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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.

Mar 24

The Need for Wisdom

By Marcus Peter Ford, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Kevin Carey's new book, The End of College, is subtitled, "Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere." The University of Everywhere, however, could just as easily be called the University of Nowhere because it exists only on the internet.

Minerva University, named after the Roman goddess of Wisdom, is just this type of university. Minerva is the brain-child of multi-millionaire and former Snapfish president, Ben Nelson. As a freshman at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Nelson concluded that there was a more rational way to structure higher education, one predicated on certain modes of analysis and skills. All students should be required to take the same courses their freshmen year - formal analysis (mathematics); empirical analysis (science); complex system (social sciences), and multimodal communication (writing, rhetoric, and public speaking). These four courses constitute to the basis of all subsequent study at Minerva.

At 9:15 am on March 19, the 12th anniversary of the U.S.’ illegal invasion of Iraq, seven members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars shut the main gate of the Hancock Drone Base (near Syracuse, NY) with a giant copy of the UN Charter and three other giant books – Dirty Wars (Jeremy Scahill), Living Under Drones (NYU and Stanford Law Schools), and You Never Die Twice (Reprieve). 

The nonviolent activists also held a banner quoting Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, stating that every treaty signed becomes the supreme law of the land. They brought the books to Hancock to remind everyone at the base of the signed treaties that prohibit the killing of civilians and assassinations of human beings.

2015 0323speakoutaslice Frances Crowe turned 96 last week. 96 Years which brought her along the way to where she stands now, a Woman who in the last 4-5 decades has gathered all of her efforts into the service of Peace. In 2014 I painted the 8 foot high Portrait of Frances Crowe, beginning in the early Summer months and completing the Portrait as the year turned. I wanted to enter into a deep investigation of what qualities and experiences might create a person who uses so much of their lives almost exclusively in the service of something as elusive as Peace. I also wanted to revisit and recommit myself to this Justice Movement known as Peace, in a way that did not look back nostalgically to the 60’s and 70’s but which brought Peace fully into this time as one of the most important issues intersecting with all others. I think honestly I had written off Peace as something that would never coexist with us in this age and perhaps not in those after it. I doubt Frances spends much time in dreamy pondering as this Artist so often does, she is on the move, in action even when she is standing still.

Mar 23

Israel Goes to the Polls: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Elections are public windows onto national hopes and concerns, and this was certainly the case with the March 2015 voting in Israel. You just have to look through that window with analytical eyes to assess those national yearnings in their essential details. 

At first glance the campaigning suggested that most Israelis were focused on economics. This would not be unusual. Just about all democratic elections are fought over bread and butter issues, and Israel has evolved into a society that is harshly divided between haves and have-nots. However, as it turned out, this campaign theme could not have been of primary importance. This is so because the man who symbolizes the dysfunctional economic status quo, Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi), actually won the election. Indeed his hard-right Likud Party improved its position in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, from 19 to 30 seats. Obviously, something else was motivating the Israeli voter. What was it? 

As I write this, Pacific Islanders in Vanuatu are left picking up the pieces after the worst natural disaster in recent memory ripped through the region. Vanuatu's president referred to Cyclone Pam as a "monster," a storm that singlehandedly leveled the capital city leaving at least sixteen confirmed dead and countless others displaced.

Closer to home, Boston is still digging out from its snowiest winter on record. Meanwhile, drought continues to plague California, and a NASA scientist recently warned the state has just one year of water supply left in its reservoirs.

Washington, DC - U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), and more than 100 members of Congress today introduced the Voter Empowerment Act, which would upgrade voter registration and bring America's election system into the 21st century.

The bill comes two weeks after President Obama called on Congress to honor the legacy of Selma — which galvanized support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act - by working to expand access to the polls. Five decades later, the U.S. Supreme Court has gutted the Act's key provision, and there is a new nationwide push to restrict voting.

New York, NY – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications, concludes a new report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

What Went Wrong with the FISA Court finds that dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceCourt (FISA Court) since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.

The conversation on race in our country is changing. Once a subject left to be discussed by civil rights leaders, organizers and a few non-profits, race is now a topic for many. Names like Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and so many more have led to widespread conversations on race. The numerous anniversaries marking milestones of the Civil Rights Movement and, yes, that the President IS Black also factor in to discussions about the rolerace and racism play in our society.

Yesterday we saw a relatively new entrant into the discussion: Starbucks, in a partnership with USA Today. Starbucks has committed to socially conscious practices in the past including hiring vets, banning open weapons in their stores, and supporting gay marriage. A public dialog on race is new for Starbucks. While we applaud Starbucks for their effort to engage a topic that many seek to avoid, and while their efforts seem well intentioned, we, as a national racial justice organization, with a name similar to the hashtag used in the campaign feel compelled to say: As a nation, we need more.

On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee scheduled to hold a hearing on the 'The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,' which, if passed, would overhaul how the federal government regulates chemicals. The bill is a product of negotiations between Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who introduced the bill last week. A new MapLight analysis of campaign contributions and lobbying spending has found that the chemical industry, which strongly supports the new legislation, has dramatically expanded its political spending in recent years.

The chemical industry's top spenders have ramped up their campaign contributions as Congress has started overhauling the government's chemical regulations. During the 2014 election cycle, for instance, the top 10 chemical companies and organizations*, including 3M and the American Chemistry Council among others, contributed more than $1 million to current members of the Senate, including to all 17 senators who sponsored or cosponsored the Udall/Vitter legislation.

According to Glen Stewart, a former lawyer with the Community and Legal Aid Services Program whose service area includes the Jane-Finch community, "Concerns around policing were one of the focal points (31 years ago) and, unfortunately, they've never really gone away. Recently there have been some incidents where youth have been subjects of violence at the hands of police. That, I think, has brought concerns to the forefront again."

In 2002, a survey of youth's sense of safety in the Jane-Finch, Malvern, Regent Park and Parkdale communities identified police violence and drug trade activities as their principal fears.

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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.

Mar 24

The Need for Wisdom

By Marcus Peter Ford, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Kevin Carey's new book, The End of College, is subtitled, "Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere." The University of Everywhere, however, could just as easily be called the University of Nowhere because it exists only on the internet.

Minerva University, named after the Roman goddess of Wisdom, is just this type of university. Minerva is the brain-child of multi-millionaire and former Snapfish president, Ben Nelson. As a freshman at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Nelson concluded that there was a more rational way to structure higher education, one predicated on certain modes of analysis and skills. All students should be required to take the same courses their freshmen year - formal analysis (mathematics); empirical analysis (science); complex system (social sciences), and multimodal communication (writing, rhetoric, and public speaking). These four courses constitute to the basis of all subsequent study at Minerva.

At 9:15 am on March 19, the 12th anniversary of the U.S.’ illegal invasion of Iraq, seven members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars shut the main gate of the Hancock Drone Base (near Syracuse, NY) with a giant copy of the UN Charter and three other giant books – Dirty Wars (Jeremy Scahill), Living Under Drones (NYU and Stanford Law Schools), and You Never Die Twice (Reprieve). 

The nonviolent activists also held a banner quoting Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, stating that every treaty signed becomes the supreme law of the land. They brought the books to Hancock to remind everyone at the base of the signed treaties that prohibit the killing of civilians and assassinations of human beings.

2015 0323speakoutaslice Frances Crowe turned 96 last week. 96 Years which brought her along the way to where she stands now, a Woman who in the last 4-5 decades has gathered all of her efforts into the service of Peace. In 2014 I painted the 8 foot high Portrait of Frances Crowe, beginning in the early Summer months and completing the Portrait as the year turned. I wanted to enter into a deep investigation of what qualities and experiences might create a person who uses so much of their lives almost exclusively in the service of something as elusive as Peace. I also wanted to revisit and recommit myself to this Justice Movement known as Peace, in a way that did not look back nostalgically to the 60’s and 70’s but which brought Peace fully into this time as one of the most important issues intersecting with all others. I think honestly I had written off Peace as something that would never coexist with us in this age and perhaps not in those after it. I doubt Frances spends much time in dreamy pondering as this Artist so often does, she is on the move, in action even when she is standing still.

Mar 23

Israel Goes to the Polls: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Elections are public windows onto national hopes and concerns, and this was certainly the case with the March 2015 voting in Israel. You just have to look through that window with analytical eyes to assess those national yearnings in their essential details. 

At first glance the campaigning suggested that most Israelis were focused on economics. This would not be unusual. Just about all democratic elections are fought over bread and butter issues, and Israel has evolved into a society that is harshly divided between haves and have-nots. However, as it turned out, this campaign theme could not have been of primary importance. This is so because the man who symbolizes the dysfunctional economic status quo, Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi), actually won the election. Indeed his hard-right Likud Party improved its position in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, from 19 to 30 seats. Obviously, something else was motivating the Israeli voter. What was it? 

As I write this, Pacific Islanders in Vanuatu are left picking up the pieces after the worst natural disaster in recent memory ripped through the region. Vanuatu's president referred to Cyclone Pam as a "monster," a storm that singlehandedly leveled the capital city leaving at least sixteen confirmed dead and countless others displaced.

Closer to home, Boston is still digging out from its snowiest winter on record. Meanwhile, drought continues to plague California, and a NASA scientist recently warned the state has just one year of water supply left in its reservoirs.

Washington, DC - U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.), and more than 100 members of Congress today introduced the Voter Empowerment Act, which would upgrade voter registration and bring America's election system into the 21st century.

The bill comes two weeks after President Obama called on Congress to honor the legacy of Selma — which galvanized support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act - by working to expand access to the polls. Five decades later, the U.S. Supreme Court has gutted the Act's key provision, and there is a new nationwide push to restrict voting.

New York, NY – The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications, concludes a new report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

What Went Wrong with the FISA Court finds that dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceCourt (FISA Court) since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.

The conversation on race in our country is changing. Once a subject left to be discussed by civil rights leaders, organizers and a few non-profits, race is now a topic for many. Names like Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and so many more have led to widespread conversations on race. The numerous anniversaries marking milestones of the Civil Rights Movement and, yes, that the President IS Black also factor in to discussions about the rolerace and racism play in our society.

Yesterday we saw a relatively new entrant into the discussion: Starbucks, in a partnership with USA Today. Starbucks has committed to socially conscious practices in the past including hiring vets, banning open weapons in their stores, and supporting gay marriage. A public dialog on race is new for Starbucks. While we applaud Starbucks for their effort to engage a topic that many seek to avoid, and while their efforts seem well intentioned, we, as a national racial justice organization, with a name similar to the hashtag used in the campaign feel compelled to say: As a nation, we need more.

On Wednesday, March 18, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee scheduled to hold a hearing on the 'The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,' which, if passed, would overhaul how the federal government regulates chemicals. The bill is a product of negotiations between Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who introduced the bill last week. A new MapLight analysis of campaign contributions and lobbying spending has found that the chemical industry, which strongly supports the new legislation, has dramatically expanded its political spending in recent years.

The chemical industry's top spenders have ramped up their campaign contributions as Congress has started overhauling the government's chemical regulations. During the 2014 election cycle, for instance, the top 10 chemical companies and organizations*, including 3M and the American Chemistry Council among others, contributed more than $1 million to current members of the Senate, including to all 17 senators who sponsored or cosponsored the Udall/Vitter legislation.

According to Glen Stewart, a former lawyer with the Community and Legal Aid Services Program whose service area includes the Jane-Finch community, "Concerns around policing were one of the focal points (31 years ago) and, unfortunately, they've never really gone away. Recently there have been some incidents where youth have been subjects of violence at the hands of police. That, I think, has brought concerns to the forefront again."

In 2002, a survey of youth's sense of safety in the Jane-Finch, Malvern, Regent Park and Parkdale communities identified police violence and drug trade activities as their principal fears.