Tuesday, 30 September 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

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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.

Washington, DC – Today, US Marine Corps whistleblower Franz Gayl and his attorneys since 2007 at the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised the Marine Corps and the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for the successful resolution of his seven-year Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) complaint.

Gayl is the Marine Corps science advisor whose disclosures ended delays in delivering the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their absence had accounted for well over half of combat deaths and other casualties in those wars, which dropped by over 90 percent after their delivery. He and another national security whistleblower, Robert MacLean, also proposed reforms that President Obama eventually adopted as Presidential Policy Directive 19. PPD 19 created free speech rights for whistleblowers making disclosures inside their agencies, outlawed retaliation through security clearance actions, and upgraded due process rights to challenge security clearance reprisals.

American officials are hailing the handfuls of European and Arab nations who have belatedly joined the anti-ISIL coalition. Yes, it’s important to defend Yazidis, Kurds, and other populations at risk, and there is no one in their immediate vicinity that needs aerial dismemberment more than ISIL.

Predictably, critics are pointing out that air strikes aren’t sufficient to control the situation on the ground. So the US is sending more weapons to those shy Syrian “moderates,” and will begin training as many of them as it can herd onto bases in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Turkish troops may defend safe havens within Syria.

On its own the Arabic word al-Nakhwa, means “gallantry.” Combined with the word “al-Arabiya” - “Arab gallantry” - the term becomes loaded with meanings, cultural and even political implications and subtext. But what is one to make of “Arab gallantry” during and after Israel’s most brutal war on Gaza between 8 July and 26 August which killed 2,163 Palestinians and wounded over 11,000 more?

Is this the end of Arab Nakhwa? Did it even ever exist?

Participants in the ambitious ten-day First Annual Sebastopol Village Building Convergence (VBC) painted murals on streets in this small Northern California town and filled the Grange Hall, the Permaculture Skills Center and other sites from September 12 to 21.

On the final day, a colorful, active parade marched from the weekly farmers' market in the downtown plaza through a newly-painted street with murals of salmon, dogs, coyote tracks, a Spirit Bird and other wildlife. Over 400 people, including many children, participated in that painting. One theme of the march was climate protection, coinciding with the People's Climate March (PCM) in New York City and elsewhere around the planet on Sept. 21.

Sep 25

Two Afghan Stories

By WJ Astore, Contrary Perspective | Op-Ed

Two Afghan stories this week suggest much about US progress in winning hearts and minds there.  The first involves Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan’s departing president, the “Mayor of Kabul,” Karzai asserted that “America did not want peace for Afghanistan, because it had its own agendas and goals here.”  It’s easy to paint Karzai as a dissembling ingrate, which is exactly what the American ambassador to Afghanistan did in response. But it truly says something that Karzai, the recipient of more than $100 billion in developmental aid from the US for Afghanistan (not including military aid!), portrays the US as working against the interests of the Afghan people.  There’s one heart and mind the US plainly didn’t win.

The second story involves three Afghan officers, one major and two captains, on a training mission at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts. The three officers, carefully vetted by US Central Command, decided they had had enough of working with America. They drove to New York and attempted to enter Canada at Niagara Falls, seeking asylum, or so it seems.  There are three more hearts and minds the US plainly didn’t win.

Oakland – Reforming California’s sentences for low-level crimes would alleviate prison and jail overcrowding, make communities safer, strengthen families, and shift resources from imprisoning people to treating them for the addictions and mental health problems at the root of many crimes, according to a study released today. 

Rehabilitating Corrections in California, a Health Impact Assessment of reforms proposed by a state ballot initiative, predicts the changes would reduce crime, recidivism, racial inequities in sentencing, and save the state and its counties $600 million to $900 million a year – but only if treatment and rehabilitation programs are fully funded and implemented properly.

Sep 25

A Tipping Point for the Good

By William C. Baker, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

We've known for a long time that the Earth is warming, but it could be worse than we thought. A recent report from the World Meteorological Association concludes that carbon pollution and the buildup of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are increasing much faster than projected. And this pollution is putting communities across the country at a higher risk of droughts, intense storms, floods, and other problems brought on by global warming.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, we're on the front lines of climate change. Streets in Norfolk, Virginia, home to nearly a quarter of a million people and the world's largest naval base, routinely flood during heavy rains. Wind- and wave-pushed storm surges make the flooding even worse. And scientists estimate sea levels in Norfolk will rise another foot and a half within the next 50 years. 

The US is racing down a slippery slope towards war in Iraq and Syria. Since Aug. 8, the US has conducted more than 124 airstrikes in Iraq. Approximately 1,000 US troops are now on the ground in Iraq, with at least 350 more currently on their way.

President Obama initially said the bombing was part of a humanitarian mission to assist the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq being threatened by ISIS, the fundamentalist Islamic army that now controls wide swaths of Iraq and Syria. But Obama has now announced an open-ended bombing campaign, and he has ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry into the region to build military and political coalitions to sustain a long term war against ISIS.

Sep 24

Now, What Climate Action?

By Bill Henderson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Naomi and Jim, AndersonBows and Roger, and maybe Lord Stern

Now that we all agree that climate change is happening, has become an emergency after at least two decades of denial and procrastination, and requires urgent action, I suggest that presently there is no informing dialogue about the full spectrum of climate change danger with the full spectrum of possible solutions.

Sep 24

Zionism and the Educational Elites

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Part I - The Zionists Have a Problem

Due to Israel's brutal racism and repeated attacks on Palestinian civilians, it is losing popular support internationally. As this happens, the Zionists appear to be intensifying pressure on societal and political elites, particularly in the US and other Western states, to maintain policies that support and protect Israel's criminal behavior. Their vehicle for achieving this goal has always been financial gifts and donations to elite individuals and institutions. These gifts and donations help grease the wheels, so to speak, of the systems of power through which the elites operate, and create a monetary dependency on, among others, Zionist donors. It also creates an obligation to respond to these donors' needs. The result is a growing disconnect between evolving popular attitudes toward Israel and the static positions held and actions taken by the elites.

American Zionist leaders are aware of this gap and they take it seriously. However, they have a problem in that open debate and the offering of evidence can no longer win the argument for their side. In short, the Zionists don't have a monopoly anymore on the story of how Israel came to be and Palestine came not to be. And without that monopoly, the imperialist origins and ongoing racist nature of Israel are can no longer be concealed.

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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.

Washington, DC – Today, US Marine Corps whistleblower Franz Gayl and his attorneys since 2007 at the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised the Marine Corps and the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for the successful resolution of his seven-year Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) complaint.

Gayl is the Marine Corps science advisor whose disclosures ended delays in delivering the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their absence had accounted for well over half of combat deaths and other casualties in those wars, which dropped by over 90 percent after their delivery. He and another national security whistleblower, Robert MacLean, also proposed reforms that President Obama eventually adopted as Presidential Policy Directive 19. PPD 19 created free speech rights for whistleblowers making disclosures inside their agencies, outlawed retaliation through security clearance actions, and upgraded due process rights to challenge security clearance reprisals.

American officials are hailing the handfuls of European and Arab nations who have belatedly joined the anti-ISIL coalition. Yes, it’s important to defend Yazidis, Kurds, and other populations at risk, and there is no one in their immediate vicinity that needs aerial dismemberment more than ISIL.

Predictably, critics are pointing out that air strikes aren’t sufficient to control the situation on the ground. So the US is sending more weapons to those shy Syrian “moderates,” and will begin training as many of them as it can herd onto bases in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Turkish troops may defend safe havens within Syria.

On its own the Arabic word al-Nakhwa, means “gallantry.” Combined with the word “al-Arabiya” - “Arab gallantry” - the term becomes loaded with meanings, cultural and even political implications and subtext. But what is one to make of “Arab gallantry” during and after Israel’s most brutal war on Gaza between 8 July and 26 August which killed 2,163 Palestinians and wounded over 11,000 more?

Is this the end of Arab Nakhwa? Did it even ever exist?

Participants in the ambitious ten-day First Annual Sebastopol Village Building Convergence (VBC) painted murals on streets in this small Northern California town and filled the Grange Hall, the Permaculture Skills Center and other sites from September 12 to 21.

On the final day, a colorful, active parade marched from the weekly farmers' market in the downtown plaza through a newly-painted street with murals of salmon, dogs, coyote tracks, a Spirit Bird and other wildlife. Over 400 people, including many children, participated in that painting. One theme of the march was climate protection, coinciding with the People's Climate March (PCM) in New York City and elsewhere around the planet on Sept. 21.

Sep 25

Two Afghan Stories

By WJ Astore, Contrary Perspective | Op-Ed

Two Afghan stories this week suggest much about US progress in winning hearts and minds there.  The first involves Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan’s departing president, the “Mayor of Kabul,” Karzai asserted that “America did not want peace for Afghanistan, because it had its own agendas and goals here.”  It’s easy to paint Karzai as a dissembling ingrate, which is exactly what the American ambassador to Afghanistan did in response. But it truly says something that Karzai, the recipient of more than $100 billion in developmental aid from the US for Afghanistan (not including military aid!), portrays the US as working against the interests of the Afghan people.  There’s one heart and mind the US plainly didn’t win.

The second story involves three Afghan officers, one major and two captains, on a training mission at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts. The three officers, carefully vetted by US Central Command, decided they had had enough of working with America. They drove to New York and attempted to enter Canada at Niagara Falls, seeking asylum, or so it seems.  There are three more hearts and minds the US plainly didn’t win.

Oakland – Reforming California’s sentences for low-level crimes would alleviate prison and jail overcrowding, make communities safer, strengthen families, and shift resources from imprisoning people to treating them for the addictions and mental health problems at the root of many crimes, according to a study released today. 

Rehabilitating Corrections in California, a Health Impact Assessment of reforms proposed by a state ballot initiative, predicts the changes would reduce crime, recidivism, racial inequities in sentencing, and save the state and its counties $600 million to $900 million a year – but only if treatment and rehabilitation programs are fully funded and implemented properly.

Sep 25

A Tipping Point for the Good

By William C. Baker, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

We've known for a long time that the Earth is warming, but it could be worse than we thought. A recent report from the World Meteorological Association concludes that carbon pollution and the buildup of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are increasing much faster than projected. And this pollution is putting communities across the country at a higher risk of droughts, intense storms, floods, and other problems brought on by global warming.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, we're on the front lines of climate change. Streets in Norfolk, Virginia, home to nearly a quarter of a million people and the world's largest naval base, routinely flood during heavy rains. Wind- and wave-pushed storm surges make the flooding even worse. And scientists estimate sea levels in Norfolk will rise another foot and a half within the next 50 years. 

The US is racing down a slippery slope towards war in Iraq and Syria. Since Aug. 8, the US has conducted more than 124 airstrikes in Iraq. Approximately 1,000 US troops are now on the ground in Iraq, with at least 350 more currently on their way.

President Obama initially said the bombing was part of a humanitarian mission to assist the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq being threatened by ISIS, the fundamentalist Islamic army that now controls wide swaths of Iraq and Syria. But Obama has now announced an open-ended bombing campaign, and he has ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry into the region to build military and political coalitions to sustain a long term war against ISIS.

Sep 24

Now, What Climate Action?

By Bill Henderson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Naomi and Jim, AndersonBows and Roger, and maybe Lord Stern

Now that we all agree that climate change is happening, has become an emergency after at least two decades of denial and procrastination, and requires urgent action, I suggest that presently there is no informing dialogue about the full spectrum of climate change danger with the full spectrum of possible solutions.

Sep 24

Zionism and the Educational Elites

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Part I - The Zionists Have a Problem

Due to Israel's brutal racism and repeated attacks on Palestinian civilians, it is losing popular support internationally. As this happens, the Zionists appear to be intensifying pressure on societal and political elites, particularly in the US and other Western states, to maintain policies that support and protect Israel's criminal behavior. Their vehicle for achieving this goal has always been financial gifts and donations to elite individuals and institutions. These gifts and donations help grease the wheels, so to speak, of the systems of power through which the elites operate, and create a monetary dependency on, among others, Zionist donors. It also creates an obligation to respond to these donors' needs. The result is a growing disconnect between evolving popular attitudes toward Israel and the static positions held and actions taken by the elites.

American Zionist leaders are aware of this gap and they take it seriously. However, they have a problem in that open debate and the offering of evidence can no longer win the argument for their side. In short, the Zionists don't have a monopoly anymore on the story of how Israel came to be and Palestine came not to be. And without that monopoly, the imperialist origins and ongoing racist nature of Israel are can no longer be concealed.