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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.

While the nation watches NRA-indebted politicians beat down new gun legislation this week, many are unaware of shocking, pro-criminal legislation the NRA has already pushed through. Despite the NRA's rants about "bad guys" and how "criminals won't follow laws," legislation that actually protects illegal gun buyers and sellers is continually passed behind the public's back.

It is hard to believe lawmakers and the gun lobby actually pass laws to prevent government agencies from catching criminals–the stated goal of both groups. But since 1979, there have been laws passed that are to keep the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from doing exactly that.

A number of commentators have tried to argue that the reductions in future Social Security payments resulting from replacing the current method of calculating cost of living increases with "chained CPI" are so insignificant that the proposal should not have provoked the harsh negative reaction from progressives. However, because those decreases in future Social Security payments compound over time they eventually will be significant and could exacerbate the increasingly tenuous financial condition of millions of the elderly.

Vân, Cúc, Trúc, and Trang; Dũng, Dai, Thanh and Phát. In my mother tongue these names carry music, cadence, poetry. They evoke for the listener images of clouds, peonies, bamboo, jade; acts of bravery or wishes for prosperity. In English, alas, they lose all meaning as the inflexible American tongue turns them into a grunt, a bark, a funny diphthong.

"I wonder what'll become of MY name when I go in? I shouldn't like to lose it at all..." declared Alice, in Louis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," upon entering a strange woods, "because they would have to give me another, and it would almost certainly be an ugly one."

Three out of four Washington, D.C. voters would support changing District law to replace criminal penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket, according to a survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling. Two-thirds (67%) said they believe law enforcement resources currently being used by District police to arrest individuals for marijuana possession should be directed toward other crimes.

The poll also found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of District voters would support a ballot measure similar to those approved by voters in Colorado and Washington in November, which made marijuana legal for adults and directed state officials to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. A solid majority (54%) said drug use should be treated as a public health issue and people should no longer be arrested and locked up for possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use.

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a case that raised the question of whether corporations could be held accountable for human rights abuses and whether U.S. federal courts can hear claims arising from human rights violations committed abroad under the Alien Tort Statute. The Center for Constitutional Rights brought the ground-breaking case Filártiga v Peña-Irala, which first launched ATS human rights litigation in 1980.

Apr 22

Putting Our Money Where Our Hearts Are

By Lynn Fitz-Hugh, PeaceVoice | Op-Ed

"I will give one for defense, but I'm cutting the whole offense budget," the man said as he dropped one penny into the jar marked "Military" in our Tax Day Penny Poll. Then he dropped various amounts of his 10 pennies into various jars with labels such as Health and Human Services, Education, Foreign Humanitarian Aid, and Environmental Protection.

We've been conducting these polls for years across the US. A group of us stood outside a post office in Seattle on April 15th. Each "voter" was given 10 pennies to vote how s/he would like federal tax dollars to be spent. When they were finished voting I would unroll 40-inch long, one-inch high piece of paper which revealed the actual way we spend our tax dollars. It would show: 60 percent goes to the military. It showed 16 other categories (one of which is everything that gets less than one percent of the budget). The next closest to the military is Health and Human Services which received five percent last year as did Education—the winner of my penny poll.

Apr 19

North Korea and US Special Ops Forces

By Kevin Martin, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Normally I prefer it when Congress is not in session in Washington, reasoning our legislators can do us no harm, or less harm anyway, when they are back home in their districts meeting with constituents and/or pandering to and raising money from corporate special interests.

However this week, two congressional hearings shed light on some very interesting, previously unknown (or at least not widely known) facts related to our "national security."

Veterans For Peace has just released this statement:

As a major U.S. peace organization of veterans, including members who served in the Korean War, Veterans For Peace (VFP) is deeply concerned about the increasing risk of another open conflict on the Korean Peninsula at this time.

CNN reported on Thursday that, "Developments in and around North Korea are so worrisome that they appear to have frightened Dick Cheney." Bellicose rhetoric and maneuvers are indeed extremely worrisome, but it is important that we understand where the hostility is originating if we are going to be able to counter it.

Apr 19

Don't Be The Naked Hulk (Move To Amend Campaign #1)

By Lee Camp and Dennis Trainor Jr, AcronymTV | Video

Nearly 300,00 people have signed the Move To Amend petition that states:

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

Apr 19

It's Not Your Fault

By Lee Camp, Moment of Clarity | Video

There are roughly 28 million Americans who can't find a job or have given up looking. Many more than that are suffering. And I just want to remind everyone, it's not your fault. Don't believe the "personal responsibility" bullshit that gets thrown around. This is not your fault.