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.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade deal that is being negotiated completely in secret. The main actors at the table are large corporate interests like Wall Street banks, multinational drug companies, and oil and gas companies. This might lead one to think that the end product will be an agreement that furthers the upward redistribution of income rather than benefits the bulk of the population. That seems especially likely since this is a "next generation" trade agreement that is primarily about regulations, not reducing traditional trade barriers like tariffs and quotas.

Richmond, VA - November 6 - Today, in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel on behalf of four Iraqi men who were tortured at Abu Ghraib, six amici parties urged the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the case, which was dismissed by the district court in June. Plaintiffs in the case, Al Shimari v. CACI International Inc., brought claims including torture and war crimes under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) against private contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (“CACI”), which U.S. military investigators concluded participated in torture, the “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. In dismissing the torture victims’ claims, the district judge did not suggest that the plaintiffs’ allegations were unfounded, but instead ruled that the recent Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Shell/Royal Dutch Petroleum barred lawsuits based on conduct that occurred outside the U.S.

Today, U.S. PIRG and Americans for Tax Fairness presented over 160,000 signatures to the Department of Justice, calling for the agency to prohibit JPMorgan Chase from reaping a multi-billion dollar tax deduction on its expected record-breaking settlement over its sale of crisis-era mortgage securities.

Last month, reports emerged that the expected $13 billion settlement could be tax deductible. The bank separately settled with the Federal Housing Finance Agency last week, but a settlement for the bulk of the charges for mortgage lending abuses is reported to be finalized shortly with the Department of Justice. Unless the Department of Justice prevents it, the expected $9 billion in remaining settlements could be tax deductible – forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for over $3 billion.

Nov 06

Visitors to Snowden and Visitors to Berlin

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Report

It was a good try, anyway - and an adventurous one. Three men flew from Berlin to Moscow, were taken in a car with tinted glass windows to a secret location - where they met Edward Snowden and his partner-in-(alleged)-crime, Sarah Harrison. The meeting was very interesting. So were the three visitors. Trio leader was Hans-Christian Stroebele, 74, Bundestag representative from a mixed East-West Berlin electoral district, the only Green Party delegate directly elected (four times); the other 62 got in thanks to Germany's proportional representation system. Anyone joining in anti-war rallies recognizes the rather haggard-looking man who - until recently - always arrived pedaling a bike.

I was still in the process of being fitted with a wireless microphone when word came that I was about to go on. That's when I reached into my pocket for the talisman that I hoped would get me through the next 20 minutes.

It was Sunday, July 7, 2013, and I was about to deliver a closing plenary address at a national conference, the Vegetarian Summerfest, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Having given several presentations at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in years past, the sequence of having my name called, navigating the 15 yards to the stage, and speaking to hundreds of attendees had become second nature to me. But that was then, and this was now - seven months removed from an uncomfortably close brush with my own mortality.

Nov 06

Medical Advertising

By Richard Rapport, MD, SpeakOut | Report

Not too many years ago, certainly before the growth of the for-profit Humana medical plans system in the late 1970s, it was considered unprofessional and really forbidden for doctors to advertise. Now, it isn't even considered tacky.

But it is.

In almost any medium - the Internet, TV, radio, and print - sometimes outrageous claims are made for a drug, medical product, particular treatment, or particular doctor and/or hospital. These may take the form of "infomercials," and are aimed at a vulnerable, medically unsophisticated audience. Often they target readers and listeners who suffer either from a chronic, relapsing, but self-limited illness, or a condition that will eventually resolve if left alone. Sometimes claims are made for the cure of illnesses or non-illnesses that really are best left untreated. After all, everyone sometimes has pain for one reason or another.

Nov 06

Aristotle's Lantern

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, SpeakOut | Report

At a time when there's an almost universal attack on the natural world, it helps to remember Aristotle, the fourth century BCE Greek natural philosopher. He remains a model of intelligence to our day.

Aristotle studied all nature, indeed the cosmos. His preference was the natural world, especially animals because, as he put it, we live in their midst.

He urged us to be curious even about the lowest of the animals because all animals are beautiful. They illuminate the why and causes of natural things. Nature is full of purposefulness, he said. There is nothing accidental in animals, fish, wildlife and plants.

Nov 06

End of Enlightenment

By Angelo Letizia, SpeakOut | News Analysis

In a recent article, Dr. Henry Giroux argued that we may be witnessing the dismantling of democracy [1]. He pointed to the neoliberal assault on public education and the transformation of public education into workforce training for the global economy at the hands of state and federal law makers [2]. Giroux's remarks are sobering. They may actually be more telling than even he realized. Perhaps the neoliberal assault on education is not the destruction of democracy, but rather something much more profound; it may be the end of the Enlightenment.

While it is impossible to put exact definitive markers on historical events, historians argue that the Enlightenment began roughly at the end of the seventeenth century [3]. Enlightenment thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Marquis Condorcet, Mary Wollstonecraft Thomas Jefferson and later Georg Hegel all wrote of the power of a progressive and liberal education grounded in history and the liberal arts, they wrote about civic duty, public service and the infallibility of true democracy. While their thoughts are varied, and at times contradictory, they all demanded equality, freedom, justice, the rule of reason and the suppression of superstition.

Nov 06

The Shock Doctrine in Texas prisons

By Kenneth Foster, SpeakOut | News Analysis

This article is an analysis of the torture tactics and repressive methods used in administrative segregation prisons across Texas, and generally in America. To highlight these matters and how they're applied, I want to draw a parallel with Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

The Shock Doctrine is a book that documents the brutal economic tactics pioneered by University of Chicago professor Milton Friedman. His approach to economics became orthodoxy in almost every corner of the globe. It has been described as "neoliberalism," "free market," "laissez-faire capitalism" and "globalization," but the term that would stick in the minds of most people is "shock therapy."

"Shock therapy" has been applied both economically and physically. I will focus on the latter, but let me first talk about the former, because the economic shock doctrine allowed the physical shock doctrine to thrive.

I am a long-time advocate of both climate justice and fundamental system change. I am writing to you with whom I share these central political commitments because I believe you are making a serious strategic mistake by categorically rejecting international carbon trading.

Recently your organization, together with over sixty other environmental justice organizations, sent a letter to the President of the AFL-CIO "imploring labor to join us in the fight against climate change," explaining what labor must do differently if it expects to advance its cause. You obviously understand why we must sometimes reach out with advice to allies in struggle who we believe are making serious mistakes. That is the spirit in which I write you this letter.