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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.

Apr 12

The Anti-Empire Report #127

By William Blum, WilliamBlum.org | News Analysis

Is there anyone out there who still believes that Barack Obama, when he's speaking about American foreign policy, is capable of being anything like an honest man? In a March 26 talk in Belgium to "European youth", the president fed his audience one falsehood, half-truth, blatant omission, or hypocrisy after another. If George W. Bush had made some of these statements, Obama supporters would not hesitate to shake their head, roll their eyes, or smirk. Here's a sample:

– "In defending its actions, Russian leaders have further claimed Kosovo as a precedent – an example they say of the West interfering in the affairs of a smaller country, just as they're doing now. But NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years."

Apr 12

The Certain Future of Swarm Intelligence

By Jan Wellman, JanWellman.com | News Analysis

Just moments before his life ended on April 10, 1955, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was having a lively discussion with his cousin on Park Avenue, New York. Most likely they were discussing his favorite subject, the "Omega Point," his theory on the destiny of evolution. Pierre was a French philosopher, Jesuit priest, paleontologist, geologist, physics and chemistry teacher, botanist, and zoologist. Let's just say he was well versed.

Pierre had cast all of his disciplines into a philosophical-theological-mathematical cocktail mixer, identified the common patterns, and fought against the literal interpretations of the Book of Genesis, in order to formulate a unified evolutionary theory of the cosmos. One that reconciled both the Jesuit and the Scientist.

When Hannah Arendt, the famous German-American political philosopher, criticized American involvement in the Vietnam War, she said that our foreign policy "experts" fell prey to using excessive means to achieve minor aims in a region of marginal interest to the United States. You could say the same of most of America's foreign interventions since 1945. We are a superpower with a boundless propensity for meddling in world affairs. We waste enormous amounts of money and resources intervening in areas that are of marginal importance to our national security.

There are many reasons for these wasteful interventions, of course. The military-industrial-Congressional complex plays its role. Presidents love to intervene as a sign of "strength." Natural resources, especially oil, are usually in play. The usual motives, in short: profit, power, greed.

In one of those early years of becoming and being a teacher, when I was still teaching in the exact room where I had been a student (a school building that would eventually be almost entirely destroyed by a fire set by children), it was the first day of school, and I was calling that first roll—a sort of silly but important ritual of schooling for teachers and students.

Toward the back of the room and slightly to my left sat a big young man, a white male student typical of this rural upstate South Carolina high school in my home town; like me, he would accurately be considered in that context as a Redneck.

April 8, 2014, Guantanamo Bay and Washington, DC – Today, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) client Ghaleb Al-Bihani, a Yemeni citizen who has been held without charge at Guantanamo for over 12 years, asked the Obama administration's new Periodic Review Board (PRB) to approve him for transfer. While the government has stated that it does not plan to charge Mr. Al-Bihani with any crime, in 2009 it designated him for continued indefinite detention, as it did dozens of other prisoners. The PRB will now determine whether to recommend Mr. Al-Bihani for transfer from Guantanamo or whether to continue his 12-year imprisonment. In 2008, a federal judge upheld Mr. Al-Bihani's detention on the basis of his admission that he had served as an assistant cook in 2001 for a now-disbanded Taliban-affiliated group.

"Mr. Al-Bihani is not a significant threat to the United States. He is a former cook who is severely ill and does yoga for stress relief," said CCR Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, who is representing Mr. Al-Bihani before the PRB. "If Guantanamo is to close, men like Mr. Al-Bihani who are being unjustly and unnecessarily detained should be approved for transfer by the PRB – and actually transferred. A change in status only matters if it results in release."

After more than a decade languishing in Congress and another year in the courts, the Philippines' Reproductive Health Law (RH Law) was declared largely constitutional by the Supreme Court earlier today. The RH Law will provide millions of women in the country with improved access to the reproductive healthcare they need, including contraception.

"Today, conscience rights have prevailed, despite aggressive lobbying over the last decade and a half by the Catholic bishops and their powerful antichoice allies," said Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. "While preserving the core of the law, which requires the government to provide a full range of family planning services to the public, today's decision limits the scope of coverage, offering exemptions for religiously-affiliated hospitals and clinics and allowing healthcare providers and institutions to cite religious beliefs and deny contraceptives to patients.

On April 4, 2014, Mark Dimondstein president of the American Postal Workers Union spoke in Chicago at the Labor Notes convention on how to defend the People's Post Office. He also discussed the union's new effort to establish a public postal bank system for millions of poor and working people who do not have access to the commercial banks.

Apr 10

The United States Re-Balancing in East Asia

By Emanuel Pastreich, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

At a moment when the United States government hops up and down frantically every time North Korea launches a missile, a group of concerned individuals in policy gathered together on March 26, 2014 for a discussion of what a hundred-year commitment to East Asia would look like and how the United States can respond in a meaningful manner to such challenges as climate change together with China, Japan and Korea. The event, hosted by Foreign Policy in Focus and the Asia Institute, brought together author John Feffer, Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, Alexis Dudden, Professor of History at the University of Connecticut and Daniel Garrett, former diplomat and current Senior Associate at the Asia Institute. The following is a statement written for the occasion by Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute.

This seminar embodies the spirit behind our efforts at the Asia Institute to increase the commitment of the United States to East Asia over the long-term in a constructive and focused manner. We feel strongly that a pivot to Asia, a fundamental re-balancing of national priorities, is essential to the economic, political and security concerns of the United States, but we do not think that such a shift can take place as a result of moving around aircraft carriers or selling more missile defense technology to nations in the region. Only by building a deep human network that ties the United States to East Asia through person-to-person professional and personal relations over a lifetime can we hope to have any meaningful impact.

Apr 10

South Sudan Facing Famine Crisis

By Brian McAfee, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Three million seven hundred thousand people in this nation of 11 million are at severe risk of starvation. Conditions in South Sudan now parallel those of Ethiopia in the 1980s when hundreds of thousands died from famine. Toby Lanzer, the UN official coordinating humanitarian aid in South Sudan says "we're in a race against time".

Aside from the urgent immediate need the civil war currently raging in South Sudan, which was the initial cause of the problems, the planting season is at risk and a lack of crops will further ad to the already dire situation. With possibly over 4 million displaced people, what is needed is food, water, shelter and protection.

I did my doctoral work at Temple University, whose founder was a nineteenth-century Baptist preacher, Russell Conwell. Conwell was, to be sure, an accomplished writer, a captivating preacher, and a visionary entrepreneur, but the theology he helped to popularize was, in a word, disturbing. It provided divine justification for the acquisition of money and legitimized the gap between extreme wealth and extreme poverty. On reflection, it sounds a lot like today's GOP.

Conwell believed and taught that wealth was available to all men. Because opportunities to become rich are everywhere, all one needed to do to attain wealth was to work hard enough and be blessed by God.