SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Nov 06

Visitors to Snowden and Visitors to Berlin

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Report

It was a good try, anyway - and an adventurous one. Three men flew from Berlin to Moscow, were taken in a car with tinted glass windows to a secret location - where they met Edward Snowden and his partner-in-(alleged)-crime, Sarah Harrison. The meeting was very interesting. So were the three visitors. Trio leader was Hans-Christian Stroebele, 74, Bundestag representative from a mixed East-West Berlin electoral district, the only Green Party delegate directly elected (four times); the other 62 got in thanks to Germany's proportional representation system. Anyone joining in anti-war rallies recognizes the rather haggard-looking man who - until recently - always arrived pedaling a bike.

I was still in the process of being fitted with a wireless microphone when word came that I was about to go on. That's when I reached into my pocket for the talisman that I hoped would get me through the next 20 minutes.

It was Sunday, July 7, 2013, and I was about to deliver a closing plenary address at a national conference, the Vegetarian Summerfest, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Having given several presentations at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in years past, the sequence of having my name called, navigating the 15 yards to the stage, and speaking to hundreds of attendees had become second nature to me. But that was then, and this was now - seven months removed from an uncomfortably close brush with my own mortality.

Nov 06

Medical Advertising

By Richard Rapport, MD, SpeakOut | Report

Not too many years ago, certainly before the growth of the for-profit Humana medical plans system in the late 1970s, it was considered unprofessional and really forbidden for doctors to advertise. Now, it isn't even considered tacky.

But it is.

In almost any medium - the Internet, TV, radio, and print - sometimes outrageous claims are made for a drug, medical product, particular treatment, or particular doctor and/or hospital. These may take the form of "infomercials," and are aimed at a vulnerable, medically unsophisticated audience. Often they target readers and listeners who suffer either from a chronic, relapsing, but self-limited illness, or a condition that will eventually resolve if left alone. Sometimes claims are made for the cure of illnesses or non-illnesses that really are best left untreated. After all, everyone sometimes has pain for one reason or another.

Nov 06

Aristotle's Lantern

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, SpeakOut | Report

At a time when there's an almost universal attack on the natural world, it helps to remember Aristotle, the fourth century BCE Greek natural philosopher. He remains a model of intelligence to our day.

Aristotle studied all nature, indeed the cosmos. His preference was the natural world, especially animals because, as he put it, we live in their midst.

He urged us to be curious even about the lowest of the animals because all animals are beautiful. They illuminate the why and causes of natural things. Nature is full of purposefulness, he said. There is nothing accidental in animals, fish, wildlife and plants.

Nov 06

End of Enlightenment

By Angelo Letizia, SpeakOut | News Analysis

In a recent article, Dr. Henry Giroux argued that we may be witnessing the dismantling of democracy [1]. He pointed to the neoliberal assault on public education and the transformation of public education into workforce training for the global economy at the hands of state and federal law makers [2]. Giroux's remarks are sobering. They may actually be more telling than even he realized. Perhaps the neoliberal assault on education is not the destruction of democracy, but rather something much more profound; it may be the end of the Enlightenment.

While it is impossible to put exact definitive markers on historical events, historians argue that the Enlightenment began roughly at the end of the seventeenth century [3]. Enlightenment thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Marquis Condorcet, Mary Wollstonecraft Thomas Jefferson and later Georg Hegel all wrote of the power of a progressive and liberal education grounded in history and the liberal arts, they wrote about civic duty, public service and the infallibility of true democracy. While their thoughts are varied, and at times contradictory, they all demanded equality, freedom, justice, the rule of reason and the suppression of superstition.

Nov 06

The Shock Doctrine in Texas prisons

By Kenneth Foster, SpeakOut | News Analysis

This article is an analysis of the torture tactics and repressive methods used in administrative segregation prisons across Texas, and generally in America. To highlight these matters and how they're applied, I want to draw a parallel with Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

The Shock Doctrine is a book that documents the brutal economic tactics pioneered by University of Chicago professor Milton Friedman. His approach to economics became orthodoxy in almost every corner of the globe. It has been described as "neoliberalism," "free market," "laissez-faire capitalism" and "globalization," but the term that would stick in the minds of most people is "shock therapy."

"Shock therapy" has been applied both economically and physically. I will focus on the latter, but let me first talk about the former, because the economic shock doctrine allowed the physical shock doctrine to thrive.

I am a long-time advocate of both climate justice and fundamental system change. I am writing to you with whom I share these central political commitments because I believe you are making a serious strategic mistake by categorically rejecting international carbon trading.

Recently your organization, together with over sixty other environmental justice organizations, sent a letter to the President of the AFL-CIO "imploring labor to join us in the fight against climate change," explaining what labor must do differently if it expects to advance its cause. You obviously understand why we must sometimes reach out with advice to allies in struggle who we believe are making serious mistakes. That is the spirit in which I write you this letter.

Nov 05

Everything That's Happened Since Supreme Court Ruled on Voting Rights Act

By Mike Tigas and Kara Brandeisky, ProPublica | News Analysis

Last year, we wrote extensively about photo ID laws and the Supreme Court's decision to strike a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now, with gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and the debt ceiling and healthcare debates already shaping the 2014 midterms, we're revisiting voting policies to see which states have enacted tougher restrictions since the Supreme Court ruling in June.

Nov 05

Eisenhower's Drones

By David Swanson, War Is a Crime | News Analysis

President Dwight Eisenhower is often admired for having avoided huge wars, having declared that every dollar wasted on militarism was food taken out of the mouths of children, and having warned -- albeit on his way out the door -- of the toxic influence of the military industrial complex (albeit in a speech of much more mixed messages than we tend to recall).

But when you oppose war, not because it murders, and not because it assaults the rights of the foreign places attacked, but because it costs too much in U.S. lives and dollars, then your steps tend in the direction of quick and easy warfare -- usually deceptively cheap and easy warfare.

Nov 05

NAPF Congratulates Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

By Staff, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation | Press Release

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) congratulates the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for receiving the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

OPCW is the body that enforces the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international treaty that prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons. Since the Convention came into force in 1997, it has been ratified by 189 states and the OPCW has conducted more than 5,000 inspections in 86 countries. According to its statistics, 81.1 percent of the world's declared stockpile of chemical agents has been verifiably destroyed.