Wednesday, 22 October 2014 / 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.

New York – Despite the recent uptick in judicial nominee confirmations over the last few months, judicial vacancies are causing significant case delays and creating unmanageable workloads for judges in district courts, according to a new Brennan Center for Justice study out today.

In a first-of-its-kind-study, the Brennan Center interviewed more than 20 chief judges, court administrators, and practitioners from 10 districts which either currently or recently had judicial vacancies to get a firsthand account of how vacancies impact our trial courts.

Washington, DC – On the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, better known as Dodd-Frank, Labaton Sucharow LLP, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and a growing coalition, representing more than 250 organizations and nearly two million citizens, announce they have submitted petitions with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) demanding a strengthened Whistleblower Program.

The SEC Whistleblower Program offers eligible whistleblowers the ability to report anonymously, robust employment protections and the opportunity to earn substantial monetary awards – regardless of nationality. A recent Wall Street survey, commissioned by Labaton Sucharow, found that financial services professionals were aware of unethical and illegal behavior in the workplace (23%), willing to report possible violations with the protections and incentives offered by the Program (89%) and knew about the existence of the Program (60%, up from 49% just one year earlier).

John Yoo, currently on the faculty of the Berkeley Law school at the University of California, is the primary author of the torture memos. Yoo is less well known as the sole author of legal memos authorizing the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), allegedly justifying warrantless wiretapping of US citizens.

Despite numerous examples of the moral and legal inadequacy of Yoo's work, former Berkeley Law Dean Edley, as one of his last acts as Dean, presided over two recent honors bestowed on John Yoo: Yoo was named co-chair of Korea Law Center; and Yoo was given an endowed chair.  

Jul 21

The Lysenko Affair

By Robert Adler and Les Adler, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Lysenkoism—a convenient untruth

For more than 30 years, from the early 1930s until the mid-1960s, the scientific study of genetics and agriculture in the Soviet Union was stunted by the official endorsement—from Joseph Stalin on down—of Lysenkoism, a hodgepodge of pseudo-scientific ideas and techniques advocated by Trofim Lysenko and his supporters. Central to Lysenkoism was denial of the firmly established science of genetics, replaced by a theory that acquired characteristics such as resistance to cold or drought could be inherited, a theory that supported the views and met the needs of the Communist Party—a politically convenient untruth.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is an island country in the northern Pacific with a population of approximately 70,000 people. For such a small country, it is making big waves.  As a country at risk of being submerged due to rising ocean levels, the RMI has played a leadership role in the international conferences concerned with climate change.  As a country that suffered 12 years of devastating U.S. nuclear testing, it has also chosen to take action to assure that the no other country suffers the fate its citizens have due to nuclear weapons.  It has sued the nine nuclear-armed countries for failing to meet their obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.

The RMI is a bold, courageous country.  It may be small, but its leaders are not intimidated by the most powerful countries in the world.  It speaks truth to power and it is tackling two of the most critical survival issues of our time.  It is acting for its own survival, but also for the future of humanity and other forms of complex life on the planet.

Jul 18

International Scholars' Statement on Gaza

By David Palumbo-Liu, SpeakOut | Open Letter

On July 10th, Richard Silverstein, Joel Beinin, and I exchanged emails deploring the situation in Israel-Palestine, and began thinking about writing a public statement together. Composing amongst several people is always challenging, but even more so when the topic is as urgent and as complex as this one. This challenge was augmented by our varied perspectives on the issue, which, while not radically different, had certain nuances. Finally, we also wished to take into account the viewpoints and preferences of the people we approached and asked to sign on. What you have before you is the product of these deliberations and debates amongst ourselves and with several others.

We gained many signatures; we lost a few. Yet even those who decided not to sign showed the same resolve as the rest of us—there was no disagreement whatsoever in the belief that Israel's attacks on the West Bank and Gaza are immoral, illegal, and reprehensible, and need to stop. Furthermore, we firmly believe that steps toward long-term restorative justice need to be taken, and that in order for that to be possible, the world community must weigh in.

This story about the Arizona State University professor offering extra credit to her students if they don't shave keeps appearing on my news feed. Apparently, the story was pretty popular, as it already got re-posted, or re-written in Salon, Jezebel, Policy Mic, Huff post and probably everywhere else, and got thousands of clicks. The basics: a group of college women motivated by an extra credit project didn't shave for a while, and realized that having body hair caused social stigma because they were not conforming to gender norms. This is news?

I am seriously scared at the amount of attention this post got because it reflects directly on what is going on in the mainstream world regarding gender issues. It makes me think that mainstream media feminism still has a long way to go, as the feminist angle in this story leaves out anyone who is not cis-gendered.

Jul 17

Does Uncle Sam Have a God Complex?

By Norman Solomon, Norman Solomon | Op-Ed

As a matter of faith, some people believe that God can see and hear everything. But as a matter of fact, the U.S. government now has the kind of surveillance powers formerly attributed only to a supreme being.

Top “national security” officials in Washington now have the determination and tech prowess to keep tabs on billions of people. No one elected Uncle Sam to play God. But a dire shortage of democratic constraints has enabled the U.S. surveillance state to keep expanding with steely resolve.

Last week Wednesday, after three consecutive years of severe drought and a failed call for residents to reduce water usage, California officials proposed to issue fines to those who overuse. Fines can be up to $500 and may be incurred if water is:

  • Sprayed onto outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures.
  • Sprayed onto any hard surface, including but not limited to driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt.
Jul 17

Treating Prisoners as Well as Farm Animals

By Falguni A. Sheth , SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The legislature in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now considering passing Bill S.2232. Officially entitled, "An Act to ensure continued humane animal care in Massachusetts," this commendable bill is designed to prevent cruelty and ill-treatment to farm animals. Here are some key excerpts:

The purpose of this section, subject to exceptions, is to prohibit the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.

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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.

New York – Despite the recent uptick in judicial nominee confirmations over the last few months, judicial vacancies are causing significant case delays and creating unmanageable workloads for judges in district courts, according to a new Brennan Center for Justice study out today.

In a first-of-its-kind-study, the Brennan Center interviewed more than 20 chief judges, court administrators, and practitioners from 10 districts which either currently or recently had judicial vacancies to get a firsthand account of how vacancies impact our trial courts.

Washington, DC – On the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, better known as Dodd-Frank, Labaton Sucharow LLP, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and a growing coalition, representing more than 250 organizations and nearly two million citizens, announce they have submitted petitions with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) demanding a strengthened Whistleblower Program.

The SEC Whistleblower Program offers eligible whistleblowers the ability to report anonymously, robust employment protections and the opportunity to earn substantial monetary awards – regardless of nationality. A recent Wall Street survey, commissioned by Labaton Sucharow, found that financial services professionals were aware of unethical and illegal behavior in the workplace (23%), willing to report possible violations with the protections and incentives offered by the Program (89%) and knew about the existence of the Program (60%, up from 49% just one year earlier).

John Yoo, currently on the faculty of the Berkeley Law school at the University of California, is the primary author of the torture memos. Yoo is less well known as the sole author of legal memos authorizing the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), allegedly justifying warrantless wiretapping of US citizens.

Despite numerous examples of the moral and legal inadequacy of Yoo's work, former Berkeley Law Dean Edley, as one of his last acts as Dean, presided over two recent honors bestowed on John Yoo: Yoo was named co-chair of Korea Law Center; and Yoo was given an endowed chair.  

Jul 21

The Lysenko Affair

By Robert Adler and Les Adler, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Lysenkoism—a convenient untruth

For more than 30 years, from the early 1930s until the mid-1960s, the scientific study of genetics and agriculture in the Soviet Union was stunted by the official endorsement—from Joseph Stalin on down—of Lysenkoism, a hodgepodge of pseudo-scientific ideas and techniques advocated by Trofim Lysenko and his supporters. Central to Lysenkoism was denial of the firmly established science of genetics, replaced by a theory that acquired characteristics such as resistance to cold or drought could be inherited, a theory that supported the views and met the needs of the Communist Party—a politically convenient untruth.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is an island country in the northern Pacific with a population of approximately 70,000 people. For such a small country, it is making big waves.  As a country at risk of being submerged due to rising ocean levels, the RMI has played a leadership role in the international conferences concerned with climate change.  As a country that suffered 12 years of devastating U.S. nuclear testing, it has also chosen to take action to assure that the no other country suffers the fate its citizens have due to nuclear weapons.  It has sued the nine nuclear-armed countries for failing to meet their obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.

The RMI is a bold, courageous country.  It may be small, but its leaders are not intimidated by the most powerful countries in the world.  It speaks truth to power and it is tackling two of the most critical survival issues of our time.  It is acting for its own survival, but also for the future of humanity and other forms of complex life on the planet.

Jul 18

International Scholars' Statement on Gaza

By David Palumbo-Liu, SpeakOut | Open Letter

On July 10th, Richard Silverstein, Joel Beinin, and I exchanged emails deploring the situation in Israel-Palestine, and began thinking about writing a public statement together. Composing amongst several people is always challenging, but even more so when the topic is as urgent and as complex as this one. This challenge was augmented by our varied perspectives on the issue, which, while not radically different, had certain nuances. Finally, we also wished to take into account the viewpoints and preferences of the people we approached and asked to sign on. What you have before you is the product of these deliberations and debates amongst ourselves and with several others.

We gained many signatures; we lost a few. Yet even those who decided not to sign showed the same resolve as the rest of us—there was no disagreement whatsoever in the belief that Israel's attacks on the West Bank and Gaza are immoral, illegal, and reprehensible, and need to stop. Furthermore, we firmly believe that steps toward long-term restorative justice need to be taken, and that in order for that to be possible, the world community must weigh in.

This story about the Arizona State University professor offering extra credit to her students if they don't shave keeps appearing on my news feed. Apparently, the story was pretty popular, as it already got re-posted, or re-written in Salon, Jezebel, Policy Mic, Huff post and probably everywhere else, and got thousands of clicks. The basics: a group of college women motivated by an extra credit project didn't shave for a while, and realized that having body hair caused social stigma because they were not conforming to gender norms. This is news?

I am seriously scared at the amount of attention this post got because it reflects directly on what is going on in the mainstream world regarding gender issues. It makes me think that mainstream media feminism still has a long way to go, as the feminist angle in this story leaves out anyone who is not cis-gendered.

Jul 17

Does Uncle Sam Have a God Complex?

By Norman Solomon, Norman Solomon | Op-Ed

As a matter of faith, some people believe that God can see and hear everything. But as a matter of fact, the U.S. government now has the kind of surveillance powers formerly attributed only to a supreme being.

Top “national security” officials in Washington now have the determination and tech prowess to keep tabs on billions of people. No one elected Uncle Sam to play God. But a dire shortage of democratic constraints has enabled the U.S. surveillance state to keep expanding with steely resolve.

Last week Wednesday, after three consecutive years of severe drought and a failed call for residents to reduce water usage, California officials proposed to issue fines to those who overuse. Fines can be up to $500 and may be incurred if water is:

  • Sprayed onto outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures.
  • Sprayed onto any hard surface, including but not limited to driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt.
Jul 17

Treating Prisoners as Well as Farm Animals

By Falguni A. Sheth , SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The legislature in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now considering passing Bill S.2232. Officially entitled, "An Act to ensure continued humane animal care in Massachusetts," this commendable bill is designed to prevent cruelty and ill-treatment to farm animals. Here are some key excerpts:

The purpose of this section, subject to exceptions, is to prohibit the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.