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Can the Occupy Movement Survive Without Occupations?

Losing the occupiers means losing the visual symbol of Occupy Wall Street.


As the winter presses on, we've seen the nation's Occupy camps dwindle or clear out entirely. At Zuccotti Park, what was once a buzzing community of hundreds is now down to a loyal few taking shifts around the clock (there's just one dude assigned to the graveyard shift). Elsewhere, this week brought a fresh crop of Occupy Wall Street crackdowns in Austin, D.C., Maine, and Honolulu. Funds throughout the movement are dwindling, partly because the symbolic images of tents and drum circles are no longer circulating in the news, and partly because, with every raided Occupy camp, a physical donation box disappears along with it. It's undeniable that the movement has influenced the public conversation, all the way up to the president's State of the Union speech, but can its message continue to resonate if Occupy is without occupiers?

I'll admit it: The concept of a 24-hour occupation didn't appeal to me at first. It felt sanctimonious to demand so much time from activists, to set up a line between "real" occupiers and people who had to keep going to their jobs. I found myself hoping the movement would evolve into bursts of populist marches rather than an ongoing stream of occupations. But slowly I saw the significance of having a home base: It gives the movement a unique texture, a way to distinguish itself from just another one-day protest. Even though I'm still waiting for that big march on Washington, I gradually realized the camps, and the police reactions to them, were the whole reason Occupy Wall Street had made headlines in the first place. OWS has a resonant message, but the Occupy imagery reminds the world how many people believe it.


That imagery is changing, what with Occupy shrinking and no longer sparking huge and diverse demonstrations. Media coverage of the Occupy movement now centers on the radical moves of its hardcore loyalists; the latest headlines feature yet another run-in with Oakland police after 400 protesters and journalists tried to occupy a vacant, city-owned building. True, there are tons of major Occupy-related events planned for the future—including big protests at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions—but for right now, stories like the Oakland confrontation risk confirming middle America's suspicions that occupiers are just a bunch of rogue anarchists.

In the meantime, the question remains whether it's the raids or the winter that's thinning out the ranks of Occupy sites across the country. The difference matters. If it's just a question of seasonal lull, it seems very possible that the masses may flock to parks again when the thaw comes, provoking headlines and donations both. But if the police are committed to cracking down on the camps from here on out, Occupy Wall Street may devolve into even more of a quibble over space than it already has. To me, the most effective moments have been thousands of people gathering around a nucleus—a march that begins at City Hall and ends in Zuccotti Park—not stragglers getting into fights with cops.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Glyn Lowe Photos.

Articles

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

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The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Politics

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health