Sunday, 19 April 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.

In contrast to what occurred at the last Summit of the Americas in 2012, when President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and Bolivia's Evo Morales walked out, this time, Cristina stood her ground and spoke forcefully about the issues she believes to be at the crux of the region's problems. In her nearly 30-minute speech, the Argentine president spoke with her characteristic candor, noting that this is to be her - as well as Barack Obama's - last summit as head of state, and welcomed President Raúl Castro to Cuba's first.

In her apparently unscripted speech, Cristina congratulated Cuba and"sister republic"Venezuelaand repeatedly called the US position that those two smaller countries constitute a threattoUS security "absurd." She likened it to the experience of her own country under dictatorship, when the United Kingdom maintained "almost cordial" relations with the military junta, in contrast to last week's revelations ofthe UK's recent espionage and plans for enhanced military operations on the disputed Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

With two days left until tax day, most Americans have already spent several hours finalizing their 2014 tax returns. For years, Congress has been sitting on a proposal to make it easier for people to file their taxes. The proposed bill would implement a return-free filing system, where the IRS would provide taxpayers with a filled-out form containing all of their information and estimate their taxes. The taxpayer would just have to look it over before confirming the information. Other industrialized countries like Denmark and Spain, have already adopted a similar process. In the United States, though, a few powerful companies have a large financial stake in ensuring long, complicated tax returns continue to be the norm.

Lobbying Spending Data: MapLight analysis of the money spent by tax preparation companies, including H&R Block, Intuit, which owns TurboTax, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Jackson Hewitt, and National Society of Accountants, lobbying Congress and federal agencies since 2011. 

Washington, DC - Ahead of the vote to repeal the federal estatetax taking place in the U.S. House of Representatives this week on Tax Day, Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) has compiled a list of direct quotes from conservative leaders exposing the misinformation being spread to justify this tax giveawayto the wealthiest 0.2%. ATF also collected quotes from conservative leaders expressing their concernabout income inequality, exposing the hypocrisy of claiming to care about the growing gap betweenthe wealthy and everyone else while voting for a $270 billion tax giveaway to the estates of multi-millionaires and billionaires.

"Conservatives know their economic priorities are extremely unpopular – the American people want an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. So when they try to eliminate the estate  tax, which affects only multi-millionaires and billionaires, they resort to outright falsehoods in making their case and use phony rhetoric claiming they care about the rest of us," said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. "Repealing theestate tax will only increase inequality in America. These quotes help the American people understand what conservatives do, not what they say."

What will happen at Garfield High School with Common Core testing?

I have been asked this question by people all over the country as they learned that this would be the first year that Common Core testing would come to Washington State. All year, teachers at Seattle's Garfield High School have debated whether to administer the new Common Core test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). Garfield High School became a leader in the movement for authentic assessment in 2013 the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, and were joined by the parents and students in a mass opt out campaign. After the tested subject teachers were threatened with a ten day suspension without pay for refusing to administer the MAP, the superintendent finally gave in at the end of the school year and announced that the test would no longer be mandatory at the high school level. Many took inspiration from the MAP test boycott, and during the ensuing months an "education spring" was born as students, parents, and teacher's refused high-stakes testing across the country. This ongoing education spring has now produced the largest uprising against high-stakestesting in U.S. history, highlighted by the 60,000 students who were opted out in NewYork State alone.

If his Twitter account is any indication, U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) had a no good, very bad weekend.

Rohrabacher, who represents California's 48th district, tweeted in response to @UANews4ENMedi this past Friday that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine began "started by assassination of elected president," further noting that "hostility toward Russia not justified. Will create new Cold War."* The conversation appears to have begun when @UANews4ENMedi posted an article by James Kirchick of The Daily Beast on the annual World Russia Forum, for which Rohrabacher provided introductory remarks.

Apr 13

The Carbon-Civilization Combustion Complex

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, Truthout | Op-Ed

On October 10, 1989 the Chicago Tribune published my article on climate change. I argued that "lowering the Earth-threatening heat" would probably be the consequence of protest and action by peasants and city people, not of any initiatives taken by state intellectuals and corporations.

About six months later, on April 20, 1990, the Wall Street Journal reprinted a fragment of my article, which denounced the behavior of fossil fuel companies. Energy corporations, I said, are blinded by greed. They threaten the Earth with unimaginable ills: rising temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread impoverishment of the natural world and human destruction of epic proportions. It would be foolish to assume that the same companies would sacrifice their profits for a less threatened, much less, safer world.

Three China-related events caused the world's political and economic axis to shift in March and April. Taken separately, each event has its own importance, but taken together they add up to a sum greater than their parts.

The issuance of Chinese local government bonds, the evacuation of hundreds of foreigners by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) from Yemen and the confirmation of founding members for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank create a subtle but profound change in the way the world turns.

Apr 13

US Embassy and Small-Town Thugs

By Victor Grossman, Truthout | Op-Ed

The little group, waiting for their appointment at the US Embassy in Berlin, were shocked when one member showed the latest photos of a haggard, incredibly aged Mumia Abu-Jamal, unable to stand without assistance.

For any who don't know, the African-American radio journalist with the dreadlocks and a wonderfully deep, warm voice has been in prison since 1981, convicted of killing a Philadelphia policeman. More and more evidence piled up that, seriously wounded, he could not have been guilty. But even those with doubts know that his trial was totally unfair, with a racist prosecutor, a racist judge, an incompetent defense attorney, suppression of evidence and witness intimidation. But, hated for his views by the Fraternal Order of the Police, he was never granted a fair second trial. After long years in a tiny death cell, a world-wide movement saved him from the gas chamber but not from life in prison with no hope of parole. Yet his amazing commentaries on American and world events, telephoned from prison, enraged those who wanted his death. They have often tried to muzzle him, most recently with a law aimed almost directly against him.

Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 560 into law, ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as "policing for profit," allows law enforcement officers to seize personalproperty without ever charging—much less convicting—a person with a crime. Property seized through this process often finds its way into the department's own coffers. HB 560, introduced by NM Rep. Zachary Cook and passed unanimously in the legislature, replaces civil asset forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, which requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to a crime. The new law means that New Mexico now has the strongest protections against wrongful asset seizures in the country.

"This is a good day for the Bill of Rights," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. "For years police could seize people's cash, cars, and houses without even accusing anyone of a crime. Today, we have ended this unfair practice in NewMexico and replaced it with a model that is just and constitutional."

"California Puts Mandatory Curbs on Water Use" reports the April 2 New York Times long article at the top of the front-page. "Steps to Confront Record-Setting Drought," the sub-headline reads. The article describes Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order - California's first time restricting water use.

A 25 percent reduction of water use over the next year is required of residents, golf courses, cemeteries and many businesses. But wait. "Owners of large farms . . . will not fall under the 25 percent guideline."

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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.

In contrast to what occurred at the last Summit of the Americas in 2012, when President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and Bolivia's Evo Morales walked out, this time, Cristina stood her ground and spoke forcefully about the issues she believes to be at the crux of the region's problems. In her nearly 30-minute speech, the Argentine president spoke with her characteristic candor, noting that this is to be her - as well as Barack Obama's - last summit as head of state, and welcomed President Raúl Castro to Cuba's first.

In her apparently unscripted speech, Cristina congratulated Cuba and"sister republic"Venezuelaand repeatedly called the US position that those two smaller countries constitute a threattoUS security "absurd." She likened it to the experience of her own country under dictatorship, when the United Kingdom maintained "almost cordial" relations with the military junta, in contrast to last week's revelations ofthe UK's recent espionage and plans for enhanced military operations on the disputed Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

With two days left until tax day, most Americans have already spent several hours finalizing their 2014 tax returns. For years, Congress has been sitting on a proposal to make it easier for people to file their taxes. The proposed bill would implement a return-free filing system, where the IRS would provide taxpayers with a filled-out form containing all of their information and estimate their taxes. The taxpayer would just have to look it over before confirming the information. Other industrialized countries like Denmark and Spain, have already adopted a similar process. In the United States, though, a few powerful companies have a large financial stake in ensuring long, complicated tax returns continue to be the norm.

Lobbying Spending Data: MapLight analysis of the money spent by tax preparation companies, including H&R Block, Intuit, which owns TurboTax, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Jackson Hewitt, and National Society of Accountants, lobbying Congress and federal agencies since 2011. 

Washington, DC - Ahead of the vote to repeal the federal estatetax taking place in the U.S. House of Representatives this week on Tax Day, Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) has compiled a list of direct quotes from conservative leaders exposing the misinformation being spread to justify this tax giveawayto the wealthiest 0.2%. ATF also collected quotes from conservative leaders expressing their concernabout income inequality, exposing the hypocrisy of claiming to care about the growing gap betweenthe wealthy and everyone else while voting for a $270 billion tax giveaway to the estates of multi-millionaires and billionaires.

"Conservatives know their economic priorities are extremely unpopular – the American people want an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. So when they try to eliminate the estate  tax, which affects only multi-millionaires and billionaires, they resort to outright falsehoods in making their case and use phony rhetoric claiming they care about the rest of us," said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. "Repealing theestate tax will only increase inequality in America. These quotes help the American people understand what conservatives do, not what they say."

What will happen at Garfield High School with Common Core testing?

I have been asked this question by people all over the country as they learned that this would be the first year that Common Core testing would come to Washington State. All year, teachers at Seattle's Garfield High School have debated whether to administer the new Common Core test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). Garfield High School became a leader in the movement for authentic assessment in 2013 the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, and were joined by the parents and students in a mass opt out campaign. After the tested subject teachers were threatened with a ten day suspension without pay for refusing to administer the MAP, the superintendent finally gave in at the end of the school year and announced that the test would no longer be mandatory at the high school level. Many took inspiration from the MAP test boycott, and during the ensuing months an "education spring" was born as students, parents, and teacher's refused high-stakes testing across the country. This ongoing education spring has now produced the largest uprising against high-stakestesting in U.S. history, highlighted by the 60,000 students who were opted out in NewYork State alone.

If his Twitter account is any indication, U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) had a no good, very bad weekend.

Rohrabacher, who represents California's 48th district, tweeted in response to @UANews4ENMedi this past Friday that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine began "started by assassination of elected president," further noting that "hostility toward Russia not justified. Will create new Cold War."* The conversation appears to have begun when @UANews4ENMedi posted an article by James Kirchick of The Daily Beast on the annual World Russia Forum, for which Rohrabacher provided introductory remarks.

Apr 13

The Carbon-Civilization Combustion Complex

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, Truthout | Op-Ed

On October 10, 1989 the Chicago Tribune published my article on climate change. I argued that "lowering the Earth-threatening heat" would probably be the consequence of protest and action by peasants and city people, not of any initiatives taken by state intellectuals and corporations.

About six months later, on April 20, 1990, the Wall Street Journal reprinted a fragment of my article, which denounced the behavior of fossil fuel companies. Energy corporations, I said, are blinded by greed. They threaten the Earth with unimaginable ills: rising temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread impoverishment of the natural world and human destruction of epic proportions. It would be foolish to assume that the same companies would sacrifice their profits for a less threatened, much less, safer world.

Three China-related events caused the world's political and economic axis to shift in March and April. Taken separately, each event has its own importance, but taken together they add up to a sum greater than their parts.

The issuance of Chinese local government bonds, the evacuation of hundreds of foreigners by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) from Yemen and the confirmation of founding members for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank create a subtle but profound change in the way the world turns.

Apr 13

US Embassy and Small-Town Thugs

By Victor Grossman, Truthout | Op-Ed

The little group, waiting for their appointment at the US Embassy in Berlin, were shocked when one member showed the latest photos of a haggard, incredibly aged Mumia Abu-Jamal, unable to stand without assistance.

For any who don't know, the African-American radio journalist with the dreadlocks and a wonderfully deep, warm voice has been in prison since 1981, convicted of killing a Philadelphia policeman. More and more evidence piled up that, seriously wounded, he could not have been guilty. But even those with doubts know that his trial was totally unfair, with a racist prosecutor, a racist judge, an incompetent defense attorney, suppression of evidence and witness intimidation. But, hated for his views by the Fraternal Order of the Police, he was never granted a fair second trial. After long years in a tiny death cell, a world-wide movement saved him from the gas chamber but not from life in prison with no hope of parole. Yet his amazing commentaries on American and world events, telephoned from prison, enraged those who wanted his death. They have often tried to muzzle him, most recently with a law aimed almost directly against him.

Today, Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 560 into law, ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as "policing for profit," allows law enforcement officers to seize personalproperty without ever charging—much less convicting—a person with a crime. Property seized through this process often finds its way into the department's own coffers. HB 560, introduced by NM Rep. Zachary Cook and passed unanimously in the legislature, replaces civil asset forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, which requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to a crime. The new law means that New Mexico now has the strongest protections against wrongful asset seizures in the country.

"This is a good day for the Bill of Rights," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. "For years police could seize people's cash, cars, and houses without even accusing anyone of a crime. Today, we have ended this unfair practice in NewMexico and replaced it with a model that is just and constitutional."

"California Puts Mandatory Curbs on Water Use" reports the April 2 New York Times long article at the top of the front-page. "Steps to Confront Record-Setting Drought," the sub-headline reads. The article describes Gov. Jerry Brown's executive order - California's first time restricting water use.

A 25 percent reduction of water use over the next year is required of residents, golf courses, cemeteries and many businesses. But wait. "Owners of large farms . . . will not fall under the 25 percent guideline."