Ethical Action Alerts for Human Rights, Environmental Issues, Peace, and Social Justice, supporting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN Treaties and Conventions.
‘Anonymous’ targets the brothers Koch
The decentralized protest group "Anonymous" has a new target: none other than tea party financiers Charles and David Koch, who were being targeted, an open letter stated, for their attempts "to usurp American Democracy."
"Koch Industries, and oligarchs like them, have most recently started to manipulate the political agenda in Wisconsin," an announcement posted to anonnews.org declared. "Governor Walker's union-busting budget plan contains a clause that went nearly un-noticed. This clause would allow the sale of publicly owned utility plants in Wisconsin to private parties (specifically, Koch Industries) at any price, no matter how low, without a public bidding process; The Koch's have helped to fuel the unrest in Wisconsin and the drive behind the bill to eliminate the collective bargaining power of unions in a bid to gain a monopoly over the state's power supplies."
The group, which was responsible for taking MasterCard Worldwide offline for an entire day -- along with numerous other organizations that plotted against secrets outlet WikiLeaks -- said it would now be "actively seeking vulnerabilities" in Koch industries.
"In a world where corporate money has become the lifeblood of political influence, the labor unions are one of the few ways citizens have to fight against corporate greed," the release added. "Anonymous cannot ignore the plight of the citizen-workers of Wisconsin, or the opportunity to fight for the people in America's broken political system. For these reasons, we feel that the Koch brothers threaten the United States democratic system and, by extension, all freedom-loving individuals everywhere."
They added that if one would like to withdraw their unknowing support for the brothers Koch, an array of products would need to be boycotted -- and not just by Americans, but people world-wide.
"Anonymous hears the voice of the downtrodden American people, whose rights and liberties are being systematically removed one by one, even when their own government refuses to listen or worse - is complicit in these attacks," they continued. "We are actively seeking vulnerabilities, but in the mean time we are calling for all supporters of true Democracy, and Freedom of The People, to boycott all Koch Industries' paper products. We welcome unions across the globe to join us in this boycott to show that you will not allow big business to dictate your freedom."
Vanity Fair, Quilted Northern, Angel Soft, Sparkle, Brawney, Mardi Gras and Dixie. For Europe, they were Demak'Up, Kitten Soft, Lotus / Lotus Soft, Tenderly, Nouvelle Soft, Okay Kitchen Towels, Colhogar, Delica, Inversoft and Tutto. LOOK FOR THIS LOGO.
IN Canada - see further list of Koch Industries HERE (fertilizer, mining, lubricants, lycra carpets - and more toilet paper :-)
Zibwawe activists charged with capital offence for discussing world events: Call Ottawa
Zibwawe activists charged with capital offence for discussing world events: your help needed
On Saturday, February 19, Zimbabwean police raided a meeting of the International Socialist Organisation. 52 people were arrested - students, union members and workers - and are still being detained at Harare Central prison. Please see below for how you can help. The Central Intelligence Organisation infiltrated the meeting, where people were discussing the events in the Middle East and the fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Munyaradzi Gwisai, the director of the Labour Law Center, is among those detained.
The most recent report is that none have been released and that they are being charged with treason. This is a very serious charge that carries the death penalty.
1. Call the Zimbabwe Embassy in Ottawa or leave a message. 613.421.2824 For speaking notes, see letter, below.
2. Send an email.
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Ottawa, Ontario: firstname.lastname@example.org
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe in London, England: email@example.com
Please cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also cc your own Member of Parliament.
Here's a sample letter, to modify as you see fit:
To: The Ambassadors of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Ottawa, Canada & London, England
Ms. Florence Zano Chideya
Mr. Gabriel Mharadze Machinga
I am writing to demand your government drop the charges of "treason" against those who met to discuss current events in Northern Africa. It is appalling that on February 20, over 50 people who were participating in an academic debate were arrested, beaten, and charged with treason. This form of repression is unacceptable in any democracy. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are fundamental human rights that must be respected.
I understand that those arrested are being held in Harare Central prison. I also understand that among those arrested is Munyaradzi Gwisai, the director of the Labour Law Center and a former elected Member of Parliament. I am calling on your government to drop all charges and release all detainees immediately.
I have copied my own Member of Parliament, [add the name of your MP here].
Canadians are demanding that all charges are dropped immediately, and that every person arrested on Saturday is released quickly, without further harm and without retribution.
[your name, your city], Canada
Koch Brothers Positioned To Be Big Winners If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved
(more Koch/Alberta/TarSands news... Also involved in Wisconsin)
The Keystone XL pipeline, awaiting a thumbs up or down on a presidential permit, would increase the import of heavy oil from Canada's oil sands to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day, if it gets built. Proponents tout it as a boon to national security that would reduce America's dependence on oil from unfriendly regimes. Opponents say it would magnify an environmental nightmare at great cost and provide only the illusion of national benefit.
What's been left out of the ferocious debate over the pipeline, however, is the prospect that if president Obama allows a permit for the Keystone XL to be granted, he would be handing a big victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his bitterest political enemies and among the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda. The two brothers together own virtually all of Koch Industries Inc. — a giant oil conglomerate headquartered in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenues estimated to be $100 billion.
A SolveClimate News analysis, based on publicly available records, shows that Koch Industries is already responsible for close to 25 percent of the oil sands crude that is imported into the United States, and is well-positioned to benefit from increasing Canadian oil imports.
A Koch Industries operation in Calgary, Alberta, called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, supplies about 250,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day to a heavy oil refinery in Minnesota, also owned by the Koch brothers. Flint Hills Resources Canada also operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, the starting point of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The company's website says it is "among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters." Koch Industries also owns Koch Exploration Canada, L.P., an oil sands-focused exploration company also based in Calgary that acquires, develops and trades petroleum properties.
The Koch brothers are not run-of-the-mill political opponents. An investigative report last year by the New Yorker magazine on the secretive and deep-pocketed pair have shown them to be "waging a war against Obama." They have bankrolled the Tea Party movement, climate change skepticism and right-wing think tanks, such as the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Through Flint Hills Resources LP based in Wichita, Kan., the Koch brothers provided $1 million in 2010 to the failed effort to suspend California’s groundbreaking 2006 global warming law.
After the 2010 midterm elections, they have become established at the center of GOP power, according to The Los Angeles Times. The paper reported this week that Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
International Society for Ecology and Culture: Promoting Locally Based Alternatives to the Global Consumer Culture
Interesting link from KS. You know the members of this board, everyone!
Promoting Locally Based Alternatives to the Global Consumer Culture
The International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide. Our emphasis is on education for action: moving beyond single issues to look at the more fundamental influences that shape our lives.
ISEC’s work began as The Ladakh Project more than thirty years ago in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. The organization initially focused on supporting Ladakh’s indigenous culture by bringing information to balance the idealized images of the consumer culture flooding into the region through tourism and development. In 1986, ISEC’s director Helena Norberg-Hodge won the Right Livelihood Award for groundbreaking sustainability work in the region.
Over the years, the organisation’s focus has expanded to address more global concerns and in 1991 changed its name to the International Society for Ecology and Culture to reflect that shift. We have made advocating for localization the main priority of our work. ISEC is almost unique in promoting localization from an international perspective – showing the benefits for the Third World as well as for the First World, and promoting the local, globally.
ISEC: A Brief History: An outline of ISEC’s activities and achievements from 1975 to 2005.Advisory Board :Wendell Berry, Frijof Capra, Peter Matthiessen, Diana Rose, Jonathan Rose, Vandana Shiva, David Suzuki, Alice Waters
Avaaz - Blackout-proof the protests
Across the Middle East -- in Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, and more countries every day, autocratic regimes are trying to crush unprecedented peaceful protests with brutality and blackouts.
Avaaz is working urgently to "blackout-proof" the protests - with secure satellite modems and phones, tiny video cameras, and portable radio transmitters, plus expert support teams on the ground - to enable activists to broadcast live video feeds even during internet and phone blackouts.
The window for us to deliver this help is closing fast, as regimes are moving quickly to choke off borders and internet connections. Small donations from 10,000 of us would fund critical technology and support teams for those who need it most. Let’s all chip in -- donate now:
BBC News - Peruvian potatoes head to frozen ‘doomsday vault’
Potatoes are regarded as the world's most important non-cereal crop, and have been eaten for about 8,000 years. But native species from the highlands of South America appear to be at risk. The samples will be stored in a vault inside a mountain, which aims to protect the world's food crop species against natural and human disasters.
"Peruvian potato culture is under threat," said Alejandro Argumedo, a plant scientist involved in the project. "The work we begin today will guarantee the availability of our incredible potato diversity for future generations." The samples being sent to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are being provided by the Cusco Potato Park, which covers more than 10,000 hectares and was set up by six indigenous communities in order to protect biodiversity and protect food security in the region.
Canadian Chicken Has Alarming Amounts of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
Some of the brands included in this study were:
- Lilydale: resistant to 5 antibiotics.
- Maple Leaf Prime: resistant to 6 antibiotics.
- Rava: resistant to 7 antibiotics.
- Loblaws Club Pack: resistant to 8 antibiotics.
The Marketplace researchers even tested brands advertised as "antibiotic-free," such as Loblaws "Free From" brand, as well as organic chicken brands. They were alamred to find that even these chickens had antibiotic-resistant bugs. One organic farmer in Quebec said that they do not use any antibiotics at all, but they do buy conventional chicks (which are then raised organic) and he says the only conceivable way his meat could have been exposed to antibiotics is if the eggs were injected with antibiotics before he takes the chicks.
Researchers are very concerned about these findings because the overuse of antibiotics in meat being consumed by Canadians means that oral antibiotics no longer work to fight the superbugs with which people are infected. One researcher from McMaster University who was interviewed on Marketplace said: "It's the bugs against the drugs and the bugs are winning." Experts are particularly concerned because half of the salmonella bugs found were resistant to Ceftiofur, one of the only antibiotics that can be used to treat food poisoning in pregnant women and children.
The Chicken Farmers of Canada are not particularly concerned and say that if people cook their chicken properly, they will not be infected with the bugs. However, most people are not as careful as they think they are when handling raw meat. People are also often infected with these superbugs due to unsafe food handling practices in restaurants or other food service businesses where they eat.
Oil pipeline from Canada stirring anger in U.S. Great Plains - And Koch profits
(McClatchy provides a perspective on TransCanada from the US farmers viewpoint)
WASHINGTON — Crude oil from western Canada began flowing through a controversial pipeline in Kansas last week. Supporters say that construction of the Keystone Pipeline — which flows down through the Dakotas and Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma — provided an economic boon, producing money and jobs.
But in Kansas, local officials along the pipeline's path think that the state sold them out — unnecessarily — to get the pipeline. Because of an exemption the state gave the company that owns it — Alberta-based TransCanada — the local officials won't see a dime in property taxes from the project for a decade, a loss they estimate at $50 million in public revenue.
"If we had that pipeline on the tax rolls this year, we could have cut our levy by 30 to 40 percent," said Dan Holub, a county commissioner in Marion County, Kan. "Rural counties don't have much of a tax base and a whole bunch of expenses. We've got 1,600 miles of road. People have got to be able to get to them."
Supporters of the pipeline deal counter that the company will owe taxes for 90 years after the abatement expires. They said the project also would help the state's shrunken oil industry. But questions persist about whether TransCanada used the power of eminent domain improperly. It used eminent domain to obtain an easement through Greg Roles' 160 acres of wheat and soybeans in Clay Center, Kan. He resisted TransCanada's $15,000 offer and now is suing the company in a case that could end up before the Kansas Supreme Court on appeal after he lost in district court.
"I'm the only guy who has tried to stand in front of them," he said. "I know I'm the only guy in Kansas. This deal just isn't right. Where are our elected officials?"
The debate is likely to intensify. TransCanada plans to use its Kansas pipeline as a pivotal piece in a new, $7 billion, nearly 1,700-mile project to transport heavy oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries in Texas. If it's approved, it could carry up to 500,000 barrels a day, doubling the amount of oil that TransCanada brings in overall...
....Approval of a cross-border permit will be up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Several members of Congress urged her in a letter last summer to go slowly with her decision, which is expected by spring after the State Department looks at the pipeline's environmental impact. Others lawmakers wrote in support of the project. The Environmental Protection Agency said the State Department's original report last year was "unduly narrow" because it didn't fully look at oil spill response plans, safety issues and greenhouse gas concerns.
If the administration signs off on the pipeline, it would inadvertently be aiding two of President Barack Obama's arch political foes: David and Charles Koch, who own Koch Industries. The Wichita-based oil giant is the second largest privately held company in the U.S., with annual revenues estimated at about $100 billion.
The Kochs have bankrolled conservative efforts and candidates who oppose Obama and the Democratic Party's environmental policies. According to Solve Climate news, an energy and climate online news service, the Koch brothers would stand to gain from the project because their company controls nearly a quarter of all tar sands crude oil that's imported into the U.S.
Extracting oil from tar sands and liquefying it enough so it will move through a pipeline is an energy-intensive process that adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Getting it out of the ground involves clear-cutting forests, leaving a wasteland that oil companies say they will restore. Some scientists say that rivers also become polluted.
"From start to finish, this a dirty project," said Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club. "Forests in Canada are being destroyed, and increased reliance on fossil fuels will accelerate global
VDay Action: Hershey and Child Labour
While many companies are working to trace their cocoa and institute labor standards among their suppliers, I am disappointed to learn that Hershey is lagging behind its competitors in this area. I believe you can be a leader in responsible cocoa sourcing.
I ask that you meet the goals of the “Raise The Bar, Hershey!” campaign, which include:
* an agreement to take immediate action to eliminate forced and child labor in your cocoa supply chain;
* a commitment to sourcing 100% Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa beans by 2012 for at least one of your top five selling chocolate bars that prominently displays the Hershey name; and
* a commitment to making at least one additional top five selling bar 100% Fair Trade Certified™ every two years thereafter, so that Hershey’s top five selling cocoa bars will all be 100% Fair Trade Certified™ within 10 years.
NOTE: you can also download or order a DVD of THE DARK SIDE OF CHOCOLATE! You can host a screening of this documentary that exposes the ongoing use of trafficked child labor in the cocoa industry in your community. Click here to order your DVD and click here to download a screening toolkit.
Central Asia: Decay and Decline - International Crisis Group
(note: the ICG is headed by Mme Louise Arbour, esteemed Canadian jurist, and the first prosecutor of the ICC)
READ THE FULL EXECUTIVE SUMMARY to see the Recommendations of the ICG and to donor organizations on the long steps to structural reform.
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are heading in the same direction. Exactly how far they have gone is hard to say as reliable data either does not exist or is secret, while extravagantly upbeat public statements bear no resemblance to reality. But Turkmenistan’s marble-faced model hospitals and Uzbekistan’s mendacious claims of prosperity are no answer to their countries’ problems. Even Kazakhstan, the region’s only functioning state, will be severely tested by infrastructure deficiencies, particularly in transportation and training of technical cadre. Any dreams of economic diversification and modernisation will have to be put on hold for the indefinite future. ..
China Makes Fake Rice from Plastic?
(No action available here, just a warning...)
A number of Chinese companies have been involved over the years in various scandals involving fake or tainted goods. Perhaps the most dangerous of all involve food, including the now famous 2008 milk scandal in which Chinese-made milk was found to contain the toxin melamine. The end result was 290,000 victims who fell ill and 11 suspected cases of death. Now there are reports from Singapore media that China is mass producing fake rice, which can be potentially very dangerous.
According to the Korean-language “Weekly Hong Kong” (which many Vietnam websites are referencing as well), Singapore media claim that fake rice is being distributed in the Chinese town of Taiyuan, in Shaanxi province. This “rice” is a mix of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and plastic. It is formed by mixing the potatoes and sweet potatoes into the shape of rice grains, then adding industrial synthetic resins. Since the rice does not behave like normal rice, it stays hard even after it has been cooked. Such synthetic resins can also be very harmful if consumed.
A Chinese Restaurant Association official said that eating three bowls of this fake rice would be like eating one plastic bag. Due to the seriousness of the matter, he added that there would be an investigation of factories alleged to be producing the rice. Meanwhile, the low cost of the fake rice is allowing wholesalers to make large profits....
also see: (January 14 news)
The latest test on spice samples in Ho Chi Minh City has showed that some of them carried a carcinogenic substance, the Department of Health announced at press conference Thursday.
According to the department’s Food Safety and Hygiene Division, samples of 26 products like dried chili, watermelon seeds, chili sauce and curry powder. They were taken from different supermarkets and markets across the city between last December 20 and this January 6.three of the samples were found containing rhodamine an industrial dye.
Time for the World Bank Group to take human rights seriously | Amnesty
Corporations can have an enormous negative impact on the rights of individuals and communities. Through its research, Amnesty International has exposed how these impacts can range from community livelihoods being threatened or destroyed to forced evictions carried out to make way for extractive operations.
The World Bank Group, among other functions, finances the activities of corporations in developing countries. This is done through an agency called the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IFC frequently supports industries of a particularly invasive nature, such as oil, gas and mining projects. These industries are often associated with environmental damage and human rights harm. The IFC must make sure it has strong safeguards to prevent human rights abuses as a result of its operations.
Unfortunately the World Bank Group is refusing to take human rights seriously. In May 2011 the IFC will adopt new policies to manage social and environmental risks associated with the activities it supports. Not only is the IFC proposing to adopt safeguards that are inadequate to prevent negative human rights impacts, but it is REFUSING to even make a commitment to respect human rights.
As an institution that claims to be committed to fighting poverty and improving people’s lives, and which is governed by member states that have international human rights obligations, this is entirely unacceptable.
You can find Amnesty International’s full analysis of the IFC policies here.
You can sign a letter to Mr. Thunnel, Head of the IFC, here
MP John McKay tells mining conference: Bill C-300 will see a 'legislative resurrection'
Liberal MP John McKay was one of nine speakers at Friday's conference, the Political Economy of Mining and Resource Extraction, at Carleton University. McKay, who is the MP for Scarborough-Guildwood, spoke to a jam-packed room of close to 100 people. He talked broadly about the bill, called the Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries Act, which would have held Canadian mining companies accountable for human rights abuses and environmental destruction while operating abroad. He expressed his surprise at the reactions to his bill. He received reactions from countries around the world including Bulgaria and the Philippines. Al-Jazeera and the Globe and Mail approached him. Over 80 NGOs wrote a letter in support of the bill. McKay revealed that "some progressive companies dipped their toes in it."
It's not uncommon for MPs to be absent for votes on private members' bills. However, for Bill C-300, all the Conservatives showed up to vote against it. Twenty-four MPs were absent from the vote and the bill was defeated by a mere six votes. McKay then spoke about a "legislative resurrection," or re-introducing the bill after more research and working with industry. The audience was heartened to hear that the bill's defeat was not the death of the bill.
The preceding presenter was Jamie Kneen from Mining Watch. He gave an excellent overview of Canadian corporations operating in the global south; a perfect set up for why a bill such as Bill C-300 is sorely needed. He showed striking images of environmental destruction, community protests and police repression. His case studies included the Highland Valley copper mine (British Colombia), the Iduapriem gold mine (Ghana), the Barrick Gold North Mara mine (Tanzania), Bulyanhulu gold mine (Tanzania), Junin (Ecuador), Tambogrande (Peru) and finally Cerro de San Pedro (Mexico).
Todd Gordon from York University, gave a talk entitled "Canadian policy and the corporate pursuit of profit." He spoke about the harm caused by Canadian mining companies and their relationship to the third world as systemic to Canadian capitalism. The Canadian government, including local embassies, is supportive of Canadian mining companies abroad. Gordon explained how documents obtained under Access to Information requests showed this relationship.
David Welch, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa, gave an overview of the Algonquin's struggle against uranium mining in North Frontenac. Canada is the largest exporter of uranium in the world. 80% of uranium that is mined in Canada is exported with a large majority going to the U.S.
Libs and PCs defeat GMO Bill C-474
"On February 9th, Conservative and Liberal MPs joined together to defeat Bill C-474, An Act respecting the Seeds Regulations (analysis of potential harm) introduced by New Democrat Agriculture Critic Alex Atamanenko. The legislation sought to require that an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed was permitted.
On the defeat of his bill, Mr. Atamanenko said, "once again we see these two parties putting the interests of their big business buddies ahead of everyday farmers whose livelihoods can be destroyed in an instant from contamination by genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops".
Looking forward, the New Democrats will continue to take every opportunity to pressure the government to initiate a public debate around genetic engineering and to use a precautionary approach to this important issue.
In spite of Bill C-474's defeat, New Democrats will continue to press the following initiatives: "
Bill C-370: mandatory labeling for genetically modified foods
Bill-C-353: Ban on the use of "Terminator seeds"
Today is Tokens4Change in Toronto - For Youth Without Shelter
Today is Tokens4Change (T4C) Day on the TTC - a one-day event we've helped orchestrate to raise 5000 tokens for Youth Without Shelter. Project Humanity has been working with high school youth to create performances that will pop up on select subway platforms throughout the day, we have some professional artists busking, we've got volunteer youth in nearly every station collecting donations. When you ride today, bring a little extra change -- any and every bit can help get a shelter youth to a much-needed job interview or doctor's appointment.
For more info visit facebook.com And if you're not riding the rocket today you can make a one-time donation of $5 by texting the word "tokens" to 45678. Super easy!
A Danish film offers a long-overdue reality check on microfinance
Africa shows signs of winning war against female genital mutilation
Today is International Ban FGM day. This is a hopeful, and a cautionary story, about well-meaning ngos not using local voices - see the previous post on victims of rape in Congo as advocates for women - M
The change is down to a unique approach with a proper understanding of local culture, says Sister Fa, who has seen her own home town of Thionck Essyl, where she herself was "cut", abandon it altogether. Mutilation is practised in 28 African countries, where 140 million women have been subjected to the brutal practice and a further two million are at risk every year.
"We're using music because the young people are the future. They need to understand that they are not alone," Sister Fa told the Observer from Dakar, where she is on a tour called "Education Against Mutilation" .. usually the NGOs come in from outside, foreigners maybe, and they try to do a demonstration and say: 'We don't want you to do this', and the people think: 'Why should we stop? This is our culture, who are you to come here once and try to put pressure on us? But if you reach communities and keep coming back then we are finding you can change things."
African women talking to African communities about mutilation is exactly the way to change things, says Nafissatou Diop, co-ordinator for the UN project, a joint programme between the United Nations Population Fund and Unicef. Diop said 12 years of mistakes by well-meaning NGOs had been closely examined and the lessons learned.
"We understand that what some charities were looking at the supply side and targeting those people who were doing the cutting, but taking them out of the system doesn't stop the demand, nor does outsiders going into a village and setting up a demonstration with an anatomical model of a woman's body that shocks everyone in the village, telling them their daughters will die and then you go away never to come back. It does not suffice.
"We are realising that you need to sustain what you are doing, open a dialogue, non-judgmentally, put things in local context and bring them to a voluntary abandonment of FGM. When this type of intervention is driven by and within a community, it is not seen as being a 'foreign influence'."
City of Joy Works to Help Alleviate Congo’s Ills - Stephen Lewis and Eve Ensler
Fighting Congo’s Ills With Education and an Army of Women
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN [NOTE - this NYTimes Article calls Stephen Lewis 'a former UNICEF official...' see similar projects funded by the Stephen Lewis Foundation - mary]
BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo: For years, diplomats, aid workers, academics and government officials here have been vexed almost to the point of paralysis about how to attack this country’s staggering problem of sexual violence, in which hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, many quite sadistically, by the various armed groups who haunt the hills of eastern Congo. Sending in more troops has compounded the problem. United Nations peacekeepers have failed to stop it. Would reforming the Congolese military work? Building up the Congolese state? Pushing harder to regulate so-called conflict minerals to starve the rebels of an income?
For Eve Ensler, the feminist playwright who wrote “The Vagina Monologues” who has worked closely with Congolese women, the answer was simple. "You build an army of women.. And when you have enough women in power, they take over the government and they make different decisions. They’ll say ‘Uh-uh, we’re not taking this any longer,’ and they’ll put an end to this rape problem fast."
Over the weekend, Ms. Ensler took the first step toward building this army: the opening of a base here in Bukavu called City of Joy. The gleaming new compound of brick homes, big classrooms, courtyards and verandas will be a campus where small groups of Congolese women, most of them rape victims, will be groomed to become leaders in their communities so they can eventually rise up and, Ms. Ensler hopes, change the sclerotic politics of this country. They will take courses in self-defense, computers and human rights; learn trades and farming; try to exorcise their traumas with therapy sessions and dance; and then return to their home villages to empower others.
The center, built partly by the hands of the women themselves, cost around $1 million. Unicef contributed a substantial amount, and the rest was raised from foundations and private donors by Ms. Ensler’s advocacy group, V-Day. Google is donating a computer center.
It is a gutsy concept, to invest this heavily in a small group of mostly illiterate women — about 180 leadership recruits per year — in the hope that they will catalyze social change. But Ms. Ensler has faced long odds before, encouraging rape victims in Afghanistan, Bosnia and other war zones to speak out and become leaders.
"This could be a turning point," said Stephen Lewis, a former Unicef official whose private foundation is helping City of Joy. "There’s been growing international concern about what’s happening in Congo, but up until now that hasn’t amounted to anything on the ground. Maybe this is the moment where women on the ground show they can turn this around."
Eastern Congo is one of the poorest and most dysfunctional places on earth, but it is also one of the most beautiful, a land of sculptured green mountains and deep, clear lakes and trees upon trees. It is teeming with riches: gold, diamonds, timber, copper, tin and more. And though the people here, especially the women, have been brutally abused for years — many have had assault rifles thrust inside them, others raped with chunks of wood and left incontinent and sterile for life — their spirits have hardly been crushed.
When City of Joy officially opened Friday, hundreds of women, most of them rape victims, thumped on drums and sang at the top of their lungs. They wore black T-shirts that read, “Stop the rape of our most precious resource"... It was an upbeat moment in a country that has had few. The legacy of brutality and exploitation goes back to the 1880s, when King Leopold II of Belgium claimed Congo as a colony and essentially enslaved the population to obtain piles of ivory and rubber.
In the mid-1990s, the country sank to new depths when a civil war broke out and neighboring nations jumped in, arming this or that rebel group in order to get their hands on this or that gold or diamond mine. Millions died. Although the other African armies eventually withdrew, many of the rebel groups never disbanded, exploiting the fact that Congo is incredibly large and the state incredibly weak. These armed groups have to a striking degree vented their rage against women. Sadistic rape — sometimes of men and boys as well — has become a distinctive feature of the violence here, sometimes to terrorize civilians...
Ms. Ensler came up with the idea for the center about three years ago after hearing from Congolese women that they wanted a safe place where they could learn skills. While some of the center’s alumnae will return to their villages, others will carry out the mission in other ways. "I don’t want to go back to my village and get raped again,” said Jane Mukoninwa, who had been gang-raped twice and will be in the first class of leadership recruits. "I want to learn to read and write so I can stay in Bukavu. She added: “I’m angry. And if I can get some skills, I can be an advocate."
UPDATE on Bill 393 - New Sponsor!
(via OXFAM and the Canadian HIV Legal Network)
"Bill C-393 - life-saving legislation to reform Canada’s broken Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) - has today overcome a procedural hurdle and will move on to a final vote in the House of Commons. The bill received the unanimous consent of the House required to transfer its sponsorship to a sitting MP, thereby enabling it to continue through the democratic process in Parliament.
We thank MP Paul Dewar (NDP, Ottawa Centre) for becoming the new sponsor of the bill. We also thank MP Brian Masse (NDP, Windsor West) and NDP House Leader Libby Davies (Vancouver East) for their efforts in championing the bill. We thank the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, and the Bloc Québécois for following through on their previously stated commitment to consent to transferring sponsorship of Bill C-393.
We would also like to thank the members of these parties who rose to speak in support of Bill C-393 this past Monday, January 31, during the bill’s first hour of debate. Thank you for recognizing the rare opportunity before you to make meaningful change and to save lives now. We commend Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party for agreeing to the request for a new sponsor and allowing Bill C-393 to proceed to a final vote in the House of Commons, in keeping with the strong spirit of Canadian democracy.
Bill C-393 has the power and potential to save lives in the developing world — and would most definitely contribute to the government’s stated goal of reducing maternal and child mortality. Bill C-393 also enjoys widespread public support, as demonstrated repeatedly to Parliamentarians. A national poll found that more than 80% of Canadians support reforming CAMR to make it workable and to ensure that generic drugs can quickly and affordably be sent to those most in need. Canadians also support our democratic process, as evidenced by the outpouring of support for the swift transfer of sponsorship of Bill C-393. Indeed, more than 3000 Canadians sent letters to this effect".
Let Parliament Vote! Bill C393 on Affordable Drugs
HERE IS ANOTHER ACTION on BILL C393
Canada is on the verge of becoming a leader in the production of affordable drugs for developing countries. A bill is in Parliament that would force big pharma to grant exceptions to their patents when life saving AIDS drugs are needed in developing countries. But the Conservative Party is trying to kill Bill - C393 on a technicality - dashing dreams of affordable medicine for the world’s poor before Parliament even has a chance to vote.
The sponsor of the Bill to create affordable medicines resigned from Parliament last year. In order to move forward, Parliament has to unanimously approve a new sponsor. This is common, and usually happens without a fuss. But Conservatives are so determined to protect the profits of big pharmaceutical companies over world health, they are refusing to agree to the sponsorship change - cutting off democracy before it starts. Call on Harper and the Conservatives to let Parliament vote.