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.
A popular headline in the media is to describe the Afghan War as “America’s longest,” as in this brief summary today from Foreign Policy:
The war in Afghanistan, America’s longest, is now formally over. The 13-year war, which claimed more than 2,200 American lives and cost more than one trillion dollars, ended quietly at a ceremony in Kabul yesterday. US President Barack Obama and other Western leaders promised their ongoing commitment under the rebranded Operation Resolute Support and insisted the war was a success. But the Taliban is poised for a comeback with a recent surge in violence in Kabul and around the country. There are concerns that Afghanistan’s military and fragile political institutions will crumble as the United States leaves.
A new report released at COP20 by CEO, the Democracy Center and Transnational Institute shows how corporations causing social and environmental destruction in the Andes and Amazon are driving climate change, whilst enjoying influential seats at the climate-negotiating table.
The report shows how three corporations involved in extractives industries in the Andes and Amazon are causing environmental and social damage on the ground where they operate, whilst simultaneously exerting influence to undermine climate policy-making spaces despite the fact their activities drive climate change. The report outlines how the influence that Repsol (Spanish), Glencore-Xstrata (Swiss) and Enel-Endesa (Italian/Spanish) have managed to accrue over national and international climate policy decisions enables them to push for false "solutions" which in fact allow them to continue to pollute – and even profit from doing so, through mechanisms such as carbon offsetting.
Yesterday, I joined a group of around 150 protestors at a #BlackLivesMatter event at Union Station in Chicago. It was the first protest I had attended since the president of the New York Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, blamed the deaths of two police officers in Brooklyn on "those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest." Rather than fault the dead man who apparently shot the two officers, Lynch predictably and opportunistically focused his rage on those whose politics displeased him, including New York City's current mayor. All of this, of course, was aimed at quieting the voices of demonstrators who, for months, have filled the streets to protest the norms of a system that has deemed them disposable.
I never believed that the young organizers in Chicago would be cowed by the theatrical blame game that's been staged by men like Lynch over the past few days, but it was still heartening to see them up close, standing strong.
Bethlehem has always loomed large in our imagination. For generations, the feelings evoked by this town have been captured in multiple art forms, serving to inspire both believers and non-believers with its message of hope and the joyful promise of new life.
For those who do not know the place, Bethlehem possesses a timeless quality, derived from these artistic creations. It is a place of mystery and contradictions. It is the peaceful little town that played an out-sized role in history; the birthplace of Jesus, the child born in a cave, heralded by angels, and visited by shepherds and kings. For hundreds of millions of Christians world-wide, these are the images that define Bethlehem. Sadly, in reality, all of this is but a fantasy, since the pressures of daily life confronted by the residents of this historic community paint a remarkably different portrait.
They say that shells never strike in the same place twice. However, it is not true.
Petrovsky district is a suburb of Donetsk of coal miners and their families. It is one of the districts of the city most damaged by the artillery bombardments of the Ukrainian army during the past months. I’m looking around, trying to find a house not struck by shells, but I cannot find one. I see destroyed shops, broken fences, roofs with holes where shells struck, windows boarded up with plywood, and deserted streets. The local people are living in bombshelters.
Hardly had the good news that the US would stop its policy of isolation of Cuba and open an embassy on the Island state when a news item about North Korea captured the airwaves and the Internet. The torture report, or rather the summary of the redacted Senate report on torture, disappeared from the headlines to remain in the alternative media only. Can there be a link between all these events or even a deliberate act on the part of the newsmakers, or is that a stretch too far?
The torture investigation and the publication of a minimal but revealing summary had immense international resonance. Suddenly, the US lost its grandstanding, hectoring, lecturing posture. Countries that have themselves less than a stellar record on human rights, such as China or Russia or even, yes, North Korea, could laugh out loud and denounce the hypocritical "leader of the free world." If the US tortures, then it is in no position to moralize or blame others for their violations of human rights. Human rights then become a fig leaf, a propaganda move to be invoked in a Machiavellian way only to demean enemies.
What country fetishizes, lionizes, valorizes, idolizes, and sacralizes guns as much as does our United States? OK, possibly Mozambique--the only country with an AK47 on its flag, but really, it's long past time to end this obsessive "My Precious" attachment of Americans to instruments of death.
This morning, December 25, 2014, of the nine top stories from US Reuters, six were about shootings--four new ones and two about the national movement against shootings of citizens by police. This pandemic of sick violence, punctuated by mass killings of children, has gone on far far too long. It is long past time to repeal the stupid Second Amendment.
Washington DC - New reports show that the Ebola-affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone lose an average of $1.4 billion each year to corruption, debt payments and tax evasion. Global Financial Integrity (GFI) calculates the three countries lost about $1.3 billion per year to corruption and tax evasion in the decade leading up to the Ebola outbreak. New World Bank data indicates the countries spent over $80 million on debt payments in 2013, the year the outbreak began. According to the World Bank, the countries spent a total of $270 million on public health in 2012.
"Debt, corruption and tax evasion are part of why people die in West Africa," stated Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, a religious development coalition. "The money was there to contain Ebola and save more people from preventable diseases."
Part I - Predictions
I can make high-probability predictions for 2015 and the near-beyond without the benefit of a crystal ball, tarot cards or tea leaves. The only thing that I need is a list of items from the new 2015 US federal budget. Here are some of my forecasts and the budget items that make them so highly probable:
1. There will be more deadly truck-related accidents than necessary on the nation’s highways in 2015. That means more deaths, injuries, highway delays, stress and frustration. How do I know? Because the 2015 budget rolls back the safety requirement that truckers need to get more rest between driving assignments. The regulation that was rolled back was itself barely adequate. It restricted drivers to a 70-hour week with mandated rest times between long periods behind the wheel. Nonetheless, despite obviously being in the public interest, this regulation could not survive the pressure of the lobbies representing the trucking industry and its corporate customers. Now we are back to truckers working 85-hour weeks with hardly any mandated rest at all.
Two weeks ago Dan Beekman of the Seattle Times, a Garfield High School graduate himself, returned to the Bulldog house in search of a story about the Black Lives Matter movement that went beyond forecasting traffic delays that could result from protests or tallying the numbers arrested at demonstrations.
Some ten members of the Black Student Union at Garfield, which I co-advise with Kristina Clark, gave an over 1 hour interview that left me emotionally drained but more determined than ever to act against police brutality. Mr. Beekman and I admitted to each other afterword that we had trouble fighting back tears as the students explained the fear they experience everyday caused by those tasked with “public safety.”