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.


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.