United States of America

Striking a note of resistance

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Earlier this summer I found myself walking around the Pilsen district of Chicago. Migrant Mexican workers settled in the neighbourhood in the 1960s.

There you can see hundreds of murals and mosaics. These works of street art depict the daily life of the migrant Mexican community and their struggle for civil rights. Many of these works are clearly influenced by the Mexican muralists of the 1910 Revolution - Diego Rivera and José Orozco.

Letter from the United States

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In recent months a populist right wing movement has taken to the streets. Chip Ward reports on the mad hatters at America's Tea Party

In the US you can witness how the unfettered culture of capitalism unfolds. Here we are free to profit from anything. On Wall Street, or hedge-heaven as I like to call it, brokers bet on bets on bets on bets. This hasn't worked out so well but they are still at it.

US: Food insecurity

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There is a sharp rise in hunger in the US.

Some 17 million US households suffered "food insecurity" at some point in 2008, according to a survey by the US Department of Agriculture. This figure, comprising just under 15 percent of all households, was up sharply from 13 million in 2007 and has now reached the highest level since such surveys began in 1995.

Food insecurity is a polite expression for hunger and is defined in the report as households that "had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to lack of resources" - lack of money, in other words.

One, two, a thousand Seattles

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On the tenth anniversary of the Seattle protests the temptations and opportunities to misremember them were legion.

The New York Times led a revisionist charge by retelling the protest as a moment of collective vandalism, brutally memorable but politically forgettable. Fortunately, this didn't go unchallenged. David Solnit, one of the best US organisers in 1999, recently published a chronicle of the skirmishes between memory and forgetting entitled The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle.

US: Imperialism

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The long war that is getting longer.

It has been called Barack Obama's "LBJ" moment, where a progressive president is dragged into escalating an unpopular war in the hope that a quick success could rescue the US's reputation around the world.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, who assumed the presidency following the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1962, was praised by many progressives for his support for civil rights legislation. But his failure in Vietnam eventually destroyed his presidency.

US: Healthcare

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"All our services are free and are provided by volunteers. The doctor is free; the dentist is free; the eye doctor is free."

The website for Remote Area Medical (RAM) has to spell it out for a sceptical public used to being charged for even the most basic elements of healthcare.

RAM was set up by British-born Stan Brock in 1985 after he had lived for some time in the upper Amazon basin. He wanted to help make healthcare available to the most remote and impoverished people of the region.

US: Prisons

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The highest rate of incarceration in the world.

One of the yardsticks by which Barack Obama is likely to be assessed is whether the prison population falls or rises during his period in office. The facts are stark: the US has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world and the highest total documented prison population.

The numbers in jail rose rapidly during the 1980s, the period when right winger Ronald Reagan was in office, from around 500,000 to 2.3 million today. This means that over 1 percent of the US population is behind bars.

US: Poverty

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7.7 percent of households have no bank account.

Of those households with no bank account, 21.7 percent are black, 19.3 percent Hispanic, 15.6 percent Native American and 3.3 percent white. A further 17.9 percent of households are "underbanked', that is, they have limited access to banking facilities. That's almost 54 percent of black households, 44.5 percent of Native American households and 43.3 percent of Hispanic households.

Is the dream over?

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A year is a very long time in politics. The election of Barack Obama, the first black president of the US, symbolised hope and the possibility of change for millions of Americans. US writer and author of Deer Hunting with Jesus, Joe Bageant, thinks that things are changing - but not for the better.

Barack Obama's public approval ratings are taking a beating. Millions of his former supporters have awoken with a splitting hangover to find their pockets turned inside out and eviction notices on the doors of their 4,000 square foot subprime-mortgaged cardboard houses.

A textbook protest

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In Chicago the Great Depression led to the witholding of teachers' wages. John Newsinger shows how the teachers fought back - and won

The Great Depression hit US state education hard. By 1933, when the economic crisis was at its worst (the US economy had shrunk by a third), in most states educational provision had been seriously cut back. Indeed, in 1932 and 1933 many schools did not open at all because of lack of funds. In Georgia, the worst hit state, over 1,300 schools were shut, leaving 170,000 children without schooling and their teachers laid off. Their pay was already in arrears to the tune of $7 million. At the national level, big business was pushing for the introduction of charges for secondary education.

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