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.


Give: Engineers without Borders - Hippo Roller

If you've ever discussed gender roles and water in Africa, you know that the invention of a lightweight, durable water collector would allow more girls to go to school, and alleviate women's labour. Engineers without Borders, with the help of Project H (Humanitarian Design) has created these new 22 gallon water rollers. Brilliant. Enjoy their other projects - look around the website.

Write: Human Rights Watch and UofT Law Faculty demand Repatriation of Omar Khadr

(New York/HRW) - The Canadian government should immediately request the repatriation of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr from Guantanamo even though Canada's Supreme Court did not order it to do so, Human Rights Watch said today. Khadr, who was 15 years old when the US military took him into custody in Afghanistan, has been held at Guantanamo since 2002.

Human Rights Watch, in conjunction with the University of Toronto law faculty's human rights clinic, appeared before the court on Khadr's behalf as one of nine interveners in the case. Arguing that Canada had become complicit in US treatment and abuse of Khadr, Human Rights Watch said the only reasonable remedy would be for Canada to seek his repatriation.

"The Canadian Supreme Court today unequivocally condemned Canada's participation in Khadr's interrogations at Guantanamo as violations of Khadr's human rights, Canada's constitution, and "basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth." The court declined to order the Canadian government to seek Khadr's repatriation because doing so would intrude upon the executive's discretion in foreign affairs. However, the court held that the effects of US and Canadian violations continue into the present and that the Canadian government must, in exercising its foreign affairs powers, take this into account.

"Canada was complicit in some of the abuse Omar Khadr faced at Guantanamo" said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch. "Canada's Supreme Court today condemned Khadr's treatment in the strongest terms. The Harper government should now work to bring Omar Khadr home to Canada."


News: Telecoms Sans Frontieres (UN) in Haiti

BBC: The collapse of traditional channels of communication in Haiti has again highlighted the role of social media and the internet in disasters.

Twitter is being used as a prime channel for communications, while sites such as Ushahidi are providing maps detailing aid and damage. Both Google and Facebook are producing missing persons lists. Satellite networks are also diverting resources to provide communications to aid agencies and the military.

The very first images to escape from the region after Tuesday's earthquake came from citizens, capturing video with mobile phones. But landlines near the epicentre have been wiped out, and mobile phone service has been at best intermittent - a fact that has already hampered rescue efforts.

The UN body Telecoms Sans Frontieres, which maintains a network of telecom engineers and mobile equipment worldwide, has deployed two teams in the region. The World Food Programme operates a similar service...

Another web-based tool that has recently become crucial in disaster relief and information dissemination is Ushahidi. Initially the service made its name following the disputed Kenyan elections of 2007. It provides an open-source, free service which can overlay maps of affected regions with data gathered from a raft of sources.

Detailed maps can show, for instance, where aid will be delivered, where running water has been cut off or restored, or - as in the case of Haiti - where aftershocks have been reported.

However (open source) may mean not all information can be trusted... The risks of such misinformation in the aftermath of a disaster, in particular for those cases that involve divisive politics or propaganda, have already been identified in a report compiled by the UN Foundation/Vodafone Foundation technology partnership in
The founders of Ushahidi are working on a verification system that can independently assure that information coming in is corroborated and accurate.

News and Opinion: Ted Rall on Haiti and the US

Haitian Earthquake: Made in the USA
Why the Blood Is on Our Hands, by Ted Rall

As grim accounts of the earthquake in Haiti came in, the accounts in U.S.-controlled state media all carried the same descriptive sentence: "Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere..."

Gee, I wonder how that happened? You'd think Haiti would be loaded. After all, it made a lot of people rich.

How did Haiti get so poor? Despite a century of American colonialism, occupation, and propping up corrupt dictators? Even though the CIA staged coups d'état against every democratically elected president they ever had?

It's an important question. An earthquake isn't just an earthquake. The same 7.0 tremor hitting San Francisco wouldn't kill nearly as many people as in Port-au-Prince.

"Looking at the pictures, essentially it looks as if (the buildings are of) breezeblock or cinderblock construction, and what you need in an earthquake zone is metal bars that connect the blocks so that they stay together when they get shaken," notes Sandy Steacey, director of the Environmental Science Research Institute at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. "In a wealthy country with good seismic building codes that are enforced, you would have some damage, but not very much."

When a pile of cinderblocks falls on you, your odds of survival are long. Even if you miraculously survive, a poor country like Haiti doesn't have the equipment, communications infrastructure or emergency service personnel to pull you out of the rubble in time. And if your neighbors get you out, there's no ambulance to take you to the hospital--or doctor to treat you once you get there.

Earthquakes are random events. How many people they kill is predetermined. In Haiti this week, don't blame tectonic plates. Ninety-nine percent of the death toll is attributable to poverty.

So the question is relevant. How'd Haiti become so poor?

The story begins in 1910, when a U.S. State Department-National City Bank of New York (now called Citibank) consortium bought the Banque National d'Haïti- -Haiti's only commercial bank and its national treasury --in effect transferring Haiti's debts to the Americans. Five years later, President Woodrow Wilson ordered troops to occupy the country in order to keep tabs on "our" investment.

From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. Marines imposed harsh military occupation, murdered Haitians patriots and diverted 40 percent of Haiti's gross domestic product to U.S. bankers. Haitians were banned from government jobs. Ambitious Haitians were shunted into the puppet military, setting the stage for a half-century of U.S.-backed military dictatorship. The U.S. kept control of Haiti's finances until 1947.

Still--why should Haitians complain? Sure, we stole 40 percent of Haiti's national wealth for 32 years. But we let them keep 60 percent. Whiners.

Despite having been bled dry by American bankers and generals, civil disorder prevailed until 1957, when the CIA installed President-for-Life François "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Duvalier's brutal Tonton Macoutes paramilitary goon squads murdered at least 30,000 Haitians and drove educated people to flee into exile. But think of the cup as half-full: fewer people in the population means fewer people competing for the same jobs!

Upon Papa Doc's death in 1971, the torch passed to his even more dissolute 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. The U.S., cool to Papa Doc in his later years, quickly warmed back up to his kleptomaniacal playboy heir. As the U.S. poured in arms and trained his army as a supposed anti-communist bulwark against Castro's Cuba, Baby Doc stole an estimated $300 to $800 million from the national treasury, according to Transparency International. The money was placed in personal accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere.

Under U.S. influence, Baby Doc virtually eliminated import tariffs for U.S. goods. Soon Haiti was awash predatory agricultural imports dumped by American firms. Domestic rice farmers went bankrupt. A nation that had been agriculturally self-sustaining collapsed. Farms were abandoned. Hundreds of thousands of farmers migrated to the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince.

The Duvalier era, 29 years in all, came to an end in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. forces to whisk Baby Doc to exile in France, saving him from a popular uprising.

Once again, Haitians should thank Americans. Duvalierism was "tough love." Forcing Haitians to make do without their national treasury was our nice way or encouraging them to work harder, to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. Or, in this case, flipflops. Anyway..

The U.S. has been all about tough love ever since. We twice deposed the populist and popular democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The second time, in 2004, we even gave him a free flight to the Central African Republic! (He says the CIA kidnapped him, but whatever.) Hey, he needed a rest. And it was kind of us to support a new government formed by former Tonton Macoutes.

Yet, despite everything we've done for Haiti, they're still a fourth-world failed state on a fault line. And still, we haven't given up. American companies like Disney generously pay wages to their sweatshop workers of 28 cents an hour.

What more do these ingrates want?

Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.


SIGN: Petition to Cancel Haiti's Debt Load

Haiti is suffering from disaster, and lacks the resources to recover, in part because of their debt to the IMF.

The work ahead to recover from this tragedy is immense. So here's our goal: $890 million for Haiti. That's how much Haiti owes to the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, and a handful of others. As Haiti begins to rebuild we can help by lifting this debt.

Sign the petition below to ask Haiti's creditors to act quickly and cancel Haiti's debts.

And speaking of debt: Here's a petition to ask US Credit Card companies to absorb the transaction fee for charitable donations for Haiti. When Americans donate to charity with their credit cards, in some cases they keep 3% of the donation as a "transaction fee," even though that's far more than it costs them to process the donation.

Can you sign this petition to the CEOs of the major credit card companies demanding that they waive their processing fees for all charitable donations? Clicking here will add your name.

The credit card companies are trying to get ahead of this story, announcing they will temporarily waive the fees they charge on some Haiti-related charitable contributions for the next 6 weeks. But many emergency donations to Haiti will still get hit with hefty bank fees. (To give a sense of how limited the exemption is, Doctors Without Borders isn't on any of the publicly available lists of charities that won't be charged fees.)


NEWS: Doomsday clock moved back 1 minute


The Doomsday Clock - a barometer of nuclear danger for the past 55 years - has been moved one minute further away from the "midnight hour".

The concept timepiece, devised by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) now stands at six minutes to the hour. The group said it made the decision to move the clock back because of a more 'hopeful state of world affairs'.

The clock was first featured by the magazine in 1947, shortly after the US dropped its A-bombs on Japan. The clock had been adjusted 18 times before today since its initial start at seven minutes to midnight.

Most recently, in January 2007, the clock moved to five minutes to midnight, when climate change was added to the prospect of nuclear annihilation as the greatest threats to humankind. Two years later, however, the board of the BAS says that there is now a 'growing political will' to tackle both the "terror of nuclear weapons" and 'runaway climate change'.

At a news conference in New York, the BAS board said: 'By shifting the hand back from midnight by only one additional minute, we emphasize how much needs to be accomplished, while at the same time recognizing signs of collaboration among the United States, Russia, the European Union, India, China, Brazil, and others on nuclear security and on climate stabilization.'

JOIN: One School System - secular school system

Visit for a campaign connected to full day kindergarten:

Ottawa, January 12, 2010 – Education Equality in Ontario waded into the subject of full day kindergarten today, pointing out that the $1.5 billion program could be funded largely or completely from the savings that could be realized by amalgamating Ontario’s public and Catholic school systems into one secular school system.

'Ontario is facing an unprecedented budget deficit', said Education Equality in Ontario president Leonard Baak, 'and that deficit threatens the funding of many essential programs from hospitals to schools to care for the elderly. We are already seeing cuts announced and they are just the beginning of the pain Ontarians will feel. It is irresponsible to introduce new funding commitments without a plan to pay for them', said Baak.

Baak went on to point out that the savings that could be realized by bringing public and Catholic schools together under a single public school system could pay for the McGuinty kindergarten plan. 'Full day kindergarten is not a bad idea'” said Baak, 'particularly since the intention is to eventually make it available to all parents. It is certainly a better idea than Catholic school funding, a discriminatory non-essential which could provide the savings to fund the kindergarten plan if eliminated.' -read more on the website, and see News Releases.

DO: New Anti-Proroguing activist site

See Notice the ROGUE in prorogue? Find actions in your community.


Donate: CIDA will match contributions for 4 weeks

CIDA  The Government of Canada will match the contributions of individual Canadians to eligible Canadian charitable organizations in support of humanitarian and recovery efforts in response to the earthquake in Haiti, up to a total of $50 million. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will allocate these funds to Canadian and international humanitarian and development organizations.

Donations made by individual Canadians to eligible Canadian charitable organizations over the period of January 12 to February 12, 2010 will be matched by the Government of Canada through the CIDA-managed Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. The Fund will support Canadian and international humanitarian and development organizations with significant in-country capacity to deliver humanitarian, early recovery and reconstruction assistance.

NEWS, DO: Othman and Jumah released - Abu Rahmah needs letters

A reason to celebrate. Mohammad Othman and Jamal Jumah, two Palestinian prisoners of conscience arrested for their human rights activism have been released within the last 24 hours.

(Jewish voices for peace) generated over 10,000 emails to US President Obama, and over 2,200 emails to the US Consulate in East Jerusalem complaining about the arbitrary detention of Mohammad Othman. You helped up flood the US State Department with phone calls as well.

Let's keep the pressure up to free Abdallah Abu Rahmah as well. Archbishop Tutu has called for his release. Tell President Obama to demand that Israel free Bil’in's nonviolent leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah

Dear Pres. Obama: Hours before you received your Nobel peace Prize, in the dead of night, Israel arrested a leading nonviolent organizer, (schoolteacher) Abdallah Abu Rahmah from the West Bank... During an August visit by the Elders to Bil'in, Tutu said: 'Just as a simple man named Gandhi led the successful non-violent struggle in India and simple people such as Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela led the struggle for civil rights in the United States, simple people here in Bil'in are leading a non-violent struggle that will bring them their freedom. The South Africa experience proves that injustice can be dismantled.' 


Donate: Help Haiti through the Humanitarian Coalition

Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec, Save the Children Canada, Care Canada are united as The Humanitarian Coalition. All of them have a good record for involving local people in relief and rebuilding efforts.

News: Uganda, Evangelicals, Gay Rights, CBC

Great interview this morning on CBC with a priest from Uganda about how the evangelicals are manipulating local politics, by frightening Ugandans about their children. I can't link to it because the CBC programming links on the CURRENT are down. But if you have any actions, please post them.


NEWS: Google to cease censorship in China?

SAN FRANCISCO Google Inc. will stop censoring its search results in China and may pull out of the country after discovering that computers hackers had tricked human rights activists into opening their e-mail accounts to outsiders.

The change-of-heart announced Tuesday heralds a major shift for Google, which has repeatedly said it will obey Chinese laws that require some politically and socially sensitive issues to be blocked from search results that are available in other countries

Google disclosed in a blog post that it had detected a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China." Further investigation revealed that "a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists," Google said in the post written by Chief Legal Officer David Drummond.

Write: Stop Walmart Sweatshops

Union Voice: Walmart has the ability to impact business as usual because of their large numbers of direct suppliers as well as indirect suppliers. Walmart is leading the worldwide race to the bottom in wages and working conditions. It has capitalized on global trade rules that allow full access to the U.S. market, even if products are made under conditions of extreme repression. Even at a time of great economic distress faced by most other companies, Walmart continues to boost record profits.

In order for Walmart to improve conditions in its supplier factories it must first fundamentally alter its business practice of demanding a continuously lower price from supplier factories – a price which renders those factories unable to pay workers a living wage. Further, Walmart must commit to supplying from those factories in which workers have democratic representation and the right to bargain collectively with their employer. Additionally, Walmart must open its supply chain to independent monitoring so that independent, unannounced, factory assessments may take place.

Write: Uzbekistan Child Labour campaign - Gymboree, Abercrombie and Fred's:

Every year, the government of Uzbekistan forces thousands of children and teachers out of the classrooms and into the fields to harvest cotton. Even now, with more than 25 major brands having made a commitment to stop sourcing their cotton from Uzbekistan, some of the worst forms of forced child labor continue to be used in the harvesting of cotton for clothing sold by major brands and retailers in the U.S. Abercrombie & Fitch, Fred's, and Gymboree have yet to make any formal commitment to eradicating the use of child labor in their cotton supply chain. Send an email here

DO: Shrink URLS for labor rights - till Jan 31

Until the end of the month - Instead of using BitLy to shrink your urls, use:

Thanks to a nifty new tool from 3BL Media, you can now generate funds to support non-profits while shrinking urls with a simple click at Until January 31st, each time you use, 3BL Media will contribute 1 cent to be split equally among three non-profit beneficiaries, including SweatFree Communities. When you need those lengthy urls shortened for posting on twitter or on your blog/website, please remember!

3BL stands for the organization's commitment to the Triple Bottom Line: people, planet, and profit. Its mission is to "advance and promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) through effective communications."

NEWS: China to Be Short 24 Million Wives, Study Says

In another China story, selective abortion of females means "24 million more men than women over the next decade, according to a study that warns the imbalance will dash many young men's chance at marriage and lead to increased crime. China enforces strict family planning controls, including limiting most couples to having one child. Because of a traditional preference for male heirs, many families terminate pregnancies of girl babies in order to be able to continue trying for a boy. Infanticide of baby girls has also become a problem". NY Times.


News: China buys majority in TarSands

Treehugger: "A huge Chinese tar sands investment has been formally approved by the Canadian Federal government. It's up to Chinese engineers and managers, now, to make the oil extraction and distribution cost-efficient enough to get the desired financial returns. With state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. reporting an investment of up to $1.7 billion in the tar patch they'll have a good shot at it.

I assume they will pump Tar Sands oil over the Rockies, either directly across western Canada, or by routing south and then west toward US ports. (Update: TransCanada pipeline extension to US Gulf Coast a possibility.) I'm also assuming that the Chinese managers will do the bare minimum for pollution control in Canada. For US citizens, this eliminates the once-comforting notion that we could solidly depend on our 'friendly neighbor to the north' to keep the cheap oil flowing to us. Scratch that condescending idea. China will get dibs in the event a global oil shortage or a North American oil price dip, relative to the global average. Welcome to the reality show of Geopolitical Peak Oil."

DO: Sign FB petition on Afghan Detainees

From: "I am Canadian and I Care about the Abuse of Afghan Detainees"

I encourage you all to sign the petition on the Canadian Civil Liberties Association website calling for an inquiry into the transfer of Afghan detainees.

It's important that since the hype has worn down slightly following Stephen Harper's comments last week that we continue to be strong and loud about this issue. There are many ways, small and large, to keep the issue alive: encourage your friends to join this facebook group, strike up conversations with strangers in coffee shops on the topic, call or email your MP. Don't let Stephen Harper win by letting this issue die.


Sign: CBC Poll - Add Afghan detainees to CBC Poll - Jan 14 deadline

The CBC has a new poll that asks Canadians what issues they would like to see CBC News ask politicians and the detainee issue is on the list.


The poll has risen to 60% from 47% - add your numbers and your voice! This alert was sent from the group "I am Canadian and I Care about the Abuse of Afghan Detainees", which you can join on Facebook.


Join: the facebook group Canadians against ProRoging Parliament

Canadians against ProRoging Parliament (facebook) "For those fed up with Harper's undemocratic behaviour, tell your MP to get back to work on January 25th". You can find out the locations of the Jan 23 rallies.