Wednesday, 27 July 2016 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

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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.

A ceremony attended by 300,000 people was held on May 23, in the city of San Salvador to honor and celebrate the beatification of El Salvador's deceased Archbishop Oscar Romero. Supportive commemorations were also held in Los Angeles and other cities. Pope Francis made the decision to beatify Romero which is a step before sainthood after designating him as a martyr who gave his life in 1980 for the cause of social justice. Prior to his death, the Archbishop had assisted poor communities in El Salvador in order to improve their lives and had been a public and outspoken critic of the brutal Salvadoran military. He had demanded that the army halt the widespread violence and killings being committed against innocent people who were merely attempting to exercise their basic rights.

The US empire fought numerous wars in the 20th century that ended in failure and humiliation, and the 21st century is off to a bad start. Wars in the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam War ended with stalemate and embarrassment, and our debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan have poorly-defined objectives and no foreseeable victory in sight. Ironically, the most powerful military in history has not won many wars.

But the definition of success can be blurred. Wars ending in military failure are still political and economic accomplishments for the architects who design them.

Arriving in Sri Lanka's Bandaranaike International Airport on Indian turboprop titled "Spice Jet" was just the first taste of the irony that pervades this island nation. While waiting in the long line at immigration to enter the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, I was getting ready for a mental cavity search as veteran traveler to many socialist republics of the bygone era.

However, the country's check-in was smoother than expected, and besides being welcomed with obligatory smiles to the "Wonder of Asia," I was also presented with a "Welcome to Sri Lanka" tourist booklet.

At Chevron's AGM in San Ramon, California today, 4 percent of shareholders supported the first-of-its-kind proposal to return capital to shareholders rather than pursue ever more risky carbon extraction investments.

Julian Poulter, CEO of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), said: "Big pension funds voting against Resolution 7 will look back and realise they missed an opportunity to limit wasted capital, which is surely more important than having the evidence to sack senior management once the carbon crash begins."

Across the country, in the face of mounting budget deficits, states are more aggressively going after poor people who have already served their criminal sentences and jailing them for failing to pay their legal debts. These modern-day debtors' prisons impose devastating human costs, waste taxpayer money and resources, undermine our criminal justice system, are racially skewed, and create a two-tiered system of justice.

Washington DC - The presidents of the AFL-CIO and North America's Building Trades Unions today sharply condemned Mayor Bill de Blasio's 421a proposal, which expands a lucrative tax giveaway for wealthy developers while failing to require a standard of middle-class wages for working families.

"Mayor de Blasio has been traveling the country talking about income inequality as the country's biggest problem," said Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions.

A new independent report on the state of human rights in Sri Lanka - the first since the end of the country's 26-year civil war in 2009 - finds that a silent war continues in which thousands of Tamils, mostly Hindus and Christians, are still internally displaced and subject to military occupation and fierce discrimination by the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

The conflict ended violently after the government's bloody military offensive that led to the surrender of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and left widespread destruction, the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and the displacement of the entire population living in rebel-controlled territories.

What happens when a bunch of lawyers intent on distinguishing combatants from civilians discover, by interviewing hundreds of civilians, that it cannot be done?

Does it become legal to kill everyone or no one?

May 28

Wine Empire Replaces Redwood Empire

By Shepherd Bliss, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Northern California's Sonoma County has been known historically as part of the natural Redwood Empire. Wineindustry lobbyists re-branded it "Wine Country." Its economy has been so colonized by outside investors who extract water and resources from the environment and export their products and profits, that re-branding would be appropriate. A more accurate description would be that Sonoma County is now part of the multi-national WineEmpire.

Local residents and nature have been dominated by these outside investors; they reap the benefits, while the environment and residents pay the costs. They have de-localized, industrialized, commercialized, urbanized and commodified a once diverse agrarian place and culture with their excessive wine production and tourism.

For several decades, state and local governments have been showering private businesses with tax breaks and direct subsidies based on the theory that this practice fosters economic development and, therefore, job growth. But does it? New York State's experience indicates that, when it comes to producing jobs, corporate welfare programs are a bad investment. This should be instructive to state and local officials across the US.

In May 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, with enormous fanfare, launched a campaign to establish Tax-Free NY - a scheme providing tax-free status for ten years to companies that moved onto or near the state's public college and university campuses.

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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.

A ceremony attended by 300,000 people was held on May 23, in the city of San Salvador to honor and celebrate the beatification of El Salvador's deceased Archbishop Oscar Romero. Supportive commemorations were also held in Los Angeles and other cities. Pope Francis made the decision to beatify Romero which is a step before sainthood after designating him as a martyr who gave his life in 1980 for the cause of social justice. Prior to his death, the Archbishop had assisted poor communities in El Salvador in order to improve their lives and had been a public and outspoken critic of the brutal Salvadoran military. He had demanded that the army halt the widespread violence and killings being committed against innocent people who were merely attempting to exercise their basic rights.

The US empire fought numerous wars in the 20th century that ended in failure and humiliation, and the 21st century is off to a bad start. Wars in the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam War ended with stalemate and embarrassment, and our debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan have poorly-defined objectives and no foreseeable victory in sight. Ironically, the most powerful military in history has not won many wars.

But the definition of success can be blurred. Wars ending in military failure are still political and economic accomplishments for the architects who design them.

Arriving in Sri Lanka's Bandaranaike International Airport on Indian turboprop titled "Spice Jet" was just the first taste of the irony that pervades this island nation. While waiting in the long line at immigration to enter the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, I was getting ready for a mental cavity search as veteran traveler to many socialist republics of the bygone era.

However, the country's check-in was smoother than expected, and besides being welcomed with obligatory smiles to the "Wonder of Asia," I was also presented with a "Welcome to Sri Lanka" tourist booklet.

At Chevron's AGM in San Ramon, California today, 4 percent of shareholders supported the first-of-its-kind proposal to return capital to shareholders rather than pursue ever more risky carbon extraction investments.

Julian Poulter, CEO of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), said: "Big pension funds voting against Resolution 7 will look back and realise they missed an opportunity to limit wasted capital, which is surely more important than having the evidence to sack senior management once the carbon crash begins."

Across the country, in the face of mounting budget deficits, states are more aggressively going after poor people who have already served their criminal sentences and jailing them for failing to pay their legal debts. These modern-day debtors' prisons impose devastating human costs, waste taxpayer money and resources, undermine our criminal justice system, are racially skewed, and create a two-tiered system of justice.

Washington DC - The presidents of the AFL-CIO and North America's Building Trades Unions today sharply condemned Mayor Bill de Blasio's 421a proposal, which expands a lucrative tax giveaway for wealthy developers while failing to require a standard of middle-class wages for working families.

"Mayor de Blasio has been traveling the country talking about income inequality as the country's biggest problem," said Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions.

A new independent report on the state of human rights in Sri Lanka - the first since the end of the country's 26-year civil war in 2009 - finds that a silent war continues in which thousands of Tamils, mostly Hindus and Christians, are still internally displaced and subject to military occupation and fierce discrimination by the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

The conflict ended violently after the government's bloody military offensive that led to the surrender of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and left widespread destruction, the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and the displacement of the entire population living in rebel-controlled territories.

What happens when a bunch of lawyers intent on distinguishing combatants from civilians discover, by interviewing hundreds of civilians, that it cannot be done?

Does it become legal to kill everyone or no one?

May 28

Wine Empire Replaces Redwood Empire

By Shepherd Bliss, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Northern California's Sonoma County has been known historically as part of the natural Redwood Empire. Wineindustry lobbyists re-branded it "Wine Country." Its economy has been so colonized by outside investors who extract water and resources from the environment and export their products and profits, that re-branding would be appropriate. A more accurate description would be that Sonoma County is now part of the multi-national WineEmpire.

Local residents and nature have been dominated by these outside investors; they reap the benefits, while the environment and residents pay the costs. They have de-localized, industrialized, commercialized, urbanized and commodified a once diverse agrarian place and culture with their excessive wine production and tourism.

For several decades, state and local governments have been showering private businesses with tax breaks and direct subsidies based on the theory that this practice fosters economic development and, therefore, job growth. But does it? New York State's experience indicates that, when it comes to producing jobs, corporate welfare programs are a bad investment. This should be instructive to state and local officials across the US.

In May 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, with enormous fanfare, launched a campaign to establish Tax-Free NY - a scheme providing tax-free status for ten years to companies that moved onto or near the state's public college and university campuses.