SpeakOut http://www.truth-out.org Thu, 23 Oct 2014 01:59:15 -0400 en-gb Public Says No to Silencing Prisoners' Speech http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26994-public-says-no-to-silencing-prisoners-speech http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26994-public-says-no-to-silencing-prisoners-speech

I would not have guessed that people cared so much and so well about US prisoners. The Governor of Pennsylvania is expected to sign into law a dangerous precedent that we all need to speak out against and put a quick stop to. In the first day since posting the following petition, over 10,000 people have signed it and added quite eloquent reasons why. It can be signed here

I would not have guessed that people cared so much and so well about US prisoners. The Governor of Pennsylvania is expected to sign into law a dangerous precedent that we all need to speak out against and put a quick stop to. In the first day since posting the following petition, over 10,000 people have signed it and added quite eloquent reasons why. It can be signed here.

We stand against the passage, in Pennsylvania, of the so-called "Revictimization Relief Act," which affords virtually unlimited discretion to District Attorneys and the state Attorney General to silence prisoner speech, by claiming that such speech causes victims' families "mental anguish." Politicians are claiming a power that if granted to them will be difficult if not impossible forcitizens to check.

In seeking to silence the legally protected speech of prisoners, the state also damages citizens' right and freedom to know -- in this case, to better understand an area of US life physically removed from public scrutiny.

This legislation emerged following the failure of the Fraternal Order of Police and its allies to stop prisoner and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from delivering an October 5, 2014, commencement address. This bill sacrifices the rights of all prisoners in Pennsylvania in order to silence Abu-Jamal -- an unethical deployment of collective punishment by those in power.

Victim relief is not served by denying fundamental rights to those convicted, especially because prisoner freedom of speech is crucial for redressing wrongful convictions and the current crisis of harsh sentencing that is often disproportionate to alleged crimes. Our society is currently engaged in a full-scale debate on the problems of mass incarceration that could not have developed without prisoners' voices.

Here's a PDF of the names and comments of the first 10,000 plus people to sign this. Flipping through the first few pages, these comments jump out at me:

Lawrence Fine NY     This is an ill-conceived bill.

Christopher Scerbo ME      Democracy is never served by silence.

Robert Post  NJ   The only proper answer to bad speech is good speech!

Ellen Kirshbaum  NY       Why does speech frighten these corrupt politicians?  Let all prisoners SPEAK!

Jenefer  Ellingston  DC     Why is our local or national gov't afraid of Free Speech?

Allan Carlson  NJ        This is a FASCIST law. It represents that antithesis of the intent of the Founding Fathers who penned the US Constitution.

Jesse Reyes  NJ        This bill only makes sense if it is known, beyond all shadow of doubt, that the incarcerated person is actually "guilty."  The Innocence Project and several other high profile cases ("The Central Park Jogger" case) has proven that far too many incarcerated people are not guilty of the crimes they were sent to prison for.  I would not want to deny anyone their rights on that basis alone.  This bill is wrong and should not be signed by anyone who actually cares about our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

Jan Clausen   NY      This bill threatens to make Pennsylvania a poster child for the unconstitutional curtailment of the free speech rights that are known around the world as one of the great strengths of US system. Pennsylvanians and all US citizens need to wake up and soundly reject this ill-conceived measure that threatens the freedoms of all.

Dallas C. Galvin  NY   Censorship for the state that promotes itself as the site of the US Constitution and home of Benjamin Franklin and William Penn? Deeply troubling behavior.  Rethink, then reject.  Mr. Jamal (let's be clear about motivation here) has been able to show the corruption and disingenuousness of the D.A., the state senate, and police.  Clean up your own acts, then you need no longer fear free and unfettered speech.

David Drukaroff  NJ      I have tried to win exoneration for a wrongfully convicted inmate for the last 25 years. People have a right to know how this inmate feels.

Chad Sell  PA       Does anyone care about the constitution anymore?

Katharine Rylaarsdam    MD      Public officials are servants of the law, not demigods who should be granted unlimited arbitrary power.

Edward Costello  CA       This is outrageous.

Julimar Castro   MN        Wrongful and disproportionate convictions exist. To prevent these people from speaking is outrageous. I suspect those proposing this law care more about silencing convicts and preventing them from telling the truth regarding the system, than about the families themselves.

Robert  Belknap   NC       This is theft of rights, pure and simple.

Paul Palla PA       Have you heard of the Constitution?  You know, that thing that guarantees everybody FREEDOM OF SPEECH??!?

Nancy Norton    NY       I used to visit prisoners in our local jail.  It is too easy to forget these people, members of our community and citizens of our county.  The right of free speech should not be abridged because a person is serving a sentence in prison or jail.  We need to remember these people and not dismiss them as a group we can ignore.

J. R. Jarvis  WA      I believe in justice, human rights and the constitution - this ain't it!

Ralph Calabrese   NY       Too many of our freedoms are being taken from us.

Sean Murphy        FL        These abuses of power must be stopped and we must resist the 1% from using criminals and other hot topics to pass laws that ultimately will affect us all.

Sharyn Diaz     OR       Prisons have replaced the poorhouses in America and now you want to silence the common folk...shame on you...all of you who support just another try at control. 

r. tippens          MA      This is a law straight from Stalin's text book.  Please...do not embarrass this democracy.

Betsey Piette   PA       Once again Corbett & Co. will waste millions of tax dollars to defend their criminal violation of citizens' Constitutional Rights but can't find money for public education?

Dave Jecker  TX         Being a prisoner is bad enough and their punishment is that given to them for their actions.  Words should never be silenced and that is a human right.  We have seen how governments silent individuals and groups and it leads to nothing except rebellion.  Right to speech is everyone's human right, it is not something you can take away.

Samuel  Perry  NJ        Prisoners are on the front line of our civil liberties battles. The rights that oppressive governments first strip from prisoners are the rights the same regimes will later strip from "non-citizens" and finally "citizens" themselves. Free speech doesn't come from Government and cannot be taken away by government. Philadelphia should know that.

Donna Friedman  FL    So many in prison for drug use, mental illness and even falsely accused.  They should have the right to say what goes on there.

Joanne Snyder    CA     No lessons learned about corrupt Pennsylvania judges who sentence juvenile offenders in exchange for money?  Who is paying for this?

Rev. Jake Harrison    TX       Freedom of speechdoes not exclude inmates - and some of the most poignant voices in history were those of inmates.

Casey Lyon    VT       Let us not forget the insightful words of Dostoyevsky: "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."

JG Tentler      NY       This dangerous precedent must not be allowed to be established.It's implications are chilling and are clearly designed to muzzle the free speech of one Political Prisoner,at the expense of every wrongly incarcerated petitioner who is stifled by it.

Carol Stanton  NC       We must not become a gulag state.

Add your signature.

For more information:
Bring Mumia Home
Free Mumia
Text of the bill

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SpeakOut Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:16:16 -0400
"My Father Was Killed By a Computer," Says Seven Year Old Afghan Child http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26993-my-father-was-killed-by-a-computer-says-seven-year-old-afghan-child http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26993-my-father-was-killed-by-a-computer-says-seven-year-old-afghan-child

Imal, a 7 year old Afghan student in the 2nd grade, came to visit us in Kabul.

As Imal grew up, he kept asking his mother where his father was. His mother finally told Imal that his father had been killed by a drone when he was still a baby.

If you could see Imal in this video, you would want to hug Imal immediately.

Imal, a 7 year old Afghan student in the 2nd grade, came to visit us in Kabul.

As Imal grew up, he kept asking his mother where his father was. His mother finally told Imal that his father had been killed by a drone when he was still a baby.

If you could see Imal in this video, you would want to hug Imal immediately.

2014 1022 hakim 1Imal (Photo courtesy of Dr. Hakim)

If Imal were a white American kid, this tragedy would not have befallen his father. Which American would allow any US citizen to be killed by a foreign drone?

Suppose the UK wanted to hunt ‘terrorists’ in the US, with their drones, and every Tuesday, David Cameron signed a ‘secret kill list’ like Obama does. Drones operated from Waddington Base in the UK fly over US skies to drop bombs on their targets, and the bombs leave a 7 year old American kid, say, John, fatherless.

John’s father is killed, shattered to charred pieces by a bomb, dropped by a drone, operated by a human, under orders from the Prime Minister /Commander-in-Chief.

“John, we’re sorry that your father happened to be near our ‘terrorist’ target.’ He was collateral damage. It was ‘worth it’ for the sake of UK national security.”

Unfortunately, no US official or military personnel had met with Imal’s widowed mother to apologize.

Raz, Imal’s uncle who brought him to visit us, asked his young nephew, 

“Will you bring me some marbles to play with?”

Imal was friendly, like any other 7 year old kid. “Yes!” His voice was a trusting one, eager to be a good friend and playmate. 

“Do you also play with walnuts? Tell us how you play with walnuts,” Raz requests.

“We put them in a line, and flick a walnut to hit other walnuts, like playing with marbles,” Imal explains diligently, like he was telling a story we should all be interested in.

“Besides beans, what other food do you like?”

“I also like….potatoes...and meat……and….rice!” All of us were smiling with the familiar love of Afghan oiled ‘palao’ or ‘Qabuli’ rice.”

Imal knew what my laptop was. He said, “We can look at photos & watch films…”

But, then, it seemed that he took on the understanding of an older person when his voice became serious.

”My father was killed by a computer.”

2014 1022 hakim 2Imal on the computer. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Hakim)

I wanted to tell Imal that nowadays, it takes children and young people like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to tell us adults the plain facts.

When Malala was 16 years old and met with the Obamas at the White House, Malala had told Obama that drones were fuelling terrorism.

Do we get it? Drones are employed in the ‘war against terrorism’, but instead, drones fuel terrorism.

How many drone attacks are there in Afghanistan every month, and how many women, children and young men like Imal’s father are killed?

We don’t know. It’s not a transparent strategy.

We would all want to know everything about the possible effects of a drone strategy on our children, especially if our country was the most drone-bombed country in the world, like Afghanistan is.

A Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead’ report says that fewer than 4% of the people killed by drone attacks in Pakistan have been identified by available records as named members of Al Qaeda. If this is true for drone attack victims in Afghanistan too, then 96% of drone victims in Afghanistan have been innocent civilians like Imal’s father.

In another Bureau of Investigative Journalism report,  ‘Tracking drone strikes in Afghanistan’, (July, 2014),the Bureau states that “nobody systematically publishes insurgent and civilian deaths from drones on a strike-by-strike basis. Neither the US nor UK authorities publishes data on the casualties of their drone operations.”

So, we are unable to find out for Imal’s mother if it was a US/UK drone that killed her husband, and who the drone operator was.

If Imal were John, could he or his mother sue David Cameron? Stop the drone? Stop the human drone operator? Disable the computer?

We gave Imal a Borderfree blue scarf, and thanked him for coming.

His eyes were bright and cheerful, taking in the photos on the wall, including a poster of Gandhi and Badshah Khan. Badshah Khan was a Pashtun like Imal, and has been called the Frontier Gandhi for his lifelong struggle for nonviolence.

I have been thinking hard about Imal, about whether anyone would hear him, when few among the elites who declare wars and order drone strikes seem to have heard the now famous Malala, not even President Obama.

“I wish to tell the world, ‘We don’t want war. Don’t fight!’"

2014 1022 hakim 3Imal with poster of Badshah Khan. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Hakim)

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SpeakOut Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:52:10 -0400
Tale of Two New Yorks Endures Under de Blasio as NYPD Continues Discriminatory Marijuana Arrest Crusade http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26992-tale-of-two-new-yorks-endures-under-de-blasio-as-nypd-continues-discriminatory-marijuana-arrest-crusade http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26992-tale-of-two-new-yorks-endures-under-de-blasio-as-nypd-continues-discriminatory-marijuana-arrest-crusade

From March to August Under de Blasio/Bratton, NYPD Made More Marijuana Possession Arrests than Bloomberg/Kelly in Same Period of  Previous Year

New York: A new report released today by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance shows that, despite campaign promises, marijuana possession arrests under Mayor de Blasio are on track to equal – or even surpass – the number of arrests under Mayor Bloomberg. As under the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, these arrests are marked by shockingly high racial disparities. The report, Race, Class & Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s Two New Yorks: the NYPD’s Marijuana Arrest Crusade Continues in 2014 draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and shows that despite a change in mayoral administrations and police commissioners, the NYPD continues its practice of making wasteful, racially biased, and costly marijuana arrests.

From March to August Under de Blasio/Bratton, NYPD Made More Marijuana Possession Arrests than Bloomberg/Kelly in Same Period of  Previous Year

New York:new report released today by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance shows that, despite campaign promises, marijuana possession arrests under Mayor de Blasio are on track to equal – or even surpass – the number of arrests under Mayor Bloomberg. As under the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, these arrests are marked by shockingly high racial disparities. The report, Race, Class & Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s Two New Yorks: the NYPD’s Marijuana Arrest Crusade Continues in 2014 draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and shows that despite a change in mayoral administrations and police commissioners, the NYPD continues its practice of making wasteful, racially biased, and costly marijuana arrests.

The report includes extensive analysis of marijuana arrest and income data, showing  that overall, low income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates of marijuana possession arrests than do white communities of every class bracket. Most of those arrested are young men of color, even though young white men use marijuana at higher rates. Nearly 75% of the people arrested for marijuana possession in 2014 have never been convicted of even a single misdemeanor, and only 11% have a misdemeanor conviction.

"President Obama, Governor Cuomo, former Mayor Ed Koch and candidate Bill de Blasio all strongly criticized the NYPD's racist marijuana possession arrests,” said report author and Queens College professor Harry Levine.  “Yet the most progressive mayor in the modern history of New York is unable to stop them?  Really?"

New York State decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1977, finding that arresting people for small amounts of marijuana "needlessly scars thousands of lives while detracting from the prosecution of serious crimes.” Yet over the last twenty years, marijuana possession has become a top law enforcement priority, with nearly 600,000 people having been arrested under this provision in New York City alone, often as the result of an illegal search or as the result of a stop-and-frisk encounter when police demand an individual “empty their pockets,” thus exposing marijuana to public view.

"I was illegally searched by the NYPD and arrested for having a small amount of marijuana in my pocket,” said Iveily Matias, 20, a VOCAL-NY member living in Washington Heights. “It was my first time ever getting arrested and now I have a criminal record that makes it harder to find a job. I wasn't posing a risk to anyone's health or safety, so why am I, and so many other young people of color, being criminalized?"

Efforts to end the marijuana arrest crusade in New York continue to build. In a major development earlier this year, Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio calling for an end to biased marijuana possession arrests. Additionally, this spring, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced a plan to stop prosecuting people arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The proposal was met with wide support from elected officials, community groups, and advocates; notably, though, Commissioner Bratton brazenly vowed to continue the racially biased arrest practice. And in Albany, where reform proposals have been debated for years, Assemblyman Karim Camara and Senator Daniel Squadron introduced the Fairness and Equity Act – new, comprehensive legislation to end the marijuana arrest crusade and address the persistent, unwarranted racial disparities associated with the practice.

"There is no excuse for the New York City marijuana arrest crusade to be continuing in 2014," said Kassandra Frederique, New York Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "New Yorkers made it clear that Black lives mattered when they voted for the mayoral candidate that supported ending bias policing practices, including racist marijuana arrests. It is time for that mayoral candidate to become the mayor and order his police commissioner to end these wasteful marijuana arrests now.”

When comparing arrests in the first eight months of both years (January – August), state data show that the NYPD made 396 more marijuana arrests in 2013 than in 2014 (20,080 versus 19,684). Why slightly more in 2013? Because of the low numbers of marijuana arrests in January and February of 2014, the first two months of the new mayoral administration. Were the marijuana arrests down in January and February 2014 because of policies of the new administration? No. The arrests were down because, according to records from the U.S. weather service, New York City received more inches of snow in January and February of 2014 than in any year since 1870 – more snow than in any January and February in 145 years. In effect, it took what insurance companies call "an act of God" to slow down the NYPD's marijuana possession arrests in 2014. And then only for two months. Since then, the numbers of the NYPD's lowest‐ level marijuana arrests have been up, and are on track to equal or pass all arrests in 2013.

“When it comes to marijuana possession arrests, the de Blasio-Bratton record is an awful tale of two New Yorks,” said gabriel sayegh, Managing Director for Policy & Campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Mayor de Blasio promised to end these arrests, so why do they continue today? The City Council should act to hold the Mayor and Commissioner accountable, and Albany needs to pass the Fairness and Equity Act.  We cannot allow systemic racial disparities to persist. Every New Yorker should receive fair, equal treatment under the law, regardless of their race, their class or where they live.”

Link to the report.

Link to the release.

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SpeakOut Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:10:58 -0400
"Stop Killing Us" Say Strong Youth Leaders in Ferguson, Missouri's Weekend of Resistance to Police Brutality http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26970-stop-killing-us-say-strong-youth-leaders-in-ferguson-missouri-s-weekend-of-resistance-to-police-brutality http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26970-stop-killing-us-say-strong-youth-leaders-in-ferguson-missouri-s-weekend-of-resistance-to-police-brutality

Almost 60 days after 18 year old Michael Brown was shot six times and left for 4 hours and 34 minutes in the street in front of the apartment complex where he lived, the youth of Ferguson, Missouri are not letting their community, state or country forget. Their cries of "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" have echoed across American cities as they press for police accountability in the large numbers of police shootings of unarmed persons of color. Nor are they letting the country forget the militarized response by local and state police agencies to protests that followed Brown's shooting. After two months, there still is no decision by the county's grand jury on whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will be charged in the death of Brown.

I joined CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Veterans for Peace and Palestine Solidarity groups in Ferguson and St. Louis for the Weekend of Resistance October 9-12, 2014. The weekend was an important acknowledgement of continuing local community and national concern for police brutality, racism and injustice. Organized by those who daily have challenged police brutality in Ferguson, the four days of solidarity provided an opportunity for persons from around the country to join those on the front lines.

The protest baton in Ferguson is firmly in the hands of the youth of the community. While supported by many of their elders, the spirit and commitment to challenge police brutality has been generated by the younger generation as they take on the mantel of the leaders of the movement. During the sixty days since Michael Brown's death, they have held a daily vigil, sometimes for 24 hours a day, in front of the Ferguson police station. In the evenings, a larger group forms across the street from the police station with signs against police brutality and in the evening, a larger group crosses the street to stand directly in front of the police station.

With the killing of 18 year old Vonderrit Myers on October 9, the night before the Weekend of Resistance began, vigils are also held at the site where he was killed on Shaw Street in South St. Louis by an off-duty St. Louis police officer working for a private security company who fired 17 bullets hitting Myers 7 times, including the fatal shot to his head. The police say the off-duty officer felt three youth were "suspicious" upon emerging from a local deli and began following them. The police officer reportedly said that three shots were fired at him and he returned fire with 17 bullets. Surveillance tapes at the deli show him buying a sandwich with no weapon visible. Police say that a weapon that had been fired 3 times was found at the shooting scene.

Many of the youth leaders have been very disappointed by the lack of assistance from major civil rights groups including the Missouri NAACP. They feel they have been carrying the load without much help from organizations they had hoped would have spoken out more strongly and would have provided long-term support to challenge systemic police brutality.

During the Weekend of Resistance, activists joined many actions planned by the youth organizers. On Friday, October 10, despite an intense rainstorm, hundreds marched in Clayton, Missouri demanding that the county prosecutor step down.

On Saturday, October 11, thousands marched in St. Louis challenging police brutality and racism and in the evening marched from Michael Brown's memorial in the apartment complex where he lived and died to the Ferguson police station.

On Sunday, October 12, 150 women gathered to share stories of social injustice in the St. Louis area. Later in the afternoon, nationally known Hip Hop artists portrayed police brutality and injustice intensely in spoken word and songs. That evening, an interreligious symposium with local and national speakers including Dr. Cornell West culminated with rebellion in the audience in support of youth of the front lines of protest being allowed to speak to the 4,000 person audience. Democracy prevailed when the organizers rightfully changed the program to include the voices of the youth leaders.

Later than evening, the vigil for Vonderritt Myers ended in marches that came together at 1am on the campus of St. Louis University, where Myers' father is employed. Police attempted to stop the march by blocking the sidewalk on a major bridge leading to the campus, but with the intervention of the National Lawyers Guild, the riot police who had been ominously hitting their police batons on the street in an attempt to intimidate the 500 marchers finally faded away without instigating an incident with the marchers.

With national and international media in St. Louis to cover the protests and the heightened national dialogue on militarization of police, law enforcement had made the decision to keep their military vehicles out of sight. However, heavily armed riot police used pepper spray and tear gas twice during the weekend, once when protesters blocked an intersection at the end of a march in memory of Myers and a second time when marchers blocked the entrance to a local gas station.

On Monday, October 13, religious leaders in the community joined in a "Moral Monday" march to the Ferguson police station. Clergy talked nose to nose with members of the Ferguson police department who were lined up in front of the station. Displaying for the cameras a different image from 60 days ago, Ferguson police had name tags on their shirts and had ditched the hard helmets with visors for a softer look with regular police hats. However, lurking in the parking lot were the ninja turtle riot police fully decked out with padded uniforms with no name tags, black batons, plastic shields, tasers and weapons.

Religious leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths talked with about 20 Ferguson police officers as they stood in a line in front of the police station. Remarkably, a few of the police officers actually responded to the comments of the clergy and a couple of conversations developed. More remarkably, a several of the conversations ended with hugs between the clergy and the police officers!

However, as one could predict, most police officers stood stone-faced with jaws clenched. They are the ones we hope can be reached to do their jobs with respect for those they serve.

Other actions on Moral Monday included actions at three Wal-Marts in memory of John Crawford, 22, who was killed on August 5, 2015 by police in an Ohio Wal-Mart while carrying a pellet gun sold at Wal-Mart.

Other actions on Monday to remind the community of police killings took place at an upscale Mall, at a Missouri State office and at a political fundraiser.

The Weekend of Resistance was a time for mothers and fathers whose children had been killed by police to get together. Colletta Flanagan travelled to Ferguson from Dallas, Texas. Flanagan's son Clinton Allen was killed by police last year in Dallas. Flanagan formed a group called Mothers Against Police Brutality and was in Ferguson in support of the mothers of Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers and other mothers whose children haven been killed by police. Flanagan said, "I've seen claims of 'public safety' used to justify senseless abuses, including my son Clinton Allen's murder at the hands of a Dallas police officer. I don't want the same unaccountable culture of secrecy to protect the agencies using "national security" as a pretext to assault me and my neighbors' rights. No one's security required my son to be taken from me, or his life to be taken from him, and no one's security requires that my government tap my phone or track my use of the Internet."

Communities around the country will hold more actions for police accountability on October 22, the national day of action against police brutality.

About the Author: Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the U.S. government in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She is the co-author of "Dissent: Voices of Conscience."

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SpeakOut Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:26:15 -0400
Climate Mitigation Alternatives - Sorting Them Out http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26967-climate-mitigation-alternatives-sorting-them-out http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26967-climate-mitigation-alternatives-sorting-them-out

Naomi Klein's book THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING has provoked a wide spectrum of reviewer reaction by arguing that fighting back capitalism is the only real climate change solution.

Especially interesting has been the criticism by those that agree with Klein that climate change is an emergency requiring urgent action but view the path to needed mitigation much differently.

Naomi Klein's book THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING has provoked a wide spectrum of reviewer reaction by arguing that fighting back capitalism is the only real climate change solution.

Especially interesting has been the criticism by those that agree with Klein that climate change is an emergency requiring urgent action but view the path to needed mitigation much differently.

The reaction to Klein's book and argument is mirrored at the more liberal section of the political spectrum by a Paul Krugman column based upon a New Climate Economy Project report, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund - we can easily solve climate change in BAU with a little tweaking.

Dr. Krugman's climate mitigation path was then critically lampooned by climate hawks such as Richard Heinberg and David Roberts. ( Sam Bliss has pointed out the the NCEP report mandate is all about getting the most emission reduction in BAU, not emission reduction of a scale necessary.)

Even if you have agreement that climate change is happening, even if there is agreement on emission reduction targets such as 2C and concerning the carbon budget calculations to stay under 2C, there remains fundamental worldview disagreement about possible mitigation paths and their efficacy.

ENERGY ALTERNATIVES - Surveying the Alternatives (PDF) points out that there is no shortage of alternatives but no real evaluation framework:

What They Might Mean for Action
Tables 1-3 should shame into thoughtful silence all who have ever challenged a critic of fossil-fuelled energy systems with the dismissive question "What's the alternative?", and induce in them a contrite resolve never to ask such a question again. As the tables show, there is no shortage of detailed, creative, even inspiring initiatives for moving away from fossil fuels.

But as the tables also show, the questions that these initiatives ask, the assumptions they make, and the interests they seek to serve are bewilderingly diverse. There may not be a lack of alternatives, but there is clearly a lack of a framework to make sense of them and discuss them in a democratic way. If the many divergent conversations about "energy alternatives" being carried on globally are to be brought together, analytically or politically, their points of difference and conflict as well as their possible areas of synergy must be recognized and mapped. To support uncritically any and all initiatives that describe themselves as "energy alternatives" would be to invite chaos and unending conflict – as well as making impossible a livable energy future.

Don't you think it would be useful to have a serious exercise in presenting alternatives in a transparent process where all the questions can get asked instead of factions just claiming that my tax or my electric car or my governance innovation is the only climate change alternative? Instead of, don't worry, we've got offsets and the oilsands are Canada's prime economic engine?

In my last op- ed I modeled such a process, first with a techno-optimist, ecosocialist, wartime mobilization style emergency government advocate and free range local nurturer as partakers and then with celebrity participation:

"(Y)ou might imagine the protagonists as Naomi Klein, Amory Lovins, Jim Hansen, David Spratt, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Roger Peilke Jr. or some such, and then the possibilities get interesting.

The facilitated discussion would be an iteration of written submissions with maybe meetings (real or online) when needed....

This level of discussion/dialogue/policy making should be bottom line given climate's probable catastrophic dangers and our responsibility for our (societies) use of fossil fuels today. Presently policy formation excludes meaningful debate on real paths to climate solution because all policy formation is dominated by fossil fuel controlled bodies, by 'dominant advocacy coalitions' in governments and organizations themselves mostly completely captured by fossil fuel and other related business interests."

All it would take is an enlightened, reputable organization to facilitate. Transparently online. Develop the platform and solicit representative opinions.

Presentations of real paths to climate change mitigation in a process where all the hard questions will need to be answered, where criticism from other worldviews can be incorporated usefully. Where we quickly dispatch paths that promise but cannot deliver the emission reduction mitigation necessary.

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SpeakOut Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:11:23 -0400
Open Letter Supports Marshall Islands' Nuclear Zero Lawsuits http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26965-open-letter-supports-marshall-islands-nuclear-zero-lawsuits http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26965-open-letter-supports-marshall-islands-nuclear-zero-lawsuits

Recently, 78 civil society leaders from around the world released an Open Letter in Support of the Marshall Islands' Nuclear Zero Lawsuits. I am proud to be among the signers of that letter supporting a courageous small Pacific Island country, one with only 70,000 inhabitants. The Marshall Islanders are seeking to make the world a far more secure place, free of the nuclear threat that has hung over the collective head of humanity for some seven decades.

The Open Letter was addressed to Christopher Loeak, President of the Marshall Islands; Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands; and the People and Parliament of the Marshall Islands. They all deserve credit for their courage. They are much like David in "David vs. Goliath," but they carry court papers rather than a slingshot.

Recently, 78 civil society leaders from around the world released an Open Letter in Support of the Marshall Islands' Nuclear Zero Lawsuits. I am proud to be among the signers of that letter supporting a courageous small Pacific Island country, one with only 70,000 inhabitants. The Marshall Islanders are seeking to make the world a far more secure place, free of the nuclear threat that has hung over the collective head of humanity for some seven decades.

The Open Letter was addressed to Christopher Loeak, President of the Marshall Islands; Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands; and the People and Parliament of the Marshall Islands. They all deserve credit for their courage. They are much like David in "David vs. Goliath," but they carry court papers rather than a slingshot.

The Open Letter salutes the initiative of the Marshall Islanders in seeking enforcement of international law by bringing lawsuits against the nine nuclear-armed "Goliaths" for their failure to fulfill their obligations to negotiate in good faith to end the nuclear arms race and to achieve complete nuclear disarmament. These obligations derive from Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and from customary international law.

The Open Letter praises the Marshall Islands for acting on behalf of all humanity and generations yet unborn in bringing the issue of the broken promises and breached obligations of the nuclear-armed countries to the International Court of Justice and to the U.S. Federal District Court. In their lawsuits the Marshall Islands seeks no compensation. Rather, it seeks an injunction by the Court requiring the fulfillment of legal obligations to negotiate for nuclear disarmament by the nuclear-armed countries.

The letter concludes, "All people and all governments that have the welfare and survival of humanity and the planet at heart must support you wholeheartedly in your courageous legal action."

The Open Letter was coordinated by John Hallam, an Australian civil society leader working with People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Human Survival Project. Other signers of the letter include Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire; and former Mayor of Hiroshima Tadatoshi Akiba.

To read the Open Letter, click here. To find out more about the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits and add your support, go to www.nuclearzero.org.

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SpeakOut Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:55:01 -0400
Foreign Secretary Ignores Concerns Over Guantanamo Brit Abuse http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26963-foreign-secretary-ignores-concerns-over-guantanamo-brit-abuse http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26963-foreign-secretary-ignores-concerns-over-guantanamo-brit-abuse

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has dismissed concerns over the abuse of British cleared detainee Shaker Aamer, in a letter to his lawyer at human rights charity Reprieve.

In August 2014 Clive Stafford Smith wrote to the Foreign Secretary after a fellow detainee had described what he called a new 'standard procedure' of abuses at the prison. Yemeni Emad Hassan, cleared for release and detained without charge since 2002, wrote that "an FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction, where a team of guards in riot gear manhandle a detainee] team has been brought in to beat the detainees [...] On Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood."

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has dismissed concerns over the abuse of British cleared detainee Shaker Aamer, in a letter to his lawyer at human rights charity Reprieve.

In August 2014 Clive Stafford Smith wrote to the Foreign Secretary after a fellow detainee had described what he called a new 'standard procedure' of abuses at the prison. Yemeni Emad Hassan, cleared for release and detained without charge since 2002, wrote that "an FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction, where a team of guards in riot gear manhandle a detainee] team has been brought in to beat the detainees [...] On Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood."

Mr Hammond, in a letter dated October 7th, responded that "we made enquiries with US Government officials who assured us that the report of an incident, relayed to you by another detainee, is not accurate."

Yet similar descriptions of escalating punitive abuse at Guantanamo, which would appear to corroborate Mr Hassan's allegations, have for some time been emerging from the prison. In a letter to William Hague in May of this year, Mr Stafford Smith sent testimony from Mr Aamer that he is sometimes FCEd up to eight times a day. He also included an excerpt from a recent letter of Mr Aamer's, which said, "Last night, as I came back from my legal call, I was FCEd in much the same way I always am, as I peacefully refused to cooperate with them again. This time they did not just force me down on the floor of the room. They apparently decided that they had to get me dirty, so they threw me down in the passage way [...]"

A recent trial in Washington D.C, to assess the legality of force-feeding and FCE methods used at Guantanamo, in the case of cleared Syrian Abu Wa'el Dhiab, revealed further levels of abuse. Giving evidence in court, Dr Steven Miles, a bioethicist, decried the use of Olive Oil to force-feed prisoners and said that "it's a form of punishment that is wrapped around the business" of force feeding the detainee.

Prior to the trial, Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the US Government to release video footage showing force-feedings and FCEs being carried out against Syrian detainee Abu Wa'el. Lawyers at Reprieve wrote to then-Foreign Secretary William Hague in May asking that the British government request any video footage that the US may hold of Mr Aamer being FCEd, but Mr Hague responded that: "we do not view that it is necessary for the UK Government to ask the US Government to release ccrv footage from Guantanamo Bay."

Mr Aamer, whose British wife and their four children live in South London, has been cleared for release from Guantanamo since 2007. It has long been stated British policy that Mr Aamer should be returned to his family in the UK.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve Director and one of Mr Aamer's lawyers, said: "The US military is not telling Mr Hammond the truth about the abuse of Mr Aamer, any more than they did to Judge Kessler, who had the good sense to demand to see the video footage. I have just returned from a visit and the brutal nature of the FCEing – to which Shaker is subjected probably more than any other prisoner - is only getting worse. Mr Hammond says that the UK is doing all it can to help Shaker but if it were his son or brother being beaten up every day, he would show a little more interest in evidence, and a little less in bland and false denials. It is far past time that Shaker was home with his wife and children."

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SpeakOut Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:51:05 -0400
How Soccer Club Owners Have Become Kingmakers in Greek Politics http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26961-how-soccer-club-owners-have-become-kingmakers-in-greek-politics http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26961-how-soccer-club-owners-have-become-kingmakers-in-greek-politics

Greece, the land of mystical beauty and tzatziki dips, is also home to some of the worst corruption in Europe, tying with China for the 80th place in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, and arriving below most recent EU newcomers Bulgaria and Romania. While the Greek state suffers from the usual suspects of public corruption, bribery, tax evasion and lack of transparency, many have shied away from exposing how deep the problems truly run. Just like that famous image of a snake devouring its own tail, Greek society has allowed the profligacy of certain powerful individuals to seep even into the favorite pastime of many contemporary societies: soccer.

Corruption in Greek soccer is having a field day. Following the initial 2011 match fixing scandal, Koriopolis, club owners, officials, players, referees and police were charged with creating a violent criminal organization in Greek soccer. The scandal, labeled by Deputy culture minister Giorgos Nikitiadis as "the darkest page in the history of Greek football," was prompted by a report issued by the European soccer governing body UEFA, which flagged over 40 rigged games in the 2009-2010 period. The director of the think tank Forum for Greece, Andreas Andrianopoulos, bitterly remarked that this wasn't news to many in Greece, referring to the "widespread bribing of referees by clubs to boost their chances of winning the championship going unpunished."

Greece, the land of mystical beauty and tzatziki dips, is also home to some of the worst corruption in Europe, tying with China for the 80th place in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, and arriving below most recent EU newcomers Bulgaria and Romania. While the Greek state suffers from the usual suspects of public corruption, bribery, tax evasion and lack of transparency, many have shied away from exposing how deep the problems truly run. Just like that famous image of a snake devouring its own tail, Greek society has allowed the profligacy of certain powerful individuals to seep even into the favorite pastime of many contemporary societies: soccer.

The soccer mafia

Corruption in Greek soccer is having a field day. Following the initial 2011 match fixing scandal, Koriopolis, club owners, officials, players, referees and police were charged with creating a violent criminal organization in Greek soccer. The scandal, labeled by Deputy culture minister Giorgos Nikitiadis as "the darkest page in the history of Greek football," was prompted by a report issued by the European soccer governing body UEFA, which flagged over 40 rigged games in the 2009-2010 period. The director of the think tank Forum for Greece, Andreas Andrianopoulos, bitterly remarked that this wasn't news to many in Greece, referring to the "widespread bribing of referees by clubs to boost their chances of winning the championship going unpunished."

The initial investigation was based on telephone recordings of powerful individuals, naming over 80 people as suspects in the case, including prominent Greek shipping magnate and Olympiacos FC owner, Evangelos Marinakis. But the gears of the justice system were quickly ground to a halt, as the case was put on the backburner for several years.

Finally, in August 2014, the investigation was re-launched under the lead of Deputy First Instance Court Prosecutor Aristidis Koreas. He insisted that the leaked telephone recordings contain compelling evidence that the accused were involved in bribery and match-fixing and that out of the 15 individuals already questioned, which included members from Soccer Federation's Central Refereeing Committee, referees and club owners, some have admitted to the existence of a mafia in Greek soccer.

While the new impetus came in the context of a revamped fight against corruption, raising hopes for a swift and decisive trial, journalists and other figures familiar with the Greek justice system have been more cynical about the process, claiming that in order to truly root out this malaise, real political will is required. But does this will exist in the Greek political sphere? The answer to this question becomes evident following announcements of the removal of prosecutor Koreas from the case on October 3, illustrating that when powerful and well-connected individuals are involved, "the government [chooses] to avoid the ugly and public scenarios of prosecutions".

Money buys power

Evangelos Marinakis, accused of using his close relationship with the President of the Hellenic Soccer Federation, Georgios Sarris, to appoint favorable referees to matches, has consistently denied accusations claiming that "there is not one shred of evidence against me." The Chairman of Capital Products Partners, a Nasdaq-listed company, who was named 73 out of 100 on the 2013 Lloyd's list, the leading shipping journal, was also the President of the Greek Super League when the scandal broke and is considered one of the most powerful individuals in Greece. He has previously been accused of breaking rules and heading into the referees' locker room at half-time during a game between Olympiacos and Asteras Tripolis, which Olympiacos won in the second half. The reds Chairman walked away unscathed after denying any wrongdoing, officially claiming that he had gone in the room to wish the officials "good luck."

In a rather twisted turn of events in May 2014, Marinakis ran for local councilman in his hometown of Piraeus and secured a victory on the "Pireaus, winner" ticket, alongside Mayoral candidate and former Olympiacos spokesman Yannis Morales. The initial announcement that they were to run sent shockwaves across the Athens port city, and coincidentally or not, was made public just several days before a Greek privatization agency began to receive bids for a majority stake in the Piraeus port, a development Mariankis had long been opposed to. Critics have seen the move as a worrying development of wealthy magnates creeping their way into the political sphere with the aim of defending their business interests.

No questions asked

Despite such a shocking case of rampant corruption, few in the Greek media have actually covered the story, echoing the conclusions of Nevradakis. Those who have voiced their findings on the Koripolis affair, such as journalist Aris Asvestas, have confessed to being violently attacked due to their in-depth coverage of the situation. Referee Petro Konstantineas, who told prosecutors how he refused to fix a match in favor of Olympiacos, later had his personal bakery blown up by an unknown group of individuals.

While some news outlets have reported on the story in past, they remained relatively silent on the details and the names of those accused, including the 10 daily sports newspapers in Greece. The media landscape seems to be heading down an even darker road with Marinakis allegedly set to acquire radio sports station Sentra and sports paper Goal, while his rival Yannis Alafouzos, owner of Panathinaikos FC, has his eye on Novasport FM, the largest sports broadcaster in Greece and newspaper Sportsday.

"The triangle of power"

The case, which appears to have been put on hold after the convenient removal of the once-determined Andreas Koreas, goes to show that politics, big business and media owners form a tightly knit community of interests, or what Reuters once called the "Greek triangle of power".

The allegedly corrupt and wealthy in Greece continue to go about their business untouched; the media fail to report on it and the politicians remain silent. Back in 2012, Panos Kamenos, the leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks party, underlined that, "the Greek media is under the control of people who depend on the state. The media control the state and the state controls the media. It's a picture of mutual blackmail."

It appears the financial crisis and its catastrophic consequences failed to teach the Greeks a thing or two about battling corruption. Enduring financial ruin, the Greek public suffered the most, carrying the heavy burden of the troika's austerity measures while politicians and the powerful got away with their crimes. Today, who will pay the price in one of history's worst cases of football corruption in Greece? Unless the public and the European community start to speak out, Greek society will continue down this self-cannibalizing spiraling path towards destruction.

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SpeakOut Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:27:25 -0400
The Certej Mining Project Began Illegally, Without Any Permits http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26945-the-certej-mining-project-began-illegally-without-any-permits http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26945-the-certej-mining-project-began-illegally-without-any-permits

Cluj Napoca, Romania - Deva Gold, a subsidiary of the murky Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold, illegally started construction works for the development of the cyanide based Certej mine, despite not having acquired any of the relevant permits from the appropriate institutions. Thus the process of cyanide leaching in Romania is on its way.

The Mining Watch Romania network denounces the total lack of vigilance of both regional and national authorities. One of the largest gold mining projects in Romania, subject to Eldorado’s plans, began its first phase. The concerned authorities took absolutely no notice whatsoever of the construction works undertaken. Deva Gold’s impudent action to start the Certej mine is only surpassed by Romanian institutions’ failure to spot and sanction these illegal acts.

Cluj Napoca, Romania - Deva Gold, a subsidiary of the murky Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold, illegally started construction works for the development of the cyanide based Certej mine, despite not having acquired any of the relevant permits from the appropriate institutions. Thus the process of cyanide leaching in Romania is on its way.

The Mining Watch Romania network denounces the total lack of vigilance of both regional and national authorities. One of the largest gold mining projects in Romania, subject to Eldorado’s plans, began its first phase. The concerned authorities took absolutely no notice whatsoever of the construction works undertaken. Deva Gold’s impudent action to start the Certej mine is only surpassed by Romanian institutions’ failure to spot and sanction these illegal acts.

Deva Gold SA, a company owned by Eldorado Gold (80%) and state owned Minvest Deva (<20%) started the construction activities for the cyanide-based project located in Certej, Hunedoara county. Currently many large-scale machines are working in the Coranda open pit area. Bulldozers, excavators, along with other equipment level the terrain and prepare the platforms that will have different functions within the mining project. At the entrance in the Certej village, a storage shed is already built and another metal structure is being assembled. None of these facilities has any construction permits. On October 15th, Mining Watch Romania notified the State Inspectorate for Construction to take legal measures and asked for the immediate cease of works.

Deva Gold commissioned the construction works to a controversial local company. There are no informative billboards, as the law demands, on site. The municipality did not authorize the works, although Mayor Peter Cîmpian issued contradictory statements in the local media on October 2nd. It is thus obvious that he was aware of the on-going works, but he intentionally failed to take legal action on the unauthorized sites. Nevertheless, many heavy vehicles loaded with equipment transit already for weeks the center of the Certej village.

The Certej open pit mine started disregarding environmental permits, without securing financial guarantees or any other type of insurance for mining accidents. More than a fifth of the mining project overlaps a Natura 2000 site, a protected area that should be protected from any industrial project that envisages the construction of tailing ponds or open pits. The environmental impact assessment studies are done briefly and superficially, without clearly responding to specific technical issues. For this reason, the members of the Mining Watch Romania network challenged the environmental permit in court.

"The case of the Certej mine shows that there is no rule of law in Romania, no authority of state institutions. We only see that the will of mining companies charters everything. This disdain of order is an offence brought to every Romanian. It is the duty of all citizens to demand that this transgression is severely punished in order to discourage any attempt to surpass the laws and the common good", commented Stefania Simion on behalf of Mining Watch Romania.

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SpeakOut Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:18:05 -0400
Competing with Capitalism to Maximize Well-Being http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26942-competing-with-capitalism-to-maximize-well-being http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26942-competing-with-capitalism-to-maximize-well-being

What would you do to reinvent capitalism, to make it less destructive and more focused on what people really need? Not many years ago, one would have hesitated to ask that question in polite company. But the 2008 global financial crisis was a hard blow to the hull and the damage has set off alarms and attracted scrutiny.

French economist Thomas Piketty offers a grim prognosis in his bestseller, Capital in the 21st Century. He builds the case that capitalism makes the rich richer and the income gap wider, and eventually leads to plutocracy. It's not that the benefits of capitalism are undesirable - jumbo jets and smart phones are sheer wonders - it's that the collateral damage is growing untenable. Democracy and the commons are being sold off to the highest bidders. Activist Naomi Klein hit the nail on the head with her latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate - the global environmental catastrophe is a consequence of capitalism.

What would you do to reinvent capitalism, to make it less destructive and more focused on what people really need? Not many years ago, one would have hesitated to ask that question in polite company. But the 2008 global financial crisis was a hard blow to the hull and the damage has set off alarms and attracted scrutiny.

French economist Thomas Piketty offers a grim prognosis in his bestseller, Capital in the 21st Century. He builds the case that capitalism makes the rich richer and the income gap wider, and eventually leads to plutocracy. It's not that the benefits of capitalism are undesirable - jumbo jets and smart phones are sheer wonders - it's that the collateral damage is growing untenable. Democracy and the commons are being sold off to the highest bidders. Activist Naomi Klein hit the nail on the head with her latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate - the global environmental catastrophe is a consequence of capitalism.

Yet few are pushing for fundamental change.

No Jumping Ship

Abrupt change is anathema to national governments, and nearly impossible for governments plagued by dysfunction and gridlock. Thus, the opening question reasonably revolves around reinventing capitalism to lessen its damage. The prominent political journalist William Greider posed it to an eclectic group of social and business leaders back in 2011. But the answers he received focused on tax, regulation, and policy changes and were deemed non-starters. According to Greider, "none of these ideas have any traction in regular politics."

Even if modest reforms were possible, the problem is that they are too little, too late. If capitalism is fundamentally flawed as Piketty and others suggest - even 51 percent flawed - then reforms notwithstanding, it, and civilizations based on it, will eventually fail. Nothing is wrong with emergency efforts to buy some time, but beyond that, what's the point?

Capitalism is taking on water and a new vessel is needed, but even if a rescue ship were to approach, there would be no jumping onto it. No government is going to abruptly replace its economic system without a fierce fight. However, that doesn't mean we can't start ambling off deck in a gradual and orderly fashion.

Beyond Capitalism and Socialism

The global public is colorblind when it comes to economic systems. It sees capitalism and socialism, and especially the gradient between the two, but not much else. The economies of all developed and developing or otherwise emerging nations are mixed, meaning that they are some combination of capitalism and socialism. The general idea is that a blend balances the drawbacks of one with the benefits of the other.

But why be colorblind when our capacity is greater? We know what isn't working, and the really interesting territory is the unexplored regions outside the box. Perhaps there we will find workable solutions to our major problems. Humans are talented and resourceful. Surely it is possible to innovate the very foundations of our economic systems to devise something that better serves our needs.

Maximizing Well-Being

To start, we can ask what our needs are. Common sense and a new field of scientific inquiry suggest that humans and societies need peace, happiness, security, and sustainability. In a phrase, we desire to maximize well-being.

The concept of well-being covers a lot of ground. It includes physical and financial security, access to affordable education and health care, meaningful jobs, quality goods and services, strong social bonds, justice, influence over political and economic decisions, freedoms, clean air and water, a stable climate, vibrant ecosystems, creative outlets, recreation, time to enjoy family and friends and time to ponder and grow wise.

Any new economic system worth its salt would help societies to maximize public well-being. This means, of course, that well-being must be measured (potentially using a complex set of social, political, environmental, and economic indexes). You can't improve, much less maximize, what you don't measure. That said, the well-being calculus must also enter into the decision-making process in a meaningful way.

Capitalism has gone wrong with its focus on economic output. It measures GDP, not well-being. Thus, we maximize the former and sideline the latter. But GDP can rise with things we don't want (like pollution, traffic, wasteful consumerism, and war), and remain unaffected by those things we do want. Prominent economists had already begun to question use of the GDP as a measure of welfare by 1968, when Bobby Kennedy made his now-famous speech at the University of Kansas:

Yet the [GDP] does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

Unsurprisingly, maximizing GDP and maximizing well-being produce quite different outcomes. An ever-increasing GDP is destructive, if not suicidal, on a finite planet. Eventually, resources are exhausted and wastes pile up to suffocating levels. On the other hand, well-being, sort of like joy, is limitless. The book Gross Domestic Problem shows how transforming the measure of progress could trigger a cascade of positive changes throughout society.

Strategy

There may be no jumping ship to a better economic system. But we can steadily transition to one. Our suggestion is straightforward. Create a better economic system that beats capitalism at its own game: competition.

The introduction of Windows did not eliminate DOS. Far from it - DOS is still in use today. But Windows eventually gained overwhelming dominance by effectively competing in the market. Complement and compete offers the most viable path forward: build a better system that runs in parallel with existing ones, at the local level, even helping to stabilize them, but that offers greater rewards.

Keeping with the operating system theme, the evolution from DOS to Windows was a leap, not a mere step forward. The eventual success of the Windows series was due, in large part, to the time, attention, and money that Microsoft expended for design and testing. Likewise, an extensive design and testing effort is needed to develop any viable competitor to capitalism, or to socialism-capitalism. Dirk Helbing, writing in the journal Nature, describes one aspect of the challenge:

It is time to recognize that crowd disasters, conflicts, revolutions, wars, and financial crises are the undesired result of operating socio-economic systems in the wrong parameter range, where systems are "unstable." In the past, these social problems seemed to be puzzling, unrelated, and almost "God-given" phenomena one had to live with. Nowadays, thanks to new complexity science models and large-scale data sets, one can analyze and understand the underlying mechanisms, which let complex systems get out of control.

Helbing is speaking primarily of averting disaster under current systems, but the task at hand is to design new, improved systems, using the latest tools and insights from modern science. Think of the effort like the space race - only the aim is for reaching stable, sustainable, and just civilizations here on Earth, not the moon.

Some might be surprised to hear that no such concerted effort exists. There are plenty of groups working on socially responsible business models, tax reforms, local currencies, and crowdfunding platforms, for example, as well as plenty of academics who are developing critiques of capitalism and socialism, or measuring their downsides. There are even efforts to bring complexity science into economic forecasting. But no program is focused on developing and scientifically testing a fundamentally new, wellness-maximizing, economic system. Until now.

Global Partnership

We are pleased to announce the formation of a global partnership of academic, civil society, government, business, and philanthropy groups that will usher our proposal for a new economic system, the Local Economic Direct Democracy (LEDDA) framework, through the development and testing phases. This is a bold, historic if successful, ten-year, $70 million science experiment.

We hope that the partnership will grow large and diverse. Indeed, work will span nearly every field including environment, economics, finance, law, governance, poverty, labor, public health, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, conflict resolution, technology, engineering, mathematics, ethics, art, media, sociology, psychology, and education.

We also hope that in time the LEDDA partnership can serve as a model, providing direction and benchmarks for other groups that follow, who also have ideas for improved systems. Humanity would be well-served by access to multiple approaches, all learning from each other and finding strength in different niches.

The LEDDA Framework

A LEDDA is a membership-based, community benefit association open to residents, businesses, schools, nonprofits, local governments, public services, and others that choose to participate. The LEDDA framework is the local economic system - comprised of software, policies, standards, and procedures - that a new LEDDA implements. Once live, the membership can alter the local framework as desired.

In effect, the framework offers a secondary level of organization on top of an existing local economy. A complete description is given in the book Economic Direct Democracy: A Framework to End Poverty and Maximize Well-Being, available for free in PDF format.

Each LEDDA governs its own local framework through an online process of direct democracy, and all LEDDAs are networked together within a global association, which is also governed through online direct democracy. Thus the focus is both local and global.

The LEDDA framework integrates and builds on numerous initiatives already existing in cities and regions around the world, including buy local, local currency, open source, crowdfunding, socially responsible business, open data, smart cities, and participatory democracy. It contains its own monetary system, which issues a local electronic currency, called the token. And it has its own financial system, called the Crowd-Based Financial System (CBFS), which resembles crowdfunding and participatory budgeting. The framework is sophisticated, and there are many more elements.

The LEDDA framework is synonymous with LEDDA economic direct democracy, an economic system that offers all participants roughly equal and direct opportunity to influence their local economy. The framework infuses a local economy with democracy, in part by using money as a voting tool and by increasing and equalizing family incomes.

A computer simulation model has been published that illustrates the process. Inflation-adjusted mean family income more than doubles during the twenty-eight-year simulation period. As incomes rise, they become more equal. By the end of the simulation, every member family receives a pre-tax, take-home income equivalent to about $107,000, just above the 90th percentile of baseline income. Even very wealthy families would see a small direct gain.

By the end of the simulation, the LEDDA, located in an averaged-size US county, channels the equivalent of more than $2 billion dollars annually toward local businesses, schools, public services, and nonprofit organizations. Tax revenues for the county markedly rise. With such abundant resources, and democratic control over funding decisions, a community could remake its economy into one that best suits its needs.

The LEDDA framework is still theoretical, and the partnership is just forming. Over time, we hope to provide answers to the host of questions that such an approach naturally raises. In this, we invite your participation. Imagine a democracy-infused economic system that maximizes well-being. The long-run social and environmental returns might be valued in the trillions, thousands of times greater than the costs of development and pilot trials. Isn't it worth the effort?

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SpeakOut Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:20:38 -0400
The Brick Wall of Poverty http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26940-the-brick-wall-of-poverty http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26940-the-brick-wall-of-poverty

As I sit in my government class at the beginning of my senior year, many questions flood into my head. So many controversial issues exist in our world, and our country more specifically, yet I appear to be tied between sides on various matters. One of the more key matters for consideration is the issue of poverty in the United States and the controversy about just exactly who causes it. A person can do their best to push themselves and reach a place of success, but can still end up in the depths of poverty with nothing to show for their effort. Is it the people themselves who must take the blame for being continuously pushed down by a system that serves to make success and stability increasingly difficult for those at the bottom of the ladder of class? Or is it the system that we believe is there to help us and keep us living sustainably, when behind closed curtains it is really throwing us under the bus? The latter appears to be much more logical, through the many lenses that you may view it.

As I sit in my government class at the beginning of my senior year, many questions flood into my head. So many controversial issues exist in our world, and our country more specifically, yet I appear to be tied between sides on various matters. One of the more key matters for consideration is the issue of poverty in the United States and the controversy about just exactly who causes it. A person can do their best to push themselves and reach a place of success, but can still end up in the depths of poverty with nothing to show for their effort. Is it the people themselves who must take the blame for being continuously pushed down by a system that serves to make success and stability increasingly difficult for those at the bottom of the ladder of class? Or is it the system that we believe is there to help us and keep us living sustainably, when behind closed curtains it is really throwing us under the bus? The latter appears to be much more logical, through the many lenses that you may view it.

Recent statistics centered around poverty have shown that there is a vast number of people in the United States who are actually poor. According to feedingamerica.org, In 2013, 45.3 million people (14.5 percent) were in poverty. An enormous number - 45.3 million - of human beings were in a position where they could not effectively support themselves and/or their families properly, due to financial trouble and hardship. Even if a fair number of the poor had somehow overcome the odds and lifted themselves out of their tough situations, that would still leave millions of people who may not have moved even a single inch forward. There are many reasons for their stationary position, of that you can be guaranteed. One of the primary and possibly most important reasons is the way that the system treats them, whether it be in everyday life, or even at the most crucial moments when they wish to propel themselves forward and make a change.

In today's society, people can try as hard as they want to get to a point where they can elevate themselves out of poverty and live sustainably with little worry. Unfortunately, our system does not run so smoothly. In an article titled The Expanding World of Poverty Capitalism written by Thomas B. Edsall, he states, "In terms of food, housing and other essentials, the cost of being poor has always been exorbitant. Landlords, grocery stores and other commercial enterprises have all found ways to profit from those at the bottom of the ladder." Edsall's statement is a prime example of one of the many ways that the system is structured to keep those at the bottom of the ladder just where the higher ups believe they belong. It is a way of making sure that not many can jump past the expensive obstacles that have been established, so that those in poverty may remain in poverty. It is a way of keeping those tens of millions of people who were in poverty pleading for help and change.

For one such as myself, adulthood is right around the corner. It is approaching rapidly, which means the need for financial independence is nearing. That being said, I do not wish to become part of a statistic pertaining to poverty once the time comes for me to spread my wings out and soar into the world we know as modern day society. I do not wish to be one of the people that many deem as someone who may fail simply because of their own failure to push themselves. I do not wish to be a part of what people consider a prime example of how poverty exists only because of the behavior of poor people, when in actuality, that is rarely the case. That may be the way things turn out for a few people here and there, but it is under no circumstance appropriate to generalize the complete population of the poor as people who have failed simply due to their own ignorance and lack of what it takes to survive in this world.

We have to target the source of the trouble causing poverty itself, not just sit by and let it consume the country with full force. The system that plagues our community must be altered to a point where it will no longer act in a way that makes it a large hindrance to those whom it is supposed to help out. Whether the changes made are simple price drops, an increase in provided opportunities, or even just a significantly increased amount of help for those who have been stuck in poverty for a long time, it will be valuable. There is no amount of positive change that deserves to be set aside and postponed for the sake of preserving some sort of "order" that has already been established. If we truly desire reform, we must act as soon as possible.

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SpeakOut Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:29:02 -0400
Foundation Announces Peace Poetry Award Winners http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26938-foundation-announces-peace-poetry-award-winners http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26938-foundation-announces-peace-poetry-award-winners

Santa Barbara, CA  – The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of its Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards. Since 1995, the Foundation has encouraged poets to explore and illuminate positive visions of peace and the human spirit through these Awards. The poetry awards are offered in three categories: Adult; Youth (13 to 18); and Children (12 and under).

In the Adult category, Devreaux Baker, from Mendocino, California, was awarded the $1,000 First Place Prize for her poem “In the Year of the Drone.” Ms. Baker has published three books of poetry, with a fourth to be published in January 2015. She has taught poetry workshops in France, Mexico and the United States; and Poetry in the Schools through the California Poets In Schools Program. Her awards include the 2011 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Hawaii Council on Humanities International Poetry Prize, and the Women’s Global Leadership Poetry Award. 

Santa Barbara, CA  – The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of its Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards. Since 1995, the Foundation has encouraged poets to explore and illuminate positive visions of peace and the human spirit through these Awards. The poetry awards are offered in three categories: Adult; Youth (13 to 18); and Children (12 and under).

In the Adult category, Devreaux Baker, from Mendocino, California, was awarded the $1,000 First Place Prize for her poem “In the Year of the Drone.” Ms. Baker has published three books of poetry, with a fourth to be published in January 2015. She has taught poetry workshops in France, Mexico and the United States; and Poetry in the Schools through the California Poets In Schools Program. Her awards include the 2011 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Hawaii Council on Humanities International Poetry Prize, and the Women’s Global Leadership Poetry Award. 

The First Place Prize of $200 in the Youth (13 to 18) category was awarded to Sophia Marusic for her poem “Vietnam: January 28, 1973.” Ms. Marusic lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and is a sophomore at John Burroughs School. She is the art editor of her school literary magazine and is a member of the St. Louis Poetry Center.

An Honorable Mention in the Youth (13 to 18) category was awarded to Alice Yanhong Lu for her poem “Free.” Ms. Lu lives in North Potomac, Maryland, and attends the University of Maryland, College Park.

In the Children (12 and under) category, the First Place Prize of $200 was awarded to Leila Metres for her poem “Soil Soul.” Leila lives in University Heights Ohio, where she is home schooled.

The Peace Poetry Awards are named for the late Barbara Mandigo Kelly, a poet, pianist and peace advocate.

Two anthologies of winning poems in the annual Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards have been published. The first anthology, The Poetry of Peace, was published by Capra Press in 2003. The second anthology, Never Enough Flowers: The Poetry of Peace II, was published by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in 2012. The winning poems since 1995 are also available to read at http://www.peacecontests.org/poetry/winners.pdf.

For more information, including the 2015 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards Guidelines, please visit the Foundation’s website at http://www.peacecontests.org/poetry/index.php or contact the Foundation at (805) 965-3443.

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SpeakOut Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:58 -0400
Student Peace Activists and Teacher Are "Inspiration To The World", says UN Secretary General http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26936-student-peace-activists-and-teacher-are-inspiration-to-the-world-says-un-secretary-general http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26936-student-peace-activists-and-teacher-are-inspiration-to-the-world-says-un-secretary-general

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of The United Nations, told Betsy Sawyer, her students and assembled guests at the JFK Presidential Library that their afterschool “peace club is an inspiration to the world.” 

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of The United Nations, told Betsy Sawyer, her students and assembled guests at the JFK Presidential Library that their afterschool “peace club is an inspiration to the world.” 

The occasion was the launch of world tour of the Big Book: Pages for Peace Project. A decade in the making, the book started when middle school students solicited and received original messages of peace from the likes of the Dali Llama, Maya Anelgou, Nelson Mandela, President Jimmy Carter, the late Senator Ted Kennedy and thousands of others from all over the world. It is these letters, poems, and artwork that populate the Big Book: Pages for Peace.

“It has taken you ten years to create this extraordinary book,” Ban Ki-moon said in his video address, “at twelve feet high and (twenty feet wide, when open) it truly lives up to its name. You have 3,500 messages of peace from all over the world, and now with mine you have 3,501. What an amazing achievement, and what a fantastic commitment.”

Ban Ki-moon is not the only champion of the project with ties to the United Nations. Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, former president of the UN Security Council has been a champion of the project for many years and was on hand to deliver the keynote address. Speaking to Acronym TV, Chowdhury said, “I am so delighted to be here. Now it is my intention to help them get this exhibit to the United Nations. The people of the UN should see how young kids have dedicated themselves over 10 years to build this book.”

Betsy Sawyer, a teacher at Groton-Dunstable Middle School in Groton, Massachusetts and the advisor to the club, was celebrated and honored at the gala event for being a champion of the original vision, articulated by young children seeking a more peaceful world ten years ago. “Some of you had doubts,” Sawyer said “but I had the kids. And they inspired me every day – in so many ways with their energy, and intelligence, thoughtfulness, and their dignity.”

Ted Reinstein has covered the evolving story of the Peace Book “at least a half dozen times” on the news show “Chronicle,” a nightly newsmagazine which airs on Boston’s ABC affiliate. Reinstein, who served as emcee for the evening, admits that he was skeptical the first few times he covered the story about the chances that such an ambitious project could ever be completed. “This is cute. This is fun. This is nice. This will never happen,” Reinstein remembers thinking. He credits the “relentless, indomitable spirit of Betsy Sawyer” for the completion of the project.

Siarra Coston, a 7th grade student and current club member, expressed a wish to “show the book to kids around the world, especially those who don’t see peace in their life.” Jesse Trainor, 15, who (full disclosure: Jesse is my daughter) spent 4 years in the club before moving on to high school this fall said that her experience with the Peace Book project “shaped how I view the world and how I approach problems.”

A major supporter of the club who has watched many of the original members grow up is John Feal. Feal, a 9/11 first responder who has dedicated his life to assisting and advocating for 9/11 first responders who have devoloped illness as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals at ground-zero, said simply that the kids involved in the club had made him a better person.

Feal has made multiple trips from New York to Groton, often traveling with first responder to work with and support the students in the Pages for Peace project. He described those trips as therapy for his fellow first responders. Praising Sawyer, Feal said “(Betsy) took these kids who have blossomed, not only into special kids, but into people that are going to make a difference in the world. (Betsy) – not the book- is responsible for that.”

Lewis Randa, founder of The Peace Abby, was also a keynote speaker at the event and implored guest to “let the Big Book be a beacon of light; a blueprint for living our lives; a symbol for love, for sanity, for healing, for being human.”

“When you join an afterschool club, you don’t expect it to change the world,” 5th grader Kate Suchecki told me, “but this one might actually do it.”

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SpeakOut Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:44:25 -0400
The Earthquake That Forced San Francisco Forward: 25 Years After Loma Prieta http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26934-the-earthquake-that-forced-san-francisco-forward-25-years-after-loma-prieta http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26934-the-earthquake-that-forced-san-francisco-forward-25-years-after-loma-prieta

Twenty-five-years ago, Lombard Street was quiet. No feet walked atop its red bricks and no bicycles rode down its curved path. A cable car, immobilized by a 7.1 moment magnitude earthquake that had knocked out power to the City and shut down the cable pulley system, blocked traffic flow on the most crooked street in the world. On this day twenty-five-years ago, the Loma Prieta earthquake ruptured a 30-mile segment along the San Andreas Fault, shaking the Bay Area's silty clay soil for 15 seconds, knocking down buildings, splitting open streets, and leaving 12,000 people homeless.

Paul Boden, Organizing Director of Western Regional Advocacy Project, said things were chaotic, but that the City came together to support each other.

Twenty-five-years ago, Lombard Street was quiet. No feet walked atop its red bricks and no bicycles rode down its curved path. A cable car, immobilized by a 7.1 moment magnitude earthquake that had knocked out power to the City and shut down the cable pulley system, blocked traffic flow on the most crooked street in the world. On this day twenty-five-years ago, the Loma Prieta earthquake ruptured a 30-mile segment along the San Andreas Fault, shaking the Bay Area's silty clay soil for 15 seconds, knocking down buildings, splitting open streets, and leaving 12,000 people homeless.

Paul Boden, Organizing Director of Western Regional Advocacy Project, said things were chaotic, but that the City came together to support each other.

"I was working for Hospitality House the first day that the quake hit," Mr. Boden said. "The building I was in had to be destroyed later because of the damage done. Actually, almost all of the homeless shelters I worked with had to empty out because they were in bad shape."

Such widespread displacement of residents prompted the need for national support from the American Red Cross and FEMA. Both organizations came to the City and set up supportive shelter programs. For property owners, 18 months of rental assistance was provided and, for renters with long-term lease agreements, two months were provided.

Unfortunately, homeless and low-income residents of the City did not qualify for rental assistance programs. In order to receive rental assistance, a person had to own property or be in a lease agreement with a length greater than 30 days. But homeless shelters and temporary housing in San Francisco only offered 28-day stays to residents, two days short of the required minimum length in order to receive assistance. Therefore, because homeless and low-income did not meet the eligibility requirements for rental assistance, and because homeless and low-income housing had been deemed unsafe to return to, most were forced to sleep back on the streets.

"The class issues started to rise," said Mr. Boden. "First day after the earthquake, everyone was in the same boat. After that, homeless and low-income people couldn't get (anything)." A distinct symbol of this struggle, Mr. Boden described, was a Navy aircraft carrier that came into the San Francisco Bay in order to provide shelter for the City's homeless residents who had been turned away. "I remember it (the aircraft carrier) well. It was a symbol of our serious class issues."

A New Proposal

At the time of the earthquake, Mr. Boden was on the board of the Coalition on Homelessness. He, along with fellow members Joe Wilson, Greg Francis, and Laura Wore, had written a research proposal emphasizing the need for the City of San Francisco to begin construction of permanent supportive-housing for homeless people, rather than just temporary shelters.

Such a proposal for housing homeless was seen as radical and unwarranted. But when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit and many of the temporary homeless shelters were deemed unsafe for occupancy, San Francisco Mayor, Art Agnos, decided to take another look at Mr. Boden's proposal. From this new perspective, Mayor Agnos decided the proposal warranted funding, and so he allocated approximately $2.2 million from the earthquake's relief fund to Mr. Boden's proposal.

One year later, in 1990, Mr. Boden and his peers opened the Community Housing Partnership. The Community Housing Partnership offers homeless people safe housing, job training, employment services and community services activities. The Partnership started with the idea that many homeless people suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to their chronic homelessness, and that this cycle wouldn't be broken unless they have a longer-term, supportive community to live in. Since the Partnership's inception, over 1,000 housing units have been provided and over 2,200 homeless people have been able to benefit.

It Took An Earthquake

Twenty-five-years-ago, Lombard Street was quiet. Everywhere the ground was vibrating; everywhere people's feet were rocking. The City of San Francisco was going through a major shake up and no one could have seen what would become. From below the red bricks came the realization that more was needed. From what had been a research study paper, stagnant for years, with no chance of approval, came a new model for housing homeless people in San Francisco. Twenty-fives-years later, the lesson still resonates. 

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SpeakOut Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:34:41 -0400
Arkansas Photo ID Law Struck Down, Violates State Constitution http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26897-arkansas-photo-id-law-struck-down-violates-state-constitution http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26897-arkansas-photo-id-law-struck-down-violates-state-constitution

Little Rock, Ark. – The Arkansas Supreme Court today unanimously struck down the state’s restrictive photo ID requirement, ruling it violated the state constitution by imposing an additional “qualification” to voting that would make it harder for citizens to cast a ballot.

The ruling comes as many Americans face an ever-shifting voting landscape before heading to the polls this November. Arkansas was one of seven states with a major lawsuit challenging voting restrictions ahead of the 2014 election. Yesterday, an appellate court reinstated Texas’s photo ID law. Plaintiffs filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s strict photo ID law, but allowed restrictions to remain in place in North Carolina and Ohio.

Little Rock, Ark. – The Arkansas Supreme Court today unanimously struck down the state’s restrictive photo ID requirement, ruling it violated the state constitution by imposing an additional “qualification” to voting that would make it harder for citizens to cast a ballot.

The ruling comes as many Americans face an ever-shifting voting landscape before heading to the polls this November. Arkansas was one of seven states with a major lawsuit challenging voting restrictions ahead of the 2014 election. Yesterday, an appellate court reinstated Texas’s photo ID law. Plaintiffs filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently blocked implementation of Wisconsin’s strict photo ID law, but allowed restrictions to remain in place in North Carolina and Ohio.

With Arkansas’s photo ID law blocked, since the 2010 election, new restrictions are now slated to be in place in 21 states, 14 for the first time this year.

“This is what courts should be doing, blocking controversial new voting restrictions before they mar an election,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “Arkansas’s overly harsh law would have drove down participation and made it harder for voters to make their voices heard. This is a tremendous victory.”  

“The court’s unanimous decision is an important victory for the many lifelong Arkansas voters who would have been disenfranchised by one of the strictest photo ID laws in the country,” said Michael Li, counsel in the Center’s Democracy Program. “Today’s decision reaffirms that when it comes to voting, the Arkansas Constitution is steadfast in protecting voters.”

The Brennan Center’s brief — filed with pro bono counsel Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Cullen & Company — made three core arguments:

  1. The Arkansas constitution clearly guarantees the right to vote for all eligible citizens and explicitly prohibits the state legislature from burdening that right. The brief explored Arkansas’s long history of zealously limiting interference with its citizens’ fundamental right to vote.
  2. Numerous social science studies show harsh photo ID laws like Arkansas’s raise the cost of voting, drive down voter participation, and disproportionately exclude low-income and other voters from the electoral process. Brennan Center research found 11 percent of Americans do not have government-issued photo ID, and those earning $35,000 per year or less were twice as likely to lack ID. Arkansas ranks 47th in the country in terms of average median income.
  3. These costs are being imposed to combat the virtually non-existent problem of in-person voter impersonation fraud. In a 2003 comprehensive study, Rutgers University Political Science Professor Lorraine Minnite found this type of fraud to be “very rare.”

Arkansas’s photo ID law passed in 2013 along party lines. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox found the law unconstitutional in two separate cases. The Supreme Court overturned one decision but did not decide on the constitutionality of the photo ID requirement until now. The ID measure was in effect for the May 20 primary and caused some problems. More than 1,000 absentee ballots were not counted because voters lacked ID. And Asa Hutchinson, the winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary, forgot his ID when he went to the polls. He was able to vote after a staff member retrieved it for him.

Experts on the brief were Dean John DiPippa (Dean Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock), Dr. Thomas DeBlack (Professor of History at Arkansas Tech University), Dr. Bill Schreckhise (Associate Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies Minor Advisor at the University of Arkansas), and Nate Coulter (Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at the University of Arkansas School of Law).

See all of the Brennan Center’s Election 2014 resources.

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SpeakOut Sat, 18 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0400
My Fault or Theirs? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26896-my-fault-or-theirs http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26896-my-fault-or-theirs

As a young female of color I can say I have witnessed things not everyone gets to see. I have seen people worked to the bone just to barely get by each month. As a person of color, I have to work harder than everyone else because the system wants me to be lazy and slack off. Living in poverty, you don't get as many opportunities as people in higher classes. When you live in poverty, the world around you pushes you two ways: to work hard and overcome in the struggle of class and to give in and try to get around it. When you live in poverty and you are a person of color, the government wants you to choose the lazy way and try to get around it.

I can see how someone would say it's my fault, I mean there's plenty of people of color who got their act together, so why can't you be like them? Liberal Michael Eric Dyson states, "When you think the problem, you think the solutions are the same. If only the poor were willing to work harder, act better, get educated, stay out of jail and parent more effectively, their problems would go away. But one could do all of these and still be in bad shape at home, work or school." This quote speaks to me because there are plenty of people of color and poor whites who do all those things, but still struggle on a month to month basis. I believe that the color of your skin actually matters more than people realize. Our government plans your whole life out depending on your race. People say people of color can be where whites are if they tried harder, but what they failed to realize is no matter how hard they work or what their resume says, people see color first.

As a young female of color I can say I have witnessed things not everyone gets to see. I have seen people worked to the bone just to barely get by each month. As a person of color, I have to work harder than everyone else because the system wants me to be lazy and slack off. Living in poverty, you don't get as many opportunities as people in higher classes. When you live in poverty, the world around you pushes you two ways: to work hard and overcome in the struggle of class and to give in and try to get around it. When you live in poverty and you are a person of color, the government wants you to choose the lazy way and try to get around it.

I can see how someone would say it's my fault, I mean there's plenty of people of color who got their act together, so why can't you be like them? Liberal Michael Eric Dyson states, "When you think the problem, you think the solutions are the same. If only the poor were willing to work harder, act better, get educated, stay out of jail and parent more effectively, their problems would go away. But one could do all of these and still be in bad shape at home, work or school." This quote speaks to me because there are plenty of people of color and poor whites who do all those things, but still struggle on a month to month basis. I believe that the color of your skin actually matters more than people realize. Our government plans your whole life out depending on your race. People say people of color can be where whites are if they tried harder, but what they failed to realize is no matter how hard they work or what their resume says, people see color first.

The US government is set up to put people of color down in any way possible. A major way our government "attacks" men of color mostly is through incarceration. Statistics show that 61% of the incarcerated population is black and Latino, while they only make up 31% of the US population. One out of every three black males will be incarcerated in his lifetime and every one out of six Latino males will be incarcerated in his lifetime. Colored men are being incarcerated at an accelerating rate. People of color are targeted and blamed for everything wrong with the US, then forced to believe that if only you worked harder, everything would be better.

Our government also wants us to believe that people in bad situations are in those situations because of things they did. The government tricks us to make us believe that it's our fault when it's not. Our government system is built in a way that makes it harder for people of color to survive. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander wrote, "In the words of H.R.Haldeman, President Richard Nixon's white house chief of staff:' '[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a plan that recognizes this while not appearing to.'" It is disgusting to hear a person who is supposed to be helping lead this country into new places say such a racist thing. People like to believe that racism is gone; it's a thing from the past. That is far from true. Racism is not as out there as it used to be. Yes, people are "freed," but that can't make people not judge you by your race. I believe that no will ever go a day without being judged by the color of their skin. I think racism is deeply rooted in our history. All the hard-work in the world will not make people less racist - maybe just a lot more quiet about it.

I believe the people at fault for the US economic and racial inequality are elected officials. The government tries to blame the people for things they cannot help. People work hard every day and are never acknowledged - just told they can work harder.

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SpeakOut Sat, 18 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0400
Endless War for Perpetual Peace http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26895-endless-war-for-perpetual-peace http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26895-endless-war-for-perpetual-peace

At last the American government has found the perfect formula for war without end: Invade and bomb Middle East states. This creates jihadists which must be got rid of. So bomb the jihadists. This creates more jihadists who must also be bombed and so on. The military/industrial complex is in business in perpetuity. Endless peace by waging endless war as forecast by Gore Vidal has now come to pass. And the UK, obedient as ever, clicks into the backup position. The UK government’s propaganda is blatant and shameless. We must bomb ISIS because it presents a direct threat to the United Kingdom. Right. We are told that ISIS could develop weapons of mass destruction to attack us ’within a few hours flying time of our country’. The ISIS fantasy ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ are as much a direct threat to the UK as were Saddam Hussein’s, also nonexistent, Weapons of Mass Destruction. This transparent don’t-worry-they’ll-believe-anything fear-mongering is treating the public with contempt. If there is any threat to the UK it is being generated by the UK politicians with their endless wars in the Middle East.

RUSI, the UK’s highly authoritative Royal United Service Institute, informs us that the UK’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were failures. In Afghanistan under British presence, they inform us, the violence increased as did the opium trade and resistance to foreign presence became more intense. In Iraq the war spread terrorism and many more people died than would have been the case under Saddam Hussein. All this meaningless blood and mayhem has so far cost the British taxpayer around 30 billion pounds – at a time when the Coalition government is cutting social services for lack of funds!

At last the American government has found the perfect formula for war without end: Invade and bomb Middle East states. This creates jihadists which must be got rid of. So bomb the jihadists. This creates more jihadists who must also be bombed and so on. The military/industrial complex is in business in perpetuity. Endless peace by waging endless war as forecast by Gore Vidal has now come to pass. And the UK, obedient as ever, clicks into the backup position. The UK government’s propaganda is blatant and shameless. We must bomb ISIS because it presents a direct threat to the United Kingdom. Right. We are told that ISIS could develop weapons of mass destruction to attack us ’within a few hours flying time of our country’[1].  The ISIS fantasy ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ are as much a direct threat to the UK as were Saddam Hussein’s, also nonexistent, Weapons of Mass Destruction. This transparent don’t-worry-they’ll-believe-anything fear-mongering is treating the public with contempt. If there is any threat to the UK it is being generated by the UK politicians with their endless wars in the Middle East.

RUSI, the UK’s highly authoritative Royal United Service Institute, informs us that the UK’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were failures[2]. In Afghanistan under British presence, they inform us, the violence increased as did the opium trade and resistance to foreign presence became more intense. In Iraq the war spread terrorism and many more people died than would have been the case under Saddam Hussein. All this meaningless blood and mayhem has so far cost the British taxpayer around 30 billion pounds – at a time when the Coalition government is cutting social services for lack of funds!

All that is ignored. The UK government, blind to the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan for which it is responsible and insensitive to the widespread death and suffering they have caused are, unbelievably, instigating yet another war in Iraq and, moreover, preparing the British public for an additional war – this time with Syria. All this in a period of relative world peace. Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, no other state commits serial crimes of aggression with the exception of the United States.

So who benefits? Firstly there are all those politicians who have doubts about their own authority and, one suspects, manliness. They display their macho credentials by their willingness to invade weaker countries and kill their citizens. They thereby exhibit their steely resolve, not afraid to take ‘tough decisions’. Our little state has been in 9 wars during the last 24 years, 1990,1998, 1999,  (2 wars), 2000, 2001 (2 wars), 2003, 2011[3]. The Iraq war has lasted as long as the first and second world wars combined and the Afghan war has lasted longer. We can see the results of bombing campaigns in Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria. Bombs but no boots on the ground is the UK militarists’ cry. No embarrassing body bags. OK maximum risk to civilians but not our civilians. Of course all this killing is carried out for humanitarian reasons. As George Monbiot writes[4], these ‘Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East’.

Who else benefits? The military/industrial complex, of course. The 2013 US expenditure on ‘defense’ was $640 billion dollars[5]. This was over 7 times the expenditure of its arch-enemy-of-choice, Russia. Plucky little United Kingdom managed almost 58 billion dollars worth. Not bad for a Westminster clique which is squeezing the poor into food banks. A front page headline in The Guardian[6] reads ‘New squeeze on working poor’. The chancellor promised that a new Tory government would, ‘...hit 10 million households with a two-year freeze on benefits and tax credits’, and this ‘..will cut  £3 billion pounds a year from the welfare budget...’ These are the same people who, with the Liberal Democrats in Coalition, presented the banks with countless billions of taxpayers money to save them from the disastrous results of their inordinate greed.  Before getting into power, the Liberal Democrats promised to cut the too-big-to-fail banks down to size. No way. Hasn’t happened. As the fat cats get fatter and the poor get poorer the Westminster clique of white male millionaires spend around 35 billion pounds a year on "defense" (read weapons and war).   

The concept "Endless war for perpetual peace" has its terrifying cousin in "Prepare for war to prevent war." This becomes vastly more terrifying when it refers to preparing for nuclear war.

The developments in the nuclear arena are of a piece with the reckless killing, spending and risk-taking of the bomb-'em-into-our–way-of-thinking brigade. The existence of arsenals of nuclear weapons puts us all at risk all the time. But never mind that. The movers and shakers have their nuclear bunkers and their own agenda.

President Obama claimed to be campaigning for a "nuclear-free world." In fact, a recent federal study put the collective price tag for upgrading the US nuclear arsenal over the next three decades at up to a trillion dollars[7]. Under the headline "U.S. ramping up major renewal in nuclear arms," the New York Times tells us that at Kansas City, a sprawling new plant , working on America’s atomic warheads is "Bigger than the Pentagon, full of futuristic gear and thousands of workers,.. and  ...modernizes the aging weapons that the United States can fire from missiles, bombers and submarines." There is a wave of nationwide revitalisation of the atomic bomb programme. This includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers.

The UK government has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). This obliges them to get rid of their nuclear weapons. The International Court of Justice, asked for an Advisory Opinion, declared that "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control." The NPT and the Advisory Opinion might as well never have happened. The UK government has started to renew its nuclear arsenal at an expected cost of around one hundred billion pounds. And governments puzzle over why citizens don’t trust them!

In my view, it cannot be stated often enough that the leaders of the nuclear states are willing to put the survival of the human race at risk in order to enhance their own sense of importance; to be, as they see it, shakers and movers on the world stage. To achieve their power-obsessed ends they are prepared to treat citizens with contempt.  They blatantly and criminally ignore treaties and promises to the electorate to rid the world of this curse. They say one thing and do the opposite. Does sociopathic behaviour get more extreme than this?

Our war obsessed leaders tell us that the existence of large numbers of Armageddon weapons, under their control, many of them held on hair-trigger alert ready for launch within minutes, make us safe. Do you believe them? I don’t.

 

Footnotes:

1.       Seumas Milne, The Guardian, 2.10.14

2.       http://www.presstv.ir/detail/364869.html

3.         1990 – The Gulf, 1998 – Iraq, 1999 – East Timor, 1999 – Yugoslavia, 2000 – Sierra Leone, 2001 – Macedonia, 2001 – Afghanistan,  2003 – Iraq, 2011 - Libya.

4.       The Guardian, 1.10.14.

5.       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arms_industry

6.       The Guardian, 30.9.14.

7.       http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/us/us-ramping-up-major-renewal-in-nuclear-arms.html?_r=0

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SpeakOut Sat, 18 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0400
The Laziness and Irresponsibility of the Working Class http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26894-the-laziness-and-irresponsibility-of-the-working-class http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26894-the-laziness-and-irresponsibility-of-the-working-class

Working from the moment her mom died at the age 16 til now at age 52, my mom works endlessly yet we still find ourselves struggling to make ends meet. Is this her fault or the systems? Bill O’Reilly, a conservative political commentator with his own Fox TV show, seems to think the blame is on the individual stating, “You gotta look people in the eye and tell ‘em they’re irresponsible and lazy. And who’s gonna wanna do that? Because that’s what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen.” Irresponsible? My mom while raising five of her brothers and sisters also studied in her country’s university. She came to America and worked over 40 hours a week and we still found ourselves homeless at one point. Who exactly is to blame? The way I see it...the system is. This systematic problem that is based on capitalism is what makes sure that we start off poor and stay that way no matter what good choices we make or how hard we work or how much “responsibility” we put on ourselves.

Working from the moment her mom died at the age 16 til now at age 52, my mom works endlessly yet we still find ourselves struggling to make ends meet. Is this her fault or the systems? Bill O’Reilly, a conservative political commentator with his own Fox TV show, seems to think the blame is on the individual stating, “ You gotta look people in the eye and tell ‘em they’re irresponsible and lazy. And who’s gonna wanna do that? Because that’s what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen.” Irresponsible? My mom while raising five of her brothers and sisters also studied in her country’s university. She came to America and worked over 40 hours a week and we still found ourselves homeless at one point. Who exactly is to blame? The way I see it...the system is. This systematic problem that is based on capitalism is what makes sure that we start off poor and stay that way no matter what good choices we make or how hard we work or how much “responsibility” we put on ourselves.

My mom was raised and born in Nicaragua. She became responsible for her brothers and sisters at the age of 16 because of the death of her mother due to the civil war in her country. My mother took care of things around the house, sold fruits and vegetables to make some money and went to school from 1pm to 10pm returning home to continue her daily responsibilities. After a decade of this she came to America to find her “American Dream.” She was able to get her residency here and then she had my brother and I. She raised us by herself working as a beauty consultant and waitress. However, this was not enough with little income just coming from her. We were homeless for over a year. Now, my mom works over 40 hours a week and all the bills are paid just by her so we still are struggle with all of our household bills. Again I ask, does this make her irresponsible and lazy? Is her irresponsibility and laziness causing us to be a low income family? The way I see it, the system is making it so my mom has no option but to keep working hard for the rest of her life and still barely have her head above water.

Picture a pyramid, in the top of the pyramid sits the wealthiest 1% and in the bottom of the pyramid is the working class in which seems to be fighting within each other to get to that 1% the government makes us believe we can get to. So why are we not fighting the 1% to make it so that the working class gets what it has worked so hard for? Studies made by Stanford University shows, “The official poverty rate increased from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 15.0 percent in 2012, and the child poverty rate increased from 18.0 percent in 2007 to 21.8 percent in 2012. The current poverty rates for the full population and for children rank among the very worst over the 13 years since 2000 (i.e., both are ranked 11th). “ Why is it that our children are paying for the greed this 1% percent has? What good is it that we teach our children to strive for more and fight to make it big when our system is putting obstacles before us so we don’t make it there? There is much to this system that we are choosing to be ignorant of.

I believe in personal responsibility and good choices, however, I do not believe that our society should be set up so that a system controls a person’s success.  The constant limitations and obstacles the system puts so that the working class stays working shows that a change has to be made in order to better this country. Though some are in disagreement and that it all falls into the individuals shoulders, the reality is that the working class has to fight back to make a beneficial government.

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SpeakOut Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:11:42 -0400
More Than Good Karma: Women Must Negotiate Salary and Raises http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26893-more-than-good-karma-women-must-negotiate-salary-and-raises http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26893-more-than-good-karma-women-must-negotiate-salary-and-raises

Evidently, only men are supposed to ask for raises. Women who do will only annoy their bosses and instead should simply have faith in the system and hope for good karma. This is what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently stated. Although he later apologized for his “inarticulate” response, the fact remains that his initial answer serves to mask the tremendous gender wage gap that still exists. It also reinforces dangerous beliefs about workplace communication, which research has found already differs in ways that generally disadvantage female workers.

It is very clear that women’s wages still lag behind men’s in most every industry. In 2013, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that full-time, year-round female workers earned 78 percent of what their male counterparts earned.  In the technology industry, women earn, on average, $6,358 less than their male counterparts, and women with at least one child earn $11,247 less than all other workers, according to a study by the American Institute for Economic Research. The AAUW found that female engineers made 88 percent of their male counterparts’ salaries, while women in the financial services industry earn $14,067 a year less than men, according to the American Institute for Economic Research.

Evidently, only men are supposed to ask for raises. Women who do will only annoy their bosses and instead should simply have faith in the system and hope for good karma. This is what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently stated. Although he later apologized for his “inarticulate” response, the fact remains that his initial answer serves to mask the tremendous gender wage gap that still exists. It also reinforces dangerous beliefs about workplace communication, which research has found already differs in ways that generally disadvantage female workers.

It is very clear that women’s wages still lag behind men’s in most every industry. In 2013, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that full-time, year-round female workers earned 78 percent of what their male counterparts earned.  In the technology industry, women earn, on average, $6,358 less than their male counterparts, and women with at least one child earn $11,247 less than all other workers, according to a study by the American Institute for Economic Research. The AAUW found that female engineers made 88 percent of their male counterparts’ salaries, while women in the financial services industry earn $14,067 a year less than men, according to the American Institute for Economic Research.

Although there are many factors that explain the gender wage gap, one of them involves exactly what Nadella denounced: negotiating salary and raises. Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever reported in their 2007 book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation and Positive Strategies for Change that men are eight times more likely than women to negotiate their salary.

Another factor that likely impacts the wages women receive from the start of their employment as well as through raises is the way that we are socialized to communicate. According to linguistics scholar Deborah Tannen, women are taught to seek praise, to apologize for issues that are not their fault, and to vent about problems rather than immediately begin “solving” them. While Tannen emphasizes that these are differences not necessarily disadvantages, when workplaces continue to be dominated by male leaders, as is the case with the tech, finance, and engineering fields, these stylistic differences may indeed result in challenges for female workers. If male bosses see women venting, or hear a woman constantly say she’s sorry, the impression they may have is that she is less capable than her male counterpart. If female workers constantly need praise whereas males simply do the work, it may be perceived as excessive neediness. Again, the problem is not that females’ communication styles are bad, but that they are used in the context of a male-dominated setting and thus may not be understood appropriately. The disadvantages will only worsen if women are discouraged from asking their bosses for raises.

As the National Women’s Law Center points out, closing the wage gap would significantly improve the finances of not just women but families as well. They found that if women made an additional $11,608 per year, it would be enough to pay the median cost of rent and utilities for 13 months, with $400 to spare, to feed a family of four for 13 months with $300 to spare, or to pay 18 months of full-time childcare costs for a four-year old with more than $300 to spare.

So, Satya Nadella, it is essential that women learn to communicate with their bosses and to successfully negotiate their salary and raises!

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SpeakOut Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:48:53 -0400
The Missing Context: "Islamic State" Sectarianism Is Not Coincidental http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26892-the-missing-context-islamic-state-sectarianism-is-not-coincidental http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26892-the-missing-context-islamic-state-sectarianism-is-not-coincidental

Consider this comical scene described by Peter Van Buren, a former US diplomat, who was deployed to Iraq on a 12-month assignment in 2009-10:

Van Buren led two Department of State teams assigned with the abstract mission of the ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq, which was destroyed in the US-led wars and sanctions. He describes the reconstruction of Iraq as such:

“In practice, that meant paying for schools that would never be completed, setting up pastry shops on streets without water or electricity, and conducting endless propaganda events on Washington-generated themes of the week (‘small business,’ ‘women's empowerment,’ ‘democracy building.’)”

Consider this comical scene described by Peter Van Buren, a former US diplomat, who was deployed to Iraq on a 12-month assignment in 2009-10:

Van Buren led two Department of State teams assigned with the abstract mission of the ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq, which was destroyed in the US-led wars and sanctions. He describes the reconstruction of Iraq as such:

“In practice, that meant paying for schools that would never be completed, setting up pastry shops on streets without water or electricity, and conducting endless propaganda events on Washington-generated themes of the week (‘small business,’ ‘women's empowerment,’ ‘democracy building.’)”

As for the comical scene: “We even organized awkward soccer matches, where American taxpayer money was used to coerce reluctant Sunni teams into facing off against hesitant Shiite ones in hopes that, somehow, the chaos created by the American invasion could be ameliorated on the playing field.”

Of course, there is nothing funny about it when seen in context. The entire American nation-building experiment was in fact a political swindle engulfed by many horrifying episodes, starting with the dissolving of the country’s army, entire official institutions and the construction of an alternative political class that was essentially sectarian.

Take the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), which was founded in July 2003 as an example. The actual ruler of Iraq was the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), headed first by General Jay Garner, then by Paul Bremer, who, effectively was the governor of Iraq. The figureheads of the IGC were mostly a conglomerate of pro-US Iraqi individuals with a sinister sectarian past.

This is particularly important, for when Bremer began mutilating Iraqi society as dictated to him from Washington, the IGC was the first real sign of the American vision for Iraq with a sectarian identity. The council was made of 13 Shias, five Sunnis, five Kurds, a Turkmen and an Assyrian.

One would not dwell on the sectarian formation of the US-ruled Iraq if such vulgar sectarianism were embedded in the collective psyche of Iraqi society. But, perhaps surprisingly, this is not the case.

Fanar Haddad, author of Sectarianism in Iraq: Antagonistic Visions of Unity, like other perceptive historians, doesn't buy into the 'ancient hatred' line between Sunnis and Shia. "The roots of sectarian conflict aren't that deep in Iraq," he said in a recent interview.

Between the establishment of the modern Iraqi state in 1921 and for over 80 years, "the default setting (In Iraq) was coexistence." Haddad argues that “Post-2003 Iraq ..identity politics have been the norm rather than an anomaly because they're part of the system by design.”

That "design" was not put in place arbitrarily. The conventional wisdom was that the US army is better seen as a "liberator" than an invader, where the Shia community was supposedly being liberated from an oppressive Sunni minority. By doing so, those in whose name Iraq was "liberated" were armed and empowered to fight the "Sunni insurgency" throughout the country.The "Sunni" discourse, laden with such terminology as the "Sunni Triangle" and "Sunni insurgents," etc., was a defining component of the American media and government perception of the war. In fact, there was no insurgency per se, but an organic Iraqi resistance to the US-led invasion.

The design had in fact served its purposes, but not for long. Iraqis turned against one another, as US troops mostly watched the chaotic scene from behind the well-fortified Green Zone. When it turned out that the US public still found the price of occupation too costly to bear, the US redeployed out of Iraq, leaving behind a broken society. By then, there were no more awkward Shia vs. Sunni football matches, but rather an atrocious conflict that had claimed too many innocent lives to even be able count.

True, the Americans didn’t create Iraqi sectarianism. The latter always brewed beneath the surface. However, sectarianism and other manifestations of identity politics in Iraq were always overpowered by a dominant sense of Iraqi nationalism, which was  ripped apart by US firepower starting March 2003. But what the US truly founded in Iraq was Sunni militancy, a concept that has, up until recently, been alien to the Middle East.

As the majority among Muslim societies as a whole, Sunnis rarely identified as such. Generally, minorities tend to subscribe to various group memberships as a form of self-preservation. Majorities feel no such need. Al-Qaeda for example, seldom made  references to being a Sunni group, and its targeting of Shia and others was not part of its original mission. Even its violent references to other groups were made in specific political contexts: they referred to the "Crusaders" when they mentioned US military presence in the region, and to Jews, in reference to Israel. The group used terror to achieve what were essentially political objectives.

But even al-Qaeda identity began changing after the US invasion of Iraq. One could make the argument that the link between the original al-Qaeda and current group known as the Islamic State (IS) is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Jordanian-born militant was the founder of al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad group, and didn’t join al-Qaeda officially until 2004. A merger had then taken place, resulting in the creation of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)

While Zarqawi’s move to Iraq had originally targeted the US occupation, the nature of his mission was quickly redefined by the extremely violent sectarian nature of the conflict. He declared war on the Shia in 2005, and was killed a few months later at the height of the civil war.

Zarqawi was so violent in his sectarian war that al-Qaeda leaders were allegedly irritated with him. The core al-Qaeda leadership which imposed itself as guardians of the Muslim ummah (nation) could have been wary that a sectarian war would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict - a direction they deemed dangerous.

If these dialectics ever existed, they are no longer relevant today. The Syrian civil war was the perfect landscape for sectarian movements to operate, and, in fact, evolve. By then, AQI had merged with the Mujahideen Shura Council resulting in the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), then the Levant (ISIL), which eventually declared a Sunni-centered Caliphate on land it occupied in Syria and, more recently in Iraq. It now simply calls itself the Islamic State (IS).

Sunni militancy (as in groups operating on the central premise of being Sunni) is a particularly unique concept in history. What makes IS an essentially sectarian phenomenon with extremely violent consequences is that it was born into an exceptionally sectarian environment, and could only operate within the existing rules.

To destroy sectarian identities prevalent in the Middle East region today, the rules would have to be redesigned, not by Paul Bremer type figures, but through the creation of new political horizons, where fledgling democracies are permitted to operate in safe environments, and where national identities are reanimated to meet the common priorities of the Arab peoples.

While the US-led coalition can indeed inflict much damage on IS and eventually claim some sort of victory, they will ultimately exasperate the sectarian tension that will spill over to other Middle Eastern nations.

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SpeakOut Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:31:55 -0400
Narcopolitics and the Failed State: 43 Missing Students, a Narco Mayor and an Institutional Fiasco http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26891-narcopolitics-and-the-failed-state-43-missing-students-a-narco-mayor-and-an-institutional-fiasco http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26891-narcopolitics-and-the-failed-state-43-missing-students-a-narco-mayor-and-an-institutional-fiasco

It is September 26, 2014, and once again Mexico will soon fill the headlines of news outlets worldwide: 43 college students from a rural community in the state of Guerrero went missing. The immediate thought that come to the minds of many is the long repeated story and state-logic that frames these kinds of events under one and only rubric: the narco.

With that word in the horizon, Mexicans are slowly losing the capacity for surprise and concern. It may just be another narco-disappearance or execution among gangs, another one among thousands of tragedies that become the bread of every day. Perhap, this is why the news of the missing students got stronger momentum among the international media at first: the New York Times, the GuardianViceAl Jazeera, the Washington Post, the BBC.

It is September 26, 2014, and once again Mexico will soon fill the headlines of news outlets worldwide: 43 college students from a rural community in the state of Guerrero went missing. The immediate thought that come to the minds of many is the long repeated story and state-logic that frames these kinds of events under one and only rubric: the narco.

With that word in the horizon, Mexicans are slowly losing the capacity for surprise and concern. It may just be another narco-disappearance or execution among gangs, another one among thousands of tragedies that become the bread of every day. Perhap, this is why the news of the missing students got stronger momentum among the international media at first: the New York Times, the Guardian, Vice, Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, the BBC.

Who are those students? Why did they go missing? What are the authorities doing about it and why they haven't found them yet? Who is it to blame? When is Justice going to be effected? What does the word justice mean in a context of blood, corruption, drugs and violence? What may sound like a B-rated American western film, is a real-time tragedy of immense proportions for many parents and others.

The rural teaching university of Ayotzinapa, known and respected for its activism towards social causes, is the Alma Matter of the 43 students who were part of a larger group protesting in the nearby town of Iguala for improved educational conditions. At that very same time, Iguala's mayor, José Luis Albarca, and his wife were hosting a dinner with the local elite to announce the wife's intention of running for office. It is widely known that the wife's siblings were part of the infamous Beltran Leyva cartel.

An inevitable police clash lead to the immediate death of 6 individuals, among students and bystanders, and the clouded disappearance of 43 students. These are the facts.

Fact is also that the local police was the one transporting the students to an unknown location in compliance with the Guerreros Unidos gang. Fact is that Mayor Albarca had been linked before to the murder of a local politician and had raised several eyebrows after accounts of his sudden inexplicable fortune. Fact is that state and federal government and authorities let Albarca and his wife flee several hours after the massive clash was reported in the news. Fact is that to date, there's no compelling evidence of where the students may be. Fact is that no one in the political sphere has taken any kind of responsibility for the inability to provide answers to the countless questions that civil society is demanding; fact is that history repeats itself over and over in a country accustomed to extreme levels of violence and endemic corruption.

In spite of the growing national rage shown in massive protests in different parts of the country, side by side with a global outcry for the horrendous crimes, answers are yet to be formulated. One may understand this conjuncture in the context of Mexico's war on drugs, impunity and the failed state.

The main strategy pursued by former president Calderón and continued by President Peña Nieto is characterized by an ongoing US-supported militarization campaign of strengthening Mexico's armed forces within a broken social tissue. The policies associated with this strategy have produced thousands of human rights violations,  the overall criminalization of social movements, unions and activists - including students from all walks of life.

In what other country of the world can 43 college kids be kidnapped by police forces and life continue its political, economical and social course  as if the kidnapping were nothing more than a dark anecdote for an after table conversation at a dinner party? This is the Mexico of today: a failed state highjacked by a narcopolitical elite whose corruption and impunity are entrenched to its core.

Yet, there is another Mexico that fights to thrive and move beyond this permanent state of violence. This is the Mexico of the civil society that it is on the streets today demanding justice. This is also a fact, and it remains to be seen whether the effects of this renewed activism and sense of citizenship will have an impact upon the future of governance and institutions in the extremely weakened southern neighbor.

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SpeakOut Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:20:51 -0400
Target Practice http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26890-target-practice http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26890-target-practice

Niggers, kikes and dagos, spics and micks –

We knew about the differences –

But everybody was a motherfucker

Who sucked cock

 

At least we were honest about it

In the neighbourhood

Niggers, kikes and dagos, spics and micks –

We knew about the differences –

But everybody was a motherfucker

Who sucked cock

 

At least we were honest about it

In the neighbourhood

 

Anyway, one of the older guys,

Who listened to opera and had a lisp,

Went to Vietnam and lost an eye

 

He stayed at home a lot when he got back,

Playing records in his basement

 

We were curious about the war,

And almost old enough to fight,

So one night we went over for a beer

 

We all got drunk and then

He pulled a gun and there were

Dinks and gooks and slopes and slants

And Cyclops beat the shit out of

The three of us

 

One by one he begged our lips

To tell him he was queer,

Just one more time, he said,

The hammer clicking into place,

Because he needed target practice

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SpeakOut Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:12:06 -0400
Marshall Islands' Lawsuits Gain Momentous Support http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26874-marshall-islands-lawsuits-gain-momentous-support http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26874-marshall-islands-lawsuits-gain-momentous-support

Santa Barbara – Some 73 civil society leaders from 22 countries around the world have lent their support to the people and government of the Marshall Islands and the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits.

On April 24, 2014, The Marshall Islands (RMI) filed unprecedented lawsuits in the International Court of Justice and US Federal Court to hold the nine nuclear-armed nations accountable for flagrant violations of international law with respect to their nuclear disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law.

Santa Barbara – Some 73 civil society leaders from 22 countries around the world have lent their support to the people and government of the Marshall Islands and the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits.

On April 24, 2014, The Marshall Islands (RMI) filed unprecedented lawsuits in the International Court of Justice and US Federal Court to hold the nine nuclear-armed nations accountable for flagrant violations of international law with respect to their nuclear disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law.

In a strong show of unity and encouragement, Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Helen Caldicott and many other peace and social justice leaders have signed an open letter stating, “In taking this action, you, and any governments that choose to join you, are acting on behalf of all the seven billion people who now live on Earth and on behalf of the generations yet unborn who could never be born if nuclear weapons are ever used in large numbers.”

The letter goes on to say, “Win or lose in the coming legal arguments, what you, and any who join you, will do has the deepest moral significance, going far beyond the specific interests of any country or government and beyond the usual calculations of national self-interest.”

David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a consultant to the Marshall Islands on the legal and moral issues of the case, commented, “The Marshall Islanders are unselfishly acting for the good of all humanity. This small island nation is the true David standing up to the nine nuclear Goliaths. The Marshallese people have suffered irreparable damage from the U.S. nuclear testing program. Yet this lawsuit does not seek monetary reparations. Rather, it seeks the fulfillment of promises made for negotiations for the total elimination of nuclear weapons so that no other nation will suffer as they have. The courage of this small island nation is remarkable.”

The open letter was presented in Parliament by Marshall Islands’ Foreign Minister Tony de Brum on the last day of their 2014 session. To read the letter in its entirety, go to wagingpeace.org/rmi-open-letter. To find out more about the Nuclear Zero Lawsuits, visit nuclearzero.org.

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SpeakOut Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:50:54 -0400
MINUSTAH Fact Sheet: Highlights of a Decade of Success in Haiti http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26873-minustah-fact-sheet-highlights-of-a-decade-of-success-in-haiti http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26873-minustah-fact-sheet-highlights-of-a-decade-of-success-in-haiti

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established on 1 June 2004 by Security Council resolution 1542 . The UN mission succeeded a Multinational Interim Force (MIF) authorized by the Security Council in February 2004.  The mission has a mandate to restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s government institutions and rule-of-law-structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights. With MINUSTAH’s mandate renewed on October 14, 2014, it is opportune to review the mission’s accomplishments during its ten-year presence in Haiti.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established on 1 June 2004 by Security Council resolution 1542 . The UN mission succeeded a Multinational Interim Force (MIF) authorized by the Security Council in February 2004.  The mission has a mandate to restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s government institutions and rule-of-law-structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights. With MINUSTAH’s mandate renewed on October 14, 2014, it is opportune to review the mission’s accomplishments during its ten-year presence in Haiti.

Electoral Efficiency Program (EEP): The EEP has sharply reduced a) the frequency of Haiti’s election cycles; b) overcrowding at election activities; and c) the total number of officials subject to populist pressures. These successes have led to a more efficient and responsive government and freed citizens up from electoral activities, allowing them more time to participate in MINUSTAH’s robust civic education program.

Election cycle reduction: Election cycles in Haiti are expensive, disruptive - even violent - and unnecessarily expose government officials to populist pressures.  In the nine years before MINUSTAH deployment, Haiti had been subjected to five electoral cycles, one almost every time the Constitution required it. In the decade since MINUSTAH’s 2004 deployment, Haiti has  been subjected to three election cycles only, a 40% efficiency gain. In two periods covering half of that time - June 2004 to February 2006, and March 2011 to the present – and thanks toclose cooperation between MINUSTAH and the existing governments, Haiti has remained completely election-free. 

Electoral Congestion Reduction: Haiti’s election days have traditionally been crowded and chaotic, with voters waiting in long lines, which in turn creates risk of disruption of the democratic process and violence and exposes officials to populist pressures. MINUSTAH diagnosed the principal cause of the congestion as Haiti’s unhealthy participation rates, which are typically, like Haiti’s HIV-AIDS rate, one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. Following a tripartite collaboration among MINUSTAH, the Preval Administration and the US Department of State, Haiti’s participation rate was reduced to under 25% in the most recent elections, among the lowest rates ever in the hemisphere for a presidential race.

Reduction of Exposure to Populist Pressures:  Haiti’s high-frequency, congested elections in the decade before MINUSTAH deployment had subjected government officials to popular pressures that reduced elections to popularity contests and restricted the independence that Haiti’s leaders needed to effectively consolidate the country’s democratic institutions. For example, just six months before MINUSTAH’s 2004 deployment, almost all of the mayors in the country obtained their offices merely by pleasing the voters. Thanks to innovative collaboration between the Martelly Administration and MINUSTAH, every single current local elected official has been chosen on the basis of merit, by the Administration. The bloated Senate has been reduced by 1/3, and in early 2015, the Senate will be reduced by another third, with a complete reduction of the House of Deputies. 

Cholera Elimination Plan (CEP): Through  the introduction of cholera, MINUSTAH has sustainably eliminated over 8,500 Haitians from the dangers of extreme poverty, hunger, contraction of other diseases and various other perils that life brings, while providing Haitian citizens and their government with an opportunity to develop an unprecedented structural,technical and immunological capacity to respond to infectious disease. MINUSTAH has also provided over 700,000 Haitians with invaluable lessons in resilience and perseverance and encouraged them and their families to engage in important contingency planning. The program has also generated important society-wide dialogue on the importance of water and sanitation infrastructure, accountability and the rule of law.

Genetic Diversity Program (GDP):

Through the energetic and unrestrained participation of MINUSTAH uniformed personnel - often even outside normal duty hours - MINUSTAH has increased genetic diversity amongst the Haitian population. The GDP focuses its efforts on at-risk women and girls, but manages to reach out to other vulnerable populations as well.

Promoting Tolerance: 

MINUSTAH has helped Haiti’s leaders develop a secure and stable environment through the enforcement of tolerance measures, in many cases obtaining levels of tolerance not believed possible before MINUSTAH’s deployment. Highlights of the program include tolerance for the return of President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier, the restoration of Haiti’s hated armed forces, the imprisonment of political opponents and serial public criminality by members of the President’s entourage.

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SpeakOut Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:37:46 -0400
Things to Avoid Saying About Ferguson and Shaw if You Don't Want to Sound Racist http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26872-things-to-avoid-saying-about-ferguson-and-shaw-if-you-don-t-want-to-sound-racist http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26872-things-to-avoid-saying-about-ferguson-and-shaw-if-you-don-t-want-to-sound-racist

The recent deaths of Mike Brown and VonDerrit Myers and the resulting protests have stirred up a lot of emotions and opinions. People who would never consider themselves racist have been saying things that can come across as just that. 

The recent deaths of Mike Brown and VonDerrit Myers and the resulting protests have stirred up a lot of emotions and opinions. People who would never consider themselves racist have been saying things that can come across as just that. 

1. The protesters in Shaw are being ridiculous because Myers had a gun. This shooting was justified.

What you think it means:

Because VonDerrit Myers may have had a gun the officer was justified in shooting him.  Officers are entitled to act in self-defense and it doesn't make sense for people to be calling for justice in this instance.

What you should consider:

The anger of the protesters does not center exclusively around this shooting or the shooting of Mike Brown. These shootings took place within a broader historical context. People of color, specifically African-Americans, are disproportionately incarcerated despite committing at least some types of crimes at rates similar to white people. As evidenced by how many times the n-word is being thrown around on the internet these days, we still live in a world full of explicit racism. Possibly just as dangerous, though, are the biases many of us are unaware we are harboring. Biases that might lead officers to be more afraid of a black person than is actually warranted.

Even if you're focusing on just the death of Myers, consider that he was stopped in a "pedestrian check" despite having every right to walk down the street of his own neighborhood. Or of any neighborhood. In New York City, where this practice has been studied, people of color are disproportionately stopped in these checks, likely due to the implicit and unexamined biases of law enforcement officers. Given the treatment people of color often face from law enforcement, it's understandable that some might run in an attempt to avoid this treatment, even if they had done nothing illegal.

2. We can't let them (the protesters) win. 

What you think it means: 

The protesters are making our neighborhood and/or city an unpleasant place to be. They're making noise and occasionally damaging property and that's not fair to the people who live here.  We shouldn't change our lives at all because that's showing them that their tactics will work.

What you should consider:

What the protesters want, in addition to a fair trial process in the case of Mike Brown, is true racial equality, including an end to systemic racism and white supremacy. So letting them win would mean a society in which people are not targeted because of the color of their skin. Saying "we can't let them win" sounds like you mean that you don't want that. Or at least not enough to deal with what it will take to get there.Also, for the most part the protesters are people who live here. Asking them to continue to live in a system that means they're way more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement officers than white people are isn't fair to them.

3. I just wish they'd protest at a more convenient time and/or place.

What you think it means:

You fully support people's right to free speech but they shouldn't be doing anything that impedes traffic or keeps people awake. 

What you should consider:

Protests at convenient times and places are really easy to ignore. People can just go about their normal lives and still not listen to the voices of the protesters. People of color and their allies have been asking, begging, pleading for true equality for generations and it hasn't worked.  Sure, we all want a full night's sleep and it can be annoying to have to drive more slowly or take a different route. These inconveniences pale in comparison, though, to generations of policies and practices that put people of color at risk.

4. This isn't about race. If black people just had self-respect and/or didn't act like thugs they wouldn't get shot.

What you think it means:

Racism isn't really happening anymore. At this point people of color are just acting like victims which is keeping them in the position they're in.

What you should consider:

It's really easy to think racism doesn't exist when you aren't on the receiving end of it. For most of my life I thought racism was limited to some really ignorant or hateful individuals. It took conversations with people of color to realize that it's still pervasive in our society in ways white people have to look really hard to see. Of course there is a level of personal responsibility in every situation, but it's incredibly problematic to assume that's the only thing needed to change what's happening in communities across the country.

Sometimes when people say someone looks like a "thug" what they're basing that on is that someone has a different style of dress, posture, or talking than they're used to. Associating specific styles with crime is reflective of our own biases more than reality. As hippies argued in the 60s about long hair, people should be able to dress and talk how they want and not be automatically judged as a menace to society because of it.

Self-respect would not have kept my friend from having guns pulled on him in his own front yard because he's black living in a white neighborhood and the cops thought he didn't belong. Self-respect would not have kept John Crawford from being killed for holding a BB gun in Walmart.  Self-respect would not help parents who were undereducated through no fault of their own be able to effectively help their children with their homework. Self-respect is important, but will not erase the explicit or implicit prejudice of others or the effects of inequalities embedded in our societal structure.

5. I'm all for peaceful protest but breaking the law or doing property damage is unacceptable.

What you think it means:

People would accomplish a whole lot more if they would just stay peaceful. The violence and/or trespassing is just making them look bad and not helping their cause. 

What you should consider: 

People of color in this country have been the victims of interpersonal and institutional violence for centuries, ranging from discriminatory housing practices that leave them without safe places to live to actually being owned by another human being.

Since white explorers arrived on this land, white people have been telling people of color what they're allowed to do and how they're allowed to show their feelings. Whatever our personal philosophies, it isn't our place to tell people we have oppressed for generations how they are allowed to show their rage. It's really easy to say, “You shouldn't show anger that way” when most of us can live without fear of being killed for our skin color or the way we dress. There are plenty of instances of white people looting, throwing rocks, etc. It's usually over a sports team winning or losing, though, and we use language that paints it as people just being silly rather than as an actual threat to us. If we can brush off some rioting in the name of sports, maybe we can be patient enough to let the many acting de-escalators within the protest community do their work.When it comes to peacefully breaking the law by participating in things like sit-ins, it's good to remember that our country has a long history of civil disobedience. Without it we wouldn't have gained, for example, independence from Britain, integrated public transportation, or the weekend many of us appreciate a whole lot. Had we been present for the Boston Tea Party or when Rosa Parks very intentionally refused to leave her seat, would we want to have been the people saying, “Breaking the law is no way to get what you want?”

I get it. Despite my support for and participation in the protests, I have some fear, too. I live a mile from where the initial protests after the Shaw shooting happened and I worried that a broken window would cause my dogs or cats to escape and get run over. My students live in the area and I worry they might be exposed to tear gas. Despite my deep desire for racial equality, I too grew up internalizing harmful stereotypes about black men that I struggle to eradicate. If we're serious about wanting racial equality, though, it's not enough to say that we're not racist. We can acknowledge our fears, but still be willing to listen to the people who are demanding equality. This isn't going to be an easy process. It's going to be messy and uncomfortable. If we want a truly peaceful society, though, we need to be willing to put in the work to get to a point where everyone is treated fairly. This might mean putting aside some of our comforts and getting to know people who are different from us.  If you find the thought of someone thinking you're racist unpleasant, consider how your words and actions may unintentionally perpetuate racial inequality. 

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SpeakOut Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:27:28 -0400
Honoring the Original People http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26871-honoring-the-original-people http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26871-honoring-the-original-people

Last week the Seattle City Council took the courageous decision to celebrate October 13th as Indigenous People’s Day.  This is a national event, for in making this decision, Seattle is showing all of us how to take steps toward renewing our nation and remaking it in a more just and less violent image.

Americans descend from many different indigenous and non-indigenous nations and it is often unclear just what defines us as a people. Let me put forth the idea that what many of us share is a history of violence, suffering, oppression and trauma. 

Last week the Seattle City Council took the courageous decision to celebrate October 13th as Indigenous People’s Day.  This is a national event, for in making this decision, Seattle is showing all of us how to take steps toward renewing our nation and remaking it in a more just and less violent image.

Americans descend from many different indigenous and non-indigenous nations and it is often unclear just what defines us as a people. Let me put forth the idea that what many of us share is a history of violence, suffering, oppression and trauma. 

Sometimes it is seen as impolite in this country to talk politics or religion in social gatherings. So instead we often turn to that most acceptable and completely American question, “So where is your family from?  When did your family immigrate to the US?”  And those of us with immigration histories quickly and proudly tell our stories, and once we even had a shared pride in being a nation of immigrants, as symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. 

Taking a deeper look at our shared conversation about our origins, however, we will see a more disturbing truth. Well-known peace studies pioneer Johan Galtung argues that what we typically think of as violence (i.e., rape and murder) is only the tip of the iceberg. For that type of violence sits atop two other, much larger layers, of socio-economic violence, (what Galtung calls “structural violence”), and cultural violence. 

Many of us know the truth of this claim from our families’ immigration stories.  My Italian grandfather came to the US after experiencing the horrific direct violence of WWI: he watched his brother burn to death in a fire bombing raid and he almost died himself as a soldier in that “great” war.  The parents of my Italian grandmother had arrived earlier, fleeing the oppressive structural violence of grinding poverty and hunger.  So poor were they, that they only ate meat once a year, on Christmas.  And the only orange my great-grandmother ever ate as a child was a gift from the mayor, an act of charity which he doled out, again, on Christmas.

But like many Americans I also have ancestors from another country, and from my Dutch side I heard the stories of cultural violence, mixed with direct violence.  My great-grandparents left Holland after living through WWII and witnessing the vicious anti-Semitism of the Nazis who told a tale about how Jews were so much lesser than others that it was morally OK to cast them out and kill them.   In summary, like so many other Americans, my ancestors came here due to a combination of direct, structural and cultural violence, no one kind worse than another. 

And yet, our arrival to these shores brought with it the violence of disinheriting and wiping out Native American peoples, the original inhabitants of this land.  And along with Europeans also came the horrific institution of slavery, and millions of involuntary immigrants in the form of Africans in chains.  As a result, both Native Americans and African Americans have suffered levels of direct, structural and cultural violence beyond comprehension.  Still today these two communities suffer the highest rates of direct violence and crippling poverty, and the deep cultural violence of racism which makes the direct violence and poverty go largely unnoticed by mainstream society. 

With Seattle’s action we have taken one step toward lessening the cultural violence perpetrated on Native Americans.  While this might seem like just a tiny step, it is only by transforming our cultural narrative that we will be able to move on to tackle the other forms of violence that affect us all.  With Seattle’s action they have helped us all to begin to see how those of us who live elsewhere could take similar actions, relevant to our own contexts, to heal the wounds that were inadvertently caused by immigrants coming to these shores.  It makes it possible to imagine an American narrative in which our shared story is not one of violence but one of shared redemption, of overcoming of injustice and pain. 

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SpeakOut Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:08:52 -0400
Historic Open Hillel Conference Sparks Debate Among American Jews http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26868-historic-open-hillel-conference-sparks-debate-among-american-jews http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26868-historic-open-hillel-conference-sparks-debate-among-american-jews

Cambridge, MA - Open Hillel, a student-led movement advocating open conversation on the Israel/Palestine conflict within American Jewish institutions, hosted its first conference October 11-13 at Harvard University. Over 300 students, activists, scholars, and Jewish community leaders attended the conference, subtitled “If Not Now, When?”, which featured a broad range of panels, breakouts, and organizing workshops.

"For nearly two years, the Open Hillel campaign has worked to promote open discourse and pluralism in Jewish communities on campus and beyond. This weekend, hundreds of Jewish students and recent grads from across the US and Canada will convene to create the Jewish community that we want to see -- and to organize together to create change." said Rachel Sandalow-Ash, a senior at Harvard University and Open Hillel Internal Coordinator.

Cambridge, MA - Open Hillel, a student-led movement advocating open conversation on the Israel/Palestine conflict within American Jewish institutions, hosted its first conference October 11-13 at Harvard University. Over 300 students, activists, scholars, and Jewish community leaders attended the conference, subtitled “If Not Now, When?”, which featured a broad range of panels, breakouts, and organizing workshops.

"For nearly two years, the Open Hillel campaign has worked to promote open discourse and pluralism in Jewish communities on campus and beyond. This weekend, hundreds of Jewish students and recent grads from across the US and Canada will convene to create the Jewish community that we want to see -- and to organize together to create change." said Rachel Sandalow-Ash, a senior at Harvard University and Open Hillel Internal Coordinator.

Open Hillel seeks to eliminate the political red lines that restrict conversation about Israel/Palestine within diaspora Jewish institutions. Organized primarily by and for students, the conference responds to the needs of a new generation for a grassroots and politically pluralistic Jewish community. The movement arose in response to the "Standards of Partnership" guidelines recently adopted by Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization.

Hillel’s current guidelines exclude groups, events, and speakers who they claim “delegitimize Israel” or support the Palestinian call for political pressure through boycott, divestment, and sanctions. The Open Hillel conference featured prominent speakers who have previously been excluded from campus Hillels and other Jewish institutions for their political positions on Israel. These speakers included philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler, Middle East historian Rashid Khalidi, and writer David Harris-Gershon.

The conference also hosted speakers and attendees from a broad range of advocacy groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a national organization that has been excluded from Hillels because of its critique of the Israeli occupation. According to Mia Warshofsky, a student activist with JVP at University of Central Florida, “This conference showed me that there is still a place for me in the Jewish community. Because of my criticism of Israel’s assault on civilians in Gaza this summer, I have been made to feel unwelcome in my local Jewish community. But I’m inspired to see that there can be space in the Jewish community for young people like me, where my activism is not only accepted but respected and valued.”

In the past year, Hillel student leaders at Swarthmore College, Vassar College, and Wesleyan University announced that they would no longer abide by the exclusionary guidelines enforced by Hillel International.

This unprecedented conference is already sparking healthy debate in the Jewish community, which will only grow livelier as students return to their campuses energized by the Open Hillel conference.

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SpeakOut Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:39:42 -0400
Renaissance of Courage: On Public School Responsibility http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26864-renaissance-of-courage-on-public-school-responsibility http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26864-renaissance-of-courage-on-public-school-responsibility

"No good can ever come from deviating from the path you were destined to follow." Robert Greene

Who is Dr. Cornell West referring to when he says, “We need a renaissance of courage and a willingness to sacrifice?” This is what he told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! during a discussion on his new book Black Prophetic Fire about the legacy of leading African American voices including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X and Ida B. Wells. He was referring to blacks themselves like when he confessed his fear that we may be witnessing the death of black prophetic fire in our time. Black prophetic fire, according to Cornell West can be summed up as a deep love for justice, love of the poor and working people and a love for black people. He tells us this is best understood if we consider the four essential questions W.E.B. DuBois wrestled with in his lifetime: How does integrity face oppression? What does honesty do in the face of deception? What does decency do in the face of insult? And how does virtue meet brute force? This fire Cornell West refers to is the very notion of agency and social responsibility and it begs the question-- What is the ethical culture driving our conversation about public schools today and what is your personal responsibility in making a difference?

"No good can ever come from deviating from the path you were destined to follow." Robert Greene

Who is Dr. Cornell West referring to when he says, “We need a renaissance of courage and a willingness to sacrifice?” This is what he told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! during a discussion on his new book Black Prophetic Fire about the legacy of leading African American voices including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X and Ida B. Wells. He was referring to blacks themselves like when he confessed his fear that we may be witnessing the death of black prophetic fire in our time. Black prophetic fire, according to Cornell West can be summed up as a deep love for justice, love of the poor and working people and a love for black people. He tells us this is best understood if we consider the four essential questions W.E.B. DuBois wrestled with in his lifetime: How does integrity face oppression? What does honesty do in the face of deception? What does decency do in the face of insult? And how does virtue meet brute force? This fire Cornell West refers to is the very notion of agency and social responsibility and it begs the question-- What is the ethical culture driving our conversation about public schools today and what is your personal responsibility in making a difference?

This past weekend The New School and The Nation magazine hosted a talk entitled Saving Public Schools. It was moderated by Chris Hayes and included a handful of well-known education pundits—Dana Goldstein, Pedro Noguera and Randi Weingarten along with one community-based equity activist, Zakiya Ansari. Opening the dialogue was The Nation’s Besty Reed followed by New York City School chancellor Carmen Fariña, who I knew about but still had not heard speak. When I looked at the panel and around the New School auditorium it first appeared to be a pretty diverse group although in retrospect, I’d have to admit I remembered very few Latino and Asian faces in the room and I’d venture to say there were fewer attendees who would identify themselves as poor. Later when Chris Hayes asked how many of us were familiar with the Common Core Standards over ninety percent of us raised our hands. Chris had to laugh calling us outliers, who else would come out on a Sunday evening to hear a panel talk on public education? My mind flashed to a scene in a dystopian novel I’m reading called The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks that talks about people who are informed:

 “Well, of course I’m a citizen,” he said. “I was born and raised in Britain.”

“It’s just a label that my father uses. Ninety-nine percent of the population are either citizens or drones.”

 Dr. Bennett took off his gold rimmed spectacles and polished his lenses with a green flannel cloth. “Would you mind explaining this?”

“Citizens are people who think they understand what’s going on in the world.”

“I don’t understand everything, Judith. I never said that. But, I’m well informed about current events. I watch the news every morning while I’m on my treadmill.”

Maya hesitated, and then decided to tell him the truth. “The facts you know are mostly an illusion. The real struggle of history is going on beneath the surface.”

Dr. Bennett gave her a condescending smile. “Tell me about the drones.”

“Drones are people who are so overwhelmed by the challenge of surviving that they’re unaware of anything outside their day-to-day lives.”

 “You mean poor people?”

“They can be poor or trapped in the Third World, but they’re still capable of transforming themselves. Father used to say, ‘Citizens ignore the truth. Drones are just too tired.”

The talk lasted for about two hours at which point I left the New School auditorium in a semi-apathetic haze. I’m not sure if it was the after effects of the cold medicine I had taken or if it was the actual talk but I couldn’t help think we haven’t even begun the difficult work that lies ahead of us as we face the failure of perennial reform compounded with a decade’s worth of policies that have strangulated the public education system. The numbness I felt reminded me of a NYPR program I had accidentally tuned into just a few weeks earlier called ‘Staring Into The Abyss’ in which Brook Gladstone spent an hour discussing the poignant question: Why is nihilism so trendy and is this really a new phenomenon? I know apathy is not nihilism, but they are definitely close relatives especially when one considers the impact the war on public education has had on teachers and teacher educators.

Digging into the abyss, I was able to pull up one surviving frustration of mine, however mangled and in somewhat critical condition. It had to do with responsibility and agency and Dana Goldstein’s comment about the promise of the Millennials (which contradicted to some extent LaMotte’s argument in her article, Forget the Millennials. Gen Xers are the Future of Work published in TIME magazine online on October 2nd). It had to do with the notion of race and class and does change happen from the inside or from the outside, from those struggling to survive or those who are privileged? Goldstein proposed that with the advent of Millennials investing in urban centers, public schools can be revived. Millennials are educated, have money (equaling choice) and purportedly believe in the promise of diversity and democracy. Chris Hayes and Pedro Noguera conspired around this prospect by sharing a story about a school in Brooklyn in which parents have been actively trying to encourage an equal mix of middle and upper class white kids with poor and blue collar black and brown kids. Zakiya Ansari looked annoyed and asked, “Why do we need white kids to make a school work properly?” At that moment, the white woman sitting next to me mumbled something to the effect of, “Once Millennials arrive on the scene, poor folks can’t afford to stay so how is that going to help?”

 Funny, how race and class were interchangeable in this conversation. White is equated with middle/upper class and black and brown folks with poverty. I wonder if New Yorkers can see these two identities as being separate these days.  If not, what does that mean for the children being educated in segregated schools and what does that mean for their educators? Who is driving the conversation? And who is responsible for making a change?  

In response to Ansari’s question, I’d say, it’s not that we need white kids for schools to be good. However, if the professional “successful” world outside school is integrated (as depicted in the media, the movies and TV) children need to see the same demographics in the classroom if we want them to identify themselves as a part of this reality. Otherwise, it’s natural for children to question their place and value in the world, which is what it means to be ‘marginalized’ in society. The question of segregated schools is much less about the quality of education in contemporary society (although this certainly is important and dates back to the pivotal case separate but equal)—but more about how schools need to reflect the type of society we want to live in. Do we want our children to grow up in a divided, racialized and segregated world? How are children going to learn about citizenship, democracy and agency in a segregated setting?

When I was growing up, I had the fortune of attending public schools that were rich in diversity. Today, many of us recognize we were lucky to have a quality public school education with this experience. Just by exposure alone, it was evident to us that American society is a fabric threaded of different colors, ethnicities, languages and religions. That is not to say we had a utopian system back then. My mother, like many others, had to fight to get me into a good junior high school that was just outside my ‘zone’ but was easily accessible to our neighbors with non-Latino last names. The point is, fellowship with children and families from different backgrounds provided us with a broadened perspective of the world, taught us how people coexist and helped us learn important skills about how to negotiate in society—skills that continue to shape how I see and interact with the world today. Regardless of the quality of education, children who have segregated educational experiences are missing out on critical social, emotional and cognitive skills required in a global community. Teachers in segregated schools are very aware of this. It comes out in the academic performance of their students. In my doctoral research entitled, The Impact of Teaching Literacy for Social Justice on Student Achievement (2007), I documented how a teacher was concerned that although the African American students (in a segregated, African American school) were easily engaged and could critically examine and respond to literary experiences that spoke to the African American experience about slavery, oppression and persecution; they couldn’t transfer this knowledge when learning about the Jewish American experience and the holocaust. The challenges of learning multiple perspectives in a segregated school setting as presented by Kozol (2005) are real.

 After the event, walking down Sixth Avenue looking for a place to eat, I began to think about how powerful it would be if everyone who attended the talk sent their own kids to the public schools. What would that look like, a school comprised of these folks, the ‘intellectual class,’ or at least purporting to be?  That’s when it occurred to me that that’s exactly what a private or selective school looks like. The fact that most education pundits, policy makers, well paid administrators, university professors and white collar professionals opt to send their own children to private or highly selective public/charter schools is a topic rarely brought up in these settings. It’s not that these educators don’t care for ‘other people’s children,’ it’s just that like Pedro Noguera said, “educated folks with means regardless of their color will never send their kids to bad (or questionable) schools.” Bad schools where perennial reforms exist can only happen to poor folks struggling to survive. Is it because poor people (now joined by a growing number of ‘falling’ middle classers) don’t have a voice or is it because they really don’t have a choice?  Or is it because they are too tired to even light the fire?

Is there a possibility that we may have created a choice-less “choice” system that in actuality perpetuates quality education for the privileged? How can we expect the down trodden to be responsible for their own uplifting? What are the different levels of courage required to stand up and fight for what you believe in depending on your position in society? What kind of sacrifice can we ask of people who are struggling for their survival? Who is driving the conversation around public education and what is the ethical responsibility of the intellectual community? What is the social and moral responsibility of the private school sector with regards to the public school sector knowing that these are the decision makers and drive public policy? Can we require private schools to collaborate and share resources and social networks with public schools?  How do private schools churn out a citizenry that recycles the same inequitable conditions in society?

Education reform has historically and consistently been about experimenting, examining and dissecting public school kids and mostly poor public schools. Perhaps we need to pay closer attention to how we educate children of privilege and unpack notions of entitlement, elitism, competition and Darwinism.

Dana Goldstein stated early in the talk that one of the original purposes behind public education was moral. How can we consider the moral purpose of public schools without considering the ethical culture of our private schools simultaneously? I wonder if it’s possible to reposition education reform. Consider school reform not as a business of fixing the poor but as a holistic endeavor in which we are all implicated in the need to change how we do things for all kids, and that includes all kids, the rich kids too, and the sons and daughters of all the reformers and the intellectuals, too, who sit and talk about wonderful, really big ideas like equitable funding in our country. My guess is that we’d have a very different kind of conversation, one that gets at the true nature of our people, willing or unwilling to sacrifice the benefits of privilege.

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SpeakOut Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:30:15 -0400
Is Mass Capitalism the Wave of the Future? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26863-is-mass-capitalism-the-wave-of-the-future http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26863-is-mass-capitalism-the-wave-of-the-future

According to the latest government statistics, the unemployment rate has dropped below 6 percent compared to around 10 percent in 2010. Then why is the nation still in a sour mood? In the words of Steve Liesman, a CNBC Senior Economics Reporter, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted at the end of September indicates that "Americans' view of President Barack Obama's economic leadership stands at the lowest level of his presidency." While the president's popularity hits rock bottom, Congress' approval rating, less than 10 percent, is at its all-time low. So why are people disenchanted with politicians as well as our system? Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that seven years after the start of the Great Recession, the employment level has barely budged above its level in 2006, as millions of people have become so discouraged that they have simply dropped out of the labor force. Or it may be because median income is down by $5,000, with the rate of poverty the worst in more than 50 years. Meanwhile, federal debt has climbed by over $8 trillion, with the Federal Reserve spending an additional $4 trillion to bail out the financial system.

According to the latest government statistics, the unemployment rate has dropped below 6 percent compared to around 10 percent in 2010. Then why is the nation still in a sour mood? In the words of Steve Liesman, a CNBC Senior Economics Reporter, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted at the end of September indicates that "Americans' view of President Barack Obama's economic leadership stands at the lowest level of his presidency." While the president's popularity hits rock bottom, Congress' approval rating, less than 10 percent, is at its all-time low. So why are people disenchanted with politicians as well as our system? Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that seven years after the start of the Great Recession, the employment level has barely budged above its level in 2006, as millions of people have become so discouraged that they have simply dropped out of the labor force. Or it may be because median income is down by $5,000, with the rate of poverty the worst in more than 50 years. Meanwhile, federal debt has climbed by over $8 trillion, with the Federal Reserve spending an additional $4 trillion to bail out the financial system.

People wonder why this $12 trillion worth of stimulus has not even restored the status quo. The answer comes from a recent book by Apek Mulay entitled, Mass Capitalism: A Blue Print for Economic Revival. The author is an engineer by profession with a passion for economics, especially macroeconomics. While most experts blame the worst recession since the 1930s on the collapse of the housing market and the resulting banking crisis, Mr. Mulay sees the culprit primarily in the lack of competition among giant firms that dominate numerous industries in the United States. These firms charge high prices, pay low wages, lay off workers at will and engage in large scale outsourcing. As a consequence, their profits keep rising while the middle class suffers through dwindling wages and frequently part-time jobs.

Mr. Mulay then turns his attention to the semi-conductor industry, which is his forte, as he worked as an engineer for several years. This industry has been on the downhill along with many others. It is well known that manufacturing is fast becoming an endangered species in the United States, employing less than 10 percent of the labor force. Semiconductors have been hit especially hard by low-wage competition from China and some other Asian nations. According to Mr. Mulay, this industry can be revived with the help of a new system that may appropriately be called economic democracy, where the majority shares of a company are in the hands of employees themselves. In this system, the workers control the board of directors who in turn appoint key officers in management.  Such is the idea behind mass capitalism, the phrase being synonymous with economic democracy. Ownership of shares will make employees give their best to their companies. They will work very hard to bring down the cost of production and thus be able to compete with low-wage foreign firms. This is Mulay's blue print for the revival of not only the semi-conductors, but also all other manufacturing industries in the United States. As a result, employment and real wages will rise in the entire economy, while poverty will slowly vanish.

Mulay is highly critical of the current system which to him only makes the rich richer, while wages stagnate and poverty keeps rising. When employees own the majority of a company's shares, the CEO will be sensitive to the needs of the workers whose wages will rise with their talent and skills. This will bring an end to wage stagnation, and the living standard will start to rise for all.

Mulay offers a fresh approach to America's myriad economic problems. It is a thoughtful departure from the conventional view that blames our travails on reckless banks and their speculation. While the financial system is not without fault, the main problem lies in oligopolies that dominate industry after industry in the United States.

However, Mr. Mulay leaves one question unanswered. Who will bring about the system of mass capitalism? I guess given the vast unpopularity of our political institutions and the resulting economy, the system will evolve itself. That is why mass capitalism appears to be the wave of the future. It is clearly unrealistic now, but if $12 trillion spent by the government and the Federal Reserve are unable to restore the economic conditions that prevailed in 2006, mass capitalism may be the only way to eradicate unemployment and poverty in America.

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SpeakOut Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:16:58 -0400
Open Letter to Temple University on Disclosure of Funding Sources for Research http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26841-open-letter-to-temple-university-on-disclosure-of-funding-sources-for-research http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26841-open-letter-to-temple-university-on-disclosure-of-funding-sources-for-research

Dear Members of the Board of Trustees:

We, the undersigned current and former faculty members and scholars at institutions of higher learning, submit this joint letter in reference to a controversy concerning the integrity of academic research at Temple University.

According to recent news reports, a working paper released last year by Temple Professors Simon Hakim and Edwin A. Blackstone, entitled "Cost Analysis of Public and Contractor-Operated Prisons," did not initially disclose that the study had received funding from the nation's three largest for-profit prison companies.

Susan Snyder's article at the Philadelphia Inquirer Temple probing funding of two professors’ research describes the background to the following open letter.

October 14, 2014

 

Office of the Secretary

Sullivan Hall - 3rd Floor Mezzanine

Temple University

Philadelphia, PA 19122

 

RE:  Temple University Policy for Disclosure of Research Funding

 

Dear Members of the Board of Trustees:

We, the undersigned current and former faculty members and scholars at institutions of higher learning, submit this joint letter in reference to a controversy concerning the integrity of academic research at Temple University.

According to recent news reports, a working paper released last year by Temple Professors Simon Hakim and Edwin A. Blackstone, entitled "Cost Analysis of Public and Contractor-Operated Prisons," did not initially disclose that the study had received funding from the nation's three largest for-profit prison companies.

In addition, when Professors Hakim and Blackstone submitted editorials to at least five newspapers concerning their research findings, the majority of their editorials failed to disclose the corporate funding they received from the private prison industry.

When questioned about this lack of disclosure, Professor Hakim was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 10, 2014 (enclosed) as saying: "It's not that important."

We disagree.

While we take no position on the methodology and conclusions of Professor Hakim and Blackstone's study, we are troubled about the lack of transparency and adequate disclosure of the funding source of their research.

Working papers released in advance of publication may circulate for a lengthy period of time, in some cases for years, before the research is peer reviewed and published. In other cases the research may never be published, leaving the working paper as the only version of a study made publicly available.

Further, editorials are intended to inform and influence, and disclosure of a study's funding source in such writings is essential to ensure that the public is fully informed with respect to material issues such as actual or apparent conflicts of interest.

In this case, we believe it is material that Professor Hakim and Blackstone's cost analysis of private and public prisons was funded by the very industry that is the subject of the study and which stands to benefit from the findings of same.

We understand that an ethics complaint was filed against Professors Hakim and Blackstone regarding their failure to adequately disclose the funding source of their study, and that the University took action as a result (see enclosed July 16, 2014 Inquirer article). While that is encouraging, unless policy changes are made there is no guarantee that future research by Temple staff will include transparent disclosure of corporate funding sources.

Therefore, we urge Temple University to adopt a formal policy requiring disclosure of the funding sources for academic research at all stages of the publication process—including working papers—as well as for other writings produced by all faculty members related to their research, such as editorials and white papers, that are made publicly available.

We submit that the integrity of academic research at Temple University requires nothing less and that Temple has a responsibility to its faculty and the public to adopt such a policy.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter;

Sincerely,

(Institutional affiliations below are included for identification purposes only; signatories are in their individual capacities)

Byron E. Price, Ph.D.

Professor of Public Administration

Medgar Evers College, CUNY

 

Michelle Alexander

Associate Professor of Law

Ohio State University

 

Professor Robert Barsky

Department of French and Italian

Vanderbilt University

 

Joanne Belknap, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology

University of Colorado Boulder

 

C. George Caffentzis

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy

University of Southern Maine

 

Andrew Dilts

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Loyola Marymount University

 

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Professor Emerita

California State University, East Bay

 

Sara M. Evans

Regents Professor Emerita

University of Minnesota​

 

Eric M. Fink

Associate Professor of Law

Elon University School of Law

 

Robert Gable, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, Emeritus

Claremont Graduate University

 

Dr. Lisa Guenther

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy

Vanderbilt University

 

Dr. Hans B. Hallundbaek, M-Div, D-Min.

Adjunct Professor Ethics and Prison Issues

Marist College

 

Dr. Grace Hunt

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Western Kentucky University 

 

Marie Kennedy

Professor Emerita of Community Planning

University of Massachusetts Boston

Visiting Professor in Urban Planning

University of California Los Angeles

 

Paul Landsbergis, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Associate Professor

School of Public Health

State University of New York-Downstate Medical Center

 

Lewis L. Laska

Professor of Business Law

Tennessee State University

 

Dr. Paul Leighton

Dept of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology

Eastern Michigan University

 

Mechthild Nagel, Ph.D.

Professor of Philosophy

SUNY Cortland

Visiting Fellow, Cornell University

 

Professor Nicole Rafter

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Northeastern University

 

Professor Norma M. Riccucci

School of Public Affairs & Administration

Rutgers University

 

Gwenola Ricordeau, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

University of Lille (France)

 

Marguerite G. Rosenthal, Ph.D.

Professor Emerita, School of Social Work

Salem State University

 

Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ph.D.

Professor, School of Criminal Justice

University of Baltimore

 

D. Fairchild Ruggles

Department of Landscape Architecture

University of Illinois, Urbana-Illinois

 

Amy L. Sayward

Professor of History

Middle Tennessee State University

 

Dr. Shannon Speed

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Director, Native American and Indigenous Studies

University of Texas at Austin

 

William Sullivan

Professor of Landscape Architecture

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 

Chris Tilly

Professor, Dept. of Urban Planning

University of California Los Angeles

 

Sam Vong, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor

Gustavus Adolphus College

 

Janet L. Wolf

Adjunct Professor

New Brunswick Theological Seminary

 

 

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SpeakOut Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:13:04 -0400
Greed as a Mental Health Disorder http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26840-greed-as-a-mental-health-disorder http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26840-greed-as-a-mental-health-disorder

During a recent discussion of narcissism on the TV program "The View," Rosie O'Donnell was told that the condition is "a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of self and their own importance and a deep need for admiration." She replied, "That's every celebrity I know, including me!"

That's great candor from an entertaining lady. We might practice candor, too, by expanding our understanding of mental disorders to include the problem of greed. Both narcissism and greed produce personal and national self-sabotage.

During a recent discussion of narcissism on the TV program "The View," Rosie O'Donnell was told that the condition is "a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of self and their own importance and a deep need for admiration." She replied, "That's every celebrity I know, including me!"

That's great candor from an entertaining lady. We might practice candor, too, by expanding our understanding of mental disorders to include the problem of greed. Both narcissism and greed produce personal and national self-sabotage.

Greed is a factor in the well-documented growing concentration of wealth in the United States. The super-rich claim to deserve their wealth, but it's likely that greed - not wisdom or common sense much less the common good - was a factor in the creation over the past decades of a "financialized" economy that unduly tilts the playing field in favor of those with the most capital to speculate.

Yet people don't have to be rich to have the disorder; greed about money is all it takes. As a psychiatric diagnosis, it could be called the Great Gatsby Syndrome or, better yet, Wealth Accumulation Disorder.

Both narcissism and greed have their roots in profound self-doubt. Narcissism is self-aggrandizement of the emotional kind, while greed is self-aggrandizement of the materialistic kind. Narcissism (when it occurs as pervasive grandiosity) is listed as a mental disorder in psychiatry's diagnostic manual. Why not greed?

Narcissism and greed have other aspects in common. They both arise as disorders in people who, in their unconscious mind, are aligned with the conviction that they're lacking in importance, significance, or value. Such people have difficulty feeling or accessing their own essential value. Instead, a deep negative sense of self contaminates their emotional life, and they resonate or identify with this inner default position.

Narcissists deny or cover up inner truth by believing, as they shower themselves in self-admiration, that they truly want admiration from others. Greedy individuals, meanwhile, believe they really want to feel value and worthiness, yet they go chasing after an illusion of value - materialistic self-aggrandizement -that can only deepen self-alienation.

All of us experience self-alienation at times. Consciously, we all want to feel that we're important and that we have value. On an unconscious level, though, many of us still identify with ourselves through painful self-doubt, emptiness, powerlessness, and unworthiness. Through resistance and denial, we can stubbornly hold on to this old painful sense of self. The dark secret we refuse to acknowledge is our unconscious determination to continue to live through this familiar old identification. Many of us refuse to "die" to this identification and be reborn with a fresh, renewed consciousness. Wealth and fame don't alter this inner situation.

Many painful afflictions are symptoms of our self-doubt, including vanity, anxiety, depression, indecision, confusion, and loneliness. What's especially troubling for us, individually and for society, is the lack of understanding we bring to the problem.

A defense is employed to cover up one's inner determination to hold on to an old identification rooted in self-alienation: "I'm not interested in feeling devalued or unworthy. Look at how much I give value to myself (through narcissism or through wealth). Look at how good I feel when I give myself this value or sense of importance. That proves I'm not at all interested in feeling unworthy." This defense is a lie such people tell themselves, and it only makes them more desperate for wealth or recognition.

Narcissists and the greedy compensate for their self-doubt by giving themselves an inflated sense of importance, while they project on to others their own repressed feelings of unworthiness. "They're the unworthy ones," their projection asserts, "not me!" Scorn and cold-heartedness arise out of such projections.

Let's look in more detail at the problem of greed, which so often manifests as the compulsive accumulation of wealth. Many people who are wealthy do conduct themselves with honesty, integrity, and compassion. But others among them are dependent emotionally on their wealth. They can't see how unevolved they are. They lack in the ability to feel inner richness. They feel themselves to be people of substance, but that impression is a narcissistic gratification that sits astride their wealth and power.

For people so afflicted, the gratification, security and superiority they feel from whatever wealth they possess are precious as the family jewels. The more they value these jewels, the more they live in fear of losing them. They're compelled to experience this fear because the fear is served up as a psychological defense. The defense operates on this basis: "I'm not looking to experience myself through the familiar old feelings of self-doubt, emptiness, and unworthiness. Look at how fearful I am that I might lose my wealth and be plunged into those painful emotions. Look at how desperate I am to acquire more wealth. That proves I want to feel even more confident and superior."

Their instinct is to hold on tightly to their material assets and sense of superiority because to lose them, they feel, is to collapse, to become an ordinary peon, and to sink into disgrace. Greed and egotistical striving become frantic pursuits designed to avoid this "terrible fate." Meanwhile, the mental disorder creates the illusion of possessing the keys to fulfillment, happiness, and even life itself.

Because wealth hoarding is so damaging to the aspirations of worthy everyday people, those who live sheltered in their wealth and identified with it may be conducting themselves with the kind of insensibility and ignorance that in the past possessed the mind of slave-holders. Our collective well-being, even survival, may depend on these people quickly becoming more conscious and liberating themselves from the chains of their psychological enslavement.

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SpeakOut Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:03:31 -0400
On October 15, the United Nations Will Fail Haiti Once Again http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26839-on-october-15-the-united-nations-will-fail-haiti-once-again http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26839-on-october-15-the-united-nations-will-fail-haiti-once-again

On October 15, the United Nations Security Council will meet to "debate" the extension of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) which has acted as an occupying force in the country since the summer of 2004. MINUSTAH was created to put an end to the UN Multinational Interim Force (primarily made up of US, French, Canadian and Chilean troops) which occupied Haiti after an internationally-backed coup d'état ousted the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party from power on February 29, 2004.

During these ten years, MINUSTAH has compiled a horrific record of human rights abuses, including but not limited to extrajudicial murder, repeated sexual assault against Haitian men, women and children, the repression of peaceful political protests, in addition to unleashing cholera through criminal negligence which has caused the death of over 9,000 people and infected nearly a million more. Despite these well documented abuses, the historical record has shown that the Security Council will mostly likely renew MINUSTAH for another year without any thought of damage being done to Haiti. On August 21, MINUSTAH's budget was extended to June 2015, a clear signal that the occupation is certain to continue. 

On October 15, the United Nations Security Council will meet to "debate" the extension of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) which has acted as an occupying force in the country since the summer of 2004. MINUSTAH was created to put an end to the UN Multinational Interim Force (primarily made up of US, French, Canadian and Chilean troops) which occupied Haiti after an internationally-backed coup d'état ousted the democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party from power on February 29, 2004.

During these ten years, MINUSTAH has compiled a horrific record of human rights abuses, including but not limited to extrajudicial murder, repeated sexual assault against Haitian men, women and children, the repression of peaceful political protests, in addition to unleashing cholera through criminal negligence which has caused the death of over 9,000 people and infected nearly a million more. Despite these well documented abuses, the historical record has shown that the Security Council will mostly likely renew MINUSTAH for another year without any thought of damage being done to Haiti. On August 21, MINUSTAH's budget was extended to June 2015, a clear signal that the occupation is certain to continue. 

When one examines the level of instability in Haiti which is used as the justification for MINUSTAH's continued presence in the country, the United Nations' argument of protecting the Haitian people from themselves falls flat. Despite the mainstream media portrayal of Haiti as a lawless and dangerous country, in 2012, it had a homicide rate of 10.2 per 100,000 people, ranking it as one of the least violent countries in Latin America and the Caribbean – in contrast to Washington DC which sat at 13.71 per 100,000.

In fact, under MINUSTAH, between 2007 and 2012, Haiti's homicide rate doubled, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, from 5.1 to 10.2 per 100,000.

For the fiscal year running from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, $609.18 million was allocated to MINUSTAH. In the ten years in which MINUSTAH has been operational, its total budget has exceeded $5.5 billion. If this same amount had been applied towards human development in the form of investments in clean water, sanitation, healthcare and education – Haiti could begin to enjoy some level of social wellbeing.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti is not based on any principles of humanitarianism, but rather those of an imperialist occupation which seeks to make sure that the island's government can implement and maintain repressive policies favorable to international investors. The reasons for MINUSTAH's continued presence in Haiti were confirmed thanks to revelations by WikiLeaks. In one of the most up-front classified cables, on October 1, 2008, US Ambassador Janet Sanderson stated that, "A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government…vulnerable to…resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces - reversing gains of the last two years."

The corrupt and repressive regime of President Michel Martelly has proudly boasted that "Haiti is open for business." Indeed, this is true – however it is the people and the land that are being sold. Canadian mining companies like St. Genevieve Resources Ltd and Eurasian Minerals have taken advantage of weak laws to prospect new sites covering enormous swaths of territory (an estimated 1/3 of northern Haiti has been granted to companies via permit), setting up the potential for substantial displacement through forced evictions and environmental destruction. Montreal-based Gildan Activewear (the world's largest manufacturer of blank T-shirts) has routinely pressured the Haitian government to block an increase in Haiti's abysmally low daily minimum wageand has undermined unionization efforts in its plants. 

MINUSTAH's record of human rights abuses and its introduction of cholera are more than enough grounds to revoke its mandate. Yet for geopolitical and economic reasons, this does not happen.

As people of good conscience, citizens of the world and principled internationalists, we collectively have the capacity and the resources to force an end to the military occupation of Haiti. To stand in solidarity with the laboring classes in Haiti, if we must participate in campaigns in Canada and across the world that pressure contributing states to end their provision of military and police personnel to MINUSTAH's occupation force.

Our opposition to the military occupation of Haiti ought to take the form of grassroots-oriented campaigns that educate and mobilize membership-based organizations to add the end to the occupation to their organizational program. It is critically necessary to reach out to the people in the spaces in which they are present, and offer specific actions that they may carry out to force the withdrawal of the occupation troops.

We have a moral and political obligation to support the struggle for self-determination by the popular classes in Haiti. The successful Haitian Revolution eliminated the enslavement of Afrikans in Haiti, and lit the fire of freedom in slaveholding states in the Americas.

The people of Haiti demonstrated their solidarity with the colonized peoples in South America by providing a place of refuge, guns, ammunition, personnel and a printing press to Simon Bolivar's campaign to liberate the region from Spanish colonialism. As we work to rid Haiti of MINUSTAH's occupation forces, we ought to be motivated by the fact that we are continuing a long and proud tradition of people-to-people solidarity in support of emancipation in the Americas. Haiti is the architect and pioneer of this principled political tradition. We should remember this legacy as we call for the Security Council to pull out the occupation troops from Haiti.

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SpeakOut Wed, 15 Oct 2014 12:53:29 -0400
It is Time for the Deporter-in-Chief to Act http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26836-it-is-time-for-the-deporter-in-chief-to-act http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26836-it-is-time-for-the-deporter-in-chief-to-act

On September 6th, 2014 President Obama, sometimes known as the deporter-in-chief, announced his plan to delay executive action on immigration until after the election. President Obama caved  on his own pledge to issue administrative relief by the end of summer if the Congress did not act. This delay is simply wrong.

It is estimated that about 1,100 people are being torn apart from their loved ones everyday. While families are separated everyday, this country's so-called leaders are pointing fingers at each other and refusing to accept their responsibility to serve the people. The Republican Party, the henchmen for the Top 1 percent, is blaming President Obama because they can't "trust" him. Spineless Democrats are blaming Republicans for not passing comprehensive immigration reform, a bill designed to minimize 11.5 million people's pathway to citizenship while benefittingthe prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex. The Obama administration was able to recuse itself from its draconian deportation policy by blaming the Congress, but the administration cannot hide anymore.

On September 6th, 2014 President Obama, sometimes known as the deporter-in-chief, announced his plan to delay executive action on immigration until after the election. President Obama caved  on his own pledge to issue administrative relief by the end of summer if the Congress did not act. This delay is simply wrong.

It is estimated that about 1,100 people are being torn apart from their loved ones everyday. While families are separated everyday, this country's so-called leaders are pointing fingers at each other and refusing to accept their responsibility to serve the people. The Republican Party, the henchmen for the Top 1 percent, is blaming President Obama because they can't "trust" him. Spineless Democrats are blaming Republicans for not passing comprehensive immigration reform, a bill designed to minimize 11.5 million people's pathway to citizenship while benefittingthe prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex. The Obama administration was able to recuse itself from its draconian deportation policy by blaming the Congress, but the administration cannot hide anymore.

After the National Day of Action on April 5th, it became clear that record-breaking deportations cannot be ignored anymore. On April 5th, immigrant rights organizers and advocates from 80 cities joined the National Day Laborer Organizing Network's effort to protest more than 2 million deportations under the Obama administration. Among the 2 million people deported, 250,000 were of Asian Pacific Islander heritage. This unfathomable number simply exceeds any previous administration's deportation record. As the esteemed Judge Learned Land said in 1920s,

"Deportation is… exile, a dreadful punishment, abandoned by the common consent of all civilized peoples...that our reasonable efforts to rid ourselves be attended by such a cruel and barbarous result would be a national reproach." [1]

The amount of pain and suffering caused by Obama's draconian policy is indescribable. President Obama rightly earned his title Deporter-in-Chief. His administration recently broke its own record on deportation yet again.

Personally, I am very well aware of what families experience when their loved ones are in deportation proceedings. I was in deportation proceeding myself. In 2008, border patrol agents arrested me while I was traveling alone after high school graduation. I spent about a month in detention centers until I was released on bond. During my all four years of college, I lived under constant fear of deportation. Although there was prosecutorial discretion, the 1 percent approval rate of the program at the time did not give me any hope. That feeling of hopelessness and despair still haunt me to this date. I was only relieved from the fear once the Deferred Action for early Childhood Arrival or DACA was announced.

After college, I moved to San Francisco and I joined ASPIRE, the first Asian Pacific Islander undocumented youth group in the nation. After spending my entire college career living in fear, I realized that I need to raise my voice and join the movement. Also, I need to fight for my parents, who sacrificed everything in hopes of providing for their family. Although I was fortunate enough to have temporary relief from deportation, my parents do not have that protection.

Nonetheless, it has been a painful journey to watch politicians use the immigration issue as a political tool to gain votes again and again while many pro-immigrant organizations remain unable to confront the White House's refusal to act. Some advocates argue that there is still a chance for the Congress to act. However, Congress had more than a year to act, but is simply too paralyzed to perform its basic function. It is absurd to rely on a dysfunctional institution to address this urgent matter while millions of families remain in fear of separation. Right now, at this moment, President Obama can ameliorate millions of undocumented immigrants' pain with a stroke of a pen. And yet, he is again positioning himself as a "neutral" observer waiting until the midterm election is over. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

"I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." [2]

Obama's refusal to issue administrative relief reveals his moral bankruptcy more than anything else. It is time for President Obama to act. If he is not willing to act, immigrant rights organizers and activists need to make him act. Just like Ju Hong and Blanca Hernandez, who courageously confronted President Obama during his speech, immigrant rights activists and organizers must directly aim at President Obama to issue administrative relief for all 11.5 million undocumented immigrants. 

 Notes

1. Ngai, Mae M.. Impossible subjects: illegal aliens and the making of modern America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004. Pg 81

2. "MLK Sermon: Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam." The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (accessed October 4, 2014).

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SpeakOut Wed, 15 Oct 2014 12:28:56 -0400
Duvalier: Dead But Not Gone http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26835-duvalier-dead-but-not-gone http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26835-duvalier-dead-but-not-gone

Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, responsible for the death of thousands and the theft of millions, who moved openly in the society of Haitian elites protected by the government, died on October 4 a free man. He reportedly suffered a heart attack at the home of an associate in a wealthy enclave above Port-au-Prince.

Meanwhile former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who helped build the movement to drive Duvalier from power in 1986, who was twice elected president with huge majorities only to be overthrown by US backed coups, and who as president created more schools in a decade than had been created in all of Haiti's previous 200 year history, is now forced to live under “house arrest,” a concept unknown in Haitian law, with his home surrounded by heavily armed police wearing black ski masks. He’s falsely accused of “corruption,” charges levied and dismissed for the past 10 years in Haitian and Miami courts.

Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, responsible for the death of thousands and the theft of millions, who moved openly in the society of Haitian elites protected by the government, died on October 4 a free man. He reportedly suffered a heart attack at the home of an associate in a wealthy enclave above Port-au-Prince.

Meanwhile former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who helped build the movement to drive Duvalier from power in 1986, who was twice elected president with huge majorities only to be overthrown by US backed coups, and who as president created more schools in a decade than had been created in all of Haiti's previous 200 year history, is now forced to live under “house arrest,” a concept unknown in Haitian law, with his home surrounded by heavily armed police wearing black ski masks. He’s falsely accused of “corruption,” charges levied and dismissed for the past 10 years in Haitian and Miami courts.

Baby Doc may be dead, but Duvalierism is embedded in this upside down Haiti of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their presidential puppet, Michel Martelly.

Duvalierism is embedded in the Royal Oasis Hotel, partially funded by the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a “symbol of the new Haïti” that now provides tourists, NGO and foreign officials an “oasis” to shield them from the lives of the overwhelming majority of Haitians.

It lives in the increasing rule by decree without parliamentary input, and federal government appointments to replace locally elected officials.

It’s embedded in a Martelly administration filled with Duvalierists including former Haitian army officer David Bazile the Interior Minister, and Magalie Racine, daughter of former Tonton Macoute militia chief Madame Max Adolphe, the Youth and Sports Minister. Public Works Secretary of State Philippe Cinéas is the son of longtime Duvalierist figure Alix Cinéas. In addition Duvalier’s son, Nicolas, is a close Martelly advisor.

Duvalierism is embedded in a corrupt legal system that allows Martelly to appoint Lamarre Belizaire as a judge although he was not qualified, and despite the fact the Port-au-Prince bar has banned Belizaire from practicing law for 10 years for collaboration in the arrest of attorney Andre Michel, who brought corruption charges against Martelly’s wife and son. It was Belizaire who issued the house arrest warrant for Aristide and the recent warrant for Jean Nadal Aristide, arrested on October 4th, one of the outspoken leaders of the march on September 30th held to commemorate the 1991 coup against Aristide and to protest his house arrest.

It lives in the corruption of a $1.50 tax on money transfers and a 5 cent per minute tax on phone calls to Haiti to support “education,” never ratified by or presented to Haiti’s Parliament making them illegal, as most Haitians continue to face unaffordable school fees, and most Haitian teachers have not been paid for months.

It lives in Martelly’s travel per diem of $20,000 a day, as his wife receives $10,000, his children $7,500, and others in his inner circle get $4,000 daily.

It lives in the destruction of encampments of tens of thousands of still homeless earthquake survivors, condemning them to a purgatory of barren land far from any basic services.

It lives in the dubious use of "eminent domain" to seize homes and properties of downtown Port-au-Prince residents under the guise of “redevelopment,” to benefit Martelly cronies.

It survives in the illegal seizure of property rights of those who have lived for generations on the island of Ile a Vache, plowing down beautiful forest land to build an airport and roads to develop luxury resorts.

It’s embedded in the Caracol sweatshop free trade zone, partially funded by the Clinton Foundation, constructed in the north with earthquake funds, although the earthquake didn’t affect the north.

It’s embedded in the creation of a new army being trained to replace the United Nations MINUSTAH occupation force - an army of dictatorship that will be used to terrorize its own people, like those men now standing in black ski masks outside the home of President Aristide. One of the most popular acts of Aristide’s first administration was to disband the predatory army in 1995.

Haitians have worked tirelessly to purge their country of Duvalierism since they forced Baby Doc to flee in 1986, but like a zombie that just won’t stay dead, he returned in 2011 with the blessing of Michel Martelly. Duvalierism won’t die because it’s embedded in an economic system controlled by international capital and imposed by an international military force, whose driving imperative is to create massive individual wealth and power for the few at the expense of the many. The gross excesses of the Duvaliers are but one example. 

But Haitians do not forget the great accomplishments of the Aristide and Lavalas governments, and they’re not willing to go back to the torture, murder, and rape of the Duvalier days. They protest in the streets almost daily and watch over the Aristide home in driving rain.

And from his home, Aristide continues to do exactly what he promised he would do when he returned – educate. UNIFA, the University of the Aristide Foundation, just opened for its third year with over 1000 students. The original Medical school has grown to include schools in Nursing, Law and Physical Therapy.

During the 2004 coup, the United States army closed the school and seized the grounds to make it their military headquarters. Aristide and his wife, Mildred, reopened it upon their return from forced exile. UNIFA and the Aristide Foundation headquarters serve as vibrant community centers for education and organizing. As such they present a challenge to Martelly’s corrupt administration, whose brutality and vengefulness threaten not only Aristide’s person and the institutions he’s founded, but the essence of democracy in Haiti.

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SpeakOut Wed, 15 Oct 2014 12:19:19 -0400
It's the Stupid, Stupid http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26815-it-s-the-stupid-stupid http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26815-it-s-the-stupid-stupid

Barack Obama is not stupid and he says he doesn't want his administration to do "stupid things" in foreign policy. So why, then, has he done a reckless, stupid thing by starting a new, two-theater war in the Middle East? And why does that war in Syria have to commence right now as an existential necessity?

Even though I don't agree, I can at least somewhat understand a rush to war when it comes to Iraq. The corruption and vacuum of leadership in that country opened up a rich shaft for the extremist jihadis of ISIS to mine -- and they are moving inexorably toward Baghdad. But what was the absolute moral hurry to bomb inside Syria?; you mean the operation couldn't have waited a few weeks so there could be a full-scale national debate, both in Congress and in the American polity in general, about the wisdom of such a dangerous move? 

Barack Obama is not stupid and he says he doesn't want his administration to do "stupid things" in foreign policy. So why, then, has he done a reckless, stupid thing by starting a new, two-theater war in the Middle East? And why does that war in Syria have to commence right now as an existential necessity?

Even though I don't agree, I can at least somewhat understand a rush to war when it comes to Iraq. The corruption and vacuum of leadership in that country opened up a rich shaft for the extremist jihadis of ISIS to mine -- and they are moving inexorably toward Baghdad. But what was the absolute moral hurry to bomb inside Syria?; you mean the operation couldn't have waited a few weeks so there could be a full-scale national debate, both in Congress and in the American polity in general, about the wisdom of such a dangerous move? 

We should always be wary of hurry-up wars; someone (usually with $omething to gain) is trying to rush things along before the public remembers the previous such wars and how disastrous those turned out. 

This whole Mideast situation is a chaotic mess, which cries out for more rational analysis. So let's try to parse out as much as we can in terms of possible motives for war, along with pointing out the scary ramifications that always attend The Dumb. Here are 10 places to start.

1. Muscle Beach

Ronald Reagan and CheneyBush were celebrated by the Right and some Independents for their "muscular" military policy -- that is, taking the country to war. So Obama for years has been covering his, and Democrats', perceived electoral vulnerability of being seen as "weak" and wishy-washy when it comes to national-security issues.  

The speeches Obama has given in the past few weeks, justifying his somewhat amorphous military plans to crush and destroy ISIS could have been delivered word for word by George W.  No wonder the Hard Right Republicans are celebrating -- while they lobby for sending foot-soldiers into Iraq and Syria ASAP. And no wonder the liberal left is discombobulated by their formerly anti-war leader's dash toward militarism, especially with regard to bombing inside Syria. 

2. Neo-Cons 2.0

The Cheney-ite neo-conservatives have a simple way of viewing the world: To them, the US is the last remaining superpower and thus it should move aggressively to mold the world in its image, even if it takes a few more wars. The problem with such thinking is that such a geopolitical strategy didn't work in the 1990s and it won't work now: so many modern-day wars are asymmetrical and difficult for large, musclebound nations like the US to fight successfully (see Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.)

From the standpoint of these smaller countries, "success" in this context means to bleed the superpower with a thousand cuts over many years. Stalemate becomes victory, since eventually the American citizenry grows weary of military quagmires and withdraws from the battlefield.

Why the rush to war in Syria? I suspect that Obama and his military advisors saw a golden window of opportunity they couldn't resist: a greatly distracted Assad, an enemy in ISIS that almost invited the initial bombing runs and missile attacks by massing men and materiel right out in the open, a violent Sunni/Shia split in Islam, some Arab cheerleaders anxious to rein in extremist jihadis, the president free to act on his own since the US Congress wanted to keep its fingerprints off a new Middle East war (hence, no debate), especially right before the midterm election.   

3. A True Believer?

Another possibility: What if Obama's war posture is not an act? Maybe he really believes what he's saying. The progressive Left chose to see Obama as a liberal activist when he actually was much closer to the center-Right and beholden to the prevailing corporate worldview. He certainly was no pacifist. Recall that when the President received his Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, his acceptance speech to the assembled diplomats in Oslo inexplicably was a defense of going to war -- the "just war" argument. 

Obama today may truly believe in his own propaganda, that ISIS is the latest manifestation of pure evil and must be eradicated; forget the fact that many of the ISIS fighters originally were recruited, armed and encouraged by the US as tough fighters in the Syrian opposition. Now Obama wants ISIS to be ripped, root and branch, from the face of the earth, despite opposition from potential allies.

Surely, Obama sees that no country is champing at the bit to put its soldiers on the ground in Syria. If other nations want to help at all in the Syrian theater, it will be mostly from the air and will mainly be in service to the US air force and drones. (A somewhat reluctant Turkey seems willing to send combat troops, if it has to.)

As for the US, Obama promises no boots on the ground, unless there's a damn good reason to do so. And, as the American people have figured out (see recent polls), there will be a "damn good reason" to do so.

Since Obama is not stupid, he must know that it won't take much to make the US change its mind about BOTG (boots on the ground). All it will take is a US aircraft shot down by ISIS or Syrian missile, or when US military members are taken prisoner and threatened with beheading, or when some major act of ISIS terrorism occurs inside "The Homeland" -- or that can be blamed on ISIS Central, even if done by free-lancing jihadis. You can bet that in such circumstances, there will be BOTG very quickly, whether those of active-duty soldiers or large numbers of special forces operators. 

4. The True Target in Syria

The bombs raining down on Syria from the air are aimed at ISIS facilities and troops, but the actual goal is regime change in Damascus. (And, after that, maybe Iran.)

Surely, Syria's leader, Bashar al-Assad, can see the handwriting on the wall, that he's next in the US crosshairs, so why is he being so relatively quiet as his country's sovereignty is violated every day by US bombers and missiles? 

It seems clear, at least to me, that some accommodation with Assad -- perhaps with tacit promises of weapon and cash -- was reached before the US bombing campaign began. In its most simplistic tactical form, that deal might have been something like this: "You stay out of our way -- we will let you know in which regions of Syria we will be operating on that day -- and you can continue to rule." Assad perhaps figured: "I need to regroup and grow stronger, so if the US wants to be my air force for a year or two, I'll take it. In the interim, I can try convincing the US that I'm their best hope in the region, even if they say they abhor my methods of control. That might mean that I would effectively be in the same camp as Israel, but 'politics makes for strange bedfellows' and 'the enemy of my enemy is my (temporary) friend'." 

In addition, Assad is playing the nuclear card as further insurance the US will not overthrow him: He's revealed four heretofore secret chemical facilities which, if ISIS were to get ahold of, could ignite a firestorm of death and mass destruction all over the region and beyond.

5. ISIS Strategy

ISIS, at the moment, seems content to be the leading jihadi force in the Middle East region, even though its spokesmen like to poke a verbal stick in the eye of the "Great Satan" by promising attacks eventually on the American homeland.

The eventual goal of ISIS is to establish the modern equivalent of the 7th-century caliphate for all Muslims, and perhaps re-create the Islamic Empire over much of the rest of the world. 

One key to doing this is to enrage the United States and its Western allies enough to draw them into the maelstrom that is the Middle East. Just as Osama bin Laden did with the attacks of 9/11. The naive, angry US snaps up the bait and invades another  Muslim land.

Right now, ISIS is reaping the whirlwind from the air. Lots of damage, losing some momentum and so on, but bearable. What is likely to transpire: ISIS at some point ordering its troops to melt into the villages and urban settings for awhile, while it sharpens its guerrilla tactics and uses its social-network smarts to help round up thousands of new recruits. I would expect terrorist bombings in the capitals of Europe and in those Arab countries (Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, etc.) supporting the US-led war. 

Since it's difficult to root out ISIS fighters from the air, eventually the US and its allies will feel obliged to put boots on the ground, and the mousetrap will snap shut. 

6. "Unintended Consequences"

Wars look so contained and tidy on the map charts when they are started. It doesn't take long before all hell breaks loose and there's no way to put the bloody genie of war back in the bottle. And then the unintended consequences start, and battle plans have to be rethought as the casualties and slaughters commence.

There will be plenty of surprises as the new Syria/Iraq war unravels. But even now, we can anticipate some, such as factions switching sides, high-tech weaponry winding up in ISIS and other jihadi hands, new fighters coming onto the field, alliances breaking apart, key nation-state actors in Europe starting to change their minds, Putin's Russia causing mischief, anti-war protests worldwide starting to grow in size, free-lance terrorists bombing inside the US and its coalition partners, the broadcasting of videos of US coalition tortures, etc. 

Yes, the US military can be amazingly successful at times. But in these wars, there will be no victory. Just slow bleeding -- of US  men and materiel and Americans' sense of themselves as a moral people.

Does that mean that ISIS' barbarities should be ignored? Of course not. Their medieval mentality and cruelties and desire to force conversions on a mass scale to re-establish the Islamic caliphate -- all these must be confronted. Right now, the default mode of that reaction is violence (not that far removed from the extreme wars of The Crusades). The US should be seeking more creative ways, involving larger alliances, and economic and political sanctions, to build a stronger moral/diplomatic/economic/political shield against ISIS. It may not ultimately work, but it can't hurt and might actually help repel the advances of this group of cutthroats.

7. Wise Advice

As the old colonial system broke apart after World War II, the active principle for Western countries was "never fight a war on the landmass of Asia." The new warning should be "never fight a war in the Middle East." In that roiling, unstable part of the world, the social and political infrastructures are infinitely complex, virtually impossible for outsiders to understand, easy to get bogged down in the tribal, clan, religious miasmas, with constantly shifting alliances. In short, it's easy to use missiles and bombs from thousands of feet in the air, but actually getting on the ground and trying to decipher the shadowy social/political rules and subrosa ways of doing business is the very definition of ill-advised policy. Has America learned nothing from its defeats in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan (lessons already learned by the Brits and the Russians in Afghanistan)?

As the US gets bogged down in these new Mideast wars, it will spend down its treasury, its aging infrastructure will continue to deteriorate, the economy will collapse once again, the environment will continue to be degraded, the results of climate change will wreak more havoc on cash-starved localities, the gap between the uber-wealthy and the rest of us will grow larger, social revolution will become more necessary and real in the streets, etc. 

8. Electoral Fallout

It may turn out that the American Left will find itself joining forces, at least temporarily, with the rightist Rand Paulites to demand up-or-down votes on use of military force in Syria/Iraq.

Normally, the ruling party in power can count on the polity rallying around the flag and the troops doing the fighting. But whether the US citizenry will continue to support these newest wars in the Middle East is unclear. It's not even clear which political party is "in power" -- the one that controls the White House? the one that controls the House? -- or which military policies the populace might support: boots on the ground? drone and air force bombing??

My guess as I write this in early October is that the GOP is gaining traction using ISIS ("the terrorists are coming!") to generate fear and anxiety, and that may be enough to tilt the midterm elections in their direction. The Democrats are split on the advisability of Obama's war policies, and may not react in enough time (we're less than a month away from election day) to win enough victories. 

Needless to say, if the Hard Right continues to dominate the House, and becomes the majority in the Senate, the country is in for a catastrophic, post-election hard landing in every area imaginable, from economics to judicial appointments (especially to the Supreme Court) to educational slidebacks to fundamentalism and authoritarianism making massive gains in the public arena.

9. A Humungous Gamble

Obama, it seems to me, is gambling that the good patriotic zeal of finally hitting back at somebody will accrue to the benefit of the Democrats in the midterm elections in November. But I'm not sure Obama can pull it off, hence the gloomy assessments above. Especially if Turkey and then NATO get sucked into the larger war, and Russia feels compelled actively to join the other side. WW3, anyone?

If the Syria/Iraq campaign is still going on in stasis in 2015 and the following year, and is viewed by the US population as "Obama's War," stalemated and unwinnable, the Democrats may pay a high price at the polls in 2016, losing the White House and any hope for real traction in the years following.

10. What Can Be Done?

What the US needs is a full-scale social/political revolution, but though the need is certainly there, the "objective conditions" don't seem to be in forceful play. This is true even as it's becoming more obvious that we are moving slowly, incrementally toward a revolutionary tipping point. 

Less than a month before Election Day, there doesn't seem to be much direction and passion among the liberal/progressive left. Which means that the Democrats' GOTV campaign will amount to little more than reducing the electoral damage rather than offering viable, creative, populist-Democratic alternatives.

If the electoral train hasn't yet left the station, there may still be enough time for the Democrats to kick their strategy into high gear. But the Dems are notorious for snatching defeat out of the jaws of possible victory. As Tiny Tim might have said: "God help us, everyone."

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SpeakOut Tue, 14 Oct 2014 13:45:24 -0400
Student Denounces University of California as Part of Military Industrial Complex http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26814-student-denounces-university-of-california-as-part-of-military-industrial-complex http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26814-student-denounces-university-of-california-as-part-of-military-industrial-complex

Dear Community Studies,

I want to start off by thanking each of you three wonderful women for all of the work you do. Each of you have inspired me in different ways to continue on my path towards helping make the world a better and more peaceful place. I am disappointed, but also excited, to announce that I will be taking a Leave of Absence from the University of California, Santa Cruz this Fall. I have put 3 weeks of critical thinking into this decision, and it has received support from 3 people—two UCSC affiliates and one activist—whose work in and for this world I greatly admire. I consider them my friends and mentors and they have ensured their continued support for my decision and path even if I am not a student of this institution.

I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock since I have recently shown discontent for the UCSC institution. The last two times I have thought about withdrawing from the University I would get excited; and both times I was convinced to stay back in I got sad. This ushered me to really think about what it was that bothered me about being a student of UCSC. While I was never quite able to put my finger on what it was that haunted me on campus, I knew there was something evil working around me. Learning about neoliberalism in Mary-Beth’s Economic Justice class in Fall 2014 was terrifying (you may recall this, Mary Beth). I learned how many of the systems and markets running through our society are inextricably linked—big business, research institutions, the government, higher education, prisons, etc.—and that all of them are more prone to destroy a person’s humanity than enlighten them. At that point, I decided to learn and work from within the system and try to effect change that way.

Dear Community Studies,

I want to start off by thanking each of you three wonderful women for all of the work you do. Each of you have inspired me in different ways to continue on my path towards helping make the world a better and more peaceful place. I am disappointed, but also excited, to announce that I will be taking a Leave of Absence from the University of California, Santa Cruz this Fall. I have put 3 weeks of critical thinking into this decision, and it has received support from 3 people—two UCSC affiliates and one activist—whose work in and for this world I greatly admire. I consider them my friends and mentors and they have ensured their continued support for my decision and path even if I am not a student of this institution.

I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock since I have recently shown discontent for the UCSC institution. The last two times I have thought about withdrawing from the University I would get excited; and both times I was convinced to stay back in I got sad. This ushered me to really think about what it was that bothered me about being a student of UCSC. While I was never quite able to put my finger on what it was that haunted me on campus, I knew there was something evil working around me. Learning about neoliberalism in Mary-Beth’s Economic Justice class in Fall 2014 was terrifying (you may recall this, Mary Beth). I learned how many of the systems and markets running through our society are inextricably linked—big business, research institutions, the government, higher education, prisons, etc.—and that all of them are more prone to destroy a person’s humanity than enlighten them. At that point, I decided to learn and work from within the system and try to effect change that way.

Recently, though, I have been struggling internally trying to figure out why it is so hard for me to be a student of UCSC. Some said I have ‘senioritis’ while others said ‘I just like to rebel against everything.’ Both of those might be true, but surely, I thought to myself, that can’t be the cause of constant heart burn, panic attacks, and night terrors. I knew it wasn’t from the work I do with the Inside Out Writing Project, because I always look forward to seeing my friends inside the Santa Cruz County jail each week and hearing them read their poetry aloud. It wasn’t from the work I do with the women I protest the war with, because I always have this feeling that I am where I’m supposed to be when holding a sign with my fellow friends who care about strangers. It wasn’t from the time I spend with my friends in the homeless community, because I am always inspired by their sense of community and sharing economy despite the hardships they must endure. When I was writing my last paper for field study, it all clicked into place. I cannot morally continue as a student of UCSC while the institution is benefiting from the war; benefiting from the death of the very people I work so hard to help protect, save, and heal. The University of California’s intimate relationship with Lockheed Martin morally prevents me from continuing as a student of the institution.

I cannot get the thought out of my mind that every assignment I turn in feels like a ‘yes’ vote for military action in the Middle East; every sentence I type reminds me of the thousands of innocent people, especially the children, American military weapons are killing; weapons that UCSC helps create. I can feel the pain of Muslims in my wakefulness. I can see their fear in my dreams. This is how deeply I feel the war on campus, to the point of physical and emotional pain.

People tell me it is a privilege to be able to attend a University, and denying that privilege is an insult to those who can’t afford higher education. I disagree. I have come to realize that my privilege is not being able to attend University, but being able to deny that "privilege”. I am privileged in the sense that I see the world and systems for what they are, not what they want us to see. Is a student who doesn’t take their education seriously, doesn’t get a job relating to their major, and ends up tens of thousands of dollars in debt privileged? I don’t think so. According to Forbes magazine, there are only 4 college degrees that score higher than 50% in job placement for graduates; none are over 70%. Most, however, especially those in the social sciences and visual and performing arts, range between 27% and 40%. What that tells me is that higher education is not working in the way students and their families expect it to. What is working, though, are the profiteers building wealth off of student debt; the weapon manufacturers and research institutions who make money off of death; and all the other corrupt systems and institutions that don’t give a shit about you, me, or any other student on campus. If our systems didn’t control society, we wouldn’t be in this terrible position. But, unfortunately, that is not the case. We are controlled by systems run by hateful, greedy, manipulative elites. It is not fair that their pockets fill with dirty wealth while my eyes sting from tears of stress, despair, and grief.

It is both a blessing and burden to look at the University of California system and see the other side of its coin; that which is corrupt, immoral, and damaging. A blessing because I can honestly say that I am not blind nor indifferent; a burden because the flooding of critical understanding of a corrupt system is overwhelming, confusing, and damaging when remaining a part of it. It does not suffice anymore when people tell me "but there are good people working at UC who don’t agree with the politics of it.” While I am incredibly appreciative of what the good, moral people at UCSC do, and the students who are truly working towards effecting change, their good graces can no longer overpower what the institution represents for me. I can no longer remain in bed with an institution that benefits from the death of innocent women, children, men, and babies. I denounce the University system. It is my hope that in my absence from UCSC I can begin to heal my own wounds caused by this place so I can think clearly and critically on what I am meant to do to help change the current state of our society; and to find more people like myself who cannot and will not remain within the corrupt confines of our current dominating systems without risking pieces of their humanity.

Thank you again you three strong, brilliant women for all that you are and all that you do. My denouncement of the institution is not meant to be an insult towards any individual person working or learning from the institution. I am making this decision to ensure that I do not lose myself while trying to help others, and in doing so I hope I will be able to find peace within so I can really begin to help bring peace to the rest of the world. People say peace is utopian, but that does not mean it isn’t achievable. I imagine a future of laughing children, smiling parents, and an economy of happiness. My decision to leave UCSC is me working towards that.

Sincerely,

Marjorie Langdon

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SpeakOut Tue, 14 Oct 2014 13:20:09 -0400
If Only the Washington Post Could Get Its Hand on the Social Security Trustees Report http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26813-if-only-the-washington-post-could-get-its-hand-on-the-social-security-trustees-report http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26813-if-only-the-washington-post-could-get-its-hand-on-the-social-security-trustees-report

It might help editorial page editor Fred Hiatt understand how the budget works. He is appalled because "reactionary defenders" of Social Security think that seniors should be able to get the benefits they paid for. (I wonder if it's reactionary to think that Peter Peterson type billionaires should be able to get the interest on the government bonds that they paid for.)

Anyhow, the basis for Hiatt's fury is that John Podesta, now a top advisor to President Obama, is boasting about entitlements having been brought under control. To Hiatt this is outrageous.

It might help editorial page editor Fred Hiatt understand how the budget works. He is appalled because "reactionary defenders" of Social Security think that seniors should be able to get the benefits they paid for. (I wonder if it's reactionary to think that Peter Peterson type billionaires should be able to get the interest on the government bonds that they paid for.)

Anyhow, the basis for Hiatt's fury is that John Podesta, now a top advisor to President Obama, is boasting about entitlements having been brought under control. To Hiatt this is outrageous.

"Federal debt has reached 74 percent of the economy’s annual output (GDP), 'a higher percentage than at any point in US history except a brief period around World War II,' the CBO says, 'and almost twice the percentage at the end of 2008.' With no change in policy, that percentage will hold steady or decline a bit for a couple of years and then start rising again, to a dangerous 78 percent by 2024 and an insupportable 106 percent by 2039."

Yep, the debt is much higher today than in 2008, so what? Millions of people lost their jobs due to the collapse of the economy. The deficits of the last six years created demand that would not otherwise have been there. It led to more growth and put people back to work. To those in the real world, people losing their jobs and losing their homes, would be the big story. This means kids growing up with unemployed parents and maybe hustling from house to house or even living on the street. But hey, Fred Hiatt wants us to worry about the deficit in 2039.

Just to be clear, the gloom and doom story is all Hiatt's not CBO's, although some readers may be confused by the presentation. There is no obvious negative consequence to a debt to GDP ratio of 74 percent, although readers can get that Fred Hiatt doesn't like it. Nor is there any obvious negative consequence to a debt to GDP of 78 percent by 2024, even if Fred Hiatt calls it "dangerous."

And the assertion that a debt to GDP ratio of 106 percent is insupportable is just Fred Hiatt's invention. There are many countries that have much higher debt to GDP ratios today (Japan's is more than twice as high) and continue to pay very low interest rates on long-term debt. In other words, Fred Hiatt is just like the little kid who who is worried about the monster under his bed when the lights are turned off. Undoubtedly it is very real to him, but when you turn on the lights you can see there is nothing there.

It's worth making a couple of other points about Hiatt's little tirade. First the scenarios assuming "no change in policy" for a quarter century are more than a little bizarre. We have never gone a quarter century or even five years with "no change in policy."  We probably will want to raise taxes somewhere in the next quarter century. We don't have to do that now or even plan for it now. The country has very real problems and need not be bothered by this silliness.

As far as Social Security, if Hiatt could get a copy of the Trustees report he would see that under the law the program can only pay out benefits based on what has been paid in as taxes (this year and prior years, including interest). While this can vary in any given year (right now we are collecting more in revenue than we pay out in taxes), over the program's life it is only authorized to pay benefits if it has collected the revenue in Social Security taxes.

This means that Social Security does not affect the rest of the budget unless Hiatt thinks that we should tell people that we are taxing them for Social Security and then use the money for wars in Iraq or elsewhere. That may sound like good fiscal policy at the Washington Post, but probably won't sell well elsewhere.

Finally, the reason that Medicare costs so much is because we pay our doctors, drug companies and other medical providers far more than they would get in other wealthy countries. If we think of Medicare as an excessive entitlement, the beneficiaries of the excess are the doctors and drug companies, not our seniors. They do not get better medical care than seniors in other countries. (The Post may not want to mention the overpayments to drug companies since they advertise in the paper.) 

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SpeakOut Tue, 14 Oct 2014 13:07:41 -0400
International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings Focus on Inclusiveness and Global Job Growth http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26809-imf-annual-meetings-focus-on-inclusiveness-and-global-job-growth http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26809-imf-annual-meetings-focus-on-inclusiveness-and-global-job-growth

Washington, DC - The Annual International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Meetings are focusing on building an inclusive global economy and creating jobs. Ahead of the meetings, IMF Managing Director Christine LaGarde called for "bolder policies to inject a 'new momentum'" into the global economy. LaGarde warned of high debt and unemployment and increased geopolitical risks associated with conflict and disease.

"The risks the IMF raises are real. We need to address inequality if we are going to grow the global economy," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious anti-poverty organization, Jubilee USA.

Washington, DC - The Annual International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Meetings are focusing on building an inclusive global economy and creating jobs. Ahead of the meetings, IMF Managing Director Christine LaGarde called for "bolder policies to inject a 'new momentum'" into the global economy. LaGarde warned of high debt and unemployment and increased geopolitical risks associated with conflict and disease.

"The risks the IMF raises are real. We need to address inequality if we are going to grow the global economy," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious anti-poverty organization, Jubilee USA.

The IMF notes that sovereign indebtedness is a root cause of inequality and has released a series of papers over the past 18 months aimed at addressing the debt issue. In April of 2013, the IMF released an important paper advocating aspects of an international bankruptcy process to address global inequality. This past June, the IMF released a paper aimed at adding flexibility to the debt restructuring process in a paper on debt profiling. Debt sustainability was a major theme of this year's Spring Meetings. On Monday, the IMF released a significant paper that addresses predatory hedge fund behavior and so-called hold-out investors.

"The IMF needs to be commended for reviewing a number of approaches to stop vulture funds," noted LeCompte. "The IMF recognizes that if predatory and disruptive behavior persists, there need to be changes in US law to prevent the behavior."

The United Nations voted in September to challenge predatory financial behavior by beginning a dialogue on a global bankruptcy process. The UN process seeks to make sovereign defaults less likely and prevent hold-outs from obstructing debt restructurings. The vote puts pressure on the IMF to address the issue and offer solutions. Jubilee USA and the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation are holding a panel during the IMF meetings on Thursday to address some of these issues. The event includes panelists from the IMF, Bank of England, Franklin Templeton, Columbia University and the United Nations.

Read a list of Jubilee USA's IMF events.

Review the press advisory for the IMF debt panel event.

Read more about the IMF's "Strengthening the Contractual Framework to Address Collective Action Problems in Sovereign Debt Restructuring" paper to stop predatory hedge funds.

Read about the IMF's World Economic Outlook Report.

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SpeakOut Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:58:09 -0400
Being Wrong About Islam Is Not Progressive http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26808-being-wrong-about-islam-is-not-progressive http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26808-being-wrong-about-islam-is-not-progressive

Islam is again in the news. This time, the controversy has been spawned by debates over how we in the United States, particularly progressives, "talk about Islam." Bill Maher, Sam Harris and others have argued that we betray our Progressive principles when we fail to denounce anti-progressive beliefs or practices in the Muslim world. In fact, the glaring racism of Maher or Harris is more harmful to progressive views than anything that happens in Bangladesh. First, the views of Maher and others are genuinely racist and not merely impolite. Secondly, such views are not only inimical to progressive thought, but to the progressive agenda.

A progressive believes that socio-economic conditions precede cultural, political and even intellectual ones. Nothing is set in stone. Things change and, hopefully, for the better. We give things a chance to get better when all participate in the conversation to change laws for the better of society as a whole. When only a few people participate in this conversation, that inhibits the potential for things to get better, since experiences are limited and interests are powerful. In the tradition of Rousseau, everyone should participate, as the more experiences we accumulate and deliberate upon, the more robust our discussion and the greater our ability to build upon what we know, in other words progress.

Islam is again in the news. This time, the controversy has been spawned by debates over how we in the United States, particularly progressives, "talk about Islam." Bill Maher, Sam Harris and others have argued that we betray our Progressive principles when we fail to denounce anti-progressive beliefs or practices in the Muslim world. In fact, the glaring racism of Maher or Harris is more harmful to progressive views than anything that happens in Bangladesh. First, the views of Maher and others are genuinely racist and not merely impolite. Secondly, such views are not only inimical to progressive thought, but to the progressive agenda.

A progressive believes that socio-economic conditions precede cultural, political and even intellectual ones. Nothing is set in stone. Things change and, hopefully, for the better. We give things a chance to get better when all participate in the conversation to change laws for the better of society as a whole. When only a few people participate in this conversation, that inhibits the potential for things to get better, since experiences are limited and interests are powerful. In the tradition of Rousseau, everyone should participate, as the more experiences we accumulate and deliberate upon, the more robust our discussion and the greater our ability to build upon what we know, in other words progress.

Thus equality is fundamental to the progressive worldview for it is what ensures a robust discussion amongst society's constituents. Can you imagine if Muslims had a more equal say (in media and the like) in foreign policy affairs? Perhaps we would've avoided the disastrous policies of the Bush administration.

Racism, like others forms of discrimination, imbalances the distribution of voices in the conversation. We are robbed of those experiences which are crucial to making our conversation well-rounded. That Maher and Harris are racists can be proven without even referencing such outright racist comments as Maher's discomfort with Muslim baby names, but rather through the examination of his logic within the context of racism. Racism is by definition the "belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races."

Muslims may not be a race, but they are a category by convention and do constitute a civilization that, in some practical ways, can be distinguished from other civilizations. Maher has repeatedly stated that our "civilization is better than theirs." What exactly does this mean? By any practical measure, nothing, which is exactly what makes it racist. Racism is always predicated on wrong thinking and vacuous claims. Is our civilization "better than theirs" because we have bigger bombs? If that is the case, then yes, Maher would be right. Or because we have the power to invade other countries? Then, again, Maher would be right. Because we are less violent than "them?" Then, Maher would be wrong: murder is committed far less often in the Muslim world than in "our world." Because we provide education and health care for our citizens? Again, no, many Muslim countries provide such services as a right for their people, while we do not. In fact, Iraq under Saddam Hussein provided such services and Iraq no longer does since that invasion. Maybe because we are better at soccer? Again, Maher would be wrong. But the point is, such claims as "our civilization is better than theirs" are fatuous. They are too grand and abstract to actually mean anything. Maher is referring to civil rights on certain issues and yes, due to our socio-economic conditions, particular history and relatively decent economy, we are in a place to discuss things that other regions are not.

But is that really the point? The truth is this: As an academic and frequent visitor to the Muslim world, I am willing to generalize that if I asked the average Bangladeshi about his or her views on same sex-marriage, we would find the majority of respondents at odds with the right for same sex couples to marry. Two things: How does that make Bangladesh any worse than Indiana? Or - and perhaps more significantly - what are the chances that the prime minister of Bangladesh will wake up tomorrow and proclaim that God informed her (her name is Sheikh Hasina) that Bangladesh should invade the United States to spread their ideas? It should be clear that the chances are zero. Yet, I can recall a president who claimed God informed him (because we have failed to elect a woman so far) to invade a country to spread our ideas. And we have the audacity to ask whether Islam is inherently more violent than other religions.

Racism is predicated not only on wrong thinking but also on hypocrisy. Hypocrisy makes racism possible because then and only then, can you look at behavior that, however violent, is also all too human and claim, somehow, it typifies a certain group. White privilege allows whites to never associate with radical acts, let alone need to disassociate. White privilege also insists that browns and blacks answer for the behavior of all other browns and blacks to whites. Harris, on the same show, argued that 20% of Muslims are violent or prone to violence, when challenged to provide proof, he cited a poll where 78% of British Muslims wanted the Danish cartoonists prosecuted. Wait? Prosecuted? That's a far cry from violence or suicide bombing. Furthermore, when you consider that Europe has much more stringent rules on free speech when it comes to hate speech and racist speech, British Muslims are well within the mainstream in their belief, however distasteful it may be to us Americans. White privilege also allows for these types of dissonances to go unnoticed.

Racism is detrimental to the progressive agenda. First, as stated earlier, we need diversity to ensure a robust democratic conversation, whether in the moral sphere or political sphere. When you single out a group of people, as Maher and company do, you inhibit their ability to participate and correct wrong views with their experiences. So, when Reza Aslan attempts to correct our racist views on Islam, his indignation at racist remarks are deemed "hostile" by a white media, so the racism deprives us of the edification and progress is inhibited.

But, more importantly, when we continue to insist that Muslims represent a "special" problem to the west and they "hate our freedom," à la George Bush, we perpetuate the agenda of the military-industrial complex at the expense of education and health care. We have more of a chance of being harmed in a car accident, by American violence or by a bad economy than by "Muslim radicals."Healthcare and education would be great alleviants to such ailments. Progressives insist such services be provided.

But when you are busy obsessing over millions of farmers, cab drivers, doctors, teachers, parents, students, etc. who will never affect you, to defend some abstract "liberal principle," which if you know anything about liberalism can never be ahistorical, you sound like a neo-conservative chickenhawk who talks like a progressive, but yells like a member of Bush II's team. Furthermore, you contribute to the neo-con cause, not ours. Real progressives see the world in terms of social-class and resources, not culture and race. I know which side I'm on.

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SpeakOut Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:45:28 -0400
Challenging Drone Warfare in a US Court http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26807-challenging-drone-warfare-in-a-us-court http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26807-challenging-drone-warfare-in-a-us-court

On October 7, 2014, Kathy Kelly and Georgia Walker appeared before Judge Matt Whitworth in Jefferson City, MO, federal court on a charge of criminal trespass to a military facility.  The charge was based on their participation, at Whiteman Air Force Base, in a June 1st 2014 rally protesting drone warfare.  Kelly and Walker attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the Base Commander, encouraging the commander to stop cooperating with any further usage of unmanned aerial vehicles, (drones) for surveillance and attacks.

The prosecutor, USAF Captain Daniel Saunders, said that if Kelly and Walker would plead guilty to the charge, he would seek a punishment of one month in prison and a $500 fine.  Kelly and Walker told the prosecutor that they could accept a “no contest” plea but were not willing to plead guilty.  The prosecutor then said he would recommend a three month prison sentence and a $500 fine.  The judge refused to accept a “no contest” plea.  Kelly and Walker then requested a trial which has been set for December 10, 2014.

2014.10.14.Drone.SpeakoutKathy Kelly (far right) and Brian Terrell (left), both of the Hancock 38, in court. (Photo: Voices for Creative Nonviolence)

On October 7, 2014, Kathy Kelly and Georgia Walker appeared before Judge Matt Whitworth in Jefferson City, MO, federal court on a charge of criminal trespass to a military facility.  The charge was based on their participation, at Whiteman Air Force Base, in a June 1st 2014 rally protesting drone warfare.  Kelly and Walker attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the Base Commander, encouraging the commander to stop cooperating with any further usage of unmanned aerial vehicles, (drones) for surveillance and attacks.

The prosecutor, USAF Captain Daniel Saunders, said that if Kelly and Walker would plead guilty to the charge, he would seek a punishment of one month in prison and a $500 fine.  Kelly and Walker told the prosecutor that they could accept a “no contest” plea but were not willing to plead guilty.  The prosecutor then said he would recommend a three month prison sentence and a $500 fine.  The judge refused to accept a “no contest” plea.  Kelly and Walker then requested a trial which has been set for December 10, 2014.

Brian Terrell, who also attended the hearing, has previously been tried before Judge Whitworth on the same charge. In October of 2012,  Whitworth sentenced him to the maximum penalty of six months in prison.  His co-defendant, Ron Faust, also went to trial and was initially sentenced to five years probation which was later reduced to one year. Mark Kenney, also a co-defendant, had pled guilty and received a four month sentence.

Kathy Kelly noted that drone strikes on October 7, 2014 killed seven people in Pakistan and that this is the third day in a row of drone attacks in Pakistan’s Waziristan area. On October 6th, eight people were killed and six wounded. Today also marks the thirteenth year of US war in Afghanistan, a country which was considered, in 2013, to be the epicenter of drone warfare. 

“I feel we’re compelled by our conscience, “ Georgia Walker told a gathering of 35 people in Kansas City, the previous evening.  “We’re compelled by our own spirituality, to keep speaking up and to keep getting people to know that silence is complicity.  We have to speak out to say ‘Not in my Name.’” 

"I’m sure that Georgia and I didn’t commit a crime,” said Kathy Kelly. “We tried to send out an alarm about a crime that’s being committed at the base.  Innocent people, including children are killed by the drone strikes.”

Kelly and Walker later met with supporters and attorneys to discuss plans for a vigorous defense on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. 

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SpeakOut Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:32:49 -0400
Nothing About Us Without Us: The Token Palestinian and Authentic Narrative http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26770-nothing-about-us-without-us-the-token-palestinian-and-authentic-narrative http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26770-nothing-about-us-without-us-the-token-palestinian-and-authentic-narrative

I recall, with particular awkwardness, my first talk at a socialist student gathering at the University of Washington in Seattle nearly two decades ago. When I tried to offer an authentic view of the situation in Palestine from the viewpoint of a refugee, my hosts were hardly impressed.

However, the head of the student group knew how to move the crowd. He spoke of Palestinian and Israeli proletariat classes, which, according to him were ultimately fighting against the same enemy, the neoliberal capitalist elites shamelessly subduing the working classes in both Palestine and Israel. But what the audience loved the most was his sweeping statements about the working classes of Algeria, Congo and South America that were somehow all magically tied back to Palestine.

I recall, with particular awkwardness, my first talk at a socialist student gathering at the University of Washington in Seattle nearly two decades ago. When I tried to offer an authentic view of the situation in Palestine from the viewpoint of a refugee, my hosts were hardly impressed.

However, the head of the student group knew how to move the crowd. He spoke of Palestinian and Israeli proletariat classes, which, according to him were ultimately fighting against the same enemy, the neoliberal capitalist elites shamelessly subduing the working classes in both Palestine and Israel. But what the audience loved the most was his sweeping statements about the working classes of Algeria, Congo and South America that were somehow all magically tied back to Palestine.

Inconvenient Narrative

My comments that the Histadrut (General Organisation of Workers in the Land of Israel) was actually a racially-constructed trade-union enterprise - didn’t go well with the crowd. Since its establishment in 1920, the Histadrut advocated Jewish labour rights and did its utmost to exclude their supposed Arab comrades. A powerful institution, it eventually grew to become the hub of Labour Zionism, responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, labourers and all, and the establishment of Israel over the ruins of Palestine.

I was never asked to speak to that particular socialist group again, though with time I began realising that the issue was far more complex. It has little to do with socialism and labour rights, and much to do with my own Palestine-centred narrative. With time I realised that as a Palestinian, regardless of the kind of platform of expression that was available, I could only fit into a fixed space with perfectly prearranged dimensions.

Eventually, I discovered that the issue was far-reaching and involved. I learned that most consequential decisions in the United States Congress regarding Palestine and Israel are taken after protracted investigations that rarely involve Palestinians. Those who often testify before Congressional committee hearings are mostly Israelis, US foreign policy experts and pro-Israeli lobbyists, more or less, all advocating the interests of Israel; that the permissible space in mainstream media is so incredibly limited, especially for genuine Palestinian voices; that even solidarity conferences and meetings pertaining to Palestine rarely represent Palestinians, but an imagined version of Palestinian priorities based on the predetermined agenda of the organisers.

The Media Palestinian

In that limited public space, not all Palestinians are able to participate. And those who are allowed access, must meet specific criteria. In American media, for example, two types of Palestinians are allowed entry: The status quo Palestinian and the adversarial Palestinian.

The first, often affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and/or a Washington DC think-tank, are paraded in a misleading display of balance and objectivity. The fact that they represent specific political interests that unite Washington, Tel Aviv and Ramallah, and rarely reflect a representative view that is common among most Palestinians, matters little.

The “adversarial” Palestinian is that who is invited to speak to the media, only to be chastised publically. No matter how well-reasoned, grounded and informed their arguments and views, this Palestinian is positioned as the enemy, thus becoming the target of angry hosts. When the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, the eloquent Yousef Munayyer tried to provide some context to Israel’s war on Gaza, Fox News Sean Hannity found the mere idea of someone intelligibly disagreeing with the Israeli viewpoint unacceptable.

“Is Hamas a Terrorist Organisation?! What part of this cannot you get through your thick head,” Hannity screamed with rage.

Being the subject of verbal abuse on live television, Munayyer asked: "Do I get to say anything in this conversation?"

Of course not.

The Troublesome Palestinian

When Arab-American Professor Steven Salaita was fired from his new position at the University of Illinois over tweets motivated by Israel’s bloody war on Gaza, few were truly surprised. The room for dissent within American academia can be quite open, but for Palestinians, there is an exception. While much of the pro-Israeli propaganda in the US is initiated by professors openly affiliated with respected universities, the situation is quite different for Palestinians and their supporters.

The targeting of Palestinian and non-Palestinian professors for their failure to stay within the confines of what is and is not allowed regarding the Palestine-Israel discourse is nothing new. Campus Watch was in fact founded with the very aim to isolate and intimidate professors who dare veer off the assigned script that allows for nonconformist views on Israel and its “special relationship” with the US.

Students are encouraged to record and report professors whose lectures may be interpreted as critical of Israel. But a course on the Arab-Israeli conflict taught by Columbia College Professor, Iymen Chehade was cancelled, despite its popularity with students. The course was a platform for various voices involved in the conflict, yet was reported by a student to the administration as “biased,” leading to its cancellation. This type of censorship, aimed exclusively at controlling the narrative on Palestine and Israel, is not common in other academic subjects.

The Alternative Palestinian

Then, there is the alternative Palestinian. He can be a (self-proclaimed) Palestinian whose speech is particularly useful and perfectly suits media agenda. A phenomena of “repentant Palestinian terrorists” became more common after the attacks of 11 September, 2001, where pro-Israelis in government and media were desperate to link Palestinians to American’s so-called “war on terror.” Characters such as “ex-terrorist” Walid Shoebat, with fantastically phony stories, were introduced to the US public regularly through US media as anti-terrorism experts.

The alternative “Palestinian” as a money-seeking con-artist is part of larger saga involving Arabs and Muslims, who fabricated their own cleverly tailored personal narratives that feed on stereotypical racist discourses. 

The Token Palestinian

The Palestinian narrative can be moulded in so convenient a way as to satisfy various agendas, even conflicting ones. The “non-violent” Palestinian advocate is usually offered to juxtapose the masked Palestinian fighter, whose narrative is simply too much for a western audience to grasp or accept. 

A Palestinian can also be offered as a token at all sorts of gatherings that purport to discuss Palestine. I have attended conferences throughout the years - only to discover that at various meetings, my presence and those of my peers were to serve exactly that role: a token. The token Palestinian is expected to be docile and should in no way be involved in setting the agenda. The token should simply be there and allow whomever is behind the gathering to exploit his presence in anyway deemed suitable, be it for fundraising purposes or for political gain.

The Palestinian Witness

Following Israel’s latest war on Gaza which killed nearly 2,200 and wounded over 11,000 that were mostly civilians, conferences are being held across the globe in solidarity with Palestine. While some of these conferences are organised based on a clear set of Palestinian priorities with the aim of prompting action, others tend to be mostly symbolic, with equally symbolic Palestinian presence.

In these gatherings, few Palestinians are exhibited to describe violent events during the war; however, once tears are shed, it’s the all-knowing westerner who often takes charge of articulating the discourse in its various intellectual, legal, political and others aspects, thus defining the parameters of the discussion and prescribing the solution.

In the post-Edward Said Palestinian intellectual landscape, however, it is unfathomable that Palestinians are largely excluded from shaping their own discourse, or are used as convenient fodder in someone else’s.

This is not an exclusively Palestinian issue. Far from it. But rather the role through which the western intellectual spaces continue to operate in relation to other nations. In the case of Palestinians, however, the problem is compounded by the fact that the exclusion of a real Palestinian narrative is also cemented by those who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. However, their sympathies are conditioned, although at times inadvertently, on excluding the Palestinian from his own story.

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SpeakOut Sat, 11 Oct 2014 15:35:49 -0400
NYCLU: Poor Education Is Part of Widespread Mistreatment of Youth at Rikers Island http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26769-nyclu-poor-education-is-part-of-widespread-mistreatment-of-youth-at-rikers-island http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26769-nyclu-poor-education-is-part-of-widespread-mistreatment-of-youth-at-rikers-island

October 8, 2014 - At a City Council hearing about the treatment of adolescents in New York City jails, the New York Civil Liberties Union will today testify about ways to improve the brutal conditions suffered by minors incarcerated at Rikers Island, particularly those in solitary confinement, and the need for educational services critical for rehabilitation.

“Adolescents are growing and need support to become healthy adults and productive members of our community,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Solitary confinement is the harshest punishment in this country apart from the death penalty, and vulnerable adolescents are especially likely to suffer lasting consequences. The young people at Rikers will one day be released back to our neighborhoods. For their good and for the city’s good, we must ensure that they get the tools they need for healthy growth, education and development.”

October 8, 2014 - At a City Council hearing about the treatment of adolescents in New York City jails, the New York Civil Liberties Union will today testify about ways to improve the brutal conditions suffered by minors incarcerated at Rikers Island, particularly those in solitary confinement, and the need for educational services critical for rehabilitation.

“Adolescents are growing and need support to become healthy adults and productive members of our community,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Solitary confinement is the harshest punishment in this country apart from the death penalty, and vulnerable adolescents are especially likely to suffer lasting consequences. The young people at Rikers will one day be released back to our neighborhoods. For their good and for the city’s good, we must ensure that they get the tools they need for healthy growth, education and development.”

Earlier this year, the NYCLU and the New York State Department of Community Corrections agreed to take immediate steps to remove youth from solitary confinement in state facilities and to expand access to educational materials. In New York City, however, a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice on violence at Rikers Island found that solitary confinement is used on hundreds of teenagers daily, as part of a “pattern and practice of conduct that violates the constitutional rights of adolescent inmates.” Since then, the New York City Department of Corrections has followed the state’s lead and announced it would end the use of solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year olds by the end of 2014.

Comprehensive reform of the inhumane and dangerous conditions faced by teenagers in New York City jails includes increasing educational services, which is the most effective means for reducing violence in jails and fostering an effective environment for rehabilitation to occur. Young people in New York City jails are an extremely vulnerable population – half of the adolescents at Rikers are diagnosed with mental illness – and the city is responsible for providing them with education essential for their development.

NYCLU’s recommendations include:

  • Immediately raise the minimum hours of educational programming to 5.5 hours a day, equal to what is required in other public schools.
  • Immediately require group education for eligible youth in solitary confinement rather than intermittent phone calls from teachers that let isolated youth fall through the cracks.
  • Effectively screen all students for disabilities, rather than relying on previous tests that may have let serious disabilities go undetected, and develop individual education plans for eligible youth.

Read the NYCLU’s entire testimony here: http://www.nyclu.org/content/testimony-regarding-treatment-of-adolescents-nyc-jails-and-rikers-island

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SpeakOut Sat, 11 Oct 2014 15:30:19 -0400
Beware of Turkey's Sacred and Secular Geographies http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26768-beware-of-turkey-s-sacred-and-secular-geographies http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26768-beware-of-turkey-s-sacred-and-secular-geographies

It is easy to forget that there are no maps of the world, only maps of worldviews. And even though blind materialism and economic utility seems to reign in many parts of the world, there still exist sacred geographies: places of perceptual beliefs and traditions that feature geopolitical realities which provide meaning. Turkey is no exception to this universal principle. A principle in which the seeker encounters historical identities, purposeful living, and a sense of belonging to a larger integrated community.

It was to be expected, then, when Turkish lawmakers voted to authorize military force against the Islamic State in Syria and Levant (ISIL). At issue was ISIL's fatal mistake of threatening to overrun and destroy the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Osman I who founded the Turkish-Ottoman Empire. As part of the 1921 Treaty of Ankara, which ended the Franco-Turkish War, Turkey kept Suleyman Shah's tomb, making it a Turkish enclave guarded by elite Turkish troops.

It is easy to forget that there are no maps of the world, only maps of worldviews.(1) And even though blind materialism and economic utility seems to reign in many parts of the world, there still exist sacred geographies: places of perceptual beliefs and traditions that feature geopolitical realities which provide meaning. Turkey is no exception to this universal principle. A principle in which the seeker encounters historical identities, purposeful living, and a sense of belonging to a larger integrated community.

It was to be expected, then, when Turkish lawmakers voted to authorize military force against the Islamic State in Syria and Levant (ISIL). At issue was ISIL's fatal mistake of threatening to overrun and destroy the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Osman I who founded the Turkish-Ottoman Empire. As part of the 1921 Treaty of Ankara, which ended the Franco-Turkish War, Turkey kept Suleyman Shah's tomb, making it a Turkish enclave guarded by elite Turkish troops.

In times past, destroying sacred sites has been a powerful weapon to dominate the history and memory of others. Considered to be a form of mentacide, such destruction seeks to eliminate a people's collective identity and culture. States that try to either eradicate holy sites or alter their tangible past do so to make a people's collective history and memory conform to their own. Instead of remembering exactly what "was," a subjugated and repressed people are forced to conform to what "is." It is psychological and cultural genocide.

Turkey is a modern anomaly, a land with a lost empire emerging into a powerful state and proud past. Not very long ago, the Ottoman Turks presided over an area encompassing Asia Minor, North Africa, the Middle East, western Asia, the Balkans, and Hungary. From the Suleymaniye in Istanbul to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo; the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Africa; the Great Mosque of Damascus in Syria; the al-Aqsa Mosque in Al-Quds/Jerusalem; and numerous venerated burial sites, they were the overseers.

Even though the Turkish-Ottoman Empire was semi-defeated at the end of World War I, and though Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish Republic, secularized Turkey, Turkey has recently gone through a transformative period. In 1980, after a military coup, the state started to draw upon Islamic education to fight leftist movements. Meanwhile, academia concentrated on the golden age of the Ottoman Empire, specifically as defenders of Islamic achievements and in providing security, justice, and toleration.

In 1999, the 700th anniversary of the establishment of the Ottoman state by Osman was celebrated throughout the country. Schools were established and books written to commemorate the event.(2) And since Islamist parties were either prevented from running or were barred by the army from taking office, Turkey’s election of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002, a member of a party with Islamist roots and a record of revivalist statements, was a major milestone.(3)

Every child internalizes the dream Osman I had: a large tree that grew out of his stomach foretold his descendants ruling a considerable realm. They are also mindful of the words on Suleiman The Magnificent’s Mosque: "Possessor of the kingdoms of the world, shadow of God over all peoples…" No wonder that PM Erdogan was called the "last Ottoman sultan" after confronting Israel over Gaza at the WEF and then storming off a stage, and after visiting Syria and giving a long speech about their common heritage.(4)

Suleyman Shah's tomb is one of many sacred places dedicated to Turkey's revered past, a past that entails a world view of a Greater Turkey. Along with bordering the Balkan Peninsula, Turkey impacts Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. As an island nation, it affects the Black Sea and Ukraine and the Mediterranean Sea and Cyprus. Together with Iran, their population of almost 150 million people is larger than that of all twelve Arab nations to the south which comprise the Fertile Crescent and Arabian Peninsula.(5)

For secularists, Turkey is a stable platform in the midst of chaos, an exemplary republic enjoying the level of diplomatic influence that dramatically effects regional politics. It also controls the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates, giving it a great geographical advantage. And near Suleyman Shah's tomb is the Southeast Anatolia Project, whose centerpiece is the Ataturk Dam which provides irrigation for two thousand square miles of arable land.(6) If ISIL ever approached either region, it would be an act of war.

But make no mistake, Turkey will fight on its own terms against ISIL, just as Iran is doing. With one of the world's largest armies, one million personnel, it is unique in that it is predominantly Islamic, but a member of NATO. Therefore, its equipment and training has been based on Western standards. Its special forces consists of 5000 men and one counterterrorist battalion, which can be deployed at very short notice. All three of its airborne, para-commando, and para-marine brigades, have experienced extensive action.

If historical memory can be a source of renewal within the desert of organized forgetting, then sacred memorials can be a source of meaning within the wastelands of a chaotic world.(7)  Regarding ISIL or any other threat to Turkey‘s aspirations, PM Erdogan declared: "Every Turkish citizen knows heir duty, and will continue to do what is necessary."

 

Footnotes:

(1) Devereux, Paul. Sacred Geography: Deciphering Hidden Codes In the Landscape. New York, New York: Octopus Books USA, 2010., p. 9.

(2) Furtado, Peter. Histories Of Nations. London, United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2012., p. 160.

(3) de Blij, H.J. and Peter O. Muller. Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. Danvers, Massachusetts: John Wiley & Sons, 2004., p. 362ff.

(4) Furtado, Peter. Histories Of Nations., p. 161.

(5) Kaplan, Robert D. The Revenge Of Geography. New York, New York: Random House Publishers, 2012., p. 285.

(6) Ibid., p. 285.

(7) Giroux, Henry A. The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking Beyond America’s Disimagination Machine. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 2014., p. 58.

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SpeakOut Sat, 11 Oct 2014 15:27:02 -0400
NHS Supplier Risking Complicity in Nine US executions http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26767-nhs-supplier-risking-complicity-in-nine-us-executions http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26767-nhs-supplier-risking-complicity-in-nine-us-executions

A major supplier to the NHS is at risk of becoming involved in American executions, after Alabama altered its lethal injection ‘cocktail’ to include a drug for which they are the only US supplier yet to put in place sufficient distribution controls.
 
Mylan pharmaceuticals, which describes itself as a “leading developer and supplier of generic medicines [to] wholesalers and throughout the National Health Service,”  is a US Government-approved manufacturer of rocuronium bromide, a paralysing agent which Alabama now plans to use as the second part of a three-stage lethal injection process.

A major supplier to the NHS is at risk of becoming involved in American executions, after Alabama altered its lethal injection ‘cocktail’ to include a drug for which they are the only US supplier yet to put in place sufficient distribution controls.
 
Mylan pharmaceuticals, which describes itself as a “leading developer and supplier of generic medicines [to] wholesalers and throughout the National Health Service,”  is a US Government-approved manufacturer of rocuronium bromide, a paralysing agent which Alabama now plans to use as the second part of a three-stage lethal injection process.
 
The paralysing agent is a particularly concerning element of the process, as it leaves the prisoner unable to speak or move, and therefore can mask the effects of a botched execution, in which the anaesthetic has failed.
 
Mylan is the only US-approved maker of the drug which has not responded to calls from stakeholders to put in place distribution controls to prevent its use in executions, making it the easiest source from which Alabama will be able to obtain it.  As a result, legal charity Reprieve has warned Mylan that it may only be a matter of time before the state obtains their product, and uses it to kill.  The state’s attorney general’s office is already seeking to set execution dates for nine people, in the wake of the adoption of Alabama’s new lethal injection ‘protocol.’
 
Despite being notified of the issue in October of last year, Mylan has failed to establish controls which would ensure that their products can still reach legitimate, medical users, but not executioners – a model which has been successfully established by many other major pharmaceutical companies.
 
In a letter sent to Mylan on September 30th, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty team warns the company that it is “is the only FDA-approved manufacturer of rocuronium bromide which has no controls in place to prevent it being sold and used in executions in the USA,” and explains that there is therefore “a very real risk that Mylan may soon become the go-to provider of execution drugs for States across the country.”
 
However, she also explains that “there are simple and effective controls that a company like Mylan can put in place to ensure its medicines are sold for legitimate medical purposes, and not sold to prisons for use in lethal injection executions,” adding that  “Over a dozen manufacturers have put such controls in place.”
 
Commenting, Maya Foa said: “Mylan is the only company we have worked with which has so far failed to take any concrete steps to prevent its medicines from being used to end the lives of prisoners in the USA. The NHS should think carefully about supporting a company which is apparently happy to see its medicines used in brutal executions.”

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SpeakOut Sat, 11 Oct 2014 15:22:39 -0400
Activists Blockade $32,000/Person RNC Fundraiser, Protest Money in Politics Corruption http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26766-activists-blockade-32-000-person-rnc-fundraiser-protest-money-in-politics-corruption http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26766-activists-blockade-32-000-person-rnc-fundraiser-protest-money-in-politics-corruption

New York City, New York – Two citizen activists were arrested on Monday, October 6th at a Republican National Committee fundraiser in an act of civil disobedience protesting the undue influence of big money in American politics. Kai Newkirk and Curt Ries of 99Rise locked themselves to a banister in front of the Trump International Hotel and Tower where the $32,400-per-person reception and dinner was being hosted by New York City billionaires Woody and Suzanne Johnson, owners of the New York Jets and heirs to the Johnson & Johnson Co. The high-dollar fundraiser comes just weeks after Senate Republicans unanimously filibustered a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given Congress the ability to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures.

99Rise members lock down to NYC billionaires Woody & Suzanne Johnson’s residence after Republicans block “overturn Citizens United” amendment.

New York City, New York – Two citizen activists were arrested on Monday, October 6th at a Republican National Committee fundraiser in an act of civil disobedience protesting the undue influence of big money in American politics. Kai Newkirk and Curt Ries of 99Rise locked themselves to a banister in front of the Trump International Hotel and Tower where the $32,400-per-person reception and dinner was being hosted by New York City billionaires Woody and Suzanne Johnson, owners of the New York Jets and heirs to the Johnson & Johnson Co. The high-dollar fundraiser comes just weeks after Senate Republicans unanimously filibustered a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given Congress the ability to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures.

“We’re here to hold our national leaders accountable for their betrayal of our democracy” said Newkirk, co-founder and organizer of 99Rise. “Elected officials who support the institutionalized corruption of big money in politics have to know that we the people, the 99% who can’t afford $32,000 to have our voices be heard, will not stand idly by while our government is bought and sold to the highest bidder. If they block our democracy, we’ll block their corruption.”

Political leaders attending the fundraiser included prominent GOP members Mitt Romney (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R, FL), Sen. Rand Paul (R, KY), Gov. Chris Christie (R, NJ), Sen. Kelly A. Ayotte (R, NH), and John Kasich (R, OH).

Newkirk and Ries were detained by the NYPD shortly after 8:00pm in front of a crowd of student protesters supporting the action with chants and signs, proclaiming slogans like, “Money ain’t speech, corporations aren't people.” and “One person, one vote, money out of politics”. 

Grassroots resistance to money-in-politics corruption has grown dramatically since the U.S. Supreme Court passed down its Citizens United vs. FEC and McCutcheon vs. FEC decisions, essentially legalizing virtually unlimited campaign spending by corporations and wealthy donors to political candidates, parties, and PACs. Last summer, 99Rise organized a 480-mile “California March for Democracy”, which culminated in the passage of two state bills pursuing a constitutional amendment at the federal level to end the influence of big money in politics. In February, Newkirk interrupted SCOTUS proceedings in an unprecedented act of civil disobedience caught on camera.

2012 was the most expensive election in the country’s history, with a price tag exceeding 6 billion dollars, but with only 0.4% of Americans giving over $200 to political candidates and with a mere 132 wealthy individuals donating over 60% of all super PAC money in that cycle.

 

99Rise is a grassroots network of organizers building the movement to reclaim democracy from big money through strategic nonviolent action. Keep up with us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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SpeakOut Sat, 11 Oct 2014 15:07:01 -0400
Children at the Border http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26765-children-at-the-border http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26765-children-at-the-border

Let them come

There are great holes

In the heart of America

Maybe the children can fill them

 

Let them come

Their mothers and fathers and

Sisters and brothers

Maybe they can clear

Our ears with the music

Of their languages not yet dead

Let them come

There are great holes

In the heart of America

Maybe the children can fill them

 

Let them come

Their mothers and fathers and

Sisters and brothers

Maybe they can clear

Our ears with the music

Of their languages not yet dead

 

Let them come

These strangers

Let them come and be our

Neighbors, smiling, much less

Strange to us than those

Estranged ones who are our

Neighbors now

 

Let them come

Fleeing the violence

We have caused

Fleeing the droughts

We have caused

Fleeing the men

Armed to the teeth

With the weapons we sold

To their sharpened teeth

 

Let them come

Those who have nothing

Left to lose

These especially we need

We who think we will lose it all

If we opened our arms

But a little

We who came from elsewhere

Took what wasn't ours to take

Then shut the door behind us

 

Let them come

Maybe they can teach us

To dance and share again

Maybe they will

Reteach us the American dream

Of radical equality and radical courage

Those qualities which made

Whatever good we might

Once have had

 

Let them come

Those who we try

To fence away from us

Maybe they will free us

From the prison we have built

Around ourselves

To protect us from

The people we stole from

And the people

We murderously taught

To hate us

 

Let them come

No, -more than that-

Go out and get them

The ones made homeless

By our imperial machinations

Give them a home

Amongst us

That they may teach us

What home can be

We who have become

Refugees from the reality

Of the earth as it is

Of the earth as we have

Done to it

Of the earth itself

Of each other

We who have built

A fortress to protect

Our exceptional loneliness

An armed camp

But one that cannot survive

The onslaughts

Of the emptiness

Within

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Department of State or the U.S. Government.

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SpeakOut Sat, 11 Oct 2014 15:00:42 -0400
The Question of State Legitimacy http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26717-the-question-of-state-legitimacy http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26717-the-question-of-state-legitimacy

Part I - State Legitimacy and Human Rights

The traditional criterion for state legitimacy was very simple. If a state and its government could hold and govern territory, it was legitimate, at least in the eyes of other governments. The form of government and its behavior did not matter in this definition - Stalin’s USSR, Mussolini‘s Italy, Hitler’s Germany - these regimes held territory and ruled as surely as did the ones in Britain, France and the United States. And, in each other’s official eyes, one state was as legitimate as the other.

This outlook began to change in 1945. Just before and then during World War II, fascist behavior in general and Nazi behavior in particular was so shocking that many post-war governments became convinced that state legitimacy required well-defined codes of national behavior enshrined in international law.

Part I - State Legitimacy and Human Rights

The traditional criterion for state legitimacy was very simple. If a state and its government could hold and govern territory, it was legitimate, at least in the eyes of other governments. The form of government and its behavior did not matter in this definition - Stalin’s USSR, Mussolini‘s Italy, Hitler’s Germany - these regimes held territory and ruled as surely as did the ones in Britain, France and the United States. And, in each other’s official eyes, one state was as legitimate as the other.

This outlook began to change in 1945. Just before and then during World War II, fascist behavior in general and Nazi behavior in particular was so shocking that many post-war governments became convinced that state legitimacy required well-defined codes of national behavior enshrined in international law.

Therefore, right after the war, human rights became a recognized standard by which to judge states and their governments. This new standard, which was implied in the Nuremberg trials, was soon articulated in such documents as the International Declaration of Human Rights and endorsed by the United Nations. It was simultaneously reinforced by a worldwide process of decolonization that focused the international community on issues of human rights, particularly as they touched on the practice of racism and apartheid.

Most importantly, this process led growing segments of civil society to support human rights law as a standard by which to judge state legitimacy. In one case, pressure from civil society worldwide was applied on apartheid South Africa throughout the 1970s and 1980s with sufficient force to help change not only the nature of that country’s government, but its national culture and therefore the character of the state itself. By 1994 South Africa was no longer an apartheid state.

Part II - The New Attack on Human Rights

Recently things have not gone so well. There has been a tendency for the lessons learned about the importance of human rights to fade with time, particularly from the institutional memories of state bureaucracies. The proclivity of all state apparatuses to behave in a Machiavellian way has reasserted itself, particularly in the foreign policies of Western democratic states and their subsequent alliances with all manner of horrid right-wing dictatorships the world over. This complicity with oppressive regimes produced inevitable anti-Western sentiment culminating in the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Subsequently the United States declared a “war on terror,” and this effort seems to excuse everything from indefinite detention and torture to assassination.

To accommodate this revival of amoral statecraft, there is now an effort to rewrite international law in a way that restricts or eliminates the human rights standard of behavior for state legitimacy. The end game here is to get the international community to recognize as “legal” actions by certain great powers and their allies that include the intrusion into the territory of other states and peoples in order to change governments, control populations, capture or kill wanted individuals, and destroy installations and other property. This is carried out by various means ranging from invasion, enforced apartheid regulations and assassination. At the forefront of this effort are the policies and actions of the United States and its prime ally, Israel.

Part III - Rationalizations

How is this effort to override international human rights law rationalized? Essentially, what the governments of the United States and Israel - as well as their neoconservative and Zionist supporters - say is that all of their enemies can be classified as terrorists, and because terrorists do not adhere to the standards set by international law, they (the US and Israel) are forced to adopt wartime measures in combating these enemies. The cornerstone of this approach is the practice of “extraterritorial targeted killing.” Just listen to the well-known Zionist lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz, who has proclaimed that “at the moment our legal system is playing catch-up with military technology.” What he finds “imperative” is that drone attacks and the like be made legal by, for instance, allowing someone in the government to obtain a warrant that allows an assassination (and its “collateral damage”) to take place. Dershowitz is referring to the US government but, the precedent having been set, his scenario for “legal” murder could be adopted by any government - certainly the Israelis have elevated “targeted killing” to a high art.

There is nothing in international law that substantiates this position, and it certainly violates core tenets of international human rights law as well as aspects of the Geneva Conventions. Nor can this behavior be passed off as part of a “just war,” for it fails to meet several accepted qualifications for such a venture as comparative justice and last resort. Nonetheless, an array of criminal practices have been put into practice under the assumption that “if you do something long enough, it becomes accepted standard practice.” In other words, in Washington and Tel Aviv, the hope is that what starts out as a corruption of the law eventually becomes the law.

Part IV - Standing Up for the International Law

There is now a struggle going on that will determine both the viability of international human rights law and the role of civil society in defining state legitimacy. Should states that adopt practices such as “extraterritorial targeted killing” or adhere to the racist practices of apartheid continue to be regarded as legitimate, or should they be seen as criminal “rogue states” by virtue of their violation of international human rights law? In this struggle those who stand in support of human rights should not be underestimated. They are serious, numerous, worldwide in scope, and well organized. But, they are not governments, they are elements of the general population: they are civil society.

This contest may have still greater implications. It may really come down to the fate of the rule of law itself. If we allow international law, and particularly international human rights law, to be marginalized or even done away with, we will return to same international conditions that destroyed the League of Nations, facilitated the rise of the fascists, Nazis and Stalinists, and allowed for the prolonged existence of apartheid South Africa. In each case the lack of effective international human rights law helped lead to a drastic deterioration in the domestic rule of law in countries like Italy, Germany, Russia and South Africa. And, today we can see signs of deterioration of the rule of law in countries such as Israel and, to a lesser but still real extent, the United States.

There is a lot at stake here and we can be thankful that even as the majority of people blithely go about their daily affairs, a growing minority has become aware of what their governments are doing and its implications for everyone’s future. We should be thankful and supportive - actively supportive.

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SpeakOut Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:17:27 -0400
Another World Emerging? Well, Maybe. http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26715-another-world-emerging-well-maybe http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26715-another-world-emerging-well-maybe

The Possibility At Hand

Gar Alperovitz  writes extensively about deep economic changes slowly taking place across the country, region by region. He is one of many doing this here and abroad. Such as: Massimo DeAngelis, deSousa, Ethan Miller, Ana Margarida Estevez, and scores of others. This shared vision of abundance and solidarity at the core of these emerging local and regional dynamics will probably take about a generation to root firmly, if it does. In three or four generations these changes could possibly become a substantial part of the political economics in the US. Possibly.

These thinkers and observers are not envisioning a significant increase in “jobs,” even good ones. Rather, they are envisioning a new kind of economics that fosters cooperation, abundance, and solidarity on a broad scale. That fosters a lot of caring rather than a lot of gouging or co-opting. That is grounded in ordinary people developing a rainforest of opportunity and relationship as a replacement to the scorched earth dynamics of neoliberalism.

The Possibility At Hand

Gar Alperovitz  writes extensively about deep economic changes slowly taking place across the country, region by region. He is one of many doing this here and abroad. Such as: Massimo DeAngelis, deSousa, Ethan Miller, Ana Margarida Estevez, and scores of others. This shared vision of abundance and solidarity at the core of these emerging local and regional dynamics will probably take about a generation to root firmly, if it does. In three or four generations these changes could possibly become a substantial part of the political economics in the US. Possibly.

These thinkers and observers are not envisioning a significant increase in “jobs,” even good ones. Rather, they are envisioning a new kind of economics that fosters cooperation, abundance, and solidarity on a broad scale. That fosters a lot of caring rather than a lot of gouging or co-opting. That is grounded in ordinary people developing a rainforest of opportunity and relationship as a replacement to the scorched earth dynamics of neoliberalism.

The principles, characteristics, and processes involved for this kind ofregional economic development are not abstractions. And they weren't figured out through mathematical simulation either. And, in many ways, they aren't even new. Rather, they are reflections of eons of social and biological realities across the planet. They are descriptions of the underlying dynamics driving new kinds of social and economic systems in many parts of the world like BrazilQuebecNorthern Italy, and elsewhere. They arestable systems operating out of cultures that promote mutuality and distribution of enough of what is truly needed and genuinely desired rather than compulsive and narcissistic consumerism the dominant neoliberal systems promote.

We are terming this dynamic “co-operative/solidarity economics.” A diversity of kindred approaches to alternative economics has been evolving. This has been accompanied by a welter of different names by different groups and movements seeking to establish their identity as an alternative to capitalism. The approaches we identify with most are those that are deeply oriented to bottom-up development, where democracy can be rooted. Even though they share many values and objectives, these diverse but democratically-oriented approaches have not yet bonded with each other in substantial ways.

So how do we, here in the US, get there? How can all of these efforts across the globe move from the political and economic margins we are working in, and take root as a global people’s rainforest? What are the keys?

The Basic Elements Needed

Much is known about the infrastructure that is needed, but little is understood about the kind of culture needed to mobilize people and develop the relational power needed.

There are four core elements related to the infrastructure of regional cooperative/solidarity movements:

  1.  A multitude of diverse alternative economic enterprises.
  2.  A regional web of co-operative and solidarity economic enterprises which can sustain reciprocal chains of production-distribution-and-consumption of goods and services that connect producers to retailers and retailers to consumers in ongoing communication. Worker co-ops cannot build their own regional economy, nor can networks of community gardens, etc.
  3.  A regional web of local mediating institutions that can ground this regional cooperative/solidarity economy into the communities where people live or work or have their deep affinities. (Mediating institutions are local organizations representing the voice and interests of the local people.) This network of networks is essential for the formation of a substantial and loyal customer base as well as the ongoing communication between all the parts.
  4.  A social web to link the base-communities, their mediating institutions, second-tier institutions such as same sector networks, and social justice institutions throughout the region to each other. This network of networks is essential for the formation of a substantial and loyal customer base. It is also essential for formation of political alliances based on mutual interests to address the welter of legal, funding, and policy needs to foster a people’s rainforest economy.

The Culture Needed

Alone this infrastructure is just a social skeleton. By itself it has no organic life. Structures are merely parts of a body, of an ecosystem like a rainforest. For example, here is a description of the human body as a community:

Underneath our skins we have a 50-trillion-cell, highly functional community with technology that far outstrips anything that we've invented with our human minds. When we're healthy, this system is so impeccable and harmonious that within us we have full employment, universal health care, no cell left behind. The organs cooperate with one another so that the whole system can thrive…At this stage in human evolution, we don't need to grow another arm or a bigger brain. We need to grow greater awareness and connection in community.

This awareness, connection, and community come through culture. We especially like the way Fritjof Capra puts it in The Hidden Connections: a science for sustainable living:

…culture arises from a complex, highly nonlinear dynamic.  It is created by a social network involving multiple feedback loops through which values, beliefs, and rules of conduct are continually communicated, modified, and sustained.”

(The words in the definition may sound very abstract, but they will become clear in the discussion that follows.)

A movement culture for developing regional C/SE will have three key dimensions if it is going to successfully develop a regional alternative economy. They are inseparable. Absent one, absent all. It has to be a culture of belief, of empowerment, and Thinking Cooperatively.

First, there has to be a culture of belief. That is: enough people in the same locale becoming convinced that it’s possible for co-operative and solidarity economic systems to become a big force right where they live. Enough of them believing that it is reasonable to risk starting collectively owned and community-based local enterprises. Enough of residents and other local leaders believing they can connect and work together regionally to build a new kind of economics that will foster cooperation, abundance, and solidarity. Enough people getting turned on by this kind of activity to join the effort as loyal customers in order to make it happen as well as for getting the goods and services offered. And enough folks getting excited and coming to believe that it is well worth investing some of their surplus wealth to support its growth.

Clearly, the vehicles for making all of this work is an infrastructure of enterprises becoming integral parts of their communities, networking together, and developing the chains of production-distribution-and-consumption are the. But where will the cooperative motivation and skill come to build such infrastructures and keep them democratic? This leads us to the other two dimensions.

Second, such a culturehas to be a culture of empowerment. The envisioned political and economic changes we are discussing here require that enough ordinary people in a given region want to shift from living out of fear, defeatism, and a scarcity mentality to a mentality of abundance and mutuality. Want to slowly free themselves from the dialectic of oppression they have internalized and to learn to empower themselves. Want to move from being trapped in an individualism that pits all of us against one another, to believing we can be solid with each other where it counts. These kinds of shifts are very challenging and very transformative. They require special systems of education and support. Such systems, in turn, require a different kind of culture than the ones we have grown up in. That is, cultures of belief in mutuality and the feasibility of ordinary people making it happen--slowly, step-by-step. Or, in Paul Loeb’s words,“the impossible will take a little while.”  

Third, this new kind of culture also has to be a culture of Thinking Cooperatively. That is: a culture with an unconditional commitment to fostering the opportunities, attitudes, and skills necessary for wanting to engage in the relentless consulting and negotiating necessary for ordinary people to manage their collective lives together. We call this orientation to public life Thinking Cooperatively. Rodney King famously asked “can’t we just get along with each other.” As heart-felt as his plea was, we need to recognize--no, we need to deeply realize that there is no “just” getting along with each other. Raising a child is an incredibly complex process as is making a partnership work, a multi-racial group coming to understand each other enough so that they can work together, and so on.

Thinking Cooperatively involves being able to empty one’s mind of distraction and to expand its focus so one is attending to the needs of the Whole and, as much as possible, its entire set of problems. In the case at hand this would be the cooperative/solidarity networking and its region, but any project requires Thinking Cooperatively to work well. It requires that you and I rest our self-interests into the context of the Whole to find out what it needs. Self-centered thinking approaches that context in terms of how the whole can serve my self-interests, whether those are personal or the interests of the group or sector we most identify with.

Everyone of us who are engaged in alliance building and cross-sector networking knows how difficult it is to bring people together for a sustained effort. A hierarchical culture wants the many to defer to a few who do this. These structures achieve their vertical solidarity through control of perks and the ability to threaten significant loss. Or through the charisma of a special kind of leader. Horizontal, bottom-up structures have to be quite different. They are grounded fundamentally in creating as much mutual interest as possible between parties, a horizontal solidarity. These parties might have various self-interests which range from having little to do with each other in any direct way to being quite antagonistic. Horizontal cultures require people who can Think Cooperatively and have the means--a public space and norms and rituals of communication, for example--to do that together. Thinking Cooperatively requires a virtually unconditional commitment to consulting and negotiating with each other in good faith, and doing what each can to foster the essential trust and transparency such relating has to have. Since we embody so much of the individualism and self-centeredness of our received culture, this takes a life-time of ongoing work.

When individuals in a group can do this, the power of the group can soar. When groups and organizations can come together in this kind of horizontal solidarity, not only will empowerment soar but the belief that something new can happen will also soar. It will become contagious.

And let the word “contagious” remind us that a powerful horizontal solidarity will be very threatening to anyone wanting to maintain the status quo. Many will seek to kill it out of fear and with the rage such fear triggers.

Does this sound like a pipe dream?

That is a fair question. Not only that, it is a fundamental question. It has to be addressed or our movements for economic and political democracy will not have a strategy for becoming deeply relevant. We, the authors, are alarmed at the absence of a coherent visioning-and-strategizing for such a movement that cuts to the core question: how do we generate the power to move from the margins to becoming a substantial, sustaining, and pervasive part of the political and economic landscape?

I am alarmed not only at the deepening entrenchment of capitalism in economic and political structures, but at its deepening penetration into the very cultures of the world with its beliefs, values, and practices. That kind of penetration cuts right through to the marrow of the being of every person and continues on toward the very heart of the planet. Capra describes how culture is a deep, driving dynamic constantly working on its members:

Culture can be said to be about the business of 'self-replication'. From the moment of conception, it impresses its patterns and rhythms on the developing, infinitely plastic neuronal substrate of the fetal organism. It shapes this substrate to become preferentially sensitive to the culture’s patterns. Thus the individual seeks to replicate those patterns as an adult. This process of neural shaping continues throughout life as the capacity of the brain to reorganize itself according to the uses to which it addresses itself never ceases.

Elitist capitalism systemically seeks to shape everyone to its ways. It cannot do otherwise. Like any economics it must have the culture to replicate itself. Forty years ago, in his Introduction to his book The Populist MomentLawrence Goodwyn described how “a culture of deference” began to emerge at the turn of the 20th century and what it had grown into by the 1970s. The Piketty world we now inhabit is the logical outgrowth of that cultural strategy for acquiescence, consumerism, and individualism.

What are we, the people of our movements, to do about this? What we, the authors, keep hearing from the Left are, for the most part, fragmentary proposals: 1) calls for democracy movements that claim to be radical but only address a single issue, and 2) genuine calls for deep political and economic change that ignore how to generate the power to make that happen.

Emerging Small and Slowly

Cooperative/solidarity economics is economics that primarily serves people and the planet, not just the top 10-20%. It defines profits as an essential means for sustaining these kinds of enterprises and projects, not as owners getting as much as they can. The kind of regional economic development we are discussing here is emergent. Think of the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon without the notoriety. Imagine many people in many different places within a region begin discovering new ways of adapting patterns of cooperation and solidarity fundamental to the social nature of humans. After a while they begin to recognize each other, to sense that they have much in common. A rainforest in the making. So we are talking about a process that will take a long time. A long, long time beyond our life-times.

There is no dominating Master Plan. Such devices essentially make everyone feel that they are merely cogs in someone else’s machine because that is, indeed, what such plans lead to. This happens in part through the active intention of the “master planners” and by the persistent acquiescence of the “victims.” The innate power of ordinary people to participate meaningfully in their collective lives and to create the new is locked up in this acquiescence. We see cooperative/solidarity economics as a way ordinary people can connect and develop their educational, economic, and political opportunities to transform that acquiescence into a powerful force of mutuality. We have to connect face-to-face to do this work and we need to connect regionally in order to bring it to a significantly transformative scale.

Right now cooperative/solidarity networks are emerging in more than a few regions across the country. In western Massachusetts, central MassachusettsNew York CityPhiladelphiaMadisonDetroitJackson, MSAustin, TX and the Bay Area.They are building on more than 100 years of co-operative economic activity here and across the globe. Nancy Folbre noted that if we were to combine all of the worker, consumer, and producer co-operative enterprises inthe world today, they would form the ­9th largest economy in the world.

Solidarity Economic Networks exist throughout South America; across Canada, especially in Quebec; in England, France, Spain, Italy, and other European countries. Their basic elements in Brazil can be traced back to the 1600s, their conceptual emergence in the 1930s, and their persistent organic growth since the 1970s and 1980s.

These small-scale, community-grounded, roughly democratic processes, with all of their struggles, are much more responsive to the needs of all involved than the abusive massive-scale politics and economics that swirl around all of us at an ever increasing clip. Small projects are easier to design properly.  Our intuition works better on them because they are closer to our experience as small creatures, and the mistakes will be smaller. Perhaps it is even inappropriate to call them mistakes. They tend to be just small modifications that need additional adjustments later, part of dynamic development and repair.

The folks involved in these processes share much confusion and fear as they are also immersed in the problems that are making it necessary to create new ways of working together. They need to re-discover the essential sharing qualities of human life. This is a slow transformative process.

Emergence of the new is always slow and complicated as it moves from the bottom up and across. Every story of evolution and transformation tells us this over and over again. Development is organic, not imposed.  Neoliberal “growth,” on the other hand, is as insatiable as a cancer.  We don’t realize that “growth” and “acquiescence” go together and that they are as much a choice as they are an imposition.  Grasping how transformation works and aligning ourselves with its rhythms is the key to the power we need to emerge from the margins in full stride. 

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SpeakOut Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:56:56 -0400
IMF Recommends Changes to Prevent Future Debt Rulings Like the One Against Argentina http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26714-imf-recommends-changes-to-prevent-future-debt-rulings-like-the-one-against-argentina http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26714-imf-recommends-changes-to-prevent-future-debt-rulings-like-the-one-against-argentina

Washington, D.C.- The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is supporting proposed reforms outlined in a recent IMF report that are intended to prevent disruptive and costly debt restructuring fights – like the one ongoing between the Argentine government and vulture funds – from occurring in the future. Noting that “the existing legal framework may not be sufficiently robust to prevent ‘holdout’ creditors from undermining the restructuring process,” the Fund has suggested that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) in the United States could be “clarif[ied]” to ensure that a foreign country’s overseas assets are immune from US courts’ jurisdiction. 

In describing how the FSIA could be amended, the IMF has cited an open letter to members of the US Congress signed by over 100 economists who warned of harmful consequences for Argentina, the international financial system, and the US as a financial center from the recent decision by US District Court Judge Griesa against the government of Argentina. Griesa’s ruling effectively prevents Argentina from paying the majority of its creditors if it does not pay NML Capital and other vulture fund holdouts the full value of their bonds, plus interest (giving holdouts profits as high as over 1,600 percent).

Washington, D.C.- The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is supporting proposed reforms outlined in a recent IMF report that are intended to prevent disruptive and costly debt restructuring fights – like the one ongoing between the Argentine government and vulture funds – from occurring in the future. Noting that “the existing legal framework may not be sufficiently robust to prevent ‘holdout’ creditors from undermining the restructuring process,” the Fund has suggested that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) in the United States could be “clarif[ied]” to ensure that a foreign country’s overseas assets are immune from US courts’ jurisdiction. 

In describing how the FSIA could be amended, the IMF has cited an open letter to members of the US Congress signed by over 100 economists who warned of harmful consequences for Argentina, the international financial system, and the US as a financial center from the recent decision by US District Court Judge Griesa against the government of Argentina. Griesa’s ruling effectively prevents Argentina from paying the majority of its creditors if it does not pay NML Capital and other vulture fund holdouts the full value of their bonds, plus interest (giving holdouts profits as high as over 1,600 percent).

“There are policy reforms here that are definitely worth considering,” Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. “If US judges continue to be able to hold bondholders as well as whole countries hostage to the unreasonable demands of vulture funds, this will undermine debt restructuring in the future.”

In discussing the paper, IMF General Counsel Sean Hagan described the “collective action problem” that can result from the behavior of holdout creditors:

… there is a risk that individual creditors might decide not to participate in a restructuring in the hope that they will be able to recover the full value of their claims. If these so-called holdout creditors have a significant chance of recovering their claims in full, creditors who would otherwise have agreed to participate in the restructuring will become less willing to do so…

The IMF Executive Board is endorsing a collective action clause reform which would allow a majority of creditors to make decisions that would be binding on the minority. Hagan notes that while such clauses already exist, they are subject to limitations that can lead to restructuring agreements being blocked by minority holdouts who own a large enough quantity of bonds.

“Judge Griesa clearly overstepped his bounds when he effectively tried to extend his jurisdiction overseas and gave a small minority of vulture fund creditors veto power over the majority of Argentina’s bondholders,” Weisbrot said. “These signals from the IMF are a strong and important rebuke to the dangers these vulture funds pose to the international financial system.

“It's unfortunate that the US Treasury department blocked the IMF from filing an amicus brief in support of Argentina's case at the US Supreme Court,” Weisbrot added. “It is possible that they might have reviewed the case.”

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SpeakOut Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:49:02 -0400
Farmers, Indigenous Peoples and NGOs Take to Streets in Ten Cities Demanding an End to World Bank's Morally Bankrupt Development http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26713-farmers-indigenous-peoples-and-ngos-take-to-streets-in-ten-cities-demanding-an-end-to-world-bank-s-morally-bankrupt-development http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26713-farmers-indigenous-peoples-and-ngos-take-to-streets-in-ten-cities-demanding-an-end-to-world-bank-s-morally-bankrupt-development

Washington, D.C. — On October 10, 2014, NGOs, farmers' groups, and indigenous organizations from across the world are coming together as part of the Our Land Our Business campaign to denounce the World Bank's Doing Business rankings. The campaign, endorsed by over 235 organizations, will be staging  "creative resistance" events at the Bank’s annual meetings in Washington D.C. and nine other cities around the world. The D.C. event is drawing support from a wide range of activist communities, including Occupy groups who will join representatives of impacted communities from Kenya, Mali, and Ethiopia.

“Under the banner #WorldVsBank, this movement is calling for the end of the Doing Business rankings and the new Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture project. They are tools of a pro-corporate, anti-poor, environmentally unsustainable model of development. If the World Bank keeps promoting economic activity that destroys biodiversity and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, pastoralists, and indigenous communities, they should not have a mandate to exist,” said Alnoor Ladha of /The Rules. 

Washington, D.C. — On October 10, 2014, NGOs, farmers' groups, and indigenous organizations from across the world are coming together as part of the Our Land Our Business campaign to denounce the World Bank's Doing Business rankings. The campaign, endorsed by over 235 organizations, will be staging  "creative resistance" events at the Bank’s annual meetings in Washington D.C. and nine other cities around the world. The D.C. event is drawing support from a wide range of activist communities, including Occupy groups who will join representatives of impacted communities from Kenya, Mali, and Ethiopia.

“Under the banner #WorldVsBank, this movement is calling for the end of the Doing Business rankings and the new Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture project. They are tools of a pro-corporate, anti-poor, environmentally unsustainable model of development. If the World Bank keeps promoting economic activity that destroys biodiversity and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, pastoralists, and indigenous communities, they should not have a mandate to exist,” said Alnoor Ladha of /The Rules. 

The World Bank’s lending to developing countries reached $35 billion in 2012. The Doing Business rankings play a critical role in determining what form of economic development takes place around the world. According to the World Bank’s own literature, they are “an incomparable catalyst for business reforms initiatives.” In practice, this has meant liberalizing developing country economies so that large-scale land investment and western corporations can move in unimpeded. The casualties are the smallholder famers and providers who currently feed 80% of the developing world but who are all too often rendered invisible or actively dispossessed.

“Working for the World Bank’s Social Fund in Gambella, I protested the widespread coercion and forced relocation of people. Today I live in political exile in Kenya. I am protesting the World Bank on October 10 because I know firsthand how their policies negatively impact communities,” said Okok Ojulu who will share his experiences at actions planned in D.C.

To coincide with the #WorldVsBank mobilization, the Oakland Institute, one of the world’s leading think tanks on land issues, is releasing a new study tackling the Bank's approach to land, agriculture, and development, Unfolding Truth: Dismantling the World Bank's Myths on Agriculture and Development. In addition, the Institute will also release six new country fact sheets that expose the reforms promoted by the World Bank in Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Laos, Cambodia, and Uruguay. In each country, the Bank’s policies have served as a catalyst for massive land grabs, dispossession, and forced eviction of countless small-scale farmers.

“If you look behind many of the recent land grabs, you will find World Bank policies that enable investors to come in with projects that promise benefits to communities but don’t follow through. We can keep going after each corporation and investment group but it would be more effective if the World Bank stopped using their immense political and financial power to pave the way for what has become the systematic exploitation of land and people,” said Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute. 

Our Land Our Business is also launching the world's first transnational “missed call” campaign--uniting a call-to-action across multiple countries. The idea is to make a call to a local phone number; the mobile number is then registered as an expression of support, then supporters receive free text messages to get further involved (e.g. showing up at a creative resistance). In parts of the world where first-generation mobile phones are ubiquitous but computers and the Internet are costly and inaccessible, this is a new powerful tool for mass engagement in political action.

On October 10, a street mobilization featuring speakers and artists will take place at 4pm in Rawlins Park, Washington D.C. This is followed by further action on October 11 when activists and concerned citizens from around the world will again gather outside the World Bank at 11am to protest the Bank's attempt to dismantle critical protections for people and the planet that are currently enshrined in its operational policies. These changes come at a time when the Bank is making plans to scale up its lending to the private sector and return to the sort of risky mega-projects that characterized its now-discredited structural adjustment programs in the 1980s. 

The October 10 - 11 actions send a message to the Bank that the world won't stand for its exploitive practices. 

For more on the two-day event, please visit www.ourlandourbusiness.org.

Download Unfolding Truth: Dismantling the World Bank's Myths on Agriculture and Development and the country fact sheets.  

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SpeakOut Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:38:00 -0400
The Fight Against "Ecological Amnesia" After the People's Climate March http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26710-the-fight-against-ecological-amnesia-after-the-people-s-climate-march http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26710-the-fight-against-ecological-amnesia-after-the-people-s-climate-march

Money Talks, and Climate Action: "What do we want?" "Climate action!" "When do we want it?" "Now!" What does climate action look like? Marching out on a life - if only for an afternoon - that's inextricably bound to fossil fuels? In Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? author Mark Fisher posits that "it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." Again, what does climate action look like? Strolling into a nonbinding climate summit? With respect to global climate change, the difference between "inextricably bound" and "nonbinding" is life and death.

Money Talks, and Climate Action: "What do we want?" "Climate action!" "When do we want it?" "Now!" What does climate action look like? Marching out on a life - if only for an afternoon - that's inextricably bound to fossil fuels? In Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? author Mark Fisher posits that "it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." Again, what does climate action look like? Strolling into a nonbinding climate summit? With respect to global climate change, the difference between "inextricably bound" and "nonbinding" is life and death.

2014 1008 eco 1Profits over people. The People’s Climate March in New York City. (Photo: Elle Kurancid / Truthout)

2014 1008 eco 2Frontlines of crisis. The People’s Climate March in New York City. (Photo: Elle Kurancid / Truthout)

2014 1008 eco 3Military-industrial-oil complex. The People’s Climate March in New York City. (Photo: Elle Kurancid / Truthout)

2014 1008 eco 4Capitalism is winning. The People’s Climate March in New York City. (Photo: Elle Kurancid / Truthout)

2014 1008 eco 5Top-down energy. The People’s Climate March in New York City. (Photo: Elle Kurancid / Truthout)

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SpeakOut Wed, 08 Oct 2014 11:30:02 -0400
International Monetary Fund Releases Plans to Stop Predatory Hedge Funds http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26709-international-monetary-fund-releases-plans-to-stop-predatory-hedge-funds http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26709-international-monetary-fund-releases-plans-to-stop-predatory-hedge-funds

Washington, DC -The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released new proposals for preventing predatory hedge funds and hold-out investors from blocking debt restructurings. The paper proposes a series of reforms to debt contracts, including strengthened collective action clauses and a modification of the pari passu clause that hold-out hedge funds used to sue Argentina.

"In the wake of debt restructurings in Argentina and Greece, the IMF is incredibly concerned about vulture funds," stated Eric LeCompte, the Executive Director of the religious anti-poverty coalition, Jubilee USA Network. "The IMF is advocating a market approach, but we also need a statutory approach. We need to change both the contracts and the laws." 

Washington, DC -The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released new proposals for preventing predatory hedge funds and hold-out investors from blocking debt restructurings. The paper proposes a series of reforms to debt contracts, including strengthened collective action clauses and a modification of the pari passu clause that hold-out hedge funds used to sue Argentina.

"In the wake of debt restructurings in Argentina and Greece, the IMF is incredibly concerned about vulture funds," stated Eric LeCompte, the Executive Director of the religious anti-poverty coalition, Jubilee USA Network. "The IMF is advocating a market approach, but we also need a statutory approach. We need to change both the contracts and the laws." 

The reforms would not apply to existing sovereign bonds. The IMF proposal states that there may be a need for action on those bonds as well if the precedent set in Argentina vs. NML begins to impact other countries. The paper comes on the heels of a similar August proposal by the International Capital Market Association to deter disruptive predatory and hold-out behavior. The primary difference between the two proposals is that the IMF paper does not promote establishing creditor committees to reach agreements in the event of disputes.

"It's important that the IMF acknowledges a market approach might not be enough. This suggested approach would need to be comprehensive and won't have an impact for decades," said LeCompte, who serves on United Nations expert groups that seek to tackle these problems.

Read the IMF paper, "Strengthening the Contractual Framework to Address Collective Action Problems in Sovereign Debt Restructuring," here

Read about the ICMA "Standard Collective Action and Pari Passu Clauses for the Terms and Conditions of Sovereign Notes" proposal.

Read about the recent IMF Debt Reprofiling proposal.

Read a timeline and history of the Argentina case here.

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SpeakOut Wed, 08 Oct 2014 11:23:57 -0400
Don't Thank a Veteran, Honour a Soldier's Heart http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26708-don-t-thank-a-veteran-honour-a-soldier-s-heart http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26708-don-t-thank-a-veteran-honour-a-soldier-s-heart

22 veterans take their own life every day in the USA. On 17th September 2014, Jacob David George was one of those veterans. And today, 7th October 2014, we mark thirteen years since the invasion of Afghanistan – an occupation with no end in sight, despite the promise of withdrawl by 2014.

We continue to witness new eras of the US-led Global War on Terror, and with it, a persisting conveyor belt of new generations of veterans, too many of whom will become another "one of 22."

2014 1008 kohner stJacob George (Photo: Ironside Photography)22 veterans take their own life every day in the USA. On 17th September 2014, Jacob David George was one of those veterans. And today, 7th October 2014, we mark thirteen years since the invasion of Afghanistan – an occupation with no end in sight, despite the promise of withdrawl by 2014.

We continue to witness new eras of the US-led Global War on Terror, and with it, a persisting conveyor belt of new generations of veterans, too many of whom will become another "one of 22."

Jacob George was a shining star of the counter-militarism movement. The huge response to his death has exposed just how powerful a presence Jacob was to so many people. As with many others who have expressed their grief, my brief encounters with Jacob felt unique and meaningful. His death cannot be allowed to be another number, but is testament to the brutal effects of the on-going struggle against militarism, to the urgent need to sustain our communities and to our right to heal.

Jacob was the picture-image of successful healing. As a veteran, he was out-spoken on the difference between being a soldier and being a warrior – the latter being led through dialogue with one's soul.

My experience among veteran communities has given me a new understanding of the often entwining threads of the darkness and richness of life. Veterans have seen behind the curtain of the fragile concept of society, and under the current global system, this all too often means violence.

Jacob is a warrior whose actions not only speak to the horrors and futility of war, but also leave us with lessons of healing and finding joy amongst deep despair. Jacob had an endless ability to empathize with others. His soul was a generous one. In grief, I am trying to be generous to empathize with his decision to leave us.

As Brock McIntosh, fellow Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) member, says in his tribute to Jacob, it is difficult to make sense of his decision to take his life. For me, as someone who is trying to write about the interconnectedness of personal healing and global social justice, Jacob's death seems like a milestone on a thorny path with no end or sign-posts. This work is often dark and seems hopeless, and Jacob's life seemed to represent hope and light not only for me, but for many people in and beyond the movement.

During his military career, Jacob was a "good" soldier, trusting in the script of militarism which teaches that US intervention is a force for good in the world. Like others, it was Jacob's direct experience of combat that contradicted such nationally rehearsed and practised narratives. As he would tell audiences, by looking into the eyes of the Afghan people whose land he was occupying, he could see that it was he himself who was the "terrorist."

I first met Jacob in 2012, when he threw his medals back to NATO generals at their summit meeting in Chicago. These medals were awarded during his three deployments to Afghanistan as a special operations combat engineer, before he was honourably discharged as Sergeant at the age of 23. Before he hurled his medals towards the summit meeting, he said "I have one word for this Global War on Terrorism decoration, and that is 'shame.'" In reflection, Jacob said of the experience, "the act of throwing released something inside of me. I don't know what it is. I'm still trying to figure it out. But it played a role in healing my soul."

After his discharge from the Army, Jacob returned to Afghanistan to engage with community members and peace activists there. This was a trip which crystallized his suspicion that among the veteran community in the US, "most of us are poor farmers killing poor farmers, while people in our nation starve".

Jacob's commentary on his process of healing was continually emphatically political; he valued spaces which allowed for the expression of vulnerability, and asked difficult questions like "How do we share pain together?" Jacob did this by telling his story through music, giving testimony, and by founding "A Ride to the End" as part of Operation Awareness, whereby he cycled over 8000 miles across the United States, armed with his banjo and a desire to connect with as many communities as possible about waging peace and healing from war.

One night, I listened to Jacob tell a story from that trip to Afghan activist Suraia Sahar about a farmer who showed Jacob around his home and surrounding area. He described how the farmer had told him, "You have turned my home into a playground of war." Jacob wrote a song about it. Jacob, who described himself to me as a 'storytellin' hillbilly' had a natural ability in speaking with humility and poignancy, as well as a familiar playfulness, even with strangers. Jacob's stories would shift between evoking laughter and tears. That night, as he sang eyes-closed, I watched tears first roll down his face, then Suraia's, then my own. Slowly, other people entered the room, which organically turned into a sharing of experiences from Afghanistan. Jacob carved out those rare spaces where we could feel pain together, and start the healing process.

Such healing focuses on restoring the moral fabric of trust that has been torn-apart by the experience of war and military training, and the betrayal that veterans feel when they see the absurdity and futility of war in contrast to the script of heroism upon which militarism operates. It is a victory for veterans to be able to restore the moral fabric between one another through truth-telling sessions. However, restoring the fabric of trust with US civilians is a completely different, and at times impossible-feeling, upward struggle.

Tokens of support, such as the yellow ribbon which was introduced before the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, have had a distancing and depoliticizing effect in US political culture, giving civilians a means to "support" soldiers without engaging with war.

Jacob's untimely death reflects the cultural blind-spot of how the USA treats its veterans. He was outspoken about such a blind-spot, and much of his life as a veteran was focused around drawing attention to how society might alter its treatment of returning warriors. "Don't thank me for what I've done," Jacob sings in, Support The Troops. Instead, he suggests that troops "need treatment and jobs, and love for the soul."

Jacob shows us that, in blindly thanking veterans for their service, well-meaning civilians actually silence veterans, and in that silencing, prevent their healing. In short, the realities of war have become invisible behind a national gratitude of service.

What would happen if instead of thanking veterans, civilians asked questions and listened carefully to their voices? If this happened, could the kind of militarism endemic to the post 9-11 culture in the US be tolerated? Perhaps it would be exposed for what it is – a script written by a power elite to protect their strategic interests in global imperialism, profit and power.

Through his potent memory, Jacob continues to be part of a community of veterans who identify connecting one's own personal actions in larger political landscapes as the most important way towards healing.

Jacob called this struggle to heal from war, "a soldier's heart," a nod to both Civil War era definitions of Post Traumatic Stress, and the name of his album he released in 2013. To the end, Jacob was a true warrior in that he allowed his soul to really feel. Sadly, the pain was too hard to bear. Through Jacob's death I too feel that pain, and it drives me forward in my writing, and in my sense of what it means to be human.

His death has also strengthened in me a feeling of rage for the enemy – US foreign policy and the culture of militarism which props up the destruction inherent in these policies. It was this which took Jacob. It was this which continues to hurt our communities.

As we enter into the fourteenth year of NATO troops in Afghanistan, I will use my rage, grief, hurt and love to drive my efforts in resisting militarism. Like Jacob, we can find joy amongst deep despair, and carve out spaces of healing in dialogue with our souls.

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SpeakOut Wed, 08 Oct 2014 11:01:07 -0400
United States' H-Bomb Addiction Running to Trillions http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26707-united-state-h-bomb-addiction-running-to-trillion http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26707-united-state-h-bomb-addiction-running-to-trillion

In 2008, the Obama Administration made eye-popping headlines by announcing a 10-year, $80 billion nuclear weapons development program. In 2009, Mr. Obama promised to pursue a “world without nuclear weapons,” but that was then.

By 2010, new warhead plans had grown to an estimated $355 billion, decade-long cash cow that amounts to a cool $1 trillion over 30 years. The colossal expense has already been generally adopted by the House and Senate in military authorization bills -- according to the Sept. 22 New York Times.

In 2008, the Obama Administration made eye-popping headlines by announcing a 10-year, $80 billion nuclear weapons development program. In 2009, Mr. Obama promised to pursue a “world without nuclear weapons,” but that was then.

By 2010, new warhead plans had grown to an estimated $355 billion, decade-long cash cow that amounts to a cool $1 trillion over 30 years. The colossal expense has already been generally adopted by the House and Senate in military authorization bills -- according to the Sept. 22 New York Times.

One of three new production sites just opened -- a $700 million non-nuclear parts plant run by Honeywell in Kansas City, Missouri. The other factories include a uranium fabrication complex at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and a plutonium processing works at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico. The latter two programs have run up such enormous cost increases that even the White House has blinked.

Plans for LANL’s plutonium production -- originally expected to cost $660 million -- expanded into a $5.8 billon golden goose. The project was suspended in 2012, and engineers went to work at cost cutting. At Oak Ridge, the uranium processing “canyon” rocketed from a $6.5 billion proposal to a $19 billion war contractor’s wet dream. The White House halted the scheme this year, and the lab is reworking plans for fixing its 60-year long nuclear meth habit.

New H-bomb production is advertised as “revitalization”, “modernization”, “refurbishment” and “improvements”. The buzz words are used by corporate weapons contractors and their congressional lapdogs who speak of the “40-year-old submarine warhead” (known as the W-76), or who feign concern over “fires, explosions and workplace injuries” that are “deplorable” because the equipment “breaks down on a daily basis”, the Times reported.

The War System always neglects to mention that 15,000 plutonium warheads are currently maintained at Pantex, Texas and are good for 50 years, according to The Guardian, Sept. 29. The trillion dollar nuclear bomb building plan is to produce up to 80 new warheads every year by 2030.

The military currently deploys almost 5,000 nuclear warheads -- on submarines, land-based missiles, and heavy bombers. This, even though Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel signed a report (before he was appointed to his current job) that found that only 900 nuclear warheads were “necessary.” Hagel’s report recommended abolishing 3,500 warheads now in ready reserve, saying warhead numbers are much larger than required.

Independent observers, watch dogs and think tanks have argued for decades that the arsenal can be drastically reduced and made less dangerous: a) by not replacing retired warheads; b) by taking deployed warheads off “alert”; and c) by separating warheads from missiles and bombs. This separation would lengthen warning-to-launch times, thus easing international tensions and ending the terrifying likelihood of accidental or unauthorized launches.

Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, which bird dogs the Cold War lab, says the reason new H-bomb production is being considered at all is simply private greed. For-profit corporations now run all the government’s nuclear weapons labs, ever since they were privatized in 2006. Mello says, “The nuclear weapons labs are sized for the Cold War, and they need a Cold War to keep that size.”

Further, in a report leaked last year, the Navy itself questioned the need for producing any new warheads. (The Navy controls at least 1,152 warheads spread across its 14 Trident submarines.) And James Doyle, a 17-year veteran scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (who was fired this past July 8 for independently publishing a scholarly article defending nuclear disarmament), told The Guardian, “I’ve never seen the justification articulated for the 50-to-80- pits per year by 2030.”

Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, was shocked by the President’s double talk, telling the Guardian, “Obama’s proposed 2015 budget is the highest ever for nuclear weapons research and production. And at the same time, they’re cutting non-proliferation budgets to pay for it.”

The $1 trillion doesn’t include a few hundred billion more for new nuclear war-fighting systems like:

  • The $80 billion cost of building 12 new ballistic missile submarines to replace the Navy’s Trident fleet. Sen. Richard Blumenthall, D-CT, told the New London Day Sept. 23,“The essence here is this boat will be the strongest, stealthiest, most sustainable of any in the history of the word.” “Sustainable”? Well yes; like bankruptcy or suicide.
  • The Air Force’s $44 billion plans for a new nuclear bomber called the Long-Range Strike Bomber Program (LRS-B). The Air Force reportedly wants 80-100 of them at roughly $550 apiece. The chilling rationale for these billions was provided by Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Chief of Global Strike Command, who said Sept. 16 at in Washington, DC, “It will be essential as we move forward to have a bomber force that can penetrate any place on the globe and hold any target on the planet at risk.”
  • The planned replacement of 450 Minuteman 3 ICBMs known as the “Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent” -- set to be deployed in existing silos after 2030 -- that a RAND study said would cost between $84 and $219 billion.
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SpeakOut Wed, 08 Oct 2014 10:52:51 -0400
International Day of Nonviolence in Afghanistan http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26672-international-day-of-nonviolence-in-afghanistan http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26672-international-day-of-nonviolence-in-afghanistan

Kabul - “I woke up with the blast of another bomb explosion this morning,” Imadullah told me. “I wonder how many people were killed.” Imadullah, an 18 year old Afghan Peace Volunteer, (APV), from Badakhshan, had joined me at the APVs’ Borderfree Community Centre of Nonviolence.

The news reported that at least three Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in the suicide bomb attack, in the area of Darulaman. Coincidentally, the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) had planned to be at the Darulaman Palace that same morning.  To commemorate Gandhi’s birthday and the International Day of Nonviolence, we wanted to form a human circle of peace at the Palace, which is a war ruin.  But the police, citing general security concerns, had denied us permission.

Kabul - “I woke up with the blast of another bomb explosion this morning,” Imadullah told me. “I wonder how many people were killed.” Imadullah, an 18 year old Afghan Peace Volunteer, (APV), from Badakhshan, had joined me at the APVs’ Borderfree Community Centre of Nonviolence.

The news reported that at least three Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in the suicide bomb attack, in the area of Darulaman. Coincidentally, the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) had planned to be at the Darulaman Palace that same morning.  To commemorate Gandhi’s birthday and the International Day of Nonviolence, we wanted to form a human circle of peace at the Palace, which is a war ruin.  But the police, citing general security concerns, had denied us permission.

Imadullah and Rauff, another APV member, continued discussing the attack. Rauff believes that the latest string of suicide bombings in Kabul have been in response to actions of the newly formed government.  “Three days ago, they signed the US /Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement  (BSA),” Rauff explained.  “The Taliban condemned the new government, now led by former World Bank official President Ashraf Ghani and ex-warlord Vice President General Dostum, for signing the agreement.”

Listening to Imadullah’s and Rauff’s concerns over the latest string of attacks, I wondered if I myself had become inured to this sober Afghan reality of perpetual war. 

 

We were soon joined by Zekerullah and Abdulhai who had gathered local street children at Borderfree Community Centre, so we could supervise their walk to a nearby park, the alternative place for our event.

 

“I’m taking music lessons and if I’m good enough, the teachers say I may be able to participate in Afghan Star ( like the American Idol show ) in the future!” said Nur Rahman, after belting out a sweet Afghan love song for me.

“We wish for a life without wars,” Mehdi, a boot polisher in our street kid program, said emphatically as we set off towards the park. “He’s telling the truth!” echoed another street kid walking just behind him.

I've often met precocious Afghan children who express cynicism and feel angry that they must wise up so quickly in a country whee the Taliban's or the US/NATO's bombs might kill them.

Most people outside Afghanistan are too far away to preoccupy themselves over what the former British envoy to Afghanistan called an ‘eye wateringly expensive exercise in military futility’.

Whereas seemingly everyone understands that wars are futile, US/NATO and Afghan politicians have nevertheless wired their media and general public to believe that this war, in Afghanistan, is necessary.  Through the BSA, they have agreed to keep long term US/NATO military bases in Afghanistan. The decision will assuredly prolong war and violence.

Governments involved in Afghanistan spend a vast bulk of their borrowed or tax-payer money not on food, water, shelter, education, health and other basic human needs, but on the machine of war.

Most of us assume that our leaders must know what to do, even if they have failed to bring genuine security after 13 years.

I feel a deep frustration.

On our way to the park, street vendors and shopkeepers asked us, “What’s the occasion? Why the blue scarves?” Ordinary Afghans, trying to eke out a meager living in a country with at least 36% unemployment, seem eager for some action, some change.

The blue scarves looked strikingly beautiful along the pot-holed road. 

“We’re a group of drug addicts!” Mirwais replied playfully. “No, we’re a group for nonviolence!” Mirwais is another street kid who has seen numerous people addicted to opium living under bridges in Kabul. Unable to find work in Afghanistan, many Afghan men go to Iran where they work illegally as labourers. There, they get addicted to drugs. 

The APVs couldn’t help but feel weighed down by the serious irony of promoting nonviolence in a country where the world’s most powerful nations have gathered to wage war.

After Mohammad Qawa and Zebiullah had lifted our spirits with their guitar-accompanied singing, I took the loud-hailer to offer a word of encouragement.

“When I am abroad, I hear that you are the generation of war.” I sensed uneasiness in the air. Some of the youth responded in what I’ve noticed is a common Afghan way of coping with their harsh lives – they laughed.

“But well done to all of you for coming today to show that no, you are not a generation of war. You are a generation of love!” I didn’t expect the rapturous, supportive applause! 

The New Afghan Generation Says No To All Wars!

“On the International Day of Nonviolence,” I added, “we remember a quote from Gandhi, that ‘where there is love, there is life.’” I thought of how my Afghan friends among the Peace Volunteers have demonstrated love and affirmed life, and felt grateful.

The energetic little ones together with the sober youth and adults joined hands as they formed a circle, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and other Afghan ethnicities, each wearing the Borderfree blue scarf signifying our belief that we’re all human beings living under the same blue sky!

2014 1006spk

Celebrating the International Day of Nonviolence in Kabul, Afghanistan

“When I see this circle of children and youth,” Abdulhai told the group, “I feel excited about the possibility of change.”  

We need this excitement to generate more and more circles of friendship, along with many more relationships that can help us understand that our governments have unfortunately disguised perpetual war as peace. 

The Presidents, Prime Ministers ,CEOs and extremists like the Taliban will fight on and on, drop and lay bombs to kill mostly civilians, escalate hate, anger, hunger and thirst, rape our earth of its minerals, gases and oil, and warm our globe to extinction. 

They are increasing violence in Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq and Syria, in the drug war in Mexico, on Wall Street against the 99%, through the tar sands in Canada, in student debt loans everywhere….

We need to work hard, cheerfully and patiently, to reach the human family with a simple message that we the people no longer like authoritarian, weapon-wielding profiteers. Too many of us are dying.

Our leaders inhabit an unequal system that is driven by the same corrupt power and egos that gripped ancient kings and queens.

To hoard money and power for themselves, they are repeating the violent acts of history, and we can no longer satisfactorily explain to our children why they need to suffer for the elite.

We cannot wait. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world!” So, I readily join the APVs’ mission:  to abolish war.

We understand that ‘we are the ones we’ve been waiting for’. 

“Wake up! We are not the war generation. We are the generation of love!”

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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 15:18:25 -0400
The Smart Bomb http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26671-the-smart-bomb http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26671-the-smart-bomb

My brother frequently picked on me

 

Last week he even ditched me with his friends,

All older by several years,

And I waited an hour at the park

For nothing

My brother frequently picked on me

 

Last week he even ditched me with his friends,

All older by several years,

And I waited an hour at the park

For nothing

 

I wanted the chance to get even with him,

Maybe even to tell my parents

That he was seeing some girl

All those afternoons he said

He was doing extra credit at school –

If I really got mad, that is

 

But I never did

Because he, my brother,

Played cards with me and laughed a lot

And taught me football and made sure

Nobody every pushed me around

Except him

 

Yesterday morning he shared his porridge

With me even though he was hungrier, and bigger

 

Naturally I wanted to kill him

A hundred times a day for teasing

 

But not the way the smart bomb did

 

They told me it was a smart bomb

That made a mistake

 

I wonder whoever made it so smart,

Somebody a million miles away,

Did he have a brother

Who put a hand on his shoulder to squeeze it

As they walked home from school

For no reason at all

 

My parents couldn’t answer that question,

My parents, I can hardly recognise them

 

We’ve been ditched but there’s not even

Waiting

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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 15:08:44 -0400
Humpty-Dumpty and the Fall of Berlin's Wall http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26667-humpty-dumpty-and-the-fall-of-berlins-wall http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26667-humpty-dumpty-and-the-fall-of-berlins-wall
“Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall. “                                 
 
The children’s rhyme and its words Wall and Fall came to mind in connection with commemorations of the fall of the Berlin Wall - actually its opening up. Is such an allusion frivolous? Maybe. For millions that event twenty-five years ago was marked by genuine, understandable euphoria. But unceasing ballyhoo in the German media, weeks and weeks ahead of the anniversary, and plans for 8000 white helium balloons lit up by 60,000 batteries along the ten-mile length of the former wall, to be released in the evening with triumphant trumpet blasts, jubilant church bells or something similar while Angela Merkel, Lech Valesa, Mikhail Gorbachov, Berlin’s departing mayor and other celebrities cast their eyes gratefully heavenward, may perhaps justify my somewhat different approach.  
“Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall. “                                 
 
The children’s rhyme and its words Wall and Fall came to mind in connection with commemorations of the fall of the Berlin Wall - actually its opening up. Is such an allusion frivolous? Maybe. For millions that event twenty-five years ago was marked by genuine, understandable euphoria. But unceasing ballyhoo in the German media, weeks and weeks ahead of the anniversary, and plans for 8000 white helium balloons lit up by 60,000 batteries along the ten-mile length of the former wall, to be released in the evening with triumphant trumpet blasts, jubilant church bells or something similar while Angela Merkel, Lech Valesa, Mikhail Gorbachov, Berlin’s departing mayor and other celebrities cast their eyes gratefully heavenward, may perhaps justify my somewhat different approach.  
 
After the Wall lost its barrier status on November 9th 1989, what soon fell in the months that followed hardly conjured up the funny-looking egg some recall from Alice’s looking-glass adventures. It was rather the forty-year-old institution calling itself the German Democratic Republic, the GDR.  To employ the ovoid allusion again, one might inquire: Did it fall because it was totally foul? Was it given an outside push or two? And did that downfall represent simply the glorious revolution of a folk yearning for freedom - or is the matter more complicated? This is still very relevant, for many similar uprisings have since occurred - and are still occurring.
 
Why did the GDR go under? Despite reams of bad publicity since its start after 1945, it was born largely of the hopes and dreams of a relatively small number of survivors of Hitler fascism, some in exile on many continents, others in Nazi camps and prisons. These men and women were determined to create a new Germany - or part of Germany at least - rejecting fascism and the powerful forces behind it: Bayer and BASF (of I.G. Farben), which built and helped run Auschwitz, Siemens, Krupp and Flick, which misused hundreds of thousands of starved concentration camp prisoners and forced laborers from all Europe - and the Deutsche Bank which helped finance every bloody step of the way. Despite their defeat, for a second time, these forces never gave up plans for recuperation and renewed expansion and were already re-establishing themselves. But not in eastern Germany, where such plans were thwarted and their factories and property nationalized. It was this vitally crucial move by the GDR which was never forgiven, not to this day.
 
Those first activists, facing millions of widowed, orphaned, embittered, ideologically cynical or still Nazi-infected people, invited the best exiled anti-fascist writers, artists, professors, theater and film experts to help alter these moods and prejudices, at least in eastern Germany. Among those responding were Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Anna Seghers, Ernst Busch, Arnold Zweig, Heinrich Mann (who died just before his arrival). Others, like Hans Fallada, had remained in Germany but opposed fascism. These people, and those who learned from them, created progressive theater, music, film and literature to match any in the world. Here, too, fully contrary to developments in that other Germany across the Elbe, Nazis were ejected from schoolrooms, lecture halls, police stations and judge’s benches.
 
And though it started with a veritable pile of ruins, a wrecked industry which paid 95 percent of German war reparations and was increasingly discriminated in world markets, the GDR toiled to build a remarkable new economy - one without profits. With an almost total lack of natural resources a new iron and steel industry was created, factories for ships, farm combines, cranes and machine tools, when possible also in areas like Mecklenburg, for centuries primitive, feudal backwaters. And this with no Marshall Plan and the loss of Nazi-tainted engineers and managers who left in droves.
 
Gradually, especially after a ceaseless, well-organized westward brain drain had been harshly stopped by that Berlin Wall, more could also be invested in consumer goods. By world comparisons a high living standard was achieved, as nearly every home had a fridge, color TV, a washing machine. About half the families owned at least a small car, but cheap public transportation was stressed.
In forty years, despite the worst of odds, the little GDR was able to solve many problems now troubling so many nations. For one small tax all medical care was completely covered, so was family planning including abortions, child care, summer camps, cultural and sports activities for young and old. All education was free, scholarships covered basic living costs so no loans were needed, and post-graduation jobs were guaranteed. Women were enabled to work - at equal pay rates; well over 90 percent did. Best of all, there was no joblessness, evictions were strictly forbidden, no-one needed to fear the next day - or year. Lots still needed accomplishment, blunders were made, frequent shortages of one or the other commodity led to countless jokes - and lots of anger. And yet, poverty had been almost completely eradicated. Where else in the world was this accomplished?
 
But the GDR had to compete with one of the world’s most prosperous economies, West Germany. It was never able to match the swift innovation pace of competing corporations whose ups and downs may have cost many tears in lost jobs and ruined plans but meant a constant stream of chic, modern products - above all good cars. Like people elsewhere, GDR citizens thrilled at enticing advertising. But that was West German TV - GDR-TV had no commercials. Envy was widespread. It was worsened by often old-fashioned tastes of the men ruling the roost - and rule it they did, almost to the end.
 
I think most of those aging anti-fascists retained their original hopes, their ideals based on socialism. But as they grew older, accustomed to central rule and constantly flattered by the careerist Yes-men who always gather where power and perks are found, they increasingly lost touch with much of the population. Many freedoms were indeed curtailed, worst of all for the media which were, when political, dull, rigid, one-sided and self-laudatory. As for free speech, after the earlier years the fears and anxieties featured in many Stasi films had largely disappeared, at least on a private, every-day basis. People usually said what they thought - except in public meetings (or classes), where they often feared losing chances at a bonus, a promotion or a trip to relatives across the Wall if they were seen as too “pro-western”.
 
The GDR had wonderful theater, opera, ballet; for other tastes there were good beat groups. Most of the better Hollywood and other western films were shown. Yet life for many seemed drab, cut-and-dried, regulated. People felt locked-in, even after the number of those able to visit West Germany kept rising, reaching a few million by 1988. Seniors had long been able to travel westward for a month each year.
 
Although this system never conformed to most ideals of democracy, it was never absolute. There was a constant response to people’s needs, reacting to wishes and demands funneled upward from the big grass-roots membership of over two million in the ruling party, from constant reports by the state security apparatus or Stasi (one of its more positive functions) and in full mailbags with personal complaints and requests.
 
Increasingly however, young people especially took all advantages, especially economic security, quite for granted. So many loved Donald Duck, admired handsome Marlboro cowboys or lovely Hollywood celebrities and dreamed of crossing the Golden Gate or even feasting under a Golden Arch, without knowing or really caring about the conditions of those serving the big Whoppers.
 
Dissatisfaction increased in the 1980’s as the economy slowed, hit by the desperate need to build, without outside help, an electronics industry, also by a giant housing program and heavy investment in armed forces trying to match those in the West. And rulers who grew up politically in the years of Stalin never learned how to counteract such envy or dissatisfaction and feared glasnost à la Gorbachov, recalling that Hitler had taken power with open elections and noting, not incorrectly, that the West was quick to use any openings to push for “regime change”. By 1989, when this had succeeded in Hungary and Poland, soon largely “westernized”, the dissatisfaction boiled over, and people started to demonstrate, in Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and elsewhere. 
 
At first, when the Wall opened up, people demanded an improved GDR, with new freedoms. But when Kohl, Brandt and many others moved in, waving well-packaged products, well-phrased promises and above all well-printed, enticing West German D-Marks, the GDR went down the drain.
 
What role in the pushing was played by Vernon Walters, sent as ambassador to West Germany by George H.W.Bush in April 1989 with the job of “going whole hog over there”? The morning after the Wall opened up he organized a flight for Chancellor Kohl to Berlin to inspect the area from a helicopter, then descend to “get into the act”. Later, speaking proudly of the fall of the GDR, he said “We got here because we were strong. We got here because we were determined, and we got here because we defended the free choice of people to choose their own destiny.” Walters, a key player with Reagan and Pope John Paul in achieving regime change in Poland, had “been involved directly or indirectly in the overthrow of more governments than any other official of the US government”, among others Iran in 1953, Brazil in 1964, Chile in 1973, even Fiji in 1987. As for people’s free choice, in his view the war in Vietnam was “one of the noblest and most unselfish wars” in USA history.
 
Plenty has changed in East Germany in 25 years. It’s a mix. Travel and consumer goods involve no other problems than their prices. Bright advertisements and commercials brighten TV programs, the streets, new cafes, even the sides of buses and streetcars. GDR industry was soon destroyed, both worn old factories and very modern newer ones were pawned off and closed down. Millions moved west, but with Germany now the strongest economy in Europe there has been a partial recovery; perhaps a third of the East Germans are doing better than before, about a third are holding their ground. The rest had bad luck. Medical coverage, though better than in the USA, is hit by jumps in price, like fares and rent. Private schools are blossoming everywhere for those with enough money. Higher education is increasingly for the well-to-do. The Daimlers and the Deutsche Bank ride high.
 
The GDR did change many people to a degree. Egotism, jealousy, even greed could hardly be eliminated entirely. But the small gap between the more and the less prosperous, while no-one could become wealthy by exploiting others, the opportunities for women to find jobs and professions permitting far less subservience to husbands or bosses, the fact that no group was played off against others due to differences in age or background and the feeling of economic security meant, as polls then found, that eastern citizens were on average friendlier and closer to family and workmates.
 
The freedoms now achieved are appreciated today. But a lack of response by leading parties to the needs of those with half-time, temp and other insecure jobs, or none at all, has often caused new cynicism. Seeing a Tweedle Dee-Tweedle Dum species of democracy (to recall Alice), many stay home instead of voting; in recent state elections only half the citizens went to the polls. Others have indeed voted, to hit out at “the foreigners” - a truly dangerous trend. About ten percent, largely in eastern Germany, defy all media taboos to choose what they hope is a better alternative, the LEFT party.
 
But in view of today’s economic doldrums in Europe and the threat of a hard, belt-tightening future, some East Germans are wondering if, in believing all the promises and rejecting everything the GDR had offered, they made a partial blunder 25 years ago like that, once more with Alice, of the gullible little oysters who fell for the friendly invitation to a stroll with the hungry Walrus and the Carpenter:
“Now if you’re ready, oysters dear, we can begin to feed” - “But not on us!’ the oysters cried, turning a little blue. “After such kindness that would be a dismal thing to do!”
 
Does all this matter? Fat Cheshire cats are grinning as they corner ever more of the world’s wealth, damage the planet irreparably and gain control of every phone call, Email or Sunday trip to the country with an efficiency Stasi officers would have envied. While the dangers of communism or socialism seem abolished, they aim at preventing any reconsideration of their possibilities, while squelching by intrigue or by force all signs of independence, progressive or not, in every country.
 
That is also certainly true in Germany, where many corporations and their politician friends still recall with a shudder an era when there was an eastern barrier to stacking gigantic fortunes and indulging in limitless economic and strategic ambitions. We see that in school curricula, tireless TV broadcasts, exhibitions, frequent ceremonies and plans for new monuments.
 
No king’s horses and no king’s men can put an eggy Humpty-Dumpty - or the GDR - together again. But there remains an almost panicky fear that the remnants, recollections of past accomplishments, might some day go into cooking up a healthy new soufflé - though not one at all to their taste. This, I am convinced, is the main reason for the fancy white balloons and the unceasing hullaballoo.
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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 14:11:06 -0400
Consumer and Worker Rights Groups File Amicus in Opposition of New Poultry Inspection System http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26665-consumer-and-worker-rights-groups-file-amicus-in-opposition-of-new-poultry-inspection-system http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26665-consumer-and-worker-rights-groups-file-amicus-in-opposition-of-new-poultry-inspection-system

Washington, DC – Today, consumer and worker rights groups filed a joint amicus curiae brief with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the case of Food & Water Watch v. USDA. The lawsuit challenges the agency's New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) rules, a plan modeled after the agency's controversial pilot program that USDA's own employees have fervently opposed.

Organizations listed on the brief include the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Consumer Federation of America, Center for Foodborne Illness, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Nebraska Appleseed.

Washington, DC – Today, consumer and worker rights groups filed a joint amicus curiae brief with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the case of Food & Water Watch v. USDA. The lawsuit challenges the agency's New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) rules, a plan modeled after the agency's controversial pilot program that USDA's own employees have fervently opposed.

Organizations listed on the brief include the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Consumer Federation of America, Center for Foodborne Illness, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Nebraska Appleseed.

Director of GAP's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC), Amanda Hitt, commented:

"Not only have agency poultry inspectors raised serious concerns about this model, which is essentially a deregulation of the poultry industry, but it has also been criticized by numerous members of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, a diverse array of consumer protection, public health, and workers' rights groups, and 200,000 petitioners who care about food safety."

The brief supports a recent motion filed by Food & Water Watch to prevent the agency's scheduled implementation of the NPIS in poultry processing facilities nationwide later this month. The brief argues that the program violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) by shirking the agency's responsibilities under the Act and allowing poultry processing facilities to make critical determinations and perform key tasks that the Act plainly mandates be performed by government inspectors.

"This rule will likely mean that more tainted chicken will show up on America's dinner plates, because the role of federal food safety inspectors will largely be taken over by company employees," said Michelle Lapointe of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "Many poultry workers already face firing or other repercussions for speaking up about injuries or work conditions. They are not likely to risk their jobs by slowing down the processing line to remove every tainted chicken."

The brief relies heavily on inspectors' statements, which stem from a GAP investigation into their concerns. GAP spoke with several individuals who have experience working in poultry facilities operating under the new program. Seven of these inspectors provided GAP with sworn affidavits illustrating the program’s harmful consequences, including that it would undermine the quality of the nation's poultry supply.

Hitt stated, "Under this system, key decisions about the sale of potentially diseased birds are motivated by the desire to maximize profit rather than protect the public. It enables the industry to return to many of the very unsavory practices that prompted Congress to pass the Poultry Products Inspection Act over 50 years ago. Because government inspectors no longer have a meaningful supervisory role, poultry plants are able to conceal unsafe and unwholesome defects from inspectors and divert adulterated poultry into the food supply."

The joint brief also points out that the USDA's rulemaking process did not include public meetings to enable all interested stakeholders and individuals to orally comment on the rules prior to their enactment this year, another violation of the PPIA.

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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 14:02:59 -0400
What Violence Is Acceptable to You? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26664-what-violence-is-acceptable-to-you http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26664-what-violence-is-acceptable-to-you

Women engaged in peaceful animal rights advocacy in India were attacked in September by a mob of angry men outraged by their presence on a public street. The Western press's reaction has been typical. The Washington Times decried the "Muslim mob" that descended on the women, failing to note that the women were themselves apparently Muslim. Another conservative journal was more explicit in its discriminatory bias: "These Liberals Might Stop Saying Islam Is Peaceful After What Just Happened To Them." Of course neither press account noted the mass violence against women that occurs in the United States, a predominantly Christian country, with nearly one in five women experiencing sexual assault.

Women engaged in peaceful animal rights advocacy in India were attacked in September by a mob of angry men outraged by their presence on a public street. The Western press's reaction has been typical. The Washington Times decried the "Muslim mob" that descended on the women, failing to note that the women were themselves apparently Muslim. Another conservative journal was more explicit in its discriminatory bias: "These Liberals Might Stop Saying Islam Is Peaceful After What Just Happened To Them." Of course neither press account noted the mass violence against women that occurs in the United States, a predominantly Christian country, with nearly one in five women experiencing sexual assault.

Growing up in India, I learned from an early age that the streets were not safe for women. A strange older man exposed himself to me at age 9, leaving me confused and stunned and grateful to have escaped what I later understood to be an attempted kidnapping. So-called "Eve teasing" – terrifying and continuous sexual harassment – is still common on the streets. Indeed, my father left the country when I was 12 because, with three daughters, he did not believe he could raise his family in safety.

I was therefore saddened when I heard about the recent attacks. A group of women, led by a Muslim in a hajib, set out to peacefully suggest vegan alternatives to the mass slaughter of goats that marks the end of Ramadan, the Eid al-Fitr. But their peaceful outreach was met with a violent reaction by a swell of angry men, who hurled stones and tore at the clothes of the women, leaving one hospitalized with severe facial injuries. Yet, while it's easy to condemn the "barbarism" of a foreign nation, we should also look at the substance of what these women had to say before we act on that impulse. The women's demonstration, after all, opposed the slaughter of animals, sensitive creatures with complex social, psychological and emotional lives no different from those of the dogs and cats we love in our homes. But the US kills the largest number of animals in the world, with nearly 10 billion land animals killed every year for food alone. And while we do not generally assault women for engaging in peaceful vegan outreach, most Americans ignore advocates' entreaties for animals who are even more brutally violated than the goats in India—all while patting ourselves on the back for being a more civilized nation.

As an organizer for Direct Action Everywhere's "It's not Food, It's Violence" campaign, which seeks to make visible the massive violence in animal agriculture, I have been inspired by the support we have received from activists across the world. But, while global movements to stop violence continue to grow, the receptiveness to these movements too often replicates discriminatory ways of thinking. Americans are horrified that dogs are slaughtered en masse for food in China, but do not flinch at the thought of doing the same to chickens here at home. We are outraged by the extinction of orangutans in Indonesia, but fail to even acknowledge the equally profound suffering of a mother "dairy" cow whose bellowing calf is taken from her and killed. And we condemn a "Muslim mob" for assaulting women, while routinely ignoring violence against women and other oppressed groups - including animals - that happens in our own communities.

The truth, however, is that the mentalities of the angry mob in India this week and the average American consumer unthinkingly eating a burger or drinking a glass of milk are one and the same. In both cases, empathy has been suppressed and violence has been normalized. The victims, our society tells us, positively deserve their abuse. In the case of the brave activists in India, in addition to their physical trauma, they now face legal charges for "outraging religious feelings." In the case of a chicken in the United States, she is simply "meant to be meat"; a mother cow is "meant to give milk" for humans, and her baby is "meant to be veal."

To truly become a progressive nation, however, we must rise above tradition and what is socially acceptable and see all of these for what they are: unacceptable violence. The story of the women assaulted in India is a cautionary tale about the sexist violence that occurs throughout the world. But it is also a story about the relationship between violence against women, and violence against animals - a story that should lead us to reassess our own violence against animals in the United States.

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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 13:30:51 -0400
#VoteLGBT: Campaign For LGBT Political Representation in Brazil http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26662-votelgbt-campaign-for-lgbt-political-representation-in-brazil http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26662-votelgbt-campaign-for-lgbt-political-representation-in-brazil

A group of social activists in Brazil, concerned with how the outcome of the upcoming nationwide elections would impact on the LGBT community, launched a nonpartisan campaign in order to increase the pro-LGBT representation within political parties and Brazilian legislature.

The #VoteLGBT campaign is mapping all candidates running for the Senate, the Lower House and the Legislative houses of each of the 27 states in Brazil who advocate civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans persons. “In Brazil, political institutions rarely represent the diversity of the country’s population. They are usually taken over by individuals who are committed to maintaining the privileges of a certain portion of society, denying or ignoring the rights of minorities, and the elections are the moment we can change that,” says Gui Mohallem, one of the campaign coordinators.

A group of social activists in Brazil, concerned with how the outcome of the upcoming nationwide elections would impact on the LGBT community, launched a nonpartisan campaign in order to increase the pro-LGBT representation within political parties and Brazilian legislature.

The #VoteLGBT campaign is mapping all candidates running for the Senate, the Lower House and the Legislative houses of each of the 27 states in Brazil who advocate civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans persons. “In Brazil, political institutions rarely represent the diversity of the country’s population. They are usually taken over by individuals who are committed to maintaining the privileges of a certain portion of society, denying or ignoring the rights of minorities, and the elections are the moment we can change that,” says Gui Mohallem, one of the campaign coordinators.

The list of candidates can be found on the campaign website and on their Facebook page where Brazilian voters can also get to know more about the candidates’ proposals. The website was thought as a means to spread and build pro-LGBT advocacy in Brazil, helping to empower pro-LGBT candidates who do not receive enough funds from their parties. “It’s a service, a tool that helps constituents chose candidates who are committed to public policies for the LGBT community” says Mohallem.

A Community At Risk

The LGBT community in Brazil lives a daunting and alarming situation. Despite its worldwide fame as a tropical paradise of sexual freedom, Brazil holds a shocking record: it is the number one country in the world ranking of murders of lesbians, gays, and trans persons. This harsh reality has not moved Brazilian legislators, who have refrained from approving laws to ensure rights and protection to LGBT persons.

The elections of October 5th thus represent a moment of hope and apprehension for LGBT persons in the country. LGBT-phobic religious fundamentalists are an active lobby within the Brazilian Congress: in 2005 the Evangelical Parliamentary Front had 36 representatives; in 2010, they were 73. The result is sadly well-known in Brazil: LGBT-phobic legislators took control of the Commission on Human Rights and Minorities, the bill for "Gay Cure" was nearly put to vote at the Lower House, and the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was pressured into vetoing teaching materials aimed at preventing homophobia in public schools. In 2014, there was a 47% increase in the number of legislative candidates who self-define as “Pastor”, in comparison to the last 2010 legislative elections. On September 28th, a presidential candidate made unacceptable homophobic remarks on national television during the presidential debate, claiming that homosexuals “need psychological care” and were better kept “well away from [the rest of] us”.

“The campaign #VoteLGBT hopes to increase representation for the LGBT community and allies firstly within the political parties. Possibly within the legislature, so that the plurality of voices can curb the religious fundamentalist backlash. We don’t know if we’re going to make it, we don’t even know whether our efforts will help elect somebody. But even if it doesn’t, we’ll be watching the next legislature very closely so that we can help constituents, candidates and LGBT advocacy groups, so that we can keep pressuring the government, and so that we can build an even stronger campaign in four years, for the next elections”, says Giovana Bonamim, another campaign coordinator.

The campaign has had wide diffusion through social networks and has resonated among many audiences, including heterosexual allies. “We’ve been getting lots of positive responses, from the constituents and from the candidates as well. Many constituents are saying that through our website they were able to find candidates who can represent them. And many candidates are thankful, for they are glad to have an additional platform to publicize their proposals,” says Bonamim. #VoteLGBT has received endorsements from many renowned personalities in the cultural and political spheres within the country. “It fills me with hope to realize that we are not the minority, that the people who want to live in a country free from violence and discrimination are the majority,” celebrates Mohallen.

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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:57:50 -0400
Environmentalists, Civil Society Must Unite, Adopt Stronger Tactics to Fight Climate Change http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26661-environmentalists-civil-society-must-unite-adopt-stronger-tactics-to-fight-climate-change http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26661-environmentalists-civil-society-must-unite-adopt-stronger-tactics-to-fight-climate-change

Reports on the destruction of the climate continue to clearly indicate that environmental groups are not doing enough to slow climate change. There is a great need for a larger, more powerful network and some new strategies.

The 311,000 protestors who took part in the exhilarating Climate Summit march through Manhattan and those who blocked some entrances to Wall Street have returned to their homes.

The leaders of the more than 120 nation states that made pie-in-the-sky, non-binding promises for reductions in carbon emissions at the UN meeting and dozens of powerful corporations have moved on.

Reports on the destruction of the climate continue to clearly indicate that environmental groups are not doing enough to slow climate change. There is a great need for a larger, more powerful network and some new strategies.

The 311,000 protestors who took part in the exhilarating Climate Summit march through Manhattan and those who blocked some entrances to Wall Street have returned to their homes.

The leaders of the more than 120 nation states that made pie-in-the-sky, non-binding promises for reductions in carbon emissions at the UN meeting and dozens of powerful corporations have moved on.

And across Canada and other countries, news about the greatest threat ever to humanity's survival has returned to the inside pages of our newspapers. 

But people who strongly believe that the earth is in the initial stages of a downward spiral cannot allow conditions to return to the norm of the past.

A draft of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report raised new concerns. It said that climate disruption is here, and will dramatically worsen unless something is done immediately - and that something is on the level of a wartime response.

Because environmentalists are badly losing the battle to keep carbon emissions to liveable levels, campaigning strategies must be totally re-thought. On its own, the UN process cannot be trusted because much of it is driven by corporate interests

While the New York march encouraged millions of people, a march is still a march. One possibility is the formation of a huge global network or coalition that would give groups and ordinary citizens the power base needed to begin winning the environmental war.

The Challenges Ahead Are Enormous

Right now people are pretty much powerless when it comes to making the biggest decisions ever concerning their lives. 

Most governments in the West no longer have the power to serve the interests of everyday people and protect the environment. Real power is held by corporations espousing neo-liberal values and believing that it is okay to continue to use non-renewable, carbon emitting energy.

But many committed environmentalists, such as Janet Redman of the Washington think tank, Institute for Policy Studies, are nervous that corporations have set up new, aggressive groups, such as We Mean Business to get in on what they see as a likely financial bonanza.

 "Climate issues are central to the broad public interest, but corporations are specifically set up to maximize profits," she told MintPress News, "so we have a fundamental incongruity here." 

If the corporations, governments, and military increase poisoning the environment, there is little chance that global warming can be kept within the target of keeping global warming to close to two degrees Celsius.

Perhaps a main reason for the failure of environmental groups is that they have fought mainly against the symptoms of climate destruction, rather than tackling the core sources. For instance, stopping the Keystone pipeline from Canada to the US is not much more than a symbolic action. If oil companies have their way, the crude will be moved by train – as it now being done - or through other pipelines. In fact, the company announced Wednesday it will have a new pipeline to the South in operation in December.

Countries Must Sign 2015 Climate Treaty

A major hurdle to overcome concerns the need to have all countries sign a new climate treaty in Paris in December 2015 that would go into effect in 2020.

A long-standing dispute pits developed Northern countries such as the United States and Canada against emerging countries such as China, Brazil, and India. The emerging states say that because the North is largely responsible for their environmental problems, they should pay a lot more than the emerging states when it comes to trying to reduce climate change. 

Developed countries are contributing to a special fund to help the South meet climate challenges but, in general, they say both north and South should contribute equally.

What's To Be Done?

Anti-carbon campaigners have a number of things going for them. Many millions of people know that the earth is in serious trouble. This represents tremendous potential power. They know that, if there is the will, non-renewables could replace much of the dirty energy. The community would have full use of the Internet, a powerful campaign-building tool.

While it will be a huge task, people in different countries must form some sort of power base that can challenge corporate power and also influence the signing of a world climate agreement.

For our part in North America, it's unfortunate that the NGO environmental sector is so seriously split that it can't be called a movement. Dozens of large groups have staff dedicated to fighting climate change, but they do not tend to cooperate among themselves when it comes to campaigning. There is no consensus on what strategies to adopt. 

More problematic is the fact that many large green groups take millions of dollars from powerful corporations – some the same corporations involved in pumping millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Big Green Needs To Come Clean

The Big Green groups need to break away from their dependence on corporate money, but even if they don't, the tens-of-thousands of other independent environmental groups need to organize. 

However, the peoples' fight for the future of the planet should not be left to environmental groups. In North America and around the world, tens-of-thousands of progressive networks and organizations should be involved – everything from aboriginal groups, to unions, to arts organizations, etc, etc. If a broad movement can be established, it could consider pouring massive resources into three areas: 

  • First, the movement could put on pressure to speed up the use of renewable energy. A united campaign would be able to identify key areas in the world where extra pressure would lead to rapid adoption of more wind, solar, and thermal energy. Aspects of Germany's world-leading program could be introduced elsewhere. 
  • A large, coordinated movement would have the power to develop strategies to challenge the disastrous practices of energy companies. Organizers could learn from the successes of past struggles, such as the campaign for civil liberties in the US, or the efforts to end the Vietnam War. Perhaps a massive campaign employing many different tactics could be carried out against one corporation that would be identified as "The World's Most Irresponsible Carbon Emitter." 
  • Finally, an international movement could come up with a model for a climate agreement that it would promote as a North-South compromise before the UNESCO December 2015 meetings. A consensus on the make-up of a fair deal should be developed before next year's summit so there can be no chance of failure. 

It seems safe to say that if the unconnected environmental community continues on its ineffective way, and millions of concerned citizens continue to sit on the sidelines, we may not get the real action needed.

If a new, citizens-led movement can be established, it could help the world avoid further increases in the deaths of millions of people in underdeveloped countries, more huge destructive storms all over the world, and the extinction of thousands of species.

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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:42:22 -0400
The Undocumented Dream http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26659-the-undocumented-dream http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26659-the-undocumented-dream

What type of society do we live in which I’m not able to have the same opportunities as others, in which my future is unsure, my immigration status puts a limit to what I can and can’t do? If you aren't a permanent resident or a citizen of the United States you have to work far harder in order to reach your dreams.

I was originally born in Hidalgo, Mexico in 1997. Like many other kids, I did not have a choice in coming to the United States. At the age of 3 my parents decided that it would be best if I came to San Francisco to live with them. And if you were to ask me where I was born I’d say here ,San Francisco, not because I’m ashamed of being Mexican but because I've lived here for as long as I can remember.

What type of society do we live in which I’m not able to have the same opportunities as others, in which my future is unsure, my immigration status puts a limit to what I can and can’t do? If you aren't a permanent resident or a citizen of the United States you have to work far harder in order to reach your dreams.

I was originally born in Hidalgo, Mexico in 1997. Like many other kids, I did not have a choice in coming to the United States. At the age of 3 my parents decided that it would be best if I came to San Francisco to live with them. And if you were to ask me where I was born I’d say here ,San Francisco, not because I’m ashamed of being Mexican but because I've lived here for as long as I can remember.

When I was younger I didn't think that being undocumented could affect me later on in life. It wasn't until a couple days ago when reality hit me about the limited opportunities we immigrants have here. At school our college counselor started a scholarship program where we students can check out different types of scholarships we are eligible for. As I was looking through the paper, I realized that most of them required a proof of citizenship. In that moment I couldn't help but cry. I was overwhelmed with emotions. My anger took over, I told myself that there was no point in trying and I should simply give up. Although this shouldn't be an excuse to give up, it makes it harder on students like me. According to Closing The Gap, “Only 7,000-13,000 undocumented students enrolled in college throughout the United States. That means only 5-10% undocumented high school graduates continue their education into college.” In addition, according to the same source, “undocumented students are banned from applying to certain universities and ineligible for most student aid. Which explains why college is financially out of reach for most undocumented students regardless of their performance.” It’s astonishing to see that we have to work harder and we still don’t get the same opportunities. Whose fault is it that these numbers are low? The undocumented student who is trying to seek opportunities? Or the system that makes sure we don’t succeed? Although I do believe in personal responsibility and the people having control over their future, there is a system we must all confront.

Investing money in the education of undocumented students is viewed as a toll on the American government. According to Judicial Watch, “There are an estimated 1.5 million school-aged illegal immigrants in the United States and the government spends an estimated $12 billion annually to educate them. The biggest chunks are spent by California ($7.7 billion) and Texas ($3.9 billion), where the situation has become a public education crisis with no end in sight...Besides spending nearly $6,000 a year to educate each student, the districts also spend more than $1.5 million annually to pay bilingual teachers extra because they are hard to find and have additional credentials.” The government talks about “wasting billions” on educating immigrants but doesn’t talk about the money spent annually to keep them in jail. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) states, “Criminal aliens -- non-citizens who commit crimes -- are growing threat to public safety and national security, as well as a drain on our scarce criminal justice resources. In 1980, our federal and state prisons housed fewer than 9,000 criminal aliens. Today, about 55,000 criminal aliens account for more than one-fourth of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prisons, and there are about 297,000 criminal aliens incarcerated in state and local prisons”. Yet as reported by The National Association of State Budget Officers, “The Vera Institute of Justice estimates among 40 states surveyed, the average, full cost for states to incarcerate an individual for one year is $31,286.” Let me get this straight: immigrants taking up a huge amount of money from the government for a good and secure future is bad, so let’s not help them out in any way, and instead spend on incarcerating them all. Is that what this is? This unjust system spends a huge amount of time, money, and energy to keep immigrants from succeeding in this country, but refuses to help them become productive members of society.

Seeking a life full of opportunities without violence and poverty, families emigrate from their homeland to the United States. Not having any money with them, they make the decision to leave their loved ones behind in search of a better life for their kids in the land of opportunities. Sadly, the reality of this situation is that these kids will grow up with an obstacle they won’t face until they start thinking of what colleges they will attend and how they will afford it. Although I am lucky enough to be receiving my residency in a few months, there are kids my age who won’t ever get that same opportunity.

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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 12:33:00 -0400
The American Dream http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26657-the-american-dream http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26657-the-american-dream

The controversy in the United States is whether the fault of racial and economic injustice lies with the individuals or the system. Some see poverty and racial inequality as a result of personal choices, while others see it as a result of government or systemic injustice. Lots of people have the ideology that working hard and getting an education will make you successful. Very few see the reality that individuals are at the mercy of the system, which determines their success from the day that they are born. According to Revolution Newspaper, “People like Bill Cosby as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - not only go so far as to blame Black people for the horrendous situation into which this system has shoved them, with its dead end set of “choices”, they do so with a phony pose of concern of Black people.” This shows that the problems people of color (mainly Blacks) face in the US are created by the system and the only way to end this is creating a new system.

The controversy in the United States is whether the fault of racial and economic injustice lies with the individuals or the system. Some see poverty and racial inequality as a result of personal choices, while others see it as a result of government or systemic injustice. Lots of people have the ideology that working hard and getting an education will make you successful. Very few see the reality that individuals are at the mercy of the system, which determines their success from the day that they are born. According to Revolution Newspaper, “People like Bill Cosby as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - not only go so far as to blame Black people for the horrendous situation into which this system has shoved them, with its dead end set of “choices”, they do so with a phony pose of concern of Black people.” This shows that the problems people of color (mainly Blacks) face in the US are created by the system and the only way to end this is creating a new system.

The US has an economic system that controls the money flow. According to a 2007 statistic, the richest 10% control ⅔ of America’s net worth. This means that the top 10% of Americans have 38.5% of all the money in America and can save it or spend it on whatever and whenever they want. On the other hand the other 90% of Americans together only have 26.9% of all the money in the country. This is not enough to have “The American Dream” or live with the quality of life enjoyed by the other 10% of Americans. This is not a coincidence that only a small percentage of people have the power of obtaining easy money, while the other percentage is born and buried poor.

When people have no money they are likely forced into commiting more crimes than those who are more fortunate, just to survive. A shocking quote by Revolution Newspaper’s article, “Why ‘Stop The Violence’ Can’t Happen””

The violence people commit against each other is not at root due to “bad choices” that need to be “solved first” but is due to the ways in which this system has confined people in a position where they are set against each other to survive.

This is an atrocious fact. Many Americans that commit these crimes are indeed not bad people at all, but are people who were set up from the start with a lower chance of enjoying comfortable lives.

If people could realize that the system is at fault for killing the “American Dream” and dragging down 90% of the populace, then maybe we could all live a little more equally. On the other hand, the upper class of people like their place in society and would do anything to keep it that way. Some people believe “groups” of “individuals” need to do better for themselves. I think that there is no way 90% of a country could all make individual decisions that keep them from their own success. I do believe that a push for a new system needs to be made today.

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SpeakOut Mon, 06 Oct 2014 11:37:02 -0400
Drone Protester Sentenced to Three Months http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26633-drone-protester-sentenced-to-three-months http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26633-drone-protester-sentenced-to-three-months

John "Jack" Gilroy, 79, of Endwell, NY and Upstate Drone Action, was sentenced to three months incarceration, three years probation, and $1000 fine by De Witt (NY) Town Judge Robert Jokl.

"It's time for our justice system to identify the real criminals...not those who carry the message to stop the killing to the gates of Hancock Air Base," said Gilroy in his sentencing statement.

John "Jack" Gilroy, 79, of Endwell, NY and Upstate Drone Action, was sentenced to three months incarceration, three years probation, and $1000 fine by De Witt (NY) Town Judge Robert Jokl.

"It's time for our justice system to identify the real criminals...not those who carry the message to stop the killing to the gates of Hancock Air Base," said Gilroy in his sentencing statement.

Gilroy was convicted by a six-person jury on July 15th of trespass and obstructing government administration after a two day jury trial.

The trial was based on Gilroy's participation in a solemn funeral procession and die-in outside Hancock's main gate. The event symbolized the terrorizing and killing of innocent people by MQ9 Reaper drone missiles and bombs piloted by Hancock's 174th Attack Wing. Hancock, near Syracuse, is one of many drone bases perpetrating US drone attacks in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

"I was proud of the way Jack spoke truth to power, stood for nonviolence instead of war, and brought the reality and names of victims of drones into the court," said Fr. Tim Taugher,Gilroy's long-time friend and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Binghamton. "Our courts can't allow the truth to be heard. This is one of many ways our country is trying to squelch truth, debate, dialogue, and discussion of the morality of the use of drones."

Immediately upon sentencing Gilroy, a military veteran and retired high school teacher, was taken in handcuffs to Jamesville Penitentiary.

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SpeakOut Sat, 04 Oct 2014 16:16:24 -0400
Report: US-EU Battle Over Corporate Privileges Could Tank Pact http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26631-report-us-eu-battle-over-corporate-privileges-could-tank-pact http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26631-report-us-eu-battle-over-corporate-privileges-could-tank-pact

Washington, DC - The Obama administration's precarious justifications for the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime may determine the fate of the transatlantic free trade agreement, said Public Citizen as it released a new report (PDF) examining those defenses and revealing data on the U.S. and European Union (EU) firms that would be newly empowered to attack domestic policies in extrajudicial tribunals if the pact includes ISDS. Recently, the incoming European Commission president, several large voting blocs in the European Parliament and the German government have voiced opposition to ISDS.

"The ugly political spectacle of the Obama administration insisting on special privileges and a parallel legal system for foreign corporations over European officials' growing objections is only made worse by the utter lack of policy justifications for ISDS," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "As a slew of domestic laws are being attacked in these corporate tribunals, European officials are rethinking past support for ISDS while the Obama administration just doubles down."

Washington, DC - The Obama administration's precarious justifications for the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime may determine the fate of the transatlantic free trade agreement, said Public Citizen as it released a new report (PDF) examining those defenses and revealing data on the U.S. and European Union (EU) firms that would be newly empowered to attack domestic policies in extrajudicial tribunals if the pact includes ISDS. Recently, the incoming European Commission president, several large voting blocs in the European Parliament and the German government have voiced opposition to ISDS.

"The ugly political spectacle of the Obama administration insisting on special privileges and a parallel legal system for foreign corporations over European officials' growing objections is only made worse by the utter lack of policy justifications for ISDS," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "As a slew of domestic laws are being attacked in these corporate tribunals, European officials are rethinking past support for ISDS while the Obama administration just doubles down."

The Obama administration has also become increasingly isolated at home in pushing for ISDS, as libertarian and tea party groups have expressed ISDS opposition alongside the labor, environmental, consumer, health and other organizations that represent the president's base. The ISDS system, included in some past U.S. and EU trade or investment pacts, empowers foreign corporations to bypass domestic courts, and challenge domestic policies and government actions before extrajudicial tribunals authorized to order taxpayer compensation for claimed violations of investor rights and privileges included in the pacts.

Trying to quell the mounting controversy, the administration has issued a series of ISDS defenses that Public Citizen refutes in its new report, "Myths and Omissions: Unpacking Obama Administration Defenses of Investor-State Corporate Privileges" (PDF). The report documents the increasingly audacious use of ISDS cases to attack policies ranging from Germany's phase-out of nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster to Australia's landmark plain packaging cigarette law to a Canadian province's moratorium on fracking and that country's national medicine patent policy. In recent months, South Africa and Indonesia have joined the list of countries announcing the termination of ISDS-enforced agreements.

Using official data on cross-border investments, the report reveals that, were the U.S.-EU pact to include ISDS, it would newly empower corporate claims against domestic policies on behalf of more than 70,000 foreign firms – an unprecedented increase in investor-state liability for both the United States and the EU.

"Given the vast threats that these corporate privileges pose to our health, our environment, our democracy and our tax dollars, it's little surprise that European officials have joined the broad chorus concerned about this extreme system," said Wallach. "Now all eyes are on the Obama administration: Will it continue peddling baseless defenses of these corporate protections even if that means the demise of its priority U.S.-EU pact?"

The Public Citizen report details instances in which governments have rolled back or chilled health and environmental protections in response to ISDS cases and threats under existing pacts. It describes how ISDS cases have undermined the rule of law by empowering extrajudicial panels of private-sector attorneys to contradict domestic court rulings in decisions not subject to any substantive appeal. And contrary to the administration's claims, the report explains precisely how ISDS grants foreign corporations greater procedural and substantive rights than domestic firms, including a right to demand compensation for nondiscriminatory public interest policies that frustrate the corporations' expectations.

"Rather than try to silence critical voices with far-fetched reassurances, the Obama administration should heed widespread warnings of the threats posed by this parallel legal system for corporations and scrap its stubborn fealty to ISDS," said Ben Beachy, research director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "As the world rejects this extraordinary regime, we cannot afford to further embrace it."

Additional reasons for the current ISDS controversy described in the report (PDF), which goes point-by-point through the administration's claims, include:

  • ISDS cases are surging. While treaties with ISDS provisions have existed since the 1960s, just 50 known ISDS cases were launched in the regime's first three decades combined (through 2000). In contrast, corporations have launched more than 50 ISDS claims in each of the past three years.
  • Under U.S. free trade agreements (FTA) alone, foreign firms already have pocketed more than $430 million in taxpayer money via investor-state cases. Tribunals have ordered more than $3.6 billion in compensation to investors under all U.S. bilateral investment treaties and FTAs. More than $38 billion remains in pending ISDS claims under these pacts.
  • Numerous studies have failed to find that ISDS-enforced pacts cause an increase in foreign direct investment – the ostensible reason for governments to subscribe to the pacts' extraordinary terms. As promised benefits of ISDS have proven illusory while tangible costs to taxpayers and safeguards have grown, an increasing number of governments have begun to reject the investor-state regime. But as they have moved to terminate ISDS-enforced pacts, foreign investment has grown.
  • The structure of the ISDS regime has created a biased incentive system in which tribunalists can boost their caseload by using broad interpretations of foreign investors' rights to rule in favor of corporations and against governments, and boost their earnings by dragging cases out for years.
  • Purported safeguards and explanatory annexes added to agreements in recent years have failed to prevent ISDS tribunals from exercising enormous discretion to impose on governments' obligations that they never undertook when signing agreements.
  • Transparency rules and amicus briefs are insufficient to hold accountable tribunals that remain unrestrained by precedent, countries' opinions or substantive appeals.
  • State and local governments have no standing to defend the state and local policies that often are challenged in ISDS cases.
  • The Obama administration has repeatedly ignored ISDS opposition from Congress, the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures, diverse public interest groups and legal scholars.

Read the report (PDF)

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SpeakOut Sat, 04 Oct 2014 15:02:00 -0400
Confronting White Privilege in the Climate Justice Movement http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26622-confronting-white-privilege-in-the-climate-justice-movement http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26622-confronting-white-privilege-in-the-climate-justice-movement

Speaking at the opening plenary of the New York City Global Climate Convergence in the days before the People’s Climate March, Nastaran Mohit told the assembled crowd that the revolution “and this (Climate Convergence) movement is not going to be spawned from the activist white community. It is going to be led front and center by marginalized and the most directly affected communities.”

Mohit, a New York City based labor organizer who was instrumental in the success of Occupy Sandy, went on:

Speaking at the opening plenary of the New York City Global Climate Convergence in the days before the People’s Climate March, Nastaran Mohit told the assembled crowd that the revolution “and this (Climate Convergence) movement is not going to be spawned from the activist white community. It is going to be led front and center by marginalized and the most directly affected communities.”

Mohit, a New York City based labor organizer who was instrumental in the success of Occupy Sandy, went on:

“For these communities, Climate Change is not a far off thing, it is right at their backyard. For these communities it is an issue of survival. Climate organizing is not a privilege for them, it is a life and death matter.”

While Mohit characterized the People’s Climate March as an “epic event” that she was “proud to participate in” she was quick to balance that excitement with skepticism over the funding behind the march and “the lack of demands, the parade route” (the parade went no where near the UN).

“We also need to be very real when we talk about how scary it is for the big green groups (and) the big corporations for this movement to challenge Capitalism.”

Mohit sat down with Dennis Trainor, Jr. of Acronym TV to talk about her role as an Occupy Sandy organizer, and how she sees her work as a Labor organizer converging with her work in the Climate Justice movement.

This interview is part of Acronym TV’s expanded coverage of the NYC Global Climate Convergence.

“The Convergence calls for a solution as big as the crisis barreling down on us – an emergency green economic transformation, including full employment and living wages; 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030; universal free health care and education; food and housing security; an end to deportations and mass incarceration; economic and political democracy; demilitarization; ecosystem restoration and support for the rights of Mother Earth; and more.”

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SpeakOut Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:29:36 -0400
Special Counsel Orders Investigation of Alleged Foster Care Abuse Coverup http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26621-special-counsel-orders-investigation-of-alleged-foster-care-abuse-coverup http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26621-special-counsel-orders-investigation-of-alleged-foster-care-abuse-coverup

Washington, DC – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) announced that the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has ordered an investigation into allegations that the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) improperly continued federal funding to Wisconsin under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

The state allegedly violated requirements to separate foster children from adult inmates in prison or other secure detention. DOJ's OJJDP also allegedly failed to investigate evidence that the state's records were falsified so that, on the books, Wisconsin's youth detention system would appear in compliance with the law. Further, the investigation must cover charges that the DOJ Office of General Counsel (OGC), tasked with ensuring the JJDPA is lawfully implemented, allowed the Wisconsin misconduct to continue through secret law – legal opinions that canceled longstanding interpretation of funding requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The falsified records and secret legal opinions allegedly allowed Wisconsin to receive, and continue receiving, tens of millions of dollars of illegal funding. Finally, the OSC ordered the probe to investigate charges that DOJ's Office of Inspector General (OIG) obstructed an investigation of the misconduct. To date, neither OJJDP nor the OIG have sought recovery of any improper funding to Wisconsin.

Washington, DC – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) announced that the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has ordered an investigation into allegations that the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) improperly continued federal funding to Wisconsin under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

The state allegedly violated requirements to separate foster children from adult inmates in prison or other secure detention. DOJ's OJJDP also allegedly failed to investigate evidence that the state's records were falsified so that, on the books, Wisconsin's youth detention system would appear in compliance with the law. Further, the investigation must cover charges that the DOJ Office of General Counsel (OGC), tasked with ensuring the JJDPA is lawfully implemented, allowed the Wisconsin misconduct to continue through secret law – legal opinions that canceled longstanding interpretation of funding requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The falsified records and secret legal opinions allegedly allowed Wisconsin to receive, and continue receiving, tens of millions of dollars of illegal funding. Finally, the OSC ordered the probe to investigate charges that DOJ's Office of Inspector General (OIG) obstructed an investigation of the misconduct. To date, neither OJJDP nor the OIG have sought recovery of any improper funding to Wisconsin.

The charges came in a whistleblowing disclosure by former DOJ OIG criminal investigator Jill Semmerling. In 2008, she was assigned to probe underlying charges raised by an OJJDP employee who had been told by a State of Wisconsin official that the books "were being cooked." In 2013, the OJJDP employee, who remains at the agency, won a precedent-setting Whistleblower Protection Act case after suffering retaliation for her efforts to challenge Wisconsin's misconduct. Ms. Semmerling, now retired from the OIG, was removed from the investigation in 2009 after finding evidence of widespread misconduct implicating high-level DOJ and state of Wisconsin officials. Her investigation also uncovered evidence that Wisconsin was not an aberration, but rather that DOJ officials had been winking at similar abuses nationwide. While the case officially remained open until January 2014, nearly all significant investigative work ceased in late 2009.

Under 5 USC 1213 of the Whistleblower Protection Act, employees can file disclosures with the OSC evidencing illegality, gross waste, gross mismanagement, abuse of authority, and a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. If the Special Counsel finds a substantial likelihood the charges are correct, it may order the agency chief to investigate. On September 16, 2014, the OSC informed Ms. Semmerling that it had ordered the Attorney General to investigate. It found a substantial likelihood of misconduct for every Whistleblower Protection Act category of misconduct. The Attorney General has 60 days to investigate and report back with any corrective action commitments. Ms. Semmerling then will have an opportunity to comment on the report's adequacy and reasonableness as a good faith resolution of her concerns. Finally, the OSC provides its own "pass fail" evaluation, after which the report and comments are sent to the President and Congress, and placed on the OSC’s website.

On Tuesday, just two weeks after the OSC’s September 16, 2014 order, the DOJ's OIG chose to post its report of investigation into Wisconsin's fraud on their website. The previously unreleased report was dated January 22, 2014, although no significant additional work had occurred since Ms. Semmerling’s meritless removal from the case in 2009. The DOJ OIG's report only tangentially covers issues in the OSC order, and it neither covers the alleged multi-million dollar improper payments, nor the charges of secret law. The report’s conclusions find noncompliance in Wisconsin from 2001 to 2008; although the body indicates that non-compliance and failure to monitor detention facilities was ongoing in Wisconsin through at least 2013. Significantly, however, the OIG report confirms that despite noncompliance with the JJDPA, there has been no accountability. Wisconsin continues to receive full grant funding from the OJJDP, and no OJJDP employee has been held accountable for the malfeasance in Wisconsin or the retaliation against one of its own staff members. Most significant, the report does not address whether Wisconsin was an aberration or represented widespread abuse. The report does not include any corrective action recommendations.

Semmerling commented, "I am thankful that the OSC has ordered the investigation into my disclosure. It is the DOJ OIG's mission to independently investigate and report waste, fraud and abuse to Congress and the public, which clearly has not occurred in this case. The lack of oversight and accountability in the administration of this grant program by the DOJ OJJDP is systemic. This systemic problem has allowed federal taxpayers’ money to be improperly awarded for years, circumventing a federal law put in place to protect abused and neglected children, who have no voice."

Semmerling's attorney Tom Devine added, "It is bad enough if states improperly receive federal funds designed to protect vulnerable youth. Here federal funds were received after putting child abuse victims in jail with adult offenders, and then lying about it. It is worse that Justice Department lawyers sustained this indefensible practice by secret law, through legal memoranda that canceled longstanding requirements on the books. We hope that this order is the first step toward accountability for foster care abuse victims, and accountability for those who betrayed them."

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SpeakOut Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:20:44 -0400
My Amazing Interview With the 1% http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26620-my-amazing-interview-with-the-1 http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26620-my-amazing-interview-with-the-1

I felt like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, except only one "golden ticket" was stuffed in a loaf of cheap white bread, and I, the holder of that ticket, won the prize, the opportunity to interview the masters of the universe, the top one per centers in the United States, the ruling class. I anxiously gazed out among the assembled crowd of Wall Street barons, tech billionaires, hedge funders, private equity hucksters and banksters with my prepared questions in hand. I guessed they only wanted some lower-working-class interviewer, or why else would they stick the ticket in a loaf of bread you can only buy at Dollar stores? Oh well, I won and was excited to be among them. The interview began:

I felt like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, except only one "golden ticket" was stuffed in a loaf of cheap white bread, and I, the holder of that ticket, won the prize, the opportunity to interview the masters of the universe, the top one per centers in the United States, the ruling class. I anxiously gazed out among the assembled crowd of Wall Street barons, tech billionaires, hedge funders, private equity hucksters and banksters with my prepared questions in hand. I guessed they only wanted some lower-working-class interviewer, or why else would they stick the ticket in a loaf of bread you can only buy at Dollar stores? Oh well, I won and was excited to be among them. The interview began:

Me: First off, I want to thank you all for allowing this interview. My first question is, since 2009, you rich white guys have taken over 95% of all the income created in our country. If the economy were a pizza, you guys took 95 slices and left the rest of us 99% with five slices. Why are you such greedy bastards, and when is enough enough for you guys?

The 1%: What a dumb fucking question! (Turns to the chorus of one per centers) Have any of you ever asked yourselves, is enough, enough? (Entire 1% burst out laughing) There's your answer, next question.

You robbed us commoners of over $6 trillion in wealth when you collapsed our economy with your bubble-busting con game. Your asses got bailed-out using our tax dollars. You now got it set up for your next swindle that collapses the economy to do a "bail-in", whereby you steal our deposited money in your banks to save your asses, and issue us worthless certificates telling us someday we may get our money back. Is there no end to your perfidy?

1%: We know we can't get away with another bail-out, so we'll employ the Willie Sutton strategy, because after all, as Willie said, "that's where the money is." Right, boys? (The chorus configured their one hand like a gun and made shooting noises into the air, while some were actually pointing their finger-gun at me).

In the Bible, Matthew 6:24, it says you cannot worship two masters, God and wealth. How do you square your worship of wealth with your so-called claims of being good Christians?

(Turns to chorus) See what happens when that friggin Pope Francis gets on his high horse and attacks capitalism? We get questions like this. Next question, peasant!

If Jesus ever did return, don't you think He would be disgusted with the lot of you for your worship of Mammon?

If Jesus does come back, he better not repeat that "throw the money changers from the Temple", or that "it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to get into heaven" shit, or we'll nail his ass……again. (Another burst of laughter from the chorus.)

Gandhi must have had you guys in mind when he said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are nothing like your Christ."

Why the hell are you quoting us some character from a goddam Hobbit movie! We don't give a shit what Gandalf said. Look, we feed the planet; we clothe the planet; we house the planet and we heal the sick - as long as there is a buck to be made doing it - so doesn't that make us Christ-like? ("Amen", chimed in the chorus.)

Some would say you rape, pillage, and plunder the planet, but let's not quibble over semantics. My next question is, since most of you inherited your wealth and will pass it on to your offspring, are you no different than the families of past royalty and monarchies, who would intermarry among themselves to protect and grow their riches? In other words, wouldn't you and your offspring fuck your own cousins, sisters, mothers, and grandmothers if it meant getting richer and more powerful?

Indeed. (Affirmative head-shaking among the chorus) Next question.

Forty-two out of 44 of the world's worst authoritarian regimes run by tyrants are supported by you one per centers, either with cash, or armaments, or both. Yet you all claim to believe in democracy. How do you square that fact?

Simple. As long as those sheiks, emirs, sultans, princes, kings, or dictators make us money, we keep them in power. If they go spouting Pope Frankie's crap about inequality and sharing the wealth, we then use your democratically elected politicians to line up and lie to you about why they must be bombed and removed. You have heard, haven't you, peon, that a lie goes halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes. "Remember the Maine" in the Spanish War; WWI, "the war to end all wars"; the Chinese communist hordes in Korea; the Gulf of Tonkin incident in Viet Nam; the massing of Iraqi troops on the Saudi border in Desert Storm; and the best one of all from Iraq II, "the weapons of mass destruction," (huge laugh from the chorus). Every one a crock of made-up shit! Hell, we were even supplying that little Austrian fucker until he went too far in WWII. War is good business, very profitable for us. If you peons get killed, oh well, sometimes the herd needs thinning out. Right, boys?! ("Hear! Hear!" roared the chorus)

So that famous, highly decorated Marine General Smedley Butler was right when he testified before Congress years ago and said, "I'm just a muscle man for Wall Street and the bankers, and a racketeer for capitalism."

Well, our highly decorated General Dudley Do-Right (real Canadian Mountie cartoon character) will testify that if it wasn't for our funding of universities, foundations, think tanks, the media, and politicians from both parties that we own, this country would probably have universal health care ("Boo!" rang the chorus), fully-funded, vibrant public schools, (a louder boo), an economy that had full employment, (loudest boo), and worst of all, no fucking wars (it sounded like banshees screaming).

Many of us believe the system is rigged in your favor. Since a large majority of our elected politicians in Congress are millionaires, and those who aren't are striving to become so, and all but a couple praise your asses, what chance do we commoners have of having our voices heard and our concerns addressed since they always address your needs and relegate ours to the back burner, or what they call "gridlock."

None. (Big laugh from the chorus) Look, ragamuffin. Don't blame us if you keep electing those idiots that we own… I mean, bankroll from both parties. See those two billionaires in the corner? Just those two spent more money in your last election than the top ten… (Turns to chorus) get ready, boys, I have to utter this wretched, vile word … UNIONS spent all together.

(I waited for the coughing, wheezing, and hacking to subside, as if the room suddenly filled with sulfur. Man, these dickheads truly hated working people.) So, you guys really loved that Citizens United Supreme Court decision given to you by those five corporate butt lickers who pissed on our Constitution?

If we could remember their names, we'd send them each a hooker. "Corporations are people" - are you shitting me! (Loud laughter from the chorus), "money is free speech," (louder laughter) and now our corporations have "religious freedoms" (loudest laughter). Praise Jesus, boys, we're going to rule for a very long time. Ka-ching, Ka-ching! ("Hallelujah, Hallelujah," sang the chorus)

Yeah, what ever happened to the wise men on the bench, like Louis Brandeis, who said, "You can have democracy, or you can have wealth concentrated in a few hands, but you can't have both." But anyway, the president once claimed that he was the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks. Aren't you worried that if you keep fucking us over, destroying our planet, poisoning our air and water, and consigning us to lives of quiet desperation and grinding poverty while you all live like King Croesus, that we will rise up and march your asses off to the guillotine, literally or figuratively, depending on the mood of the masses?

What, we worry! An even more wise man, Alfred E. Newman, once said, "The rich are not like you and me. They are vicious cocksuckers who will do anything, and I mean anything, to maintain their rule over the earth." (Resounding whoops and cheers from the chorus rocked the venue). And let me add, the next movement that comes along and targets us won't just get a pepper spray facial. Why do you think we are buying up… I mean, privatizing, all those prisons? Why do you think we're spying on your asses? Come at us again and we'll make what we did to the Black Panthers in the '60s look like a picnic. Get to your next question, peon.

A singin' fella named Woody Guthrie once said, "Some men rob you with a six gun; others rob you with a pen." Who has the biggest pen among you thieves?

All right boys, take out your pen and let's see who has the biggest one of all.

(Man, these guys loved competition. They all reached into their pants and pulled out their pens and started comparing - it was hilarious.) My next question is, since you have taken "dead peasant" insurance out on us workers so when we die you can retrieve all the low wages you ever paid us, is there no low to which you guys won't stoop in order to fleece us working people?

No. Why, just recently our research indicates that you stiffs bury a lot of valuable stuff in your loved ones' caskets. We think there's a great amount of money to be made in buying up cemeteries and then robbing - well, it wouldn't be robbing since we now own the property - I mean, retrieving those valuable items, bundling them as securities and selling them on the market to investors. We'll package the bones and sell them as dog treats. (Instantaneously they all grabbed their crotches, which was an involuntary response when they smelled money-making opportunities.)  Does that answer your question!? Now wrap it up, peasant!

I want to thank you all for allowing me to really get to know you so up close and personal. I believe I speak for all us peons when I say on our behalf, that if there is a hell, we hope Lucifer, Beelzebub, King of the 1%, or whatever you call him, has a nice gated community in the hottest section of Hell just waiting for your sorry asses. But if your beliefs tend toward reincarnation, my bet is you will come back as urinal mats so that we peasants can return the favor.

And before I exited from the high and mighty, I turned around, dropped my drawers, and loudly sang out, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's my ass cheeks," in the hope that whenever they gazed upon a bright, full moon, they would remember my parting gift to them. (My apologies to the songwriter of "That's Amore.")

And off the stage I exited, to take a long, long shower.

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SpeakOut Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:09:07 -0400
When Google Met WikiLeaks: Battle for a New Digital Age http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26618-when-google-met-wikileaks-battle-for-a-new-digital-age http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26618-when-google-met-wikileaks-battle-for-a-new-digital-age

This examination and analysis of Julian Assange's new book When Google Met WikiLeaks that documents his meeting with Google chairman Eric Schmidt and their exchanges about the future of the internet and society reflects on the oppositions represented by the two organizations.

In recent years, the line between the outer world and the online world has become increasingly blurred. Much of cyberspace has come to mirror the outer structures of power. No one understands the severity of the infiltration of these coercive powers in the digital space better than the man who has had to live under constant threat of their force. Even before revelations of NSA mass surveillance, Julian Assange warned the world. In his 2012 book Cypherpunks, he said "the internet, our greatest tool for emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen". He further noted how the internet has become "a threat to human civilization" (p. 1).

The world is often not what it seems to be. We live in a constructed reality enmeshed in a global network that feeds the 1% through de-risked capitalism. The throne of crony Washington consensus uses liberal democracy as a cover, while installing dictators like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt who was once referred to by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a "family friend." With the corporate media as its army, the Pentagon distorts reality with lies and justifies invasions of oil rich countries with blatant propaganda. Through secret diplomacy and militant foreign policy, the US creates colony states, subservient to US and corporate interests, that yield their economic and judicial authority.

We stand at a crossroads, at a turning tide of civilization. This shift is indicated in Assange's new book When Google Met WikiLeaks (2014). In its essence, the book is about two contrasting forces that may end up determining the course of our future in important ways. This is a story of the encounter between WikiLeaks and Google, two entities that have, each in their own way, become highly influential in the world.

The encounter took place June 23, 2011 while Assange was living under house arrest at the country manor of Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline Club and fighting extradition for questioning in regard to the Swedish authorities' allegations of sexual misconduct. With the release of the US Diplomatic cables and unprecedented political retaliation against WikiLeaks as background, "the delegation", which Assange described as "one part Google, three parts US foreign-policy establishment" (p. 17) came out to rural Norfolk, about three hours northeast of London.

The purpose of this visit was to research a book Eric Schmidt, the current Google chairman, who at that time was a top executive of Google, and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas and former advisor to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, were writing. They had requested the meeting to discuss ideas for their upcoming publication entitled The New Digital Age (2013).

Accompanying the duo were the book's editor Scott Malcomson, former senior advisor for the UN and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, who eventually worked at the US State Department, along with Lisa Shields, vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, closely tied to the State Department, who was Schmidt's partner at the time. In the illuminating three hours of conversation, which can be heard in its entirety on the WikiLeaks site, the editor in chief of the publisher of last resort engaged in an in-depth discussion with the future CEO of Google, who had turned the Silicon Valley iconic start-up into a multinational search giant. They debated political challenges and ways that global digital networking and technology might bring changes to fundamental structures of society.

Web of Self-Deception

When people talk about interaction on the World Wide Web, the topic often shifts to Facebook and Google as if the whole internet has become synonymous with such third party companies. Indeed, as Assange astutely pointed out "Google is steadily becoming the internet for many people" (p. 46).

Many people don't realize how these companies are simply centralized aspects of the internet and that they don't represent its basic structure or what it could become. Here Assange alerts us to the growing influence of such entities and reveals how "Google's geopolitical aspirations" are deeply interwoven with "the foreign-policy agenda of the world's largest super-power" (p. 46).

If President Obama, with his rhetoric of hope and change, is a brand that expands the structure of the offline Western patronage networks and disguises its architect, Google has become a new meme to mobilize this radical American foreign policy and its air of legitimacy into the digital space.

Assange observed US state power's silent co-option of Google, using its friendly, playful color and progressive image as part of the smiley face of modern oppression. He sees what is unfolding beneath the surface and alerts that "the advance of information technology epitomized by Google heralds the death of privacy for most people and shifts the world toward authoritarianism" (p. 57). This is already happening, as Snowden's NSA files revealed the company's role in the existing PRISM spying program and how, in a sense, Google has become a privatized NSA in itself.

In his book, Assange makes clear Google is not as innocent as it portrays itself to be. He reveals what happened when this company that grew out of an innovative California graduate student culture came in contact with Washington's halls of power. With its official motto "Don't be evil," the company claims its mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful".

Assange unveils how, contrary to Google's efforts to create a positive public image by giving away free storage, making it appear not like a corporation driven solely by profit motives, this seemingly philanthropic company is a willing participant in its own government co-optation. Indeed, he argues, Google Idea was birthed as a brainchild of a Washington think-tank.

Assange described how "Google's bosses genuinely believe in the civilizing power of enlightened multinational corporations, and they see this mission as continuous with the shaping of the world according to the better judgment of the 'benevolent superpower.'" (p. 35). This process is so gradual and discrete that it is hardly conscious on the part of the actors. This digital mega-corporation, through getting too close to the US State Department and NSA, began to incorporate their ambitions and come to see no evil. This internalization of imperial values created what Assange called "the impenetrable banality of 'don't be evil'" (p. 35). It appears that bosses at Google genuinely think they are doing good, while they are quickly becoming part of a power structure that Assange described as a "capricious global system of secret loyalties, owed favors, and false consensus, of saying one thing in public and the opposite in private" (p. 7). Allegiance creates obedience and an unspoken alliance creates a web of self-deception through which one comes to believe one's own lies and becomes entangled in them.

Radicalization of Internet Youth

Along with shedding light on this invisible force of governance, Assange guides us into a deeper decentralized net. Now, for more than two years, the founder of WikiLeaks has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since the British government obstructed his passage to Ecuador. It is this underground world of cyberspace that connects him to the interconnected world of dissidents and visionaries and which made it possible for him to continue doing his work.

Calling WikiLeaks a "guerrilla publisher," Assange describes how the organization would "draw surveillance and censorship in one jurisdiction and simply redeploy in another, moving across borders like ghosts" (p. 14). He explains the philosophy behind WikiLeaks and its architecture, especially what made the organization successful in combating censorship with the use of technology as a nonviolent tool to fight coercion and secrecy of the state.

Tapping into waves of street movements and similar insurgence that has emerged on the internet, Assange draws attention to a new organ of civil society growing in tandem with WikiLeaks' decentralized infrastructure. He sees it as a kind of evolution of the Internet, transforming itself from an apathetic space into a "demos - a people with a shared culture, shared values, and shared aspirations" (p. 10).

As Assange engaged with this team of tech giants, openly sharing his understanding of a technology that enabled communication in a critical revolutionary time, Malcomson at one point inquired about the human side that makes a broad peer-to-peer open network possible. Malcomson pointed to the new subculture that has emerged around WikiLeaks as a social and political phenomenon, a group composed of technical and altruistic people. He asked Assange how vital it is for this culture to exist and thrive for the work he does for WikiLeaks. Assange acknowledged the expansion of this network. He called it the "radicalization of internet educated youth" (p. 115) and described it as the most positive development in recent years that has emerged through the internet.

Assange pointed out how the young generation that grew up on the internet exhibits attachment to the certain values of open access to knowledge, free flow of information and expectations of government transparency and individual privacy. He explained how rapid communication and the attacks on WikiLeaks became catalyzing events for this new generation to create a critical mass of political action.

Malcomson responded to Assange with great reservation, saying that "young people aren't inherently good." Then he added, "I say that as a father and with regret" (p. 118). Assange countered Malcomson's point, saying that he believes human instincts are actually much better than the values of existing society and that these young people have innately good hearts, but are simply hardened by the social structures which reward narrow commercial interests. He argued that our actions are often conditioned by the structure of society and economically driven systems incentivize certain values. He pointed out how, by the time we get to college, we learn that altruistic deeds won't get paid and explained how this is mainly "a result of the technology that enables fiscalization" (p. 120).

These strikingly opposed opinions on young people reflect contrasting views on the nature of the internet. Malcomson's sentiment can easily fuel the State Department rationale that criminalizes anyone who dares to challenge US hegemony. Conscience is replaced by the interlocking power of state and corporations that now functions as an arbitrator of moral authority. They call those who engage in civil disobedience traitors, malicious hackers and cyber-terrorists who need to be governed, i.e. put behind bars for decades. Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, political activist Jeremy Hammond, journalist Barrett Brown, the late internet activist Aaron Swartz and the PayPal 14 who engaged in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against PayPal after it cut off service to WikiLeaks - which amounts to legitimate political protest equivalent to a physical sit in – were all criminalized this way.

Assange points Google's skewed morality as revealed in their book when Schmidt and Cohen associate "politically motivated direct action on the internet" with terrorism (p. 200). Here the views of the private sector and the state merge, deepening the ties of invisible shadow governance. With its "Don't be evil" code of conduct, Google acts as a self-righteous arm of the superpower.

With little burden of conscience, Google carelessly spreads a virus of deception as it installs and maintains the insidious malware of surveillance.

Clash of Governance Models

In the conversation, Jared Cohen brought up "intervention in the context of a futuristic genocide" (p. 155) that is later explored in one chapter of their book. He questioned the role that WikiLeaks might play in a situation like the Rwandan genocide. This eventually led to a discussion about the growth of WikiLeaks and problems that slowed it. Stating that "it's not that easy to do a WikiLeaks" (p. 156), Assange outlined its particular way of organizing. He talked about how, due to the nature of their work, WikiLeaks cannot just put up an ad and recruit people with certain skills, but needed a different approach. He described a way to lead by "values instead of through command and control" (p. 161).

Similar to the Open Source Movement, this form of leading through values creates an affinity network through which spontaneous collaboration becomes possible without needing to trust people. Through WikiLeaks educating people about their values and beliefs, people across the world who adopt these values find each other in creating their own "computational network of human beings that can think in the same way, that can trust each other on a point-to-point basis" (p. 162).

This horizontal network enabled people to fight effectively, in a David and Goliath like struggle, to find the Achilles' heel of empire. Here WikiLeaks' decentralized organizing took on the top-down mammoth structures of the State Department and the Pentagon. The US government's orchestrated attack on WikiLeaks revealed the clash of two divergent governing forces. While the US empire is highly organized, staffing 10,000 people in these tasks, allocating massive resources to push against the whistleblowing site, WikiLeaks had millions of people around the world who share the same values gather together to organize themselves around shared values and act purely on principle. This bottom up organizing, where each person's free deeds inspire the others embodies the organization's very ethos of contagious courage.

As Assange shared his interest in seeing this global network of affinity create "broader, general, globalized cultural change" (p. 183), Schmidt also acknowledged the effect of globalization in making an interconnected world and how this would likely lead to fast paced culture shifts. In his book, Assange later reflects on this Google CEO who knows "how to build and maintain systems: systems of information and systems of people" (p. 17), was not familiar with Assange's world, with its "unfolding human processes, scale, and information flows" (p. 18).

Mechanism of Accountability

This uncensored genuine public response is ultimately what drives WikiLeaks and makes it thrive. Here the conversation shifted to exploring what sets this whistleblowing site apart from other organizations, including Google. Assange explained the mechanism of accountability, addressing the question of how "the human economic ecosystem" influences the organization in a certain direction (p. 165). "We have our values. How do people see whether we are sticking to our values or whether we have betrayed our values?" he asks. He describes how the organization is "disciplined by the market of sources" and how "sources speak with their feet" by choosing whom to give material to through assessing each publisher's integrity and looking at source protection and the impact of released material.

One could say WikiLeaks is a prime embodiment of source-driven journalism. Whistleblowers who take profound risks and act on behalf of the public good are the engine of the organization. By being true to the intentions of the source, the organization best serves the rest of us. WikiLeaks derives its source of legitimacy from the public, the only agent with the ultimate power to hold any institutions or organizations accountable in a real democracy.

In this context, Assage discusses harm minimization procedures. The organization's much more nuanced and thought out approach to this issue was contrasted with that of US Joint Chief of Staff Mike Mullen, the mouthpiece of the bombastic official Pentagon line of "blood on their hands", calling WikiLeaks publications reckless and irresponsible, while not one single shred of evidence has been adduced that any of these disclosures caused anyone harm, while US wars based on blatant lies continue to kill hundreds of thousands.

Assange explained to the visiting Google crew Wikileak's decisions concerning redaction (which are, in truth, only delayed redactions, as they never permanently redact anything). He said it is rarely about reasonable risk of producing harm, but more about minimizing probable risk that the redacted information would divert and distract people from the importance of the disclosures themselves. He described it as "a pragmatic, tactical decision" (p. 167) that keeps the tacit promise to the source, namely to bring maximum political impact. This modus operandi seemed to appear alarming, foreign and unfathomable to Schmidt and Cohen.

Hidden Fist of the Market

Assange compares the actual interaction to how the conversations were eventually presented in Google's the New Digital Age. He noted that despite Schmidt seeming sympathetic to the general vision of WikiLeaks and how he had not found any real damage caused by the organization, the Google authors pontificated about how a platform like WikiLeaks would "enable or encourage espionage" (p. 194).

Here we see the heads of Google acting like politicians in the new digital age, with the company on the list of "top-spending DC lobbyists in 2012" (p. 42). They blithely joined the parade of US senators who "labeled WikiLeaks a 'terrorist organization' and named Assange a 'high-tech terrorist'" (p. 210) and tried to delegitimize WikiLeaks in order to push an aggressive agenda for a dystopian vision of the future. With the trite campaign slogan of "Don't be evil", they sell their liberation technology that they promise will connect the world, but which is a consumer fraud that further enables US domination and corporate governance. As apologists for the state, the Google executives parrot the Pentagon's talking points and without evidence, suggest improbable scenarios in which leaked materials would put people's lives at risk.

Assange cites Schmidt and Cohen asking their readers why someone like Assange should get to decide what information is in the public interest. He concluded that for these Google leaders, the bearer of such authority would be the state. They say whistleblowing publishers need "‘supervision' in order to serve a positive role in society" and suggest "a central body facilitating the release of information" (p. 195). They certainly don't abide by the principles of truly free markets that in theory would enable people to give honest feedback to the company's innovative enterprise. In the case of WikiLeaks, the free, informed choice of the whistleblowers is an important force that guides the organization. In the case of a massive information giant, if not the informed spontaneous force of the market, what then would hold them accountable?

Citing New York Times columnist Tom Friedman who wrote in 1999 about the existence of a hidden fist which controls markets behind the scenes, Assange points to how "the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps" (p. 43).

Google does not see evil in itself. By embedding with US central authority, this global tech company not only fails to see the invisible fist of "American strategic and economic hegemony" that dictates the market, but moreover aspires "to adorn the hidden fist like a velvet glove" (p. 43). Exerting the power of monopoly, they subordinate civic values to economic and US hegemonic interests and escape any real accountability. They no longer recognize the unmediated market that responds to people's demands, a true market that functions as a space of democratic accountability. This normalization of control leads to a subversion of law, creating a rogue state where a ripple effect of corruption is created, as individuals, companies and the state each betray their own stated principles.

The First Amendment

Perhaps the most fascinating interaction in this conversation emerged when Assange playfully suggested to Schmidt that WikiLeaks would welcome a leak from Google, specifically all the Patriot Act demands for Google info on citizens. Schmidt responded with a nervous chuckle, "which would be [whispers] illegal" (p. 186). Assange quickly countered with "it depends on the jurisdiction …!" with another chuckle. Schmidt said, "We are a US – ". Assange gently reminded him, "there are higher laws. First Amendment, you know".

Here is an ironic picture in which an Australian native confronts an American citizen and chairman of a capital venture that was born on US soil about his stance on upholding the US Constitution. From its inception, WikiLeaks has attained status around the globe as a fierce defender of the First Amendment, pushing the boundaries of free speech. This was perhaps the precise moment when the Google truly met WikiLeaks. Through this encounter, they had an opportunity to fully understand the very principle that founded their country and confront the banality of evil that over decades has hollowed out the very heart of this nation. But the Google crowd didn't take this up.

Assange told Schmidt about the case with Twitter where they successfully resisted the gag order regarding the secret US government grand jury espionage investigation into WikiLeaks. He asked him to disclose the contents of US subpoenas on Google and hand over information, especially those pertaining to WikiLeaks or any of its staff. Schmidt refused by citing "the gag clauses in the government data requests" (p. 217). He said he would pass it onto their counsel, which was the last communication about the issue.

The book When WikiLeaks Met Google is a must read for anyone who wishes to understand the true potential of the internet and the invisible tug of war between those who try to centralize it and those who fight to keep it free and decentralized. The conversation moves through a wide range of topics, from the theoretical underpinnings of WikiLeaks and its technology, encryption based currency like Bitcoin, private security firms' subversive smear campaign against dissent and the upheaval of a citizen movement boiling up against a "business as usual" extreme capitalistic order. This serious discussion, amplified in detailed footnotes, shows Assange's broad knowledge of virtually everything that happens on the internet. Conversations at times get heavy and then quickly lighten into laughter. What was covered beneath the future Google chairman's casual and charming demeanor may have been his nervousness about the real agenda behind the "Google Idea" being exposed.

In a sense, one might conclude that Assange's new book is in itself another leak. In publishing what one might call the "GoogleFiles," Assange conducts his usual job of publishing in the public interest with due diligence by providing the verbatim transcript and audio of the secret meeting. This time, the source of the material was Google themselves who sought out Assange for their publication. WikiLeaks did it again. Assange exposed the truth behind "The Empire of the Mind" (which was the Google publication's original title) and dismantled the doublespeak that provided thin cover for the company's vision of a new digital governance.

Millions of people all over the world are participating in the battle for a free internet. It is this contagious courage that can not only see evil, but can overcome the temptation in the banality of "don't be evil." In the end, it is not the giant multinational corporations or governments that will create the future, but simple networks of ordinary people acting from their conscience who together define the new digital age.

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SpeakOut Fri, 03 Oct 2014 12:55:38 -0400
Transitional Times or End Times? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26617-transitional-times-or-end-times http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26617-transitional-times-or-end-times

Many there are, who seeing the violent turmoil raging throughout large parts of the world, together with the devastating impact of man-made climate change, fear humanity and the planet are on the verge of destruction. Those religiously inclined – particularly those sitting on the far right of the spectrum, point towards various passages in sacred texts, which they believe accurately describe these times and proclaim them to be "the end times." Apocalyptically understood, through the prism of doctrine, to be not simply the annihilation of a sin-drenched humanity who according to the "judgment of the just" no doubt deserve it, but the obliteration of the Earth itself. This doom-laden interpretation of events cultivates fear, suffocates hope and fails to recognize the good amongst the black flags and chaos.

Fortunately there is an alternative, sunnier view of the present time, a common sense albeit controversial vision that creates hope (something that is in short supply), not fear and despair. In a quieter voice which remains largely buried under the worldwide blanket of anxiety and insecurity, it says these are not "the end times," but transitional times; that we are not witnessing the "end of the world" or the slow demise of humanity, but the final cries of a crumbling civilisation in terminal decline. A civilisation built over the last two thousand years or so in response to certain conditioning influences promoting specific values and ways of living; an out-dated and in many ways, to many people, inadequate mode of organizing society that is now collapsing - and rightly so.

Many there are, who seeing the violent turmoil raging throughout large parts of the world, together with the devastating impact of man-made climate change, fear humanity and the planet are on the verge of destruction. Those religiously inclined – particularly those sitting on the far right of the spectrum, point towards various passages in sacred texts, which they believe accurately describe these times and proclaim them to be "the end times." Apocalyptically understood, through the prism of doctrine, to be not simply the annihilation of a sin-drenched humanity who according to the "judgment of the just" no doubt deserve it, but the obliteration of the Earth itself. This doom-laden interpretation of events cultivates fear, suffocates hope and fails to recognize the good amongst the black flags and chaos.

Fortunately there is an alternative, sunnier view of the present time, a common sense albeit controversial vision that creates hope (something that is in short supply), not fear and despair. In a quieter voice which remains largely buried under the worldwide blanket of anxiety and insecurity, it says these are not "the end times," but transitional times; that we are not witnessing the "end of the world" or the slow demise of humanity, but the final cries of a crumbling civilisation in terminal decline. A civilisation built over the last two thousand years or so in response to certain conditioning influences promoting specific values and ways of living; an out-dated and in many ways, to many people, inadequate mode of organizing society that is now collapsing - and rightly so.

That there is great resistance to change is clear; those who have benefitted most under the present socio-economic model, fearful of lost privilege, seek to tighten their grip on power and silence those troublesome radicals demanding social justice, freedom, environmental responsibility and democratic participation. Regime response to social revolutions throughout North Africa – the Arab Spring – violent suppression in Turkey and Brazil, Thailand and Venezuela, are examples of governments' unyielding brutal response to the united cries of the people. Cries that have echoed throughout the world, north south, east and west over the past thirty years or so, in an unprecedented movement of popular activism to claw back rights and liberties, confront government corruption and demand social justice, as well as standing up to corporate development plans led by ideologically driven international agencies (namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank) and environmental abuse. Huge numbers have marched, demonstrated and rallied: people power – the world's second superpower -  is perhaps the brightest spark of optimism in the world and one of the clearest signs of the times in which we are living: times of change, times of transition and action, times of opportunity and hope.

Perennial Values Re-Discovered

Sitting at the decaying heart of present socio-political structures, aggressively dominating all areas of contemporary life, is neo-liberal capitalism (or market fundamentalism). A product of the ideological environment of the time, it has cultivated certain values, which without fear of contradiction we might term materialistic: values promoting individual success and ambition, encouraging greed, selfishness and social division that condition motives and distort actions. Deep within the festering ground of inequality and division, the seeds of conflict and turmoil, watered by despair and exclusion, flourish. Nations, regions, as well as individuals, are forced to compete against one another, feeding nationalism, separation and conflict. Ideologically driven division has fuelled totalitarianism and extremism: political, economic, social, and, perhaps the darkest most dangerous manifestation, religious – as current events in Iraq reveal.

Die-hard devotees of the individualistic values of division – from which ideologies of all kinds have flowed – proclaim them to be the outcome of human nature. Sown into the genetic fabric of animal man, they are inevitable, have always driven humanity, and always shall, consequently neither materialistic values nor their elite exponents can be challenged much less changed. These believers, many of whom profit handsomely from the system, have sought to close down the intellectual space, to stifle debate and tarnish dissenting voices as naive idealists who lack the strength of character to compete with the high-octane sharp shooters, who, seduced by the promise of material reward, are content to destroy homes, cultures, lives and land in the fulfilment of their personal ambitions.

Life has been defined in increasingly unimaginative material terms: the pursuit of pleasure encouraged, selfish desire championed; wonder and mystery dismissed, the unexplained ignored. In the land of "the individual," conformity insisted on. Nowhere is this more evident than in education, as Noam Chomsky says: "the whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don't know how to be submissive, and so on — because they're dysfunctional to the institutions." Institutions – both state and corporate – that know well the dangers of independent thinking and daydreaming.

The nature of modernity itself needs re-defining, the purpose of life re-evaluated, a new civilisation built. And if one looks beneath the chaos and surface detritus, if one connects the diverse movements, developments and actions, the embryonic signs of a new time, of peaceful potential and unity can be seen – heralds of a new and just civilization. One rooted in altogether different values to the existing ideologically driven paradigm, based on perennial values of goodness known and extolled for millennia, but largely unexpressed: values of peace, brotherhood, freedom and justice, tolerance, cooperation and understanding. Nothing radically revolutionary, but ideals re-assessed, re-discovered, understood and pragmatically applied to the forms, political, economic and social, which draw the shape of the society in which we live.

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SpeakOut Fri, 03 Oct 2014 12:48:48 -0400
The End Is Near! http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26597-the-end-is-near http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26597-the-end-is-near

San Francisco is no longer what it used to be. "San Francisco is becoming a city of the rich and poor" says Randy Shaw from the article The Chronicle Discovers Gentrification in San Francisco. Society tries to blend the barriers between the rich neighborhoods and the poor neighborhoods: some are in plain sight, while others need a closer look.  A family member of mine was walking down the street with her boyfriend and after a few blocks stopped and asked, "Did we just walk through a set?" "Set" meaning a gang affiliated neighborhood which can be dangerous.

As time goes by, the homes of the poor are ripped out and condos of the rich are built in their place. The natives of San Francisco are no longer the top priority. San Franciscans are being pushed out due to daily struggles, breaking their backs to make ends meet. Meanwhile the "Stand In" – AKA, the rich - are moving in, forcing landlords to tear down and rebuild to accommodate the new uninterrupted money.  

San Francisco is no longer what it used to be. "San Francisco is becoming a city of the rich and poor" says Randy Shaw from the article The Chronicle Discovers Gentrification in San Francisco. Society tries to blend the barriers between the rich neighborhoods and the poor neighborhoods: some are in plain sight, while others need a closer look.  A family member of mine was walking down the street with her boyfriend and after a few blocks stopped and asked, "Did we just walk through a set?" "Set" meaning a gang affiliated neighborhood which can be dangerous.

As time goes by, the homes of the poor are ripped out and condos of the rich are built in their place. The natives of San Francisco are no longer the top priority. San Franciscans are being pushed out due to daily struggles, breaking their backs to make ends meet. Meanwhile the "Stand In" – AKA, the rich - are moving in, forcing landlords to tear down and rebuild to accommodate the new uninterrupted money.  

From 1997 to 2013, there have been over 11,000 no-fault evictions either through demolition, owner move-in, or the Ellis ACT. The Ellis ACT is a California State Law that allows landlords to evict tenants to "Go out of business" by pulling their property off the market. This allows speculators to swoop in and flip the property. In fact, speculators are driving many Ellis ACT evictions. The Anti-Eviction mapping project reports that Ellis ACT evictions "increased by 175 percent in 2013 compared to the year before." Additionally, demolitions have gone from 45 in 2006 to 134 in 2013 - a 197 percent increased.

"Right now, the, middle class in San Francisco is being pushed out. It's becoming a city that only millionaires can afford.…. We're not gonna let that happen anymore. We want a city that is affordable for all of us" quotes Adam Hudson in Truthout's The Bleaching of San Francisco: Extreme Gentrification and Suburbanized poverty in the Bay Area.

My hometown is now something I do not recognize. San Francisco has become a place that no longer cares about its people, a place that no longer brings me joy; somewhere I do not see in my future. As a born and raised true San Franciscan, I've lost the love for my city. As a city, our main duty has become to cater to our visitors, the tourist. The more I grow in wisdom, the stronger my animosity gets. Sadly I have no ties left here: as soon as I am able, I will pick up and start fresh somewhere else.

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SpeakOut Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:52:01 -0400
Guantanamo Force-Feeding Trial Must Not Be Secret, Say Press and Lawyers http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26596-guantanamo-force-feeding-trial-must-not-be-secret-say-press-and-lawyers http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26596-guantanamo-force-feeding-trial-must-not-be-secret-say-press-and-lawyers

Sixteen major US news organizations and a hunger-striking detainee have asked a federal judge not to hold the first-ever trial of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay in secret.

The hearing in Dhiab v. Obama, scheduled for October 6-7 in Washington, DC in front of Judge Gladys Kessler, will be the first ever to determine the lawfulness of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay.

Sixteen major US news organizations and a hunger-striking detainee have asked a federal judge not to hold the first-ever trial of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay in secret.

The hearing in Dhiab v. Obama, scheduled for October 6-7 in Washington, DC in front of Judge Gladys Kessler, will be the first ever to determine the lawfulness of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay.

But in a motion filed last Friday, Justice Department lawyers asked the Court to hold the trial in closed court, with the exception of short opening statements by both sides. Briefs filed yesterday on behalf of Reprieve client, hunger-striking detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab, and the news organizations - including the New York Times, the Washington Post, AP – oppose the government's request. They argue that to close the court entirely would be unnecessary and would violate the public's right of access to judicial records.

The media brief states that “the Government’s motion would bar the press and public from a hearing of intense interest and great importance,” and argues that “the importance of openness is particularly stark in proceedings, like this one, that raise questions about how governmental power is being exercised and resolve claims of abuse.” Mr. Dhiab’s brief points out that “Only now, on the eve of a hearing at which Petitioner will finally have the opportunity to present unclassified evidence of what his day-to-day treatment is really like, do Respondents insist that the public gallery should be kept entirely empty.”

Three expert witnesses - bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles, torture specialist Dr. Sondra Crosby and psychiatrist Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Dr. Stephen Xenakis - are due to testify live at the trial.  Two of these experts, Dr. Crosby and  Dr. Xenakis, examined Mr. Dhiab over the course of three days at Guantánamo.  All three experts have filed public reports in the case; all have assessed the treatment of Mr. Dhiab to be punitive and a violation of medical ethics.

Abu Wa'el Dhiab, a Syrian man cleared for release from the prison since 2009, has been litigating a high-profile challenge to force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay. The news organizations had previously intervened in the case seeking the release of videotapes of Mr. Dhiab being hauled from his cell by Guantánamo's 'Forcible Cell Extraction Team' and force-fed. Mr Dhiab was the first Guantánamo prisoner to win disclosure of this footage. The government has insisted the evidence is all "secret" and, in an unprecedented move, have barred Mr. Dhiab's attorneys from discussing the tapes even with other security-cleared counsel. Last month, 17 leading NGOs asked Defense Secretary Charles Hagel to release the tapes to the public. Judge Kessler has yet to rule on the media organizations' request to publish the tapes.

Cori Crider, Director at legal charity Reprieve and one of Mr. Dhiab's attorneys, said: "It's obvious why the government wants an empty public gallery for the force-feeding trial: embarrassment. The government would prefer nobody was around to hear three doctors testify that force-feeding at the base is abusive and an effort to break hunger-strikers' will. But these experts' reports are on the public docket for anyone to read; most of their testimony will be unclassified. What is happening at Guantánamo today would appal most Americans, and Americans ought to be allowed to hear these witnesses speak."

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SpeakOut Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:45:35 -0400
Game of Thrones, The Wire and the New York Fed http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26595-game-of-thrones-the-wire-and-the-new-york-fed http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26595-game-of-thrones-the-wire-and-the-new-york-fed

I wrote a column that went up this morning at The Atlantic about the ProPublica/This American Life story about the New York Fed. The gist of the argument is that we all knew the New York Fed was captured; for people like Tim Geithner, that’s a feature, not a bug.

There was a paragraph in my original draft that I really liked, but I can completely understand why the editors didn’t want it:

I wrote a column that went up this morning at The Atlantic about the ProPublica/This American Life story about the New York Fed. The gist of the argument is that we all knew the New York Fed was captured; for people like Tim Geithner, that’s a feature, not a bug.

There was a paragraph in my original draft that I really liked, but I can completely understand why the editors didn’t want it:

“When Tyrion Lannister wants his son killed, he sentences him to death in public. When Avon Barksdale wants potential incriminating witnesses killed, he obliquely lets his lieutenant know that he’s worried about loose ends—because he doesn’t want his fingerprints (voiceprints, actually) visible. When senior New York Fed officials want their staff to go easy on Goldman Sachs—well, they don’t need to lift a finger. The institutional culture takes care of it for them.”

This is similar to the idea at the core of “The Quiet Coup,” the Atlantic article that had a million page views back in 2009. In a less well developed political system, rich businessmen buy favorable policy by passing money under the table (or hiring politicians’ relatives, or giving them loans and then letting them default, and so on). In the United States, for the most part, you don’t have to do anything illegal: the system takes care of it for you, whether it’s bailout money from the Treasury Department or regulatory forbearance from the New York Fed. That system is a combination of personal incentives, cultural capture, and institutional sclerosis.

In short, buying politicians (or regulators) is good. Not having to buy them in the first place is even better.

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SpeakOut Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:37:27 -0400
"We Know That Too Many Young Men in Our Community Continue to Make Bad Choices . . ." http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26594-we-know-that-too-many-young-men-in-our-community-continue-to-make-bad-choices http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26594-we-know-that-too-many-young-men-in-our-community-continue-to-make-bad-choices

In some ways the system is set up to bring young men against one another - to get by with any means necessary - and it's a particular race that it targets. That's where young men made a mistake and need to fix it - because there shouldn't be any system that makes you feel like you have to do something or allows you to turn on your fellow peers making you go down that path of failing. In a world of economic inequality and racial injustice, the blame is on everyone who promotes violence and does not want to see change. Why promote violence if you just want it to stop? The way young men in our community continue to make bad choices for unnecessary causes is making it become true, setting bad examples for the generation that comes after them, making it hard for them to turn it around and get it together. Making those bad choices could easily make it easier to be accused of something they didn't do and having to pay the price for it. If they want to be viewed better, then it starts within yourself before it moves on to everyone else: it only takes that one person to turn everything around. Everybody wants to succeed; we don't need conflict among young men in our community since each one has a family that deeply cares about them. Families don't want to see their loved ones fall in the cracks or end up in a jail.

In some ways the system is set up to bring young men against one another - to get by with any means necessary - and it's a particular race that it targets. That's where young men made a mistake and need to fix it - because there shouldn't be any system that makes you feel like you have to do something or allows you to turn on your fellow peers making you go down that path of failing. In a world of economic inequality and racial injustice, the blame is on everyone who promotes violence and does not want to see change. Why promote violence if you just want it to stop? The way young men in our community continue to make bad choices for unnecessary causes is making it become true, setting bad examples for the generation that comes after them, making it hard for them to turn it around and get it together. Making those bad choices could easily make it easier to be accused of something they didn't do and having to pay the price for it. If they want to be viewed better, then it starts within yourself before it moves on to everyone else: it only takes that one person to turn everything around. Everybody wants to succeed; we don't need conflict among young men in our community since each one has a family that deeply cares about them. Families don't want to see their loved ones fall in the cracks or end up in a jail.

Some claim today that America is a "post-racial society." They say the "barriers to Black advancement" have been largely overcome. Many go so far as to put the main blame for the severe problems faced by Black people today on…Black people themselves. Others claim that better education, or more traditional families, or religion, or elections will solve things." Young men in our community shouldn't have to change because they want to, but because they want to see a better and brighter future for more your men who look up to them and to having a better status in the country. The choices I see people make in my community are sometimes just careless choices of them wanting to show off to other people to try and fit in with a group that they know they shouldn't be with.
 

This is important to me because I have a little brother and I don't want him to feel like he should be a part of this statistic. The other side may argue that the young men in our community can just keep making bad choices; it's not affecting them in any type of way. The significance of getting this right is a better community for everyone to enjoy. It would show young men in the future that you do not have to do certain things: making foolish mistakes to fit in or to try to make yourself stand out. Consequences are not always going to correct a person of many bad choices, but having somebody guide them would. For example, having more programs and jobs to provide for the youth, to keep them off the streets and having them participate in countless activities not on the streets. People should care about this topic because everybody needs to help fix a problem for the betterment of their community - not just the person involved in the problem. They shouldn't have to face it alone; that isn't fair: there should be at least a person out there ready to help someone in need of a little guidance.

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SpeakOut Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:25:24 -0400
Scaling Walls That Separate Our Leaders from Our Veterans http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26592-scaling-walls-that-separate-our-leaders-from-our-veterans http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26592-scaling-walls-that-separate-our-leaders-from-our-veterans

On Saturday, September 20th, a homeless 42-year-old veteran - Omar J. Gonzalez - was charged with trespassing and carrying a deadly weapon after jumping the White House fence. He served three tours in Iraq. Gonzalez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his first tour in Iraq, but he was sent back for a second tour, during which a portion of his foot was amputated when a homemade explosive device hit his Humvee in Baghdad. He was honorably discharged about two years ago. His wife reports he had such trauma during his second tour, something that "involved little children," that he cannot bear to report it, and that he does not need punishment but help.                                

Omar Gonzalez is now in jail, being held without bail. The purpose of the legal and judicial systems are to administer and oversee the practice of justice, the doing right, being good and fair, always in line with what is true. However, how did Omar Gonzalez travel from honorable warrior in the combat zone to broken, alienated, and unseen at home? How did he become a throwaway rather than an honored citizen? 

On Saturday, September 20th, a homeless 42-year-old veteran - Omar J. Gonzalez - was charged with trespassing and carrying a deadly weapon after jumping the White House fence. He served three tours in Iraq. Gonzalez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his first tour in Iraq, but he was sent back for a second tour, during which a portion of his foot was amputated when a homemade explosive device hit his Humvee in Baghdad. He was honorably discharged about two years ago. His wife reports he had such trauma during his second tour, something that "involved little children," that he cannot bear to report it, and that he does not need punishment but help.                                

Omar Gonzalez is now in jail, being held without bail. The purpose of the legal and judicial systems are to administer and oversee the practice of justice, the doing right, being good and fair, always in line with what is true. However, how did Omar Gonzalez travel from honorable warrior in the combat zone to broken, alienated, and unseen at home? How did he become a throwaway rather than an honored citizen? 

The three "signature wounds" of our modern wars - Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - often occur in combination, and create such a complex of transformed and troubled thinking, feeling, perceiving and behaving that the afflicted person can become lost for life with devastating personal, familial and social consequences. We expend much time, effort, and resources on symptoms; we diagnose, then attempt to eradicate or control them. We thus overload individual vets with responsibility for their own suffering and miss the full portrait of war.

We do not treat war's invisible wounds effectively because for many reasons we do not understand them accurately. We have inherited the trance and denial, what Robert McNamara called "the fog of war." The misinterpretations of our times prevent us from seeing what is in front of us.

But we can let "the spirit" of war trauma speak to us. If we listen and understand it aright, if we truly let our veterans and their wounds have their say, we may hear what they are trying to tell us. Then we may develop a vision and respond in ways that restore and transform. And how do survivors want us to hear them? Not as disabled or less, not as throwaways, not with our complicated explanations of psychological and cerebral malfunctioning, but as whole people with honorable and necessary stories that must be shared.

Through more than thirty-five years of work with veterans, I had to recognize the full, complex, and transformative impact the military and war has on everyone serving and touched. Exploring the inevitable consequences to survivors and society propelled me onto a lifelong search into the myriad ways warriors and their wounds have been understood and tended through the ages. This comprehensive approach, true to warriors' experiences and to the wisdom of other cultures and ages, determines we need a philosophy and practice for veteran restoration based on love, compassion, empathy, restoration, spirituality, archetypal wisdom and community involvement, all aimed at restoring the soul and healing society's broken contract.

In 2006, in response to veterans and their loved ones across the nation, and in the absence of other comprehensive spiritually and community-based approaches to tending our veterans, my wife and partner, Kate Dahlstedt, and I founded a nonprofit organization. What is missing are exactly these dimensions of holistic care - the heart, soul, spirit, community, and purpose - that are harmed in war, at the source of the wound and most neglected by the modern world and its practices. To honor our veterans carrying invisible wounds and the ancient tradition of war-healing that we serve, we named our organization "Soldier's Heart."

We seek to create a comprehensive model that individuals, agencies, institutions, communities, and even nations can apply to the healing of their warriors, citizens, and war wounds. We wish the roots of peace to pierce deeply into our violence-polluted world. These roots cannot thrive until we attend to war-healing. War-healing is peace-making.

What are veterans asking from their communities and society? To be seen as they are, for who they are, for what they gave, for their struggles now - and to be loved and honored for their unchanging essence of devotion and sacrifice.

What might Mr. Gonzalez be symbolically asking through his behavior; what is his spirit trying to tell us? Perhaps that we must all become aware that he and thousands of others are physically and psychologically wounded and their suffering does not end when they come home. And that war hurts so much its memories and pains can be inexpressible and distort us beyond our normal selves. And that our nation must pay attention and respond not with punishment but with loving responsibility. And that the walls and fences that separate our leaders from our troops, and our troops and veterans from all of us, must be scaled. If the nation has not responded well enough to the alarming and tragic suicide rate among veterans, perhaps, he might hope, it will respond to one who climbs the White House walls.

Let us hope that justice is served to Omar Gonzalez, and the millions of other veterans who deserve to be helped, by addressing their emotional, moral, and spiritual wounds. We need to offer restoration and homecoming not only by treating disorders, but by also guiding survivors to develop new and honorable warrior identities supported by community, by restoring their spirits, and by provoking new post-traumatic growth and service.

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SpeakOut Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:12:18 -0400
Jesusland?: Bible Belt Raises Welt of Corporal Punishment http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26590-jesusland-bible-belt-raises-welt-of-corporal-punishment http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26590-jesusland-bible-belt-raises-welt-of-corporal-punishment

“Jesusland” by Ben Folds includes a powerful verse against the energetic piano and soaring harmonies:

Town to town
broadcast to each house, they drop your name
but no one knows your face
Billboards quoting things you’d never say
you hang your head and pray

“Jesusland” by Ben Folds includes a powerful verse against the energetic piano and soaring harmonies:

Town to town
broadcast to each house, they drop your name
but no one knows your face
Billboards quoting things you’d never say
you hang your head and pray

While the music and rhythm sound uplifting, the message of the lyrics is a sharp criticism of the Bible Belt, where I grew up, where I live. Folds confronting the disconnect between the ideology found in the words of Jesus in the Bible and then how Christians have manipulated those words and ideals for justifications significantly not Christ-like sits in a long tradition including Thomas Jefferson stating that he believed everything said by Jesus but little said about him (and revising his own version of the Bible to reflect that stance):

Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian. (To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse Monticello, June 26, 1822)

To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, May 21, 1803)

I was born and then have lived all of my 53 years in the South, the upstate of South Carolina, a stark example of a Bible Belt state where fundamentalist Christianity is blended seamlessly and unselfconsciously with rabid state’s-rights commitments and fervent patriotism as a veneer for a solid faith in the free market.

I have labeled my home region of the US the self-defeating South because these often contradictory ideologies not only have created scars on our history but also continue to leave us in a constant state of being battered and bruised, especially children, women, and people of color.

My South has often used and still uses the Bible as a weapon.

My South raised the Bible in defense of slavery.

My South outlawed interracial marriage while waving the Bible.

My South fought the integration of schools, including whites shouting hate and scripture at children being escorting into Little Rock Central.

My South remains the primary region—the Bible Belt—where children are legally subject to corporal punishment not only in their homes but also in their public schools.

Like the angry white Christians shouting hate and their narrow faith at the Little Rock Nine, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” quickly follows the defenses of corporal punishment as the topics of domestic violence and child abuse have been spurred by controversies surrounding NFL players.

As Larry Morrison details about Biblical arguments for slavery—”The emphasis from proslavery defenders was always upon a literal reading of the Bible which represented the mind and will of God himself” (p. 16)—so too are Biblical arguments for spanking children.

Unlike me, Kurt Vonnegut was born and raised in the Midwest. In his collection Palm Sunday, Vonnegut confessed, “Toward the end of our marriage, it was mainly religion in a broad sense that Jane and I fought about” (p. 175).

And then Vonnegut—as he often did—shared his upbringing as a Free Thinker, leading to his casual references to himself as an atheist or agnostic. In a speech delivered at Hobart and William Smith College (May 26, 1974), Vonnegut explained:

So a modern, secular education is often painful. By its very nature, it invites us to question the wisdom of the ones we love….

I have said that one guess is as good as another, but that is only roughly so. Some guesses are crueler than others—which is to say, harder on human beings, and on other animals as well….

But it is reasonable to suppose that other bad guesses are poisoning our lives today. A good education in skepticism can help us to discover those bad guesses, and to destroy them with mockery and contempt. (pp. 178-179)

Vonnegut as Free Thinker recognized that “bad guesses” were often most corrosive when linked to the Word of God; therefore, he called for “a new religion” (p. 181)—necessary to combat “hypocrisy”:

I am willing to drop the word religion, and substitute for it these three words: heartfelt moral code….The trouble with so many of the moral codes we have inherited is that they are subject to so many interpretations….This is good news for hypocrites, who enjoy feeling pious, no matter what they do. (p. 184)

Vonnegut in this speech focused on the tragedies of continuous war and rampant consumerism to the expense of the survival of humans—concluding as only Vonnegut could about the need “to do whatever we need to do in order to have life on the planet go on for a long, long time”:

This is bad news for business, as we know it now. It should be thrilling news for persons who love to teach and lead. And thank God we have solid information in the place of superstition! Thank God we are beginning to dream of human communities which are designed to harmonize with what human beings really need and are.

And now you have just heard and atheist thank God not once, but twice. And listen to this:

God bless the class of 1974. (p. 191)

In 1974, I didn’t know about Vonnegut, but I was on the cusp of two important realizations of my life: the need “to question the wisdom of the ones we love” (my parents and community) and my own aversion to the hypocrisy of the Bible Belt I called home.

A decade later, 1984, I was teaching English in the high school I had attended, in the classroom where my favorite teacher, Lynn Harrill, had taught before moving on to administration. And then, about another decade later, my students—most of whom attended the Southern Baptist church that sat literally in the middle of the district’s four public schools—joined the national fad of wearing What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) bracelets and T-shirts.

Teaching public school in the Bible Belt throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I can attest that religion was never absent from school, including prayers still be announced each morning over the intercom.

The WWJD movement highlighted for me, however, how in the South superficial religiosity trumps any genuine heartfelt moral code, as Vonnegut called it. Students leading lives that were in fact not Christ-like were the most fervent about the WWJD paraphernalia, creating a great deal of tension with students who were acting Christ-like (in many ways) but not calling attention to it.

Two things remain with me about those years teaching, watching young people too often slip comfortably into the hypocrisy of the Bible Belt (something about which I blame the adults, and not those students).

First, and ironically, the WWJD merchandising was an accurate portrayal of commitments in the US to the market, to consumerism over all else (especially ethics).

And second, what a wasted moment.

Like Vonnegut and Jefferson, I too am comfortable with embracing a world in which humans behave in ways that are Christ-like:

You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5: 38-39)

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)

I have a Who Would Jesus Bomb bumper sticker on a file cabinet in my office, and am certain that if this guided our policy in the US, we’d be a much better people.

It is 2014, 40 years since Vonnegut’s essentially optimistic speech.

I fear I cannot share his optimism, having slipped from the healthy skepticism Vonnegut endorsed into a solid cynicism.

As I have written about and raised in my classes my strong stance against all corporal punishment, based on decades of solid research, I have been bombarded with “My parents spanked me, and I turned out OK” as well as the expected refrain: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

All while I lie down each night still living in Jesusland, the Bible Belt where we endorse teaching children lessons with fear and pain.

I am left to muse as Vonnegut did four decades ago, but I think about Who Would Jesus Spank and simply cannot find a credible answer other than not a single child.

“Human dignity,” Vonnegut offered in a 1980 speech at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “must be given by people to people”:

If you stand before me, and I do not credit you with dignity, then you have none. If I stand before you, and you do not credit me with dignity, then I have none….

What could be more essential in a pluralistic society like ours than that every citizen see dignity in every other human being everywhere? (p. 194)

I can’t imagine anything different uttered by Jesus, and I can only add, including children.

So it goes.

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SpeakOut Thu, 02 Oct 2014 12:53:41 -0400
Pull the E-Brake on Perpetual US War in the Middle East http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26556-pull-the-e-brake-on-perpetual-us-war-in-the-middle-east http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26556-pull-the-e-brake-on-perpetual-us-war-in-the-middle-east

The New York Times editorial board has finally awakened to Obama’s “strategy” in the “war” (as it is officially called now) against ISIS. It is essentially the same strategy that has guided literally hundreds of US military operations abroad since World War II: achieve the maximum objective with the minimum commitment of US power and prestige. Trouble is, the strategy just doesn’t work, mainly because the enemy won’t cooperate and friendly forces are either inept or unpopular (or both). Thus begins the slippery slope to wider and deeper involvement.

The Sept. 16, 2014 testimony of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is what got the Times’ attention: “If we got to the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president.”  A day later on Sept. 17, the Army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, chimed in: “You’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting [IS forces] out.”  In short, Obama’s supposed commitment not to deploy US ground troops to combat in Iraq or Syria—“a profound mistake,” he said Sept. 7 on the NBC News program Meet the Press—is as firm as mud.  As happened in Vietnam, there will be “advisers,” more and more of them, as it becomes plain that the mini-max strategy of relying on air power to “degrade and destroy” ISIS proves insufficient.

The New York Times editorial board has finally awakened to Obama’s “strategy” in the “war” (as it is officially called now) against ISIS. It is essentially the same strategy that has guided literally hundreds of US military operations abroad since World War II: achieve the maximum objective with the minimum commitment of US power and prestige. Trouble is, the strategy just doesn’t work, mainly because the enemy won’t cooperate and friendly forces are either inept or unpopular (or both). Thus begins the slippery slope to wider and deeper involvement.

The Sept. 16, 2014 testimony of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is what got the Times’ attention: “If we got to the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president.”  A day later on Sept. 17, the Army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, chimed in: “You’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting [IS forces] out.”  In short, Obama’s supposed commitment not to deploy US ground troops to combat in Iraq or Syria—“a profound mistake,” he said Sept. 7 on the NBC News program Meet the Press—is as firm as mud.  As happened in Vietnam, there will be “advisers,” more and more of them, as it becomes plain that the mini-max strategy of relying on air power to “degrade and destroy” ISIS proves insufficient.

Even without Dempsey’s and Odierno’s remarks, the Times and others should have seen the handwriting on the wall: The widening of air targets from those originally announced (they were supposed to be limited to protecting threatened populations and US personnel); the increasing number of US advisers; the avoidance of a Congressional vote; the quick resort to air strikes in Syria without United Nations or Syrian authorization; the shift in categorizing the conflict from a “counterterrorism” operation to “war”; the shrill voices of pro-war Republicans and former military officers tied to defense contractors—all these suggested mission creep.

President Obama has followed in George W. Bush’s footsteps by indicating that the war against terrorism will extend well beyond his presidency.  Recall Bush’s speech to West Point cadets in 2006: “The war began on my watch.  But it’s going to end on your watch.”  Now here is Obama on Sept. 12: “This [conflict] will be a problem for the next president, and probably the one after that.”  At the UN on Sept. 23, Obama formally upgraded the “problem” of ISIS to an historic venture, saying it would determine, “whether the nations here today will be able to renew the purpose of the UN’s founding; and whether we will come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism.”  He spoke as though announcing the start of World War III.

ISIS poses a serious threat to various governments in the Middle East, but it is not a national security threat to the United States.  Though several governments are now said to be contributing to the US air strikes in Iraq and Syria, make no mistake: This is an American operation, just like the two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. Take away US control and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and the others would actually have to defend themselves.  Interviewed on “60 Minutes” last Sunday, Obama acknowledged US leadership of the war, but said that has always been the case and that—in an eerie echo of a famous Madeleine Albright remark—“we are the indispensable nation.”

In his Sept. 16 article in the Financial Times, the perceptive observer Ahmed Rashid has written that governments and publics throughout the Middle East, most certainly including those now being counted on to support the latest “coalition of the willing,” are deeply suspicious of and hateful toward the US.  As much as they fear ISIS, Rashid writes, they don’t trust the US after watching it fumble and stumble in Iraq and Syria; and they worry about associating with the US and becoming a target of pro-ISIS groups in their own country.  Professor Mark Katz, reporting about a conference he attended in Riyadh, adds to this picture in his Sept. 19 blog post: Influential people in the Arabian Gulf states tend to blame the US for the rise of ISIS, believe dealing with ISIS is therefore mainly a US responsibility, and point to other security issues that are equally important to them (such as the unstable situation in Yemen, Shi’a extremism, and of course the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.)

So, here are the bottom-line questions: Is it sensible, and in the US national interest, to support ever-deepening intervention in the Middle East?  Does anyone believe a military solution to the ISIS advance is possible or desirable, particularly inasmuch as ISIS arose out of three civil wars (in Gaza, Syria and Iraq) that can only be resolved by political agreements? No and no. Our media may not get it fast enough. Regardless, Congress and the American public must swiftly pull the e-brake on the ISIS mission and perpetual US warmaking in the Middle East. Our national security and that of the next generation depend on it.

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SpeakOut Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:23:19 -0400
Risk Assessment Reigns in Budgeting, Except When it Comes to Climate http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26555-risk-assessment-reigns-in-budgeting-except-when-it-comes-to-climate http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26555-risk-assessment-reigns-in-budgeting-except-when-it-comes-to-climate

On September 23, 2014, the world gathered to watch history being made: the tail end of the largest climate march ever and a UN Climate Summit where leaders reaffirmed their commitment to stringent mitigation measures.

Meanwhile, some things never change. At the Summit, Barack Obama gave what was called by a New Republic reporter as a "toothless speech." Just a day before, the Pentagon announced that they commenced air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. These two moves seem unrelated, but are they? In fact, both of these decisions are based on risk assessments of possible threats. So then why are we so unwilling to take on climate change, compared with other things where we assess risk and act accordingly?

On September 23, 2014, the world gathered to watch history being made: the tail end of the largest climate march ever and a UN Climate Summit where leaders reaffirmed their commitment to stringent mitigation measures.

Meanwhile, some things never change. At the Summit, Barack Obama gave what was called by a New Republic reporter as a "toothless speech." Just a day before, the Pentagon announced that they commenced air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. These two moves seem unrelated, but are they? In fact, both of these decisions are based on risk assessments of possible threats. So then why are we so unwilling to take on climate change, compared with other things where we assess risk and act accordingly?

First, it should be said that climate change and defense spending are not mutually exclusive. The National Intelligence Strategy released in the same month unabashedly called climate change a "threat multiplier." Indeed, the military seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing future scenario planning.

The hesitation seems to lie cognitively with policymakers.

In March of this year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, "Every day, we are reminded that the world remains as dangerous as ever and that we need a modern military to protect the American people and US interests abroad." A few months later, he offered his opinion on climate change: "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it."

Certainly, these views aren't surprising given their origin. You'll be hard pressed to find a traditional Republican that doesn't qualify as a war hawk—and whose districts don't benefit from defense spending.

Similarly, climate change acceptance falls along partisan lines, with Gov. Jerry Brown claiming that virtually no Republican in Congress accepts climate science.

Republicans would argue that defense spending is for the purpose of self-protection. Full stop. A robust military can fight for democracy and peace; and deter acts of aggression through an exhibition of national strength. Indeed, looking deeper, we can see that a strong military is in essence a policy against risk. We spend trillions of dollars to ensure that something doesn'tharm us.

So then why can't same argument be made for climate change mitigation?

Scientists have stated almost unequivocally, or up to a 97% level of confidence, that climate change is real and is being caused by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases. This could mean entire nations being subsumed by rising seas, increasing food insecurity for millions, and mass extinctions at a rate and level we've never before experienced. This doomsday scenario isn't enough of a catalyst for policymakers. But it should be.

Even if we accepted the Republican line that climate change is possible but not certain, in what other circumstance would we refuse to think about possible risks and act on them? Let's put this into perspective:

The answer, then, is that we tend to take even small risks very seriously, and spend accordingly. But not when it comes to climate change.

In 2012, we spent about $21 billion to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This might seem like a significant investment, but not when taking into account the size and nature of the risk. In fact, a recent report found that the cost of a low carbon future would be in the tens of trillions of dollars—but benefits could be even higher.

Climate change mitigation is not only an insurance policy against risk, it's also an economic game changer. It's time to stop the toothless speeches and take a bite out of climate change.

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SpeakOut Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:14:20 -0400
Ban Weaponized Drones! http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26554-ban-weaponized-drones http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26554-ban-weaponized-drones

Berlin- Anti-drone campaigns in the US, the UK, and continental Europe are mounting the first Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance and Killing on October 4, 2014. 

More than 40 actions will take place in several countries. Founded at an international meeting in Berlin in December, Global Action Day is working together with the US Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare, the UK Drone Campaign Network's Week of Action and the Global Network's Keep Space for Peace Week. Both action weeks begin on October 4th. 

Berlin:  Anti-drone campaigns in the US, the UK, and continental Europe are mounting the first Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance and Killing on October 4, 2014. 

More than 40 actions will take place in several countries. Founded at an international meeting in Berlin in December, Global Action Day is working together with the US Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare, the UK Drone Campaign Network's Week of Action and the Global Network's Keep Space for Peace Week. Both action weeks begin on October 4th. 

The locally initiated actions will take many forms: "Fly Kites Not Drones" events inspired by drone resistance in Afghanistan; demonstrations at drone warfare US military bases in the USthe UK and Germany; actions at businesses working with Israeli weapons manufacturers; and the initiation of an international consumer boycott against the Honeywell firm, which provides key parts for the armed US Reaper drones as well as for Apple computers.  Lectures and conferences are also planned.

Over the past few months, several new developments have lent increased urgency to the key demand of Global Action Day -- that governments "cease the production and acquisition of armed drones," prohibit any use of military facilities "to enable drone surveillance and to trigger drone killings," and instead "work towards a worldwide ban on these weapons": 

No country in continental Europe yet has armed drones in its arsenal. However, Italy, France and the Netherlands have already purchased "weaponizable" US Reaper drones, andFrance and Italy are seeking to arm theirs. The EU and European countries are also investing in drone research and development.

But the use of drones for "extrajudicial targeted killings" still faces strong opposition in Germany. And in a landslide vote (534 to 49) on February 27th, the European Parliament passed a Resolution demanding strong measures against the use of drones for "targeted killings" and prohibiting robotized fully autonomous weapons systems, which some NGOs and experts fear will be the inevitable result of the ongoing drones arms race. 

Why We Are Participating in the Global Action Day on October 4th

Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder of CODEPINK (USA): Instead of rushing to try to compete with the US and Israel by obtaining their own drones, the nations and peoples of the world could far better protect themselves by working together to enforce an international ban on these dangerous weapons -- an approach has already been successful in the case of chemical weapons, land mines and cluster bombs.

Reiner Braun, Co-President IPB-International Peace Bureau (Germany): People are dying every day from hunger and lack of access to water and food. Our governments' answer to this is to invest more money in weapons, especially drones, which are being used to violate international law. This misguided policy of killing people thousands of kilometers away with the push of a button must be stopped.

Chris Cole, Founder of Drone Wars (UK): The so-called ‘risk free’ nature of drone warfare tempts us into opting for a military response, even when there is little or no evidence that it will be effective or successful.  This is not only a serious threat to global peace and security but will no doubt increase the threat of terrorism right here in Europe. Instead of sending its armed drones from the skies of Afghanistan to the Middle East, the UK should be undertaking a thorough evaluation of the actual impact of these systems on the ground and their long-term implications for both UK and global peace and security.

 Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (USA): Keep Space for Peace Week is working together with Global Action Day. We seek to educate people all over the world about the growing and destabilizing of space. This highly profitable space technology now coordinates all warfare on the planet – drones, ships, tanks, missiles, and even troops on the ground use military satellites to direct their war making.  

 Luehr Henken, Peace Coordination Berlin & Bundesausschuss Friedensratschlag (Germany): Since 80% of all US drone strike victims so far have been Afghans, and since flying kites is a popular national sport in Afghanistan, I support the "Fly Kites Not Drones" actions in Germany on October 4th.

Nick Mottern, Coordinator, Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare (USA): The illegal, unethical American drone-dependent air war against Iraqis and Syrians is demonstrating beyond doubt the need for an immediate global ban on weaponized drones and drone surveillance.

Chris Nineham, Vice Chair Stop the War Coalition (UK):  We are now into a third war in Iraq. Drones and aerial bombardment will kill innocents and spread chaos and inflame violence. We will be demonstrating this Saturday, October 4th, to bring an end to this madness.

Agneta Norberg, vice chair Swedish Peace Council (Sweden): Stop training drones in Sweden. We want windmills instead and a secure nature in the Mountains. In 2015 nEUROn, a coproduction by Swedish Saab, French Dassault Aviation and four other countries will be launched at NEAT in the North of Sweden. It is a prototype drone that cannot be seen on radar.

Elsa Rassbach, CODEPINK & German Drone Campaign (USA & Germany): The UN and the global community must stand up to the US and Israel, insist on respect for international law, and sanction the illegal drone wars. People in countries like Germany, who from their own history understand the disastrous consequences of such lawlessness, can and should play a leading role and, for example, forbid the use of Ramstein and AFRICOM for the drone wars.

Peter Strutynski, Peace Scholar & Speaker of Bundesausschuss Friedensratschlag (Germany): Because people are less and less willing to accept wars and interventions, the deployment of armed drones has become an increasingly important method for conducting war. The new wars for resources and geopolitical goals can be conducted "without risk". It is only "the others" who die.                 

Laura von Wimmersperg, Peace Coordination Berlin (Germany): Combat drones are not merely bombers without pilots. They are killing machines that will later be programmed so that they can autonomously make decisions regarding military missions and targets and thus regarding life and death. Their introduction must not be taken lightly: with drones a new chapter of modern warfare has begun. Resistance is essential.

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SpeakOut Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:05:54 -0400
War Polls Obstruct Democracy and Peace http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26553-war-polls-obstruct-democracy-and-peace http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26553-war-polls-obstruct-democracy-and-peace

US-led coalition airstrikes targeting the Islamic State (ISIL) have opened the floodgates of war journalism reporting by corporate mainstream media – to the detriment of American democracy and peace. This has been recently evident in a traditionally democratic tool used by American press: public opinion polls.  These war polls, as they should be called during wartime, are an affront to both respectable journalism and an informed civil society. They’re byproducts of rally-round-the-flag war journalism and without constant scrutiny, war polls results make public opinion look a lot more pro-war than it actually is.

Public polling is meant to signify and reinforce the role of media in a democracy as reflecting or representing mass opinion. Corporate mainstream media are considered credible in providing this reflection based on assumptions of objectivity and balance, and politicians have been known to consider polls in their policy decisions.  In some cases, polls may be useful in engaging the feedback loop between political elites, media and the public.

US-led coalition airstrikes targeting the Islamic State (ISIL) have opened the floodgates of war journalism reporting by corporate mainstream media – to the detriment of American democracy and peace. This has been recently evident in a traditionally democratic tool used by American press: public opinion polls.  These war polls, as they should be called during wartime, are an affront to both respectable journalism and an informed civil society. They’re byproducts of rally-round-the-flag war journalism and without constant scrutiny, war polls results make public opinion look a lot more pro-war than it actually is.

Public polling is meant to signify and reinforce the role of media in a democracy as reflecting or representing mass opinion. Corporate mainstream media are considered credible in providing this reflection based on assumptions of objectivity and balance, and politicians have been known to consider polls in their policy decisions.  In some cases, polls may be useful in engaging the feedback loop between political elites, media and the public.

The trouble comes when public polling meets war journalism; internal newsroom goals of fairness and balance may transform temporarily into advocacy and persuasion – intentional or not – in favor of war and violence.

War journalism, first identified in the 1970s by peace and conflict scholar Johan Galtung, is characterized by several core components, all of which tend to privilege elite voices and interests. But one of its hallmarks is a pro-violence bias. War journalism presupposes that violence is the only reasonable conflict management option. Engagement is necessary, violence is engagement, anything else is inaction and, for the most part, inaction is wrong.

Peace journalism, in contrast, takes a pro-peace approach, and assumes that there are an infinite number of nonviolent conflict management options. The standard definition of peace journalism is “when editors and reporters make choices – about what to report, and how to report it – that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value non-violent responses to conflict.” Journalists taking a pro-violence stance also make choices about what to report and how to report it, but instead of emphasizing (or even including) nonviolent options, they often move straight to “last resort” treatment recommendations and stay put until told otherwise. Like a guard dog.

Public opinion war polls reflect war journalism’s pro-violence bias in the way questions are worded and the number and type of options provided as answers. "Do you support or oppose US air strikes against the Sunni insurgents in Iraq?" "Do you support or oppose expanding US air strikes against the Sunni insurgents into Syria?"  Both questions come from a Washington Post war poll in early September 2014 in response to President Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIL. The first question showed 71 percent in support. The second showed 65 percent in support.

The use of “Sunni insurgents” should be discussed another time, but one problem with these either/or war poll questions is that they assume that violence and inaction are the only available options – airstrikes or nothing, support or oppose. No question in the Washington Post’s war poll asked if Americans might support pressuring Saudi Arabia to stop arming and funding ISIL or halting our own arms transfers into the Middle East.  And yet, these nonviolent options, among many, many others, do exist.

Another example is the widely cited Wall Street Journal/NBC News war poll from mid-September 2014 in which 60 percent of participants agreed that military action against ISIL is in the national interest of the US.  But that war poll failed to ask whether Americans agreed that peacebuilding action in response to ISIL is in our national interest.

Since war journalism already assumes there’s only one kind of action – military action – the Wall Street Journal/NBC war poll options narrowed: Should military action be limited to airstrikes or include combat? Violent option A or violent option B? If you’re unsure or unwilling to choose, war journalism says you simply “have no opinion.”

War poll results are published, circulated and repeated as fact until the other 30-35 percent, those of us unwilling to choose between violent options A and B or informed about alternative, empirically supported peace building options, have been pushed aside. “Americans want bombs and boots, see, and majority rules,” they’ll say. But, war polls don’t really reflect or measure public opinion. They encourage and cement opinion in favor of one thing: war.

Peace journalism recognizes and spotlights the many nonviolent options often neglected by war journalists and political hawks. A peace journalism “peace poll” would give citizens the opportunity to question and contextualize the use of violence in response to conflict and consider and value nonviolent options by asking questions like, “how concerned are you that bombing parts of Syria and Iraq will promote cohesion among anti-Western terrorist groups?” Or, “do you support the US following international law in its response to the Islamic State’s actions?” Or maybe, “How strongly would you support a multilateral arms embargo in the region where the Islamic State operates?” When will a poll ask, “Do you believe military attacks will tend to aid recruitment of new terrorists?” What would these poll results look like?

The credibility of journalists, political elites and unelected opinion leaders should be called into question with any use of war polling or war poll results where the efficacy or morality of violence is assumed. Opponents of violence should not humor the use of war poll results in debate and should actively ask for the results of polls about peacebuilding alternatives, instead. If the one structure meant to keep us informed as a democratic society ignores or silences the vast majority of possible response options beyond violence, we cannot make truly informed decisions as democratic citizens. We need more peace journalism – journalists, editors, commentators and certainly polls – to offer more than violence A and B. If we’re going to make good decisions about conflict, we need nonviolence A through Z.

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SpeakOut Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:52:14 -0400
Tithing, Tax Time and Specialization http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26550-tithing-tax-time-and-specialization http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26550-tithing-tax-time-and-specialization

Complex advanced civilization, more than at any other time in human history, is providing millions of people with unprecedented prosperity, health and longevity—except for those who it does not provide for, who suffer immensely by missing this boat of freedom. But the primitive nature of poverty relief is exactly the problem, unlike ancient forms of poverty intervention whose sophistication dwarfs that of modern libertarian society. Every farmer in ancient Jewish society had to be a part of the solution for every poor person who lost his farm, just as a small example.

It is complexity and specialization, however, that gives us our modern prosperity. A successful citizen relies on a massive variety of specialists, from x-ray readers, to retirement investor specialists, to train engineers, to architects of hardware and software, to specialists in dental prosthetics, to chemists of tar for roads that prevent crashes. The variety is infinite. Therefore, when we want to reconstruct a fallen life, why is it reduced to a social worker, and an unemployment bureaucrat? This is a primitive response to the foundations of human prosperity. 

Complex advanced civilization, more than at any other time in human history, is providing millions of people with unprecedented prosperity, health and longevity—except for those who it does not provide for, who suffer immensely by missing this boat of freedom. But the primitive nature of poverty relief is exactly the problem, unlike ancient forms of poverty intervention whose sophistication dwarfs that of modern libertarian society. Every farmer in ancient Jewish society had to be a part of the solution for every poor person who lost his farm, just as a small example.

It is complexity and specialization, however, that gives us our modern prosperity. A successful citizen relies on a massive variety of specialists, from x-ray readers, to retirement investor specialists, to train engineers, to architects of hardware and software, to specialists in dental prosthetics, to chemists of tar for roads that prevent crashes. The variety is infinite. Therefore, when we want to reconstruct a fallen life, why is it reduced to a social worker, and an unemployment bureaucrat? This is a primitive response to the foundations of human prosperity. 

It is time for a tax on all the professions of modern society. Every professional, every organization of professionals, must be called upon to devise a way to help with up to ten percent of one’s time, an individual or family, with the special tool of prosperity unique to each specialty. Dentists must devise a way to provide some dental help, investors a way to help with savings and even donated investments or stocks that can benefit a family, scientists perhaps donating time for science tutoring to poor children, every lawyer in the country on the advocacy team of one poor individual, doctors, entrepreneurs, accountants, teachers, sports educators and trainers, nurses. There is not a profession in our world that cannot devise a creative way to donate time to the improvement of a needy life. This is the way that all ships will rise, and poverty will begin to disappear.  

Government can and should play a crucial role in subsidizing this work, especially in the costs of formation of organized groupings of professionals in every town and city. But the personal engagement of human beings with each other, and the leveraging of personal expertise together with personal care, is an invaluable asset that every citizen can engage. It is well known that this personal involvement in care makes human beings much more generous, and we need civil societies across the globe where the benefits of citizenship are balanced with the obligations to give back to society. This while create a far more mutually responsive and committed citizenry, and create many cross-cutting ties between religions and minorities which is essential for nonviolent society. This approaches capitalizes on the paradoxical fact that those who give more are happier and motivated to give even more. It also capitalizes on the fact that when a human being gives not only his money but his expertise it lends dignity to both the receiver but also the giver, which creates far more mutual commitment and responsibility to succeed. There are already groupings of lawyers who do this work with the poor, but the argument here is that the vast variety of basic human needs that must be addressed to get people back on their feet cannot be limited to legal advocacy. We must see a vast increase in professional commitments, organized, accessible, and mutually reinforcing, in every town and city across the nation. 

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SpeakOut Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:04:52 -0400
Neighborhoods Matter, People Matter http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26548-neighborhoods-matter-people-matter http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26548-neighborhoods-matter-people-matter

I, personally, have grown up moving around San Francisco's districts. It is absolutely outrageous how communities have changed over the past 5 years. Valencia went from a mostly populated by Latinos neighborhood to being completely invaded by techies, coffee shops, art studios etc., rather than family-owned bakeries, restaurants and Latin-influenced art such as murals.

Today, we can see how American history continues to hunt people of color both economically and racially. They both go hand in hand, poverty is the heart of American color problems. As technology booms through San Francisco's streets, gentrification rapidly unfolds. Thousands of residents and family-owned businesses, (specifically people of color) who have lived and served San Francisco for decades are being evicted -particularly in the Mission, Mid Market, Castro, and Dog Patch. However, San Francisco is not alone, evictions are heavy on low income Americans across the states. In a world of economic inequality and racial injustice, the government and its influence on society is to blame.

I, personally, have grown up moving around San Francisco's districts. It is absolutely outrageous how communities have changed over the past 5 years. Valencia went from a mostly populated by Latinos neighborhood to being completely invaded by techies, coffee shops, art studios etc., rather than family-owned bakeries, restaurants and Latin-influenced art such as murals.

Today, we can see how American history continues to hunt people of color both economically and racially. They both go hand in hand, poverty is the heart of American color problems. As technology booms through San Francisco's streets, gentrification rapidly unfolds. Thousands of residents and family-owned businesses, (specifically people of color) who have lived and served San Francisco for decades are being evicted -particularly in the Mission, Mid Market, Castro, and Dog Patch. However, San Francisco is not alone, evictions are heavy on low income Americans across the states. In a world of economic inequality and racial injustice, the government and its influence on society is to blame.

Many may argue that people of color are to blame for their own poverty issues. As Bill Cosby states, "Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. They are standing on the corner and they can't speak English"” Here Cosby argues personal responsibly within low income communities and stresses parents should take control and start parenting correctly. However, these families are victims of the system, struggling every morning waking to work 2-3 jobs a day and are barely scheming by the poverty level. While the children receive barely enough to cover basic material needs, they lack a great deal of love and support which their parents' jobs have stolen from them.

Although Cosby may have a point in taking responsibility rather than pointing finger, Cosby fails to mention where the power lies. "State power is great in the hands of the right people, the right class, in the right service of the right thing: Bring about an end to exploitation, oppression, and social inequality." People of color are constantly being hashed by the system which tells them it's their fault they are in poverty, when in reality, the so-called system's job is to help support the people financially which leads to better education (leaders, World revolutionaries, doctors), emotionally leading to a good mental state of mind, and medically leading to health etc. This is an ongoing cycle which seems to never end. The fight for equality in this nation seems to slip through the American people's hands like sand.

As a result of inequality, children are being pushed into prison. Revolution Newspaper - The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of this System and the Need for Revolution reports, "the violent situation in many black and Latino neighborhoods all over the country - where parents watch young children shot down in crossfires and kids growing up haunted by nightmares of gunfire, sure they won't make it past 18." It's horrible the things our communities, our people are facing on a daily basis. Community Coalition, an organization that helps push towards a social and economic equality in South LA, states that 40% of students expelled from US schools each year are black and 30% of foster care youth entering the juvenile justice system are related to behavior problems that may be a result of unstable homes.

Then again, I ask what is the system doing for these families? What is the system doing to form the next generation of leaders? Evictions and poverty should not be viewed lightly. Eviction has turned into a very familiar sight in poor neighborhoods. Tents are left outside with their belongings, while the people do not not know their family's next step as they are left in debt. These are the lives American people are living. It is absolutely absurd. Poverty should not be a problem.

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SpeakOut Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:35:40 -0400
Why TV Will Soon Become as Relevant as Morse Code http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26535-why-tv-will-soon-become-as-relevant-as-morse-code http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26535-why-tv-will-soon-become-as-relevant-as-morse-code

TV is such an integral part of daily life that many cannot see how it could ever become irrelevant.

A Chariot driver if asked about the future of transportation might have replied: "They will have 10 extra horses pulling the cart and it will go twice as fast!"

Hundreds of years before the invention of the combustion engine, the Chariot driver cannot begin to comprehend what a combustion engine is, or how it would be possible to fit hundreds of horses into the size equivalent of 1/5 of a horse.

The reason TV will soon be irrelevant is that every technology ever invented, and every technology yet to be invented, will one day become obsolete.

TV is such an integral part of daily life that many cannot see how it could ever become irrelevant.

A Chariot driver if asked about the future of transportation might have replied: "They will have 10 extra horses pulling the cart and it will go twice as fast!"

Hundreds of years before the invention of the combustion engine, the Chariot driver cannot begin to comprehend what a combustion engine is, or how it would be possible to fit hundreds of horses into the size equivalent of 1/5 of a horse.

The reason TV will soon be irrelevant is that every technology ever invented, and every technology yet to be invented, will one day become obsolete, and what will make TV irrelevant has been around for over ten years: Internet Video streaming.

Here are some of the economic advantages the Internet has, that in a few years will leave large cable and TV conglomerates scrapping their infrastructure for cash:

1 – Distribution cost, the Internet has cheap as free distribution costs. Anyone in the world can potentially connect to content, without content creators spending a penny in building a worldwide TV relay network.

2 – Better advertiser feedback: How reliable can an audimeter device be, when compared to real-time interactive feedback of 100% of Internet's audience?

Or, as you might be aware of from reading this news source, it's also possible to be completely ad free and publish content without the fear stepping on the toes of advertisers, and going for donation support has never been easier than with today's online payment tools and crowdfunding platforms.

3 – Obsolete Medium: Wearable devices such as Google Glass and augmented reality contact lenses will make TV as a medium cease to exist, even if TV can still be used to connect to the Internet and play games, doing so will one day be considered as cumbersome as trying to write a novel on a typewriter.

4 – The nail in the coffin of TV Giants: Competition

TV Media Giants have grown accustomed to having little competition and this has enabled them to get away with overspending, dubious content and outright lies.

Every single person in the world is now a potential Video Broadcaster. That means not only competition for TV, but also that it will be increasingly difficult to get away with fabricated news, when facts are recorded on the spot by anyone with a smartphone.

In closing, the Internet might not be perfect, but it's the most democratic tool ever invented and one of the few truly free communication outlets still available. Freedom of expression means it's possible to find racism, xenophobia and all sorts of criminal activity out there, but what makes the Internet great is freedom of choice.

Freedom to choose quality content while Networks continue to lower the bar to remain relevant, is what will ultimately kill the TV.

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SpeakOut Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:58:03 -0400
Deep Gardening http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26534-deep-gardening http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26534-deep-gardening

Aspects of life can be superficial or aspects of life can be deep. Deep is a synonym for meaningful. The art and science of gardening has had an ancient history of being a deep and meaningful part of human life.

Gandhi has said to forget to dig the earth is to forget ourselves. In the twilight of Thomas Jefferson's life, he mused that although he was an old man, he was but a young gardener.

In an era of high technology and complicated lives, there are practical steps that humans can take that can nurture and aid our journey through life. Gardening is such a practical endeavor. Gardening can enrich the body and soul with nourishment and beauty.

Aspects of life can be superficial or aspects of life can be deep. Deep is a synonym for meaningful. The art and science of gardening has had an ancient history of being a deep and meaningful part of human life.

Gandhi has said to forget to dig the earth is to forget ourselves. In the twilight of Thomas Jefferson's life, he mused that although he was an old man, he was but a young gardener.

In an era of high technology and complicated lives, there are practical steps that humans can take that can nurture and aid our journey through life. Gardening is such a practical endeavor. Gardening can enrich the body and soul with nourishment and beauty.

Harvard's Howard Gardner is a proponent of recognizing multiple intelligences. His theory notes well-accepted intelligences such as verbal and mathematical skills. Gardener has broadened his theory of multiple intelligences by adding an intelligence that embraces humanity's connection to nature. He refers to this as naturalistic intelligence. Naturalistic intelligence refers to such important skills as the ability to appreciate and enjoy the natural world. Gardening is a way for all humans to practice this intelligence.

The term deep has been applied to the science of ecology. The central idea of Deep Ecology is that we are part of, rather than separate from, the earth. The Gaia Hypothesis states that the earth is alive and that we are part of it. The namesake for an important American city Chief Seattle said in 1854 "We are part of the earth and it is part of us."

The term deep can also be applied to the art and science of gardening. Gardening is a meaningful activity that enriches the lives of humans.

The preeminent biologist EO Wilson has brought back sociologist Erich Fromm's concept of biophilia. Biophilia is the love of life. This love of life can be practiced first hand by gardening.

Gardening gives us the ability to immerse ourselves in life in positive ways. Gardening is not only a metaphor for life it can also be an important part of life itself. Humans are cognitive and emotional beings. Gardening is both cognitively and emotional rewarding.

An important aspect of naturalistic intelligence is participation in the natural world. This participation can be as simple and as important as planting a seed and nurturing it through germination and maturation. Seeing things grow enhances our life experience. Jane Goodall's recent book Seeds of Hope reinforces the connection humans have to plants. This connection runs deep and is an important part of our archetypal lives. Our connection to plants and their role as part of our life experience may be enmeshed in our genetic makeup.

Recipient of the Audobon Medal Richard Louv has written about Nature-Deficit Disorder. Other recipients include Rachel Carson and Robert Redford. Louv quotes the New York Times' support of green proposals to memorialize the Ground Zero site at the World Trade Center in as "ample proof of the power of landscape to transform a scarred and haunted place."

Gardening is an activity that serves to deepen our life experience. All humans can participate in small or large ways. Plants can live with us in our houses. Our yards can contain a garden or be a garden. Many towns and schools are establishing community gardens as a way for people of all ages to participate in the value of gardening.

Aspects of life can be superficial or they can be deep and meaningful.

The concept of deep gardening entails the value and need to practice gardening. Humans are part of nature. We model ourselves when we model nature through gardening.

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SpeakOut Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:45:27 -0400
The Blunt Truth About the Recent Election in New Zealand http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26533-the-blunt-truth-about-the-recent-election-in-new-zealand-the-economic-bubble http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26533-the-blunt-truth-about-the-recent-election-in-new-zealand-the-economic-bubble

A recent article at the Guardian has heralded the third consecutive win for John Key's centre-right National party, referencing certain statistics that demonstrate that the National led coalition government has managed to strengthen the economy despite the worldwide recession.

This is all well and good - at least in the short term. However, contrast those statistics from the latter editorial with this article from Forbes entitled "12 Reasons Why New Zealand's Economic Bubble Will End in Disaster" and we might get a more complete picture of the future of New Zealand. This article was written by an expert in the area, Jesse Colombo, who accurately predicted that the global recession would happen.

The Economic Bubble

A recent article at the Guardian has heralded the third consecutive win for John Key's centre-right National party, referencing certain statistics that demonstrate that the National led coalition government has managed to strengthen the economy despite the worldwide recession.

This is all well and good - at least in the short term. However, contrast those statistics from the latter editorial with this article from Forbes entitled "12 Reasons Why New Zealand's Economic Bubble Will End in Disaster" and we might get a more complete picture of the future of New Zealand. This article was written by an expert in the area, Jesse Colombo, who accurately predicted that the global recession would happen.

Let's just take one of the issues mentioned in the article: public debt. Contrary to what the government has been telling the public, debt has dramatically increased since the Key government first took the reins in 2008. But don't take my word for it. The Forbes article listed above states that at the time of writing, debt has nearly tripled since 2008. This article on Stuff.co.nz, a prominent New Zealand news site, puts New Zealand's current debt as climbing at $27 million a day.

Readers are encouraged to read the article and to do further research. In short, New Zealand is showing exactly the same symptoms that the global financial market was showing before the 2008 recession happened in the first place. The reason the government has managed to boost the economy despite a recession is because of certain external factors such as a Chinese bubble boost and the rebuild which is taking place in earthquake-damaged Christchurch.

This growth will not last forever. Who will be to blame when this economic bubble pops?

Wholesale Surveillance and Terrorism

Despite revelations from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden that New Zealand's Government Security Communications Bureau (GCSB) contributes to XKeyscore and NSA wholesale surveillance systems – and despite the fact that John Key has more or less conceded that these revelations are accurate – the general public of New Zealand have considered this to be a non-issue. Recent events in the Middle East and across the ditch in Australia have helped strengthen the public's resolve that these systems are necessary.

No one in Australia (or New Zealand) seems to be asking where on earth Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) received their funding, training and equipment from. No one is asking how it was possible that the group waltzed unimpeded through Iraq and into Syria with mass quantities of Iraqi Armed Forces equipment. Instead, the public is all too quick to once again adopt the post 9/11 paranoia with the "us versus them" mentality that accompanies it, taking their anger out on ordinary Muslims who, if anything, have publicly distanced themselves from ISIS. Fortunately, I can show you an informative documentary that explains exactly who is responsible for ISIS and the current situation in Iraq and Syria, and why.

The "nothing to hide therefore nothing to fear" argument only applies if one conforms to the status quo of New Zealand and its allies. Kim Dotcom is not a terrorist yet he was spied on (illegally) before his mansion was raided by armed police and his assets were frozen. The victims of the Uruwera "terror raids" in 2007 were not terrorists but a combination of unrelated social activists and political dissidents. Section 7 of the recently amended Government Communications Security Bureau Act states that the objective of the bureau is to contribute to the "national security of New Zealand; and the international relations and well-being of New Zealand; and the economic well-being of New Zealand". So, if you oppose New Zealand being a signatory to the secretly negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership agreement because you think a government losing its sovereignty to overseas corporations is a bad idea, can you be targeted by the GCSB? (For those of you who don't know, John Key has made it quite clear that he intends to sign this rights-eroding "free trade" agreement).

If we really cared this much about terrorism, the New Zealand government would openly condemn international players such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, NATO member states and most importantly the United States for spending millions of dollars funding and training jihadists. However, John Key has made it quite clear that he will blindly support the bid for war in this region. In doing so, did John Key ever mention that Syria is Iran's closest ally, bound by a mutual defence pact?

Furthermore, John Key has openly supported Barack Obama's drone assassination program and it has recently come to light that the GCSB has been complicit in this program. Never mind that the US is not at war with Yemen, Pakistan or Somalia. Never mind that these drone strikes have killed thousands of civilians and systematically refuse the target a right to due process. Never mind that a New Zealand citizen was killed by one of these drone strikes without due process. Would it be okay if China or Russia conducted drone strikes in New Zealand's territory?

Other Domestic News

Domestically, the national government has placed a blanket ban on prisoners' right to vote – a right afforded to New Zealanders by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Approximately half of the prison population in New Zealand identify as being Maori, the indigenous population of New Zealand, and therefore thousands of Maori have lost their right to vote.

In late 2013, the government also held a nationwide referendum to determine if New Zealanders would support the sale of some of their key assets. The referendum cost millions of dollars and the resulting verdict was very telling in that the majority of New Zealanders answered "no." John Key ignored the referendum and sold the assets off anyway. The government has also cut funding from many crucial volunteer organisations such as Rape Crisis centres. In that context, does it make sense that the government has enough money to spend millions of dollars on a referendum that they ultimately ignored?

Rather than admitting that the left needs to be better organised there are some who are claiming that the voting was rigged. Many have even signed a petition calling for a recount. Before we go down that road, we should first consider a number of factors. Firstly, one should bear in mind that almost the same amount of people who voted for National didn't vote at all. Secondly, when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in 2009, the country faced large scale riots. We have seen nothing close to this in New Zealand. The political left is going to have to face the fact that the "smiling assassin" is extremely popular with the New Zealand public and recent revelations about National's attack politics have done nothing to damage this rise in popularity, no matter how dirty these tactics are. If anything, these tactics have done exactly what they were intended to do.

What does it mean to be popular anyway? Adolph Hitler was popular. McDonald's is popular. Bashar al-Assad, who we are told constantly by the mainstream media is a mass murdering psychopath, won the 2014 election in Syria by a landslide.

Obviously these include only a smidgen of the issues that exist under a National led government. There are also undoubtedly many people who do benefit from a National government, particularly those who are business oriented. However, to claim those benefits you still have to disregard all of the other issues mentioned above. To see what life is like for many New Zealanders who do not benefit from a National government, have a five minute conversation with the average beneficiary. However, this time around National have won so many seats in Parliament that they can form a government by themselves if they wanted; as well as acquiring the unlimited potential to ram through any piece of legislation they want. There is no court in New Zealand which can (or will) declare a piece of law invalid (though there is some hope in this area).

If you voted for the National party, and you are okay with all of the above, then that is fine. But you can't claim you voted that way for any morally or pragmatically superior reasons.

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SpeakOut Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:39:25 -0400
Lebanon: The Forgotten Front http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26532-lebanon-the-forgotten-front http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26532-lebanon-the-forgotten-front

While the world's attention has been focused on the combined efforts of Arab and US forces attacking "Islamic State" (IS) positions in Iraq and Syria, there is unfolding in Lebanon, a third front in the war against this violent extremist group. This third front has received scant attention. Because Lebanon has been so overwhelmed by the fallout from Syria's civil war, aggravating the country's fragile sectarian balance, the threat of IS poses an existential challenge that must not be ignored.

Despite being the smallest of Syria's neighbors, Lebanon is currently hosting 40% of Syria's refugees. With a population of just under 4 million citizens, the presence of 1.2 million displaced Syrians means that nearly one in every four persons currently residing in Lebanon is a Syrian.

While the world's attention has been focused on the combined efforts of Arab and US forces attacking "Islamic State" (IS) positions in Iraq and Syria, there is unfolding in Lebanon, a third front in the war against this violent extremist group. This third front has received scant attention. Because Lebanon has been so overwhelmed by the fallout from Syria's civil war, aggravating the country's fragile sectarian balance, the threat of IS poses an existential challenge that must not be ignored.

Despite being the smallest of Syria's neighbors, Lebanon is currently hosting 40% of Syria's refugees. With a population of just under 4 million citizens, the presence of 1.2 million displaced Syrians means that nearly one in every four persons currently residing in Lebanon is a Syrian. This is causing severe stress on Lebanon's resources and its social order. While the refugees are dispersed across the country in over 1,600 locations, some Lebanese towns have been completely overwhelmed by Syrians with the impact being felt in severe shortages in housing, medical services, water, and electricity. Classrooms are overcrowded. And with the refugees willing to work for less pay, many Lebanese are now finding themselves priced out of the job market.

The international community has been generous in providing support to the refugee population—though far short of the needs that exist. But the host communities have not received adequate support to provide for Lebanese who have been negatively impacted by the surge of refugees. All of this has caused enormous stress country-wide.

In June of 2012, all of Lebanon's political groups agreed on a policy of "disassociation"— pledging not to become involved in Syria's war. While individual Lebanese crossed the border to fight either for or against the Assad government, the first formal break in the "disassociation" policy came with Hizbollah's entry into the Syrian war in 2013. While Hizbollah's justifications for their action varied from protecting Shi'a holy places from being overrun by Sunni extremists to supporting their ally in Damascus, the net result was to aggravate Lebanon's Sunni population thereby aggravating the country's sectarian fissures.

Over the past year, Lebanon has been on a low boil. There have been mass bombings in both Shi'a and Sunni neighborhoods and not a day goes by without reports of small scale, but still lethal, sectarian attacks.

The most dangerous situation, to date, is unfolding in Lebanon's northeast - in the border town of Arsal. As a result of the Syrian war, Arsal's Lebanese population of 35,000 swelled to over 100,000 souls. Preying off of the obvious discontent created by this untenable situation, a combined force of Jabhat al Nusra (the al Qaida affiliate) and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran Arsal in early August. A week later, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) reestablished control, driving out the two militant groups. Losses were great—19 LAF soldiers died in the battle, and 38 were captured. Since then, a terrifying and dangerous drama has unfolded, with the extremists threatening to behead the captives unless the LAF withdrew.

It is important to note that the LAF is held in high esteem among all sectors of Lebanese society. It is Lebanon's one truly national institution with near equal portions of Sunni and Shia in uniform, joined by a substantial number of Christians. A recent poll showed that while the public gave extremely low single digit favorable ratings to their parliament and government, 70% gave a positive rating to their army.

The extremists have ruthlessly exploited the captives calling the soldiers' families telling them to pressure the LAF to withdraw from Arsal and then engaging in public executions of the soldiers, one at a time, to demonstrate their cruelty and resolve. Lebanese officials have decried this barbaric display and have complained that some elements of the Lebanese media have contributed to the extremists' efforts by sensationalizing the parents' appeals.

To date, three LAF have been executed, but the army and government have withstood the pressure and refused to surrender Arsal back to the control of the terrorist groups. As one Lebanese official recently put it, "the choice they are giving us is to trade 38 captives for the entire city of Arsal."

Lebanon has signed on as a partner in the Arab and US coalition to combat the Islamic State. But they won't be fighting in Syria or Iraq. They have their own front in this war. Their efforts need recognition and international support. The LAF requires advanced weaponry to fight more effectively. And Lebanon requires much more assistance to provide not only for the massive influx of refugees but for Lebanon's host communities.

It would be a tragic if in the process of combating the IS presence in Iraq and Syria the world ignored Lebanon thus allowing IS to gain a foothold in that country or allowing the tactics of ISIL or Jabhat al Nusra to provoke tensions within Lebanon thereby sparking a sectarian civil war. The key to avoiding either outcome is to strengthen the LAF so that it can control the country's borders and to demonstrate to the Lebanese people that the world is attentive to their plight.

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SpeakOut Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:31:25 -0400
Sexual Assault is Men's Problem http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26507-sexual-assault-is-men-s-problem http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26507-sexual-assault-is-men-s-problem

Let us be clear: the problem of rape and sexual assault on campus is a male problem.

Last week, many newspapers across the country featured an editorial by Dan K. Thomasson titled Academia Needs to Act to Protect College Women. Unfortunately, Thomasson’s comments served to reinforce the antiquated notion that its women’s responsibility to avoid getting raped. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual assaults and therefore the onus of changing the campus rape culture lies primarily with them.  Simply put, men need to not rape.

Let us be clear: the problem of rape and sexual assault on campus is a male problem.

Last week, many newspapers across the country featured an editorial by Dan K. Thomasson titled Academia Needs to Act to Protect College Women. Unfortunately, Thomasson’s comments served to reinforce the antiquated notion that its women’s responsibility to avoid getting raped. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual assaults and therefore the onus of changing the campus rape culture lies primarily with them.  Simply put, men need to not rape.

Dan Thomasson’s lamentation about a supposedly simpler (and safer) time when women were infantilized does nothing to address the underlying issues of patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity that continue to permeate gender relations and contribute to the societal persistence of victim-blaming. Thomasson seems to suggest that if men have any role at all in addressing the problem, it is to protect women. Women do not need men to protect them; they need men to not sexually assault them.

Thomasson’s call for universities to minimize the potential for rapes and sexual assaults to occur, an approach often referred to as target hardening, seems clearly directed at the behavior of women. While efforts at target hardening such as learning self-defense, abstaining from alcohol and carrying mace may sometimes work for individual women, they are personal solutions to a societal problem and often simply serve to shift the attack to women who are perceived as more vulnerable.

Plainly, target hardening strategies alone are not the answer, particularly when they focus solely on would-be victims and ignore would-be perpetrators. The case of Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia University and more recently, Hannah Graham at the University of Virginia, have helped to draw the national spotlight to the dangers faced by women on college campuses. These cases further highlight the inadequate response provided by many universities where victims continue to receive the message that they are not to be believed.  Given that 78 American colleges and universities are now being investigated by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, it is clear that the same-old strategies that focus on women’s behavior are not effective.

Universities nationwide need to begin to worry less about their reputations and more about removing perpetrators and supporting survivors. Zero tolerance policies, educational programing (directed at males) and models such as “yes means yes” which advocate affirmative consent, are steps in the right direction.

To draw attention to her rape, Emma Sulkowicz has been carrying her mattress around the Columbia University campus for weeks now. Society in general, and men in academia particularly, need to commit to making sure women like Ms. Sulkowicz are not made to bear the burden of rape prevention alone. Worrying, as Thomasson does, about women’s curfews or their alcohol consumption is entirely off the mark and fails to contribute in any useful way.

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SpeakOut Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:15:25 -0400
John Kerry Attempts to Bully CODEPINK Into Silence http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26506-john-kerry-attempts-to-bully-codepink-into-silence http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26506-john-kerry-attempts-to-bully-codepink-into-silence

There aren't many to come to Congress to protest - not nearly enough - and the disparaging comments of chairs of committees and witnesses toward those who do challenge administrations are certainly aimed at discouraging pesky, uncomfortable protests.

It wasn't that anyone liked Sadaam Hussein and his treatment of many in Iraq, but we knew we were being lied into a war with the false claims of weapons of mass destruction and we protested vigorously against it.

No one likes what Assad has done to many in Syria, nor what ISIS is doing to the people in the territory they currently control, but we didn't trust the Obama administration on last year's issue of chemical attacks in Syria, nor do we trust him  on arming "moderate" rebel groups in Syria, so we protest.

There aren't many to come to Congress to protest - not nearly enough - and the disparaging comments of chairs of committees and witnesses toward those who do challenge administrations are certainly aimed at discouraging pesky, uncomfortable protests.

It wasn't that anyone liked Sadaam Hussein and his treatment of many in Iraq, but we knew we were being lied into a war with the false claims of weapons of mass destruction and we protested vigorously against it.

No one likes what Assad has done to many in Syria, nor what ISIS is doing to the people in the territory they currently control, but we didn't trust the Obama administration on last year's issue of chemical attacks in Syria, nor do we trust him  on arming "moderate" rebel groups in Syria, so we protest.

On September 16,  we attended the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and held up our signs" "There is no military solution," "More killing = more extremism" and other similar messages.  After the hearing began, I stood up and said, "No More War, No More War."

Committee chair Senator Carl Levin responded with banging  his gavel and "if you don't sit down you will be removed.  Then the snide comment,  "You're acting very war-like yourself." During that hearing, 5 of us were thrown out of the room after we each gave the committee and witnesses a quick piece of our minds about the folly of another attempt to use the US military to resolve yet another political issue.

The next day on September 17, Secretary of State John Kerry began his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, a committee he chaired as a US Senator, by challenging protest, particularly the delegation of CODEPINK: Women for Peace over their opposition to arming the Syrian rebels.  As Kerry entered the hearing room, we shouted, "No more war.  No military solution."  Kerry responded by saying that he respected our right to protest, "You know, as I came in here, obviously we had some folks who spoke out. And I would start by saying that I understand dissent. I've lived it," he said, referring to his leadership of Vietnam Veterans Against the War nearly 40 years ago. "That's how I first testified in front of this country in 1971." 

Kerry then said that  CODEPINK "was started by a woman, or women, who were opposed to war but who also thought that government's job was to take care of people, give them health care, and education, and good jobs."

"And if that's what you believe in, and I believe it is, then you ought to care about fighting ISIL."

"Because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women. And they believe women shouldn't have an education. They sell off girls to be sex slaves to jihadists." 

Well, Secretary of State Kerry, we are concerned about women and all people.  We do not like what Assad has done to the people of Syria and we don't like what ISIS has done.  And we did not like what Sadaam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi or the Taliban did to those who opposed their rule.  And, we do not like what a war that the United States has orchestrated has done to the women, children and men of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and the chaos it has caused in the Middle East and the world.

Kerry conveniently didn't mention in his testimony that ISIS is the direct blowback the United States is facing after the 11 year war on Iraq. According to the Washington Post, after the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, now the head of ISIS, was a minor Islamic preacher who became a militant because of the occupation.  He formed a small, armed group in eastern Iraq to oppose the American occupation, and in 2005, he was captured by American forces and spent the next four years a prisoner in the American prison camp called Bucca, in southern Iraq.  

According to the New York City Daily News, the US military did not consider him particularly dangerous, and let him go when the camp closed in 2009. As he left, he reportedly told guards, "I'll see you guys in New York." They did not consider his parting words a threat - just an acknowledgment that many of his captors were reservists from a unit based on Long Island. The camp's commanding officer said, "He was a bad dude but he wasn't the worst of the worst."  

We believe there are other ways to deal with ISIS than having more weapons from the United States flood into the region. The armed rebel groups that number between 80,000 to 100,000 want more weapons, interestingly, to counter the US weapons that the 10-30,000 ISIS fighters have captured from some of the 250,000 Iraqi military trained and equipped by the United States over the past ten years. The cycle of arming groups with US weapons and having those weapons fall into the hands of fighters the United States opposes is well documented and a very good reason not to provide these weapons to even more fighters.

A better strategy is to pressure those governments who have been supporting ISIS behind the scenes and who are now US allies in Obama's coalition of the willing.  Saudi Arabia is the big brother caliphate that ISIS wishes to become - an oil rich, conservative religious country where Sharia law, morals and vice police, prison for those who do not agree and beheadings (24 last week in Saudi Arabia) are the norm.  Saudi  Arabia has been the cash cow for US military contractors and oil companies for decades and the US government has turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses that the Saudi monarchy has inflicted on its people.  But, rather than confronting Saudi Arabia directly about its support for extremist groups in the region, the Obama administration pushed for a  formal training facility for "moderate" armed groups in Syria to be trained in the home of extremists. It does not make a bit of sense!!!!

Now is the time for the United States to go to the mat with Saudi Arabia. 

And now that the Turkish diplomats have been freed from ISIS, it's time to put great pressure on Turkey. Turkey is anti-Assad and has allowed international fighters to transit into Syria and Iraq and has turned a blind eye toward militant recruitment in Turkey itself. Unemployment in Turkey is 9.3% in 2013, and in 2010, almost 17% of the population lived below the poverty level.  ISIS reportedly pays fighters $150 a day. Working with ISIS, young men are able to earn more that three times Turkey's average per capita GDP-a tremendous recruitment tool.  

The US must put pressure on Turkey to stop the flow of illegal oil from ISIS into Turkey.  ISIS is selling $1 million in oil per day from oilfields it has captured in Syria and Iraq on the  black market to groups in Turkey.

Rather than trying to bully CODEPINK to stop protesting Obama-Kerry policies, we suggest that Secretary Kerry focus his energies on getting the Obama administration "allies" to stop aiding and supporting ISIS and its brutal regime of terror on civilian communities.

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SpeakOut Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:06:57 -0400
Argentina Faces US Contempt Hearing and Daily $50,000 Penalty for Failure to Pay Hedge Funds http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26504-argentina-faces-us-contempt-hearing-and-daily-50-000-penalty-for-failure-to-pay-hedge-funds http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26504-argentina-faces-us-contempt-hearing-and-daily-50-000-penalty-for-failure-to-pay-hedge-funds

Washington, DC -US Federal Judge Thomas Griesa scheduled Argentina to appear for a contempt hearing on Monday, September 29. At issue is Argentina's failure to follow a court order to only continue to pay the 92% of bondholders who restructured after the country's 2001 default if Argentina pays a group of hold-out hedge funds. Argentina organized payment to restructured bondholders via an Argentine bank to avoid paying the hedge funds. The hedge funds, popularly known as "vulture funds," are asking the judge to hold Argentina in contempt and fine the South American country $50,000 per day.

"A contempt ruling probably won't help resolve the situation," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious financial reform organization Jubilee USA. "The case continues to highlight how ineffective US courts are at resolving debt disputes."

Washington, DC -US Federal Judge Thomas Griesa scheduled Argentina to appear for a contempt hearing on Monday, September 29. At issue is Argentina's failure to follow a court order to only continue to pay the 92% of bondholders who restructured after the country's 2001 default if Argentina pays a group of hold-out hedge funds. Argentina organized payment to restructured bondholders via an Argentine bank to avoid paying the hedge funds. The hedge funds, popularly known as "vulture funds," are asking the judge to hold Argentina in contempt and fine the South American country $50,000 per day.

"A contempt ruling probably won't help resolve the situation," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious financial reform organization Jubilee USA. "The case continues to highlight how ineffective US courts are at resolving debt disputes."

At a similar hearing in August, Judge Griesa declined to find Argentina in contempt, noting: "In my judgment, it does not add to the scales of settlement to make a finding of contempt." In September, however, the Argentine Congress approved a debt swap bill to pay the restructured bondholders and circumvent the US court's decision to pay the hold-outs. Judge Griesa has called that bill "illegal." In a brief to the US Appeals Court in 2012, the US government argued Judge Griesa's ruling would harm New York as a center of finance because countries would avoid jurisdictions where predatory behavior is tolerated. 

"This predatory behavior hurts investors and countries of all sizes," noted LeCompte. "The precedent in this case will hurt developing countries like Grenada and the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

Monday's contempt hearing comes days after Argentine President Christina Fernández de Kirchner's speech to the United Nations General Assembly about the dangers of predatory behavior. Fernández thanked countries that supported a recent UN resolution to advance an international bankruptcy process. The resolution passed September 9 by a vote of 124-11. A global debt resolution process could potentially prevent holdout litigation and limit defaults.

"In UN votes and IMF meetings, most of the world is saying the status quo is not working," said LeCompte, who serves on UN debt expert groups and attended the Argentine President's UN speech. "World leaders want both the predators to be stopped and defaults to become less likely. Only a bankruptcy process can achieve both."

Read a timeline and history of the Argentina case here.

Read the US government's 2012 brief here.

Read Jubilee USA's filing that urged the Supreme Court to take the case here

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SpeakOut Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:55:12 -0400
UK Government Claims in Rendition Case "Highly Unlikely," Says Ex-US Ambassador http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26502-uk-government-claims-in-rendition-case-highly-unlikely-says-ex-us-ambassador http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26502-uk-government-claims-in-rendition-case-highly-unlikely-says-ex-us-ambassador

A former senior US Ambassador and State Department official has described claims made by the British Government in a High Court case concerning the 2004 rendition and torture of Yunus Rahmatullah as “highly unlikely.”

Lawyers for the UK Government had argued that a case brought by Mr. Rahmatullah, who was detained and mistreated by UK personnel in Iraq before being handed over to the US for ‘rendition’ to Afghanistan, should not be heard for fear of damaging British relations with the United States.

A former senior US Ambassador and State Department official has described claims made by the British Government in a High Court case concerning the 2004 rendition and torture of Yunus Rahmatullah as “highly unlikely.”

Lawyers for the UK Government had argued that a case brought by Mr. Rahmatullah, who was detained and mistreated by UK personnel in Iraq before being handed over to the US for ‘rendition’ to Afghanistan, should not be heard for fear of damaging British relations with the United States.

However, a statement provided to the court by Thomas R. Pickering, a former US Under-Secretary of State who served for four decades as a diplomat – including postings as Ambassador to the UN and Russia – said that the UK Government’s claims “misunderstand the value the United States places on the rule of law.”

Ambassador Pickering stressed that “I firmly believe that adjudicating Mr. Rahmatullah’s case in UK courts is highly unlikely to cause damage to the relations or national security cooperation between the US and UK."

Following his 2004 capture, Mr. Rahmatullah, a Pakistani national, was subjected to simulated drowning and beatings which rendered him unconscious. He was later transferred to US custody at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, after which he was rendered to Bagram, where he was held for over ten years before being released without charge last June.  The British Government denied any involvement in rendition for years following his capture – with then-Defence Secretary John Hutton only making public the UK’s involvement in Mr. Rahmatullah’s ordeal in February 2009.

Mr. Rahmatullah is now challenging the British Government's refusal to investigate his allegations of torture and rendition, and is also asking the court to determine that the UK's actions were unlawful.

Yesterday, government lawyers argued that, providing the UK acts in concert with a third party state, it should be immune to legal challenge. They claimed that if a court were to find that the UK, and by implication the US, had acted unlawfully in joint operations this would risk US-UK relations. 

Legal charity Reprieve, which together with solicitors Leigh Day is representing Mr. Rahmatullah, argues that Ambassador Pickering’s statement fatally undermines these claims.

Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: "The British Government knows that it is in the wrong – yet instead of coming clean on its part in Mr. Rahmatullah’s rendition and torture, it is doing everything it can to make sure this case never sees the light of day.  Now a former senior US ambassador, with decades of experience at the highest levels of American diplomacy, has blown the UK Government’s case out of the water.  It is time they dropped this shameful attempt to deny justice to a victim of brutal torture and years of mistreatment.”

Sapna Malik, partner at Leigh Day, said: "Our client strongly contests the UK government's attempt to shield it's actions from judicial scrutiny by hiding behind the US. It is no surprise that the independent expert evidence presented to the court establishes that the US stands to gain nothing from severing diplomatic or military ties with the UK, and that UK-US bilateral relations will remain safe, were an English court to examine and uphold our client's grave allegations against this government."

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SpeakOut Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:46:33 -0400
Veterans and Human Rights Attorneys Seek Information on Toxic Weapons Use in Iraq http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26500-veterans-and-human-rights-attorneys-seek-information-on-toxic-weapons-use-in-iraq http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26500-veterans-and-human-rights-attorneys-seek-information-on-toxic-weapons-use-in-iraq

New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department on behalf of itself and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) seeking the firing coordinates of weapons used in Iraq that contained depleted uranium (DU).  As the US launches new military actions in the Middle East, the groups say getting information about the military’s use of DU in weaponry and its long-term effects is as urgent as ever. According to “In a State of Uncertainty,” a report by the Netherlands-based organization PAX, Iraq has been subject to the largest use of DU munitions of all areas of conflict and test sites, conservatively estimated to be at least 440 metric tons, though the United Nations Environment Programme has estimated an amount up to five times that based on satellite imagery.  Iraqi civilians thought to have been exposed to DU and remaining debris have suffered high rates of cancer and birth defects and U.S. veterans report unexplained illnesses.  

New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department on behalf of itself and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) seeking the firing coordinates of weapons used in Iraq that contained depleted uranium (DU).  As the US launches new military actions in the Middle East, the groups say getting information about the military’s use of DU in weaponry and its long-term effects is as urgent as ever. According to “In a State of Uncertainty,” a report by the Netherlands-based organization PAX, Iraq has been subject to the largest use of DU munitions of all areas of conflict and test sites, conservatively estimated to be at least 440 metric tons, though the United Nations Environment Programme has estimated an amount up to five times that based on satellite imagery.  Iraqi civilians thought to have been exposed to DU and remaining debris have suffered high rates of cancer and birth defects and US veterans report unexplained illnesses.  

“DU is but one example of the toxic legacy left by our wars in Iraq,” said CCR Attorney Jeena Shah.  “Veterans who served in Iraq are suffering side effects, while many Iraqis still live surrounded by piles of metal debris left over from the war and with soil and ground water potentially contaminated by DU. The only way to deal with its effects and to ensure it is cleaned up is to have a full accounting of where weapons containing DU were deployed.”

DU is a byproduct of enriched uranium and is used in armor-piercing weapons due to its high density.  When DU hits a target, its fragments burn and vaporize into a fine dust.  If a person inhales, ingests, or is exposed by radiation to DU, radioactive material can be absorbed into the lungs, bone, kidney, skeletal tissue, reproductive system, brain, and other organs.  A reportrecently published by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons concluded after reviewing approximately fifty peer-reviewed studies on DU that it is clearly a genotoxic agent, known to be involved in the development of cancer and potentially responsible for genetic damage.  Some of the wreckage left behind from the war has entered the unregulated trade in scrap metal, sometimes even made into cooking pots.  No safe levels of exposure to DU have been established, and researchers advise that all exposure should be avoided.  Iraq and other UN member states have called for the banning of DU and the issue will be before the United Nations in October.

Said Maggie Martin, Organizing Director of IVAW, “Veterans have been fighting for decades to have our injuries recognized by the US government— from Agent Orange to Military Sexual Trauma. We were promised healthcare in return for our service, and we deserve to know if we've been exposed to depleted uranium. This is an important matter of health for over two million veterans and for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who are experiencing the worst of the toxic legacy of war.” 

Laid to Waste,” a report by Wim Zwijnenburg of PAX, details the difficulty of limiting civilian exposure to DU in the absence of reliable information about locations where it was used and the limited efforts to address the issue.

“In addition to regular bombardment, our country and our communities have been left with a toxic legacy from decades of US war in Iraq,” said Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.  “If the US is truly concerned about civilian well-being, it should assist in a full accounting of DU contamination and rigorous study of its health effects by making public the locations where weapons containing DU were deployed.”

CCR and IVAW are seeking this information as part of the Right to Heal Initiative, which they launched together with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq. Visit the website to learn more about the Right to Heal Initiative.

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SpeakOut Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:40:00 -0400
The First Annual New York City Conference on Worker Cooperatives http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26499-the-first-annual-new-york-city-conference-on-worker-cooperatives http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26499-the-first-annual-new-york-city-conference-on-worker-cooperatives

On June 21, 2014, the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives (NYC NOWC) hosted the first annual NYC Conference on Worker Cooperatives (videos of most of the conference sessions are posted here.) Two hundred people gathered at the CUNY Law School in Queens. The excitement in the room was palpable. A budding worker co-op movement has been on the move in NYC. Since Occupy Wall Street, there has been increased interest among activists in worker-owned worker-managed businesses as one strategy for workers to take control of their economic life. A coalition of worker cooperatives, community groups and advocates on the new progressive NYC Council, have been working together to develop a plan for growing the worker cooperative sector in NYC. This work culminated in an announcement on June 19, 2014, "The City Council secured $1.2 million in funding to support the expansion of worker cooperatives throughout the City to help low-income and minority New Yorkers become business owners." Moreover, new NYC Mayor, Bill De Blazio declared June 21, “Worker Cooperative Day” in New York.

In the morning, panels addressed “micro” issues such as “What is a worker co-op?” and “How are they organized?” In the afternoon the conference focused on “macro” issues such as how to develop an integrated co-op sector and what is the role of non-profit and government in co-op development.

On June 21, 2014, the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives (NYC NOWC) hosted the first annual NYC Conference on Worker Cooperatives (videos of most of the conference sessions are posted here.) Two hundred people gathered at the CUNY Law School in Queens. The excitement in the room was palpable. A budding worker co-op movement has been on the move in NYC. Since Occupy Wall Street, there has been increased interest among activists in worker-owned worker-managed businesses as one strategy for workers to take control of their economic life. A coalition of worker cooperatives, community groups and advocates on the new progressive NYC Council, have been working together to develop a plan for growing the worker cooperative sector in NYC. This work culminated in an announcement on June 19, 2014, "The City Council secured $1.2 million in funding to support the expansion of worker cooperatives throughout the City to help low-income and minority New Yorkers become business owners." Moreover, new NYC Mayor, Bill De Blazio declared June 21, “Worker Cooperative Day” in New York.

In the morning, panels addressed “micro” issues such as “What is a worker co-op?” and “How are they organized?” In the afternoon the conference focused on “macro” issues such as how to develop an integrated co-op sector and what is the role of non-profit and government in co-op development.

Carmen Huertas-Noble, the founding director of the Community and Economy Development Clinic (CEDC) at CUNY School of Law, and Christopher Michael, a founding director of the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives, opened up the conference. Worker cooperatives, Michael explained, provide the means to democratize the workplace. They turn our businesses into moral vehicles rooted in the values of the people at large, and not just those of the investment class. The first panel was intended to introduce people to the meaning and structure of worker cooperatives, as not everyone in the audience was familiar. Omar Freilla, founder of Green Worker Cooperatives in the Bronx, provided a simple, straightforward definition; cooperatives, he said, are owned and controlled by the workers. Various institutions provide auxiliary support. Karen Haskins’ organization,Working World, for example, provides loans which put finance directly into the hands of workers. Emma Yorra, of the Center for Family Life, pointed out that a great deal of responsibility comes with owning your own business.

Teresa Bucio of Apple Eco-Cleaning, Yadira Fragoso of Si Se Puded Women’s Cleaning, and Annie Sullivan-Chin of A Bookkeeping Cooperative, composed the second panel. Their stories provided a glimpse into what it is like to organize and work in cooperatives. For example, Teresa Busciao spoke about coming to the United States from Mexico in 1977. She worked at a garment factory for eighty hours per week at a salary of three-hundred dollars. In the wake of the financial crisis, she lost her job, becoming a day laborer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her story highlights the importance of building strong linkages between workers and organizations for economic and social justice. In 2010, with the help of the Workers Justice Project, Teresa and other women started Apple Eco-Cleaning, a workers co-operative. She explained, “We are the women, the mothers that work hard to make dreams come true.”

[For non-Spanish speakers, the translation of Teresa's remarks begins at 8:37 -ed.]

In a breakout session, Jessica Gordon Nembhard and Jim Johnson facilitated a discussion of the role of cooperative developers in creating worker co-ops. Cooperative developers are technical advisors who consult with new and existing worker co-ops to help them start and improve their businesses. The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives has a cooperative developer certification program, Democracy at Work Network (DAWN). The session was organized around a presentation of the Madison Principles, which are professional standards for cooperative developers. A good portion of the discussion focused on the challenges of facilitating the empowerment of marginalized groups in the context of worker co-op start-ups. Often, starting a new business is a long process and it is not uncommon for some of the founders to drop out. A key challenge of worker co-op founders is create a plan and protocol to transfer their “business vision” to potential co-op members and teach the skills to implement plan.

The first panel of the afternoon was composed of a mixture of academics and activists. The discussion focused on the various ways worker cooperatives are an integral part of larger social movements. Cooperatives can provide the space for poor, often invisible communities to find their collective voice, sense of empowerment and connection to issues of social justice. Ligia Guallpa spoke about the way The Workers Justice Project helps low-wage workers to link their own experiences of exploitation (wage theft, cleaning with toxic chemicals) to those of the broader worker’s rights movement. Ngoc-Tran Vu of Mekong and Saduf Syal of Make the Road New York also talked about their work with low income communities in the outer boroughs of New York City. While Jessica Gordan Nembhard and Ed Ott, both of CUNY, discussed the historical connection between worker cooperatives and social movements: Gordan Nembhard about the history of cooperative economics in the movement for civil rights; Ott about the historical relationship between unions and other forms of worker’s organizations.

The last two panels focused on growing a cooperative economy and specifically, how New York City is going to support worker cooperative development in the city. Brenden Martin, of The Working World, stated that with the recently announced 1.2 million dollar co-op initiative, NYC is now the leading city in USA in regards to a worker co-op policy. He asserted that the worker co-op movement is attempting to challenge the heart of social injustice by creating a worker-controlled economy from the ground up. Worker co-ops often start out of defensive necessity. The Working World, a worker co-op controlled revolving loan fund, started assisting Argentinian workers who took control of their workplaces when the owners of the businesses abandoned the businesses during the Argentinian depression at the start of the 21st century.

Michael Peck, of Mondragon, USA, described a specific story of how the value of solidarity inherent in a cooperative economy can make a big difference in the lives of workers. Mondragon is a large worker cooperative network in the Basque region of Spain consisting of 289 businesses with over 80,000 workers. The centerpiece of the system is one of the largest banks in Spain. Michael told the story of Fagor, an appliance manufacture co-op in the Mondragon system which went out of business when the housing market in Spain collapse reducing the demand for household appliances. Unlike the usual corporation that focuses only on the bottom line, Mondragon believed it had a responsibility for displaced workers. Fifteen hundred workers were trained and moved to other businesses in the system. Others were given early retirement packages. Now Mondragon has come to the US. In cooperation with a number of US unions, Mondragon USA is dedicated to developing unionized worker co-ops in the US. Moreover, the CUNY Law School and Mondragon are working on a project to offer a masters program in work cooperatives.

The Honorable Maria del Carmen Arroyo of the New York City Council and Honorable Carl E. Heastie of the New York State Assembly closed out the day by speaking about the city’s support for economic democracy. Worker cooperatives, Carmen explained, can be a model for economic development. By helping workers start their own businesses that they democratically control, worker cooperatives have the potential to both provide the economic foundation for families to transcend poverty and build greater equality in New York City. The City Council is considering other strategies to support worker co-op development. For example, an idea has been discussed for the NYC Human Resources Administration to recognize worker participation in a worker co-op start-up as an alternative to the traditional workfare program. Also, strategies for facilitating access for work co-ops to bid on NYC contracts were discussed.

The goal of the initial 1.2 million dollar investment by the city is to provide aid to the forty existing working cooperative businesses to help them grow, to start twenty-eight new co-op start-ups over the next year and to create 600 new jobs. Some in the audience question whether the time frame and scope of the project might be too ambitious for the amount of resources being invested in the project. Perhaps, this estimate is optimistic given that Scott A. Shane, a professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western, recent estimated that the cost of per job for entrepreneurial job creation is approximately $31,000. However, Chris Michaels expressed optimism that the goals are doable. And, Carmen Huertas-Noble replied that failure is not an option.

Indeed, though growth projections may need to be altered with further experience, failure seems unlikely given the amount of time and energy being put into existing and new cooperatives throughout the city driven by the moral and solidaristic appeal of the democratic work model. Worker cooperatives currently make up a very small portion of our economy. However, in time, they have the potential to become a powerful force for building economic justice not only in NYC and the United States, but throughout the world.

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SpeakOut Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:17:53 -0400
GAP Praises Settlement of Marine Corps Whistleblower Case http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26498-gap-praises-settlement-of-marine-corps-whistleblower-case http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26498-gap-praises-settlement-of-marine-corps-whistleblower-case

Washington, DC – Today, US Marine Corps whistleblower Franz Gayl and his attorneys since 2007 at the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised the Marine Corps and the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for the successful resolution of his seven-year Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) complaint.

Gayl is the Marine Corps science advisor whose disclosures ended delays in delivering the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their absence had accounted for well over half of combat deaths and other casualties in those wars, which dropped by over 90 percent after their delivery. He and another national security whistleblower, Robert MacLean, also proposed reforms that President Obama eventually adopted as Presidential Policy Directive 19. PPD 19 created free speech rights for whistleblowers making disclosures inside their agencies, outlawed retaliation through security clearance actions, and upgraded due process rights to challenge security clearance reprisals.

Washington, DC – Today, US Marine Corps whistleblower Franz Gayl and his attorneys since 2007 at the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised the Marine Corps and the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for the successful resolution of his seven-year Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) complaint.

Gayl is the Marine Corps science advisor whose disclosures ended delays in delivering the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their absence had accounted for well over half of combat deaths and other casualties in those wars, which dropped by over 90 percent after their delivery. He and another national security whistleblower, Robert MacLean, also proposed reforms that President Obama eventually adopted as Presidential Policy Directive 19. PPD 19 created free speech rights for whistleblowers making disclosures inside their agencies, outlawed retaliation through security clearance actions, and upgraded due process rights to challenge security clearance reprisals.

Gayl paid a nightmarish price for his MRAP disclosures, even though he was acting at the direction of America’s top field general in Iraq, who had been unable to secure delivery of the lifesaving vehicles for well over a year. From 2007-2014 Gayl endured a reprimand, several suspensions, a criminal investigation, threats of removal for unacceptable performance, removal of duties, partial loss of his security clearance credentials, proposed demotion and salary cutoff, and other forms of harassment. The turning point came in 2011, when Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner obtained a stay of ongoing retaliation, and the case moved into mediation.

The settlement maintains Gayl's current position. Significantly, it also includes an award, and appointment to a new team committed to develop and recommend policy guidelines for the Marine Corps on WPA rights and responsibilities. Team members must exercise sound judgment and work with integrity.

Gayl commented, "I am thrilled at the outcome. The real value is in how the Marines and I, a Marine my whole life, go on viewing each other.  If I make it to old age that is all that will matter for me; knowing that in spite of the institution's dislike for my techniques and disclosures, that I meant well and I am still considered part of the family.  We still have separate issues outstanding, but the climate has changed for the better, I think permanently. I wish to thank the Corps and the Office of Special Counsel for hard work and dedication to the merit system. Most of all, I’d like to thank my wife for her loyalty during a seven-year nightmare from which we never knew if we would wake up. Without her, I could not have made it."

Gayl's attorney, GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, added, "In my experience, it is unprecedented to appoint a whistleblower to help any agency develop policy for whistleblower rights, let alone a military service. The Marines deserve credit where it is due. This victory would not have occurred without the US Office of Special Counsel, whose lawyers stopped the bleeding and whose Alternative Disputes Resolution unit healed the wounds with marathon determination. Hopefully, this will be a precedent for whistleblowing disputes to end through consensus, instead of conflict."

OSC Alternative Disputes Resolution Chief Jane Juliano and OSC Dallas Regional Office Chief Anne Gullick led the mediation.

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SpeakOut Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:07:40 -0400
Truth, Responsibility and Reconciliation in Iraq http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26497-truth-responsibility-and-reconciliation-in-iraq http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26497-truth-responsibility-and-reconciliation-in-iraq

American officials are hailing the handfuls of European and Arab nations who have belatedly joined the anti-ISIL coalition. Yes, it’s important to defend Yazidis, Kurds, and other populations at risk, and there is no one in their immediate vicinity that needs aerial dismemberment more than ISIL.

Predictably, critics are pointing out that air strikes aren’t sufficient to control the situation on the ground. So the US is sending more weapons to those shy Syrian “moderates,” and will begin training as many of them as it can herd onto bases in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Turkish troops may defend safe havens within Syria.

American officials are hailing the handfuls of European and Arab nations who have belatedly joined the anti-ISIL coalition. Yes, it’s important to defend Yazidis, Kurds, and other populations at risk, and there is no one in their immediate vicinity that needs aerial dismemberment more than ISIL.

Predictably, critics are pointing out that air strikes aren’t sufficient to control the situation on the ground. So the US is sending more weapons to those shy Syrian “moderates,” and will begin training as many of them as it can herd onto bases in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Turkish troops may defend safe havens within Syria.

But beginning with the US invasion in 2003, ISIL was created by US air strikes. Even though American boots weighed heavily on that soil from the start— and even with their surge in 2007—extremism in Iraq and Syria has only grown exponentially.

That’s because extremism and radicalization feed on instability, trauma, and grievance. Estimates suggest that at least 20 percent—and up to seventy percent—of those killed by American drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia are non-combatants, and not “suspected terrorist” (defined as a fuzzy male figure glimpsed on a screen in a windowless room on the other side of the globe).

With every dead innocent, America radicalizes an extended family and mints a whole new set of militants. Cited by Obama as a model of America’s airborne “anti-terror” campaign, Yemen has seen an isolated east-provincial militancy morph into a full-scale civil war (complete with the capture of its capital) due in no small part to the slaughter of innocents by American drones.

And the slaughter of innocents is inevitable. Urban militants such as ISIL blend into dense civilian populations, where explosions mean that women and children are killed. We see the gun-camera shots that go straight through the center of a roof, but we don’t see the rockets that go awry, nor do we know everyone who’s in those buildings. ISIL looks ill-equipped, but this is also their advantage since it enhances their ability to blend into the crowd and provides fewer clear targets from the air.

Airstrikes will only add to instability and anger on the ground. Nominal Turkish defensive deployments and hastily trained “moderate rebels” will manage that ground no better than their American predecessors.

And that’s the least of it!

Arms that America sends to the region have a tendency to wind up in the hands of its enemies. Some weapons are captured; some are sold and bartered by impoverished, unenthusiastic fighters. Such is the way of wars in the Muslim world.

And where are we gathering these reclusive “moderates” to provide them with training and weapons? Saudi Arabia. Let’s avoid the murkier depths of the Kingdom’s role in 9/11. Even by official accounts, it was resentment against American military activity on Saudi soil that led to the Riyadh barracks bombing in 1996, and that motivated the 9/11 hijackers.

ISIL is brutal and savage; savagery feeds upon instability and trauma, and we’re breeding more of it now. What little strategy America has in Iraq and Syria is doomed to fail. Five years on, we’ll be fighting the genuine terror to which we are now contributing.

Any real solution to problems in this region—and any real solution for US foreign policy—must begin with truth, responsibility and reconciliation. America must start by acknowledging its snowball of blunders– beginning in 1953 when the CIA joined with British intelligence to overthrow the democratically elected, pro-American government of President Mohammed Mossedegh in Iran. Until they do so, Americans will not find a solution to the problems that they have created for themselves in the Middle East, because they will never understand the cause. Until Americans acknowledge the truth and accept responsibility for themselves, they will not be forgiven by those who have suffered for their complacency. Until Americans acknowledge the truth, they cannot begin to recover their core American values that they have forsaken in the Middle East for the last sixty years.

In his address to the United Nations last week, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran called upon the US to acknowledge and apologize for its blunders in Iraq. He’s right.

If Americans want to solve their problems in the Middle East, the single best thing that they could do is to investigate Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Barack Obama for war crimes and crimes against the American people.

Americans who can consider such solutions are Americans who can save themselves.

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SpeakOut Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:52:06 -0400
Nakhwa Without Borders: Gaza and the End of "Arab Gallantry" http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26461-nakhwa-without-borders-gaza-and-the-end-of-arab-gallantry http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26461-nakhwa-without-borders-gaza-and-the-end-of-arab-gallantry

On its own the Arabic word al-Nakhwa, means “gallantry.” Combined with the word “al-Arabiya” - “Arab gallantry” - the term becomes loaded with meanings, cultural and even political implications and subtext. But what is one to make of “Arab gallantry” during and after Israel’s most brutal war on Gaza between 8 July and 26 August which killed 2,163 Palestinians and wounded over 11,000 more?

Is this the end of Arab Nakhwa? Did it even ever exist?

On its own the Arabic word al-Nakhwa, means “gallantry.” Combined with the word “al-Arabiya” - “Arab gallantry” - the term becomes loaded with meanings, cultural and even political implications and subtext. But what is one to make of “Arab gallantry” during and after Israel’s most brutal war on Gaza between 8 July and 26 August which killed 2,163 Palestinians and wounded over 11,000 more?

Is this the end of Arab Nakhwa? Did it even ever exist?

As a Palestinian Gaza refugee from a simple peasantry background, I was raised to believe that al-Nakhwa was an essential component of one’s Arab identity. Together with al-Rojoula - “manhood/fortitude/heroism” - al-Karm - “generosity” - al-Karama - “dignity” - and al-Sharaf - “honour” - were all indispensable tenants in the character of any upright person. The alternative is unthinkably shameful.

Thus, it is no wonder that Palestinian national songs, and the slogans for successive rebellious generations in Palestine have borrowed heavily from such terminology. It was al-Nakhwa that compelled Gaza to rise in solidarity with the victims of al-Aqsa Mosque clashes in 2000, which ushered in the painful years of the Second Palestinian Uprising (2000-2005). It was al-Karama (dignity) that forced Gaza to the streets to protest the killing of four Palestinian cheap labourers by an Israeli truck driver, leading to the First Palestinian Uprising (1987-1993). It was al-Sharaf (honour) that made Gazans fight like warriors of ancient legends to prevent Israeli troops from taking over the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip in the most recent war.

But the lack of reactions on Arab streets, - Perhaps Arab societies are too consumed fighting for their own honour and dignity? - and the near complete silence by many Arab governments as Israel savaged Gaza civilians, forces one to question present Arab gallantry altogether.

Yet millions protested for Gaza across the world in a collective global action unprecedented since the US war in Iraq in 2003. South American countries led the way, with some governments turning words into unparalleled action, not fearing western media slander or US government reprisals. Few Arab countries even came close to what the majority Christian Latin American countries like Ecuador have done to show solidarity with Gaza.

And when a ceasefire was declared on 26 August, it became impossible for Israeli or even western media to argue in earnest that Israel had won “Operation Protective Edge.” They tried, but the closest they managed to argue was that there were no winners. Others acknowledged that Gaza had won the war by defeating every war objective laid out by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hardly shocking, although certainly dishonourable, some Arab journalists who stayed largely quiet as the Palestinian death toll in Gaza grew rapidly, went on a well-organised crusade. While they shed crocodile tears for Gaza’s children, they insisted that Gaza lost, strengthening Netanyahu’s desperate narrative that his war had achieved its objectives. The Gaza-didn’t-win line was repeated by many well-paid journalists and commentators as to defeat the prevailing notion that resistance was not futile. For them, it seems that Palestinians need to accept their role in the ongoing Arab drama of being perpetual victims, and nothing more. A strong Palestinian, practically and conceptually, is the antithesis to the dominant line of the current Arab political script that is predicated on strong rulers and weak nations. Since the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), the Palestinian is only idealised as a hero in poetry and official text, but an eternal casualty in everyday life.

Some of these pseudo-intellectuals didn’t even muster enough Nakhwa to extol Gaza on its resistance and the sheer enormity of its sacrifices. Most of Gaza’s resistance fighters (who mostly come from Gaza’s poor refugee classes) reportedly fasted (no food or water from dawn to dusk) as they fought throughout the month of Ramadan. Many would break the fast on few dates, if any. Compare this to the endless supplies of food, and everything else that remained available in abundance to invading Israeli troops. Even if these commentators sincerely rejected the “Gaza victory” narrative, wasn’t the sheer fortitude of these men and women deserving of a mere acknowledgement of a few words written by the well-fed “intellectuals” operating from faraway hotel lobbies in rich Arab capitals?

Since the introduction of pan-Arab satellite television news networks, the term “Arab gallantry” was brought into question endless times. In fact, “Iyna al-Nakhwa al-Arabiay?” - where is the Arab gallantry?’ - was perhaps the most oft-repeated question raised by ordinary Arab callers taking part in television political debates. The question was uttered mostly in the Palestinian context, but, in the last decade also in the cases of Iraq and Syria.

There is no definite answer as of yet, but it is not that Arab gallantry is in abundance within ruling Palestinian classes either.

Just days following the ceasefire, the leaders of the Ramallah political class unleashed verbal attacks against the former Hamas government over money, salary and phony coup attempts. For Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, per the leaked protocol of his meeting with Hamas’ Khaled Meshaal in Doha, the war in Gaza seemed a secondary matter, as the 80-year-old was overwhelmed by some paranoia that everyone was conspiring against him. His Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who behaved as if his “premiership” didn’t include Gaza during the war, returned to action as soon as the ceasefire announcement was made. His government didn’t feel any particular urgency to pay salaries of Gaza employees who were hired by the previous Gaza government.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, a leaked letter provided to French lawyers by the deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) showed that Abbas’ government actually blocked a Palestinian application to the ICC that is aimed at trying Israeli government and military leaders for alleged war crimes. Here the discussion over gallantry, dignity and honour ends, and a whole different set of terminology begins.

The shameful factionalism has reached a point where Fatah officials are accusing the former Gaza government for being responsible for the loss of lives among Gaza refugees as they make desperate attempts to escape the strip towards Europe atop crowded boats. Agenda-driven Arab commentators are joining in, some blaming both sides equally, as if those who resisted are equal to those who conspired.

Embattled Netanyahu is getting a badly needed break as Palestinian officials in Ramallah and some Arab media commentators are circuitously blaming Gaza for Israel’s own wars and war crimes. While Palestinians continue to gaze at the rubble of their destroyed lives in Gaza, they receive little support and solidarity from their Arab neighbours, or from their won “brethren” in Ramallah.

When Arab media commentators laud Netanyahu for killing Palestinians in Gaza and a UN spokesman weeps on the air, crying for Gaza’s victims, one is forced to question old beliefs about one’s own supposed exceptionalism. It has turned out that Nakhwa has no borders, and can extend from Bolivia to Sri Lanka, and from South Africa to Norway.

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SpeakOut Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:37:08 -0400
Ten-Day Village Building Convergence Rocks Small Town Sebastopol http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26460-ten-day-village-building-convergence-rocks-small-town-sebastopol http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26460-ten-day-village-building-convergence-rocks-small-town-sebastopol

Participants in the ambitious ten-day First Annual Sebastopol Village Building Convergence (VBC) painted murals on streets in this small Northern California town and filled the Grange Hall, the Permaculture Skills Center and other sites from September 12 to 21.

On the final day, a colorful, active parade marched from the weekly farmers' market in the downtown plaza through a newly-painted street with murals of salmon, dogs, coyote tracks, a Spirit Bird and other wildlife. Over 400 people, including many children, participated in that painting. One theme of the march was climate protection, coinciding with the People's Climate March (PCM) in New York City and elsewhere around the planet on Sept. 21.

Participants in the ambitious ten-day First Annual Sebastopol Village Building Convergence (VBC) painted murals on streets in this small Northern California town and filled the Grange Hall, the Permaculture Skills Center and other sites from September 12 to 21.

On the final day, a colorful, active parade marched from the weekly farmers' market in the downtown plaza through a newly-painted street with murals of salmon, dogs, coyote tracks, a Spirit Bird and other wildlife. Over 400 people, including many children, participated in that painting. One theme of the march was climate protection, coinciding with the People's Climate March (PCM) in New York City and elsewhere around the planet on Sept. 21.

VBCs originated in Portland, Oregon, instigated by the group City Repair, which has hosted them for 14 years. They spread to over fifty places in the United States, including Olympia, Washington, Minnesota's Twin Cities, and Asheville, North Carolina. VBCs have also happened in Canada, Brazil, India, and Australia. With less than 8,000 residents, Sebastopol - located in semi-rural Sonoma County - may be the smallest town to host a VBC. People came from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond for Sebastopol's VBC.

An attractive 40-page program welcomed residents and visitors "to community generated, hands-on projects and celebrations." It outlined numerous activities - placemaking, the daily Open Village, evening talks, a workshop by City Repair founder Mark Lakeman, concerts, yoga, a healing village and film showings. The goals included to "improve our experience of community and make lasting improvements in our town by transforming public spaces and making them into special places."

Among the hands-on projects that beautified the town were building a cob bus stop, cob oven and bench from straw and clay, a fence on one side of the Grange Hall and gardening. Some of these ongoing efforts were begun before the ten days and will continue after.

Reclaiming healthy food was among the themes. Participants dug, raked, weeded and planted gardens. VBC collaborated with the Ceres Community Project, which engages teens in growing and cooking nourishing food for community members with serious illnesses.

On most afternoons, a large tent outside the Grange provided an Open Village with a clothing swap, bike repair station and snacks, tea, wine and beer. It offered a "Cross-Pollination Lounge," where people were invited to "create the village you want to live in," swap resources, host a conversation, receive free seeds and books or visit the kids corner.

Among the VBC's many sponsors are the following: Transition Sebastopol, dedicated to "building community resilience," Cittaslow Sebastopol, which indicates that the town qualifies as one of a growing number of "slow cities" around the globe, the Grange, an agriculture-based group which has existed for nearly 150 years, since the 1880s in Sebastopol, and The Barlow, a collection of local merchants along a street that was painted by volunteers.

"We chose to partner with the Village Builders because we loved the idea of engaging the community to create public art and participate in 'placemaking,'" noted Cittaslow's Tasha Beauchamp. "From our Eco-Tourism Open House, we learned that it was a community priority to make a stronger connection between The Barlow and the downtown. The murals were a perfect way to take the Intersection Repair concept and apply it to create the bridge between the new and the old parts of our city."

"We gather to take responsibility for our times, to create positive change, to reclaim our commons, to connect ourselves with our place," declared Jeanna Collet at the VBC's opening. The City Council had voted unanimously to co-sponsor the VBC. Vice-Mayor Patrick Slater attended the opening and the final evening of presentations. Other City Council members attended some of the many events.

Mayor Robert Jacob reported recently meeting in Portland with City Repair's Lakeman, whom he invited to come to Sebastopol to meet with City officials. "What makes a community like Sebastopol unique is service," Mayor Jacob declared on the final evening of presentations. "People continue to give of themselves." He announced a new City Repair Ordinance that is almost complete, co-authored by City Council member and former mayor Sarah Gurney, who has been an active VBC supporter.

"We are planting seeds this year, such as projects and ideas," said Sebastian Collet, an architect who returned home to Sebastopol after working on Portland's VBC. He lives in a four-generation family compound on two acres in Sebastopol. "I'm glad that we've created a safe container where our one-year-old Obie can wonder around," he noted on the VBC's last day.

"We want people to think about the commons and who should decide about it," Collet explained. "We want people to take ownership for common space and to dream up the world they want to live in. My intention is to build bridges. I love to build, including relationships with each other. I want to spark people's imaginations."

"Ours is a disoriented and disorienting world," noted VBC's Cassandra Ferrera. "I'm committed to our remembering our place," she added. Ferrera has been one of the main persons to meet with the Sebastopol City Council. "Our City Council wants this to happen," she said. "Mayor Jacob was just in Portland to find out how to enable this in Sebastopol. We have an active partnership with the City."

Portland's Mark Lakeman in Sebastopol

Portland's Lakeman provided one of the VBC's highlights on the final day of presentations with a highly-interactive, practical, four-hour workshop entitled "Re-Wilding the Commons." He explained that "re-wilding means our re-inhabiting. This is our home. We have a birthright. Unlike what we have been told, we are not alone. We are each part of a larger self."

Lakeman invited participants to stand and then sit in a circle, which was later divided into smaller circles, which addressed questions such as the following: "What do you love about your place? What issues and opportunities are there where you live?"

By the end of the workshop there were three circles of people creatively re-designing an intersection of streets in their neighborhoods. They were soon sitting on the floor de-constructing carcentric crossroads with a stronger presence of nature.

"Cars are recent innovations," Lakeman declared. "Streets should be more for talking and greeting. An intersection of streets should be mainly for connecting and breaking isolation. In permaculture, we learn that as we come out of isolation, we can build real intimacy. Permaculture has to do with patterns, identifying them and developing new ones. Diversity is at the edges. The problem is the solution."

"The Earth is treated as a commodity," Lakeman asserted. "Capitalism and democracy collide."

"Permaculture is an ecological design approach based on principles of natural systems," added Erik Ohlsen, owner of Permaculture Artisans. "Permaculture seeks to regenerate the ecological services of the earth while developing and maintaining basic human infrastructure and production of agricultural goods through mutually beneficial relationships between humans and their environment. Permaculture is a global movement designing and implementing a resilient future; it integrates economic, social and ecological solutions for the planet and people."

Sebastopol VBC Organizers and Speakers

"We have two overwhelming global issues - the concentration of power and wealth in a few hands and climate change," declared author Starhawk in an interview before her speech on social design. "The solution is community-based caring, rather than greed and exploiting others. City Repair is so creative. It brings people to express themselves and present solutions."

The author of "The Empowerment Manual" and many other books, Starhawk advocated de-centralized approaches to leadership. The long-time activist in Occupy San Francisco and other groups spoke about the difficulties of balancing direct democracy with getting things done. "We need a clear understanding of power. There is power over - top down with bosses. There is another power, when power comes from within."

"The commons are actually reclaiming me and instilling a sense of place and home," said organizer Maggie Fleming, who co-directs Transition US. "Through these nature-based projects, we've been reconnecting with our natural environment and extending our definition of a village to include all the plants and wildlife in our community."

"VBC has had something for everyone," noted Fleming, "activities for kids, wisdom sharing from elders, natural building, art, mischief and shenanigans, music, dance and yoga, conversations about community, talks by local luminaries and placemaking leaders, ritual, and celebration."

"I am particularly interested in how we can change the cultural narrative we are all guided by from the popular media, to one that honors and respects the earth," explained organizer Julia Bystrova. "I am scheming to de-rail the culture that imprisons us," she added.

"My intention is to slow the destruction of the Earth," noted Marissa Mommaerts of the Post-Carbon Institute and Transition US. "We need to address issues like racism and sexism," she added.

"If we are to create a just society for posterity, we will need to opt out of the dominant consumer culture," added organizer Jeremiah Garcia. "We need to shift away from a fossil fuel economy and transport ourselves more by bikes," asserted ream member Lindsey Whited.

Sebastopol's VBC reached beyond city limits. It organized a tour of the rural La Tierra Community, which has existed for 26 years and currently has 17 residents. A trip to the city of Petaluma was made to Josie's Garden to assist in the transformation of an unused driveway into a neighborhood garden.

Our Front Yard Project: Sebastopol's Living History Garden is an ongoing project located between City Hall and the Library. "So much of Daily Acts work has to do with connection and collaboration," explained Ryan Johnston of that Petaluma-based group. It partnered with Permaculture Artisans to beautify that visible, well-trafficked area. "Our goal is to nourish community for generations to come," added Johnston.

Plans for the Second Annual Sebastopol VBC are already being developed. A better world is possible.

More information: www.sebastopolvbc.org.

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SpeakOut Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:27:28 -0400
Two Afghan Stories http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26440-two-afghan-stories http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26440-two-afghan-stories

Two Afghan stories this week suggest much about US progress in winning hearts and minds there.  The first involves Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan’s departing president, the “Mayor of Kabul,” Karzai asserted that “America did not want peace for Afghanistan, because it had its own agendas and goals here.”  It’s easy to paint Karzai as a dissembling ingrate, which is exactly what the American ambassador to Afghanistan did in response. But it truly says something that Karzai, the recipient of more than $100 billion in developmental aid from the US for Afghanistan (not including military aid!), portrays the US as working against the interests of the Afghan people.  There’s one heart and mind the US plainly didn’t win.

The second story involves three Afghan officers, one major and two captains, on a training mission at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts. The three officers, carefully vetted by US Central Command, decided they had had enough of working with America. They drove to New York and attempted to enter Canada at Niagara Falls, seeking asylum, or so it seems.  There are three more hearts and minds the US plainly didn’t win.

Two Afghan stories this week suggest much about US progress in winning hearts and minds there.  The first involves Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan’s departing president, the “Mayor of Kabul,” Karzai asserted that “America did not want peace for Afghanistan, because it had its own agendas and goals here.”  It’s easy to paint Karzai as a dissembling ingrate, which is exactly what the American ambassador to Afghanistan did in response. But it truly says something that Karzai, the recipient of more than $100 billion in developmental aid from the US for Afghanistan (not including military aid!), portrays the US as working against the interests of the Afghan people.  There’s one heart and mind the US plainly didn’t win.

The second story involves three Afghan officers, one major and two captains, on a training mission at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts. The three officers, carefully vetted by US Central Command, decided they had had enough of working with America. They drove to New York and attempted to enter Canada at Niagara Falls, seeking asylum, or so it seems.  There are three more hearts and minds the US plainly didn’t win.

The details of this particular story are farcical.  The night before their unauthorized trip to the Canadian border, they enjoyed the pleasures of a genuine American strip club, where they were reportedly “well behaved” according to the club owner.  The next day, they were brought to an American shopping mall as part of their introduction to “the cultural aspects of American life.”  At the mall, they gave their escort the slip and headed to Canada, where they were eventually intercepted at the border crossing at Niagara Falls.  According to The Cape Cod Times, when the three Afghan officers went missing, among the first places the US military looked for them was at the strip club.

Talk about an introduction to American culture!  First a strip club on Friday night, then a shopping mall on the weekend, then an unscheduled road trip to a major tourist attraction.  These Afghan officers may have absorbed too much of the American way.

In all seriousness, what does it say about the success of American efforts vis-a-vis Afghanistan when its former president denounces the US and visiting Afghan officers, after sampling American fleshpots and temples to consumerism, attempt to flee to Canada?

There’s a lesson here about folly, if only we would care to draw it.

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SpeakOut Thu, 25 Sep 2014 14:23:21 -0400
Treatment, Not Prison: How Sentencing Reform Will Boost Health for All Californians http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26439-treatment-not-prison-how-sentencing-reform-will-boost-health-for-all-californians http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26439-treatment-not-prison-how-sentencing-reform-will-boost-health-for-all-californians

Oakland – Reforming California’s sentences for low-level crimes would alleviate prison and jail overcrowding, make communities safer, strengthen families, and shift resources from imprisoning people to treating them for the addictions and mental health problems at the root of many crimes, according to a study released today. 

Rehabilitating Corrections in California, a Health Impact Assessment of reforms proposed by a state ballot initiative, predicts the changes would reduce crime, recidivism, racial inequities in sentencing, and save the state and its counties $600 million to $900 million a year – but only if treatment and rehabilitation programs are fully funded and implemented properly.

Oakland – Reforming California’s sentences for low-level crimes would alleviate prison and jail overcrowding, make communities safer, strengthen families, and shift resources from imprisoning people to treating them for the addictions and mental health problems at the root of many crimes, according to a study released today. 

Rehabilitating Corrections in California, a Health Impact Assessment of reforms proposed by a state ballot initiative, predicts the changes would reduce crime, recidivism, racial inequities in sentencing, and save the state and its counties $600 million to $900 million a year – but only if treatment and rehabilitation programs are fully funded and implemented properly.

Human Impact Partners conducted an in-depth assessment of the public health and equity impacts of reclassifying six non-serious offenses – crimes of drug possession and petty theft – to misdemeanors. The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, Proposition 47 on the November 2014 state ballot, would also allow people currently in prison for those crimes to apply for lower sentences and possible release, if deemed eligible by a judge Prop. 47 would  redirect savings from the reduction in the prison population to mental health and substance abuse programs, truancy and dropout prevention, and services for victims of violent crime.Treatment is much less costly than punishment, returning $3.77 in benefits for every dollar spent. 

“Every day, conditions in California’s dangerously overcrowded prisons and jails cause physical and mental harm to thousands of incarcerated men and women,” said Kim Gilhuly, MPH, lead author of the study. “Many of these people were convicted of crimes that pose no serious threat to others, but can be traced to their own substance abuse and mental health problems. We’d all be better off if they were given treatment and held accountable in their own communities, instead of being sent to prison. ”

A shift in how we charge and sentence people who have committed non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual crimes has far-reaching implications for the health and well-being not only of those who commit those offenses, but of their families, their communities, and the public. Full implementation of the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act would:

  • Decrease state corrections spending by $200 million to $300 million a year and county corrections spending by $400 million to $600 million a year. It would increase state funding for mental health and substance abuse programs, school truancy prevention and victim services by $200 million to $300 million a year.
  • Reduce the number of people convicted of felonies by more than 40,000 a year, and the number sentenced to prison by more than 3,000 a year. It  ​would a​ llow more than 9,000 people now in prison for felonies for low-level crimes to apply for reduced sentence and release. 
  • Reduce violent and property crime by reducing the number of people who re-offend and return to prison by at least 10% a year among people who participate in treatment programs.
  • Reduce the rates of incarceration of African-Americans and Hispanics, who are more likely to be sentenced to prison, county jail, or probation ​than​ whites for the same low-level crimes. African-Americans are only 7% of California’s population but they represent almost one-fourth of prison admissions. Hispanics are arrested and imprisoned at slightly higher rates than their share of the population, and are 60% more likely than whites to be jailed. 

“Evidence is overwhelming that providing treatment to offenders who have substance abuse problems or mental illnesses reduces crime and recidivism,” said Rajiv Bhatia, M.D., former environmental health director for the City and County of San Francisco. “Treatment instead of prison not only benefits their health and well-being, but that of their families and the entire community. The benefits of sentencing reform would reach far beyond prison walls."

  • Almost 4,900 parents in prison currently separated from more than 10,000 children could apply for release and return to their families or serve their sentences in a county jail closer to home. More than 40,000 people a year would avoid the additional punishments of a felony conviction – restricted access to jobs, housing, voting and other benefits – and tens of thousands could have their felony records cleared, making it easier for them to access the resources they need.

Truancy and dropout prevention programs keep children in school, greatly reducing the chance that they will run afoul of the justice system. A 10% increase in California’s high school graduation rate could lead to a 20% decrease in violent crime.

  • A statewide network of trauma recovery centers will help 12,000 to 18,000 people a year heal from the physical and emotional impacts of being a victim of violent crime. 

“The sentencing reforms called for in Proposition 47 are a crucial next step in fixing California’s broken justice system,” said Stephen Downing, a retired former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

“Two years ago, the state transferred responsibility for many non-serious, non-violent crimes from to counties, but thousands are still sent to prison each year for the low-level offenses addressed by Proposition 47​," Downing said. "​The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act would allow for alternative forms of punishment than incarceration for certain offenses and also fund treatment, prevention, and recovery services that will make California safer and healthier. “

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SpeakOut Thu, 25 Sep 2014 13:49:14 -0400
A Tipping Point for the Good http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26435-a-tipping-point-for-the-good http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26435-a-tipping-point-for-the-good

We've known for a long time that the Earth is warming, but it could be worse than we thought. A recent report from the World Meteorological Association concludes that carbon pollution and the buildup of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are increasing much faster than projected. And this pollution is putting communities across the country at a higher risk of droughts, intense storms, floods, and other problems brought on by global warming.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, we're on the front lines of climate change. Streets in Norfolk, Virginia, home to nearly a quarter of a million people and the world's largest naval base, routinely flood during heavy rains. Wind- and wave-pushed storm surges make the flooding even worse. And scientists estimate sea levels in Norfolk will rise another foot and a half within the next 50 years. 

We've known for a long time that the Earth is warming, but it could be worse than we thought. A recent report from the World Meteorological Association concludes that carbon pollution and the buildup of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are increasing much faster than projected. And this pollution is putting communities across the country at a higher risk of droughts, intense storms, floods, and other problems brought on by global warming.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, we're on the front lines of climate change. Streets in Norfolk, Virginia, home to nearly a quarter of a million people and the world's largest naval base, routinely flood during heavy rains. Wind- and wave-pushed storm surges make the flooding even worse. And scientists estimate sea levels in Norfolk will rise another foot and a half within the next 50 years. 

Virginians are scrambling to prepare the region for these changes. The governor convened a special commission to recommend action; the military is looking hard at the future of its Hampton Roads bases - and local governments, businesses, and citizens are bracing for the worst.

But at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we're not blinking; we're creating a tipping point for the good by helping to develop solutions that could be a model for coastal regions across the country and the world where climate change threatens our livelihood and our future.

In November 2014, we'll open the doors to the new Brock Environmental Center – a 10,000 square-foot environmental education and community center in Virginia Beach, VA. By adapting existing technologies and utilizing old-school building techniques, we're building an energy efficient and environmentally smart building that will reduce damaging carbon pollution and adapt to rising sea-levels and a changing climate.

The solution starts with energy independence. To achieve that goal, the Brock Environmental Center is designed to use 80 percent less energy than typical buildings. The building will generate clean renewable energy from two wind turbines and rooftop solar. 

Our designers curved the building and positioned it to maximize natural sunlight and maritime winds. The building features a "dog trot," an open deck in the middle of the building that promotes natural ventilation by allowing cool air to flow in and heat to flow out. It's an old trick used by Colonial builders in the South before the era of air conditioning. The highly insulated building significantly reduces the need for heating and air conditioning.

Together with the center's ultra-tight walls, windows, and doors, extra insulation and energy efficiencies, the Brock Center will truly be energy independent.

The building will also be water independent. Rainwater will be harvested from the roof and treated, allowing us to use our own water for drinking, sinks and showers, and other needs. Any excess rain water will flow into nearby rain gardens. "Gray water" will be used for native grasses, flowers, and shrubs. Even the center's bathrooms will use waterless toilets that compost waste in waterproof bins until the harmless compost can be spread on the grounds.

Anticipating more regional flooding, we have raised the building on pylons about 13 feet above current sea level and above any expected flooding in the coming decades.

Most importantly, we deliberately left the landscaping around the building as natural as possible in marsh, sand, shrubs, and trees. There are no paved parking lots; staff and visitors will park on nearby streets and walk to the center on a natural path through the woods. Any code-required handicap and emergency accesses will use permeable pavers that let water soak in rather than run off.

All of this natural, "soft" landscaping makes the Brock Center serve as a giant sponge, absorbing rainfall and storm surges and allowing flood waters to spread and recede naturally without harm to the center or nearby neighborhoods.

Researchers, students, designers, and architects will come to the Brock Environmental Center to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and environmentally smart building techniques to reduce carbon pollution and prepare our communities for climate change. As people take these techniques back to their communities around the country and the world, it will help create a tipping point for the good.

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SpeakOut Thu, 25 Sep 2014 12:13:29 -0400
Peace Statement Opposing US Bombing of Iraq and Syria http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26434-peace-statement-opposing-us-bombing-of-iraq-and-syria http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/26434-peace-statement-opposing-us-bombing-of-iraq-and-syria

The US is racing down a slippery slope towards war in Iraq and Syria. Since Aug. 8, the US has conducted more than 124 airstrikes in Iraq. Approximately 1,000 US troops are now on the ground in Iraq, with at least 350 more currently on their way.

President Obama initially said the bombing was part of a humanitarian mission to assist the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq being threatened by ISIS, the fundamentalist Islamic army that now controls wide swaths of Iraq and Syria. But Obama has now announced an open-ended bombing campaign, and he has ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry into the region to build military and political coalitions to sustain a long term war against ISIS.

The US is racing down a slippery slope towards war in Iraq and Syria. Since Aug. 8, the US has conducted more than 124 airstrikes in Iraq. Approximately 1,000 US troops are now on the ground in Iraq, with at least 350 more currently on their way.

President Obama initially said the bombing was part of a humanitarian mission to assist the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq being threatened by ISIS, the fundamentalist Islamic army that now controls wide swaths of Iraq and Syria. But Obama has now announced an open-ended bombing campaign, and he has ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry into the region to build military and political coalitions to sustain a long term war against ISIS.

According to the New York Times, President Obama has also authorized US surveillance flights over Syria, reportedly in search of ISIS targets for later bombing missions. The Syrian government has offered to coordinate with US military action against ISIS, the strongest rebel force fighting to overthrow the Assad government in Syria. But the US, which has aided ISIS' growth by facilitating the arming and training of rebels in Syria, has not asked permission for its flights into Syrian airspace.

Veterans For Peace members have witnessed the brutality and the futility of war, including the war in Iraq. We were sent to a war based on lies and we became part of the killing of a nation, along with as many as one million of its people. We watched as US policy makers consciously stirred up ethnic and religious divisions, creating the conditions for civil war today.

Veterans know from first hand experience that you cannot bomb your way to peace. More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention.

Last year the American people overwhelmingly sent a message to President Obama and the Congress: No US Bombing in Syria. Last month, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H. Con. Res. 105 stating that there is no legal authority for US military involvement in Iraq without express Congressional approval. By unilaterally pursuing miltiary action in Iraq and Syria, President Obama is acting in contempt of the American people, as well as of US and international law.

We support the troops who refuse to fight and who blow the whistle on war crimes. Under international law, military personnel have the right and the responsibility to refuse to be part of illegal wars and war crimes. US troops are not the cops of the world. There is no legitimate mission for any US service members in Iraq or Syria. We encourage GI's to find out their rights at the GI Rights Hotline.

Veterans For Peace absolutely opposes US military intervention in the Middle East, no matter what the rationalization. We call on all our members to speak out against any US attacks on Iraq and Syria.

We wish to see a US foreign policy based on true humanitarianism and real diplomacy based on mutual respect, guided by international law, and dedicated to human rights and equality for all.

We call attention to the excellent constructive proposals in a recent letter from 53 National Religious Groups, Academics, and Ministers Urging Alternatives to US Military Action in Iraq.

We applaud the initiatives of several key peace groups and we encourage our members to participate.

Sign Code Pink's letter telling President Obama not to bomb Syria or Iraq.

Sign Peace Action's petition restricting US arms sales around the world.

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SpeakOut Thu, 25 Sep 2014 12:03:10 -0400