The OB Media Rundown for 5/5/12

RIP Adam Yauch, Occupy protester

Adam Yauch marched with us in November over the Brooklyn Bridge. He was a visionary artist who never lost sight of his community. [OWS tweet]

Boston protesters send digitized memo to Bank of America

For two years, Presley Obasohan says he has begged Bank of America to modify a mortgage on a home he bought in Dorchester at the height of the housing bubble. Every time, he has been denied. “They are not listening to me,” said Obasohan, 55.

Friday night, a group of more than 75 protesters could not ignore Obasohan’s plea. A recording of his voice reading his letter to Bank of America boomed over a pair of speakers in Copley Square. His words were digitized and projected on two floors of a Bank of America building on the corner of St. James and Berkeley streets in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

City Life/Vida Urbana, a Boston-based advocacy group, has been protesting foreclosures throughout the economic crisis, but Friday’s rally in downtown Boston came with a twist. Enlisting the help of volunteer John Hulsey, a Harvard University graduate film student, the organization took their message to the bank. They digitized the words of a handful of homeowners who have either have been foreclosed on or are facing the threat of losing their homes and projected those messages onto the Bank of America building.

New York Times says ‘the jobless young find their voice’ in slick new Astroturf groups drenched in money

The Campaign for Young America is in the midst of a 21-state bus tour that is set to conduct 100 round tables with young people, Occupy Wall Street protesters, community leaders and entrepreneurs. “One thing we are really focused on is trying to better connect colleges and universities to local employers,” Mr. Smith said. Later this year, the group will endorse specific policy recommendations based on input during the round tables, and host candidate forums, he said.

Fix Young America is supported by members of the nonprofit Young Entrepreneur Council, based in New York. (Officially the new group has a hashtag in front of its name, to reflect its presence on Twitter.)

The group assembled more than two-dozen people – including Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, Representative Patrick McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, university leaders and entrepreneurs – to offer prescriptions for solving youth unemployment.

Investigation, Lawsuit Expose Barbaric Conditions at For-Profit Youth Prison [MS]

The Walnut Grove story is a cautionary tale that raises alarming questions about the treatment of youthful, mostly nonviolent offenders in Mississippi and elsewhere. And it calls into question the wisdom of turning over the care of these youths, some as young as 13, to private companies that exist solely to turn a profit – companies that have no incentive to rehabilitate youths, that thrive on recidivism, and that increase their profits by cutting corners and reaping ever more troubled souls into their walls.

Protesters at House GOP budget guru’s town hall slam his ‘shameful’ budget

A small group of protesters gathered to protest the “shameful” budget authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) outside a town hall in Racine, Wisconsin this morning. About 10 protesters stood outside the townhall, where one of Ryan’s constituents, Kelly Gallaher, told ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes that she agreed with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which denounced the deep cuts to food stamps and other safety net programs. “Paul Ryan’s budget is shameful,” Gallagher said. “The bishops are right. Expanding the military and cutting food stamps is immoral.” She added: “[It is] really shameful that the budget only asks for sacrifices from the poor, not the rich.”

FBI quietly pushing plan to force surveillance backdoors on social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers

The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance.

In meetings with industry representatives, the White House, and U.S. senators, senior FBI officials argue the dramatic shift in communication from the telephone system to the Internet has made it far more difficult for agents to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities, CNET has learned.

The FBI general counsel’s office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.

Is the NYPD Out of Control? New Lawsuit Takes on Bloomberg’s ‘Private Army’

Fifteen plaintiffs, including five elected officials, members of the press, an Iraq war veteran, and Occupy Wall Street activists are suing the city in federal court, alleging gross misconduct ranging from false arrest and imprisonment to possible conspiracy between the police department and JPMorgan Chase to chill citizen’s rights to peaceably assemble. The suit is known as Rodriguez v. Winski and calls for, among other measures, the creation of an independent federal position to oversee the NYPD. The department is out of control, the suit alleges, and is incapable of holding itself accountable.
I’m also a plaintiff in the case and can testify from first-hand experience that the NYPD is out of control. This is obviously not news to the hundreds of thousands of young men of color who are stopped and frisked by the cops every year, and it’s always important to stress that the kind of suppression a political movement like Occupy faces is both quantitatively and categorically different than the oppression marginalized communities face. So the stories laid out below come with the caveat of “police brutality in New York isn’t new, but it’s crazy and maybe we can get this under control.”

New Police Strategy in New York – Sexual Assault Against Peaceful Protesters

Arbitrary violence is nothing new. The apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protestors is new. I’m not aware of any reports of police intentionally grabbing women’s breasts before March 17, but on March 17 there were numerous reported cases, and in later nightly evictions from Union Square, the practice became so systematic that at least one woman told me her breasts were grabbed by five different police officers on a single night (in one case, while another one was blowing kisses.) The tactic appeared so abruptly, is so obviously a violation of any sort of police protocol or standard of legality, that it is hard to imagine it is anything but an intentional policy.

For obvious reasons, most of the women who have been victims of such assaults have been hesitant to come forward. Suing the city is a miserable and time-consuming task and if a woman brings any charge involving sexual misconduct, they can expect to have their own history and reputations-no matter how obviously irrelevant-raked over the coals, usually causing immense damage to their personal and professional life. The threat of doing so operates as a very effective form of intimidation. One exception is Cecily McMillan, who was not only groped but suffered a broken rib and seizures during her arrest on March 17, and held incommunicado, denied constant requests to see her lawyer, for over 24 hours thereafter. Shortly after release from the hospital she appeared on Democracy Now! And showed part of a handprint, replete with scratch-marks, that police had left directly over her right breast. (She is currently pursuing civil charges against the police department).

National Mortgage Settlement Expires In 2015, Banks Battling To Keep Reforms From Becoming Permanent

The promises made by five of the nation’s largest banks under the much-ballyhooed $25 billion mortgage settlement have a surprisingly short shelf life.

Under the deal struck in February, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial pledged to stop the illegal practices that sparked false documentation and “robo-signing,” which helped push many homeowners into foreclosure and caused endless headaches for millions of other borrowers.

But the legal agreements among the banks, and the states and federal government hold for only three-and-a-half years; the pledge runs out in 2015. Now many of these banks are battling California Attorney General Kamala Harris over her push to make permanent some of the settlement’s most important “servicing standard” reforms by writing them into state law.

US should return stolen land to Indian tribes, says United Nations

A United Nations investigator probing discrimination against Native Americans has called on the US government to return some of the land stolen from Indian tribes as a step toward combatting continuing and systemic racial discrimination.

James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said no member of the US Congress would meet him as he investigated the part played by the government in the considerable difficulties faced by Indian tribes.

Anaya said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and “numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination”.

Social security is not going broke

Which federal program took in more than it spent last year, added $95 billion to its surplus and lifted 20 million Americans of all ages out of poverty? Why, Social Security, of course, which ended 2011 with a $2.7 trillion surplus.

That surplus is almost twice the $1.4 trillion collected in personal and corporate income taxes last year. And it is projected to go on growing until 2021, the year the youngest Baby Boomers turn 67 and qualify for full old-age benefits.

So why all the talk about Social Security “going broke?” That theme filled the news after release of the latest annual report of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, as Social Security is formally called.

The reason is that the people who want to kill Social Security have for years worked hard to persuade the young that the Social Security taxes they pay to support today’s gray hairs will do nothing for them when their own hair turns gray.

Socialism, American Style: L.A. Comrades Look To 2012 Election

It was disillusionment with Obama that drew Alex Mendoza, 35, a small business owner in Dallas and the Socialist Party USA’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, to split from the Democratic Party.

“I did not classify myself as a socialist until after Obama became president,” he said. “I supported Obama [in 2008], and I believed in a lot of his policies, but then it became evident a lot of those policies were not being implemented.”

Mendoza said he was disappointed that the president did not support the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would have made it easier for workers to form unions.

He also said the Affordable Health Care Act was a failed opportunity.  “As socialists, we believe in socialized medicine,” Mendoza said. “In his health care act, he threw a bone to the insurance companies [with the individual mandate], giving them millions and millions of new customers and didn’t even consider single-payer.”

Florida Judge denies ‘Stand Your Ground’ retrial to female black defendant who now faces 20 years with no parole

31-year-old Marissa Alexander was cornered by her abusive husband when she fired a warning shot into the ceiling of their home, using a gun she was licensed to carry. The August, 2010 incident led to the Jacksonville, Florida resident’s conviction of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to newspaper The Florida Times-Union.

Her defense attorney, Kevin Cobbin has filed numerous motions for a retrial on grounds that her case is within the bounds of instances covered under the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, but Florida Circuit Court Judge James Daniel on Thursday denied them all. Critics of the judge’s ruling, including the local NAACP, charge that Alexander’s race has been a factor in her sentencing and denial of a retrial.

Alexander claims she was acting in self-defense, that her husband, Rico Gray, attacked her when he found messages to her ex-husband on her cell phone. Gray has said in testimony that he had previously warned Alexander that he would kill her if he ever found out that she had been unfaithful. In her panic, she ran to the garage, hoping to escape. Once there, she found that she did not have her keys and that the garage door was broken.

Members of Occupy Wall Street Stage Sit-In at NY AG Eric Schneiderman’s Office

More than a dozen people staged a sit-in at the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, pressuring him as co-chair of the federal Financial Fraud Task Force’s Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, to make good on his pledge to investigate and hold accountable Wall Street’s crimes that have contributed to an economic crisis and more than 11 million underwater homeowners in the US. Participants in the sit-in and demonstration expressed outrage at the lack of apparent progress in investigating or prosecuting the crimes of the big banks against the American people and our economy.

AG Schneiderman recently called on the public to “help make this investigation as strong and thorough as it needs to be.” Those organizing and participating in today’s sit-in say they are answering that call (the AG’s words appeared on several signs), and have vowed to stay until Schneiderman agrees to attend a public forum in New York to provide answers about the about the working group’s resources, staffing, and timeline.

Occupiers rally in South Bend, call attention to ‘move your money’ month

Occupy South Bend was on the move Saturday.

Occupiers gathered at John Hunt Plaza in Downtown South Bend for their Spring Rally.

They then marched to banks in the area to raise awareness of “move your money” month. They want to get out their message again about their stance against corporate greed.

Puget Sound islanders move love and money to their own credit union

Here, a group of hard-core Vashon [Island] activists, already seasoned in anticorporate campaigns, hit on the idea of merging with a small credit union to create a new branch on the island.

That office has managed, in its first year of operation, to enroll an astonishing 16% of the population and collect local deposits of almost $20 million.

“What surprised me about it was how rapidly the community embraced the credit union,” said Rob Harmon, a green economy pioneer who was part of the organizing committee. “We had wild dreams that in the first year $10 million would move. … And in the first year, $17.5 million moved. So we’re 70% above our wildest dreams.”

Occupy Detroit has a home base for learning, organizing

With its comfy sofas, kitchen and sunlit windows, the brick building at 5900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit that opened this year could pass for a spacious cafe.

But a banner high on the wall that reads “We are the 99%” signifies this is a different type of place, one that’s become the center for activists in metro Detroit. After leaving their encampment in Grand Circus Park in November, Occupy Detroit has found a new home in the heart of southwest Detroit.

Across the street from a grocery store, the two-floor 12,000-square-foot building with a tall ceiling was refurbished by activists and is a striking symbol of the movement’s attempts to establish a solid base in the region for its activities. “OCCUPY,” it reads on the windowpanes outside.

Occupy Movement Focuses on Urban Farming [CA]

In what seems to be the first action of the Occupy movement in the Bay Area this Spring, activists on the Albany and Berkeley border took to their shovels and hoes to claim a piece of agricultural property and build a community farm. This story looks at the day’s happenings through a narrated slideshow that includes interviews of the organizers and urban farmers.

UC Berkeley sets midnight deadline for Occupy the Farm

UC Berkeley officials have set a deadline for tonight, Saturday May 5, for the people from the Occupy the Farm movement to reach a settlement or face eviction.

In a letter released Friday night, George Breslauer, the executive vice chancellor, and John Wilton, the vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the university has agreed to a dialogue about using some of the 15-acre Gill Tract as community garden space, but only if the protestors agree to leave first.

“If the encampment is voluntarily disbanded, we will commit to include occupation participants in a broad-based discussion about the continuation of urban farming under university supervision on a portion of the tract, as well as any future discussions about the long-term future of the property,” read the letter.

Occupy Bernal succeeds in stalling foreclosures [CA]

An organization founded by a porn performer, a Summer of Love radical, and a guy named Stardust Darkmatterji, is challenging the eviction of homeowners in their Bernal Heights neighborhood. For the past week the group has been staging very polite, but noisy, demonstrations next to the steps of City Hall to disrupt bank auctions.

And as offbeat as they are, their ’60s street theater is actually getting results.

Friday a small collection of gray-haired, sign-toting, whistle-blowing members of Occupy Bernal delayed the potential sale of a dozen foreclosed properties at the auction. Stardust – real name Will Doherty – declared victory.

Delaware sees trial as ‘victory’ – Camp will stay until ruling issued

Occupy Delaware believes it will call Spencer Plaza home for the spring and most of this summer after a Chancery Court judge decided Friday that the spat between the protesters and Wilmington will head to trial in late August.

“This is a victory right off the bat,” said Michael Mizner, a member of Occupy Delaware.

An offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that decries corporate greed and economic inequality, Occupy Delaware’s future on Spencer Plaza has been in question since last week, when Mayor James M. Baker ordered the tent city be dismantled by this past Tuesday.

Letter to the editor: Standing behind Occupy is key to overcoming plutocracy [TN]

The problem we face is plutocracy, and (for various reasons) I see Occupy as a viable nucleus of a new progressive coalition that may be the one real hope remaining. It’s a development I could support and am willing to work toward.

Occupy Canada stages protest on Parliament Hill

About 150 demonstrators took over Parliament Hill on Saturday afternoon, demanding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper step down.

It was a demonstration organized by Occupy Canada, a Facebook group with about 41,000 members. Protesters chanted, sang revolution songs, and made speeches on the steps of Parliament. There were demonstrators of all ages; the crowd ranged from young university students to families with young kids.

Organizer Jon Allan said people traveled from London, Toronto, and Montreal to be at the rally.

Occupy activists to ‘reclaim’ Dataran [Malaysia]

Occupy Dataran activists are planning to re-group under the flag pole at Dataran Merdeka tonight and “watch” a midnight movie scheduled for screening here.

The activists were forced out of Jalan Raja last Friday by police and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) in a bid to keep the historic site off limits to Bersih 3.0 rally protesters.

The rally took place on Saturday with more than 100,000 people calling for the clean-up of the electoral roll.

Glories of privatization: Residents of UK region live under drought restrictions after water company sells off 25 reservoirs

Its analysis found that 25 “bulk water storage facilities” in the south-east closed since the 1980s, including sites at Stoke Newington, Hornsey and Barnes.

A reservoir at Cheshunt was sold to developers with plans for 249 flats and houses to be built, while water storage facility at Enfield was sold to a house builder. The GMB said it was calling on Thames Water, the Environment Agency and Ofwat “to account for allowing parts of this nation to run short of water”.

The GMB said that filling in these reservoirs meant that rainfall was “running off to the sea while the region is subject to drought orders”.

How did Quebec Students Mobilize Hundreds of Thousands for Strike?


It’s telling that the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in Quebec have been striking for over two months has gone virtually unreported in the US. This Real News Network interview helps explain how protests against tuition hikes have evolved into a broad based effort to reverse the neoliberal policies of the incumbent provincial government.

Sinn Fein sees route to power in Irish austerity

Sinn Fein hopes to ride a wave of anger against austerity measures to achieve its ambition of ruling Ireland, its leader Gerry Adams said on Friday, as misgivings about its role in the Northern Ireland conflict fade.

The political wing of the now-defunct Irish Republican Army has seen its support surge since Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economy began to collapse in 2008 and is now the second most popular party in the country, according to opinion polls.

With the three largest parties in parliament all backing a programme of austerity under an IMF-EU bailout, Sinn Fein, until recently viewed as political pariahs in the Republic of Ireland, are sweeping up as the chief outlet for dissent.

Fascism rises from the depths of Greece’s despair

“We’re not afraid to be called Nazis or fascists – the whole political system is against us,” said Mr Panayiotaros. Appeals by mainstream parties for Golden Dawn to be prevented from entering parliament were met with veiled threats against MPs.

Asked about the party leader Nikos Michaloliakos’ links to the military junta which ruled Greece between 1967-1974, he said that people were calling for the return of George Papadopoulos, the leader of the Colonel’s regime. “The name of Papadopoulos is being heard everywhere,” he said.

Ahead of its most uncertain election, the Golden Dawn’s message is getting through to some first-time voters such as Ioanna Vassila, who is unemployed. Attending a political rally for the first time in her life, the 29-year-old said she was excited to be voting for a patriotic party and that it was time to for Greece to be “cleansed of the foreigners”. Laughing and joking with her boyfriend they applauded as men in paramilitary uniforms waved black flags and chanted “Greece for the Greeks”.

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