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.

Jun 10

Scapegoating Another American Veteran

By Camillo Mac Bica, Veterans Today | Op-Ed

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is home after five years of captivity. I know it's difficult for those who would like to scapegoat another veteran (just last week it was General Shinseki), this time as a political diversion for their culpability in initiating, supporting, and/or ignoring an illegal war in Iraq, and a futile, misguided 13 year travesty in Afghanistan that cost thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi lives, to appreciate or celebrate his liberation.

Though I pledged to friends and relatives who suffered through my many rants that I would no longer comment on this disgraceful train of events, I am compelled to offer one final tirade of scattered observations and thoughts.

Jun 08

Protest Outside White House to Free the Cuban Five

By Samantha Sarra, SpeakOut | Report

Hundreds gathered outside the White House Saturday to demand the immediate release of the remaining Cuban Five who have been held in US prisons for more than 16 years. The protesters descended on Washington DC from all over the world to stand in solidarity with the Cuban people and to asked President Obama to release the Cuban heroes who were wrongly imprisoned for defending themselves and trying to protect Cuba from US backed terrorism against their homeland. Chanting for justice and freedom, the protesters marched from the White House to the Department of Justice for the 3rd annual Five Days for the Cuban Five.

Phoenix, Arizona - After years of hard-fought efforts a coalition of patients, medical professionals, and advocates succeeded in demonstrating the medical safety and efficacy of marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Administrative Law Judge who heard the case. The Arizona Dept. of Health has denied all petitions submitted previously.

On Wednesday, June 4, 2014 Judge Thomas Shedden issued his ruling saying that "a preponderance of evidence shows medical marijuana provides palliative benefit to those suffering from PTSD." The decision is now in the hands of Will Humble, Director of Arizona Dept. of Health Services; Humble has until July 9th, 2014 to accept or appeal Judge Shedden's decision.

Just before his election, Ukraine's President Poroshenko remarked: "Russia is our biggest neighbor and taking into account that we have to stop the war and bring peace to Ukraine and stability to the eastern part of the country, it is impossible to do without Russian officials, without meeting with the Russian leadership in the first half of June."

So, whether or not President Poroshenko makes an early visit to Moscow, his election could bring a resolution of the Ukraine crisis – provided he has the full backing of the EU and an end to United States intervention. For Russian foreign policy has always had two strands – isolationist and nationalist; and pan-European. And President Putin's is no exception. The West has done much to get Russia – not just Mr. Putin – to act on the former, despite an overall preference for the latter, which is now on "life support." There was real regret in the remark on May 23 of Russia's exceptionally able Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov: "Our Western partners rejected a truly historic chance to build a greater Europe."

Jun 07

It is Time for Obama to Act

By Frank Seo, Truthout | News Analysis

On Tuesday May 27th, 2014, the White House asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to delay the review of the administration's draconian deportation policy. According to Jeh Johnson, the White House asked to delay the report in order to "court" the Republicans. This is simply inexcusably wrong.

It is estimated that about 1,100 people are being torn from their loved ones every day. While families are separated every day, this country's so-called leaders are pointing fingers at each other and refusing to accept their responsibility to serve the people. The Republican Party, henchmen for the 1 percent, blames President Obama because they can't "trust" him. Spineless Democrats are blaming Republicans for not passing the comprehensive immigration reform, a bill designed to minimize 11.5 million people's pathway to citizenship while benefiting the prison and military industrial complexes. The Obama administration was able to recuse itself from its draconian deportation policy by blaming Congress, but the administration cannot hide anymore.

With summer rapidly moving upon us, and presidential elections two years away, we can anticipate the release of books by presidential aspirants intended to enhance their public stature as they move into the two year campaign for the White House. If the past holds true, these books can make for a lot of boring summer reading. Prospective candidates are simply competing for the job of managing the current state of affairs by accommodating the most minimal change. No thrills here.

This begs two questions: "Who are the agents of inspirational social change originating from outside political office? Would their narratives make for more interesting summer reading than those of presidential candidates?"

Jun 07

Five Days for the Cuban Five: Day One

By Samantha Sarra, SpeakOut | Report

From June 4-11th, delegations from Latin America, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean have gathered in Washington DC for the 3rd annual "5 days for the Cuban 5." Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, also known as the Cuban 5, are five men who were wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and have been serving long unjust prison sentences in the US for the last sixteen years. The "5 days for the Cuban 5" hopes to highlight the injustice of the case as well as the half century of failed US foreign policy and embargo against Cuba.

"We have to demand that this embargo end," said actor and activist Danny Glover at the first day of the international conference. "Our Cuban heroes (the Five) represent the highest standard of love and commitment to their country," explained Glover - who is a long-time supporter of the Cuban Five. "When I see the courage of these men, the courage of the Cuban people and the courage of their families and loved ones, it furthers my commitment to their freedom and their eventual return to their homeland."

It is privilege to be joining and learning from you here in Sarajevo. I especially want to thank Reiner Braun of IALANA and IPB and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung for this opportunity.

As I thought about our marking the murderous hinge moment in Western and world history that began here in Sarajevo 100 years ago, a more recent image came to mind: the cellist of sniper’s alley. At enormous personal risk, he affirmed what had been known as “the spirit of Sarajevo”: beauty and that which is most noble in the human spirit. His simple act illuminated the madness and held forth the vision and hope of civilization. My hope is that our Peace Event will be another step on this path, despite the obstacles on our way - among them NATO Secretary General Rasmussen’s recent visit here to spur the pace of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s  formally joining NATO. Having failed to learn the lessons of Georgia and Ukraine, Cold War ideologies are being reasserting when we should be pursuing Common Security diplomacy, which provided the paradigm for bringing humanity back from the brink of extinction.

A judge at the High Court in Islamabad, Pakistan, has ordered the Pakistani police to open a criminal investigation into the CIA's involvement in a drone strike that killed three people, including a teenager, on December 31 2009.

Ruling in the case of Kareem Khan, a resident of the country’s North Waziristan region whose brother and son were among the dead, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui orderedpolice to examine whether Jonathan Banks, former CIA station chief in Islamabad, and John Rizzo, former CIA General Counsel, are guilty of committing murder, waging war against Pakistan and offences under the provisions of the Terrorism Act 1997 for their involvement in authorizing the New Years’ Eve strike.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the first media report based on National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and Government Accountability Project (GAP) client Edward Snowden's disclosures. The whistleblower's revelations sparked a necessary debate over privacy and constitutional rights, and continue to expose the agency's intrusive and unconstitutional surveillance programs.

However, critics continue to proclaim that the whistleblower should have "worked within the system" to report the government's domestic surveillance program. This is a disingenuous and false suggestion. Snowden repeatedly raised concerns internally. More importantly, under current law, intelligence community (IC) government contractors lack any effective rights against retaliation when they report government waste, fraud, and abuse.