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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.

Jul 23

Harassing the Drones

By Kathy Kelly, TeleSUR | News Analysis

Kabul - On July 10, 2014, in New York State, Judge David Gideon sentenced Mary Anne Grady Flores to a year in prison and fined her $1,000 for photographing a peaceful demonstration at the U.S. Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field  (near Syracuse) where weaponized Reaper drones are remotely piloted in lethal flights over Afghanistan.  Dozens have been sentenced, previously, for peaceful protest there. But uniquely, the court convicted her under laws meant to punish stalkers, deciding that by taking pictures outside the heavily guarded base she violated a previous order of protection not to stalk or harass the commanding officer.

Mary Anne is a 58 year-old grandmother of three, from Ithaca, New York, where she is part of the Upstate Drone Action

The stain of death spreads below,

but from my cockpit I see none of it.

I only drop bombs as I have been trained

and then, far above the haze and blood,

I speed toward home. 

The case brought by a husband and wife subjected to a 2004 ‘rendition,’ jointly organised by MI6, the CIA and Libyan intelligence, is being heard today by the Court of Appeal in London.

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, an anti-Gaddafi dissident, and his wife Fatima Boudchar, who was five months pregnant at the time, were kidnapped and flown to Muammar Gaddafi’s prisons in 2004, where Mr Belhaj then suffered years of imprisonment and torture. En route to Libya the couple were first tortured at a CIA ‘black site’ in Bangkok. These renditions to Libya are generally thought to have been the dark underside to the so-called "deal in the desert" struck between Tony Blair and Gaddafi in 2004 - the infamous meeting in which Blair embraced Gaddafi in a tent took place the same month as this operation.

Ten years ago, when John "Ahni" Schertow launched the award-winning magazine Intercontinental Cry, about 50 Indigenous Nations led their own front-line struggles to save some of the last intact habitats on Earth from the ravages of modern industrial development. Now more than 500 such struggles are raging around the globe. You'd never know it, even if you were a dedicated reader of mainstream and alternative media – unless one of those publications happened to be Intercontinental Cry. IC has had a hand in bringing some of those struggles to the international stage, most notably with the publication of the crucial essay by First Nations writer and activist Russell Diabo, which played a vital role in helping to spark the Idle No More movement. Diabo was the first to fully expose Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan to terminate First Nations treaty rights, and the world first learned about it at IC.

Schertow, from his bunker in a home office in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has taken up residence on those front lines, watching as the global indigenous movement has grown exponentially. He's dedicated himself to telling the stories and to building a worldwide network of indigenous and non-indigenous reporters to serve as his eyes and ears. On any given day, he might be editing an eye-opening article from a writer in a far-flung land like the Philippines or Papua New Guinea; or investigating a fracking project threatening to contaminate the waters of an indigenous community in Canada or Botswana; or editing and designing the annual best-of collection, People Land Truth. How he does it all without a paid staff, a newsroom or even a journalism degree is worth a story in itself. 

Members of Veterans For Peace will deliver a letter to Israel's Embassy, 3514 International Dr. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, at 1:30 pm Monday afternoon, July 21. The letter calls on the government of Israel to immediately halt the bombing of Palestinian civilians and to withdraw all its troops and military assets from Gaza.  Colonel Ann Wright, who has visited Palestine and Israel several times, will head up the delegation.

The letter reads as follows:

New York – Despite the recent uptick in judicial nominee confirmations over the last few months, judicial vacancies are causing significant case delays and creating unmanageable workloads for judges in district courts, according to a new Brennan Center for Justice study out today.

In a first-of-its-kind-study, the Brennan Center interviewed more than 20 chief judges, court administrators, and practitioners from 10 districts which either currently or recently had judicial vacancies to get a firsthand account of how vacancies impact our trial courts.

Washington, DC – On the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, better known as Dodd-Frank, Labaton Sucharow LLP, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and a growing coalition, representing more than 250 organizations and nearly two million citizens, announce they have submitted petitions with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) demanding a strengthened Whistleblower Program.

The SEC Whistleblower Program offers eligible whistleblowers the ability to report anonymously, robust employment protections and the opportunity to earn substantial monetary awards – regardless of nationality. A recent Wall Street survey, commissioned by Labaton Sucharow, found that financial services professionals were aware of unethical and illegal behavior in the workplace (23%), willing to report possible violations with the protections and incentives offered by the Program (89%) and knew about the existence of the Program (60%, up from 49% just one year earlier).

John Yoo, currently on the faculty of the Berkeley Law school at the University of California, is the primary author of the torture memos. Yoo is less well known as the sole author of legal memos authorizing the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), allegedly justifying warrantless wiretapping of US citizens.

Despite numerous examples of the moral and legal inadequacy of Yoo's work, former Berkeley Law Dean Edley, as one of his last acts as Dean, presided over two recent honors bestowed on John Yoo: Yoo was named co-chair of Korea Law Center; and Yoo was given an endowed chair.  

Jul 21

The Lysenko Affair

By Robert Adler and Les Adler, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Lysenkoism—a convenient untruth

For more than 30 years, from the early 1930s until the mid-1960s, the scientific study of genetics and agriculture in the Soviet Union was stunted by the official endorsement—from Joseph Stalin on down—of Lysenkoism, a hodgepodge of pseudo-scientific ideas and techniques advocated by Trofim Lysenko and his supporters. Central to Lysenkoism was denial of the firmly established science of genetics, replaced by a theory that acquired characteristics such as resistance to cold or drought could be inherited, a theory that supported the views and met the needs of the Communist Party—a politically convenient untruth.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is an island country in the northern Pacific with a population of approximately 70,000 people. For such a small country, it is making big waves.  As a country at risk of being submerged due to rising ocean levels, the RMI has played a leadership role in the international conferences concerned with climate change.  As a country that suffered 12 years of devastating U.S. nuclear testing, it has also chosen to take action to assure that the no other country suffers the fate its citizens have due to nuclear weapons.  It has sued the nine nuclear-armed countries for failing to meet their obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.

The RMI is a bold, courageous country.  It may be small, but its leaders are not intimidated by the most powerful countries in the world.  It speaks truth to power and it is tackling two of the most critical survival issues of our time.  It is acting for its own survival, but also for the future of humanity and other forms of complex life on the planet.