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 infamous fascist paramilitary organization in Ukraine known as Right Sector has established a branch in Canada and was present and fundraising for military equipment at the annual Ukraine Independence Day celebration in Toronto on August 23. The group's efforts that day were featured in CBC and Radio Canada (French language CBC) national television news broadcasts. The two broadcasts are here: CBC and Radio Canada .
Present at the day's event were federal Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Chris Alexander, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor Rob Ford, his city councilor brother Doug Ford and Toronto mayoral candidates John Tory and Olivia Chow.
Fortunately for anyone who has ever been accused of committing a crime, accusations and hearsay are simply not enough: evidence must establish guilt "beyond reasonable doubt." This system is intended to give victims an opportunity to seek justice and tell their stories, while simultaneously protecting innocent defendants from being punished for crimes they never committed.
But the system also has a critical weakness: it can only function as intended when objectivity prevails. When corruption, carelessness, or racial prejudice interferes, the consequences can be devastating to the defendants and their families.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who oversees Guantanamo Bay prison, has ignored a letter from a group of NGOs including Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights and Reprieve, in which they ask him to release the videotapes of detainees being force-fed.
The signatories write in the letter (the full text of which is below): “This administration has promised the American people transparency in the conduct of government affairs. If, as the government repeatedly claims, the force-feeding of hunger striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay is being done in a lawful and humane manner then subjecting these videotapes to public scrutiny would seem to be the best way to demonstrate this fact.”
Here in Kabul, one of my finest friends is Zekerullah, who has gone back to school in the 8th grade although he is an18-year old young man who has already had to learn far too many of life’s harsh lessons.
Years ago and miles from here, when he was a child in the province of Bamiyan, and before he ran away from school, Zekerullah led a double life, earning income for his family each night as a construction crew laborer, and then attempting to attend school in the daytime. In between these tasks the need to provide his family with fuel would sometimes drive him on six-hour treks up the mountainside, leading a donkey on which to load bags of scrub brush and twigs for the trip back down. His greatest childhood fear was of that donkey taking one disastrous wrong step with its load on the difficult mountainside.
Unless you’re the churchgoing type, there’s not much sense in driving through the Mississippi Delta on a Sunday morning. Folks tend to take the sabbath pretty seriously around these parts, and a visitor who so happens to be passing through is pretty well guaranteed to have one hell of a time trying to find a restaurant, store or museum that was open for business. At least, that was my experience when I crossed over the border from southern Arkansas to Mississippi last summer. Turns out that down in the Delta, Sunday is most certainly the lord’s day and the only proper thing for a person to do on the lord’s day is to get to worshipping. There was a pretty big part of me that felt the urge to attend a service at a good old fashioned, hole in the wall Southern Baptist or Methodist church, but I couldn’t pick up the nerve to do it. Had there been one of those big non-denominational mega churches around I would have felt alright just showing up more or less as a voyeur because anonymity is kind of the whole point of a their existence. When your main chapel has stadium style seating that can hold several thousand congregants, it’s entirely possible to go to church every Sunday for a year and never really have any contact with anybody else there. But if I were to roll up to tiny AME church of 100 people in rural Mississippi and go there for the express purpose of observing their religious rituals, I’d feel like I was intruding on something private and actually, you know, sacred. It’s kind of like peeing in a swimming pool as opposed to peeing in an ocean; you’re doing the same thing in both cases, but folks will only notice in one of them.
On July 18th, over two thousand protesters marching through downtown Detroit succeeded in forcing the city to put a 15 day moratorium on water shut-offs; a respite that was later extended to Sunday, August 24th.
Today, August 25th, as the moratorium ends. The city will resume cutting off elderly, low income and retired or disabled citizens who cannot afford to pay their bills.
Lawyers and activists in Detroit are fighting to keep the city Emergency Management from withholding city water to strapped residents.
There are tens of millions of people in the United States who completely reject the theory of evolution and believe that humans were created more or less in their current form in the recent past. Similarly, there are many people who completely reject modern economics and insist that countries cannot suffer due to a lack of demand. In their creationist economics view, the main reason that economies experience economic stagnation is government protections for ordinary workers. These economic creationists apparently control reporting on the French economy in the New York Times.
A piece headlined "France acknowledges economic malaise, blames austerity," effectively dismisses the idea that the economic malaise actually is attributable to austerity as a large body of economic research would suggest. While it does note that there is reason for believing that austerity has contributed to slow growth it concludes by telling readers that the real problem is France's rigid labor market.
Sometimes, amid the heated political debate about what should done by the U.S. government in world affairs, a proposal cuts through the TV babble of the supposed experts with a clear, useful suggestion.
That proposal came on August 17, when Pope Francis told journalists how he thought the world should cope with the challenge posed by ISIS, the Islamic militant group engaged in murderous behavior in Syria and Iraq. "One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this," he said, in an apparent reference to U.S. action against ISIS crimes. Instead, the United Nations is the proper forum to "discuss 'Is there an unjust aggression'" and "'How should we stop it?' Just this. Nothing more."
This is the year in which we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Bill. Instead of being able to reflect on the distance we have traveled since 1964, the horrific events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri only served to remind us of how far we still have to go.
It's not just the thought of Michael Brown lying dead in the street with six bullets in his young body. It's not just the scene of police in armored vehicles, dressed in battle fatigues, military issue helmets, and gas masks staring down demonstrators through the gun-sights of their high-powered weapons. It is that. But it is so much more.