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.


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.


World Humanitarian Day - 19 August

World Humanitarian Day - 19 August
The General Assembly designates 19th August as « World Humanitarian Day »

Humanitarian Principles represent the foundation of humanitarian action.

Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found. The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings.

Neutrality: Humanitarian actors must not take sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.

Impartiality: Humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of nationality, race, gender, religious belief, class or political opinion.

Operational Independence: Humanitarian action must be autonomous from the political, economic, military or other objectives that any actor may hold with regard to areas where humanitarian action is being implemented".

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted in its Plenary Session on 11th December 2008, the Swedish sponsored Omnibus Resolution on “Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations”, that carried the historic decision by the world body, to designate the 19th August as World Humanitarian Day to honor all humanitarian and the United Nations and associated personnel who have lost their lives in the cause of duty and those who have worked in the promotion of the humanitarian cause. The Resolution invites all Member States, the United Nation system, within existing resources, as well as other international organizations and non-governmental organizations to observe the day annually in an appropriate manner. This is a major historic landmark for the Humanitarian Sphere and a great gain for all victims of armed conflict.

As a background to this landmark resolution, the family of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the late Special Representative of the Secretary General in Iraq, deeply moved by the tragic bombing of the Headquarters of United Nations in Baghdad on 19th August 2003 that killed Sergio and 21 of his humanitarian colleagues, resolved to work towards having the day recognized as a befitting tribute to all humanitarian personnel. In 2004 Madame Annie Vieira de Mello the widow of Sergio initiated discussions with key personalities in the United Nations and a number of governments to designate the day as the World Humanitarian Day. Based on this concept, in early April 2008 the Board of the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation prepared a draft Resolution to be sponsored and adopted by the General Assembly designating 19th August as World Humanitarian Day. France, Switzerland, Japan and Brazil, contacted with the draft Resolution, agreed to co-sponsor it. They led its long and extensive debate and revision in the General Assembly. The family of Sergio and the Board of the Foundation remained engaged with following up the process. Eventually the draft Resolution was folded by the co-sponsors into the omnibus Swedish draft Resolution that was adopted by the General Assembly on 11th December.

Fair Vote Canada | Make Every Vote Count

Fair Vote Canada | Make Every Vote Count
Fair Vote Canada (FVC) is a multi-partisan citizens' campaign for voting system reform. FVC promotes the use of fair and proportional voting systems for elections of all levels of government and throughout civil society.
You may sign their petition on this website for proportional voting.


Judge Revokes USDA Approval Of Monsanto's Genetically Modified Sugar Beets, Orders Review

Judge Revokes USDA Approval Of Monsanto's Genetically Modified Sugar Beets, Orders Review
[WOW - I can't actually believe this - Monsanto has more lawyers than GOD..]
This alert is a support for the Center For Food Safety (You might enjoy their Story of Stuffvideo on cosmetics and toxins)

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has revoked the government's approval of genetically altered sugar beets until regulators complete a more thorough review of how the scientifically engineered crops affect other food. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White Friday means sugar beet growers won't be able to use the modified seeds after harvesting the biotechnology beets already planted on more than 1 million acres spanning 10 states from Michigan to Oregon. All the seed comes from Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Additional planting won't be allowed until the U.S. Department of Agriculture submits an environmental impact statement. That sort of extensive examination can take two or three years.

White declined a request to issue an injunction that would have imposed a permanent ban on the biotech beets, which Monsanto Co. developed to resist its popular weed killer, Roundup Ready. Farmers have embraced the technology as a way to lower their costs on labor, fuel and equipment.

The Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance and Sierra Club have been trying to uproot the biotech beets since filing a 2008 lawsuit. Andrew Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety's executive director, hailed Friday's decision as a major victory in the fight against genetically engineered crops and chided the Agriculture Department for approving the genetically engineered seeds without a full environmental review.

"Hopefully, the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto," Kimbrell said in a statement.

Act today and Save the world's first seed bank

Food Democracy Now - Act today and Save the world';s first seed bank

This week a Russian court ruled that the world’s first seed bank outside of St. Petersburg may be destroyed to make way for private housing developments. If allowed, this decision will have a catastrophic impact on global plant diversity. Called a 'Living Library', the Pavlovsk Station, is considered the "crown jewel" of agricultural biodiversity since 90% of the collection’s varieties are not found anywhere else on the planet. Scientists around the world are calling the decision an assault against biodiversity and the memory of the bitter struggle that kept this renowned seed bank alive during the darkest days of World War II.



The Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings sets the highest standards for law enforcement to tackle the criminals who run the rape trade. If Russia signed it, it would almost certainly save thousands of girls every year.

This would put a real dent in the global rape trade - in which Russia is a key nexus. Up to 50,000 Russian women and girls are forced into the sex industry each year in Europe, and Russia also is a major route for girls trafficked from Asia into Europe. If Putin becomes personally invested in this issue, he could cause a crackdown by Russian authorities, and this would send a powerful signal to organized criminals everywhere.

While many of our world's problems stem from powerful interests like global organized crime, they often persist only because the rest of the world turns a blind eye. If we all take action, we can persuade Putin and Russia to join the convention.