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.
In the lead up to COP21, also known as the Paris Conference and the latest installment of the "United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," a lot of people and organizations in France have been actively building on the theme of how to save the environment, reaching out to young and old through multidimensional activities to raise consciousness about the crisis in the public eye. Alternatiba has been giving people the opportunity to experience real alternatives to avert climate change since its first Village des alternatives (Alternatives Village) in Bayonne, in the Basque region ofFrance, in October 2013. The Villages have since spread to other countries in Europe, and reached the other side of the world in Tahiti and La Réunion.
Pedaling their emblematic four-person quadricyles, the 2015 Tour Alternatiba kicked off on 5 June in Bayonne and will completely encircle France before turning inland to reach Paris on 26 September, ahead of the COP21, which starts in November. Under the aegis of Coalition Climat 21 (Climate Coalition 21) and the subtitle "Our children will thank us," the travelling caravan will bring educational villages to real villages throughout the country, providing diverse forms of instruction, information and discussion about climate change.
Here we go again. Another court decision favoring businesses over human rights. Sadly, it is no shock that the Supreme Court is friendlier to business more than anything or anyone else. From its 2010 Citizens United blunder that allowed even greater corporate influence on our political process to the 2014 Hobby Lobby case affirming the "religious beliefs" of private corporations, the court's continual siding with corporate entities over individual rights is maddening and ludicrous, but not surprising. Now, we learn that the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled in favor of employers in a case that addressed whether persons with lawful medical marijuana cards can be fired for testing positive for the substance.
In a 6-0 decision, Colorado's highest court ruled that an employer's zero tolerance law trumped the state's medical marijuana legislation. The court held that employers can fire employees for testing positive for the substance even if usage was lawful under state law and occurred when the individual was off duty. Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic after a car accident, has been lawfully using medical marijuana to control leg spasms. Dish Network, his employer, fired him in 2010 after he tested positive on a random drug test. Coats had informed his employer before the test about his use of medical marijuana and displayed his state-certified medical marijuana card.
Remember the World Trade Organization, which slipped into the shadows after massive Seattle protests in 1999? The same day last week that Congress initially blocked the possibility of fast track approval for the TPP trade agreement, the House voted to overturn rules requiring country-of-origin labeling for meat. Those supporting the vote said they were responding to a World Trade Organization ruling, judging US country-of-origin labeling unfair competition with meat coming from foreign countries like Canada and Mexico, and therefore a violation. They said they had no choice for fear of triggering sanctions or lawsuits from countries exporting meat across our borders.
I don't know about you, but I like knowing whether my meat comes from Iowa or Uzbekistan, Montana or Mexico, Kentucky or Kenya. So do 93% of Americans, according to a Consumer's Union survey. People like supporting US farmers, cutting down distance travelled, knowing there will be at least minimal inspection standards, even if the delights of e coli occasionally slip through. It seems commonsensical that we'd want at least the chance to become informed consumers, whether with the origins of our meat, GMO-derived crops, or the amount of sugar and calories in our baked goods.
Developing activism on behalf of LGBT people from an anti-capitalist stance has been the biggest challenge of my work within the Arcoiris (Rainbow) project. In an extremely depoliticized society whose members are disillusioned by the failings of a top-down socialism based on the Soviet model, and now focused on their desire for irrational consumption, it is very difficult to promote alternative thinking. Proclaiming ourselves anti-capitalist sounds old-fashioned here in Cuba in 2015. Furthermore, to attempt independent work for the rights of LGBT people, where state institutions have developed a certain hegemony, is also a challenge to our creativity and desire for autonomy.
A controversial mega-project to build a transcontinental railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific has caused outrage among indigenous people and Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.
The railway, which is backed by the Chinese government, would cross through many indigenous territories and areas of high biodiversity across the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Brazil. If realized, it would wreak havoc on indigenous peoples’ lands and lives by opening up the area to industrial exploitation, illegal mining and logging, and encourage colonization.
You might think that we learned the lesson of discredited managed care in the 1990s. The term “managed care” is confusing to many, but really amounts to managed reimbursement rather than managed care, whereby a set prospective annual payment is made by federal/state governments, as in the case of Medicaid managed care (MMC), to cover whatever services patients will receive over the coming year. There is therefore a built-in incentive for managed care organizations to skimp on care and pocket more profits. Predictably, by the end of the 1990s, there was widespread discontent across the country over denial of services by for-profit managed care organizations.
Today, this same problem is back in the form of privatized Medicaid managed care, facilitated further by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More than one-half of Medicaid beneficiaries are now in privatized plans, which have been catching on in many states based on the unproven theory that private plans can enable access to better coordinated care and still save money. That theory is not just unproven, it is patently wrong. Privatized programs have high administrative costs, built-in profits, and do not save money or improve care. Their route to financial success is by finding more ways to limit care and deny services.
FedEx says it “lives to deliver.” Last Friday, more than 2,000 of its workers finally received a delivery of justice from a federal judge.
A settlement in the case filed in US District Court on behalf of the workers, Alexander v. FedEx Ground, means the company will pay $277 million to resolve the claims of FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery workers who were victims of worker misclassification since the year 2000. These are workers FedEx classified as “independent contractors” but treated largely as if they were on the company payroll.
The long-running, multi-party dispute over control of islets in the South China Sea (SCS) is worsening both in rhetoric and provocative activity. Meeting in late May at the Shangri-La Dialogue on regional security, US and Chinese defense officials sparred over responsibility for the increased tension, though they stopped short of issuing threats. In fact, all sides to the dispute say they want to avoid violence, prefer a diplomatic resolution, and support freedom of navigation.
Both the US and China insist that the dispute notwithstanding, their relationship overall is positive and enduring. But China, claiming indisputable sovereignty over the SCS, is backing its claim in ways that alarm the US and several Asian governments: construction of an air strip on the Spratly Islands, a land reclamation project that has artificially expanded its claimed territory, and most recently emplacement of two mobile artillery vehicles.
It's not often that private individuals take on the entire State Department and win resounding victories in courts. It's even rarer for the Justice Department to receive scathing legal judgments issued against it that openly accuse top-level employees of orchestrating politically motivated trials on sham charges. Yet this is exactly what happened last month when an Austrian High Court judge refused to hand over to the FBI one Dmitry Firtash, Ukrainian billionaire, after finding that there had been improper political interference from the US in the matter.
Essentially, the case revolves around supposed bribes given in 2006 by Firtash and his associates to Indian officials to launch a titanium project – a project that never materialized. After a grueling 13 hour hearing, Judge Christoph Bauer argued in his final decision that the case was "politically motivated" and rested solely on the testimony of two anonymous witnesses whom the FBI refused to show before the court (the Judge questioned whether those individuals were even real). He then accepted the line of defense put forth by Firtash, and acknowledged that the United States "attempted to pressure the President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich, into accepting Ukrainian association with the European Union" and that "America obviously saw Firtash as somebody who was threatening their economic interests."
Last week the Seattle School District told my kindergarten son to take the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.
Given my intense relationship with this specific standardized test--an exam that has forever altered the course of my life--this was a particularly unsettling moment for me. As an authentic assessment activist, I had helped organize a boycott of this test at Seattle's Garfield High School, I edited the book More Than a Score to tell the story of this movement against the MAP and the subsequent uprising against high-stakes testing, and I speak regularly around the country to share the lessons of the movement to "Scrap the MAP."