Thursday, 29 September 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.

The New York Times' coverage of Congressional antics related to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation has ignored so many critical aspects ofthe bill that it might be time for the"paper of record"to change its motto from "All the news that's fit to print"to"All the news we think fits, we print."

Here's why.

May 19

Middle Class? What Middle Class?

By Jack A. Smith, Truthout | Op-Ed

A complex class system exists in the United States, but the mass media and political rhetoric generally reduces it to three components - one middle class, and two economic generalizations - rich and the poor. Indeed the term "class" itself, as a means of defining the economic and social status of the population, has been fading away. There are, of course, a number of other classes, particularly the all-important capitalistclass.

Virtually the only class ever mentioned these days is the middle class, and now that seems on the way out, at least until the next election if not longer. The New York Times reported May 12 that political candidates for election in 2016 are no longer mentioning the middle class because it may remind people that this once sacrosanct vehicle for attaining the "American Dream" seems to be falling apart and taking the dream down with it. This is indeed news, and we will get back to it.

The Frackettes, a troupe of community organizers from Denton, have launched a video response to the Texas Legislature's passage of HB40. This bill is part of an onslaught of legislative efforts to strip Texas municipalities of their local control to regulate oil and gas activity in their communities. Though widely considered to be the response of oil-soaked politicians to the Frack Free Denton movement's successful campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within city limits, these bills stand to overturn over 300 local ordinances across Texas. As Governor Abbott travels to Denton this weekend as the highly disputed UNT commencement speaker, HB40 awaits his decision in Austin. 

The newly released video features a funeral procession with a coffin labeled "Democracy" and a surprise cameo by Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick. The Frackettes sing and dance to a satirical version of the famous musical number 'Come to the Cabaret," whose clever lyrics expose the cronyism of the Texas Legislature and its disregard for local democracy.   

Good afternoon, good day, good night to all listening and reading, no matter your calendars and geographies. 

My name is Galeano, Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. I was born in the small hours of the morning on May 25, 2014, collectively and quite in spite of myself, and well, in spite of others also. Like the rest of my Zapatista compañeras and compañeros, I cover my face whenever it is necessary that I show myself, and I take the cover off whenever I need to hide. Although I am not yet one year old, the authorities have assigned me the task of posta, of watchman or sentinel, at one of the observation posts in this rebel territory.

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.

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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.

The New York Times' coverage of Congressional antics related to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation has ignored so many critical aspects ofthe bill that it might be time for the"paper of record"to change its motto from "All the news that's fit to print"to"All the news we think fits, we print."

Here's why.

May 19

Middle Class? What Middle Class?

By Jack A. Smith, Truthout | Op-Ed

A complex class system exists in the United States, but the mass media and political rhetoric generally reduces it to three components - one middle class, and two economic generalizations - rich and the poor. Indeed the term "class" itself, as a means of defining the economic and social status of the population, has been fading away. There are, of course, a number of other classes, particularly the all-important capitalistclass.

Virtually the only class ever mentioned these days is the middle class, and now that seems on the way out, at least until the next election if not longer. The New York Times reported May 12 that political candidates for election in 2016 are no longer mentioning the middle class because it may remind people that this once sacrosanct vehicle for attaining the "American Dream" seems to be falling apart and taking the dream down with it. This is indeed news, and we will get back to it.

The Frackettes, a troupe of community organizers from Denton, have launched a video response to the Texas Legislature's passage of HB40. This bill is part of an onslaught of legislative efforts to strip Texas municipalities of their local control to regulate oil and gas activity in their communities. Though widely considered to be the response of oil-soaked politicians to the Frack Free Denton movement's successful campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within city limits, these bills stand to overturn over 300 local ordinances across Texas. As Governor Abbott travels to Denton this weekend as the highly disputed UNT commencement speaker, HB40 awaits his decision in Austin. 

The newly released video features a funeral procession with a coffin labeled "Democracy" and a surprise cameo by Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick. The Frackettes sing and dance to a satirical version of the famous musical number 'Come to the Cabaret," whose clever lyrics expose the cronyism of the Texas Legislature and its disregard for local democracy.   

Good afternoon, good day, good night to all listening and reading, no matter your calendars and geographies. 

My name is Galeano, Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. I was born in the small hours of the morning on May 25, 2014, collectively and quite in spite of myself, and well, in spite of others also. Like the rest of my Zapatista compañeras and compañeros, I cover my face whenever it is necessary that I show myself, and I take the cover off whenever I need to hide. Although I am not yet one year old, the authorities have assigned me the task of posta, of watchman or sentinel, at one of the observation posts in this rebel territory.

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.