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Demand that Cops Stop Acting Like Soldiers. Plus: How to Help in Ferguson

Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised in Ferguson, MO

Police wearing riot gear walk toward a man with his hands raised in Ferguson, Missouri. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

When residents of Ferguson, Missouri, took to the streets to protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, they were met with assault weapons, armored vehicles, tear gas and police decked out in full riot-gear. A community already suffering the loss of one of its own found their town occupied by what appeared to be a paramilitary force.

If the police looked ready to fight a war, it’s because that’s what their equipment was designed for. Much of it came courtesy of the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which sends “surplus military equipment” to police departments. Since 1033 was introduced in the late 1990s, the federal government has sent $4.3 billion worth of military hardware to local and state police forces. The program has a particularly brutal effect on communities of color, as it is used primarily to execute the disastrous and racist “war on drugs.” While the images in Ferguson have just recently become familiar to many, police have long used SWAT teams outfitted in military gear to serve warrants for arrests for minor drug crimes, terrorizing whole communities and sometimes injuring or even killing people in the process.

TO DO

This fall when Congress is back in session, Representative Hank Johnson will introduce the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, which would end the federal government’s policy of sending military equipment to local communities. Write to your representatives and demand that they fight to end the militarization of the police. Then, to help people in Ferguson right now, donate to one of a number of worthy causes: you can help the Brown family collect the funds needed to pursue justice for their son, contribute to the bail or legal fees of protesters who have been arrested or pay for food for children of Ferguson who may go hungry while school remains canceled. There’s also a campaign to fund independent journalistic coverage of what is happening on the ground in Ferguson and CREDO is raising funds to keep up the progressive livestream it has launched with WeActRadio. You can also call the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office and demand that he take action against Officer Darren Wilson.

TO READ

At The Nation, Alex S. Vitale argues that at the root of militarized policing is “a cynical politics of race that has perverted criminal justice policies” that focuses on “the management of poor and non-white populations through ever-more-punitive practices.”

TO WATCH

While it is crucial that we demilitarize the police, law enforcement doesn’t need tanks and body armor to terrorize communities of color. On her show on MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry reminds us how familiar Michael Brown’s story is, as she gives voice to nine black men recently gunned down by police officers and points out that between 2006 and 2013, white police officers killed a black person at least two times a week.

Tell President Obama: Stop Corporate Deserters

President Obama demands "economic patriotism" from corporations

President Obama demands "economic patriotism" from corporations that seek overseas mergers to avoid US taxes. (AP Photo)

We all pay our taxes. Why shouldn’t multibillion-dollar corporations? Thanks to corporate inversions, many highly profitable companies are stiffing the United States government of billions of dollars that could be used to fund vital social programs. By buying a foreign company and reincorporating overseas, these corporations are able to avoid US taxes even while they enjoy the benefits of keeping much of their operations located here. The practice is getting more popular; currently, more than a dozen countries are plotting to change their address.

TO DO

Because politicians depend on these same tax dodgers for their campaign funds, Congress isn’t going to do anything about this problem. But President Obama has promised to do so. We need to demand that he take the strongest action possible to stop these corporate deserters. Tell the president to sign an executive order that prevents corporations from deserting America by pretending to be located offshore.

TO READ

In her column for The Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel explains the politics surrounding corporate inversions and argues that we must address the “underlying disease” that ultimately allows so many powerful corporations to avoid paying their fair share.

TO WATCH

On The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert lays out the absurdity of corporate inversions: “It’s like me adopting an African child, then claiming myself as his dependent.”

 

A Step Toward Holding Colleges Accountable for Campus Sexual Assault

Students protest their school's handling of sexual assault

Photo courtesy of Know Your IX

Earlier this month, The Nation partnered with Know Your IX, a national survivor-run campaign to fight campus sexual violence. Together we called on Congress to give the Department of Education the tools to hold colleges accountable for their treatment of sexual assault. This morning, a group of senators introduced a bill that would do just that.

Title IX is famous for its impact on women’s sports, but the law also requires schools to protect students from gender-based violence. Our campaign asked Congress to give the DOE the authority to impose fines on schools that violate students’ Title IX rights by not protecting them from sexual violence. The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights has never once sanctioned a school for sexual assault-related violations. Part of the reason is that the current option at their disposal, the full removal of federal funds, is too onerous. Senator McCaskill called it an “idle threat” that is “like having no penalty.”

Between the petition hosted at The Nation and another at Change.org, we collected over 11,000 names in favor of the change. Along with lending their support to the campaign, many shared their stories with us, and the reasons they were demanding reform. A number of supporters said they lacked faith in institutions’ treatment of victims; one woman wrote, “My daughter was raped going down to the ladies room at night while studying in the campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She never even told me until years later. She thought no one would do anything about it.” Another commented, “I graduated college in 1983. This was an issue then. Why has nothing been done in thirty-one years?”

Called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators that included Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill and Republicans Marco Rubio and Dean Heller. Wagatwe Wanjuki, a member of Know Your IX, spoke at the press conference, as did other survivors and advocates. In addition to fines, the bill would require schools to make public the results of annual anonymous surveys on sexual assault on their campuses, ensure minimum training standards for staff handling sexual assault complaints and require colleges to implement uniform procedures for handling complaints, forbidding them from allowing subgroups, such as athletic departments, to handle accusations for their group alone.

Members of Know Your IX see the legislation as an important step forward in holding colleges accountable for their treatment of sexual assault. “We’re glad to see this bipartisan effort, rooted in students’ experiences on the ground and their recommendations, moving forward,” they said. “It’s a promising step toward building campuses that are safe for students of all genders.”

Color of Change Targets Members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the Fight to Preserve Net Neutrality

A demonstration for net neutrality

(Courtesy: Flickr user Steve Rhodes, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s been nearly two months since the Federal Communications Commission announced new rules that could destroy net neutrality, and the fight to preserve the open Internet is heating up. Earlier this month, Color of Change (COC), an organization devoted to strengthening the political voice of black Americans, took aim at ten members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for being on the wrong side of the fight. The representatives—who COC points out have taken large amounts of money from the telecom industry—signed a letter attacking one of the key steps needed to protect net neutrality: reclassifying Internet service as a public utility. In a petition directed at the ten representatives, Color of Change stressed the high stakes of the campaign:

By signing a letter attacking the FCC’s proposal to protect net neutrality by reclassifying Internet service as a public utility, you are assisting big phone and cable companies in threatening the Internet as we know it. You have taken thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the telecom industry, and now you are putting the telecom lobby’s agenda above the interests of your constituents and of Black America. Your actions threaten both the Black voice in national and international discourse, and the moral authority of the Congressional Black Caucus as an advocate for Black America.

TO DO

Sign Color of Change’s petition to members of the Congressional Black Caucus calling on them to fight to protect the open Internet.

TO READ

The need to reclassify Internet service as a public utility became all the more apparent after an appeals court ruled early this year that, under the current classification, the FCC could not enforce its Open Internet Order to preserve net neutrality. At The Root, Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson broke down the implications of that decision for communities of color.

TO WATCH

In a bit that famously sent so many viewers to the FCC’s website that it crashed, John Oliver hilariously explains the debate over net neutrality.

Want Colleges to Protect Students From Sexual Assault? Take Action to Give Title IX Teeth

Protest at Amherst College

Photo by Jisoo Lee

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to be partnering with Know Your IX to demand appropriate consequences for colleges that fail to address sexual assault and rape on their campuses. We’re publishing this piece by Alexandra Brodsky and Dana Bolger of Know Your IX to give our readers a chance to find out more about this vital campaign.

Last July, members of Know Your IX were busy preparing for our national protest to pressure the Department of Education to hold colleges accountable for how they handle campus sexual assault. As we put the finishing touches on posters and chant sheets, two organizers got to chatting about school administrators. Wagatwe Wanjuki and John Kelly realized that they had both been raped at Tufts University, six years apart. Both had turned to the school for help; in both cases, the school failed to support and protect them. And both, they discovered, had felt the brunt of this institutional betrayal from the very same dean. He had been at the center of Wanjuki’s complaint half a decade before and still, as Kelly experienced firsthand in 2013, he continued to deny students not only basic respect and empathy but also their civil rights.

You’d think the university would have gotten it right by now.

Know Your IX is a national survivor-run campaign to end campus sexual violence by educating students about their Title IX rights and empowering them to hold their universities accountable for violations of the civil rights law. Many people think Title IX is just about women’s sports, but in fact it prohibits all forms of gender discrimination in education, including sexual violence and harassment. As part of their Title IX responsibilities, schools that receive any federal funding must actively combat gender-based violence and respond when students of any gender are harmed. When they don’t, they deny survivors access to the full range of educational opportunities available to their peers: as many survivors can attest, it’s impossible to pursue a full range of educational opportunities when you’re studying, eating and sleeping on the same campus as your rapist.

Yet despite the promise of Title IX, student survivors’ experiences—and federal complaints—indicate that few schools respect students’ rights.

Sexual assault on college campuses has dominated the news as of late, as outlets from The Nation to The New York Times examine the crisis and United States senators hold roundtables and hearings to discuss it. The current national outcry over campus sexual violence may be new, but the violence itself isn’t—and the Department of Education knows that. This isn’t the first time that many of the schools currently under investigation for Title IX violations by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights are facing scrutiny. The OCR has investigated several universities, including Tufts, multiple times in the last decade alone.

Fortunately, the federal government is beginning to recognize what students have known for too long: investigations alone won’t spur schools to make real changes. We’re heartened by the department’s new efforts to give Title IX teeth. For example, in response to student demonstrations like our protest last year, this spring the OCR published a list of the dozens of colleges and universities currently under investigation for Title IX violations—an unprecedented move on the agency’s part and an important first step to hit universities where it hurts: their reputations.

But we can’t stop there. A major reason Title IX hasn’t been effective in ending campus sexual violence is that school administrators know the Department of Education doesn’t hold schools accountable for violating the law: in its entire history, the OCR has never sanctioned a school for sexual assault-related violations. Instead, even when the government exposes terrible abuses, it gives schools second (and third, and fourth) chances to improve—with devastating consequences for students like John, who suffer assaults at schools where students have been complaining about policies and administrators for years. Just as campus rapists have perpetrated violence while confident their schools will never hold them accountable, so too do universities flout their legal responsibilities without fear of repercussions.

This needs to change. Unfortunately, the OCR has only one tool expressly at its disposal to sanction schools: the complete removal of federal funds. This measure is far too blunt an instrument, and would hurt the very students it means to help by drying up financial aid and educational opportunities—perhaps why, in part, the department has been reluctant to issue formal findings of noncompliance in the first place.

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That’s why Know Your IX and our partners ask that Congress provide the OCR with the explicit authority to levy fines against schools in violation of Title IX. These sanctions would send a clear message to schools (and the country) that their institutional violence and civil rights violations won’t be tolerated. While the fines alone might not convince a school to change—and while they should not be so onerous that they harm current students—the resulting headlines, read by prospective students and alumni donors across the country, will be unambiguous; in the prestige game of American academia, a rape fine would deal a deep blow.

We wish we lived in a country where we could appeal to schools’ moral compasses—but US colleges and universities have proven time and again that they won’t take sexual violence, and equal access to education for all students, seriously, until they have more at stake. We need to speak to them in the twin languages they understand: money and reputation. Armed with the power to levy fines, the OCR could ensure that it is more expensive for schools to violate survivors’ rights than to respect them.

Now is our opportunity. Senators Claire McCaskill, Kirsten Gillibrand and Richard Blumenthal are looking to introduce legislation this fall to combat campus sexual violence. They know, as we do, that the OCR needs more tools at its disposal. And they’ve already held a series of roundtables to discuss, among other reforms, the possibility of issuing legislation granting the OCR fining authority. Join Know Your IX and The Nation in calling on Congress to fight to make Title IX’s forty-two-year-old promise a reality.

Here’s Something Patriotic You’ll Want to Support

President Obama and solar panels

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden tour the roof of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with Blake Jones, CEO and President of Namaste Solar, to view the museum's solar panel installation. (AP Photo/Pool, Darin McGregor)

In the early 1940s, faced with the destruction wrought by the Great Depression and a brewing world war, the United States government established the Victory Bonds program. Through the creation of affordable government-backed bonds, the program gave Americans of modest means the chance to invest in their country during crises that called for immediate action.

Today, the fight against climate change demands that same urgency. That’s why The Nation is joining Green America in calling on Congress to pass a bill creating Clean Energy Victory Bonds (CEVB).

Backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, CEVBs will allow any American to invest as little as $25. Advocates for the bill expect the sale of the bonds to raise up to $50 billion, which will then leverage an additional $100 billion from private and public investors. The money raised would fund essential tax credits to renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as companies specializing in energy-efficiency. These investments have the potential to lessen the demand for fossil fuels, reduce the amount of CO2 poured into the atmosphere, and create one million good US jobs.

TO DO

This July 4th weekend, show your patriotism by joining Green America and The Nation in calling on Congress to pass the Clean Energy Victory Bond Act of 2014.

TO READ

Truly addressing climate change cannot happen just through investments in clean energy; as Chris Hayes pointed out in an essay for The Nation this spring, we can only avert planetary disaster if we leave destructive sources of energy in the ground—and if we force fossil fuel companies to forgo trillions of dollars in profits.

TO WATCH

Earlier this spring, members of the Yes Men joined with indigenous activists to demonstrate what a truly bold energy policy would look like. Posing as US government officials, they spoke at the Homeland Security Congress, announcing a plan to convert the United States to one-hundred percent renewable energy by 2030. The activists then went on Democracy Now! to discuss their prank.

Tell President Obama: No Military Force in Iraq

Iraqi funeral

An Iraqi mourner waves an old flag of Iraq during the funerals of victims killed in clashes with security forces in Falluja, January 26, 2013. (Reuters/Thaier Al-Sudani)

As Iraq suffers again from bloody sectarian conflict and potential civil war, many of the same pundits and politicians who supported the US invasion in 2003 are now advocating for military intervention once again. This is the wrong response. As Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote in her column for The Washington Post, “We learned in 2003 that when we move in with guns blazing, we tend to spark a lot more fires than we extinguish. In 2014, we cannot afford to learn this same lesson.”

There have been numerous reports that President Obama is considering military involvement in Iraq. Even if limited to airstrikes, military action would inflame sectarian divisions in the country and that would almost certainly kill civilians.

TO DO

Join The Nation, RootsAction and Iraq Veterans Against the War in calling on President Obama to refrain from using militarily force in Iraq.

TO READ

The Editors at The Nation make the case against military intervention.

TO WATCH

At Democracy Now!, Iraqi-American blogger Raed Jarrar discussed the history of US intervention in the region and explained how military force would only make the deteriorating situation worse.

Join Elizabeth Warren in Fighting the Student Loan Debt Crisis

Elizabeth Warren speaks about student loan debt

Elizabeth Warren speaks at the launch of the Higher Ed Not Debt campaign in Washington, DC, March 6, 2014. (Generation Progress/Layla Zaidane)

This morning, when President Obama announced his own executive action to give student loan borrowers some relief, the president also lent his support to the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. The bill, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren, would let graduates refinance their student loans, just as they are able to refinance their car loans or mortgages. For many borrowers, this change is critical; while students taking out new undergraduate loans now pay an interest rate of 3.86 percent, millions of students with outstanding debt are stuck paying nearly 7 percent. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) estimates that the bill would save borrowers a total of $14 billion.

With 40 million borrowers owing a total of $1 trillion, the student loan debt crisis is truly an emergency. While Warren’s bill is only a small step toward addressing the ever-mounting cost of higher education, its passage could make a real difference in the lives of students currently crushed under the weight of student loan debt.

TO DO

The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act is expected to come up for a vote on Wednesday, June 11. Join The Nation and AFT in calling on the Senate to give student loan borrowers some relief.

TO READ

Who exactly is gaining from the astronomical rise in student loan debt? In late May, Michelle Chen wrote about a study from the Debt and Society Project that detailed the massive profits Wall Street makes off of higher education. As Chen reports, between student loans and borrowing by institutions (often for amenities that have little to do with educating students), debt-related payments to the financial sector account for one tenth of all spending on higher education nationwide.

TO WATCH

To accompany the Debt and Society Project report, Dog Park Media released a video illustrating Wall Street’s “skim” off higher education and its contribution to the ever-rising cost of college.

Join the ‘Not One More’ Campaign to End Gun Violence

Richard Martinez

Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, speaks at a memorial service in honor of the victims of Friday's Isla Vista rampage in Santa Barbara, California. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

After his son, 20-year-old Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, was killed in the Santa Barbara shootings in late May, Richard Martinez shared a powerful message:

Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: “Not one more.” People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.

Shortly afterward, Everytown for Gun Safety launched a campaign allowing people to do just that. So far, over half a million people have answered the call.

TO DO

Join The Nation and Everytown for Gun Safety and tell your elected representatives that not one more person should die because of our broken gun laws. Everytown for Gun Safety will print and deliver a postcard to your senators, representative and governor.

TO READ

The shootings in Isla Vista have lead to conversations about much more than guns. At The Nation, Rebecca Solnit explored the ways in which the hashtag #YesAllWomen shed light on the “pandemic of hate toward and violence against women” that women experience every day.

TO WATCH

Martinez bravely spoke out just a day after his son was killed, condemning “craven” and “irresponsible” politicians and stating, “You talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live?”

Want To Do Something About Climate Change? Stop Cove Point

A protest against Cove Point

A protester speaks out against the Cove Point liquid natural gas export terminal (Susan Yin)

Earlier this spring, The Nation partnered with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) to call on President Obama to reject Cove Point. A proposed 3.8 billion liquid natural gas (LNG) export facility in southern Maryland, Cove Point would help keep the United States on the path to massively increased greenhouse gas emissions. While the president hasn’t addressed the project, a federal agency recently put out a call for public comments on Cove Point.

On May 15, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released an “Environmental Assessment” of Cove Point. While FERC states that the proposed plant would have no “significant” overall impacts on the environment, activists and outside scientists are vehemently disagreeing. The CCAN said that the report “defies basic facts and sweeps serious dangers under the rug” and criticized its failure to take into account the full scope of greenhouse gas emissions that would be triggered by the project or the huge incentive to expand fracking that the project represents. In its report, FERC even claimed that there is no proven and direct connection between Cove Point and fracking for gas despite the fact that a major Pennsylvania fracking company—Cabot Oil & Gas—has already signed a contract to ship billions of cubic feet of shale gas to Cove Point for export.

TO DO

It is obvious that FERC has listened to the gas industry; now let’s demand that they listen to us. Send a comment to the agency imploring it to deny Dominion’s application or, at the very minimum, conduct a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement.

TO READ

In March of this year, Mark Hertsgaard explained why activists fighting against Keystone XL should also rally around stopping Cove Point.

TO WATCH

On The Daily Show, Aasif Mandvi tried to explain to a group of Pennsylvania residents the “benefits” of expanded fracking.

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