How can the protest movement survive? Make friends and "be a thousand-ring circus."
On the first of May, the Occupy Wall Street movement hopes to leverage the labor holiday known as May Day and muster enough people power to blockade the Golden Gate Bridge—assuming, that is, that striking bridge workers take the lead. "We can't do an action for them; we have to do the action with them," says Lauren Smith, a spokeswoman for Occupy Oakland. An union organizer for the bridge workers had no comment on their plans, but alluded to something big: "Our actions are going to speak louder than words."
While the presumptive bridge protest is just one among dozens of demonstrations being planned for 40 cities on May 1, it illustrates how the movement is simultaneously getting bolder and more strategic in its bid to remain a relevant part of the national conversation. Occupy organizers promise that Tuesday will be bigger than anything we saw from the movement last fall. "May Day will be the big kickoff of Phase 2 of Occupy," says Marissa Holmes, an early OWS organizer. "I think we will see a lot of people in the streets taking more militant actions than they had in the past." But bringing out the numbers—and rebooting a movement that has largely faded from the headlines—will require a greater level of partnership with organized labor and kindred protest movements.
May Day, or International Workers Day, is a national holiday in many parts of Asia, Europe, and Latin America, but it hasn't been observed in the United States for years due to its historical association with the Communist Party. The exception was 2006, when hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers joined "A Day Without Immigrants," a one-day boycott of schools and businesses to protest US immigration policies.
Los Angeles was the epicenter of those protests, and it was that city's Occupy activists who first suggested reviving May Day—this time with a call for a general strike. The major Occupy groups have endorsed the plan, though national labor unions haven't—a symptom of their political cautiousness but also the prevalence of labor contracts that contain "no strike" clauses.
I spoke with some academics who question whether a general strike (which Occupy Oakland attempted last fall), or a bridge shutdown (which was tried in New York), make much sense for the movement at this stage. "Tactics don't remain effective—and especially when you are dealing with a huge issue like they are," says Michael Kazin, a Georgetown University professor who studies social movements.
by Amelia Hill, Guardian UK
Clive was nine years old when he discovered he was HIV positive. The devastating news that his mother, doctors and support workers had spent years preparing to break to him in the gentlest manner possible, was blurted out by a careless receptionist at his local hospital
. "My mum had bought me to see the doctor because I had earache, and this woman just read it out loud from my notes as she was typing my details into the computer," says Clive, who celebrated his 18th birthday last week. "I remember standing there, with my mother's hand around mine, as these feelings of complete confusion and fear washed over me."
Clive credits the medication given to his mother during her pregnancy for protecting him then from her HIV infection. But, he says, something went catastrophically wrong at the point of delivery, and the infection was passed into his own bloodstream. After that day at the hospital, however, Clive refused to take medication on his own behalf. "I suddenly realised that the pills my mum had been giving me every day - that I had thought were sweeties - were medicine," he says.
"After that day at the hospital, I would lock myself in the bathroom when my mum took them out of the cupboard. Or I'd pretend to swallow them, then throw them away."
Clive's resistance to taking medication became more deep-rooted as he grew up. "The medication makes me feel sick - I was sick every time I took it from 10 to 13 years old. Other times, I just don't want to remember that side of me. I want to be normal."
He shrugs sheepishly. "The last time I stopped taking them was because I broke up with my girlfriend and I had other things on my mind." Clive takes his pills sometimes, he says, but then stops for months at a time. "I know I'm killing myself," he says truthfully, but with studied nonchalance. An exuberant teenager, full of life, he laughs at my shock. Pulling his homburg hat to a jaunty angle, he throws a caricatured "oh, poor me" puppy dog stare.
But there's nothing funny about Clive's attitude towards his HIV status. A decade of sporadic adherence to his drug regime has stunted the teenager's growth. It has left him close to death three times, and caused him to develop resistance to a number of the drugs that could have almost guaranteed him a long and healthy life. "I was in hospital again in January," he says, absently drumming a jazz riff on the table in front of him. "But my hospital visit before that was the worst: I got pneumonia after stopping taking my meds. My CD4 count [cells that help fight infection] was down so low that I was basically dead."
How activists are trying to bring the moral implications of drone warfare to light.
Nearly a third of the aircraft used by the United States military don't carry pilots, according to a new Congressional report. The aircraft are drones, and their pilots are often thousands of miles away, controlling them remotely from bases in the United States.
One such base is the Hancock Air National Guard Base, located near Syracuse, N.Y. Ed Kinane, who lives nearby, says that since strike drones are operated from the base, his home area of New York state is, from a moral perspective, “in the zone of war”—a reality he and other peace activists don't feel they can ignore.
On April 22, at the entrance to the base, Kinane and 37 other activists wrapped themselves in white cloth splattered with red, and staged a die-in. They were protesting the base’s role in operating drones over Afghanistan—the unmanned aerial vehicles are designed to target terrorists and insurgents, but they also take a heavy toll on the peace and safety of unarmed civilians. The protesters attempted to deliver a citizen indictment for war crimes to the base, and were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and disobeying a legal order.
The protest was a tactical step-up in a series of actions local activists have taken since the drone operations began at Hancock in 2009—demonstrations, leafleting, talks, op-eds and letters to the editor—all aiming to raise awareness about the consequences of drone operations.
—By Tom Philpott
What is this thing called diet soda? Here are the ingredients of one of the best-selling brands, Diet Pepsi:
CARBONATED WATER, CARAMEL COLOR, ASPARTAME, PHOSPHORIC ACID, POTASSIUM BENZOATE (PRESERVES FRESHNESS), CAFFEINE, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR
My favorite line on that list is the "preserves freshness" that follows potassium benzoate. The freshness of what, precisely? The caramel color? Not likely—caramel color for most colas comes from a chemical reaction between sugar, ammonia, and sulfites at high temparatures. Or maybe it's the phosphoric acid? Or the least plentiful ingredient of all, the unspecified "natural flavor"? In plain English, diet soda is artificially blackened water tarted up with synthetic chemicals. That anyone ponies up cash for such a thing surely counts as one of the food industry's greatest marketing triumphs.
But it's relatively benign, because it doesn't fill people up with superfluous and potentially toxic calories from isolated sugars. Right? Well, maybe not.
Back in 1990, the National Institutes of Health began funding a long-term study of stroke and cardiovascular risk factors among of urban adults. Known as the Northern Manhattan Study and housed at Columbia University, the project enrolled thousands of people from the community and subjected them to medical testing while recording their food-consumption habits.
Among its results, a surprising one has emerged (recently published paper available here): people who drink at least one diet soda a day are 43 percent more likely to experience a "vascular event"—i.e., strokes and heart attacks—than people who drink none.
Now, it's important to understand that studies like this one establish correlation, not causation. It's possible that the heart trouble experienced by diet soda drinkers comes from some other behavior they share that has nothing to do with diet soda.
But crucially, this study accounted for factors like weight, diabetes, high blood pressure, and intake of calories, cholesterol, and sodium, study author and University of Miami epidemiologist Hannah Gardener told me in a phone conversation. In other words, non-overweight diet soda drinkers showed significantly more risk of heart attack than non-overweight people who don't drink diet soda.
A campaign for a chemo-themed doll catches fire
She’s the perfect woman. Million-dollar smile, massive gazongas, an insane resume that includes stints as an astronaut and a mermaid. Even when she goes a little edgy, she’s still flawless. And it’s that perfection that’s made her, for over 50 years, an idol to little girls everywhere. So what if Barbie was to get a makeover unlike any of the thousands she’s had in the past? What if were Barbie were to lose her iconic glossy tresses?
What began as a small Facebook campaign in December to urge Mattel to create a Bald and Beautiful Barbie has, in recent days, blossomed in to a full-on groundswell. It’s attracted international media attention, and the Facebook group is closing in on 90,000 members. Think of the possiblities for cute hats!
The concept came from a group of parents whose children had hair loss from cancer treatment. Rebecca Sypin, whose daughter has been in treatment for leukemia the past two years, told MSNBC this week, “We would go to the store and people would stare or kids would ask her why she’s bald. It’s not something they’re used to seeing. We think [a bald Barbie] would be therapeutic and I think it would help baldness become more quote unquote normal. It would be seen. It wouldn’t be this odd thing that people don’t have hair.” There are already a small number of dolls targeted for kids who are facing hair loss – either their own or a parents. But they’re generally softer, educational props aimed at younger children. No one with the cultural wallop of Barbie has ever ventured into the scary terrain of baldness — and the array of diseases that it implies.