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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.

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focussed on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4. 

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Einstein said, “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”

This week the world is intently watching developments in Syria hoping and praying for a peaceful solution.  As the United Nations convenes its 68th general assembly there is a strong push for peace and hope that the UN can realize one of its most important missions, the prevention of war. All nations and particular those of the Security Council have an opportunity and obligation to promote this process. Ultimately the outcome of this crisis affects the fate of the planet.  In adherence to international law with the ban on the use of chemical weapons and holding accountable those who use them we see parallels when it comes to the greatest existential threat we face, the use of nuclear weapons.  This is a time for leadership by example.

Sep 23

Enough DeLay: Do the Crime, Serve the Time

By Sam Jewler and Angela Bradbery, Public Citizen | Op-Ed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By appealing today’s reversal of the conviction of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas is taking the step necessary to ensure that justice is done, Public Citizen said today.

Public Citizen and Texans for Public Justice provided then-Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle with much of the information on which DeLay’s conviction was based. The organizations compiled records of all the funds raised by DeLay’s state PAC (TRMPAC) and other committees, and provided evidence that DeLay did not raise enough non-corporate money to account for all the funds he laundered into the 2002 redistricting election.

The picture that emerged as the case unfolded was of a calculated operation designed specifically to undermine the will of voters.

This report discusses the use of prison bed occupancy guarantee clauses in prison privatization contracts and explores how bed occupancy guarantees undermine criminal justice policy and democratic, accountable government. The report sheds light on the for-profit private prison industry’s reliance on high prison populations, and how these occupancy guarantee provisions directly benefit its bottom line. Also discussed are the prevalence of bed guarantee clauses, drawing on set of contracts that ITPI obtained through state open records requests. We also address how occupancy guarantees have harmed states, focusing on the experiences of Arizona, Colorado, and Ohio — three states that have agreed to these provisions to detrimental consequences. Lastly, the report discusses our recommendation that governments can and should reject prison occupancy guarantees.

Half a year into Obama's second term, it has become clear what has been done under his watch. He brought to the world continued and unprosecuted massive banking fraud, drone attacks, indefinite detention, assassination of US citizens and an unprecedented war on whistleblowers. The rhetoric of hope and change has finally and undeniably revealed its true colors. Prominent dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky remarked how Obama's assault on civil liberties has progressed beyond anything he could have imagined. All of these telltale signs mark the slippery slide toward totalitarianism that seems to now be escalating.

Sep 22

What Will It Take To End the Suffering in Syria?

By Michael Z Youhana, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Americans concerned about the crisis in Syria should consider an insightful quote from an August 31 op-ed by the Brookings Institution's H.A. Hellyer: "Give the people of Syria a better choice than one type of madness over another." One madness being the Obama administration's proposed strikes in Syria, the other being a perpetuation the status quo, which entails the steady escalation of violence in Syria.

For the time being, ostensibly punitive but practically aimless US strikes in Syria have been halted in favor of the widely publicized plan to confiscate the Assad regime's chemical weapons. The international reputations of both Obama and Putin are left essentially intact, along with the grinding, miserable status quo that is Syria's brutal civil war and unsustainable refugee crisis. Madness still reigns in Syria and Hellyer is right to argue that Syrians should be granted "a better choice."

In this moment in which the public will and a bit of nerve in Congress have made refusing to let a president launch a bunch of missiles into a foreign country a reality and therefore mainstream and respectable (rather than vaguely treasonous as it might have been widely understood a decade ago or depicted by the corporate media a couple of weeks ago), there are signs of possible wider outbreaks of sanity.

"If fully implemented in dozens of sites throughout Syria, this effort to secure the chemical weapons would amount to a cease-fire, with a large U.N. peacekeeping force deployed.  In the best of circumstances, this could lead to convening the Geneva peace conference, perhaps including Iran, that could end the conflict."  Jimmy Carter, "The World Now Has a Chance to End War in Syria," from Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution:  Jacksonian America, 1815-1846.

 [1813 and] 1815 opened with the fate of the American republic – and worldwide republicanism – hanging in the balance. A pall of chill, ashes, and gloom lay over muddy little Washington. Burned out of the Capital, congressmen found standing room in a patent office spared by British invaders' reverence for technology. Amid blackened rubble, they dreaded news from every direction.

“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society.”  Karl Marx
 
The “back to the basics” movement is here, again. Doesn’t this remind you of the 1980s? In response to the overall dissatisfaction with the programs popularized in the 60s, declining test scores and disruptive classrooms, Ronald Reagan called us to action.  A Nation at Risk warned, “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”
Sep 20

Nina Davuluri is America's Future

By Andrew Lam, Truthout | Op-Ed

Nina Davuluri is the first Indian-American to hold the title of Miss America and it should be something for all Americans to celebrate. Her story, after all, is one of the more optimistic news about immigration in recent times. Alas, it's a victory marred by waves of racist backlash in social media. Davuluri is called a "terrorist," and derogatory references to convenience stores - "Miss 7-11" -- and Muslims are mentioned. But the biggest complaint? Miss America should be more "American."