Thursday, 02 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.

This is a dangerous time for Medicare. The bill passed by the House on March 27, by a surprising bipartisan majority of 392-37 - H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 - threatens to end traditional Medicare as a social insurance program that protects seniors in a single large risk pool. The Senate is set to vote on the bill in two weeks.

The timing could not be more ironical. Medicare was passed 50 years ago by overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress - by votes of 302-116 in the House and 70-24 in the Senate.

Politicians in Washington State are attempting to reduce educators to lifeless bits of inaccurate data. House Bill ESSB 5748, which would explicitly link teacher evaluation to standardized test scores, was recently introduced into the Washington State Legislature.  Dr. Wayne Au, the University of Washington Bothell's 2015 Distinguished Teaching award winning professor, joined scores of others in Olympia on Monday, March 30th, to express opposition to this educationally unsound proposal. 

In fact, there were so many there that wanted to use their testimony to "test-defy," that after both sides had presented arguments, there were still 322 more people who wanted to speak against the bill but there wasn't enough time.

On Monday March 30, Dr. Johanna Fernández was scheduled to visit political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal because he sounded sick when they spoke the week before. That is when she discovered he had been transferred from prison to the hospital and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Schukylkill Medical Center Monday morning after losing consciousness due to diabetic shock.

When his family and supporters tried to visit Mumia in hospital, they were denied access. Only after twenty hours of vigil and national and international pressure through a mass phone-in, were Mumia's wife Wadiya and his brother Keith given thirty minutes each to see him. Pam Africa, his emergency medical contact, and his lawyer were denied access.

Sixteen major media organizations and human rights organization Reprieve have today asked a US federal court to dismiss a White House attempt to suppress classified videos of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay.
 
In a series of filings today at the DC Court of Appeals, lawyers for Reprieve and the media outlets - which include the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press and Reuters - asked the court to dismiss an appeal by the Obama Administration against a landmark ruling last year ordering the videotapes to be made public.

Chicago, Illinois - In an unprecedented act of political repression, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointees at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) have banned CTA workers from sharing literature related to the 2015 Mayoral race.

According to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents more than 10,000 CTA employees and has endorsed Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for Mayor, CTA posted memos in bus garages and rail terminals barring employees from communications normally protected by the First Amendment. CTA's General Counsel also penned letters warning that fines could be issued if off-duty workers handed out literature to their co-workers in non-work areas of CTA property.

Conservation giant World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has failed to take action against the abuse of Baka "Pygmies" and their neighbors in southeast Cameroon by anti-poaching squads, exactly one year after it received reports of their harassment, beatings and torture, and thirteen years since it was first made aware of this abuse.

These anti-poaching squads are made up of wildlife officers - and sometimes soldiers and police - who are funded and supported by WWF, and who could not continue without its crucial support.

The Ukraine conflict continues to fester, raising tensions in the region to levels not seen since the Cold War. Now the warring parties have agreed to a cease-fire and an approach to further negotiations towards a political solution. Despite this opportunity to move towards peace, the United States, NATO and Russia are throwing fuel on the fire.

The US is sending troops to Ukraine to train Ukraine's armed forces, NATO is holding joint military maneuvers from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and Russia is conducting massive exercises of its own that include forward deployment of nuclear-capable missiles and bombers. It's time for the countries that are providing support from outsideUkraine to halt and reverse all actions that contribute to this warand to the growing confrontation in Europe.

President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of 22 federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. This follows the commutation of eight federal inmates convicted of drug offenses by President Obama in December of 2014.

According to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, "had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years - in some cases more than a decade - longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

Apr 02

Shame

By Winslow Myers, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Hundreds of people recently paid big bucks to hear Monica Lewinsky give a carefully crafted but also quite touching TED talk announcing her survival of a public shaming of planetary proportions.

Brené Brown, a leading researcher who teaches resilience to shame, asserts that a major root cause of our collective shame originates in a paradigm of scarcity: the main message of our culture is that our ordinary lives are not special enough. We are not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, interesting enough, accomplished enough.

On June 23, 2014, Andargachew Tsige was illegally detained at Sana'a airport in Yemen while traveling from Dubai to Eritrea on his British passport. He was swiftly handed over to the Ethiopian authorities, who had for years posted his name at the top of the regime's most-wanted list. Since then, he has been detained incommunicado in a secret location inside Ethiopia. His "crime" is the same as hundreds, perhaps thousands of others: publicly criticizing the ruling party of Ethiopia and their brutal form of governance.

Born in Ethiopia in 1955, Andargachew Tsige arrived in Britain at 24 as a political refugee. He is a Black, working-class British citizen with a wife and three children.

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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.

This is a dangerous time for Medicare. The bill passed by the House on March 27, by a surprising bipartisan majority of 392-37 - H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 - threatens to end traditional Medicare as a social insurance program that protects seniors in a single large risk pool. The Senate is set to vote on the bill in two weeks.

The timing could not be more ironical. Medicare was passed 50 years ago by overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress - by votes of 302-116 in the House and 70-24 in the Senate.

Politicians in Washington State are attempting to reduce educators to lifeless bits of inaccurate data. House Bill ESSB 5748, which would explicitly link teacher evaluation to standardized test scores, was recently introduced into the Washington State Legislature.  Dr. Wayne Au, the University of Washington Bothell's 2015 Distinguished Teaching award winning professor, joined scores of others in Olympia on Monday, March 30th, to express opposition to this educationally unsound proposal. 

In fact, there were so many there that wanted to use their testimony to "test-defy," that after both sides had presented arguments, there were still 322 more people who wanted to speak against the bill but there wasn't enough time.

On Monday March 30, Dr. Johanna Fernández was scheduled to visit political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal because he sounded sick when they spoke the week before. That is when she discovered he had been transferred from prison to the hospital and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Schukylkill Medical Center Monday morning after losing consciousness due to diabetic shock.

When his family and supporters tried to visit Mumia in hospital, they were denied access. Only after twenty hours of vigil and national and international pressure through a mass phone-in, were Mumia's wife Wadiya and his brother Keith given thirty minutes each to see him. Pam Africa, his emergency medical contact, and his lawyer were denied access.

Sixteen major media organizations and human rights organization Reprieve have today asked a US federal court to dismiss a White House attempt to suppress classified videos of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay.
 
In a series of filings today at the DC Court of Appeals, lawyers for Reprieve and the media outlets - which include the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press and Reuters - asked the court to dismiss an appeal by the Obama Administration against a landmark ruling last year ordering the videotapes to be made public.

Chicago, Illinois - In an unprecedented act of political repression, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointees at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) have banned CTA workers from sharing literature related to the 2015 Mayoral race.

According to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents more than 10,000 CTA employees and has endorsed Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for Mayor, CTA posted memos in bus garages and rail terminals barring employees from communications normally protected by the First Amendment. CTA's General Counsel also penned letters warning that fines could be issued if off-duty workers handed out literature to their co-workers in non-work areas of CTA property.

Conservation giant World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has failed to take action against the abuse of Baka "Pygmies" and their neighbors in southeast Cameroon by anti-poaching squads, exactly one year after it received reports of their harassment, beatings and torture, and thirteen years since it was first made aware of this abuse.

These anti-poaching squads are made up of wildlife officers - and sometimes soldiers and police - who are funded and supported by WWF, and who could not continue without its crucial support.

The Ukraine conflict continues to fester, raising tensions in the region to levels not seen since the Cold War. Now the warring parties have agreed to a cease-fire and an approach to further negotiations towards a political solution. Despite this opportunity to move towards peace, the United States, NATO and Russia are throwing fuel on the fire.

The US is sending troops to Ukraine to train Ukraine's armed forces, NATO is holding joint military maneuvers from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and Russia is conducting massive exercises of its own that include forward deployment of nuclear-capable missiles and bombers. It's time for the countries that are providing support from outsideUkraine to halt and reverse all actions that contribute to this warand to the growing confrontation in Europe.

President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of 22 federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. This follows the commutation of eight federal inmates convicted of drug offenses by President Obama in December of 2014.

According to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, "had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years - in some cases more than a decade - longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

Apr 02

Shame

By Winslow Myers, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Hundreds of people recently paid big bucks to hear Monica Lewinsky give a carefully crafted but also quite touching TED talk announcing her survival of a public shaming of planetary proportions.

Brené Brown, a leading researcher who teaches resilience to shame, asserts that a major root cause of our collective shame originates in a paradigm of scarcity: the main message of our culture is that our ordinary lives are not special enough. We are not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, interesting enough, accomplished enough.

On June 23, 2014, Andargachew Tsige was illegally detained at Sana'a airport in Yemen while traveling from Dubai to Eritrea on his British passport. He was swiftly handed over to the Ethiopian authorities, who had for years posted his name at the top of the regime's most-wanted list. Since then, he has been detained incommunicado in a secret location inside Ethiopia. His "crime" is the same as hundreds, perhaps thousands of others: publicly criticizing the ruling party of Ethiopia and their brutal form of governance.

Born in Ethiopia in 1955, Andargachew Tsige arrived in Britain at 24 as a political refugee. He is a Black, working-class British citizen with a wife and three children.