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.
Bethlehem has always loomed large in our imagination. For generations, the feelings evoked by this town have been captured in multiple art forms, serving to inspire both believers and non-believers with its message of hope and the joyful promise of new life.
For those who do not know the place, Bethlehem possesses a timeless quality, derived from these artistic creations. It is a place of mystery and contradictions. It is the peaceful little town that played an out-sized role in history; the birthplace of Jesus, the child born in a cave, heralded by angels, and visited by shepherds and kings. For hundreds of millions of Christians world-wide, these are the images that define Bethlehem. Sadly, in reality, all of this is but a fantasy, since the pressures of daily life confronted by the residents of this historic community paint a remarkably different portrait.
They say that shells never strike in the same place twice. However, it is not true.
Petrovsky district is a suburb of Donetsk of coal miners and their families. It is one of the districts of the city most damaged by the artillery bombardments of the Ukrainian army during the past months. I’m looking around, trying to find a house not struck by shells, but I cannot find one. I see destroyed shops, broken fences, roofs with holes where shells struck, windows boarded up with plywood, and deserted streets. The local people are living in bombshelters.
Hardly had the good news that the US would stop its policy of isolation of Cuba and open an embassy on the Island state when a news item about North Korea captured the airwaves and the Internet. The torture report, or rather the summary of the redacted Senate report on torture, disappeared from the headlines to remain in the alternative media only. Can there be a link between all these events or even a deliberate act on the part of the newsmakers, or is that a stretch too far?
The torture investigation and the publication of a minimal but revealing summary had immense international resonance. Suddenly, the US lost its grandstanding, hectoring, lecturing posture. Countries that have themselves less than a stellar record on human rights, such as China or Russia or even, yes, North Korea, could laugh out loud and denounce the hypocritical "leader of the free world." If the US tortures, then it is in no position to moralize or blame others for their violations of human rights. Human rights then become a fig leaf, a propaganda move to be invoked in a Machiavellian way only to demean enemies.
What country fetishizes, lionizes, valorizes, idolizes, and sacralizes guns as much as does our United States? OK, possibly Mozambique--the only country with an AK47 on its flag, but really, it's long past time to end this obsessive "My Precious" attachment of Americans to instruments of death.
This morning, December 25, 2014, of the nine top stories from US Reuters, six were about shootings--four new ones and two about the national movement against shootings of citizens by police. This pandemic of sick violence, punctuated by mass killings of children, has gone on far far too long. It is long past time to repeal the stupid Second Amendment.
Washington DC - New reports show that the Ebola-affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone lose an average of $1.4 billion each year to corruption, debt payments and tax evasion. Global Financial Integrity (GFI) calculates the three countries lost about $1.3 billion per year to corruption and tax evasion in the decade leading up to the Ebola outbreak. New World Bank data indicates the countries spent over $80 million on debt payments in 2013, the year the outbreak began. According to the World Bank, the countries spent a total of $270 million on public health in 2012.
"Debt, corruption and tax evasion are part of why people die in West Africa," stated Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, a religious development coalition. "The money was there to contain Ebola and save more people from preventable diseases."
Part I - Predictions
I can make high-probability predictions for 2015 and the near-beyond without the benefit of a crystal ball, tarot cards or tea leaves. The only thing that I need is a list of items from the new 2015 US federal budget. Here are some of my forecasts and the budget items that make them so highly probable:
1. There will be more deadly truck-related accidents than necessary on the nation’s highways in 2015. That means more deaths, injuries, highway delays, stress and frustration. How do I know? Because the 2015 budget rolls back the safety requirement that truckers need to get more rest between driving assignments. The regulation that was rolled back was itself barely adequate. It restricted drivers to a 70-hour week with mandated rest times between long periods behind the wheel. Nonetheless, despite obviously being in the public interest, this regulation could not survive the pressure of the lobbies representing the trucking industry and its corporate customers. Now we are back to truckers working 85-hour weeks with hardly any mandated rest at all.
Two weeks ago Dan Beekman of the Seattle Times, a Garfield High School graduate himself, returned to the Bulldog house in search of a story about the Black Lives Matter movement that went beyond forecasting traffic delays that could result from protests or tallying the numbers arrested at demonstrations.
Some ten members of the Black Student Union at Garfield, which I co-advise with Kristina Clark, gave an over 1 hour interview that left me emotionally drained but more determined than ever to act against police brutality. Mr. Beekman and I admitted to each other afterword that we had trouble fighting back tears as the students explained the fear they experience everyday caused by those tasked with “public safety.”
The funeral ceremonies for the murdered policemen in New York, with their snub of a leftish mayor, are an all too obvious attempt to counter the giant wave of indignation which swept through the nation in reply to police killings of black people. This wave, in which many especially young white Americans joined in, seemed to cause some white Americans of all ages to begin finally to grasp how ignorance, prejudice and discrimination against people of color have always been used to split working people and permit the immense growth of wealth and power by the upper one percent.
Their continued power was threatened by any such awakening and action. The emotions aroused by the wild act of a mentally-disturbed man - rooted in just such discrimination and in the almost unchecked proliferation of weapons - gave them a chance, with the willing assistance of much of the media, to squelch such protests and isolate the most active leaders, especially the African-Americans.
This is the time for our species to “turn 21”: to transition from adolescence to responsible adulthood as citizens of the planet, before we destroy our own future.
turn21.org asks only two things of you who are reading this: that you take the time to understand the human predicament as presented below, and that on the 21st of every month from now on you make some effort to spread this understanding to one or more other people.
"The United States seems destined to plague us with miseries in the name of liberty."-Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of Latin America
"Once the United States is in Cuba, who will get it out?"-José Martí, Cuban national hero.