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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.

As President Obama departs on his long-delayed trip to Asia, his job-killing trade agenda is being blocked by "fast track" bills that ironically were supposed to railroad trade agreements through Congress. The trip is widely seen as an effort to breathe new life into the four-year old negotiations on theTrans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yet, the "fast track" bills are all but dead due to the broken promises of past trade deals and the upcoming mid-term elections. For example, new data shows that the two-year old U.S. Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has exacerbated our widening trade deficit – directly contradicting previous promises that it would improve our trade deficit and create more jobs.

The data on the US-Korea FTA adds more weight to the argument that Congress should not even bring TPP up for consideration unless every aspect of the agreement can be openly debated and, if needed, modified to serve the interests of all Americans. In fact, behind all the smoke and mirrors, the failure of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement is so extreme that the U.S. is holding up South Korea's joining TPP because of it.

Ten years ago, on April 21, 2004, several hundred of us from around the world waited with great anticipation outside the gates of Israel's Ashkelon Prison, holding up signs saying "Thank you, Mordechai Vanunu: Peace Hero, Nuclear Whistle-blower". After many years of campaigning for his freedom, the day had finally arrived: Mordechai Vanunu would walk out of the prison where he had spent each day of his 18 year sentence (12 of those years in solitary confinement) for blowing the whistle on Israel's then secret nuclear arsenal. We were there to welcome him to freedom.

Our excitement had been somewhat dimmed a couple of days earlier, when Israel announced a list of oppressive and unjust restrictions on the soon-to-be-released whistle-blower. These restrictions continue to this day, having been renewed each April: Mordechai Vanunu remains under restrictions which require him to report and gain approval for any change in residence, to avoid diplomatic missions, to not speak to foreign nationals and which prevent him from leaving Israel, a thing Mordechai has wished to do ever since his release from prison.

Washington DC - On Monday, the Supreme Court hears arguments between Argentina and holdouts who refused two debt restructuring deals after Argentina defaulted on its debts in 2001. The Supreme Court Justices will determine if predatory hedge fund, NML Capital can obtain information from US Banks that reveal Argentina's holdings in order to target those assets for debt payments. The Obama Administration is siding with Argentina in the case. In the summer, the Supreme Court will also decide if it will hear a much broader case between Argentina and the hedge funds that impacts extreme poverty, official US debt policy and country debt restructuring.

"The Supreme Court hearing this initial case offers some indication that they are interested in hearing the broader case," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious antipoverty coalition, Jubilee USA Network. "The courts decision on the broader case will impact financial stability and people living in extreme poverty."

Two important bills are on the desk of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, waiting to be signed into law. One proposes to bring back the electric chair as the standard method of execution, should lethal injection drugs prove unavailable. The other would allow for criminal assault charges to be brought against women who use illegal narcotics while pregnant, should their drug use result in the death of their fetus or the birth of a child who is "addicted" or otherwise harmed by drugs.

It may seem like there's no relation between these two bills. Or if they are related, it's because they contradict one another: one is pro-death, while the other is pro-life. But since most pro-lifers also support capital punishment, there must be a way of reconciling this apparent contradiction. The narrative goes something like this: The fetus is an innocent life, infinitely valuable, and deserving of state protection at all costs. The prisoner on death row has taken an innocent life and so forfeited his or her own right to life; the state is therefore permitted, and perhaps even morally obligated, to destroy their life for the sake of protecting the innocent. Likewise, when a pregnant woman endangers, or seems to endanger, the life or well-being of her fetus, she joins the ranks of the guilty; the state is entitled, and perhaps even obligated, to punish such women for the sake of protecting innocent life.

Over the past several years Dr. Kaku has risen to fame, frequently appearing on the channel "Science" and related networking. He has penned several popular books, the most recent being "The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind," which spent a couple of weeks on the NYT's bestsellers list in March.

In interviews and presentations Dr. Kaku invariably tends to say something like "Imagine a world where..." and then follows with a banal yet attention-grabbing tidbit about the great strides scientists are making for the sake of our mutual futures. One wonders if the expected reaction is that of the stunned and near-lifeless viewer gazing limply yet fixedly upwards towards the ceiling, weak symbol of the heavens from whence we mere mortals shall receive so many future bounties, like an emoticon received directly into the neural circuitry, or "full immersion entertainment."

Apr 22

The Brief Life and Times a Nigger from Palestine

By Reverend Osagyefo Sekou, Rev. Sekou | Op-Ed

Jesus was a nigger. To be a nigger, now and then, is to contend with arbitrary violence, legislative repression, and ontological uncertainty. Every moment of one's life is policed and every action questioned. Where and how a nigger lives is subjugated to interrogation. Jesus, like all niggers, is empirically unjustifiable yet existentially irrefutable. His people came from an infamous little place that was known for nothing good. The nigger's story sounds like a blues man filled with too much Jack Daniels and too little hope; singing in a empty juke joint, early Sunday morning.

He was born into the world in the body of an unwed teenage mother among an unimportant people in an unimportant part of the world as a Palestinian under occupation. His birth carried the stench of illegitimacy. It was rumored that he was the son of a rapist Roman centurion. But his mother claimed that he was the son of God—her people's liberation.

Apr 22

Radical Philosophy and the Free Alabama Movement

By Lisa Guenther, New APPS | News Analysis

Last summer, thousands of prisoners in California launched a 60-day hunger strike to protest and transform oppressive policies in the California Department of Corrections. One member of the organizing team called their strike action a "multi-racial, multi–regional Human Rights Movement to challenge torture."

This weekend, another prisoner-led human rights movement is gaining momentum in Alabama. The Free Alabama Movement (FAM) seeks to analyze, resist, and transform prison slavery from within the Prison Industrial Complex.

A White House official told Yahoo that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes. The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House's new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

Apr 21

Incarcerated Workers Launch Nonviolent Work Strike Against "New Jim Crow" Across Alabama Prisons

By Staff, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee | Press Release

BIRMINGHAM, AL – Hidden from public view by barbed-wire fences and windowless concrete walls, a movement is brewing in Alabama that could change America. This Monday, hundreds of men incarcerated in St. Clair and prisons across the state will stop work, adding economic muscle to their demands for wages for their labor, an end to overcrowding and inhumane conditions, an end to the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration of African-Americans, and the repurposing the prison system as a tool for genuine rehabilitation in a wounded world. The demands of the peaceful strike action are outlined in detail in the Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness Bill (FREEDOM Bill), which was presented to the state legislature by the Free Alabama Movement in January.

Apr 21

Open Letter to President Obama

By Staff, Waging Peace | Open Letter

Dear President Obama,

During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”

Would that you would apply the same standard to nuclear disarmament! On April 5, 2009 in Prague, you gave millions of people around the world new hope when you declared: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Bolstered by that hope, over the past three years, there has been a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives by governments not possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the United Nations. Yet the United States has been notably “missing in action” at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst. This conflict may come to a head at the 2015 Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).