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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.

That chant alone is enough to demonstrate the ugly sectarian nature of the war in Iraq, which has reached an unprecedented highpoint in recent days. Fewer than 1,000 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) advanced against Iraq's largest city of Mosul on June 10, sending two Iraqi army divisions (nearly 30,000 soldiers) to a chaotic retreat.

The call to arms was made by a statement issued by Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and read on his behalf during a Friday prayer's sermon in Kerbala. "People who are capable of carrying arms and fighting the terrorists in defense of their country (..) should volunteer to join the security forces to achieve this sacred goal," the statement in part read.

Washington DC - In reaction to an adverse Supreme Court ruling against Argentina, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that Argentina would offer new bonds to its creditors governed under Argentine law. The proposed debt swap would involve the 92% of the country's creditors that agreed to restructure in the wake of the country's 2001 default. While the debt swap proposes an alternative for the South American country to avoid paying hold-outs, it fails to reverse the global implications on debt markets, debt restructuring and financial stability.

"Argentina may have a way to avoid paying the hedge funds but it won't change how the court precedent equips predatory funds with a powerful ruling to force the poorest countries into submission," stated Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious anti-poverty organization Jubilee USA. "The impact of this ruling stretches far beyond Argentina."

Washington - As President Obama prepares to speak to the needs of working women during the White House Summit on Working Families, a new report from public policy organization Demos highlights the role the federal government plays in the growing problem of income inequality. The new research reveals that the U.S. government is the largest funder of low-wage jobs for women through contracts, loans, concession agreements, and leases. Women make up 7 in 10 of low-wage federally-contracted workers. But the report also points to a chance for the President to put more than 20 million low-wage women, men, and their families on the path to the middle class with the stroke of a pen.

"Today, addressing the needs of women in the workplace means addressing the needs of low-wage workers," said Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women at the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). "That is because women make up the lion's share of workers in low-wage jobs—indeed, women are 76 percent of workers earning $10.10 per hour or less. And 35 percent of women's job gains during the recovery have been in the ten largest low-wage occupations – as compared to 18 percent of men's."

Jun 21

Who is Watching the Watchers?

By John St. Lawrence, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

There needs to be a national conversation about an emerging police state, and who is watching the watchers. We either do not understand what is happening or refuse to acknowledge it.

A police state is more insidious than ubiquitous surveillance and jackbooted thugs pushing people around. It is a state where people not only have to watch what they say but have no legal recourse or redress when those in authority violate and publicly flaunt the rule of law and willfully abuse their oaths of office. It is when the institutions of state power, and its monopoly on the use of armed force, are used to control and suppress the populace. It is a state that is at war with its people.

Here's how the world will be different after final ratification of the constitutional amendment today approved by the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee:

The 28th Amendment will give Congress and the states authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of campaign funds, eliminating various barriers and obstacles imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court. It will overturn Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC, among other Supreme Court decisions that have facilitated the rise of a de facto oligarchy.

Washington, DC - Over the past four decades, women have played increasingly important roles as breadwinners in their families. At the same time, women's share of unpaid care work and housework has remained high. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), "Women, Working Families, and Unions," explores the role unions play in addressing the challenges facing working women and families in balancing their work and family responsibilities. The paper looks at trends in unionization for women; the impact of unions on wages, benefits and access to family and medical leave; and the role of unions in addressing work-life balance issues.

"There are few other interventions known to improve the prospects for better pay, benefits and workplace flexibility as much as unions do. Anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers and working families should also care about unions," states Nicole Woo, a co-author of the report.

The UN's foremost expert on extrajudicial killing has called for international restrictions on the use of armed drones.

Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, made the recommendation in his latest report to the body's Human Rights Council.

Washington, DC – Unregulated, undisclosed spending made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has left local communities defenseless against big money national organizations intent on interfering with their elections, according to a report released today by Public Citizen.

In its report, "Outside Spenders, Local Elections," Public Citizen outlines several relatively obscure local elections that the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity sought to influence. The report chronicles six elections in which Americans for Prosperity, founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, drowned out local issues to pursue its own agenda.

The current level of violence in Iraq has a single root: the destabilizing act in 2003 of illegally invading and then occupying Iraq ordered by the George W. Bush administration, with their arrogant claims that US troops would be greeted as liberators. Rather than liberating Iraq, however, our country lost yet another war there, one which left thousands of American soldiers dead, tens of thousands wounded and still more traumatized. We also destabilized the region; slaughtered and displaced Iraqis; left Iraq in a mess; created the conditions for a civil war there; strengthened Iran; created many new advocates of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations; and demonstrated disdain for international law.

The Bush administration led and lied the US into an aggressive war, the kind of war held to be a crime against peace at Nuremberg. The lying was despicable, an impeachable offense, but it is too late for the impeachment of a president and vice-president who are now out of office. The initiation of an aggressive war was an act, however, for which there should always be accountability, as there was at Nuremberg. This, of course, would require having the courage and principle as a country to create policies to hold our own leaders to the same standards that we held those leaders whom we defeated in combat.

Albany – Today, healthcare professionals and patients continued their response to Governor Cuomo’s demands on medical marijuana. Patients and healthcare professionals are gathering in Albany today to push lawmakers to vote on the Compassionate Care Act, and healthcare professionals who couldn’t travel to Albany issued strong statements in support of the bill. The Compassionate Care Act would create the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana program and allow patients with serious and debilitating conditions to access a small amount of marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. The action and statements come just a day after Governor Cuomo issued a series of last minute demands to amend the bill, some of which are considered “poison pills” by patients, caregivers and providers.  Even though Cuomo broke off negotiations around the bill, the bill sponsors, Sen. Savino and Assm. Gottfried, amended the legislation to account for many of the Governor’s concerns.

Patients and healthcare providers are outraged by Governor Cuomo’s attempt to derail the legislation.  Providers were particularly disturbed by Cuomo’s claims that the bill had little support from the medical community.