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Your Guide to Meaningful Action

Demand a Senate Investigation Into America’s Secret Government

The CIA

(Reuters/Larry Downing)

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s allegations that the CIA spied on a Senate investigation of torture under the Bush administration raise serious questions regarding the separation of powers and Congress’s ability to monitor US intelligence agencies. These allegations are only the latest in a series of revelations demonstrating the need for a full accounting of the abuses of our intelligence agencies.

TO DO

Join The Nation and Daily Kos in calling on Congress to launch an independent investigation into America’s secret government.

TO READ

In 1975, a Senate select committee known as the Church Committee uncovered CIA plans to assassinate foreign leaders and FBI spying on peace and civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. Recently, Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., the chief counsel for the Church Committee and recent recipient of the Ridenhour Courage Prize, took to the pages of The Nation to call for a “new Church Committee,” one that would serve as “a new nonpartisan, fact-based and comprehensive investigation of our secret government.”

TO WATCH

Last week, Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr. went on HuffPost Live to discuss his article and his call for a new Church Committee.

Tell Apple to Protect Its Workers From Dangerous Chemicals

Workers make electronic parts in a factory in Sichuan province

A supervisor inspects as employees make electronic parts at a factory in Suining, Sichuan province. (Reuters/stringer)

Seventy-five percent of the world’s population owns a cell phone, billions of which are made in China. As the demand for cheaper consumer electronics grows, workers are paying the price.

There are hundreds of chemicals that are routinely used in electronics manufacturing processes in China—some are known carcinogens and reproductive toxins, and others are largely untested. Manufacturers do not readily disclose the chemicals they use and factories do not typically provide adequate training or protective gear. Workers exposed to these dangerous chemicals can develop cancer, leukemia, nerve damage, liver and kidney failure, and reproductive health issues, depending on the chemical and level of exposure.

TO DO

Join The Nation and Green America in calling on industry leader Apple to commit to eliminating benzene, n-hexane and other harmful chemicals from its supply chain. With millions of people working in its supplier factories in China, Apple’s leadership on this issue could make a big difference.

TO READ

Head to Green America’s “Bad Apple” campaign site to learn more about the use of toxic chemicals in the electronics industry.

TO WATCH

In the short film Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics, documentary filmmaker Heather White tells the stories of workers in China who struggle for recognition and compensation after discovering that they have been poisoned by toxic chemicals at their jobs.

Oppose the Nomination of Ted Mitchell to the Department of Education

Ted Mitchell

Ted Mitchell, then president and CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund attends the New York Times “Schools for Tomorrow” conference panel. (AP Photo)

In October, the Obama administration nominated Ted Mitchell, the chief executive of the NewSchools Venture Fund, to become under secretary of the Department of Education. While the nomination has flown largely under the radar, the choice represents a sign that the administration is favoring greater privatization of public education.

As Lee Fang pointed out last December, Mitchell’s connections to for-profit colleges and the movement toward privatization raise real questions about his commitment to public education. On top of his work with the NewSchools Venture Fund, Mitchell has connections to powerful education corporation Pearson and to Salmon River Capital, a venture capital firm that helped found the for-profit college Capella University. Furthermore, until he stepped down to prepare for his confirmation process, he was on the advisory board of Students Matter, the organization funding a legal challenge to teacher tenure in California.

TO DO

Write your senators and tell them to oppose Ted Mitchell’s nomination as Under Secretary of the Department of Education.

TO READ

Over at City Watch LA, Gary Cohn detailed the concerns advocates for public education have over Mitchell’s nomination.

TO WATCH

Last spring, Education historian Diane Ravitch spoke at Occupy the Department of Education about the dangers of privatization and the Department of Education’s failure to stand up to corporations profiting off our education system.

Tell President Obama: End the Hypocrisy on International Law

President Obama speaks about national security

President Obama speaks about national security. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

President Obama has denounced Russia’s military intervention in Crimea, calling it a “breach of international law.” Russia’s actions deserve criticism but, as a new campaign from RootsAction points out, the United States is hardly beyond reproach. Despite protestations from around the globe, our government routinely violates international law with drone strikes and missile attacks in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

TO DO

Sign RootsAction’s petition calling on President Obama to end the United States’s own violations of international law.

TO READ

In her column for the Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel calls for a sane, common sense approach to the crisis in Ukraine.

TO WATCH

On CNN’s Amanpour this week, vanden Heuvel reiterated her call for diplomacy and for “some sober perspective” from politicians in the Unites States, Russia and Ukraine.

Stop the Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger

Comcast building

The Comcast Center, second left, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Comcast recently announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable. If the merger is approved, the country’s two largest cable providers would become one powerful behemoth that would control a massive share of our TV and Internet-access markets.

John Nichols summed up the danger of the merger:

Merging the two largest cable providers is a big deal in and of itself—allowing one company to become a definitional player in major media markets across the country—but this goes far beyond cable. By expanding its dominance of video and Internet communications into what the Los Angeles Times describes as a “juggernaut” with 30 million subscribers, the company that already controls Universal Studios can drive hard bargains with content providers. It can also define the scope and character of news and public-service programming in dozens of states and hundreds of major cities—including Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, DC.

TO DO

The merger would be bad for consumers, bad for our free press and bad for democracy. Tell FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that he must stop the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.

TO READ

In her column for The Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel explained why the proposed merger “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

TO WATCH

Earlier this week, Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! interviewed former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who discussed the dangers of the deal, saying that it “should be dead on arrival.”

Whom Should TED Talks Invite to Speak About Abortion?

Abortion-rights activist

Abortion-rights activist and National Organization for Women (NOW) member Erin Matson, right, and others, holds up a signs as anti-abortion demonstrators march towards the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

After Jessica Valenti reported that TED Talks had featured no talks on abortion, and that they believed it did not fit into “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights,” TED staff responded by saying that the quote was taken out of context and that they “welcome talks and conversations on abortion as a social justice issue.”

Valenti has pointed out that she was quoting directly from a TED staffer and posted a screen grab of their email exchange. Even more importantly, it is undisputed fact that TED has never hosted a talk on abortion and that it has yet to commit to doing so.

TO DO

There are countless brilliant writers and activists TED could invite to speak about abortion. Use their online form to suggest your favorite reproductive justice speakers. You can also join a robust online discussion using the hashtag #AbortionTEDTalks

TO READ

The issue of self-described feminist institutions avoiding “controversial” issues goes beyond TEDWomen and TED Talks. Jessica Valenti reports on the rise of feminist “empowerment elites” and what their popularity means for feminist movements.

TO WATCH

Along with The Nation, NARAL Pro-Choice America was at the forefront of holding TED accountable. Watch its President Ilyse Hogue debate Live Action’s Lisa Rose on CNN’s Crossfire.

Tell Congress: We Must Rein in the NSA

A reporter takes a mobile phone picture of National Security Agency (NSA) Direct

A reporter takes a mobile phone picture of National Security Agency (NSA) Director U.S. Army General Keith Alexander. (Reuters)

On Tuesday, February 11, more than 5,000 websites are participating in “The Day We Fight Back ,”a worldwide day of activism in opposition to the NSA’s mass spying. The day is also intended to honor activist and technologist Aaron Swartz and to mark the two-year anniversary of the mass online protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

The coalition is asking Americans to support the USA Freedom Act, a bipartisan effort to rein in the worst abuses of the NSA. The bill would end the bulk collection of Americans’ records, allow communications providers to disclose the number of surveillance orders they receive, mandate the government publish how many people are subject to surveillance orders and make public significant FISA court opinions.

TO DO

To truly end the NSA’s out-of-control surveillance and abuse of power, we need real reform. Write to your representative and senators now and tell them to support the USA Freedom Act. To amplify your voice, call the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 or tweet using the hashtag #StoptheNSA. Then head to TheDayWeFightBack.org to find out more about today’s coalition.

TO READ

In the inaugaral article at First Look media, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald reveal that the NSA is using analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, to locate targets for lethal drone strikes—and that as a result, innocent people have died.

TO WATCH

This video by The Day We Fight Back celebrates the life of Aaron Swartz and the causes, including the fight against mass surveillance, that he fought for.

As Support for Raising the Minimum Wage Grows, Call on Congress to Get On Board

A protester at a rally to support raising the minimum wage in Maryland

Darlene Handy of Baltimore holds up a sign during a rally to support raising the minimum wage in Maryland. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)  

In the week since President Obama announced that he would raise the minimum wage for federal contractors, there has been growing momentum to do the same for low-wage workers across the country. The governor of Connecticut called on his state legislature to raise its state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and lawmakers in states from West Virginia to Minnesota to Washington are debating changing their own laws. Meanwhile, activists with organizations such as Fast Food Forward and Good Jobs Nation continue to mobilize low-wage workers across the country.

The latest PEW poll on the issue revealed that 73 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. While it’s difficult to get any bill through an intransigent Congress, it’s clear that support for this much-needed change is increasing.

TO DO

Join The Nation and Campaign for America’s Future in calling on Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015.

TO READ

Earlier this year, Bryce Covert at Think Progress reported on a study that showed that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could lift nearly 5 million people out of poverty.

TO WATCH

Last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out that the popularity of raising the minimum wage could be a real winning issue for Democrats as the 2014 midterms approach.

Tell President Obama to Give Federal Contract Workers a Raise

Federal contract workers strike

Federal contract workers strike in July of 2013. Courtesy of GoodJobsNation.org

As his 2014 State of the Union address nears, President Obama has said that he’s willing to use executive actions to circumvent a gridlocked Congress and to take real steps to fight inequality. He could start by giving a raise to millions of federal contract workers.

According to the National Employment Law Center (NELP), three out of four workers in service-industry federal contract jobs make less than $10 per hour and only eleven percent have employer-provided health insurance. Of the workers that NELP interviewed, fifty-six percent admitted to having trouble paying their monthly bills.

TO DO

The president has indicated that he’s considering an executive action and activists are hoping that he’ll make an announcement during his State of the Union address. To help keep up the pressure on the president, sign our petition urging him to give federal contract workers a raise.

TO READ

Last week, employees working under federal contracts—including around fifty food service and janitorial workers at the Pentagon—walked off the job. At Salon, Josh Eidelson covered the strike and the growing movement to improve the pay and working conditions of federal contract workers.

TO WATCH

This video created by Good Jobs Nation, the coalition behind last week’s strike and previous actions, looks at the organizing that got the movement to where it is today.

Don’t Let Congress Sabotage Diplomacy With Iran

Senate majority leader Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh.)

The Obama administration is in the midst of negotiating a peaceful solution to Iran’s nuclear program but a bill introduced by Senator Robert Menendez could destroy this historic opportunity.

The Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act would force new sanctions, which could lead to Iran abandoning diplomatic talks. It would also set up unrealistic parameters for a deal and express the sense of Congress that the United States would “stand with Israel” should the country take “military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Fifty-nine senators—including sixteen Democrats—have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors. While some supporters have indicated they may wait to give diplomacy a chance, it’s still possible that this potentially disastrous piece of legislation could pass.

TO DO

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has so far refused to bring the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act up for a vote. Join The Nation, Daily Kos, Code Pink, USAction and Win Without War in calling on Reid to continue to stand strong against pro-war senators.

TO READ

The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss breaks down the catastrophic effect this bill would have on the possibility of peace with Iran.

TO WATCH

This week on All In, Chris Hayes took to task the sixteen Democratic senators who co-sponsored the bill, comparing their support to Democrats’ support for the Iraq War in 2003 and imploring them not to drag the country into another conflict.

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