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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.

Aug 03

A Nuclear Free World

By David Swanson, Let's Try Democracy | Op-Ed

We've managed to outgrow or to come within sight of outgrowing cannibalism, slavery, blood feuds, duels, capital punishment, child labor, tar and feathering, the stocks and pillory, wives as chattel, the punishment of homosexuality, and listening to Rush Limbaugh. To various degrees, these practices -- and many others -- have been eliminated or reduced and stigmatized.

While the stupidest practice ever created -- the mass killing known as war -- remains, we've seen most of the world ban poison gas, land mines, cluster bombs, biological weapons, depleted uranium, napalm, white phosphorous, and other disgusting weaponry. But the worst weapon of all remains, and the treaty requiring its reduction and elimination is completely ignored.

“Why?”

It is the most important question a journalist can ask.

The “who, what, when and where” set the stage, but any actor will tell you that the motivation—the “why”—is what truly brings a character to life and makes them comprehensible. The motivation is, in fact, the whole point of the story.

In the case of the Boston Bombing, the editors at Rolling Stone have asked “why” and set off a fascinating and all-too telling response.

The visceral reaction to the much-discussed and widely-criticized cover featuring the visage of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev strikes right at the heart of a largely unanswered question central to the War on Terror.

Aug 01

Has the British Government Understood Radicalization?

By Mohammed Ilyas, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The seventh of July 2013 was the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attack in London. The attacks led the British government to launch initiatives to identify why and how one becomes radicalized and develop measures to counter the terrorism threat. The initiatives involved funding of think tanks, coopting Muslim organizations, as well as terrorism legislation. However, the efforts of the government and its partners haven't had much effect on individuals becoming radicalized, as the murder of Lee Rigby and the rise of far-right extremist group the English Defense League (EDL) over the past few years indicate.

In this short article, I will use the Woolwich attack to address the issue of how one becomes "radicalized," or to put in it more concrete terms: A process by which one becomes involved with Islamist groups. Additionally, I contend that the British government needs to redirect its focus on a politics of inclusion rather than exclusion based on a more nuanced understanding of the demographically and socio-politically, as well as culturally changing concerns of its population.

Reporting today for the New York Times Charlie Savage describes how Chief Justice Roberts appointments to the FISA court have played a role in creating what critics call the secret “parallel Supreme Court“.

In making assignments to the court, Chief Justice Roberts, more than his predecessors, has chosen judges with conservative and executive branch backgrounds that critics say make the court more likely to defer to government arguments that domestic spying programs are necessary.

Ten of the court’s 11 judges — all assigned by Chief Justice Roberts — were appointed to the bench by Republican presidents; six once worked for the federal government. Since the chief justice began making assignments in 2005, 86 percent of his choices have been Republican appointees, and 50 percent have been former executive branch officials.

Aug 01

The Trouble with Suspicion and Racial Profiling

By Poorni Priya Jaganathan, SpeakOut | Opinion

‘These assholes. They always get away.’ These were some of George Zimmerman’s last words before he decided-against the advice of a police dispatcher- to follow Trayvon Martin because he looked like, ‘he was upto no good.’

Zimmerman met Martin with a loaded gun. Martin was confronted by Zimmerman, who failed to identify himself as a member of the neighbourhood watch, with nothing more than his mobile phone, a packet of Skittles and a can of iced tea. A confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin ensued culminating in Zimmerman firing two shots, one which ended up piercing Martin’s lung and ended up lodged in his heart. Another senseless death. Another mother and father left childless. Again, no one held accountable.

Jul 31

The Boycott of Israel Eight Years In

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement directed toward Israel is eight years old. It was started back in 2005, when a coalition of Palestine-based social and economic organizations called for such a comprehensive effort.

At first the BDS movement appeared to be a long shot. Israel, with its worldwide coterie of Zionist supporters, both Jewish and Christian, seemed invincible. Particularly in the Western world, the belief in Israel's legitimacy had reached the status of sacred tradition. The Zionists worked very hard to achieve this status by controlling the historical interpretation of events that had led from World War I and the Balfour Declaration to the creation of Israel in 1948, and beyond. They might well have been able to maintain control of Israel's past, present and future if the Zionist leadership had not succumbed to the sin of hubris. They became so ideologically self-righteous and militarily muscle-bound that they believed their place in the world to be untouchable. Thus, as they built a country based on discrimination and colonial expansion in an age increasingly critical of such societies, they refused all compromise with the Palestinians and treated criticism of their behavior and policies as at once anti-Semitic and irrelevant. They therefore failed to notice that their stubbornness was allowing others to erode the Zionist version of the history of modern Palestine/Israel.

Jul 31

Police Violence Did Not Cause Turkeys Uprising

By Arkan Akin, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Contrary to what many might believe, the extreme use of force by police on the peaceful protestors was not what caused the massive uprising which started in Turkey in May 2013. The uprising was the result of a long accumulation of oppression, injustice, concentration of wealth and power as well as neoliberal (or simply capitalist) policies.

Why is the uprising the result of systemic oppression? What does all this have to do with capitalism and what can we learn from this uprising?

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Fridaylaunched Free & Equal, an unprecedented global public education campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

At a press conference held in Cape Town, South Africa, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was joined by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Justice Edwin Cameron of the South African Constitutional Court to announce the year-long project. A statement of support was read out on behalf of renowned South African singer and UNICEF and Roll Back Malaria Goodwill Ambassador Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to strike down longstanding provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act that impose an "aggregate limit" of approximately $125,000 on the amounts individuals can contribute during an election cycle to federal candidates, political parties and other political committees. The elimination of that cap would allow candidates and party officials to solicit million-dollar-plus contributions to be shared among the major parties' various candidates and committees. Despite the Supreme Court's repeated holdings that limits on such huge contributions are constitutional because they are a bulwark against corruption—the exchange of political favors for money—the Republican National Committee (RNC) and one of its large donors argue in the case that the limits should be wiped away because the resulting contributions will not be "huge" enough to cause concern.

Jul 31

Women's Initiatives Begin at Home

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Early in his first term, President Obama appointed Melanne Verveer as the first Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women's Issues. Now, a new appointee will take the lead on the state department's global women's initiatives. It is my hope that Cathy Russell uses her new position to address the continuing problems faced by women seeking legal protection from abusive partners. To date, much of the focus on women's issues has been external to the U.S. While this is very important, we need to clean up our own backyard as well.