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.

May 22

Vernacular Media under Siege in Pakistan

By Zulfiqar Shah, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Pakistan is a virtual hell for the free, neutral, bold and intellectually sound media-associated persons and journalists, especially the associates of vernacular Sindhi and Baloch media. Dozens of media-associated persons and opinion makers are victimized or killed by the military, Inter-Service-Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) as well as their supported urban or religious terrorists. Given the exclusive Punjabization of almost every civil and military institution of Pakistan, there has been no single quotable case of the murder and/or brutalization of a Punjabi journalist from 1947 to 2013. Saleem Shahzad and Najam Sethi were exceptions because Shahzad touched the forbidden tree - the evidence of the nexus between Islamist terrorists and the garrison city Rawalpindi, and Najam Sethi held secular views and opposed the Punjabi military establishment of Pakistan. (However, today, he is also closely linked with the military establishment unlike his wonderful past).

It is condemnable that Raza Rumi and Hamid Mir (although both Punjabi journalists well known for their deep roots in the military establishment) were attacked before and after the visit of Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) in Pakistan. CPJ was worried about victimization and murders of journalists in Pakistan since Baloch and Sindhi and to certain extent Pashtun journalists from Sindh and Balochistan have been victims.

May 22

The Role of the Intellectual - An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

World Wars I and II created watershed moments in the lives of Western intellectuals, defined here as those who are guided by their intellect and critical thinking, and those who understand various aspects of the world mainly through ideas and theories which they express through writing, teaching and other forms of public address. Just how were they to respond to the call of patriotic duty that seduced the vast majority of citizens to support acts of mass slaughter? What constituted a proper response is often debated. How most of them did respond is a matter of historical record.

During the world wars most intellectuals on all sides of the conflicts uncritically lent their talents to their government's war efforts. Some did so as propagandists and others as scientists. Some actually led their nations into the fray, as was the case with Woodrow Wilson. Wilson held a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, had taught at Cornell, Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan, and became president of Princeton University. Eventually he was elected President of the United States and, having taken the nation to war, sanctioned the creation of a massive propaganda machine under the auspices of the "Committee on Public Information." He also supported the passage of the Sedition Act of 1918 to suppress all anti-war sentiments. Wilson never experienced combat, but another intellectual, the British poet Siegried Sassoon, did so in the trenches of the Western front. After this experience he wrote, "war is hell and those who initiate it are criminals." No doubt that was his opinion of the intellectual President Woodrow Wilson.

Washington - Pfizer made headlines recently over its attempt to acquire Astra-Zeneca, which would allow it to become a "foreign" company for tax purposes, but the drug maker is not alone. There has been a surge of American companies that have changed the address of their headquarters to a foreign country, a maneuver referred to as an "inversion" that allows them to avoid U.S. taxes. The FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition hails the introduction of legislation to close the "inversion" loophole.

The Stop Corporate Inversions Act, was introduced in the House by Representative Sander Levin (D-MI), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and a similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).

May 21

Searching for Transparency: Google's Political Spending

By Public Citizen, SpeakOut | Press Release

Shareholders are gaining momentum with demands for public companies to disclose their politicalspending, with the most recent advancement coming after a large rally last week outside the Google Inc. annual shareholder meeting at the Googleplex in Mountain View, followed by an acknowledgement by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt that the company has heard the demands and will respond with ideas on how to address them. Votes representing more than 60 million Google shares were in favor of greater political spending disclosure.

Shareholder proposals seeking politicalspending disclosure were the most frequently filed environmental and social resolution during 2013, with 134 proposals averaging 32 percent support. From 2010 to 2013, the number of resolutions pertaining to politicalspending filed increased from 61 to 134. A shareholder proposal at Duke Energy also requested increased disclosure of the company’s politicalspending and received a 42 percent favorable vote from shareholders earlier this month. The proposal filed at Google by Walden Asset Management received the support of 34 percent of votes by shareholders who are not executive officers or directors.

May 21

Republican-Tea Party Are Gagging Science

By Richard A Stitt, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

It's been several years since an El Niño development impacted our weather but that is about to change sometime late this summer. Current predictions project El Niño conditions into the Eastern Pacific as early as July and August. The confidence is very high that this event will happen. An El Niño event, incidentally, lasts from 9-12 months.

El Niño, which occurs as prevailing equatorial winds reverse direction, results in warmer water literally "piling" up along the west coasts of North and South America. Simple physics demonstrates that when you heat water it expands. Therefore, higher astronomical tides, more coastal erosion and flooding will occur as a direct result of a greater volume of warmer water which will begin affecting our weather this fall and continuing throughout the winter months. 

Now celebrating its 10th year, Left Forum is the largest annual conference in the United States of the broad spectrum progressive intellectuals, activists, scholars, organizations and the interested public. Each year thousands of conference participants come together in New York City to discuss pressing local, national and global issues; to better understand commonalities and differences, and alternatives to current predicaments; or to share ideas to help build social movements to transform the world. This year's theme is "Reform and/or Revolution: Imagining a World with Transformative Justice." This City University of New York (CUNY) based conference is hosted by John Jay and is organized by volunteers, students, and faculty - based at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Credit Suisse’s guilty plea to a charge of tax fraud seems to be a major step forward for a Justice Department that was satisfied both before and after the financial crisis with toothless deferred prosecution agreements and large-sounding fines that were easily absorbed as a cost of doing business. A criminal conviction certainly sounds good, and I agree that it’s better than not a criminal conviction. But what does it mean at the end of the day?

Most obviously, no one will go to jail because of the conviction (although several Credit Suisse individuals are separately being investigated or prosecuted). And for Credit Suisse, business will go on as usual, minus some tax fraud—that’s what the CEO said. A criminal conviction can be devastating to an individual. But when public officials go out of their way to ensure that a conviction has as little impact as possible on a corporation, it’s not clear how this is better than a deferred prosecution agreement.

Control is a movie about a young person and his family as they face the criminal justice institution. Mouse's testimony and story is powerful because it is familiar, and that is a tragedy. This is the new normal: cycles of incarceration reverberating through families and communities.

The 3rd Annual People's Film Festival (TPFF) presented by The People's Media, Music, and Arts Foundation in conjunction with The Four Builders Foundation will feature a special screening of the documentary film "CONTROL" by directors Chris Bravo & Lindsey Schneider. This will be followed by a special youth panel entitled "Take Control" May 31, 2014 in Harlem, New York, at The Maysles Cinema (at 343 Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY).

As millions of new graduates prepare to enter the workforce, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) demonstrates that the Great Recession has been hard on recent graduates, especially black recent college graduates. The authors write that while young black workers with college degrees have fared better than their less-educated peers, they have a higher unemployment rate and are more likely to find themselves in a job that does not require a degree than other recent college graduates.

"The history of our revolution," wrote John Adams, "will be one continued lie from one end to the other." Although his statement was followed by a spiteful attack against Benjamin Franklin and George Washington-people would only remember Dr. Franklin's electrical rod smote the earth and out sprang General Washington, and it was these two who conducted all the policy, negotiation, legislatures and war-his initial assertion had merit. Despite what many believe, the American Revolution was not that revolutionary, neither was it democratic. As often happens during times of political upheaval, revolutionaries become reactionaries. Those writing about democracy became despots.

Is this the real reason the United States is unable to recognize Ukraine's democratic revolution? Following Crimea's self-rule referendum to secede, citizens in Donetsk did the same. With 89 percent voting "yes!" they formed the popular People's Republic of Donetsk. Other cities and regions are also protesting and rebelling against a US supported Ukrainian government that is extremely corrupt and highly authoritative. Sadly, their revolutionary acts are being met with repression and death. In Slovyansk, Ukrainian troops killed five protesters. Dozens of revolutionaries were burned alive in Odessa when Ukrainians set ablaze the local House of Trade Unions.