Occupy Wall Street Brings May Day to America

By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

NEW YORK — For decades, workers in Europe, South America and China have been celebrated with an official holiday on May Day.

The United States, however, has not followed suit. (And Britain and Canada have tried to wash out the holiday’s leftist hues.) Even though the day’s origins date to a riot in Chicago in 1886 known as the Haymarket massacre, labor is celebrated Stateside in early September.

Socialists and trade union movements have long used May Day as a protest day. And on Tuesday, May 1, the Occupy movement will attempt to bring 125 U.S. cities to a standstill in commemoration of International Workers Day.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is orchestrating what its supporters hope will be a nationwide general strike with students, workers and everyone who is an employee skipping work.

Their lofty goals also include urging people not to buy anything that day. It has been billed as “A Day Without the 99 Percent.”

The protesters are pressing for economic justice while railing against large corporations that are perceived as not paying their fair share of taxes, an example which of Charles Duhigg and David Kocieniewski detailed in The Times on Sunday.

The Occupy movement, which began late last summer, remained boisterous through the fall until many occupiers were ejected from parks around the country and it became too cold to continue to camp outside. Now, rising temperatures are drawing more and more of the disgruntled out of hibernation.

For the Big Apple, numerous protests and marches are planned to disrupt business as usual on Wall Street. New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, said Sunday that the city’s police force is ready and city officials are prepared to protect the rights of demonstrators.

But he warned: “They don’t have a right to disrupt other people and keep other people from protesting or just going about their business, and we will do as we normally do — find the right balance.”

The mayor, who made his fortune on Wall Street before founding Bloomberg L.P., advised demonstrators to try being entrepreneurial. “Go out and try to do something and make it better. Help kids get a better education, start a business. There’s a lot of things — lot of ways you can volunteer and help make this city better and this country better.”

Protest organizers, who say they are leaderless, didn’t immediately respond to Rendezvous’ request for comment, but they are putting together a slew of educational workshops Tuesday billed as the “Free University.”

University lecturers are being asked to move their classes to a Manhattan park as part of the skills-building process.

The May Day actions will kick off other demonstrations, most notably around the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit meeting in Chicago. Some 28 world leaders are expected at the NATO gathering a> on May 20.

When it was first announced that a Group of 8 meeting would precede the NATO conference, antiwar groups and other protesters had hoped for a chance to have multiple protests while the world’s eyes are on Chicago.

But President Barack Obama has moved the G-8 summit meeting to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. Occupy supporters will also head there.

Whether the plan succeeds or flops, it remains unclear if it will spark any change. To see more click here

Obama Will Need Young Voters to Keep His Job, Even if They Don’t Have One

By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

NEW YORK — If he’s to have any hope of keeping his job, President Barack Obama needs to regain the love of young voters. But with 50 percent of Americans under 30 jobless or underemployed, the once cozy relationship is strained.

So Mr. Obama has kicked off his now re-election campaign by wooing university students with a charm offensive that began with an appearance on a late-night television show popular with young people, “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”

For those not used to U.S.-style presidential campaigns, the appearance of a head of state on a late-night comedy show might seem a little odd — and Mr. Obama’s Republican critics pounced. But young people are a critical voting bloc and while the group favors Mr. Obama over the certain Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama needs to win them by a large margin given Republicans’ advantage among older voters, white voters and male voters.

The night that Mr. Romney was celebrating winning Republican primaries in five states and making the case that his campaign is one of hope for a better America, the president was pressing for a freeze on the interest rate charged on government student loans by trading lines with comedian Jimmy Fallon.

The Roots, an R&B band jammed, as the young audience squealed.

For the president, the issue could be a winning one as American college debt is expected to hit $1 trillion, more than credit card debt. This motivated angry students to demonstrate in New York on Wednesday.

Students around the world have flexed their collective muscle when pushed and political leaders have taken note. In 2010, thousands of British university students violently took to the streets when plans to increase tuition where announced. The protests continued last year.

Chilean student protests last year forced reforms then students took to the streets this week to protest the reforms not going far enough. And this week protests by French-Canadian students over proposed tuition hikes turned violent in Montreal. The student movement, which has led a student strike for the last 11 weeks, could trigger a snap election in Quebec.

Presidential candidates going on TV to court young voters isn’t new. But once elected part of being the commander-in-chief requires projecting an aura of strength.

So comedic turns on television, even for serious matters, could be seen as a gamble. (The other gamble was the comedy: Student loans? Funny?)

Though Mr. Obama’s appearance was a hit among its intended audience, selling himself going forward is not likely to be as easy as it was four years ago.

A recent poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found that only 20 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 believe the country is headed in the right direction.

Four years ago, Mr. Obama fired up the enthusiasm in young voters. That enthusiasm is waning with the Harvard poll suggesting that only 43 percent would vote for him now.

As a lawmaker he didn’t show up to vote on the student loan bill he’s now pushing Republican lawmakers in Congress to extend. Still his “jam session” only buttressed his cool factor to segments of America’s youth who already know that he can sing.

At least he isn’t channeling rap stars Jay-Z and Kanye West the way French presidential aspirant, François Hollande, did to ratchet up his hip quotient. Maybe it worked, since Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left leader and a youth favorite did less well than expected in Sunday’s first round of elections.

Next week the Obama campaign will hold its first official re-election rallies with campus stops in Virginia and Ohio. Mr. Obama and his wife will reiterate that they only recently paid off their own student loans.

“I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this. Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes,” the president has told students.

Still Mr. Romney isn’t ceding the youth vote.

He asked: “When you look at 50 percent of kids coming out college today can’t find a job or can’t find a job which is consistent with their skills, how in the world can you be supporting a president that has led to that kind of economy?” The businessman however did an about face and now supports the student loan proposal after seeming to not agree.

The president’s pressing the issue appeared to work. Republican leaders announced they would vote for the interest rate freeze on Friday. It remains to be seen if it will be enough to push job seekers to the polls this fall.
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Osama Bin Laden Joins the U.S. Presidential Race


By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

NEW YORK — By Monday morning, the newest skyscraper rising from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks is expected to be the tallest building in New York’s skyline.

The tower at One World Trade Center, at 1776 feet — or 541 meters — and 104 floors, will be 403 feet taller than the twin towers it is replacing. When finished in 2013 or 2014, it will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The tallest building in the world will remain Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates, at 2,717 feet.

Next week could be a moment of triumph for Americans who, one year ago, were celebrating in the streets of Lower Manhattan and Washington, D.C. when President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, had been killed.

Back then the Democratic president refused to do a victory dance, saying Americans didn’t “need to spike the football.”

But that was a year ago.

Facing an onslaught of criticism from Republican rivals who try to paint him as a lightweight celebrity, the Obama White House and campaign are engaging in a media blitz meant to remind everyone who has been calling the shots on foreign policy.

Mr. Obama’s aides enlisted former president Bill Clinton to narrate this web ad that suggests that Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, would not have pursued the Qaeda leader as aggressively.

Mr. Clinton’s involvement in this ad reminded many of the fierce primary contest four years ago when Hillary Rodham Clinton, now Mr. Obama’s Secretary of State, questioned his foreign policy credentials in her own national security ad.

As Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear note in the Times, the president has actually been talking about Bin Laden for months — including in his State of the Union address. Only now the intensity has changed.

Mr. Obama will be on national television on Wednesday, the anniversary of Bin Laden’s death, doing part of the interview in The Situation Room. The president’s aides have been interviewed for a Time Magazine special report, and there’s much more.

Republicans have seized upon Mr. Obama’s reluctance to score political points with the death of Bin Laden last year. His 2008 opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, called the new Web ad “shameless” and “pathetic.”

“Barack Obama is not only trying to score political points by invoking Osama bin Laden, he is doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get re-elected,” Mr. McCain said. Romney campaign spokespeople accused the president of trying to divide the country.

Usually disciplined and on message, Mr. Obama rarely raised the issue, but when pushed he has reminded foes that he has tackled some big challenges.

No doubt the White House’s attempt to capitalize on the anniversary of the Bin Laden death is meant to counter the Republican message that Mr. Obama has been an ineffectual and incompetent president who is out of his depth.

Normally, an April with the presidential candidates already decided, might slip into the political doldrums for a while. Not this year. Before the Republicans define the president in their terms, the Obama camp is trying to make it clear that he did accomplish some big things, despite the enduring economic malaise and the health care overhaul that is far less popular than they had expected.

Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. gave a speech saying that the re-election slogan would be “Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” referring to the car-company bailout orchestrated by the administration.

Mr. Obama’s opening salvo of his re-election campaign should not have caught Republicans by surprise. On Thursday night, Mr. Biden told an audience at New York University that Mr. Romney and the Republicans had ideas that were from another era.

His boss, he said, talked softly but carried a big stick. “I promise you, the president has a big stick. I promise you.”

Of course, the danger of trumpeting foreign successes is that between now and the election in November there are any number of foreign challenges that could explode.
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