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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.

Jun 13

Look Ma: No Teeth… No Future!

By Phillip Farruggio, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

A close friend of the family recently got some bad news. She was told that gum disease and bone loss had caused her five molars to be infected. The only recourse was to have them all pulled out. Even gum surgery would not help at this point. She learned a few years ago, from her visit to the hygienist, that the condition of her gums, coupled with bone loss, was not good. Yet, she could not afford the (outrageous) cost of around $7,000 to have the work done. So, like many in her financial position, she did the best she could by using the waterpik with hydrogen peroxide and regular flossing, etc. If she had even decent dental insurance, at a reasonable cost, perhaps she would not be in her current situation.

This writer can sympathize with the fact she already had three teeth pulled. I myself have four such spaces where a tooth used to be. Why? Well, the cost of having a tooth pulled ($150 to $250) is not the same as $1000+ for a root canal and $1000 + for a crown. Or, how about $2500 for an implant? How many more of us out there are walking around with similar dental situations? Yet, so few of us will demand to have government do what governments were actually set up to accomplish: be our safety net when troubles arise.

Care of cancer in this country is outpacing other health care problems and is already pricing itself beyond the reach of many Americans unfortunate enough to contract the disease. In my 2009 book, The Cancer Generation: Baby Boomers Facing a Perfect Storm, this storm warning was included:

  • Cancer soon to be nation’s No. 1 cause of death
  • Costs soaring out of control
  • Decreasing access, increasing disparities
  • Widening gaps in quality of care
  • Insurance costs more and covers less
  • Profit-driven market-based system is unaccountable and unsustainable
  • Reform is blocked by powerful market stakeholders
  • 79 million Baby Boomers face increased risk of cancer as they age, and will confront this challenge with dwindling resources. [1]

One of the signal characteristics of the discussions that flow forth on the topic of Israel-Palestine is their intense emotional content. Unavoidable, no doubt, but any project on university or college campuses that wishes to teach Peace and Justice, and to address the issue of Israel-Palestine, needs to seriously address this question of the emotions that surround this topic. It is too easy to imagine that emotions will simply evaporate once confronted by facts. But that simply does not happen.

When I returned to campus from the American Studies Association conference in Washington DC last year, as we members began deliberations on our much publicized resolution to support the call for an academic boycott of Israel, I anticipated there might be some fall-out because of my various, pro-boycott blogs, and the quote from one of my statements that made it into the New York Times article that ran on the first page of the print edition of December 16. The quote was: "People who truly believe in academic freedom would realize protesting the blatant and systemic denial of academic freedom to Palestinians, which is coupled with material deprivation of a staggering scale, far outweighs concerns we in the West might have about our own rather privileged academic freedoms."

Jun 12

The Legacy of World War II

By Elliot Adams, War is a Crime | Op-Ed

June 6th came once more. D-day was a long time ago and I didn't intend to make anything of it.  I was surprised by the emotional turmoil I felt, by how I felt about that day in my gut.  I realized that while I was born after the war was over, D-day and World War II were a real and tangible part of my childhood.  It was part of my family's life, my teachers lives, my friends parent's lives. It wasn't just old men who remembered it, every adult in my youth had stories from that war. It was amputees on street corners selling pencils and people all around me still dealing with it. It was part of my life and it played a role in my enlistment for Vietnam.  Of course I felt this day in my guts. Why did I think it would be otherwise?

The stories were part of the world I grew up in; stories of D-day, of every counter-espionage agent for a year saying the first attack will be a feint, of the phantom 1st Army with decoy tanks, fake radio chatter and empty tents looking like an army poised for an imminent invasion, of Omaha Beach, of Utah Beach.  The death, the military blunders, the maimed, the successes, the “discovery” of the concentration camps, the Battle of the Bulge, these stories were tangible and a part of my childhood. Many of the stories were told after I was in bed, at breakfast they were alluded to quietly by my parents, and we children were told never to ask the adults about them.

Jun 12

Five Reasons to Boycott Starbucks

By Ronnie Cummins and Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association | Report

Starbucks. It’s the largest coffee chain in the world, with 20,100 stores, and annual sales of $14.9 billion. CEO Howard Schultz is worth $1.6 billion.

It’s a fortune built, by consumers and coffee farmers, for Schultz and Starbucks’ shareholders. 

But what if consumers stopped buying Starbucks? And instead, sought out companies that promote fair trade organic coffee? And fair trade cappuccinos made with organic milk?

MINNEAPOLIS, June 10, 2014 - After four years of organizing by Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), Target Corporation is adopting a breakthrough policy that will be implemented with new cleaning contractors, and will protect the rights of sub-contracted janitors who clean retail stores in the Twin Cities metro area.

CTUL has partnered with the janitors – who have faced poverty wages, wage theft, and health and safety hazards – in three strikes against cleaning companies, as well as a year of dialogue with Target Corporation. Now Target is taking a leadership role in the industry by adopting an unprecedented Responsible Contractor Policy that will be implemented with new cleaning contracts at their stores, providing significant protections for workers’ rights.

Community organizing works.  Anyone who questions that statement needn’t look further than our current US president. By leveraging the grassroots, democratic “bottom-up” approach, President Barack Obama quite literally organized his way into office. He spent a great deal of time as an organizer prior to arriving in Washington, which is still apparent in the way he conducts himself during public appearances. He has a way of speaking to “the people” as if he is actually one of the people.  Charging ordinary citizens to organize and act together on his behalf during the race played a key role in him securing a place in office. 

I feel cheated by him though.  He led me to believe that things would be different, that he would fight for me and you and every other American who was desperate for the change he boldly touted.  But much like reaching the bottom of a Crackerjack box in anticipation of the golden horse promised, Obama has become my empty Crackerjack box of disappointment.  The popcorn in those things tastes like cardboard, but we keep eating because we have blind faith that we are going to reach the bottom of the box where our prize awaits. 

For the past twelve years, Guantanamo Bay Prison has received little media attention until President Obama's second term in office. First, in March 2013 after a prison-wide hunger strike occurred - which is still on-going at nearly 500 days, up to 40 prisoners on hunger strike, and 19 being force-fed. Now, the swap of 5 of the "worst of the worst" for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl is receiving criticism from Republicans for being an illegal deal with terrorists. Daily Beast reporters Eli Lake and Josh Rogin calls them "bad guys." However, politicians from both parties have been negotiating with the Taliban and other so-called bad guys for a long time. Obama armed and funded the Syrian rebels against President Bashar Al-Assad. The group of Syrian rebels include al-Qaeda. Reagan gave Iran 500 anti-tank missiles, "over 1,500 American missiles," and "approximately thirty million dollars" without the knowledge of Congress.

 

Jun 11

There Can be No Winners in a Nuclear War

By Steven Starr, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Nuclear war has no winner. Beginning in 2006, several of the world's leading climatologists (at Rutgers, UCLA, John Hopkins University, and the University of Colorado-Boulder) published a series of studies that evaluated the long-term environmental consequences of a nuclear war, including baseline scenarios fought with merely 1% of the explosive power in the US and/or Russian launch-ready nuclear arsenals. They concluded that the consequences of even a "small" nuclear war would include catastrophic disruptions of global climate and massive destruction of Earth's protective ozone layer. These and more recent studies predict that global agriculture would be so negatively affected by such a war, a global famine would result, which would cause up to 2 billion people to starve to death.

These peer-reviewed studies – which were analyzed by the best scientists in the world and found to be without error – also predict that a war fought with less than half of US or Russian strategic nuclear weapons would destroy the human race. In other words, a US-Russian nuclear war would create such extreme long-term damage to the global environment that it would leave the Earth uninhabitable for humans and most animal forms of life.

 June 10, 2014, Washington, DC – A federal appeals court today dismissed a civil lawsuit brought by six men formerly held at Guantánamo who were wrongly detained and abused while at the prison. The suit, one of the last remaining Guantánamo damages suits, was brought against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other military officials for the torture, religious abuse and other mistreatment of plaintiffs.

In dismissing their claims, the D.C. Circuit stated that the torture and religious humiliation these men endured—even after being cleared for release by the military—were incidental to the “need to maintain an orderly detention environment,” “appear[ed] to be standard for all” U.S. military detainees in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and “was certainly foreseeable [by the government] because maintaining peace, security, and safety at a place like Guantanamo Bay is a stern and difficult business.”