Friday, 22 May 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.

Before the testing season began, educators in Seattle knew that because of the lack of proper preparations, IT support, technological upgrades, and training - and due to the outlandish number of tests administered this year - testing pandemonium would ensue. 

Last week the Social Equality Educators (SEE) put a call out for teachers to share their stories of this first year of CommonCore, "Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium" (SBAC), testing in the schools. The numerous responses from teachers and parents around the school district describe standardized testing chaos. We heard many stories about SBAC testing that are common to high-stakes, standardized tests: the tests dramatically disrupted the educational process, deprived students of hours of instructional time, reduced stressed out students to tears, and monopolized the computer labs and libraries in service of test administration for weeks at a time.

The Center for Media and Democracy and CREDO Action are denouncing an effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to silence its critics.

CREDO Action, the activism arm of San Francisco-based mobile phone company CREDO Mobile, has refused to honor a cease and desist letter that ALEC sent to CREDO.

Today, members of the House Oversight Committee have issued a statement of "No Confidence" in Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart. The unprecedented move by a group of over twenty bipartisan lawmakers comes a day after her shambolic performance in Congress during a hearing focused on DEA agents who paid for sex workers and sex parties using taxpayer dollars.  Leonhart was widely panned and her answers deemed inadequate during testimony on her agency's handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

"This ought to be the final nail in the Leonhart coffin," said Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs at Drug Policy Alliance. "I cannot see how President Obama and AG Holder allow her to continue in her role. It's hard to think of a more incompetent and out of touch federal official than the current DEA chief."

Apr 17

Islamophobia on Wheels: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, Truthout | Op-Ed

On 1 April 2015 an anti-Muslim advertisement started appearing on 84 municipal buses in the Philadelphia regional area. The ad space was purchased for a four-week period by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which paid $30,000 to run its message: a picture from the early 1940s of Adolf Hitler speaking to Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti (chief Muslim religious authority) of Jerusalem, with an accompanying text, “Islamic Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran” and a call to “end all aid to Islamic countries.” Philadelphia is just the latest city to experience this sort of offensive Islamophobia. Indeed, running Islamophobic attack ads on transit systems across the nation seems to be AFDI’s specialty.

The AFDI is part of an extremist organization called Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which is led by the a hyperactive Islamophobe and strident rightwing Zionist Pamela Geller. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has long tracked right-wing extremist organizations, has labeled the SIOA a “hate group.”

Washington, DC – The FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition today submitted comments to the Senate Finance Committee's Business Income Tax and International Tax Working Groups calling for a number of substantive changes in the tax code to restore fairness and to close loopholes that allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes.

Launched in January by Chairman Orrin Hatch and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, the working groups are now seeking input from interested stakeholders on how best to overhaul the nation's broken tax code.

Legislation that would strengthen Illinois’s renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards would drive billions in new clean energy investments and save consumers $12 billion between 2015 and 2030, reducing the typical household electricity bill by 23 percent, or $22 per month, in 2030, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis to be unveiled today. Steve Frenkel, UCS’s Midwest office director, will share the study’s findings at a 3 p.m. House Renewable Energy and Sustainability Committee hearing.

"Boosting investment in wind and solar power and energy-saving technologies would reestablish Illinois as a national cleanenergy leader and deliver significant consumer and environmental benefits," said Frenkel. "Tapping into Illinois's homegrown clean energy resources would spur billions in new investments statewide, generate millions in local tax revenue and save Illinoisans $12 billion in lower electricity bills over the next 15 years."

As the World Bank prepares for its annual Spring Meetings, members of Our Land Our Business, a campaign of over 260 NGOs, farmer groups and trade unions from around theworld, are publically posing three questions about the Bank's role in land grabbing, climate destruction and the corporatization of agriculture.

These questions penetrate to the heart of the World Bank's development model and throw itsloudly and expensively self-promoted claim to serve the interests of the world's poor into stark relief.

Apr 16

Naming and Shaming in Yarmouk

By Ramzy Baroud, Truthout | Op-Ed

The population of Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camp, Yarmouk - whose population once exceeded 250,000, dwindling throughout the Syrian civil war to 18,000 -  are a microcosm of the story of a whole nation, whose perpetual pain shames us all, none excluded.

Refugees who escaped the Syrian war or are displaced in Syria itself, are experiencing the cruel reality under the harsh and inhospitable terrains of war and Arab regimes. Many of those who remained in Yarmouk were torn to shreds by the barrel bombs of the Syrian army, or victimized by the malicious, violent groupings that control the camp, including the al-Nusra Front, and as of late, IS.

The family of a hunger-striking Pakistani man detained in Guantanamo Bay has today filed an emergency application with the Islamabad High Court, demanding that the Pakistani government intervene immediately in his case.

Ahmad Rabbani has been on hunger strike for more than two years in protest at his detention without charge or trial in Guantanamo, where he has been held since 2004. An affidavit submitted to the court by human rights organization Reprieve, whose staff recently visited Mr Rabbani, describes the damaging effect on his health of his brutal treatment at the prison – including daily force-feedings and 'forced cell extractions' (FCEs).

Leading Fair Trade advocacy organization, FairWorldProject (FWP), has released a new 17 min. documentary highlighting the role of industrial agriculture inclimatechange as well as detailing how small farmers are combatingclimatechangethrough regenerative organicagriculture. Narrated by FairWorldProject's Political Director Ryan Zinn, the documentary traverses through a series of interviews with activists, farmers, and experts on organic farming, sustainability and food sovereignty. Luminaries like Dr. Vandana Shiva, Rodale Institute's Mark "Coach" Smallwood, and Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association expound on the benefits of agro-ecological practices in the face of climate crisis. 

"Climate change is the issue of our generation. Record-breaking heat waves, long-term drought, "100-year floods" in consecutive years, and increasingly extreme super storms are becoming the new normal. While global climatechange will impact nearly everyone and everything, the greatest impact is already being felt by farmers and anyone who eats food," said Ryan Zinn of FairWorldProject"When we think of climate change and global warming, visions of coal-fired power plants and solar panels come to mind. Policy discussions and personal action usually revolve around hybrid cars, energy-efficient homes and debates about the latest technological solutions. However, the global agriculture system is at the heart of both the problem and the solution."

GET DAILY TRUTHOUT UPDATES
Optional Member Code

FOLLOW togtorsstottofb


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.

Before the testing season began, educators in Seattle knew that because of the lack of proper preparations, IT support, technological upgrades, and training - and due to the outlandish number of tests administered this year - testing pandemonium would ensue. 

Last week the Social Equality Educators (SEE) put a call out for teachers to share their stories of this first year of CommonCore, "Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium" (SBAC), testing in the schools. The numerous responses from teachers and parents around the school district describe standardized testing chaos. We heard many stories about SBAC testing that are common to high-stakes, standardized tests: the tests dramatically disrupted the educational process, deprived students of hours of instructional time, reduced stressed out students to tears, and monopolized the computer labs and libraries in service of test administration for weeks at a time.

The Center for Media and Democracy and CREDO Action are denouncing an effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to silence its critics.

CREDO Action, the activism arm of San Francisco-based mobile phone company CREDO Mobile, has refused to honor a cease and desist letter that ALEC sent to CREDO.

Today, members of the House Oversight Committee have issued a statement of "No Confidence" in Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart. The unprecedented move by a group of over twenty bipartisan lawmakers comes a day after her shambolic performance in Congress during a hearing focused on DEA agents who paid for sex workers and sex parties using taxpayer dollars.  Leonhart was widely panned and her answers deemed inadequate during testimony on her agency's handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

"This ought to be the final nail in the Leonhart coffin," said Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs at Drug Policy Alliance. "I cannot see how President Obama and AG Holder allow her to continue in her role. It's hard to think of a more incompetent and out of touch federal official than the current DEA chief."

Apr 17

Islamophobia on Wheels: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, Truthout | Op-Ed

On 1 April 2015 an anti-Muslim advertisement started appearing on 84 municipal buses in the Philadelphia regional area. The ad space was purchased for a four-week period by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which paid $30,000 to run its message: a picture from the early 1940s of Adolf Hitler speaking to Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti (chief Muslim religious authority) of Jerusalem, with an accompanying text, “Islamic Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran” and a call to “end all aid to Islamic countries.” Philadelphia is just the latest city to experience this sort of offensive Islamophobia. Indeed, running Islamophobic attack ads on transit systems across the nation seems to be AFDI’s specialty.

The AFDI is part of an extremist organization called Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which is led by the a hyperactive Islamophobe and strident rightwing Zionist Pamela Geller. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has long tracked right-wing extremist organizations, has labeled the SIOA a “hate group.”

Washington, DC – The FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition today submitted comments to the Senate Finance Committee's Business Income Tax and International Tax Working Groups calling for a number of substantive changes in the tax code to restore fairness and to close loopholes that allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes.

Launched in January by Chairman Orrin Hatch and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, the working groups are now seeking input from interested stakeholders on how best to overhaul the nation's broken tax code.

Legislation that would strengthen Illinois’s renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards would drive billions in new clean energy investments and save consumers $12 billion between 2015 and 2030, reducing the typical household electricity bill by 23 percent, or $22 per month, in 2030, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis to be unveiled today. Steve Frenkel, UCS’s Midwest office director, will share the study’s findings at a 3 p.m. House Renewable Energy and Sustainability Committee hearing.

"Boosting investment in wind and solar power and energy-saving technologies would reestablish Illinois as a national cleanenergy leader and deliver significant consumer and environmental benefits," said Frenkel. "Tapping into Illinois's homegrown clean energy resources would spur billions in new investments statewide, generate millions in local tax revenue and save Illinoisans $12 billion in lower electricity bills over the next 15 years."

As the World Bank prepares for its annual Spring Meetings, members of Our Land Our Business, a campaign of over 260 NGOs, farmer groups and trade unions from around theworld, are publically posing three questions about the Bank's role in land grabbing, climate destruction and the corporatization of agriculture.

These questions penetrate to the heart of the World Bank's development model and throw itsloudly and expensively self-promoted claim to serve the interests of the world's poor into stark relief.

Apr 16

Naming and Shaming in Yarmouk

By Ramzy Baroud, Truthout | Op-Ed

The population of Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camp, Yarmouk - whose population once exceeded 250,000, dwindling throughout the Syrian civil war to 18,000 -  are a microcosm of the story of a whole nation, whose perpetual pain shames us all, none excluded.

Refugees who escaped the Syrian war or are displaced in Syria itself, are experiencing the cruel reality under the harsh and inhospitable terrains of war and Arab regimes. Many of those who remained in Yarmouk were torn to shreds by the barrel bombs of the Syrian army, or victimized by the malicious, violent groupings that control the camp, including the al-Nusra Front, and as of late, IS.

The family of a hunger-striking Pakistani man detained in Guantanamo Bay has today filed an emergency application with the Islamabad High Court, demanding that the Pakistani government intervene immediately in his case.

Ahmad Rabbani has been on hunger strike for more than two years in protest at his detention without charge or trial in Guantanamo, where he has been held since 2004. An affidavit submitted to the court by human rights organization Reprieve, whose staff recently visited Mr Rabbani, describes the damaging effect on his health of his brutal treatment at the prison – including daily force-feedings and 'forced cell extractions' (FCEs).

Leading Fair Trade advocacy organization, FairWorldProject (FWP), has released a new 17 min. documentary highlighting the role of industrial agriculture inclimatechange as well as detailing how small farmers are combatingclimatechangethrough regenerative organicagriculture. Narrated by FairWorldProject's Political Director Ryan Zinn, the documentary traverses through a series of interviews with activists, farmers, and experts on organic farming, sustainability and food sovereignty. Luminaries like Dr. Vandana Shiva, Rodale Institute's Mark "Coach" Smallwood, and Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association expound on the benefits of agro-ecological practices in the face of climate crisis. 

"Climate change is the issue of our generation. Record-breaking heat waves, long-term drought, "100-year floods" in consecutive years, and increasingly extreme super storms are becoming the new normal. While global climatechange will impact nearly everyone and everything, the greatest impact is already being felt by farmers and anyone who eats food," said Ryan Zinn of FairWorldProject"When we think of climate change and global warming, visions of coal-fired power plants and solar panels come to mind. Policy discussions and personal action usually revolve around hybrid cars, energy-efficient homes and debates about the latest technological solutions. However, the global agriculture system is at the heart of both the problem and the solution."