Friday, 03 July 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.

This week the US Senate approved a joint budget plan for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1, by a vote of 51-48 with all Senate Democrats and two Republicans voting against it. The US House of Representatives approved the same plan last week by 226-197, which was opposed by 14 Republicans and every Democrat. This budget framework is not binding, but it serves as a blueprint for making decisions about spending and revenues in the coming fiscal year. To see how your US Representative(s) voted click here; for your US Senators click here.

Instead of asking the wealthy and corporations to pay one additional cent in taxes - in fact it would cut their taxes - the plan aims to balance the budget in 10 years by cutting more than $5 trillion from vital services for low-and middle-income Americans and by disinvesting in America’s future by slashing funding for infrastructure, research and education.

May 13

The State of the Global Economy

By Apek Mulay, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The slump that started in 2007 is now known as the Great Recession. Some people such as the Nobel Laureate and Princeton Economics Professor Paul Krugman call it a depression. Regardless of what you call it, it is clear to most that even after eight years of money printing and huge budget deficits, the global economy is still stagnating. According to the latest estimate from the government, US GDP growth was practically zero in the first quarter of this year.

 Now one of America's top economists, Professor Ravi Batra, explains why conventional economic approaches have been a dismal failure and why they would never restore world economies to their pre-2007 prosperity.

The fishing trawler "Marianne of Gothenburg" left Gothenburg, Sweden on May 10, 2015, to meet the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The trawler, which has been acquired by Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway jointly, departed for a voyage of almost 5000 nautical miles to eastern Mediterranean and the Gaza Strip which is blockaded by Israel.

The "Marianne" will join other ships and together they will form the "Gaza Freedom
Flotilla 3" in order to perform a peaceful, nonviolent action to break the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs, has placed a mock "Help Wanted" ad in Roll Call seeking a new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to "prolong the failed war on drugs." Primary areas of job responsibility include "Mass Incarceration," "Police State Tactics," "Obstruction of Science," "Subverting Democracy" and "Undermining Human Rights." The ad comes in the wake of numerous DEA scandals and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart's recent announcement she will resign sometime in May.

May 13

Everyone Has to Practice Nonviolence Now

By Rev. John Dear, Truthout | Op-Ed

The death of unarmed Freddie Gray in police custody and the subsequent riots in Baltimore demonstrate the profound systemic injustice in our country, as well as the complete misunderstanding and widespread hypocrisy about nonviolence.

Everyone has to practice nonviolence. Everyone. From the people on the streets to the police, to church ministers and parents, but also our media spokespeople and elected officials. Including the president. And the military. Everyone, everywhere. The days of war, killing, shootings, bombings, torture, executions and nuclear weapons are coming to an end. The days of violence are over. Everyone has topractice nonviolence. That is our only future - if we are to have a future.

Urban dwellers experience a familiar hum caused mainly by motor vehicles, along with other sounds of modern civilization: buildings' heating and air conditioning, power tools, aircraft, and, arguably least objectionable, the voices of people and animals. Other urban background cannot be heard but is seen, smelled and, to some, felt: air pollution and electronic waves. The often murky air along with light-pollution assures that seeing many stars is unlikely, and is of little concern anyway to the typical technological urbanite.

This background is almost unnoticeable to those inured to it, such that it is only upon leaving and coming back thatone perceives the discolor of the sky and the lack of silence in the city and suburbs. There's an additional "energy buzz" in some city centers such as Manhattan, that -- while stimulating to many -- is considered by just as many to be mass craziness. Other cities such as some in northern Europe seem, on the other hand, to exude joy. San Francisco once had it.

The Western State Petroleum Association President's role as Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast is undoubtedly one of the most overt conflicts of interest in recent years, but it's just one example of the conflicts of interests that infest environmental politics in California.

In one of the biggest and most overlooked environmental scandals in recent California history, a prominent oil industry lobbyist served as a high ranking official overseeing the creation of marine protected areas in Southern California, as well as sitting on a federal marineprotected areas advisory panel.

In the heart of what corporate wine industry lobbyists have re-branded "Wine Country," activists from four North Coast Californiacounties gathered in early May for their third monthly meeting. They created a regional network of groups from Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties.

Participants came to the attractive resort town of Calistoga in Napa to discuss how to contain the rampant, sprawling growth of corporate vineyards and wineries as commercial, industrial event centers. The vineyards pave over agricultural land, damage the quality of rural life and create multiple negative impacts upon the environment with respect to water, land, noise, traffic, wildlife habitat and air quality.

On Saturday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for the suspension of Colombia's aerial spraying program to eradicate illicit crop cultivation. This came after the recent release of a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, which found that the main chemical used in the aerial spraying program, glyphosate, is likely carcinogenic to humans.

"Few presidents have been as bold as President Santos in calling for global alternatives to the failed drug war," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "His suspension of the spraying program suggests that he recognizes the need to promote reforms not just on the global stage but at home as well."

2015 0508speakout2Today several important civil rights organizations released a statement that is critical of the decision by many parents and students to opt out of highstakes standardized tests. Though we understand the concerns expressed in this statement, we believe highstakestests are doing more harm than good to the interests of students of color, and for that reason, we respectfully disagree.

The United States is currently experiencing the largest uprising against high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s history. Never before have more parents, students, and educators participated in acts of defiance against these tests than they are today.  In New York State some 200,000 families have decided to opt their children out of the state test.  The largest walkout against standardized tests in U.S. history occurred in Colorado earlier this school year when thousands refused to take the end of course exams.  In cities from Seattle, to Chicago, to Toledo, to New York City, teachers have organized boycotts of the exam and have refused to administer particularly flawed and punitive exams.

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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.

This week the US Senate approved a joint budget plan for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1, by a vote of 51-48 with all Senate Democrats and two Republicans voting against it. The US House of Representatives approved the same plan last week by 226-197, which was opposed by 14 Republicans and every Democrat. This budget framework is not binding, but it serves as a blueprint for making decisions about spending and revenues in the coming fiscal year. To see how your US Representative(s) voted click here; for your US Senators click here.

Instead of asking the wealthy and corporations to pay one additional cent in taxes - in fact it would cut their taxes - the plan aims to balance the budget in 10 years by cutting more than $5 trillion from vital services for low-and middle-income Americans and by disinvesting in America’s future by slashing funding for infrastructure, research and education.

May 13

The State of the Global Economy

By Apek Mulay, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The slump that started in 2007 is now known as the Great Recession. Some people such as the Nobel Laureate and Princeton Economics Professor Paul Krugman call it a depression. Regardless of what you call it, it is clear to most that even after eight years of money printing and huge budget deficits, the global economy is still stagnating. According to the latest estimate from the government, US GDP growth was practically zero in the first quarter of this year.

 Now one of America's top economists, Professor Ravi Batra, explains why conventional economic approaches have been a dismal failure and why they would never restore world economies to their pre-2007 prosperity.

The fishing trawler "Marianne of Gothenburg" left Gothenburg, Sweden on May 10, 2015, to meet the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The trawler, which has been acquired by Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway jointly, departed for a voyage of almost 5000 nautical miles to eastern Mediterranean and the Gaza Strip which is blockaded by Israel.

The "Marianne" will join other ships and together they will form the "Gaza Freedom
Flotilla 3" in order to perform a peaceful, nonviolent action to break the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs, has placed a mock "Help Wanted" ad in Roll Call seeking a new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to "prolong the failed war on drugs." Primary areas of job responsibility include "Mass Incarceration," "Police State Tactics," "Obstruction of Science," "Subverting Democracy" and "Undermining Human Rights." The ad comes in the wake of numerous DEA scandals and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart's recent announcement she will resign sometime in May.

May 13

Everyone Has to Practice Nonviolence Now

By Rev. John Dear, Truthout | Op-Ed

The death of unarmed Freddie Gray in police custody and the subsequent riots in Baltimore demonstrate the profound systemic injustice in our country, as well as the complete misunderstanding and widespread hypocrisy about nonviolence.

Everyone has to practice nonviolence. Everyone. From the people on the streets to the police, to church ministers and parents, but also our media spokespeople and elected officials. Including the president. And the military. Everyone, everywhere. The days of war, killing, shootings, bombings, torture, executions and nuclear weapons are coming to an end. The days of violence are over. Everyone has topractice nonviolence. That is our only future - if we are to have a future.

Urban dwellers experience a familiar hum caused mainly by motor vehicles, along with other sounds of modern civilization: buildings' heating and air conditioning, power tools, aircraft, and, arguably least objectionable, the voices of people and animals. Other urban background cannot be heard but is seen, smelled and, to some, felt: air pollution and electronic waves. The often murky air along with light-pollution assures that seeing many stars is unlikely, and is of little concern anyway to the typical technological urbanite.

This background is almost unnoticeable to those inured to it, such that it is only upon leaving and coming back thatone perceives the discolor of the sky and the lack of silence in the city and suburbs. There's an additional "energy buzz" in some city centers such as Manhattan, that -- while stimulating to many -- is considered by just as many to be mass craziness. Other cities such as some in northern Europe seem, on the other hand, to exude joy. San Francisco once had it.

The Western State Petroleum Association President's role as Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast is undoubtedly one of the most overt conflicts of interest in recent years, but it's just one example of the conflicts of interests that infest environmental politics in California.

In one of the biggest and most overlooked environmental scandals in recent California history, a prominent oil industry lobbyist served as a high ranking official overseeing the creation of marine protected areas in Southern California, as well as sitting on a federal marineprotected areas advisory panel.

In the heart of what corporate wine industry lobbyists have re-branded "Wine Country," activists from four North Coast Californiacounties gathered in early May for their third monthly meeting. They created a regional network of groups from Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties.

Participants came to the attractive resort town of Calistoga in Napa to discuss how to contain the rampant, sprawling growth of corporate vineyards and wineries as commercial, industrial event centers. The vineyards pave over agricultural land, damage the quality of rural life and create multiple negative impacts upon the environment with respect to water, land, noise, traffic, wildlife habitat and air quality.

On Saturday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for the suspension of Colombia's aerial spraying program to eradicate illicit crop cultivation. This came after the recent release of a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, which found that the main chemical used in the aerial spraying program, glyphosate, is likely carcinogenic to humans.

"Few presidents have been as bold as President Santos in calling for global alternatives to the failed drug war," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "His suspension of the spraying program suggests that he recognizes the need to promote reforms not just on the global stage but at home as well."

2015 0508speakout2Today several important civil rights organizations released a statement that is critical of the decision by many parents and students to opt out of highstakes standardized tests. Though we understand the concerns expressed in this statement, we believe highstakestests are doing more harm than good to the interests of students of color, and for that reason, we respectfully disagree.

The United States is currently experiencing the largest uprising against high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s history. Never before have more parents, students, and educators participated in acts of defiance against these tests than they are today.  In New York State some 200,000 families have decided to opt their children out of the state test.  The largest walkout against standardized tests in U.S. history occurred in Colorado earlier this school year when thousands refused to take the end of course exams.  In cities from Seattle, to Chicago, to Toledo, to New York City, teachers have organized boycotts of the exam and have refused to administer particularly flawed and punitive exams.