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Your Guide to Meaningful Action

We Need to End the Student Loan Debt Crisis

Student loan protest

Andrew Bossi, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Americans now owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. With 40 million people burdened by this particularly intractable form of debt and the number growing, this crisis is out of control.

It doesn’t have to be this way. College costs have increased 1,000 percent since the 1970s. Just a few decades ago, you could pay for a public college education with a common summer job. Now, students are leaving school with an average of more than $25,000 in debt. Some have over $100,000.

This is a problem for all of us. Students burdened by debt struggle to make large purchases like homes or cars, dragging down the economy. Furthermore, debt makes it virtually impossible for many students to pursue indispensable careers that offer only modest paychecks, depriving society of potentially life-changing teachers and social workers.

TO DO

To draw attention to the magnitude of this crisis, we partnered with Daily Kos, Working Families, the American Federation of Teachers and number of other organizations to call on our elected officials to forgive all student loan debt. Join us by signing onto the campaign.

TO READ

The United States government already spends billions of dollars on higher education, including subsidies to predatory for-profit institutions with abysmal track records. Strike Debt put together a proposal to reallocate this money to make public higher education free for all.

TO WATCH

Watch John Oliver detail the disturbing absurdities of our student loan crisis: debt that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, for-profit colleges that prey on brain-damaged veterans and funding cuts so bad that a nursing program in North Carolina has a waiting list to get on its waiting list.

Today Is a Big Day for the Internet

A net neutrality rally

Net neutrality rally (Creative Commons)

The FCC voted today to protect net neutrality, and to use Title II reclassification (exactly what open Internet advocates have been demanding) to ensure that it sticks. That means that the Internet will remain an open playing field—no slow lanes and no fast lanes—where small non-profits, every-day people and independent media outlets like The Nation can compete against multi-billion dollar corporate giants.

A hearty congratulations is due to the organizers at Fight for the Future, Free Press, OpenMedia, ColorofChange, the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition, the Center for Media Justice, the Media Action Grassroots Network, Demand Progress and the many other groups who have been at the forefront of this crucial fight.

Our own readers have also continually stood up for the open Internet. Over the past year, Nation readers sent thousands of comments to the FCC. When Congress threatened to get in the way just as the FCC was coming down on our side, they wrote to their elected officials. Finally, this past week they submitted messages and photos to be streamed on a giant Jumbotron right outside the FCC’s headquarters (you can check out some of those messages here).

TO DO

Now that we’ve won, our friends at OpenMedia are using the net neutrality Jumbotron to stream celebratory messages and photos from this past year’s organizing. Click here to send along a quick message of support.

TO READ

Although today is a big deal, we can’t afford to be complacent. John Nichols outlines the challenges that lie ahead to make sure that net neutrality is here to stay.

TO WATCH

Check out Fight for the Future’s video of highlights from this year’s activism.

We Want to Stream Your Net Neutrality Messages on a Jumbotron

net neutrality cat

This cat cares about Internet freedom. So should you (Meghan Sali).

We’ve almost won. Under pressure from millions, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that he will support Title II reclassification, exactly what we need to ensure that the Internet remains a fair playing field for all.

That said, it’s not quite time to celebrate. Telecom lobbyists are pulling out all the stops to undermine real net neutrality before the final vote on February 26. From Time Warner Cable to AT&T to politicians looking to divide the public on what should be a bipartisan issue, we’re up against some powerful players.

TO DO

The FCC has closed formal public comments in the days leading up to the vote. To make sure that commissioners know that we’re still watching, our friends at OpenMedia are setting up a Jumbotron right outside FCC headquarters. Send us your pro-net neutrality messages, images and memes and we’ll display them on the big screen.

TO READ

In The Nation, Mychal Denzel Smith makes a forceful case for the indispensable role that net neutrality plays in #BlackLivesMatter and other contemporary social movements.

TO WATCH

Still confused as to why net neutrality is important? Watch the John Oliver rant that famously broke the FCC’s website.

Tell Congress to Put an Expiration Date on Mass Surveillance

Copy of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Order

Copy of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Order requiring Verizon to hand over information to the NSA (AP Photo).

Key parts of the USA Patriot Act are set to expire this summer—including Section 215, the provision that the NSA cites as justification for the bulk collection of our telephone records.

The spying is so extreme that the original sponsor of the Patriot Act, Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, is urging colleagues to sign a letter asserting that they will vote against reauthorization if the law is not amended to ban mass surveillance.

TO DO

The Nation has joined a broad coalition to call on all members of Congress to sign on to Representative Sensenbrenner’s letter. Urge your elected officials to sign and to commit to ending unconstitutional mass surveillance.

TO READ

Without the brave sacrifices of whistleblowers, most famously Edward Snowden, we would have no idea of the extent of the government’s mass spying. This fall, The Nation spoke with Snowden about the surveillance state, the American political system and the price he’s paid for his understanding of patriotism.

TO WATCH

In the fall of 2013, Fight for the Future and Demand Progress put together a video breaking down the different ways that the government spies on us.

Defend the Clean Water Act

Dirty water

After the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, Americans saw a dramatic decline in the pollution of our waterways. But that progress has been eroded. Policies adopted following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 undermined the Clean Water Act by creating uncertainty about which waterways were covered. Since then, the EPA has failed to prosecute hundreds of polluters who benefit from the confusion, and countless streams, ponds and wetlands are currently threatened, potentially affecting the drinking water of more than 117 million Americans.

TO DO

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a new rule that would help protect these vital waterways but polluters want to block these critical changes. Join The Nation and the Natural Resources Defense Council in calling on Congress to defend our nation’s water.

TO READ

Storm-water runoff is another major source of the pollution in our rivers, lakes and coastal areas. In The Nation, Madeline Ostrander reports on the pollution pressure a growing population is putting on Puget Sound and its impact on the salmon, clams and other seafood and shellfish local Indian tribes depend on.

TO WATCH

In a video accompanying Ostrander’s article, members of the Suquamish tribe and local environmental activists discuss the importance of fishing to the tribe and the local community, as well as the danger that storm-water runoff poses to their way of life.

10 Ways to Help Keep Fish Healthy and Water Clean

Storm-water pipe

Kathryn Davis/Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

“We all live upstream,” says Fran Wilshusen of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, so we all can fight storm-water runoff. The Nation spoke with activists from the NWIFC, the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, the Washington Environmental Council, the West Central Local Integrating Organization and the Suquamish Tribe about what you can do to keep pollution out of rivers and lakes.

1. Limit your use of pesticides and fertilizers.

2. Wash your car in a commercial car wash, not your driveway. If you wash it at home, do so on your lawn, preventing soap from entering storm drains. And fix any fluid leaks in your car promptly, or, as Chris Wilke from Puget Soundkeeper puts it, “Don’t drip and drive!”

3. Scoop your pet’s poop and don’t litter. Not only is it gross to not pick up after your pet or yourself, it’s bad for rivers, streams, and coastal areas.

4. Plant rain gardens or use rain barrels to absorb rainwater where it falls. Rain gardens are built into depressions so that water from impervious surfaces (such as driveways and roofs) will be absorbed into the ground and won’t flow into local waterways, picking up dirt and pollution along the way. (You can find directions for building a rain garden here and a rain barrel here). Some cities, such as Seattle, even offer rebates for residents who build a rain garden on their property.

5. Make sure new developments in your community use green building technologies. The Washington Environmental Council and Resource Media collect stories of local businesses that have cut down on storm-water pollution in this way. For instance, in Seattle, a development called Piper Village uses pervious pavement so that rainwater is filtered on-site. The city of Mukilteo, also in Washington State, built a green City Hall using a combination of pervious pavement, bioswales (gently sloping troughs similar to rain gardens) and a grass-covered roof, which both insulates the building and collects water runoff.

6. Speak out. The Puget Soundkeeper Alliance organized its members to push state regulations that require cities and counties to incorporate green technologies in all new developments, and continues to force companies to comply through citizen lawsuits. Thanks to the organization’s work, Washington State has some of the strongest regulations in the country.

7. Fight for funding to combat storm-water pollution. As Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the West Central Local Integrating Organization and member of the Suquamish Tribe, points out, infrastructure projects can be expensive and hard to fund, so it’s important to support those efforts. Citizens can advocate for state and federal grant programs, or ask their city to implement a storm-water utility fee, a small tax used to fund local infrastructure improvements.

8. Have your state’s water regulations kept up with science? States are responsible for implementing elements of the Clean Water Act and many of their standards are dangerously out of date.

9. Educate yourself and your community. In Seattle and some surrounding cities, storm-water drains are decorated with stencils that tell the community where runoff (and pollution) are going. If you see pollution flowing into or out of storm-water drains, be sure to report it. (You can find out more about Puget Soundkeeper’s monitoring program here).

10. Support the hardworking folks fighting to protect local waterways. There are organizations similar to those we spoke to from Washington state all over the country. Find the people combating storm-water pollution in your community and get involved.

For even more information, read Madeline Ostrander’s piece on storm-water pollution in Puget Sound and check out The Nation’s joint action with the Natural Resources Defense Council to defend the Clean Water Act.

We've Almost Won the Fight for Net Neutrality

Free Press activists rally for net neutrality

Free Press activists rally for net neutrality on President Obama's motorcade route in Los Angeles. (Photo by Stacie Isabella Turk/Ribbonhead, Creative Commons)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that he will support Title II reclassification, exactly what we need to ensure that the Internet remains a fair playing field for all. We’ve almost won the fight for real net neutrality.

But before the FCC votes on the rules on February 26, we have to ensure that cable industry lobbyists and their friends in Congress do not get in the way. They’ve already tried by pushing fake net-neutrality legislation that would protect cable and telephone companies from real oversight.

TO DO

Write to Congress now and demand that your elected officials get out of the way and let the FCC do its job. Then to amplify your voice, use the “Internet Countdown” call tool created by the people behind last year’s “Internet Slowdown.”

TO READ

John Nichols describes how “people power” is winning net neutrality.

TO WATCH

To get yourself pumped to act, watch John Oliver’s now classic rant on net neutrality that broke the FCC’s website.

Demand That Congress Reject ‘Fast Track’ for the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Japanese farmers protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership

 Farmers in Japan protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Reuters/Yuriko Nakao)

While President Obama used his State of the Union address this year to champion progressive policies like free community college, raising taxes on the rich and expanding access to childcare, one of his proposals threatens to seriously harm American workers

The president asked for “fast track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a secretive trade deal that advocates have called “NAFTA on steroids.” After twenty years of NAFTA, it’s clear what these trade agreements do: they push jobs overseas, weaken food- and consumer-safety standards, circumvent environmental laws, restrict Internet freedom and roll back financial protections. The TPP would even empower corporations to sue governments over alleged loss of profits.

Fast- track authority would allow the president to sign the TPP before Congress has voted to approve it, and then railroad the deal through Congress in only ninety days with limited debate and no amendments allowed.

TO DO

Write to Congress and demand a rejection of ‘fast-track’ authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

TO READ

This is a fight we can win. As George Zornick points out, only a handful of Democrats reacted positively to President Obama’s push for the TPP, and a number of members are speaking out against it.

TO WATCH

From increasing drug costs to harming the environment to undermining labor protections, this video breaks down the danger of passing “the dirtiest deal you’ve never heard of.”

Don't Let Congress Kill Negotiations with Iran

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez is among those calling for a bill that would threaten Iran with additional sanctions.(AP Photo/Molly Riley) 

The US, our allies, and Iran are once again at the negotiating table working out a comprehensive agreement that could prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and help avert a disastrous war of choice in the Middle East. But while they work, hawks in the Senate are threatening to introduce new sanctions that could sabotage these crucial negotiations. 

Around this time last year, after thousands of people contacted Congress, Senator Harry Reid decided not to bring a similar bill up for a vote. But with the Republicans in power and with the possibility that enough Democrats could join them to form a veto-proof majority, it is even more crucial that we speak up now. 

TO DO

Sign and send the petition from The Nation and a broad coalition telling your senators: No new sanctions on Iran. Let diplomacy work.

TO READ

In an investigation published by The Nation this summer, Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib look into the big money behind the hawks pushing confrontation with Iran.

TO WATCH

In late October, Democracy Now! spoke to Robert Kelly, who was part of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s team in Iraq in the nineties and early two-thousands, about his fear that the United States could once again use bad intelligence to start a war in the Middle East: “I learned firsthand how withholding facts can lead to bloodshed.”

Blowing the Whistle on Government Recklessness Is Not a Crime

Jeffrey Sterling

Jeffrey Sterling

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling will soon go on trial for providing classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen about a CIA operation that provided flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000.

The charges in the case are unproven. But no one disputes that Sterling told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers about the plan, dubbed Operation Merlin. According to Risen’s book, the operation was ill conceived and dangerous; rather than slow down nuclear proliferation, the CIA risked making it worse.

Furthermore, the legal pursuit of Sterling smacks of selective prosecution. When it suits their purposes, top officials often leak information that is “classified.” As The New York Times wrote: “The government hates leaks of classified information. Except when it doesn’t.”

TO DO

Join The Nation, RootsAction, The Progressive, Reporters Without Borders and a host of other organizations in calling on the Justice Department to drop the charges against Sterling.

TO READ

As Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler argued in a piece for The Nation, the prosecution of Sterling is emblematic of the Obama administration’s approach to national security leaks in general. The Obama justice department has charged more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined—moving the US government toward what Solomon and Wheeler call the “uninformed consent of the governed.”

TO WATCH

In late December, Democracy Now!’s Juan González spoke with Marcy Wheeler about the trial and its significance for press freedom in the United States.

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