CHUTZPAH OF THE YEAR AWARD GOES TO …

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Walmart Holding Canned Food Drive For Its Own Underpaid Employees
The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage.
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A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive — for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, says the drive is a positive thing. “This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said. Indeed, Lundberg is correct that it’s commendable to make an effort to help out those who are in need, especially during the holidays.

A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive — for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, says the drive is a positive thing. “This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said. Indeed, Lundberg is correct that it’s commendable to make an effort to help out those who are in need, especially during the holidays.

But the need for a food drive illustrates how difficult it is for Walmart workers to get by on its notoriously low pay. The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage. In fact, Walmart’s President and CEO, Bill Simon, recently estimated that the majority of its one million associates make less than $25,000 per year, just above the federal poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four. When the Washington DC city council passed a living wage bill requiring Walmart to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 per hour, the chain threatened to shut down its new stores if Mayor Vincent Gray didn’t veto the bill. Gray vetoed the bill.

Walmart’s low wages come at a public cost. Because low-income workers still need housing and health care, taxpayers end up doling out millions in benefits to bridge the gap faced by many of the store’s retail workers. They have also led to strikes at Walmart stores from Seattle to Chicago to Los Angeles in recent weeks.

Even if the canned food drive successfully gathers enough to help out the Canton store’s low-income workers, many of them might not even be able to have the food on Thanksgiving. That’s because Walmart is one of a group of retailers that will open its stores for Black Friday sales beginning at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon.

But the need for a food drive illustrates how difficult it is for Walmart workers to get by on its notoriously low pay. The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage. In fact, Walmart’s President and CEO, Bill Simon, recently estimated that the majority of its one million associates make less than $25,000 per year, just above the federal poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four. When the Washington DC city council passed a living wage bill requiring Walmart to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 per hour, the chain threatened to shut down its new stores if Mayor Vincent Gray didn’t veto the bill. Gray vetoed the bill.

Walmart’s low wages come at a public cost. Because low-income workers still need housing and health care, taxpayers end up doling out millions in benefits to bridge the gap faced by many of the store’s retail workers. They have also led to strikes at Walmart stores from Seattle to Chicago to Los Angeles in recent weeks.

Even if the canned food drive successfully gathers enough to help out the Canton store’s low-income workers, many of them might not even be able to have the food on Thanksgiving. That’s because Walmart is one of a group of retailers that will open its stores for Black Friday sales beginning at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon.

Source

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Runner-Up for the Award this year goes to …

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McDonald’s Advice to Underpaid Employees: Sell Your Christmas Presents For Cash

Their website has another piece of advice for people who are stressed about their meager paychecks: “Quit complaining,” the site suggests. “Stress hormones levels rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining.”

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Tis the season for holiday spirit: Yule logs, egg nog, festive lights and exchanging gifts with loved ones. If you work for McDonald’s, though, be sure to save those receipts.

McDonald’s McResource Line, a dedicated website run by the world’s largest fast-food chain to provide its 1.8 million employees with financial and health-related tips, offers a full page of advice for “Digging Out From Holiday Debt.” Among their helpful holiday tips: “Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

Elsewhere on the site, McDonald’s encourages its employees to break apart food when they eat meals, as “breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.” And if they are struggling to stock their shelves with food in the first place, the company offers assistance for workers applying for food stamps.

McDonald’s corporate officers have a history of offering questionable advice to their low-wage workers. Four months ago, the company partnered with Visa to distribute a sample “budget.” In it, the chain suggested that workers needn’t pay for such frivolous expenses like their heating bills, and factored in a monthly rent of $600. To workers living in New York City (home of 350+ stores) and other expensive metropolises, that number is almost comical.

McDonald’s employees are some of the most underpaid workers in the country. The company’s cashiers and “team members” earn, on average, $7.75 an hour, just 50 cents higher than the federal minimum wage. Responding to rising living costs, many stores have staged walk-outsstrikes and protests, demanding a living wage. In Europe, where the minimum wage for employees is $12, customers pay just pennies more than their American counterparts for the same menu items, while the stores themselves typically bring in higher profit margins than ones in the United States.

Of course, McDonalds has shown little willingness to negotiate higher salaries for their poorest workers even as labor rights groups up the pressure. Instead, their website has another piece of advice for people who are stressed about their meager paychecks: “Quit complaining,” the site suggests. “Stress hormones levels rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining.”

Also FROM

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MILLION MASK MARCH FOR JUSTICE

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
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“Remember who your enemies are: billionaires who own banks and corporations who corrupt politicians who enslave the people in injustice.”
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Protesters gather around the world for Million Mask March

Demonstrations in more than 400 cities were planned to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, with Russell Brand at a London protest

  • Ben Quinn
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IN PALESTINE: WORK SEARCH CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH

“You leave your family shortly before dawn, but you never know for sure if you will return home at the end of the day. Nothing is certain and we live in a constant state of anxiety.”
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Palestinians risking their lives for a job

West Bankers trying to find work in Israel face prison, injury, and even death.

Khalid Amayreh
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As many as 70,000 Palestinians commute each day between the West Bank and Israel [Khalid Amayreh/Al Jazeera]
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Every week, Muhammad Ibrahim Hantash puts his life at risk in order to find a day’s work. The 23-year-old from Khursa, a village in the West Bank about 15 kilometres south of Hebron, often crosses illegally into Israel in search of a job to sustain his family.

Because Hantash is unmarried, he is not eligible to obtain a work permit from the Israeli Civil Administration, the government department responsible for entry into Israel. Israeli security agencies believe that married Palestinian workers, especially those with children, are less likely to be involved in “acts of terror” inside Israel.

Unlawful border crossings into Israel are rife with peril, and often end in injury or even death. “Ours is a piece of bread soaked in blood,” said Hantash. “You leave your family shortly before dawn, but you never know for sure if you will return home at the end of the day. Nothing is certain and we live in a constant state of anxiety.”

He is just one of thousands of young Palestinians who endanger their lives in order to find work, helping them and their families withstand the bleak economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. As many as 70,000 Palestinians are thought to commute each day between the West Bank and Israel. According to the Palestinian Labour Ministry, between 35-40 percent of them are unlicensed workers.

Israeli authorities insist that the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, is responsible for providing jobs for Palestinians in the West Bank. But the PA has no sovereignty of its own, and no control over border crossings with Israel or the outside world. 

The PA’s Labour Ministry does not have exact figures on how many unlicensed Palestinian workers have been shot by the Israeli army and border police as they attempt to enter Israel.

According to the Palestinian Labour Ministry’s Manpower Department, between five to ten workers lose their lives this way every year. Dozens of others are injured, some seriously, when the vehicles they travel in crash while trying to elude Israeli army jeeps.

This January, Uday Kamel Darawish, from the town of Dura, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he tried to enter through a small gap in the border barrier near the town of Dahirriya. Relatives said Darawish was shot in the chest with “dum-dum bullets” – ammunition designed to expand on impact in order to produce a wound of larger diameter. Fellow workers reportedly tried to save his life, but as they approached his body, Israeli soliders fired at them.

On October 21, eight Palestinian workers – also from Dura – were injured when an Israeli army vehicle rammed their car. Two days earlier, two other workers were seriously injured near Jerusalem after they fell into a pit during a chase.

Yousef Suleiman, 38, is an unlicensed Palestinian worker who says he has “been through it all”.

“Israel treats Palestinian workers as pieces of trash,” he said. “When they catch us, they beat us severely. Beating unlicensed workers is against the Israeli law. However, for the Israeli justice system, entering Israel illegally nullifies any complaints of mistreatment at the hands of the police or soldiers.”

“They often tell us: ‘Go to Abbas to feed you and cater for your families,’” he continued, referring to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. “We retort that Abbas himself and his authority are under the Israeli occupation. But, of course, the logic of power – not the power of logic – is what prevails at the end.”

According to Suleiman, caught workers are taken to an Israeli police station where they are forced to sign documents that allow the Israeli authorities to indict them if they enter Israel again without a valid entry permit. The document is reportedly only written in Hebrew, and very few workers understand what their signatures entail. Before the workers are released, they are given a suspended prison sentence from six months to three years if they are caught again in Israel.

Despite the security risk, Palestinian workers are often preferred over foreign workers, said Suleiman. He said they are more skilled, work harder and don’t cost the Israeli employer additional expenses such as airline tickets, housing arrangements and medical insurance. “Besides,” he said, “the Palestinian workers get their work done and return to their homes in the West Bank at the end of the day.”

The Israeli Civil Administration in Hebron did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the issue of unlicensed Palestinian workers in Israel.

However, Egal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Palestinian workers trying to enter Israel illegally were “infiltrators very much like foreign workers from Africa reaching Israel via the Egyptian borders”.

Palmor said Palestinians were able to enter Israel to work because Israel’s separation wall with the West Bank is not yet complete. “The barrier was not built to prevent Palestinian workers from entering Israel for work,” he emphasised. “It was built to prevent terrorist infiltration.” He also denied that Israeli soldiers were given instructions to shoot workers.

When asked whether a long-term solution to the problem exists, Palmor said only creating more jobs in the West Bank would significantly decrease the number of Palestinians seeking work in Israel. 

Written FOR

YOU WOULD THINK A 30 BILLION DOLLAR A YEAR HANDOUT WAS ENOUGH …

Not in the case of Israel!
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You would think that the 30 Billion Dollar$ GIVEN to Israel by the US Government annually (from YOUR tax dollars) was enough …. NOT SO! Most private donations via various zionist organisations to Israel are ALSO tax deductible  Worse yet, these organisations maintain a Tax-Exempt Status, leaving even less in the US coffers that could and should be used for Social Welfare Programmes at home….
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Just how long will this injustice be tolerated?
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And What happens if they lose that status? Donations intended for the ZOA given between February 2012 and May 2013 went to a donor advised fund maintained by an outside organization. The money still poured in via a ‘back door’.
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ZOA Regains Tax-Exempt Status After Yearlong Hiatus

Pro-Israel Group Skipped Federal Disclosure Filings

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Back in Business: ZOA National President Morton Klein chats with Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann at the group’s gala in 2011.
NAOMI ZEVELOFF
Back in Business: ZOA National President Morton Klein chats with Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann at the group’s gala in 2011.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

The Zionist Organization of America has regained its tax exemption more than a year after its failure to file financial disclosures led the Internal Revenue Service to revoke its nonprofit status.

The 116-year-old Jewish group’s tax exemption was reinstated on May 15, according to a statement from the ZOA.

“We’re delighted and gratified,” said ZOA National President Morton Klein in an interview with the Forward. “Now we can be raising money directly for ZOA.”

Donations intended for the ZOA given between February 2012 and May 2013 went to a donor advised fund maintained by an outside organization.

The ZOA, which occupies a decidedly hawkish slot on the pro-Israel Jewish spectrum, faced deep internal strife following the loss of its tax exemption in February 2012. ZOA National Vice Chairman Steven Goldberg emerged as a strident critic of the organization’s professional leadership, criticizing Klein for what Goldberg alleged was an effort to keep the loss of the tax exemption from the public.

The ZOA also fired Orit Arfa, the Los Angeles-based executive director of the ZOA’s Western Region, who had complained internally that the group was not doing enough to inform donors that the group’s tax exemption had been revoked. A ZOA spokesman said at the time that Arfa’s firing was not retaliatory. Arfa has sued the ZOA for wrongful termination in federal court in California. The ZOA has filed a motion to dismiss the case. Klein declined to comment on Arfa’s suit, though he called it “without merit.”

The ZOA’s loss of its tax exemption was not revealed until the publication of a Forward exposé in September, eight months the revocation occurred. A March email from ZOA national executive director David Drimer, submitted as an exhibit in Arfa’s lawsuit, asked ZOA staffers to keep the revocation quiet.

“In general, please do not broach this subject with donors unless it is absolutely necessary or they ask about it specifically,” Drimer wrote. “We firmly believe we can turn this around quickly through retroactive reinstatement so that assertively publicizing the current state of affairs will not be advantageous for the short and long-term interests of the ZOA.” An attached set of talking points prepared staffers to answer questions raised by donors.

The revocation came after the ZOA failed to file three years’ worth of Form 990s, required financial disclosures filed annually with the IRS by not-for-profit organizations. Subsequent filings revealed that Klein received a 38% bump in his base compensation for the period during which ZOA failed to file its tax reports.

Klein told the Forward that ZOA has now instituted organizational protections to prevent such filing errors from recurring, including the creation of a board committee to oversee the organization’s accounting operations.

As of May 15, the ZOA is again able to accept donations itself.

“There’s been zero impact, zero, on our work,” Klein said. “Our campus work, our work on [Capitol] Hill, our Title XI [civil rights] work, my speaking, my writing, my doing TV and radio. Nothing organizationally changed.”

The ZOA canceled its annual gala in 2012, citing the loss of the group’s tax-exempt status and a serious illness from which Klein was recovering at that time. The group says its 2013 gala will now go forward. The keynote speaker will be Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate and Fox News host. Loews Corp. CEO James Tisch will also be honored.

“We’re coming back with major people,” Klein said.

Source

MAY DAY! MAY DAY!! MAY DAY!!!

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Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It derives from the French venez m’aider, meaning “come help me“.[1]

It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by mariners and aviators, but in some countries local organisations such as police forces, firefighters, and transportation organizations also use the term. The call is always given three times in a row (“Mayday Mayday Mayday”) to prevent mistaking it for some similar-sounding phrase under noisy conditions, and to distinguish an actual Mayday call from a message about a Mayday call. (From)

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Yes, the entire world is in distress…. Here’s how YOU can help ….

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Wed
May. 1
12:00 AM
May Day Events
Wed
May. 1
10:00 AM
Occupy Guitarmy May Day Education and Actions
Wed
May. 1
10:30 AM
Young Workers: March with TWU on May Day!
Wed
May. 1
11:00 AM
Wed
May. 1
12:00 PM
Immigrant Worker Justice Tour
Wed
May. 1
12:00 PM

Rally for Worker & Immigrant Rights

Union Square, Union Square Park, New York
Rally for Worker & Immigrant Rights
Wed
May. 1
3:00 PM

99 Pickets Solidarity Swarm

Union Square, Union Square Park, New York
99 Pickets Solidarity Swarm
Wed
May. 1
3:00 PM
NYC Student May Day Convergence and Dance Party
Wed
May. 1
3:00 PM
Resistance Is Fertile: Love Bomb Seed Bombs
Wed
May. 1
7:00 PM

May Day People’s Assembly

Foley Square, Foley Square, New York
May Day People's Assembly
Wed
May. 1
7:45 PM
Kimani Gray Memorial Citywide May Day Assembly
Fri
May. 3
1:00 PM

Screen: Occupy Love (Film)

Cinema Village, 22 E 12th Street, New York
Screen: Occupy Love (Film)
Sat
May. 4
1:00 PM
Occupy Against attacks on the 99% Through Austerity!
Tue
May. 7
6:30 PM
After May Day-Occupy Wall Street in Action/Open House

WHY WE WON’T MOURN FOR MARGARET THATCHER

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Among other things … She sponsored a wave of racism claiming Britain was being “swamped by immigrants” – and then unleashed a reign of racist terror by the police on black communities across the country, notably in places like Brixton and Toxteth. At the same time she propped up Apartheid racism in South Africa branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist to the very end. She used the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as an excuse to attack lesbians and gay men, bringing the anti-gay law, Section 28. And in case students thought they were getting off lightly she laid the foundation stone of the long campaign to transform education from a right into a privilege for the rich by introducing student loans.
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Why we Won’t Mourn for Margaret Thatcher
Written by Liverpool Trades Union Council   

Margaret Thatcher died on 8 April 2013 and the vast majority of ordinary people greeted her passing with undisguised joy.

The right wing media have tried to portray this response as the disrespectful behaviour of a minority. It isn’t. It is a fitting response to the death of a Tory prime minister who spent the entire 1980s wilfully attacking the poor and the working class, in Britain and abroad.

During her reign countless people lost their lives directly as a result of her policies – miners killed on the picket lines, ten Irish prisoners driven to death on hunger strike by her refusal to recognise their human rights, sailors on the Belgrano torpedoed on her order as their ship sailed away from a war zone, people driven to suicide by her selfish economic policies that increased inequality massively in Britain.

And of course in this city 96 Liverpool supporters died at a football match. She was up to her armpits in a conspiracy to blame the victims and their families for a tragedy that her hateful policing policies caused. And we have only just got an official recognition of how this cover up increased the terrible suffering that the families and survivors of this terrible event have had to endure for 24 long years.

Did Thatcher mourn for her victims? No. And we don’t mourn for her.

In Britain she destroyed industry after industry to break the power of the trade unions – in steel, in the mines, in the print and on the docks. She passed the most undemocratic and draconian anti-union laws in the west. She deregulated the banks and directly caused the regime of financial piracy that led to the recent financial crash.

Thatcher openly targeted our city – a city with strong trade union and socialist values –imposing savage cuts and then ousting a democratically elected Labour council that fought her. She launched her attacks on Liverpool after the Toxteth Rising in 1981, determined to make us pay for having fought back and determined to carry out a policy of the “managed decline” (her words) of our city.

After she had waged her neo-colonial war against Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982 – a war designed to shore up Britain’s military prowess on the world stage and protect the interests of Britain’s bosses who could smell oil reserves in the South Atlantic and saw the islands as a potential future basis of operations – she returned to war on people she called “the enemy within”, trade unionists, workers, poor people and above all the miners. After all, the excuse that Argentina was ruled by a dictator didn’t wash given her lifelong support for the murderous General Pinochet in neighbouring Chile. This was a dictator she was happy to lavish praise on and arm to the teeth. He killed at least 30,000 Chilean trade unionists after his coup in 1973.

Thatcher spent untold millions killing Argentinians and then in 1984/85 bludgeoning British miners into submission after a year-long strike, and all for the same aim – to ensure that the country would be a land of plenty for the rich elite both at home and abroad. Mining communities were wrecked by her pit closure programme and criminalised by a police occupation of their villages when they fought back.

And having won both battles she went on, in her third term of office – to impose an unjust local tax on everyone – the poll tax. She brazenly piloted it in Scotland first in act of vengeful spite against a people who had rejected Toryism outright. This was one battle she lost as we fought back with all our might. Make no mistake, it may have been the Tory men in suits who moved against her in parliament, but they were only able to do it because we had made Britain virtually ungovernable through the great Poll Tax Rebellion.

During her time in office and even before she became prime minister Thatcher – who famously said, “there is no such thing as society” –did her best to harm all of those who stood for justice and equality? She took free milk away from schoolchildren. She sold off council houses creating a terrible shortage of affordable homes; she privatised industries and utilities so her loud mouthed mega rich friends in the City of London could make killing after killing on the stock markets. She closed down industries and then allowed a heroin epidemic to flourish in the ghost towns her policies had created.

She sponsored a wave of racism claiming Britain was being “swamped by immigrants” – and then unleashed a reign of racist terror by the police on black communities across the country, notably in places like Brixton and Toxteth. At the same time she propped up Apartheid racism in South Africa branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist to the very end. She used the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as an excuse to attack lesbians and gay men, bringing the anti-gay law, Section 28. And in case students thought they were getting off lightly she laid the foundation stone of the long campaign to transform education from a right into a privilege for the rich by introducing student loans.

There is not one thing that Thatcher did that was good. Her life was a blot on our landscape. We are well rid of her – and we are outraged that at a time of major cuts in welfare she is being given a multi-million pound send off. What hypocrisy, what an insult to the poor of this country who are having to cope with the bedroom tax and the benefit cuts as over £10million is spent burying a person the majority of people in this country despise.

Which brings us to the main point we should all remember as she is dispatched – Thatcher may be dead but her legacy of sacrificing the livelihoods, the rights and communities of the working class on the altar of profit lives on in her descendants. Cameron and his gang of Etonian toffs are trying to finish off the job Thatcher started. It is our job to stop them and hurl Thatcher’s legacy back in their face. Which is why on the day of her funeral Liverpool Trades Union Council renews its commitment to stopping the cuts, axing the bedroom tax, saving the NHS and supporting workers’ struggles here, across the country and across the world. 

Source

 

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WHO SAID PALESTINE HAS NO OIL?

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Palestine’s Golden Oil

BY SAM BAHOUR

Underneath much of the Middle East lies the world’s oil supply, which is pumped year-round to keep the global economy humming along. In one special place in the Middle East—better known as the Holy Land—a different type of oil reigns supreme: olive oil. In this strategic region in the Levant, Palestine has a large amount of land devoted to the olive tree; about 45% of agricultural land in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) is planted with twelve million olive trees, the vast majority of which are in the West Bank, and its valuable, healthy fruits take center stage in the political conflict between Palestinians and Israelis every harvesting season.

Land is at the core of this conflict. Israel’s military has confiscated land for illegal Israeli settlements, erected an illegal “Separation Barrier” that separates Palestinian farmers from their plantations, and has not spared Palestinian olive groves: it has uprooted olive trees as a way of punishing the population. The vast majority of Palestinian olive trees are in the West Bank, which has 739,500 dunams (184,875 acres), or 98.6% of the total, whereas, the Gaza Strip had only 11,200 dunams (2,800 acres) of olive trees, which is 1.4%. However, in the Gaza Strip, over 7,300 dunums (1,825 acres) of land along the perimeter fence with Israel, previously cultivated with olive trees, were leveled during Israeli incursions in recent years. An olive seedling can take several decades to fully mature and many of Palestine’s olive trees are hundreds of years old. The horrifying reality is that Israel has added olive trees to their campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and the result is that Palestine’s golden oil is becoming scarcer and much more dangerous to harvest.

olives on branches, Palestine

Photo credit: Vivien Sansour

Cultivating olive trees and harvesting this murky, tangy, golden liquid is the livelihood for approximately 100,000 Palestinian families. Olive picking is more than a seasonal chore—it is a way of life. Families tend to their olive trees all year round to harvest them in October and November. Family members, young and old, gather in the fields from early morning to sunset to share in the hard work of hand picking the olives, collecting them in large nylon bags, then hauling them to the nearest olive press to extract the valuable yield of olive oil. For the thousands of families who have harvested olives for generations, the value of land means little if not cultivated, hence the olive tree, being a lifelong investment in the land, takes on special meaning. It is not uncommon to find inheritances that distribute olive trees among descendants, thus one can understand how the Israeli destruction of trees is viewed as a direct, deliberate, and violent provocation.

Palestinian olive oil is sold locally this year for 400 NIS ($114) for a 16-kilogram jug. A recent Oxfam briefing paper, “The Road To Olive Farming,” notes that “in a good year, the [Palestinian] olive oil sector contributes over $100 million of income annually to some of the poorest communities.” This figure amounts to one quarter of the gross agricultural income in the OPT.

Olive oil cultivation is a core sector in Palestine’s economic mix. The Oxfam paper notes that “in 2006, 21,000 tons of olive oil remained [for export] once the needs of the domestic market had been met.” The global olive production industry is valued at over $10 billion; the export potential for Palestinian olives and olive oil has not even begun to be tapped.

olives on branches, Palestine

Photo credit: Vivien Sansour

When the Israeli occupation is not making its presence felt, the season of the olive harvest is absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately, the Israeli occupation cannot be ignored. The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the OPT issued an “Olive Harvest Factsheet” in October 2011 lists the threats facing Palestine’s olive sector:

  • 44 out of 66 [Separation] Barrier gates are only open during the harvest season, impeding the regular maintenance of the groves and undermining their productivity.
  • Some 40% of applications for “visitor permits” to access [Palestinian] olive groves behind the Barrier, submitted by Palestinians on the eve of the 2010 harvest season, were rejected.
  • In the vicinity of 55 Israeli settlements, Palestinian access to olive groves is limited to certain times during the harvest season, when Israeli forces are deployed on the ground.
  • Between January and September 2011, more than 7,500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians were uprooted, set on fire or otherwise vandalized by Israeli settlers.
  • Of 97 complaints about settler attacks against Palestinian trees, followed up by the Israeli NGO Yesh Din, none (zero) has so far led to the indictment of a suspect.

These facts speak for themselves. It is not enough that Israel has confiscated and illegally annexed Palestinian lands by constructing the Separation Barrier; Israel is determined to make sure that even those Palestinian lands that remain will be inaccessible for Palestinians to earn a dignified livelihood. But Palestinians are not known to give up so easily. Rural communities everywhere feel a deep attachment to their land, trees, and crops, more so than those who live in urban societies. It is this attachment that accounts in part for the Palestinian determination to carry on, focused on our right to work our lands.

The international solidarity that has been expressed by volunteers coming from all corners of the world to join in planting saplings in February and harvesting the olives in October is a tremendous source of strength. Whether you actually participate along side Palestinian farmers, buy Palestinian olives, olive oil and olive soap from anywhere in the world, or you are helping to get the word out to hold Israel accountable for its actions, together we are standing on the side of humanity in a conflict that seems to have none.

Written FOR

ON LABOUR DAY, AND EVERY OTHER DAY, LOOK FOR THE UNION LABEL

 
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Don’t Just Look for Union Label

On Labor Day, Time To Rethink Old Progressive Mantra

By Ari Paul*

Labor Day has arrived, and families across the country will be getting their backyards ready for barbecues. In progressive circles, a familiar message is making the rounds: Buy union. Make sure your grill is a Weber or Thermador, made by union hands. Eat Butterball and Hebrew National franks. A list of brands has been circulating on social media sites with the goal of urging pro-labor consumers to support members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and other food sector and manufacturing unions.


Trade unionists encourage each other to “buy union” not only to show solidarity, but also to prop up unionized businesses. After all, nonunion competitors can afford to mark down their products, so it is up to us to keep union jobs alive. And we can punish anti-union companies by not giving them our business. The idea of letting your social conscience guide your purchases — whether it be boycotting or gorging on Chick-fil-A — is a familiar and popular American concept.

But at a time when a movement like Occupy Wall Street is proposing a new economic approach that isn’t based simply on stimulating consumer spending, perhaps this is the wrong approach. At the very least, we should examine at it a bit more critically.

I should make it known that I avoid anti-union FedEx. I don’t set foot in a Walmart unless I’m stranded in the middle of a highway in America with no other option. On more than one occasion, I’ve defended my preference for plebeian Budweiser or Miller High Life over more sophisticated micro-brews by pointing to the union label.

But this assumes that the benefits union workers have at these companies are the result not of collective action, which forced the employer to comply with worker demands, but of consumers lining the pockets of the bosses. Through active consumerism, the “buy union” narrative shifts the power to driving change from worker struggle. Furthermore, there is something terribly Reagan-istic about assuming that making bosses at unionized firms even richer will allow the wealth to trickle down to Joe Sixpack.

In fact, it often doesn’t. Many of the major strikes and lockouts in this country over the past several years — at Verizon, Sotheby’s, Mott’s (which is on the Labor Day BBQ list) and Caterpillar — involved companies demanding draconian wage and benefit concessions from workers not because of increased competition or falling revenues, but despite whopping profits.

Think of it this way: If I send a package via UPS (where workers are represented by the Teamsters) and my patronage helps keep the parcel company in the black, how can I expect the surplus to be used? Will it be voluntarily invested in a new safety program for workers or through increased pension contributions? Or will it go to corporate lawyers and public relations hacks to help fight the union in the next round of contract talks?

Also, if you look at the list of Labor Day “union” items, you see a lot of odious actors. Though its workers are unionized, Smithfield has been condemned by both labor groups and by animal rights activists for its atrocious slaughterhouse conditions. The list urges people to buy Coca-Cola products even though many unionists are boycotting the company for its connection to violence against labor organizers in Colombia. Hormel Red Franks is also on the list; in the mid-80s the company fought against its meatpackers and were successful in the campaign, which, along with Ronald Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers. marked the decline of the American labor movement.

Of course, when it is feasible and ethical to buy union, there’s not a problem with that. And there’s a sense that buying union proves to free-market advocates that it is possible for companies to invest more in employees and remain competitive. But the fact is, buying union is a kind of “least I can do” approach. It isn’t clear that shopping at Costco, which has union-represented locations and pays its employees above the industry standards according to labor groups, will change Walmart’s ways anytime soon. America can’t buy its way to labor reform; that will take massive legal changes and, most of all, grassroots organizing among workers, not patting employers on the back for not having broken the union at their place of business.

Things such as green products thrive because a lot of people demand them. Sadly, union membership is at less than 15% in the United States, and that’s not enough people to move markets — or company ethics.

*Ari Paul has written for The Nation, the Guardian, Z Magazine and Al Jazeera English. He is a dues-paying member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Written FOR

 The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

ASK MITT ANYTHING …..

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A LONG AWAITED FOR STUDY OF HOW THE NYPD ABUSED BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS AT OWS

Study: NYPD Abused Basic Human Rights at Occupy Protests

US police show epidemic suppression of protests

- Common Dreams staff

The NYPD ‘consistently violated basic rights’ during the Occupy Wall Street protests and showed a ‘shocking level of impunity’, when dealing with protesters, according to a new study (pdf), published on Wednesday.

Protesters screamed in pain after police cornered them and sprayed them with pepper spray at an Occupy Wall Street Protest (Photo/Jefferson Siegel)

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The report, by the Global Justice Clinic at New York University’s School of Law and the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School, conducted over an eight month period,examined hours of video footage, documents, press reports, and conducted extensive interviews with protestors and witnesses from the Occupy protests and encampments. The findings paint a disturbing portrait: authorities across the US will now suppress protest at all cost, even if protests are lawful, peaceful, and of no threat to the general public.

The study details the increasingly common practices of “excessive police use of force against protesters, bystanders, journalists, and legal observers; constant obstructions of media freedoms, including arrests of journalists; unjustified and sometimes violent closure of public space, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and corralling and trapping protesters en masse,” the report states.

“Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity, arbitrary and selective rule enforcement, and restrictions on independent protest monitoring also raise serious concerns. The government has also failed to make transparent critical policies concerning law enforcement activities.”

The report is the first section of a several part series covering police response to Occupy protests in cities around the US, revealing a national epidemic abusive of power.

Sarah Knuckey, at NYU School of Law, told the Guardian: “All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking”.

“Many interviewees cried while speaking about their interaction with the police – they still carried a sense of trauma.”

The report lists a total of 130 incidents of excessive or unwarranted force by New York police.

The authors of the report are using the research as a basis of written complaints made Thursday to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the NYPD, the state department of justice and the United Nations.

The report claims the NYPD has also violated international human rights law, stating:

“Full respect for assembly and expression rights is necessary for democratic participation, the exchange of ideas, and for securing positive social reform. The rights are guaranteed in
international law binding upon the United States. Yet U.S. authorities have engaged in persistent breaches of protest rights since the start of Occupy Wall Street.”

 

Written FOR

DIVESTMENT IS THE BEST INVESTMENT YOU CAN MAKE TO FREE PALESTINE

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Nearly two decades ago, I had a dream. I thought the historic tragedy that befell the Palestinian people was about to end. As such, I refused to be an observer to the historic events that were unfolding; instead, I chose to employ my U.S. education and work experience to contribute to building a new reality on the ground — to build an economy that could serve the new and emerging state of Palestine.

My dream has become a nightmare, one that is being sustained, and financially underwritten, by many people around the world who should know better.
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Palestine’s Investments Require Divestment

By Sam Bahour

Nearly two decades ago, I had a dream. I thought the historic tragedy that befell the Palestinian people was about to end. As such, I refused to be an observer to the historic events that were unfolding; instead, I chose to employ my U.S. education and work experience to contribute to building a new reality on the ground — to build an economy that could serve the new and emerging state of Palestine.

My dream has become a nightmare, one that is being sustained, and financially underwritten, by many people around the world who should know better.

Soon after the Palestinians and Israelis signed their first-ever agreement, the Oslo Accords, in 1993, I relocated with my family from the comfort zone of Youngstown, Ohio, my hometown, to the birthplace of my father in Al-Bireh, a Palestinian city 10 miles north of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

Before departing to the Holy Land, I read the Oslo Accords carefully, very carefully. I walked into the Middle East’s powder keg knowing very well that the five-year “interim” agreement that the parties had signed on the White House lawn did not end Israel’s prolonged military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. However, the agreement did open new opportunities, economic and otherwise. Yet even those still required Israeli unilateral decision making to make them real.

Over the years, not only has Israel prohibited the emergence of a new Palestinian economy — it structurally and systematically has made certain that even the buds of such a productive economy would never see the light of day. Anyone who scratches the surface of all the political spin can see for themselves what the World Bank reported and now continues to repeat: that Israel’s “apparatus of control” has “become more sophisticated and effective in its ability to interfere in and affect every aspect of Palestinian life, including job opportunities, work, and earnings…[turning] the West Bank into a fragmented set of social and economic islands or enclaves cut off from one another.” The International Monetary Fund and the European Union are speaking in the same vein. And embargoed Gaza is in far worse shape than the West Bank.

Given that so many respected international organizations and analysts see reality for what it is, the question is what is being done about it.

Earlier this month, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) held its 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The gathering received international news coverage due to one of the topics on the agenda: the recommendation that the church divest from three U.S. firms (Caterpillar, Inc., Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard). These firms were singled out because of their direct involvement and profiteering from Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestinians.

Although the Presbyterian commissioners narrowly decided not to divest, 333 to 331, with two abstentions, the church’s General Assembly did vote to encourage “positive investment” in the occupied Palestinian territory. Many who understand the dire state of affairs in Palestine may be disappointed that the divestment recommendation did not pass. I view the debate differently. The educational value of having this significant church engage on the issue was invaluable. I have no doubt that in the near future, a vote to divest from these three firms, and maybe others benefiting from this prolonged occupation, will be forthcoming.

What troubles me is that during the debate, the Israel lobby’s tactic of “positive investment” was heavily pushed. Through extreme pressure on the church’s General Assembly commissioners, a case was successfully made to “invest in Palestine” rather than to divest from American companies profiting from the violent Israeli military occupation of Palestinians. Those pushing “positive investment” and those voting for it seem unaware that for six years the Presbyterians have backed investment. The reality is that they have not been able to find safe investments since they’re jeopardized by heavy-handed Israeli enforcement of the occupation which severely threatens profit-making.

As a Palestinian-American businessman, I can confidently proclaim that any serious investment in Palestine will need a parallel effort to hold Israel accountable if “positive investment” is to have any chance of success.

I do not belittle “positive investment.” On the contrary, my staff and I work unstintingly to create and support businesses in Palestine. However, I’ve been here long enough to understand that Israel will not let us build a real economy, so every job we create is really a means to nonviolently resist this occupation and give hope to a Palestinian family in order for that family to remain in Palestine and not emigrate. A Palestinian with no other options will try to build something here, but an outside businessperson with other options is going to look at the risks and give very serious consideration to investing elsewhere.

Investment is threatened as the Israeli military, directed by the Israeli government, micro-manages every aspect of the Palestinian economy. That micro-management applies to the telecommunications sector as much as it applies to newly-created private equity funds. The extremely polished bluff of establishing “economic peace” is simply unrealistic for people living under military occupation. It’s also impossible.

Some argue that well-intentioned Presbyterians — and others — should invest in Palestine instead of divesting from Israel. Divestment, they claim, is too negative. Nothing could be further from the truth. Divestment is a highly mature, time-tested, non-violent method to resist injustice. There is no reason it cannot be paired with investment. That noted, the Israeli occupation is making sustainable investment in Palestine nearly impossible.

Last year the World Bank acknowledged that Palestinian economic “growth has been unsustainable, driven primarily by donor aid rather than a rebounding private sector, which remains stifled by Israeli restrictions on access to natural resources and markets.”

In a perfected Orwellian move, pro-Israeli lobbyists publicly promote investment in Palestine, but simultaneously turn a blind eye to the systematic Israeli polices strangling the Palestinian economy. Investment in Palestine — without divestment from the Israeli occupation — only continues to underwrite the status quo of military occupation. For investment to be successful, occupation must be dismantled and control passed to Palestinians.

Palestinian civil society and Palestinians — Christians and Muslims alike — have urged everyone interested in seeing peace with justice to divest from the occupation. We struggle to remain hopeful while a cement wall as high as 24 feet snakes through our homeland. After all, we don’t want a more beautiful prison to live in. We want the prison walls dividing Palestinians from Palestinians to come down, and that won’t happen unless economic pressure is placed on Israel to end the occupation.

 

 

Written FOR

COULD YOU BE SUFFERING FROM FASCISM?

 If so, don’t just sit there, IT’S CURABLE!
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NYC Full Schedule of Permitted and Unpermitted May Day 2012 Actions

international workers day

All taken FROM

NYC MAY DAY 2012 ACTIONS

99 Picket Lines
Midtown Manhattan
Community groups, unions, affinity groups and OWS
more info
8am – Chase Building (NYCC) – 270 Park Ave (@48th St)
8am – New York Times Building (UAW) – 620 8th Ave (@41st St)
8am – Sotheby’s (Teamsters) – 1334 York Ave (@72nd St)
8am-10am – US Post Office (Community-Labor Alliance) – 421 8th Ave (@W31st St)
8:30am-9am – NYU Bobst Library (NYU for OWS) – 70 Washington Square South (@University Pl)
9am – Paulson & Co (Strong Economy for All) – 1251 6th Ave (@50th St)
10am – Chase Branch (NYCC) – 401 Madison Ave (@48th St)
11am – ABC Studios (NABET-CWA) – 66th Street (@Columbus)
12pm-1:30pm – Investment Banker Stephen Berger (CSEA AFSCME) – 46th St @ Park Ave
12pm-2pm – Immigration Court (NMASS) – 26 Federal Plaza (Worth & Lafeyette)
1:30pm – Capital Grille (ROC-NY) – 155 E 42nd St (@3rd Ave)
2pm – Chase and Citibank (Occupy Sunset Park) – 5th Ave & 54th St (BROOKLYN)
3pm – Strand Bookstore (Strand workers) – 828 Broadway (@12th St)
3pm – Beth Israel Hospital (Workers United) – 10 Union Square East (14th St & Park Ave)
8pm – Washington Square Park Arch (Musicians 802) – Washington Square North @ 5th Ave

Pop-up Occupation with Mutual Aid (unpermitted)
8am–2pm, Bryant Park, Manhattan
Occupy Wall Street
more info
Bryant Park will be the site of a fun and friendly “Pop-up Occupation” featuring free food, a free market, free services, skill-shares, workshops, teach-ins, speak-outs, meditation, public art, performances, discussions, and trainings.

May Day Morning Commute from Brooklyn
8:00am, Maria Hernandez Park, Brooklyn
Free Coffee + Breakfast! MARCH from Knickerbocker to Flushing to Broadway to Continental Army Plaza
Occupy Williamsburg, Occupy Bushwick
more info

Sitting Meditation
8–11am, Bryant Park (southwest corner), Manhattan
OWS Meditation working group

Bike Bloc
9am, Union Square, Manhattan
Strike Everywhere
more info

The Free University: Lectures, Workshops, Skill-Shares and Discussions
10am–3pm, Madison Square Park, Manhattan
more info

Occupy Brooklyn March over the Williamsburg Bridge and into Wall Street
10:30am, Continental Army Plaza, Brooklyn
Occupy Williamsburg, Occupy Bushwick
more info

Building Community Alternatives to Capitalism Day
11am–10pm, LaunchPad, 721 Franklin Ave., Brooklyn
Brooklyn Skillshare
more info

Teach-in: How to Keep Your Cool and Occupy…Understanding Aggression
11am, Bryant Park (southwest corner), Manhattan
OWS Meditation working group

High School Student Walkout Convergence
12pm, Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn
more info

Guitarmy: Guitar Workshop and Rehearsal with Tom Morello
Permitted Gathering Space for May Day Festivities

12pm, Bryant Park, Gertrude Stein Statue (east side), Manhattan
OWS Music working group
more info

Call2Create
art events all day throughout NYC
more info

Wildcat March (unpermitted)
1pm, Sara D. Roosevelt Park (East Houston St. & 2nd Ave.), Manhattan
Strike Everywhere
more info

OWS Mutual Aid cluster
1pm-4pm, Union Square
OWS Mutual Aid cluster is hosting a free store, skill shares and workshops on a variety of subjects related to life outside the dominant capitalist paradigm.

Meditation Flash Mob followed by Kirtan
1pm, Bryant Park (southwest corner), Manhattan
OWS Meditation working group

Day Without Workers/Día sin los Trabajadores: May Day March and Speakout
2pm, 5th Ave. at 54th St. in Brooklyn, marching to 36th St & 4th Ave. to take subway at 3:30pm to Union Square rally in Manhattan
Occupy/Ocupemos Sunset Park
more info

MayDay on D-Block!!
2pm, Houston & Ave D, Manhattan
LES public housing residents & tenants take their struggle to the street! All invited!
Occupy Avenue D

Occupy Wall Street & Guitarmy March (unpermitted)
2pm, Bryant Park to Union Square, Manhattan

OWS Teach-in at Trinity Church
2-5:15pm, Trinity Church on Wall St
more info

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two-Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Contingent!
3pm at Regal Movie Theatre, 50 Broadway (at 13th St.) – joining rally at Union Square after
Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, Queers for Economic Justice, Streetwise and Safe and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project
more info

Solidarity Rally with Tom Morello, Dan Deacon, Immortal Technique, Das Racist, Bobby Sanabria and special guests (permitted)
4–5:30pm, Union Square, Manhattan
May First Coalition, Labor Unions and OWS
more info

Impromptu General Assembly
5pm, Union Square by the Andy Warhol Statue (17th and Broadway)

May Day Choir Convergence
5:15pm, Madison Square Park (in front of the fountain), Manhattan
more info

Occupy the Rent Guidelines Board: A Tenants’ General Assembly
5:30pm, 7 East 7th St. (outside Cooper Union), Manhattan
Real Rent Reform Campaign

Solidarity March (permitted)
5:30pm, Union Square to Wall Street, Manhattan
May First Coalition, Labor Unions and OWS
more info

JD Samson & MEN Perform
7pm, 2 Broadway
After the march concludes, more performances and speakers will start the after-party!

Occupy Wall Street Afterparty (unpermitted)
8pm, Wall Street area
People’s Assembly and Haymarket Martyrs Memorial Resistance Rager
Details to be announced. Check the #MayDay and #M1GS hashtags on Twitter up-to-the-moment info.

The May Day 2012 Solidarity Rally and March is being organized by an historic coalition, including:

  • Alliance for Labor Rights, Immigrant Rights, Jobs for All
  • May 1st Coalition for Immigrant & Worker Rights
  • Immigrant & Community Organizations
  • Occupy Wall Street

See below for our growing list of NYC endorsements:

Read More…

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From the folks at Riverside Church …

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TAX DAY PROTESTS IN NEW YORK CITY

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Led by a marching band we paraded through the theatre district on 42nd St. as well as other mid town streets, from 44th to the General Post Office on 33rd. The GPO was the destination of those mailing their tax returns at the last minute.
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War Resisters League leaflets were distributed along the way to large numbers of people enjoying the sights and sounds of Times Square in summer temperatures in mid April.

At the GPO itself, the Grannies Peace Brigade entertained with their sarcastic songs of using the taxes of the 99% to wage war while cutting necessary social services …. followed by street dancing when the band began to play a polka.

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There was another large protest group a block away from the GPO, led by the Tax Dodgers…

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There were other protest groups in different parts of the city. 

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Commentary by and Photos © by Bud Korotzer

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SPRING AWAKENING AT #OCCUPY WALL STREET

It’s not only the trees and flowers that are waking up in the American Spring …. so is the Occupation!

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer
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Old and young united…
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Even a new Dodger ‘Team’
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Upside down flag = SOS
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All out for May Day!
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PHOTO ESSAY ~~ WALL STREET REOCCUPIED THEN ZAPPED BY COPS

Be sure to read the report from the NYT at the end of this post….

To celebrate the 6 month anniversary of the  #Occupy Wall Street Movement, representatives of the 99% reoccupied Liberty Plaza / Zuccotti Park yesterday

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Photos © by Bud Korotzer
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NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD LEGAL OBSERVER INFORMING OWS OF THEIR RIGHTS IF  BEING THREATENED  WITH ARREST.

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Then it happenned….
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Eyewitness acccount….
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THIS WAS THE 1ST ARREST

A CAREFUL LOOK  AT THE FOTO SHOWS THE PERSON BEING ARRESTED.

ON THE A FOTO U CAN SEE THE POLICE WORKING THEIR WAY THRU TO MAKE THE ARREST.

FRM WHAT I WAS TOLD THE CHAP WAS SETTING UP A TENT. AN UNDER-COVER COP STARTED TO ARREST HIM. THE PROTESTERS PROTESTED WHICH BROUGHT IN THE OTHER POLICE.

THE GUY WAS THEN “DE-ARRESTED”. I ASKED , IF THE GUY WAS ARRESTED, THEN DE-ARRESTED WHY IS HE BEING ARRESTED NOW. IT WAS EXPLAINED TO ME THAT “DE-ARREST” MEANS THE GUY WAS PULLED AWAY BY HIS COMRADES, HE THEN  BEGAN TO RUN AWAY. AS HE RAN, ALL THE SPECTATORS WERE YELLING “RUN”  “RUN”  “RUN”.

THE POLICE CAUGHT HIM ACROSS THE STREET AND CON’T THE ARREST. THIS BROUGHT THE MASS OF OWS’ERS ACROSS THE STREET YELLING AT THE POLICE. THE SOFTEST WORDS USED WAS “SHAME” , “SHAME” .

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From the New York Times

Scores Arrested as Zuccotti Park Is Cleared

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THE NEXT PINK SLIP MIGHT BE YOURS….

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THE OBJECT OF THE EVENT WAS TO DEMAND JOBS & ALERT PEOPLE THE NEXT PINK SLIP COULD BE FOR YOU.
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Photos © by Bud Korotzer
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THE PEOPLE SAY ‘CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE’!

Giving the term ‘People Person’ a whole new meaning …
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Why and Where the Demos …… Click HERE
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Photos © by Bud Korotzer
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At Foley Square, NY
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March Down Broadway
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Destination Liberty Park
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THE OCCUPATION FOR JOBS CONTINUES

Yesterday at Union Square, NYC…
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Photos © by Bud Korotzer
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The 1% Responds as best they know how….
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WOULD JESUS BE IN THE 99%?

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Occupy Christmas

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in God or which faith you follow if you do. Here’s a question worth asking this holiday season: Would Jesus be an Occupy demonstrator?

The Bible suggests that He would.

Radio Free Heaven

A few years ago I was driving through the back roads of Alabama listening to Christian radio and I heard a preacher say that “Satan’s name in the world today is ‘God As I Understand Him.’

” Oh, yes, people,” the preacher said, “You hear his name on a lot of people’s lips: ‘God As I Understand Him’ loves everybody. ‘God As I Understand Him’ hates prejudice. ‘God As I Understand Him’ will let you into Heaven if you’re a good person.”

“But know this, my friends,” said the preacher. “When you hear the phrase ‘God As I Understand Him’ you’re hearing someone invoke the name of Satan.”

As the white Southern Baptist railed against liberalism I came to a little town where poor African American women were carrying heavy parcels in the blistering August heat. I saw men lined up outside an unemployment office and people waiting for buses in the blistering sun. I saw run-down shacks, closed storefronts, and vacant lots.

The preacher was saying that God can only be found through institutionalized churches, the kind that tell their followers how to vote. As he droned on I saw hunger, deprivation, and poverty all around me.

God – as I understand him – wouldn’t like that. As William Blake once wrote, “That Vision of Christ which thou dos’t see/is my Vision’s greatest Enemy.”

The Power and the Glory

Look, I’m just as sick as other people are of seeing the word “Occupy” appropriated for everything from partisan politics to self-promotion. But it’s hard to describe Jesus’ action against the moneychangers in today’s terms without calling it “Occupy the Temple.”

By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey accompanied only by his ragged followers, Jesus was proclaiming a spiritual insurrection of the poor and common people – the 99%, if you prefer – against the wealthy and privileged. When he came to the Temple he overturned the moneychangers’ tables and drove them from sacred ground with a “whip of cords.”

A“whip of cords.” And all that today’s protestors are doing is making themselves visible. There’s no violence against anyone. And yet the howls of outrage can be heard from the oak-lined boardrooms of Wall Street to the hypocritical pulpits of right-wing preachers.

Jesus was trying to reclaim his Jewish faith, the faith of his nation, from a clique of clergymen who had colluded with the unjust government of their day for their own purposes. The Romans and the clergy formed a cynical alliance designed to increase their own power and influence by serving the few at the expense of the many.

Sound familiar?

The Last Drum Circle

Today’s financial elite isn’t satisfied just to make billions at the expense of others. They want to be immune from criticism, too. Goldman Sachs’ CEO says it’s “doing God’s work.” An investment banker desecrates the memory of the Holocaust’s victims by saying that asking him to pay the same tax rates as a cop or firefighter would be like Hitler invading Poland.

They wouldn’t like the messages in the Old or New Testaments or the Talmud. These holy books are all pretty clear in their assessment of unproductive wealth. The prophet Ezekiel put usury on his list of “abominable things.” Jesus drove the moneylenders away with that whip.

Sarah Palin says that “US law should be based on the God of the Bible.” As they say, Be careful what you wish for. That’s why I asked my friend Sudeep Johnson1 to create this picture, which she so artfully did by improvising on a painting of The Last Supper:

Some people may find it sacrilegious to depict Jesus and His disciples in a drum circle protesting the 1% of their time. But if you read the New Testament with an open mind, it’s not hard to conclude that the real sacrilege is to use the name of Jesus to support wealth, power, and privilege. God as they understand him bears no relationship to the one we find in Scripture.

Eye of the Needle

Like any good Jewish mother, Mary liked to brag about her son’s talents and his lineage. In Luke 1 she says of God the Father,

51 … he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

That’s the Mother of God talking, people! And yes, Bill O’Reilly, I mean you! You’re a Catholic like my mother’s mother. How can you disregard the Mother of God?

And you can almost hear the conservative Christian preachers gasping: Does she mean the job creators? She certainly means the people they call “job creators.” Her son said “it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven.” (And as an aside: If they’re “job creators,” where are the jobs?)

The Faith Stealers

The Jesus who turned water into wine was undercutting the official clergy, telling his followers that every individual could have a personal experience with the transcendent. In other words, he was urging them to discover divinity directly by experiencing “God as they understand him.” Would Jesus recognize those who speak in his name? Or would he say “Depart, I never knew you”?

Most scholars agree that there was a historical Jesus, whose life and death was noted by the Roman historian Josephus in the year 75 CE. Moderate Christians see him as the Son of God who clothed the homeless, healed the sick, and fed the hungry.Many Jews accept him as a great Jewish teacher. Muslims revere him as a prophet. Hindus see him as an avatar of God.

There are also many atheists and agnostics who accept him as a great moral leader. “I wouldn’t want to live in a world where the Sermon on the Mount didn’t exist,” said prominent atheist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Jackson Browne sang of himself as “a pagan who stands with the Rebel Jesus.”

This is the time of year when those of us who revere him in these different ways are told we must submit to an endless barrage of messages about their authoritarian, right-wing Jesus. If we don’t, we’re told that we’re part of a “War On Christmas.”

The Christmas War

If they’re looking for a war on their Christmas, we say Bring it on! Whenever they spout their distorted, politicized sermons, why not hit ‘em with the Christmas Love Gun? Here’s how to use it:

When they complain about extending unemployment or helping the poor, tell them to reread Matthew 25:31-46, then ponder the fiery fate of those who refuse to feed or clothe the hungry and heal prisoners when they’re sick.

When they talk about protecting bankers, remind them about Ezekiel and those moneylenders in the Temple.

When they bitch about taxes of the size of government, quote that line about “Rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.”

When they push their Islamophobia, remind them that the Good Samaritan was also from a hated religion, but after Jesus explained his goodness the “Samaritan” label became synonymous with good deeds.

When they push their outmoded drug laws, remind them that Jesus said “It’s not what goes into a man’s mouth that defileth him but what comes out of it.”

  • When they push war, send them to Mathew 5:9. Then offer them your cheek. If they strike it, offer them the other one also.And if they ask you what you think you’re doing by quoting the scriptures they consider “theirs,” tell them you’re Occupying the spirit of Christmas. Or rather, that you’re letting the spirit of Christmas occupy you. It won’t change their minds, but it might make you feel a lot better.Time of the SeasonThere’s something beautiful about a time of year set aside for reflection on greater things, and for kind words and deeds to others. If it’s gentler on you to hear the words “Happy Holidays,” then may your holidays be happy.But if you don’t mind re-occupying the language of the spirit and reinfusing it with its original meaning, here’s our heartfelt greeting for the season:

    May your Christmas be joyful, and your New Year filled with good tidings of insurrection.

Written FOR

LATEST OCCUPATION UPDATES … FEW AND FAR BETWEEN

The corporate media seems to have adopted a policy of ‘ignore the Occupation and it will go away’…. IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN! Fewer reports are appearing but the struggles continue. Below are some of the latest releases…
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Click on the links to get reports;
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Occupy Oakland Rallies Amid Anger over Pepper-Spraying of Students

Some 1,500 people marched for the 99 percent in Oakland Nov. 20. (Photo: Judith Scherr/IPS)
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Bloomberg’s Concerned About our Health? Really?

Subway lines were shut down  (Photo: Socialist Worker)
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UC Davis chancellor apologizes for pepper-spray incident

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi is escorted from a small stage on the campus quad after she apologized to more than 1,000 students and faculty members for the pepper-spraying of seated nonviolent protesters by campus police. (Paul Sakuma, AP / November 21, 2011)
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For continual updates from the ‘frontlines’ click on the following…
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The revolution continues worldwide!
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Whom Do You Serve?

You are either WITH us or against us!

UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident

This incident took place at UC Davis. See below for video of this incident, as well as more examples of state repression against the 99% movement across the U.S.

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