by Matthew Boyle
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Perhaps in fear that he didn’t have enough backers willing to show up on their own, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign organized to bus supporters to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to cheer during his appearance on stage and vote for him in the straw poll.
by Marcy Wheeler
In June 2012, an activist writing under the name Tarheel Dem described his arrest on May 17, 2012, with a group of other activists in advance of the NATO summit in Chicago. For most of a day, he was held, shackled, without his heart medications, in a location in western Chicago before being released with no charges. He described being held where lawyers couldn’t find him. “I was held over 12 hours before the National Lawyers Guild could find me; essentially, I was in a black site.” Contemporary reporting of the detentions described the activists being “disappeared.”
A confluence of events has brought newfound attention to the location of this detention site, the Organized Crime Bureau in Homan Square, and the Chicago Police Department tactics that have been used there.
By Andrew Dunn and Jane Stancill
CHARLOTTE — As nearby protesters chanted slogans about freedom and democracy, the UNC Board of Governors voted Friday to close three university-based centers as part of a sweeping review of institutes across public campuses in North Carolina.
The decision was condemned by faculty members, who called it an attack on academic freedom and a blow to the university system’s national reputation. The three centers focus on poverty, the environment and voter engagement; the leader of one of the centers, a well-known liberal, has been a vocal critic of the state’s Republican leadership. The UNC board members are almost all Republicans.
by Simona Chiose
Six thousand teaching assistants at the University of Toronto are on strike, after a meeting Friday afternoon in which TAs voted to reject the deal their bargaining committee and the university had agreed to 12 hours before.
The rejection means that barring a weekend deal, undergraduate students on the school’s three campuses will be seeing their teaching assistants on the picket lines Monday morning. In a statement, the union left open the possibility that a deal with the university could still be reached over the weekend.
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.
The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
NY State Court of Appeals Agrees to Hear Case Against NYU Expansion Plan;
Could Save Village Parks From Destruction, Affect Countless Parks and Open Spaces in the City and State; Actor and Activist Ruffalo Lauds Court’s Acceptance of Case, Warns Earlier Decision Must Be Overturned or Have Disastrous Implications for Public Commons
In the latest installment of the ongoing struggle against NYU’s huge expansion plan, the State’s highest court, the New York State Court of Appeals, has agreed to hear a case that was filed by petitioners in mid-November regarding public parkland. The lawsuit has passed through two lower courts, with differing results. Those following the dispute, especially park advocates, are awaiting a verdict that could have massive ramifications on the way that the City and the State deal with public parks in the future.
On October 14th, the Appellate Division’s First Department overturned a lower court’s decision that would have spared three parks—Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Park and LaGuardia Corner Gardens—from destruction under NYU’s current expansion plan. According to the lower court’s ruling, all three strips are public parks, and therefore entitled to protection, since the public has been using them as parks for many years, making them “implied” parkland, with the City funding, labeling and maintaining them as parks.
NYU and the City counter-argued that those parks aren’t really parks, since they were never “mapped” as parks (a bureaucratic technicality), and are nominally overseen by the City’s Department of Transportation. The First Department’s decision would allow NYU to raze those treasured parks to make way for its vast expansion plan, and set a precedent that could potentially threaten countless public parks throughout the City and the State.
Petitioners, NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, Washington Square Village Tenants’ Association, East Village Community Coalition, Friends of Petrosino Square, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Inc., Lower Manhattan Neighbors’ Organization, SoHo Alliance, Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, NoHo Neighborhood Association, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and 10 other individuals, are represented on a pro bono basis by the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, with Randy Mastro as lead attorney.
Their motion papers make clear that “the First Department’s decision disregarded well-established common law principles for determining when municipal land has been impliedly dedicated for parks usage. In recognition of the unique value that public parks hold for children, families, and communities, the Public Trust Doctrine accords parkland special protection.”
“We’re glad that the Court of Appeals agrees that this case is important. These parks have been a vital part of the Greenwich Village community’s daily life for decades. Not only do we want to save these parks from NYU’s reckless, unnecessary expansion, but we want to do the same for the parks that will be threatened elsewhere if the lower court’s decision stands,” said Andrew Ross, Urbanist and Director of American Studies Program at NYU.
The petitioners are asking the Court of Appeals to consider two issues: that the First Department’s decision actually conflicts with prior appellate court decisions, and prior decisions by the Court of Appeals itself, about this kind of “implied” parkland, and that the First Department’s decision, if left intact, will have the effect of abolishing implied dedication—a consequence with widespread negative effects, not just in New York City, but throughout the State.
Parks and open spaces are protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, which maintains that the government holds the titles to certain waters and lands in trust for the people. In New York State, if an entity wishes to develop or remove a parcel of parkland from public ownership and use, it must follow a legal process called “alienation,” which, among other conditions, requires approval from the state Legislature. This was not done in the case of the Village parks that NYU wants to destroy for its ill-advised expansion plan. The First Department’s decision flies in the face of this doctrine and of its own decisions, and would imperil all kinds of public and green spaces throughout the state; it would leave ordinary New Yorkers with no protection against the removal and abuse of open spaces and parks for development.
“We understand that the battle is not yet over, but we appreciate that the Court of Appeals grasps the gravity of the situation. If these parks can be handed off to NYU in spite of the Public Trust Doctrine, it sets a terrible precedent, and the outcome for similar cases is bleak,” continued Ross.
Professor Mark Crispin Miller, President of NYUFASP, said, “Green spaces like these parks play an imperative role in keeping New York livable. We hope that the Court of Appeals overturns the First Department’s decision before it can do irreparable harm to the Public Trust Doctrine. Without the legal protection that provides, we could lose countless other City and State parks to greedy speculators like NYU.”
“These public parks have been a vital part of the Village for decades, and they have benefitted the public in numerous ways. Without the Court of Appeals’ intervention, not only will they be given to a private corporation for its own financial gain, but such a thing could become a common and unremarkable occurrence throughout New York,” said actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo.
by Robert Parry
Many current members of Congress, especially progressives, may have envisioned how they would have handled the Tonkin Gulf crisis in 1964. In their imaginations, they would have asked probing questions and treated the dubious assertions from the White House with tough skepticism before voting on whether to give President Lyndon Johnson the authority to go to war in Vietnam.
If they had discovered what CIA and Pentagon insiders already knew – that the crucial second North Vietnamese “attack” on U.S. destroyers likely never happened and that the U.S. warships were not on some “routine” patrol but rather supporting a covert attack on North Vietnamese territory – today’s members of Congress would likely see themselves joining Sens. Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening as the only ones voting no.
by William Boardman
The American torture president and self-professed Christian, George W. Bush, gratefully accepted an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from the Christian-ideology-based University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas, on February 11, in a “public” event that was closed to most of the public. The only direct media coverage allowed for the event was by Fox News and the college public relations team.
Even though it might have been headlined as “Christians Honor War Criminal,” there were apparently no national news stories about the former president’s award. Five days after the fact, the Washington-insider publication, the Hill ran a short summary noting that Bush had said, “Evil is evil.”
by Deirdre Fulton
A 2010 protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/flickr/cc)
Public schools are outperforming charter schools in Minnesota, in some cases “dramatically,” according to a new analysis by the state’s Star-Tribune newspaper.
In addition, many charter schools fail to adequately support minority students, close examination of the data revealed.
Journalist Kim McGuire looked at 128 of the state’s 157 charter schools and found “that the gulf between the academic success of its white and minority students widened at nearly two-thirds of those schools last year. Slightly more than half of charter schools students were proficient in reading, dramatically worse than traditional public schools, where 72 percent were proficient.”
“While We Were Sleeping”
Orwell Rolls In His Grave, featuring MCM – Buy the DVD
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