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.
On the evening of Saturday, February 21, a group of activists and allies took to the subway in Chicago to make some noise about this week’s election and the much discussed reparations ordinance. The ordinance, which would provide care and compensation to individuals tortured by Chicago police under Jon Burge, will not be on the ballot, but the man who has prevented it from getting a hearing before the City Council will be: Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The majority of the City Council supports the ordinance, but in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, such details aren’t really relevant. Emanuel has never seen police torture victims, or other victims of police violence, as a political priority. Given this mayor’s overall treatment of communities of color – shuttering dozens of schools and clinics in black communities – his failure to prioritize the safety and dignity of those most affected by police violence is unsurprising.
As an American writer, I often examine the story of our nation for emergent archetypes of US identity. Several are terribly embarrassing for a citizen of conscience: the Couch Potatoes of Consumer-Capitalist Society, the American Gladiator of War-Rage and Bigotry, the Avaricious and Appalling Wall St. Tycoon.
Yet, one plucky character threads its way stolidly through the story of the US, challenging the apathy and atrocities of other archetypes, marginalized in the media, misrepresented in history, proposing itself as an audacious, eternal figure in the identity of this nation: the Activist, linking arms with fellow citizens and striving for change. Flawed and heroic, with blind spots the size of Texas, with imperfect vision yet awe-inspiring determination, this character has appeared in many millions of Americans of all races, genders, sexualities, classes, faiths, creeds, and ages.
The murder of three American Muslims at a University of North Carolina condominium on Tuesday, 10 February, was no ordinary murder, nor is the criminal who killed them an ordinary thug. The context of the killings, the murder itself and the media and official responses to the horrific event is a testimony to everything that went wrong since the United States unleashed it’s long-drawn-out “war on terror”, with its undeclared, but sometimes declared enemy, namely Islam and Muslims.
Horrific as it was, the killing of a husband and wife, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, by homegrown terrorist, Craig Stephen Hicks, is the kind of violence that can only fit into a greater media and official narrative, which designates millions of innocent Muslims, in the US or across the world as enemies or potential terrorists.
February 18, 2015, Washington D.C. - Today, the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR) vacated former Guantánamo prisoner David Hicks’s conviction in the military commissions for providing material support for terrorism. Hicks was the first prisoner to be convicted in a Guantánamo military commission and a party to CCR’s historic Supreme Court victory in Rasul v. Bush, which established that Guantánamo prisoners have a right to access U.S. courts to challenge their detention. Today’s ruling comes in the wake of an en banc decision by the D.C. Circuit, Al Bahlul v. United States, which held that material support for terrorism is not an offense triable by military commission.
“We are very happy for David. Today’s decision is a powerful reminder that he committed no crime, he is innocent of any offense,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Wells Dixon. “David Hicks can now be truly free of Guantánamo.”
It seems that the news is always full of, well, bad news, such as the long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The seemingly intractable war between these two groups has gone on for decades. Too often, all we see in the news are stories of new rocket attacks, new bombings, new assassinations, and implacable hatred.
But that is not the whole truth. In her book, From Enemy To Friend, Rabbi Amy Eilberg reports the existence of a different reality. She informs us of “The Bereaved Parents Circle,” which is an organization that brings together families from both sides who have had loved ones killed by the other side. She attended one of their meetings. Two men spoke: Rami (an Israeli) whose 14 year old daughter was killed in a terrorist attack while buying school supplies and Mazen (a Palestinian) whose unarmed father was riddled with bullets by Israeli soldiers for no reason. Each told his story.
Civil society groups denounce “regulatory cooperation” in the TTIP negotiations as a threat to democracy and an attempt to put the interests of big business before the protection of citizens, workers, and the environment.
February 2015 - Statement by civil society organisations on regulatory cooperation in TTIP: We, the undersigned organisations, hereby express our deep concern about and our firm opposition to the direction of the TTIP negotiations regarding the regulation of vital areas, such as chemicals, food standards, public services, occupational health and safety, and financial regulation. EU negotiators have claimed on a number of occasions that TTIP is not a threat to the laws and standards that protect us and the environment.
For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to engage in countless, thorough discussions about the history of socialist political organizing in Iran with members of the relevant movements. My conversations have been with Kurdish and Persian Iranians.
Compared to their counterparts in Kurdistan's Southern, Northern and Western regions, the organizational structures of Iranian Kurdish socialists have endured the harshest fate. Furthermore, the toughest challenges faced by Kurdish socialism lie in Rojhelat (Kurdish for "East," refers to Eastern Kurdistan or Iranian Kurdistan).
Rojava is undergoing and cementing a revolution; Iraqi Kurdistan is maneuvering towards independence and the reluctant Turkish government has ultimately been compelled to commence dialogue with the PKK largely on the PKK's terms. There may have been flashes of spring in parts of the Arab world and the prospects for breakthroughs for the realization of Kurdish self-determination in many corners of Kurdistan are real. But the Islamic regime of Iran has solidified in Rojhelat over a thirty-year long winter that shows little signs of vanishing.
It's a great relief that at last the European Union (Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande) have begun to talk directly about the Ukraine with Russia (President Putin) without the US being directly involved, yet getting both sides in the Ukraine conflict involved. If the Minsk ceasefire holds, these discussions could result in, albeit prolonged, negotiations to end the civil war and later determine the future status of the Ukraine. Because the true national interests of both the EU and Russia coincide, these could yet succeed if this background is kept in mind:
Mr. Gorbachev's grave warning of 29 January and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's annual news conference of 21 January seem now to being taken seriously, accepting that Russia has a vital national interest in the Ukraine and the European Union has an important interest. The United States has no political interest so long as the Ukraine is a hyphen joining the EU east and the Russian west of Europe. Flouting Russia's vital interest has led to the present crisis.
Americans consider themselves citizens of "the Land of the Free" with a tradition of rugged individualism that still provides mythical fodder for organizations such as the Tea Party and the National Rifle Association. People associated with such organizations (and their numbers are in the millions) also exhibit a deep suspicion of government. They believe that the politicians they elect should, as one-time Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater put it, "aim not to pass laws, but to repeal them." They believe that the fewer rules and laws there are (except those promoting their own peculiar brand of morality), the greater is the citizen's freedom.
It takes just a little bit of historical knowledge to know that this attitude is dangerous nonsense. The fact is you cannot have a stable and safe human environment without rules and laws. That is one reason why they have always existed in one form or another at multiple levels of human society, in the family, the classroom, private clubs, the town, the state, the country, and so forth. In fact, human history can be read as the expansion of enforceable rules or laws from smaller to larger groupings. Wider circles obeying the same set of hopefully humane rules.
Key witnesses against a British grandmother on death row in Texas have said that prosecutors in her 2002 trial threatened or 'blackmailed' them into testifying against her.
Among them is the only person who claimed to have seen Linda Carty (56) carry out the murder of Joanna Rodriguez, who has now admitted that Texan District Attorneys (DAs) "threatened me and intimidated me" into identifying Ms Carty as the culprit. Christopher Robinson, who was the key to the prosecution case, admits that he never saw Ms Carty kill anyone and his testimony to this extent at trial was a lie.