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.

Here's how the world will be different after final ratification of the constitutional amendment today approved by the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee:

The 28th Amendment will give Congress and the states authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of campaign funds, eliminating various barriers and obstacles imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court. It will overturn Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC, among other Supreme Court decisions that have facilitated the rise of a de facto oligarchy.

Washington, DC - Over the past four decades, women have played increasingly important roles as breadwinners in their families. At the same time, women's share of unpaid care work and housework has remained high. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), "Women, Working Families, and Unions," explores the role unions play in addressing the challenges facing working women and families in balancing their work and family responsibilities. The paper looks at trends in unionization for women; the impact of unions on wages, benefits and access to family and medical leave; and the role of unions in addressing work-life balance issues.

"There are few other interventions known to improve the prospects for better pay, benefits and workplace flexibility as much as unions do. Anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers and working families should also care about unions," states Nicole Woo, a co-author of the report.

The UN's foremost expert on extrajudicial killing has called for international restrictions on the use of armed drones.

Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, made the recommendation in his latest report to the body's Human Rights Council.

Washington, DC – Unregulated, undisclosed spending made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has left local communities defenseless against big money national organizations intent on interfering with their elections, according to a report released today by Public Citizen.

In its report, "Outside Spenders, Local Elections," Public Citizen outlines several relatively obscure local elections that the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity sought to influence. The report chronicles six elections in which Americans for Prosperity, founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, drowned out local issues to pursue its own agenda.

The current level of violence in Iraq has a single root: the destabilizing act in 2003 of illegally invading and then occupying Iraq ordered by the George W. Bush administration, with their arrogant claims that US troops would be greeted as liberators. Rather than liberating Iraq, however, our country lost yet another war there, one which left thousands of American soldiers dead, tens of thousands wounded and still more traumatized. We also destabilized the region; slaughtered and displaced Iraqis; left Iraq in a mess; created the conditions for a civil war there; strengthened Iran; created many new advocates of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations; and demonstrated disdain for international law.

The Bush administration led and lied the US into an aggressive war, the kind of war held to be a crime against peace at Nuremberg. The lying was despicable, an impeachable offense, but it is too late for the impeachment of a president and vice-president who are now out of office. The initiation of an aggressive war was an act, however, for which there should always be accountability, as there was at Nuremberg. This, of course, would require having the courage and principle as a country to create policies to hold our own leaders to the same standards that we held those leaders whom we defeated in combat.

Albany – Today, healthcare professionals and patients continued their response to Governor Cuomo’s demands on medical marijuana. Patients and healthcare professionals are gathering in Albany today to push lawmakers to vote on the Compassionate Care Act, and healthcare professionals who couldn’t travel to Albany issued strong statements in support of the bill. The Compassionate Care Act would create the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana program and allow patients with serious and debilitating conditions to access a small amount of marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. The action and statements come just a day after Governor Cuomo issued a series of last minute demands to amend the bill, some of which are considered “poison pills” by patients, caregivers and providers.  Even though Cuomo broke off negotiations around the bill, the bill sponsors, Sen. Savino and Assm. Gottfried, amended the legislation to account for many of the Governor’s concerns.

Patients and healthcare providers are outraged by Governor Cuomo’s attempt to derail the legislation.  Providers were particularly disturbed by Cuomo’s claims that the bill had little support from the medical community.

Jerry Brown, once known as "Governor Moonbeam" for his quirkiness and eccentricities during his first two administrations from 1975 to 1983, has in his third administration transformed himself into "Big Oil Brown." 

According to Jessie McKinley in the New York Times, The "Governor Moonbeam" nickname "was coined by Mike Royko, the famed Chicago columnist, who in 1976 said that Mr. Brown appeared to be attracting 'the moonbeam' vote; which in Chicago political parlance meant young, idealistic and nontraditional."

The word genocide, coined in 1944 in an effort to describe what the Nazis called "the final solution" and what today we call the Holocaust, attempted to distinguish the crime of killing people of a certain identity in such great numbers that you tried eliminating them as a group. Earlier in that century, there had been the mass murder of Armenians by the Turks, an event Hitler once cynically reminded associates was not even remembered only a few decades later.

Some would include in the category the terrible starvation induced in Ukraine by Soviet agricultural policies and ineptitude, an event which indeed killed millions, or the ruthless policies of Mao's China which caused many millions of peasants to starve. But these events, utterly nightmarish as they were, begin to lose the legitimate sense of genocide. Although we cannot rightly call these genocides, they remain depravity on a colossal scale, but I am not sure the distinction is one with great meaning, and certainly not for any of the victims. After all, when nations go to war, the job defined for each soldier is to kill as many of the people from another land as possible. Our great wars now typically kill vast numbers, and it is just a fact of history that since the 19th century we have moved from killing mainly other soldiers to killing mainly civilians.   

Jun 19

The First Kill

By Jeriah Bowser, The Hampton Institute | Op-Ed

You never forget your first kill. Mine happened on a desolate stretch of backcountry gravel road several miles outside of a tiny town in Utah that nobody has ever heard of. I remember the day clearly; it is permanently etched into my memory like a hot ember on the back of my eyelids. It was mid-March in the desert, which means stifling hot days and bitter cold nights. The sun was high in the sky and there was a slight haze which tinted the landscape in hues of red and orange, an appropriate palette for the scenario which was to soon unfold. The wind was unusually strong that day, blowing tumbleweeds and clouds of dust across the barren and desolate terrain and kicking up dust-devils, or Chindi. According to the indigenous Diné peoples of this area, Chindi are the spirits of departed peoples, and they carry either positive or malicious messages, based on the direction they are spinning. Some, if sent by a witch, are messengers of death or sickness. Since it is hard to determine the intention or direction of a Chindi, it is best to just avoid them at all costs.

Washington, D.C.- The United States remains the only high-income country that does not mandate paid family and medical leave. Each year, more than 2.5 million working Americans are unable to take time off to care for a family member with a serious health condition or who was injured during military service, for pregnancy, to bond with a new child, or for their own illness or disability. Anew report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research demonstrates that a federal paid leave program could effectively close this gap.

The report, “Documenting the Need for a National Paid Family and Medical Leave Program,” by Helene Jorgenson and Eileen Appelbaum, analyzes the Department of Labor’s 2012 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Survey and documents the unmet need leaves of private-sector workers in the United States.