The OB Media Rundown for 4/3/12

Harvard withdraws investments from hotel chain with poor labor practices after protests

Harvard Management Company has chosen not to reinvest in funds managed by HEI Hotels & Resorts, according to an email sent by HMC President and CEO Jane L. Mendillo to University President Drew G. Faust.

Harvard announced in December that it would review HEI’s business practices after drawing criticism from labor activists and unions for investing in the company, a hotel chain which has come under fire for repeated allegations of failure to comply with labor regulations.
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Harvard’s investment in HEI has been a major focus of Occupy Harvard and the Student Labor Action Movement’s platforms.

Occupy Boston Returns to Dewey for April Fools’ Rally. So Do Cops.

At least one group of protest fans expects Occupy to stage a significant Spring comeback. The gushing observers were out in force yesterday, tailing rally-goers on a march through downtown and Faneuil Hall. Sure, Boston police have shown appreciation for Occupy before. But it was still impressive to see so many of them dedicate their whole Sunday to the cause, and to playing along with their very own April Fools’ stunt.

Of course cops weren’t the only ones delivering absurd spectacles – in their case, producing a police presence that would be overkill for a small sports mob, let alone to keep about 100 peaceful gadflies in check. Occupiers also brought the silly, chanting messages like “Tax the poor” and “Take a shower get a job” – the last one starting as they moved past their old neighbors at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Occupy Pittsburgh Joins National Day of Action for Public Transportation

On Wednesday, April 4, Occupy Pittsburgh invites the people of Allegheny County to stand together with those across the country to demand public transportation for the 99%. Public transportation provides vital access to work, housing, medical care, school, and other services for citizens in our county. It is a basic human right which helps everyone reach a decent standard of living, and secures health and well-being of our families.

April 4th is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s groundbreaking speech “Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence” in which he spoke of the connections between war and poverty. He explained his understanding that “America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube”, and that he had become “increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

In this spirit, we recognize that attacks on public transportation happening across the country, from Boston to Portland, Pittsburgh to Oakland, and DC to LA are part of a larger austerity program being enforced against the 99% of Americans. We also recognize that these and other austerity measures are a result of the military adventures that “draw men and skills and money” away from the poorest and weakest in our society and for the benefit of the richest and most powerful 1%. These are fronts of the same struggle for a humane society, in which the needs of all come before the profits of the few.

A New Energy Third World in North America?

The “curse” of oil wealth is a well-known phenomenon in Third World petro-states where millions of lives are wasted in poverty and the environment is ravaged, while tiny elites rake in the energy dollars and corruption rules the land. Recently, North America has been repeatedly hailed as the planet’s twenty-first-century “new Saudi Arabia” for “tough energy” — deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands, and fracked oil and natural gas. But here’s a question no one considers: Will the oil curse become as familiar on this continent in the wake of a new American energy rush as it is in Africa and elsewhere? Will North America, that is, become not just the next boom continent for energy bonanzas, but a new energy Third World?
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Knowledgeable observers are already noting the first telltale signs of the oil industry’s “Third-Worldification” of the United States. Wilderness areas from which the oil companies were once barred are being opened to energy exploitation and other restraints on invasive drilling operations are being dismantled. Expectations are that, in the wake of the 2012 election season, environmental regulations will be rolled back even further and other protected areas made available for development. In the process, as has so often been the case with Third World petro-states, the rights and wellbeing of local citizens will be trampled underfoot.

Someone You Love: Coming to a Gulag Near You

The security and surveillance state does not deal in nuance or ambiguity. Its millions of agents, intelligence gatherers, spies, clandestine operatives, analysts and armed paramilitary units live in a binary world of opposites, of good and evil, black and white, opponent and ally. There is nothing between. You are for us or against us. You are a patriot or an enemy of freedom. You either embrace the crusade to physically eradicate evildoers from the face of the Earth or you are an Islamic terrorist, a collaborator or an unwitting tool of terrorists. And now that we have created this monster it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to free ourselves from it. Our 16 national intelligence agencies and army of private contractors feed on paranoia, rumor, rampant careerism, demonization of critical free speech and often invented narratives. They justify their existence, and their consuming of vast governmental resources, by turning even the banal and the mundane into a potential threat. And by the time they finish, the nation will be a gulag.

Protesters Beware: U.S. Supreme Court Expands Invasive Strip-Searches

Occupy and political protesters beware. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday held that local police can strip-search anyone who is arrested for minor offenses if they are to be held within the jail’s general population before being released.

The 5-4 decision, with the Court’s conservative majority overruling its four moderates, is a further erosion of the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unlawful search and seizure. It overturns laws in 10 states that place limits on suspicionless strip-searches and upholds a technique used by some local police forces against Occupy protesters last fall, prompting protesters to sue.

In a first-of-its-kind program, students at a California community college are to be sorted by wealth for access to top classes

Santa Monica College is about to try something novel. This summer it will offer some courses for a higher price, so that students who are eager to get into a particular class can do so if they pay more.

The plan may be the first of its kind in the country, college officials and other higher education experts say, and if the college succeeds in implementing it, many other community colleges are likely to follow. Since 2009, enrollment in California community colleges has fallen by 300,000 students, to 2.6 million, and many believe the difficulty of registering for classes is the most important deterrent.

For generations, community colleges have been seen as a social equalizer, providing a relatively inexpensive education for poor students, immigrants and others without the skills, grades or money to attend a four-year institution.

DA charges independent journalists in Santa Cruz with felonies

District Attorney Bob Lee has embarked on a full frontal assault against independent media in Santa Cruz by including four regular contributors to the independent news website amongst the eleven people charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors after the occupation of a vacant bank building on November 30th, 2011. District Attorney Lee apparently believes it is his duty to dictate how events such as the occupation of the vacant bank at 75 River Street should be reported on by the media, and if he does not approve of the coverage, then journalists risk the DA bringing charges against them.

Bradley Stuart Allen and Alex Darocy are Indybay photojournalists and Indybay editors who were reporting on the occupation. No charges nor arrests were made at the time, but warrants were issued over two months later on February 8th, 2012 – for Bradley, Alex, and nine other individuals. Alex was arrested at his home before he could submit to the surprise warrant. Bradley and Alex were originally charged with felony vandalism, felony conspiracy, and two counts of misdemeanor trespass, but after a three-day preliminary hearing starting March 13th the felony vandalism charge against both was dropped. Alex and Bradley remain out of police custody on their own recognizance.

NPR adopts new ethics handbook, says it will reject false balance journalism

With these words, NPR commits itself as an organization to avoid the worst excesses of “he said, she said” journalism. It says to itself that a report characterized by false balance is a false report.

Huffington Post for the Occupy Crowd?

Call him Occupy’s Arianna Huffington.

New York filmmaker David Sauvage is cofounder of, a nonprofit multimedia and news-aggregation site that launches today with financial backing from Hollywood, lots of complicated internal politics, and a plan to become a must-read for a new generation of activists. “There is so little in the media that the vast majority of people engage with that is alive, or powerful, or truthful, or messy, or complicated, or real,” says Sauvage, 31, whose last project before joining Occupy Wall Street was a TV commercial for WSJ, the glossy magazine of the Wall Street Journal. “I would like to see the makers of content emerge as the shakers of the world.”

Filmmaker’s Son Takes Occupy to the Internet

Pierre Sauvage, whom literary editor David Samuels interviewed for Tablet Magazine, makes documentaries such as Weapons of the Spirit and Not Idly By, about people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. While his son David would never claim to have the equivalent subject, he argued that, the Website he founded which launched today, as well as the larger message of Occupy Wall Street are consonant with his father’s themes.

“His running theme in life is people who save people in crisis,” Sauvage told me. “The evil in his movies is never the Nazis, it’s always the people who stood ‘idly by’-who let it happen. The real evil guys are almost not the point.” He added that the point of Occupy is to turn the system’s bystanders into activists. “Occupy Wall Street,” he explained, “is a bunch of people saying, ‘We’re not going to stand by anymore.’ There’s a whole host of systemic injustices that people have been letting stand by for years.”
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Putting together an organized, slick Website is in many ways at odds with Occupy’s DIY, anti-corporate ethos. “I understand the fear of NGO-ization: they become accountable to where the money’s coming from, which makes them more conservative,” explained Levitin, defending the site. “This is a movement about changing our whole relationship to money, and yet how can you battle the one percent with a bunch of people who have nothing? If you’re playing around with a couple hundred thousand dollars to launch a site and support a dozen people that will create a site to get more people to join the movement, that’s a legitimate use of money.”

Organizer: New York City Fare Strike Continues Trend of Militant Self-Organization

Truthout spoke with an organizer of the Rank and File Initiative with intimate knowledge of the planning and a desire to remain anonymous. “Dave” told Truthout that the Rank and File Initiative was a loose group of “working class people, many rank and file union members, some who work for unions, some marginal or precariously employed workers and some students” that came together through Occupy Wall Street. The action took place with cooperation from a number of rank-and-file members of Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 without the approbation of the union’s executive leadership. Since January 15, TWU members have been working without a contract.

In addition to contract negotiations, the action was intended to draw attention to what the press release called “the real cause of the problem” – the fact that the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) maintains its operating budget with heavy Wall Street borrowing, with the associated debt passed on to subway riders in the form of fare hikes – up 50 percent over the last decade. According to the press release, “This means Wall Street bondholders receive a huge share of what we put into the system through the MetroCards we buy and the taxes we pay: more than $2 billion a year goes to debt service, and this number is expected to rise every year. If trends continue, by 2018, more than one out of every five dollars of MTA revenue will head to a banker’s pockets.”

Occupy Protesters organize for NATO summit in Chicago

After a long weekend of protesting aimed at reinvigorating their movement, Occupy leaders from around the country set their sights on their biggest target of the spring – the NATO summit in Chicago.

Meeting in a sunny city park Sunday, they echoed the rallying cry of other protest groups: President Barack Obama’s decision to drop plans for holding the G-8 economic summit in Chicago the same weekend as NATO was a victory that should encourage even more demonstrators to show up in May

Portland protesters ‘occupy’ court to argue for free-speech rights

Dozens of Occupy Portland protesters say they’ll fight to the end to prove they were unjustly arrested, but their cases are creating a bottleneck.

The protesters say when they were arrested during recent marches they were within their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully.

Residents To ‘Occupy’ Town Hall Over Jamesport Project [NY]

A group of residents opposed to a plan to develop land on Main Road in Jamesport are gearing up to “occupy” Riverhead Town Hall on Tuesday.

A group called “Save Main Road” has galvanized in recent months to protest the proposed Jamesport Village Mall project, a 42,000 square foot plan that includes plans for bistros, retail establishments and medical offices that has sparked fierce controversy for years.

D.C. Eviction Called Off After Occupy Protest

The resident of a house on Maryland Avenue NE who was facing eviction won a bit more time today after a group of demonstrators from Occupy D.C. gathered outside her house to prevent her from being evicted after the building’s owner was foreclosed upon.

Occupy New Orleans is ‘alive’

Over the last few months, Occupy NOLA has supported and initiated several public actions focusing on social justice issues. The group initiated the Funeral for the Gulf event, which was held on February 29. According to Occupy member Tara Jill Ciccarone, Occupy Portland had put out a call for a day of action against corporate power on that day, and the local Occupiers decided that BP was the most appropriate corporation to protest. The rally began at BP headquarters on Poydras St. and marched to the federal court building where the company was slated to go on trial for its 2010 environmental disaster.

Earlier the same month, Occupiers came to the city’s Municipal Court to show solidarity for Canal St. vendors who had allegedly been experiencing harassment by the New Orleans Police Department and the Downtown Development District. Ciccarone said that the Occupy legal team represented street vendor Nadra Enzi, also known as Captain Black, and managed to have all charges against him dropped.

This Saturday, according to Ciccarone, Occupy NOLA planned to march in solidarity with United New Orleans Front as that group protested the brutal practices of the NOPD that recently led to the deaths of two young, African-American men, Wendell Allen and Justin Sipp.

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