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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.

A new report released today from IATP takes an in-depth look at how tar sands have developed from an unconventional, inefficient energy source to the spotlight of the corporate agenda as conventional oil supplies dwindle. Tar Sands: How Trade Rules Surrender Sovereignty and Extend Corporate Rights follows the development of energy policy from NAFTA up to current free trade negotiations to illustrate that while energy sources evolve, one trend remains constant: The protection of corporate profits at the expense of human rights, sovereignty and the environment. With new free trade agreements in negotiation, the time for action is here: The public needs a seat at the negotiating table.

The Washington Post's disclosure last month of yet another leaked EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiating document on Energy and Raw Materials (ERM) brings to light the overwhelming emphasis placed on dismantling the United States' ability to govern its own energy resources. Pressure to repeal the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), due to new-found U.S. energy reserves through hydraulic fracturing, stands as most controversial to environmentalist and anti-globalist.

"I am an invisible man...I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." -Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man)

Son, if you came up missing
your hood would not be able to find you.
Unable to pick you out in a crowd,
or a police line up.

When Hippocrates wrote in the late 5th-century BCE that, "Medicine, the most noble of all arts, falls far behind others thanks to the ignorance of those who practice it," he never envisioned that someday professional medical practitioners would use it as a weapon of war. Neither did he foresee that that they themselves would be used as a weapon to further the causes of warring states. The father of medicine, who challenged the superstitious practices of temple priests and priestesses, would also be shocked to see how modern political apostles are inflicting and polluting injured patients through violence and war, and how for-profit medical industries are imposing a kind of bloodletting against sick patients and the disadvantaged.

Save the Children just issued a report about newborns in Syria starving to death. Due to Syria's civil war, doctors are cutting off limbs to stop patients from bleeding to death. As thousands of doctors continue to flee the country, 60 percent of hospitals have been either damaged or destroyed - adding to Syria's humanitarian crisis. With ongoing air strikes and military raids,  in Occupied Gaza thousands of patients are facing a similar crisis, and have for years. A decades-old blockade has severely restricted life-saving medicines. The recent Israeli military invasion destroyed needed medical facilities and hospitals. Salman Tawfik, who just watched his wife lapse into a coma for lack of medicines, said: "No one wants to help. No one wants to hear."

The ongoing events in Ferguson are shaping the consciousness of an American generation even as it divides members of that generation. But aggressive police racism against unarmed citizens in Ferguson, Staten Island and the rest of the nation is not just a domestic issue. It is also an international one.

For one there is the clear link between the United States' global military power and the militarization of domestic police - an unfortunate inward turn of what Dwight Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex." As the New York Times reported last month, war gear has flowed to small police departments at outlandish levels since 1996 as part of the War on Drugs. The military-police connection has inundated popular culture. On his HBO show, comedian John Oliver described Ferguson police as "dressed to invade Fallujah." In the same breath a critique of American policy toward Iraq since 2003, Oliver is right to note that police militarization is more than just a simple transfer of violent technology. It is a domestic extension of what J. William Fulbright once labelled "the arrogance of power" – that is, the tendency of people, nations, or institutions with authority to equate power with virtue.

New York –Two unprecedented applications are pending that, if approved, would allow the commercial sale of millions of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees for development into vast industrial GE tree plantations in the US and Brazil.  The Campaign to STOP GE Trees [1] is expanding and mobilizing to stop these and all large-scale releases of GE trees into the environment.

In the US, ArborGen has a request pending with the Department of Agriculture to commercially sell freeze-tolerant GE eucalyptus trees; at the same time in Brazil, Futuragene has requested permission to release GE eucalyptus trees from CTNBio, Brazil's biosafety regulatory agency. CTNBio is planning a public hearing on the Futuragene GE tree application on 4 September. The USDA could release their draft ruling at any time. 

A court in Yemen today heard that an American citizen who disappeared in February this year may have been transferred to a secretive, US-funded ‘court’ which has been strongly criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for failing to meet international fair trial standards.

Sharif Mobley, from New Jersey, disappeared from Sana’a Central Prison six months ago and has been held in secret detention ever since.  He has not been produced for any of his last four trial hearings in a civilian court in the country’s capital, where he is facing murder charges.  He continues to be denied any access to his lawyers.

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Joseph Margulies filed a motion asking the Court of Military Commission Review to vacate former Guantánamo prisoner David Hicks’s conviction in the military commissions for “material support for terrorism.”  Hicks appealed his conviction in November, following the D.C. Circuit’s 2012 decision in Hamdan v. United States, which held that material support for terrorism is not a war crime and, thus, is beyond the jurisdiction of military commissions.  Hicks’s appeal was stayed pending the ruling in Al-Bahlul v. United States, which similarly held last month that material support is not a war crime and cannot be tried by military commission.  Hicks – who was also a party to the historic Supreme Court ruling in Rasul v. Bush – pled guilty in 2007, the first prisoner to be convicted in a military commission.

“The D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously that material support could not be tried in a military commission under any set of facts or theory of law before 2006.  No matter how this case is framed, David Hicks was convicted of a non-offense,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Wells Dixon.  “The principled and just result is to set aside his conviction without delay, as would happen in any ordinary criminal case.  David Hicks committed no crimes, but has suffered horribly from his ordeal at Guantánamo, and he deserves relief.”

Aug 20

The Wanderer and Her Shadow

By Jason Flores-Williams, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Cut off, separated, fractured, on the outside, buying, spending, everything monitored, everything under the hard eyes of the police state, everything kept in check by the gatekeepers of the dream. The smallest move threatening the structure of the institution and the weapons come out in an instant, people dragged away in chains and everyone left cowering on the floor. The USA - where everyone seems like they're doing what they want, but the entire place is under lockdown control.

Liberty, freedom, democracy are privileges given and taken away. Laws, equality, rights open with the markets and the markets are closed.  Torture is not torture, war is not war, and corporations are people. A society of riches built on deprivation; a nation of prison, reality is the yard. When there is a fraudulent essence at the heart of a society, then amorality becomes integrity, stupidity becomes culture, and the shadows become home to those who refuse the lie. We again find ourselves in the best of all possible worlds, the best country in the history of the planet, the freest, bravest, finest. When the constitution is devoured, then that country becomes a monster of negation, an obese anorexic, a foregone conclusion. Idiocy becomes patriotic duty. Six hours of TV a day encouraged, lack of curiosity a virtue, willful ignorance the sign of a normal man. Normality itself, the blanky of the good guy, the shield of cowards, the timeless tool of power, becomes a history of madness by which the madness of history goes on and on and on… 

Aug 20

The Perverse Politics of Alcohol

By Calvin F. Exoo, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Robin Williams' death last week should remind us of what a reaper and binder alcohol can be. One of the many ways this drug can kill is to take a garden variety depression and turn it into the final circle of Dante's Inferno. There is evidence that it played precisely this role in Mr. Williams' tragic last act.

This would also be a good moment to remember that the corporations selling us this toxic drug are working politically to prevent more benign alternatives from being available to alcoholics.

Cornucopia, Wis - A comprehensive voting analysis of members of the National Organic Standards Board, an expert body formed by Congress to insulate the governance of the industry from undue corporate influence, clearly illustrates how illegal appointments to the board by current and past USDA Secretaries have subverted congressional intent.

The study, produced by The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, analyzed the voting record of each individual board member over the past five years, including corporate representatives who were placed on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) filling seats that were specifically set aside for farmers and other independent organic industry stakeholders.