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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.

March 18, 2014, Richmond, VA– A month before the 10-year anniversary of the Abu Ghraib torture photos, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel urged a federal appeals court to re-open a case brought by four Iraqi Abu Ghraib torture victims against private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. The men were subjected to electric shocks, sexual violence, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food, and water. U.S. military investigators concluded that several CACI interrogators directed U.S. soldiers (who were later court martialed) to commit "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of Abu Ghraib detainees in order to "soften" them up for interrogations.

Said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy, "U.S. courts must at last provide a remedy for the victims of torture at Abu Ghraib. CACI indisputably played a key role in those atrocities, and it is time for them to be held accountable. The lower court's ruling creates lawless spaces where corporations can commit torture and war crimes and then find safe haven in the United States. That's a ruling that should not stand."

With marijuana becoming legal in some states, the use of this substance is obviously going to increase, which is bound to have an impact on how certain laws are enforced. The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington has raised concerns over high driving and whether legalization will increase the number of stoned drivers. Also, there is the question of how police will now regulate driving while high and how officers will determine whether a driver is stoned or not. Since marijuana is no longer a prohibited substance, at least in a few states, driving under the influence of marijuana has to be regulated differently than it has been so far and a legal limit for marijuana intoxication will probably have to be determined.

Mar 19

The US Trojan Horse in Cyprus

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I listened to the ambassadors of the US and the United Kingdom denounce Russia's intervention in Crimea. I was astonished, but not surprised by their dishonest appeal to international law. They judged Russia with the fervor of missionaries who had, conveniently, forgotten their countries' blatant disrespect for human rights and international law when their ally, Turkey, invaded Cyprus in 1974.

In contrast to Russia, which, at least, has some legitimate reasons for "breaching" international law in Crimea – protecting the largely Russian population of Crimea from the illegal government of Kiev - Turkey invaded Cyprus as an aggressor. Turkish troops killed thousands of civilian Greeks and occupied forty percent of the island. And what did the US and the UK do? They facilitated the Turkish atrocity and prevented Greece from defending Cyprus.

Mar 19

Military and Congressional Leadership Failure

By Sarah L. Blum, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Thursday March 6, our US Senate, in a 55-45 vote margin, struck down the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) that would have taken reporting of sexual assault crimes out of the chain of command. Had that vote not been filibustered, women in the military would have seen passage of Senator Gillibrand's MJIA and for the first time in decades, militarywomen would have had an opportunity for justice. In spite of the many women veteran victims of sexual assault who poured out their stories to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, power and control of our militaryprevailed over justice.

The culture of abuse toward women in the military has been going on for decades - destroying the health, lives and careers of valuable women soldiers. We know there were 26,000 assaults in 2012 and only 238 of those resulted in any accountability to the perpetrators or the officers who protected them.

Mar 17

The (Abortion Providers) Holiday That Wasn't

By Fran Moreland Johns, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The day did indeed get some good coverage, including at least one excellent blog post noting the degree of vilification and abuse that providers suffer today. And it raised the hackles of a few on the right fringe: a blogger on Free Republic, for example, called it “the most disturbingholiday of the year,” – tossing in the opinion that abortion providers are “people who make lucrative piles of money for tearing babies apart.”

Not exactly. Abortion providers, many of whom work hard to keep services available to the mostly poor and voiceless women who are victims of today’s fringe politics, would be surprised to hear themselves described as making “lucrative piles of money.” What they do is in fact poorly compensated in dollars but richly rewarded by the gratitude of women who seek their services.

A car company has announced that you can now drive an electric car across the continental US for FREE. And yet our corporate media does not seem to think it's a very big story. This is just one of the amazing technological advancements that do not seem to interest the mainstream media.

Mar 17

Who Set-Up Medea Benjamin? An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

For several months prior to March 2014 the peace organization Code Pink was in communication with Egyptian diplomatic representatives in the United States. The two sides were arranging for the arrival of approximately 100 women from around the globe who would come to Egypt, travel up to the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, and (if prevented from actually crossing into the besieged territory) hold a demonstration on International Women’s Day (March 8) to show solidarity with the women of Gaza. 

One of the principal organizers of this event was the well-known peace activist Medea Benjamin, winner of such awards as the Martin Luther King Peace Prize (2010), the Marjorie Kellogg National Peacemaker Award (2012), the Thomas Merton Center Peace Award (2012) and the Peace Foundation Memorial Award (2012). Benjamin is, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “One of the high profile leaders” of the American peace movement.

Mar 17

Out of Occupy, a New Populist Political Party Forms

By Dennis Trainor Jr, Acronym TV | Video Report

Carl Gibson, co-founder of U.S. Uncut, is joining with other Occupy Wall Street organizers to launch a new populist political party. While more details (including the name of the party and the identities of other key organizers) will be available when the group launches on March 20, the party will be explicitly anti-capitalist.

Says Gibson: "A new party that actively opposes capitalism and unites people around the basic ideas of meeting human needs would be widely respected and immediately acknowledged. This new party could stand apart from the two corporate-owned parties by refusing to take campaign donations from corporations, banks and developers, standing up for the rights of immigrants and indigenous people, calling for sustainable energy and development, making education for all a top priority, and believing in universal access to healthcare as a human right. While it would take time, focusing on building power first at the local and county level is the surest way to make lasting change."

Arriving in the capital city of Ukraine, Kiev in the midst of the 10th week of protesters' revolt against Yanukovich government was a very surreal experience. While the center of the independence square (Maidan) has been renamed as EuroMaidan and completely built up with structures of all sorts, life outside of 1.5 square mile perimeter continued as usual. Supermarkets were full; the wealthy were shopping, sipping overpriced lattes in coffee shops and cruising up and down the city's premiere shopping district. Some common people were lining up at the side of the German Embassy on Chmelnitskogo street near a huge banner on the embassy building that proclaimed, "we are stronger together." Although it creates a very wry image of a country that looks like a person carrying another on the stretcher, having this degree of optimism on the wall while requiring a Euro 35 fee (a 10th of regular salary in Kiev) to enter its doorstep was, to say the least, strange. But it was a reality that had its own parameters of judgment and taste. Generally things were looking up in Kiev as the local and international elite was finally looking forward to the nearly finished Hilton opening its doors soon. At least the American universe is widening beyond McDonalds, the local language school with imported teachers, Mormon missionaries and the Hyatt where Sen. McCain allegedly stayed when he wanted to work his charm at the Maidan. To be fair to the senator with at least 8 houses, he would be considered poor by the standards of oligarchs bankrolling the revolution two blocks away.

Vienna, Austria – Today, a key working group of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced the release of groundbreaking recommendations discouraging criminal sanctions for drug use. The Scientific Consultation Working Group on Drug Policy, Health and Human Rights of the UNODC – which includes Nora Volkow, head of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – is releasing the recommendations at the High-Level Segment of the 57th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The working group recommendations say “criminal sanctions are not beneficial” in addressing the spectrum of drug use and misuse.