kashgari, the young Saudi writer who is facing blasphemy charges for three controversial tweets he wrote on the occasion of Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, shows clearly that this frenzy attack is no coincidence, and he’s not it’s only target. This well-organized violent campaign led by Saudi’s most extreme clerics, and encouraged by the Saudi regime is aiming not only for the young activists of Jeddah’s Bridges Bookstore, but also after everyone who dares to gather and discuss and read about religion, politics, revolutions, corruption, philosophy and literature.


Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender.

Virginia School District Wants to Ban Cross-Dressing By Students,” by Kristina Chew. Care2, February 11, 2012.

In response to the middle school and high school bullying that has targeted LGBT youth throughout the nation, a Virginia school district has moved to ban "cross-gender dressing" for the sake of students' safety. Skirting their responsibility to educate on sex and gender issues and enforce anti-bulling systems, this school district in instead showing their students that they have to conform in order to be safe—yet another gender issue that has been flipped to blame the victim.


James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century.

Will Immigration Matter in France's Presidential Election?” by Angela Diffley. Radio France Internationale, February 7, 2012.

Long before Americans go to the polls this November, the French will vote in their own Presidential election. The Euro, job creation, and credit ratings may dominate the agenda, but with France's colonial past and large Muslim population, the topic of immigration is never far from the surface. In assessing reaction to the immigration policies of President Sarkozy—the son of a Hungarian immigrant—Angela Difley gauges the extent to which the matter will shape the 2012 election.


Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare. 

Hospitals Mine Patient Records in Search of Customers,” by Phil Galewitz. USA Today, February 5, 2012.

This article, produced by Kaiser Health News and USA Today, examines a trend whereby hospitals use patients' health and financial records to sell expensive services. Some worry that targeting well-to-do patients is discriminatory, though others argue that "consumer relationship marketing" helps deliver information to people who may need it. This article's timing is spot on given the number of hospitals that have recently adopted, or plan to adopt, electronic health records.


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

Syria's Economy Begins to Break Down.” GlobalPost, February 10, 2012.

A GlobalPost reporter offers a simple but compelling overview of how economic sanctions, imposed by some countries to weaken the Syrian regime, are affecting everyday Syrians. The cost of necessities such as eggs and bread has skyrocketed, but people's salaries remain constant, at best. Indirectly questioning sanctions' effectiveness, the article concludes that sanctions have yet to discernibly weaken the regime or those with ties to it and instead "have so far only hurt ordinary citizens."

Occupy Valentine's Day

This article was originally published in The Daily Orange.

When Occupy Wall Street protestors were evicted from Zuccotti Park overnight November 15, the social movement was forced to shift its focus from a physical presence to a thematic mindset and alternative form of occupation.

This is where the "you can't evict an idea" slogan originally came about, and it's now playing a role in shaping a new uprising against Hallmark's favorite holiday: Valentine's Day.

Occupy Valentine's Day originated on Tumblr courtesy of Samhita Mukhopadhyay, executive editor of Feministing.com and author of "Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life." The Tumlbr blog serves as a space for individuals to express their disdain with all the clichés and problematic ways in which Valentine's Day is celebrated in our culture.

The Tumblr consists of images similar to the original 99 percent movement — men and women are holding signs that articulate their own stories about why they're occupying. Some signs include statements like, "Who needs Valentine's Day when boxed wine and insta-Netflix are already made available 365 days a year?"

I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day, regardless of my relationship status — not because I don't like candy and not because I don't believe in love. My real problem is the commoditization of love that benefits from capitalist gains and the perpetuation of traditional and limiting gender norms.

After spending countless years in search of alternative ways to celebrate Valentine's Day, I owe Mukhopadhyay a debt of gratitude for spearheading an Occupy Valentine's Day movement. It's the ideal solution for critical thinkers and social change advocates, and it is an especially viable option for college students who may not have the time, cash or belief systems to support a contrived version of romance.

I am occupying Valentine's Day on Feb. 14 because I refuse to participate in a holiday that fails to include a wide variety of individuals who are all capable of love but don't fit the traditional heterosexual expectation and norm reinforced by greeting card companies.

I'm occupying because I value the authenticity of love and the role it plays in my life. Love is deeply rooted in all things and every single emotion — love is even necessary in order to successfully hate.

Click here to read the article in its entirety at the Daily Orange site.

Occupy Harvard Occupies Lamont Library

Last week, two-dozen Harvard students and affiliates claimed a corner of the Lamont Library Café at Harvard University. The New Harvard Library Occupation was announced on the Occupy Harvard website: “We intend to open a persistent community space for critical thought, engaged learning, and insistent action in the Lamont Library Café.”

The group plans to hold study breaks, film screenings, knowledge shares, and facilitated discussions about many issues including access to higher education, the ongoing privatization of the university, and Harvard’s role in facilitating neo-liberalism worldwide. Topics for upcoming discussions include: “The role of knowledge in promoting social equality and social justice,” and “What is a library? What does the library of the future look like?” The group intends to maintain a presence in the cafe until 10:00pm on Friday February 17th.

The Occupation of the Library coincides with a larger campus debate about plans for restructuring the Harvard library system. In a letter sent to the Harvard community last week, President Drew Faust wrote, “We are moving into an exciting yet uncharted new world of digital information in which experiments and innovations are constant and necessary, yet their outcomes not always predictable.”

Such vague statements from the administration about restructuring the library have provoked serious concerns about the human and academic cost. Library workers have received mixed messages about the security of their jobs, and students and workers held a rally last week when the University refused to take lay-offs off the table. “As a member of the No-Layoffs Campaign I am grateful for the solidarity this group is showing to the library workers whose jobs are threatened by the restructuring process,” said Sandra Korn, a sophomore at the College who is also a member of the Student Labor Action Movement. 

“Our concern for the library staff is certainly the major motivation for this Occupation. More broadly, we are exploring how we can play a more active role in the production and ownership of scholarship.” said Fenna Krienen, a graduate student in Psychology. “Libraries quite literally house stored knowledge; rather than passively absorb it, we ask: what happens when we collectively and critically engage with these spaces of learning in a more intentional way?”

Arizona Law Would Make It Illegal to Teach Law, History or Literature

This post was originally published at the invaluable StudentActivism.net and is re-posted here with permission. Follow @Studentactivism on Twitter to keep up with the latest in campus activism news.

Just when you thought the Arizona legislature was out of bad ideas.

SB 1467, newly introduced in the Arizona State Senate, would force schools and universities to suspend, fine, and ultimately fire any teacher or professor who “engage[d] in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the federal communications commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio.”

For the first offense, you’d get a one-week suspension without pay. For the second offense, two weeks. For the third, a pink slip.

As Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes, this law would not only block the teaching of such classics as Ulysses, The Canterbury Tales, and Catcher in the Rye, it’d prohibit historians and law professors from competently discussing campus free speech regulations, since the most important Supreme Court case in that field hinged on a jacket with the slogan “Fuck The Draft” written on it.

It’s also worth noting, as Lukianoff does, that the bill would regulate professors’ actions outside the classroom, which means that merely writing the paragraph above — in a blogpost, a scholarly article, even a private email — would get you suspended.

But it’s even worse than that.

Note the language of the bill: You’re violating the law if you engage “in speech or conduct” that would violate FCC standards if “broadcast on television or radio.” Not public speech or conduct. Speech or conduct, full stop.

If this law passes, it will be illegal for any “person who provides classroom instruction” in the state of Arizona to have sex.

Or pee.


From Nation Interns: This Week's Top Stories (2/9)

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: 

Cairo, Hers Again,” by Ahdaf Soueif. Guernica, February 2012.

This is a story of the Egyptian uprising as seen by a writer who contemplates the personal history of her city and her evolving relationship with it. A subtle essay with a unique perspective, Ahdaf Soueif reclaims Cairo from a tumultuous political history and makes it her own again.


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

Atomic Bread Baking at Home,” by Aaron Bobrow-Strain. The Believer, February 2012.

What starts out as the author's lighthearted attempt to re-create the perfectly homogenized, soft and insipid industrial white loaves that are emblematic of 1950s America becomes an investigation of the politics of healthy eating in America. As he traces the rise of industrial food through one essential product, Bobrow-Strain demonstrates how layers of research, marketing and nationalism influence us as we troll the aisles of the grocery store, and raises surprising questions about contemporary food reform movements.


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

Amid NGOs Foreign Funding Row, Poll Shows Most Egyptians Oppose US Aid,” by Reem Abdellatif. Daily News Egypt, February 7, 2012.

A recent Gallup poll shows the vast majority of Egyptians would like to see US-funded NGOs gone, along with the $1.5 billion in military and economic finances the US gives to Egypt every year, in exchange for its peace with Israel.  Compare this to the media blitz by American officials and publicly-funded NGOs, who are angry about the Egyptian government's investigation into their activities in post-Mubarak Egypt. Dozens of their workers in Egypt have been arrested under suspicion that the NGOs are operating without a license, instigating strife between the army and civilians, and supporting the campaigns of political parties favorable to the West.

Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power and political culture:

Yes, Nonviolence, Even Now,” by Daniel Serwer. Peacefare.net, February 8, 2012. 

This week, Daniel Serwer, a lecturer and scholar in Conflict Management at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a former leader of innovation and peacebuilding at the United States Institute of Peace, made efforts to reassert the term nonviolence into geopolitical debates over how and how not to approach the currently escalating crisis and conflict in Syria. Amidst growing calls for armed intervention or for the offering of material support to the Free Syria Army (FSA), which could amount to civil war, Serwer points out that insurgent action against the Assad regime could provoke an even deadlier response from a government that has already killed hundreds of its own citizens. In his words, “There is nothing inevitable about the fall of this or any other regime — that is little more than a White House talking point. What will make it inevitable is strategic thinking, careful planning, and nonviolent discipline. Yes, even now.”

Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations.

House GOP Memo: ‘Abortion Is the Leading Cause of Death in the Black Community,’” by Nick Baumann. Mother Jones, February 6, 2012. 

This article is not really about race, because the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act are not really about race, either. House Republicans who are backing the bill—which is essentially a thinly disguised attack on abortion rights—are disingenuously and disrespectfully appropriating anti-racism rhetoric to advance their wholly unrelated agenda. This week, Mother Jones obtained a memo that illustrates just how artificial their "cause" really is.


Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights.

In The Daily Beast, Niall Ferguson Says: Bomb Iran,” by Haroon Moghul. Religion Dispatches, February 6, 2012.

Even after the Iraq war went so horribly and gruesomely wrong, the loss of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis didn’t discourage Niall Ferguson from advocating a war on Iran and suggesting that we are on the “eve of creative destruction.” In this piece, Haroon Moghul forcefully counters Ferguson’s “commonest” arguments.

Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender. 

Dividing by Three: Nepal Recognizes a Third Gender,” by Kyle Knight. World Policy Journal, February 1, 2012.

The LGBT rights movement in Nepal is a mere six years old, and yet the Nepalese government is one of only a handful of countries that officially acknowledge a third gender option in government documents, providing an alternative for trans-identified citizens. (Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India also offer a neutral or alternative gender identification.) But with the most recent Nepalese census ridden with intimidation and discrimination—leaving only three people courageous enough to openly identify as neither male nor female—we have to question the sharp distinction between government acceptance and popular progress.


James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century:

How Britain's Migrants Sewed the Fabric of the Nation,” by Robert Winder. The Guardian, February 5, 2012. 

In profiling several prominent Brits, Robert Winder of The Guardian offers an insightful and conclusive argument against UK Immigration Minister, Damian Green's plans to allow 'only the brightest and the best' to enter the country.


Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare:

Lung Transplant System Often Skips Over Those Most in Need.” The University of Chicago Medicine, January 31, 2012. 

At an annual meeting of thoracic surgeons held last week, researchers reported that our current lung transplant system, which allocates donated lungs based on geography rather than need, appears to increase the number of patients who die waiting. This press release, which has been republished on several other websites, does more than just report on the findings; it provides poignant anecdotes and historical context, as well.

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

Syrian Rebel Leadership Is Split,” by Ivan Watson and Omar al Muqdad. CNN, February 7, 2012.

A lot of media coverage of Syria right now is focusing on what the international community is doing, or failing to do, to address the situation in Syria. This article calls attention to a different and perhaps more important complication—the fact that those who oppose and fight the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are far from united in their opposition. They include civilian and military leaders, inside and outside of Syria, with many claiming to represent the opposition.


Help Stop Pomona College's Outrageous Anti-Immigrant Actions

An article in the New York Times last week described how Pomona College recently fired many long-term campus workers, all them immigrants.  The incident has ignited a furious debate about the rights of immigrant workers and responsibilities and ideals of institutions like Pomona College.  As the Times notes, “the campus is deep into a consuming debate over what it means to be a college with liberal ideals.” 

According to the article, students, faculty and alumni are “accusing the administration and the board of directors of betraying the college’s ideals.” Hundreds of alumni have pledged not to donate money to Pomona. Students have staged repeated protests, some of which are featured in this three-minute video, along with an interview with Congresswoman Judy Chu, who represents East LA and parts of the Inland Empire. “They were workers who put their sweat, blood and tears into the college, and they desire better," Chu said. (Watch the video.)
It is no accident that many of the fired workers were organizing a union. The video puts a human face on the story. In the three-minute video, Carmen, an 11-year Pomona College dining hall office worker, tells how she was fired late last year after the college’s Board of Trustees demanded that she and her co-workers reproduce their papers to work in the US. One man involved in the decision to investigate and fire the workers is Paul Efron, Pomona College’s board chairman and advisory director at Goldman Sachs. Efron was a Goldman partner for years.
The National Labor Relations Board has leveled charges against the College for violating federal labor law. How can you help fix this outrageous injustice?  Shining a public spotlight on Pomona College’s actions and putting pressure on its board are the best ways to get justice for the immigrant workers who were fired.
There are at least two things you can do:
First, go to the “Justice at Pomona” website and send a message to Mr. Efron, the chair of Pomona College’s Board of Trustees.
Second, spread this message to other people you know via Facebook and Twitter.

Funding for Berkeley Child Care Programs In Doubt

This article was originally published by The Daily Cal. Follow the paper on Twitter to keep up with its excellent local (as well as campus) coverage.

The financial future of Berkeley’s public preschool and child care programs have been thrown into flux now that Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for the upcoming school year has been released.

Though the state’s proposed cuts presented in January will not be finalized until the budget revision in May, the Berkeley Unified School District is already looking for ways to remedy an expected $568,200 deficit resulting from a 10 percent reduction in state funding slated for preschool and child care programs for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Currently, the district has three preschool programs of different lengths — three hours, 6.5 hours and 9.5 hours — which serve a total of 449 preschoolers who have not yet entered school. Although the district’s need-based child care program — which serves 252 students of low-income families — called Berkeley’s Excellent Academic Road to Success, the BEARS program, will be affected, the main priority right now is preschool, according to Zachary Pless, district supervisor for extended learning programs.

“It’s really difficult to plan ahead,” Pless said. “Unfortunately we don’t know (anything) for certain, only what we have learned in the past.”

The three proposals the board members considered at their meeting Jan. 25 for dealing with the cuts to preschool classes ranged from keeping the status quo — by using the district’s general funds to make up for the funding discrepancy — to eliminating the three 9.5-hour classrooms.

“Based upon what we know now, our intentions are not to change the programs in any way that is within our control,” said board director Karen Hemphill. “Because we don’t know what the cuts are going to be, we can’t promise parents anything.”

Sandra Farmer, one of seven teachers at the district’s Franklin Preschool, said the cuts of the past few years have impacted the quality of care given to students. The longer, 9.5-hour programs are all filled, Farmer said, and although the six-hour programs are helpful, she said she thinks they do not serve the real needs of parents who work long hours.

“I’ve been a teacher for over 38 years, and I’ve never seen anything like what’s happening right now,” she said. “I’m just appalled that so much money is spent on everything else except for child development.”

In the scenario that the school district keeps all of its existing programs, Hemphill said the district has a financial “cushion” from saving money over the past years.

“The reason we (saved up money) was because sooner or later, we knew we were going to need it,” she said.

At the district meeting, the board indicated that keeping these programs is vital for parents and students, even if it is necessary to spend district reserves to keep them the way they are now, Pless said.

The board also discussed the newly proposed eligibility requirements for parent income that will exclude some parents whose income currently allows them to pay just a portion of the total cost for subsidized day care, according to Pless.

For UC Berkeley senior and parent Melissa Barker — whose eight-year-old daughter attends one of the school district’s child care programs at Emerson Elementary — the problem lies not with the schools but within the system. A low-income student who pays $50 per month for child care, Barker said paying child care after college is going to be a subject of worry in the near future, especially if the eligibility continues rising.

“As a parent in California, I have a lot of anxiety about my daughter’s education,” she said. “I can get all the education I want, but where is my daughter getting it from?”

According to Pless, of the initial 10 percent that was cut from these programs’ budgets last year, the state gave back about four percent, which Pless said can be used to fill the hole that could be left by next year’s cuts.

“The state has changed its mind,” he said. “The problem is that we’re the messenger, and sometimes the parents lose trust in us.”

Freshman Pens Petition To Rid NYU Of Homophobic Chick-fil-A

This article was re-posted from the invaluable NYU Local.

The latest in the Chick-fil-A saga is a petition that has surfaced online, written by Gallatin freshman Hillary Dworkoski. In the past we’ve brought you news of the conservative chain, and how to avoid eating their homophobic chicken. Now Dworkoski is hoping to change the Chick-fil-A, housed in Upstein, from an avoided eatery to a nonexistent one.

Hosted by change.org, her petition reads:

While Chick-fil-A denies having an “agenda against anyone,” an investigation by Equality Matters revealed that Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, WinShape, donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2009 alone. That $2 million supported groups such as Focus On The Family, Exodus International, and the Family Research Council.

 And New York City’s only Chick-fil-A is located in a cafeteria in a New York University dorm.

 NYU prides itself on being a diverse, open and inclusive campus community. Unfortunately, maintaining a contract with an anti-gay vendor like Chick-fil-A undermines what makes this university so great.

 While the NYU Student Senators Council recently voted not to remove vendors for political reasons, they did allow that the school could remove vendors that violate human or labor rights. As Secretary Clinton recently announced, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” As such, I respectfully request that NYU remove Chick-fil-A from campus.

Posted on January 20th, the petition has already obtained 758 signatures.

Dworkoski felt compelled to take action because she saw a disconnect between the ideals of NYU and Chick-fil-A.

“The main reason I decided to go to NYU out of the many schools I applied to was because NYU is the only place I felt like I could truly fit in and the student body is incredibly diverse and accepting.  This was really important to me in choosing schools and I expected that NYU would be completely accepting of all types of students.

“When I first heard that Chick-fil-A was anti-gay, I was really surprised that it had remained for so long despite the large number of LGBT students at NYU, so I decided to try and do something about it.  That’s when I made the petition,” said Dworkoski.

“The reason I chose to do it on change.org is because it allows people from all around the world to sign, and they have.  I haven’t created a physical petition, but many other students have been sharing the link on facebook, which has really helped get the word around,” said Dworkoski.

Dworkoski has encountered some frustrations. She said, “Some students disagree merely because they love the food at Chick-fil-A.  This has been very hard.”

But Dworkoski is determined. “I hope to gain as many signatures as possible in order to put pressure on the university to remove Chick-fil-A.  They need to take responsibility for their actions,” said Dworkoski. She is optimistic that within a few weeks the petition will reach 5,000 signatures.


From Nation Interns: This Week's Top Stories (2/2)

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:

France: Abusive Identity Checks of Minority Youth.” Human Rights Watch, January 26, 2012.

As concerns about safety erode into dangerous excuses for personal violations, this article from Human Rights Watch serves as a sobering reminder of police power, institutional racism and individual freedom in everyday France. The personal stories of the young men about their experiences with invasive and unwarranted "identity checks" add a unique first person element to an important and sobering story.


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

Design o’ the times: Empowering Minorities to Shape Urban Landscapes,” by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson. Grist, January 31, 2012.

The landscape of urban America is often painted as a troubled one: the city as an incubator for disease and crime, a smog-hued emblem of social, economic and environmental catastrophe. Dickinson looks at architecture and design as active forces that both reflect the values of our society as a whole and shape the character of local communities. She offers a hopeful vision of how participatory design could make for cities that work for, rather than against, health and empowerment.


Umar Farooq focuses on the worldwide movement for democracy:

Growing Irrelevance of the Indian Ayatollah,” by Praveen Swami. The Hindu, February 2, 2012.

The recent decision of the Indian government to bar Salman Rushdie from speaking at a literary festival has reignited Indian discussion of secularism. In this piece, religious extremism is predictably blamed on poverty, and the author pits "civilization" (equated with capitalism) against faith. While the article's historical and contemporary assertions are dubious, it represents an important mindset among South Asia's educated seculars, who often peek over the India-Pakistan border to see what their neighbor is up to.


Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power and political culture:

Seymour Hersh and John Pilger on U.S. Imperialism, Iran’s Imaginary Nuclear Weapons, and Media Complicity in War,” hosted by Dr. Helen Caldicott. If You Love This Planet, January 20, 2012.

In a recent edition of If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott, a physician and expert on nuclear and environmental dangers, spoke with renowned journalists Seymour Hersh and John Pilger about how and why mainstream media is so unwilling to report the big picture truth of what major national powers are doing. Hersh demystified the IAEA report on Iran and what he called the P5 “dance against the Iranian bomb, that frankly most people understand doesn’t exist.” In turn, Pilger observed, “The most important weapon in the armory of great power in these wars is to convince the public at home that they are not colonial wars, that they have a real purpose that involves the people of the country.” He added, “What I am implying is that the media is an extension of organized power.”


Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations:

Christie Says Like Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Rights Movement Could Have Been Settled Through Ballot Referendum,” Tom Hester. Newsroom New Jersey, January 25, 2012.

Though he has since apologized, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's comments last week are deeply troubling, and point to a persistent misunderstanding about the civil rights movement in the United States. In short, Christie suggested that the civil rights movement could have accomplished its goals through ballot referenda. The unstated, erroneous assumption here is that a majority would have approved civil rights protections for minorities. Christie and other officials considering marriage equality legislation right now need to understand that an important function of the legislative process is to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority--and should be used as such.


Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights:

Boston College Researchers Drink with the IRA, and Academics Everywhere Get the Hangover,” by Harvey Silverglate. Forbes, January 25, 2012.

What happens when an academic institution is thrown in the middle of a political dispute and is pushed to share a confidential research study? Lawyer Harvey Silverglate raises important points regarding the latest court order forcing Boston College to reveal certain testimonies of former of IRA members documented in its Belfast Project. He argues that unlike journalists, academics are not accustomed to having to stand up to government demands for confidential information.


Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender:

Land Rights for Women Can Help Ease India's Child Malnutrition Crisis,” by Renee Giovarelli. The Guardian, January 20, 2012.

Despite robust economic growth, a recent study showed that 42 percent of children under five in India are malnourished, with rates of maternal mortality, low birth weight and malnutrition comparable to sub-Saharan Africa. But giving women the right to own land could help combat these statistics—new research in developing countries has indicated that if the woman of the house owns land, families are likely to have better education, nutrition and health. Women are considered a lower class in India—but it's not just about gender equality anymore.


James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century:

Europe's Lost Generation: How it Feels to be Young and Struggling in the EU,” by Viola Caon. The Guardian, January 28, 2012.

This simple but striking feature on the crisis in Europe sets a human face to the all-too-familiar youth unemployment statistics. Reports from Greece, Spain and Italy illustrate how Europe's youth, the so-called lost generation, is worst hit by the austerity measures gripping the continent.


Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare:

GSK's Andrew Witty on the Future of Pharma Collaboration to Help Poor Countries,” by Sarah Boseley. The Guardian, January 31, 2012.

In this article, Sarah Boseley attempts to cut through evasive diplomatic responses in order to find out how thirteen Big Pharma CEOs, whose companies "used to fight tooth and nail," decided to work together in launching an initiative to eliminate or control neglected tropical diseases. Given that companies like GlaskoSmithKline, Pfizer and Abbott are going so far as to open their compound libraries, which contain information about potential drug treatments that have yet to find commercial application, Boseley's question seems quite appropriate.


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

Exclusive: Leaked Syria Observers' Report Details Failings of Mission,” by Colum Lynch. Foreign Policy, January 31, 2012.

With regard to Syria, two crises appear to be going on—an extremely violent, urgent and destructive one inside the country, and a completely different one outside. In the latter, international organizations such as the Arab League and the United Nations have pathetically failed to constructively address the violent crackdown, casting serious doubts upon both the utility and intent of efforts such as observer missions and Security Council resolutions.

Occupy Colleges Organizes Solidarity Wednesday

Tomorrow, February 1, 2012, Occupy Colleges will participate in National Solidarity Day with Occupy Oakland, with a heavy heart but a decisive voice: Violence against unarmed activists – anywhere – is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. This call to action is a result of a day of police violence at Occupy Oakland’s January 29 rally where over 400 activists were arrested and many injured as waves of beatings, projectiles, tear gas and flash grenades were shot at unarmed activists.

Occupy Oakland was rallying in an attempt to seize a vacant building it hoped to transform into a haven for the homeless and a community hub. However, as activists neared the building, Oakland Police formed a line of defense around the abandoned dwelling and blocked any attempts of marching onward in any direction. A community was awakened and more activists joined the standoff, which inched forward only to be pushed back. Relations were peaceful until OPD decided to disperse the marchers with an excess of force and intimidation. Batons were used and tear gas was thrown before bullets were fired into this crowd of unarmed men and women. The scene played out again and again throughout the day as activists, whose only crime was an unyielding will to rally for a cause, were met by violence, more bullets, gas and flash grenades. At least one woman was shot unconscious during this attack. As activists surrounded her in order to protect and relocate her, OPD fired bullets and tear gas directly at them.

Since October 2011, the Oakland Police Department has arrested more than 600 Occupy activists. At least 400 activists were arrested on January 29 alone, including 7 members of the press when the OPD refused to honor press passes by several media members, again violating standard procedure.

OPD’s extreme measures are what has given the OPD notoriety among the citizens it is supposed to serve. Its civil rights violations predate Occupy Wall Street and include planting evidence, beating up and robbing suspects. As a result of these and other violations, OPD is currently serving a five-year consent decree, meaning its daily operations are under court supervision. Moreover, according to crowd management policy specifically implemented to address abuse of powers in the past, they must “use minimal amount of force and intimidation” when managing crowd control. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, a Berkley alumna with a history in activism herself, is the controversial and divisive mayor at the helm of the OPD and has been quoted as supporting and opposing Occupy Oakland all in the same month. 

This call to action is in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and all city and campus Occupies across the nation who have been victim of police violence and intimidation tactics. It will include an all day strike, with protesting students gathering in a centrally located area on campus. This is a peaceful protest and all organizers are encouraged by Occupy Colleges to take the Pledge of Non-Violence. 

Please log on to Occupy Colleges website for a list of participating schools, to register your school or to learn more about how to organize a group or event at your university.

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