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 27

New Zealand Professors Say No War with Syria

By Darius Shahtahmasebi, YouTube | Video
As the focus of US and Israel's foreign policy shifts back onto Iran and its nuclear program, the option of military strikes against Syria is still on the table. Some of New Zealand's most respected Peace and Conflict experts and University professors take a stand and say that they are against any military action against Syria by the US and its allies. They make clear they will not condone the New Zealand government's support for any such military action.

In her recent interview, Green Group's May be More Damaging than Climate Change Deniers, Naomi Klein sparked a furious debate among activists on the right and left of the North American environmental movement. Thanks to Klein's article, the flames of controversy have been fanned and brought forth some fiery rhetoric around a dispute which has smoldered since the emergence of a more combative and distinctive left current within the environmental movement. A current associated with the concept of climate justice, and one that has further expanded since Occupy burst onto the political scene in the fall of 2011.

Quebec, a province of Canada that almost half of its inhabitants would like to see become an independent country, is struggling with yet another conflict over its collective identity.

A proposed Charter of Quebec Values (in French La Charte des valeurs québecoises) is being put forward by the government of Pauline Marois, the leader of the Parti Québecois, a central-left party, and not without any opposition as it would ban all civil servants from wearing any "overt and conspicuous" religious symbols.

One of my friends calls working in higher education a “Ponzi Scheme.”

This is how it works:

You put years of your life on a shelf in the name of higher education. You work hard, delay gratification and play the game to obtain the advanced degree.  Unless you have wealthy parents, you take out student loans which you plan to pay back after landing the dream job as a full time tenured track professor.  But, these days, full time jobs are few and far between.  The university is no different than other corporations: full time, tenured track positions with benefits have been eradicated around the country and chopped up into part time work in the name of profit even if the university professes to be “non-profit.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and the Civilian Soldier Alliance celebrate the resistance demonstrated by California prisoners at the suspension of their third hunger strike organized to protest the cruel, inhumane and tortuous conditions of their solitary confinement. After growing participation since 2011, 30,000 people on the inside joined this strike and many continued for 60 days (Roughly 23% of the entire prison population of CDCR, according to the CDCR website from June 2013). At the close of the strike, led by the Short Corridor Collective, many of the demands of the organizers still have not been met. The struggle continues, and is far from over. IVAW and the Civilian Soldier Alliance honor the resistance by the prisoners and express our continued solidarity.

Sep 25

A Tale of Two Congress Members

By David Swanson, War Is A Crime | Op-Ed

In 2010 in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, many people who prioritize peace over war probably voted for Democrat Tom Perriello over Republican Robert Hurt.  I know many who did just that.

Here's what Congressman Hurt said on Tuesday about Syria:

"I have repeatedly stated ... that before the United States should commit any of its precious American lives or military resources to an attack on the Syrian regime, the President must articulate a compelling American national security interest that requires military action. I have attended classified briefings, and I have concluded that, at this time, the President has not demonstrated that a compelling national security interest is at stake. Because of this, I will not be able to support the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution should it come to a vote under current circumstances."

Sep 25

Germany Votes - Wins and Losses

By Victor Grossman, Berlin Bulletin | News Analysis

What rejoicing! What a triumph for Angela Merkel, the East German girl who really made good and often called Angie or even "Mutti" (translated "Mama" or "Mommy")! All the world is congratulating her, and she did indeed succeed in winning an awful lot of votes on Sunday. Yes, personalities do count, and the combination of an administration with little tumult or economic crashes plus her homey, unexcited, down-to-earth way of speaking made for her big success.

Sep 24

Two-State Solution or Illusion? An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses | News Analysis

Peter Beinart is a “liberal Zionist” who has written a piece in the New York Review of Books of 26 September 2013 entitled “The American Jewish Cocoon.” In this essay he laments, “The organized Jewish community [is] a closed intellectual space.” By this he means that most American Zionist Jews (it is important to remember that not all Jews are Zionists) know little or nothing about those who oppose them, particularly Palestinians. They also seem to have no interest in changing this situation. For these Zionists the opposition has been reduced to an irredeemably anti-Semitic “them.”

A new controversy aggravating already strained relations between Washington and Caracas threatens to destabilise relations with other South American countries. On Thursday night Venezuelan Secretary of State Elias Jaua announced that the United States denied the Presidential Plane the right to fly over Puerto Rico on it’s way to China for diplomatic meetings. Outraged at American refusal to grant Venezuelan state leaders authorisation to fly over American airspace President Nicolas Maduro denounced Washington’s decision: “To refuse permission to a head of state to fly over airspace that they colonized in Puerto Rico is a serious offense.” This comes months after the United States refused to recognize the results of Venezuela’s elections in the aftermath of President Chavez’s death. Canadian based Foundation for Democratic Advancement ranked Venezuelan elections number 1 in fairness. The International Elections Report released by the Carter Center for Peace also found Venezuelan elections to be among the fairest in the world.

Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration are continuing to push for reforms of draconian drug sentencing policies that have led the U.S. federal prison population to skyrocket over the past three decades. The White House announced that they will curtail federal mandatory minimum drug laws by ordering prosecutors to remove any references to specific amounts of illegal drugs that trigger mandatory minimum sentences. Holder also ordered prosecutors to refile charges against defendants in pending cases and to apply the new policy to defendants who are already in the system but have not yet been sentenced.