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Stanford Students Hold Hunger Strike for a Living Wage

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 4:54 PM EDT

If you are a regular reader of Mother Jones you know that we love activism from the college kids. We've done thirteen annual campus activism roundups, the most recent of which can be found here.

Well, we're in for a doozy. Four Stanford students are beginning a hunger strike tonight in an effort to win a living wage for Stanford's workers.

This is well-tread ground. Living wages for kitchen staff, maintenance workers, groundskeepers, and construction workers is often a contentious issue on college campuses, with students and workers fighting for a livable wage and administrators resisting, then frequently adopting more economically just policies in fits and starts.

That's certainly the case at Stanford. In the winter and spring of 2003, workers and students rallied for a living wage and President John L. Hennessy appeared to cave by agreeing to a living wage with certain restrictions. In time it became clear that those restrictions excluded enough Stanford workers to render the policy meaningless, and in May 2003 students fasted for a week until Hennessy agreed to appoint a commission to examine the issue.

In June 2004, the commission recommended striking down five of Hennessy's seven restrictions and said, "If Stanford University operates a "living wage" policy, it should not attach so many conditions to its applicability that it has the effect of excusing many Contracted workers from that policy. A "living wage" policy that appends a string of conditions creates inequities among similar workers and risks giving the unfortunate impression that Stanford's employment policies do not really mean what they are proclaimed to be." Hennessy agreed to consider and possibly adopt the commission's recommendations.

Almost three years later nothing has happened and student activists say they are back at "square one." Thus, another fast. Their demand: "That the living wage be expanded to apply to all campus workers regardless of the dollar value of employee contract; duration of employment; amount of hours worked per week; union membership status; and worksite location." You can learn more about the group holding the hunger strike, and its demands, at this website.

The students can thank Stanford for wireless internet at least, and while they are occupying a public space on Stanford's campus and refusing to imbibe, they will be filing regular dispatches for Mother Jones. Think of it as activism in action. Check the Mother Jones homepage over the next few days for regular updates.

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About Your Commute...

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 4:30 PM EDT

If it makes you unhappy and it's destroying the planet, isn't it time to stop? Learn more on The Blue Marble.

Environmental Fact of the Day

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 4:28 PM EDT

Americans spend, on average, 51 minutes a day commuting to and from work. The fastest growing group of commuters is "extreme commuters"—those whose one-way commute takes longer than 90 minutes. The length of one's commute is directly proportionate to how unhappy one is—meaning, the longer your commute, the more you hate life. So now you have a good reason to stop: Saving the planet for your children. Don't you think they'd prefer that to your nice big house in the exurbs?

Bomb Kills 2 Iraqi Lawmakers

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 3:32 PM EDT

The lawmakers were having their midday meal in a restaurant in the Green Zone after concluding the day's parliamentary session. Both were Sunni. According to the U.S. military, 8 people died in the attack and 23 were injured.

A separate attack blew up a 70-year-old bridge across the Tigris River as commuters were driving across. At least 10 people died.

Again, I say the surge is not working.

Hear from the Soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan Tonight

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 2:13 PM EDT

We've covered the perspective of the everyday soldier a fair amount here at Mother Jones. Our 2004 feature "Breaking Ranks" told the story of GIs who refused to fight in Iraq -- and were bravely speaking out when the majority of the country was still in favor of the war. The story came out well before such dissent from soldiers was common, or commonly reported. At that time we also listed the veterans groups that were rallying against the war; the organizations on that list have since grown and gained strength.

And we stayed on the story. We covered military families speaking out against the war, we photographed the rehabilitation of soldiers who came back wounded, and covered the films and books that gave the folks at home the perspective of those in battle.

Anthony Swofford has been a big part of that. The Gulf War veteran and author wrote the text of our photo essay "Coming Home: Seven Families Lay Their Fallen Soldiers to Rest" and we interviewed him when his book Jarhead was made into a feature film.

Swofford's at it again. In "Voices From The Front: Iraq and Afghanistan," Swofford will be moderating a discussion with soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan and the filmmakers, photographers, and journalists who have worked on those wars. The writing and photography of former soldiers is the focus of the evening. (Examples below.)

The event is tonight at 7 pm at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City. You'll find it at 126 Crosby Street, one block east of Broadway between Houston and Prince. Check it out if you can.

 swofford_event1_300x250.jpg  swofford_event2_300x250.jpg

Obama (Kind of) Wins MoveOn Poll Following Iraq Town Hall

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 1:32 PM EDT

The results are in from the MoveOn virtual town hall on Iraq that I live blogged on Tuesday. (See parts one, two, three, and four.)

MoveOn polled its members after the town hall to see whose position on Iraq they preferred, and the results are in. Barack Obama, whose comments are found in part four, has won. As Ben Smith at The Politico mentions, the news comes as a bit of a surprise because Obama has not courted the netroots nearly as much as John Edwards has. To Edwards credit, he did come in a close second. Here are the numbers.

Obama 27.87%
Edwards 24.84
Kucinich 17.18
Richardson 12.26
Clinton 10.70
Biden 6.19
Dodd 1.05

To address Ben Smith's concerns, I would say that the MoveOn members are not necessarily the avid members of the blogosphere that are generally termed the "netroots." They are folks who participate in local events organized online, and they receive a flood of emails from the MoveOn folks, but I'm not sure that level of internet engagement means that they are on par with the bloggers and blog readers that Edwards has been courting. Admittedly, there is some overlap. I would wager that a lot of Daily Kos writers and readers are MoveOn members, but a lot of TAPPED writers and readers aren't.

But the numbers from the poll are tricky. MoveOn members could vote in the poll if they attended one of the house parties where people gathered to watch/listen to the town hall online (there was audio but no video; the technology can definitely improve), but they could also vote if they listened to the town hall online from their homes, or if they listened to the town hall on Air America, or if they did not listen at all.

The only way to guarantee that you are polling people who actually saw/heard the town hall is if you poll people who attended a house party. If you do that, the numbers change dramatically.

Edwards 24.56%
Richardson 20.93
Obama 18.61
Kucinich 15.61
Biden 10.27
Clinton 7.22
Dodd 3.65

It would appear that MoveOn members just like Obama, and even if they didn't catch the town hall, they voted for him to win this thing. Those who did hear the town hall thought Obama was third best, behind Edwards and Richardson, two candidates who spoke with the most passion and advocated the boldest moves for an exit from Iraq.

One last note. I neglected to mention in my live blog that MoveOn actually invited five Republican candidates who, from what I understand, all declined to participate.

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MSNBC Drops Imus, Charges Against Duke LAX Players Dropped

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 9:22 PM EDT

And somewhere in these two stories (here and here) is a perfect snapshot of race relations in America.

Wish I knew what it was. After all, Imus had pulled this kind of crap before (see Ifill, Gwen.) And the Duke situation is so muddy...for one thing, the state attorney general who just cleared the guys is up for reelection. Not so different from DA Nifong, who may pushed for prosecution as a way to further his own ambitions. Having changed her story many times, the accuser certainly doesn't seem credible at this point (legally anyway), but then there remains the email of one of the LAX players saying that he wanted to kill strippers and rip off their skin. And the insults. Testimony of other witnesses about abusive behavior, etc.

Words are not deeds, of course. But whatever happened that night, it is hardly something for anyone to celebrate.

Congolese Forests Falling In Exchange for Beer And Soap

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 8:59 PM EDT

The world's second largest forest, and one of the oldest on Earth, is being traded for bars of soap and bottles of beer. A Greenpeace report exposes international logging companies for creating social chaos and environmental havoc in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the wake of the logging. The report also nails the World Bank, largest "donor" to the DRC, for utterly failing to stop the destruction, despite a moratorium on new logging. In fact since 2002 more than 37 million acres of rainforest have been leased to the logging industry, an area the size of Illinois, including areas vital to biodiversity. You think it doesn't matter to you? Wrong. We all need these big leafy green places at the equator. --Julia Whitty

Anyone Up For an NCLB Rewrite?

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 8:30 PM EDT

With No Child Left Behind up for a re-hash this year, dissident voices are gaining traction and even supporters are acknowledging that its language needs some tweaking.

The nonprofit Educator Roundtable, a division of the Vermont Society for the Study of Education, has collected nearly 30,000 signatures for a petition asking to completely dismantle NCLB. One blogger is inviting educators to picket the annual national school board conference on Saturday in San Francisco. An Education Week blogger was dumbfounded that only 20 states have tried to roll back all or parts of the law.

California Congressman George Miller, the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee who helped author NCLB, told Tavis Smiley that after five years, the law is only in its "infancy" in terms of meeting the needs of poor and minority students.

According to reports, there have been successes. Total federal funding for No Child Left Behind rose 34% between 2001 and 2006. Funding for schools serving low-income students rose 45%. States and school districts also allegedly have unprecedented flexibility in how they use federal funds, in exchange for greater accountability for results.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has a plan. She says we've learned some things "organically" over the years, and that now is the time for a growth model that charts progress over time with annual assessment systems. She also says it's time to turn attention to high schools, which are becoming increasingly "critical."

At this point what isn't critical when it comes to education reform?

—Gary Moskowitz

The Deep Freeze Is Thawing. So's The Crap We Put There

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 8:27 PM EDT

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts wide-ranging thawing of the Arctic permafrost. This is likely to have significant implications for infrastructure including houses, buildings, roads, railways and pipelines. A combination of reduced sea ice, thawing permafrost and storm surges also threatens erosion of Arctic coastlines with impacts on coastal communities, culturally important sites and industrial facilities. One study suggests that a three degree C increase in average summer air temperatures could increase erosion rates in the eastern Siberia Arctic by up to 15 feet a year. But you've heard all this, right? What's worse is that in some parts of the Arctic, toxic and radioactive materials are stored and contained in frozen ground. Thawing will release these substances in the local and wider environment with risks to humans and wildlife. The report predicts significant clean-up costs. How optimistic. I predict no clean-up at all. Only a Super-Duper Fund. --Julia Whitty