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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.

Relations between the U.S. and Brazil have been in the doghouse since documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that Brazil was one of the biggest targets of NSA spying. The abuses included mass collection of millions of Brazilians’ email and phone records, spying on President Dilma Rousseff’s personal communications, and targeting the computer systems of Brazil's Petrobras – the latter with obvious commercial benefits for U.S. corporations.

Dilma summed it all up rather succinctly in a blunt speech at the United Nations last September, denouncing “a situation of grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties; of invasion and capture of confidential information concerning corporate activities, and especially of disrespect to national sovereignty.”

The problem of long wait times for veterans seeking care at some (but not all) Veterans Health Administration facilities has been front-page news for the past several weeks, and seems to be resulting in an unusually prompt response from a normally gridlocked Congress. The wait times and the consequent attempts to cover them up seem to have multiple causes.

First, there is the uneven but growing demand for some types of services, resulting from casualties suffered in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Then there are predictable increases in the demand for services due to the aging of veterans from past military conflicts. This increased demand has been somewhat but not completely offset by the attrition in the number of veterans from past wars due to normal mortality as they age.

Far-call'd our navies melt away—

On dune and headland sinks the fire—

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget, lest we forget!

--Rudyard Kipling

TOKYO – On March 29, 2014, the Japan Times (JP), which collaborates with the New York Times, enabled a de facto war criminal, a compulsive liar, and a disgraceful former statesmen going around soliciting in Nippon. Tony Blair, the ex-prime minister of Britain, who is (co-)responsible for the violent occupation of Iraq, published a pathetic moral piece entitled 'The ideology of those who kidnap schoolgirls' [1].

A federal judge has been asked to compel sworn testimony from the military prison boss who confiscated the wheelchair of a disabled hunger-striker at Guantánamo Bay.

Lawyers representing Syrian prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab filed a motion last night to question Colonel John Bogdan under oath in Dhiab v Obama, which challenges force-feeding practices at the prison.  In the same motion, they also request the sworn testimony of Guantánamo’s current and former head doctors about Mr. Dhiab’s need for a wheelchair, as well as current abusive and medically unsound force-feeding practices at the prison.

That chant alone is enough to demonstrate the ugly sectarian nature of the war in Iraq, which has reached an unprecedented highpoint in recent days. Fewer than 1,000 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) advanced against Iraq's largest city of Mosul on June 10, sending two Iraqi army divisions (nearly 30,000 soldiers) to a chaotic retreat.

The call to arms was made by a statement issued by Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and read on his behalf during a Friday prayer's sermon in Kerbala. "People who are capable of carrying arms and fighting the terrorists in defense of their country (..) should volunteer to join the security forces to achieve this sacred goal," the statement in part read.

Washington DC - In reaction to an adverse Supreme Court ruling against Argentina, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that Argentina would offer new bonds to its creditors governed under Argentine law. The proposed debt swap would involve the 92% of the country's creditors that agreed to restructure in the wake of the country's 2001 default. While the debt swap proposes an alternative for the South American country to avoid paying hold-outs, it fails to reverse the global implications on debt markets, debt restructuring and financial stability.

"Argentina may have a way to avoid paying the hedge funds but it won't change how the court precedent equips predatory funds with a powerful ruling to force the poorest countries into submission," stated Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious anti-poverty organization Jubilee USA. "The impact of this ruling stretches far beyond Argentina."

Washington - As President Obama prepares to speak to the needs of working women during the White House Summit on Working Families, a new report from public policy organization Demos highlights the role the federal government plays in the growing problem of income inequality. The new research reveals that the U.S. government is the largest funder of low-wage jobs for women through contracts, loans, concession agreements, and leases. Women make up 7 in 10 of low-wage federally-contracted workers. But the report also points to a chance for the President to put more than 20 million low-wage women, men, and their families on the path to the middle class with the stroke of a pen.

"Today, addressing the needs of women in the workplace means addressing the needs of low-wage workers," said Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women at the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). "That is because women make up the lion's share of workers in low-wage jobs—indeed, women are 76 percent of workers earning $10.10 per hour or less. And 35 percent of women's job gains during the recovery have been in the ten largest low-wage occupations – as compared to 18 percent of men's."

Jun 21

Who is Watching the Watchers?

By John St. Lawrence, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

There needs to be a national conversation about an emerging police state, and who is watching the watchers. We either do not understand what is happening or refuse to acknowledge it.

A police state is more insidious than ubiquitous surveillance and jackbooted thugs pushing people around. It is a state where people not only have to watch what they say but have no legal recourse or redress when those in authority violate and publicly flaunt the rule of law and willfully abuse their oaths of office. It is when the institutions of state power, and its monopoly on the use of armed force, are used to control and suppress the populace. It is a state that is at war with its people.

Here's how the world will be different after final ratification of the constitutional amendment today approved by the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee:

The 28th Amendment will give Congress and the states authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of campaign funds, eliminating various barriers and obstacles imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court. It will overturn Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC, among other Supreme Court decisions that have facilitated the rise of a de facto oligarchy.

Washington, DC - Over the past four decades, women have played increasingly important roles as breadwinners in their families. At the same time, women's share of unpaid care work and housework has remained high. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), "Women, Working Families, and Unions," explores the role unions play in addressing the challenges facing working women and families in balancing their work and family responsibilities. The paper looks at trends in unionization for women; the impact of unions on wages, benefits and access to family and medical leave; and the role of unions in addressing work-life balance issues.

"There are few other interventions known to improve the prospects for better pay, benefits and workplace flexibility as much as unions do. Anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers and working families should also care about unions," states Nicole Woo, a co-author of the report.