Thursday, 05 May 2016 / 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.

With two days left until tax day, most Americans have already spent several hours finalizing their 2014 tax returns. For years, Congress has been sitting on a proposal to make it easier for people to file their taxes. The proposed bill would implement a return-free filing system, where the IRS would provide taxpayers with a filled-out form containing all of their information and estimate their taxes. The taxpayer would just have to look it over before confirming the information. Other industrialized countries like Denmark and Spain, have already adopted a similar process. In the United States, though, a few powerful companies have a large financial stake in ensuring long, complicated tax returns continue to be the norm.

Lobbying Spending Data: MapLight analysis of the money spent by tax preparation companies, including H&R Block, Intuit, which owns TurboTax, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Jackson Hewitt, and National Society of Accountants, lobbying Congress and federal agencies since 2011. 

In contrast to what occurred at the last Summit of the Americas in 2012, when President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and Bolivia's Evo Morales walked out, this time, Cristina stood her ground and spoke forcefully about the issues she believes to be at the crux of the region's problems. In her nearly 30-minute speech, the Argentine president spoke with her characteristic candor, noting that this is to be her - as well as Barack Obama's - last summit as head of state, and welcomed President Raúl Castro to Cuba's first.

In her apparently unscripted speech, Cristina congratulated Cuba and"sister republic"Venezuelaand repeatedly called the US position that those two smaller countries constitute a threattoUS security "absurd." She likened it to the experience of her own country under dictatorship, when the United Kingdom maintained "almost cordial" relations with the military junta, in contrast to last week's revelations ofthe UK's recent espionage and plans for enhanced military operations on the disputed Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

Annapolis, Maryland – The General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a bill to restore voting rights to approximately 40,000 Maryland citizens who live in their communities but cannot vote because of a criminal conviction in their past. The bill, which has a broad coalition of support, now heads to Gov. Hogan for his signature.

Current Maryland law prohibits individuals from voting until they have finished probation and parole. SB 340/HB980, introduced by Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) and Del. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore), simplifies the process by allowing an individual to become eligible to vote upon release from prison or if they are no longer incarcerated.

Translated by Danica Jorden.

The Uruguayan writer and journalist, author of emblematic books such as Open Veins of Latin AmericaMemory of Fire and The Book of Embraces, died at 74 in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Eduardo Germán Hughes Galeano was born in Montevideo on September 3, 1940, the son of EduardoHughes Roosen and Licia Ester Galeano Muñoz, whose last name he took as a writer and journalist. When he was a teenager, he began publishing cartoons in El Sol (The Sun), a socialist newspaper in Uruguay, under the pseudonym "Gius." He also worked as a laborer in an insecticide factory and signboard painter, among other jobs, despite coming from an upper-class family.

Progressive groups are mobilizing in opposition to a bill that would threaten the tenuous diplomatic process underway to limit Iran's nuclear program. The bill, S. 615 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, sponsored by Republican Senator Bob Corker, would give Congress review power over the any final agreement with Iran. As it currently stands, the bill would undermine the ongoing negotiations, and move the US closer towards the possibility of war with Iran. Jewish Voice for Peace joins the National Iranian American Council, Move On, Credo Action, Just Foreign Policy and many other progressive groups in calling for Senators to reject the bill.

Some Congressional Democrats are pushing back against specific provisions in order to weaken the bill's ability to stymie negotiations with Iran. But, with the support from Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, the bill could gain a veto-proof majority. Jewish Voice for Peace supporters around the country are calling their Senators to encourage them to let diplomacy work.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (ALC) today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter seeking government action to evacuate American citizens trapped in Yemen. [NOTE: The lawsuit was filed by ADC and CAIR attorneys.]

Plaintiffs in the case, all American citizens or permanent citizens trapped in Yemen, are challenging "the constitutionality of the United States government's action and/or failure to act to protect United States citizens in Yemen, whose lives are in danger from ongoing military action and violent attacks." [NOTE: The plaintiffs are all part of the more than 450 people who registered on the StuckInYemen.com website. See below.] 

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015 Gerald Hankerson, the President of the Seattle/King CountyNAACP and Rita Green, the Education Chair of the Seattle/King County NAACP, began our press conference with a powerful idea and a call for action that holds the potential to help produce a tremendous social transformation. Together their opening remarks at the press conference—a gathering of parents, teachers, and community leaders that I helped to organize in opposition to the CommonCore "Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium" (SBAC) tests—represent a clarion call to both education advocates and social justice activists across the country. Their simple, yet mighty, proposition is that the movement to oppose high-stakes standardized testing and the Black Lives Matter movement (and other struggles against oppression) should and can unite in a great uprising in service of transforming our schools into an environment designed to nurture our children, in body and intellect, rather than to rank, sort, and reproduce institutional racism.

Hankerson, kicking off the event, referenced the "long and ugly history" of using standardized tests in an effort to establish white supremacy. This is a history that the corporate "testocracy" is desperate to insure remains hidden from the public, as the uncovering of this history would bury their attempts to claim that standardizing testing is the key to closing the "achievement gap."

To suggest that the United States policies in Yemen was a "failure" is an understatement. It implies that the US had at least attempted to succeed. But "succeed" at what? The US drone war had no other objective aside from celebrating the elimination of whomever the US hit list designates as terrorist.

But now that a civil and a regional wars have broken out, the degree of US influence in Yemen has been exposed as limited, their war on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in the larger context of political, tribal and regional rivalry, asinsignificant.

"California Puts Mandatory Curbs on Water Use" reports the April 2 New York Times long article at the top of the front-page. "Steps to Confront Record-Setting Drought," the sub-headline reads. The article describes Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order - California's first time restricting water use.

A 25 percent reduction of water use over the next year is required of residents, golf courses, cemeteries and many businesses. But wait. "Owners of large farms . . . will not fall under the 25 percent guideline."

Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 560 into law, ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as "policing for profit," allows law enforcement officers to seize personalproperty without ever charging—much less convicting—a person with a crime. Property seized through this process often finds its way into the department's own coffers. HB 560, introduced by NM Rep. Zachary Cook and passed unanimously in the legislature, replaces civil asset forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, which requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to a crime. The new law means that New Mexico now has the strongest protections against wrongful asset seizures in the country.

"This is a good day for the Bill of Rights," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. "For years police could seize people's cash, cars, and houses without even accusing anyone of a crime. Today, we have ended this unfair practice in NewMexico and replaced it with a model that is just and constitutional."

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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.

With two days left until tax day, most Americans have already spent several hours finalizing their 2014 tax returns. For years, Congress has been sitting on a proposal to make it easier for people to file their taxes. The proposed bill would implement a return-free filing system, where the IRS would provide taxpayers with a filled-out form containing all of their information and estimate their taxes. The taxpayer would just have to look it over before confirming the information. Other industrialized countries like Denmark and Spain, have already adopted a similar process. In the United States, though, a few powerful companies have a large financial stake in ensuring long, complicated tax returns continue to be the norm.

Lobbying Spending Data: MapLight analysis of the money spent by tax preparation companies, including H&R Block, Intuit, which owns TurboTax, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Jackson Hewitt, and National Society of Accountants, lobbying Congress and federal agencies since 2011. 

In contrast to what occurred at the last Summit of the Americas in 2012, when President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and Bolivia's Evo Morales walked out, this time, Cristina stood her ground and spoke forcefully about the issues she believes to be at the crux of the region's problems. In her nearly 30-minute speech, the Argentine president spoke with her characteristic candor, noting that this is to be her - as well as Barack Obama's - last summit as head of state, and welcomed President Raúl Castro to Cuba's first.

In her apparently unscripted speech, Cristina congratulated Cuba and"sister republic"Venezuelaand repeatedly called the US position that those two smaller countries constitute a threattoUS security "absurd." She likened it to the experience of her own country under dictatorship, when the United Kingdom maintained "almost cordial" relations with the military junta, in contrast to last week's revelations ofthe UK's recent espionage and plans for enhanced military operations on the disputed Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

Annapolis, Maryland – The General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a bill to restore voting rights to approximately 40,000 Maryland citizens who live in their communities but cannot vote because of a criminal conviction in their past. The bill, which has a broad coalition of support, now heads to Gov. Hogan for his signature.

Current Maryland law prohibits individuals from voting until they have finished probation and parole. SB 340/HB980, introduced by Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) and Del. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore), simplifies the process by allowing an individual to become eligible to vote upon release from prison or if they are no longer incarcerated.

Translated by Danica Jorden.

The Uruguayan writer and journalist, author of emblematic books such as Open Veins of Latin AmericaMemory of Fire and The Book of Embraces, died at 74 in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Eduardo Germán Hughes Galeano was born in Montevideo on September 3, 1940, the son of EduardoHughes Roosen and Licia Ester Galeano Muñoz, whose last name he took as a writer and journalist. When he was a teenager, he began publishing cartoons in El Sol (The Sun), a socialist newspaper in Uruguay, under the pseudonym "Gius." He also worked as a laborer in an insecticide factory and signboard painter, among other jobs, despite coming from an upper-class family.

Progressive groups are mobilizing in opposition to a bill that would threaten the tenuous diplomatic process underway to limit Iran's nuclear program. The bill, S. 615 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, sponsored by Republican Senator Bob Corker, would give Congress review power over the any final agreement with Iran. As it currently stands, the bill would undermine the ongoing negotiations, and move the US closer towards the possibility of war with Iran. Jewish Voice for Peace joins the National Iranian American Council, Move On, Credo Action, Just Foreign Policy and many other progressive groups in calling for Senators to reject the bill.

Some Congressional Democrats are pushing back against specific provisions in order to weaken the bill's ability to stymie negotiations with Iran. But, with the support from Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, the bill could gain a veto-proof majority. Jewish Voice for Peace supporters around the country are calling their Senators to encourage them to let diplomacy work.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (ALC) today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter seeking government action to evacuate American citizens trapped in Yemen. [NOTE: The lawsuit was filed by ADC and CAIR attorneys.]

Plaintiffs in the case, all American citizens or permanent citizens trapped in Yemen, are challenging "the constitutionality of the United States government's action and/or failure to act to protect United States citizens in Yemen, whose lives are in danger from ongoing military action and violent attacks." [NOTE: The plaintiffs are all part of the more than 450 people who registered on the StuckInYemen.com website. See below.] 

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015 Gerald Hankerson, the President of the Seattle/King CountyNAACP and Rita Green, the Education Chair of the Seattle/King County NAACP, began our press conference with a powerful idea and a call for action that holds the potential to help produce a tremendous social transformation. Together their opening remarks at the press conference—a gathering of parents, teachers, and community leaders that I helped to organize in opposition to the CommonCore "Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium" (SBAC) tests—represent a clarion call to both education advocates and social justice activists across the country. Their simple, yet mighty, proposition is that the movement to oppose high-stakes standardized testing and the Black Lives Matter movement (and other struggles against oppression) should and can unite in a great uprising in service of transforming our schools into an environment designed to nurture our children, in body and intellect, rather than to rank, sort, and reproduce institutional racism.

Hankerson, kicking off the event, referenced the "long and ugly history" of using standardized tests in an effort to establish white supremacy. This is a history that the corporate "testocracy" is desperate to insure remains hidden from the public, as the uncovering of this history would bury their attempts to claim that standardizing testing is the key to closing the "achievement gap."

To suggest that the United States policies in Yemen was a "failure" is an understatement. It implies that the US had at least attempted to succeed. But "succeed" at what? The US drone war had no other objective aside from celebrating the elimination of whomever the US hit list designates as terrorist.

But now that a civil and a regional wars have broken out, the degree of US influence in Yemen has been exposed as limited, their war on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in the larger context of political, tribal and regional rivalry, asinsignificant.

"California Puts Mandatory Curbs on Water Use" reports the April 2 New York Times long article at the top of the front-page. "Steps to Confront Record-Setting Drought," the sub-headline reads. The article describes Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order - California's first time restricting water use.

A 25 percent reduction of water use over the next year is required of residents, golf courses, cemeteries and many businesses. But wait. "Owners of large farms . . . will not fall under the 25 percent guideline."

Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 560 into law, ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as "policing for profit," allows law enforcement officers to seize personalproperty without ever charging—much less convicting—a person with a crime. Property seized through this process often finds its way into the department's own coffers. HB 560, introduced by NM Rep. Zachary Cook and passed unanimously in the legislature, replaces civil asset forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, which requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to a crime. The new law means that New Mexico now has the strongest protections against wrongful asset seizures in the country.

"This is a good day for the Bill of Rights," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. "For years police could seize people's cash, cars, and houses without even accusing anyone of a crime. Today, we have ended this unfair practice in NewMexico and replaced it with a model that is just and constitutional."