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.
An untold story of our congressional system is the lucrative cottage industry of “political intelligence consultants.” These are lobbyists and Wall Street operatives who roam the halls of Congress and executive agencies trolling for inside information affecting the marketplace to sell to those looking to manipulate the stock market.
This enterprise is dubbed the “political intelligence industry,” consisting of some 2,000 political intelligence consultants soaking up information from government sources and selling it to clients to the tune of anywhere between $100 million and $400 million annually, although the amount is a very rough estimate.
Climate change and world peace will each be highlighted on Sunday September 21, the International Day of Peace. In our nuclear-armed, temperature-rising, resource-depleting world these issues are intricately related and represent the greatest threats to our planet. It is not coincidence that they be highlighted together. We must make the connection between peace on the planet and peace with the environment. Sunday's Peoples Climate March will empower citizens the world over to demonstrate the will of the people and demand action as global leaders convene in New York on Tuesday for the U.N. Climate Summit.
As our planet warms, causing severe droughts and weather conditions that in turn cause crop losses at home and around the world, conflict ensues as competition for finite resources develops. Entire populations, huge cities, and countries are at risk with rising sea levels. Climate change is a catalyst for conflict. This is occurring the world over where two-thirds of global populations live on less than two dollars a day.
"Borderline sweatshop conditions." That's how a group of Chipotle Mexican Grill employees, including several managers, described their working conditions before walking off the job last week at a Penn State restaurant location, causing it to close for several hours. The story, and images of the note the employees posted on the door explaining why "[a]lmost the entire management and crew...resigned," has since gone viral. Good. When I heard about the walkout, I could relate: I also worked at Chipotle, and my working conditions were equally dreadful. People should know.
Between 2012 and 2013, I worked at a Chipotle restaurant in Torrance, CA. I had hoped to be hired as a cashier, but there was only one person fast enough to work the register during the busy lunch shift, so the position was not to be mine. This speed - what Chipotle calls "throughput" - is well-known: show up at lunchtime, and even in a line snaking all the way to the door, you'll be out, burrito in hand, in just a few minutes. But the demand to work fast puts enormous pressure on workers, creating the kinds of conditions that can compel someone to walk out on the job.
Are you scared? How will we pay for that? This is the context that was missing from the discussion of a bill from Utah Senator Orin Hatch which would encourage state and local governments to replace traditional defined benefit pension plans with cash balance type plans tied to an annuity which would be run by the insurance industry.
The piece told readers:
"For local governments and states, the unfunded liabilities are huge, ranging anywhere from $1.4 trillion to more than $4 trillion, depending on the assumptions plugged in by actuaries."
While President Reagan's report on education in America is famous for the words "a rising tide of mediocrity," the lesser-known words from A Nation at Risk were those describing the solution to America's education woes - to create a "Learning Society."
Unfortunately, Reagan did not speak in public about a "Learning Society" - a concept that has now been redefined by a variety of organizations further muddying our political "education reform" waters.
A few months ago, not many Americans, in fact Europeans as well, knew that a Yazidi sect in fact existed in northwest Iraq. Even in the Middle East itself, the Yazidis and their way of life have been an enigma, shrouded by mystery and mostly grasped through stereotypes and fictitious evidence. Yet in no time, the fate of the Yazidis became a rally cry for another US-led Iraq military campaign.
It was not a surprise that the small Iraqi minority found itself a target for fanatical Islamic State (IS) militants, who had reportedly carried out unspeakable crimes against Yazidis, driving them to Dohuk, Irbil and other northern Iraqi regions. According to UN and other groups, 40,000 Yazidi had been stranded on Mount Sinjar, awaiting imminent “genocide” if the US and other powers didn’t take action to save them.
Washington, DC - The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a major proposal for curbing corporate tax avoidance. The OECD recommends international cooperation to prevent large corporations from avoiding taxes in the countries where they do business. The OECD plan comes amidst increased calls to crack down on corporate tax avoidance.
"I am very encouraged by the OECD's strong stance," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the anti-poverty organization Jubilee USA, which advocates corporations paying their taxes in developing economies. "Developing countries are losing more money to corporate tax avoidance than they are receiving in official aid. For every 10 dollars developing countries receive in aid, 100 dollars is flowing out due to tax avoidance and illicit flows."
Washington Post on Public Pensions: People Should Refuse to Pay for Their Washington Post Ads
The Washington Post thinks its fantastic that Rhode Island broke its contract with its workers. It applauded State Treasurer and now Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gina Raimondo for not only cutting pension benefits for new hires and younger workers, but also:
"suspending annual cost-of-living increases for retirees and shifting workers to a hybrid system combining traditional pensions with 401(k)-style accounts."
In the lead-up to the historic Climate March in NYC on September 22nd,, some activists have expressed doubt regarding the efficacy of mass demonstrations, and some have criticized the march as a toothless gesture, perhaps even a co-optation of a more militant environmentalism.
But history proves otherwise. There hasn't been a movement in the history of the US that has succeeded without putting massive numbers in the streets.
After a string of what the Secretary of the Air Force called “systemic” violations of nuclear weapons procedures, the service has moved to address what one internal email called “rot” in the nuclear missile corps.
Air Force higher-ups plan to fix problems involving low morale, poor discipline, alcohol and drug use, security lapses, leadership failures and widespread cheating, by offering bonus pay (like Navy nuclear war teams get), a “nuclear service” medal and additional modernization of the Minuteman III missiles. The Air Force maintains 450 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are spread across North Dakota, Montana and parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. They are kept on “alert” status, ready to launch on a moment’s notice, by the crews suspected of the wrongdoing.