Thursday, 27 November 2014 / 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.

When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 it included an important buffer assuring the organic community that we would never lose control over the true meaning of the organic label: a diverse 15-member stakeholder board that had true statutory authority and power — the National Organic Standards Board or NOSB.

Citizens and farmers created organics as an alternative to industrial-scale agriculture and food production. As companies like Dean Foods, General Mills (hiding behind the façades of WhiteWave and Small Planet Foods respectively), Smucker's and other agribusiness giants invested in gobbling up organic brands (Silk, Horizon, Cascadian Farms, Knutson, etc.), they sent their lobbyists and the Organic Trade Association to Washington.

I unfriended another Facebook friend this week. It may seem to be a trivial matter, but for me, it is not. The reason behind my action was Syria. As in Egypt, Syria has instigated many social media breakups with people whom, until then, were regarded with a degree of respect and admiration.

But this is not a social media affair. The problems lie at the core of the Syrian conflict, with all of its manifestations, be they political, sectarian, ideological, cultural, and intellectual. While on the left (not the establishment left of course) Palestine has brought many likeminded people together, Egypt has fragmented that unity, and Syria has crushed and pulverized it to bits.

Washington - The Campaign for America's Future has thrown its support behind the student loan relief bill introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

CAF co-director Robert L. Borosage released the following statement:

"There are nearly 40 million Americans with outstanding student loan debt, which now averages $29,400 per graduate. That total increases with the rising costs of tuition, even at public colleges and universities, and by the failure of our own government to address college affordability."

On Friday, Uruguay released its long-anticipated regulations accompanying the law that was signed into effect last December, which made Uruguay the first country in the world to legally regulate the production, sale and consumption of marijuana for adults. The government will now embark on the implementation of the legal marijuana market, which is expected to be up and running by the end of 2014. The regulations for medical marijuana are to be released later this summer.

The Uruguayan marijuana regulation system will allow Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 to choose between three forms of access to non-medical marijuana: domestic cultivation of up to 6 plants per household; membership clubs where between 15 and 45 members can collectively grow up to 99 plants; and sales in licensed pharmacies of up to 10 grams per week. Those operating outside the regulated and licit system will face penalties.

Negotiations to bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to fruition are expected to come to an end by January 2017, with all 12 countries involved signaling an interest Monday to conclude talks as soon as possible.

U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Y. Yun said Monday that January 2017 would be a realistic deadline for the stalled regional trade deal as it matches the end of President Barack Obama's presidential term.

Glenview, Illinois – During its annual meeting of shareholders today, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. will face a resolution filed by the Green Century Equity Fund urging the company to refrain from using corporate funds to influence any political election campaign. Kraft Foods spent millions last year to oppose legislation for labeling food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which shareholders argue exposed the company to significant brand and reputational risks without generating value for shareholders.

"Companies that spend millions to undermine key environmental and consumer protections put both our democracy and shareholder value at risk," said Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate for Green Century Capital Management. "American consumers widely disapprove of corporate money in politics, and shareholders urge Kraft Foods to listen to its customers and keep money out of high-risk political gambles."

This is an opportunity to explore a vexing but significant topic in the field of human rights: self-determination. The right of self-determination has been celebrated for ages. It is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes. The concept played a significant part in the post-world war I settlement, leading for example to plebiscite in a number of disputed border areas, even though no reference was made to self-determination in the League of Nations Covenant.

The concept seems to be as old as Government itself and was the basis of French and American revolutions. In 1916, President Wilson stated that self-determination is not a mere phrase. He said that it is an imperative principle of action and included it in the famous 14-point charter. This gave a prominence to the principle.

In February 2013, I visited Old and New Delhi, India. I went to see several important places such as the Red Fort (Lal Qila) and the Raj Ghat - which is the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi was cremated at Raj Ghat on 31 January 1948). I also visited the India Gate[1] which commemorates the more than 70.000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the First World War. I was impressed seeing all the names of Indian soldiers who gave their lives during WWI. I immediately made the comparison with the Menen Gate[2] in Ypres, Flanders where 54.389 names of persons from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Countries are written on the walls.[3] More names, and unknown soldiers, are mentioned on the thousands and thousands of graves in the different cemeteries in Flanders Fields. Chemical weapons have been first used in Steenstraete, nearby Yper. That is why that weapon got the name "Yperite."

The main reaction after WWI was: No more war ever again! Several initiatives were launched right after WWI, working for stronger international solidarity and disarmament. What does this mean for the European Union and the European continent at large? What lessons can be learned by the international community?

May 06

Blair: The Neocon

By Dr James J Zogby, The Arab American Institute | Op-Ed

Like many a "hawkish" liberal before him, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair crossed over to the dark side of neo-conservatism. This was on display last week in a keynote address Blair delivered at Bloomberg's London headquarters. After reading and rereading the speech, "Why the Middle East Matters", I was struck by how similar it was to the "agitprop" used by George W. Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Like Bush, Blair began and ended his Bloomberg speech on an alarmist note, designed to mobilize the public by preying on fear. Troubled that in the post-Iraq war era, public opinion in the West has become weary and wary of any further Middle East adventures, he sought to frighten his audience into joining the fight against what he called this century's "biggest threat to global security"— radical, extremist Islam. In near hysterical language he warned that this "radicalized and politicized view of Islam...is growing. It is spreading across the world...And in the face of this threat we seem...powerless to counter it effectively." In the stark, apocalyptic Manichean language, so-loved by the neo-cons, Blair terms this conflict between good and evil as "the essential battle" of our time— one in which "we must take a side."

Across the United States and the world, there is an emerging movement calling for the end of solitary confinement. The Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT) is part of that movement. ICAT is currently engaged in the initial steps of a campaign to bring solitary confinement to an end in the state of Illinois. An ambitious goal but one that can be achieved. All that is needed is a groundswell of ordinary people raising their voices and declaring that solitary confinement IS torture! It is TORTURE and it must stop and now. Join us. Sign our petition. Spread the word.

Personally, I've learned a lot about torture over the last ten years.

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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.

When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 it included an important buffer assuring the organic community that we would never lose control over the true meaning of the organic label: a diverse 15-member stakeholder board that had true statutory authority and power — the National Organic Standards Board or NOSB.

Citizens and farmers created organics as an alternative to industrial-scale agriculture and food production. As companies like Dean Foods, General Mills (hiding behind the façades of WhiteWave and Small Planet Foods respectively), Smucker's and other agribusiness giants invested in gobbling up organic brands (Silk, Horizon, Cascadian Farms, Knutson, etc.), they sent their lobbyists and the Organic Trade Association to Washington.

I unfriended another Facebook friend this week. It may seem to be a trivial matter, but for me, it is not. The reason behind my action was Syria. As in Egypt, Syria has instigated many social media breakups with people whom, until then, were regarded with a degree of respect and admiration.

But this is not a social media affair. The problems lie at the core of the Syrian conflict, with all of its manifestations, be they political, sectarian, ideological, cultural, and intellectual. While on the left (not the establishment left of course) Palestine has brought many likeminded people together, Egypt has fragmented that unity, and Syria has crushed and pulverized it to bits.

Washington - The Campaign for America's Future has thrown its support behind the student loan relief bill introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

CAF co-director Robert L. Borosage released the following statement:

"There are nearly 40 million Americans with outstanding student loan debt, which now averages $29,400 per graduate. That total increases with the rising costs of tuition, even at public colleges and universities, and by the failure of our own government to address college affordability."

On Friday, Uruguay released its long-anticipated regulations accompanying the law that was signed into effect last December, which made Uruguay the first country in the world to legally regulate the production, sale and consumption of marijuana for adults. The government will now embark on the implementation of the legal marijuana market, which is expected to be up and running by the end of 2014. The regulations for medical marijuana are to be released later this summer.

The Uruguayan marijuana regulation system will allow Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 to choose between three forms of access to non-medical marijuana: domestic cultivation of up to 6 plants per household; membership clubs where between 15 and 45 members can collectively grow up to 99 plants; and sales in licensed pharmacies of up to 10 grams per week. Those operating outside the regulated and licit system will face penalties.

Negotiations to bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to fruition are expected to come to an end by January 2017, with all 12 countries involved signaling an interest Monday to conclude talks as soon as possible.

U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Y. Yun said Monday that January 2017 would be a realistic deadline for the stalled regional trade deal as it matches the end of President Barack Obama's presidential term.

Glenview, Illinois – During its annual meeting of shareholders today, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. will face a resolution filed by the Green Century Equity Fund urging the company to refrain from using corporate funds to influence any political election campaign. Kraft Foods spent millions last year to oppose legislation for labeling food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which shareholders argue exposed the company to significant brand and reputational risks without generating value for shareholders.

"Companies that spend millions to undermine key environmental and consumer protections put both our democracy and shareholder value at risk," said Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate for Green Century Capital Management. "American consumers widely disapprove of corporate money in politics, and shareholders urge Kraft Foods to listen to its customers and keep money out of high-risk political gambles."

This is an opportunity to explore a vexing but significant topic in the field of human rights: self-determination. The right of self-determination has been celebrated for ages. It is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes. The concept played a significant part in the post-world war I settlement, leading for example to plebiscite in a number of disputed border areas, even though no reference was made to self-determination in the League of Nations Covenant.

The concept seems to be as old as Government itself and was the basis of French and American revolutions. In 1916, President Wilson stated that self-determination is not a mere phrase. He said that it is an imperative principle of action and included it in the famous 14-point charter. This gave a prominence to the principle.

In February 2013, I visited Old and New Delhi, India. I went to see several important places such as the Red Fort (Lal Qila) and the Raj Ghat - which is the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi was cremated at Raj Ghat on 31 January 1948). I also visited the India Gate[1] which commemorates the more than 70.000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the First World War. I was impressed seeing all the names of Indian soldiers who gave their lives during WWI. I immediately made the comparison with the Menen Gate[2] in Ypres, Flanders where 54.389 names of persons from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Countries are written on the walls.[3] More names, and unknown soldiers, are mentioned on the thousands and thousands of graves in the different cemeteries in Flanders Fields. Chemical weapons have been first used in Steenstraete, nearby Yper. That is why that weapon got the name "Yperite."

The main reaction after WWI was: No more war ever again! Several initiatives were launched right after WWI, working for stronger international solidarity and disarmament. What does this mean for the European Union and the European continent at large? What lessons can be learned by the international community?

May 06

Blair: The Neocon

By Dr James J Zogby, The Arab American Institute | Op-Ed

Like many a "hawkish" liberal before him, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair crossed over to the dark side of neo-conservatism. This was on display last week in a keynote address Blair delivered at Bloomberg's London headquarters. After reading and rereading the speech, "Why the Middle East Matters", I was struck by how similar it was to the "agitprop" used by George W. Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Like Bush, Blair began and ended his Bloomberg speech on an alarmist note, designed to mobilize the public by preying on fear. Troubled that in the post-Iraq war era, public opinion in the West has become weary and wary of any further Middle East adventures, he sought to frighten his audience into joining the fight against what he called this century's "biggest threat to global security"— radical, extremist Islam. In near hysterical language he warned that this "radicalized and politicized view of Islam...is growing. It is spreading across the world...And in the face of this threat we seem...powerless to counter it effectively." In the stark, apocalyptic Manichean language, so-loved by the neo-cons, Blair terms this conflict between good and evil as "the essential battle" of our time— one in which "we must take a side."

Across the United States and the world, there is an emerging movement calling for the end of solitary confinement. The Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT) is part of that movement. ICAT is currently engaged in the initial steps of a campaign to bring solitary confinement to an end in the state of Illinois. An ambitious goal but one that can be achieved. All that is needed is a groundswell of ordinary people raising their voices and declaring that solitary confinement IS torture! It is TORTURE and it must stop and now. Join us. Sign our petition. Spread the word.

Personally, I've learned a lot about torture over the last ten years.