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.
June 30, 2014, Richmond, VA – Today, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that victims of torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib prison could pursue legal claims for their abuse against private military contractors. The appeals court ruling overturned a lower court decision that had barred the survivors from suing U.S. corporations involved in the torture in U.S. courts. U.S. military investigators had determined in 2004 that private U.S.-based contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) had participated in torture and other “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of detainees at Abu Ghraib, yet a district judge ruled that the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Shell/Royal Dutch Petroleum foreclosed claims arising out of Iraq. Today’s decision, by contrast, recognized that CACI could be held liable in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) for its role in the torture. The case, Al Shimari v. CACI International Inc., was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of four Iraqi men who were tortured at Abu Ghraib.
Jesuit missionaries in Peru constructed El Templo de San Pedro Apóstol church in the mid-1500s. They erected their Catholic temple atop Huari religious grounds called a huaca. The Huari were a pre-Inca civilization that once inhabited the area, which today still retains its Huari/Quechua name: Quispicanchi. The construction of the "temple" served to promote Christianity, and also to convert Quispicanchi denizens; construction ended in 1606. Today, however, San Pedro enjoys international acclaim as the "Sistine Chapel of the Americas." Luis de Riaño, a counter-mannerist student of the Roman painter Angelino Medoro, decorated the majority of the temple's interior. The beautiful mural paintings that span the interior walls are what earned it the "Sistine Chapel" nickname. By using pre-Conquest construction methods, which combine cane, straw and mud (rather than wood), the sanctuary was capped with a tall, polychrome ceiling. Some artists note that the ceiling takes after the Mudéjar, or Moorish style architecture. Located in the town of Andahuaylillas at just over two miles in altitude, the Andean building itself sits amid hundreds of acres of agricultural production and attracts tourism from all over the world. It mainly functions for religious reasons nowadays, but its revenue funds many social and economic development programs throughout Quispicanchi.
In Adrian Lyne's 1990 film Jacob's Ladder, what appears to be one man's reality is nothing more than a dream – horrible, twisted and strange. Can this be what is going on with all of us? The great Hindu sage Yogananda taught the eastern precept that this thing we call reality is nothing but a great dramatic dream that the higher part of our consciousness is having. We all are the writers, actors and directors of it. My friend Jay tells me that this is nonsense. He, being a man of utter truth and fact, feels that for the entire population of this planet to be having the same dream of reality must mean that this all is real. Who then is correct?
On June 20, the 221st Presbyterian Church General Assembly voted to divest $21 million USD from three companies complicit in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine — Motorola Solutions, HP and Caterpillar. Exactly one month before this historic vote, at a protest for political prisoner rights and commemorating the Nakba outside of Ofer Military Prison near Ramallah, two Palestinian children were shot dead by the Israeli military.
When friends and family of one of the children killed heard about the Presbyterian Church USA vote to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation, they decided to show their plea for support for this overture by making a visual statement. And who best to make this statement than the next generation, whose future is severed by a segregation wall, detention of peaceful protestors, and wrongful killing and torture, never mind lack of access to freedom of travel, all of which are supported by the very same American companies - Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and HP - which the Church is invested in?
Santa Barbara, California - The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), a non-partisan association of America's big cities, on June 23, 2014 unanimously adopted a sweeping new resolution Calling for Constructive Good Faith U.S. Participation in International Nuclear Disarmament Forums at its 82nd annual meeting in Dallas, Texas. According to USCM President Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, California, "These resolutions, once adopted, become official USCM policy."
The resolution notes that on April 24, 2014, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) filed landmark cases in the International Court of Justice against all nine nuclear-armed nations, claiming that they failed to comply with their obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law to pursue negotiations for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. They also filed a companion case in U.S. Federal District Court.
EU heads of state gathering today and tomorrow will discuss the European Energy Security Strategy promoting a number of massive infrastructure projects which include gas pipelines, LNG terminals and storage facilities even though their overall environmental impact has not been adequately assessed. Environmentalists are currently battling the European Commission over this issue in Court.
The European Council is expected to give its green light to the European Commission for further work on defining the key security of supply infrastructure projects. However, a mandatory Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is lacking for the entire PCI list. The list consists of 248 different projects across Europe where the key security of supply projects have been selected from.
(Washington, DC) – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised final congressional action by the House of Representatives to restore intelligence community whistleblower protections that had been removed from the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) of 2012. The bill, once signed into law, would create the first enforceable statutory whistleblower rights for government workers at intelligence agencies.
Title VI of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2014, S. 1681 was passed late yesterday in the House of Representatives after being passed last week in the Senate. The bill expands and codifies actions detailed in Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 19, issued by President Obama in October 2012, as well as some internal agency regulations. The president is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days. These protections are stronger than those within PPD 19, which does not explicitly protect disclosures to Congress.
In an earlier paper (blog post here), I argued that corporate political contributions can in many cases be challenged by shareholders as conflicted transactions that further insiders’ personal interests (e.g., lower individual income taxes) rather than the best interests of the corporation. The argument (to simplify) was that if a political contribution is in the CEO’s individual interests, the resulting conflict of interest should make the business judgment rule inapplicable, placing on the CEO the burden of proving that the contribution was actually in the best interests of the corporation.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen strongly supports the DISCLOSE Act of 2014, reintroduced in the Senate today by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and 50 co-sponsors. A companion bill already is pending in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
“The DISCLOSE Act is a straightforward disclosure measure,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “It does not and cannot offer itself as a fix to all the damage caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But the DISCLOSE Act can provide voters with the means to weigh the merits of campaign messages by casting light on the true funding sources behind those messages.”