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World Wide Work - January 2010
Source Matt Witt
Date 09/12/13/03:30

This edition of the free bulletin, World Wide Work, is published by the American Labor Education Center, an independent nonprofit founded in 1979.

As Congress debates whether to actually make health care more affordable or whether to just give insurance companies more customers at unaffordable rates, an excellent newspaper feature, Health without Borders: Medical Tourism, presented interviews with Americans who had to travel abroad to get medical care they could afford.

New and worth noting:

A Crack in the Pavement and The New Neighbors are two related half-hour documentaries. The first shows how many of America's first inner suburbs are falling apart as government policy supports further sprawl rather than maintenance of existing infrastructure. The second focuses on a diverse group of residents of Pennsauken, New Jersey, that is working to promote and maintain integration in their community.
American Faust is a thoroughly researched 89-minute documentary about Condoleezza Rice from her childhood during the civil rights era in Birmingham to her authorization of illegal torture during the Bush administration. It shows her turning her back on affirmative action for others after she herself benefited from it, lying to the American public about Iraq, and lending P.R. cover to Chevron to the point that it named an oil tanker after her. Today, Stanford University students are trying to get her ousted as a professor because of her role in illegal torture.
The Yes Men Fix the World shows the key stunts that two activist performance artists have pulled off by impersonating corporate or government officials in television interviews or conference speeches and making the announcements those officials ought to make if they put the public interest first. The film's release is quite timely, given that in October the Yes Men pulled off a similar action by announcing at the National Press Club that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had decided to endorse strong action on climate change. The announcement was carried by Reuters and the New York Times web site, until the Chamber came forward awkwardly to deny that it supports climate change solutions.
The Exiles is a restoration of a tragic but beautifully made 72-minute film first released in 1961. It portrays one night in the lives of Native Americans who were uprooted from their land by official U.S. government policies and exiled with no future to Los Angeles (as well as other urban centers).
Crossroads on the Columbia is a 24-minute documentary about the response of a small Oregon community to a plan by Texas financiers to install massive liquefied natural gas terminals on the Columbia River.

The Long River Home by Larry Smith (Bottom Dog Press). A rare find, this engaging and authentic novel follows four generations of a working class family, rooted in Ohio, as they move from rural life to industrial work.
A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya (Scribner). Joya is a young woman elected to Afghanistan's parliament in 2005 at the age of 27 and then suspended from her post because of her outspoken criticism of the regime. "We Afghans remain trapped between two enemies," she writes, "the Taliban on one side and U.S./NATO forces and their warlord hirelings on the other." The Karzai government, she says, is no better than the Taliban, and Afghans must be allowed to determine their own destiny. "I hope President Obama in particular will be made to understand that more troops, more bombs, and an expanded war will solve nothing," she concludes.
Teaching for Joy and Justice by Linda Christensen (Rethinking Schools). Another indispensable resource from Rethinking Schools, this one focuses on inspired, practical, and proven ways to help students draw on their own lives and the world around them as they learn read and writing skills.
The Union of Their Dreams by Miriam Pawel (Bloomsbury). Cesar Chavez led a movement that inspired millions - but that never built a functioning union for farm workers. At a time when many in the union and progressive movements seek lessons from decades of defensive battles and an overall decline in strength, a pro-labor reporter sympathetically profiles eight individuals from diverse backgrounds who played important roles in the United Farm Workers' early successes and ultimate failure. One major theme is that a cult of personality around the top leader and a lack of democracy contributed significantly to the movement's loss of direction.
Waiting on a Train by James McCommons (Chelsea Green). The author spent months riding rail routes throughout America. His account, filled with entertaining anecdotes, combines history, travelogue, and discussion of public policy. With air and auto travel increasingly unsustainable, McCommons argues that the nation's passenger rail system must be revitalized.
Rebecca Harding Davis' Stories of the Civil War Era edited by Sharon Harris and Robin Cadwallader (University of Georgia). Long before anyone spoke of "people's history," Davis roamed the states most ravaged by war, profiling working people of all backgrounds and showing the war's effects.
No Place for a Puritan edited by Ruth Nolan (Heyday). These essays, stories, and poems by more than 80 writers all have something to do with the history and culture of California's deserts.
Cursing Columbus by Eve Tal (Cinco Puntos). This sequel to the wonderfully written Double Crossing is another novel for high school age and up about Jewish immigrants in New York in the early 1900s. Besides telling interesting history, it deals with themes that are relevant to immigrants' experience today.
Black Body edited by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah (Seven Stories). Thirty writers - most, but not all, black - speak honestly and often with humor about their experiences related to the black body in American culture.
To Die for the People by Huey Newton (City Lights). This re-release of writings by the Black Panther leader grapples with issues that remain current today. Newton writes, for example, about how he came to believe that African Americans should support the gay rights movement.
Moral Underground by Lisa Dodson (The New Press). Workers talk about the human impact of the poverty-wage economy, and some of their supervisors, health care providers, and school teachers discuss how they bend rules in response to injustice - keeping a worker on the clock while they take their child to the doctor, sending food home with a restaurant or food store worker, providing care to someone who is uninsured, and more.
Mexico City Noir edited by Paco Ignacio Taibo II (Akashic). It's hard to imagine a city more suited to be the focus of the latest in Akashic's series of newly written noir stories set in a particular metropolitan area.

Live at Passim and Classics by Susan Werner ( A talented and original songwriter has produced two interesting albums. Live at Passim includes a brilliant song about old-school men called "Barbed Wire Boys," a lament to a spouse or partner that "I Can't Be New," and a wry speculation on making a "Movie of My Life," as well as a group of previously released songs about the disconnect between her religious feelings and the established church. Classics is an album of rock songs from the 1960s and 1970s that are reinterpreted with chamber music instrumentation.

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