Saturday, 29 August 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.

Feb 12

Sanctions: A Curse or a Blessing?

By Alex Kogan, SpeakOut | News Analysis

This Thursday, February 12th, representatives from all 28 EU member states will meet in Brussels to deliberate renewal of sanctions launched in response to Russian involvement in Ukraine. Regardless of the EU decision, one thing is clear: the strategy of economic sanctions has failed, as it historically always has. It's a tactic which harms the citizens of the targeted nation, but fails to pressure the leadership. And as one can see in Russia, sanctions often even reinforce the targeted leaders by feeding them a scapegoat for their problems.

President Obama in the State of the Union praised the sanctions "demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy," but the results don't look good: the war in Ukraine rages more violently than ever, with rebels capturing Donetsk Airport and shelling Mariupol; Kiev has been losing as much as $10 million a day and borrowed new funds from the IMF; so many Ukrainians flee to Russia that the parliament has authorized local commanders to shoot deserters and is considering drafting women; and Putin's popularity at home is as strong as ever. Though the ruble has collapsed, the pro-Russian foothold in Ukraine remains steadfast, and Obama's SOTU self-congratulation seems as unearned as Bush's 2003 "Mission Accomplished."

Washington, DC - In testimony (PDF) today at a hearing on aggregate campaign limits, two Public Citizen experts are urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to rein in out-of-control election spending.

Some of the remedies Public Citizen recommends came from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who supported the court decisions that have unraveled decades of campaign finance law even as he called on policymakers to shore up the system.

It was less than a year ago when the mainstream media was chock-full of headlines like this one: 'Brain changes associated with casual marijuana use in young adults, study finds.' The alarmist headlines were in response to a controversial paper published by researchers at Harvard University in Boston and Northwestern University in Chicago which alleged to have found differences in brain morphology in a cohort of 20 college-age marijuana users as compared to 20 non-users. The study's investigators attributed the differences to subjects' cannabis use.

But a funny thing happened when a team of scientists from the University of Colorado and the University of Kentucky tried to replicate these results in a separate, larger sample (158 participants) of subjects after rigorously controlling for both groups' use of alcohol.

In a video, recently removed from the Internet, the public relations firm Ketchum bragged about its success in spinning the media to get positive coverage of GMOs, and admitted “we closely monitor the conversation” on social media accounts of GMO skeptics.  Ketchum is Russia’s PR firm in the United States.

In the video, Ketchum boasts about how, following its work, “positive media coverage has doubled” on GMOs, and “we’re now on the first page of [Google] search results.”

San Francisco— The Center for Biological Diversity today called on Gov. Jerry Brown to immediately shut down thousands of oil and gas wells that are illegally injecting fluids into protected California aquifers, as well as hundreds of illegally operating oil industry waste-disposal wells.

“The oil industry is contaminating California’s water supplies and violating federal law on a massive scale and it needs to end now,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “Gov. Brown has a moral and legal duty to immediately shut down every single illegal production and wastewater disposal well. The size of this problem shows how big a threat the oil industry’s toxic waste is to California’s precious water supplies.”

On Feb. 5, New Jersey became the latest state to subvert democracy by authorizing the fast-track sale or lease of water utilities without public notice, comment, or approval. The controversial decision highlights the intensifying struggle over who owns, controls, and profits from the most precious - and threatened - resource on Earth.

We tend to associate corrupt water privatization schemes with the developing world, where according to the World Health Organization, nearly 2.6 billion people still lack a latrine and 1.1 billion people have no access to any type of improved drinking source of water. In this crisis environment, the World Bank and IMF have spent decades imposing water privatization as a condition of their exploitative loans, profiting a handful of transnational water corporations.

National Nurses United, the largest organization of nurses in the US and in Illinois late Monday condemned an executive order by new Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner that is intended to dismantle public employee unions that nurses warn could cause serious harm to public health and safety.

“Under the façade of protecting employee free speech, the governor’s real goal is to decimate public employee unions, eliminate their ability to challenge his corporate agenda, and seriously erode the ability of public workers to speak out when public protections are at risk,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro. 

Feb 11

The Shift

By Kathy Kelly, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person oriented society: when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered." - Martin Luther King Jr., "Beyond Vietnam"

This evening, the US Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Michael Botticelli to become the next Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a position informally known as “drug czar.” Botticelli has served as Acting Director since March 2014 following the resignation of former drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske. Botticelli previously served as ONDCP’s Deputy Director. Before joining ONDCP, Botticelli spent nearly two decades overseeing substance misuse programs at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. 

Fox News has performed the service of posting the horrific IS video depicting the death of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh. The fact that media outlets have not made other IS videos available represents a breach of journalistic responsibility.

Citizens of a free society (surely no longer our own) have a duty to consider, analyze, understand, and criticize opposing points of view, including most especially those of their avowed enemies.

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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.

Feb 12

Sanctions: A Curse or a Blessing?

By Alex Kogan, SpeakOut | News Analysis

This Thursday, February 12th, representatives from all 28 EU member states will meet in Brussels to deliberate renewal of sanctions launched in response to Russian involvement in Ukraine. Regardless of the EU decision, one thing is clear: the strategy of economic sanctions has failed, as it historically always has. It's a tactic which harms the citizens of the targeted nation, but fails to pressure the leadership. And as one can see in Russia, sanctions often even reinforce the targeted leaders by feeding them a scapegoat for their problems.

President Obama in the State of the Union praised the sanctions "demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy," but the results don't look good: the war in Ukraine rages more violently than ever, with rebels capturing Donetsk Airport and shelling Mariupol; Kiev has been losing as much as $10 million a day and borrowed new funds from the IMF; so many Ukrainians flee to Russia that the parliament has authorized local commanders to shoot deserters and is considering drafting women; and Putin's popularity at home is as strong as ever. Though the ruble has collapsed, the pro-Russian foothold in Ukraine remains steadfast, and Obama's SOTU self-congratulation seems as unearned as Bush's 2003 "Mission Accomplished."

Washington, DC - In testimony (PDF) today at a hearing on aggregate campaign limits, two Public Citizen experts are urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to rein in out-of-control election spending.

Some of the remedies Public Citizen recommends came from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who supported the court decisions that have unraveled decades of campaign finance law even as he called on policymakers to shore up the system.

It was less than a year ago when the mainstream media was chock-full of headlines like this one: 'Brain changes associated with casual marijuana use in young adults, study finds.' The alarmist headlines were in response to a controversial paper published by researchers at Harvard University in Boston and Northwestern University in Chicago which alleged to have found differences in brain morphology in a cohort of 20 college-age marijuana users as compared to 20 non-users. The study's investigators attributed the differences to subjects' cannabis use.

But a funny thing happened when a team of scientists from the University of Colorado and the University of Kentucky tried to replicate these results in a separate, larger sample (158 participants) of subjects after rigorously controlling for both groups' use of alcohol.

In a video, recently removed from the Internet, the public relations firm Ketchum bragged about its success in spinning the media to get positive coverage of GMOs, and admitted “we closely monitor the conversation” on social media accounts of GMO skeptics.  Ketchum is Russia’s PR firm in the United States.

In the video, Ketchum boasts about how, following its work, “positive media coverage has doubled” on GMOs, and “we’re now on the first page of [Google] search results.”

San Francisco— The Center for Biological Diversity today called on Gov. Jerry Brown to immediately shut down thousands of oil and gas wells that are illegally injecting fluids into protected California aquifers, as well as hundreds of illegally operating oil industry waste-disposal wells.

“The oil industry is contaminating California’s water supplies and violating federal law on a massive scale and it needs to end now,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “Gov. Brown has a moral and legal duty to immediately shut down every single illegal production and wastewater disposal well. The size of this problem shows how big a threat the oil industry’s toxic waste is to California’s precious water supplies.”

On Feb. 5, New Jersey became the latest state to subvert democracy by authorizing the fast-track sale or lease of water utilities without public notice, comment, or approval. The controversial decision highlights the intensifying struggle over who owns, controls, and profits from the most precious - and threatened - resource on Earth.

We tend to associate corrupt water privatization schemes with the developing world, where according to the World Health Organization, nearly 2.6 billion people still lack a latrine and 1.1 billion people have no access to any type of improved drinking source of water. In this crisis environment, the World Bank and IMF have spent decades imposing water privatization as a condition of their exploitative loans, profiting a handful of transnational water corporations.

National Nurses United, the largest organization of nurses in the US and in Illinois late Monday condemned an executive order by new Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner that is intended to dismantle public employee unions that nurses warn could cause serious harm to public health and safety.

“Under the façade of protecting employee free speech, the governor’s real goal is to decimate public employee unions, eliminate their ability to challenge his corporate agenda, and seriously erode the ability of public workers to speak out when public protections are at risk,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro. 

Feb 11

The Shift

By Kathy Kelly, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person oriented society: when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered." - Martin Luther King Jr., "Beyond Vietnam"

This evening, the US Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Michael Botticelli to become the next Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a position informally known as “drug czar.” Botticelli has served as Acting Director since March 2014 following the resignation of former drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske. Botticelli previously served as ONDCP’s Deputy Director. Before joining ONDCP, Botticelli spent nearly two decades overseeing substance misuse programs at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. 

Fox News has performed the service of posting the horrific IS video depicting the death of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh. The fact that media outlets have not made other IS videos available represents a breach of journalistic responsibility.

Citizens of a free society (surely no longer our own) have a duty to consider, analyze, understand, and criticize opposing points of view, including most especially those of their avowed enemies.