Allison Kilkenny on protesting the “fiscal cliff,” Liliana Segura on Ben Jealous and the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, Liz Webster on a new Innocence Project for women, Robert Dreyfuss on the military’s targeting of Afghan kids, and the editors on a labor prize for John Nichols.


FIGHTING ‘FISCAL CLIFF’ FICTION: As conservative lawmakers stoke a media-generated panic over the so-called fiscal cliff, Americans across the country have begun pushing back. The protests began when members of ACT UP staged a mock Thanksgiving meal outside John Kerry’s home in Boston, putting pill bottles on their plates instead of food and saying they want Kerry to fight for full funding of the threatened AIDS programs. Soon thereafter, three AIDS activists from Vocal-NY were arrested after they stripped naked before the office of House Speaker John Boehner. “We wanted to strip away the rhetoric of the fiscal cliff,” director Sean Barry told The Washington Post, adding that the cuts would affect tens of thousands of people. In Maryland, activists protested at the office of Representative Andy Harris, with Carl Widell of Organizing for America Eastern Shore saying that the congressman has “never [cast] a vote for the middle class.” (Harris’s office responded with the usual tired “raising taxes on the wealthy stifles job creation” sound bite.) Protesters in Wisconsin lined the sidewalk outside Representative Sean Duffy’s office to send a “clear message,” according to Wisconsin Action: “Put the middle class ahead of millionaires and end tax breaks for the top 2 percent.”

In New York, activists staged a protest on the Staten Island Ferry targeting lawmakers like Representative Michael Grimm. “Will you stand up for regular New Yorkers who need help?” the Strong Economy for All Coalition asked. “Or do you stand with
the millionaires and billionaires?” 

And in Tennessee, protesters will gather in Jackson in order to support President Obama’s call for pressure on Republicans. “He asked us to be behind him—the same message that got him elected,” resident Alma Jones told reporters. “He needs supporters.”   ALLISON KILKENNY

A LEGACY TO BE PROUD OF: On December 3, at The Nation Institute’s annual gala dinner, NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous was awarded the 2012 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, an honor presented to those who have “challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work of significance.” Perry Rosenstein, president of the Puffin Foundation, describes Jealous as “a front-line fighter for justice and equality, and a visionary who sees the interconnected nature of all kinds of human rights struggles.” Jealous has also reinvigorated the NAACP, with membership in the historic civil rights organization growing three years in a row, for the first time in more than twenty years.

On particularly prominent display that night was Jealous’s passion for ending the death penalty. Formerly the program director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty—and once an investigative journalist who exposed injustices in the criminal justice system—Jealous has put the issue at the center of the NAACP’s work. He fought hard against the execution of Troy Davis in September 2011, alongside Davis’s sister, Martina Correia, a courageous activist who succumbed to breast cancer mere months after her brother was killed by the State of Georgia.

Correia’s son, De’Jaun, was Jealous’s guest at the dinner. Upon accepting the prize, which is accompanied by $100,000, Jealous said it would allow him to “keep a sacred promise” he made to Davis and his sister before they died: “That I would continue to support Troy’s nephew and Martina’s son in his journey from boyhood to manhood, no matter what happened. A significant portion of this money will be used to help pay for De’Jaun’s college education.” In addition to carrying on his family’s legacy, De’Jaun says he plans to go to Morehouse College and study engineering.   LILIANA SEGURA

A WOMEN’S INNOCENCE PROJECT: In November, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law launched the Women’s Project, the first-ever legal clinic to focus exclusively on women’s wrongful conviction cases. The center, founded in 1998, has represented four women and dozens of men convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. One of its clients, Kristine Bunch, was freed in August after sixteen years in prison for the alleged arson murder of her young son. Bunch will be retried based on new evidence that the fire was an accident.

Among those exonerated,  said Karen Daniel, co-director of the Women’s Project, a higher percentage of women than men were charged with harming a loved one, and a much higher percentage were convicted of crimes that never took place (such as false accusations of child abuse or a murder charge in a case of suicide or accidental death). Out of sixty-seven women exonerated, forty-two were convicted of such nonexistent crimes.

“There are some pretty sexist things that come up in women’s cases, and we’re interested in cataloging that,” Daniel says. “These factors are not unique to women’s cases, but they occur more often.”

For more information on the Women’s Project, visit   LIZ WEBSTER

MILITARY SAYS KIDS ARE COMBATANTS: In October, I reported an incident in Afghanistan in which three children were killed by a US airstrike, an incident that drew little attention. The kids, ages 8, 10 and 12, were blown to pieces in a NATO bombing while they were out gathering dung for fuel.

Now, in a despicable article in the Military Times, an Army officer and a Marine official assert that children are legitimate targets in the war in Afghanistan because sometimes the Taliban and other insurgents use them for operations. A December 3 article headlined “Some Afghan Kids Aren’t Bystanders” questioned “whether the children were ‘innocent,’” claiming they had been seen “digging a hole in a dirt road” and quoting an Army officer who said that “in addition to looking for military-age males,” his unit is “looking for children with potential hostile intent.”   ROBERT DREYFUSS

SOLIDARITY FOREVER: Every year, the American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark gives the Sol Stetin Award to two people who have made important contributions to “the well-being of working people.” We are proud to report that our own John Nichols was a winner this year. D. Michael Langford, national president of the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, was honored as well. Congrats!

John Nichols was The Nation’s first blogger and is still on the beat, with an ear to the ground for movement among the grassroots. The latest dispatch on his blog explains why “The FCC Must Not Give Rupert Murdoch More Control Over US Media.”

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