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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.

The US has released Yunus Rahmatullah, a Pakistani citizen held at Bagram Airbase for ten years without charge, trial, or access to a lawyer after his capture by British forces in Iraq and subsequent rendition to Afghanistan in 2004.

After years of government denials that the UK had been involved in any rendition operations, Mr Rahmatullah’s capture by British forces was finally revealed to Parliament in February 2009 by then-Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton. Despite admitting playing a part in Mr Rahmatullah’s illegal detention and transfer, the government persisted in refusing to assist him. As a result legal action was brought on Mr Rahmatullah’s behalf.

The latest border changes in Ukraine are just another replay of too many past scenarios: the breakup of former Yugoslavia, East Timor, Chechnya, the Sudetenland Crisis of the 1930s, and the centuries-long back and forth of the Alsace and Lorraine between France and Germany. If we could base the resolution of these types of conflict on recognizing the five principles outlined here, we could greatly reduce the dangers of civil and interstate war.

Very few national borders are more than two hundred years old, and many are far more recent. Moreover, many current borders were arbitrarily imposed, dividing and separating ethnic and religious populations while combining them with others whose ways they did not understand and so creating conditions for long term conflict. The pressure to change borders will always be with us.

A remarkable article appears in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The authors, experts in public health, are listed with all their academic credentials: William H. Wiist, DHSc, MPH, MS, Kathy Barker, PhD, Neil Arya, MD, Jon Rohde, MD, Martin Donohoe, MD, Shelley White, PhD, MPH, Pauline Lubens, MPH, Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD, and Amy Hagopian, PhD.

How private is the data on your cell phone? That was the big question before the Supreme Court last week in a pair of cases, Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, with the potential for huge consequences for the future of information privacy.

The cases involve a longstanding exception to the Fourth Amendment that permits the police to search items on or near someone they have arrested, no warrant required. The rule was intended to keep officers safe and prevent the destruction of evidence. In recent years, however, the rule has given police free rein to seize and search the devices that store our calls, text messages, e-mails, and troves of other personal data such as our financial history, medical information, and daily movements.

Just as the media in the Soviet Union were not allowed to talk about alternatives to one-party rule, the Washington Post apparently can't raise the issue of alternatives to patent supported drug research in the United States. This should be apparent to readers of an article on Sovaldi, a new drug to treat Hepatitis C.

The drug is currently subject to a government granted patent monopoly which allows its manufacturer, Gilead Science, to sell a year's dosage for $100,000. By contrast, a generic version sells in India for about 1 percent of this price. As the piece tells readers:

May 16

Worried Sick About Vermont

By James and Jean Anton, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The Bosses are worried sick.

The Bosses are worried sick about Vermont. They think democracy has gone wrong because voters there just passed a law (that the Bosses hate), which will take effect on 1 July 2016 that would make it possible for shoppers to know which of their foods contain DNA from GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Come July 2016, all consumers will have to do is read food labels.

With the Senate set to take up consideration of a package of over 50 tax breaks, the FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition is reminding the American people of two of the more egregious breaks included in the bill and of their impact on this country.

The two tax breaks are the "active financing exception," which would cost $58.8 billion if extended for ten years, and the controlled foreign corporation (CFC) "Look-Through Rule," which would cost $20.3 billion over ten years. 

May 16

Up, Down, Right and Left, Kiev and Berlin

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Running up a down escalator is itself mighty difficult. But trying to keep your footing on both an up and a down escalator at the same time is simply hard to imagine. Yet it gives an idea of Germany's present Ukrainian policy.

Soon after Soviet soldiers left East Germany between 1989 and 1994, the newly-unified country swiftly forgot all promises to the contrary and joined in expanding the more economic European Union and the more military NATO - first into East Germany, then on to Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, to Bulgaria, Romania and, not yet quite fully, to Azerbaijan and Georgia. A glance at a map makes it all too clear: adding the wide Ukrainian expanse would mean almost total western encirclement of Russia's main territory, further diminishing its access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and moving alarmingly close to its heart.

As the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) reached its two-year anniversary today, labor and human rights organizations say the pact's failure to curtail labor rights abuses in Colombia illustrates the shortcomings of the current labor chapter and side agreements like the "Colombia Labor Action Plan" (LAP).

"It's time we recognize that promises to Colombia's workers have been broken," said James P. Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters. "We must put human rights at the center of our trade policy, not at the fringe. And as violent as things are in Colombia, respect for basic labor rights in countries like Vietnam and Brunei is in many ways even worse. Signing to the TPP before these abuses are adequately addressed would only allow them to continue."

May 16

The Limits of Military Power

By Lawrence S Wittner, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Is overwhelming national military power a reliable source of influence in world affairs?

If so, the United States should certainly have plenty of influence today. For decades, it has been the world's Number 1 military spender. And it continues in this role. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $640 billion on the military in 2013, thus accounting for 37 percent of world military expenditures. The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Thus, last year, the United States spent more than three times as much as China and more than seven times as much as Russia on the military.