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The Power of Youth

We explore how young people have made meaningful careers and lasting change working in the public interest with Sam Simon, editor of “Choosing the Public Interest: Essays From the First Public Interest Research Group” and Lisa Frank, Vice President and…

We explore how young people have made meaningful careers and lasting change working in the public interest with Sam Simon, editor of “Choosing the Public Interest: Essays From the First Public Interest Research Group” and Lisa Frank, Vice President and D.C. Director at The Public Interest Network and also Executive Director in the Washington Legislative Office at Environment America. Plus, the indomitable Chris Hedges stops by to report on his interviews with college students protesting the genocide in Gaza, which he chronicled in a Substack piece titled “The Nation’s Conscience.”

Sam Simon is an author, playwright, and attorney who co-founded the Public Interest Research Group with Ralph and the other Nader’s Raiders in 1970. He compiled and edited the new book Choosing the Public Interest: Essays From the First Public Interest Research Group.

This is something that every one of these themes have and that this movement has had—that the consumer, the user, the student, the pensioner have equal voice in our systems to help create the systems that are intended to benefit them, and not leave that power in the hands of corporate entities and profit-making enterprises. And that idea needs to continue to exist. And I'm glad that the Public Interest Network and PIRGS still thrive on many campuses.

Sam Simon

What I want to come out of this book is that average kids from average backgrounds ended up doing amazing things with their entire lives, because of the opportunity and the vision that they could do that.

Sam Simon

Lisa Frank is Vice President and D.C. Director at The Public Interest Network. She is also Executive Director in the Washington Legislative Office at Environment America, where she directs strategy and staff for federal campaigns. Ms. Frank has won millions of dollars in investments in walking, biking and transit, and has helped develop strategic campaigns to protect America’s oceans, forests and public lands from drilling, logging and road-building.

The particular types of problems we're focused on at [PIRG] are ones that really have been created in a sense by our success as a country in growing. We’re the wealthiest country the world has ever seen. We figured out how to grow more than enough food than we can eat, we produce more than enough clothing than we can wear, certainly more than enough plastic…And all of this abundance is leading to new types of problems…The problems that have either come about because of the progress we've made as a society and now we've got the ability to tackle them, or problems where—clean energy is an example—where there are problems that we newly have the ability to solve.

Lisa Frank

You have Congress that passed these five laws that are being violated, with the result of huge death and destruction overseas— and not just in Gaza, but places like Iraq and Libya in the past. And they’re talking about students trespassing at their own university, and nonviolent protests? The problem starts in Congress. They’re the funders, the enablers, the surrenderers of their constitutional rights of oversight and war-making powers.

Ralph Nader

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He is the host of The Chris Hedges Report, and he is a prolific author— his latest book is The Greatest Evil Is War.

[Students] understand the nature of settler colonial regimes. The expansion or inclusion of students from wider backgrounds than were traditionally there at places like Princeton…has really added a depth and expanded the understanding within the university. So they see what's happening in Gaza, and they draw—rightly— connections to what we did to Native Americans, what the British did in India, what the British did in Kenya, what the French did in Algeria, and of course, they are correct.

Chris Hedges

[Students] have defied, quite courageously, the administrations of their universities, who are—kind of like the political class—bought and paid for by the Israel lobby, and in particular wealthy donors and the Democratic Party. And that is why these universities have responded to these nonviolent protests the way they have, with such overwhelming and draconian use of force.

Chris Hedges

In Case You Haven’t Heard with Francesco DeSantis

News 5/15/24

1. The New Republic reports the Federal Trade Commission has filed suit against Scott Sheffield, former CEO of oil and gas giant Pioneer Resources alleging that “voluminous evidence” suggests Sheffield “collaborated with fellow U.S. producers and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in order to keep crude oil prices ‘artificially’ high.” As Matt Stoller explains in his newsletter, “after a bitter price war from 2014-2016, [American oil producers] got tired of competing on price with…the OPEC oil cartel, and at some point from 2017-2021, decided to join the cartel and cut supply to the market. This action had the [e]ffect of raising oil prices, costing oil consumers something on the order of $200 billion a year.” Stoller claims that this price-fixing scheme between the OPEC cartel and the American oil oligopoly caused 27% of all inflation-related price increases in 2021. Progressive lawmakers such as Senator Bernie Sanders who tried to raise the alarm about what he dubbed “greedflation” were dismissed at the time, but like so many times before, have been vindicated by the simple fact that American corporate greed always exceeds expectations.

2. Tal Mitnick and Sofia Orr, the two Israeli teenagers conscientiously objecting to being drafted into Israel’s campaign of terror in Gaza, have sent a letter to President Biden excoriating him for his unconditional support of the Netanyahu regime, per the Intercept. The two heroic peaceniks write “Your unconditional support for [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s policy of destruction, since the war began, has brought our society to the normalization of carnage and to the trivialization of human lives…It is American diplomatic and material support that prolonged this war for so long. You are responsible for this, alongside our leaders. But while they’re interested in prolonging the war for political reasons, you have the power to make it stop.” These kids wrote this letter before reporting for their latest round of prison sentences, which have reached unprecedented lengths. As the article notes, “The refuseniks are not alone in their opposition, nor in the treatment they face. Throughout the war, Israelis have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to protest the war and Netanyahu’s government. This past week, Israeli police arrested and beat protesters and hostage family members calling for an end to the war, just the latest example of Israelis being punished for voicing dissent or sympathy with the people of Gaza.”

3. Al Jazeera reports yet another Biden Administration official has made public his resignation over the genocide in Gaza. Army Major Harrison Mann, who resigned in November, posted a letter Monday wherein he expressed “incredible shame and guilt” over the United States’ “unqualified support” for Israel’s war. Explaining why he waited so long to come forward with the reasoning behind his resignation, Mann wrote “I was afraid. Afraid of violating our professional norms. Afraid of disappointing officers I respect. Afraid you would feel betrayed. I’m sure some of you will feel that way reading this,” yet he noted “At some point – whatever the justification – you’re either advancing a policy that enables the mass starvation of children, or you’re not.”

4. At long last, Egypt has announced its intention to join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, Al Arabiya reports. In a statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry said this decision comes on the heels of the “worsening severity and scope of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip,” likely referring to the terror bombing campaign in Rafah, which the United States had previously identified as a “Red Line” in terms of material support. Egypt has faced international embarrassment over its soft line towards its militaristic neighbor and alleged mistreatment of Palestinian refugees trying to flee into Egypt. The country has also “called on the UN Security Council and countries of influence to take actions to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and halt military operations in Rafah, according to the statement.”

5. On Wednesday, May 8th, the State Department report on whether Israel has violated U.S. international law was due to Congress. Instead, it was delayed. As POLITICO reported “The State Department has been working for months on the report, which will issue a determination on whether Israel has violated international humanitarian law since the war in Gaza began. If so, the U.S. would be expected to stop sending Israel military assistance.” When the report was finally released, it stated “it is ‘reasonable to assess’ that US weapons have been used by Israeli forces in Gaza in ways that are ‘inconsistent’ with international humanitarian law,” but the report stopped short of officially saying Israel violated the law, per CNN. The report goes on to say that investigations into potential violations are ongoing but the US “‘does not have complete information to verify’ whether the US weapons ‘were specifically used’ in alleged violations of international humanitarian law.” This equivocation in the face of genocide – using American weapons — will leave an ineradicable black mark on the already spotty human rights record of the U.S. State Department.

6. Students for Justice in Palestine at Columbia University reports “Columbia…is under federal investigation for anti-Palestinian discrimination and harassment.” According to the group, Palestine Legal is representing four Palestinian students and the group itself. Senior attorney for Palestine Legal Radikah Sainath said in a statement “The law is clear— if universities do not cease their racist crackdowns against Palestinians and their supporters, they will risk losing federal funding.”

7. On May 8th, the D.C. Metro Police Department cleared the protest encampment at the George Washington University, using pepper spray and brute force. According to the Associated Press, the police arrested 33 protesters. The AP quoted Moataz Salim, a Palestinian student at GW with family in Gaza, who said the authorities merely “destroyed a beautiful community space that was all about love.” He went on to say “Less than 10 hours ago, I was pepper sprayed and assaulted by police…And why? Because we decided to pitch some tents, hold community activities and learn from each other. We built something incredible. We built something game-changing.” The police broke up the encampment in the wee hours of the morning, just before D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was slated to appear before hostile Republican lawmakers in Congress, leading many to believe she acted when and how she did out of sheer cowardice and political expediency. After the encampment was cleared, the hearing was canceled. Undeterred, these courageous students have continued to protest their institution’s support of Israel’s criminal war and per the American University Eagle, have now set up a second encampment. We urge Mayor Bowser not to bow to pressure from bloodthirsty Congressional Republicans a second time.

8. The Seattle Times reports “The FAA has opened an investigation into Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner after the company disclosed that employees in South Carolina falsified inspection records.” As the paper notes, “This is the latest in a long litany of lapses at Boeing that have come to light under the intense scrutiny of the company’s quality oversight since a passenger cabin panel blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight in January.” That is to say nothing of the safety lapses leading to the Lion Air and Ethiopia Airlines crashes in 2019, that resulted in the deaths of all aboard both flights. Incredibly, “This new 787 quality concern is unrelated to the 787 fuselage gaps described as unsafe in an April congressional hearing by Boeing whistleblower Sam Salehpour.” As these critical safety failures and lies continue to come to light, the only question remaining is when is enough enough?

9. Bloomberg labor reporter Josh Eidelson reports “The US government [has] raised concerns with Germany about alleged union-busting in Alabama by Mercedes, an unusual move that escalates scrutiny on its handling of the high-stakes union vote.” Mercedes is facing a momentous union election at its Alabama plant, led by the United Autoworkers, fresh off of unionizing the first ever foreign-owned auto plant in the country. Eidelson goes on to say that members of the European Commission have raised the matter with Mercedes as well, raising the heat on the company as the election kicks off. Among other union busting tactics, Labor Notes reports Mercedes has tried enlisting a pastor to tell workers via text “Here in Alabama, community is important, and family is everything. We believe it’s important to keep work separate. But there’s no denying, a union would have an impact beyond the walls of our plant.”

10. Finally, the Chicago Sun-Times is out with a story on the success of Illinois’ experiment with ending cash bail for pre-trial detention. As the article puts it, “Despite all the anguish over the Pretrial Fairness Act, [Cook County Judge Charles] Beach says he has been struck by how proceedings have significantly changed for the better in his courtroom. ‘I think we’ve come a very long way in the right direction…Things are working well.’” This piece describes how “Under the old system of cash bail, Beach — a supervising judge in the pretrial division — was often tasked with setting a dollar figure a person would have to post before being released, a decision that could force a family to skip the rent to post a bond. It was a process that could seem arbitrary, depending on the judge, the time of day and where in the state the hearing was held.” Beach himself goes on to say “There’s a sense in the courtroom that taking money out of the equation has leveled the playing field.” The success of this reform should be taken very seriously by other states, particularly New York where Democrats have sought to roll back the state’s attempts at ending cash bail following pressure from conservatives. Turns out, it works.

This has been Francesco DeSantis.

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This content originally appeared on Ralph Nader Radio Hour and was authored by Ralph Nader.

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