The OB Media Rundown for 6/5/12

Malden Residents Form Union To Fight 22%-58% Rent Hikes

Tenants across the city found every renter’s nightmare slipped under their doors last week: a notice their rents will increase anywhere from 22 percent to 58 percent next month, with just two weeks to decide whether to accept the new agreement.

But residents say they won’t take the hikes without a fight, and a majority of the tenants have formed a union – Malden Tenants United – to prevent what they call unreasonable increases in a sluggish economy.

The sudden increase and union-organizing comes after a total of 265 units at 349 Pleasant St., 17/19 Washington St. and 86-96 Maple St. in Malden, as well as 53/63 Fellsway in Medford, were purchased by Brighton-based Alpha Management, which owns and maintains more than 60 properties in the Greater Boston area.

http://tinyurl.com/6o2brua

Patrick: ‘T must prepare for additional cuts,’ MBTA says service cuts will be the only option

Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday that unless lawmakers move soon on legislation to bail out the cash-strapped MBTA, he expected agency officials to begin drawing up plans for additional service cuts on the Boston-area transit system.
. . .

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said Monday that staff was developing a “watch list” of bus routes that would potentially be eliminated if the legislation was not passed.

“Our only option will be service cuts if we don’t have the revenue by July 1,” Pesaturo said.

http://tinyurl.com/7o7wdwr

Occupy Providence protest seizes on 38 Studios ‘debacle’

Occupy Providence is seizing on what it calls the debacle involving former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s now troubled video gaming company.

The protest group says the state “recklessly gambled” on 38 Studios, which was lured to Rhode Island from Massachusetts in 2010 with a $75 million loan guarantee from the Economic Development Corp.

http://tinyurl.com/79javq8


Pollution, Poverty, People of Color: The factory on the hill

For 100 years, people, mostly blacks, have lived next door to the booming Chevron Richmond Refinery built by Standard Oil, a plant so huge it can process 240,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Hundreds of tanks holding millions of barrels of raw crude dot 2,900 acres of property on a hilly peninsula overlooking the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Five thousand miles of pipeline there move gasoline, jet fuel, diesel and other chemical products.
. . .

Low-income residents seeking affordable homes end up sharing a fence line with a refinery and a cluster of other polluting businesses. They may save money on shelter, but they pay the price in health, researchers say.

Decades of toxic emissions from industries – as well as lung-penetrating diesel particles spewed by truck routes and rail lines running next door to neighborhoods – may be taking a toll on residents’ health. The people of Richmond, particularly African Americans, are at significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease and strokes and more likely to go to hospitals for asthma than other county residents. Health experts say their environment likely is playing a major role.

http://tinyurl.com/7lkpz7c

Urban trees reveal income inequality

Wealthy cities seem to have it all. Expansive, well-manicured parks. Fine dining. Renowned orchestras and theaters. More trees. Wait, trees? I’m afraid so.

Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover. The study’s authors tallied total forest cover for 210 cities over 100,000 people in the contiguous United States using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s natural resource inventory and satellite imagery. They also gathered economic data, including income, land prices, and disposable income.

They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent. But when income dropped by the same amount, demand decreased by 1.26 percent. That’s a pretty tight correlation. The researchers reason that wealthier cities can afford more trees, both on private and public property. The well-to-do can afford larger lots, which in turn can support more trees. On the public side, cities with larger tax bases can afford to plant and maintain more trees. Given the recent problems New York City has had with its aging trees dropping limbs on unsuspecting passers-by-and the lawsuits that result-it’s no surprise that poorer cities would keep lean tree inventories.

http://tinyurl.com/6ph67l4

An Epidemiological Stopwatch on Inequality

Epidemiologists – the scientists who study the health of societies – first began documenting the impact of economic inequality on how long we live a few decades ago. In more equal societies, considerable research since then has shown, people live substantially longer and healthier lives.

And this phenomenon, epidemiologists add, doesn’t just involve the poor. If you have a middle-class income in an unequal society, you’re likely going to have a shorter life span than a middle-income person in a more equal locale.

Why does inequality undermine the health of people who live amid it? Some scientists have emphasized the political dimension.

http://tinyurl.com/ceqq69h

Criminal Injustice System

If police states are ranked by the number of persons imprisoned, then the U.S. is the world’s worst and biggest police state. The system runs on greed and racism. “Being ‘tough on crime’ is a metaphor for keeping black people under control.” It is a place where being a “big black guy” means conviction, and where “prosecutors routinely overcharge defendants with long sentences, and force innocent people to plead guilty in order to avoid decades behind bars.”

http://tinyurl.com/cc58z6h

The high price of ‘dark fusion’ – US can already detain citizens as enemy combatants; now it wants to deploy propaganda across the country

During the last decade, more than 15 million Americans have entered the ranks of the global “have nots” whom Pentagon planners were, and no doubt remain, so worried about. It’s no wonder that the militarisation of law enforcement, coupled with the reduction of constitutional protections for American citizens, have served as natural complements to large-scale incarceration and military recruitment as the best strategies for dealing with the problem of the unassimilable poor.

Yet at some point, gung-ho, ignorance-is-bliss patriotism, large scale imprisonment, foreign wars, even 1,000 TV channels and high speed internet won’t keep people off the streets – especially in the wake of the worst recession in 70 years and a decade filled with multiple wars. And thus, the Occupy movement burst to life: inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt and ultimately sparked by the same underlying global neoliberal system that has concentrated wealth and power and increasingly criminalised dissent everywhere.

http://tinyurl.com/cuuye4j

10 Things That We Can Learn About Shortages And Preparation From The Economic Collapse In Greece

When the economy of a nation collapses, almost everything changes. Unfortunately, most people have never been through anything like that, so it can be difficult to know how to prepare. For those that are busy preparing for the coming global financial collapse, there is a lot to be learned from the economic depression that is happening right now in Greece. Essentially, what Greece is experiencing is a low level economic collapse. Unemployment is absolutely rampant and poverty is rapidly spreading, but the good news for Greece is that the global financial system is still operating somewhat normally and they are getting some financial assistance from the outside. Things in Greece could be a whole lot worse, and they will probably get a whole lot worse before it is all said and done. But already things have gotten bad enough in Greece that it gives us an idea of what a full-blown economic collapse in the 21st century may look like. There are reports of food and medicine shortages in Greece, crime and suicides are on the rise and people have been rapidly pulling their money out of the banks. Hopefully this article will give you some ideas that you can use as you prepare for the economic chaos that will soon be unfolding all over the globe.

http://tinyurl.com/7w3aodl

Most Unemployed Have College Experience

52%: Percent of the unemployed who have spent at least some time in college.

In a significant shift in the labor market, the majority of people who are unemployed have some college education, reversing the situation that prevailed for decades. In 1992, only 37% of the unemployed had some college experience.

http://tinyurl.com/cmrkdyf

Faith in markets remains high. Why?

Something curious happened when I tried to potty train my two-year-old recently. To begin with, he was very keen on the idea. I’d read that the trick was to reward him with a chocolate button every time he used the potty, and for the first day or two it went like a breeze – until he cottoned on that the buttons were basically a bribe, and began to smell a rat. By day three he refused point-blank to go anywhere near the potty, and invoking the chocolate button prize only seemed to make him all the more implacable. Even to a toddler’s mind, the logic of the transaction was evidently clear – if he had to be bribed, then the potty couldn’t be a good idea – and within a week he had grown so suspicious and upset that we had to abandon the whole enterprise.

It’s a pity I hadn’t read What Money Can’t Buy before embarking, because the folly of the chocolate button policy lies at the heart of Michael Sandel’s new book. “We live at a time when almost everything can be bought and sold,” the Harvard philosopher writes. “We have drifted from having a market economy, to being a market society,” in which the solution to all manner of social and civic challenges is not a moral debate but the law of the market, on the assumption that cash incentives are always the appropriate mechanism by which good choices are made. Every application of human activity is priced and commodified, and all value judgments are replaced by the simple question: “How much?”

http://tinyurl.com/7gm6ws7

Finance capital perspective: AIG Chief Sees Retirement Age As High As 80 After Crisis

American International Group Inc. (AIG) Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche said Europe’s debt crisis shows governments worldwide must accept that people will have to work more years as life expectancies increase.

“Retirement ages will have to move to 70, 80 years old,” Benmosche, who turned 68 last week, said during a weekend interview at his seaside villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia. “That would make pensions, medical services more affordable. They will keep people working longer and will take that burden off of the youth.”

http://tinyurl.com/7egz8c3

MF Global, Corzine may get away with it

The trustee leading the bankruptcy case, James Giddens, is accusing the firm and its top management of a “breach of fiduciary duty and negligence.” Giddens also describes a brokerage with a “lack of sufficient monitoring and systems.” Read full story on possible lawsuit against MF Global .

Sorry, but this threat of a civil lawsuit, more than eight months after MF Global broke into customer funds to pay off mounting claims against it in the days before it went bankrupt, comes just a little too late.
As refreshing and honest as Giddens’s claims are, the threat of a lawsuit won’t assuage investors burned by what seems to have been clear wrongdoing at the firm. It also won’t be any reassurance in a market that perceives former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. bankers such as Corzine as crony capitalists who view regulations and other rules as optional.

http://tinyurl.com/bpfcutk

New economy fallout – ‘wage theft’ from paychecks

The problem reflects a changing economy in which low-wage work has increased, more companies try to cut labor costs to stay afloat in a sour business climate, and fewer workers belong to unions that might protect them. At the same time, budget-cutting state and federal governments do not enforce wage laws as aggressively as they once did.

Wage theft can be as simple as stealing tips from restaurant servers, illegal deductions from a worker’s paycheck or failing to pay overtime or the legal minimum wage. It also can take other forms, such as classifying workers as “independent contractors” to avoid paying unemployment insurance.

http://tinyurl.com/cz8shyq

Quebec – Northern Light

The streets of Montreal are clogged nightly with as many as 100,000 protesters banging pots and pans and demanding that the old systems of power be replaced. The mass student strike in Quebec, the longest and largest student protest in Canadian history, began over the announcement of tuition hikes and has metamorphosed into what must swiftly build in the United States — a broad popular uprising. The debt obligation of Canadian university students, even with Quebec’s proposed 82 percent tuition hike over several years, is dwarfed by the huge university fees and the $1 trillion of debt faced by U.S. college students. The Canadian students have gathered widespread support because they linked their tuition protests to Quebec’s call for higher fees for health care, the firing of public sector employees, the closure of factories, the corporate exploitation of natural resources, new restrictions on union organizing, and an announced increase in the retirement age. Crowds in Montreal, now counting 110 days of protests, chant “On ne lache pas” — “We’re not backing down.”

http://tinyurl.com/7hx8lpx

G7 to hold emergency euro zone talks, Spain top concern

Finance chiefs of the Group of Seven leading industrialized powers will hold emergency talks on the euro zone debt crisis on Tuesday in a sign of heightened global alarm about strains in the 17-nation European currency area.

With Greece, Ireland and Portugal all under international bailout programs, financial markets are anxious about the risks from a seething Spanish banking crisis and a June 17 Greek election that may lead to Athens leaving the euro zone.

http://tinyurl.com/75ekkqz

Bank of International Settlements warns global lending contracting at fastest pace since 2008 Lehman crisis

Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research said regulators were making a grave mistake by forcing banks to cut lending during a slump.

“What they are doing is frightening. If banks shrink their balance sheets, it destroys money. It causes a credit crunch and intensifies the recession. This is why we are facing a global slowdown,” he said.

Alastair Clark, a member of the Bank of England’s interim Financial Policy Committee, said last month that regulatory pressure may have gone too far, “inadvertantly” causing banks to restrict credit.

http://tinyurl.com/8yfxrrx

Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founder Wants To Occupy Your Money

Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen has announced he will be launching a campaign this August to bring focus to the influence of corporate cash in politics. According to Yahoo News, Cohen, with the help of advocacy group Move to Amend, the campaign will entail the distribution of rubber stamps with various anti-corporation sentiments- the idea being that individuals will mark their money and bring awareness to corporate election spending. The stamps will read, “Corporations are not people,” “Money is not speech” and “Not to be used for bribing politicians,” among other phrases. This is the second time the OWS movement has tried a similar tactic, the first being Occupy George, which highlighted American income disparity.

http://tinyurl.com/7fgrxjq

Obama Selling Off Presidency While Investigation of Wall Street Corruption Goes Begging

Tonight, members of F the Banks and Occupy Wall Street will be highlighting the Obama Administration’s failure to investigate crimes which brought on the financial crisis with a vibrant (and loud) counter-fundraiser for the woefully underfunded and understaffed federal Mortgage Fraud Task Force. Outside of President Obama’s high dollar fundraiser, NYers will demand that justice be brought to the banks by confronting Obama with his broken promises and deceptive funding priorities.

http://tinyurl.com/blct6r4

DC Activists Protest JP Morgan’s Refusal To Offer Local Homeowner Mortgage Help

Activists affiliated with Occupy Our Homes DC protested in front of a downtown Washington D.C. office of Wall Street titan JP Morgan Chase this afternoon, calling on the bank to offer a local homeowner a mortgage loan modification that would allow her to remain in her home.

http://tinyurl.com/c6ewtyg

Investigation finds Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law is a ‘license to kill’ law

Among the findings:

Those who invoke “stand your ground” to avoid prosecution have been extremely successful. Nearly 70 percent have gone free.

Defendants claiming “stand your ground” are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.

People often go free under “stand your ground” in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended. One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim – and still went free.

http://tinyurl.com/d9rnewo

Occupy medical tent taken down

The people behind Occupy Olympia set up a medical tent and portable toilet in a state-owned parking lot behind the old Department of Personnel building over the weekend, as a “protest to the lack of basic human rights given to people in our community.”

But the tent and toilet were gone by late afternoon Monday. The state Department of Enterprise Services took apart the tent after warning the group that the structure, which took up two parking spaces, wasn’t allowed. The spaces are leased to employees of the state office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, said Steve Valandra, a spokesman for Enterprise Services.

Monte Katzenberger, a volunteer for the effort called the Olympia Unit for Community Health, said the tent went up at 6:30 a.m. Saturday and has served a couple dozen people since with basic first aid.

The tent was stocked with bandages, ibuprofen and vitamins, he said, and first-aid-certified volunteers are available 24 hours a day. Next door is a portable toilet, offering the city’s only 24-hour public bathroom, Katzenberger said, preventing public urination.

http://tinyurl.com/cnly32g

Pressure On Trinity Church To Call Off Occupy Wall Street Trespassing Charges

Trinity Church, a massive New York landowner with an estimated $1 billion in real estate holdings, is once again at odds with Occupy Wall Street, the movement that sprung up in its back yard.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which so far has had little success in prosecuting the thousands of Occupy Wall Street arrests made by police in the last eight months, appears to be focusing its energies on securing convictions in the December 17 arrests. Defense attorneys say that prosecutors appear to be giving the December 17 cases special attention. They have rescinded offers of ACDs, Adjournments in Contemplation of Dismissal, made to some of the defendants earlier, and are preparing for trial.

Facing the possibility of a 90-day stint at Rikers, Occupiers are once more asking the church to cut them some slack.

http://tinyurl.com/c72pevj

Ugandan workers storm finance ministry, threaten to occupy

A group of workers in Uganda Monday stormed the Ministry of Finance, demanding an improvement in workers conditions, as an ultimatum they had given the government expired.

Workers unions had given the government until the end of May to improve their conditions, but this passed without any response.

“We have been calling on government to work on our demands for sometime but we haven’t been getting responses,” Sam Lyomoki,the workers representative in parliament, said. “Since the only language that they understand is a strike, we have also decided to strike.”

http://tinyurl.com/bl866h9

European Austerity: Who Should Pay?

Austerity is nothing more than a way to make sure that banks and vulture funds get paid. It’s about deciding who deserves more of society’s limited resources and who deserves less. Put that way, it’s hard to see how anyone can think that hedge funds deserve more and minimum wage workers deserve less. If the law implies a different answer, then the law should be changed.

http://tinyurl.com/cyru3w5

Krakow Occupied – Briefly

A global protest movement reached Krakow in May – but lasted just a few days before police broke up their camp in a dawn raid.

Occupy, protesting against the stranglehold that they say benefits large companies and financial institutions over ordinary people, set up camp in the Rynek G_ówny on May 22.

But, on May 26 at 6am, police moved in to break up the protest, deemed by city authorities to be illegal. At least 15 people are required in order for a protest to be legitimate, but officials said that only five took part in the Occupy Krakow event. Protest organisers argued that there were 19 people, but that authorities had deliberately ‘overlooked’ those in the tents.

http://tinyurl.com/c7cyr6d

Hacktivists miss one, hit two and promise govt a lot more [India]

Over the weekend, the hacktivist group Anonymous launched a drum roll of attacks against government servers, a curtain-raiser to the first Occupy protests by its India chapter on Saturday, June 9. On Saturday, the group targeted but failed to take down the website of Veerappa Moily’s Ministry of Corporate Affairs. But two other government websites flatlined on Sunday.

http://tinyurl.com/cmupbax

Anonymous to ‘Occupy Mumbai’, demand internet freedom

The India wing of international hacktivist group Anonymous, best known for hacking into the Supreme Court and All India Congress Committee websites last month, is organising its first national protest at 4pm on Saturday.

The gathering is being organised to protest against the blocking of file-hosting and file-sharing websites such as Dailymotion, Vimeo and The Pirate Bay by major internet service providers. These websites were blocked following an injunction issued by the Madras high court on March 29.

‘Occupy Mumbai’ will take place at Gateway of India. Protestors have been asked to wear black outfits along with a Guy Fawkes mask. Similar protests have been planned at the same time in Delhi, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Bangalore, Kochi, Indore and Calicut.

http://tinyurl.com/cmve7f9

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