Wednesday, 26 November 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG
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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.

Washington, D.C.- Dilma Rousseff’s victory in presidential elections no doubt signals a desire from voters to see the past decade’s economic and social gains continue, Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. With 98 percent of the votes counted, the Workers Party’s (PT) Rousseff was declared the winner with 51.4 percent of the vote over challenger Aécio Neves of the Social Democrats (PSDB), who had 48.5 percent.

“It really should never have been close,” Weisbrot said. “The Workers Party governments have delivered on clear economic and social gains since they first came to power in 2003, and voters apparently want those gains to continue. Even with the recent recession, and taking into account the financial crisis and Global Recession of 2008-2009, there has been average annual per capita GDP economic growth three times that of the previous PSDB administration.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has officially released a Fair Foodlabel to help shoppers identify which tomatoes come from ethical farms.

The label will be available to all grocery stores and restaurants that participate in the Fair Food Program. Participants in the Program pay a small premium when they buy Florida tomatoes, with the premium going to increase wages for farmworkers. They also commit to a worker-created Code of Conduct to ensure safe working conditions and prevent forced labor, sexual harassment and child labor in the fields.  The Fair Food Program has been called “the best workplace monitoring program in the US,” in the New York Times and “one of the great human rights success stories of our day,” in the Washington Post

Oct 25

On Taking Risks and Eating Crow

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

A long, warm, coatless autumn made some wonder whether climate change might cancel winter this year in a reverse of the canceled summer two centuries ago in a year called "1800-and-froze-to-death". But no, I now read that the weather will change after all. Northern blasts may soon be here.

Perhaps economically as well? Two French economy ministers clearly felt the chill when visiting Berlin on October 20th, hoping to thaw out Angela Merkel's icy "austerity policy". Burdened with a 4.3 percent French budget deficit, above the European Union's 3 percent limit, and with President Hollande's popularity nearing the freezing point, these modern versions of Socialist politicians called for a deal: if Germany would invest 50 billion euros in projects to relieve Europe's sagging economy, France would cut its budget by 50 billion euros. But German leaders slapped down such a trade-off, tightly clutching their austere policies; Sigmar Gabriel, Merkel's Minister of Economics (but, at least according to his membership card, also a Social Democrat), said more private investments by France in areas like research were better than "flash-in-the-pan schemes". France should rather see about cutting its deficit, say by slicing up more labor laws. Noting who held the better cards, Monsieur le ministre soon ate crow: "I wasn't demanding anything," he whined. "It was just a suggestion."

The movie Kill the Messenger has brought to new attention to charges that the CIA was involved in drug smuggling in the 1980s. The central allegation is that the CIA at least looked the other way, as its allies in arming the Contras trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government smuggled large amounts of cocaine into the United States. Jeff Leen, the Post's assistant managing editor for investigations, took up the issue in the Post's Outlook section today.

Oct 25

Restore Recess: A Movement is Born

By Jesse Hagopian, I Am An Educator | Op-Ed

You have heard about Seattle's fight for a $15 minimum wage, or the teachers who organized a mass boycott of the MAP test. But you might not be aware of the newest movement–organized for one of the most basic human rights–that was recently ignited in the emerald city: The struggle for the right to play.

Parents and educators across Seattle are taking action to defend their children's right to ample time for recess and lunch. Parents and students at Whittier Elementary school set this movement in motion when they voiced objection to the school reducing lunch and recess time from 40 minutes to half an hour–gaining important local TV and media attention. Parents at Leschi Elementary soon launched an online petition that has gathered nearly a thousand signatures in a few short days. Now there is a city-wide organization of parents, students, and teachers called, "Lunch and Recess Matter." Lunch and Recess Matter is organizing a rally at the Seattle School District headquarters before the November 5th school board meeting (If you have a message of solidarity, relevant research, or attend a school with an important recess story, please contact me).

The text of the letter was short and precise, leaving no room for any misinterpretation in the “promise” made by Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour to a powerful representative of the Jewish community in Britain, Lord Rothschild on a fateful day of 2 November 1917.

“I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet: His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

A report from a commission chaired by the former Director of GCHQ has called on the British Government to implement “safeguards” to ensure that UK drone personnel “remain compliant with international law.”

Citing the “sinister cultural and political salience” of US drone operations, the commission – which is chaired by Sir David Omand and was initiated by the University of Birmingham – recommends that measures be taken to ensure that where intelligence is shared with the US, “the UK government does not inadvertently collude in RPA [drone] actions contrary to international law.”

Seattle’s Garfield High School (where I graduated from and now teach history) has once again united the students, parents, and educators in common struggle.  Last Friday it was announced that our school had until the following Friday, October 24th, to raise $92,000 or else one of the teachers in a core subject area would be displaced.  We still don’t know which of us will be targeted for displacement, but we do know the pain of this cut will be severe.  As the joint letter to the superintendent from the Garfield staff and PTSA states, “One hundred and fifty students will have no place to go for one period each day, which will inevitably lead to greater class disruptions, absences, and truancy. One hundred and fifty students may not graduate on time.”

What makes this teacher displacement so outrageous is that the school district won’t explain why it is happening–as this King 5 News report makes clear.  It is a common disruptive practice of the school district to displace staff at a school if that school does not meet its enrollment projections, however Garfield has exceeded our enrollment projections.  What’s worse, the school district is sitting on tens of millions of dollars in their “rainy day” fund, yet is willing to throw our school into chaos over $92,000.

The recent publicity surrounding episodes of police violence around the country makes clear that police officers need to be properly trained and prompt and thorough investigations and corrective action must be taken against officers who unnecessarily use force against individuals, especially those who are disabled.

When National Guardsman shot and killed students on the campus of Kent State in 1970, it inspired legendary artist Neil Young to immediately write the song "Ohio" in which he implored "how many more?" The incident galvanized our nation and, indeed, there has not been a killing of students by the National Guard since that tragic event.

In a macho violation of common sense and the needs of hundreds of millions of people living in crushing poverty, the ruling elite of India­ (that's the government and multinational corporations who own the country) recently launched a satellite that "after a journey of 300 days and 420 million miles…arrived to orbit around Mars," reported The Guardian. The $74 million "Mars mission" is "cheap by American (or Chinese) standards," The Economist says, but amounts to a fraction of a much more expensive – not to say insane - space program that drains US $1 billion a year from the national budget, a sum, which "is more than spare change, even for a near $2-trillion economy."

The "Mars Madness," or Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) to give it its official title, makes India one of four (the US, the EU and Russia being the other three) that have ventured to our closest cosmic neighbor, and constitutes a conspicuously extravagant part of what economist-activist Jean Dreze describes as "the Indian elite's delusional quest for superpower status." Competition and nationalism drive such escapades, not the quest for knowledge and understanding. The space race between the US and the Soviet Union for example, "was not an affordable luxury undertaken for the sake of knowledge, but intrinsically tied to the military-industrial complex," The Guardian rightly states. India's primary competitor in all things economic is that other mammoth nation, China. The Chinese space program is advanced (in 2012, it put a Chinese woman in space and last year, launched its first un-crewed lunar mission), and therefore intensely intimidating to the Indian nationalists' psyche.

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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.

Washington, D.C.- Dilma Rousseff’s victory in presidential elections no doubt signals a desire from voters to see the past decade’s economic and social gains continue, Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. With 98 percent of the votes counted, the Workers Party’s (PT) Rousseff was declared the winner with 51.4 percent of the vote over challenger Aécio Neves of the Social Democrats (PSDB), who had 48.5 percent.

“It really should never have been close,” Weisbrot said. “The Workers Party governments have delivered on clear economic and social gains since they first came to power in 2003, and voters apparently want those gains to continue. Even with the recent recession, and taking into account the financial crisis and Global Recession of 2008-2009, there has been average annual per capita GDP economic growth three times that of the previous PSDB administration.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has officially released a Fair Foodlabel to help shoppers identify which tomatoes come from ethical farms.

The label will be available to all grocery stores and restaurants that participate in the Fair Food Program. Participants in the Program pay a small premium when they buy Florida tomatoes, with the premium going to increase wages for farmworkers. They also commit to a worker-created Code of Conduct to ensure safe working conditions and prevent forced labor, sexual harassment and child labor in the fields.  The Fair Food Program has been called “the best workplace monitoring program in the US,” in the New York Times and “one of the great human rights success stories of our day,” in the Washington Post

Oct 25

On Taking Risks and Eating Crow

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

A long, warm, coatless autumn made some wonder whether climate change might cancel winter this year in a reverse of the canceled summer two centuries ago in a year called "1800-and-froze-to-death". But no, I now read that the weather will change after all. Northern blasts may soon be here.

Perhaps economically as well? Two French economy ministers clearly felt the chill when visiting Berlin on October 20th, hoping to thaw out Angela Merkel's icy "austerity policy". Burdened with a 4.3 percent French budget deficit, above the European Union's 3 percent limit, and with President Hollande's popularity nearing the freezing point, these modern versions of Socialist politicians called for a deal: if Germany would invest 50 billion euros in projects to relieve Europe's sagging economy, France would cut its budget by 50 billion euros. But German leaders slapped down such a trade-off, tightly clutching their austere policies; Sigmar Gabriel, Merkel's Minister of Economics (but, at least according to his membership card, also a Social Democrat), said more private investments by France in areas like research were better than "flash-in-the-pan schemes". France should rather see about cutting its deficit, say by slicing up more labor laws. Noting who held the better cards, Monsieur le ministre soon ate crow: "I wasn't demanding anything," he whined. "It was just a suggestion."

The movie Kill the Messenger has brought to new attention to charges that the CIA was involved in drug smuggling in the 1980s. The central allegation is that the CIA at least looked the other way, as its allies in arming the Contras trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government smuggled large amounts of cocaine into the United States. Jeff Leen, the Post's assistant managing editor for investigations, took up the issue in the Post's Outlook section today.

Oct 25

Restore Recess: A Movement is Born

By Jesse Hagopian, I Am An Educator | Op-Ed

You have heard about Seattle's fight for a $15 minimum wage, or the teachers who organized a mass boycott of the MAP test. But you might not be aware of the newest movement–organized for one of the most basic human rights–that was recently ignited in the emerald city: The struggle for the right to play.

Parents and educators across Seattle are taking action to defend their children's right to ample time for recess and lunch. Parents and students at Whittier Elementary school set this movement in motion when they voiced objection to the school reducing lunch and recess time from 40 minutes to half an hour–gaining important local TV and media attention. Parents at Leschi Elementary soon launched an online petition that has gathered nearly a thousand signatures in a few short days. Now there is a city-wide organization of parents, students, and teachers called, "Lunch and Recess Matter." Lunch and Recess Matter is organizing a rally at the Seattle School District headquarters before the November 5th school board meeting (If you have a message of solidarity, relevant research, or attend a school with an important recess story, please contact me).

The text of the letter was short and precise, leaving no room for any misinterpretation in the “promise” made by Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour to a powerful representative of the Jewish community in Britain, Lord Rothschild on a fateful day of 2 November 1917.

“I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet: His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

A report from a commission chaired by the former Director of GCHQ has called on the British Government to implement “safeguards” to ensure that UK drone personnel “remain compliant with international law.”

Citing the “sinister cultural and political salience” of US drone operations, the commission – which is chaired by Sir David Omand and was initiated by the University of Birmingham – recommends that measures be taken to ensure that where intelligence is shared with the US, “the UK government does not inadvertently collude in RPA [drone] actions contrary to international law.”

Seattle’s Garfield High School (where I graduated from and now teach history) has once again united the students, parents, and educators in common struggle.  Last Friday it was announced that our school had until the following Friday, October 24th, to raise $92,000 or else one of the teachers in a core subject area would be displaced.  We still don’t know which of us will be targeted for displacement, but we do know the pain of this cut will be severe.  As the joint letter to the superintendent from the Garfield staff and PTSA states, “One hundred and fifty students will have no place to go for one period each day, which will inevitably lead to greater class disruptions, absences, and truancy. One hundred and fifty students may not graduate on time.”

What makes this teacher displacement so outrageous is that the school district won’t explain why it is happening–as this King 5 News report makes clear.  It is a common disruptive practice of the school district to displace staff at a school if that school does not meet its enrollment projections, however Garfield has exceeded our enrollment projections.  What’s worse, the school district is sitting on tens of millions of dollars in their “rainy day” fund, yet is willing to throw our school into chaos over $92,000.

The recent publicity surrounding episodes of police violence around the country makes clear that police officers need to be properly trained and prompt and thorough investigations and corrective action must be taken against officers who unnecessarily use force against individuals, especially those who are disabled.

When National Guardsman shot and killed students on the campus of Kent State in 1970, it inspired legendary artist Neil Young to immediately write the song "Ohio" in which he implored "how many more?" The incident galvanized our nation and, indeed, there has not been a killing of students by the National Guard since that tragic event.

In a macho violation of common sense and the needs of hundreds of millions of people living in crushing poverty, the ruling elite of India­ (that's the government and multinational corporations who own the country) recently launched a satellite that "after a journey of 300 days and 420 million miles…arrived to orbit around Mars," reported The Guardian. The $74 million "Mars mission" is "cheap by American (or Chinese) standards," The Economist says, but amounts to a fraction of a much more expensive – not to say insane - space program that drains US $1 billion a year from the national budget, a sum, which "is more than spare change, even for a near $2-trillion economy."

The "Mars Madness," or Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) to give it its official title, makes India one of four (the US, the EU and Russia being the other three) that have ventured to our closest cosmic neighbor, and constitutes a conspicuously extravagant part of what economist-activist Jean Dreze describes as "the Indian elite's delusional quest for superpower status." Competition and nationalism drive such escapades, not the quest for knowledge and understanding. The space race between the US and the Soviet Union for example, "was not an affordable luxury undertaken for the sake of knowledge, but intrinsically tied to the military-industrial complex," The Guardian rightly states. India's primary competitor in all things economic is that other mammoth nation, China. The Chinese space program is advanced (in 2012, it put a Chinese woman in space and last year, launched its first un-crewed lunar mission), and therefore intensely intimidating to the Indian nationalists' psyche.