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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.

Apr 10

South Sudan Facing Famine Crisis

By Brian McAfee, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Three million seven hundred thousand people in this nation of 11 million are at severe risk of starvation. Conditions in South Sudan now parallel those of Ethiopia in the 1980s when hundreds of thousands died from famine. Toby Lanzer, the UN official coordinating humanitarian aid in South Sudan says "we're in a race against time".

Aside from the urgent immediate need the civil war currently raging in South Sudan, which was the initial cause of the problems, the planting season is at risk and a lack of crops will further ad to the already dire situation. With possibly over 4 million displaced people, what is needed is food, water, shelter and protection.

Apr 10

The United States Re-Balancing in East Asia

By Emanuel Pastreich, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

At a moment when the United States government hops up and down frantically every time North Korea launches a missile, a group of concerned individuals in policy gathered together on March 26, 2014 for a discussion of what a hundred-year commitment to East Asia would look like and how the United States can respond in a meaningful manner to such challenges as climate change together with China, Japan and Korea. The event, hosted by Foreign Policy in Focus and the Asia Institute, brought together author John Feffer, Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, Alexis Dudden, Professor of History at the University of Connecticut and Daniel Garrett, former diplomat and current Senior Associate at the Asia Institute. Follows a statement written for the occasion by Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute:

This seminar embodies the spirit behind our efforts at the Asia Institute to increase the commitment of the United States to East Asia over the long-term in a constructive and focused manner. We feel strongly that a pivot to Asia, a fundamental re-balancing of national priorities, is essential to the economic, political and security concerns of the United States, but we do not think that such a shift can take place as a result of moving around aircraft carriers or selling more missile defense technology to nations in the region. Only by building a deep human network that ties the United States to East Asia through person-to-person professional and personal relations over a lifetime can we hope to have any meaningful impact.

Annapolis, MD - As the Maryland General Assembly completed its work on the state budget bill, legislators inserted language that weakly condemns the American Studies Association (ASA) decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions complicit in Israel's long record of human rights violations. This language serves to placate proponents of HB998/SB647, which stalled in committee after civil rights and community groups resoundingly condemned the legislation as an unconstitutional assault on academic freedom. Delegate Ben Kramer of Montgomery County then introduced the bills' language as an amendment to the state budget bill.

Earlier in the legislative session, Delegate Kramer introduced HB998/SB647. This legislation, had it passed, would have withdrawn some funding from Maryland universities and academic departments with ties to ASA and other groups supportive of boycott. Diverse voices called the bill an attempt to silence debate, including the UMD President's Office, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Defending Dissent Foundation and others. Most recently, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner who played a central role in ending apartheid in South Africa criticized the legislation. Even staunchly pro Israel organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington opposed the bill.

April 7, 2014, Seattle – Today, the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by five members of the Olympia Food Co-op against current and former members of the Co-op's Board of Directors for their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The court held that the lawsuit was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, and that participation in the boycott is protected by the First Amendment. The court also affirmed $160,000 in statutory damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs for the board members, and awarded attorneys' fees for the appeal. The lawsuit is part of a broader pattern of targeting pro-Palestinian activists in the United States, particularly in legislatures and across college campuses.

"Those who would try to intimidate concerned citizens speaking out on behalf of Palestinian human rights should take note," said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Maria LaHood. "The law and history are on the side of peaceful boycotts for social change, and today's ruling reaffirms that this time-honored tradition is protected by the First Amendment. Instead of trying to suppress speech calling for Palestinian human rights, opponents should address such speech on the merits."

Last spring I was invited to the Earth School in the East Village of New York City to speak at a forum about the lessons of the MAP test boycott that I helped to organize in Seattle. Earth School 4th and 5th grade teacher Jia Lee, along with insurgent teacher union activists in MORE and parents in Change The Stakes, helped organize the event and a powerful conversation about organizing test resistance ensued.

Now, a year later, you can imagine my elation when I received an email from Jia announcing that three teachers at the Earth School declared to their administration and public schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña that they will not proctor Common Core state standardized tests this year — or ever — saying in a letter that they "can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children."

Along with the Supreme Court having unleashed massive spending by the 1%, the extremely wealthy, spending to control the selection of election candidates and to control the election of their candidates; there has developed an extensive opposition opposed to the political objectives of the super-wealthy. That opposition primarily attempts to compete in the arena dominated by the wealthy, the arena of massive financial resources, massive spending.

It is based on solicitation of contributions from the other 99% – an attempt to compete against the massive wealth of the wealthy few with large numbers of small contributions from ordinary citizens.

Apr 08

Monsanto You Make My Stinger Itch

By Reverend Billy HoneyBeeLujah, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Kill the real bee in favor of more cost-effective Robobee? Pollinate with drones? Monsanto believes that Life on Earth is only a practice run for their product, Life on Earth Two, showing soon at a theater all around you.

They want one cash crop. So everything else is killed - including bees and flowers. Everything dies but that one corn plant, which stretches from horizon to horizon, the boring mono-culture. All the weeds, the bacteria, all the mysterious stuff in the air and water and soil that can't be accounted for, doesn't fit in the business plan - is destroyed by pesticides & herbicides. Only the product-plant lives and it is jacked up on GMO steroids. Bottom-line: Monsanto hates ecosystems.

April 4, 2014, Washington – A federal district court today dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the targeted killing of three American citizens by U.S. drones in Yemen in 2011. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the case on behalf of the families of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and Al-Aulaqi's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman.

Plaintiff Nasser Al-Aulaqi, the father of Anwar and grandfather of Abdulrahman, said, "I am deeply disappointed by the judge's decision and in the American justice system. What I am asking is simply for the government to account to a court its killings of my American son and grandson, and for the court to decide if those killings were lawful. Like any parent or grandparent would, I want answers from the government when it decides to take life, but all I have got so far is secrecy and a refusal even to explain."

Poet, Novelist, Social Activist, and important figure in the women's liberation movement, Marge Piercy (New York Times bestseller Gone to Soldiers; Woman on the Edge of Time) records a moving account of her own illegal abortion, and speaks to the importance of abortion rights to be part of emergency programs and actions in cities nationwide April 11-12
 
"It was a time when falling in love could kill you.." Piercy states, in recounting the story of her near death from her own illegal abortion, the death of her close friend and many others from botched abortions during the same period, and the life altering shame and stigma heaped on women and girls for unplanned pregnancies.  
Apr 07

Obama Administration "Willing To Work" With Congress To Reschedule Marijuana

By Drug Policy Alliance, SpeakOut | Press Release

Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that the Obama administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to reschedule marijuana.

Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it could ease restrictions on research intomarijuana's medical benefits and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.

“Rescheduling would be a modest step in the right direction, but would do nothing to stop marijuana arrests or prohibition-related violence,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Now that the majority of the American public supports taxing and regulating marijuana, this debate about re-scheduling is a bit antiquated and not a real solution to the failures of marijuana prohibition.”