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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.

Apr 26

How About A Real Peace Prize?

By William Fisher, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

So carried away with anticipation that they could no longer contain their enthusiasm, back in 2009 the Nobel Committee opted to award the Peace Prize to newly-elected President Barack Obama.

For many who took in this news, it sullied the reputation of the Nobel awards almost beyond reclamation. But most of us forgave the Committee for being carried away by the stark contrast between Obama and the war-making George W. Bush.

The critically acclaimed new film Beyond the Pines, written and Directed by auteur filmmaker Derek Cianfrance, missed the mark in many ways. Cianfrance succeeds in bringing together visually stunning sequences with deeply nuanced character development in the film. From Ryan Gosling's ninety mile and hour race scenes along the turbulent backwoods of New York State to Bradley Cooper's gut-wrenching portrayal of a good man among a world of greed and corruption, the first hour of the film has all the elements of an amazing feature. The only thing missing is a coherent story. While the trailer leads you to believe that the film is an intense look into the conflict between cop and criminal, Cianfrance delivers a seventeen year epic focusing on the relationship between two men who both make decisions that cause their lives to intersect for only one moment - but be revisited in the lives of their sons.

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Yemeni human rights organization HOOD and the Swiss-based Alkarama submitted new testimony to a Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee that is holding a hearing this afternoon on the Obama administration's targeted killing program. The submission provides accounts of a sample of five strikes carried out in Yemen in 2012 and 2013 based on unpublished field research conducted by the HOOD and Alkarama, which included visits to the sites of the strikes and interviews with victims. Some of the strikes examined resulted in the highest civilian casualty tolls in recent years.

Apr 25

Glorious Martial Law?

By Joe Giambrone, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Are we allowed to talk about martial law, the militarization of police, and the complete shutdown of cities on command? Or will that get the glorious law enforcers to storm and kick in our own doors now? Just what are the rules in effect today? Just what sort of precedent is being set here right before our eyes?

It was your commoner citizens who located the Boston bombing suspect after finding him hiding in a boat. This was after the martial law decree had arbitrarily been lifted, and it was now ordered permissible to go out in one's backyard again.

Is martial law the answer to sticky incidents with fleeing suspects? Can this now apply to any suspects or any manhunt in the United States, anywhere, for any reason?

Recently a student told me how he had been discouraged from freely taking out federal student loans by his professor. When the student said he wasn't particularly concerned about repayment, the teacher replied, "Well you should!" This mentality, while partially understandable, is promoting a fear of borrowing for education in precisely those who should be encouraged and emboldened to take out loans.

In the US, economic disadvantage breeds poverty that carries on through generations. One of the central purposes of federal student loans is to aid those who are financially less fortunate in obtaining a quality education. But again and again I have either personally listened to others warn against the dangers of student loans or heard countless stories from students who are discouraged from borrowing. As I see it, the discussion around student debt is significantly influenced and directed by the fallacy of magnifying risks.

Apr 25

Schooling Santorum

By Damian Manire, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Over the past few weeks a debate has been unfolding at my alma mater, Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe, Mich. Rick Santorum has been hired to speak by Young Americans for Freedom, a student group at the school.

After the event was initially cancelled due to teacher opposition, the Grosse Pointe Public School Board reversed its decision following pushback from parts of the Grosse Pointe community and from Rick Santorum himself, The Detroit News reported. The compromise reached allows students to attend Santorum's talk on the condition that they present a permission slip signed by parents.

The death of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse, Colorado Department of Corrections executive director Tom Clements and Mingo County Virginia sheriff Eugene Crum stem from the NRA's two favorite myths: that the thing that stops "bad guys" with guns is "good guys with guns" and that criminals go out of their way to chose gun free zones.

Mike McLelland carried a gun even when he walked his dog and his wife Cynthia also had a license to carry a concealed handgun. "There were guns hidden all over the house,: his son, J. R. McLelland, told the New York Times. "Behind doors, everywhere. He could have been standing next to a .40-caliber Glock and you would not have known it. When they said that he got shot, it was unbelievable because he was so well-armed and so well-versed in guns." Still the couple was murdered in their home over Easter weekend.

Apr 25

Time to End the War on Drugs

By Cliff Thornton, Green Shadow Cabinet | Op-Ed

It is time to end the war on drugs. It is time to dismantle the Drug Enforcement Administration and departments of other agencies that deal with drug enforcement and put in place sensible policies that regulate drugs in order to protect public health and safety.

Drug use is a public health issue and does not belong in the justice system. Drug use is better handled by health professionals than it is by police, prosecutors and prisons. Drug issues should be handled by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration not the Department of Justice.

Fiscal and Monetary policies since the financial crisis and the protracted recession that began in 2008 have failed to generate a sustained recovery of the U.S. economy—except for big banks, big corporations, investors and speculators, and the wealthiest 10% households. All have benefited significantly from record profits growth and record returns on stock, corporate bonds, derivatives and other financial securities' investments since 2009, while median family earnings have continued to decline every year and Main St. America has been left behind.

Last week, the court heard some of the most dramatic testimony yet from New Yorkers who have been illegally stopped and frisked by the NYPD. In a packed schedule, it also heard from officers who conducted stops; various supervisors and officials throughout the system whose testimony made clear that no one is adequately reviewing stops to ensure they are constitutional; and two officials involved in the release of the NYPD's RAND report on racial profiling in the department.

CCR witnesses recounted stops that highlighted exactly why this trial challenging unconstitutional stops and frisks is so important: Clive Lino and a friend, waiting for a take-out order outside a Chinese restaurant, stopped and frisked when officers deemed Lino's entering the restaurant a "furtive movement"...Cornelio McDonald, stopped and frisked on his way home from his mother's house...Leroy Downs, sitting on his stoop and talking on the phone, pushed up against a fence, frisked and searched...David Ourlicht, standing outside with a friend on a smoke break, stopped by cops with guns drawn...