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.

Feb 26

The Capture of "El Chapo" Changes Nothing

By Andrew Smolski, SpeakOut | News Analysis

This past weekend the Mexican government, with help from American drones and intelligence, captured the Sinaloa Cartel's CEO, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera. It is the perfect moment to make a few points about the drug war.

While his capture ends a decade long manhunt, it does nothing to end the drug war in Mexico. Actually, the capture or killing of drug cartel CEOs has typically led to infighting and more violence, rather than any reduction in drug smuggling. It is the problem of the hydra, each decapitation the production of more heads, rather than the death of the hydra. And if doesn't increase violence, it still has little impact on stemming the drug trade.

Washington DC ― U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rules that allow herders to be paid far less than other agricultural workers and live in unsanitary conditions are illegal and should be invalidated, Public Citizen told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Through the H-2A visa program, foreign agricultural workers may come to the U.S. to work as herders if the government certifies that qualified U.S. workers are not available and that the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect similar U.S. workers’ wages and working conditions. In 2011, the DOL announced “special procedures” that exempt herder employers who wish to participate in the H-2A program from requirements that they offer important workplace benefits and protections to U.S. workers before being allowed to hire H-2A workers under those same employment terms. The DOL’s rules permit herders to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days per week and to earn as little as $750 a month (or the equivalent of $2.34 per hour in many cases). The rules also require employers to offer only the most basic housing accommodation for herders living on the range. Those accommodations do not need to include electricity, running water, refrigeration or toilets.

Feb 26

Resume Put Hall of Fame

By James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario | News Analysis

Before 2006, people used to talk about the Greenspan put: the idea that, should the going get rough in the markets, Chairman Al would bail everybody out. But there's something even better than having the Federal Reserve watching your back. It's the résumé put.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Vikram Pandit, former CEO of Citigroup, is starting a new firm called TGG which will . . . well, it's not entirely clear. In one email, they claim "a novel approach to address the challenges that large complex organizations face in compliance, fraud, corruption, and culture and reputation." (That's the standard marketing tactic of describing what benefits you will provide without mentioning what you actually do.) Now, Pandit certainly has experience in a large, complex organization with compliance, fraud, corruption, culture, and reputation problems. Citigroup checks pretty much every box. But is it experience you would want to pay for?

Feb 25

The Translator

By Donna Schatz, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

One of my students at the college where I taught a summer workshop was a young Iraqi who had worked as a translator for the US military. He adamantly opposed the US occupation of his country and spoke to me about the destruction and splintering of Iraq. When the US invaded, he was a high school student living a fairly normal life. As a naive kid, at first he was excited, but soon circumstances and utter chaos forced him to make choices he never would have dreamed of in order to survive. He worked in the Green Zone, was threatened by insurgents, lived in fear for his life, and finally became a translator with Special Forces where he was caught between his own people and the actions of the US military. He was afraid that if the US withdrew from Iraq before he got an exit visa, he would be killed. I met him two years after he came to the US where his outrage at what Iraq had been subjected to had only grown. He would not appear on camera out of security concerns, but, after hesitating, agreed to an audio interview. He wanted to tell his story and finally speak his mind about the ruin of his country and his life. I decided to animate his narrative - a new medium for me as I am basically a camerawoman.

I know many citizens of Ohio are shocked by the recent revelation that our state appointed regulatory agencyis actually promoting drilling, and working to “convince” the public that it is safe.  But I’m not.

Call it “lessons learned on the front lines.” Based on personal experience with drilling in my hometown, I was not surprised when I read this information on the ODNR’s 12-page memo listing allies, threats, and strategies to convince us that drilling in state parks was a good idea.  I was not surprised to read notes that revealed the Governor’s office, Halliburton, the Ohio EPA, Local Chambers of Commerce and media outlets like the Youngstown Vindicator are “allies” and environmental groups are considered “threats.”

Feb 25

Horse of a Different Color

By Gabriella Callender, SpeakOut | Poem

Here’s the completed outpouring of my emotions that will never really be complete. This is dedicated to Philip, Whitney, Lou , ALL the addicts in Kings Park, in Jamaica, Queens, who I transported methadone to (in a paper bag) when I was six years old. To all the addicts at the Sutphin Boulevard methadone clinic who gave me their best gangsta heroin lean and smile when I went there, as a little girl, with my sister to get her “medicine”. To my sister Lorraine who is no longer with us, and to my brothers who are still using, and really, to all of us addicts of an American system of abuse and misuse. This is for you/ us/ them."

Feb 24

No Gays Allowed

By Mark Faulk, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Finally! Our state legislatures are getting down to governing the way our Constitution meant for us to be governed…using Biblical and Christian beliefs.

In Arizona, a law was passed stating that “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly, or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity” may refuse service to a gaycouple if  “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Feb 24

Planning for the Future of the BDS Movement

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Much has been made of the rising influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Indeed, there is a growing sense that the boycott power of civil society, particularly as it is manifesting itself in Europe, is on track to repeat history—to do to Israel what it once did to South Africa. Simultaneously, there is the persisting assumption that the latest effort at negotiating a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now being managed by Secretary of State Kerry, will go down the same ignoble path as all its predecessors.

Feb 24

Where Is Your Car Location Data Going?

By Jordan Perch, SpeakOut | Report

Nowadays, practically all new cars are equipped with sophisticated GPS navigation systems that provide drivers with maps, turn-by-turn directions, and real-time traffic information, making it easier for them to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Of course, drivers get a lot of use out of these features, which can help them save a lot of time, and money, by showing the most fuel-efficient routes. But, there is another side to navigation systems, one that will likely stir controversy and is expected to raise a few red flags with privacy advocates, as it recently became clear that car makers and navigation companies use them to collect data related to drivers' location and movement, and store them for an unspecified period of time.

Feb 24

Peter Seeger's Last Letter

By Debbie Metke, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The day he died, my organization got a hand-written letter from Pete Seeger, the 94 year old, iconic folksinger who departed last month after decades of inspiring us onward with his peace and justice ballads.  Now with his loss, we realize it is quite a gap to fill. Indeed, one political cartoon showed a hapless banjo player reading his paper’s page: “JOB OPPORTUNITY: New Pete Seeger needed. Must start immediately.”