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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.

Edward Snowden is not a constitutional lawyer. But his public statements explaining his decision to blow the whistle on what he and Congress both know to be only the "tip of the iceberg" of state snooping secrets express a belief in the meaning of the Constitution: in a democracy, the people – not his defense contractor employers or the government that hires them - should ultimately determine whether mass surveillance interfering with everyone's privacy is reasonable. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.'s July 23, 2013 letter to Russia's Minister of Justice Konovalov has opened negotiations that suggest a means by which the public might be able make that determination.

Aug 06

An Easy Toll Tax

By William John Cox, SpeakOut | News Analysis

While the weight of taxation continues to shift to the backs of the working and middle classes and onto the books of small businesses, Congress dithers about reforming the "broken" income tax code and President Obama proposes a "grand bargain" to reduce the corporate tax rate even more. Instead of further gaming the system, they should get rid of our unfair, outdated and complex system of income taxation altogether. Taxes on income should be entirely replaced with an easy toll tax on the financial highway which would balance the burden of taxation with the benefits of government.

Wouldn't it be more sensible and much fairer to simply tax the movement of all money in our economy? Not a sales tax, not a value-added tax, not a flat income tax, not a speculation tax, but rather an easy toll tax on every single financial transaction within our economic system. Not just every time you fill up your gas tank, but every time stocks and bonds are bought and sold, every time currencies, derivatives, futures and options are traded, every time banks borrow and loan money, and every time Exxon-Mobil buys a new oil rig.

Late yesterday, In the Public Interest (ITPI) filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all correspondence relating to the contracting of Detroit's public services from December of last year until now. The request comes on the heels of emails showing Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was focused on taking Detroit into bankruptcy from the start and the news that the process for privatizing the city's residential solid waste and recycling services has already begun.

The City has five days to respond with all emails, faxes, letters, proposals and other relevant communications between city and state officials and corporate executives who stand to make billions by taking over public services, including any solicited or unsolicited bids for these services.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the most radical authoritarian in the radically authoritarian U.S. Senate, has introduced a legislative measure that would impose trade sanctions on any country that offers asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The amendment was approved unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee and will no doubt become law (at least in some form).

As the Washington Post report points out, Graham asserts, on no evidence, that Snowden's revelations have had "incredibly disturbing" implications for national security. This in itself is not particularly interesting. Graham is a proven liar and a dedicated authoritarian whose mission in life is to expand the Security State in order to stop the mythical Terrorists who continue to haunt his dreams at night nearly a dozen years after 9/11. There is virtually no punitive action against Snowden, including assassination, that Graham would conceivably oppose.

The current Industrial mass production of food for profit is a political, economic and social crisis that has devastating effects on human health and threatens the survival of the planet. Certainly one of our most fundamental of human needs is our ability to grow and procure adequate nutrition. Yet over the past 50 years, Western societies, and particularly the United States, have radically shifted methods of growing and producing food for human consumption. Using the twin vehicles of destructive food policy implements and growing reliance upon industrialization and oil, this unsustainable model of food production continues to spread and grow unabated in an era of declining oil production and clean water availability.

Judith Newman is, together with Allen Hornblum and Gregory Dober, author of Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America. She discusses the background for and the extent of non-consentual experimentation on human beings, in particular underprivileged children, in the United States through the twentieth century.

Dr. Judith Newman has been a faculty member at Penn State's Abington College for 36 years and has been the recipient of several outstanding teaching awards during that time. Dr. Newman teaches a wide array of life-span developmental courses, from Infancy and Early Childhood to Adult Development and Aging. She also teaches an Ethics course for students entering the mental health field.

In 1944-45 Archimedes Patti, was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Intelligence liaison with Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh. An all out war was on against the Japanese and according to Patti, and the intelligence that the Ho Chi Minh provided to the United States was not only top notch, but the Viet Minh had military prowess, and, unlike other "resistance" movement" the Viet Minh, asked for nothing in return. When the war ended Ho Chi Minh, composed a declaration of independence, based in part on the U.S, Declaration of Independence, Patti was there and helped with the wording. Had the United States allowed for the independence of Vietnamese from French Colonial rule, the war would have never happened.

The American pledge of allegiance professes that the United States will uphold liberty and justice for all. As the imperial actions of the United States show, this is clearly not the case. Noam Chomsky has been covering this perspective for years, but the late veteran journalist Helen Thomas, part Lebanese, is also fierce in her criticism. She infamously said Israel should get out of Palestine. In an interview with Democracy Now! she told Amy Goodman that President Bush was “arming Israel against the Palestinians in every way in Gaza” and that she can't understand “how the US can provide F-16s, gunships, Apache gunships, phosphorus, possibly phosphorus, and cluster bombs and so forth to kill helpless people, children who are starving to death. They control the checkpoints. They control the arrivals and departures, supplies and people. And the Americans...remained silent to that suffering. He [President Bush] has blocked by a veto at the UN any stoppage of the warfare, and he continues to supply Israel.” In a later interview with The Real News Network, she noted that this horrid policy had continued, noting that “the Palestinians are dubbed as terrorists and all the Muslims are terrorists. I mean, this is so unfair.” From here it is important to understand how US taxpayer money is funding the occupation of Palestine, and what can be done to stop it.

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Indonesian advocacy group, Sawit Watch, find continued evidence of abusive recruitment and labor practices and child labor on palm oil plantations in Indonesia. The groups' findings center on one of the world's most significant palm oil producers, Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK), which is a major supplier to U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill. This comes amidst a growing trend of investigations documenting controversial labor practices throughout Indonesia's palm oil plantation industry.

In addition to RAN and Sawit Watch's findings, Cargill's palm oil supplier KLK was also recently the focus of a nine-month field investigation conducted by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University published on July 18 at Businessweek.com. The investigation, which took place on a dozen different plantations across Sumatra and Borneo, found extensive evidence of workers, many of whom were children, being defrauded, abused, and held captive by KLK's labor management subcontractor.

Aug 03

Soul-Searching: The President Made Me Do It

By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

In a country that has always denied its actual origins, it is not surprising that conversations – including soul-searching – about race in this country, generally rely on a black-white binary. The Trayvon Martin–George Zimmerman case perfectly illustrates the nation's inability to see beyond black and white... despite the fact that we live on Indian land.
It's akin to how some describe history: It's what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget.

By acknowledging that we live on Turtle Island or Pacha Mama, the automatic impulse is to avoid that inconvenient fact; to acknowledge that reality would lead to questions of genocide and land theft, and worse, we might actually have to speak to live indigenous peoples, but we don't want to go there, right?