Paper Cuts: National news that catches our eyes.   Fall 2012 edition. 

Theft and Torture Used to be Criminal — Now It’s the Law

Although it only lingers in the minds of many as a stale, political sound-bite, the conflict around construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline has recently taken a violent turn for a group of Texas activists.

Because TransCanada has access to private land in Texas (as well as North Dakota, Nebraska, and Oklahoma) due to a loose interpretation of “public good” under the state’s eminent domain laws, construction of the pipeline surges ahead, even without Federal approval for the project as a whole.  Eminent domain laws allow state government to take private land — land with buildings and homes and private property — and sell it for the sake of public good.

TransCanada bought forest land from the state government in Texas that was deemed “for the public good.”  The forest land had been privately owned by Texans living off the grid, to say the least.

In protest of this unapproved but technically legal scheme, activists stood their ground this past September on this once-privately held land to halt TransCanada’s construction of the pipeline’s southern leg. On Sept. 25, two young Texans, ages 26 and 34, handcuffed themselves to a TransCanada excavator parked 300 yards outside their “tree village” built 80 feet into the air. Nine blockaders sat in the makeshift tree houses, located atop a forest grove directly in the pipeline’s proposed path.

TransCanada was not pleased; soon, both plain-clothed and uniformed officers from the local sheriff’s department were on the scene. The policemen consulted with TransCanada field supervisors and then actually tortured the two protestors in an attempt to remove them from the machinery. Officers from local counties tried choke holds, stress positions and tasers to intimidate the already-handcuffed protesters. Only after repeated use of tasers and pepper-spray (shot into their open wounds) did the activists remove themselves from the equipment.

Reporters have been barred from approaching the construction site, and officers have been instructed to arrest anyone on foot or with a camera. The blockaders remain undaunted and continue to risk their lives and freedom on a daily basis to protect what should rightfully be considered their land.

by Travis Epes


Chipotle Caves, Workers Gain Victory

As a member of the nation’s working class, it’s been truly exciting to watch the strikes and protests spread: the teacher strike in Chicago for union rights and negotiations, the worker strikes against Wal-Mart for better working conditions overall, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) protests demanding the biggest tomato-buyers in the country participate in the Fair Food Program and not to mention ongoing Occupy protests and rallies at home and abroad.

And just recently, our working brothers and sisters of the CIW had another big victory.  This October, Chipotle signed on to the Fair Food Program committing to buy tomatoes in Florida that pay minimum wage and meet basic working conditions laid out and monitored by the Fair Foods Standards Council. The CIW-approved farms charge a penny more per pound of tomatoes to guarantee these improvements.

This announcement comes right before the 12 weeks in the winter season when Chipotle and many others in the country buy tomatoes almost exclusively from Florida.

95% of the nation’s winter tomatoes are grown in Florida.  The rest of the growing season, Florida tomatoes make up 45% of the market.

Chipotle is the 11th company to join the Fair Food Program and is in good company alongside Yum Brands, Bon Appetit Management Company, Compass Group, Sodexo, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Aramark, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Did you notice who was missing?  Publix still refuses to sign onto the Fair Food Program and buy tomatoes from farmworkers who are paid fairly and treated well.

From Wal-Mart to teacher’s unions, to every day workers, to every day farm pickers, rise up and stand proud.  It’s our time (Goonies never say die).

by Chelsea Hetelson


John, Paul, George and Ringo

In 1966, it was too dangerous to go outside.  Beatlemania was infectious and Tokyo had been hit hard.  Local Japanese authorities were unable to handle the crazed infected fans and advised the Beatles to stay indoors, remain hidden, stay away from windows and reflective surfaces and maintain a lockdown code orange status.

The Beatles were on their world tour and were in Japan for just 100 hours to play three shows.  Unable to tour the city or go out to breakfast, the Beatles remained trapped at the Tokyo Hilton, all dressed up with the whole adoring world at their feet and nowhere to go.

But luckily, Beatles band manager Brian Epstein was there to save the day.  Like a resourceful babysitter on a rainy day, he brought the foursome some oils and watercolors and a huge 30″ by 40″ canvas.  He placed a lamp in the middle and gathered them around, each taking a corner.

“Want to color?” he asked.

Over 40 years later this September, the art project sold for $155,250 at auction, $30,000 to $70,000 more than the auction’s ranged estimate.   After their delightful homey stay in Japan, the Beatles presented the painting to Tetsuaburo Shimoyama, an entertainment industry executive and chairman of the Japanese Beatles Fan Club.  After Mr. Shimoyama died, his wife sold the painting in 1989 for $280,000 ($500,000 in today’s dollars) to a collector who has kept it in a $5,000 humidity-controlled frame under his bed to preserve quality.

The painting, entitled “Images of a Woman,” is a colorful collage of 60s spirit and creativity as seen through the eyes of each Beatle.  In the blank circle in the middle, where the lamp had been placed, each signed his name.

There’s only one other piece of known artwork that all four Beatles took part in.  Entitled “Peace to Monterey” and not the result of safety-induced life-preservation lockdown, this marker-and-pencil drawing was offered to the Monterey Pop Festival as a condolence for not being able to play.  Drawn in 1967, one year after “Images of a Woman,” “Peace to Monterey” was sold at auction in 2008 to benefit the non-profit Project Interspeak.

We may not still be in a panic of Beatles-Meltdown-Code-Orange-Mania, but Beatlemania is still out there.  So, watch which records you buy — you might still be able to catch it.

by Chelsea Hetelson