OptOut's Weekend Picks (Sep. 12, 2020)
Here's what our independent media partners have been up to this week.
Let’s start with some updates on our forthcoming nonprofit news app for 100% independent media.
The development is moving forward. The terrific volunteers at the Progressive Coders Network have done a lot of work on the backend—the content ingestion and admin system for the app. The user experience design is nearly complete, and devs are beginning work on the frontend of the iOS and Android apps. We’re having numerous video calls each week, going over app mockups, digital storyboards, market research, security options…This thing is happening!
We’ve raised some money through this Substack newsletter—a huge thank you to everyone who’s signed up for a monthly or yearly donation—which has helped us cover initial costs like web hosting, incorporation fees, and Apple and Google developer accounts. But we’ll need to raise a lot more to pay for editors, grant writing, tech maintenance, future versions of the app, and the like. If you’re not already a paid subscriber, please help us out so we can be a sustainable nonprofit operation.
With your help, we’re going to be the first nonprofit news aggregation app and the first news app for exclusively independent media.
And now for our weekly news roundup! All of the content below comes from media partners. Please consider supporting these staples of excellent, independent media.
TMI: Colleges and universities lobby for liability protection as they reopen
OptOut co-founder Walker Bragman and journalist Andrew Perez found that at least a dozen American universities and four industry trade associations lobbied in Washington this year for coronavirus liability protections as they planned to open for in-person classes at a time far too early to safely do so. The schools knew students would get sick but chose tuition money over preventing mass illness and deaths.
Meanwhile, “A new national front group led by veteran Republican operatives is campaigning for liability protections as well, warning of ‘frivolous lawsuits.’”
Support TMI, an investigative journalism project led by award-winning reporter David Sirota.
Image credit: Building America’s Future/YouTube
Jacobin: University of Michigan graduate workers are on strike
University of Michigan graduate students Alejo Stark, Jasmine Ehrhardt, and Amir Fleischmann describe how they and other members of the school’s Graduate Employees Organization are striking for better COVID-19 protections and to advocate for defunding the police.
As witnessed in universities across the country, these plans [to reopen the campus] are intended to respond to the fiscal crisis sparked by the pandemic by capturing as much revenue from student tuition and rent as possible, without tapping into the university’s multi-billion dollar endowment—plans that also mean exposing students and workers to the deadly and still unknown effects of COVID-19.
Thirty-six thousand new coronavirus cases emerged from U.S. colleges and universities in just the last week. Who could have possibly predicted this would happen??
Also on LABOR:
Labor studies academic Shaun Richman offers a brief history of the U.S. government’s targeting of left-wing immigrants for Workday Minnesota.
Check out Discourse Blog’s best pieces on labor issues.
Harry Cheadle writes about how unions have been “hunted to extinction” for his newsletter, What Went Wrong.
Image credit: Young Democratic Socialists of America/Twitter
Sludge: Chris Coons’ support of corporate immunity could benefit his private equity donors
It’s not just universities that are seeking to inoculate themselves from coronavirus-related wrongdoing. Big corporations are pouring money into coronavirus immunity lobbying.
Sludge co-founder Donald Shaw details how centrist Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware has supported such corporate immunity, which would benefit one of his largest campaign donors, Apollo Global Management, a financial firm that’s invested in a chain of nursing homes in New Jersey that have had high rates of infection and death during the pandemic. (The firm did not give money to Coons’ campaigns, but a number of employees, including its three billionaire founders, have.)
Support Sludge, an investigative newsroom focused on lobbying and money in politics.
Image credit: Chris Coons/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
WhoWhatWhy: COVID-19 is causing less competition and higher prices
WhoWhatWhy’s Glenn Daigon explains an important and underreported phenomenon in the COVID-19 era, something that often happens during financial crises: Mergers and widespread small-business closures allow big companies to dominate the health care and other markets.
And past political decisions have contributed to an already hostile situation for small businesses in many sectors, including the media.
Democrat Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, eliminating the national cap on radio station ownership and paving the way for radio chains such as iHeartMedia.
Support WhoWhatWhy, a nonprofit, public-interest news team. Donations are tax-deductible.
Image credit: CalOES/Flickr
Africa Is a Country: Structural adjustment comes home
Republicans are attempting to condition financial aid for budget-crunched states on neoliberal economic reforms, something the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund did to Asian, Latin American, and African nations in the past. Alex Park examines how African countries were exploited this way to help us understand what’s happening in the U.S. now.
Support Africa Is a Country, a volunteer-driven nonprofit.
Also on INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS:
Don’t miss Derek Davison’s nightly world updates, including this one about Egypt, Afghanistan, Greece, and other countries. Davison runs Foreign Exchanges, which features these updates, “this day in history” posts, essays, and a podcast.
Read Counterpunch’s Eric Draitser’s analysis of Obama, Biden, and Hillary’s Clinton’s “plot against Libya.”
Image credit: Tony Webster/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Mainer: The people’s choice
For Mainer, Nathan Bernard and Chris Busby profile Lisa Savage, an independent Senate candidate, schoolteacher, and peace activist from a small, radical town surrounded by Trump country. Maine was the first state to implement ranked-choice voting for statewide elections, a process that allows voters to rank the candidates (there are four, including incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins and the well-funded Democrat Sara Gideon) in order of preference. Thus, a progressive independent like Savage is unlikely to dampen Gideon’s chances of knocking off the vulnerable Collins, despite this Democratic Party consultant’s fantasy of assaulting third-party voters.
Support Mainer. Mainer is published by the Mainer News Cooperative, a worker-owned enterprise, and supported by its community of readers, indie businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
Image credit: Zara Boss
The Insurgents: The anatomy of a smear feat. Eoin Higgins
Another week, another OptOut partner collaboration! After their classic, sarcastic intro, The Insurgents hosts Jordan Uhl and Rob Rousseau talk with freelance reporter and OptOut partner Eoin Higgins about the homophobic smear campaign against progressive Massachusetts House candidate Alex Morse, who lost his primary challenge of the health care industry’s favorite Democrat, incumbent Rep. Richard Neal.
Also check out Eoin’s analysis of the Sunrise Movement, which he wrote for The Intercept (not our partner…yet!) with staff reporter Aída Chávez.
Belly of the Beast: James Early and Devyn Springer on Cuba, socialism, and race
The first part of Belly of the Beast’s "Lessons from Cuba" speaker series features James Early, the former director of Cultural Studies and Communication at the Center for Folklife Programs at the Smithsonian Institution, and Devyn Springer, a community organizer, writer, cultural worker, and independent researcher who studies African, African diaspora, and art history.
Support Belly of the Beast’s documentary series, “Trump’s War on Cuba.”
Sh!tpost: Jack’s a Million feat. Michael E. Hayden
This must-listen episode from Jared Holt’s Sh!tpost podcast features Southern Poverty Law Center investigative reporter Michael Hayden, who talks about his findings from his huge series on far-right extremist and Pizzagate aficionado Jack Posobiec, who is one of Donald Trump’s key Twitter propagandists.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore
Why You Mad: The Blurry Men
Jake Flores and Luisa Díez of Why You Mad, a leftist Latino philosophy podcast about art, standup comedy, and other maddening topics, discuss the social responsibility of artists including Rod Serling, Jordan Peele, and Jim Gaffigan, as well as neoliberal media.
The Brick House: ‘Two Prisons’: a Chinese dissident’s story
Brick House founding editor Brian Hioe interviews Chinese dissident Wang Zhongxia and the director of a film about him (above). Zhongxia was abducted by Beijing police in 2009 because of his activism around freeing political prisoners.
Support The Brick House, a new shared publishing platform collectively owned and operated by journalists, with no advertisers or investors.
Support Popula, which published this interview and is led by OptOut adviser Maria Bustillos.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for tuning in to OptOut, and please forward this email or share the Substack link with anyone who might want to subscribe!