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.

Aug 18

Four Tasks for College Professors

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

A few days ago, I read on Facebook the re-posting of an essay, authored by a young college professor, which discussed the five things students should never say to their professors. Originally published in USA Today, the list includes such gems as "Did I miss anything important," "I took this class for an easy A," "I didn't know we had anything due," "I was studying for another course so couldn't do my work for this class," and "Did you answer my email yet."

While I, like so many professors, have been asked all of these questions during my teaching career, I want to offer a different list, this one for professors. Too often, educators, and especially professors, seem to operate from the perspective that "this job would be Ok if it weren't for the kids." That list of questions not to ask, in my mind, comes from the same place. While it may have been intended to help students get in good with their professors, it seems to suggest that students are clueless dolts who are annoyingly self-centered.

With the recent announcement by the Netanyahu government that it intends to build 1,200 more settlement homes on disputed land in the West Bank – even in the face of proposed peace talks – it serves us well to look back at seminal events in the region's history that might shed a light on the sort of exceptionalism and, frankly, hubris demonstrated by Netanyahu and previous Israeli administrations in promoting and subsidizing these settlements deemed illegal by most of the international community. The incident from Brunner's documentary above provides a clue. It was just one moment in a systematic campaign by IDF forces to empty Palestinian towns and villages of their native inhabitants at the height of the 1948 War. What is significant is that as each town and village was overtaken and its inhabitants driven off, the business of expulsion took on an air of normalcy, rationalized at first as an unfortunate consequence of war, then embraced as a legitimate national policy. This experience has habituated segments of Israeli society to the practice of wresting property from others and moving in, a practice at the core of the current strife in the Occupied Territories.

YREKA, Calif.— Three conservation groups filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service for approving a 50-year plan by Fruit Growers Supply Co. to accelerate logging of occupied spotted owl habitat and for granting "take permits" for endangered species on 150,000 acres of forest in Siskiyou County, Calif. The agencies approved a "habitat conservation plan" for Fruit Growers that continues a history of overharvesting, allowing the company to log thousands of acres in the next 10 years in exchange for promised future habitat improvements that are highly uncertain. Included in the plan is approval to "take," that is, harm or kill, more than 80 northern spotted owls that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Aug 16

The National Labor Relations Board Has Five Senate Confirmed Members

By Office of Public Affairs, SpeakOut | Press Release

Today, for the first time since August 21, 2003, the National Labor Relations Board has a full complement of five Senate confirmed members. Four new members, all nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed last month by the U.S. Senate have been sworn into office. NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce was also confirmed last month to an additional five year term on the Board.

Aug 15

When I Sued the FBI – and Won

By The Shalom Report, SpeakOut | News Analysis

During the last three months, we have been learning a great deal about massive and continuing wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of hundreds of millions of Americans by "our" Government.

For me, this has had a strong personal kick to it. To explain why, I have to share with you a story that began 45 years ago.

Beginning in 1968, the FBI undertook an effort called "COINTELPRO" – short for "counter-intelligence program" –- that used such illegal means as warrantless wiretapping, theft, forgery, agents provocateurs, and worse –- to disrupt the lawful civil rights, Black-liberation, and antiwar movements.

The recent article "Rancor in Washington Fans Public Disapproval" (Wall Street Journal, p. A1, July 24) notes that public disapproval of Congress has reached an all-time high of 83%. More telling still, the same article indicates people are finally making the shift from a general disapproval of Congress to a specific disapproval of the members of Congress who represent them—only 32% indicated their congressional representatives deserved re-election. These statistics should bother members of Congress. Sixteen months from now, Americans will have the chance to replace 87% of Congress if enough Americans choose to replace the Senators and Representatives who will stand for re-election next year. There are two easy steps our Senators and Representatives can take now that will dramatically improve the public approval rating of the United States Congress.

August 12, 2013, New York – In a landmark decision today, a federal court found the New York City Police Department’s highly controversial stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional.  In her thorough, 198-page ruling, Judge Shira Sheindlin found the NYPD’s practices to violate New Yorkers’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and also found that the practices were racially discriminatory in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  To remedy the widespread constitutional violations, the judge ordered a court-appointed monitor to oversee a series of reforms to NYPD policing practices and also ordered a Joint Remedial Process which will solicit input from a variety of stakeholders, including New York communities most directly affected by policing.  The court’s ruling follows a 10-week trial that concluded on May 20. The class action lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, was brought by the Center of Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the law firms of Beldock, Levine, and Hoffman and Covington & Burling, LLP.

Aug 14

With Iran US Is Stuck in False Dilemma

By Dallas Darling, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Like Longine Symphonettes that once played over and over again, the U.S. is again playing a "false dilemma" record with Iran. When President Hassan Rouhan offered an olive branch by proposing "direct" and "protracted" talks on Iran's disputed civilian-nuclear program, one would think the Obama Administration would have accepted. But not only did they denigrate President Rouhan's statement, Congress reacted by wanting more severe and austere economic sanctions. They also claimed President Rouhani' s (who is considered a moderate by the West) statement was not "substantive."

But the U.S. is accustomed to playing false dilemmas. In a diverse world, it is difficult to try and maintain preeminence through a prism of only two possibilities. In Iran's case, U.S. leaders claim it is pursuing nuclear enrichment for the purpose of developing atomic weapons. According to Iran, though, its nuclear enrichment is only for peaceful and civilian purposes, which is very common among many non-nuclear nations. In the past, direct talks, even public debates, have also been ridiculed and derided and often met with severe sanctions, ones that have hurt some of Iran's civilian populations.

Aug 14

In America

By Rachael Kilgour, SpeakOut | Video

"In America"

One by one we fall in line
To reach for the precious prize
To the promised land
Singing "Yes we can!"
Stomachs bigger than our eyes
And it's yelled out loud
It's murmured low
There's a chance for you and me
To have all we dreamed
And even more it seems
That's the curse of liberty