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.
Washington, DC – Today, after an 8 1/2 year legal ordeal, federal air marshal whistleblower and GAP client Robert MacLean won a Supreme Court decision affirming that his disclosures were covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). MacLean publicly warned in 2003 that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) planned to pull federal air marshals, sworn to protect the public, from commercial aircrafts targeted for an ambitious overseas terrorist attack. The key legal issue was whether the law’s statutory free speech rights can be canceled by agency secrecy regulations.
Olympia, WA – The constitutionality of a Washington State law protecting citizens from meritless lawsuits that undermine free speech rights was defended today in oral arguments before the Washington Supreme Court. The lawsuit at issue had challenged the Olympia Food Co-op board's decision to boycott goods from Israel in support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. The law protects against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, which are filed against defendants because of their speech or public participation on a matter of public concern. SLAPPs are brought to silence the defendants by burdening them with the costs and stress of a lawsuit, irrespective of the ultimate merit and outcome of the case. The case was filed by five co-op members against 16 current and former board members. A lower court swiftly dismissed the case as a SLAPP and held that participation in the boycott is protected by the First Amendment, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeals.
Washington, D.C.- Last week, the private equity industry scored its first victory in its campaign to roll back the Securities and Exchange Commission’s regulatory oversight of private equity fund advisers. Under the guise of a simple ‘technical correction’, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 37, the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act. Title IV of that Act will likely exempt some advisers to large private equity firms from registering with the SEC as broker-dealers and eliminate the investor protections such registration provides.
The Dodd-Frank Act, passed in the wake of the financial crisis, subjects the private equity industry to broad regulatory oversight for the first time in its history. SEC examinations have found that in half the cases it reviewed PE fund advisers had evaded their fiduciary responsibility to investors or violated securities law requiring registration as a broker-dealer. An exemption from registering as broker-dealers in connection with the merger and acquisition activities of their portfolio companies – a legal requirement that predates Dodd-Frank and has mostly been ignored by PE firms and fund advisers – is high on the industry’s wish list. H.R. 37 provides partial relief from this requirement. The industry hopes that this will set the stage for further roll backs in regulatory oversight. Ultimately, the PE industry wants to do away with the Dodd-Frank requirement that general partners of larger PE funds must register with the SEC.
New analysis and previously unpublished documents released by legal charity Reprieve show that the CIA held prisoners in Lithuania in 2005 and 2006, contrary to official denials.
In a dossier and briefing submitted to the Lithuanian Prosecutor today, Reprieve reveals how the newly declassified US Senate Report on CIA detention correlates with flight data and contracting documents; and demonstrates that prisoners were moved into Lithuania in February and October 2005, and out of Lithuania to Afghanistan in March 2006.
Tribal people have been forcibly and illegally evicted from India’s Kanha Tiger Reserve – home of Kipling’s The Jungle Book – in the name of tiger conservation. Across India, many more face a similar threat.
Evicted tribespeople report that the Forest Department threatened to release elephants to trample their houses and crops if they did not leave immediately.
Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. – The impact of catastrophic flooding can be mitigated by protecting biodiversity, suggests a new study led by Bard College biology professor Alexandra Wright and published this week in the journal Nature Communications.
In June 2013 a massive, 200-year flood hit much of eastern and central Europe; damages resulting from the event totaled more than €12 billion in losses. Flooding in Germany covered multiple river basins, including, in central Germany, the location of the Jena Experiment, one of the longest-running biodiversity experiments in the world. Some fields in this experiment grow monocultures similar to central European agricultural fields, while other fields grow multiple species of grasses together in a single field. These fields have been growing and establishing for 12 years.
Washington, DC—Seven activists with the democracy movement 99Rise disrupted the nation’s highest court this morning, issuing a series of statements calling for the justices to overturn their unpopular Citizens United decision, ruled on five years ago today. Each protester stood up and presented a demand to the Court before raising their index finger in the air. The gesture represents “one person, one vote” political equality, a principle which has been undermined by the limitless campaign spending facilitated by the activist Court.
“We have seen the consequences of the free flow of private money rushing into our public political system,” said 99Rise activist Curt Ries who risked arrest to protest the Court’s ruling. “Nearly $4 billion was spent in the 2014 Mid-Term Elections, and almost all of it came from a handful of wealthy individuals and organizations. The kind of influence that money buys fundamentally corrupts our electoral process by giving undue representation to wealthy donors and corporations. That's not a democracy, it's a plutocracy."
How do you know when you are in a country that is experiencing a Revolutionary moment?
There is mass unemployment; high numbers of people are radicalized either in the Left (Communists, socialists, anarchists) or Right (fascist, neo-Nazis). Modest poverty that seeks to still disguise itself somewhat is widespread to the point where it can no longer disguise itself as convincingly. There is massive graffiti throughout the city, not merely in certain neighborhoods, but in the downtown area next to luxurious shops. The police do not enter certain neighborhoods, while it stands guard outside of them. Tents of protesters can be seen in parts of the city. People walk into cafes, trying to sell things. Others pass by and ask for a few coins.
On a cold night in November, many of us stood outside police headquarters in Chicago awaiting news that would cause a great deal of pain in our communities. Those of us who had organized an emergency response to the announcement of the grand jury’s decision in the Darren Wilson case never expected an indictment. And while I don’t believe that the punitive nature of our judicial system offers even the potential of justice, I know that each non indictment and acquittal of a murderous police officer is yet another painful reminder of who matters in this system, and who does not. From the very beginning, it was clear that another reminder was pending in that case.
What most of us didn’t see coming that day was another reminder in the form of a resolution in the case against Marissa Alexander.
“Gospel,” Jen Chapin’s understated anthem, celebrates the hard and sometimes dangerous work of grassroots democracy; organizing, strategizing, and marching to achieve a more just society and economy from Selma to the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street to People’s Climate March and the current movement for police accountability and the end to racial profiling.