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.
Hand it to President Obama for appointing Eric Holder the first African American Attorney General in US history. Then try to fathom that after generations of civil and human rights work by African Americans -- whom the US Constitution once called "3/5 of a person" -- it is Holder who declared some brown skinned prisoners of war to be "non-persons." The men are held outside the law by the US at Guantánamo Bay.
Attorneys for the POWs have asked for an order that would allow group prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, but Holder's Justice Dept. has formally replied that the men aren't entitled to relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because the Supreme Court has not found that Guantánamo's prisoners "are 'persons' to whom RFRA applies."
Clearly whoever fired that SA 11 BUK (a Soviet 1972 ground to air missile) bears the primary responsibility for shooting down the airliner. Although the Ukrainan army, like the Russian army, has this system, the position of the wreckage and the unhelpful behavior of the leaders of the self-styed Donetsk People's Republic makes it virtually certain that they are responsible. It is not yet clear whether the system used was one of those that once formed part of the Ukrainian army or was recently supplied by Russia.
But Russia's support for the Donetsk separatists is well known and the Donetsk "people's republic" could hardly have been declared had Russia disapproved. But blame falls much wider than this. With warnings in place regarding the dangers of Ukrainian airspace which was therefore avoided by other airlines, how was it that MH 17 entered this airspace from the East? A Malaysian Airlines desire to save fuel costs with the shorter route? And the Captain of MH17 who bore ultimate responsibility for his plane's security – why did he agree to the fly this route? And what is the responsibility of the Ukrainian aviation authorities? Did the plane have their permission to overfly? Was Ukrainian air traffic control in contact with this flight?
The European Court of Human Rights has today ruled that the Polish government was not only aware of but actively assisted the CIA's European "black site" programme, which saw detainees held and tortured in secret prisons across the Continent.
In a judgement handed down today in the case of Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo detainee who the US has admitted it mistakenly believed to be a senior member of Al Qaeda, the court concluded that it was "established beyond reasonable doubt" that Abu Zubaydah was flown from a secret site in Thailand to another CIA prison in Stare Kiejkuty in northern Poland.
Earlier today eight Atlantic Life Community activists joined with Upstate Drone Action at the main gate of Hancock Air Base, in Syracuse, New York. Hancock is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State Air National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing pilots weaponized MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan – killing and terrorizing an uncountable number of civilians.
The eight delivered a People's War Crimes Indictment to the Hancock chain of command by affixing it to the fence after being refused by the base personnel. Also delivered was an Order of Protection on behalf of the children of the world who are subject to U.S. drone surveillance and attack.
Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council, Excellencies,
The situation in the occupied Gaza Strip is critical for the civilians living there and requires your urgent attention. Since Israel announced its military operation "Protective Edge" on 7 July, Gaza has been subjected to daily intensive bombardment from the air, land and sea, employing well over 2,100 air strikes alone. The hostilities have resulted in the deaths of more than 600 Palestinians, including at least 147 children and 74 women.
This is the third serious escalation of hostilities in my six years as High Commissioner. As we saw during the two previous crises in 2009 and 2012, it is innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip, including children, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities, who are suffering the most.
I can only imagine the horror in Gaza today as Israel intensifies its assault of that overcrowded, impoverished strip. It is a continuing nightmare story of pain and loss, of trauma and devastation. The heartbreaking numbers by themselves tell part of the story— with hundreds killed, thousands wounded, tens of thousands without homes, and now 600,000 without water. But the story of Gaza is more than these numbers and this current assault.
Even in earlier times, Gaza could be a nightmare. In the early 1990's I spent time in Jabalia— a sprawling refugee camp that is home to more than 80,000. During 25 years of Israeli occupation, nothing had been done to improve the infrastructure of the camp. The roads were unpaved, sewage ran into puddles in the streets and flowed directly into the sea, leaving the beaches polluted. The defining characteristic of the place was grinding poverty. In 1994, the then Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, visited Gaza after completing a tour of South Africa. Upon his return, he told an audience that what he saw in Jabalia was worse than Soweto.
Nation States are not moral agents but centers of power capable of complete ruthlessness in the accumulation and consolidation of power. They are limited only by their own capabilities and their population’s ability to constrain them. The U.S. is certainly no exception.
In 1884, U.S. Army Major William Shepherd observed that, "On the frontier a good Indian means a dead Indian," reflecting a commonly held attitude of the times. It was so broadly held that U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt could reflect upon it in an 1886 speech, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are..." 
On July 21, 2014, the United States filed a motion to dismiss the Nuclear Zero lawsuit that was filed by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) on April 24, 2014 in U.S. Federal Court.
The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit against the United States, claiming that the U.S. has breached its obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by continuing to modernize its nuclear arsenal and by failing to pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament. The RMI requested that the Court declare the United States in breach of its Treaty obligations and order the U.S. to call for and convene, within one year from the Court’s judgment, negotiations on nuclear disarmament.
Cornucopia, WI - The Cornucopia Institute has called upon USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to make public all candidates for appointment to fill the four vacancies on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB, a 15-member board of organic stakeholders representing farmer, consumer, environmental, retail, scientific, certifying and organic food processing interests, was established by Congress to advise the USDA on organic food and agriculture policies and review materials allowed for use in organic food production and processing.
Past investigations by The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, found that prior appointments, during the Bush and Obama administrations, violated the letter of the law, and congressional intent, by appointing agribusiness executives to fill slots on the NOSB reserved for farmers and other independent stakeholders. Public interest groups have suggested that these extra agribusiness representatives on the board have voted in favor of weakening the organic standards.
New York - Anna Conte, a nine year old from Orchard Park, NY who passed away last week after falling into a coma following a severe seizure, was laid to rest today. Anna suffered from Dravet Syndrome, a life-threatening seizure disorder that has been treated with medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Medical marijuana has dramatically reduced the number of seizures in many children with similar seizure disorders.
In an effort to help their daughter, the Conte family joined the successful fight to pass a medical marijuana bill in New York. The Contes travelled repeatedly to Albany, persuading several powerful New York senators to support the bill and generating thousands of phone calls and emails to Albany leadership. Advocates around the state came to know and love Anna and her family and admire their selfless advocacy which was always accompanied with a sense of humor.