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SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

At 2:06 pm on Monday, May 13th, a message from Seattle school superintendent Jose Banda stated: "High schools may opt out of MAP in 2013-14."
Banda was referring to the controversial Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), which has been boycotted by teachers in several Seattle high schools since January because of the deep flaws in the test, which is not aligned with the school curriculum and was brought to Seattle Public Schools through what a state investigator found was a conflict of interest. The boycott gave a boost to the national movement against the overuse of standardized tests, with support from across the U.S. and even abroad.

The announcement of this victory over the MAP test led to spontaneous celebrations at Garfield High School as students and teachers traded high fives, fist-bumps in the hallways.

On Wednesday, May 22nd, members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus will gather with commuity groups to demand an end to the biased and costly practice of falsely arresting tens of thousands of people in New York for low-level marijuana possession every year. Dozens of advocates and impacted people from around the state will join them at a press conference and rally to urge passage of sensible marijuana decriminalization legislation, A.6716A (Camara)/S.3105A (Squadron). The proposal, introduced at the request of Governor Cuomo, would decriminalize possessing up to 15 grams of marijuana in public view, though smoking in public would remain a misdemeanor. Community members and elected officials are demanding that leadership in Albany make fixing this law a top priority. The bill would help end the practice of arresting tens of thousands of young people per year for possessing marijuana in public view when police demand that someone "empty their pockets" during a stop-and-frisk encounter.

DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy today released the results of a year-long investigation: "Dissent or Terror: How the Nation's Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street."

The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how state/regional "fusion center" personnel monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012. Personnel engaged in this activity at fusion centers include employees of municipal, county and federal counter terrorism/homeland security entities. Such entities include local police departments, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (including U.S. DHS components such as the Transportation Security Administration).

May 22

Afghanistan War May End by 2024...Maybe

By Jack A. Smith, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Hamid Karzai has let the Pentagon's cat out of the bag - to the displeasure of the Obama Administration. The Afghan president revealed inside information about President Obama's war plans after all US "combat troops" completely withdraw in 17 months at the end of 2014.
As was known in recent years, the Obama Administration actually plans to keep troops in Afghanistan after the "withdrawal" at least to 2024. They won't be "combat troops," so Obama didn't actually mislead the American people. Instead they are to be Special Forces troops, who certainly engage in combat, but are identified by a different military designation, as well as US Army trainers for the Afghan military, CIA contingents, drone operators, and various other personnel.

There are times when a line in the sand can shift the course of a life – or of history. At other times a line in the sand may push us towards a common vision – or act as an incitement to trespass. In some instances a line in the sand may be narrow and thin – easily crossed or bridged. Or, alternatively, a line in the sand may be wide and deep – betraying no easy paths or footholds, and leaving travellers vulnerable to unforeseen dangers. And, of course, there are times when a line in the sand is no more than a line in the sand.
A line in the sand is no uncommon sight, and might be drawn by a friend, lover, or stranger. More broadly, lines in the sand may be wielded as technologies or tactics of power by politicians, police, and educators. Teachers, for instance, can employ lines in the sand as tactics for teaching values or understandings. This happens, for example, when teachers disallow certain behaviours (e.g., bullying, plagiarism, tardiness, absenteeism), or utterances (e.g., homophobic, racist, sexist, violent). It follows, then, that there are times when lines in the sand can be strategically employed for inducing a more democratic and socially just otherwise.

Stop----as they say----the presses.

We just found out the reason for high black unemployment, bad neighborhoods, and other black problems.

Too many black people think black people with "books are acting white."

That's what Michelle Obama just said at a graduation speech at historically black Bowie State University in Maryland.

She said she was quoting what her hubby, the POTUS, has said, and said publicly.

In what has become a "psychiatric-pharmaceutical industrial complex," giant drug companies have corrupted mental health institutions, research, and practice. Most major mental health organizations and institution from which the general public and doctors receive information are financially interconnected with Big Pharma. This practice needs to be abolished by law.

The official psychiatric diagnostic bible that is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is called theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). DSM-5 was recently approved by the APA, and according to the journal PLOS Medicine, "69% of the DSM-5 task force members report having ties to the pharmaceutical industry." The corruption of the APA by Big Pharma is nothing new. On July 12, 2008, the New York Times reported the following about APA "In 2006, the latest year for which numbers are available, the drug industry accounted for about 30 percent of the association's $62.5 million in financing." Congressional investigators in 2008 also discovered that then president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association (Alan Schatzberg of Stanford University) had $4.8 million stock holdings in a drug development company.

A small social justice non-profit organization from Chattanooga, Tennessee is calling out former Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan for factually incorrect statements he made about them during his widely reported grilling of outgoing IRS head Steve Miller during Friday's congressional hearing.

"While it was nice to hear Congressman Paul Ryan recognize Chattanooga Organized for Action's work for social and economic justice, it is obvious from his discussion of our organization during last week's House Ways and Means Committee that he is deeply misinformed not only about the exempt status of our organization but also the very detailed level of scrutiny the IRS gave our organization before awarding us our 501(c)3 designation," said Chris Brooks, co-founder of Chattanooga Organized for Action.

May 21

Anger is a Gift

By Angelo Letizia, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Public school teachers should be angry. During the last decade, public school teachers in the United States have been forced to realize the brutal truth about their profession: everyone hates them. Most teachers did not seek fame and riches; they simply wanted to teach children, to have a positive impact on someone's life. For me personally, I thought that society supported my endeavor to help nurture its future citizens. But I learned quickly that no one seemed to share my desire to teach the children; not administrators, policymakers or the general public. I did not realize that the public and policymakers would not only neglect me, but would actively work to degrade and suppress me. They are actively working to dismantle my profession, the public schooling system, which is the quite possibly the greatest achievement that America has ever produced.

Sexual violence continues to plague U.S detention facilities, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Justice. The study, released this morning by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), confirms that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inmates and those with a history of prior sexual abuse are at exceptionally high risk for victimization, while shedding new light on the extreme vulnerability of inmates with mental illnesses.

The BJS report, Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011–12, presents the results of its latest nationwide survey of inmates in state and federal prisons and county jails, as well as some special facilities, such as military jails. It found that rates of inmates reporting sexual abuse in prisons and jails – 4 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively – were consistent with the findings of previous BJS studies.Using a snapshot technique, which examines the inmate population on a single day, the report states that 80,600 inmates held in prisons and jails had been sexually victimized in the preceding 12 months.