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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.

A carpet cleaning service that got bad reviews on Yelp should not be able to use the courts to find out the identities of its critics, Public Citizen told the Virginia Court of Appeals today.

Further, a lower court ruling that Yelp must provide identifying information about seven critics of the company, Hadeed Carpet Cleaning Inc., should be reversed, according to the brief, available here.

Although many courts throughout the country have adopted standards that spell out when anonymous Internet critics can be identified and when they can't, Virginia courts have not. If no legal standard exists, or if a lax standard exists, businesses and their lawyers could use litigation to intimidate dissatisfied consumers into silence.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats gathered information today regarding concerns being raised about imports of food from China that are entering the U.S.

"We don't trust, for good reason, the Chinese to supply ingredients for our dog and cat food," said hearing witness Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. "Why," Kastel asked, "should we trust Chinese exporters for the food that we are feeding our children and families?"

May 14

This Is A Goat

By Merve Ayparlar, SpeakOut | Video

A light look on the distorted perception of reality in which one seeks for meaning and fulfilment through consumption, while ignoring the consequences.

Sound design by Isaac Ray.

May 10

The Neoliberal Harvest: Routine Economic Fraud

By Dr. Jörg Wiegratz, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Are you tired of yet another revelation of fraud in the food industry or the banks? Are you paying less attention to those stories? Are you getting numb, thinking more and more "that's just how the system works?"

If so, congratulations! You're learning to lower your expectations to meet the new normal: pervasive, institutional economic fraud. This used to be the sort of thing you read about in income-poor countries in Africa and South America. Nowadays, though, it turns out (yet again) that We Do It Too, and not just the usual suspects in the shadowy corners of the arms trade. Supermarkets and the rest of the food industry, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals and care homes, housing and construction, great swaths of the financial sector - tales from all of these show that fraud and trickery are in the mainstream, the New Black of commercial life. In particular, there appears to be an expansion of organized fraud in the economies and markets for legal, everyday goods and services; the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe is one example of this. And it is not just companies. There's corruption and crime in governments here and around the world: crony capitalism, powerful oligarchies, elite criminality.

As we recognize and celebrate Mother's Day, let us first remember and honor Julia Ward Howe. Julia Ward Howe was heartbroken and distressed seeing the ravages of the American Civil War. She wrote "The Battle Hymn of The Republic" as a way to express her anguish and outrage, and saw this was not enough to bring about change. I see her as one of the first feminists, striving to make equality of the sexes a reality. A true visionary, she also saw that peace, the end of war as a way to resolve conflict, was equally as important.

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war erupted, and Julia Ward Howe began to organize women, her goal to petition Congress to end all wars. A true activist, she took her campaign international, issuing a "Manifesto For Peace" at conferences in Paris and London. In 1872 she put forth and promoted the idea of a "Mother's Day For Peace" to be celebrated on June 2 each year, and in 1873 women in 18 U.S. cities made this a reality.

What is it that makes young men, reasonably well educated, in good health and nice looking, with long lives ahead of them, use powerful explosives to murder complete strangers because of political beliefs?

I'm speaking about American military personnel of course, on the ground, in the air, or directing drones from an office in Nevada.

Do not the survivors of US attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere, and their loved ones, ask such a question?

The survivors and loved ones in Boston have their answer – America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are the workers who are employed by private companies through federal contracts, concessions and leases. Yet, while our employers reap billions of dollars in profits from taxpayers every year, we are paid such low wages that we are unable to afford basic needs such as food, clothing, and even rent.

We are uniting to call on the federal government to stop being America's leading poverty job creator by paying us living wages and benefits. We are fighting to make America a Good Jobs Nation once again

We're told the economy is in recovery. But is it really? Recovery for who?

Some of the facts from this episode are from an Alternet article by Les Leopold.

May 09

Three Things Obama Can Do To Close Guantanamo

By Palina Prasasouk, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

May 21, 2009, Protecting Our System and Our Values speech by Obama:

"So going forward, my administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime" to handle such detainees "so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution."

April 30th, 2013, White House news conference when asked about the hunger strike:

"I've asked my team to review everything that's currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I'm going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that's in the best interests of the American people."

May 09

Financial Institutions Admit Austerity Failed

By Ken Klippenstein, SpeakOut | News Analysis

2013 has been something of a confessional period for the economic managerial class. The IMF's chief economist perhaps demonstrated this point best when he conceded that "forecasters significantly underestimated the increase in unemployment and the decline in domestic demand associated with fiscal consolidation (a polite term for "austerity)." Other ranking figures from the IMF, US Treasury, EU, and other financial institutions have similarly reversed their position on austerity.

Meanwhile, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, the Harvard economists responsible for one of the more influential studies used to defend austerity have admitted, "austerity is not the only answer to a debt problem." This came after three economists at the University of Massachusetts accused them of "selective exclusion" of data. Reinhart and Rogoff have since admitted that their critics "correctly identified a spreadsheet coding error." In my view, their most striking error is being ignored: the failure to recognize that austerity didn't work during the Great Depression and won't work now, during the Great Recession. Anyone can make a spreadsheet error. It takes a Harvard professor to forget basic history.