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.


Western Union: Holiday Money transfers @ predatory 20%

Before the holidays, millions of hard-working men and women gather the money they have saved throughout the year, go to a local Western Union office and wire it to their relatives throughout the developing world. Up to 20% of these savings can go straight into the pocket of money transfer organizations in fees, allowing companies to make billions of dollars in profit on the backs of the world's neediest.

Slashing the obscene profits of companies like Western Union would dramatically increase assistance flowing into developing countries. Instead, families around the world received far less than they deserved so that Western Union's CEO could take home $8.1 million in 2009.

The World Bank recommends that transfer companies limit fees to 5% of the amount being transferred, but some banks and companies have astronomical hidden charges. Perversely, the neediest countries coming out of war or disaster suffer the greatest losses, because of transfer companies' monopolistic privileges and exclusive deals with local banks.

Western Union has never faced a public outcry to challenge its shameless profiteering. If we raise our voices loudly to challenge their predatory fees, we can threaten their corporate brand enough to compel them to act.

AVAAZ Petition: As citizens from around the world committed to eradicating global poverty, we call on you to show true corporate leadership and take immediate steps to ensure crucial international remittances to the world’s poorest countries are subject to fair rates. Specifically, we ask you to lower your total fees to a maximum of 5% in all transfers sent home by workers to developing nations.

Sign now -- and we’ll deliver it to the company’s image-sensitive board of directors when the petition reaches 250,000 signers.

Research links rise in Falluja birth defects and cancers to US assault , Saskatchewan Uranium

Research links rise in Falluja birth defects and cancers to US assault - and Saskatchewan Uranium

Note: The largest single source of uranium for the US military is Saskatchewan, according to a 2008 article by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

In fact, Saskatchewan produces more uranium than any other region or country in the world. The Athabasca Basin region of Northern Saskatchewan (with a small area of Alberta) is the world's leading source of high grade uranium.
A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.

The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports.

The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja's genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys.

"We suspect that the population is chronically exposed to an environmental agent," said one of the report's authors, environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. "We don't know what that environmental factor is, but we are doing more tests to find out."

The report identifies metals as potential contaminating agents afflicting the city – especially among pregnant mothers. "Metals are involved in regulating genome stability," it says. "As environmental effectors, metals are potentially good candidates to cause birth defects.

The findings are likely to prompt further speculation that the defects were caused by depleted uranium rounds, which were heavily used in two large battles in the city in April and November 2004. The rounds, which contain ionising radiation, are a core component of the armouries of numerous militaries and militias.

(See also: Chomsky on Fallujah cancer rates higher than Hiroshima)

see also International Campaign to Ban Depleted Uranium Weapons

And closer to home, What about Port Hope? Are they actually producing Uranium?
"....In Port Hope, Ontario, Cameco's uranium conversion facility they release 120 kg or more of uranium into the air each year. The leadership admit that inhalation is most dangerous threat to health. The plant is on the lakefront, in the middle of town, so the release is into the town and lake...As for the question about CAMECO and current depleted uranium use, well that is the beauty of the system. No one knows. The US does not distinguish between DU from Canadian uranium and DU from other uranium sources. Whether Port Hope is still producing DU, that I cannot answer. Until there is transparency about this issue we will not have clear answers. I think it will eventually take someone to leak reliable information (ie. not misleading or false information) about the final locations of Canadian uranium to have answers.

Personally, I would propose there be a legal challenge against the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan, and the mining giant CAMECO, for not exercising proper oversight on the uses of its uranium once it leaves Canada. Also to investigate if criminal charges are warranted against these governments and CAMECO if internal government records confirm the facility at Port Hope Ontario has been used to produce depleted uranium for US arms manufacturers.

It is easy to criticize other governments, banks etc. for malfeasance. However there seems to be less interest among some of the progressive community in Canada to go after the wrongs that we commit and things we can actually try to do something about.

Stop the Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning: Letter

Stop the Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning: Sign Our Letter
Bradley Manning is the 23-year-old Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. For the last five months, he has been detained in solitary confinement enduring conditions that are cruel, inhumane, and bordering on torture.

Bradley Manning deserves humane treatment while he awaits trial.
Please add your name to our letter urging the Marines to lift the heavy restrictions of Manning’s unnecessary “Prevention of Injury” order.
Bradley's friend, David House, will deliver your letter to the Commanding Officer at the Quantico Marine Base brig when he next visits Bradley Manning.

Letter to Commanding Officer James Averhart, US MCB Quantico Brig:

Pfc. Bradley Manning has been held for five months under “maximum custody” at Quantico Marine Corps Base under your supervision. Pfc. Manning is under a “Prevention of Injury Order” (POI) that puts him in severe isolation
  • Manning stays in his cell for 23 hours a day
  • Guards must check on him every 5 minutes, and he must respond each time
  • He is not allowed to sleep between 5am and 8pm
  • Substantive exercise is not allowed beyond walking, potentially in chains
  • Communication with other people in the brig is banned, and he cannot write to people outside beyond the few a list approved by the brig commander; any unapproved letters he receives are destroyed.
  • He has not been allowed to read newspapers or watch international news during TV time
  • Comfortable sleep is impossible; he must surrender his clothes each night, has only a heavy “suicide blanket” akin to an x-ray vest, and guards must be able to see his face at all times.
A psychologist has said Manning isn’t a danger to himself or others, and the POI order is unnecessary. His lawyer has also been unable to have the POI order lifted. But it is clear that Bradley Manning has been subjected to inhumane and unnecessary punishment without being convicted of a crime.

The severe isolation is already having negative effects on Pfc. Manning’s health, according to his attorney and a friend. And his psychologist says he is of no danger to himself or others, making the longstanding POI order unnecessary.

The conditions of Pfc. Manning’s detention are cruel, inhumane, and disproportionate for the crime with which he has only been charged. We urge you to lift Pfc. Manning’s POI order and allow him to exercise, communicate, and sleep as allowed under maximum custody

(if Outside the US, you may sign the letter using zip code 00000)

CBC :The growing abyss that is world corruption

The growing abyss that is world corruption By Brian Stewart
(note: this report is relevant for the FairVote Canada campaign. One of the comments in the report noted "Seven of the top ten have socal democratic governments and most have proportional representation and a lot of them have coalition governments. Makes for more democracy and thus less corruption. And I suspect most of the top ten have effective journalism going on" mb)

Accountability and transparency of The top 20 least-corrupt nations

1. Denmark
2. New Zealand
3. Singapore
4. Finland
5. Sweden
6. Canada
7. Netherlands
8. Australia
9. Switzerland
10. Norway
11. Iceland
12. Luxembourg
13. Hong Kong
14. Ireland
15. Austria
16. Germany
17. Barbados
18. Japan
19. Qatar
20. United Kingdom

There's one problem area in the world today that must be stated as bluntly as possible and faced as honestly as we can — that's the collapse of trust in governments around the globe because of an almost unprecedented rise in corruption. Every year, according to those who track these things, the world falls further into widespread corruption to the point where "at no time has there been less trust in elected representatives," the International Anti-Corruption Conference declared last month.

We all know severe corruption exists in large parts of the world. But most of us had hoped that the pressure for transparency and reform by groups like the UN and the World Bank would start getting a grip on this plague.

Economic summits, like the G20 in Toronto last summer, always vow to attack the problem with vigour. But that simply isn't happening effectively enough. We are not advancing against world corruption. According to the numbers, in fact, we're in a dismal retreat.

As the respected group Transparency International reported recently, of 178 countries and territories surveyed, nearly three quarters scored below five on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean). This means that even Canada along with other relatively clean and transparent countries cannot be immune from the consequences.

Anti-corruption experts are unanimous in warning that the existing state of severe corruption in dozens of nation states means we will all face a future of more instability, violence, poverty and massive environmental failure.
Bribery on the rise "Most worrying is the fact that bribes to the police have almost doubled since 2006, and more people report paying bribes to the judiciary than did so five years ago," the report said.

Something very ominous is clearly happening here as even the least corrupt areas appear to show less faith in the honesty of government and its institutions... (more)


Another Good Video: 200 years of Global Health Development

an excellent overview of 200 years of Global Health developments, from the BBCs "The Joy of Statistics" program.


The Equality Effect

Great new VideoPSA by Andrea Dorfman for OXFAM, on women's equality before international law.


13 Products Most Likely To Made By Child Or Forced Labor

13 Products Most Likely To Made By Child Or Forced Labor (PHOTOS)
Some of our most basic purchases are produced by children. Though hard data is scant, it's estimated that there are 115 million children worldwide in forced labor.

There are some 128 goods among the products that most commonly use child labor, according to newly updated data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The broad definition of exploitive labor by underage workers used by the DOL includes "slavery or practices similar to slavery, the sale or trafficking of children, debt bondage or serfdom; the forcible recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; the commercial sexual exploitation of children; the involvement of children in drug trafficking; and work that is likely to harm children's health, safety, or morals."
The vast majority of the explotiive labor done by children is in agriculture (60 percent), followed by services (26 percent), and industry (7 percent), according to the DOL. But some industries are definitely worse than others.

We sifted through the latest report from the DOL's "List Of Goods Produced By Child Labor or Forced Labor" to find some of the most common products that are manufactured or harvested using these deplorable practices. We ranked each product by the number of countries that use child or forced labor to produce each good. While this is not a scientific ranking, these products represent some of the industries and goods and that the government has identified as having the highest rates of child labor. ranking: 1. Gold 2. Cotton 3. Sugar 4. Tobacco 5. Bricks 6. Coffee 7. Cattle 8. Rice 9. Clothing 10. Diamonds 11. Coal 12. Cocoa 13. Rugs


Bill C-393, Letter for Debate starting Thursday Dec 16

Bill C-393, Letter for Debate starting Thursday Dec 16

Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime is supposed to facilitate getting low-cost generic medicines to developing countries. But because of red tape written in by drug company lobbyists, only one shipment of medicines has been sent in more than six years!

Bill C-393 was introduced to streamline the process so the medicines can start flowing. And all parties claim to support it. But on November first, a Parliamentary committee voted (by the slimmest of majorities) to strip the bill of its key provision: requiring a single licence per medication, rather than a new licence for each shipment.

Now the bill is back in the House of Commons, where the damage can be reversed if Members of Parliament restore the one-licence solution.

Debate on Bill C-393 is to start Thursday, December 16.

Please send the letter HERE

Personal phone MP's office are one of the strongest actions constituents can take to make their voices heard. Ask your MP to support reinstating the one-license solution in Bill C-393. Tell your MP it would be outrageous if any party chooses to play games with such a life-or-death issue and derails Bill C-393 on a procedural technicality.
To find out your MP's phone number, please click here.
Not sure what to say? Here's a factsheet

Brit/Boston biotech secretly releases GM mosquitos in Cayman island

British Overseas Territory used as private lab for GM mosquito company
GeneWatch UK Press Release 14th December 2010

A new GeneWatch UK briefing questions the role of the British scientific establishment in the release of three million genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands earlier this year (1).

The secret experiments were revealed by UK biotech company Oxitec last month, which claimed misleadingly that the mosquitoes were sterile. The GeneWatch briefing shows that no public consultation was undertaken on potential risks and informed consent was not sought from local people. Oxitec is a spin-out company from Oxford University and the trials were funded by the Wellcome Trust: neither body appears to have required any ethical oversight before using Grand Cayman for the trials.

Oxford University is an investor in Oxitec, which it expects to generate income for it in the future. The company also owes 2.25 million to a multi-millionaire venture capital investor in Boston, which it is due to pay back by 2013. The company is losing 1.7 million a year and its business plan requires it to commercialise its products and charge ongoing fees for continual releases of the GM mosquitoes, which are intended to reduce the transmission of the dengue virus. Former science minister Lord Drayson and former Royal Society President Lord May both acted as advisors to investors in the company.

GeneWatch UK?s Director, Dr Helen Wallace said: 'The British scientific establishment is acting like the last bastion of colonialism, using an Overseas Territory as a private lab. There is no excuse for funding trials without public consultation or ethical oversight to help out a spin-out company that is heavily in debt'.

Trials of the same GM mosquitoes are expected in Malaysia soon. The biggest risk with the company's approach is that a different, more invasive species of mosquito (the Asian Tiger mosquito) may move into the ecological niche vacated by the species it is targeting (the Yellow Fever mosquito), potentially transmitting more diseases and becoming harder to eradicate. The company has created GM Asian Tiger mosquitoes with a view to marketing these in future to tackle this expected problem.

There is a real danger that this approach to reducing mosquito populations could lead to harm to public health. It is also likely to lock developing countries into continual payments for ongoing releases of two GM mosquito products.
s scientists have published computer models of falling mosquito populations as a result of releasing their GM mosquitoes, but they have not included the effect of the two different species of mosquitoes, and their interactions with the four forms of the dengue virus and other tropical diseases.

Oxitec has close links to the GM crop company Syngenta and is also developing GM versions of agricultural pests which it intends to commercialise in future, partly to combat the growing problem of resistant pests, caused by the use of pest resistant (Bt) GM maize, soybeans and cotton (2). It has received significant public subsidies, including more than 2.5 million in grants from the UK government- funded Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), mainly for joint projects with Oxford University.

see other examples of resistance/new pest GM cycle:
Oxitecs agricultural pest products  inc. Bollworms genetically-modified to contain a fluorescent marker. They have been tested in the USA but these were sterilised using radiation, rather than being genetically-modified with Oxitec's conditional-lethality trait. Cotton bollworm pests resistant to the Bt toxin used in GM cotton were reported this week in India:


Every Human Has Rights - SC General Message on Human RightsDay

Every Human Has Rights

The UN Secretary General sends out a message for Human Rights Day on the 10th December. This year the UN is celebrating human rights defenders, people who take action to stand up, speak out for freedom and human dignity.

He talks about the courageous women and men striving to protect their own rights and rights of others. These human rights defenders take huge strides in defending the most vulnerable and discriminated against.

Every Human Has Rights supports the call to recognize and human rights defenders and we’re asking everyone to think what they can do. Take a first step to becoming aware of human rights by joining the Barefoot Against Poverty campaign – thinking about people living in poverty with their basic rights being denied. By joining the campaign you can also join us throughout the coming year to take further steps for human rights including learning, sharing and taking action.

Sign your support now and join people around the world on our first step for human rights together.

Look out soon for more information on human rights defenders when we launch our worldwide map of people who stand up and speak out around the world.

ALSO:  Check in on Amnesty's DEMAND DIGNITY campaign - and ADD YOUR VOICE to voices from Canada.  Here is a sample:
Vivre dans la dignité, c'est de vivre libre, en étant respecté, et sans distinction de sexe, d'âge, de couleur ou de classe sociale. C'est de ne pas souffrir de pauvreté, ni de faim, ni d'injustice. C'est de pouvoir vivre heureux, sans honte.


Sign Amnesty International’s global petition calling for the release of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Chinese democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo

Sign Amnesty International’s global petition calling for the release of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Chinese democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo

Help free Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo

Please help Amnesty International exert worldwide pressure on China to protect courageous, determined democracy activists like Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo is not the only human rights activist wrongfully detained in China. Others like Mao Hengfeng and Liu Xianbin (see pictures at right) are in prison for speaking out in support of Liu Xiaobo and human rights change in China.
Please send a message to the Chinese Ambassador to Canada demanding that China release Liu Xiaobo and other human rights activists who have been wrongfully imprisoned for speaking out for human rights.

Sign here


Avaaz Petition Wikileaks: Stop the crackdown - Wikileaks: Stop the crackdown

To the U.S. government, and corporations linked to Wikileaks:

We call on you to stop the crackdown on WikiLeaks and its partners immediately. We urge you to respect democratic principles and laws of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. If Wikileaks and the journalists it works with have violated any laws they should be pursued in the courts with due process. They should not be subjected to an extra-judicial campaign of intimidation.

It just started, and has over 100,.000 signers, including lots of Canadians. Very interesting to see it climb.  Tune in tomorrow

Wikileaks mirror

for a while...


Victory for Democracy in Canada re Debate on Genetic Engineering

Victory for Democracy in Canada on Genetic Engineering! Your actions are working!

(from C-BAN)
Despite biotech industry attempts to shut down debate, last night in the House of Commons, the New Democratic Party secured a new 5-hour debate on Bill C-474 and the impacts of genetic engineering for early in 2011. This type of debate on genetic engineering in the House of Commons has never happened before! Now every MP will have a chance to participate in the debate on Bill C-474. Write your MP today HERE  and ask them to represent your concerns in the debate.

[NOTE: You can also use this link to write letters about GE Pigs, GE Salmon, etc.]

Thank you to everyone who continues to take action. Your voice is being heard! Approximately 1500 people have written to their MPs and another 6000 signatures on petitions have been collected. Hundreds of people have sent replies from their MPs to CBAN - thank you for your patience in waiting for CBAN to respond to your questions. Bill C-474 is concrete action and a unique chance to bring genetic engineering and the concerns of farmers into the spotlight.


"Fox News North" (SUN TV) : Give Us a Choice!

"Fox News North": Give Us a Choice!
from Avaaz: We've won the right to refuse to pay for “Fox News North”, but now that right is under threat. Sun TV is pressing cable companies to get their channel included in our cable packages. This means we would be forced to pay for Sun TV if we want access to any other special news channels.

Right now, Shaw cable company offers the American Fox News as a stand alone option. If you don’t want Fox, you don’t have to pay for it. Let's require the same deal for Sun TV. An outcry from consumers across the country will force cable providers to offer us a real choice when it comes to news of the "Fox" variety. Send a message to the Presidents of Shaw, Bell and Rogers HERE


International AIDS day, Dec 1 : UNAIDS Global report 2010

UNAIDS Global report 2010 | AIDS SCORECARDS
You can read Regional Reports here - note that South Africa has achieved almost 90% reduction in Mother/Child transmission - but stats are rising in Eastern Europe and East Asia.

This is International Aids Day. AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1. It was first observed in 1988 after a summit of health ministers from around the world called for a spirit of social tolerance and a greater exchange of information on HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day serves to strengthen the global effort to face the challenges of the AIDS pandemic.

Here are some campaigns

Buddies in Bad Times launched a campaign last night, AidsActionNow,org you can see their campaign video calling for the end of the Harper government's denial of the right to health for people living with and affected by HIV and Hepatitis C.

* In Vancouverʼs downtown eastside, the prevalence of Hepatitis C is 70%. HIV prevalence is 30%
* In Toronto, 23% of gay and bisexual men are HIV-positive.
* Aboriginal people make up 3.8% of the overall population, but 12.5% of new HIV infections.
* In Canadian prisons, Hepatitis C rates are 45 times greater than the general population, and HIV rates are 22 times greater.

Despite these alarming facts, the Harper government continues to oppose harm reduction programs that are proven to reduce HIV and Hepatitis C infections. Instead, funding has been increased for military and security costs which cost Canadian taxpayers 632 times the annual national AIDS plan.

Doctors without BordersHIV/AIDS treatment in developing countries is being dealt a double blow that will mean treatment recommendations cannot be implemented and the promise of new science remain unfulfilled.

Oxfam Canada is a member of The Blueprint for Action on Women and HIV/AIDS a multi-sector coalition of HIV-positive women, Canadian and international HIV/AIDS organizations, and a variety of women's and reproductive rights groups advocating for better prevention, services and supports for women and girls infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.


Toronto Fundraisers for Iraq War Resisters

Two fundraisers in support of Iraq War resisters

From east to west, Toronto is fundraising for Iraq War resisters on THURSDAY DECEMBER 2nd – two great events, one great cause! Please come out to one (or both!) of these events, bring your neighbours and friends, help raise much needed funds for the ongoing fight to keep Iraq War resisters in Canada.

Canadian lyricist and composer Jon Brooks performs a benefit for the War Resisters Support Campaign, with special guests Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star columnist and author of the Broadsides blog and Iraq War resister Jeremy Hinzman.

Thursday, December 2nd 8 p.m.
Lula Lounge 1585 Dundas Street West
$20 or pay what you can • Dinner reservation guarantees seating 416 588 0307

Come out to the 'Support Don’t Deport' Benefit Jam in support of local War Resisters Phil and Jamine, with special musical guests Mr. Rick & the Biscuits, Darren Eedens and comedian Robin Crossman.

Thursday, December 2nd 8:30pm - 11:30pm
The Prohibition Gastrohouse
696 Queen Street East
$25 in advance or $30 at the door (includes first drink and appetizer)

Ticket info at


BBC/UN - Million-dollar beds fuel Madagascar timber crisis

Million-dollar beds fuel Madagascar timber crisis
GLOBAL WITNESS:The recently-implemented Lacey Act, in the US, which makes an offence of importing illegally-logged timber, has reportedly deterred many buyers in the US. Last year it led to authorities mounting a raid on the world-famous Gibson guitar company over allegedly illegal Madagascan rosewood. However, it has not deterred the Chinese, who import over 98% of illegally harvested Ebony, Rosewoo from national parks.

Soaring demand in China and political unrest in Madagascar are fuelling illegal logging for hardwoods in the African nation, a report concludes. Global Witness and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) talked to loggers, government agencies and traders to compile their report.

In China, they discovered beds on sale for $1m, made from Madagascan wood. The report was launched at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Nagoya, Japan.

Madagascan politics is split between factions associated with ex-President Marc Ravalomana and the rival who ousted him in a 2009 coup, Andry Rajoelina. Conservation groups have previously warned that illegal extraction of timber and wildlife could flourish in this milieu, but the EIA/Global Witness is the first investigation to show the scale of the problem. "The pre-existing problem of illegal logging was turned into a flood of tree-cutting in national parks, and a flood of wood out of Madagascar to China and the West," said Alexander von Bismarck, EIA's executive director. Felling the three species concerned - ebony, rosewood and pallisander - is forbidden, but the government has issued permits cheaply for traders to export stockpiles, which led to further logging.

The two organisations were asked by Madagascar's national parks service to conduct the investigation. This official endorsement enabled them to access records in government departments, such as cargo manifests and trade data. But most of the details emerged through contact with the loggers and traders, who appeared - in written accounts and in video produced during the investigations - not at all concerned with keeping their activities under wraps. Instead they were keen to take the investigators, posing as buyers, into the heart of the logging zone (A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE). "Within one day we had the staff of the top boss in [the town of] Antalaha saying 'we'll take you into the National Park and show you where we cut wood for this German buyer'," Mr von Bismarck recounted.

EIA and Global Witness also went undercover in China and other countries, discussing with people in the furniture trade where the wood came from and how much it was worth.

USA must address Omar Khadr rights violations following plea deal | Amnesty International

USA must address Omar Khadr rights violations following plea deal | Amnesty International
Good to see that Amnesty is moving to the next stage of the Omar Khadr situation. Keep an eye out for Harper's avoidance.

Omar Khadr was detained in late July 2002 in Afghanistan when he was aged 15.
Amnesty International today called on the US authorities to address any human rights violations committed against Canadian national Omar Khadr,in spite of him pleading guilty to the charges against him at a military commission at the Guantánamo Bay detention centre.

This morning, Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to five "war crime" charges, including a murder charge for allegedly throwing a grenade that fatally wounded a US soldier. He had been held in US military custody for eight and half years, after being detained in late July 2002 in Afghanistan when he was aged 15.

'While military trial proceedings may be coming to an end in Omar Khadr’s case, the obligation on the US authorities to address serious concerns about human rights violations suffered by him does not end' said Rob Freer, Amnesty International's USA researcher.

More ducks land on Syncrude Canada oil sands pond

More ducks land on Syncrude Canada oil sands pond
More ducks have landed on a tailings pond owned by Syncrude Canada Ltd, three days after Syncrude was ordered to pay a C$3 million ($2.9 million) penalty for a similar incident that killed 1,600 ducks and helped fuel environmental opposition to Canada's oil sands.

An unknown number of ducks landed on Syncrude's Mildred Lake settling basin in the northern Alberta oil sands on Monday night, the province of Alberta's environment department said on Tuesday. Though the exact number of ducks isn't known, Alberta Environment said some of them were heavily oiled. The department said its staff were on site to ensure landing deterrents are in place and to keep other waterfowl from landing.

Last week, the company was sentenced for a 2008 incident in which more than 1,600 ducks died after landing on a tailings pond at Syncrude's Aurora mine site. "I cannot express how disappointed and frustrated I am that this incident occurred," Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner said in a statement. "Albertans deserve answers to why this happened again."
(don't have an email and or action for this - please send if you are working on this - M)


US: The end of ACSI v. Stearns | NCSE

US: The end of ACSI v. Stearns | NCSE

Sometimes you win - but it takes a while.

On October 12, 2010, the Supreme Court declined to review Association of Christian Schools International et al. v. Roman Stearns et al., thus bringing the case to a definitive end. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25, 2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs — the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school — charged that the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college.

Creationism was prominent in the case. The plaintiffs objected to the university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use creationist textbooks as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." Michael Behe, a proponent of "intelligent design" creationism, served as a scientific expert witness for the plaintiffs, although his defense of the creationist biology textbooks was unavailing. Wendell Bird, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, is a former employee of the Institute for Creation Research; he defended Louisiana's 1981 "equal time" act all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled to violate the Establishment Clause in the decision in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987).

Relying in part on the view of defendants' expert witnesses Donald Kennedy and Francisco J. Ayala (a Supporter of NCSE) that the creationist textbooks were not appropriate for use in a college preparatory biology course, the trial judge in ACSI v. Stearns granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on August 8, 2008. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, but in a January 12, 2010, ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, which is now reaffirmed by the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case. Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted to ACSI v. Stearns.

War Resisters Support Campaign - update.

War Resisters Support Campaign
Canadians continue campaign to get status for Iraq war resisters, Sept 29, 2010

Despite support by the majority of Canadians for US Iraq War resisters, Bill C-440 An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters)­ failed to pass at second reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening. While the bill received strong support from a large majority of opposition members of parliament, it needed 7 more votes to pass.

'This is a setback for Iraq War resisters seeking permanent resident status in Canada, but our campaign to make the government respect the will of the majority of Canadians on this issue is far from over,' said Michelle Robidoux, a spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign. 'These courageous men and women have the support of two-thirds of Canadians across the country, and they are still threatened with punishment if returned to the United States.'

'Over the past few weeks, some MPs had expressed concern about the scope of Bill C-440 as it was presented,' said Robidoux. 'We will be working with opposition MPs to find a way to give effect to Parliament's two votes, in 2008 and 2009, in favour of letting Iraq War resisters stay.'

Two motions that were previously adopted by Parliament which directed the Conservative minority government to immediately cease deportations of Iraq War resisters and facilitate their requests for permanent resident status have been ignored despite public opinion polls indicating that 64 per cent of voters support Parliament's direction.

The Harper government has repeatedly interfered with the cases of war resisters that are supposed to be considered on a case-by-case basis by making blatantly prejudicial comments and issuing an operational directive that intrude on the independence of both Immigration and Refugee Board members and immigration officers.

Coincidentally, Wednesday was also the last day of the Government of Canada’s window to challenge the Federal Court of Appeal decision in the case of resister Jeremy Hinzman. In a unanimous ruling on July 6, 2010, the Federal Court of Appeal held that the government’s assessment of Mr. Hinzman’s bid to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds was substantially flawed because it did not take into account his sincerely held religious, moral and political beliefs against service in the war in Iraq. Jeremy's case will now be sent back for reconsideration by a different immigration officer in accordance with the court’s ruling.


All over the world, trafficked women and girls are forced into sexual exploitation in hotels right in front of the staff. The global Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children From Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, compels hotels to train their staff to detect and assist the victims. The Code works, but so far Hilton has not signed up.

Hilton is a market leader in the hotel industry. Let's build global pressure on Hilton to protect the victims of this brutal trade. When we reach 250,000 signatures, we'll take out ads in newspapers in McLean, Virginia - where Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta lives and works and shame him into action.

(this is the 2nd call for this action, and now it will be published if enough signatures are gathered. A good visible action)


Facebook Privacy Breach: Users' Info Leaked To Advertising, Tracking Firms

Facebook Privacy Breach: Users' Info Leaked To Advertising, Tracking Firms (REPORT)
Well, this is an ethical action. Facebook is evil. They harvest things. Especially if you have KIDS, don't let them use facebook aps - farmville, anyone? A good action is to report this article ON your facebook page.


Free the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo - Petition

Free the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo - The Petition Site
Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for year 2010, was sentenced to 11 years of prison on December 25th 2009 under the name of 'inciting subversion' because of his initiation of 'Charter 08' which calls for democracy and protection of human rights in China.

The sentence is unacceptable and illegitimate, as it's completely against fundamental human rights and China's constitution.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19 states that:"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

According to Chinese Constitution Article 35, the freedoms of expression and publishing are protected as well:"The citizens of China enjoy freedom of expression, publishing, assembly, association, manifestation and demonstration."... see more at the link

(we don't post petitions terribly often, as they are not the most effective means of action. But this one is sponsored by a Chinese Citizen, and it would be nice to show some support)


AFP: Canada declares Bisphenol A toxic

AFP: Canada declares Bisphenol A toxic
(now we'll see whether they recall all the toys in Walmart from China...)
OTTAWA — Canada has become the first country in the world to declare as toxic Bisphenol A, a compound used in many consumer products, despite opposition by the chemical industry.
The move comes only two weeks after the European Food Safety Authority said the chemical, commonly referred to as BPA and used in some baby bottles and plastic and canned food packaging, poses no health risks. France and Denmark, as well as Australia and some US states have independently limited its uses.
On Wednesday, the compound was formally listed without fanfare by the Canadian government as being toxic to both the environment and human health in an official notice.
"A scientific assessment of the impact of human and environmental exposure to Bisphenol A has determined that this substance constitutes or may constitute a danger to human health and the environment," said the announcement in the Canada Gazette. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Canada is the first country to take such "bold action."

AFP: Chinese bosses shoot protesting Zambian miners: police

AFP: Chinese bosses shoot protesting Zambian miners: police
This is very alarming. The distopian world is spreading.

LUSAKA — Managers at a Chinese-run Collum Coal Mine in Zambia shot and wounded 12 miners who were protesting against poor working conditions, police said on Saturday.
"The workers were protesting against the poor working conditions when managers using shotguns started to shoot aimlessly, not in the air, thereby wounding 12 workers," police spokesman Ndandula Siamana told AFP.
Before the Friday incident in the southern town of Sinazongwe, workers had constantly been complaining about poor working conditions at the mine. Siamana said police were investigating the incident and no charges had been brought against the managers.


End Breast Ironing in Cameroon

a disturbing and sad practice I was not aware of ...

In a desperate attempt to prevent sexual assault and teen pregnancy, Cameroonian mothers are literally ironing their daughters' breasts with hot stones to make them less attractive.

Breast ironing is not an acceptable form of pregnancy prevention or a replacement for sex education.
Girls are forced to undergo this torturous ritual, which affects a quarter of all women in Cameroon, as soon as they show signs of puberty -- which is younger and younger as diets in the country improve. The girls cry as they're held down and scalding hot stones are pressed onto their breasts.

The possible damage of this practice can be severe, including bruises, deformities, abscesses, and even the disappearance of one or both breasts. Cameroon mothers may think breast ironing is "for their [daughters'] own good," but it is not the way to prevent sexual violence and early pregnancy.
Speak out against breast ironing and a... more
End Breast Ironing in Cameroon - The Petition Site


Ethical Charities - building a list

There are many lists of ethical charities, but I'm always interested in NON-religious, ethical, humanitarian charities that actually get things DONE.  This means the list excludes such organizations as Habitat, or the TonyBlair Foundation (Malaria, etc.) which does goodwork, but has a faith-based mandate. I'd be interested in compiling a mini-database of recommended agencies for Humanists.

The FreeThoughtPedia  (US) has a short list, from which I've extracted some prime international ones:
Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. In pursuit of this vision, AI’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights. 
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and exclusion from health care in nearly 70 countries. 
Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together with over 3,000 partners in more than 100 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice. The Oxfams operate in over 100 countries worldwide working with local partners to alleviate poverty and injustice. UNICEF mobilizes political will and material resources to help countries, particularly developing countries, ensure a "first call for children" and to build their capacity to form appropriate policies and deliver services for children and their families. UNICEF provides emergency and disaster relief.
I'd be interested in hearing from people who can highlight lesser know International orgs, as in:
EngenderHealth is an international reproductive health organization working to improve the quality of health care in the world’s poorest communities. EngenderHealth empowers people to make informed choices about contraception, trains health providers to make motherhood safer, promotes gender equity, enhances the quality of HIV and AIDS services, and advocates for positive policy change.


Toronto, Oct 4: Walk and vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Oct 4, 10pm: Walk for Justice and candlelight vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous women  (cross posted because of timing)
Oct 4 2010 - 10:00pm
Queen's Park College Street and University Avenue

First Nations communities across Canada have been carrying the burden of this sadness for generations as they have walked this trail of grief. They are stepping out of the shadows and coming forward. We demand that these murders and the disappearances stop. Now.
The Walk for Justice starts at 5:00 pm at Queen's Park and we will participate in a healing walk ending at Allen Gardens for a candlelight vigil at 7:00 pm.

Sign: GMO regulation BILL C-474 - Biotech Industry lobbies hard

Please see below an article from this week's "The Hill Times"  newspaper that reports on Parliamentary happenings - it exposes the biotech industry's extensive lobbying against Bill C-474. Please also see below some important updates. Join us to make this concrete change happen!

INDUSTRY IS WORRIED: The Bill is having an international impact - the global biotech industry is concerned that we might be able to make this concrete change happen in Canada. Industry associations around  the world understand that this simple, reasonable Bill has the power to stop them from commercializing GM alfalfa and GM wheat as well as other GMOs. CBAN attended a recent industry conference where CropLife International and the Biotechnology Industry Organization both warned industry audiences that they need to fight the inclusion of social and economic considerations in assessments of GMOs. Agribusiness giant  Syngenta has also been speaking directly against the Bill. The issue of GE salmon and the GE "Enviropig" have heightened this conflict.

HEARINGS START AGAIN NEXT WEEK: The fight over Bill C-474 will pick up now and through October to December. House of Commons Agriculture Committee hearings will start up again Tuesday Oct 5 and Thursday Oct 7. There should be 5 hearings in total over the next few weeks, all to finish before November 8th. A final vote may happen in December.

LIBERAL PARTY OBSTRUCTION: The Liberal Party is looking for a way to  justify not supporting the Bill. You will see the below article  reports that the Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter is concerned 
about the impact of the Bill on biotech research.

PETITIONS: Many of you are collecting petitions in your communities.  Please send these in this month. We urge you to send these to your local MP as your voice as a constituent is important - your MP can  table the petition in the House, even if they do not agree with the  petition request. Please contact me if you would like assistance or  have any questions.


Tell the Commonwealth Games Federation Child Labor Isn't Sporting

Tell the Commonwealth Games Federation Child Labor Isn't Sporting - Sign the Petition |
Construction managers overseeing construction of the Commonwealth Games Stadiums for the 2010 Delhi games have been offering desperate Indian workers incentives like extra bread and milk to bring their children with them to the construction site of the stadiums.
The result? Children as young as three have been seen working in dangerous piles of rubble on a construction project that has already killed at least 45 people, including a two-year-old girl. Pre-school aged children rake pebbles into bags that kids who should be in elementary school haul away. One 15-year-old boy claimed he was paid just $5 for a 12 hour shift of heavy manual labor.
Last month, a human rights investigator for the UN said the Delhi Commonwealth Games should be called off, since they have caused widespread displacement of the Indian people and horrific child labor. Many officials have also expressed safety concerns about the construction of the stadiums. But despite documentation of child labor and other human rights and safety concerns, the Commonwealth Games Federation declared that the Games are still on. However, they have made no indication they will stop using child labor in construction or stop bribing poor workers with milk to risk their children's lives

This is the International petition. It's important for COMMONWEALTH members to sign.
Check the website if you are a US resident.


Petition for access to Generic Drugs in developing world

AVAAZ: This week, the world's wealthiest governments are negotiating a secretive deal -- the so-called "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" -- that could cut off poor people from life-saving medicines. Millions rely on generic medicines to treat diseases like malaria and HIV. If this agreement goes forward, many peoples’ access to such drugs could be cut off, leaving those unable to afford name-brand medications to face death.

The treaty would set rules on “intellectual property” in a wide range of areas -- from genetically modified crops to online file-sharing to drug patents. But four fifths of the world’s countries are excluded from the talks -- including India and China. The negotiating governments are trying to rush through an agreement before public outcry can become too loud to ignore -- but word is leaking out, and a tide of opposition is rising.

Millions of people rely on generic medicines to treat diseases like malaria and HIV. If the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) goes forward, they could find themselves unable to afford the drugs that keep them alive.

Negotiators are trying to rush through the talks in response to mounting opposition. Our voices can prevent a bad deal being struck when no-one is looking.

Sign the petition now for an open process and justice on essential medicines -- Avaaz will deliver it to the negotiations in Tokyo if it reaches 50,000 signers.

Response to the UNs Maternal Children Health initiative.

Go see the Humanist Newswire for a for the response from ONE to Ban’s new Global  MDG Strategy
A comparison of the new Global Initiative on Maternal and Child health at the MDG conference with the "Muskoka agreement".


Haitian President launches fervent appeal at UN for an end to age of greed

Haitian President launches fervent appeal at UN for an end to age of greed
24 September 2010 – Haitian President René Préval used the podium of the General Assembly today to thank the world for all its aid after January’s devastating earthquake while at the same time calling on it to end the age of greed, dethrone the god of profit and help the poorest countries develop.

If, despite important progress, the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) still have a long way to go if they are to achieve the targets of eliminating extreme poverty and hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, and lack of education and health services by 2015, the fault lies with the developed countries for not living up to their commitments, Mr. Préval said.

“What can one say of the trillions of dollars swallowed up over the past 10 years by wars as bloody as they were unjustified?” he asked. “What can one say of defence budgets that every year surpass by far what would be need to attain the MDGs? The time has come to invent a new form of globalization founded on the simple notion of our common humanity, trust, cooperation and mutual respect, Mr. Préval said.

“The only hope that is left is that of a renewed humanism, lucid, encompassing all that lives and the environment on which we depend and for which we are simultaneously responsible.”


UN Foundation The MDGs in Action - things you can do

United Nations Foundation The MDGs in Action

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a priority list not only for the United Nations and world leaders, but for all people with global perspective. On September 20, 2010, leaders will converge in New York City to bring new attention to the progress we've all helped make toward achieving the MDGs – and the work that still remains to be done. Join the United Nations Foundation by taking action to move the world closer to achieving the MDGs.

Here are the 8 Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)


Here is a sample of things you can do:

Share this page with your friends on Facebook and Twitter
Send a malaria-preventing bed net to the Central African Republic
Thank a UN Peacekeeper
Sign up for email updates from the UN Foundation
Donate $1 to immunize a child against measles or polio

and just read through the UN Foundation website for information, such as

Reproductive Health for Teenage Girls:
Learn about issues affecting girls in developing countries We are committed to achieving the global goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services by 2015. We mobilize resources for initiatives that improve the quality and quantity of sexual and reproductive health services around the world; support efforts to expand availability of sexual and reproductive health commodities; and promote sexual and reproductive health services as a cornerstone of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.
See Reproductive Health blog


Sign: Petition to UK Deputy Prime Minister re Aid for Maternal/Child health at MDG conference

 Avaaz petition for doubling aid for Maternal Child Health (MDG goal)

To world leaders:
As concerned global citizens, we call on you to renew your promises to tackle poverty by 2015 at the Millennium Development Goals summit in New York. We urge you, in particular, to double aid to drastically reduce maternal and child mortality, and to ensure funds are delivered in a coordinated and effective way. 
This week leaders meeting in New York can act to save the hundreds of thousands of pregnant women and 9 million children under 5 who die every year because of malnutrition or inadequate health services.

But there is a danger that they use the recession to shirk decade old commitments to eradicate poverty and cut key global health funding. It has always been the world's citizens that have led the fight against poverty and pushed our leaders to take critical action -- now it is up to us again.

Let's urgently build a global outcry against these needless deaths. Sign the petition below to double aid for maternal and child health -- it will be delivered to key leaders including the UK Deputy-Prime Minister in New York.  

Write: CTRC Commissioners over "Fox News North"

CRTC: No handout for 'Fox News North'
Avaaz was attacked from a major corporate media empire -- owned by billionaire Pierre Karl Peladeau -- after opposing their efforts to get special financial favours from the Canadian government. Around the world collusion between media corporations and elected leaders is undermining democracy, often using divisive messages poison and polarize public debate. "Fox News North" (aka Sun TV) mastermind, Kory Teneycke, resigned last week, citing the petiton in his speech from Parliament Hill.

The fight's not over. They've replaced one crony with another - new "Fox News North" (Sun TV) Frontman, Luc Lavoie is the former press man for Mulroney - and their CRTC application is still in the pipeline.

The smears in Sun-Media's echo chamber are that Avaaz is all Americans (why would they care about this issue?), that our petition is fraudulent or signed by Americans, that we're a front group for billionaire George Soros, that we're pro-censorship, and a half-dozen other ridiculous untruths. Margaret Atwood has responded with an Op-Ed answering smears against both her and Avaaz in Sun Newspapers

We can work together to stop them. The CRTC is accepting public comments on Sun TV's application. Let's send them a flood of messages asking them to stand strong and reject Sun TV's request for special exemptions and government handouts. Add your personal message to the CRTC Commissioners


DO: Multiple actions to support Climate Change Bill C-311

From Cheryl McNamara Please write to Senators to support Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act. Senators resume debate on the Bill on September 28th.

Why it’s important: If passed into law, the Climate Change Accountability Act will set science-based emissions reductions, require the government to produce five year target plans, establish independent reviews, and punish polluters who break regulations. It will also position Canada as a global leader, along with the European Union, in the transition to a low carbon economy.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is calling on its members, many of which are fossil fuel companies, to lobby the Senate to oppose the Bill. Furthermore, Harper has stacked the Senate with Conservatives. The Bill needs 53 Senators to pass. Of the total 105 Senators, 52 are Conservative (most are Liberal with two Progressive Conservatives and two Independents). Remember, the majority of elected MPs passed Bill C-311. Now it’s in the hands of unelected officials.

Here are sample letters to Senators, and their email addresses as well as to key Chamber of Commerce members (like insurance companies that are already sounding the clarion call on climate change) to lobby the Senate in support of the Bill.

Here are targeted messages to Liberal Senators, the two Progressive Conservative Senators, the two Independents and any Conservative not appointed by Harper. It is more effective if you write to each Senators (i.e. Dear Senator Mitchell), otherwise I provide emails of the Liberals (49 of them) to simply cut and paste in the bcc box. Click on the following for the targeted messages (they include contact info) – Liberal Senators, Progressive Conservative Senators, Independent Senators, Conservative Senators.

Here is a sample letter to the CEO of insurance companies. Click here for a sample letter to the CEO of financial firms. Contact mailing addresses follow. Print out the letters, sign your name, and mail. Insurance companies are very nervous about climate change, and banks should be too. The UK economist Sir Nicolas Stern provides strong evidence on how climate change will seriously compromise the global economy.

Jeffrey Sachs: Millennium Goals, Five Years to Go

Jeffrey Sachs: Millennium Goals, Five Years to Go
Good article by Jeffy Sachs (originally in the Herald Tribune) on the 10th anniversary of the MDGS. He lists the successes, and then the 5 system problems - good analysis.

As 140 heads of state and government gather Monday at the United Nations for the Millennium Development Goals summit, they and the public will ask what has come out of this decade-long effort. The answer will surprise them: A great deal has been achieved, with some of the most exciting breakthroughs occurring in Africa.

The Millennium Development Goals were initially greeted with cynicism -- as unachievable, pie-in-the-sky, a photo-op rather than a development framework. Cynicism has been replaced by hope, born of experience, commitment and breakthroughs.

Back in 2000, the situation in Africa was widely regarded as hopeless. Roughly half of Africa's population was living on less than one dollar a day. AIDS, malaria and TB were out of control. Wars were pervasive; Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, and the biggest of all, Congo, were all entangled in conflicts. The African economies had stagnated or declined for a generation.

When my colleagues and I suggested that AIDS, malaria and other epidemic diseases could be controlled and that Africa's economic growth could be spurred if the world helped the continent to achieve the Millennium Goals, we were often greeted with derision. Africa, I was told, was simply too violent, too corrupt, too divided to improve.

A decade later, the picture has changed dramatically. AIDS incidence has declined, from an estimated 2.3 million new cases in 2001 to 1.9 million in 2008; longevity has risen tremendously, with millions of Africans now on anti-retroviral treatment. Malaria is dropping decisively because of programs to distribute bed nets and provide medicines. Measles deaths fell by 90 percent between 2000 and 2008, before a frustrating uptick this past year when donors mistakenly cut back their financing for immunizations. Primary school net enrollments have risen from 58 percent in 2000 to 74 percent in 2007. Most of Africa's major wars have subsided.

Africa's economy has also picked up. During 1990-2000, Africa's per capita G.D.P. declined by 0.3 percent per year. Between 2000 and 2010, per capita growth was around 3.1 percent per year. And Africa has shown resilience in the current crisis, with this year's per capita economic growth at around 2.5 percent. Extreme poverty is declining, though not yet fast enough to meet the MDG targets. The share of the African population in extreme poverty has also declined from around 58 percent in 1999 to probably under 50 percent in 2010.

The Millennium Development Goals themselves deserve a lot of credit by providing a powerful organizing framework and a bold but realistic time horizon.Dozens of African governments have now adopted national planning strategies based on the Millennium Goals. Nations around the world now have specific, time-bound, outcome-oriented plans that are showing real progress because they are tapping into the synergies of poverty reduction, increased agricultural output, disease control, increased school enrollments and improved infrastructure as targeted by the Millennium Development Goals. The donor countries helped to promote major advances in public health when they created the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations....

The Millennium Development Goals have always recognized the need for a global partnership to end poverty, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. agencies have been persistent in their support of this ambitious agenda. Ironically, though, the main obstacles to achieving the goals by 2015 in Africa are international in origin, many due to high-income countries.

The first challenge is the donor shortfall in honoring specific financial commitments to Africa. Africa was told in 2005 by its donor partners to expect about $60 billion in financing from all of the world's governments in 2010, but actual aid is only around $45 billion.

The second is human-induced climate change, another visitation upon Africa from the outside world. The region that has contributed by far the least to human-induced climate change is the one bearing the highest price in terms of drought and crop failures.

The third threat is large-scale corruption, often fueled by major American, European and Asian companies. Of course, it is Africa's responsibility to resist temptations, but global companies (sometimes with the support or tacit knowledge of governments) must also stop spreading the big dollars around.

The fourth threat is rampant population growth. The Roman Catholic Church, politically powerful throughout the continent, continues its opposition to birth control and family planning.

The fifth threat is trade. Europe and the United States preach free trade, but then close their markets to African agricultural products.

The sixth risk is that of neglect Ironically, it is the precisely the goals themselves, rather than hundreds of billions of dollars of annual military spending, that can offer the U.S. and other countries a path to security in places like Afghanistan, Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

The world leaders will agree on the right principles at the summit: targeted investments for agriculture, education, health, energy and microfinance; gender equality; the complementary roles of development aid, trade and private financing. The real question is whether the rich countries will deliver what they've promised in the five remaining years, after having fallen far short in the first 10.

When the donor nations have not just talked but have actually pooled their funds to support the national plans of poor countries, the speed of advance has been breathtaking. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is the right model. If donors will match that successful effort with similar pooled support in areas such as smallholder agriculture, primary education, primary health, family planning and infrastructure, Africa's leaders can do the rest.


Senegal: Abusive Teachers Sentenced | Human Rights Watch

Senegal: Abusive Teachers Sentenced | Human Rights Watch
Sometimes, protests work. If you remember the series of stories on the 'schools' in Senegal which were really more like Fagin's in Oliver Twist, Human Rights Watch notes that the awareness campaign has actually resulted in some sentences for abuse:

Dakar - The arrest and conviction of seven Quranic teachers who forced boys trusted to their care to beg is a significant move forward for children's rights in Senegal, Human Rights Watch said today. The men were sentenced on September 8, 2010, marking the first application of a 2005 law outlawing the practice; two more men are scheduled to face the same charges on September 9. The authorities should make the children's welfare the top priority as they work to return the boys to their families, Human Rights Watch said.

The prosecution was part of an effort by Senegalese authorities to combat the widespread practice of exploitation and forced labor endured by tens of thousands of boys entrusted to men like the accused for the purposes of learning the Quran.

Each of the seven men was sentenced in a Dakar court to six months imprisonment with a suspended sentence and a fine of 100,000 francs CFA (US$200). "The arrest and conviction of these men represents a welcome step toward ending the exploitation of vulnerable children under the guise of supposed religious education," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The Senegalese government should continue prosecuting abusers while at the same time ensuring that the boys are safely returned


GO: Fair Vote Canada Meeting, Sept 22, Toronto

We support Fair Vote Canada as one of our campaigns for justice.  You are welcome to attend a meeting in Toronto and meet the National Director, to discuss strategies.

"Another election -- another excellent opportunity for fair voters to campaign for democratic reform in the city of Toronto. When only 39% of our citizens vote, something needs fixing and we have some answers"
Come and find out how PR can work in our city elections and help the campaign for democratic reform. Let's not miss this chance to talk to candidates, councillors and our neighbours and advance our campaign for a voting system that represents all of us.

Guest Speaker:   Larry Gordon, Executive Director, Fair Vote Canada
ate: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Place:  519 Community Centre

519 Church Street,
 (a few doors north of Wellesley Street and the Wellesley subway stop)
Refreshments availableFor more information, contact – Gary Dale


Petition: No Fox News Canada - keep CRTC chairman Finckenstein

Canada: Stop "Fox News North" Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it. His plan is to create a "Fox News North" to mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics. The channel will be run by Harper’s former top aide and will be funded with money from our cable TV fees

Harper hatched his scheme in a secret lunch last year with media-mogul Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News. Harper's top aide Kory Teneycke also came to the lunch, and then left the government to head up Suncor Newspapers and the new "Fox News North"...

The CRTC is part of our democracy -- it was made an independent commission precisely in order to protect against this kind of government manipulation of the media. Harper knows that he must bully his way through this institution in order to create Fox News North. And there are dark rumours in Ottawa that if Von Finckenstein will not leave his job, Harper will simply force him to give in. Von Finckenstein is upholding the best tradition of Canadian democracy and civil service in the face of a full scale attack on that tradition. Let's show him, and Harper, that Canada stands with him.

One man stands in the way of this nightmare -- the Chairman of Canada's Radio and Telecommunications Commission Konrad von Finckenstein. And now, Harper is trying to get him out of his job. Sign the petition below to send a wave of support to von Finckenstein and forward this campaign to everyone -- we'll publish full page ads in Canadian papers when we reach 100,000:

To CRTC Chair von Finckenstein and PM Harper:
As concerned Canadians who deeply oppose American-style hate media on our airwaves, we applaud the CRTC's refusal to allow a new "Fox News North" channel to be funded from our cable fees. We urge Mr. von Finckenstein to stay in his job and continue to stand up for Canada's democratic traditions, and call on Prime Minister Harper to immediately stop all pressure on the CRTC on this matter.


Have You Gotten Rich Yet as a Microlender?

Have You Gotten Rich Yet as a Microlender? (A great article, as usual, by Mark Engler. You can subscribe to his website) Here is an excerpt:

Those looking to make fistfuls of cash by lending to the poor will already be aware of the following news item, but the rest of you might have missed it: a recent big initial public stock offering was not for some Silicon Valley start-up, the next Google or Amazon. Instead, it was for an outfit called SKS Microfinance, the “largest and fastest-growing micro-lender in India.” The company raised $342 million, and its founder, a so-called “social entrepreneur,” has personally made at least $13 million already.

You might be asking, “Isn’t microcredit supposed to be a philanthropic endeavor? And, if so, how did such a thing as this millionaire-making I.P.O. ever come about from it?” For those of us of follow the politics of poverty, development, and international exchange, microcredit is always a fascinating topic. The idea of giving small loans to the very poor—often to women in the developing world—for them to start their own money-generating enterprises has been in the limelight for at least a decade now, so the basic concept will no longer feel new to most people. Web sites such as have become popular avenues for Americans to donate money to their own favored micro-entrepreneurs.

Microcredit ... at once embodies radical and reactionary principles. On the radical side, it asserts that the poor do not need patronizing job-training programs. They need not to be exploited. The reason the poor remain mired in poverty is that, however industrious they might be, they have no access to capital. Therefore, they must go to those who do (the bosses and moneylenders), who demand a hefty price for so kindly allowing the workers to toil in their service. By the time the day is done and debts are repaid, the poor have very little to show for their efforts. Most of the value of their work has been siphoned away by the better off. Put this way, the rationale for microcredit is almost a Marxist one. The argument is that if you eliminate the exploitative middlemen and extend capital to the poor on fair terms, they, too, will be able to earn a dignified living.

There’s a reactionary side to this too, however. Microcredit is popular with market-driven neoliberals and  conservatives because it focuses entirely on individual initiative. Moreover, instead of acknowledging that unchecked capitalism has created vast inequalities, it proposes that these inequalities exist because capitalism has not gone far enough. It suggests that expanding the market is the best way to solve the market’s problems.

Whether the progressive side of microcredit or its conservative face will be exposed in any given instance has a lot to do with interest rates. If you loan the poor money with little expectation of profit, you’re probably running a legitimate anti-poverty program. On the other hand, if you turn microcredit into a business in which shareholders expect to maximize return, your interest rates will start to creep up. At that point, you might be a shade better than the black-market loan sharks, but you are still practicing usury....

Muhammad Yunus, the “Godfather of Microcredit,” ... perfectly embodies the contradictory impulses of the microcredit movement, but overall I consider him one of the good guys. These days, he’s been watching his original vision being hijacked by commercial bankers, and he’s not thrilled about it. Regarding the most recent I.P.O., Yunus was particularly nonplussed to see that the capitalization of SKS Microfinance coincided with the shuttering of an allied nonprofit, the Seattle-based Unitus, which was more explicitly charitable in its intent than its Indian counterpart. The Times quotes Yunus making the point that, with this change in the micro-lending landscape, “You are now encouraging the profit-maximizing part, and the nonprofits are closing down.”

...Those who advocate the commercialization of microcredit argue that only the free market can provide large enough pools of capital to reach all of the poor. In a certain respect, they are right. It’s always easier to find people eager to make money off of the desperate and the destitute than it is to find people who will help them without expectation of financial return. The question is whether this fact is really something worth celebrating.


Rally: One School System, Sept 13, Toronto

Please see the posting on Humanist Toronto
Rally:  Sept 13, 11:30-2:30, @ Royal York Hotel.

Member organizations of One School System will protest the discrepant funding of Ontario Catholic Schools via a Separate School Board in defiance of two UN disciplinary rulings against the Government on Ontario.
The event will take place on the first day of a two day international summit on education held by the Ministry of Education
Come join your fellow humanists and atheists along with other individuals and groups who oppose the public funding of religious schools in Ontario

For those who prefer an economic argument, here is a paper detailing savings of $650M by forming one school system.


Ban Ki Moon: End Violence Against Girls

End Violence Against Girls - The Petition Site
Ethiopian girls face a tough choice. If they stay home, they will likely be married off before they are 15. If they leave, many are forced into labor-intensive domestic work or the sex trade. But the UN's Bright Future Program in Addis Ababa offer vulnerable girls education and protects them from violence and exploitation.

Violence against women crosses cultural and geographical boundaries. One in three women in the world faces violence, coercion or abuse as part of her every day life. More than 70 percent of women are victims of violence in their lifetimes. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made it a personal priority to end violence against women in 2010. Programs like Bright Future are an essential part of the solution.

Tell Secretary-General Ban to use the Bright Future program as a model to end violence against women.  letter text begins:

"Ending violence against women is not only one of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, but you also stated earlier this year that it was one of your personal priorities for 2010.

Such a complex problem requires a broad-based, comprehensive solution. But the Bright Futures Program in Ethiopia has proven to be successful in its mission to empower women and girls.

For many girls, the center in Addis Ababa is a safe haven. In addition to getting education and training to better their circumstances, they get a few hours each day to be with other girls their own age...."

[Please see this post for related topics about difficulties women/girls face in controlling their own lives, and how education and UN programs can make a difference]


John Robbins: Is Your Favorite Ice Cream Made With Monsanto's Artificial Hormones?

John Robbins: Is Your Favorite Ice Cream Made With Monsanto's Artificial Hormones?
(note: John Robbins is the only son of Irvine Robbins, the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins, and was groomed by his father to run what was at one time the world's largest ice cream company. But John walked away from the company and the wealth it represented in order to advocate for a healthier and more compassionate way of life)

Monsanto has been in the news this week, with a U.S. District Court Judge ruling that the USDA has to at least go through the motions of regulating the company's genetically engineered sugar beets. Monsanto, you may know, is not likely to win any contests for the most popular company. In fact, it has been called the most hated corporation in the world, which is saying something, given the competition from the likes of BP, Halliburton and Goldman Sachs.
This has gotten me thinking about, of all things, ice cream, and of how Monsanto's clammy paws can be found in some of the most widely selling ice cream brands in the country. These brands could break free from Monsanto's clutches. So far they haven't, but maybe this is about to change.
Ben & Jerry's gets all their milk from dairies that have pledged not to inject their cows with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Why, then, can't Haagen Dazs, Breyers and Baskin-Robbins do the same?
Starbucks now guarantees that all their milk, cream and other dairy products are rBGH-free. So do Yoplait and Dannon yogurts, Tillamook cheese, Chipotle restaurants, and many others. But ice cream giants Haagen Dazs, Breyers and Baskin-Robbins continue to use milk from cows injected with rBGH, a hormone that's been banned in Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and all 27 nations of the European Union. As if to add insult to injury, Haagen Dazs and Breyers have the audacity to tell us, right on the label, that their ice cream is " All Natural."
We have Monsanto to thank for rBGH. Monsanto developed the artificial hormone and marketed it aggressively for years, before selling it in 2008 to Elanco, a division of the Eli Lilly drug company. Of course, Monsanto (and now Elanco) wants us to think the hormone is in every way completely satisfactory and safe. Monsanto's party line has consistently been that there is "no significant difference" in the milk derived from cows who have been dosed with the hormone compared to those who haven't.
.... injecting the genetically engineered hormone into cows increases the levels of a substance called IGF-1 in their milk. Monsanto's own studies found that the amount of IGF-1 in milk more than doubled when cows were injected with rBGH. Studies by independent researchers show gains as much as six-fold.
Does it matter whether there are excess levels of IGF-1 in milk? It decidedly did to the European Commission's authoritative international 16-member scientific committee. Their report said the excessive levels of IGF-1 found in the milk of cows injected with rBGH may pose serious risks of breast, colon and prostate cancer. How serious is the increased risk? According to an article in the May 9, 1998 issue of the medical journal The Lancet, pre-menopausal women with even moderately elevated blood levels of IGF-1 are up to seven times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with lower levels.
The artificial hormone is also notorious for causing the cows much pain and distress (and) it increases udder infections in cows, it has greatly increased the use of antibiotics in the U.S. dairy industry. If you wanted to design a system to breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria, you'd be hard pressed to do better. Does the increase in udder infections have an effect on the milk, and thus any ice cream, cheese or other product made from it? Most definitely, according to Dr. Richard Burroughs, a veterinarian deeply familiar with rBGH. "It results in an increase of white blood cells," he says, "which means there's pus in the milk!" The antibiotic use, he adds, "leaves residues in the milk. It's all very serious."
How, then, was such a dubious and tainted product ever approved for use in the U.S.? The answer provides a glimpse of how successful Monsanto's efforts have been to exert control over our nation's food policies. the FDA's 1993 decision to allow the use of rBGH was one of the most controversial in the agency's history. Made amid widespread criticism from scientists, government leaders and farmers, including many researchers and officials inside the FDA, the decision was overseen by Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's Deputy Commissioner of Policy from 1991-1994. Was Taylor unbiased? Prior to holding that position, he was an attorney at King & Spaulding, Monsanto's law firm, where he presided over the firm's "food and drug law" practice. After the decision was made which gave the green light to rBGH, he left the FDA and resumed working directly for Monsanto, as vice president and chief lobbyist.
How significant was Taylor's role in getting rBGH approved? As of August 15, 2010, he "has long been hostile to food safety," and "is widely credited with ushering recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) through the FDA regulatory process and into the milk supply -- unlabeled." (This statement was removed from Wikipedia immediately after I referred to it - Apparently, if you can get your people in and out of key positions at the FDA, messing with Wikipedia is a piece of cake.)
Things have taken a different turn in Canada, but not for want of effort on the part of Monsanto. During Canada's scientific review of Monsanto's application for approval of rBGH, Canadian health officials said Monsanto tried to bribe them, and government scientists testified that they were being pressured by higher-ups to approve rBGH against their better scientific judgment. But in 1999, after eight years of study, Canadian health authorities rejected Monsanto's application for approval of rBGH.
Late last year, the prestigious American Public Health Association officially called for a ban on rBGH. The Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports has likewise taken an official position opposing rBGH. So has the American Nurses Association, Health Care Without Harm, Food and Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, National Family Farm Coalition, Family Farm Defenders and many other groups.
At this very moment, the plucky Oregon chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is leading a nationwide effort to persuade Breyers (whose brands include Good Humor, Klondike Bars and Popsicle), and Dreyer's (whose brands include Haagen Dazs, Nestle and Edy's) to go rBGH-free. The campaign focuses on Breyers and Dreyer's because they are the two largest ice cream producers in the country today.

If you want to strike a blow against Monsanto's efforts to control the world food supply, you can follow me on Twitter, post this article to your facebook page, spread the word and get engaged. Monsanto and its allies have a grand vision. They are intent on controlling the world's food supply. Don't let them.