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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.

Los Angeles - The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) of The United Methodist Church, which manages an investment portfolio of over $20 billion, has instructed its investment manager to sell immediately all shares in G4S, due in part to concerns about the company's involvement in human rights violations in the Israeli prison system and the military occupation of Palestinian territories.




According to David Wildman, United Methodist Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Racial Justice at the General Board of Global Ministries, "This is the first time that a United Methodist general agency has included human rights violations related to Israel's illegal settlements and military occupation in a decision to divest from a company. We celebrate this strong human rights message both to G4S specifically and to other companies whose business operations support longstanding human rights abuses against Palestinians."



WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. and foreign herders will benefit from a decision today by the D.C. Circuit to invalidate U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rules that permit employers to pay herders far less than other agricultural workers and allow lower standards for employer-provided housing, Public Citizen said.

“Today’s decision will force the DOL to reconsider the unjust employment standards that it set for sheep and cattle herders,” said Julie Murray, an attorney at Public Citizen and counsel for the plaintiffs. “It is a victory for U.S. and foreign herders alike, who toil for unconscionably low pay and are often forced to live in abysmal housing conditions.”

In the title of a recent piece at The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald asked, "What Excuse Remains for Obama's Failure to Close Gitmo?" Greenwald makes the argument that, given the Obama administration's willingness to bypass Congress - and the law - by releasing five Taliban prisoners in exchange for American POW Sgt. Bowe Berghdal, the president's line about being unable to close the globally despised detention center without congressional assent has been rendered worthless. 

Logically, Greenwald is obviously right. If the Obama administration asserts the authority to ignore the statute requiring it provide thirty days' notice to Congress before releasing detainees, as it evidently does, then the long-standing excuse about its hands being tied on this issue may be dismissed as pure political posturing. This shouldn't surprise anyone.

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, 20 organic farm and consumer groups filed a legal petition with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to protect the authority and permanence of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The petitioners object to recent changes to the NOSB charter, renewed on May 8, 2014, that undermine the mandatory and continuing duties of the Board as established by Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990.

The NOSB, a diverse 15-member stakeholder body, intended to safeguard the integrity of the organic food label, was created by Congress with independent authorities that operate outside the discretion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Petitioners maintain that in renewing the charter under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), USDA mistakenly re-categorized the NOSB as a time-limited Advisory Board subject to USDA’s discretion and a narrowing of responsibilities.

Washington DC - Behind closed doors, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Board Members are reacting to solutions prepared by IMF staff aimed at preventing global and regional financial crises. Part of the focus stems from G20 concern over extreme predatory behavior on global finance and the precedent set in the related pending Supreme Court case of Argentina vs NML Capital.

“We understand that in initial conversations, solutions are sought to limit or eliminate extreme predatory and hold-out behavior that violate global debt relief policies, debt restructuring and sound operation of the financial system,” stated a letter sent to IMF officials from Jubilee USA Network and New Rules for Global Finance. “We welcome your efforts on these extreme issues and your further discussions of supporting solutions to international financial crises.“  

Reinvade, reoccupy, and redestroy Iraq. That is the solution to the inevitable civil war that happens when the US pulls out? Will we do it until either Iraq is remade in our image or until the US economy, political environment, and culture is also destroyed?

Eight years ago a group of Portland peace activists raised the funds to bring together a number of experts to produce an exit strategy from Iraq. Ours was done, as it turns out, at the same time that the Iraq Study Group did their work. We were just unaware that the government had finally at long last decided maybe it was time to think Exit Plan. Duh. I expect we were all simply inspired and challenged by the insightful and cogent strategy published shortly before in the widely cited peer-reviewed journal, The Onion with the supplementary promotion by Bill Maher.

In January, 2011, this writer published a four-part article in Countercurrents and elsewhere entitled, "The War: Did We Sacrifice A Million Lives And A $Trillion Cash Just To Hand Our Jobs To China?"  It was long (around 40 pages), and I must admit a little confusing, because the information was so stunning that I had a difficult time understanding what I was reading. The gist of the article was that Big Oil had asked Congress in 1998 to remove the Taliban so as to allow the building of a pipeline that would let Mideastern oil go to "the right markets."  "The right markets"?  Guess.  The US and Europe, of course. Wrong. India and China. Those, it was explained, were "the right markets" because the oil market was stagnating in the US and Europe and actively growing in India and China.  Hardly, it would seem, something for the US to go to war for. But, then, Wall Street is the government.

We went to war against the Taliban in 2001 shortly after the US officials who negotiated with the Taliban for permission to let the pipeline be built told them, according to two well-respected French journalists, "You can have a carpet of gold [if you allow the pipeline] or a carpet of bombs [if you don't]."  Really? Yes. That's a 13-year-old story. The Taliban, as the well-documented story goes, chose the "carpet of bombs," we won the military war and our chosen successor to the Taliban, Hamid Karzai, promptly started to negotiate to get oil and natural gas to "the right markets."  

On Friday, Jamaican Minister of Justice Mark Golding released a statement announcing government support for a proposal to decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the decriminalization of marijuana use for religious, scientific and medical purposes.

"The objective is to provide a more enlightened approach to dealing with possession of small quantities and smoking, while still meeting the ends of justice,” Minister Golding said. “The proposed changes represent an approach which will ensure to the benefit of the persons concerned and the society as a whole, and reduce the burdens on the court system.”

On June 11, 2014 Pictou Landing First Nation (Mi'kmaw) erected a blockade over an effluent spill at the Northern Pulp Mill.  Idle No More and Defenders of the Land urge all people to support Pictou Landing First Nation in defense of one of their ancient burial grounds as well as their fisheries both of which have been threatened by this massive spill.

Read the following alert from Pictou Landing and check out the links below to learn more about the blockade and the effluent spill. 

Dear Friends,

Scandal at the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) has reached horrendous proportions and we need your help now to end discrimination against survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Earlier this week the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report confirming what we've been saying for years - that the VA continues to struggle in adjudicating Military Sexual Trauma (MST) claims accurately and fairly. Here's what the GAO confirmed: