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.

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.

Dear members of the press,

The Super-Special Commission for Rosia Montana ignores the protesters'
message and announces fake meetings.

Tens of thousands of people in 36 cities from Romania and 34 from abroad
took the streets on Sunday for the 22nd consecutive day demanding the
rejection of the special law that would allow the destruction of Rosia
Montana. Protesters sent a clear message to Romanian lawmakers reiterating
their claims: the resignation of Prime Minister Ponta and the initiators
of the law, the  rejection of the mining project, the ban on cyanide
mining in Romania and the inclusion of Rosia Montana in Romania's
tentative list for UNESCO. Protests also condemn the hesitation of
Romanian politicians who are looking for solutions to legalize the mining
project proposed by the Canadian company.

Sep 24

Organizing Against Violence

By Curtis Black, Newstips | Op-Ed

As Chicago reeled under a new spate of street violence, community organizers including scores of teens working to prevent violence met Saturday in Little Village — and participants said the problem will require a far more comprehensive approach than just locking up “bad guys.”

“The ‘harsh on crime’ approach simply hasn’t worked,”  said Luis Carrizales, coordinator of the Violence Prevention Collaborative, a collective of community organizations run out of Enlace Chicago.

Public Citizen today called on the IRS to investigate whether Freedom Partners, a relatively obscure group but one of the largest entities to fund political activities in the 2012 election cycle, is a legitimate business league, as it claims on its tax forms.

Freedom Partners is registered as a 501(c)(6) organization. Business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues can be exempt from taxes under this section of the IRS code. Business

"International Day of Peace is also a Day of Ceasefire – personal or political. Take this opportunity to make peace in your own relationships as well as impact the larger conflicts of our time. Imagine what a whole Day of Ceasefire would mean to humankind."

I'd like to focus on that last paragraph; that is the only thing you and I have any control of. There are those who will say that there are mean, hurtful, crazy people out there and there is nothing we can do to change them, yet I submit that at the root of whatever we perceive is their behavior or attitude, is a human being, and human beings need love. 

The US’s dependency on drone warfare reveals a laziness in properly imagining geography. At the same time, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) project was a rash decision. It was launched not to save the lives of soldiers, but in response to the geopolitical defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq. This geographical illiteracy and careless thinking explain drone warfare’s extremely hig hcivilian casualty rates  as compared to conventional warfare. For example, and since the beginning of UAV warfare, there have been over 5,000 casualties in Pakistan, 200 children. In Yemen and Somalia, there have been over 1,000 deaths and almost 50 children killed. Those killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places far surpass those killed in the regions just mentioned.

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focussed on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4. 

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Einstein said, “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”

This week the world is intently watching developments in Syria hoping and praying for a peaceful solution.  As the United Nations convenes its 68th general assembly there is a strong push for peace and hope that the UN can realize one of its most important missions, the prevention of war. All nations and particular those of the Security Council have an opportunity and obligation to promote this process. Ultimately the outcome of this crisis affects the fate of the planet.  In adherence to international law with the ban on the use of chemical weapons and holding accountable those who use them we see parallels when it comes to the greatest existential threat we face, the use of nuclear weapons.  This is a time for leadership by example.

Sep 23

Enough DeLay: Do the Crime, Serve the Time

By Sam Jewler and Angela Bradbery, Public Citizen | Op-Ed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By appealing today’s reversal of the conviction of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas is taking the step necessary to ensure that justice is done, Public Citizen said today.

Public Citizen and Texans for Public Justice provided then-Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle with much of the information on which DeLay’s conviction was based. The organizations compiled records of all the funds raised by DeLay’s state PAC (TRMPAC) and other committees, and provided evidence that DeLay did not raise enough non-corporate money to account for all the funds he laundered into the 2002 redistricting election.

The picture that emerged as the case unfolded was of a calculated operation designed specifically to undermine the will of voters.

This report discusses the use of prison bed occupancy guarantee clauses in prison privatization contracts and explores how bed occupancy guarantees undermine criminal justice policy and democratic, accountable government. The report sheds light on the for-profit private prison industry’s reliance on high prison populations, and how these occupancy guarantee provisions directly benefit its bottom line. Also discussed are the prevalence of bed guarantee clauses, drawing on set of contracts that ITPI obtained through state open records requests. We also address how occupancy guarantees have harmed states, focusing on the experiences of Arizona, Colorado, and Ohio — three states that have agreed to these provisions to detrimental consequences. Lastly, the report discusses our recommendation that governments can and should reject prison occupancy guarantees.