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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.

On March 25, William Bugatti, a 43 year old human rights worker for Karapatan, one of the Philippines' main human rights organizations, was shot to death. He was the 12th activist killed so far this year. On March 15, Romeo Capalla, 65, chairperson of the Panay Fair Trade Center, was shot to death. On March 2 Freddie Ligiwi, his father and his brother Edie disappeared; they were found March 8 in a shallow grave. Freddie had been a member of Anakbayan, a left wing organization. Women have also been targeted in the killings. Elisa Lascona Tulid, 37, a land rights activist was killed October 19, 2013 in front of her husband and 4 year old daughter.

Extra-judicial killings in the Philippines have been going on since the beginning of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroya presidency which ran from 2001 to 2010. During her presidency, there were 1,206 extra-judicial killings. So far in the Aquino presidency, there have been 188 extra-judicial killings and dozens of forced disappearances.

Since there seems to be no end in sight to the distracted driving epidemic, those trying to curb this dangerous practice have to continue to come up with new ways to get drivers to put their phones down and focus on the road. There are all types of public service announcements that are supposed to change drivers' attitude toward texting and driving, in addition to the measures that authorities take to prevent it, such as distracted driving laws, that carry some pretty tough penalties, including heavy fines and a certain number of demerit points against a person's driver's license.

However, while these measures do help raise people's awareness about this issue, they don't seem to manage to eradicate this risky behavior completely. Distracted driving is still the leading cause of car crashes in the United States, with 28% of all car accidents attributed to it. This makes talking on a cell phone and texting a riskier behavior than speeding and drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 1.6 million crashes a year involve a distracted driver.

Errol Morris' documentary on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, based on 33 hours of interviews with Donald Rumsfeld, is set to open in theaters on April 2. Morris has been on the interview circuit talking up the new flick, writing op-eds in the New York Times, and perpetuating the invisible wall of immunity around Rumsfeld and the others who violated human rights as part of the "war on terror" started by the Bush Administration.

On the Colbert Report Colbert claims that Morris was "gunning" for Rumsfeld. Morris does not deny being a "liberal", or that he was "probably biased." Morris, the concerned liberal, regrets that after 33 hours of interviewing Rumsfeld, he now knows less about why we went to war in Iraq than when Morris started the interview process.

Beginning in primary school, American students learn about the inclusive nature of democracy, which promises that regardless of sex, creed, or religion, any United States citizen can become President. But how true is this teaching? Let us concede for the moment that an individual meets all the legal requirements to seek the nation's top office. What are the other factors that allow citizens to attain the presidency?

Utilizing the 18 presidents elected during the 20th and 21st centuries as guidelines, each one shared common characteristics in the areas of gender, education, college affiliation, political party, and government service. So, could the average American realistically become President of the United States? Here are five reasons that you will never sit in the Oval Office's big chair:

According to several US prosecutors, evidence reveals that the four Blackwater guards, who are facing charges of manslaughter and gun violations in the horrific Sept. 16, 2007, shootings in Baghdad, Iraq, were motivated by deep hostility and hatred towards the Iraqi civilian population in general. If this is the case, then in America not only has killing been made technologically easy and socially entertaining, but it has also become ever-so internalized and essential.(1)

After World I and II, US military and political officials became increasingly alarmed when it was discovered that very few infantry personnel had actually fired their weapons. In order to combat these low firing rates, new techniques were designed to instill higher firing rates. By replacing small, circular paper targets with human-like, silhouette figures on the firing range, firing rates rose. Advanced weaponry that killed from a distance, and a barrage of propaganda aimed at dehumanizing the opponent, increased kill rates too.

I was saddened to learn of the recent death of Jonathan Schell, a distinguished writer and journalist and a long-time member of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Advisory Council. Jonathan was one of the most talented, thoughtful and moral writers of our time. His first book, The Village of Ben Suc, published in 1967, reported on U.S. atrocities in Vietnam. He went on to write many more important books, including The Fate of the Earth, in which he described in elegant prose the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons. This 1982 book became a classic and in 1999 was selected by a panel of experts convened by New York University as one of the 20th century's 100 best works of journalism.

Schell was also a ferocious critic of those who would threaten the planet with nuclear weapons. In 2003, he received the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Distinguished Peace Leadership Award. His acceptance speech was entitled, "There Is Something in this World that Does Not Love an Empire." He concluded his speech by stating, "The point I want to leave you with is not only that violence is futile, but that the antidote and cure – nonviolent political action, direct or indirect, revolutionary or reformist, American or other – has been announced. May we apply it soon to our troubled country and world." He elaborated on this theme in his 2003 book, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People.

Many liberals were shocked this past week when Barack Obama dismissed accusations of American hypocrisy in the face of Russia's actions in Crimea. Responding to accusations that the 2003 invasion has robbed the US of moral authority when it comes to condemning violations of international law, the President declared that the invasion of Crimea was worse than the War in Iraq. The liberal reaction to Obama's whitewashing of recent history was swift. CommonDreams cited "Anger [and] Disbelief as Obama Defends US Invasion of Iraq." Huffington Post said "Obama's Iraq War defense [was] met with surprise." Slate.com asked "Why did Obama just defend the Iraq War?"

Surprise! Disbelief! Why? Many liberals are stunned that Obama would undertake what amounts to a whitewash of the Iraq War, given that the President was elected largely on a platform of opposition to the invasion. It's a testament to the President's rhetorical prowess and charisma that, six years into his term, he can still manage to "surprise" his liberal base like this. On the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion, Obama has been remarkably consistent. Obama's 2014 defense of the Iraq War should be no surprise, because he has been whitewashing the War since before it even started.

Today, Mayor Vincent Gray approved legislation passed by D.C. Councilmembers on March 4th that would eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in the nation's capital and treat possession as a civil offense subject to a small fine. In accordance with federal law, the legislation will not become law until it has been transmitted by the D.C. Council to Congress and available for a period of time for review that is expected to stretch into the summer months. If Congress does not take action on the legislation then it becomes law in the District of Columbia. This legislation is viewed by both council members and advocates as a model for other jurisdictions looking to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

"D.C. lawmakers heard loud and clear the public's demand to end marijuana arrests and passed one of the strongest decriminalization laws in the whole country," said Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. "We don't expect members of Congress to object to saving taxpayer dollars and advancing racial justice here in the nation's capital."

A new chart released by Stop Fooling California reveals that the oil industry, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron, BP and other oil companies, spent $56.63 million on lobbying at the State Capitol in the five years from 2009 through 2013.

"It's enough to spend $471,000 on each California Senator and Assemblymember," according to an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies' efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. "It's enough to buy a gallon of $4 gas for every household in California. It's a lot of lobster dinners."

Urge the ending of war these days and you'll very quickly hear two words: "Hitler" and "Rwanda." While World War II killed some 70 million people, it's the killing of some 6 to 10 million (depending on who's included) that carries the name Holocaust. Never mind that the United States and its allies refused to help those people before the war or to halt the war to save them or to prioritize helping them when the war ended -- or even to refrain from letting the Pentagon hire some of their killers. Never mind that saving the Jews didn't become a purpose for WWII until long after the war was over. Propose eliminating war from the world and your ears will ring with the name that Hillary Clinton calls Vladimir Putin and that John Kerry calls Bashar al Assad.

Get past Hitler, and shouts of "We must prevent another Rwanda!" will stop you in your tracks, unless your education has overcome a nearly universal myth that runs as follows. In 1994, a bunch of irrational Africans in Rwanda developed a plan to eliminate a tribal minority and carried out their plan to the extent of slaughtering over a million people from that tribe -- for purely irrational motivations of tribal hatred. The U.S. government had been busy doing good deeds elsewhere and not paying enough attention until it was too late. The United Nations knew what was happening but refused to act, due to its being a large bureaucracy inhabited by weak-willed non-Americans. But, thanks to U.S. efforts, the criminals were prosecuted, refugees were allowed to return, and democracy and European enlightenment were brought belatedly to the dark valleys of Rwanda.