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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.

April 8, 2014, Guantanamo Bay and Washington, DC – Today, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) client Ghaleb Al-Bihani, a Yemeni citizen who has been held without charge at Guantanamo for over 12 years, asked the Obama administration's new Periodic Review Board (PRB) to approve him for transfer. While the government has stated that it does not plan to charge Mr. Al-Bihani with any crime, in 2009 it designated him for continued indefinite detention, as it did dozens of other prisoners. The PRB will now determine whether to recommend Mr. Al-Bihani for transfer from Guantanamo or whether to continue his 12-year imprisonment. In 2008, a federal judge upheld Mr. Al-Bihani's detention on the basis of his admission that he had served as an assistant cook in 2001 for a now-disbanded Taliban-affiliated group.

"Mr. Al-Bihani is not a significant threat to the United States. He is a former cook who is severely ill and does yoga for stress relief," said CCR Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, who is representing Mr. Al-Bihani before the PRB. "If Guantanamo is to close, men like Mr. Al-Bihani who are being unjustly and unnecessarily detained should be approved for transfer by the PRB – and actually transferred. A change in status only matters if it results in release."

In one of those early years of becoming and being a teacher, when I was still teaching in the exact room where I had been a student (a school building that would eventually be almost entirely destroyed by a fire set by children), it was the first day of school, and I was calling that first roll—a sort of silly but important ritual of schooling for teachers and students.

Toward the back of the room and slightly to my left sat a big young man, a white male student typical of this rural upstate South Carolina high school in my home town; like me, he would accurately be considered in that context as a Redneck.

Northampton, MA - Millions of Americans will file their federal income tax returns on April 15 with no idea what the government actually does with all that money.

That's why National Priorities Project (NPP) has unveiled the personalized tax receipt and state-by-state receipts for the average taxpayer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, showing exactly how the federal government spent the income tax dollars it collected in 2013.

I did my doctoral work at Temple University, whose founder was a nineteenth-century Baptist preacher, Russell Conwell. Conwell was, to be sure, an accomplished writer, a captivating preacher, and a visionary entrepreneur, but the theology he helped to popularize was, in a word, disturbing. It provided divine justification for the acquisition of money and legitimized the gap between extreme wealth and extreme poverty. On reflection, it sounds a lot like today's GOP.

Conwell believed and taught that wealth was available to all men. Because opportunities to become rich are everywhere, all one needed to do to attain wealth was to work hard enough and be blessed by God.

Apr 10

South Sudan Facing Famine Crisis

By Brian McAfee, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Three million seven hundred thousand people in this nation of 11 million are at severe risk of starvation. Conditions in South Sudan now parallel those of Ethiopia in the 1980s when hundreds of thousands died from famine. Toby Lanzer, the UN official coordinating humanitarian aid in South Sudan says "we're in a race against time".

Aside from the urgent immediate need the civil war currently raging in South Sudan, which was the initial cause of the problems, the planting season is at risk and a lack of crops will further ad to the already dire situation. With possibly over 4 million displaced people, what is needed is food, water, shelter and protection.

Apr 10

The United States Re-Balancing in East Asia

By Emanuel Pastreich, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

At a moment when the United States government hops up and down frantically every time North Korea launches a missile, a group of concerned individuals in policy gathered together on March 26, 2014 for a discussion of what a hundred-year commitment to East Asia would look like and how the United States can respond in a meaningful manner to such challenges as climate change together with China, Japan and Korea. The event, hosted by Foreign Policy in Focus and the Asia Institute, brought together author John Feffer, Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, Alexis Dudden, Professor of History at the University of Connecticut and Daniel Garrett, former diplomat and current Senior Associate at the Asia Institute. The following is a statement written for the occasion by Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute.

This seminar embodies the spirit behind our efforts at the Asia Institute to increase the commitment of the United States to East Asia over the long-term in a constructive and focused manner. We feel strongly that a pivot to Asia, a fundamental re-balancing of national priorities, is essential to the economic, political and security concerns of the United States, but we do not think that such a shift can take place as a result of moving around aircraft carriers or selling more missile defense technology to nations in the region. Only by building a deep human network that ties the United States to East Asia through person-to-person professional and personal relations over a lifetime can we hope to have any meaningful impact.

Annapolis, MD - As the Maryland General Assembly completed its work on the state budget bill, legislators inserted language that weakly condemns the American Studies Association (ASA) decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions complicit in Israel's long record of human rights violations. This language serves to placate proponents of HB998/SB647, which stalled in committee after civil rights and community groups resoundingly condemned the legislation as an unconstitutional assault on academic freedom. Delegate Ben Kramer of Montgomery County then introduced the bills' language as an amendment to the state budget bill.

Earlier in the legislative session, Delegate Kramer introduced HB998/SB647. This legislation, had it passed, would have withdrawn some funding from Maryland universities and academic departments with ties to ASA and other groups supportive of boycott. Diverse voices called the bill an attempt to silence debate, including the UMD President's Office, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Defending Dissent Foundation and others. Most recently, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner who played a central role in ending apartheid in South Africa criticized the legislation. Even staunchly pro Israel organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington opposed the bill.

April 7, 2014, Seattle – Today, the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by five members of the Olympia Food Co-op against current and former members of the Co-op's Board of Directors for their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The court held that the lawsuit was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, and that participation in the boycott is protected by the First Amendment. The court also affirmed $160,000 in statutory damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs for the board members, and awarded attorneys' fees for the appeal. The lawsuit is part of a broader pattern of targeting pro-Palestinian activists in the United States, particularly in legislatures and across college campuses.

"Those who would try to intimidate concerned citizens speaking out on behalf of Palestinian human rights should take note," said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Maria LaHood. "The law and history are on the side of peaceful boycotts for social change, and today's ruling reaffirms that this time-honored tradition is protected by the First Amendment. Instead of trying to suppress speech calling for Palestinian human rights, opponents should address such speech on the merits."

Last spring I was invited to the Earth School in the East Village of New York City to speak at a forum about the lessons of the MAP test boycott that I helped to organize in Seattle. Earth School 4th and 5th grade teacher Jia Lee, along with insurgent teacher union activists in MORE and parents in Change The Stakes, helped organize the event and a powerful conversation about organizing test resistance ensued.

Now, a year later, you can imagine my elation when I received an email from Jia announcing that three teachers at the Earth School declared to their administration and public schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña that they will not proctor Common Core state standardized tests this year — or ever — saying in a letter that they "can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children."

Along with the Supreme Court having unleashed massive spending by the 1%, the extremely wealthy, spending to control the selection of election candidates and to control the election of their candidates; there has developed an extensive opposition opposed to the political objectives of the super-wealthy. That opposition primarily attempts to compete in the arena dominated by the wealthy, the arena of massive financial resources, massive spending.

It is based on solicitation of contributions from the other 99% – an attempt to compete against the massive wealth of the wealthy few with large numbers of small contributions from ordinary citizens.