Tuesday, 31 March 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.

Despite polls showing overwhelming support for labeling for genetically engineered foods, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack proposed yesterday that consumers should use their smartphones to scan bar codes on food packages to find out whether their food contains GMOs.

Vlisack’s idea is sure to cheer the food industry, while denying Americans the right to know what is in our food. 

Among topics discussed on the show are the significance and likely fate of net neutrality, the commercialization of the Internet, and the future of our endangered print media and, for that matter, of serious journalism itself; the crippling effect of income inequality and the importance of grassroots activism in countering organized wealth in our society; the continuing encroachment of for-profit corporations into the public sector; and what a "post-capitalist democracy" might look like.

The Rag Blog's Roger Baker also participates in the discussion. Bob McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and was the co-founder of the influential media reform organization, Free Press, that has played a major role in the fight for a free Internet. Bob was previously our guest on Rag Radio in February 2011.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was designed as a vehicle for the prosecution of the most heinous of crimes committed by individuals in positions of state authority - those military officers and politicians at the top of a national chain of command. Until recently ICC prosecutions have been limited to leaders of small and weak states. This is not because the leaders of powerful nations are not sometimes culpable, but rather because no member state of the ICC has yet brought a relevant complaint.

This situation is about to change. In November 2012 Palestine achieved official observer status within the United Nations and this position allowed it to join the ICC.

Feb 26

John Grant: A Veteran for Peace

By Dan Falcone, Truthout | Interview

Dan Falcone: Can you tell me about Veterans for Peace in general and provide the readers some background information on the organization and how you became involved and interested in it?

John Grant: Veterans For Peace was established in 1985 and it is for all veterans from all wars and peace time. I joined in 1985, so I've been in it for a while and have many good friends in the organization that I see at national conventions around the country I often attend, usually in August. VFP is structured in local chapters and at-large members. We have a chapter in Philadelphia that meets monthly. The chapter is a bit in the doldrums right now; but then things happen and it perks up. Peace is an on-going struggle that never lets up. Militarism is much more successful.

On February 3, 2015, the U.S. Federal District Court granted the U.S. government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Marshall Islands. The lawsuit sought to hold the U.S. to its legal obligations to pursue negotiations in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.

The Court dismissed the case on the jurisdictional grounds of standing and political question doctrine without getting to the merits of the case. On February 6, 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Majuro issued a statement welcoming the Court's decision. On February 23, 2015, Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), delivered a speech to the RMI parliament in which he explained some of the key issues in the ruling and also responded to the U.S. Embassy's statement.

Truly, US President Barack Obama's recent call to address the root causes of violence, including that of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) and al-Qaeda was a step in the right direction, but still miles away from taking the least responsibility for the mayhem that has afflicted the Middle East since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"The link is undeniable," Obama said in a speech at the State Department on 19 February "When people are oppressed and human rights are denied - particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines - when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit."

Feb 25

Trouble in "Wine Country"

By Shepherd Bliss, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Sebastopol, California -  Sonoma County, Northern California, used to be spoken of as part of the natural "Redwood Empire." Then the bloated wine industry re-named it as the commercial "Wine Country." A growing number of locals have had it with the expanding wine industry in both Sonoma County and the neighboring Napa County and are beginning to challenge their over-expansion.

A moral person would not buy "blood diamonds." It is time to consider the various environmental, climate change, and human factors when one buys Sonoma or Napa County wines.

In 1993, I was a young Desert Storm veteran with few academic skills. I entered a community college to start an education journey that led to a career as a high school teacher.

I landed a part time job at UPS that offered a consistent work schedule, four hours a day, five days a week. My work schedule enabled me to plan my classes around my job. I was able to get my required classes that allowed me to transfer from community college to a private liberal arts college. I would graduate 3 years later and attend graduate school, earning a Master's degree and teaching credential.

Around the world, an estimated 52 million people are employed as domestic workers, providing services such as child care, cleaning, and elder care, in private homes. In the United States alone,official estimates indicate that about two million people are engaged in such work, but because of the large number of undocumented immigrants involved, the real number is likely much higher.

While there is not yet nationally representative data about trafficking and forced labor in domestic work, there are a number of smaller studies, as well as individual cases, that have shed light on the problem and helped shape an analysis of how and why exploitation manifests.

Last night, activists, organizers, and change makers around Chicago are celebrating a surprising turn of events. A mayor who has dealt devastating blows to some of the most marginalized members of our city was unexpectedly held accountable for his actions, and has been pushed into an electoral runoff with his most popular opponent, Chuy Garcia. Organizing for electoral campaigns has never been part of my movement building praxis, and that's not about to change, but I did vote for Chuy today, because sometimes, in defense of our lives, our children, and our sick and wounded, I believe we simply need to do whatever it takes to bring down a target.

I feel sure that this is one of those times.

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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.

Despite polls showing overwhelming support for labeling for genetically engineered foods, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack proposed yesterday that consumers should use their smartphones to scan bar codes on food packages to find out whether their food contains GMOs.

Vlisack’s idea is sure to cheer the food industry, while denying Americans the right to know what is in our food. 

Among topics discussed on the show are the significance and likely fate of net neutrality, the commercialization of the Internet, and the future of our endangered print media and, for that matter, of serious journalism itself; the crippling effect of income inequality and the importance of grassroots activism in countering organized wealth in our society; the continuing encroachment of for-profit corporations into the public sector; and what a "post-capitalist democracy" might look like.

The Rag Blog's Roger Baker also participates in the discussion. Bob McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and was the co-founder of the influential media reform organization, Free Press, that has played a major role in the fight for a free Internet. Bob was previously our guest on Rag Radio in February 2011.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was designed as a vehicle for the prosecution of the most heinous of crimes committed by individuals in positions of state authority - those military officers and politicians at the top of a national chain of command. Until recently ICC prosecutions have been limited to leaders of small and weak states. This is not because the leaders of powerful nations are not sometimes culpable, but rather because no member state of the ICC has yet brought a relevant complaint.

This situation is about to change. In November 2012 Palestine achieved official observer status within the United Nations and this position allowed it to join the ICC.

Feb 26

John Grant: A Veteran for Peace

By Dan Falcone, Truthout | Interview

Dan Falcone: Can you tell me about Veterans for Peace in general and provide the readers some background information on the organization and how you became involved and interested in it?

John Grant: Veterans For Peace was established in 1985 and it is for all veterans from all wars and peace time. I joined in 1985, so I've been in it for a while and have many good friends in the organization that I see at national conventions around the country I often attend, usually in August. VFP is structured in local chapters and at-large members. We have a chapter in Philadelphia that meets monthly. The chapter is a bit in the doldrums right now; but then things happen and it perks up. Peace is an on-going struggle that never lets up. Militarism is much more successful.

On February 3, 2015, the U.S. Federal District Court granted the U.S. government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Marshall Islands. The lawsuit sought to hold the U.S. to its legal obligations to pursue negotiations in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament.

The Court dismissed the case on the jurisdictional grounds of standing and political question doctrine without getting to the merits of the case. On February 6, 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Majuro issued a statement welcoming the Court's decision. On February 23, 2015, Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), delivered a speech to the RMI parliament in which he explained some of the key issues in the ruling and also responded to the U.S. Embassy's statement.

Truly, US President Barack Obama's recent call to address the root causes of violence, including that of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) and al-Qaeda was a step in the right direction, but still miles away from taking the least responsibility for the mayhem that has afflicted the Middle East since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"The link is undeniable," Obama said in a speech at the State Department on 19 February "When people are oppressed and human rights are denied - particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines - when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit."

Feb 25

Trouble in "Wine Country"

By Shepherd Bliss, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Sebastopol, California -  Sonoma County, Northern California, used to be spoken of as part of the natural "Redwood Empire." Then the bloated wine industry re-named it as the commercial "Wine Country." A growing number of locals have had it with the expanding wine industry in both Sonoma County and the neighboring Napa County and are beginning to challenge their over-expansion.

A moral person would not buy "blood diamonds." It is time to consider the various environmental, climate change, and human factors when one buys Sonoma or Napa County wines.

In 1993, I was a young Desert Storm veteran with few academic skills. I entered a community college to start an education journey that led to a career as a high school teacher.

I landed a part time job at UPS that offered a consistent work schedule, four hours a day, five days a week. My work schedule enabled me to plan my classes around my job. I was able to get my required classes that allowed me to transfer from community college to a private liberal arts college. I would graduate 3 years later and attend graduate school, earning a Master's degree and teaching credential.

Around the world, an estimated 52 million people are employed as domestic workers, providing services such as child care, cleaning, and elder care, in private homes. In the United States alone,official estimates indicate that about two million people are engaged in such work, but because of the large number of undocumented immigrants involved, the real number is likely much higher.

While there is not yet nationally representative data about trafficking and forced labor in domestic work, there are a number of smaller studies, as well as individual cases, that have shed light on the problem and helped shape an analysis of how and why exploitation manifests.

Last night, activists, organizers, and change makers around Chicago are celebrating a surprising turn of events. A mayor who has dealt devastating blows to some of the most marginalized members of our city was unexpectedly held accountable for his actions, and has been pushed into an electoral runoff with his most popular opponent, Chuy Garcia. Organizing for electoral campaigns has never been part of my movement building praxis, and that's not about to change, but I did vote for Chuy today, because sometimes, in defense of our lives, our children, and our sick and wounded, I believe we simply need to do whatever it takes to bring down a target.

I feel sure that this is one of those times.