Friday, 22 May 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.

Urban dwellers experience a familiar hum caused mainly by motor vehicles, along with other sounds of modern civilization: buildings' heating and air conditioning, power tools, aircraft, and, arguably least objectionable, the voices of people and animals. Other urban background cannot be heard but is seen, smelled and, to some, felt: air pollution and electronic waves. The often murky air along with light-pollution assures that seeing many stars is unlikely, and is of little concern anyway to the typical technological urbanite.

This background is almost unnoticeable to those inured to it, such that it is only upon leaving and coming back thatone perceives the discolor of the sky and the lack of silence in the city and suburbs. There's an additional "energy buzz" in some city centers such as Manhattan, that -- while stimulating to many -- is considered by just as many to be mass craziness. Other cities such as some in northern Europe seem, on the other hand, to exude joy. San Francisco once had it.

The Western State Petroleum Association President's role as Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast is undoubtedly one of the most overt conflicts of interest in recent years, but it's just one example of the conflicts of interests that infest environmental politics in California.

In one of the biggest and most overlooked environmental scandals in recent California history, a prominent oil industry lobbyist served as a high ranking official overseeing the creation of marine protected areas in Southern California, as well as sitting on a federal marineprotected areas advisory panel.

In the heart of what corporate wine industry lobbyists have re-branded "Wine Country," activists from four North Coast Californiacounties gathered in early May for their third monthly meeting. They created a regional network of groups from Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties.

Participants came to the attractive resort town of Calistoga in Napa to discuss how to contain the rampant, sprawling growth of corporate vineyards and wineries as commercial, industrial event centers. The vineyards pave over agricultural land, damage the quality of rural life and create multiple negative impacts upon the environment with respect to water, land, noise, traffic, wildlife habitat and air quality.

On Saturday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for the suspension of Colombia's aerial spraying program to eradicate illicit crop cultivation. This came after the recent release of a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, which found that the main chemical used in the aerial spraying program, glyphosate, is likely carcinogenic to humans.

"Few presidents have been as bold as President Santos in calling for global alternatives to the failed drug war," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "His suspension of the spraying program suggests that he recognizes the need to promote reforms not just on the global stage but at home as well."

2015 0508speakout2Today several important civil rights organizations released a statement that is critical of the decision by many parents and students to opt out of highstakes standardized tests. Though we understand the concerns expressed in this statement, we believe highstakestests are doing more harm than good to the interests of students of color, and for that reason, we respectfully disagree.

The United States is currently experiencing the largest uprising against high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s history. Never before have more parents, students, and educators participated in acts of defiance against these tests than they are today.  In New York State some 200,000 families have decided to opt their children out of the state test.  The largest walkout against standardized tests in U.S. history occurred in Colorado earlier this school year when thousands refused to take the end of course exams.  In cities from Seattle, to Chicago, to Toledo, to New York City, teachers have organized boycotts of the exam and have refused to administer particularly flawed and punitive exams.

May 11

First Senate Vote on "Fast Track" for TPP on Tuesday

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance | Op-Ed

It is time to flood the senate with phone calls before the first vote on fast track (trade promotion authority) that would allow the president to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other harmful rigged corporate agreements into law before Congress or the people see them. We have an excellent chance of stopping fast track and we must stop it, but to do so, people need to call their senators and tell everyone they know to do the same. (Call your senators, tell them "no" on fast track 202-224-3121).

With the Iran bill finished more quickly than expected, the senate will move to vote on fast track legislation next week. Get ready.

All over the country I'm talking with whiteanti-racists who are struggling with the tensions of centering Black voices and leadership and the slogan "white silence is compliance." I'm talking with experiencedwhiteanti-racists all over the country who only want to take action if a Black activist personally asks them to do it. I'm talking with white anti-racists all over the country who both feel the enormity of this heart breaking and powerful Black Lives Matter movement time, and are blocked from moving forward out of fear of becoming part of the problem. Here are five reflections shared with the goal of helping us step upand bring other white people with us.

May 08

The Drone War Saga Continues

By Dan Falcone, Truthout | Op-Ed

The President of the United States is taking "full responsibility" for the inadvertent deaths of two Westerners,Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, killed by a US military drone that targeted an al Qaeda compound site.The Intercept is posing a very powerful question: Will an apology ever come for the other innocents around theworld that have died as a result of our drone usage?

Remember when President Obama ran as the alternative to GOP unilateralism? Yes, it was probably important that he defeated both John McCain and Mitt Romney. I also understand that keeping friends like George Mitchell and Zbigniew Brzezinski is slightly better than John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz. So with that in mind let me state that this President's drone initiative is a disaster of epic proportions and it is emblematic of a foreign policy much like Bush II.

Mothers across the country are telling their personal stories of drug war damage with stories, articles and interviews in honor of Mother's Day. By sharing these powerful stories of losing loved ones to drug-prohibition-related violence, incarceration, overdose and addiction, they are bringing focus to a real need to reform our nation's drug policies.  Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the war on drugs, including having children who suffer from addiction and who have been repeatedly incarcerated, or have died from preventable drug overdoses and other drug related problems.

Moms were the driving force in repealing alcohol prohibition in the 30's and now Moms are playing a similar role in ending the war on drugs. Moms United to End theWar on Drugs, is a project of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) along with other organizations and individuals from across the nation.Together they are building a national movement to demand therapeutic, rather than punitive drug policies and an end to the stigmatization and criminalization of people who use drugs or who are addicted to drugs.

Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy of Urbana, Illinois and art director of CODEPINK for Peace Tighe Barry of Washington, DC are in Iran to be passengers on a ship sponsored by the Iranian Red Crescent Society that will sail into the Persian Gulf to protest the attacks by Saudi Arabia on the civilian population of Yemen.

The ship will not approach Yemeni waters but stay in the Persian Gulf.

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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.

Urban dwellers experience a familiar hum caused mainly by motor vehicles, along with other sounds of modern civilization: buildings' heating and air conditioning, power tools, aircraft, and, arguably least objectionable, the voices of people and animals. Other urban background cannot be heard but is seen, smelled and, to some, felt: air pollution and electronic waves. The often murky air along with light-pollution assures that seeing many stars is unlikely, and is of little concern anyway to the typical technological urbanite.

This background is almost unnoticeable to those inured to it, such that it is only upon leaving and coming back thatone perceives the discolor of the sky and the lack of silence in the city and suburbs. There's an additional "energy buzz" in some city centers such as Manhattan, that -- while stimulating to many -- is considered by just as many to be mass craziness. Other cities such as some in northern Europe seem, on the other hand, to exude joy. San Francisco once had it.

The Western State Petroleum Association President's role as Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast is undoubtedly one of the most overt conflicts of interest in recent years, but it's just one example of the conflicts of interests that infest environmental politics in California.

In one of the biggest and most overlooked environmental scandals in recent California history, a prominent oil industry lobbyist served as a high ranking official overseeing the creation of marine protected areas in Southern California, as well as sitting on a federal marineprotected areas advisory panel.

In the heart of what corporate wine industry lobbyists have re-branded "Wine Country," activists from four North Coast Californiacounties gathered in early May for their third monthly meeting. They created a regional network of groups from Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties.

Participants came to the attractive resort town of Calistoga in Napa to discuss how to contain the rampant, sprawling growth of corporate vineyards and wineries as commercial, industrial event centers. The vineyards pave over agricultural land, damage the quality of rural life and create multiple negative impacts upon the environment with respect to water, land, noise, traffic, wildlife habitat and air quality.

On Saturday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for the suspension of Colombia's aerial spraying program to eradicate illicit crop cultivation. This came after the recent release of a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, which found that the main chemical used in the aerial spraying program, glyphosate, is likely carcinogenic to humans.

"Few presidents have been as bold as President Santos in calling for global alternatives to the failed drug war," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "His suspension of the spraying program suggests that he recognizes the need to promote reforms not just on the global stage but at home as well."

2015 0508speakout2Today several important civil rights organizations released a statement that is critical of the decision by many parents and students to opt out of highstakes standardized tests. Though we understand the concerns expressed in this statement, we believe highstakestests are doing more harm than good to the interests of students of color, and for that reason, we respectfully disagree.

The United States is currently experiencing the largest uprising against high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s history. Never before have more parents, students, and educators participated in acts of defiance against these tests than they are today.  In New York State some 200,000 families have decided to opt their children out of the state test.  The largest walkout against standardized tests in U.S. history occurred in Colorado earlier this school year when thousands refused to take the end of course exams.  In cities from Seattle, to Chicago, to Toledo, to New York City, teachers have organized boycotts of the exam and have refused to administer particularly flawed and punitive exams.

May 11

First Senate Vote on "Fast Track" for TPP on Tuesday

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance | Op-Ed

It is time to flood the senate with phone calls before the first vote on fast track (trade promotion authority) that would allow the president to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other harmful rigged corporate agreements into law before Congress or the people see them. We have an excellent chance of stopping fast track and we must stop it, but to do so, people need to call their senators and tell everyone they know to do the same. (Call your senators, tell them "no" on fast track 202-224-3121).

With the Iran bill finished more quickly than expected, the senate will move to vote on fast track legislation next week. Get ready.

All over the country I'm talking with whiteanti-racists who are struggling with the tensions of centering Black voices and leadership and the slogan "white silence is compliance." I'm talking with experiencedwhiteanti-racists all over the country who only want to take action if a Black activist personally asks them to do it. I'm talking with white anti-racists all over the country who both feel the enormity of this heart breaking and powerful Black Lives Matter movement time, and are blocked from moving forward out of fear of becoming part of the problem. Here are five reflections shared with the goal of helping us step upand bring other white people with us.

May 08

The Drone War Saga Continues

By Dan Falcone, Truthout | Op-Ed

The President of the United States is taking "full responsibility" for the inadvertent deaths of two Westerners,Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, killed by a US military drone that targeted an al Qaeda compound site.The Intercept is posing a very powerful question: Will an apology ever come for the other innocents around theworld that have died as a result of our drone usage?

Remember when President Obama ran as the alternative to GOP unilateralism? Yes, it was probably important that he defeated both John McCain and Mitt Romney. I also understand that keeping friends like George Mitchell and Zbigniew Brzezinski is slightly better than John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz. So with that in mind let me state that this President's drone initiative is a disaster of epic proportions and it is emblematic of a foreign policy much like Bush II.

Mothers across the country are telling their personal stories of drug war damage with stories, articles and interviews in honor of Mother's Day. By sharing these powerful stories of losing loved ones to drug-prohibition-related violence, incarceration, overdose and addiction, they are bringing focus to a real need to reform our nation's drug policies.  Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the war on drugs, including having children who suffer from addiction and who have been repeatedly incarcerated, or have died from preventable drug overdoses and other drug related problems.

Moms were the driving force in repealing alcohol prohibition in the 30's and now Moms are playing a similar role in ending the war on drugs. Moms United to End theWar on Drugs, is a project of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) along with other organizations and individuals from across the nation.Together they are building a national movement to demand therapeutic, rather than punitive drug policies and an end to the stigmatization and criminalization of people who use drugs or who are addicted to drugs.

Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy of Urbana, Illinois and art director of CODEPINK for Peace Tighe Barry of Washington, DC are in Iran to be passengers on a ship sponsored by the Iranian Red Crescent Society that will sail into the Persian Gulf to protest the attacks by Saudi Arabia on the civilian population of Yemen.

The ship will not approach Yemeni waters but stay in the Persian Gulf.