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.
Before December 17, 2014, it was a natural question why the US did not change its isolation policy against Cuba in light of its ostensible failure. That day, President Barack Obama acknowledged this fact, in a demonstration of political courage never achieved by those among his predecessors who had intended to make a significant change in the relationship between the two neighboring countries. Although central components of the policy of economic blockade and political subversion against Cuba remain in place, the announced resumption of diplomatic relations between the two governments is very positive because it will certainly allow a civilized interaction that could lead to new and more comprehensive understandings on key issues of the bilateral agenda, in order to establish a fully normalized relation of mutual respect, despite the predictable hindering actions of certain retrograde and recalcitrant forces.
In a consideration of the chances of success of the normalization process already underway, it becomes especially relevant to assess the US government's possible motivations, since the Cuban one had for many years made clear its interest in improving the bilateral relation, provided that occurred under conditions of full respect for Cuba's sovereignty in conformity with international law. Therefore, the question arises about what led the US government to agree to the resumption of diplomatic relations precisely at this moment, a question which does not admit simple answers, but should lead to reflection about a group of elements.
US government lawyers advised Guantanamo authorities that force-feeding is ‘never acceptable’ under medical ethical standards, at the same time as dozens of military nurses were being sent to the prison to force-feed detainees, it has been revealed.
An internal memo, obtained by Vice News through FOIA and written on June 21st, 2013 - at the height of the prison’s mass hunger-strike - states that ‘international law and certain medical ethical standards hold that the “forced feeding” of a mentally competent person capable of making an informed decision is never acceptable.’
New York – Groups from around the world  today joined together to denounce the US government for allowing the first genetically engineered tree, a loblolly pine, to be legalized with no government or public oversight, with no assessment of their risks to the public or the environment, and without regard to overwhelming public opposition to GE trees.
A secret letter from the USDA to GE tree company ArborGen , dated last August, was recently exposed by scientist Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Center for Food Safety . In this letter, the USDA made the unprecedented decision to allow ArborGen to pursue unregulated commercial cultivation of a loblolly pine genetically engineered for altered wood composition. These trees could be planted anywhere in the US, without public knowledge or access to information about them.
Shock and Awe is having a troubled adolescence. The US government is killing children with flying robot death planes, keeping troops in 175 countries, actively using "special" forces in 150 countries, asking us to ignore what it's done to Libya so that we'll support more wars, going silent on Yemen as the supposed model of a country that US warmaking improved rather than ruined, turning down an offer from North Korea to halt nuclear tests, continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight and no longer any pretense of Congressional or United Nations approval, oscillating on the question of starting a war on Iran (and inviting a foreign leader to give Congress its marching orders), actively antagonizing Russia and sending troops to Ukraine, building new nukes, proposing to enlarge the world's largest military budget next year, and avoiding all accountability for such horrors as human experimentation at Guantanamo.
The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs--the military sworn to defend democracy and the same military currently bombing the snot out of ISIS thugs who have been rightly vilified for beheadings--now wants his members to honor a Saudi royal whose regime beheaded countless dissidents and allowed flogging women for flirting.
The results of the Greek election are being systematically belittled by the notion that Syriza is just another product of Greek desperation. In European and American media, the radical Greek left is being treated similarly to the extreme right; like a chilly populist wind that hopefully will soon blow over. Never mind the fact that Syriza's party structure is populated by professors, community organizers and even resistance fighters who defended the country against the Nazis during the second world war, as opposed to the buffoonish thugs of The Golden Dawn. Never mind that the politics of austerity have confessedly failed, making the rise of Syriza a logical democratic occurrence rather than a desperate measure. Again we see democracy devalued when it leads to the "wrong" outcome. Or as David Cameron so diplomatically put it: "the election results in Greece will increase uncertainty."
Farmington, New Mexico—In what is one of the largest outpourings of its kind in New Mexico’s history, more than 10,000 citizens from around the US submitted comments this month against the proposed Piñon Pipeline. The response signals a growing national dissatisfaction with leasing our public lands for fossil fuel extraction, dissatisfaction with industrial development of our public lands, and with the related disruptions to health, wildlife, and the climate.
If built, the Piñon Pipeline would carry up to 50,000 barrels of oil daily across New Mexico’s Four Corners and Chaco Canyon region, threatening community safety, destroying cultural heritage and sacred sites, as well as pumping close to 8 million tons of carbon into our atmosphere every year, the equivalent of putting 1.5 million more passenger cars on the roads.
Whenever the word ‘refugee’ is uttered, I think of my mother. When Zionist militias began their systematic onslaught and ‘cleansing’ of the Palestinian Arab population of historic Palestine in 1948, she, along with her family, ran away from the once peaceful village of Beit Daras.
Back then, Zarefah was six. Her father died in a refugee camp in a tent provided by the Quakers soon after he had been separated from his land. She collected scrap metal to survive.
FAIR Act Would Eliminate Department of Justice Program that Enables State and Local Police to Keep Proceeds of Property Seized from Citizens
Momentum Builds in Congress for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Days after Attorney General Holder Issues Policy Limiting Police Participation in Controversial Department of Justice Program
Bipartisan legislation was introduced in both houses of Congress today that would roll back changes made in the 1980s by Congress to federal civil asset forfeiture laws largely intended to incentivize law enforcement to pursue civil asset forfeitures as part of the rapid escalation of the war on drugs. In the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act. In the House, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced an identical version of Sen. Paul’s FAIR Act.
Plutocracy and its Discontents
Shortly after the 2014 mid-term election, Fred Wertheimer, President of the reform group, Democracy 21, wrote in his Huffington Post article, "A Call to Arms", that "In 1789, the Founding Fathers created a constitutional system of government by the People. In 2010, five Supreme Court Justices – Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas and Alito – changed it to a constitutional system of government by millionaires, billionaires and corporations." Wertheimer's article portrays a new system where the systemic corruption of elections has been defined away so that the corporate CEOs and the plutocratic few who fund elections exercise so much influence that they, not the people, rule. Referring to the congressional elections he wrote:
Never has so much money from so few people been so pervasive in our congressional elections. Never has so much money in huge contributions, corporate funds and secret donations flooded our congressional elections and created so much opportunity for buying and selling. Never has the foundational principle of one person one vote been so undermined by a Supreme Court majority that apparently believes money is king.