Saturday, 01 August 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.

Jun 04

Wall Street's Psychic Adventurers

By Jeffrey R McCord, Truthout | Op-Ed

Old timers recall the days when investment decisions were based on presumably sound principles of securities and financial analyses back when the federal Glass-Steagall Act separated commercial banking from investment banking. In those storied times, the sources and uses of a given corporation's revenues and profits, its industry's performance and outlook, and macro-economic trends were among fact-based data used to make seemingly rational decisions. And the more regulated market was perceived to be pretty efficient and fair.

Those principals of financial management and regulations arose from the 1929 Market Crash and earlier catastrophes. Several classic scams and bubbles were immortalized in "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," published in London in 1841 by Charles MacKay, LL.D. MacKay, a Scottish journalist and scholar, informed the 19th century world in detail of such financial follies as the British "South Sea Bubble," Dutch "Tulipomania," and the lesser-known French "Mississippi Scheme." 

Legislators voted by a simple voice vote last night to end the DEA's controversial bulk data collection programs, as part of the U.S. House of Representatives' consideration of the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. The House also passed three amendments that cut $23 million from the DEA's budget, and shifted it to fighting child abuse, processing rape test kits, reducing the deficit, and paying for body cameras on police officers to reduce law enforcement abuses. 

Representatives debated four amendments to prohibit the DEA and Justice Department from undermining state marijuana laws - and those votes will happen later today. 

Jun 04

Women Crossing the Korean Divide: Reflections and Resolutions

By Women Cross DMZ International Delegation, Truthout | Op-Ed

Thirty women peace makers from 15 countries made a historic crossing of the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) from North to South Korea on May 24th International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament. We called global attention to the need for a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War; to reunite families long separated by Korea's division; and to assure women's participation in the peace process. Because most citizens of North and South Korea are not allowed to cross the DMZ, international women crossed theDMZ on their behalf in solidarity with Korean women's desires for peace and reunification of Korea.

The delegation included prominent women leaders, including two Nobel Peace Laureates, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, who led citizen movements of women to bring peace to their countries, feminist author activist Gloria Steinem, as well as seasoned peace activists, human rights defenders, spiritual leaders, and Korea experts.

Today, as Ministers meet to further a controversial and little known proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) on the sidelines of the annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting, Wikileaks released a trove of negotiating texts, including annexes covering a wide range of issues on domestic regulation, financial services, air and maritime transportation, electronic commerce, transparency, telecommunications, professional services, and the natural movement of persons (called "Mode 4" in trade agreements). 

The TISA negotiating texts are supposed to remain secret for five years after the deal is finalized or abandoned. Today, the secrecy charade has collapsed, and the risks to Wall Street oversight are exposed for all to see.

Now 18 hours past a critical business deadline, I have wasted the last 90 minutes after my state-of-the-art wireless keyboard started hashing my password log-ins and erasing my in-box.

Two months ago, I had to take a second mobile phone contract in order to use an old but rugged and reliable phone as backup to my almost state-of-the-art smart phone. The new phone has fabulous features, but is increasingly temperamental, frequently loses signal and the battery lasts less than six hours.

Poverty is on the rise in America and is creating a phenomenon known as the "poverty trap." Public schools are having to deal with its negative effects more and more every year. This is important for schools because poverty greatly decreases student learning ability, and public schools and teachers must become more creative at finding ways to mitigate the negative effects of poverty in the classroom. During an era of increasing public education "reform," it's important to keep poverty in mind as a factor of student achievement.

The US is currently one of only three countries in the OECD community (out of 34) that spend as little on welfare for families in poverty, that do as little for helping children in poverty, and that do not equalize educational opportunity for children in poor communities (1). This must change if the United States is going to be economically competitive with other industrialized countries in the future.

The research is in! An extensive Princeton University study shows that the American people have no impact on which laws get passed. Lee Camp breaks down the specifics and explains why this means we should be more active and less apathetic than ever before!

Today, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act, a bill passed by the House last month that ends the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records. The bill now heads to President Obama for his signature. Elizabeth Goitein and Faiza Patel, co-directors of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, are available for your coverage.

"For the first time since 9/11, Congress has placed significant limits on the government's ability to spy on Americans," said Elizabeth Goitein. "Once signed into law, the USA Freedom Act will end the NSA's indiscriminate collection of Americans' phone records. If faithfully implemented, it will also narrow the collection of other types of business records under Section 215 and other foreign intelligence authorities. It will introduce a measure of transparency into FISA Court decisions and give the court's judges the option of conducting more balanced proceedings."

Commenting on the release of a newaccount by a Guantanamo detainee of his torture at the hands of the CIA, Cori Crider, an attorney at international human rights NGO Reprieve - which represents victims of rendition and torture operations - said:

"It has long been clear that the Senate torture report was only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the worst CIA abuses we know of were absent from the public version of the study." 

Jun 03

Pakistan Cannot Handle Educated Jihadists

By Mubashir Noor, Truthout | Op-Ed

Saad Aziz has the dubious honor of enhancing Pakistan's terrorism vocabulary. Before his May 21 confession to killing social activist Sabeen Mahmud, and gunning down Ismailis in Safoora Goth,Pakistan's political pendulum on terror swung between two stops: every hit on the homeland could be traced back to either the Taliban or India's intelligence agencies. A young man with an elite education and cosmopolitan upbringing could never be a jihadist. The fact that similar individuals were joining the Islamic State (IS) was dismissed as a first-world problem. Rich people would never go rogue in Pakistan; life was too good for them here!

Reborn fanatics like Saad Aziz and cohort Mohammed Ishrat are especially troublesome because they are hard to predict and don't conform to stereotypes. No one talks about the other killers, Haafiz Nasir or Tahir Hussain, because their socio-religious standing is within the present profile's margin of error. Local commentators are now dusting off precedents to downplay Aziz's actions, and comparing him to Omar Saeed Sheikh and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. These comparisons don't work because both of the latter embraced Al-Qaeda's original logic of jihad against the infidel occupiers of Muslims lands. Unlike Aziz, neither willfully targeted fellow Muslims, nor spewed anti-Shia hate. 

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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.

Jun 04

Wall Street's Psychic Adventurers

By Jeffrey R McCord, Truthout | Op-Ed

Old timers recall the days when investment decisions were based on presumably sound principles of securities and financial analyses back when the federal Glass-Steagall Act separated commercial banking from investment banking. In those storied times, the sources and uses of a given corporation's revenues and profits, its industry's performance and outlook, and macro-economic trends were among fact-based data used to make seemingly rational decisions. And the more regulated market was perceived to be pretty efficient and fair.

Those principals of financial management and regulations arose from the 1929 Market Crash and earlier catastrophes. Several classic scams and bubbles were immortalized in "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," published in London in 1841 by Charles MacKay, LL.D. MacKay, a Scottish journalist and scholar, informed the 19th century world in detail of such financial follies as the British "South Sea Bubble," Dutch "Tulipomania," and the lesser-known French "Mississippi Scheme." 

Legislators voted by a simple voice vote last night to end the DEA's controversial bulk data collection programs, as part of the U.S. House of Representatives' consideration of the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. The House also passed three amendments that cut $23 million from the DEA's budget, and shifted it to fighting child abuse, processing rape test kits, reducing the deficit, and paying for body cameras on police officers to reduce law enforcement abuses. 

Representatives debated four amendments to prohibit the DEA and Justice Department from undermining state marijuana laws - and those votes will happen later today. 

Jun 04

Women Crossing the Korean Divide: Reflections and Resolutions

By Women Cross DMZ International Delegation, Truthout | Op-Ed

Thirty women peace makers from 15 countries made a historic crossing of the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) from North to South Korea on May 24th International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament. We called global attention to the need for a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War; to reunite families long separated by Korea's division; and to assure women's participation in the peace process. Because most citizens of North and South Korea are not allowed to cross the DMZ, international women crossed theDMZ on their behalf in solidarity with Korean women's desires for peace and reunification of Korea.

The delegation included prominent women leaders, including two Nobel Peace Laureates, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, who led citizen movements of women to bring peace to their countries, feminist author activist Gloria Steinem, as well as seasoned peace activists, human rights defenders, spiritual leaders, and Korea experts.

Today, as Ministers meet to further a controversial and little known proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) on the sidelines of the annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting, Wikileaks released a trove of negotiating texts, including annexes covering a wide range of issues on domestic regulation, financial services, air and maritime transportation, electronic commerce, transparency, telecommunications, professional services, and the natural movement of persons (called "Mode 4" in trade agreements). 

The TISA negotiating texts are supposed to remain secret for five years after the deal is finalized or abandoned. Today, the secrecy charade has collapsed, and the risks to Wall Street oversight are exposed for all to see.

Now 18 hours past a critical business deadline, I have wasted the last 90 minutes after my state-of-the-art wireless keyboard started hashing my password log-ins and erasing my in-box.

Two months ago, I had to take a second mobile phone contract in order to use an old but rugged and reliable phone as backup to my almost state-of-the-art smart phone. The new phone has fabulous features, but is increasingly temperamental, frequently loses signal and the battery lasts less than six hours.

Poverty is on the rise in America and is creating a phenomenon known as the "poverty trap." Public schools are having to deal with its negative effects more and more every year. This is important for schools because poverty greatly decreases student learning ability, and public schools and teachers must become more creative at finding ways to mitigate the negative effects of poverty in the classroom. During an era of increasing public education "reform," it's important to keep poverty in mind as a factor of student achievement.

The US is currently one of only three countries in the OECD community (out of 34) that spend as little on welfare for families in poverty, that do as little for helping children in poverty, and that do not equalize educational opportunity for children in poor communities (1). This must change if the United States is going to be economically competitive with other industrialized countries in the future.

The research is in! An extensive Princeton University study shows that the American people have no impact on which laws get passed. Lee Camp breaks down the specifics and explains why this means we should be more active and less apathetic than ever before!

Today, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act, a bill passed by the House last month that ends the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records. The bill now heads to President Obama for his signature. Elizabeth Goitein and Faiza Patel, co-directors of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, are available for your coverage.

"For the first time since 9/11, Congress has placed significant limits on the government's ability to spy on Americans," said Elizabeth Goitein. "Once signed into law, the USA Freedom Act will end the NSA's indiscriminate collection of Americans' phone records. If faithfully implemented, it will also narrow the collection of other types of business records under Section 215 and other foreign intelligence authorities. It will introduce a measure of transparency into FISA Court decisions and give the court's judges the option of conducting more balanced proceedings."

Commenting on the release of a newaccount by a Guantanamo detainee of his torture at the hands of the CIA, Cori Crider, an attorney at international human rights NGO Reprieve - which represents victims of rendition and torture operations - said:

"It has long been clear that the Senate torture report was only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the worst CIA abuses we know of were absent from the public version of the study." 

Jun 03

Pakistan Cannot Handle Educated Jihadists

By Mubashir Noor, Truthout | Op-Ed

Saad Aziz has the dubious honor of enhancing Pakistan's terrorism vocabulary. Before his May 21 confession to killing social activist Sabeen Mahmud, and gunning down Ismailis in Safoora Goth,Pakistan's political pendulum on terror swung between two stops: every hit on the homeland could be traced back to either the Taliban or India's intelligence agencies. A young man with an elite education and cosmopolitan upbringing could never be a jihadist. The fact that similar individuals were joining the Islamic State (IS) was dismissed as a first-world problem. Rich people would never go rogue in Pakistan; life was too good for them here!

Reborn fanatics like Saad Aziz and cohort Mohammed Ishrat are especially troublesome because they are hard to predict and don't conform to stereotypes. No one talks about the other killers, Haafiz Nasir or Tahir Hussain, because their socio-religious standing is within the present profile's margin of error. Local commentators are now dusting off precedents to downplay Aziz's actions, and comparing him to Omar Saeed Sheikh and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. These comparisons don't work because both of the latter embraced Al-Qaeda's original logic of jihad against the infidel occupiers of Muslims lands. Unlike Aziz, neither willfully targeted fellow Muslims, nor spewed anti-Shia hate.