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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.

May 16

The Limits of Military Power

By Lawrence S Wittner, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Is overwhelming national military power a reliable source of influence in world affairs?

If so, the United States should certainly have plenty of influence today. For decades, it has been the world's Number 1 military spender. And it continues in this role. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $640 billion on the military in 2013, thus accounting for 37 percent of world military expenditures. The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Thus, last year, the United States spent more than three times as much as China and more than seven times as much as Russia on the military.

As the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) reached its two-year anniversary today, labor and human rights organizations say the pact's failure to curtail labor rights abuses in Colombia illustrates the shortcomings of the current labor chapter and side agreements like the "Colombia Labor Action Plan" (LAP).

"It's time we recognize that promises to Colombia's workers have been broken," said James P. Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters. "We must put human rights at the center of our trade policy, not at the fringe. And as violent as things are in Colombia, respect for basic labor rights in countries like Vietnam and Brunei is in many ways even worse. Signing to the TPP before these abuses are adequately addressed would only allow them to continue."

May 16

Up, Down, Right and Left, Kiev and Berlin

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Running up a down escalator is itself mighty difficult. But trying to keep your footing on both an up and a down escalator at the same time is simply hard to imagine. Yet it gives an idea of Germany's present Ukrainian policy.

Soon after Soviet soldiers left East Germany between 1989 and 1994, the newly-unified country swiftly forgot all promises to the contrary and joined in expanding the more economic European Union and the more military NATO - first into East Germany, then on to Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, to Bulgaria, Romania and, not yet quite fully, to Azerbaijan and Georgia. A glance at a map makes it all too clear: adding the wide Ukrainian expanse would mean almost total western encirclement of Russia's main territory, further diminishing its access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and moving alarmingly close to its heart.

With the Senate set to take up consideration of a package of over 50 tax breaks, the FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition is reminding the American people of two of the more egregious breaks included in the bill and of their impact on this country.

The two tax breaks are the "active financing exception," which would cost $58.8 billion if extended for ten years, and the controlled foreign corporation (CFC) "Look-Through Rule," which would cost $20.3 billion over ten years. 

May 16

Worried Sick About Vermont

By James and Jean Anton, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The Bosses are worried sick.

The Bosses are worried sick about Vermont. They think democracy has gone wrong because voters there just passed a law (that the Bosses hate), which will take effect on 1 July 2016 that would make it possible for shoppers to know which of their foods contain DNA from GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Come July 2016, all consumers will have to do is read food labels.

WASHINGTON, DC—On Thursday, May 22, 2014, Lyme disease victims from around the U.S. will unite at the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) headquarters for the 2014 Mayday Project protest. They will demand IDSA update its controversial guidelines for Lyme disease to reflect the current state of science and that IDSA acknowledge the evidence for a chronic form of Lyme disease that is resistant to antibiotic treatment.

Mayday coordinator Josh Cutler has been fighting late stage neurological Lyme disease for eight years. This condition affects the brain, the central nervous system, and the autonomic nervous system that regulates blood pressure and other vital functions. Cutler was rushed to the emergency room on a dozen occasions and at one point was confined to a wheelchair. According to the IDSA, Cutler cannot possibly still have Lyme because he was treated according to their guideline's recommendations.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California - Shareholders and activists from around the country and region are rallying today at Google's shareholder meeting, calling on the tech giant to stay true to its stated commitments to transparency, an open Internet and climate action by disclosing its lobbying spending and leaving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – two powerful groups that oppose those values. They are also urging Google to support good jobs for subcontracted security officers on its own campus, many of whom struggle to make ends meet despite the company's staggering wealth. Groups will be using the hashtags #DontFundEvil and #DontBeEvil.

This morning and the previous two mornings, activists handed out fliers to Google employees at bus stops informing them of the company's prodigious political spending on lobbying and its funding of groups that oppose taking action on climate change. Advocates also shed light on the company's footprint in the local Bay Area community, where the eviction and affordability crises are escalating as companies like Google draw more high-income people to the region without supporting the right of longtime residents to stay. In San Francisco, Google is also perpetuating a two-tier system that privileges private over public transportation.

Most people have never heard of low ferritin, let alone appreciate the subtle causes behind it. Yet, there is a fairly high probability that the average civilized person suffers from "low iron stores" to some degree whether officially diagnosed or not.

Low ferritin is merely a medical test marker which identifies the amount of iron in the blood. There are a series of falling Dominos that lead to the condition itself. And then there are other consequences which can follow, if the cause is not recognized and left untreated, symptoms which fall below the threshold of awareness until serious.

May 15

What Is at Stake: India's Elections

By Manash Bhattacharjee, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The parliamentary elections in India have thrown up sharp divisions among the intellectual class. Writers, scholars, editors and media journalists have been closely scrutinized for their views and positions. Some have pretended to play Swiss, but it is evident that neutrality is merely a game, as biases seep through articles and programs. There are subtle ways of maneuvering truth, and projecting our political version of that truth. No one can escape the marks of allegiances, even if they are sometimes strategic and aimed at safeguarding petty, personal interests. It is risky to be on the bad books of the future government. Playing a see-saw game of neutrality becomes the best way to ensure minimum damage in the future. Such considerations have shrunk the ethical and political horizon of the intellectual class and the media. A lot of people seem to be shifting according to the vagaries of opinion and exit polls as much as the spectacles on television. As if there are no political ideas at stake beyond these fishy estimates of numbers and the circuses political parties indulge in to gain infantile attention. It is incredible how elections stir people's appetite for cheap theatre.

On 13th of May 2014 Turkey faced with the biggest coal mine explosion in the country's history. It is reported that there are more than thousand mine workers trapped inside the privately owned mine and death toll rises every single second. More than 230 mine workers died, is the last information we have received. There is a 15 years old boy, Kemal Yıldız among the deceased and more than 80 injured mine workers and rescue team members are at the hospital.

Unfortunately, there are no healthy official announcements about the death toll and the cause of the accident from the authorities. The families of the mine workers are waiting anxiously in front of the collapsed pit or in front of the hospital, hoping to hear that their loved ones are rescued.