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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.

Dec 03

A Victory for Diplomacy

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses | News Analysis

By now most readers know that the five permanent member nations of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom – plus Germany,  (referred to as the P5+1) have reached a six-month interim diplomatic settlement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Within this six-month period the P5+1 powers and Iran will seek to conclude a permanent and comprehensive agreement. Readers may also know what Iran has to do according to the agreement, because most of the Western media have repeatedly listed those terms. Either skimmed over or skipped altogether are those things the P5+1 have to do for Iran.  Here is a brief synopsis of the agreement...

Dec 03

Using and Abusing Polls - What Egyptians Think

By Dr James J Zogby, AAIUSA | Op-Ed

By now, I should be used to the fact that people will "cherry-pick" polls or try to "spin" results to fit their agendas. But, it still rankles.

For example, I still get upset when I recall how then Vice-President Dick Cheney famously tried to find good news in the first poll Zogby International conducted in Iraq in October, 2003. Our poll findings demonstrated that even at that early date America was in real trouble with the Iraqi public. But Cheney would not accept bad news. Appearing on "Meet the Press" a few days after our poll release, he praised the "carefully done...Zogby poll" saying that there was "very positive news in it".

Which is to say, a basket case. Along with Citigroup, and Bank of America.

We all know that JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail. We all know that this means that it enjoys the benefit of a likely bailout from the federal government and the Federal Reserve should it ever collapse in a financial crisis. So why does that make it a poorly run company? It’s possible for a behemoth to be well run; think of Intel in the 1990s, for example.

"Around 12:30 I woke up to hear my baby coughing horribly in the dim light," recounts Aziza Sultan, a social worker in Bhopal, and "I saw that the room was filled with white smoke. I heard many people screaming, calling."(1) Champa Devi Shukla recalled how "People were desperate to save their lives so they just ran. Those who fell were not picked up by anybody, they were trampled by other people. Even cows were running to save their lives, crushing people as they ran."(2) Just after midnight on December 3, 1984, a 40 ton cloud of poisonous gas enveloped the provincial capital of Bhopal in India. The deadly fumes originated from a pesticide plant operated by the Union Carbide Company (UCC), one of the first U.S. investors in India. By 1984, the Union Carbide Corporation's profits were $9.5 billion, making it the largest chemical firm in the world.

Following a brutal and horrific battle between Japanese and US forces which claimed the lives of approximately one third of Okinawa’s population, Okinawa has been forced to house American militarism up until this day. Approximately 20 percent of the Okinawan mainland is used to house US military bases. Military crimes are commonplace and many of them are of a grave and violent nature. Between 2009 and 2011 alone, 188 crimes resulting in injury or death were reported as being committed by military personnel whilst on duty. This number does not take into account other grave criminal action committed by military forces or crimes that for one reason or another go unreported, nor does it take into account crimes committed by officers who are not on duty. These crimes committed by military personnel whilst on duty involve gang rape, murder, assault and burglaries. Considering the Okinawa mainland is a dense island of small proportions with a population the size of one quarter of New Zealand’s, it is clear that any single criminal act will have a disastrous effect on the Okinawan community as a whole. The fact that so many crimes are committed by military personnel in such a small amount of time is telling of the adverse effect that military presence in Okinawa has on the human rights of the Okinawan people.

The latest punishment of Gaza may seem like another familiar plot to humiliate the strip to the satisfaction of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, and the military-controlled Egyptian government. But something far more sinister is brewing.

This time, the collective punishment of Gaza arrives in the form of raw sewage that is flooding many neighborhoods across the impoverished and energy-choked region of 360 square kilometers and 1.8 million inhabitants.

North Carolina has been in the news quite a lot recently, and for almost uniformly bad reasons. North Carolinians have watched as their legislature passed one of the nation’s “most wide-ranging” voter ID laws, enacted the “harshest” cuts to unemployment insurance during the recession in the entire country, banned the use of modern science to project sea level rise,  attached a restrictive set of requirements on abortion providers to a motorcycle safety bill in order to ramrod it through, and made a host of other questionable decisions about our state and its future.

Nov 30

Bumper Cars for the Bundestag

By Victor Grossman, Berlin Bulletin | News Analysis
If you’ve ever been on a bumper car at an amusement park - and who hasn’t? - you can get an idea of current German politics. Here, too, the noise is terrific and everyone zooms back and forth, round and round, clashing with everybody else. And, similarly, there may be no real winner - except perhaps the man at the cash register. 
 
The main car to watch is steered by Angela Merkel. Her Christian Democrats (CDU) barely missed out on the expected majority in the Bundestag, so a partner is needed in order to rule. Its former partner, the right-wing Free Democratic Party, was pushed off the floor, and a possible replacement, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), even further right, didn’t quite make it past the entrance.

In the midst of the confusion and uncertainty that characterizes current US-Egypt relations and with American and Egyptian attitudes toward each other having plummeted to all-time lows, I recently had the opportunity to participate in a "little" gem of a project that shows a way forward.

Last month, twenty American and Egyptian young professionals visited the US as part of a program sponsored by the Shafik Gabr Foundation. This group of Gabr Fellows was evenly divided between nationals from both countries and included artists, academics, and specialists in fields ranging from law to energy. 

As the oil industry amps up its campaign to expand fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in California, a prominent California Congresswoman is calling for a moratorium on offshore fracking in federal waters off the California coast.

On November 19, Representative Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy calling for a moratorium on offshore fracking activities in federal waters off the coast of California until a comprehensive study is conducted to determine the impacts of fracking activities on the marine environment and public health.