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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.

May 31

Who is Warning Whom?

By Tony Pereira, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Over two decades ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA) issued a "Warning to Humanity" letter that was signed by the vast majority of all the 169 living Nobel prize winners at the time, in addition to some 1,700 of the world's most renowned engineers and scientists from all over the world [1]. Fast forward two decades later, the Millennium Alliance for Humanity & the Biosphere ( MAHB) at Stanford University tried to catch up with the times and issued a similar statement [2], signed by a no less impressive panel of very distinguished scientists, some of whom I have known personally and have the great honor of calling friends, having earned reciprocal respect, visited in their homes and with their families, sons and daughters and friends, lunched together numerous times while we spoke about the pressing issues of global warming, assured mutual destruction (MAD), climate change, overconsumption, and what the solutions might be.

Lam Chun-fai, a master of Southern Chinese kung fu style, Hung Kuen, is the first of the kung fu masters to publish a fighting manual in English. Hung Kuen is a secret technique that has been closely guarded and, up until now, only transmitted orally to trusted pupils. News of the publication of the manual stirred excitement among some kung fu aficionados in Europe and in the United States.

Teacher Lam's reason: Kung fu is in steep decline in Hong Kong, where he lives. There, youth are too obsessed with the internet - video games, social media, YouTube and so on - to be focusing on something as complicated as martial arts practices. To save his knowledge from extinction, Lam is willing to divulge fighting secrets and techniques to foreigners.

President Barack Obama sat in a chair at the White House on Tuesday and, as two participants recalled, made eye contact with immigrants as they discussed the reasons their families moved to the United States.

Obama encouraged Diana Colin and Justino Mora, members of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), as well as all participants, to tell their stories about how families want better lives.

May 30

Saving Ourselves from the Psychopaths

By Jim McCluskey, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The survival of our culture, and possibly our species, is threatened by global warming, overpopulation and nuclear war. The latter can bring instant annihilation to millions of people. Western governments and the media (corporate owned and collusive) respond to the nuclear threat with silence. Our leaders neutralize the survival instincts of citizens by the age-old device of instilling fear of an evil "other" and by, with their silence, ensuring ignorance of the appalling dangers – if no one is talking about it, it can't be a problem.
Why do our leaders keep silent about the threat of nuclear catastrophe, hanging over us at all times, instead of taking the sane and obvious course – banning nuclear weapons as the other weapons of mass destruction (chemical and biological) have been banned? The answer to this question is becoming more clear by the day.

Almost all of us are at risk of being treated as though we don't count. The African Americans from the Black Belt hamlet of Gee's Bend may appear quite 
different from well-off urbane people of any race, but they know what it's like to work very hard with almost no reward. This is happening now to people of all races. People, if employed, are laboring for little pay and no benefits while billionaires try to manipulate them with fabricated narratives. This a story of how people are treated as though they don't count, how the public's memory is undermined to suit those who run society, in how they do it with tales passed off as truth. And of how to resist.

In 1997 when Bill Arnett came to Gee's Bend, Alabama, he scooped up all the artful, improvised quilts on the cheap. Most rural the women did patchwork from patterns, but some also improvised, giving their quilts one-of-a-kind designs. In the Bend, the Freedom Quilting Bee had started in the mid-sixties. This co-op had a long run (lasting to the nineties), bringing in money, raising the status of the women, and training them in leadership. When Arnett began showing the patchwork, he and two sons said anything about the place and its people if it suited their purposes.

Two weeks after the court-martial proceeding of Bradley Manning began, an unauthorized audio recording of Manning's courtroom statement spread through social media despite extraordinary secrecy surrounding his trial. In it, Manning laid out why he chose to release the massive trove of documents. After admitting that he was the source of the largest leak of classified information in history, he spoke about the motivation behind his actions: "I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general." Attorney Michael Ratner said of Manning; "To lock him up for even a day is to lock up the conscience of our nation."

May 29

In Defense of Losers

By Barbara G Ellis PhD, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

For years now, I have chafed under pronouncements about people regarded and relegated as "losers." Only the other day in a conversation about Leif Ericsson and his crew's reason to leave Norway for America, they were called a bunch of "desperate losers."

Losers? As a Norwegian descendant, my gorge rose at this affront to the highest order of global explorers. In the early tenth century, their seamanship, constant dangers, and teamwork (72 oars on a 120-foot open longboat) overcame fears of the unknown in the frigid and perilous pounding of the North Atlantic's winter seas. It took Columbus, 400 years later, to make his crossing in calmer, warmer waters via a covered, full-masted, three-ship convoy - and with a compass no less.

People across the globe protested May 25 during the global day of action against Monsanto. More than 500 came to "the belly of the best" in Creve Coeur, Mo., just outside of St. Louis, to raise public awareness and chant, "What do we want? Labeling! When do we want it? Now," "Monsanto, disease, lies and greed!" among other apt rallying cries.

The 500-strong marched from Stacy Park, signs in hand, as rain started coming down. Indignant over "Monsanto's monopolistic greed," and undeterred by the rain, they held signs and aimed to raise awareness about Monsanto's control over the food supply. Protestors passed out fliers reading, "SHOW ME THE LABEL," encouraging citizens to visit a website to learn more about a Missouri initiative, Senate Bill No. 155, to get the state to label Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Vermont and just recently Connecticut passed legislation requiring genetically engineered (GE) foods to be labeled.

The Crisis of Civilization is a documentary feature film investigating how global crises like ecological disaster, financial meltdown, dwindling oil reserves, terrorism and food shortages are converging symptoms of a single, failed global system. Weaving together archival film footage and animations, award-winning film-maker Dean Puckett, animator Lucca Benney and Guardian environment writer Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed – author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It – offer a stunning wake-up call proving that 'another world' is not merely possible, but on its way.

Like the book on which it is based, the film consists of seven parts which explore the interconnected dynamic of global crises of Climate Catastrophe; Peak Energy; Peak Food; Economic Instability; International Terrorism; and the Militarization Tendency – with a final section on The Post-Peak World.

May 28

Securing Press Freedom for All

By Josh Stearns, FreePress | Op-Ed

Just days after news broke that the Justice Department had secretly obtained AP journalists' phone records as part of its ongoing crackdown on leaks, the New Yorker released a new tool — Strongbox— to enable people to safely and securely leak electronic files. The late Aaron Swartz largely built the system (for a good discussion of its strengths and weaknesses, see here, here and here).

Meanwhile, Wired has "Hear Ye, Future Deep Throats: This Is How to Leak to the Press" — a post offering a terrific set of recommendations for leaking via email, phone or postal mail.