Wednesday, 04 March 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

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.

Madison, Wisconsin - The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law submitted an amicus brief on behalf of legal ethicists urging Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to consider constitutional requirements for judicial recusal. Last month, the special prosecutor in the challenge to the 'John Doe' investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's campaign filed a recusal motion under seal asking one or more Wisconsin justices to step aside.

Although the details of the challenge are sealed, reports indicate that three special interest groups - the Wisconsin Club for Growth, Citizens for a Strong America, and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce - are under investigation for possible campaign finance violations in connection with Wisconsin Gov. Walker's campaign during the recall election of 2011 and 2012. These same special interest groups also reportedly spent millions in support of the election campaigns of four of the state's supreme court justices, who are now hearing a constitutional challenge to the 'John Doe' investigation.

Mar 04

The Arab Intellectual Is Resting, Not Dead

By Ramzy Baroud, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Whenever a new poem by Mahmoud Darwish was published in al-Quds newspaper, I rushed over to Abu Aymen’s newsstand that was located in the refugee camp’s main square. It was a crowded and dusty place where grimy taxis waited for passengers, surrounded by fish and vegetable venders.

Darwish’s poetry was too cryptic for us teenagers at a refugee camp in Gaza to fathom. But we labored away anyway. Every word, and all the imagery and symbolism were analyzed and decoded to mean perhaps something entirely different from what the famed Palestinian Arab poet had intended.

Mar 04

Actions Globally Call on Brazil to Reject GMO Trees

By Staff, The Campaign to STOP GE Trees | Press Release

Organizations on four continents took action at Brazilian consulates and embassies as part of the Emergency Global Day of Action to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees. The groups are demanding the government of Brazil reject an industry request to legalize genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees there.

On 5 March 2015, The Brazilian Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio), which regulates GMOs in Brazil, will meet to decide on a request by FuturaGene to legalize the commercial development of their genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

For the third election cycle in a row, biotech corporations and large agribusinesses narrowly defeated statewide citizen initiatives that would have mandated the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. This time the electoral showdowns took place in Oregon, where it was narrowly defeated, and Colorado where the loss was decisive after labeling backers chose to focus their resources on Oregon.

As in past campaigns in California (2012) and Washington (2013), the votes sparked a high-stakes bidding war pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar biotechnology interests and food industry giants.

New Orleans, Louisiana - Texas’s strict photo ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and was passed by the Texas Legislature with intent to discriminate, argues a brief filed today in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by counsel for the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC).

Originally enacted in 2011, Texas’s law is the strictest photo ID law in the country. A successful suit in federal court blocked implementation of the law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on the basis that it discriminated against minority voters. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the geographic coverage provisions for Section 5 in Shelby County v. Holder, Texas implemented the law in 2013.

March 3, 2015 - Regular reporting on the physical and mental health of people incarcerated on Rikers Island and the provision of care prisoners there receive will take New York City a step closer toward addressing the violence that plagues the jail, according to testimony to be delivered today before the New York City Council.

“The systemic failure to address the health care needs of those incarcerated on Rikers Island – a population challenged by mental health and medical issues so severe that they shouldn’t be incarcerated in the first place – exacerbates the culture of brutality that plagues Rikers Island,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “That culture itself is inexcusable and has to be met head on, but at the same time it must be acknowledged that corrections officers are simply not prepared or trained to deal with the level of suffering they are forced to confront at Rikers. Defining the magnitude of the problem will be a crucial first step toward ending it.”

Last weekend, We Charge Genocide and The Chicago Light Brigade hosted the first weekend-long training installment of The Radical Education Project. The idea behind the effort is simple: young activists should to be given the tools they need to be tactical educators in their communities. From screen printing to prop making and action planning, a blossoming movement requires the de-consolidation of skill sets. A group of activists of color here in Chicago have long had a vision for building a network that could aid in the proliferation of those skill sets in our communities, but until recent months, that vision had never found a full expression. Most of us who hoped to see it happen were steadily juggling organizing work for multiple organizations, trying to hold down our day jobs, and of course, attempting to hold onto that strange semblance of a personal life that organizers occasionally experience.

But in recent months, something changed. I found myself in the streets, week after week, marching alongside young people who were developing actions and building community, and who were eager to broaden their skills. The long discussed vision of a skill building network began to seem pragmatic in a very immediate way. Still, the thought of developing that infrastructure locally, on top of our other responsibilities, seemed a bit daunting.

During a recent trip to Capitol Hill, members of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability (NCLEOJ) were acknowledged on the floor of the House Committee on the Judiciary by Chairman Sensenbrenner and Rep Jackson Lewis for their service.  NCLEOJ later met with Rep Sheila Jackson Lewis, co-sponsor of the "Building Bridges and Transforming Resentment and Unfairness to Support and Trust for Municipal Law Enforcement" or "Build Trust Act".

This multi-cultural group of retired and former police officers  met with Rep Jackson Lee of Texas,  a member of the House Judiciary Committee,  to share and discuss their varied personal experiences with regard to institutionalized racism and the  state sponsored murders of all Americans; placing particular emphasis on the black and brown communities.

Mar 02

"Right-to-Work" Will Kill Workers

By Will Kramer, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On Wednesday, February 25, the Wisconsin Senate passed a so-called "right-to-work" bill, which will almost certainly be approved by the Republican-dominated state Assembly next week and signed by Governor Scott Walker. As debate began, I was arrested and dragged away by at least six police officers along with my brother. We were standing in a hallway outside the Senate chamber; the police deemed that we as Wisconsin citizens had no right to be there, in our own house of government. I was processed and held at the county jail, and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Resisting arrest is a class A misdemeanor with maximum consequences of up to nine months in prison and $10,000 in financial penalties.

This is not my story. I am not now a union member and never have been. But because my own legislators refused to hear my voice, along with the voices of so many other Wisconsinites on this important legislation, I choose to speak. This is my testimony.

Mar 02

Obamacare at Age Five: Access to Care

By John Geyman, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Now that Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) is just turning five years since its enactment in 2010, it is time to assess its progress and shortfalls. This is the first of three posts that will deal with its experience toward its major goals - expanding access to care, cutting costs and making care more affordable, and improving the quality of care. A fourth post will follow that deals with the takeaway lessons from this five-year experience. 

The initial goal of the ACA was to extend health insurance to 32 million more people by 2019, about one-half of that number through expansion of Medicaid. Online insurance exchanges were to be set up by states or the federal government to allow people to comparison shop for new coverage. Most uninsured with incomes above 138 percent of federal poverty level (FPL) would be required to purchase insurance or face penalties. In order to help them to afford new coverage, those with incomes between 138 and 400 percent of the FPL ($32,913 to $95,400 for a family of four) would receive federal subsidies. New requirements were to be established for insurers, including prohibiting them from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, requiring them to cover 10 categories of defined benefits, requiring them to cover at least 60 percent of health care costs (actuarial value of the bronze plan, leaving patients responsible for the remaining 40 percent of costs), requiring insurers to accept every individual and employer that applies for coverage, and others.

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Speakout

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.

Madison, Wisconsin - The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law submitted an amicus brief on behalf of legal ethicists urging Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to consider constitutional requirements for judicial recusal. Last month, the special prosecutor in the challenge to the 'John Doe' investigation into Gov. Scott Walker's campaign filed a recusal motion under seal asking one or more Wisconsin justices to step aside.

Although the details of the challenge are sealed, reports indicate that three special interest groups - the Wisconsin Club for Growth, Citizens for a Strong America, and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce - are under investigation for possible campaign finance violations in connection with Wisconsin Gov. Walker's campaign during the recall election of 2011 and 2012. These same special interest groups also reportedly spent millions in support of the election campaigns of four of the state's supreme court justices, who are now hearing a constitutional challenge to the 'John Doe' investigation.

Mar 04

The Arab Intellectual Is Resting, Not Dead

By Ramzy Baroud, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Whenever a new poem by Mahmoud Darwish was published in al-Quds newspaper, I rushed over to Abu Aymen’s newsstand that was located in the refugee camp’s main square. It was a crowded and dusty place where grimy taxis waited for passengers, surrounded by fish and vegetable venders.

Darwish’s poetry was too cryptic for us teenagers at a refugee camp in Gaza to fathom. But we labored away anyway. Every word, and all the imagery and symbolism were analyzed and decoded to mean perhaps something entirely different from what the famed Palestinian Arab poet had intended.

Mar 04

Actions Globally Call on Brazil to Reject GMO Trees

By Staff, The Campaign to STOP GE Trees | Press Release

Organizations on four continents took action at Brazilian consulates and embassies as part of the Emergency Global Day of Action to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees. The groups are demanding the government of Brazil reject an industry request to legalize genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees there.

On 5 March 2015, The Brazilian Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio), which regulates GMOs in Brazil, will meet to decide on a request by FuturaGene to legalize the commercial development of their genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

For the third election cycle in a row, biotech corporations and large agribusinesses narrowly defeated statewide citizen initiatives that would have mandated the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients on food packages. This time the electoral showdowns took place in Oregon, where it was narrowly defeated, and Colorado where the loss was decisive after labeling backers chose to focus their resources on Oregon.

As in past campaigns in California (2012) and Washington (2013), the votes sparked a high-stakes bidding war pitting consumer and farmer advocates against multi-billion-dollar biotechnology interests and food industry giants.

New Orleans, Louisiana - Texas’s strict photo ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and was passed by the Texas Legislature with intent to discriminate, argues a brief filed today in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by counsel for the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC).

Originally enacted in 2011, Texas’s law is the strictest photo ID law in the country. A successful suit in federal court blocked implementation of the law under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on the basis that it discriminated against minority voters. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the geographic coverage provisions for Section 5 in Shelby County v. Holder, Texas implemented the law in 2013.

March 3, 2015 - Regular reporting on the physical and mental health of people incarcerated on Rikers Island and the provision of care prisoners there receive will take New York City a step closer toward addressing the violence that plagues the jail, according to testimony to be delivered today before the New York City Council.

“The systemic failure to address the health care needs of those incarcerated on Rikers Island – a population challenged by mental health and medical issues so severe that they shouldn’t be incarcerated in the first place – exacerbates the culture of brutality that plagues Rikers Island,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “That culture itself is inexcusable and has to be met head on, but at the same time it must be acknowledged that corrections officers are simply not prepared or trained to deal with the level of suffering they are forced to confront at Rikers. Defining the magnitude of the problem will be a crucial first step toward ending it.”

Last weekend, We Charge Genocide and The Chicago Light Brigade hosted the first weekend-long training installment of The Radical Education Project. The idea behind the effort is simple: young activists should to be given the tools they need to be tactical educators in their communities. From screen printing to prop making and action planning, a blossoming movement requires the de-consolidation of skill sets. A group of activists of color here in Chicago have long had a vision for building a network that could aid in the proliferation of those skill sets in our communities, but until recent months, that vision had never found a full expression. Most of us who hoped to see it happen were steadily juggling organizing work for multiple organizations, trying to hold down our day jobs, and of course, attempting to hold onto that strange semblance of a personal life that organizers occasionally experience.

But in recent months, something changed. I found myself in the streets, week after week, marching alongside young people who were developing actions and building community, and who were eager to broaden their skills. The long discussed vision of a skill building network began to seem pragmatic in a very immediate way. Still, the thought of developing that infrastructure locally, on top of our other responsibilities, seemed a bit daunting.

During a recent trip to Capitol Hill, members of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability (NCLEOJ) were acknowledged on the floor of the House Committee on the Judiciary by Chairman Sensenbrenner and Rep Jackson Lewis for their service.  NCLEOJ later met with Rep Sheila Jackson Lewis, co-sponsor of the "Building Bridges and Transforming Resentment and Unfairness to Support and Trust for Municipal Law Enforcement" or "Build Trust Act".

This multi-cultural group of retired and former police officers  met with Rep Jackson Lee of Texas,  a member of the House Judiciary Committee,  to share and discuss their varied personal experiences with regard to institutionalized racism and the  state sponsored murders of all Americans; placing particular emphasis on the black and brown communities.

Mar 02

"Right-to-Work" Will Kill Workers

By Will Kramer, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On Wednesday, February 25, the Wisconsin Senate passed a so-called "right-to-work" bill, which will almost certainly be approved by the Republican-dominated state Assembly next week and signed by Governor Scott Walker. As debate began, I was arrested and dragged away by at least six police officers along with my brother. We were standing in a hallway outside the Senate chamber; the police deemed that we as Wisconsin citizens had no right to be there, in our own house of government. I was processed and held at the county jail, and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Resisting arrest is a class A misdemeanor with maximum consequences of up to nine months in prison and $10,000 in financial penalties.

This is not my story. I am not now a union member and never have been. But because my own legislators refused to hear my voice, along with the voices of so many other Wisconsinites on this important legislation, I choose to speak. This is my testimony.

Mar 02

Obamacare at Age Five: Access to Care

By John Geyman, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Now that Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) is just turning five years since its enactment in 2010, it is time to assess its progress and shortfalls. This is the first of three posts that will deal with its experience toward its major goals - expanding access to care, cutting costs and making care more affordable, and improving the quality of care. A fourth post will follow that deals with the takeaway lessons from this five-year experience. 

The initial goal of the ACA was to extend health insurance to 32 million more people by 2019, about one-half of that number through expansion of Medicaid. Online insurance exchanges were to be set up by states or the federal government to allow people to comparison shop for new coverage. Most uninsured with incomes above 138 percent of federal poverty level (FPL) would be required to purchase insurance or face penalties. In order to help them to afford new coverage, those with incomes between 138 and 400 percent of the FPL ($32,913 to $95,400 for a family of four) would receive federal subsidies. New requirements were to be established for insurers, including prohibiting them from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, requiring them to cover 10 categories of defined benefits, requiring them to cover at least 60 percent of health care costs (actuarial value of the bronze plan, leaving patients responsible for the remaining 40 percent of costs), requiring insurers to accept every individual and employer that applies for coverage, and others.