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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.

Jul 30

Three Things about the TPP you need to Know and Share

By Dennis Trainor Jr, Acronym TV | Video Report

When the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections commission that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government, many of us who care about the principles of Democracy (first and foremost among them that the people rule) felt as if we had been punched in the gut by Andre the Giant, kicked in the privates by the steel toe of a Gene Simmons boot, and Mike Tyson was making a meal out of our ear.

It is hard to imagine feeling worse than that, but President Obama is working to see that you do.

Diana Zuniga is statewide coordinator for CURB, Californians United for a Responsible Budget: CurbPrisonSpending.org She discusses the hunger strike in California prisons and the ongoing struggle to resist further expansion of mass incarceration, and to move our society in a healthier direction.

Jul 30

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

By Colleen Teubner, Other Words | Op-Ed

After graduating from high school, I had two choices: I could earn a college degree while shouldering debt, or struggle in a highly competitive job market without one. I chose the former. And I'm not the only one.
My generation is setting records in higher education. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center analysis, one in three of the country's 25-to-29-year-olds has a bachelor's degree — making that credential twice as common in the age group as it was in 1971.

We're also setting records in underemployment. Nearly half of the recent college grads who have found work are in jobs that don't require a four-year college degree.

The latest rumors out of Washington have Lawrence Summers in the lead to be President Obama's choice as the successor to Ben Bernancke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Next to appointments to the Supreme Court, arguably the most significant appointment power of the Presidency is the selection of the Fed Chairman.

Through its control of the nation's money supply and interest rates, the Fed controls the nation's monetary policy, which, because the dollar is the reserve currency for most other countries, also has an enormous impact on the global economy. And even though the President appoints the Fed Chairman and the Senate has to confirm the appointment, the Fed Chairman operates autonomously. There is no Presidential or Congressional review of the decisions of the Fed. The Chairman of the Fed may have the greatest power over the nation's economy of any single public official, including the President.

Jul 29

A National Debate about Government Spying?

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

On 8 July 2013 the New York Times (NYT) published an editorial on the issue of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans. The editorial described the issue as one of "overwhelming importance" worthy of national debate, and noted that President Obama said that he welcomed such a debate. Then the NYT pointed to a core problem: "This is a debate in which almost none of us know what we're talking about."

It turns out that everything about the NSA surveillance operation is "classified" and therefore done in secret. As a result there is no public access to the information needed for a debate. That is, until the "leaker" Edward Snowden risked all to tell the American public and, indeed, the whole world, about it.

Protests are sweeping the nation in response to the George Zimmerman acquittal. New York, Philadelphia, DC, Miami, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, and LA are just some of the locations. But what is the nature and purpose of these protests and are they effective?

This brief essay is not intended to speak for anyone. People have their own reasons and motivations for protesting, and their responses to the acquittal are personal and their own. But making some general observations and delving into some of the root issues can correct some of the misinterpretations and clarify some of the occurrences.

We bought tickets to see Fruitvale Station, a film about Oscar Grant, a young black man shot dead by an Oakland transit cop when a text beeped my cell phone; it read – George Zimmerman acquitted. Waves of rage and grief rolled through me. Swaying on my feet, I stared at the phone.

Here I was about to see a film about twenty-two year old Grant, who was killed by Officer Johannes Mehserle, when another man, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for the murder of sixteen year old Trayvon Martin – who, like Grant, was just on his way home. Two black men, young, innocent and dead. I saw their faces float over each other in my mind and overlap.

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed the dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as a violation of the First Amendment. The case, Blum v. Holder, was filed on behalf of five long-time animal rights activists who allege that the 2006 law violates their right to free speech. In March, Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, ruled that the activists did not have standing to bring the suit, without addressing central First Amendment questions raised in the case. Today's appeal argues that the Judge incorrectly dismissed the case by misinterpreting the AETA as criminalizing only property destruction and threats, despite the law's broad prohibition on causing an animal enterprise any loss of property, including profits.

Today, Amnesty International has also issued a press release "USA: End inhumane treatment of California prison hunger strikers" regarding the retaliation by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) against prisoners participating in the peaceful hunger strike. Veterans for Peace in their letter specifically asked for a guarantee that "reprisals against peaceful hunger strikers not be taken," but the CDCR continues to withhold medications, freeze prisoners in their cells, hold prisoners' confidential legal papers, forbid exercise time, and take official disciplinary action against strikers.