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.

Sep 09

Healing Rwanda Through Community-Based Sociotherapy

By Jean de Dieu Basabose, SpeakOut | News Analysis

After the genocide and war that destroyed the social fabric among Rwandans, different approaches have been used to restore hope, heal the wounds of the past and build social cohesion. "Community based sociotherapy" is one of the approaches introduced by the Byumba Anglican Diocese operating in the Northern Province of Rwanda.

Community based sociotherapy is understood as a way to help people come together to overcome or cure their problems. The approach helps people in a group format, where group members are given an opportunity to help their companions to overcome problems, as well as solve their own. Community based sociotherapy was first introduced in Rwanda in 2005. The program has been remarkably successful in assisting Rwandans in dealing with the consequences of genocide and war.

Truthout contributor and historian Jeffrey R. McCord has written and self-published a genre-crossing and bending first novel, "Undocumented Visitors in a Pirate Sea; An Investigation of Certain Caribbean Phenomena by Dr. Thayer Harris." The book blends history, UFO lore, science fiction, sailing and travel lore, the fractures of the national security state and idiosyncrasies of border policing into a potent sort of literary beachside rum punch, complete with a happy paper parasol. McCord responded to the an e-interview that follows.

The promise of American democracy is colliding with the unpleasant reality of an emerging American plutocracy.

Fueled by - and reinforcing - staggering inequalities of wealth, income and power, the American political system is betraying Lincoln’s great pledge that our country would be one of, by and for the people.

Thanks to a series of US Supreme Court decisions, most notably Citizens United, the super-rich and giant corporations are pouring money into our elections at record levels.

Sep 09

The New Realpolitik

By Erin Niemela, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The re-emergence of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his latest book, "World Order," has prompted accolades and resentments from across the political spectrum. "World Order" is realism re-emerging in a time of American idealistic, "moral" foreign policy. Kissinger campaigns once again for the Westphalian model of world peace in which nation-states draw borders, balance power, demonstrate mutual respect for sovereignty and work to manage conflict, and peace, accordingly.

Kissinger's realism and humility, as Time Magazine's Walter Isaacson emphasizes in his Sept. 6 overview of the book, are probably in order for a nation constantly intruding violently in a multitude of conflicts under the guise of democracy, human rights and policing morality.

Arms companies which provide key components for the drones used by the US to carry out secret strikes in violation of international law bought access to last week's NATO summit, research by legal charity Reprieve has found.
Among the firms which paid up to £300,000 to ‘exhibit’ at the summit in Newport, Wales were:

  • General Dynamics, manufacturer of the Hellfire missiles used in the vast majority of drone strikes.
  • Raytheon, manufacturer of the targeting system for the ‘Reaper’ drone which, along with the ‘Predator,’ is used by the CIA and other covert agencies to carry out strikes outside of warzones.
  • Lockheed Martin, which acts as a contractor to provide support services for the Reaper and Predator.
  • MBDA, a European firm which is producing ‘Brimstone,’ a variant of the Hellfire missile which it is promoting for use by Reaper and Predator drones.
Sep 08

How to Achieve Gross Global Happiness

By Roger Copple, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Here are seven problems that prevent Gross National Happiness, the overall happiness of a nation. Solving these national problems and then taking the necessary steps to achieve world peace will usher in Gross Global Happiness.

Lawrence Davidson, an expert on the Middle East and American Foreign Policy, talked with Truthout about the recent headlines concerning ISIS/ISIL as well as the legacy of the Bush Administration. We are reaping the terrible consequences of the fatal and immoral error of invading Iraq. All questions surrounding ISIS fluctuate rapidly in conjunction with evolving tribal and on the ground situations. Usually the West underestimates the strength of militancy and the vulnerability of a too-big-to-fail foreign policy with proxy client forces.

Davidson helps to uncover unsubstantiated reports, media tropes, and calls into question old and unfounded disinformation. Media filtering is very much built in, as Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky described the "propaganda model" in Manufacturing Consent. This is also true in Ukraine, where the involvement of neo-Nazi thugs out of Kiev and the government's intentional attack on innocents in the Eastern portion of the country has received minimal news coverage only.

Sep 08

Democracy Under the Gun Across Asia

By Mel Gurtov, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

“Communist Party, you choke people,” reads the placard raised by a demonstrator in Hong Kong the other day.  He and a few thousand others belonging to Occupy Central (in Chinese, the organization is called Heping zhan zhong, or Peacefully Occupy the Center) have been protesting for months against anticipated restrictions imposed by Beijing on elections for chief executive of Hong Kong. Now those restrictions have been enacted.  By tightening the rules concerning nominations for the position, China’s legislature has made it fairly impossible for an independent-minded leader to be elected.  Pro-democracy forces in the city had hoped that by 2017, they would gain control on the basis of one person, one vote.  But the system is now rigged to deny that principle in practice.  The new rules reflect just how scared China’s leadership is of losing control over a key city.

It is now seventeen years since authority over Hong Kong passed from Britain to China.  Unlike other so-called autonomous regions of China, Hong Kong has enjoyed an unusual degree of political, social and economic freedom in keeping with its long-running stature as an international crossroads and Beijing’s pledge not to interfere with the city’s way of life for 50 years.  “One country, two systems,” Deng Xiaoping promised following China’s takeover.  But Beijing’s control has never been remote; it has maintained predominant influence over who runs Hong Kong and by which rules, and Hong Kongers are fully aware that China’s military can be quickly deployed should widespread “instability” occur.

A picture of you standing in front of your dirty car doesn’t mean that your car has always been and always will be dirty – or that it’s dirty because of some personal failure of yours. Nor does it mean you’re the only person around whose vehicle may become less than sparkling. But that is the impression many have of people living in poverty in the US because of the oft-cited 15 percent figure: that the minority of people with no to little money who are captured in a yearly government income and poverty report are the same people that show up in that report every year – they are “America’s poor.” As Columbia University Social Work Professor Irwin Garfinkel has said, “One of the biggest myths about poverty in the United States is that a relatively small segment of the population is poor, and that this represents a more or less permanent underclass.”

Let’s be clear – poverty, especially if you’re born into it, can be difficult to escape, as a new film, "Rich Hill," documents. Stephen Pimpare, poverty expert, discusses the film at “Many viewers and critics will see much of what is portrayed in the film as ‘culture,’ but it’s actually structure: the product of decades of disinvestment from communities like [Rich Hill, MO.], which leaves behind depressed, isolated, local economies with no jobs, a dwindling tax base, and nothing to attract business or new residents; aging, dilapidated housing stock; underfunded, inferior schools; little or no access to health care and other social services; and few people around who aren’t as poor as you are.”

According to a new study by the School of Medical Sciences (UNSW Australia), junk food can alter behavior by causing lasting changes in the reward circuit of the brain – an alteration that triggers obesity.

Although the UNSW study was conducted on rats, the conclusions are applicable to humans since mammals share similarities in the orbitofrontal cortex that is responsible for decision-making.