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.


Action: Urge the U.S. government to apologize to torture survivor Maher Arar

I Apologize Action: Urge the U.S. government to apologize to torture survivor Maher Arar
AMNESTY: Maher Arar suffered torture because of the actions of U.S. officials, and an apology is now long overdue. Arar, a Canadian citizen, was traveling home to Canada from visiting relatives in Tunisia in 2002. While changing planes at New York City’s JFK airport, he was detained by U.S. authorities and then transferred secretly to Syria, where he was held for a year and tortured. Released without charge, he was allowed to return to Canada, and the Canadian government issued an apology. However, the U.S. government has failed to apologize or offer Arar any form of remedy — despite its obligation to do so under the UN Convention Against Torture and other human rights treaties.
Torture is immoral, illegal and a crime: Urge President Obama and Congress to apologize to Maher Arar and fulfill his right to remedy. It’s the right thing to do. (and read the rest of the letter, which asks --

Finally, I call on you to ensure full accountability for the many human rights violations committed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in the name of countering terrorism, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance.


The election and update on Bill C 393

The Globe and Mail
Industry Minister Tony Clement has asked his Conservative colleagues in the Senate to vote against an NDP bill that would allow generic companies to copy brand-name drugs and sell them at cut rates to the world’s poorest countries.
The supporters of the bill were hoping that endorsements by celebrities like K’naan and Margaret Atwood would persuade senators to fast-track the bill through the Red Chamber before the government falls on Friday and all legislation is lost.
The bill, an attempt to untie the knots in Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, had the support of an handful of Conservative MPs and Senator Nancy Ruth. As it was written by a former Liberal government, CAMR is so full of tangles that, in seven years of its existence, it has been used by just one company to send one AIDS drug to one country.
But the Conservative government has not endorsed the NDP bill, which was passed in the House of Commons with large support from opposition members. And Mr. Clement, who divested himself of a 25 per cent stake in a pharmaceutical company by transferring shares to a partner after he became a cabinet minister, made it clear in his e-mail that he does not want to see it passed into law.
New Democratic MP Paul Dewar told the House of Commons on Thursday the Industry Minister was using the unelected Senate to pit profits for big drug companies against saving lives. “Do the Conservatives understand democracy, or do they just not like it?” Mr. Dewar asked.
Mr. Clement responded by saying the bill, as drafted, will not do anything to help the worlds’ poor. He went on to chastise the opposition for prompting an “unnecessary election” that will kill the legislation. Mr. Clement said Bill C -393 would allow drugs that have not been certified by Health Canada to be shipped “to unsuspecting populations, to their detriment.” The drugs, he wrote, could be redirected to the black market with proceeds going to non-humanitarian causes such as weapons, and the shipments could run afoul of domestic laws and traditions.
“If current patents are threatened, the patent holders will leave Canada seeking shelter in countries which value patent protection. The loss to Canadian R & D will be significant,” he wrote. And “most importantly, Canadian generics are some of the most expensive in the world. With C-393 or not, NGOs in the developing world will direct their precious resources to cheaper drugs coming from places like India and Asia.”
Richard Elliott, the executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, which has been one of the main proponents of the bill, fired back with his own e-mail to senators that denounced Mr. Clement’s claims as preposterous. Bill C-393, he wrote, does not remove the requirement that Health Canada approve drugs exported under CAMR, it does not remove or weaken the existing safeguards against the diversion of medicines, it does not allow for medicines to be used in an eligible developing country contrary to its domestic law, and it does not run counter to Canada’s World trade obligations.
It does not threaten jobs or investments in research and development in Canada, wrote Mr. Elliott. “This unbelievable claim is made by big pharma based on no evidence and has been debunked by economist experts in submissions to parliamentary committees.” And finally, he wrote, the price of generic drugs in Canada is irrelevant. What is relevant “are the prices that Canadian generic manufacturers are able to offer to developing countries.”


EPA to Re-Examine Carcinogenic Pesticide, Methyl Iodide?

EPA to Re-Examine Carcinogenic Pesticide, Methyl Iodide? | News
Wow - some hope ahead. Some actions listed at the bottom of this article.
and note. of course it is agricultural workers who are still being poisoned..

A few days ago, brought you news about the resignation of Mary-Ann Warmerdam, the head of California's Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) who approved the carcinogenic pesticide, methyl iodide, for use in the state. The vacancy leaves the door open for a new leader who hopefully cares more about the environment and consumers' health than agrochemical firms' bottom lines.
Warmerdam's desk chair isn't even cold yet, and there's more encouraging news concerning methyl iodide: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently opened a 30-day public comment period on the national use of methyl iodide, a pesticide so poisonous that it's used in lab settings to grow cancer cells. Folks have until April 30th to raise a ruckus over methyl iodide. With the science community, environmentalists, public health experts, and basically everyone else opposed to the pesticide's use, you can bet that the EPA will be getting an ear-full.
The public comment period came about one year after Earthjustice, an environmental non-profit, filed a formal petition with the EPA (pdf) on the behalf of a coalition of environmental, health, and farmworker advocacy groups. The petition asks the EPA to reconsider its 2007 approval of methyl iodide, citing widespread public health and environmental concerns.
"The science is in," said Susan Kegley, a consulting scientist with Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), in a press release. "An immediate withdrawal of methyl iodide from the market is the best strategy for preventing adverse effects from this highly toxic pesticide. Unless U.S. EPA wants to see more groundwater contamination, increasing numbers of late-term miscarriages in women who live or work near methyl iodide applications, more thyroid disease, and more cancers, they need to get this dangerous chemical off the market."
Indeed, methyl iodide is a scarily toxic brew. As Kegley explained, exposure to the neurotoxin can lead to late-term miscarriages, cancers, thyroid disease, and brain damage. Breathing in methyl iodide can induce slurred speech, vomiting, and kidney problems, while touching it with one's bare skin can cause burns. All of the scientific evidence against methyl iodide, however, didn't stop the EPA from approving the substance for use back in 2007 (one of the agency's last acts under the Bush Administration). Then this past December, California also approved methyl iodide for use in the state's strawberry and other crop fields. Scientists nearly blew a fuse, with two of CDPR's toxicologists resigning after the decision. Meanwhile, Arysta LifeScience, the maker of methyl iodide, celebrated the huge coup.
So let's give methyl iodide the boot from our crop fields. You can submit a comment to the EPA here. You can also help push California to reverse the approval of methyl iodide by signing our petition to Governor Jerry Brown.

Victory! Apple Pulls Dangerous “Gay Cure” iPhone App

Victory! Apple Pulls Dangerous “Gay Cure” iPhone App | News
Sometimes, you win...
Apple has been under pressure for more than a week to drop an app from iTunes, created by “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International, that promotes “curing” LGBT people and tells gay youth that they can be “freed from homosexuality.”
After 152,000 emails to the company protesting the app, Apple has finally listened. The app has been pulled from iTunes. Searches for the Exodus app now turn up this message: “The item you've requested is not currently available in the US store.”
And a spokesperson for Apple told Fox News today: "We removed the Exodus International app from the App Store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people." Yeah, not hard to see how an app suggesting people can be "freed" from homosexuality is offensive to large groups of Apple customers.
Truth Wins Out, the organization that started the petition on asking Apple to remove the app, praised the company for listening to consumers, and pulling what many considered to be a dangerous app that sent a harmful message to LGBT young adults. “Apple made a wise and responsible decision to dump an offensive app that demonized gay and lesbian people,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “The real winners today are LGBT youth who are safer and less at risk for receiving Exodus’ malice and misinformation.”
As Truth Wins Out notes, Exodus’ work promoting “ex-gay” therapy has been condemned by nearly every major medical and mental health organization in the country, including the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Counseling Association. Their app sent a harmful and particularly vile message to LGBT youth that their sexual orientation was “immoral,” and that they should seek “treatment.”

Demand US Army show equal treatment for religious and non-religious soldiers

Demand that the US Army show equal treatment for religious and non-religious soldiers.
'Rock Beyond Belief,' a festival of nontheistic speakers and musicians that was going to be held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on April 2, 2011 has been canceled after Fort Bragg’s garrison commander refused to provide adequate support for the event – even though Fort Bragg officials had made similar arrangements for a religious event just months ago.
Rock Beyond Belief’s organizers had asked for lesser or equal amounts of support for their event than the Army and Fort Bragg officials provided for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s “Rock the Fort” celebration in 2010. You can see a complete comparison of the more than $100,000 in government funds provided to the Rock the Fort event to the funds asked for by the Rock Beyond Belief organizers here.
According to Rock Beyond Belief’s chief organizer, Sgt. Justin Griffith, service members without any religious affiliation compose the second-largest “religious” group at Fort Bragg, after Christians. Griffith also points out on the festival’s website,, that Fort Bragg officially cosponsored the evangelical concert event in 2010 despite calls for the Christian event to be canceled. He states on the website that Fort Bragg officials explained that “[Fort Bragg] would be willing and able to provide the same support to comparable events.”

Fort Bragg officials have offered no reasonable explanation for denying a nontheistic festival the same level of support and accommodation that was provided to a Christian festival just months ago. Fort Bragg's actions give all the appearance of discrimination and religious privileging. The service members at Fort Bragg and all nontheistic service members need your help in being heard now.
The above is from the Secular Coalition for America's Action Alert. Further information, including contact information for the garrison commander that made the decision, can be found there.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been instrumental, from the beginning, in their assistance with this issue. Their own Action Alert can be found here, and you can listen to a Freethought Radio podcast on the matter here.
Petition author says: It would be better for the Army, like any government agency, to stay out of the business of supporting any particular view on religious or spiritual matters. The Constitution itself and particularly the First Amendment indicate that church and state should be kept separate. However, the Army already supported the "Rock the Fort" festival conducted by Billy Graham Ministries, which openly stated that its purpose was to convert as many people as possible. The secular festival "Rock Beyond Belief" was taking the high road and not looking to de-convert anyone, just to provide a similarly fun festival without the religious pressure. The Army failed to treat them equally. Regardless of any officer's personal beliefs, this is the US Army, and the primary oath of service is to defend the Constitution.

Petition: Tell Ontario's Ministry of Education: Taxpayers Should Not Be Funding Homophobic Schools

Petition: Tell Ontario's Ministry of Education: Taxpayers Should Not Be Funding Homophobic Schools .

The gay news source Xtra! reports that all 29 Catholic School Boards in Ontario effectively ban the forming of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). Some may claim this is just religious freedom, but in Ontario, Catholic schools are funded by taxpayer dollars. So LGBT people and straight allies are paying to teach kids that being gay is shameful, sinful, and something that can be avoided if swept under the rug.

Xtra! contacted the 29 Catholic school boards in the province. None of them reported having a GSA, which is contrary to what activists and politicians have been reporting.

"We support student clubs that support inclusiveness, especially for students who might otherwise feel marginalized. But all our clubs must, however, adhere to the Catholic teachings and values," Gerald Casey, Superintendent of Education for the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board, said to Xtra!.

Casey then he told the reporter that, if a student asked to start a gay-straight alliance, the answer would be no.

Ontario Catholic School curriculum comes from the Institute for Catholic Education, and the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario (ACBO) is the final authority on what is and is not "Catholic" in the province. A report published by the ACBO promotes the idea that students who have same-sex attraction are not homosexual. They just need to avoid sex. That is not a reasonable option, nor something wise to be teaching students.

This needs to stop. Either Catholic Schools need to reverse their policies on gay-straight spaces in high schools, or Ontario taxpayers need to stop being forced to contribute to the promotion of intolerance and oppression. The petition below targets the latter matter. Tell the Ontario Ministry of Education that citizens should not have to contribute to schools with hateful and damaging policies that are just about as un-Canadian as you can get.
Dear Minister Dombrowsky and Ms. Moroz,

I am writing to ask you to put an end to taxpayer funding for Ontario Catholic school boards.

As I am sure you are aware, there has been outrage recently over the fact that Ontario's Catholic School Boards do not allow gay-straight alliances in their schools. Telling children that they can form equity groups, and yet not use the word gay, is both intolerant and oppressive. In fact, it goes against everything that makes Canada such a wonderful, inclusive and diverse country.

The fact that these schools operate under policies that do not even allow kids to be openly homosexual is problematic. Telling a youth that acting on their natural feelings and desires is a "mortal sin" only contributes to poor mental health, low self-esteem and overall unhappiness. Kids should not be told that they need to live a life of celibacy to be worthy. And, since this is in fact what they are being told, taxpayers should not be funding this hatred.

I urge you to put a stop to public funding of Catholic school boards in Ontario, at least until their policies start to align with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

(sign petition at the link above)


Bradley Manning update: Ellsberg and others arrested

Dozens of activists, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, were arrested Sunday at a military base holding the US soldier suspected of leaking secret US cables, supporters said.

"It was a strong showing of a cross section of Americans who support Bradley Manning and oppose his unconstitutional confinement," said Kevin Zeese, an attorney with the Bradley Manning Support Network, in a statement. Manning "is being selectively prosecuted, pure and simple," said Zeese.

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame and retired US colonel Ann Wright were among 30 activists detained amid the peaceful demonstration at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia, according to the group. The pair, said supporters, were "arrested as they approached the gates of the base in an attempt to deliver a letter" to the Quantico base commander Daniel Choike.

Manning, 23, was arrested in June while deployed to Iraq amid suspicions he had passed a trove of secret US government documents to WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website, many of which were then published around the world.

On March 2, the US military unveiled 22 additional charges against Manning including the serious offense of "aiding the enemy," which carries a potential death sentence. But the army said he would face possible life in prison. 

Ellsberg, who as a government consultant leaked the Pentagon Papers that revealed war planning in Vietnam, has previously saluted Manning. "I'm afraid that will happen indefinitely unless more people follow the example of Bradley Manning, whose courageous act of civil disobedience probably confronts him with life in prison," Ellsberg said to a crowd of supporters at a rally earlier this month.


Courage to Resist: Rallies for Bradley Manning this weekend, US, Canada, INt'l

Vienna to Toronto to Quantico: March 19 and 20th, 2011, supporters of accused WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning will be holding demonstrations, rallies, vigils and public events worldwide. Please join in an event or hold one in your local community to show your support for Bradley Manning
Here is the list of rallies by City


Call the PM on Climate Change this week

This is the last week to ask Harper and Flaherty to end subsidies to fossil fuel companies, some of which are the largest companies in the world. The budget announcement is next week. There will likely be an election called due to a vote of non-confidence, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to still send home the message.

And to bring home that message we at the Citizens Climate Lobby produced this little video, which touches, ever so lovingly, on the absurdity of government handouts to rich oily companies.

Please call the PM and Finance Minister if you have not already. Dial 866-599-4999 and ask for the PMs office or Jim Flaherty, the Finance Minister. Sound scary? It isn’t. All you’ll do is leave a message with a machine or receptionist. Phone calls are taken more seriously than emails. Let them know there are better ways to spend our money.


Ontario Humanist Society endorses Climate Action Network Letter

See letter and link HERE
Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper and Minister Flaherty
Ongoing until budget 2011
An appeal to end special tax breaks to oil, coal and gas companies
As organizations concerned about the worsening impacts of climate change at home and around the world, as well as the need to seriously reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, we are calling on the Government of Canada to eliminate tax breaks to the companies that produce oil, gas and coal in the federal 2011 budget.
The Government of Canada provides around a billion dollars in tax breaks every year to companies producing fossil fuels, who are among the richest in the country. As the world moves towards a clean energy economy, Canada’s ongoing tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel sector are taking us in the wrong direction.
In an era of fiscal constraint, hundreds of millions of dollars in savings could go a long way towards meeting pressing social and environmental needs in Canada and abroad. By ending fossil fuel tax breaks, Canada would also be meeting the commitment our government made in Pittsburgh in 2009, along with other G20 leaders, to phase out subsidies and tax breaks to companies producing oil, gas and coal.
By subsidizing the companies that produce fossil fuels, the Government of Canada is encouraging greater production and facilitating the rapid expansion of the tar sands, Canada’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas pollution. Globally, artificially low costs of fossil fuels have been shown to encourage wasteful consumption, distort energy markets, and allow for increased greenhouse gas pollution, thereby fueling the climate crisis. Subsidizing oil extraction also makes investments in oil more attractive compared to cleaner alternatives like wind and solar power, thereby further tying our economies to fossil fuels.
We would like to take this opportunity to urge the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister to use the 2011 budget as an opportunity to end tax breaks for oil coal and gas companies.

SOUTH AFRICA: Activism makes inroads on "corrective rape"

SOUTH AFRICA: Activism makes inroads on "corrective rape"
Cape Town, 15 March 2011 (IRIN) - The South African government has agreed to activist demands to address the increasingly common hate crime of "corrective rape", whereby lesbians are raped by men to "cure" them of their sexual orientation.

The decision was reached during a meeting on 14 March between senior officials from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development and grassroots activists who brought a petition signed by 170,000 supporters in 163 countries. More than 100 people gathered outside Parliament in support.

In December 2010, a lesbian activist group, Luleki Sizwe, posted a petition on, demanding that the South African government recognize corrective rape as a hate crime. Ndumie Funda, founder of the group, said earlier attempts to gain an audience with the Ministry of Justice had failed, but within weeks of posting the petition, it became the site's most popular, and the Ministry contacted Funda to set up a meeting.

Funda said the petition came about during a moment of crisis. In April 2010, Luleki Sizwe provided a safe house for Millicent Gaika after she was brutally beaten and raped for five hours by a man who continually told her he was showing her how to be a woman. In November 2010, Gaika's assailant, out on a bail, began threatening Funda. She went into hiding for several weeks, during which time she ignored a request for help from another corrective rape victim, who subsequently committed suicide.

According to activists, suicide is not uncommon among victims of corrective rape, who also oftenexperience torture, exposure to HIV and an unresponsive justice system. Last week, the case of Zoliswa Nkonyane, a 19-year-old lesbian from the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha, who was murdered in 2006, was postponed for the 32nd time.

South Africa was the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution, and the first African country to legalize same-sex marriage. However, the country also leads the world in the prevalence of violent crime, and violence against women in particular.

"We're famous as a country with beautiful laws that are not implementable," Yvette Abrahams, the commissioner for gender equality, told IRIN."We're sitting in a country where six women a day die at the hands of a husband or intimate partner, so if straight violence is like that, to try and get attention for homophobic violence becomes very difficult." During the meeting with activists, ministry officials asked for details of specific cases needing immediate attention and promised to present “concrete proposals” to tackle corrective rape by the time they meet again.

Amnesty: End the punitive detention of Bradley Manning

End the punitive detention of Bradley Manning

In late January, Amnesty International wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates denouncing the conditions of Bradley Manning's detention as "unnecessarily harsh and punitive" and in "breach the USA’s obligations under international standards and treaties." In the wake of the prolonged forced nudity to which Manning is now being subjected, Amnesty has escalated its denunciations: as the Associated Press put it today, the group is now "urging people to complain to the Obama administration about the confinement."

Amnesty International is concerned that the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking information to Wikileaks, are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities. Bradley Manning has not been convicted of any offence, but military authorities appear to be using all available means to punish him while in detention. The conditions under which Bradley Manning is held appear to breach the USA’s human rights obligations. Urge the Secretary of Defense to review the conditions under which Bradley Manning is confined and take effective measures to ensure that he is no longer held in 23-hour cellular confinement or subjected to other undue restrictions. Read More »\

Because it's Amnesty International, anyone can sign the letter.     Mary 


Equality for women in shaping Egypt's future | Amnesty

Equality for women in shaping Egypt's future | Amnesty International
In Egypt, where the country begins to look toward its future, women are in danger of being excluded from the process of creating that new Egypt.

They are being excluded by the caretaker government and the international community so far remains indifferent. Most recently, a new national committee formed to propose changes to the Egyptian constitution was composed only of men.. This is not acceptable.

Women's participation must be in every aspect of building new systems and institutions. However the current behaviour by the interim authorities and the international community betrays a sense of paternalism all too familiar to Egyptian women who have spent decades living under an oppressive government supported by supposedly rights-respecting states like the UK and USA.

For the promise of true and lasting human rights change in Egypt and elsewhere in the region – and the world – to be fulfilled, women of diverse backgrounds and views must be at the table as full partners.
Write to the Leader of the Supreme Military Council - Field Marshal Muhammad Tantawi to tell him that women must not be excluded from the shaping of the future of Egypt.

New UN Report on How to Feed the World's Hungry: Ditch Corporate-Controlled Agriculture: Agroecology

New UN Report on How to Feed the World's Hungry: Ditch Corporate-Controlled Agriculture
[NOTE: this report is useful to quote when replying to campaigns protecting Monsanto, corporate agriculture, etc. ]

A new report from the UN advises ditching corporate-controlled and chemically intensive farming in favor of agroecology. There are a billion hungry people in the world and that number could rise as food insecurity increases along with population growth, economic fallout and environmental crises. But a roadmap to defeating hunger exists, if we can follow the course -- and that course involves ditching corporate-controlled, chemical-intensive farming.

'To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available. And today's scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production in regions where the hungry live,' says Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Agroecology is more or less what many Americans would simply call "organic agriculture," although important nuances separate the two terms.

Used successfully by peasant farmers worldwide, agroecology applies ecology to agriculture in order to optimize long-term food production, requiring few purchased inputs and increasing soil quality, carbon sequestration and biodiversity over time. Agroecology also values traditional and indigenous farming methods, studying the scientific principals underpinning them instead of merely seeking to replace them with new technologies. As such, agroecology is grounded in local (material, cultural and intellectual) resources.

A new report, presented today before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, makes several important points along with its recommendation of agroecology. For example, it says, "We won't solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations." Instead, it says the solution lies with smallholder farmers. The majority of the world's hungry are smallholder farmers, capable of growing food but currently not growing enough food to feed their families each year. A net global increase in food production alone will not guarantee the end of hunger (as the poor cannot access food even when it is available), an increase in productivity for poor farmers will make a dent in global hunger. Potentially, gains in productivity by smallholder farmers will provide an income to farmers as well, if they grow a surplus of food that they can sell.

US: Contact the EPA before March 18 re Emissions Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to limit global warming pollution from big fossil fuel industries like power plants and petroleum refineries. These industries alone account for about 40% of the global warming pollution in the U.S. -- making them the two largest sources of emissions.

 The EPA is charged with developing rules called New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) that will protect public health, reduce the pollution that causes climate change, and send a signal to polluters that they need to invest in clean energy technologies.

It's crucial the EPA sticks to its schedule and develops strong rules. Between now and March 18, the EPA is accepting comments on their plans. They will definitely be receiving comments from the coal, gas and oil industries. Make sure they hear from you, too.

These rules are common sense. The EPA was created to understand our impact on our environment and protect the health of our people. An overwhelming majority of scientists are united in their understanding of the effects of global warming pollution and the EPA is charged with developing rules based on that science. Yet strong special interest groups are working to derail that process.

The EPA needs to hear that you support their efforts to limit global warming pollution from these industries.  Unfortunately, big polluters will make big profits if they mislead the American public about that fact. We need you to counteract and counterbalance their money and their voice by sending a comment to the EPA today.


Petition: Tell the New York Times to Apologize for Blaming a Child for Her Gang Rape

UPDATE - apologies. Here is the Original NYTimes story about the rape. You will also see some letters published, including this one:

Not surprisingly, I found the March 9 news article about the gang rape of a young girl, 'Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town,' disturbing.

Almost as disturbing were the characterizations of the victim and her mother. While the 18 boys and men charged with the attack were described in innocuous terms except that a few had criminal records, I was shocked to see the article report that town residents said the 11-year-old girl 'dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s.' The article continued, 'She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.'

How is this relevant except to subtly blame the victim?
A resident of the town was quoted as asking: 'Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?' — as if her mother were somehow to blame for this heinous crime.

I wonder why these particular quotes were included. The suspects are innocent until proved guilty, but shouldn’t the victim be afforded the same rights?

Jinnie Spiegler
Brooklyn, March 9, 2011

Petition: Tell the New York Times to Apologize for Blaming a Child for Her Gang Rape |

Targeting: Arthur S. Brisbane (Public Editor, The New York Times), Bill Keller (Executive Editor, The New York Times), and Arthur Sulzberger Jr (Publisher, The New York Times)
Started by: Shelby Knox A Former Washington Post Reporter

On March 8th the New York Times published a story by James C. McKinley Jr. titled "Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town." The assault it described was, indeed, heinous: an 11-year-old was gang raped in an abandoned trailer house by as many as 18 men, with suspects ranging in age from middle school students to a 27-year-old. The attack came to light because several of the suspects took cell phone video of the assault.
Also appalling was the way in which New York Times reporter James C. McKinley reported the victim blaming sentiments of members of the Texas community in which the rape occurred as truth. McKinley insinuated the young woman had it coming, writing, "They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said."
Mr. McKinley also gave ink to community members who are more concerned about the impact raping a child will have on the suspects than being raped will have on the young victim. Mr. McKinley quoted Sheila Harrison as saying, "“These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

1 in 4 American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. A culture that blames victims for being raped - for what they were wearing, where they were, and who they were with - rather than blaming the rapist is a culture that tacitly condones rape. A society that is more concerned with how being held accountable for rape will impact the perpetrator than for the well being of the victim is a society that doesn't take rape seriously.

The New York Times contributed to this dangerous culture by publishing this article by Mr. McKinley without asking him to edit out his and community members' editorial victim blaming.

Tell the New York Times to issue a published apology for their coverage of this incident and publish an editorial from a victim's rights expert on how victim blaming in the media contributes to the prevalance of sexual assault. No one ever deserves to be raped and no victim should ever be told it was their fault. New York Times, we demand better.

Bill 393 passes! Speeds flow of medication to developing nations

Bill to speed flow of medication to developing nations passes Commons
OTTAWA — The House of Commons passed a bill Wednesday its supporters say will help get inexpensive and badly needed medication to underdeveloped countries. Two Liberal MPs voted against the NDP bill, and several others abstained. But with the help of some Conservative MPs, Bill C-393 passed with 172 votes for, and 111 against.
The bill would amend Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, which, despite being on the books for more than half a decade, has only been used by one company to send one HIV/AIDS shipment to another country. Critics say that paltry statistic is a testament to a system overwhelmed by red tape.
As it stands, the regime allows for a generic pharmaceutical company to apply for a permit to produce a patented medicine only after it has received an order. The key change in C-393 is a "one-licence agreement" which allows a generic pharmaceutical company to produce and distribute as much of a given drug as it pleases without having to re-apply and sift through piles of red tape each time a developing country expresses interest.
NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis introduced Bill C-393, but it became an orphan last year when she left federal politics for an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Winnipeg. Her colleague, Brian Masse, shepherded the bill through committee but parliamentary regulations wouldn't allow for him to officially sponsor the bill.
But in a rare demonstration of co-operation in the House of Commons, the parties offered unanimous support for NDP MP Paul Dewar to sponsor the bill
Read more:

Illinois repeals death penalty

Illinois repeals the death penalty
UPDATE (3:05 p.m. EST): The Governor of Illinois has signed a bill repealing the death penalty and commuting the sentences of 15 men. Today, Illinois is expected to officially end the practice of state-sanctioned murder. It only took them 232 years.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, a supporter of capital punishment, was reportedly on track to sign a bill abolishing the death penalty. The bill has been on his desk since early January, after it cleared the state's Senate by a vote of 32-25. Confirmation that the governor would sign the bill came from Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D), who told The Chicago Tribune that the governor's people said it would happen Wednesday.

The move to end the state's long history of official murder was reportedly praised by President Barack Obama, who met with Gov. Quinn last week in the White House.


Avaaz Action to UNSC - Libya: No-Fly Zone

As Qaddafi's jets drop bombs on the Libyan people, the UN Security Council will decide in 48 hours whether to impose a no-fly zone to keep the government's warplanes on the ground.

Together, we've already flooded the Security Council with messages, "overwhelming" the President's office and helping to win serious targeted sanctions on the Libyan regime - now, to stop the bloodshed, we need a massive outcry of 1 million messages for a no-fly zone.
If Qaddafi can't dominate the air, he loses a key weapon in a war in which civilians are paying the heaviest price. But as long as his helicopter gunships and bombers are in the air, the death toll will rise. We have just 48 hours left to hit 1 million messages to stop Qaddafi's deadly attacks .

Letter: Dear United Nations Security Council delegates,

We call on you to take immediate steps to impose a no-fly zone under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to stop the aerial bombings of civilians in Libya and restore access for humanitarian flights to Libyan air space. Only through robust international action and oversight can the bloodshed in Libya be stopped.


Coming in 2020: 50 Million Environmental Refugees

Coming in 2020: 50 Million Environmental Refugees
"In 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million environmental refugees," declared of California, Los Angeles professor Cristina Tirado at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "When people are not living in sustainable conditions, they migrate," she continued.
In 2001 Norman Myers of Oxford University called environmental refugees as a "new phenomenon." Myers described them as "people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with the associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty." Myers added, "In their desperation, these people feel they have no alternative but to seek sanctuary elsewhere, however hazardous the attempt."
Given the projected amount of environmental refugees, the world does not have time to wait for a "bluer" U.S. congress to enact climate change legislation. However, there may be ways to combat climate change without the U.S. putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing black carbon (soot) and ozone levels "will slow the rate of climate change in the first half of the 21st century," according to a new report released in Nairobi Kenya by the UN Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization. read more...

Cargill using Wind Kites in shipping.

[Cargill, usually shortsighted, seems to be trying new green technology]
Cargill, an international shipping company, recently partnered with Hamburg-based SkySails to use wind power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the industry. SkySails developed a patented technology that uses a giant kite which flies ahead of a vessel to augment the power of its engines.
Next December Cargill will install a 320m2 kite on a handysize vessel of between 25,000 and 30,000 deadweight tonnes. The kite will generate enough propulsion to reduce consumption of bunker fuel by up to 35 percent in ideal sailing conditions.

The kite will be connected to the ship by rope, and is computer-controlled by an automatic pod to maximize the wind benefit and minimize extra work for the crew.

"The shipping industry currently supports 90 percent of the world's international physical trade. In a world of finite resources, environmental stewardship makes good business sense," said G.J. van den Akker, head of Cargill's ocean transportation business. "As one of the world's largest charterers of dry bulk freight, we take this commitment extremely seriously. In addition to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the SkySails technology aims to significantly reduce fuel consumption and costs."

According to a United Nations study, up to 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) could be saved every year by the broad application of the SkySails' technology on the world merchant fleet. This figure would equate to 11 percent of the CO2 emissions of Germany.


The Conservative's Extraordinary Priorities (Carbon Slim)

(from Carbon Slim). "The Conservative Party has such extraordinary values. It's budget time and they have to chip away at the deficit. Should they cut important environmental services, including climate change research, or should they end the billions in subsidies to fossil fuel companies? Guess what the Conservatives plan to do?

Forget that  in 2009 during the G20 Summit in Pittsburg, Prime Minister Harper signed a statement with the other G20 countries committing to end fossil fuel subsidies. Canada gives $1.4 billion to oil countries every year through tax breaks, etc. (by the way: five of these companies are the largest in the world).

This past week, we learnedthe government plans to cut $1.6 billion in environmental services, including climate change research, but no cuts to subsidies as promised. 

The Climate Action Network’s campaign urges the government to keep its international promise and cut fossil fuel subsidies. Please join us. Write to Harper and Flaherty asking them to keep the environmental services, but end fossil fuel subsidies. Mailed letters are better (it’s free!) as politicians tend to take them more seriously than emails."

Prime Minister Harper
Parliament of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A9

Calling is effective too - (866) 599-4999. Ask for the Prime Minister’s Office.

For more on the fossil fuel subsidies, check out the op-ed for, which was posted last week.

Women's Rights - new site from TrustLaw

Women's Rights - TrustLaw: a global centre for free legal assistance and anti-corruption news, run by Thomson Reuters Foundation,

In common with all of the Foundation's programmes, TrustLaw aims to empower people in need by providing trusted information and leveraging professional expertise. We offer services to improve access to the rule of law and foster greater transparency.

Samples from the new Trustlaw for Women's Rights site:
Breaking the tabu around genital cutting: a midwife's tale

Aftershocks: Women Speak out against Sexual Violence in Haiti's Camps
Congo: Mass Rapes escalate in South Kivu

Women fearful to report or seek help at Barrick Gold mines, Papua New Guinea
100 Years of International Women's Day

Glenn Greenwald on Shocking New Charges Against Bradley Manning

Glenn Greenwald on Shocking New Charges Against Bradley Manning
Does this remind you of the imprisonment of the Nobel Laureate in China? mary

"Although the charging document does not say who the 'enemy' is, there’s only two possibilities," Greenwald says. "Either they mean Wikileaks … or any kind of leak now of classified information to newspapers where your intent is not to aid the Taliban, but expose wrongdoing.

In the past, aiding the enemy has been reserved for acts where somebody in the US government, like CIA officials, actually transmit intelligence information intended to be received by the enemy... where the intention was really to put it into their hands and help them in terms of being able to use it. There's very few cases, if there are any, where aiding the enemy has been invoked in order to convict somebody who's clearly acting as a whistleblower, and not giving any information to the enemy but simply intending that it be publicly written about and talked about in order to achieve reforms".

from Jane Hamsher

"So let me get this straight. The Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, says that the 'leaked cables created no substantive damage — only embarrassment.' So they’re going to charge Manning with 'aiding the enemy”=' because they claim he knew WikiLeaks would publish them on the internet, the 'enemy' can see the internet, and the cables 'bring discredit upon the armed forces.'

They want to lock a 23 year-old up for the rest of his life, using a charge designed for terrorists and spies, because he embarrassed them in front of the bad guys?" go to:
BradleyManning Defense Fund (Courage to Resist)


CRTC ditches bid to allow fake news - Globe and Mail

CRTC ditches bid to allow fake news - The Globe and Mail
(No "Fake Fox News" in Canada - so far)
Canada's broadcasting regulator has abandoned its attempt to change a regulation that prohibits the dissemination of false or misleading news.
The decision from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission followed a meeting last week of Parliament’s joint committee for the scrutiny of regulations, which ended its 10-year bid to get the regulation to comply with the law. More related to this story
The committee was concerned that the regulation violated a 1992 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, which found that the Charter of Rights provision protecting freedom of expression meant a person could not be charged for spreading false information.
After ignoring the committee's letters for years, CRTC finally relented and said in December it would consider changing the regulation to apply only in cases when broadcasters know the information they are sharing is untrue and when it “endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.”
But the CRTC's call for public input on the proposal resulted in a tidal wave of angry responses from Canadians who said they feared such a move would open the door to Fox TV-style news and reduce their ability to determine what is true and what is false.
In the face of the outcry, the regulations committee, which is composed of both MPs and senators, met last Thursday and decided it would no longer pursue the matter with the CRTC. Some of the MPs on that committee, including Liberal chairman Andrew Kania, were not in politics when the issue was first discussed and said they did not agree with the decision of the committee 10 years ago to press the CRTC for the change.

Antibiotic-resistant flies on factory farms - a new threat

What sort of antibiotic-resistant pathogens are growing on factory farms, along with all the cheap pork chops and chicken wings? And what level of threat do they pose to our health? Well, we know that in total, factory-farm animals consume a jaw-dropping four times as many antibiotics as do people in the United States, thanks to diligent reporting by Maryn McKenna and Ralph Loglisci and work by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
And we know that a kind of antibiotic-resistant staph infection called MRSA now kills more people than AIDS -- and infects people who never set foot in a hospital, which is the site where MRSA is thought to have originated. We also know, due to the stellar work of Iowa State University researcher Tara Smith, that pigs in confined animal feedlot operations, and the workers who tend them, routinely carry MRSA strains (her paper can be found here).
We also know that, by the FDA's own reckoning, meat on grocery store shelves is routinely infected by pathogens resistant to multiple antibiotics (again, McKenna's work brought the FDA's perhaps intentionally obscure report to light).
And now we know of yet another means by which antibiotic-resistant nasties can make their way from meat factories into the broader community: through the cockroaches and flies drawn to the titanic amounts of manure produced on factory farms. For a paper published last month in the journal Microbiology, researchers from North Carolina State and Kansas State universities took one for the team -- i.e., the public. They did something few of us would want to do: rounded up common flies and roaches hanging around factory hog farms, and tested them to see what kinds of bacteria they were harboring.
Their finding? More than 90 percent of the insects sampled carried forms of the bacteria Enterococci that are resistant to at least one common antibiotic, and often more than one. Here's how the authors summed up their findings in the paper's abstract:
This study shows that house flies and German [common] cockroaches in the confined swine production environment likely serve as vectors and/or reservoirs of antibiotic resistant and potentially virulent enterococci and consequently may play an important role in animal and public health.
In a press release, study coauthor Coby Schal, entomology professor at NC State, broke it down in simpler terms:
The big concern is not that humans will acquire drug-resistant bacteria from their properly cooked bacon or sausage, but rather that the bacteria will be transferred to humans from the common pests that live with pigs and then move in with us.
Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that factory-scale animal farms exact a high toll from the people who live around them in other ways, too. A study by University of North Carolina professor Steve Wing and others shows that people with the bad luck to live near giant hog farms suffer demonstrably worse health when the factories are getting up to malodorous stuff like spraying untreated (and thus antibiotic-resistant-bacteria-laden) manure on fields. Among the many hidden costs of cheap pork is that people who live near factory farms are doomed either to be sick or shut in at certain times of the year. (McKenna has an excellent discussion of the Wing study on her Wired blog.)
To answer the questions I posed in the opening paragraph, it seems we're brewing up some pretty nasty pathogens in our meat factories, along with all the pork chops and chicken wings. And they're coming our way, carried out on the meat itself, by factory-farm workers, and by common creepy-crawly and flying insects.
Seems like there should be a law banning the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on farms. In 2009, Rep. Louise Slaughter introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). So far, the meat industry has managed to, well, slaughter it. But she plans to introduce PAMTA again this year.