Sometimes, we forget about all the good things that also happen around us. Or the good things coming out of the bad ones.

So here are some of the 2014 highlights.

1. Uprising for police accountability. The movement for police accountability has swept the nation, spawning brilliant new leaders from communities most affected, giving a voice to the families who have lost loved ones and opening people’s eyes to the militarization of our police forces. It is an organic, grassroots movement destined to have a transformative impact on the struggle for racial equality. Keep an eye out in 2015 for CODEPINK’s campaign to demilitarize the police, Communities Organize to Demilitarize Enforcement.

2. Historic opening with Cuba. President Obama’s announcement that the US would work to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in over 50 years was historic. It including a prisoner swap that led to the release of the final three members of the “Cuban 5”—a group unjustly imprisoned for trying to stop terrorist acts against Cuba. And it marks the end of Cuba policy being dominated by a small cabal of right-wing Cuban Americans. (CODEPINK is taking a delegation to Cuba for Valentines Day, learn more about it at codepink.org/cuba.)

3. Progress in talks with Iran. Iran and the six world powers announced they would extend an interim nuclear deal seven more months, and gave themselves four more months to reach a political agreement for a comprehensive nuclear accord. Despite intense opposition from the Israel lobby group AIPAC, as well as Republican and Democratic hawks, the U.S. and Iran are closer than ever to securing a historic agreement. It is a rare and commendable example of the Obama administration engaging in Middle East diplomacy instead of militarism.

4. Triumph of the fractivists. Out of a year of environmental progress ranging from the People’s Climate March to the US-China bilateral agreement on climate change, one of the most monumental victories has been in the anti-fracking movement. The New York State ban on fracking imposed by Governor Cuomo followed a long campaign waged by tireless grassroots activists. But that wasn’t the only victory. Voters in eight locales from Mendocino County, California to Athens, Ohio to Denton, Texas, won fracking bans on the ballot in the 2014 election. So did Canadian citizens in Quebec and New Brunswick. These victories have spawned a national conversation on fracking, with public support for the practice plummeting.

5. New gains for legalizing marijuana. With the majority of the country now supporting legalization, and Colorado and Washington proving that it actually works, new gains were achieved at the ballot box in Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. World leaders like former UN head Kofi Annan and presidents from Latin America called for an end to the drug war and for legally regulating drugs. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder continued to speak out against racist mandatory minimum drug laws and mass incarceration, while President Obama made national news declaring that marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol.

6. Massive wins for gay marriage. In decision after decision, courts in 18 states struck down gay marriage bans. It is now legal for gay couples to marry in 35 of the 50 states. A year ago, only about a third of Americans lived in states that permitted same-sex marriage. Today, nearly 65 percent of Americans do, making 2014 perhaps the biggest turning point in the history of same-sex marriage in the United States.

7.  Raises for minimum wage workers. From ballot initiatives and grassroots organizing to major legislative efforts, campaigns to raise the minimum wage gained momentum across the country. Voters, cities and statehouses passed minimum wage increases. The states included Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, New Jersey and South Dakota; cities included San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Louisville and Portland,OR. And the calls for raises came from workers themselves: Black Friday saw the largest strikes ever against Walmart, with pickets and strikes at 1,600 stores in 49 states. And on December 5, fast-food workers went on strike in 190 cities. Congress might not be able to push through national legislation, but workers and local communities are not waiting!

8. Reform of immigration policy. In November, President Obama signed an executive order stopping five million people from being deported and allowing many to work legally. While it does not offer a pathway to citizenship, it does provide relief for millions of immigrants. And it was only possible because of the sophisticated organizing and sacrifices made by so many activists in the immigrant community.

9. Release of the torture report. For years, human rights advocates have been pushing for the release of the 6,000-page torture report compiled by the Senate Intelligence Committee–against vehement opposition from the CIA. The full report remains classified, and the 600-page executive summary was redacted by the CIA itself. The public deserves to see the entire report, but the fact that any of it was released is also a tribute to Senator Dianne Feinstein and her colleagues. It marks the beginning of our nation coming to grips with this sordid page of our history. The next chapter should include accountability–bringing to justice all those who authorized and participated in these shameful acts.

10. Palestine solidarity becomes mainstream. 2014 was horrific for Palestinians, with the Israeli war against the Gaza killing nearly 2,200, mostly civilians. But the invasion spawned unprecedented international solidarity with Palestine and huge steps forward for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS won the support of Christian congregations including the Presbyterian Church USA and academic groups like the American Studies Association. Activists shut down ports in California to stop the unloading of Israeli ships; they forced SodaStream to close its settlement-based factory, and the online shopping site GILT dropped AHAVA cosmetics, made in an illegal Israeli settlement in Palestine. In Europe, the movement has been hugely successful with country after country voting to recognize Palestine as a state and the European court ruling to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations. Keep an eye out in 2015 for CODEPINK’s new campaign, No Open House on Stolen Land, targeting RE/MAX real estate company for selling illegal Israeli settlement homes.

The 2014 low electoral turnout and the Democratic defeat revealed how not enthused the public is about national politics. But it also revealed the popularity of progressive ballot measures. And the campaign pushing Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to run for President is putting populist economic issues into the national limelight and already influencing the positions of likely presidential contender Hillary Clinton. With this framework and the new energy infused into social justice and environmental activism, the progressive movement is poised to make significant gains in 2015.

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12 Native Americans, Among Hundreds of Others, Who are Making a Difference

These Native Americans are standing up to represent their heritage and their culture. Watch some of them taking a stand on Rebel Music: Native America NOW, an MTV Facebook Premiere Exclusive.

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Film | “Interstellar”: Something New, Majestic, Slow, and Deep?

Read the full article here | Chris Taylor for MASHABLE

It’s fair to say that Interstellar, the hotly anticipated science fiction film from director Christopher Nolan, is his darkest, slowest-moving and most uncompromising work yet.

If you’re looking for easy thrills and comical spills, go see Big Hero 6. If you’re looking for complex intergalactic chills, if you desire a slow-building punch to your heart and head, climb aboard the Interstellar train.

Thoughts on Film: Snowpiercer | The Time When Revolution is No Longer Possible

The problem with calling the movie an allegory is that allegory doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know, and it hides the thing you didn’t realize it was persuading you of. Allegories are closed ecologies. If Snowpiercer is a movie about capitalism, then we already know what it is, and says, because we already know what we know about capitalism. If you think a death-train of the damned in a post-apocalyptic hellscape is an allegory about capitalism, then it’s because you think capitalism is a death-train of the damned in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. But if everyone knows that the train is an allegory for industrial capitalism—and everybody certainly seems to—then it’s not a secret, and not the kind of allegory Jameson was talking about when he described anti-capitalism as our political unconscious.

It’s anything but the kind of unspeakable, repressed truth that we all pretend not to know, even to ourselves; the fact that the train is capitalism is the thing we allow ourselves to talk about because we’re afraid to talk about the real thing it is, which is death, our fear of death, and our desire for the thing we fear.

Read the full critique here | The New Inquiry

Stories Shared as Communion | … or, the Irrelevance of Truth in Healing | Fambul Tok

People of the African nation of Sierra Leone practice an ancient ritual of family talk called Fambul Tok in this documentary. Citizens whose lives were horrifically changed by civil war, where family members became killers of their own families, where torture and cruelty were every day occurrences, demonstrate a remarkable amount of tolerance and forgiveness as they gather to heal the emotional scars of war.
Even though the fighting was over, rapists and murderers would walk among the victims and victims’ families with impunity. But instead of imprisonment, the perpetrators would be reconciled with the citizenry through Fambul Tok.

Sierra Leone, we learn, has a saying that sums it up best. “There is no place to throw away a bad child.”—Tim Basham

​The Military Is Shutting Down Its Weather-Controlling Beam | Meet HAARP

Can a facility that has inspired global conspiracy theories be designated a World Heritage Site? If so, that might be the only way to prevent the shutdown of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) in Alaska, which studies the ionosphere—or creates lethal hurricanes—depending on whom you talk to.

Read the full article

Chicago’s O’Hare Airport | Vertical Tower Garden Feeds 10,000+ Travelers a Year | System Run by Renewable Energy

The world’s first aeroponic vegetable garden at the airport. You will learn how ORD airport is taking a leadership approach in sustainability, as well as learn how they are feeding 10,000+ people a year when growing 1,100 crops at one time in their Vertical Tower Aeroponic Garden (even including locally grown honey!) which is fed by renewable energy. After watching this, hopefully you realize that, if they can grow food in the 4nd busiest airport in the world, you can easily grow food at home.