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.
Last week the Seattle School District told my kindergarten son to take the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.
Given my intense relationship with this specific standardized test--an exam that has forever altered the course of my life--this was a particularly unsettling moment for me. As an authentic assessment activist, I had helped organize a boycott of this test at Seattle's Garfield High School, I edited the book More Than a Score to tell the story of this movement against the MAP and the subsequent uprising against high-stakes testing, and I speak regularly around the country to share the lessons of the movement to "Scrap the MAP."
It's not often that private individuals take on the entire State Department and win resounding victories in courts. It's even rarer for the Justice Department to receive scathing legal judgments issued against it that openly accuse top-level employees of orchestrating politically motivated trials on sham charges. Yet this is exactly what happened last month when an Austrian High Court judge refused to hand over to the FBI one Dmitry Firtash, Ukrainian billionaire, after finding that there had been improper political interference from the US in the matter.
Essentially, the case revolves around supposed bribes given in 2006 by Firtash and his associates to Indian officials to launch a titanium project – a project that never materialized. After a grueling 13 hour hearing, Judge Christoph Bauer argued in his final decision that the case was "politically motivated" and rested solely on the testimony of two anonymous witnesses whom the FBI refused to show before the court (the Judge questioned whether those individuals were even real). He then accepted the line of defense put forth by Firtash, and acknowledged that the United States "attempted to pressure the President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich, into accepting Ukrainian association with the European Union" and that "America obviously saw Firtash as somebody who was threatening their economic interests."
The international community is extraordinarily concerned about the Chinese construction on small islands and atolls in disputed waters off China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan. Over the past 18 months, the Chinese government has created islands out of atolls and larger islands out of small ones.
With the Obama administration's "pivot" of the United States military and economic strategy to Asia and the Pacific, the Chinese have seen military construction in their front yard.
Galvanized by the recent, violent murder of a woman by a man she hardly knew in broad daylight in a populated, public space, women's rights activists in Argentina have revived the slogan that began in Mexico in response to the mass killings of young women in Ciudad Juárez. Ni una mujer menos, ni una muerta más (not one less woman, not one more female death) was the cry when the murders reached their apex in 1996 when eight dead women and girls were found in Juárez, where the yearly death toll due to femicide reached 304 in 2010 and continues unabated and largely unreported. Those words were spoken by Susana Chávez Castillo, a local poetry prodigy who met the same fate when she took a simple walk in her neighbourhood to visit some friends. Her mutilated body was found on January 6, 2011. In Argentina, they are saying, Ni una menos, not one less female, because every woman and girl's life matters.
In yet another huge victory for marijuana reform, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted today by 20 to 10 to approve an amendment offered by Senator Mikulski (D-MD) to protect state medical marijuana laws from federal interference by the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration. The amendment mirrors one that passed the House last week 242-186, and was sponsored by Rep Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep Farr (D-CA).
“What we’re witnessing today are the death throes of the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” said Michael Collins, Policy Manager at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Last week the House sent a resounding message to the DEA and DOJ – stop the interference and let states legalize medical marijuana. Today, the Senate echoed that message.”
Greetings of peace to all especially to the courageous and joyous women who are gathered here today calling for Peace and Reunification of Korea! Let me also convey to you the warm wishes of solidarity from GABRIELA Philippines and the International Women's Alliance (IWA), a global alliance of grassroots women's organizations.
I am honored to speak before you today to share the experiences of Filipino women in organizing for peace in my country. I have been with the parliament of the state as representative of the Gabriela Women’s Party to the Philippine Congress for nine years and in the parliament of the streets as a feminist activist of the GABRIELA Women’s Coalition for half my lifetime. I will talk about the work of peace building of my organization, GABRIELA.
Police in McKinney, Texas are facing national outrage after one of their officers was caught on video assaulting and threatening to shoot unarmed black teenagers at a pool party. But the video does not simply show another case of excessive force, as media reports would suggest. It also reveals the significant support these tactics enjoy among white Americans – and why the responsibility for police brutality extends far beyond the trigger-happy cops themselves.
The media’s focus on lone officer Eric Casebolt, who has since resigned, serves to obscure a larger pattern of white complicity in state violence. At the McKinney pool, white residents taunted black partygoers, telling them to go back to their “Section 8” homes before attacking a black girl and calling in the police to forcibly segregate their neighborhood. Indeed, the video shows white residents assisting the police, at one point even holding back bystanders while an arrest is made. Afterward, residents posted a sign thanking the officers for keeping them safe.
During the hour that it took the world's elite G7 politicians discussing climate change to wander through an enchanting meadow of flowers in Germany's Bavarian Alps earlier this week, at least 800 people died prematurely from the impact of air pollution, most of it caused by the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels.
Wanting to show the world – particularly voters at home – that they care about the seven-million people a year dying from various pollution and carbon related causes, the leaders of the world's richest countries, including Canada, signed a joint declaration calling for a global phasing-out of fossil fuels 85 years from now.
The votes on behalf of fast track legislation in the House of Representatives don't seem to add up. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently told the New York Times, "We're not quite there, but we're getting close," regarding the vote count, while Speaker of the House John Boehner said on June 3rd, "I don't think we're quite there yet."
The razor-thin margins in the House mean that a handful of substantive provisions still up for debate could swing the margin one way or the other. For example, the provision in fast track that would cut $700 million from Medicare in order to fund Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for workers displayed by trade is generating plenty of opposition. Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan plans to address a range of other unresolved key issues via a customs enforcement bill that he plans to move separately from the fast track legislation. As Ryan's spokesman Brendan Buck recently said: "the customs and enforcement bill has always been the vehicle with which we've planned to reconcile differences between the two chambers on a range of issues."
That weekend of wealthy, powerful heads of state and other bosses high up in the Bavarian Alps, and the vigorous protests from opposing crowds kept out of earshot downhill, largely stole media thunder this past weekend. Far lower in altitude and attention, with almost no thunder from the media or otherwise, another meeting was held in less scenic West German Bielefeld. It was a congress of DIE LINKE, the Left Party. Yet a gathering of arguably the only opposition force with any real clout in Germany, with representatives of its 60,000 members, was important enough.
What media attention it did receive centered on one question: "Will he or won't he?" The "he" was Gregor Gysi. In 1989 this bald-headed little lawyer, a skilled speaker with sharp wit and tongue, played a key role, if not THE key role, in salvaging the devastated remains of the East German ruling party, the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and, instead of dissolving it, transforming it into a democratic, undogmatic organization renamed Party of Democratic Socialism, with a range of accepted different views, formerly denounced as factions.