The OB Media Rundown for 4/23/12

All-day teach-in at Brandeis will focus on the Occupy Movement

Members of the Brandeis faculty, student body and staff have organized an all-day teach-in from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday on the Great Lawn outside the Shapiro Student Center to consider various aspects of the Occupy Movement.

Among the subjects of the sessions are “Media and Occupy,” “May Day and Occupy,” “Israel and Occupy,” “Occupy and Democracy” and many others. Provost Steve Goldstein will welcome participants, President Fred Lawrence will lead discussion of “Occupy as National Teaching Moment” and Environmental Studies Program chair Laura Goldin will hold a session on “Whose Earth Anyway? Environmental Justice for the 99%.” Numerous students and other faculty will participate, as will activists from around greater Boston.

UN to investigate plight of US Native Americans for first time

Many of the country’s estimated 2.7 million Native Americans live in federally recognised tribal areas which are plagued with unemployment, alcoholism, high suicide rates, incest and other social problems.

The UN mission is potentially contentious, with some US conservatives likely to object to international interference in domestic matters. Since being appointed as rapporteur in 2008, Anaya has focused on natives of Central and South America.

A UN statement said: “This will be the first mission to the US by an independent expert designated by the UN human rights council to report on the rights of the indigenous peoples.”

Protesters occupy Berkeley-owned farm tract in Albany

Occupy the Farm, a coalition of local residents, farmers, students, researchers, and activists are planting over 15,000 seedlings at the Gill Tract, the last remaining 10 acres of Class I agricultural soil in the urbanized East Bay area. The Gill Tract is public land administered by the University of California, which plans to sell it to private developers.

For decades the UC has thwarted attempts by community members to transform the site for urban sustainable agriculture and hands-on education. With deliberate disregard for public interest, the University administrators plan to pave over this prime agricultural soil for commercial retail space, a Whole Foods, and a parking lot.

“For ten years people in Albany have tried to turn the Gill Tract into an Urban Farm and a more open space for the community. The people in the Bay Area deserve to use this treasure of land for an urban farm to help secure the future of our children,” explains Jackie Hermes-Fletcher, an Albany resident and public school teacher for 38 years.

Protesters’ furious new front

Post-Occupy, there is a new militancy around student debt that signals a break with the decades leading up to the present mess. “There are groups popping up all over the place who are slowly coming together under one movement,” says Kyle McCarthy, an organizer with Occupy Student Debt and the creator of “Default,” a documentary airing on 140 PBS affiliates. “Our generation has no disposable income anymore. Some of us aren’t getting married, having kids, buying a house. People finally understand this is a huge freaking problem that isn’t going away.”

Indeed, the crisis grows with every graduating class. Amid an anemic recovery, America’s recent graduates continue to default in record numbers; according to some estimates, as many as one in three. Tuition and fees at public and private schools are galloping ahead of inflation, while state funding per student has dropped by nearly a quarter since 2000. The number of students taking on toxic debt in the scandal-plagued private loan sector, where interest rates can tickle 30 percent, has more than tripled during the same period. Activist sites continue to be flooded with stories of student debt hell – of educated 20- and 30-somethings forced to choose between health care, day care and servicing the interest on ballooning student debts the laws ensure they will take to their graves.

Citi shareholders’ rebellion targets CEO dough

The fundamental problem with executive compensation is that a public company’s owners (e.g. the shareholders) are largely locked out of the decision-making, leaving pay decisions to boards of directors that are sometimes inseparable from the executives.

To rationalize their decisions, boards come up with all manner of metrics, such as pegging pay to profits or to the pay at comparable companies. None of this is an acceptable alternative to shareholders making informed decisions on how much they will pay for people to run their companies. Profits can be illusory, even manipulated, as the financial crisis showed. And comparisons with other companies can be arbitrary. The result is a steady upward spiral that serves no one but the executives.

Which is why votes on pay – non-binding though they may be – are so important. At the very least, they show how shareholders are beginning to question practices at underachieving companies. Citi is an obvious place to start. Its share price dropped 45% last year, erasing about $60 billion in shareholder equity and generating little enthusiasm for Pandit’s $15 million bonus.

What a Difference a Day Makes: Life on the Front Lines of Occupy Federal Hall

This group of Occupiers succeeded after eight months of the movement to literally in addition to figuratively “occupy” Wall Street, successfully maintaining their 24-hour vigil in the shadows of the Stock Exchange — month’s after Bloomberg used the NYPD to forcibly break up the aptly renamed Liberty Square a few blocks to the north.

Groups Demand Information on NYPD Crowd Control Policies and Surveillance of Occupy Wall Street Protests

Occupy Wall Street protesters and civil and human rights attorneys filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request demanding that the NYPD disclose all information concerning the policies guiding the law enforcement response to Occupy demonstrations since last September.

The filing comes on the heels of numerous reports by protesters, journalists, and legal observers of continued excessive police force against protesters.

“Assembly and speech rights are core to our democracy. We have been investigating the police treatment of OWS for months, and the policing of OWS has been abusive and unpredictable,” said Emi MacLean, an attorney with the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, a coalition investigating the government response to the protests. “Mayor Bloomberg has described the NYPD as his army. It is, of course, not an army but a civilian police force. And even armies require some measure of transparency and accountability.”

City outlines protest rules for DNC [NC]

The timing and process is very important to Occupy Charlotte, which has been working with national groups to organize large protests. However, their planning is limited until the city tells them where protestors will be allowed.

“The city is claiming they are champions of free speech, when in reality, they’ve made the process quite difficult,” said Michael Zytkow, of the Occupy movement.

He said in Denver in 2008, protestors were allowed to begin the permitting process in March of that year. “Here, they’re claiming it will be July and that will give us only two months to organize thousands of people,” said Zytkow.

Among the issues Occupy plans to focus on: unemployment, foreclosures, and student debt.

Pittsburgh Occupiers staged several protests during tax week

Tax week in Pittsburgh brought out Occupy-inspired activist groups, who disrupted EQT’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, resulting in two arrests and a two-hour recess of the meeting. The not-so-civil disobedience was apparently spurred by both anti-drilling and “We are the 99 percent” anti-corporation sentiment. A more tax-focused protest earlier in the week targeted UPMC, which organizers say doesn’t pay its fair share to help soften looming cuts in public education and public transit.

‘Occupy Earth Day’ Protest Against Chevron Draws About 200 [CA]

Demonstrators gathered at the Richmond BART station late Friday afternoon for an “Occupy Earth Day” protest against the Chevron refinery in Richmond.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin was among the speakers at the protest, which drew about 200 people, according to the Richmond Confidential Web site. The demonstraction included a march from the BART station to Richmond’s Civic Center Plaza.

An announcement about the event on the Occupy Oakland Web site says Chevron “is a perfect example of how the 1% destroys the health and well-being of the 99%.” The protestors accused the oil giant of polluting the air in Richmond and of being greedy in its long-running legal challenges to the property-value assessment assigned to the refinery by Contra Costa County. The assessment determines the property tax that Chevron must pay.

Activists planning “No Bully Iowa” rally at Capitol on Wednesday

A Des Moines activist says he’s organizing a protest at the Iowa Capitol on Wednesday, April 25, as part of an effort to call attention to bullying in Iowa after the death of Primghar teen Kenneth Weishuhn Jr.

The 14-year-old Weishuhn took his life last week. Weishuhn told family and friends that he was gay around one month ago, and reportedly endured weeks of bullying after.

Activist Daniel Bragg, who’s been involved with the Occupy Des Moines movement, says he’s organizing the protest after visiting with legislators and delivering letters at the Capitol last Thursday. Protesters are invited to gather at 10 a.m. on Wednesday on the lower level of the Capitol, and Bragg says the group will then proceed to the rotunda to make speeches.

Let’s Occupy the State Capital [CA]

The reason we went to Occupy Sacramento was because we, Lincoln High School, felt like we needed to speak up for our education. Lincoln High School went because we wanted our voices to be heard and we believe that our education is very important to us. We also believe that it’s wrong to cut students’ academic funding for other purposes.

Did you know that an inmate in a state prison costs taxpayers around $47,000 a year? Schools receive about $5,000 per student annually. Students at Lincoln High are 100% dedicated to bettering our future. Once we got to Sacramento, we walked through a park and all of the protesters were gathered together saying different chants and such.
. . .

I felt like the rally did make a difference, not only at Lincoln High, but throughout California. We cheered, marched, and had a good time at the rally. I think the thing that made the biggest difference was that it was more than one community, more than one city, that came together and united as a team to stand together in something we believe in.

Court orders release of Occupy Dataran activist [Malaysia]

The Magistrates’ Court denied an application to remand Occupy Dataran activist Omar Mohd Azmi, and ordered the police to wrap up their investigations and release him today.

Lawyer Syahrezan Johan told The Malaysian Insider the police were still holding Omar for questioning and the latter is expected to be charged in court tomorrow for allegedly obstructing a public official from discharging his duty, an offence under penal laws.

The offence is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine of up to RM10,000, or both.

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