A WIN FOR THE USPS: When the Postmaster General announced in February that Saturday mail service would end, the decision was presented as a done deal. But then thousands of Americans took a stand. The coalition that formed against the plan, including the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association and community activists from New York City to North Dakota, pushed back with a campaign that culminated in a March 24 “National Day of Action.”
The message was simple: postal cuts harm communities, small businesses and working families; the only beneficiaries are private delivery firms that have become major campaign contributors. The demand was simple: Congress and postal officials should “Save Saturday Service.”
The campaign worked. On April 10, the USPS board of governors rescinded the postmaster general’s decision. The same day, President Obama’s budget proposed easing the requirement that the postal service pre-pay retiree benefits seventy-five years into the future—the source of most of its financial woes—and adopted some of Senator Bernie Sanders’s proposals to give the service more flexibility to compete. The fight to save the postal service is far from finished. But workers and communities are winning real victories—and creating a model to fight the rest of the austerity agenda. JOHN NICHOLS
TRAGEDY AND COURAGE: One of the heroes of the Boston Marathon attack was antiwar activist Carlos Arredondo, who was at the finish line when the bombs exploded. Arredondo, trained as a first responder, leaped into action to tend the wounded.
Arredondo had been waiting for a runner who was dedicating his race to Arredondo’s son Alex, a marine killed in Iraq in 2004. Arredondo turned that personal tragedy into a mission for peace, driving to demonstrations all across the country to tell the story of his son. I met Arredondo and his wife, Mélida, in 2008, during a protest at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. Along with members of groups like Vets for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, they marched behind a flag-draped empty casket with military fatigues, dog tags and a pair of boots resting on top. Carlos and Mélida had driven all the way from their home in Massachusetts with the casket jutting out from the back of the car. The goal was to draw as much attention as possible. “We purposely rode for twenty-four hours,” Mélida said, “so that people who want to forget and instead go shopping cannot.”
Alex’s death wasn’t the only painful loss the Arredondos have suffered. In December 2011, their other son, Brian, committed suicide. As Mélida told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! the day after the Boston tragedy, “To be quite honest…Carlos and I have been trying to just stay sane and have been working real hard to promote awareness about suicide, both in the military and among military families.”
Like Tomas Young, the dying Iraq War veteran who recently penned an open letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Arredondo was among the subjects of the “War Is Personal” series by documentary photographer Eugene Richards, published in The Nation from 2006 to 2008. To read his searing recollection of the day he learned of Alex’s death, visit TheNation.com. LILIANA SEGURA
STARS UNITE TO END LEGAL INJUSTICE: In a country that locks up more of its citizens than any other nation in the world, a star-studded cast is working to bolster the visibility of the invisible—and put the brakes on mass incarceration. On April 9, a coalition of more than 175 artists, actors, faith leaders and academics sent a letter to President Obama calling for a slate of reforms, among them reduced prison time for inmates locked up under the 100-to-1 sentencing disparities for crack versus powder cocaine; a panel to review requests for clemency that come to the Office of the Pardon Attorney; the Justice Safety Valve Act, which lets judges set aside mandatory minimum sentencing requirements; and the Youth PROMISE Act, which focuses on gang intervention and violence prevention.
The cast of reform advocates is wide-ranging: from noted civil rights activists like Julian Bond, to thought leaders like Michelle Alexander, to an award-winning lineup that includes Jennifer Hudson, Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith. The coalition was brought together by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and author Boyce Watkins.
“We need to break the school-to-prison pipeline, support and educate our younger generations, and provide them with a path that doesn’t leave them disenfranchised, with limited options,” Simmons says.
In mid-April, the coalition unveiled a twenty-four-month plan of action involving hearings across the country, state and federal advocacy, and a national bus tour. For more information, visit DrugPolicy.org. JAMES CERSONSKY
LOOPHOLES FOR ALL! Just in time for April 15, activist-artist Paolo Cirio invited taxpayers to protest tax evasion by using an “offshore tax haven”—just like the biggest businesses do. He calls the project “Loopholes for All,” arguing that 80 percent of hedge funds have their companies registered anonymously in the Cayman Islands to avoid the taxes they’d pay at home. Cirio has not only hacked the Caymans’ registry site; he’s created certificates of authentication for the rest of us using the information he uncovered.
A fellow at the Eyebeam Art & Technology Center, Cirio calls Loopholes for All a “service to democratize offshore business for people who don’t want to pay for their riches. It empowers everyone to evade taxes, hide money and debt, and get away with anything by stealing the identities of real offshore companies.”
Is it legal? PayPal doesn’t think so: it suspended the account of Loophole4All.com, freezing the $700 already raised by selling the identities of Caymans-registered companies. “PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for items that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity,” the company said.
But Cirio is sticking to his art, insisting that he’s promoting a form of civil disobedience and subverting corrupt and unjust laws by facilitating a collective performance. PayPal, he points out, is a company based in Luxembourg, an “offshore” country that provides a haven for some $145 billion not taxed by any home country. Watch Cirio’s interview on GRITtv.org. LAURA FLANDERS