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.
Thanks to "Waiting for Fahd: One Family's Hope for Life beyond Guantánamo," you know something about CCR client Fahd Ghazy, detained at Guantánamo since he was 17, never charged, twice cleared for release, waiting to be reunited with his teenage daughter whom he last saw as a baby. But today we want to tell you about some of the other men held illegally and unjustly in Guantánamo. Omar Farah and Aliya Hussain spent last week at the detention facility and, in addition to Fahd, met with our clients Tariq Ba Odah, Mohammed Al Hamiri and Ghaleb Al Bihani. Like Fahd, they are all from Yemen, all cleared for release – and yet still not free. Aliya and Omar gave a live report back on their visits from Guantánamo on Thursday.
As I write this, Pacific Islanders in Vanuatu are left picking up the pieces after the worst natural disaster in recent memory ripped through the region. Vanuatu's president referred to Cyclone Pam as a "monster," a storm that singlehandedly leveled the capital city leaving at least sixteen confirmed dead and countless others displaced.
Closer to home, Boston is still digging out from its snowiest winter on record. Meanwhile, drought continues to plague California, and a NASA scientist recently warned the state has just one year of water supply left in its reservoirs.
Elections are public windows onto national hopes and concerns, and this was certainly the case with the March 2015 voting in Israel. You just have to look through that window with analytical eyes to assess those national yearnings in their essential details.
At first glance the campaigning suggested that most Israelis were focused on economics. This would not be unusual. Just about all democratic elections are fought over bread and butter issues, and Israel has evolved into a society that is harshly divided between haves and have-nots. However, as it turned out, this campaign theme could not have been of primary importance. This is so because the man who symbolizes the dysfunctional economic status quo, Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi), actually won the election. Indeed his hard-right Likud Party improved its position in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, from 19 to 30 seats. Obviously, something else was motivating the Israeli voter. What was it?
Frances Crowe turned 96 last week. 96 Years which brought her along the way to where she stands now, a Woman who in the last 4-5 decades has gathered all of her efforts into the service of Peace. In 2014 I painted the 8 foot high Portrait of Frances Crowe, beginning in the early Summer months and completing the Portrait as the year turned. I wanted to enter into a deep investigation of what qualities and experiences might create a person who uses so much of their lives almost exclusively in the service of something as elusive as Peace. I also wanted to revisit and recommit myself to this Justice Movement known as Peace, in a way that did not look back nostalgically to the 60’s and 70’s but which brought Peace fully into this time as one of the most important issues intersecting with all others. I think honestly I had written off Peace as something that would never coexist with us in this age and perhaps not in those after it. I doubt Frances spends much time in dreamy pondering as this Artist so often does, she is on the move, in action even when she is standing still.
At 9:15 am on March 19, the 12th anniversary of the U.S.’ illegal invasion of Iraq, seven members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars shut the main gate of the Hancock Drone Base (near Syracuse, NY) with a giant copy of the UN Charter and three other giant books – Dirty Wars (Jeremy Scahill), Living Under Drones (NYU and Stanford Law Schools), and You Never Die Twice (Reprieve).
The nonviolent activists also held a banner quoting Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, stating that every treaty signed becomes the supreme law of the land. They brought the books to Hancock to remind everyone at the base of the signed treaties that prohibit the killing of civilians and assassinations of human beings.
Washington, DC - U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), and more than 100 members of Congress today introduced the Voter Empowerment Act, which would upgrade voter registration and bring America's election system into the 21st century.
The bill comes two weeks after President Obama called on Congress to honor the legacy of Selma — which galvanized support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act - by working to expand access to the polls. Five decades later, the U.S. Supreme Court has gutted the Act's key provision, and there is a new nationwide push to restrict voting.
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) today introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4.4 million American citizens with past criminal convictions upon release from incarceration.
The Democracy Restoration Act has garnered broad support from a diverse coalition that includes law enforcement associations, the faith community, racial justice advocates, and civil rights organizations. Versions of the bill were introduced in past sessions of Congress.
Reminiscent of the popular movement that led to the resignation of former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992, instead of "Fora Collor," ("Get Out Collor") protestors are now waving banners with the words "ForaDilma" and favouring the same English word "impeachment" in a bid to oust the South American country's current president, Dilma Rousseff. Both leaders were accused of mismanagement and corruption, with Petrobras, the national petroleum company, at the centre of the criticism against Dilma. Likewise, protestors are numbering at least a million. But the similarity is deceptive. Collor was a member of the wealthy élite who ostensibly ran afoul of the interests controlling Brazil at the time, whereas Dilma, the former revolutionary now at the helm of the country as head of the PT, the leftist Workers Party, is a populist who continues to inspire more wide-spread, albeit less reported, manifestations of support outside of the country's affluent city centres.
According to the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, Landless Workers Movement) website, differently composed demonstrations also took place this weekend in favour of rooting out corruption at Petrobras, but against privatization of the mostly state owned oil company.
According to Glen Stewart, a former lawyer with the Community and Legal Aid Services Program whose service area includes the Jane-Finch community, "Concerns around policing were one of the focal points (31 years ago) and, unfortunately, they've never really gone away. Recently there have been some incidents where youth have been subjects of violence at the hands of police. That, I think, has brought concerns to the forefront again."
On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee scheduled to hold a hearing on the 'The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,' which, if passed, would overhaul how the federal government regulates chemicals. The bill is a product of negotiations between Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who introduced the bill last week. A new MapLight analysis of campaign contributions and lobbying spending has found that the chemical industry, which strongly supports the new legislation, has dramatically expanded its political spending in recent years.
The chemical industry's top spenders have ramped up their campaign contributions as Congress has started overhauling the government's chemical regulations. During the 2014 election cycle, for instance, the top 10 chemical companies and organizations*, including 3M and the American Chemistry Council among others, contributed more than $1 million to current members of the Senate, including to all 17 senators who sponsored or cosponsored the Udall/Vitter legislation.