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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.

Sep 12

Treat ISIS Like an Onion

By Adil E. Shamoo, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a symptom—not the cause—of turbulence in the Middle East. It is a symptom of oppressive, corrupt, and undemocratic regimes supported and manipulated by the United States, Europe, and Iraq's neighbors, including Iran, to serve their own interests.

ISIS, in reality an offshoot of al-Qaeda, is partly the result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The United States, through its actions and the form of governance it created in Iraq, brought forth the sectarian divide in that country.

Sep 12

Scottish Independence and Its Influence on World Peace

By Jennifer Hyde, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On September 18th, 2014, Scotland will vote whether or not it declares independence from the United Kingdom. If Scots vote yes, this historic vote will mark the first time that a country had successfully seceded from a larger territory to form an independent country without war or bloodshed in modern recorded history. But a yes vote is even more important than that. In a world of rapidly expanding neoliberal policies of privatization and profiting from war and weapons of mass destruction, an independent Scotland would contribute to the decline of the UK's imperialist power structure, the dismantling of one of the largest caches of nuclear weapons on the planet, the socialization of health and education for over five million more people and set a precedent for future movements that wish for local representation, economies based on local industries rather than war and exploitation and grassroots movements that trump big money's special interest mass media fear campaigns through local people-powered actions.

Currently, the United Kingdom has one of the largest stocks of nuclear weapons in the world. The facility where these weapons are housed is called Trident, and it is located 25 miles from Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and home to 600,000 people. The total acquisition cost of the Trident program was £9.8 billion, with a projection that the upkeep of it will cost an additional £130 billion over the next 30 years. Beyond the arguments that the weapons housed at Trident would never be used because pushing the red button would lead to catastrophic world consequences is an argument that has more immediate effects. Every pro-independence party in Scotland opposes the presence of Trident in Scotland.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said some very bizarre things on Tuesday as he and his colleagues debated the Democracy for All amendment, which would overturn the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision and allow Congress to again regulate campaign spending. Some of these statements were so off base, or just factually wrong, that we need to set the record straight:

CRUZ: The Democracy for All amendment would restrict the "NAACP from speaking about politics"

Amherst, MA - Levellers Press, a worker co-operative, announced the publication of Building Co-operative Power! Stories and Strategies from Worker Co-Operatives in the Connecticut River Valley.

Building Co-operative Power (BCP) introduces the history and concept of worker co-operation and relates past and present stories of worker co-operatives in the Connecticut River Valley. It is grounded in 50 field interviews with former and current worker co-operators and the regional development model of the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives (VAWC). This book is a guide and inspiration for building worker co-operatives as well as co-operative economic development through inter-cooperation in any region in this country.

Sep 12

Suckered Again?

By Winslow Myers, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Why must vengefulness be the default strategy for humans—the very thing we dislike and fear most about our adversaries? Mob rule is a temptation we assume we have grown beyond, but have we? The media hounds and the war lovers like Senators Graham and McCain bay for blood, putting enormous pressure on the President to get suckered into a third Middle East war. To avoid the label of wimp, Mr. Obama had to say what he said in his speech to the nation on his strategy against ISIS, but what he said was only a palatable version of the vengefulness paradigm.

The agony of loss the parents of Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff must feel is beyond comprehension. But is their pain any different from the universal pain of violence and war that has been felt by the parents of murdered children time out of mind?—the pain of Aleppo, the pain of mothers in Gaza, the pain of innocents in Baghdad who found themselves on the wrong end of Shock and Awe, the pain of wedding participants in Afghanistan blown up under the pitiless eye of US drones, the horror of people having to jump from the twin towers to avoid being burned alive.

Washington DC - A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) provides details on an interesting trend in part-time employment over the last year. In the months leading up to the opening of the ACA exchanges, some critics argued that the law would increase involuntary part-time employment. The rationale most often suggested was that employers would cut back workers' hours to less than 30 per week to avoid penalties associated with not providing insurance under the ACA. However, involuntary part-time employment been trending downward throughout the recovery.

Voluntary part-time employment, though, did increase in the first six months of 2014 compared to the first six months of 2013. The paper gives a breakdown of the distribution of part-time employment by age, gender, and whether or not the household has children. The data show that the biggest increase in voluntary part-time employment is for young people with children. This would be consistent with a story where many workers who previously needed to work full-time to get health care insurance at their job are taking the option of buying insurance on the exchanges and working part-time jobs in order to have more time to be with young children.

Letter includes seven things trade promotion authority should include:

  1. Congressional role in selecting appropriate trade partners.
  2. Mandatory negotiating objectives to ensure trade agreements deliver broad benefits.
  3. Enhanced transparency to ensure meaningful congressional and public input.
  4. Congressional certification that trade goals have been met before trade negotiations are concluded.
  5. Congressional approval of trade agreements and authorization for the executive branch to sign and enter into agreements.  
  6. A mechanism for a sizeable minority of the House or Senate to obtain a vote on a resolution to remove an agreement from expedited consideration.
  7. Trade negotiating authority must be considered in conjunction with related trade and economic policy legislation.

As the American public school year begins, parents and guardians across the country are getting to know new teachers, bus routes, routines and worrying increasingly about violence and bullying as we send our children into the semi-unknown. It’s a busy, nervous time of year. Parents of school-aged children in Syria and Iraq have other worries. An August 2014 United Nations Human Rights Council report states that both state and non-state armed groups in the region have been recruiting children for combat and non-combat support roles in violent conflict – both war crimes and violations of international human rights. Some of these armed groups use schools as recruitment, training and living quarters. The Islamic State (ISIS) has “established training camps to recruit children into armed roles under the guise of education,” according to the August 2014 UNHRC report. For their participation, ISIS offers children education, employment and the glory of military service.

Valdemar W. Setzer graduated in Electronic Engineering in 1963 and earned a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the Polytechnic School of Universidade de São Paulo in 1967. He retired in 1995, but continues to guide students and teaching. Setzer has extensive experience as a lecturer on history and philosophical aspects of computing, electronic media, education and philosophical issues of technology. He is also a member of the Anthroposophical Society. In Setzer's younger years, he was the soloist flutist of the former Chamber Orchestra of São Paulo under the conductor Olivier Toni. Dr. Setzer is the author of numerous books and articles on education, technology, philosophy and a number of other issues.

I personally carried around, as a general guide, his essay, The Obsolescence of Education for my entire teaching career. When I reached out to him a couple of weeks ago, he informed me that it needed to be updated. I was stunned to see that the article was updated as late as August 21, 2014, after having it intact since the year 2000, when I started teaching. Dr. Setzer is a very inspiring intellectual. I asked him about the obsolescence of education.

Sep 10

Scottish Independence: Now Is the Time

By Jim McCluskey, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

We are all citizens of the world now.

Potentially, the internet interconnects everyone on the planet. International trade forms a network of interlinked states. Weapons are so powerful that local war could bring death anywhere on the globe. The fate of the planet is interlinked with the fate of each one of us.

All this renders the old concepts of nationalism meaningless: the view that we look after our own interests regardless of its effect on others.