Saturday, 04 July 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

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.

FedEx says it “lives to deliver.” Last Friday, more than 2,000 of its workers finally received a delivery of justice from a federal judge.

A settlement in the case filed in US District Court on behalf of the workers, Alexander v. FedEx Ground, means the company will pay $277 million to resolve the claims of FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery workers who were victims of worker misclassification since the year 2000. These are workers FedEx classified as “independent contractors” but treated largely as if they were on the company payroll.

You might think that we learned the lesson of discredited managed care in the 1990s. The term “managed care” is confusing to many, but really amounts to managed reimbursement rather than managed care, whereby a set prospective annual payment is made by federal/state governments, as in the case of Medicaid managed care (MMC), to cover whatever services patients will receive over the coming year. There is therefore a built-in incentive for managed care organizations to skimp on care and pocket more profits. Predictably, by the end of the 1990s, there was widespread discontent across the country over denial of services by for-profit managed care organizations.

Today, this same problem is back in the form of privatized Medicaid managed care, facilitated further by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More than one-half of Medicaid beneficiaries are now in privatized plans, which have been catching on in many states based on the unproven theory that private plans can enable access to better coordinated care and still save money. That theory is not just unproven, it is patently wrong. Privatized programs have high administrative costs, built-in profits, and do not save money or improve care. Their route to financial success is by finding more ways to limit care and deny services. 

A controversial mega-project to build a transcontinental railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific has caused outrage among indigenous people and Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.

The railway, which is backed by the Chinese government, would cross through many indigenous territories and areas of high biodiversity across the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Brazil. If realized, it would wreak havoc on indigenous peoples’ lands and lives by opening up the area to industrial exploitation, illegal mining and logging, and encourage colonization.

Jun 17

Queer Voices From Cuba

By Isbel Díaz Torres and Logbona Olukonee, The Indypendent | Op-Ed

Developing activism on behalf of LGBT people from an anti-capitalist stance has been the biggest challenge of my work within the Arcoiris (Rainbow) project. In an extremely depoliticized society whose members are disillusioned by the failings of a top-down socialism based on the Soviet model, and now focused on their desire for irrational consumption, it is very difficult to promote alternative thinking. Proclaiming ourselves anti-capitalist sounds old-fashioned here in Cuba in 2015. Furthermore, to attempt independent work for the rights of LGBT people, where state institutions have developed a certain hegemony, is also a challenge to our creativity and desire for autonomy.

On June 12, attorneys for four American Muslim men with no criminal records who were placed or kept on the No-Fly List by the FBI in retaliation for their refusal to become informants urged a federal court to reject the government’s motion to dismiss their case. The lawsuit alleges the FBI attempted to coerce the men into spying on their religious communities through their placement on the No-Fly List and that agents told them they could get off the list if they agreed to work for the FBI.

The lawsuit, Tanvir v. Lynch, was brought in 2014 on behalf of Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, Naveed Shinwari, and Awais Sajjad by the CLEAR project (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility) at CUNY School of Law, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and co-counsel at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

It is past midnight and I can't sleep after attending a powerful Pipeline Forum organized and presented by the Town of Temple, NH.

Tonight I learned the deeper truth about the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline (NED) and the 80,000 horsepower compressor station that Kinder Morgan wants to build one-half mile from my home and that truth is, WE DON'T NEED THEM!

Politics is never divorced from sports, not even when it comes to the construction of stadia. Budgets however have recently thwarted plans in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to build a host of sporting facilities in a bid to either win votes or curry favour with youth and other segments of the population.

By contrast, Qatar despite the risk of posting its first budget deficit in 15 years, is moving full steam ahead with the construction of eight stadia in an effort to demonstrate that its business as usual notwithstanding mounting threats to its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

On June 12, the House of Representatives voted down a trade-related provision effectively halting a major trade package, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), that would grant President Obama broad authority to negotiate and finalize trade agreements with Pacific Rim countries and the European Union.

Representatives voted 126-302 against a section of the bill, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), that would grant financial assistance to workers displaced by trade. The provision, which was included in the Senate version the bill, H.R. 1314, and passed on May 22, 2015, must pass before the full trade billcan go to the president for his signature.

Last week the Seattle School District told my kindergarten son to take the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

Given my intense relationship with this specific standardized test--an exam that has forever altered the course of my life--this was a particularly unsettling moment for me. As an authentic assessment activist, I had helped organize a boycott of this test at Seattle's Garfield High School, I edited the book More Than a Score to tell the story of this movement against the MAP and the subsequent uprising against high-stakes testing, and I speak regularly around the country to share the lessons of the movement to "Scrap the MAP."

Jun 16

Dmitry Firtash Exposes the Hypocrisy of the US Justice System

By David Berggren, Truthout | Op-Ed

It's not often that private individuals take on the entire State Department and win resounding victories in courts. It's even rarer for the Justice Department to receive scathing legal judgments issued against it that openly accuse top-level employees of orchestrating politically motivated trials on sham charges. Yet this is exactly what happened last month when an Austrian High Court judge refused to hand over to the FBI one Dmitry Firtash, Ukrainian billionaire, after finding that there had been improper political interference from the US in the matter.

Essentially, the case revolves around supposed bribes given in 2006 by Firtash and his associates to Indian officials to launch a titanium project – a project that never materialized. After a grueling 13 hour hearing, Judge Christoph Bauer argued in his final decision that the case was "politically motivated" and rested solely on the testimony of two anonymous witnesses whom the FBI refused to show before the court (the Judge questioned whether those individuals were even real). He then accepted the line of defense put forth by Firtash, and acknowledged that the United States "attempted to pressure the President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich, into accepting Ukrainian association with the European Union" and that "America obviously saw Firtash as somebody who was threatening their economic interests." 

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Speakout

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.

FedEx says it “lives to deliver.” Last Friday, more than 2,000 of its workers finally received a delivery of justice from a federal judge.

A settlement in the case filed in US District Court on behalf of the workers, Alexander v. FedEx Ground, means the company will pay $277 million to resolve the claims of FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery workers who were victims of worker misclassification since the year 2000. These are workers FedEx classified as “independent contractors” but treated largely as if they were on the company payroll.

You might think that we learned the lesson of discredited managed care in the 1990s. The term “managed care” is confusing to many, but really amounts to managed reimbursement rather than managed care, whereby a set prospective annual payment is made by federal/state governments, as in the case of Medicaid managed care (MMC), to cover whatever services patients will receive over the coming year. There is therefore a built-in incentive for managed care organizations to skimp on care and pocket more profits. Predictably, by the end of the 1990s, there was widespread discontent across the country over denial of services by for-profit managed care organizations.

Today, this same problem is back in the form of privatized Medicaid managed care, facilitated further by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More than one-half of Medicaid beneficiaries are now in privatized plans, which have been catching on in many states based on the unproven theory that private plans can enable access to better coordinated care and still save money. That theory is not just unproven, it is patently wrong. Privatized programs have high administrative costs, built-in profits, and do not save money or improve care. Their route to financial success is by finding more ways to limit care and deny services. 

A controversial mega-project to build a transcontinental railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific has caused outrage among indigenous people and Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.

The railway, which is backed by the Chinese government, would cross through many indigenous territories and areas of high biodiversity across the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Brazil. If realized, it would wreak havoc on indigenous peoples’ lands and lives by opening up the area to industrial exploitation, illegal mining and logging, and encourage colonization.

Jun 17

Queer Voices From Cuba

By Isbel Díaz Torres and Logbona Olukonee, The Indypendent | Op-Ed

Developing activism on behalf of LGBT people from an anti-capitalist stance has been the biggest challenge of my work within the Arcoiris (Rainbow) project. In an extremely depoliticized society whose members are disillusioned by the failings of a top-down socialism based on the Soviet model, and now focused on their desire for irrational consumption, it is very difficult to promote alternative thinking. Proclaiming ourselves anti-capitalist sounds old-fashioned here in Cuba in 2015. Furthermore, to attempt independent work for the rights of LGBT people, where state institutions have developed a certain hegemony, is also a challenge to our creativity and desire for autonomy.

On June 12, attorneys for four American Muslim men with no criminal records who were placed or kept on the No-Fly List by the FBI in retaliation for their refusal to become informants urged a federal court to reject the government’s motion to dismiss their case. The lawsuit alleges the FBI attempted to coerce the men into spying on their religious communities through their placement on the No-Fly List and that agents told them they could get off the list if they agreed to work for the FBI.

The lawsuit, Tanvir v. Lynch, was brought in 2014 on behalf of Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, Naveed Shinwari, and Awais Sajjad by the CLEAR project (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility) at CUNY School of Law, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and co-counsel at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

It is past midnight and I can't sleep after attending a powerful Pipeline Forum organized and presented by the Town of Temple, NH.

Tonight I learned the deeper truth about the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline (NED) and the 80,000 horsepower compressor station that Kinder Morgan wants to build one-half mile from my home and that truth is, WE DON'T NEED THEM!

Politics is never divorced from sports, not even when it comes to the construction of stadia. Budgets however have recently thwarted plans in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to build a host of sporting facilities in a bid to either win votes or curry favour with youth and other segments of the population.

By contrast, Qatar despite the risk of posting its first budget deficit in 15 years, is moving full steam ahead with the construction of eight stadia in an effort to demonstrate that its business as usual notwithstanding mounting threats to its hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

On June 12, the House of Representatives voted down a trade-related provision effectively halting a major trade package, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), that would grant President Obama broad authority to negotiate and finalize trade agreements with Pacific Rim countries and the European Union.

Representatives voted 126-302 against a section of the bill, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), that would grant financial assistance to workers displaced by trade. The provision, which was included in the Senate version the bill, H.R. 1314, and passed on May 22, 2015, must pass before the full trade billcan go to the president for his signature.

Last week the Seattle School District told my kindergarten son to take the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

Given my intense relationship with this specific standardized test--an exam that has forever altered the course of my life--this was a particularly unsettling moment for me. As an authentic assessment activist, I had helped organize a boycott of this test at Seattle's Garfield High School, I edited the book More Than a Score to tell the story of this movement against the MAP and the subsequent uprising against high-stakes testing, and I speak regularly around the country to share the lessons of the movement to "Scrap the MAP."

Jun 16

Dmitry Firtash Exposes the Hypocrisy of the US Justice System

By David Berggren, Truthout | Op-Ed

It's not often that private individuals take on the entire State Department and win resounding victories in courts. It's even rarer for the Justice Department to receive scathing legal judgments issued against it that openly accuse top-level employees of orchestrating politically motivated trials on sham charges. Yet this is exactly what happened last month when an Austrian High Court judge refused to hand over to the FBI one Dmitry Firtash, Ukrainian billionaire, after finding that there had been improper political interference from the US in the matter.

Essentially, the case revolves around supposed bribes given in 2006 by Firtash and his associates to Indian officials to launch a titanium project – a project that never materialized. After a grueling 13 hour hearing, Judge Christoph Bauer argued in his final decision that the case was "politically motivated" and rested solely on the testimony of two anonymous witnesses whom the FBI refused to show before the court (the Judge questioned whether those individuals were even real). He then accepted the line of defense put forth by Firtash, and acknowledged that the United States "attempted to pressure the President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich, into accepting Ukrainian association with the European Union" and that "America obviously saw Firtash as somebody who was threatening their economic interests."