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.
Four activists were arrested this morning at the Embassy of El Salvador where they staged a sit- in to call attention to 17 Salvadoran women currently serving extreme prison sentences for having had miscarriages. Protesters included Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of Latin America solidarity organization School of the Americas Watch; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse, NY, retired educator and nonviolent peace activist; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, NY; and Paki Wieland, of Northampton, MA, longtime peace and justice activist and member of Grandmothers for Peace. The group delivered a letter to the embassy to express their solidarity and to seek the release of the 17 women. Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, NY, and Palma Ryan of Cliff Island, ME, also participated in the sit-in.
"The 17," as they are now known in the global movement advocating their release, are 17 women in El Salvador serving decades in prison for having had miscarriages. A country with deeply conservative abortion laws, El Salvador has convicted these 17 and charged as many as five more. According to Amnesty International, the charges are for aggravated homicide and receiving illegal abortions, though there is little to no evidence as to the causes of their miscarriages. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana made international headlines last month as the first of the 17 to be released.
Surely one of the questions that comes to mind as we read the various commentaries on the skirmish between Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson is "Why Should We [those of us who sit way up in the 'cheap seats'] Care?" Permit me to offer an answer that is both simple and a bit more involved. While, ostensibly, this debate appears to be about an ego-driven flap between two high profile Black intellectuals, it is significant to some of us because it involves our efforts to interpret some of the actions (both instrumental and symbolic) of the nation's first bi-racial President. This flap involving West and Dyson would not have occurred were the current occupant of the White House Caucasian.
As we enter the fourth quarter of our current President's second term, we will no doubt be treated with more debates around President Obama's multi-dimensional legacy. Many Black intellectuals are likely to raise the question, "What did Barack Obama do for Black people?" This question is problematic for two reasons: (a) it reflects what might be called the "fallacy of phenotypical thinking," i.e., someone who is phenotypically Black shouldchampion policy issues and causes of particular importance to many Black people; and (b) this question tends to ignore the formal-legal/institutional circumstances under which the President of the United States (POTUS) operates.
Here is the situation: the threat of aggressive public protests against those assembling to critically discuss the behavior of Israel has become an excuse to shut down such gatherings. The latest example of this tactic, which is really a form of blackmail to impose censorship, took place last week at the University ofSouthampton in the UK.
An international conference entitled "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism" was scheduled for 17-19 April 2015 at the University of Southampton. It was to bring together lawyers and scholars to examine the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel and the rationales (or lack thereof) for its historical treatment of the Palestinian people. The standard by which these issues were to be judged was international law. The conference would also have examined the issue of exceptionalism when it came to the inadequate legal and diplomatic response to Israeli policies and behavior. Conference participants were to include both those critical of Israel and those who would present a defense of Israeli practices.
Philosopher Thomas Pogge in his seminal book on World Poverty and Human Rights asks a deceptively simple and ultimately moral question on the nature of what he calls the "global institutional order": can authentic reform be made of this international order, and can any proposed reform better align with our moral values in order to alleviate the suffering of the global poor?
By Global Institutional Order (GIO), Pogge refers to the architecture of global economic, financial and political governance, for example the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and increasingly private actors such as multinational corporations and financial investment instruments; private equity and hedge funds for example.
The Everglades are among the last sub-tropical wilderness areas in the United States. Their Floridian air is thick with humidity, but a cool breeze is commonly felt from both the fresh and saltwater systems that spread throughout the landscape. Open prairies provide relief from the dangers of the swamp. A mosaic of forest, from pinelands nourished by ancient limestone, to tropical hardwoods, coral reef communities and mangroves, supports an incredible array of wildlife. These unique systems are habitat for numerous endemic species including aquatic birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians — of which many are endangered or threatened.
Hard to think of a landscape quite like the fragile Everglades, but it is politics that brought US President Barack Obama to such splendor on Earth Day. In the backyard of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both GOP presidential contenders (with checkered environmental legacies), Obama talked of climate change impacts on the imperiled wetland community. He went on to highlight the 100 year anniversary of the Park Service, coming up in 2016, and a new report that notes National Parks store 14 million tons of carbon each year. Point after point was made for conservation.
The unique approach of Boston School Bus Union, Steelworkers Local 8751 offers a much needed new blueprint for building power within poor and working class communities. This particular union marks the spot where organized labor meets oppressed and marginalized people where they are. During my travels to Boston, it was quite inspiring to see a local union work hand in hand with neighborhood youth against police violence. It was quite encouraging to see the rank-and-file of the Boston school bus drivers work with parents and community members to organize against school closings and badly timed budget cuts to public education.
UN independent human rights experts on migrants, Francois Crépeau, and on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, react to the announcement made at the end of the emergency European Union summit on migrants yesterday.
The decision made yesterday by EUleaders overwhelmingly continues to focus on the securitization of borders. Increasing repression of survival migration has not worked in the past and will not work now.
This is Dan Falcone's letter to a teacher named Marilyn Zuniga. Zuniga's students apparently wanted to write Mumia Abu-Jamal "get well" letters after learning he had fallen ill. The students knew of him from a Black history lesson on the topic of civil rights. Zuniga was disciplined for the activity and suspended without pay. Since the suspension, the students' rights to be facilitated by the instructor has received support from the dean of the University of San Francisco's School of Education, Kevin Kumashiro; world-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky; professor and social commentator Marc Lamont Hill; and Baruch College history professor Johanna Fernandez.
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing at least 1,500 people and prompting the government to declare a state of emergency. The tremor caused avalanches on Mount Everest and destroyed buildings across the capital city of Kathmandu. Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking 145th out of 187 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Nepalowes $3.8 billion in debt to foreign lenders and spent $217 million repaying debt in 2013. Nepal is one of 38 countries eligible for assistance from the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) new Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCR).
"Nepal could qualify for immediate relief," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA Network. "Nepal's earthquake is why the International Monetary Fund created a new rapid response relief fund."
Governor Jerry Brown has finally admitted what most Californians have known all along - the "conservation" and "habitat restoration" components of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan have been nothing but window dressing for the twin tunnels water grab, potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.
On April 13, Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition of anti-tunnels organizations and individuals, and theCenter for Biological Diversity responded to the governor's abandonment of the pretense of "conservation" and "restoration" and move to permit a "tunnels only" Bay Delta Conservation Plan, as reported in the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other media outlets.