Sunday, 05 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.

At 9:15 am on March 19, the 12th anniversary of the U.S.’ illegal invasion of Iraq, seven members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars shut the main gate of the Hancock Drone Base (near Syracuse, NY) with a giant copy of the UN Charter and three other giant books – Dirty Wars (Jeremy Scahill), Living Under Drones (NYU and Stanford Law Schools), and You Never Die Twice (Reprieve). 

The nonviolent activists also held a banner quoting Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, stating that every treaty signed becomes the supreme law of the land. They brought the books to Hancock to remind everyone at the base of the signed treaties that prohibit the killing of civilians and assassinations of human beings.

Washington, DC - U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), and more than 100 members of Congress today introduced the Voter Empowerment Act, which would upgrade voter registration and bring America's election system into the 21st century.

The bill comes two weeks after President Obama called on Congress to honor the legacy of Selma — which galvanized support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act - by working to expand access to the polls. Five decades later, the U.S. Supreme Court has gutted the Act's key provision, and there is a new nationwide push to restrict voting.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) today introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4.4 million American citizens with past criminal convictions upon release from incarceration.

The Democracy Restoration Act has garnered broad support from a diverse coalition that includes law enforcement associations, the faith community, racial justice advocates, and civil rights organizations. Versions of the bill were introduced in past sessions of Congress.

Reminiscent of the popular movement that led to the resignation of former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992, instead of "Fora Collor," ("Get Out Collor") protestors are now waving banners with the words "ForaDilma" and favouring the same English word "impeachment" in a bid to oust the South American country's current president, Dilma Rousseff. Both leaders were accused of mismanagement and corruption, with Petrobras, the national petroleum company, at the centre of the criticism against Dilma. Likewise, protestors are numbering at least a million. But the similarity is deceptive. Collor was a member of the wealthy élite who ostensibly ran afoul of the interests controlling Brazil at the time, whereas Dilma, the former revolutionary now at the helm of the country as head of the PT, the leftist Workers Party, is a populist who continues to inspire more wide-spread, albeit less reported, manifestations of support outside of the country's affluent city centres.

According to the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, Landless Workers Movement) website, differently composed demonstrations also took place this weekend in favour of rooting out corruption at Petrobras, but against privatization of the mostly state owned oil company.

According to Glen Stewart, a former lawyer with the Community and Legal Aid Services Program whose service area includes the Jane-Finch community, "Concerns around policing were one of the focal points (31 years ago) and, unfortunately, they've never really gone away. Recently there have been some incidents where youth have been subjects of violence at the hands of police. That, I think, has brought concerns to the forefront again."

In 2002, a survey of youth's sense of safety in the Jane-Finch, Malvern, Regent Park and Parkdale communities identified police violence and drug trade activities as their principal fears.

On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee scheduled to hold a hearing on the 'The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,' which, if passed, would overhaul how the federal government regulates chemicals. The bill is a product of negotiations between Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who introduced the bill last week. A new MapLight analysis of campaign contributions and lobbying spending has found that the chemical industry, which strongly supports the new legislation, has dramatically expanded its political spending in recent years.

The chemical industry's top spenders have ramped up their campaign contributions as Congress has started overhauling the government's chemical regulations. During the 2014 election cycle, for instance, the top 10 chemical companies and organizations*, including 3M and the American Chemistry Council among others, contributed more than $1 million to current members of the Senate, including to all 17 senators who sponsored or cosponsored the Udall/Vitter legislation.

The conversation on race in our country is changing. Once a subject left to be discussed by civil rights leaders, organizers and a few non-profits, race is now a topic for many. Names like Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and so many more have led to widespread conversations on race. The numerous anniversaries marking milestones of the Civil Rights Movement and, yes, that the President IS Black also factor in to discussions about the rolerace and racism play in our society.

Yesterday we saw a relatively new entrant into the discussion: Starbucks, in a partnership with USA Today. Starbucks has committed to socially conscious practices in the past including hiring vets, banning open weapons in their stores, and supporting gay marriage. A public dialog on race is new for Starbucks. While we applaud Starbucks for their effort to engage a topic that many seek to avoid, and while their efforts seem well intentioned, we, as a national racial justice organization, with a name similar to the hashtag used in the campaign feel compelled to say: As a nation, we need more.

New York, NY – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications, concludes a new report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

What Went Wrong with the FISA Court finds that dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceCourt (FISA Court) since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.

Hydroponics is a technology for growing terrestrial plants with their roots in nutrient solutions (water with dissolved fertilizers) rather than soil. Hydroponic production is not mentioned in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990; however, in 2010 the National Organic Standards Board formally recommended that hydroponic systems be prohibited from obtaining organic certification.

In direct contradiction to the Board's recommendations, the USDA's National Organic Program has sided with industry lobbyists pronouncing that hydroponicsis allowed. And, despite the objections of many organic stakeholders, some accredited certifying agents are certifying hydroponic operations.

US officials may have attempted to negotiate the forced return of British resident Shaker Aamer to Saudi Arabia, despite a promise to the UK not to do so, it's been revealed.

Previously-secret documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in August 2010, less than two months after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told then-Foreign Secretary William Hague that she 'welcomed... discussing Mr Aamer's case', theUS instructed its Saudi embassy on 'engaging Saudi Arabia on Shaker Aamer'. Another document reveals how, at an August 2013 meeting between senior US officials and theSaudi interior minister, Mr Aamer was described as a 'Saudi citizen with significant ties to the UK'.

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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.

At 9:15 am on March 19, the 12th anniversary of the U.S.’ illegal invasion of Iraq, seven members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars shut the main gate of the Hancock Drone Base (near Syracuse, NY) with a giant copy of the UN Charter and three other giant books – Dirty Wars (Jeremy Scahill), Living Under Drones (NYU and Stanford Law Schools), and You Never Die Twice (Reprieve). 

The nonviolent activists also held a banner quoting Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, stating that every treaty signed becomes the supreme law of the land. They brought the books to Hancock to remind everyone at the base of the signed treaties that prohibit the killing of civilians and assassinations of human beings.

Washington, DC - U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), and more than 100 members of Congress today introduced the Voter Empowerment Act, which would upgrade voter registration and bring America's election system into the 21st century.

The bill comes two weeks after President Obama called on Congress to honor the legacy of Selma — which galvanized support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act - by working to expand access to the polls. Five decades later, the U.S. Supreme Court has gutted the Act's key provision, and there is a new nationwide push to restrict voting.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) today introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to nearly 4.4 million American citizens with past criminal convictions upon release from incarceration.

The Democracy Restoration Act has garnered broad support from a diverse coalition that includes law enforcement associations, the faith community, racial justice advocates, and civil rights organizations. Versions of the bill were introduced in past sessions of Congress.

Reminiscent of the popular movement that led to the resignation of former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello in 1992, instead of "Fora Collor," ("Get Out Collor") protestors are now waving banners with the words "ForaDilma" and favouring the same English word "impeachment" in a bid to oust the South American country's current president, Dilma Rousseff. Both leaders were accused of mismanagement and corruption, with Petrobras, the national petroleum company, at the centre of the criticism against Dilma. Likewise, protestors are numbering at least a million. But the similarity is deceptive. Collor was a member of the wealthy élite who ostensibly ran afoul of the interests controlling Brazil at the time, whereas Dilma, the former revolutionary now at the helm of the country as head of the PT, the leftist Workers Party, is a populist who continues to inspire more wide-spread, albeit less reported, manifestations of support outside of the country's affluent city centres.

According to the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, Landless Workers Movement) website, differently composed demonstrations also took place this weekend in favour of rooting out corruption at Petrobras, but against privatization of the mostly state owned oil company.

According to Glen Stewart, a former lawyer with the Community and Legal Aid Services Program whose service area includes the Jane-Finch community, "Concerns around policing were one of the focal points (31 years ago) and, unfortunately, they've never really gone away. Recently there have been some incidents where youth have been subjects of violence at the hands of police. That, I think, has brought concerns to the forefront again."

In 2002, a survey of youth's sense of safety in the Jane-Finch, Malvern, Regent Park and Parkdale communities identified police violence and drug trade activities as their principal fears.

On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee scheduled to hold a hearing on the 'The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,' which, if passed, would overhaul how the federal government regulates chemicals. The bill is a product of negotiations between Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who introduced the bill last week. A new MapLight analysis of campaign contributions and lobbying spending has found that the chemical industry, which strongly supports the new legislation, has dramatically expanded its political spending in recent years.

The chemical industry's top spenders have ramped up their campaign contributions as Congress has started overhauling the government's chemical regulations. During the 2014 election cycle, for instance, the top 10 chemical companies and organizations*, including 3M and the American Chemistry Council among others, contributed more than $1 million to current members of the Senate, including to all 17 senators who sponsored or cosponsored the Udall/Vitter legislation.

The conversation on race in our country is changing. Once a subject left to be discussed by civil rights leaders, organizers and a few non-profits, race is now a topic for many. Names like Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and so many more have led to widespread conversations on race. The numerous anniversaries marking milestones of the Civil Rights Movement and, yes, that the President IS Black also factor in to discussions about the rolerace and racism play in our society.

Yesterday we saw a relatively new entrant into the discussion: Starbucks, in a partnership with USA Today. Starbucks has committed to socially conscious practices in the past including hiring vets, banning open weapons in their stores, and supporting gay marriage. A public dialog on race is new for Starbucks. While we applaud Starbucks for their effort to engage a topic that many seek to avoid, and while their efforts seem well intentioned, we, as a national racial justice organization, with a name similar to the hashtag used in the campaign feel compelled to say: As a nation, we need more.

New York, NY – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications, concludes a new report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

What Went Wrong with the FISA Court finds that dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceCourt (FISA Court) since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.

Hydroponics is a technology for growing terrestrial plants with their roots in nutrient solutions (water with dissolved fertilizers) rather than soil. Hydroponic production is not mentioned in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990; however, in 2010 the National Organic Standards Board formally recommended that hydroponic systems be prohibited from obtaining organic certification.

In direct contradiction to the Board's recommendations, the USDA's National Organic Program has sided with industry lobbyists pronouncing that hydroponicsis allowed. And, despite the objections of many organic stakeholders, some accredited certifying agents are certifying hydroponic operations.

US officials may have attempted to negotiate the forced return of British resident Shaker Aamer to Saudi Arabia, despite a promise to the UK not to do so, it's been revealed.

Previously-secret documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in August 2010, less than two months after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told then-Foreign Secretary William Hague that she 'welcomed... discussing Mr Aamer's case', theUS instructed its Saudi embassy on 'engaging Saudi Arabia on Shaker Aamer'. Another document reveals how, at an August 2013 meeting between senior US officials and theSaudi interior minister, Mr Aamer was described as a 'Saudi citizen with significant ties to the UK'.