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.
As I enter my 17th year of teaching in Pomona, California, I have learned much about the profession. But, a recent Facebook encounter with former students forced me to reflect deeply about the road ahead for the teaching profession amidst an emerging online world.
Pomona is a working class city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County and a paradox of the California Dream. It was a city that had reached its apex during the post-World War II period and became a darling of suburban California. Once home to a thriving defense industry, its fall from grace came in the wake of the end of the Cold War, shuttering the city’s main economic engine, General Dynamics. The city’s retail centers began to recede as middle income families slowly left.
To some, US secretary of state John Kerry may have appeared to be a genuine peacemaker as he floated around ideas during a Cairo visit on 25 July about a ceasefire between Israel and resisting Palestinian fighters in Gaza. But behind his measured diplomatic language, there is a truth not even America’s top diplomat can easily hide. His country is very much involved in fighting this dirty war on Gaza that has killed over 1,050, injured thousands more, and destroyed much of an already poor, dilapidated space that is barely inhabitable to begin with.
US economic and military aid to Israel is measured annually in the billions, and the US government continues to be Israel’s strongest and most ardent ally and political benefactor. In fact, the US-Israel “special relationship” is getting more “special” by the day even though Israel is sinking further into the abyss of a well-deserved isolation.
Two discoveries are changing our world in a good way: one, much of what we think is wrong in the world gets its start in and is a product of our brain. Two, there is a lot we can do to change the brain without a single operation or drug. Many of the ways that you can make yourself better and the world better at the same time are by getting to know yourself and getting over yourself. It is a life’s journey toward worthy service in the world, but really it is your brain’s journey toward renewal.
According to reports from Washington, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) may come up for a vote in the Senate (again) this week. The last time it came up, two years ago, it did not pass.
On the face of it, the Convention does not seem in conflict with American laws or values. The core principles spelled out in the Convention are respect for the inherent dignity of all persons, the right to individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, non-discrimination against persons on the basis of disabilities, full participation and inclusion in society, equality of opportunity, accessibility, respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities, and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
With the July 17 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine turning a local civil war into a U.S. confrontation with Russia, former U.S. intelligence veterans urge President Obama to release what evidence he has about the tragedy and silence the hyperbole.
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Intelligence on Shoot-Down of Malaysian Plane
In a May 12 letter published on AlterNet, two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and over 100 scholars, journalists and human rights activists called on Human Rights Watch to close its revolving door to the U.S. government. On June 3, HRW published a response from executive director Kenneth Roth on its website, arguing that their “concern is misplaced.” In a June 11 debate on Democracy Now!, HRW Counsel and Spokesman Reed Brody similarly rejected their recommendations. Now, Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel join fellow signatories Richard Falk (United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories from 2008-14) and Hans von Sponeck (UN Assistant Secretary General from 1998-2000) in demanding that their proposals be taken seriously, and additionally, that HRW remove former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana from its Board of Directors.
Although charter schools must, by Florida law, be overseen by a non -profit board of directors, there are many ways in which for-profit organizations have begun to highjack the charter school movement. For-profit management companies frequently provide everything from back office operations including payroll, contracting with vendors for food services, textbook, etc., to hiring principals and teachers and curriculum control; so what was sold to parents and children as a local public education innovation now looks more like national charter-chains, the “Waltmartization” of public education. According to education expert Diane Ravitch, “nearly half of all charter school students are enrolled in a charter chain school” in the United States. The top four charter operators in Florida for 2011-2012 were Academica (72), Charter Schools USA (37), Charter School Associates (20), and Imagine Schools (23). These are not the small, locally run experimental schools envisioned by the original legislation.
Today, more than 140 international legal experts and human rights defenders from around the world, among them former UN independent experts and leading law professors, issued a joint declaration denouncing the grave violations and “disrespect of the most basic principles of the laws of armed conflict and of the fundamental rights of the entire Palestinian population” during the ongoing Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, and calling for the international community, including the UN, Arab League, EU and the US, to establish clear mechanisms for accountability for international law violations. “Accountability cannot again be sidelined and stigmatized to serve political interests, our interests must be the protection of civilians and peace”, says Professor John Dugard, former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
“Once again it is the unarmed civilian population, the ‘protected persons’ under International humanitarian law (IHL), which is in the eye of the storm, victimized in the name of a falsely construed right to self-defence, invoked after an escalation of violence provoked in the face of the entire international community,” says the Joint Declaration.
My mom is in jail tonight with a $10,000.00 bail for delivering a war crimes indictment and people’s order of protection to Hancock Air Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing which pilots killer drones over Afghanistan. “That’s crazy!” you might say, and it is. Or others may say, “Well, she did do that and knew she would be arrested.” Stop and think about that statement, though. Isn’t that still crazy because what she was doing was a perfectly peaceful and legitimate action, protected by our constitution? My mother was practicing her first amendment right to petition her government for redress of grievances. For that she was handcuffed, taken to court, arraigned on criminal charges, given a $10,000.00 bail, and locked up in the Syracuse Justice Center- a notoriously freezing cold and cruel environment. If your mother were mowing her lawn or bringing cookies over to the neighbors and that happened to her you would say that was crazy, madness. Well, I do not argue that I’ve just given anything near to a stellar analogy there, but my point is simply this: If you say that you’re not shocked and upset by what has happened to my mother after she peacefully held a sign outside of a military installation, then perhaps we should all take a step back and analyze what we accept these days as normal, as given. This is crazy.
The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (with participation from England, France, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, USA, Canada and Australia) condemns the ongoing Israeli military assault on Palestinian civilians in Gaza, denounces the failure of the international community to stop the assault, and renews its opposition to the Israeli economic blockade on Palestinians in Gaza as well as the collaboration of other governments.
We note that the demand to lift the blockade is a central feature of talks on ending the violence, and that governments who reject the blockade should use their influence now to ensure that an agreement that ends the violence, also ends the destructive blockade.