Wednesday, 27 May 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.

Forty years ago on April 30, 1975, the Vietnamese people, led by their Communist Party, were finally victorious in the long just struggle for national independence and unification against the United States and its puppet regime in Saigon.

The United States experienced an earthshaking lesson in Vietnam - "Stop your unjust wars of aggression!" - but Washington learned nothing from its humiliating defeat except to shift its battlefields of choice from Southeast Asia to Southwest Asia (i.e., the Middle East).

The Hatch Fast Track bill introduced today would revive the controversial Fast Track procedures to which nearly all U.S. House of Representatives Democrats and a sizable bloc of House Republicans already have announced opposition.

Most of the text of the Hatch Fast Track bill replicates word-for-word the text of the 2014 Fast Track bill, which itself replicated much of the 2002 Fast Track bill.

As the Spring International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings open, the World Bank announced $650 million of new grants and concessional loans to the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. About $220 million will be aid in the form of grants and the remainder will be in the form of highly concessional loans. Currently the three countries owe a combined $518 million to the World Bank. Liberia owes $105 million, Guinea $186 million and Sierra Leone $227 million.

"We urge the World Bank Group to consider bolstering their commitments with a new debt relief package for the impacted countries," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA Network. "We applaud the new aid for the affected countries and hope that the World Bank can come up with some rapid response plan to address this kind of crisis much faster in the future."

Before the testing season began, educators in Seattle knew that because of the lack of proper preparations, IT support, technological upgrades, and training - and due to the outlandish number of tests administered this year - testing pandemonium would ensue. 

Last week the Social Equality Educators (SEE) put a call out for teachers to share their stories of this first year of CommonCore, "Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium" (SBAC), testing in the schools. The numerous responses from teachers and parents around the school district describe standardized testing chaos. We heard many stories about SBAC testing that are common to high-stakes, standardized tests: the tests dramatically disrupted the educational process, deprived students of hours of instructional time, reduced stressed out students to tears, and monopolized the computer labs and libraries in service of test administration for weeks at a time.

The Center for Media and Democracy and CREDO Action are denouncing an effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to silence its critics.

CREDO Action, the activism arm of San Francisco-based mobile phone company CREDO Mobile, has refused to honor a cease and desist letter that ALEC sent to CREDO.

Today, members of the House Oversight Committee have issued a statement of "No Confidence" in Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart. The unprecedented move by a group of over twenty bipartisan lawmakers comes a day after her shambolic performance in Congress during a hearing focused on DEA agents who paid for sex workers and sex parties using taxpayer dollars.  Leonhart was widely panned and her answers deemed inadequate during testimony on her agency's handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

"This ought to be the final nail in the Leonhart coffin," said Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs at Drug Policy Alliance. "I cannot see how President Obama and AG Holder allow her to continue in her role. It's hard to think of a more incompetent and out of touch federal official than the current DEA chief."

Apr 17

Islamophobia on Wheels: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, Truthout | Op-Ed

On 1 April 2015 an anti-Muslim advertisement started appearing on 84 municipal buses in the Philadelphia regional area. The ad space was purchased for a four-week period by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which paid $30,000 to run its message: a picture from the early 1940s of Adolf Hitler speaking to Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti (chief Muslim religious authority) of Jerusalem, with an accompanying text, “Islamic Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran” and a call to “end all aid to Islamic countries.” Philadelphia is just the latest city to experience this sort of offensive Islamophobia. Indeed, running Islamophobic attack ads on transit systems across the nation seems to be AFDI’s specialty.

The AFDI is part of an extremist organization called Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which is led by the a hyperactive Islamophobe and strident rightwing Zionist Pamela Geller. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has long tracked right-wing extremist organizations, has labeled the SIOA a “hate group.”

Washington, DC – The FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition today submitted comments to the Senate Finance Committee's Business Income Tax and International Tax Working Groups calling for a number of substantive changes in the tax code to restore fairness and to close loopholes that allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes.

Launched in January by Chairman Orrin Hatch and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, the working groups are now seeking input from interested stakeholders on how best to overhaul the nation's broken tax code.

Legislation that would strengthen Illinois’s renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards would drive billions in new clean energy investments and save consumers $12 billion between 2015 and 2030, reducing the typical household electricity bill by 23 percent, or $22 per month, in 2030, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis to be unveiled today. Steve Frenkel, UCS’s Midwest office director, will share the study’s findings at a 3 p.m. House Renewable Energy and Sustainability Committee hearing.

"Boosting investment in wind and solar power and energy-saving technologies would reestablish Illinois as a national cleanenergy leader and deliver significant consumer and environmental benefits," said Frenkel. "Tapping into Illinois's homegrown clean energy resources would spur billions in new investments statewide, generate millions in local tax revenue and save Illinoisans $12 billion in lower electricity bills over the next 15 years."

As the World Bank prepares for its annual Spring Meetings, members of Our Land Our Business, a campaign of over 260 NGOs, farmer groups and trade unions from around theworld, are publically posing three questions about the Bank's role in land grabbing, climate destruction and the corporatization of agriculture.

These questions penetrate to the heart of the World Bank's development model and throw itsloudly and expensively self-promoted claim to serve the interests of the world's poor into stark relief.

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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.

Forty years ago on April 30, 1975, the Vietnamese people, led by their Communist Party, were finally victorious in the long just struggle for national independence and unification against the United States and its puppet regime in Saigon.

The United States experienced an earthshaking lesson in Vietnam - "Stop your unjust wars of aggression!" - but Washington learned nothing from its humiliating defeat except to shift its battlefields of choice from Southeast Asia to Southwest Asia (i.e., the Middle East).

The Hatch Fast Track bill introduced today would revive the controversial Fast Track procedures to which nearly all U.S. House of Representatives Democrats and a sizable bloc of House Republicans already have announced opposition.

Most of the text of the Hatch Fast Track bill replicates word-for-word the text of the 2014 Fast Track bill, which itself replicated much of the 2002 Fast Track bill.

As the Spring International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings open, the World Bank announced $650 million of new grants and concessional loans to the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. About $220 million will be aid in the form of grants and the remainder will be in the form of highly concessional loans. Currently the three countries owe a combined $518 million to the World Bank. Liberia owes $105 million, Guinea $186 million and Sierra Leone $227 million.

"We urge the World Bank Group to consider bolstering their commitments with a new debt relief package for the impacted countries," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA Network. "We applaud the new aid for the affected countries and hope that the World Bank can come up with some rapid response plan to address this kind of crisis much faster in the future."

Before the testing season began, educators in Seattle knew that because of the lack of proper preparations, IT support, technological upgrades, and training - and due to the outlandish number of tests administered this year - testing pandemonium would ensue. 

Last week the Social Equality Educators (SEE) put a call out for teachers to share their stories of this first year of CommonCore, "Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium" (SBAC), testing in the schools. The numerous responses from teachers and parents around the school district describe standardized testing chaos. We heard many stories about SBAC testing that are common to high-stakes, standardized tests: the tests dramatically disrupted the educational process, deprived students of hours of instructional time, reduced stressed out students to tears, and monopolized the computer labs and libraries in service of test administration for weeks at a time.

The Center for Media and Democracy and CREDO Action are denouncing an effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to silence its critics.

CREDO Action, the activism arm of San Francisco-based mobile phone company CREDO Mobile, has refused to honor a cease and desist letter that ALEC sent to CREDO.

Today, members of the House Oversight Committee have issued a statement of "No Confidence" in Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart. The unprecedented move by a group of over twenty bipartisan lawmakers comes a day after her shambolic performance in Congress during a hearing focused on DEA agents who paid for sex workers and sex parties using taxpayer dollars.  Leonhart was widely panned and her answers deemed inadequate during testimony on her agency's handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

"This ought to be the final nail in the Leonhart coffin," said Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs at Drug Policy Alliance. "I cannot see how President Obama and AG Holder allow her to continue in her role. It's hard to think of a more incompetent and out of touch federal official than the current DEA chief."

Apr 17

Islamophobia on Wheels: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, Truthout | Op-Ed

On 1 April 2015 an anti-Muslim advertisement started appearing on 84 municipal buses in the Philadelphia regional area. The ad space was purchased for a four-week period by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which paid $30,000 to run its message: a picture from the early 1940s of Adolf Hitler speaking to Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti (chief Muslim religious authority) of Jerusalem, with an accompanying text, “Islamic Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran” and a call to “end all aid to Islamic countries.” Philadelphia is just the latest city to experience this sort of offensive Islamophobia. Indeed, running Islamophobic attack ads on transit systems across the nation seems to be AFDI’s specialty.

The AFDI is part of an extremist organization called Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which is led by the a hyperactive Islamophobe and strident rightwing Zionist Pamela Geller. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has long tracked right-wing extremist organizations, has labeled the SIOA a “hate group.”

Washington, DC – The FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition today submitted comments to the Senate Finance Committee's Business Income Tax and International Tax Working Groups calling for a number of substantive changes in the tax code to restore fairness and to close loopholes that allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes.

Launched in January by Chairman Orrin Hatch and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, the working groups are now seeking input from interested stakeholders on how best to overhaul the nation's broken tax code.

Legislation that would strengthen Illinois’s renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards would drive billions in new clean energy investments and save consumers $12 billion between 2015 and 2030, reducing the typical household electricity bill by 23 percent, or $22 per month, in 2030, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis to be unveiled today. Steve Frenkel, UCS’s Midwest office director, will share the study’s findings at a 3 p.m. House Renewable Energy and Sustainability Committee hearing.

"Boosting investment in wind and solar power and energy-saving technologies would reestablish Illinois as a national cleanenergy leader and deliver significant consumer and environmental benefits," said Frenkel. "Tapping into Illinois's homegrown clean energy resources would spur billions in new investments statewide, generate millions in local tax revenue and save Illinoisans $12 billion in lower electricity bills over the next 15 years."

As the World Bank prepares for its annual Spring Meetings, members of Our Land Our Business, a campaign of over 260 NGOs, farmer groups and trade unions from around theworld, are publically posing three questions about the Bank's role in land grabbing, climate destruction and the corporatization of agriculture.

These questions penetrate to the heart of the World Bank's development model and throw itsloudly and expensively self-promoted claim to serve the interests of the world's poor into stark relief.