Category Archives: Vital Signs

Hawking Joins Boycott; Foreclosing on Wells Fargo; Cooper Union Gets Occupied

Stephen Hawking Joins BDS Movement: This week, Professor Stephen Hawking threw his weight behind the academic boycott of Israel pioneered by the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, refusing to attend a June conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. In a letter written to Peres, Hawking announced he had decided not to attend the conference, in the words of a statement published with Hawking’s approval, “based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.” In 2009, Hawking visited Israel and the West Bank and denounced Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, remarking that “the situation is like that of South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue.”

Foreclosing on Wells Fargo: Protesters in downtown Los Angeles briefly shut down the branch of a Wells Fargo bank on Tuesday to draw attention to its foreclosure practices. About 80 activists, some of whom were owners of foreclosed homes, blockaded the bank’s entrance for half an hour in an action organized by Occupy Fights Foreclosures, an Occupy Los Angeles subcommittee. The group, which has been defending a home in East Los Angeles for six months, pressures banks to negotiate with underwater homeowners. In several cases, it has taken dramatic direct actions to keep families in their homes, such as barricading the houses to prevent law enforcement and mortgage companies from entering .

Cooper Union Occupation: On May 8, students at New York’s Cooper Union occupied the President’s office, days after the startling announcement that the historically free school would begin charging tuition to undergraduates. At least 50 students took over President Jamshed Bharucha’s office and signed a statement of no confidence, which has been circulating among students and faculty. The Students For A Free Cooper Union have been waging a war of publicity and direct action against the administration’s fight to erode the full scholarship it awards to every student, which activists claim is a hallmark sign of the neoliberal trend in education.

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Occupy Earth Day; BDS Movement Expands Its Reach; How to Strike for Education

Occupy Earth Day: On Earth Day this year, 75 protesters staged an occupation of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)’s offices in Pennsylvania to protest what they called its “failure” to protect the Allegheney River from the fossil fuel industry. Meanwhile, a coalition of more than 60 environmental groups staged similar actions throughout the state as part of an ‘Earth Day protest against fracking’. The coalition demands an end to Marcellus shale gas extraction, comprehensive reports on levels of water contamination, and an expansion of state-wide renewable energy programs.

Mexican Teachers Take Over Highways to Protest Education Reforms: On April 22, thousands of teachers in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero went on strike to protest new education measures put into place by Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto. Last week, teachers armed with Molotov cocktails and metal bars blocked key highways in a series of demonstrations that have gained in intensity since Nieto’s bill was signed into law in February. As 42,000 children are left without classes, and parents, along with community members, may begin to hold their own classes in local parks.

BDS Movement Expands Its Reach: This week, Members of the Association for Asian American Studies voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions, becoming the first American scholarly institution to join the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Their resolution states that the boycott is “in protest of the illegal occupation of Palestine”, in which Israeli academic institutions are “deeply complicit”.

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Togo Teachers Strike; Miners Cheer Maggie’s Death; Anti-Nuke Protesters Stage Blockade

Togo Teachers On Strike: On April 15, thousands of students demonstrated in the West African nation of Togo to demand better working conditions for their teachers, who have been on strike for a week. One student was killed and another wounded when security forces fired into the crowd. Public and private schools were closed in the capital city of Dapoang following the protests.

Miners Cheer Maggie’s Death: As Margaret Thatcher’s coffin passed through London Wednesday, hundreds of protesters in the audience turned their backs to her, shouted insults such as ‘what a waste of money’ or ‘Tory scum’, or otherwise demonstrated against the former Prime Minister and her neoliberal regime. Several communities that once bore the weight of a government crackdown on striking miners held celebrations, while other progressive communities used the day to reaffirm their commitment to social justice.

Anti-Nuke Protesters Arrested During Blockade: Nearly 50 people were arrested outside of the Faslane naval base in Argyll, Scotland on Monday as they demanded that the Trident nuclear weapons stored in the base be dismantled, and that government funding for the weapons be used instead to promote national welfare, education and health. Members of the Scrap Trident coalition, joined by more than 100 supporters from student, trade union and environmental movements, chained their arms inside sections of drain pipe tubing and blockaded the entrance to the naval base. As tensions heighten in the North Korean peninsula, protesters accuse the UK government of playing up the hype to affirm the need for nuclear weapons.

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Why Daniel McGowan is Back in Prison; Students Protesters Evicted; Drop the I-Word Victory

Daniel McGowan Back in Prison: Earth Liberation Front activist and political prisoner Daniel McGowan was re-arrested by authorities yesterday, only months after being released from 6 years of imprisonment. McGowan was allegedly taken back into custody in response to an article published on the Huffington Post on April 1, in which he charged the Federal Bureau of Prisons with transferring him to a high security prison unit to restrict his political speech. McGowan was arrested in 2006 as part of the Green Scare that saw federal forces crack down on environmental activists nationwide.

Prisoner’s Death Ignites Mass Hunger Strikes in Palestine: On Wednesday, thousands of Palestinian prisoners began refusing breakfast to protest the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh in prison. Hamdiyeh was diagnosed with cancer in January, and lawyers insist he was given only antibiotics and painkillers by Israeli authorities. Protests and mourning erupted throughout Palestine upon news of his death on April 2nd, but it is unclear how long the mass hunger strike by prisoners from all political factions will continue.

Grammatically Speaking, No Human Being is Illegal: The Associated Press has announced that it will drop the phrase “illegal immigrant” from its popular stylebook. Under the new AP guidelines, the word “illegal” can be used to describe an action, such as an illegal border-crossing, but not a person living in a country without legal permission. The decision marks a victory in a campaign by immigrants rights advocates to replace the epithet ‘illegal’ with terms such as ‘undocumented’ or ‘without papers’.

Anti-Privatization Protesters Evicted: On Tuesday, more than 20 students at Sussex University were evicted from a building on campus they had occupied for weeks in protest of privatization at the UK university. In May 2012, Sussex University announced that campus facilities and catering would be privatized, displacing over 200 employees. In response, the group Sussex Against Privatisation has mobilized a wave of protests, including an 8-week occupation of the university’s Bramber House. On Monday, the university was granted permission to evict the students by a high court; the ruling also banned students from “entering and remaining on the campus and buildings of the University of Sussex for the purpose of protest action” without permission from the university.

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Teens Trek 600 Miles Through Snow; Pro-Palestine Subway Ads Unveiled; North Dakota Abortion Fight

Cree Teenagers End Trek Through Snow: Last week, six Cree teenagers from Canada concluded a ten-week, 600-plus-mile journey on foot to Ottawa, the nation’s capital, on behalf of Cree solidarity as part of the Idle No More movement for indigenous rights. The half-dozen travelers, joined by nearly 300 people along the way, endured snowstorms and temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius, and were greeted with hospitality and kindness in many Canadian towns and cities throughout the way. The Cree activists were inspired by the much-publicized hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, and were given counsel and guidance by leaders of the Cree community.

Pro-Palestine Ads To Grace New York Metro: On March 26, the group American Muslims for Palestine unveiled a campaign of ads it plans to roll out at Metro stations throughout New York City. The ads condemn ‘Israeli apartheid’ and call on the U.S. to stop sending aid to Israel. Timed to coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East, the new campaign comes just a few months after a series of “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad” ads were placed on New York subways by a right-wing activists. Previous pro-Palestinian ad campaigns have graced New York’s subways and Metro-North stations, including one last year by the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine that showed maps of a shrinking Palestinian territory through time.

Six-Week Abortion Ban Draws Fury:  More than 300 pro-choice activists converged in Bismarck, N.D. on March 25 to protest a wave of some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the nation. Three anti-abortion laws were signed by the governor that day, including one measure banning abortion as early as six weeks from conception. The rally was organized by the new Stand Up for Women North Dakota coalition, and occurred alongside rallies in Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot.

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Palestinians Unwelcome Obama; $1 Million in Medical Debt Abolished; ‘Persepolis’ Protests in Chicago

Rolling Jubilee Gains Momentum: Last week, Strike Debt activists announced that they have purchased and forgiven over $1 million in medical debt. The Rolling Jubilee campaign, launched earlier this year, used donations to forgive the emergency room bills owed by 1,000 randomly chosen people in Kentucky and Indiana, acquired for “pennies on the dollar.” Strike Debt has also launched a national week of action to demand cancellation of the country’s medical debt.

Palestinians Unwelcome Obama: On Wednesday, over a hundred Palestinians erected a 15-tent village on a hilltop in the disputed E1 area of the West Bank to protest Barack Obama’s visit to the region. The demonstration represented the latest in a series of Palestinian tent cities erected in defiance of Israel’s plans to build about 4,000 settlement housing units in the controversial E1 area, which would bisect the West Bank and compromise the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state. Palestinian activists assert that the Obama administration has rubber-stamped this state of affairs.

Chicago Students Fight Book-Banning: Nearly 400 students at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep School attempted to stage a sit-in on Monday to protest the Chicago Public School’s removal of the graphic novel series ‘Persepolis’ from its seventh-grade curriculum. The demonstration, organized through Facebook and other social media, started at 8 a.m. with students flooding the hallways, and was broken up twenty minutes later by faculty, who locked the library doors to prevent students from entering. CPS officials say they removed the series of autobiographical novels–which depict the life of a young Iranian woman before, during and after the country’s Islamic revolution–due to their use of strong language and scenes of graphic violence. According to American Libraries, CPS has backtracked on the decision to remove the book from libraries, which students and faculty said amounted to censorship: “Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has reversed a directive to pull Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, from CPS libraries, though she maintains the book is not appropriate for 7th graders and should be removed from classrooms.”

Tar Sands Week of Action: Environmental activists staged a ‘Stop Tar Sands Profiteers’ week of action nationwide to protest companies profiting from the destruction that could be caused by the Keystone XL Pipeline. In New Orleans on March 17, protesters blocked buses full of oil executives headed to the Howard Well Energy Conference, and disrupted corporate dinners throughout the French Quarter. On March 21st, 20 religious leaders from several denominations led an interfaith demonstration at the White House, followed by one at the Canadian Embassy. All in all, over 30 events were planned and executed by over 50 grassroots organizations opposed to the pipeline and the corporations that profit from it.

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The 5 Biggest Corporate Cyberbullies; Detainee Hunger Strike; Standing Up to Socialist Misogyny

Hunger Strike at Guantanamo: Approximately one hundred detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba have gone on hunger strike in protest of indefinite detention under cruel and inhumane conditions, lawyers representing two detainees revealed on Tuesday. The strike is also a reaction to unprecedented searches, confiscations, and desecrations of personal items by a new guard force. After lawyers representing detainees Kuwaitis Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah first broke the news, subsequent lawyers confirmed that their clients have experienced significant weight and blood loss following weeks of refusing food along with most other inmates of Guantanamo’s Camp 6 facility. 166 men remain under indefinite detention at Camp 6, though 86 of them have been cleared for release since 2009.

SWP Imploding Over Handling of Rape Allegations: On Tuesday, 71 people resigned from the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) as controversy continues following allegations of sexual assault committed by a senior member of the party. The SWP leadership has been accused of setting up a “kangaroo court” to address allegations of rape dating back to 2008. The exiting party members asserted that “the SWP leadership has done everything it can to silence members’ genuine concerns on the matter” including bullying, silencing, and expulsions from the party in an effort to suppress the controversy. This is the latest in a string of sexism scandals to tarnish Britain’s far left.

Corporate Enemies of the Internet: To coincide the World Day Against Cyber Censorship on Tuesday, the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders released a special report on Internet surveillance. The “state enemies of the Internet”named in the repor include Syria, China and Iran. At a time when around 180 people are imprisoned worldwide for disseminating news and information online, Reporters Without Borders decries the use by governments of increasingly sophisticated surveillance technology to monitor and intercept electronic communication and arrest citizen-journalists. The report also identifies five “digital era mercenaries”—Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat—that act as “digital era mercenaries” that sell products used by authoritarian governments to violate human rights.

Intervention in Bahrain: Thousands of protesters clashed with military and police forcesThursday near Manama, the capital city of Bahrain. Demonstrators took the streets to mark the second anniversary of the intervention that suppressed the country’s 2011 uprising. Since the country’s Shia majority demanded reforms, political freedom and equality, talks have stalled between opposition forces and the government, which clamped down on dissent through a Saudi-backed military intervention. Though road barricades were erected, Molotov cocktails thrown and tires burnt on the streets of Manama, justice remains to be served to a regime which has killed more than 80 protesters and subjected thousands to imprisonment and torture since the Arab Spring-led uprising.

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