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.

Maryland may soon join Oregon in exploring solutions to the crisis of student debt and unaffordable education.

Education is supposed to be a human right.  But the United States puts people into deep debt to pay for it.  Short of taxing billionaires or dismantling bombers (both of which we're all, I hope, working on), what's the solution?

The state of Oregon has passed a law creating a commission to study a plan called "Pay it forward. Pay it back."  See Katrina vanden Heuvel: An Oregon Trail to End Student Debt.

Aug 11

Final Thoughts on the Swartz Affair

By John Halle, SpeakOut | News Analysis

On July 30, MIT released its long awaited report on its role in the prosecution and suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz.

Some will regard its release coinciding with the Bradley Manning verdict as suspicious, designed to distract the attention of many of those who would be otherwise interested in and critical of the report's contents.

But it is almost certainly overly conspiratorial to credit MIT with a media strategy on this level of sophistication. In fact, something like the exact opposite is more likely the case: rather than being aware of public perceptions, the report provides many indications of an administration largely unaware of or unconcerned with a widespread cynicism in some circles with respect to its intentions and motives. The tone deafness towards its critics should be seen as of a piece with a routine legalistic arrogance and institutional cowardice, the combination of which would be a decisive factor in the Swartz tragedy.

I vividly recall the excitement those of us in Chicago's No War on Iran Coalition felt in October 2007 when Esquire published a profile - as the teaser text read - of two "former high-ranking policy experts from the Bush administration [who] say the U.S. has been gearing up for a war with Iran for years, despite claiming otherwise." It was one of those moments that left-wingers revel in, when figures from inside the national security apparatus come out of the woodwork and echo what those of us agitating on the outside have been saying, but with a gravitas and on a stage that antiwar voices can only dream of having.

Despite a wave of protests in major cities across the country on Saturday July 27 2013 which, for New Zealand, were reasonably large in size, Prime Minister John Key has made it perfectly clear that he intends to go ahead with the GCSB Bill and Telecommunication (Interception and Communication Security) Bill. His remarks showed a lack of interest in New Zealanders genuinely fearing for their rights as he dismissed the protests as small scale, and participants as either being politically motivated and/or being misinformed.

Aug 09

Remembering Hiroshima: Why do we kill?

By Len Ellis, SpeakOut | Opinion

August 6, 2013 marks the 68th anniversary of the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Other than the subsequent bomb dropped on Nagasaki, thankfully we have not used another nuclear weapon to kill, although we continue to use bombs and guns and missiles to kill each other. I keep asking – "Why do my fellow human beings think that killing is an answer? Why do people continue to kill their brothers and sisters?""

And not just at war. Just recently, a young man was killed for trying to steal a crowbar from a Wal-Mart in Garland, Texas. Have we become so totally disconnected from the sanctity of life that we allow people to be killed for shoplifting? Yes, we allow it, because each and every one of us contributes to the consciousness underlying killing, whether the killing be through war or shoplifting.

Aug 09

NSU, NSA and other Embarrassments

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The hot, seemingly untroubled vacation days in Germany were disturbed only mildly by two abbreviations, NSU and NSA – which were not to be confused!

The former, known all too well since November 2011, stands for National Socialist Underground, the secret pro-Nazi cell which murdered ten men of Turkish or Greek background and a policewoman, blasted a Turkish-populated street with a bomb and robbed several banks. The two main NSU killers died, perhaps suicides, in the closing scenes of this tragic series of events. Beate Zschäpe, the survivor who burnt down much of the building where the evidence was stored, has been on trial since May, together with four alleged accomplices. With eleven defense lawyers, 600 witnesses plus the families and lawyers of the murdered men, it is due to continue until the end of 2014.

In what many have called a blatant abuse of power that strips Americans of their fundamental constitutional rights, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other agencies to spy on American citizens in the name of the War on Drugs. Moreover, according to an exclusive Reuters investigation, DEA agents are actively creating fake investigative trails to disguise where the information originated, a scheme that prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and others are arguing has robbed defendants of their right to a fair trial. Hundreds or thousands of cases could be affected.

The Green Shadow Cabinet calls on President Obama to pardon Bradley Manning for his courageous work exposing U.S. war crimes and State Department deception. Thanks to Manning's revelations of Iraqi deaths and human rights abuses by the American military, Iraq refused to renew immunity for U.S. soldiers, forcing President Obama to pull out at the end of 2011. Thus, Manning deserves much of the credit for ending the immoral, devastating, multi-trillion dollar U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Manning's leaks also revealed corruption and betrayal in repressive Arab governments -- including Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Sale's secret deal with the U.S. allowing drone strikes within his country, and the financial excesses of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidin Ben Ali. These disclosures helped trigger democracy movements of the Arab Spring that continue to this day.

Aug 08

What National Interest? An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

President Obama and his congressional colleagues are carrying on an established, yet clearly dangerous, tradition of U.S. foreign policy — the mixing up of national interest and the parochial interests of powerful lobby groups. Indeed, given the way U.S. federal politics has long operated, national interest is, except in rare cases, an impossible notion. This is because almost all politicians and both political parties are so tied to, and financially dependent upon, powerful lobby groups that they cannot formulate independent positions on issues important to these lobbies. Thus, what is put forth as national interest is most often the interest of a particular interest group with too much money buying too much influence. 

New Zealand’s Parliament enacted a landmark law two weeks ago that will regulate and control – rather than criminalize – so-called “bath salts” and other new synthetic drugs.

The first-of-its-kind law, the Psychoactive Substance Act of 2013, came into effect on July 18, after being approved in Parliament by a 119-1 margin, with the support of seven different political parties from across New Zealand’s political spectrum.

The legislation creates a new government agency, the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority, within the Ministry of Health that will be charged with ensuring that synthetic psychoactive products meet adequate safety standards before going to market. The new regulatory body will also implement and administer a licensing system for potential importers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and researchers.