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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.

In February 2013, I visited Old and New Delhi, India. I went to see several important places such as the Red Fort (Lal Qila) and the Raj Ghat - which is the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi was cremated at Raj Ghat on 31 January 1948). I also visited the India Gate[1] which commemorates the more than 70.000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the First World War. I was impressed seeing all the names of Indian soldiers who gave their lives during WWI. I immediately made the comparison with the Menen Gate[2] in Ypres, Flanders where 54.389 names of persons from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Countries are written on the walls.[3] More names, and unknown soldiers, are mentioned on the thousands and thousands of graves in the different cemeteries in Flanders Fields. Chemical weapons have been first used in Steenstraete, nearby Yper. That is why that weapon got the name "Yperite."

The main reaction after WWI was: No more war ever again! Several initiatives were launched right after WWI, working for stronger international solidarity and disarmament. What does this mean for the European Union and the European continent at large? What lessons can be learned by the international community?

May 05

VIPS Calls for Obama-Putin Summit on Ukraine

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, SpeakOut | Press Release

The buck stops with you, Mr. President. If you want to stop a bloody civil war between east and west Ukraine and avert Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine, you may be able to do so before the violence hurtles completely out of control. You need to take the initiative and do it now.

We recommend that you publicly disavow any wish to incorporate Ukraine into NATO and that you make it clear to Moscow that you are prepared to meet personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin without delay to discuss ways to defuse the crisis and recognize the legitimate interests of the various parties.

You are surely aware by now that some of your key advisers do not share the goal of heading off even more serious violence. Or, if they do, it is hard to understand why they are giving you such a one-sided picture of the genesis of and the culpability for what has become an almost inexorable slide toward still wider hostilities and untold human misery among Ukrainians.

The law is a social code put into place by those who have property and personal interests to protect. Contrary to what those who hold the scepter proclaim, the law is written neither by god, nor by popular opinion. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of capitalist politics understands that the laws are made through a series of money transfers and corporate-friendly loopholes, and are then enforced through again another set of bribes and underhanded deals. It is, of course, in the interest of the state to promote the idea that the law is established by general consensus, mirroring the universal consciousness of the nation - even among an educated population the law is seen with a sort of divinity, as though god is personally invested in the law of any given state. Yet, when the will of two different states contradict, of course god always seems to jump to the side of whoever has the bigger weapons and deeper pockets. Strange, it seems, that god would seek to exert his will through corporate corruption, bourgeois bribes, and devious drones.

Today, after four years of servility and weak leadership in the face of a Harper government bent on an aggressive agenda of assimilation and termination of First Nations, National Chief Shawn Atleo was forced by popular pressure and a brewing chiefs’ revolt to resign, the first time a national chief has resigned since the creation of the institution. Throughout his term, Atleo has been more concerned with keeping Ottawa happy than with representing the aspirations of FirstNations people. When people rose up during Idle No More, he undermined the movement by legitimizing the government’s empty posturing by attending a controversial meeting with the Prime Ministers’ Office on January 11, 2013 without the mandate of the Chiefs in Assembly.

Most recently, he has served as the fig leaf for the government’s Orwellian First NationsEducation Act, which aims to finish the job of “killing the Indian in the child” that residential schools began by placing First Nations education under the control of governments and central authorities remote from the realities of First Nations - all while disingenuously claiming to placeeducation under First Nations control. This was too much for First Nations peoples, and many chiefs, to bear.

May 05

Rev Billy Exorcises Robobee from Harvard University

By Reverend Billy HoneyBeeLujah, SpeakOut | Video

OBOEE VS. REVEREND BILLY. The Robobee lab in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) is exorcised by New York's Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, who are dressed up as queen bees and sing a song in honor of the threatened Honey Bee. The Robobee would replace the Honey Bee with the capacity for artificial pollination. It is likely that the drone-makers (DARPA) at the Pentagon are also looking to use the science developed in this lab. (The lead scientist at the Micro-Robotics Lab is a DARPA fellow.) The Stop Shopping Choir left at the display case full of Robobee prototypes, fruits and vegetables that are pollinated by the Honey Bee.

DENVER - Yesterday, a bill failed to pass the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee that would have added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of 'debilitating medical conditions' that qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation. This timely bill (HB14-1364) would have addressed a major gap in access to medical marijuana in Colorado for veterans and all those suffering from PTSD. The bill sought to ensure that veterans won't lose their VA benefits for following their physician's recommendation to use medical marijuana.

On average a veteran commits suicide every hour in the United States – and medical marijuana has been proven to reduce suicide. But, Colorado veterans who use marijuana to manage their symptoms of PTSD risk losing their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. VA policy permits veterans in compliance with their state medical marijuana law to continue to receive all their benefits and remain eligible for care in the VA medical system.

WASHINGTON - New analysis of 2011 Census data reveals an acute racial and ethnic wealth gap that is causing a group of leading experts to call for important policy and regulatory changes. In the recovery period following the Great Recession, the average African American and Latino household still owns only six and seven cents respectively for every one dollar in wealth held by the typical white family, an increase of a penny per group since 2009.

The gap is especially noticeable when it comes to access to immediate cash. Over two-thirds of African Americans (67 percent) and nearly three-fourths of Latinos (71 percent), but only one-third of whites (34 percent), are considered "liquid asset poor", meaning that they do not have cash or assets readily converted into cash that will cover their basic living expenses if they are without income for three months. In fact, the average liquid wealth of whites ($23,000 in cash reserves) is now over 100 times that of African Americans and more than 65 times that held by Latinos.

May 02

The Right to Boycott

By Noam Sheizaf, introduced by David Palumbo-Liu, Time Out Tel Aviv | News Analysis

The cultural and economic boycott against Israel is indeed unpleasant, but it succeeds where 20 years of encounter programs have failed – that is, in motivating more Israelis to end the occupation.

The Boycott campaign against Israel started towards the end of the second intifada as an alternative to the violent struggle against the occupation. It began in 2005 with a call issued by 171 Palestinian organizations urging the international community to take various forms of boycotting Israel until it ends its military rule over the territories, stops the building of settlements, grants full equality to Israeli-Arab citizens and respects theright of return. Since then, complementary or alternative versions of boycott emerged, from boycotting goods produced in the settlements to anti-normalization - an approach that opposes almost any joint Israeli-Palestinian activity in the context of the current reality.

May 02

Death by Paranoia

By James McEnteer, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Georgia's new gun law goes into effect July 1, allowing firearms in bars, nightclubs and government buildings without security checkpoints. Georgia churches can permit parishioners to come armed to services.

Euphemistically called the "Safe Carry Protection Act," the new law lifts restrictions on individuals convicted of certain misdemeanors from obtaining a gun permit. Gun dealers are no longer required to keep sales records. A stand-your-ground law will expand and police will not have the right to ask armed citizens whether they have a license.

The Connecticut legislature is considering a bill that create a publicly administered retirement plan that would be open to anyone who works at a company with more than five employees. Employees would, by default, be enrolled in the plan (at a contribution rate to be determined), but could choose to opt out. The money would be pooled in a trust, but each participant would have an individual account in that trust, and the rate of return on that account would be specified each December for the following year. Upon retirement, the account balance would by default be converted into an inflation-indexed annuity, although participants could request a lump-sum deferral.

The legislative session ends in less than two weeks, and while the bill has passed through committees, I believe it's not certain whether it will be put to a floor vote. On Friday I wrote on op-ed for The Connecticut Mirror about the bill.