Thursday, 27 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.

"How does it feel to be a problem?" wrote the black sociologist W. E. B. Dubois in 1903. This is the poignant question also asked by native inhabitants and foreigners in France, and throughout Europe, who are Muslim or presumed to be Muslim. The massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the hostage-taking and murders at a kosher supermarket, perpetrated by an armed commando of three French combatants claiming ties with al-Qaeda and the "Islamic State," only exacerbate political and social tensions that already existed in French society. For some, these killings were merely the macabre realization of literary and journalistic prophecies in which the "Muslim community" is perceived as "a people within the people," whose problematic presence can only be resolved by "re-emigration"[1], a euphemism for deportation. For others, who stress that it is important not to lump together Islam and terrorism, the solution to this violence lies nonetheless in a "reform of Islam," which theologians and responsible Muslims are urged to undertake.

Jan 23

PEGIDA and See-Saw Happenings in Germany

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Berlin Bulletin No. 83

Recent events here in Germany remind me of a playground see-saw, with constant ups and downs of one side and the other. 

All autumn we watched the upward swing of PEGIDA, “Patriotic Europeans against Islamization of the West”, most rapidly but not only in Saxony’s capital Dresden. Its main features were a fast-talking, shady leader with some eerie charisma, plus foggy dissatisfaction with just about everyone and everything: most politicians, the media, but especially poor job, rent and pension situations and fears for the future, plus, most dangerously, the channeling of such fears and worries into a dull hatred of anything and anyone “foreign”, especially the often arbitrary placement of newly-arrived Syrian and Iraqi refugees into their hitherto close communities. PEGIDA’s Monday “walks”, though ambling and non-violent, recalled disturbingly the murderous stamp of booted, brown-shirted marchers of a previous generation. And some gimlet-eyed neo-Nazis reinforced such recollections.

Jan 23

Hansel and Gretel at the Recruiter

By John LaForge, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Military recruiters must feel like Hansel and Gretel’s “wicked witch,” fattening up the children to eat them. With sexual violence, endless wars of occupation, fatalities, brain trauma, permanent disabilities and an epidemic of suicides, what they’re selling these days looks like a lot like a bad horror show.

With the chance of being sent into quagmires in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. on one hand, the likelihood of being sexually assaulted on the other - and the specter of suicide among vets of all stripes - you have to wonder how recruiters get anyone in the door. Newbies must not be reading the papers; all four active-duty services and five out of six reserve components met their recruiting goals in 2014, according to the Pentagon.

 

Kill Team is not just a video game anymore, not just the inevitable pairing of two of the most popular words in American English.  "Kill Team" is now a movie, and against the odds it's not a celebration of killing, but a particular take on an actual series of events made widely known by Rolling Stone.

US soldiers in Afghanistan developed the practice of killing civilians for sport, placing weapons beside the bodies or otherwise pretending to have been attacked, keeping body parts as trophies, and celebrating their "kills" in photographs with the corpses.

US Right to Know – a new nonprofit organization -- released a new report today on Big Food’s PR campaign to defend GMOs: how it manipulated the media, public opinion and politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin.

Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them.  The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.

According to the same research, they watch about three and a half hours per day. We are the fourth highest country in per capita internet access; still, only 28 per cent trust websites. Twenty four per cent trust news shared in social media networks. Only 22 out of 100 trust blogs.

On the other hand, when we talk of television, 49 per cent believe the news there. And six families own 70 per cent of Brazil's media. All this means the traditional media still have the power to control minds.

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.

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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.

"How does it feel to be a problem?" wrote the black sociologist W. E. B. Dubois in 1903. This is the poignant question also asked by native inhabitants and foreigners in France, and throughout Europe, who are Muslim or presumed to be Muslim. The massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the hostage-taking and murders at a kosher supermarket, perpetrated by an armed commando of three French combatants claiming ties with al-Qaeda and the "Islamic State," only exacerbate political and social tensions that already existed in French society. For some, these killings were merely the macabre realization of literary and journalistic prophecies in which the "Muslim community" is perceived as "a people within the people," whose problematic presence can only be resolved by "re-emigration"[1], a euphemism for deportation. For others, who stress that it is important not to lump together Islam and terrorism, the solution to this violence lies nonetheless in a "reform of Islam," which theologians and responsible Muslims are urged to undertake.

Jan 23

PEGIDA and See-Saw Happenings in Germany

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Berlin Bulletin No. 83

Recent events here in Germany remind me of a playground see-saw, with constant ups and downs of one side and the other. 

All autumn we watched the upward swing of PEGIDA, “Patriotic Europeans against Islamization of the West”, most rapidly but not only in Saxony’s capital Dresden. Its main features were a fast-talking, shady leader with some eerie charisma, plus foggy dissatisfaction with just about everyone and everything: most politicians, the media, but especially poor job, rent and pension situations and fears for the future, plus, most dangerously, the channeling of such fears and worries into a dull hatred of anything and anyone “foreign”, especially the often arbitrary placement of newly-arrived Syrian and Iraqi refugees into their hitherto close communities. PEGIDA’s Monday “walks”, though ambling and non-violent, recalled disturbingly the murderous stamp of booted, brown-shirted marchers of a previous generation. And some gimlet-eyed neo-Nazis reinforced such recollections.

Jan 23

Hansel and Gretel at the Recruiter

By John LaForge, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Military recruiters must feel like Hansel and Gretel’s “wicked witch,” fattening up the children to eat them. With sexual violence, endless wars of occupation, fatalities, brain trauma, permanent disabilities and an epidemic of suicides, what they’re selling these days looks like a lot like a bad horror show.

With the chance of being sent into quagmires in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. on one hand, the likelihood of being sexually assaulted on the other - and the specter of suicide among vets of all stripes - you have to wonder how recruiters get anyone in the door. Newbies must not be reading the papers; all four active-duty services and five out of six reserve components met their recruiting goals in 2014, according to the Pentagon.

 

Kill Team is not just a video game anymore, not just the inevitable pairing of two of the most popular words in American English.  "Kill Team" is now a movie, and against the odds it's not a celebration of killing, but a particular take on an actual series of events made widely known by Rolling Stone.

US soldiers in Afghanistan developed the practice of killing civilians for sport, placing weapons beside the bodies or otherwise pretending to have been attacked, keeping body parts as trophies, and celebrating their "kills" in photographs with the corpses.

US Right to Know – a new nonprofit organization -- released a new report today on Big Food’s PR campaign to defend GMOs: how it manipulated the media, public opinion and politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin.

Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them.  The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.

According to the same research, they watch about three and a half hours per day. We are the fourth highest country in per capita internet access; still, only 28 per cent trust websites. Twenty four per cent trust news shared in social media networks. Only 22 out of 100 trust blogs.

On the other hand, when we talk of television, 49 per cent believe the news there. And six families own 70 per cent of Brazil's media. All this means the traditional media still have the power to control minds.

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.