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.
Philadelphia PA – Today, attorneys from Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to reverse a federal district court’s dismissal of Hassan v. City of New York, a case that challenges the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) blanket surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. The plaintiffs – among them a decorated Iraq war veteran, Rutgers University students, a coalition of New Jersey mosques, and the former principal of a grade-school for Muslim girls, targeted and surveilled by the NYPD solely on account of their religious affiliation and without any criminal suspicion – had their day in court when lawyers presented oral argument inside a courthouse filled with concerned community members. This is the first time a federal appellate court will review the legality of the NYPD’s religious surveillance program.
“Today marks a critical day on the path to justice for all the victims who have been treated like criminals simply because of their faith,” said Glenn Katon, legal director of Muslim Advocates. “The NYPD has abused its powers for too long and has brazenly violated our core constitutional values of freedom and equality under the law, and we hope that today’s argument will pave the way to a ruling to protect Americans of all faiths against discrimination by law enforcement.”
Nashville, TN – Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE: CXW), the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm, formally objected to a shareholder resolution that would require the company to spend just 5% of its net income “on programs and services designed to reduce recidivism rates for offenders.”
The resolution was submitted by Alex Friedmann, associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center and managing editor of HRDC’s monthly publication, Prison Legal News. An activist shareholder, Friedmann owns a small amount of CCA stock; in the 1990s he served six years at a CCA-operated prison in Clifton, Tennessee prior to his release in 1999. “As a former prisoner, I know firsthand the importance of providing rehabilitative programs and reentry services,” Friedmann stated. “I also know firsthand the incentive of private prisons to cut costs – including expenses associated with rehabilitative programs – in order to increase their profit margins.”
It should be clear after four bloody years in Syria that if we are to make any progress moving forward, it is necessary to shed illusions and fantasies that have shaped too much of the discussion about the conflict.
From the beginning, it was inevitable that this conflict, however it began, would morph into a proxy war between Iran and those who were deeply concerned by Iran's hegemonic ambitions.
Washington DC - Economist Dean Baker, a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, issued the following statement about the financial transactions tax (FTT) component of the new tax proposal from Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD):
"Representative Chris Van Hollen's proposal for a financial transactions tax, a key part of the new tax plan that he revealed this morning, is a move towards establishing a 21st century structure for financial markets. In the last four decades there has been an enormous reduction in the cost of financial transactions due to the development of computers and information technology. This has led to an explosion in trading volume. Much of this trading volume serves no purpose from the standpoint of the productive economy, yet it generates enormous incomes for the financial industry.
Monday evening I had planned to write about the PEGIDA movement in Germany. Although in Dresden, their city of origin, the number of bitter marchers protesting the "Islamization" of the West had increased stubbornly to 18,000, I began to report happily that everywhere else in Germany they had been greatly outnumbered. In Berlin, only 300 turned up - and turned tail in the face of 5000 opposing them. Even politicians who had ignored them, had castigated their opponents by speaking of "terrorists of the right and left" or had used code words to express similar anti-immigrant feelings (and win votes) now opposed them almost in unison. Berlin city leaders followed the Dresden Opera House example by turning off the lights on Brandenburg Gate in protest against the racists. Church leaders in Cologne did the same, plunging their giant cathedral into welcome darkness, while 400 marchers were halted by 10,000 opponents. Thus, except in Dresden, Monday marked a victory against the efforts to set one group against another by those who called instead for friendship, togetherness and a welcome to those seeking asylum and a new, decent life.
But then came Wednesday and Paris, with its atrocious murders at Charlie Hebdo. Like so many millions I was shocked and horror-stricken. But I was also frightened. Now the PEGIDA crowd would shout, "You see! We told you so!" Even before Wednesday, polls had shown 57% of non-immigrant Germans mistrustful of Muslims. But only small numbers had taken part in the virulent marches. How many would now join in with flags, crosses and slogans? How many right-leaning leaders would once again find their raucous voices? And how could they now be counteracted? Would the tragic shots fired in the rue Nicolas Appert echo menacingly down the Alleen and Strassen of Germany? How could we now put brakes to the locomotive of hatred, already rushing dangerously from one end of Europe to the other, spewing sparks for new conflagrations which could burn us all?
Washington DC - January 12 marks the five-year anniversary of Haiti's 2010 earthquake. The 7.0 quake killed an estimated 230,000 people, injured 300,000 more and displaced 1.5 million Haitians. The earthquake also took an enormous toll on Haiti's economy. The year before the disaster, Haiti's economy grew 3.5 percent - the year after the quake, its growth was negative 5 percent. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
"Too many people died during the earthquake because they lived in unsafe conditions," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA. "This anniversary reminds us that poverty makes natural disasters even more deadly."
As Josh Gerstein first reported, the government has just asked the judge in the Jeffrey Sterling trial, Leonie Brinkema, to declare James Risen unavailable as a witness. After having defended their own right to call Risen as a witness all the way to the Supreme Court, claiming all the way they need Risen to prove their case, they're now saying Sterling should not be able to call him.
"Mr. Risen's under-oath testimony has now laid to rest any doubt concerning whether he will ever disclose his sources or sources for Chapter 9 of State of War (or, for that matter, anything else he's written). He will not. As a result, the government does not intend to call him as a witness at trial. Doing so would simply frustrate the truth-seeking function of the trial. This is true irrespective of whether he is called by the government or the defense–he is unavailable to both parties."
The Black Lives Matter protests have moved at such a swift pace in recent months that's it's hard for me to be certain when I first heard that a national call had been issued, and that January 15th would be a day of action aimed at reclaiming the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. What I do remember clearly is what a young black organizer said as it was brought up in my presence for the first time: "If we're reclaiming his radical legacy, I'm in."
Chicago's young black organizers, who have mobilized with great speed and ingenuity since nationwide protests erupted in August, have been especially creative in their tactics and radical in their messaging. While some of the language employed in their chants and speak outs has included talk of indicting police officers like Darren Wilson, youth organizers from BYP 100 and We Charge Genocide, among others, have also broadened the dialogue around police violence to include the language of de-incarceration, transformative justice, and calls for an all out systems change.
2015's opening offers an appropriate time to examine high technology and its development of weapons of mass destruction and other threats to the Earth. My own background to write about these issues includes being raised in the Southern military family that gave its name to Ft. Bliss, Texas. I served briefly as an officer in the US Army, resigned my commission to protest the American War on Vietnam, and have engaged in an extensive study of the military. This includes teaching courses on "War and Peace" at Sonoma State University and contributing chapters and poems to half a dozen books on war.
The United States military has long had the fastest and most powerful supercomputers. The New York Times reported on June 9, 2008, that the military's "new machine is more than twice as fast as the previous fastest supercomputer, the IBV Blue Gen/L, which is based at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory," a national security and weapons center.
We need to slow the TPP (Trans Pacific Pact) approval process down until after the 2016 elections. After the final full terms are made public, the voters should decide this issue using our democratic electoral processes. We need this to be a campaign issue in the Senate, House and Presidential elections. It will increase voter turnout (which is good for American democracy) and give the decision real legitimacy.
There are many stakeholders in this deal. Large international corporations, domestic corporations, small businesses, American workers, farmers, consumers, citizens who care about the environment, those with intellectual property, citizens concerned with food safety, those concerned with preserving control of our economy as expressed via our democratic elections, taxpayers and many more elements of our society are stakeholders. Most of these stakeholders have been largely left out of the secretive process of drafting the TPP trade pact.