Saturday, 27 August 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.

May 19

Suicide: A Worldwide Epidemic

By Graham Peebles, Truthout | Op-Ed

A friend recently asked to meet for coffee. "I've had some more bad news," his text said. A "fifty something" year old friend had taken his own life the day before. Jack had hanged himself from a tree in a public park on the outskirts of London; it was his fourth attempt. He had four children. This was the second, middle-aged, male friend to have committed suicide within six months.

Their stories are far from unique. Suicide occurs everywhere in the world to people of all age groups, from 15 to 70 years.The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that almost one million people commit suicide every year, with 20 times that number attempting it, and the numbers are rising. Methods vary from country to country: in the USA, where firearms litter the streets, 60% of people shoot themselves; in India and other Asian countries, as well as South Africa, taking poison, particularly drinking pesticides, is the most popular choice. In Hong Kong, China and urban Taiwan, WHO records that a new method, "charcoal-burning suicide" has been recorded. Drowning, jumping from a height, slashing wrists and hanging (the most popular form in Britain, the Balkans and Eastern European countries) are some of the other ways desperate human beings decide to end their lives.

A broad coalition of Indiana and national civil rights organizations have asked Indiana Governor Mike Pence to repudiate a non-binding Indiana legislative resolution that brands boycott, divestment, and sanctions ("BDS") tactics to achieve equality and justice for Palestinians as "anti-Jewish." SR 74 was passed by a voice vote on April 29th, following HR 59, a similar measure adopted by the Indiana House of Representatives.

A letter to Pence delivered May 15th argues that passage of SR 74 will stifle free speech by equating criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism. "Our opposition to SR 74 arises from our firm commitment to constitutional principles, beginning with respect for free speech rights protected by the First Amendment. SR 74 is an affront to these rights. While ostensibly opposing anti-Semitism, it erroneously conflates criticism of Israeli policies and practices toward Palestinians with hatred of Jewish people. In its intolerance for political advocacy that it clearly misunderstands, the Resolution threatens to chill protected speech by intimidating people who wish to criticize Israel's behavior toward Palestinians," the letter stated.

May 18

Donetsk: A Defiant and Besieged City

By Joshua Tartakovsky, Truthout | Op-Ed

A visit to Donetsk reveals that unlike Western media portrayals, the city stands behind the rebels and refuses to accept the authority or legitimacy of the Kiev government which openly stated its admiration for Ukrainian fascist leaders. Donetsk is keen on resisting attempts at subjugation by Kiev. Its population continues to struggle to go on with its daily life as residential neighborhoods are frequently shelled. While Russia undoubtedly lends its support to the self-proclaimed republic via various means, it would be incorrect to say that the local population does not stand behind the republic.

In a recent visit to the Donbass in East Ukraine, a group of journalists including myself visited Donetsk in order to better understand its reality for ourselves. The trip was organized by Europa Objektiv, a German-Russian NGO whose mission is to provide journalists with a tour of the frequently misrepresented region.

Today, the House of Representatives passed the USA FREEDOM Act, a bill that would end the NSA's indiscriminate collection of Americans' phone records, by a vote of 338 to 88. The vote comes on the heels of a decision by a federal appeals court last week holding that the bulk collection program violates Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Following the court's ruling, the Obama administration issued a statement in support of the USA Freedom Act, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared his intent to pass legislation allowing the bulk collection program to continue.

"This vote sends a clear signal to the Senate that NSA reform is inevitable," said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Senator McConnell wants to put his head in the sand and go forward with the NSA's mass surveillance of Americans. That goes against the will of the people, the Congress, the administration, and the courts. In light of the clear mandate for reform, the Senate should not only take up the USA Freedom Act, it should strengthen it by limiting how long the NSA can keep records and by filling the many loopholes in the bill's transparency provisions."

The editors at Democracy Watch News (I am a contributing editor) are very concerned about the treatment of members of the press by police during the MayDay protests on Capitol Hill. Even reporters with clearly visible press credentials were blocked, herded and subjected to crowdcontrol devices. 

Following a collaboration between the Amazon Indian Nixiwaka Yawanawá and British painter John Dyer to create a series of paintings at the U.K.'s Eden Project, the twoartists will invite children around the world to submit their artworks inspired by the rainforest.

Nixiwaka Yawanawá and John Dyer are currently creating a series of paintings collectively called "Spirit of the Rainforest" to emphasize the need to protect the rainforest and tribal peoples that live in them for future generations. Their residency at Eden's Rainforest Biome – the largest captive rainforest in the world – will end on May 15, 2015.

In a western capital far away from Gaza and Cairo, I recently shared a pot of tea with an "Egyptian refugee".

The term is familiar to me, but never have I encountered an Egyptian who refers to himself as such. He stated it as a matter of fact by saying: "As an Egyptian refugee..." and carried on to talk about the political turmoil in his country.

An Appeals Court has vacated the sabotage convictions of peace activists Greg-Boertje-Obed, of Duluth, Min., and his co-defendants Michael Walli of Washington, DC, and Sr. Megan Rice of New York City. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that federal prosecutors failed to prove - and that "norational jury could find" - that the three had intended to damage "national defense."

In July 2012, Greg, Michael and Megan clipped through four fences and walked right up to the "Fort Knox" of weapons-grade uranium, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility inside the Y-12 complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Uranium processed there puts the "H" in our H-bombs. With three hours before they were spotted, the nuclear weapons abolitionists painted "Woe to an Empire of Blood" and other slogans on several structures, strung banners, and celebrated their luck in catching the nuclear weapons system asleep at the wheel. When a guard finally confronted them, they offered him some bread.

A cross-party delegation of MPs will next week hold talks in Washington DC to lobby for the return of the last remaining Briton in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and Conservatives David Davis (a former Shadow Home Secretary) and Andrew Mitchell (a former Chief Whip) will hold meetings with Senators and Obama administration officials.

We submit these letters as mothers, advocates and organizers in solidarity with Shanesha Taylor. Shanesha is a mother who was convicted in Arizona last year for child abuse, for being homeless and having no childcare available to her while she interviewed for a badly needed job. She got the job, and her children were unharmed in the car, (their home at the time), but still she faces a decade of probation, payment to the state of thousands of dollars in what is being called "restitution", and the threat of jail. Shanesha returns to court Friday, May 15th.

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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.

May 19

Suicide: A Worldwide Epidemic

By Graham Peebles, Truthout | Op-Ed

A friend recently asked to meet for coffee. "I've had some more bad news," his text said. A "fifty something" year old friend had taken his own life the day before. Jack had hanged himself from a tree in a public park on the outskirts of London; it was his fourth attempt. He had four children. This was the second, middle-aged, male friend to have committed suicide within six months.

Their stories are far from unique. Suicide occurs everywhere in the world to people of all age groups, from 15 to 70 years.The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that almost one million people commit suicide every year, with 20 times that number attempting it, and the numbers are rising. Methods vary from country to country: in the USA, where firearms litter the streets, 60% of people shoot themselves; in India and other Asian countries, as well as South Africa, taking poison, particularly drinking pesticides, is the most popular choice. In Hong Kong, China and urban Taiwan, WHO records that a new method, "charcoal-burning suicide" has been recorded. Drowning, jumping from a height, slashing wrists and hanging (the most popular form in Britain, the Balkans and Eastern European countries) are some of the other ways desperate human beings decide to end their lives.

A broad coalition of Indiana and national civil rights organizations have asked Indiana Governor Mike Pence to repudiate a non-binding Indiana legislative resolution that brands boycott, divestment, and sanctions ("BDS") tactics to achieve equality and justice for Palestinians as "anti-Jewish." SR 74 was passed by a voice vote on April 29th, following HR 59, a similar measure adopted by the Indiana House of Representatives.

A letter to Pence delivered May 15th argues that passage of SR 74 will stifle free speech by equating criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism. "Our opposition to SR 74 arises from our firm commitment to constitutional principles, beginning with respect for free speech rights protected by the First Amendment. SR 74 is an affront to these rights. While ostensibly opposing anti-Semitism, it erroneously conflates criticism of Israeli policies and practices toward Palestinians with hatred of Jewish people. In its intolerance for political advocacy that it clearly misunderstands, the Resolution threatens to chill protected speech by intimidating people who wish to criticize Israel's behavior toward Palestinians," the letter stated.

May 18

Donetsk: A Defiant and Besieged City

By Joshua Tartakovsky, Truthout | Op-Ed

A visit to Donetsk reveals that unlike Western media portrayals, the city stands behind the rebels and refuses to accept the authority or legitimacy of the Kiev government which openly stated its admiration for Ukrainian fascist leaders. Donetsk is keen on resisting attempts at subjugation by Kiev. Its population continues to struggle to go on with its daily life as residential neighborhoods are frequently shelled. While Russia undoubtedly lends its support to the self-proclaimed republic via various means, it would be incorrect to say that the local population does not stand behind the republic.

In a recent visit to the Donbass in East Ukraine, a group of journalists including myself visited Donetsk in order to better understand its reality for ourselves. The trip was organized by Europa Objektiv, a German-Russian NGO whose mission is to provide journalists with a tour of the frequently misrepresented region.

Today, the House of Representatives passed the USA FREEDOM Act, a bill that would end the NSA's indiscriminate collection of Americans' phone records, by a vote of 338 to 88. The vote comes on the heels of a decision by a federal appeals court last week holding that the bulk collection program violates Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Following the court's ruling, the Obama administration issued a statement in support of the USA Freedom Act, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared his intent to pass legislation allowing the bulk collection program to continue.

"This vote sends a clear signal to the Senate that NSA reform is inevitable," said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Senator McConnell wants to put his head in the sand and go forward with the NSA's mass surveillance of Americans. That goes against the will of the people, the Congress, the administration, and the courts. In light of the clear mandate for reform, the Senate should not only take up the USA Freedom Act, it should strengthen it by limiting how long the NSA can keep records and by filling the many loopholes in the bill's transparency provisions."

The editors at Democracy Watch News (I am a contributing editor) are very concerned about the treatment of members of the press by police during the MayDay protests on Capitol Hill. Even reporters with clearly visible press credentials were blocked, herded and subjected to crowdcontrol devices. 

Following a collaboration between the Amazon Indian Nixiwaka Yawanawá and British painter John Dyer to create a series of paintings at the U.K.'s Eden Project, the twoartists will invite children around the world to submit their artworks inspired by the rainforest.

Nixiwaka Yawanawá and John Dyer are currently creating a series of paintings collectively called "Spirit of the Rainforest" to emphasize the need to protect the rainforest and tribal peoples that live in them for future generations. Their residency at Eden's Rainforest Biome – the largest captive rainforest in the world – will end on May 15, 2015.

In a western capital far away from Gaza and Cairo, I recently shared a pot of tea with an "Egyptian refugee".

The term is familiar to me, but never have I encountered an Egyptian who refers to himself as such. He stated it as a matter of fact by saying: "As an Egyptian refugee..." and carried on to talk about the political turmoil in his country.

An Appeals Court has vacated the sabotage convictions of peace activists Greg-Boertje-Obed, of Duluth, Min., and his co-defendants Michael Walli of Washington, DC, and Sr. Megan Rice of New York City. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that federal prosecutors failed to prove - and that "norational jury could find" - that the three had intended to damage "national defense."

In July 2012, Greg, Michael and Megan clipped through four fences and walked right up to the "Fort Knox" of weapons-grade uranium, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility inside the Y-12 complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Uranium processed there puts the "H" in our H-bombs. With three hours before they were spotted, the nuclear weapons abolitionists painted "Woe to an Empire of Blood" and other slogans on several structures, strung banners, and celebrated their luck in catching the nuclear weapons system asleep at the wheel. When a guard finally confronted them, they offered him some bread.

A cross-party delegation of MPs will next week hold talks in Washington DC to lobby for the return of the last remaining Briton in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and Conservatives David Davis (a former Shadow Home Secretary) and Andrew Mitchell (a former Chief Whip) will hold meetings with Senators and Obama administration officials.

We submit these letters as mothers, advocates and organizers in solidarity with Shanesha Taylor. Shanesha is a mother who was convicted in Arizona last year for child abuse, for being homeless and having no childcare available to her while she interviewed for a badly needed job. She got the job, and her children were unharmed in the car, (their home at the time), but still she faces a decade of probation, payment to the state of thousands of dollars in what is being called "restitution", and the threat of jail. Shanesha returns to court Friday, May 15th.