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 20

The Greatest Predators on Earth

By Dallas Darling, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Having endured a series of colonial extermination campaigns, 37 years ago, one year before his body returned to Mother Africa, President Jomo Kenyatta announced a ban on big game hunting. Kenyatta, Kenya's first black leader, and his people knew only too well who the greatest predator on Earth was, including the worst purveyors of violent extinctions. While certain Kenyans had endured near-mass extinctions, some animal and plant species had already disappeared. As part of a drive to conserve wildlife, he made sure the elephant, an endangered species, would also be protected in Kenya.

For centuries Kenyatta and his people, the Kikuyu, suffered under British colonial rule and economic exploitation. Discriminated against at every level, even forced to be outsiders of their own country, the British settlers excluded the Kikuyu and reserved exclusively for themselves the best farm land. During a 6-year rebellion, 90,000 Kikuyu and black Kenyans were imprisoned without trial. Women and children were herded like cattle into concentration camp-like conditions. Thousands died of starvation or succumbed to diseases. Young and old men were tortured and executed.

President Johnson's administration sold a false bill of goods on Vietnam. (The Captain of the ship supposedly attacked in Tonkin Gulf later testified his ship was not actually fired on.) President George W. Bush's administration sold a false bill of goods on Iraq. (No weapons of mass destruction; no alliance with Al Qaeda.) Now President Obama's administration is peddling a false bill of goods on Ukraine.

When Russia annexed Crimea, Mr. Kerry said "You just don't invade another country on phony pretexts...." Does he think we hear that and not recall Iraq? When pro-Russian militants took over public buildings in eastern Ukrainian cities, President Obama said they were not peaceful protesters, but armed men. That is only half the truth. While the pro-Russian militants are indeed using guns, Molotov cocktails, and rubber tire and barbed wire barricades, it is also true that what the Obama administration calls "the government of Ukraine" took Kiev by similar tactics.

"The history of our revolution," wrote John Adams, "will be one continued lie from one end to the other." Although his statement was followed by a spiteful attack against Benjamin Franklin and George Washington-people would only remember Dr. Franklin's electrical rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington, and it was these two who conducted all the policy, negotiation, legislatures and war-his initial assertion had merit. Despite what many believe, the American Revolution was not that revolutionary, neither was it democratic. As often happens during times of political upheaval, revolutionaries become reactionaries. Those writing about democracy became despots.

Is this the real reason the United States is unable to recognize Ukraine's democratic revolution? Following Crimea's self-rule referendum to secede, citizens in Donetsk did the same. With 89 percent voting "yes!" they formed the popular People's Republic of Donetsk. Other cities and regions are also protesting and rebelling against a US supported Ukrainian government that is extremely corrupt and highly authoritative. Sadly, their revolutionary acts are being met with repression and death. In Slovyansk, Ukrainian troops killed five protesters. Dozens of revolutionaries were burned alive in Odessa when Ukrainians set ablaze the local House of Trade Unions.

May 19

The Empire Eats Its Own

By Philip A Farruggio, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I just watched Alexander Payne's new film Nebraska, written by Bob Nelson and starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte. I don't really know what the writer and director had in mind, but the story is interesting and to me a bit conflicting.

In this bleak portrait of America's 21st century serfs, Dern plays an alcoholic senior citizen who zones out more than in. He mistakenly believes that he has won a one million dollar magazine sweepstakes prize, and wants to go to Lincoln Nebraska to redeem it. 

His son, caught in a dead end retail sales clerk job, knowing (as does his mother and brother) that the million dollar prize award is bogus, decides to take off from work to drive his father. The son knows that his dad is incapable of going alone without putting himself in harm's way. 

In the face of mounting pressure from free trade agreements and transnational corporations, the people who produce, distribute, and consume food are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a just and equitable local food system. In response, small-scale farmers around the world are calling for food sovereignty, the right of communities to healthy, culturally appropriate, and sustainably produced food, and the freedom to determine their own food and agriculture systems.

Seeds are the first link in the food chain and give life to food sovereignty.  This is particularly evident in the Lower Lempa region of El Salvador, where since 2011, cooperatives have been producing certified corn seed for the government’s Family Agriculture Program, which distributes the seed along with fertilizer to 400,000 small-scale farmers throughout the country.The program helps small-scale farmers surmount economic and technical barriers to ensure their families have adequate and nutritious food.

May 19

TPP Would Deepen Income Divide

By Roger Bybee, TripleCrisis | Report

Those at the top have never done better,” President Obama ruefully acknowledged in his January 28 State of the Union speech. “But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened.”

Yet, moments later, Obama heartily endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which as drafted directly reflects the demands of “those at the top” and would, if passed, severely intensify the very inequality spotlighted by the president. The TPP would provide transnational corporations with easier access to cheap labor in Pacific Rim nations and new power to trump public-interest protections—on labor, food safety, drug prices, financial regulation, domestic procurement laws, and a host of others—established over the last century by democratic governments. The nations currently negotiating the TPP—which together comprise nearly 40%of the world economy—include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Among them, Malaysia, Brunei, Mexico, Singapore, and Vietnam, are all notorious violators of labor rights The TPP’s labor provisions are far too weak to begin uplifting wages, conditions, and rights for workers in these nations.

May 19

New Revelations About Guantánamo "Suicides"

By The Center for Constitutional Rights, SpeakOut | Press Release
The new eyewitness account of what happened on the day three men died at Guantanamo adds to the growing body of information strongly undercutting the military’s narrative that the men committed suicide in their cells, and suggesting that the men were instead killed at a CIA-run black site at Guantánamo known as “Camp No” or “Penny Lane.” There has never been an impartial and effective investigation into the deaths, and the heavily-redacted version of the military investigation the government was compelled to release is riddled with inexplicable gaps and inconsistencies. One of those gaps was the document published today by Harper’s, which was apparently deliberately removed from the military’s public report.
The families’ attempt to seek the truth about these deaths was met with dismissal by the district and circuit courts in D.C., on the grounds that even if federal officials had been involved in the homicides, the courts were powerless to grant a remedy. The families have now turned to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which should accept their petition, investigate the violations of international law they have alleged, and uphold their right – and the public’s right – to know the truth about what happened.
May 19

The Russians are Coming

By William Blum, The Anti-Empire Report | Op-Ed

So, what do we have here? In Libya, in Syria, and elsewhere the United States has been on the same side as the al-Qaeda types. But not in Ukraine. That’s the good news. The bad news is that in Ukraine the United States is on the same side as the neo-Nazi types, who – taking time off from parading around with their swastika-like symbols and calling for the death of Jews, Russians and Communists – on May 2 burned down a trade-union building in Odessa, killing scores of people and sending hundreds to hospital; many of the victims were beaten or shot when they tried to flee the flames and smoke; ambulances were blocked from reaching the wounded. Try and find an American mainstream media entity that has made a serious attempt to capture the horror.

And how did this latest example of American foreign-policy exceptionalism come to be? One starting point that can be considered is what former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates says in his recently published memoir: “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, [Defense Secretary Dick Cheney] wanted to see the dismemberment not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.” That can serve as an early marker for the new cold war while the corpse of the old one was still warm. Soon thereafter, NATO began to surround Russia with military bases, missile sites, and NATO members, while yearning for perhaps the most important part needed to complete the circle – Ukraine.

The US has released Yunus Rahmatullah, a Pakistani citizen held at Bagram Airbase for ten years without charge, trial, or access to a lawyer after his capture by British forces in Iraq and subsequent rendition to Afghanistan in 2004.

After years of government denials that the UK had been involved in any rendition operations, Mr Rahmatullah’s capture by British forces was finally revealed to Parliament in February 2009 by then-Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton. Despite admitting playing a part in Mr Rahmatullah’s illegal detention and transfer, the government persisted in refusing to assist him. As a result legal action was brought on Mr Rahmatullah’s behalf.

Just as the media in the Soviet Union were not allowed to talk about alternatives to one-party rule, the Washington Post apparently can't raise the issue of alternatives to patent supported drug research in the United States. This should be apparent to readers of an article on Sovaldi, a new drug to treat Hepatitis C.

The drug is currently subject to a government granted patent monopoly which allows its manufacturer, Gilead Science, to sell a year's dosage for $100,000. By contrast, a generic version sells in India for about 1 percent of this price. As the piece tells readers: