Humanists for Social Justice and Environmental Action supports Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Environmental Activism and Planetary Ethics in North America & Globally, with particular reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights UN treaties and conventions listed above. see About Us. Subscribe below.

Tuesday

Philosophy Student Arrested in Turkey

Philosophy Student Arrested in Turkey (updated) - Daily Nous

Jülide Yazıcı, a student in the Philosophy Department in Boğaziçi University who was active on social media supporting academics threatened by the Turkish government, was arrested two days ago.
According to one source, she was charged with “being a member of an armed terrorist organisation” and “spreading terrorist propaganda.” The specifics of the accusations are unknown to her because the details of “terror cases” are kept secret. She is currently in jail and is expected to be so until her trial.
Two other students and one recent graduate from the university were also arrested.
A petition calling for her release is here (in Turkish and English). Please consider signing.

Monday

Humanist Refugee Resettlement Project - Donations

Dear HAT members and supporters, Letter from Moses Klein:  (THIS IS A STICKY POST)

I am writing this as we are all coming to grips with the horror, the tragedy and the senselessness of the Paris attacks. Beyond the shock of November 13th, I have been struck with the vast range of responses, from the inspiring example of the Parisians who opened their doors to strangers, to the disturbing hate crimes committed in many countries around the world, including at least one instance in Toronto.  Many of the victims of these hate crimes are themselves refugees fleeing ISIS. As humanists, I hope you agree it is the hospitable Parisians who ought to be emulated.
With that in mind, I am inviting you to support the Humanist Association of Toronto in its latest project. We are working in partnership with Oraynu (the Jewish secular humanist organization) and possibly other allied organizations seeking to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to come to Canada. This was a plan we were already discussing before this month’s attacks, but it seems ever more important now to demonstrate that our society is a generous and welcoming one. The success of this project depends on your help, in two important ways.
Financial assistance: Sponsoring organizations need to raise the equivalent of one year of welfare before the sponsorship can proceed. At our October 2015 steering committee meeting, HAT committed to raise $9000, which would be 1/3 of the required amount for a family of four.
Settlement assistance: After our refugee family has arrived, they may still need assistance in other forms. Can you volunteer to help find an apartment, take them on errands, translate for them (if their English is inadequate), etc.? Would you have old clothes or furniture to donate? This is in the future, but we would like to compile a list of people to call on.
If you would like to help this effort in any way, please fill out the form on the next page and mail it to
Humanist Association of Toronto
PO Box 68559
360A Bloor St. W.
Toronto, ON   M5S 1X1
You can also reply through email.
Thanks for your support,
Moses Klein (for the HAT steering committee


I want to help HAT settle a refugee family in Toronto
[  ]          I am helping out financially. Here is my tax-deductible cheque for ____________ payable to Humanist Association of Toronto. (Please write “refugee” on the memo line.) You can also send an Interac transfer to HATTreasurer@gmail.com, or by Paypal at  http://tinyurl.com/oys5vgg .
[  ]          I can help with settlement by ______________________________________________________.
(Please describe what you can offer.) You can also reply by email to mosesklein@gmail.com
[  ]          I would like to help with the committee coordinating the refugee project. You can also reply by email to mosesklein@gmail.com
Name: ________________________________
Address: ___________________________________________
               ____________________________________________
Phone: _____________________
Email: ______________________

Thursday

Scientists Have Finally Found a Biological Process Behind Schizophrenia

Scientists Have Finally Found a Biological Process Behind Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a complex disease with elusive origins, but the mystery became much clearer today, when a landmark new study based on genetic analysis of nearly 65,000 individuals pinpointed a specific gene and biological process behind it. The discovery injects new hope into the century-old quest to treat— and perhaps even cure—the debilitating psychiatric disorder. Roughly one percent of the population suffers from schizophrenia, a disease characterized by hallucinations, emotional withdrawal, and a declining cognitive function, beginning in adolescence or early adulthood. Despite decades of research, we’ve made very little progress treating schizophrenia, in part, because it’s been so difficult to nail down the cause

“Since schizophrenia was first described over a century ago, its underlying biology has been a black box, in part because it has been virtually impossible to model the disorder in cells or animals” said Steven McCarroll, director of genetics at Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research. “The human genome is providing a powerful new way in to this disease.”

“Because the molecular origins of psychiatric diseases are little-understood, efforts by pharmaceutical companies to pursue new therapeutics are few and far between,” said Bruce Cuthbert, acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health “This study changes the game.”

Let's hope that publicly funded research stays ahead of Big Pharma - 

Tuesday

Latest Urgent Actions | Amnesty International Canada

 Just a reminder that you can sign up for "Urgent Action Network" to write for rights not just on Dec 10, but as the need arises.
Latest Urgent Actions | Amnesty International Canada

When an individual is in immediate danger of a human rights violation, Amnesty International mobilizes a dedicated group of letter-writers to take action quickly to protect them. Please take action as soon as possible on the cases listed on this page.

Risky pesticides left on market too long, environment watchdog says

Risky pesticides left on market too long, environment watchdog says - Politics - CBC News

Gelfand's audit found the pest agency took an average of five years, and up to 11 years, to get dangerous pesticides off store shelves — and that the stalling mechanisms are built right into the law.

The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency is taking years to remove confirmed pesticide risks from the marketplace while failing to evaluate many other products, according to a new audit.
The latest annual report from the environment commissioner's office, tabled Tuesday in Parliament, also found that conditionally registered pesticides, fungicides and herbicides which have not been properly vetted have in some cases been in use for more than a decade.
The Liberal government moved last week to stop the practice of conditionally registering the products, effective this June, but commissioner Julie Gelfand's report indicates problems in the system run much deeper.
"We've recommended to the agency that once they've decided that a pesticide has unacceptable risks for all uses, that it should remove them from the market as soon as possible," the commissioner told a news conference.
"And that if they can't remove it right away, they should give more information to the public."

Cobalt mined with child labour used by Apple, Samsung, Sony & others, Amnesty International says - Business - CBC News

Cobalt mined with child labour used by Apple, Samsung, Sony & others, Amnesty International says - Business - CBC News

Children told Amnesty International they worked for up to 12 hours a day in the mines, carrying heavy loads to earn between $1 and $2 US  day. In 2014, approximately 40,000 children worked in mines across southern DRC, many of them mining cobalt, according to UNICEF.

In a report, the group documents how traders buy cobalt from areas where child labour is rife and sell it to a company called Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd (Huayou Cobalt). According to filings, Huayou Cobalt sold more than $235 million worth of cobalt in 2013.

Huayou and its subsidiaries then process the metals before selling them to battery component makers, who in turn sell them on to a half dozen battery-making firms who "claim to supply technology and car companies" such as the ones listed above, Amnesty said.

Amnesty said it contacted all the companies that came up in its research, and "none provided enough details to independently verify where the cobalt in their products came from," although most offered at least qualified denials.

"The glamorous shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage," Amnesty researcher Mark Dummett said.

"Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products."

Friday

Turkey Detains Academics as Chomsky Takes Aim at Erdoğan's Brutality

Turkey Detains Academics as Chomsky Takes Aim at Erdoğan's Brutality, Hypocrisy | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Global outcry over academic freedom and human rights has erupted following news on Friday that the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has arrested at least 18 academics and scholars for signing an open letter last week calling for the end of Turkey's brutal treatment of the country's Kurdish people.

The controversy has been elevated internationally by the involvement of Noam Chomsky and other
high-profile academics who have also expressed public contempt for Turkey's policies towards the Kurds as well as Erdoğan's double-standards on fighting "terrorism" both inside his own country and
in neighboring Syria.
Police have detained at least 12 academics over alleged “terror propaganda” after they signed a petition together with more than 1,400 others calling for an end to Turkey’s “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish people”.

In a crackdown, condemned by the US ambassador as “chilling”, police are also still processing the paperwork of nine other academics who also face arrest.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has severely criticised the signatories, including political scientist Noam Chomsky and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, and called on the judiciary to act against their alleged treachery.

Prosecutors launched an investigation into the academics over possible charges of insulting the state and engaging in terrorist propaganda.

Staff from 90 Turkish universities calling themselves “Academicians for Peace” signed the
petition last week calling for an end to the military campaign against the Kurds and accusing the government of breaching international law.
Offering further details, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported that 15 academics from Kocaeli University in northwestern Turkey and three from Uludag University in the neighboring province of Bursa were among those detained for questioning. Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Kucuk accused the group of spreading terrorist propaganda and "insulting the moral integrity of the state." Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu implied the academics had chosen to "align" themselves with terrorists.

On Friday, students protested the arrests under the banner "don't touch my teacher."

Wednesday

Arrest of human rights defender Samar Badawi latest attempt to intimidate activists | Amnesty International Canada

Saudi Arabia: Arrest of human rights defender Samar Badawi latest attempt to intimidate activists | Amnesty International Canada

According to local activists, Samar Badawi was arrested in the morning on 12 January in Jeddah and transferred along with her two-year-old daughter Joud to a police station. After four hours of questioning, she was transferred to Dhaban prison and is due to appear before a prosecutor tomorrow. She is believed to have been arrested at least partly in connection with her alleged role in managing a Twitter account campaigning for the release of her former husband, the imprisoned human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair.

Tuesday

Quebec's top court rules assisted dying law can go ahead -

Quebec's top court rules assisted dying law can go ahead - Montreal - CBC News
Quebec's Court of Appeal has maintained the province's right to allow terminally ill patients the choice to die with medical help, the first law of its kind in Canada.

This morning, a three-judge Court of Appeal panel overturned a Dec. 1 Quebec Superior Court judgment aimed at suspending implementation of the province's law, Bill 52, until certain provisions of the Criminal Code were changed.

In the ruling, the Court of Appeal said the Quebec law doesn't contravene sections of the Criminal Code related to assisted dying because they were struck down by Canada's Supreme Court last February.

It said the provincial legislation fills a judicial void by allowing patients to exercise their rights granted to them by Canada's top court.

Monday

'Landslide Victory' for Ogoni Farmers as Court Rules Against Shell

'Landslide Victory' for Ogoni Farmers as Court Rules Against Shell

In a potentially precedent-setting ruling, a Dutch court said Friday that Royal Dutch Shell may be held liable for oil spills at its subsidiary in Nigeria—a win for farmers and environmentalists attempting to hold the oil giant accountable for leaks, spills, and widespread pollution.

The ruling by the Court of Appeals in the Hague, which overturns a 2013 decision in favor of Shell, allows four Ogoni farmers from the Niger Delta to jointly sue the fossil fuels corporation in the Netherlands for causing extensive oil spills in Nigeria.

The scars of those disasters are still visible in the fields and fishing ponds of three Nigerian villages. In one village, drinking water has been rendered non-potable, while in another, an entire mangrove forest has been destroyed.

Alali Efanga, one of the Ogoni farmers who, along with Friends of the Earth Netherlands, brought the case against Shell, said the ruling "offers hope that Shell will finally begin to restore the soil around my village so that I will once again be able to take up farming and fishing on my own land."

Beyond that, the court's decision "is a landslide victory for environmentalists and these four brave Nigerian farmers who, for more than seven years, have had the courage to take on one of the most powerful companies in the world," said Geert Ritsema, campaigner at Friends of the Earth Netherlands. "This ruling is a ray of hope for other victims of environmental degradation, human rights violations, and other misconduct by large corporations."

Indeed, as Amnesty International researcher Mark Dummett said in advance of the ruling: "This case is especially important as it could pave the way for further cases from other communities devastated by Shell's negligence."

"There have been thousands of spills from Shell’s pipelines since the company started pumping oil in the Niger Delta in 1958," Dummett said, "with devastating consequences for the people living there."

Decrying the "incredible levels of pollution" caused by the activities of Shell and its subsidiaries, environmentalists Vandana Shiva and Nnimmo Bassey said at a media briefing in July that "weekends in Ogoniland are marked by carnivals of funerals of people in their 20s and 30s."

Citing a 2011 United Nations Environmental Programme assessment, they noted that in over 40 locations tested in Ogoniland, the soil is polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of 5 meters and that all the water bodies in the region are polluted.

The UN report, they said, also found that in some places the water was polluted with benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels 900 above World Health Organization standards. "With life expectancy standing at about 41 years, the clean up of Ogoniland is projected to require a cumulative 30 years to clean both the land and water," they said.

Tuesday

COC endorses Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations, report released Dec 15.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will release its final report today.
Some of the key recommendations listed in their interim report released this past June include:
  • reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by ... providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so
  • developing with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians
  • acknowledging that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools
  • eliminating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody over the next decade, and to issue detailed annual reports that monitor and evaluate progress in doing so
  • appointing a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls.
  • developing a national action plan, strategies, and other concrete measures to achieve the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Council of Canadians endorsed all 94 recommendations and called on the Canadian government to implement them.

Friday

Help Sort Clothing for Syrian Refugees, Nov 29, 29

Help Sort the Mountain of Clothing for Syrian Refugees

There is now a FB EVENT for each day at this link:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/theclothingdrive/events/

Please go there, choose your day (or days) that you can come and comment in that event the hours you would be able to come. This will help us keep it all organized! Also, you will find the address at that link and be able to ask any questions there. Your contribution is so valuable! *****

PLEASE SHARE: THE CLOTHING DRIVE NEWS
The donations poured in and now we need to SORT and get them moved out of our temporary space. It really is a mountain (which is wonderful) and the next steps are crucial to making sure they get to people in need. Whether you can do a few hours or a few days, we need you!

Please sign up in the Facebook event listing for the dates that work for you. https://www.facebook.com/groups/theclothingdrive/events/