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.
Today is the first day of school in Seattle. I have never been more excited and nervous for the first day because, not only do I start teaching, but my 5-year-old starts kindergarten! My son is so thrilled for his first day of school and our family feels so fortunate to have such a wonderful public school to send him to.
Unfortunately, the irreparably flawed No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has cast a shadow on what should be a joyous start to the year. As explained below, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan revoked the NCLB waiver for Washington state because our legislature would not tie teacher evaluations to test scores. Revoking the NCLB waiver then labeled nearly every school in the state a failure and mandated that districts notify parents that their child attends a failing school.
Ten victims of CIA rendition and torture have signed an open letter to President Obama asking him to declassify the upcoming Senate report into the program. Two of the signatories – Abdel-Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi – were rendered with their entire families, including a pregnant woman and four children between the ages of six and twelve.
“Despite living thousands of miles apart and leading different lives today, a shared experience unites us: the CIA abducted each of us in the past and flew us to secret prisons for torture. Some of us were kidnapped with our pregnant wives or children. All of us were later released without charge, redress or apology from the US. We now want the American public to read that story, in full, and without redactions”, says the letter, coordinated by international human rights charity Reprieve.
The current humanitarian crisis on the US–Mexico border remains hidden from view, leaving many people, including students, completely unaware that thousands of impoverished people have died, and that others continue to die, while attempting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. This article begins with descriptions of several unusual musical occurrences that the author and students encountered while on field trips to the border, and highlights the manner in which these musical experiences catalyzed further learning about political issues. The article then focuses on the Border Songs CD (2012), a double album of music and spoken word about the border and immigration—a powerful instructional tool that provides material to bring a nuanced understanding of border issues to the classroom. The album, in many ways, is a musical journey that leads listeners to “see” the humanitarian crisis on the border and to understand its root causes. The album might serve as a “text” in any number of courses—Border Studies, English Composition, Ethnic Studies, Latin American Studies, Literature, Spanish Language Skills—essentially any class that explores the concepts of ethnicity, privilege, identity, and power. Border Songs allows listeners to see and hear much of what is occurring on the border and within our country from a variety of perspectives and to explore critically the consequences of current immigration policy and border enforcement strategies.
One of the less well-known projects of the West is to convince developing countries that they need to convert traditional approaches to agriculture, which have functioned well for hundreds of years, into a system of intellectual monopolies for seeds -- the implicit and patronizing message being that this is the "modern" way to do things. Last year we wrote about how this was happening in Africa, and an article on bilaterals.org reports on similar moves in Guatemala:
On 10 June, the Congress of Guatemala approved Decree 19-2014 or the "Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties" which led to an outpouring of criticism from various sectors of civil society.
This law, published on 26 June, protects the intellectual property of plant breeders deemed to have "created" or "discovered" new plant varieties, or genetically modified existing ones.
This way, the beneficiaries of the law -- "breeders", which are typically companies producing transgenic seeds like the transnational corporation Monsanto -- obtain property rights over the use of such varieties, in the form of plants or seeds.
Three of “The Elders” spoke over the weekend in Honolulu, Hawai’i at events sponsored by Pillars of Peace and the Hawai’i Community Foundation. Each of the Elders has had extensive experience with Israeli-Palestinian issues.
As the first woman Prime Minister of Norway, and its youngest Prime Minister at age 41, Gro Harlem Brundtland directed her government to conduct secret talks with the Israeli government and Palestinian leadership which led to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Two famous heads got lost in Berlin. Neither loss, I hasten to add, was connected with brutality. From the past or near future, they caused melancholy or rejoicing, depending on your viewpoint.
One loss really occurred twenty-two years ago, when the 62-foot red granite statue of Lenin on East Berlin’s Lenin Square and Lenin Allee (meaning Boulevard not Alley!) was, with the names, removed two years after the state which had erected it. Unlike a dramatic scene in the popular film “Goodbye Lenin” showing the whole statue whisked away by helicopter, it was really first beheaded, then sawed into 129 parts, despite some angry protests, and buried in the sand of an outlying wooded district.
The government is being asked to take action against British firm G4S, after it emerged the company has won a £71m contract to provide a range of ‘base support’ services at Guantánamo Bay.
Legal charity Reprieve, which assists Guantánamo prisoners such as British resident Shaker Aamer, has submitted a dossier of evidence to the UK’s responsible business watchdog, the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines (UK NCP). The submission argues that by providing ‘essential’ services at the prison, G4S will be contravening British government policy that the prison must be closed, as well as the OECD’s guidelines for responsible business conduct.
New York, NY—On Wednesday, September 17, 2014, Lyme disease patients from around the US will unite at the headquarters of the New York Times to call for greater coverage of the Lyme disease pandemic.
Lyme patients are using the New York Times as a symbol for the media as a whole to bring attention to the general underreporting of this public health crisis. By holding a silent vigil, Lyme patients are speaking out with silence against the silence.
“Even the slightest chance of an oil spill in a Marine Protected Area far outweighs any potential benefit to the state,” said State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.
Only in a Big Oil state like California would a Legislator have to author a bill to ban offshore oil drilling in a "marine protected area." And only in a Big Oil state like California would the Legislature vote against a bill to stop oil drilling in a “marine protected area."
The US holiday Labor Day is a joke. Any day off is welcome, of course. However, again there will be no visible strikes and no muscle-flexing by the labor movement. Observance of Labor Day is as if having to be either over-worked or unemployed, putting up with extreme income disparity, tolerating insanely onerous student debt, forced to contribute to environmental degradation and unabated military madness, are non-existent issues in the "real world."
The non-labor orientation of our political reality has a lot to do with the loss of May Day in the US as a workers' show of force and rallying tool.