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Speakout

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.

Sep 19

Can a VPN Protect You From PRISM?

By Nick Pearson, Truthout | Op-Ed

Following Edward Snowden's PRISM revelations, the issue of online privacy has been thrust into the spotlight like never before. This media coverage appears to have led to more people signing-up to Virtual Private Networks. But will VPNs protect you from PRISM and do they offer any real privacy protections for their users?

Sep 18

The Myth of American Exceptionalism

By Harrison Samphir, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The horrific events at the DC Navy Yard on September 16 are still metastasizing within the shellshocked American psyche.

Faced with gratuitous images of a killer who should remain nameless – to be projected unceasingly across news media for weeks to come – the public will react as they should to yet another mass murder committed by a disgruntled and mentally disturbed public employee: with an apathetic quietism borne of a disturbing acclimatization to gun murder, violence and the prevailing myth of American exceptionalism.

The apparent employment of chemical weapons in Syria should remind us that, while weapons of mass destruction exist, there is a serious danger that they will be used.

That danger is highlighted by an article in the September/October 2013 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Written by two leading nuclear weapons specialists, Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris of the Federation of American Scientists, the article provides important information about nuclear weapons that should alarm everyone concerned about the future of the planet.

The hyper-focused obsession with dominance and control is, according to many psychoanalysts, symptomatic of a deep-rooted fear of spontaneous self-expression (notably of repressed emotions), in short, of psychological “freedom” in its most general sense.  Conflicted human relations, however ambivalent and nuanced, are reduced to technically-solvable “problems.”  Rigidly willful, inflexible, detailed-obsessed, the techno-scientific “control freak” — as we say colloquially — may ultimately fear “the impulses and emotions within…himself.  Unconsciously he fears that if they should get out of control, terrible things might happen, murder perhaps.  So on the one hand he keeps himself under tight control, and on the other hand he projects this intrapsychic drama on the world and tries to control it.”

Sep 17

Cold War Euphemisms and Nightmares

By Dallas Darling, World News | Op-Ed

"Language exists to express and communicate," writes Roy F. Baumeister in Evil, Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, "but perpetrators reluctant to face up to their guilt often find ways to use language to conceal, confuse, and mislead." It is a process that begins with the words themselves. But then perpetrators play endless games with words to try and present the shocking and horrific as mundane and ordinary, and to confuse the public while hiding their crimes and sickening intentions so as to alleviate their guilt.

Right now, my son is grinding stale Cheerios into a fine powder with the bottom of his sippy cup. He is also mushing banana into water he has poured on his tray to make a nice pudding that he will no doubt pour on the floor. Welcome to the toddler trattoria. In my dreams, I prepare him attractive, palate-expanding, age-appropriate (but slightly over the top) organic meals like mini spanakopitas and roasted carrot wedges, which he eats with gusto and good hand-eye coordination.

If one is inclined to make a list of worrisome trouble spots plaguing the world, there would be a lot to choose from: Syria, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Kashmir, Congo, Iran, those pesky disputed islands lying between China, Japan and the Philippines, and of course, the meddlesome behavior of the United States. I apologize if I inadvertently left out anyone’s favorite trouble spot. 

It is perhaps little comfort that each of these man-made problems has a finite potential to be disruptive. What I mean by this is that they are localized in both space and time. Yes, I know that some of these problems have been going on for generations, and that thousands upon thousands have lost their homes, been maimed, or been killed. However, the problems represented above will not go on for millennia. It’s likely that all of them (except perhaps Washington’s ability to meddle) will be resolved, for better or worse, within say, the next 25 to 50 years. 

According to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, there's a disturbing trend in SAT scores in America. The score over all has fallen 20 points, dropping to 1498 in 2012 from 1518 in 2006, six years later. White students' average score has fallen relatively small by 4 points, other ethnic groups have fallen by up to 22 points.

There's one exception, however. Asian American students are scoring higher than ever before, and on the average this population has seen their score rise by a shocking 41 points.

The University of Michigan's fracking study's steering committee members contributed to Michigan Chamber of Commerce's political campaign against the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan's ballot initiative... and an analysis of the Committee's campaign–or anything about Michigan's ballot initiative process–is nowhere to be found.

One of 7 technical reports by U of M--steered by the Michigan gas industry.

With great fanfare, the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute finally released technical reports as part of its integrated assessment of hydraulic fracturing in Michigan on Sep 3. Along with an overview, the seven reports cover fracking technology, geology/hydrology, environment/ecology, human health, policy/law, economics, and public perception.

The Caribbean may be about to wake up to the fact that they have been missing the boat on a major new trend in their region – the rejection of failed US-led anti-drug policies. So often lumped with South America in the “Latin America and the Caribbean” (LAC) grouping, the Caribbean has been in many respects, including this one – the debate surrounding what policies to pursue with respect to drugs, and marijuana in particular – clearly out of step with its counterparts.