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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.

Mar 25

The People's Hearing? Why It Matters to All of Us

By Jennifer Pacanowski, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

We are still in Iraq. The veterans, the deployed and the surviving Iraqi people. The war is raging inside the hearts and minds of an entire generation of military members, veterans and Iraqi civilians. The veterans are praised with, "Thank you for your service" and baited by "Excellence in Healthcare." Mainstream society and media are scarred from previous forgotten wars such as Korea and Vietnam and cover their asses with slogans. However, compensation and reconciliation are elude most Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who arrive in their communities unable to transition and find peace.

After years of the US government failing veterans, military members and civilians of the occupied countries, "The right to Heal" campaign started on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion to hold the USA accountable for the violations of the rights to life and health of war-torn peoples and veterans. Since then, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Organization of Women's Freedom of Iraq and Federation of Workers Councils and Unions of Iraq have been working together to improve the state of affairs for veterans and the civilian populations in these occupied countries.

Mar 25

An Unconscious Truth Lurking in Ukraine

By Frank Smecker, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Last November, when Washington and Brussels dismissed President Vladimir Putin's proposal to help lift Ukraine out of its economic malaise by way of a trilateral agreement, the universe pulled a fast one on NASA. What was originally thought to be a single galaxy located 100-million light years away, once presumed to be a unified collection of celestial bodies, turned out to be two galaxies masquerading as one. Initial radio images of these two galaxies appeared as "one fuzzy blob," duping astronomers into thinking they were observing a single galaxy. But more recent observations have identified a new structure emerging from this distorted appearance, revealing a separate galaxy that was there all along, one that had simply been obscured by the dominant, prevailing image.

SOIL is proud to announce that SOIL’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Sasha Kramer, was selected as a 2014 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year. Every year the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship selects 20-25 social entrepreneurs achieving transformative social and/or environmental change through the application of innovative and practical approaches to benefit society in general, with an emphasis on underserved populations.

In recognition of Sasha’s groundbreaking work developing new social business models for the ecological and financially sustainable provision of sanitation services in some of the world’s most impoverished communities, Sasha was selected to join a global network of Schwab Social Entrepreneurs.

Medford, OR – Today the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) took the long-expected step of granting a conditional export license to the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Oregon, a move that carries little meaning without more detailed environmental reviews from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and multiple Oregon state agencies.

The Jordan Cove project calls for building an export terminal at Coos Bay on the Oregon coast, which would allow liquefied natural gas to be exported overseas. The terminal would be supplied by a proposed 235-mile-long pipeline, called the Pacific Connector, which would cross privately and publicly owned lands in southern Oregon and connect to existing pipelines running north-south from British Columbia to California.

Mar 24

What Comes After Capitalism?

By Dennis Trainor Jr, Acronym TV | Video Report

What comes after Capitalism? Identifying the correct answer to that question, one I do not pretend to know, in addition to facing the fact that the question is a life or death one- on a global scale, is a basic requirement for the life, liberty, and happiness of the human race.

The financial system is nearing another crash, like the sub-prime mortgage crash of 2007 and 2008, writes Steve Rushton at Occupy.com in his report summarizing a recently published European Green Party paper, The Price of Doing Too Little Too Late.

Mar 24

Obama's "Humane Deportation" Policy Review Lacks Humanity

By Maunica Sthanki, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

When people find out I work in the area of immigrants rights, I am often asked to provide my opinion or "sound bite" on US immigration policy. Usually the question is "Why should I care about US immigration policy?" or "Tell me what I need to know." Depending on my mood, my response is either, "It's complicated," or I launch into a 30 minute tirade about the injustices of the US detention and deportation system. I have never actually been able to fulfill a request for a sound bite, but I think I may have an abbreviated answer.

The US immigration system, in particular the detention and deportation system, does not treat immigrants with humanity, dignity and respect. From the moment an individual encounters the US detention and deportation system, they are stripped of their identity. Their belongings, clothes, documents, money - literally everything they have - is taken from them. They often are transferred to prisons and prison-like facilities in remote and rural locations without being able to notify their families or loved ones. They are strip searched and given an "alien number" which will identify them until their removal from the United States. This 9 digit number replaces their name, their face, their nationality, their gender. Immigrant detainees are referred to by their "number" by prison guards, by government attorneys and by Immigration Judges.

As an outside observer, one is easily frustrated by the way American mainstream media depicts European politics, or more specifically; how it deals with the concept of the Welfare state. This apparatus of misinformation would be awe-inspiring were it not such a threat to the dynamics of democracy. Even some otherwise well-informed people still grapple with myths and half-truths about the European welfare state, and what is sometimes labeled European socialism.

For many Europeans, it is mindboggling to hear American media refer to Greece as a failed welfare state. The tragic fate of this country has become a mantra-like warning among the neoconservatives. The truth is almost the opposite. Greece has been plagued by an epidemic of tax evasion, cronyism and corruption for so many years that many Greeks themselves refer to corruption as their national sport. Non-governmental organizations like Transparency International have pointed to these problems for years and their reports are widely available on the web.

Mar 24

GOP Presents: The Right to a Right Life

By Rod Blackhurst, SpeakOut | Video

Directed by Rod Blackhurst, this parody commercial pokes fun at the GOP health care plan. Together, we can stand for the right to a Right life.

Mike Konczal wrote an excellent article for Democracy about the problems with a voluntary safety net and the superiority of government social insurance. The article draws on serious historical research (by other people) to prove two main points: first, there never was a Golden Age of purely voluntary charity; second, and more important, what charitable support mechanisms existed were not up to the challenges of the Second Industrial Revolution of the late nineteenth century and completely collapsed with the onset of the Great Depression.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. There are basic economic reasons why public social insurance is superior to voluntary charity. The goal here is to protect people against risk: of unemployment, of health emergency, of outliving one's savings, and so on. For a risk-mitigation scheme to work, there are a few things that are necessary. One is that people actually be covered. This is something you can never have with a private system (unless it's regulated to the point of being essentially public), since charities get to pick and choose whom they want to help.

Michelle Bachelet's first term as president of Chile ran from 2006 to 2010. After her term as president ended, she was chosen to head "UN Women," a newly created UN entity that promotes gender equality. Bachelet accepted the presidential sash from Senate President Isabel Allende, the daughter of Chile's late Socialist President Salvador Allende. Both women have had remarkable lives, given the hardships they have had to endure. Michelle Bachelet's father, Air Force General Alberto Bachelet, was loyal to the idea of democracy and to the Allende presidency and because of this, on September 11, 1973, the day of the Pinochet/US coup, he was jailed.

General Bachelet died March 12, 1974 of a heart attack after being tortured in one of Pinochet's prisons. Michelle Bachelet and her mother were also imprisoned for a short time, but fortunately, they were able to flee the country, spending about a year in Cuba and 15 years in Mexico. Another interesting milestone for Bachelet was that prior to her winning the presidency she had spent time as head of the Chilean Military. An action taken to ensure that the abuses of the past would never happen again.