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 few months ago, not many Americans, in fact Europeans as well, knew that a Yazidi sect in fact existed in northwest Iraq. Even in the Middle East itself, the Yazidis and their way of life have been an enigma, shrouded by mystery and mostly grasped through stereotypes and fictitious evidence. Yet in no time, the fate of the Yazidis became a rally cry for another US-led Iraq military campaign.

It was not a surprise that the small Iraqi minority found itself a target for fanatical Islamic State (IS) militants, who had reportedly carried out unspeakable crimes against Yazidis, driving them to Dohuk, Irbil and other northern Iraqi regions. According to UN and other groups, 40,000 Yazidi had been stranded on Mount Sinjar, awaiting imminent “genocide” if the US and other powers didn’t take action to save them.

Washington, DC - The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a major proposal for curbing corporate tax avoidance. The OECD recommends international cooperation to prevent large corporations from avoiding taxes in the countries where they do business. The OECD plan comes amidst increased calls to crack down on corporate tax avoidance.

"I am very encouraged by the OECD's strong stance," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the anti-poverty organization Jubilee USA, which advocates corporations paying their taxes in developing economies. "Developing countries are losing more money to corporate tax avoidance than they are receiving in official aid. For every 10 dollars developing countries receive in aid, 100 dollars is flowing out due to tax avoidance and illicit flows."

Washington Post on Public Pensions: People Should Refuse to Pay for Their Washington Post Ads

The Washington Post thinks its fantastic that Rhode Island broke its contract with its workers. It applauded State Treasurer and now Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gina Raimondo for not only cutting pension benefits for new hires and younger workers, but also:

"suspending annual cost-of-living increases for retirees and shifting workers to a hybrid system combining traditional pensions with 401(k)-style accounts."

In the lead-up to the historic Climate March in NYC on September 22nd,, some activists have expressed doubt regarding the efficacy of mass demonstrations, and some have criticized the march as a toothless gesture, perhaps even a co-optation of a more militant environmentalism.

But history proves otherwise. There hasn't been a movement in the history of the US that has succeeded without putting massive numbers in the streets.

After a string of what the Secretary of the Air Force called “systemic” violations of nuclear weapons procedures, the service has moved to address what one internal email called “rot” in the nuclear missile corps.

Air Force higher-ups plan to fix problems involving low morale, poor discipline, alcohol and drug use, security lapses, leadership failures and widespread cheating, by offering bonus pay (like Navy nuclear war teams get), a “nuclear service” medal and additional modernization of the Minuteman III missiles. The Air Force maintains 450 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are spread across North Dakota, Montana and parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. They are kept on “alert” status, ready to launch on a moment’s notice, by the crews suspected of the wrongdoing.

"The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people." - Like or loathe them, those words from A Nation at Risk live on in education reform infamy.

30 years later, many in this nation are demanding we do exactly what President Reagan's education commission offered; we just don't know it.

Sep 18

An Open Letter to Humanitarian Interventionists

By Mathias Quackenbush, SpeakOut | Open Letter

As the Obama administration works to build public support for a new American military mobilization in the Middle East of uncertain duration and scope, it should be no surprise to find the rhetoric of humanitarian interventionism on display. And it should be no less disappointing to, as usual, see many on the left falling victim to this rhetoric. An excerpt from an essay recently published by Buddy Bell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, "On Worthier Victims," might prove especially illuminating of the phenomenon at work:

"If someone is not accustomed to hearing much about death and suffering, it can be very upsetting to suddenly hear that a human being was brutally killed in some foreign location. Another someone who has a larger context in which to place that death, while not less upset, might feel less of a sense of momentary kneejerk urgency regarding that singular piece of news. Put in another way, the increment between 0 and 1 human deaths feels intuitively much greater than that between 1000 and 1001 human deaths.

Sep 18

Combating Plagues

By Winslow Myers, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I wrote my Senator, Angus King, to register my judgment that further military American intervention in the Middle East was a catastrophic mistake.  His response was measured and thoughtful. Principles which will guide his future votes on policy include: “there must be a vital national interest to justify any intervention; specific goals must be established; any action we take should be as one component of a coalition strategy whereby other nations, particularly those in the region, are actively involved and supportive; no commitment of ground combat forces; and the establishment of an open and inclusive government in Iraq that unites the country's diverse ethnic and religious communities.”

It’s what Senator King doesn’t include in his response that troubles me, and what even the liberal media isn’t asking in talk shows on NPR and elsewhere: what are the creative alternatives to militarism and arms sales that won’t merely create more extremists? Instead, there is this extraordinary rush to consensus that bombs and bullets are the only way open to us.

Sep 18

Battle Continues Over Bayview Homeless Shelter

By David Krause, Street Sheet | Op-Ed

A coalition of residents and businesses in San Francisco's Bayview District are fighting to stop the construction of a new 100-bed homeless shelter. A lawsuit has been filed and representing the coalition is Steven Hammond, partner at the Hammond Law Group. Mr. Hammond said during an interview with KQED that city officials failed to invite public comment through the public hearing process. "This is not a transparent, open process that would allow for public debate. The City has committed itself to this project before it has followed the required legal procedure."

Bevan Dufty, Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement, refuted this claim and said public comments will be heard. "There will be a public process...we know that there is a crisis in homelessness. Without a shelter full time, we aren't doing the best job we can helping people exit the streets."

Carl Hart, PhD, a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University, recently gave a compelling TEDMED Talk in which he dispelled the myths about drugs, drug use and drug misuse. In the talk, Hart eloquently discussed the negative influence that drug hysteria had on the flawed drug laws the United States grapples with today.

His unflinching, eye-opening talk mirrored his widely-renowned book, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (HarperCollins, 2013), a groundbreaking memoir/science book which recently won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.

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