Sunday, 23 November 2014 / 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.

Oakland, CA – Today, the Oakland Institute (OI), in collaboration with the Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO), released Engineering Ethnic Conflict: The Toll of Ethiopia’s Plantation Development on the Suri People, the latest in its series of comprehensive investigative reports about land grabs and forced evictions in Ethiopia. The report uncovers the truth behind a reported massacre of 30 to 50 Suri people in May 2012 near the 30,000-hectare Malaysian-owned Koka plantation. Based on extensive fieldwork, Engineering Ethnic Conflict reveals the destabilizing effects of foreign investment in Southwestern Ethiopia and examines the role of international aid programs in supporting forced evictions in the country.

“The tragic experiences of the Suri people outlined in this report are just one of many examples of the human rights abuses experienced by pastoralist communities in regions across Ethiopia,” said OI’s Executive Director, Anuradha Mittal. “These incidents are intimately tied to the Ethiopian government’s priorities of leasing land to foreign entities,” she continued.

Washington DC - A year after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines and killed 6,000 people, a religious relief group reports the country spends more on debt payments than it received in disaster aid. Religious, development and environmental groups will meet with World Bank President Jim Kim's office on a Philippine debt-payment moratorium and an audit of the country's total debt. Since the storm displaced 4 million people, the Philippines received approximately $850 million in relief aid and spent more than $6 billion servicing its debt. Some of that debt originated with the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which stole between $5 and $10 billion from the Filipino people during its two decades in power.

"Without addressing the Philippines' debt, it's hard to rebuild and prepare for future disasters," says Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA. "These kinds of storms will continue in strength and number and resources are needed to protect the country."

New York - An article on the front page of today's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released. This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.

The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket. Most of those arrested are young men of color, even though young white men use marijuana at higher rates. And last month, a federal circuit ruling opened the pathway to commence long-awaited reforms to NYPD's stop and frisk practices.

Nov 11

Democracy, Hypocrisy and President Gauck

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Most American readers are now probably wondering and/or worrying about their own election results. But, different as they may be, there are similarities between there and here. In the USA Republicans are loudly jubilant. Jubilation here is about an event twenty-five years ago. The joy for most people was justified. But every day and every evening endless hours of TV and op-ed columns treating us to rhapsodic notes about the clefts in the Berlin Wall have a triumphant undertone: "We beat those red SOBs!" Weren't both defeats, of today's Democrats and yesterday's GDR, as much due to the wealth of the winners as to the losers' loss of contact, their neglect of rapport with the feelings and hopes of much of the population?

But is there not, hidden behind the confetti, helium balloons or crowing of the victors in both Germany and the USA an occasional jarring note of worried anxiety?

More than a few veterans, Veterans For Peace among them, are troubled by the way Americans observe Veterans Day on November 11th. It was originally called Armistice Day, and established by Congress in 1926 to "perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, (and later) a day dedicated to the cause of world peace." For years, many churches rang their bells on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - the time that the guns fell silent on the Western Front by which time 16 million had died.

To put it bluntly, in 1954 Armistice Day was hijacked by a militaristic congress, and today few Americans understand the original purpose of the occasion, or even remember it. The message of peace seeking has vanished. Now known as Veterans Day, it has devolved into a hyper-nationalistic worship ceremony for war and the putatively valiant warriors who wage it.

The rally to defend lunch and recess time at the Wednesday Seattle school board meeting was an overwhelming success. A few dozen parents, teachers, and kids rallied and testified with one message: eating and playing–lunch and recess–are human rights.

The school district began the meeting by announcing they would form a task-force that would make a recommendation on lunch and recess times within eighteen months. This absurdly long timeline to grant students their basic rights only inflamed the passions of the protesters.

Nov 11

Discovering Iran

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Marcel Proust once said: "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." During the past two decades, I visited Iran on numerous occasions staying 10-14 days at a time. This time around, I stayed for 2 months and heeding Proust, I carried with me a fresh pair of eyes. I discarded both my Western lenses as well as my Iranian lenses and observed with objective eyes. It was a formidable journey that left me breathless.

Nov 10

The Peace Process Hustle

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Part I - Intractable Process

An intractable process, one that never seems to resolve itself, is either no process at all or a fraudulent one contrived to hide an ulterior motive. The so-called Israeli-Palestinian (at one time the Israeli-Arab) “peace process,” now in its sixth decade (counting from 1948) or fourth decade (counting from 1967) is, and probably always has been, just such a fraud.

One might object and say that the Oslo Accords (1993) were part of this process and they were not fraudulent. In my opinion that is a doubtful assumption. The talks were carried on in secret by officials who, at least on the Israeli side, never had an equitable peace in mind. Their goal was a political modification of the occupied territories that would free Israel from its legal obligations as occupiers of Palestinian territory and facilitate the pacification of the Palestinians and their resistance organizations. The Israeli side seemed to have believed that negotiating the return of Yasser Arafat and Fatah to the West Bank would provide them a partner in this process - not a peace process, but a pacification process.

Federal officials have refused to publicly release information about the cost and scope of a planned Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in Tennessee, even as the project moves toward the design and construction phase.

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has raised alarms about the scant details that have been revealed about the multi-billion dollar UPF project at the Y-12 National Security Complex. Last month, POGO wrote leaders on the House and Senate appropriations committees questioning both the cost and mission of the proposed facility, which would among other things manufacture components for nuclear warheads.

“You didn’t know about the decision of the Singapore government to join the fight against ISIS?” she asked.

I was catching up with another Singaporean, Lynette ( a pseudonym to respect her privacy ), who had previously worked in Kabul and who was back in Afghanistan to do a month-long community-based survey with a US university, looking at the impact of disability on Afghan communities.

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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.

Oakland, CA – Today, the Oakland Institute (OI), in collaboration with the Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO), released Engineering Ethnic Conflict: The Toll of Ethiopia’s Plantation Development on the Suri People, the latest in its series of comprehensive investigative reports about land grabs and forced evictions in Ethiopia. The report uncovers the truth behind a reported massacre of 30 to 50 Suri people in May 2012 near the 30,000-hectare Malaysian-owned Koka plantation. Based on extensive fieldwork, Engineering Ethnic Conflict reveals the destabilizing effects of foreign investment in Southwestern Ethiopia and examines the role of international aid programs in supporting forced evictions in the country.

“The tragic experiences of the Suri people outlined in this report are just one of many examples of the human rights abuses experienced by pastoralist communities in regions across Ethiopia,” said OI’s Executive Director, Anuradha Mittal. “These incidents are intimately tied to the Ethiopian government’s priorities of leasing land to foreign entities,” she continued.

Washington DC - A year after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines and killed 6,000 people, a religious relief group reports the country spends more on debt payments than it received in disaster aid. Religious, development and environmental groups will meet with World Bank President Jim Kim's office on a Philippine debt-payment moratorium and an audit of the country's total debt. Since the storm displaced 4 million people, the Philippines received approximately $850 million in relief aid and spent more than $6 billion servicing its debt. Some of that debt originated with the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which stole between $5 and $10 billion from the Filipino people during its two decades in power.

"Without addressing the Philippines' debt, it's hard to rebuild and prepare for future disasters," says Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA. "These kinds of storms will continue in strength and number and resources are needed to protect the country."

New York - An article on the front page of today's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released. This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.

The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket. Most of those arrested are young men of color, even though young white men use marijuana at higher rates. And last month, a federal circuit ruling opened the pathway to commence long-awaited reforms to NYPD's stop and frisk practices.

Nov 11

Democracy, Hypocrisy and President Gauck

By Victor Grossman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Most American readers are now probably wondering and/or worrying about their own election results. But, different as they may be, there are similarities between there and here. In the USA Republicans are loudly jubilant. Jubilation here is about an event twenty-five years ago. The joy for most people was justified. But every day and every evening endless hours of TV and op-ed columns treating us to rhapsodic notes about the clefts in the Berlin Wall have a triumphant undertone: "We beat those red SOBs!" Weren't both defeats, of today's Democrats and yesterday's GDR, as much due to the wealth of the winners as to the losers' loss of contact, their neglect of rapport with the feelings and hopes of much of the population?

But is there not, hidden behind the confetti, helium balloons or crowing of the victors in both Germany and the USA an occasional jarring note of worried anxiety?

More than a few veterans, Veterans For Peace among them, are troubled by the way Americans observe Veterans Day on November 11th. It was originally called Armistice Day, and established by Congress in 1926 to "perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, (and later) a day dedicated to the cause of world peace." For years, many churches rang their bells on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - the time that the guns fell silent on the Western Front by which time 16 million had died.

To put it bluntly, in 1954 Armistice Day was hijacked by a militaristic congress, and today few Americans understand the original purpose of the occasion, or even remember it. The message of peace seeking has vanished. Now known as Veterans Day, it has devolved into a hyper-nationalistic worship ceremony for war and the putatively valiant warriors who wage it.

The rally to defend lunch and recess time at the Wednesday Seattle school board meeting was an overwhelming success. A few dozen parents, teachers, and kids rallied and testified with one message: eating and playing–lunch and recess–are human rights.

The school district began the meeting by announcing they would form a task-force that would make a recommendation on lunch and recess times within eighteen months. This absurdly long timeline to grant students their basic rights only inflamed the passions of the protesters.

Nov 11

Discovering Iran

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Marcel Proust once said: "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." During the past two decades, I visited Iran on numerous occasions staying 10-14 days at a time. This time around, I stayed for 2 months and heeding Proust, I carried with me a fresh pair of eyes. I discarded both my Western lenses as well as my Iranian lenses and observed with objective eyes. It was a formidable journey that left me breathless.

Nov 10

The Peace Process Hustle

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Part I - Intractable Process

An intractable process, one that never seems to resolve itself, is either no process at all or a fraudulent one contrived to hide an ulterior motive. The so-called Israeli-Palestinian (at one time the Israeli-Arab) “peace process,” now in its sixth decade (counting from 1948) or fourth decade (counting from 1967) is, and probably always has been, just such a fraud.

One might object and say that the Oslo Accords (1993) were part of this process and they were not fraudulent. In my opinion that is a doubtful assumption. The talks were carried on in secret by officials who, at least on the Israeli side, never had an equitable peace in mind. Their goal was a political modification of the occupied territories that would free Israel from its legal obligations as occupiers of Palestinian territory and facilitate the pacification of the Palestinians and their resistance organizations. The Israeli side seemed to have believed that negotiating the return of Yasser Arafat and Fatah to the West Bank would provide them a partner in this process - not a peace process, but a pacification process.

Federal officials have refused to publicly release information about the cost and scope of a planned Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) in Tennessee, even as the project moves toward the design and construction phase.

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has raised alarms about the scant details that have been revealed about the multi-billion dollar UPF project at the Y-12 National Security Complex. Last month, POGO wrote leaders on the House and Senate appropriations committees questioning both the cost and mission of the proposed facility, which would among other things manufacture components for nuclear warheads.

“You didn’t know about the decision of the Singapore government to join the fight against ISIS?” she asked.

I was catching up with another Singaporean, Lynette ( a pseudonym to respect her privacy ), who had previously worked in Kabul and who was back in Afghanistan to do a month-long community-based survey with a US university, looking at the impact of disability on Afghan communities.