Wednesday, 02 September 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

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.

In mid-September, UN member states are expected to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which picks up where the Millennium Development Goals left off. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, announcing the Agenda recently [Aug 3] after several years of lead-up and negotiations, called it the UN's "to-do list" for the next 15 years.

But the 2030 Agenda isn't likely to be achieved, at least not through the related financing agreement that member states adopted a few weeks before. This Third Conference on Financing for Development concluded its meeting in Addis Ababa with a bad-faith plan that resulted from political manipulation and closed-door deals. It failed to get meaningful commitments from governments to deliver policies that further inclusive growth or provide adequate funding for equitable social services.

Last week, the European Commission 'released' very heavily redacted documents (See the documents here) concerning their contacts with the tobacco industry on EU trade negotiations, including the ongoing EU-Japan and EU-US trade talks (TTIP). In all four documents (correspondence with and minutes of meetings with tobacco lobbyists) virtually all the content is removed (blacked out) including the names of all tobacco lobbyists and Commission officials involved. In a 14-page letter from British American Tobacco, for instance, less then 5% of the text is visible (a few fairly meaningless sentences about introductory and closing remarks). In a one-page summary of a meeting with Philip Morris even the date of the meeting is removed and there is no mention of which trade negotiations were discussed. The Commission describes this as "partial access".

Sep 01

Unequal Access to Local News Undermines Democracy

By Peter Montague, Speakout | News Analysis

A new report on community access to local news in New Jersey has revealed one more way democracy is being undermined by economic inequality: Judging by access to critical local news and information, poor communities are "dramatically under-served" compared to wealthier ones, the report concludes.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has described "critical information" that community residents must have for democracy to work - and this study reveals how low income communities and communities of color are being shut out. 

Imagine getting a "gratuity deduction" on taxes for tips at restaurants, barbershops, taxis, apartment maintenance staffers or governmental services (state, federal, local) rendered to us. Or "gifts" to expedite any kind of license, permit or ear of a public official. Or, if the move were to go global, reimbursements to the rural poor for having to pay private water companies.

Equally, why not permit a deduction for companies now forced to pad bids as "business expenses" to win government contracts? Collectively, they'd save themselves (and taxpayers) billions and perhaps become welcome low bidders. Or why not a deduction, say, to US taxpayers for Pentagon payoffs ensuring safe passage for vehicles carrying supplies to mountainous outposts in Afghanistan or bribes to the locals to serving armed forces all over the world?

During times of meteorological disasters, citizens often make it a point to head to local hospitals in the hopes of finding safety from the storm. After an investigation by Consumer Reports, it has become apparent that flocking to nearby hospitals may not be the safest option, especially when so many people do it. Studies found that most hospitals have out of date generators, which are often placed in poor locations, and many other factors that could lead to complications within the building.

The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home is in court demanding immediate lifesaving medical treatment for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and we are going to win.

On Aug. 24, Mumia's lawyers Bret Grote, Legal Director of the Abolitionist Law Center, and co-counsel Robert Boyle filed a preliminary injunction in Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes with Judge Robert Mariani of the Middle District Federal US Court.

Aug 28

Trial by Fire for Ecuador's President Correa

By Jeffrey D. Pugh, Speakout | Op-Ed

Multi-colored ponchos, lime green government banners and gray and olive police armor have filled the streets of Quito and other cities in Ecuador this month. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and opposition protesters have been engaged in a war of words and displays of physical presence in public spaces since the major nonviolent challengers, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), and its allies launched a nationwide strike and march on August 13.

Activists objecting to the overgrowth of the wine/hospitality industry in rural areas of four Northern California counties have met monthly for half a year. At their August 15, meeting in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, one of the wine industry's epicenters, they agreed to name themselves Wine and Water Watch (WWW).

They ratified the following mission statement: "We challenge the over-development of the wine tourism industry and promote ethical land and water use. We advocate agricultural practices that are ecologically regenerative."

Aug 27

Let It Shine

By Kathy Kelly, Speakout | Op-Ed

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna' let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

Imagine children joyfully singing the above line that eventually became a civil rights anthem. Their innocence and happy resolve enlighten us. Yes! In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine. Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, "#Enough!"

Surgery has a rich culture, full of strengths that exceed and defy the stereotype of surgeons as privileged white men who believe they are gods. In surgery there is a shared commitment to a goal, to individual excellence but also to true teamwork, to honoring the privilege of our patients' trust, to finding problems and fixing them, to getting quickly to the heart of the matter, whatever it is. As a surgeon-in-training, I am learning how to perform operations, but I am mostly learning how to make high-stakes decisions in imperfect circumstances, and as an imperfect individual.

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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.

In mid-September, UN member states are expected to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which picks up where the Millennium Development Goals left off. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, announcing the Agenda recently [Aug 3] after several years of lead-up and negotiations, called it the UN's "to-do list" for the next 15 years.

But the 2030 Agenda isn't likely to be achieved, at least not through the related financing agreement that member states adopted a few weeks before. This Third Conference on Financing for Development concluded its meeting in Addis Ababa with a bad-faith plan that resulted from political manipulation and closed-door deals. It failed to get meaningful commitments from governments to deliver policies that further inclusive growth or provide adequate funding for equitable social services.

Last week, the European Commission 'released' very heavily redacted documents (See the documents here) concerning their contacts with the tobacco industry on EU trade negotiations, including the ongoing EU-Japan and EU-US trade talks (TTIP). In all four documents (correspondence with and minutes of meetings with tobacco lobbyists) virtually all the content is removed (blacked out) including the names of all tobacco lobbyists and Commission officials involved. In a 14-page letter from British American Tobacco, for instance, less then 5% of the text is visible (a few fairly meaningless sentences about introductory and closing remarks). In a one-page summary of a meeting with Philip Morris even the date of the meeting is removed and there is no mention of which trade negotiations were discussed. The Commission describes this as "partial access".

Sep 01

Unequal Access to Local News Undermines Democracy

By Peter Montague, Speakout | News Analysis

A new report on community access to local news in New Jersey has revealed one more way democracy is being undermined by economic inequality: Judging by access to critical local news and information, poor communities are "dramatically under-served" compared to wealthier ones, the report concludes.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has described "critical information" that community residents must have for democracy to work - and this study reveals how low income communities and communities of color are being shut out. 

Imagine getting a "gratuity deduction" on taxes for tips at restaurants, barbershops, taxis, apartment maintenance staffers or governmental services (state, federal, local) rendered to us. Or "gifts" to expedite any kind of license, permit or ear of a public official. Or, if the move were to go global, reimbursements to the rural poor for having to pay private water companies.

Equally, why not permit a deduction for companies now forced to pad bids as "business expenses" to win government contracts? Collectively, they'd save themselves (and taxpayers) billions and perhaps become welcome low bidders. Or why not a deduction, say, to US taxpayers for Pentagon payoffs ensuring safe passage for vehicles carrying supplies to mountainous outposts in Afghanistan or bribes to the locals to serving armed forces all over the world?

During times of meteorological disasters, citizens often make it a point to head to local hospitals in the hopes of finding safety from the storm. After an investigation by Consumer Reports, it has become apparent that flocking to nearby hospitals may not be the safest option, especially when so many people do it. Studies found that most hospitals have out of date generators, which are often placed in poor locations, and many other factors that could lead to complications within the building.

The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home is in court demanding immediate lifesaving medical treatment for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and we are going to win.

On Aug. 24, Mumia's lawyers Bret Grote, Legal Director of the Abolitionist Law Center, and co-counsel Robert Boyle filed a preliminary injunction in Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes with Judge Robert Mariani of the Middle District Federal US Court.

Aug 28

Trial by Fire for Ecuador's President Correa

By Jeffrey D. Pugh, Speakout | Op-Ed

Multi-colored ponchos, lime green government banners and gray and olive police armor have filled the streets of Quito and other cities in Ecuador this month. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and opposition protesters have been engaged in a war of words and displays of physical presence in public spaces since the major nonviolent challengers, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), and its allies launched a nationwide strike and march on August 13.

Activists objecting to the overgrowth of the wine/hospitality industry in rural areas of four Northern California counties have met monthly for half a year. At their August 15, meeting in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, one of the wine industry's epicenters, they agreed to name themselves Wine and Water Watch (WWW).

They ratified the following mission statement: "We challenge the over-development of the wine tourism industry and promote ethical land and water use. We advocate agricultural practices that are ecologically regenerative."

Aug 27

Let It Shine

By Kathy Kelly, Speakout | Op-Ed

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna' let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

Imagine children joyfully singing the above line that eventually became a civil rights anthem. Their innocence and happy resolve enlighten us. Yes! In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine. Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, "#Enough!"

Surgery has a rich culture, full of strengths that exceed and defy the stereotype of surgeons as privileged white men who believe they are gods. In surgery there is a shared commitment to a goal, to individual excellence but also to true teamwork, to honoring the privilege of our patients' trust, to finding problems and fixing them, to getting quickly to the heart of the matter, whatever it is. As a surgeon-in-training, I am learning how to perform operations, but I am mostly learning how to make high-stakes decisions in imperfect circumstances, and as an imperfect individual.