Your Guide to Meaningful Action
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
In March of this year, Mark Hertsgaard explained why activists fighting against Keystone XL should also rally around stopping Cove Point.
On The Daily Show, Aasif Mandvi tried to explain to a group of Pennsylvania residents the “benefits” of expanded fracking.
UPDATE: This morning, the FCC voted to move forward with its controversial plan on net neutrality. The fight isn’t over yet, though. The agency will take public comments until July and then schedule a final vote. During this morning’s meeting, Chairman Wheeler stressed his commitment to the open Internet (although his proposed idea for how to go about that does not match up with activists’ demands) and stated that he left open the option to regulate the Internet as utility. Now it’s our job to keep up the pressure on the FCC to do the right thing.
The FCC is expected to vote today on rule changes that could force every web service that can’t pay expensive new fees into an Internet slow lane. The changes would mean the death of net neutrality—the concept that Internet service providers should not be able to discriminate between content.
After the rule changes were leaked in late April, activists and Internet users responded in droves. Hundreds of thousands of people e-mailed the FCC or signed petitions to demand that the agency protect the free and open Internet. Google, Netflix and nearly 150 other Internet companies signed a letter asking the FCC to reconsider its plan and, more recently, thirty-six members of Congress co-signed a letter in support of real net neutrality. Meanwhile, “Occupy the FCC” activists have been camping out at the agency’s DC headquarters for a week.
Today, in a national “Day of Action,” net neutrality advocates will stage a protest outside the FCC building in Washington, DC, as well as smaller protests at FCC offices across the country and numerous online actions. Democracy for America, reddit, the Future of Music Coalition, The Nation and many other organizations have all signed on to step up today in the fight for real net neutrality.
There’s still time to protect the free and open Internet. Join The Nation and OpenMedia in calling on FCC commissioners to say “no” to dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes.
Over at OpenMedia, Eva Prkachin broke down the far-reading effects of a two-tiered Internet. And here at The Nation, our own John Nichols pointed out that despite FCC claims that it is addressing activists’ concerns, only a full commitment to net neutrality coupled with a reclassification of broadband as a public utility can truly protect the free and open Internet.
Free Press, a media reform organization at the forefront of the fight, breaks down the basics of net neutrality.
Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has joined The Nation, RootsAction, the Center for Media and Democracy, FAIR, The Progressive and the Freedom of the Press Foundation to support James Risen, a reporter who has refused to divulge information about a confidential source.
The US government is insisting that Risen testify against Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer who was accused of illegally leaking classified information that appeared in Risen’s book. Risen has said repeatedly that he won’t capitulate, a stance that could land him in jail. After all, as Ellsberg said, “without protecting confidentiality, investigative journalism required for accountability and democracy will wither and disappear.”
The campaign is urgent. Just last month, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court not to take up Risen’s plea to hear his case and affirm a reporter’s privilege against testifying in criminal cases. Risen appealed to the High Court after a federal appeals court panel ruled against his effort last year.
Join Ellsberg, The Nation and a host of other organizations committed to protecting press freedom in calling on President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to halt all legal action against Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.
Josh Gerstein at Politico reports on the Obama administration’s recent decision to urge the Supreme Court not to take up Risen’s case.
Last year, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! covered the Committee to Protect Journalists’s first report on press freedom in the United States. The report asserts that officials are “reluctant to discuss even unclassified information…because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources.”
Earlier this month, The Nation joined Green America and China Labor Watch to call on Apple to stop exposing workers at its supplier factories to deadly chemicals. Over 16,000 people have joined the campaign, hundreds of media outlets have covered it and the technology giant has even responded, although it hasn’t adequately addressed activists’ demands. To make that happen, there’s still work to done and, this afternoon, Green America ramped up the pressure with a demonstration at Apple’s “cube” store located near Central Park in New York City. The store is a popular tourist destination and is one of Apple’s most profitable locations, grossing around $350 million per year.
As we pointed out at the beginning of the campaign, there are hundreds of chemicals routinely used in electronics manufacturing, some of which are known carcinogens and reproductive toxins and some of which have not been tested. Factory workers often do not receive adequate training or protective gear for handling toxic substances. Electronics manufacturers, including Apple, do not disclose the chemicals used in their supplier factories, making oversight and improvement difficult. The ramifications are serious; exposure to dangerous chemicals can lead to cancer, leukemia, nerve damage, liver and kidney failure, and reproductive health issues, depending on the chemical and level of exposure.
There’s some precedent for Apple responding to similar campaigns. In 2012, Greenpeace hosted an action to call attention to Apple’s wasteful energy practices. One year later, the company announced a plan to use 100 percent renewable energy at its data centers.
With millions of people working in their supplier network, another positive change from Apple could make a big difference. If you haven’t already, be sure to join The Nation and Green America in calling on Apple to rid its supplier factories of dangerous chemicals.
The Federal Communications Commission announced this week that it will propose new rules that would allow companies to pay Internet service providers (ISP) for faster lanes to deliver their content to customers. That means that large corporations like Disney or Netflix could pay to have their content delivered more quickly, while small start-ups or anyone without lavish funding would be stuck with slow or low-quality service.
The rule change would be devastating for net neutrality, the principle that ISPs should treat all content on the Internet equally and that users should have equal access to all legal content.
Earlier this year, a federal appeals court struck down rules the FCC implemented in 2010 to protect net neutrality on the grounds that the agency classifies broadband providers as information service providers and not telecommunications service providers, which can be regulated more strictly. As John Nichols points out, it is well within the FCC’s power to reclassify internet access as a telecommunications service and to reassert its authority to protect net neutrality.
Don’t stand by while the internet is transformed into a pay-to-play service. Contact FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and tell him that we need a free and open internet. Then, check out the work of Free Press, a national media reform organizations that has been at the forefront of championing net neutrality.
FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler was appointed by President Obama late last year. As John Nichols points out, Wheeler should take to heart the words of candidate Obama when he “‘got’ that net neutrality represented an Internet-age equivalent of the First Amendment.”
Activists across the country have been working tirelessly to protect the free and open internet. Back in January, Free Press galvanized a coalition of organizations which delivered one million signatures to the FCC demanding net neutrality.
You’ve heard of Keystone XL but have you heard of Cove Point? While it hasn’t garnered the same amount of attention as the infamous pipeline, the proposed $3.8 billion liquid natural gas (LNG) export facility would do serious damage to the local environment and could put the United States on the path to massively increasing our greenhouse gas emissions.
The proposed Cove Point export facility in southern Maryland just fifty miles from the White House would turn natural gas into a liquid to be sent overseas. Much of that natural gas would be obtained through fracking, giving companies a huge incentive to expand the dangerous practice. Furthermore, while natural gas has been sold as a clean alternative to coal, the facility at Cove Point would trigger more planet-heating pollution than all seven of Maryland’s coal plants combined. Finally, while its proponents no doubt want to paint Cove Point as a potential boon for the economy, only the gas industry stands to profit; a recent study commissioned by the Department of Energy found that exporting US gas would raise the price here at home by as much as 27 percent.
According to the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if we’re to limit global warming to just 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels (a level that avoids climate catastrophe, according to scientists), about two-thirds of the earth’s remaining fossil fuels need to stay underground. In the struggle to mitigate the effects of climate change, Cove Point would take us backwards. We need to move forward.
Activists at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) are working tirelessly to make sure that the Cove Point facility never comes to pass and that Maryland instead embraces clean energy alternatives. Join The Nation and CCAN in calling on President Obama to reverse course on his support of LNG exports.
The Nation’s Mark Hertsgaard explains the significance of Cove Point to the larger climate movement and why the liquid natural gas facility is shaping up to be “the next flash point between Obama’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy and the growing grassroots movement to stop global warming.”
In a video, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network breaks down the dangers posed to the climate if Cove Point is built and highlights the hard work of activists fighting to make sure that never happens.
Each day, an estimated 1,100 undocumented immigrants are deported, leaving spouses, siblings and even children behind. The policy has devastating effects on families; between 2010 and 2012, 200,000 parents of US-born children were deported. As a result, at least 5,000 children are in foster care. Although President Obama has claimed to focus deportation efforts on serious criminals, a New York Times study released this April found that two-thirds of the 3.2 million people deported over ten years had committed only minor infractions, such as a traffic violation.
Now, activists are fighting back. Immigrants’ rights advocates have staged a hunger strike outside the White House and have been calling attention to the individual stories of the families who have been separated.
While Congress drags its feet, President Obama could make a real difference in the lives of millions of immigrants and their families. Sign our open letter with Daily Kos calling on the president to listen to immigrants’ rights activists and use executive actions to end mass deportations.
As The Nation’s editors point out, executive action by the president could spur reform by galvanizing electoral support from immigrant communities and by driving a wedge between mainstream Republicans supportive of reform and anti-immigrant hardliners.
Activists from the Not1More Deportation campaign organized by the National Day Laborers Organizing Network explain why they decided to join the White House hunger strike: “Mr. President, we have come to your front door because your agents have come to ours.”
In a case some have called "Citizens United 2.0," the Supreme Court ruled today to strike down caps on the total amount a donor can give to political candidates, parties and political action committees. The case, McCutcheon v FEC, involved a coal tycoon who argued that the laws limiting individual donations to polticial candidates and parties to $123,200 total over two years violated his first amendment rights. Now, wealthy donors can give more than $3.5 million over that same time period. Citizens United allowed Big Business to spend literally as much as it wants. But Citizens United money can go only to outside groups. McCutcheon removes meaningful limits on the total amount an individual can directly contribute to candidates, political parties and political committees.
The good news is that people are fighting back. Public Citizen, Demos, MoveOn and a host of other organizations have organized rapid response demonstrations across the country to protest today's ruling. The demonstrations come in the wake of a growing movement for a “Democracy Is For People” amendment to end unlimited and undisclosed corporate financing of American elections and enable the government to regulate spending by individuals. The amendment would effectively reverse much of the damage of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and help to mitigate the worst excesses of the McCutcheon decision.
Sixteen states and hundreds of cities and towns across the country have already demanded that Congress act to end the ever-growing influx of big money into politics. Join the movement and ask your senators and representative to support the "Democracy Is For People" amendment. Then, if you have the time, head to Money Out/Voters In and find a rapid response protest near you.
Citizens United and McCutcheon aren't the only Supreme Court rulings that are bad for our democracy. As Ari Berman points out, while the court has given the rich more power over our government, they've simultaneously made it more difficult for every day people to even cast a vote.
Back in October, Slate's Emily Bazelon went on The Colbert Report to break down the dangers of the Supreme Court ruling the way it did today.