Speakout http://www.truth-out.org Wed, 04 May 2016 15:14:46 -0400 en-gb Arriving in Erbil and Wondering: What Lies Ahead? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35910-arriving-in-erbil-and-wondering-what-lies-ahead http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35910-arriving-in-erbil-and-wondering-what-lies-ahead

I arrived inErbil five days ago. Since then, meetings, family visits, efforts to relearn the exchange rate and opportunities to become familiar with new surroundings have peaceably filled my time. I'm also beginning to understand the current reality faced by millions of new arrivals to Erbil who fled their homes, seeking refuge. The first time I stepped out of the apartment building where I am staying with an Iraqi friend, I was approached by children, women and youth begging for money.  

(Photo: Courtesy of Cathy Breen)(Photo: Courtesy of Cathy Breen)

Wherever I look, tall, unfinished concrete buildings, accompanied by construction cranes, loom over the city. It is somewhat eerie because I see no movement inside or around any of the buildings; none whatsoever.  

I arrived in Erbil five days ago. Since then, meetings, family visits, efforts to relearn the exchange rate and opportunities to become familiar with new surroundings have peaceably filled my time. I'm also beginning to understand the current reality faced by millions of new arrivals to Erbil who fled their homes, seeking refuge. The first time I stepped out of the apartment building where I am staying with an Iraqi friend, I was approached by children, women and youth begging for money.  

Representatives from the UNHCR, (UN High Commission for Refugees) and IOM, (International Organization for Migration) gave me grim news when they met with me.

Kurdistan has a population of 4.5 million. Every fourth person is either a refugee or internally displaced. That means the population has grown 25 percent. There are now 245,000 Syrians in Kurdistan, and more are arriving each day. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) number over 1 million. The IOM told me that just last week, 4,000 families were displaced from Iraq's Anbar region.

In Erbil, due to low oil prices and rampant corruption,teachers, as well as all government workers, are not receiving their salaries. Health care professionals report about insufficient medicines to cure sick people. For example, in Erbil, 1,200 cancer patients remain without treatment.  

The UNHCR is in a contingency mode preparing for the worst if armed forces wage a big offensive against Mosul. Tens of thousands would be displaced. Where would they go? How would they be cared for?

The United Nations estimates that 3 million people now live under ISIS control.  One of the biggest problems UN agencies face involves finding ways to reach these people.

Kathy Kelly and I spoke just before I traveled to Erbil. A question she suggested has served me well in interviews: "What do you think it is important for US people to understand?" I put this question to both the UNHCR and the IOM:

"Much attention is on Syria and the European refugee crisis. That there are 3.4 million IDPs (internally displaced) in Iraq is unknown. The Kurdish have been very generous, but now they are barely keeping their heads above water. The surge capacity has been reached. If another 100,000 come, it will be unthinkable. Kurdistan has taken more refugees than the EU, and yet they have to get on their knees to beg for assistance."

"There needs to be a stronger grassroots movement to counter the media. People can't begin to imagine what refugees and IDPs are experiencing, living in tents, in abandoned buildings. People only want security, to regain their dignity. They are being put forth as coming to destroy, to blow up, to take."

There are more than 40 camps in Kurdistan, but only a small percentage of thtre refugees, (39 percent), and IDPs, (20 percent), live in camps. The rest of the new arrivals live outside of the camps.

"We have to move away from the charity approach. What they need most is cash.  Unconditional cash. Then they can pay rent, buy medicine, etc., and it would support the local economy. We need a more humanitarian approach."

To help cover basic human needs, the UN has launched an appeal for more than $860 million.

The compassion of both the UNHCR and IOM representatives was as palpable as their distress. "The people's resilience is unbelievable," said a young woman from IOM. "It has given me faith in the ability to bounce back, to appreciate life."

***

When I met with a Dominican religious sister who herself is displaced from the town of Qaraqosh, she told me that they had just begun a school for children in the first through sixth grades. The children belong to IDP families, as do all of the teachers. I asked her what she felt was important for us to know in the US.

"People forget things that are not in the news," she replied. Then she recalled someone having recently asked her why she had not gone back to her hometown. "There is no hope of return," she said. "No one can cross the river…. People don't see hope here. People still need help. We have come to recognize the only way to build community is through education, not only to the sixth grade, but through high school. We have decided to fight ISIS with education."

Her challenge involves educating people in places as far away as the US, where relatively few people learn lessons about the overwhelming refugee crisis afflicting Erbil.

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Speakout Wed, 04 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400
US Educators Stand Against US-Backed Repression in Egypt http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35909-us-educators-stand-against-us-backed-repression-in-egypt http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35909-us-educators-stand-against-us-backed-repression-in-egypt

Egyptian security forces are carrying out widespread raids and repression in response to growing social and political discontent, which led to the first widespread stirrings of popular protest since the military regime led by Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi came to power nearly two years ago. As educators and members of the academic community in the United States, we feel a particular responsibility to speak out against a regime that has targeted academics and students, in addition to many others, with the financial support and political cover of our own government. This January's abduction, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student at Cambridge University, provides a terrifying glimpse into the atmosphere ofrepression against all dissent that prevails under the US-backed al-Sisi regime. 

Egyptian security forces are carrying out widespread raids and repression in response to growing social and political discontent, which led to the first widespread stirrings of popular protest since the military regime led by Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi came to power nearly two years ago.

As educators and members of the academic community in the United States, we feel a particular responsibility to speak out against a regime that has targeted academics and students, in addition to many others, with the financial support and political cover of our own government. This January's abduction, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student at Cambridge University, provides a terrifying glimpse into the atmosphere ofrepression against all dissent that prevails under the US-backed al-Sisi regime.

In the lead up to demonstrations planned for April 25, there was a wave of arrests and raids targeting well-known progressive activists, including prominent labor lawyer Haitham Mohamedain. More than 150 people were seized in the latest crackdown, joining tens of thousands of others who languish in jails, along with hundreds who have been "disappeared" by the Egyptian authorities in recent years.

Meanwhile, attacks on civil society are intensifying. Staff members from Egyptian non-governmental organizations are facing 25-year jail sentences on trumped-up charges of receiving foreign funding to work against the government. In reality, this is the regime's attempt to stifle those voices that bravely continue to speak out in Egypt against human rights abuses.

There is no doubt that the independent trade unions are next on the authorities' list of targets. In early April, the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity reportedly began an investigation into their funding.

Despite these appalling circumstances, the struggle of Egyptians to defend their rights is very much alive. Strikes have multiplied in recent weeks, with nurses and steelworkers among the latest groups to take action over wages and conditions.

The decision of al-Sisi to hand over control of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, in defiance of the constitution he previously promoted, was the lightning rod for the April 25 demonstrations that brought crowds back into the streets of Cairo, chanting the one-word slogan "Arhal" ("Leave"), heard during the 2011 rebellion that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Yet the United States government is continuing its political and military collaboration with the Egyptian regime. Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, traveled to Cairo to meet with al-Sisi in April. According to press reports, Votel confirmed that the US considers Egypt a "main partner" in the Middle East and praised the regime for confronting "terrorism" -- even though "counterterrorism" is transparently the Egyptian government's justification for suppressing all forms of dissent.

We refuse to be silent over abuses by the US-backed Egyptian state. We will campaign to oppose arms sales and security cooperation with a regime that commits grave violations of human rights. We will continue to mobilize to demand the release of Haitham Mohamedain and all other political prisoners, and demand justice for all of Egypt's disappeared.

Signed,

Amit R. Baishya, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Oklahoma

Megan Behrent, Assistant Professor of English, NYC College of Technology, City University of New York

Tithi Bhattacharya, Director of Global Studies, Associate Professor, History, Purdue University

Dana Blanchard, LeConte Elementary School, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFT 1078

Michele Bollinger, teacher, Washington Teachers Union, AFT Local 6

Phil Gasper, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Notre Dame de Namur University

Dana L. Cloud, Professor, Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Syracuse University

Thomas S. Davis, Associate Professor of English, The Ohio State University

Monique Dols, Early Childhood Educator United Federation of Teachers, Local 1

Charles Häberl, Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures, Rutgers University

Jesse Hagopian, teacher, Garfield High School, editor, Rethinking Schools and More Than a Score

Pranav Jani, Associate Professor of English, The Ohio State University

Brian Jones, CUNY Graduate Center

William Keach, Professor of English, Brown University

Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers, Vice President, AAUP-AFT

Treva B. Lindsey, Assistant Professor of Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University

Scott McLemee, columnist, Inside Higher Ed

Koritha Mitchell, Associate Professor of English, The Ohio State University

Bill V. Mullen, Professor of American Studies, Purdue University

Adam Miyashiro, Assistant Professor of Literature, Stockton University

David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, Stanford University

Leia Petty, teacher, United Federation of Teachers Local 1

Nicholas Rynearson, Lecturer in Classics, New York University

Helen C. Scott, Associate Professor of English, University of Vermont, United Academics

Nancy Welch, Professor of English, University of Vermont, United Academics

Chris Williams, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Physical Science, Pace University

Sherry Wolf, Senior Organizer, Rutgers AAUP-AFT

For more information on the latest repression in Egypt and the campaign in solidarity with its victims, visit EgyptSolidarityInitiative.org.

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Speakout Wed, 04 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Horrific Math of a Trump Victory http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35886-the-horrific-math-of-a-trump-victory http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35886-the-horrific-math-of-a-trump-victory

By international standards, the number of Americans who trouble themselves to vote is low, far trailing nations as diverse as Sweden (whose 85.8 percent participation in their most recent election was the highest by a populace from whom voting is not required), South Korea and New Zealand. If voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election stays consistent with a trend dating to 1972, nearly half the nation's eligible voters will sit the election out. 

By international standards, the number of Americans who trouble themselves to vote is low, far trailing nations as diverse as Sweden (whose 85.8 percent participation in their most recent election was the highest by a populace from whom voting is not required), South Korea and New Zealand.

If voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election stays consistent with a trend dating to 1972, nearly half the nation's eligible voters will sit the election out.

Given the US popular vote displays a near 50-50 split, this might suggest US presidents are chosen by the"undecided." Though some one-third of Americans describe themselves as "independent" voters, close to half vote consistently for one party or another, the actual number of swing voters having been projected, prior the Obama/Romney runoff, as 3-5 percent. That this number mattered in that election was reflected by both campaigns' investment of some $2 billion to gain their votes.

In the 2012 election, Obama's popular vote exceeded Romney's by 4,856,000. Fewer than 5 million more people voted for Obama's reelection than to put Romney in office. In 2008, 9,700,000 were then number who preferred Obama to McCain.

Of the 235,258,000 adults of voting age in 2012, 24.1 percent -- just over 106 million, of 45.1 percent of Americans of voting age - did not vote.

Of that number, a significant fraction was unable to vote due criminal records or lack of legal identification. Call that fraction, with no basis of data whatsoever, 20 percent. Of the 84.8 million remaining, presume the liberal/conservative split to reflect that of the nation as a whole.

A presidential candidate able to mobilize "their" half of the typically non-voting population might bring as many as 42.4 million new voters to their side.

Back now to numbers with some basis in polls at least, and to the estimate that some 3-5 percent were truly undecided in 2012. Double the highest estimate, one arrives at the notion that 12.6 million people at most decided that election.

In 2016, more than three times that many voters might come out to support the first candidate in history to speak to their particular desires and fears.

In August 2015, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke praised Donald Trump on two of his three weekly radio broadcasts. White nationalists and nativists in general have found a champion in Trump, as reported at length by Evan Osnos.

A certain number of "red" voters may reject Trump, but few are likely to cast votes for a long-reviled Hillary Clinton, let alone a self-proclaimed socialist. Were Bernie Sanders to win the nomination, a certain number of "blue" voters would likewise likely sit out 2016. But those who live and breathe Trump's messages will not.

How many in number are they? How many electoral votes will their numbers carry?

If those not so inclined are not drawn into the polling places in November, we may find out.

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Speakout Tue, 03 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Solar-Powered Hydroponics Could Be the Future of Agriculture http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35885-solar-powered-hydroponics-could-be-the-future-of-agriculture http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35885-solar-powered-hydroponics-could-be-the-future-of-agriculture

"Alternative farming" may not be a phrase that everyone recognizes, but thanks to solar-powered hydroponic grow systems, it might be the future of agriculture. These earth-friendly, space-conscious innovations make it possible to grow fresh, nutrient-rich food just about anywhere -- from a barge floating off the coast of our biggest cities, to a window in a tiny, urban apartment and even all the way on Mars. 

"Alternative farming" may not be a phrase that everyone recognizes, but thanks to solar-powered hydroponic grow systems, it might be the future of agriculture. These earth-friendly, space-conscious innovations make it possible to grow fresh, nutrient-rich food just about anywhere -- from a barge floating off the coast of our biggest cities, to a window in a tiny, urban apartment and even all the way on Mars.

As hydroponic technology continues to advance, this simple solution could be the answer to food deserts and might create a vital link between farming and the startup culture. But before we start changing the world, let's take a look at what hydroponic grow systems are and why they're so amazing.

What Is a Hydroponic Grow System?

Hydroponics is an agricultural method that uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil to nourish and grow plants. A hydroponic grow system is technology designed to facilitate the process of hydroponic agriculture. Because hydroponics doesn't rely on rain or land, it opens up arid, crowded and infertile areas to farming.

A wide variety of hydroponic systems are available, and they all take advantage of different techniques that can deliver water and nutrients to plants in almost any environment. Some systems suspend plants in water, others use a flood and drain system and still others some use drip technology. Hydroponic grow systems can take up as little space as a small aquarium or fill an entire greenhouse.

The addition of solar power to a hydroponic system makes it one of the most energy-efficient, eco-friendly ways to grow food. Many early hydroponic systems relied on LED lights, but new advancements increasingly use the natural power of the sun. For indoor grow systems, this means you need access to a window to make your grow system 100 percent solar.

How Are Solar-Powered Hydroponic Grow Systems Changing the World?

In addition to the environmental advantages -- no pesticides, reduced reliance on trucked-in food, fewer carbon emissions -- hydroponic grow systems open up a world of agricultural possibilities. There are entire movements taking hold and (literally) growing around the country for indoor agriculture and alternative farming practices.

The movement even has its own annual gathering -- Indoor Ag-Con -- which was held for the first time in New York City last year. This convention gives growers, farmers, suppliers, investors and innovators a chance to appreciate thelatest developments in grow systems, explore new applications of hydroponic tech and brainstorm future possibilities.

Some of the coolest things to come from hydroponic innovators sound like the stuff of fantasy, but many (like those below) are already happening.

FarmedHere: This indoor farm founded in Illinois is a 90,000 square-foot facility nestled in Chicago's Bedford Park. They distribute organic herbs and leafy greens to markets and restaurants all over Chicago. They're also the largest indoor farm on the continent. FarmedHere is looking to expand and become the entire nation's local farm. They've developed an easy transplant process that they liken to "dropping a Lego block wherever you want to put a farm."

SeaLeaf: Students from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London designed this hydroponic farming unit to grow veggies while floating off the coastline like a buoy. SeaLeaf farms have been able to demonstrate the potential to nearly triple annual yields of bok choy, producing seven or eight to conventional farming's two to three.

OAXIS: Barcelona engineers are looking to transform the sand-swept Arabian Peninsula into a global agricultural hub with their solar-powered hydroponic food belt. Oaxis is a modular hydroponic system that would cover nearly 1.5 million square miles of desert to grow fresh food, fight food shortages and reduce reliance on imports.

Urban SkyFarm: Aprilli Design Studio created designs for an ambitious living machine that would function as a high-rise hydroponic community garden. The SkyFarm is designed for use in dense urban areas and would be a net-zero facility, operating completely on solar and wind power. "Leaf" decks provide maximum exposure to sunlight for fruit trees and large vegetables, while the lower decks offer controlled, indoor environments for plants like basil and arugula.

But not all solar-powered hydroponic grow systems are aimed at such large-scale world change. There are plenty ofsmaller systems that individuals can use to create their own indoor Garden of Eden.

Phytopods: These vertical indoor gardens come in three different sizes and can help you grow plants almost five times faster than traditional soil gardening. They take up about as much space as a five-gallon drum and produce as much as a 3-foot-by-5-foot garden plot.

WaterFarm: A traditional bucket hydroponic system, the WaterFarm is simple, small and can be used in thehouse or outside. You can start with one WaterFarm or opt for an eight-pack that gives you more growing options and fresh food variety.

WindowFarms: Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, these vertical gardens can help you grow tasty edibles like herbs and leafy greens even if the ground outside is covered in snow. Simply place the hydroponic system in a window and watch them grow. Or go low-tech and make your own out of recycled plastic bottles.

GrowBot: The GrowBot is an example of a self-built, solar-powered grow system. These GrowBots are simply left outside to gather sunlight and everything else is all said and done. Using the power of the sun, these grow systems feed and water themselves, providing any plants, fruits or vegetables you could want to grow.

Thanks to innovations in solar-powered hydroponics, access to fresh, healthy, delicious food is closer than ever -- no matter where you live.

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Speakout Tue, 03 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400
A Road Not Taken: The Dream of the Peace Dividend http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35850-a-road-not-taken-the-dream-of-the-peace-dividend http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35850-a-road-not-taken-the-dream-of-the-peace-dividend

The idea of a peace dividend surfaced in 1969, when the Johnson administration asked what the federal government should do with its savings when the war in Vietnam finally ended. The thought was that the peace dividend could provide money for roads, clean air, education, housing and foreign economic aid. But it did not happen because the Vietnam War continued and drained our resources, while critical areas of our infrastructure, manufacturing sector and educational system began a decades-long decline.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket signifies in the final sense a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed, from those who are cold and are not clothed."—President Dwight D Eisenhower

"It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."Bumper sticker in the 1960s

The Peace Dividend

The idea of a peace dividend surfaced in 1969, when the Johnson administration asked what the federal government should do with its savings when the war in Vietnam finally ended. The thought was that the peace dividend could provide money for roads, clean air, education, housing and foreign economic aid. But it did not happen because the Vietnam War continued and drained our resources, while critical areas of our infrastructure, manufacturing sector and educational system began a decades-long decline.

With the end of the Cold War, there was once again talk of a peace dividend. US President George H.W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher brought it up when they talked of the economic benefit of a decrease in defense spending. Taking office in 1993, President Bill Clinton imagined moving resources from Cold War spending to civilian products and services.

More recently, President Obama said that hundreds of billions of dollars spent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan could now be used to rebuild US infrastructure and create new jobs. And now the anticipated reduction of tension with the state of Iran allowed some to argue for peace dividends due to that agreement. But these hopeful wishes did not happen and are not happening. Instead, we have a larger military budget now than we had while we were involved in the Cold War. With the current increasing fear, terrorism, Middle East unrest, drone strikes, an active public relations industry promoting "national security" and most of our presidential candidates vying for being tougher and more hawkish, it looks like talk about a peace dividend is off the table.

Imagine a Peace Dividend -- Boy, Do We Need One!

For a moment, let's imagine what our society could look like if we had that peace dividend. Instead of a failing infrastructure, decaying cities, declining community cohesion, increased militarization of police, declining educational and health care, increasing childhood poverty, a growing population of homeless people, the continuing oppression of people of color (and other marginalized groups) and runaway inequality, we could have an egalitarian society, fulfilling jobs, the finest educational system, health care for all, time off to care for our children, long vacations, clean and wonderful cities and towns, a beautiful countryside, excellent public transportation, security for seniors, conversion to ecologically friendly industries, community work on climate change and a model for the world to emulate of a friendly, peace loving, open and healthy society. But we don't.

Even if we got a peace dividend, it would not have trickled down to those in need envisioned in the imagined scenario above, due to the policies of our neoliberal capitalism, our rapidly expanding military budget and the self-serving power of the corporate elite. The United States is the richest country in the world, yet it ranks beneath most industrial countries in education, health, transportation, infrastructure, etc. According to the 2015 UN Human Development Report, our country stands eighth in the world in fulfilling its citizens' needs. We also have one of the most unequal incomedistributions in the developed world.

What Stops Us From Having a Peace Dividend?

This answer is primarily based on the effects of the following four points.

1.) The development of the military-industrial complex in World War II, which tied military mobilization and war to overcoming the Great Depression. In addition, this turning the US economy into an imperialist world power, supported by a powerful military. After the Vietnam War loss, the military has had an uneasy relationship with civil authority and no effective civilian control.

2.) The conversion of our capitalist economy from FDR's New Deal to neoliberalism, which advocates policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector. This shift created a condition where top federal government executives partnered with top political and corporate managers to operate an economy backed by a military presence with the goal of building and maintaining a US empire.

3.) The fact that we have been in almost constant conflict since the end of World War II in Korea, Nicaragua, Vietnam and the Balkans, with shorter military incursions in Africa, Chile, Grenada and Panama. By the end of the Cold War, the Pentagon laid out a strategy for the US called “full spectrum dominance” to control every region of the earth. Currently, the US has some form of military presence (that we know of) in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

4.) The economic disaster of 2008 and the near collapse of our economy, which caused a drop in the Gross Domestic Product, a growth in unemployment, lost household wealth, immense human suffering and a massive growth in poverty and homelessness, while the 0.01% flourishes.

The Effects:

1.) Most of our tax dollars that could have been used for social programs feed the military-industrial complex.

2.) Through neoliberal capitalism, wealth has been transferred to the 0.01%. 3.) The citizens have become passive, confused and angry.

Military Excess

We initially build our military to deal with external threats. After World War II, it was used to establish and maintain US power in the world. But little that our military does is designed to defend the United States from direct attack. Our military has been transformed into a global defense system, an empire of bases, designed to support an aggressive and expansionist imperialist foreign policy. It protected our corporate economic growth, extending beyond our borders to some 800-plus military bases around the world in 130 countries. The military needs to be continually upgraded and mobilized to protect our assets in other countries, as well as protecting and influencing capitalist countries that reduced their militaries because of our promise of protection (they got the peace dividend). Militarism has become a pillar of the political economy, and has even invaded our pantry, where almost every item in our supermarkets is tied to the Pentagon. The military is codependent with capitalism by maintaining a permanent armed presence around the world. Through its wars and deployments, it has become a major engine of ecological mayhem, making it the single largest polluter in the world.

It's ironic that our policies force us to have need for a larger military partly because we are the largest arms exporter in the world.

A growing, unmanageably corruptDepartment of Defense (DoD) that accounts for more than 50 percent of all US discretionary spending. This budget is larger by far than all other countries defense budgets. It is tied to jobs located in some 450 congressional districts. This ensures its continuance by legislators who wish to be re-elected by keeping jobs in their districts. In addition, there is the national security budget, which is almost twice the DoD budget; the nuclear weapons budget, which is currently being upgraded by President Obama; the Pentagon supplementary war budget; the black budget and the budgets of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security. There is no way to keep tabs on the money taxpayers spend because the Pentagon has never completed an audit in recent history. Still, Congress continually increases Pentagon spending. It's ironic that our policies force us to have need for a larger military partly because we are the largest arms exporter in the world.

The decline of the quality of the military, combined with the retired military leaders absorbed by industries, think tanks and media, exerting their influence on policy, leads to Gregory D. Foster's astute description of a military that is "disproportionately destructive, indiscriminately lethal, single-mindedly combat-oriented, technology-dominant, exorbitantly expensive, unsustainably consumptive, and increasingly alienated from the rest of society, it provokes and antagonizes where it should reassure and thereby invariably fathers the mirror image of itself in others." In addition, the military is implemented more easily now as a tool for US policy, since we have found ways to bypass a declaration of war.

Neoliberal Capitalism

We live in a regime that is dominated by a type of unregulated global capitalism, which advocates the primacy of economic growth and an unrestricted free market. The US has become an oligarchywhere concentrated wealth, garnered from the exploitation of workers by capitalists, creates concentrated power and corporate control. Taxes are lowered for the corporations and the very rich, which hide their wealth (the US being one of the most secretive). Government regulations are cut, leading to a condition where financial markets begin to dominate traditional industrial and agricultural economics, while the tax burden is shifted to workers.

The transition from manufacturing to a service economy: the destruction of unions, job outsourcing leading to the growth of economic inequality, increased unemployment and homelessness, and the loss of the "middle class" (a term which trains us to overlook our ongoing class war).

The growth of an austerity agenda, privatization, causing the loss of public social programs: health, education, welfare, parks, help for the homeless, libraries, hospitals, water systems, transportation and attempts at promoting a clean environment, the largest student debt in the world and the largest child poverty rate in modern industrial countries. While at the same time, supporting dirty fossil fuel industries that are destroying our climate.

Passive, Confused, Angry Citizens

The attempt by the ruling class to maintain control by diverting attention from its excess wealth and power, using its control of the media to create an attitude of fear and anger in the population by turning groups against one another through the "war on terrorism," the "war on drugs," attacks on labor, restriction of voting rights, ignoring the plight of the poor and focusing public attention on the effects (and not the underlying causes) of racism, sexism, anti-LGBT acts, anti-abortion, anti-immigration and fights over gun laws, toilet signs and religion.

Increasing inequality and the militarization of police needed to control growing internal dissent. The growth of government agencies to spy on the public, as well as the FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security using rigidly enforced surveillance laws and the suspension of civil liberties on the false pretext of ensuring American safety for a minimal threat (you are 2,091 times more likely to die from blood poisoning than from a terrorist attack), leading to the largest prison population in the world and a growing corrupt legal infrastructure where the poor and people of color are the primary victims.

The loss of civic organizations, the decline of the commons and no active participation in the political process, in addition to the fact that most workers have no say at work leads to a docilepsychologically impaired citizenry and an increase in authoritarianism.

The propagandized US public that trusts the military more than the three branches of government, leading to a growing belief that military action, power and world domination is needed in order to maintain the American way of life. This view was inspired by the reaction to the loss of the Vietnam War. The volunteer military was transformed into a professional fighting force that included private security contractors/mercenaries; the reporters became embedded, and with the military professionals, have substituted buzzwords and vague catchphrases in place of clear statements, further insulating the public from the bloody effects of our international conflicts.

Conclusion: No Dividend for You!

Our military grew in order to stabilize and protect national security interests and save capitalism. After World War II, it morphed into a global system where military spending helped create a military-industrial-congressional complex, forming a three-sided relationship, an "iron triangle," controlled by a small, influential group of elites. Their wealth requires continuous economic growth protected by military superiority. This arrangement denies the vast majority of the world's population a fulfilling life on a healthy planet and no hope for any dividends, peace or otherwise.

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Speakout Fri, 29 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Visiting Refugee Camps in Athens and Facilities in Germany http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35851-visiting-refugee-camps-in-athens-and-facilities-in-germany http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35851-visiting-refugee-camps-in-athens-and-facilities-in-germany

Our small three person delegation from CODEPINK: Women for Peace (Leslie Harris of Dallas, Texas; Barbara Briggs-Letson of Sebastopol, California; and Ann Wright of Honolulu, Hawaii) travelled to Greece to volunteer in refugee camps.  We spent our first day in Athens at the refugee camp on the piers of Piraeus harbor, known as E1 and E1.5 for the piers on which they are located -- away from the busiest piers from which the ferry boats take travelers out to the Greek islands.  Camp E2, which held 500 people, was closed over the weekend, and the 500 people in that location moved to Camp E1.5.

Our small three person delegation from CODEPINK: Women for Peace (Leslie Harris of Dallas, Texas; Barbara Briggs-Letson of Sebastopol, California; and Ann Wright of Honolulu, Hawaii) travelled to Greece to volunteer in refugee camps.  We spent our first day in Athens at the refugee camp on the piers of Piraeus harbor, known as E1 and E1.5 for the piers on which they are located -- away from the busiest piers from which the ferry boats take travelers out to the Greek islands.  Camp E2, which held 500 people, was closed over the weekend, and the 500 people in that location moved to Camp E1.5.

(Photo courtesy of Ann Wright)(Courtesy: Ann Wright)

The camp has been on the piers of Piraeus for several months when ferryboats began moving refugees from the islands off the coast of Turkey to Athens. Many of the boats arrived at the piers at night, and the travelers had no place to go, so they just camped out on the piers. Gradually, the Greek authorities designated piers E1 and E2 for refugee camps. But with the tourist season arriving, the authorities want the space for the increased tourist business.

Some of the refugees left the Piraeus piers to check out other refugee facilities, but have returned to the piers as the concrete (rather than dirt floors) fresh ocean breezes and easy access to the city of Athens by public transport are seen as better than being in a formal camp in an isolated location with more stringent entry and exit rules.

We were at Piraeus all day helping in the clothing warehouse and talking to refugees as they wait in lines -- for the toilets, showers, food, clothing -- lines for anything and everything -- and being invited to sit inside the family tents to chat.  We met Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians and Pakistanis.

The pier camps are informal, not official refugee camps operated by any one group. But the Greek government is helping with some of the logistics, such as toilets and food. There seems to be no camp administrator or central coordinator, but everyone seems to know the daily drill of food, water, toilets. Refugee registration for their future is a process we have not figured out, but many we have spoken with have been in Athens for over two months and do not want to be moved to a formal facility where they will have less freedom and access to the local communities.

The toilets are a mess, long lines for showers with a 10-minute max for moms to shower the kids. Most live in small tents with large families connecting several tents to form a "sitting room" and bedrooms. Kids race around the area with small toys. The Norwegian NGO "A Drop In the Ocean" has a tent providing a space for art, coloring and drawing for kids. A Spanish NGO has hot tea and water available 24 hours a day. The clothing warehouse is stacked with boxes of used clothes that must be sorted into logical piles for distribution. As there are no clothes washing machines, some women attempt to wash clothes in buckets and hang the garments on lines, while others have found that throwing away dirty clothes and getting "new" ones from the warehouse is the most efficient way to stay clean.  UNHCR provides blankets that are used as carpets in tents.

We met international volunteers from Spain, the Netherlands, the US, France and many Greek volunteers. The volunteers who have been there the longest pass on the routine to the newcomers. The previous system of a daily orientation for the new volunteers has not been reestablished since camp E2 was closed.

The tent living areas are remarkably clean, considering how long people have been there. The hospitality of the refugees toward those who have come to the camp in solidarity is heartwarming. We were invited into the three-tent home of a family from Iraq. They have five children -- four girls and one boy. They had just brought to their tents the lunch provided at 3pm, a lunch of hot stew, bread, cheese and an orange. They had all the family seated for a formal meal, no doubt to remind the children of home.

(Photo courtesy of Ann Wright)(Courtesy: Ann Wright)In the typical Middle Eastern courtesy to strangers, they asked us to come into the tent and offered to share their meal with us. We sat and talked as they ate. The father, who appeared to be about 40 years old, is a pharmacist, and the mother is a teacher of Arabic. The father said he had to bring his family out of Iraq because if he were killed, as many of his friends have been, how would his wife take care of the family?

In a refugee facility we visited in Munich, Germany, we found the same hospitality. The facility is a building left vacant by the Siemens corporation. Eight-hundred people live in the five-story building. About 21,000 refugees are in various facilities in Munich. A family from Syria with six children came into the hallway to offer us pieces of raw vegetables, and another family from Armenia offered us pieces of candy. The hospitality of the Middle East continues with the families as they travel under extraordinarily difficult conditions to other parts of the world.

In Berlin, we went to a refugee facility at Tempelhof Airport in which the hangers have been turned into accommodations for 4,000. The refugee facilities in Berlin and Munich are operated by private companies, rather than directly by the German government. Each German region has been given quotas for the numbers of refugees they must accommodate, and each region has made its own standards for assistance.

While the United States has closed its borders to person fleeing the chaos caused in great measure by its war on Iraq, the countries of Europe deal with the human crisis as best they can -- not perfectly, but certainly with more humanity than the government of the United States.

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Speakout Fri, 29 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Remembering Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35836-remembering-argentina-s-mothers-of-the-disappeared http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35836-remembering-argentina-s-mothers-of-the-disappeared

Campaign Nonviolence is a movement to build a culture of active nonviolence. We share the stories of nonviolent action, drawing lessons, strength and strategy from the global grassroots movements for change. Throughout the year, we look at historic struggles. This week commemorates the 39th anniversary of the first protest of the Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared. 

Campaign Nonviolence is a movement to build a culture of active nonviolence. We share the stories of nonviolent action, drawing lessons, strength and strategy from the global grassroots movements for change. Throughout the year, we look at historic struggles. This week commemorates the 39th anniversary of the first protest of the Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared.

On April 30, 1977, Azucena Villaflor de De Vincenti and a dozen other mothers gathered in the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina's capital city to demand justice for their children, who had been "disappeared" by the military junta duringthe Dirty War period -- a reign of terror that would last from 1976 to 1983, backed by the CIA.

A tense atmosphere of fear pervaded the years of the military regime in Argentina. Opposition was not tolerated; tens of thousands of people were simply "disappeared." Only some of the bodies would be found. More than 250 children were taken from mothers in prison camps, or from those who were disappeared, and put up for adoption. Thedemonstrations of the Mothers of the Disappeared clearly took extreme courage. They started small in size, but within a year, hundreds of women were participating in the weekly demonstrations. They carried signs with photos of their sons and daughters. The regime tried to discredit them by calling the women, "las locas," the mad women.

On December 10, 1978, International Human Rights Day, the Mothers published an advertisement in the newspaper with the names of their missing children. That evening and soon thereafter, three of the Mothers themselves were disappeared.

The protests continued, intensifying. In 1978, when Argentina hosted the World Cup, the international press coveredthe Mothers' demonstrations. After the military gave up its authority to a civilian government in 1983, the Mothers ofthe Plaza de Mayo pushed even harder for answers and justice, moving the government to collect testimony from hundreds of witnesses about the disappearances. In 1985, the Trial of the Juntas began a series of prosecutions relatedto the deaths. The military threatened a coup if the prosecutions did not stop, and in 1986, the National Congress of Argentina passed Ley de Punto Final, ending the prosecutions. Under continuous pressure from citizens and the Mothers of the Disappeared, the law was later repealed, and trials resumed in 2005.

Mothers of the Disappeared movements and organizations have formed in Chile and Mexico, as well as inspired theSaturday Mothers in Turkey, the Mourning Mothers and Mothers of Khavaran in Iran, the Committee of Mothers of Disappeared Migrants in Honduras, the Comadres in El Salvador and the Tiananmen Mothers in China. Across theworld, wherever sons and daughters go missing, mothers rise up to demand justice.

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Speakout Thu, 28 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Why the Media Want a Trump and Clinton Race http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35838-why-the-media-want-a-trump-and-clinton-race http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35838-why-the-media-want-a-trump-and-clinton-race

Everyone knows that the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly on the Republican side, is a media-driven circus. Schoolyard insults and scurrilous language rule the day in this presidential race; issues hardly matter. And there is no greater beneficiary than the mainstream media (which I also refer to as the corporate media, since six corporations control 90 percent of the daily newspapers, television, radio and Internet news outlets in the United States; one of them, Time Warner, is a major donor to Hillary Clinton). 

Everyone knows that the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly on the Republican side, is a media-driven circus. Schoolyard insults and scurrilous language rule the day in this presidential race; issues hardly matter.

And there is no greater beneficiary than the mainstream media (which I also refer to as the corporate media, since six corporations control 90 percent of the daily newspapers, television, radio and Internet news outlets in the United States; one of them, Time Warner, is a major donor to Hillary Clinton).

When he was approached by Republican Party members in 2013 about the idea of running for governor of New York, Trump said he had his eyes on a much bigger prize: the American presidency. "I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me," he said. As Politico reported, Trump believed that "the networks would spend all their time fumbling over his ascendancy, which would in turn help promote his candidacy."

How does the media give credence to reactionary views by criticizing them? Simple. By constantly giving daily publicity to inflammatory and bigoted views, the media gives voice to them and provides an air of legitimacy.

Linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff wrote in his March 2 blog that "the more Trump's views are discussed in the media, the more they are activated and the stronger they get, both in the minds of hardcore conservatives and in the minds of moderate progressives...it doesn't matter if you are promoting Trump or attacking Trump, you are helping Trump."

The corporate media are helping Trump even with negative stories, because the controversy is good for their business. In the past, the mainstream media had some obligation and responsibility for educating voters about the issues, but today's reporters are more concerned with providing entertainment and getting the audience's attention -- and nothing fits the bill more than a reality show celebrity for President.

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves bluntly told a Morgan Stanley gathering recently that Trump "may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." Trump's ascendancy mirrors the merging of the reality show with politics, creating entertainment for the masses who soak it in. "Most of the ads are not about the issues," Moonves added, "They're sort of like the debates. Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now?...The money's rolling in and this is fun. I've never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry, it's a terrible thing to say. But bring it on, Donald, Keep going."

The money will keep rolling in if the conflict escalates and Trump faces the quintessential opponent in the general election: Hillary Clinton.

There is one thing the mainstream media love more than celebrities and entertainment, however: controversy. The current news cycle depends on it. If there is one politician who embodies controversy, it is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Just do a Google search for Hillary Clinton -- two of the top searches will come up as "emails" and "Benghazi." But these are just two of the major scandals that has dogged Clinton over the past decade. She seems to attract controversy like a moth to a flame. A few of the other recent political controversies include:

1. Actions to help foreign firms as Secretary of State: For example, as Secretary of State she helped UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, avoid IRS prosecution. After her intervention, the bank funneled millions tothe Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation and paid her enormous speaking fees.

2. The Clinton Foundation: Much of the Foundation's funding comes from large corporate donors, some that were granted favors by theState Department when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Previously classified emails show that foreign governments in the Middle East have contributed money to the Foundation which may have been made in exchange for federal contracts.

3. Conflict of Interest at Foggy Bottom: In June 2012, the State Department allowed Hillary Clinton's Chief of Staff Huma Abedin to also work for Teneo, a consulting firm run by Bill Clinton's former right-hand man. She also earned money from the Clinton Foundation and was paid directly by Hillary Clinton.

4. Speaking Fees: It's not just Goldman Sachs. Mrs. Clinton has been paid $1.8 million for at least eight speeches to big banks. Big banksand Wall Street firms are top contributors to her campaign for US Senate and for president. She claims the money doesn't influence her, but the Boston Globe reported during her eight years in the Senate, she failed to back bills to regulate the financial industry and she voted in favor of bailing out big banks after the 2008 recession.

5. Quid Pro Quo for Top Campaign Donors: One of Mrs. Clinton's campaign contributors, BlackRock, the world's largest asset management firm, is set to benefit from another Clinton presidency.The firm's founder, Larry Fink, openly said a Clinton victory could set him up to become the powerful treasury secretary. Time Warner, another big Clinton donor, could stand to benefit by resurrecting the Comcast merger and becoming an even larger media conglomerate.

Of course Trump has his own skeletons in his closet: Trump University, the hiring of illegal workers to build the Trump Tower, sexual harassment charges, etc. It's been also revealed that the billionaire businessman has given at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation and made multiple donations to Hillary Clinton's senatorial campaigns . As well he should -- since both Bill and Hillary were VP guests at Trump's wedding to his wife Melania back in 2005 and Melania herself gave money to Hillary Clinton for Senate in 2006 -- more fodder for the tabloid media.

Controversy. Conflict. Power. Fame. Scandal. It's better than a reality TV show.

All of the above and more would guarantee a presidential race that has absolutely nothing to do with the issues that matter to the country, but one that would sell more newspapers and draw more ratings.

As the executive chairman of CBS said, "the money's rolling in and this is fun."

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Speakout Thu, 28 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400
We Cannot Cheat Mother Earth: There Is No Planet B http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35821-we-cannot-cheat-mother-earth-there-is-no-planet-b http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35821-we-cannot-cheat-mother-earth-there-is-no-planet-b

Last week, on Earth Day, many heads of state gathered in New York to sign the Paris Agreement on climate. This celebratory photo opportunity is a dangerous distraction from the reality that the voluntary pledges made by 195 countries in the non-binding Paris Agreement do not add up to what we need to prevent major global catastrophe. Despite the rhetoric, these governments and corporations are complicit in the climate crimes that are increasing all over the world. 

Last week, on Earth Day, many heads of state gathered in New York to sign the Paris Agreement on climate. This celebratory photo opportunity is a dangerous distraction from the reality that the voluntary pledges made by 195 countries in the non-binding Paris Agreement do not add up to what we need to prevent major global catastrophe. Despite the rhetoric, these governments and corporations are complicit in the climate crimes that are increasing all over the world.

The Paris Agreement purports to limit the temperature increase to "well below" 2º C, the number which many agree is the very limit the earth can handle before spiraling into major disaster. The reality is that when you add up the voluntary emissions reductions pledged by 195 countries in the Paris Agreement, even if those pledged amounts are achieved, they will lead to a temperature increase of 3º or 4º C. With the current contributions, by 2030 emissions will continue to increase and reach 60 Gt CO2e annually, instead of decreasing to 35 GtCO2e, which is what we are told to aim for to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

This gap is catastrophic for humanity and nature, including the ice culture of the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic. The Paris Agreement will result in the cooking of the planet. 

We cannot cheat Mother Earth. To pretend that you are doing something while you are doing the opposite is a crime that will destroy life as we know it. We have to recognize the rights of Mother Earth and the vital cycles of nature.

The truth is that the Paris Agreement is a big step in the wrong direction. We cannot support the illusion that something positive has been achieved by the signing of an agreement, when in reality it allows for corporations and governments to continue their business as usual. While it may speak of "net" emissions cuts, the Paris Agreement does not limit fossil fuel extraction, halt deforestation, stop big agribusiness, or reduce the consumerism of the wealthiest and most affluent, those responsible for the majority of green house gas emissions.

Two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions come from fossil fuels. In order to limit the increase of the global temperature, we need to keep at least 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Yet there is no mention of fossil fuels in the entire Paris Agreement, because the Paris climate talks were infiltrated by the very fossil fuel industries at the root of climate change.

The Paris Agreement paves the way for corporations, the World Bank, and many governments to pursue new ways of turning climate change into a business opportunity, through new carbon markets like REDD, Climate Smart Agriculture, land use change, a reinforced Clean Development Mechanism, carbon pricing and other national and regional market mechanisms. These mechanisms only produce "hot air," and greater profits to those controlling them.

The real solutions to climate change are those that come from below. Frontline communities are fighting dirty development around the world, and are building alternatives that center community power and decision-making. Peasant ecological agriculture is already feeding most of the world's population, and at the same time fighting for food sovereignty for the people who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. From community solar energy and wind power, to radical and equitable ways of local organizing, a diversity of community-controlled initiatives are flourishing all around the world.

We must strengthen these initiatives and proliferate them. It's our only chance, there's no Planet B.

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Speakout Wed, 27 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400
What Is Your First Memory on Race? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35820-what-is-your-first-memory-on-race http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/35820-what-is-your-first-memory-on-race

I was orphaned and began my new life with my sister's family in Phoenix the summer I turned seven. I was sent to a school of predominately white children. He went on to compare my skin to the mud he threw at me at recess. This act of aggression was a rarity, subtly was the norm. In those first months and year, my thick accent and Brown skin made me stand out. I was one of less than a dozen children of color at that school.  I was "different" than these children.

I was orphaned and began my new life with my sister's family in Phoenix the summer I turned seven. I was sent to a school of predominately white children.

"So, what are you anyway?" I recall being asked at school.

"I'm a girl, what are you?" I once snarled back at a classmate.

He went on to compare my skin to the mud he threw at me at recess. This act of aggression was a rarity, subtly was the norm.

In those first months and year, my thick accent and Brown skin made me stand out. I was one of less than a dozen children of color at that school. 

I was "different" than these children. I had, until that point, grown up in a small mining town in Arizona, where I was one of many Mexican-American children.

This place was so foreign and Phoenix was so much larger and less friendly than the Arizona I knew and understood. 

I knew profound loss. I was not one of them, yet. I learned to make a space for myself, to make friendships that last until today.

In the years that followed, I was called "a good Mexican" or "not like the rest of them" by students and teachers alike. Somehow this was seen as a compliment.  My sister taught me early that to be perceived as good enough "by them," I had to work harder, speak clearer, be better. 

I saw this play out in school, on the nightly news when we would knowingly glance to each other, secretly hoping that the wrongdoer being described was anything but Mexican.

I once went shopping with my sister -- who I viewed as virtually a superhero -- and she was questioned by a store clerk when picking out a scarf for work. 

"Sorry, dear, but THAT is really expensive; maybe you want to look at these instead," the clerk said.  

My sister bought that stupid scarf just to show that she could.

These acts of exclusion made me feel so lost. It took years for me to reassemble myself and then take my place in the world as a Chicana. 

These are some of my first memories around race, ethnicity and identity.

What are yours? When was the last time that you actually sat with your neighbors and strangers and unpacked yourpain around race?  

On April 29, as part of a national call to action held annually since 2010, led primarily by the YWCA USA, thousands of people in the US are taking a Stand Against Racism at over 750 locations in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

They will share their stories as I have mine.

I live in Arizona, where race and immigration string together so succinctly. We are encouraging and conducting bilingual conversations around the Pledge Against Racism. We are opening our conversation with a simple question: "What was your first memory of race?"  

At last year's event, I had the opportunity to listen to my neighbors reveal stories in which they recalled those searing moments when they, or people they cared about, first recognized or were singled out as "different" -- or in the case of many, including myself, Brown.  

In sharing, I further realized this compounded pain inextricably has affected my view of the world and my seemingly precarious place within it. Those experiences yielded an unwavering yearning for justice and the need to facilitate a place of belonging for all. It brought me, eventually, to this YWCA community, where I work.

Throughout the country and in other communities, many neighbors will engage in conversations to look at how structural and institutional racism is working in the lives of girls of color. These are conversations that need to happen and often.

We invite you to host or attend a conversation in your community.  

In Southern Arizona, the Coalition for Racial Justice -- composed of the Tucson Urban League, YWCA of Southern Arizona, NAACP of Tucson, the Black Women's Taskforce and the Center for Community Dialogue, a program of Our Family Services -- believes that we must bring people together, face-to-face and engage in meaningful conversations around structural and institutionalized racism.  

This year marks 48 years since the murder of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis. In that last year, King's message rang out to illustrate the connections between the struggles of Memphis' sanitation workers who bore the signs "I AM A MAN," to the war in Vietnam and the recognition of the plight of working people throughout the US. King was articulating what is now known as intersectionality.

The realization that we all come to community as a sum of many parts, and further, that our identity marks the way that we interact with and engage in oppression.

Since King's passing, movements have emerged to recognize that people enter into political struggle and community life as more than women, men, workers, queer, able or poor. We carry our histories, realities, lived experiences of racism, sexism, loss and many oppressions into the room with us when we sit together; but we must sit together. Undoubtedly, many feel that the time for conversation about race have taken place and we must now act.  

These conversations are critical towards moving together, because in revealing our pain and truth, we can also listen deeply and engage with that of others, and that is where change can occur. Real, transformative, painful and messy change begins with truth telling and conversation. Thus, we must create these spaces for listening and learning from one another.  

We must have spaces and ways of sitting together. Community spaces are vastly underrated in times of electronic connection. While we have greater access to knowledge and each other in an ever-shrinking world, what is often forgotten is the real person with family, emotions, hurts, hopes and dreams on the other side of the screen. We easily forget this when clicking a mouse or hitting send. We carry that forgetfulness of humanity into the world.  

Reconnect and get real, because as King reminded all of us in a speech on that last fateful night in Memphis,

Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.

That was true in 1968, and it remains true today. 

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Speakout Wed, 27 Apr 2016 00:00:00 -0400