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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.

County jails in New Jersey are packed with individuals who are incarcerated solely because they cannot afford their often nominal bail amounts, according to a new report released today by Luminosity in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance.

The New Jersey Jail Population Analysis: Identifying Opportunities to Safely and Responsibly Reduce the Jail Populationexamined county corrections data from 19 of the 21 state counties and found that:

  • On any given day, nearly seventy-five percent of the 15,000 individuals in New Jersey jails are awaiting trial rather than serving a sentence.
Apr 09

Critical Thinking Gone Missing

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

In 2008 Rick Shenkman, the Editor-in-Chief of the History News Network, published a book entitled Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter (Basic Books). In it he demonstrated, among other things, that most Americans were: (1) ignorant about major international events, (2) knew little about how their own government runs and who runs it, (3) were nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country, and (4) were readily swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears, and public relations babble.

Shenkman spent 256 pages documenting these claims, using a great number of polls and surveys from very reputable sources. Indeed, in the end it is hard to argue with his data. So, what can we say about this? One thing that can be said is that this is not an abnormal state of affairs. As has been suggested in prior analyses, ignorance of non-local affairs (often leading to inaccurate assumptions, passive acceptance of authority, and illogical actions) is, in fact, a default position for any population.

When combating repulsive fundamentalist Christian religious supremacists like Chuck Norris, you don't need to be a martial arts black belt. You only need to consider the telling attributes of the pathetic source of the hatred. Then you need to let the people know about it all.

We at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) pride ourselves on being the decisive bulwark in the fight to safeguard the religious liberties and civil rights of United States armed servicemembers who have encountered a panoply of grotesquely acute abuses visited upon them for their choices of religious preferences (or lack thereof). As anyone who follows MRFF knows well, we're used to taking the fight to the very top, whether it be the hallowed halls of military academia, the highest echelons of the U.S. Department of Defense, or the war rooms of the top brass at the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our attack arsenal of remediation regularly includes filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, drafting appropriately aggressive demand letters, breaking stories in the national and international media, litigating when necessary, and ceaselessly advocating in a plethora of other meaningful ways on behalf of our over 32,000 active duty and veteran armed forces clients. Please remember that 96% of MRFF clients are practicing Christians themselves.

Apr 09

The NYT’s Trouble with Drones

By Frank Ascaso, No Flag | Op-Ed

The New York Times is trying to push the administration on Obama’s illegal drone program.  Their appraisal is that the Obama administration is dragging its feet when it comes to reforming the program.  They want to make sure the drones have a modicum of legal cover, and advocate a judicial review panel similar to the FISA court, the oversight body charged with reviewing the federal government’s use of foreign wiretaps.

The problem, for the Times, is not the morality of the strikes themselves, for the use of drones, in the eyes of Americans, have “become a permanent fixture of national policy.”  Nor is it secretive role of the CIA and the lack of transparency.  They see the division between military strikes and those carried out by the CIA is crucial because, “if American military forces hit Pakistan,” now largely the CIA’s role, “it could be an act of war.” A legal nicety the victims of the strikes, overwhelming civilian, no doubt appreciate.

Calm down, white people. You're going all Michael Vick again. You'd think these cheating teachers were there with Vick when he created the sport of dog fighting. What's that you say? Vick didn't invent dog fighting? Well, he must have considering all that uproar. Geeze, remember that uproar?

But yeah, if they did what they did, those teachers should be fired. If the administrators created such an atmosphere, especially let them go. Where it involved money, if they stole any, make them pay it back. If it was a lot, yeah, those folks should go to jail. But I haven't read where a lot of money was stolen.

But a $7 million bail for former Superintendent Beverly Hall and other astronomical amounts for the other defendants (all since reduced)? Did they off someone that someone failed to mention?

Today, four leading experts in law, medicine, and addiction treatment, Robert G. Newman, MD, MPH, Lynn M. Paltrow, JD, Sharon Stancliff, MD, FAAFP and Mishka Terplan, MD, MPH, FACOG, Diplomate, ABAM, released to Task Force members and the public their analysis of theFinal Report issued by the Florida Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, urging Florida to give greater attention to existing well-established medical protocols and to address the needs of pregnant women, including the need for greater access to Medication Assistance Treatment and health services that are not linked to punitive criminal justice and unnecessary child welfare interventions.

The Florida Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, created by the 2012 Florida Legislature and chaired by Attorney General Pam Bondi, was charged with "examining the scope of [Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome "NAS"] in Florida, its long-term effects and the costs associated with caring for drug exposed babies, and which drug prevention and intervention strategies work best with pregnant mothers." Their report was issued in February 2013.

Representatives of IHH, the international humanitarian organization that organized the passengers on the Mavi Marmara in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, have told the author that families of the nine murdered by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) commandos on May 31, 2010, consider the "apology" of the Israeli government to the Turkish government as meaning very little until the Israeli government lifts the blockade on Gaza.

Their family members were killed on a non-violent mission to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza and the families do not consider either an Israeli government apology or the offer of compensation for the death of their loved one as any form of fulfillment of their mission—only the lifting of the blockade on Gaza will assuage their deaths.

We are writing to express the deep concerns of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) regarding the hunger strike of the detainees at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. While accounts differ as to the exact numbers, all sources agree that dozens of prisoners are currently refusing food. Reports from habeas attorneys suggest that many of these individuals have lost considerable weight and that some are reaching the stage where their health may be permanently impaired.

As psychologists and other mental health professionals and behavioral scientists, we are well aware of the deleterious effects of hopelessness and powerlessness on physical and mental health and wellbeing. These conditions result in elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and other emotional disturbances, as well as increased susceptibility to disease, heart attacks, and other serious medical conditions.

It has been ten years since the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq spearheaded by the George W. Bush administration. It is an occasion for remembrance, reflection and deep regret. It was a war built on lies that harmed everything it touched. Most of all, it has harmed the children of Iraq and their families, and it continues to harm them even though the United States and its allies have officially left Iraq.

The war has also done deep and possibly irreparable damage to the credibility and decency of the United States, the country that led in choosing war over peace. It is an ongoing disgrace to America that we do not hold those who initiated aggressive warfare to account for their individual crimes, as the Allies did at Nuremberg following World War II. Short of public international criminal trials, the best we can do now is commit ourselves to never again allowing an aggressive war to be committed in our names, build a world at peace, and be a force for peace in our personal and communal lives.