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.


What Manuel Zelaya's Return Means for Honduras and Human Rights

What Manuel Zelaya's Return Means for Honduras and Human Rights
The former president's return is welcome, but human rights remain at risk in Honduras after the coup that deposed him, by Mark Weisbrot
(note: while watching the "Arab Spring" - keep your eyes on other locations fighting for local self-determination....)

Former Honduran President Zelaya's return home Saturday has important implications for the western hemisphere that, we can predict, will be widely overlooked. Zelaya was ousted from the presidency when he was kidnapped at gunpoint by the military on 28 June 2009. Although no hard evidence has yet emerged that the US government was directly involved in his overthrow, the Obama administration did everything it could to help the coup government to survive and then legitimate itself through elections that most of the rest of the hemisphere, and the world, rejected as neither free nor fair.

Zelaya's return represents a partial reversal of that coup d'etat and Washington's efforts to consolidate it, just as President Aristide's return to Haiti after seven years in exile, on 18 March – despite furious efforts by the Obama administration, and even President Obama himself, to prevent it – is a partial reversal of the 2004 US-organised coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Haiti. And it is another demonstration of how the western hemisphere has changed: the agreement for Zelaya's return was mediated through the governments of Venezuela and Colombia, with no US involvement or even lip-service support until it was over.

Instead, the mediation process had the unanimous support of Latin America and the Caribbean, which endorsed it through their new organisation, Celac (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States). Celac contains all the countries of the Organisation of American States (OAS) except the US and Canada. It was formed in February 2010, partly as a response to Washington's manipulation of the OAS in the aftermath of the Honduran coup.

The Obama administration lost a lot of trust throughout the hemisphere as a result of its support for the Honduran coup government, and so it was not surprising that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was smart enough to endorse the Cartagena agreement (for Zelaya's return) after it was signed. She had been lobbying, without success for the past year and a half, to get Honduras admitted back into the Organisation of American States, from which it was kicked out after the coup. It is assumed that this new accord will pave the way for Honduras' readmission, so she can spin it as a victory for Washington. But it clearly is not.

The agreement met some of the demands of President Zelaya and his allies, but not others. It allows for the participation of the National Front for Popular Resistance, which struggled against the coup and subsequent repression, as a legal political party. It also states that people can organise plebiscites of the kind that Zelaya was overthrown for organising. And it has guarantees for the safety and security not only of Zelaya, but also of others who fled after the coup and remain in exile; it also contains certain non-enforceable human rights guarantees.

And that is the big problem: human rights. Less than a year ago, Human Rights Watch noted that "Honduras has made little progress toward addressing the serious human rights abuses since the 2009 coup." It cited the cases of eight journalists and ten members of the National Front for Popular Resistance who had been murdered since President Porfirio Lobo took office, as well as the impunity for human rights abuses committed by the coup government. If anything, the repression has become worse since then.

Stop the Melanchton Mega Quarry

Torontoist: This video about the proposed mega quarry in Melancthon, Ont. was created by Kate Heming and Andrew Sheppard to highlight the work of the North Dufferin Agricultural Community Taskforce, a citizens' group fighting the project. For more background, read Hamutal Dotan's comprehensive report on the quarry and its potential impact and check out photos of a recent protest. Follow @nomegaquarry on Twitter to keep up with developments.[via @kateheming]

Write a letter here: Stop the Melancthon Quarry: New deadline, July 7?
Read David Suzuki Foundation letter here

"The Highland Companies, owned by a US based Hedge fund operation with offices in Boston, has advised they will file for an aggregate licence imminently upon their completion of technical studies. The application will be for a quarry with extraction approximately 200 feet below the water table. The Highland Companies has indicated that their initial application will be for an extraction license covering some 2,400 acres, which would make this one of, if not the, largest below the water table mining operation in Canada.

The Highland Companies has amassed landholdings in Melancthon and Mulmur Townships, in the County of Dufferin, of over 7,000 acres of prime agricultural land. When amassing their land holdings, they had previously stated that they wanted to be the biggest potato farming operation in Ontario. However, evidence of significant core sampling, well testing, tree cutting, archaeological and other studies that have been conducted on the lands have all been consistent with pre-testing for aggregate/limestone extraction. The Highland Companies is presently clearing the land on a daily basis, burning and removing homes and barns that have been in place for generations. The Highland Companies have demolished and/or have permits to demolish structures on 28 properties and the total assessment on these properties is $6,951,751.00 million. The landscape is truly altering already.

At the October 15 meeting of Council Mayor Fawcett confirmed that any loss in the tax base due to the demolition of these homes on properties owned by The Highland Companies would be borne by all the remaining taxpayers. Melancthon Council has the authority to instantly stop the demolition by passing a bylaw under Section 33 of the Planning Act and also to designate these homes under the Heritage Act but have chosen not to, despite pleas from ratepayers.

Not only are ratepayers going to be paying for this, but the repercussions of this mine could seriously and adversely affect the water, the landscape, the community, surrounding agriculture land use, and with the potential to cause disastrous environmental scenarios for decades. The effect on deer, wild turkeys, migratory birds and other native wildlife will be irreversible. This open pit mine will take some of the best agriculture land in Ontario out of production and is in a location that is recognized as one of the primary sources for water recharge feeding the Nottawasaga and Grand Rivers. The repercussion of tampering with this water could affect over a million people that are downstream from and served by these watercourses."


Irish Church's Forgotten Victims Take Case to U.N. -

Irish Church's Forgotten Victims Take Case to U.N. -

DUBLIN — For years, it was Ireland’s hidden scandal: an estimated 30,000 women were sent to church-run laundries, where they were abused and worked for years with no pay. Their offense, in the eyes of society, was to break the strict sexual rules of Catholic Ireland, having children outside wedlock. Although it has been over a decade since their story came to light, the women are still waiting for an apology, and possibly compensation.

Now, an advocacy group, Justice for Magdalenes, which has spent the last two years lobbying the Irish government to investigate the history of the laundries, is taking the case to the United Nations, alleging the abuse amounted to human rights violations, and hoping that an official rebuke from the international body will shame the government into action...

The United Nations is examining Ireland’s human rights record this week as part of the Universal Periodic Review, a review of the human rights records of all 192 member states. The U.N. Committee Against Torture invited Justice for Magdalenes to make a statement in Geneva after reading their submission about the alleged abuses in the laundries.

Maeve O’Rourke, a Harvard Law School human rights fellow, presented the Magdalenes’ case last Friday. She told the committee that the Irish government’s failure to deal with the abuse amounted to continuing degrading treatment in violation of the Convention Against Torture. She also said the state had failed to promptly investigate "a more than 70-year system of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of women and girls in Ireland’s Magdalene laundries."

The story of the Magdalene women was uncovered in 1993 when a religious order in Dublin cashed in on the booming Irish property market and sold a portion of its land to a developer. The bodies of 155 women who had died in the laundry were exhumed from unmarked graves and the media began to ask questions. The story went made international headlines with the release of Peter Mullan’s 2002 film “The Magdalene Sisters.”

Until recently, the Catholic Church was the ultimate moral authority in Ireland, and it promoted strict rules on sex. In this climate, the shame of giving birth to an illegitimate child was so great that many unmarried mothers were rejected by their families. They were taken out of “decent society” and put into Magdalene laundries by members of the clergy, government institutions and their own families.

The Magdalene laundries were a network of profit-making workhouses run by four religious communities — the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity, the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. Named after the Bible’s redeemed prostitute Mary Magdalene, they were initially used to reform prostitutes. By the 1940s, however, most of the residents, or “penitents” as they were called, were young women who had sex outside of marriage (in some cases victims of rape), unmarried mothers, women deemed flirtatious and the mentally disabled.

Magdalene women worked long hours, typically seven days a week, without pay. There have been accounts of the harsh conditions the women endured, including allegations of mental, physical and, in some cases, sexual abuse. Many lived and died behind convent walls until the last laundry closed in 1996. Today’s Magdalene women are in their 70s or 80s.

Victims of the child sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Irish Catholic Church have received an apology and compensation, but no one has taken responsibility for what happened in the laundries. Cardinal Sean Brady, the most senior Catholic cleric in Ireland, met with Justice for Magdalenes in 2010. He said “by today’s standards much of what happened at that time is difficult to comprehend” but that it was a matter for the religious orders who ran the laundries to deal with. The religious orders have declined to meet the women.

The Irish government acknowledged as far back as 2001 that the Magdalene women were victims of abuse but says that because the laundries were privately run, they are outside its remit. It has resisted numerous calls for a statutory inquiry, the latest from the Irish Human Rights Commission in November 2010. The government also rejected proposals for compensation, saying that the state “did not refer individuals, nor was it complicit in referring individuals to the laundries.”

However, there is evidence that the state was involved. The Irish courts routinely sent women who were handed down a suspended sentence for petty crimes to the laundries, which operated as a kind of parallel detention system. Public records show the government also awarded lucrative contracts to the nuns for its army and hospital laundry without ever insisting on fair wages for the 'workers,' nor did it inspect conditions inside.

Testimony from Magdalene women claim that state employees like the Irish police force and social workers brought women to the laundries and returned those who had escaped. There is widespread public support for the Magdalene women’s requests for an apology, compensation, a statutory pension reflecting their years of work in the laundries and access to their records.

Mr. Smith and his colleagues at Justice for Magdalenes said they hoped that the U.N. would persuade the Irish government to act. They said elderly survivors needed justice sooner rather than later.“I have always described them as Ireland’s disappeared. They were edited out in the past and unfortunately the government seems to want to forget them in the present. But we won’t let that happen.”


Woman Arrested For Driving in Saudi Arabia

Woman Arrested For Driving in Saudi Arabia (VIDEO)
Please sign the
petition to end the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia and support Manal al-Sharif's

A Saudi woman, Manil al-Sharif, was detained by Saudi Arabia's religious police on Saturday after driving in the eastern city of Khobar. Al-Sharif had a friend videotape her driving and posted the video on YouTube and on a Facebook page, "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself," that she and other Saudi women started. (Manal learned to drive in New Hampshire).
Via Facebook, al-Sharif and others have called for a lifting of the driving ban on women. They have called for a "mass drive" on June 17; so far, over 12,000 are supporting their efforts. In this video, al-Sharif describes how women can participate in the June 17th movement.Women in the ultra-conservative Wahhabi state are also not allowed to vote except for chamber of commerce elections in cities, to sit on the King's Cabinet, to travel without permission from a male guardian, or to "mingle with males who are not their husbands or brothers," says MSNBC.

According to human rights activist Walid Abou el-Kheir said al-Sherif, the Saudi religious police are "charged with ensuring the kingdom's rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings are observed." Women, both Saudi and foreign, are forbidden to drive in Saudi Arabia; as MSNBC notes, women must hire a driver for $300 - $400 a month. If they are unable to afford this, they have to rely on male relatives to get to work or go anywhere.
After al-Sharif was arrested, activists and others started an outcry on Twitter, using the tags #FreeManal! and #Women2Drive. The Associated Press reports that al-Sharif was released after a few hours -- but then, a few hours later, it was reported on the Twitter feed of Women2Drive that, in the middle of the night,"Manal is being arrested now from her house again by Gov police for driving in #Khobar streets."
As reported via the Women2Drive Twitter account, the police -- apparently the secret police in plainclothes -- do not have an "arrest memo" and al-Sharif and her brother were refusing to let them in. Update, 11:00 pm EST: Via the Twitter account of Ana3rabeya: Manal al-Sharif is being detained at the being detained at the Khobar Police Station - Criminal Investigation Unit


Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation Appeals For The Immediate Release of Ai Weiwei

Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation Appeals For The Immediate Release of Ai Weiwei
  • Target: His Excellency Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China
The UK, Germany, France, Australia, US and the EU have all publicly called for Ai Weiwei to be released, as well as many leading figures in the art world.Ai Weiwei, the world famous artist, and a courageous advocate of human rights, the rule of law and individual freedoms, was detained by the Chinese authorities on 3rd April 2011 as he tried to board a flight to Hong Kong and he has not been heard from since. His wife, friends and staff were also detained and questioned over the weekend. His Beijing studio has been searched, and his computer hard-drives confiscated.
Ai Weiwei is perhaps best known for his collaboration with architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron on the design for the Olympic Bird's Nest stadium. His 100 million Sunflower Seeds exhibit still showing at the Tate Modern in London has been a resounding success.

Ai Weiwei has been an outspoken critic of the government. Last year he was placed under house arrest after resisting the demolition of his studio in Shanghai by the authorities. In 2009 he was hospitalised after being beaten by police for attending a fellow human rights campaigners trial. He is being considered for this years 2011 TIME 100 poll of the most influential people in the world. He is regarded as a political hero.

Ai Weiwei and his art could be a symbol of China's growing leadership in the world, but the Chinese authorities have chosen instead to try to erase him from the national and cultural memory. We must now also stand with Ai Weiwei and with all those who have been unjustly detained. Please sign The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation's petition urging the Chinese government to step up to its global leadership position and stop the persecution of political critics and attempts to erase them from the internet.
Please help us free Ai Weiwei by signing this petition. If enough of us take action now, we can make sure that Chinese voices of freedom are not silent forever.


Superb Idea: Pay Fishermen to Catch Trash - Food - GOOD

Superb Idea: Pay Fishermen to Catch Trash
(interesting idea from GOOD - you may wish to highlight this article in other eco discussions...or post it on FB)
If you've been following the news about our poor oceans you know they're getting stripped of fish and filled with plastic debris at the same time. We usually think of these problems as independent of each other, but maybe there's a way to tackle them both at once.
In European fishing waters, up to two thirds of caught fish, usually already dead, are thrown back by fleets who've surpassed their quota or want to make room for a higher value fish. Called "discarding," it's a wasteful practice that puts extra strain on fish stocks, and the European Union's fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, wants to ban it.
But fishermen have complained that such a ban would harm their livelihoods. So Damanaki came up with a novel plan: Pay these fishermen for catching plastic trash. After all, our oceans have plenty of that. A pilot project will begin this month in the Mediterranean. Fishermen will be given special nets and other equipment for catching plastic debris that's collected in the sea and bringing the junk back to shore for recycling.
The EU will subsidize the program at first (there's no word how much money the fishermen will be paid) but the hope is that over the long run, as recycling plastic gets more profitable, the trash becomes a valuable catch in itself. If this pilot program proves successful, it could serve as a model for saving our oceans without sacrificing our fishermen.


No Dirty Gold action alert: Costco

No Dirty Gold action alert
UN TREATY: UDHR, CCR, ILO's "Convention on Safety and Health in Mines" (not signed by Canada, Australia, Russia, Peru)

Right now, Costco -- one of the top 10 jewelry retailers in the United States -- has an opportunity to be a leader in the fight against dirty gold.
Democracy in Action petition on responsible metals sourcing here.

Eight of the other top 10 jewelry retailers have already joined the fight against irresponsible mining -- including Target, Tiffany & Co., and Sears. Jewelry retailers are important because jewelry demand accounts for about 80% of annual mined production of gold. Because of its size, Costco is the kind of company that can, with its purchasing decisions, significantly move the mining industry. With that power comes a responsibility to provide its customers with products that come from ethical sources .

(and in a related move: check out Costco's Facebook wall today (May 16). A group of clean gold activists bombed their wall with the message "No Dirty Gold". And this social media stunt may be enough to finally make Costco join the No Dirty Gold campaign.
Costco is one of a dwindling number of major jewelry retailers who has yet to join the No Dirty Gold campaign and make a commitment to sell gold mined without child or slave labor, environmental harm, and community displacement. In gold mining around the world, the use of child labor and dangerous pollutants is unfortunately far too common. Earthworks' No Dirty Gold campaign fights these abuses in the industry by holding retailers like Costco accountable for what goes into the products they sell. But despite receiving letters from over 27,000 and Costco members, Costco still refuses to make a company-wide commitment to ethically-sourced gold. petition to Costco here

Maude Barlow: Nature Needs Rights -- Why Our Human-Centric Model Will Doom Us and the Rest of the Planet

Vision: Nature Needs Rights -- Why Our Human-Centric Model Will Doom Us and the Rest of the Planet |

Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from the recently released book,
The Rights of Nature: The case for a Universal Declaration on the rights of Mother Earth, produced by the Council of Canadians, Global Exchange and Fundacion Pachamama. This book reveals the path of a movement driving transformation of our human relationship with nature away from domination and towards balance. This book gathers the wisdom of indigenous cultures, scientists, activists small farmers, spiritual leaders and US communities who seek a different path for protecting nature by establishing Nature's Rights in law and culture. In addition to this excerpt, the book includes essays from Vandana Shiva, Desmond Tutu, Thomas Goldtooth, Eduardo Galeano, and many others. Copies of the book may be obtained through Global Exchange.
The world needs the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and all humans need to internalize its key principles if the planet, and we, are to survive.
While it is true that many people still live on the land in harmony with the natural cycles of Nature, it is also true that with every passing year, more and more people around the world are moving into the "modern" consumer economy, seeking out a living based on capital exchange and no longer living in sustainable communities and traditional societies. In 2008, the number of city dwellers equalled the number of rural dwellers for the first time in history. By 2030, says the United Nations (UN), more than half the population of the large urban centres in the Global South will be slum dwellers with no access to sanitation. There is a huge scramble by the private companies of the Global North to convert the lands they leave behind into free trade zones to serve a global economy based on the doctrine of economic globalization, unregulated markets, more and cheaper consumer goods and unlimited growth.
Unlimited growth assumes unlimited resources and this is the genesis of the crisis. From fish in the sea, and old growth forests and wetlands, to oil, clean air and water, we are plundering our planet's natural resources. Quite simply, to feed the increasing demands of our consumer-based capitalist system, humans have seen nature as a great resource for our personal convenience and profit, not as a living ecosystem from which all life springs. So we have built our economic and development policies based on a human-centric model and assumed either that nature would never fail to provide or that, where it does fail, technology will save the day.
Even when we recognize the effect of our behavior on the natural world, we pass inadequate laws based on curbing the worst practices, but leave intact the system of economic globalization at the heart of the problem, which gives transnational corporations almost unfettered and unregulated access to the genetic, mineral, timber and water resources of even the most remote parts of the Earth. Thomas Linzey, a U.S. lawyer working to develop the new legal framework to protect Nature, explains that the dominant form of environmental protection in industrialized countries is based on the regulatory system, legalizing the discharge of large amounts of toxic substances into the environment, and is not working. Under a new regime recognizing the Rights of Mother Earth, compensation would not be measured in terms of an injury to people, but according to damage to the ecosystem.
In the absence of such fundamental protections for Nature, political leaders and their big business advisors continue, for instance, to promote international trade and investment agreements that not only limit the ability of domestic governments to protect the natural world for fear such protection may be seen as a "trade barrier," but also award the trade in "green" technology that will be needed to clean up the ecosystems we refuse to protect. If the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth were firmly entrenched in international jurisprudence, nation-state constitutions, and the hearts and minds of decision-makers, trade agreements would be very different than they are today and would be built around the need for more local sustainable systems of food and industrial production, and the protection of natural ecosystems.....


Environmental Defence: Remove Heavy Metals from cosmetics in Canada

Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup | Environmental Defence
We know the Romans and Victorians used lead and arsenic - but they are still present in modern day cosmetics.
Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Lead, Nickel, Selenium and Thallium – these are the unlabeled heavy metal impurities we found in makeup. In lab tests of 49 makeup items, the product with the highest number of heavy metals, containing seven of the eight metals of concern, was Benefit Benetint lip gloss, which could be ingested. It contained levels of lead 10 times higher than the limit set out in the Health Canada Draft Guidance on Heavy Metal Impurities in Cosmetics, which should be much lower than it is. 96% of the products we tested contained lead, 51% contained cadmium, and 20% contained arsenic. None of these metals were listed on the product labels.

'Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup' also shows that the products contained an average of 4 of the 8 heavy metals we tested for. These metals can build up in the body over time and are known to cause varied health problems, which can include: cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, neurological problems; joint and muscle disorders; cardiovascular, immune system, kidney and renal problems; lung damage; contact dermatitis; and hair loss. Many are suspected hormone disruptors and respiratory toxins, and for some like lead, there is no known safe blood level.
Almost all of the heavy metals we tested for (nickel being the exception) are banned from being intentionally used in cosmetics through Canada’s Cosmetic Ingredients Hotlist, but here they are, showing up in our products anyway as impurities (contaminants), which is outside the scope of the Hotlist.

Help us send a strong message to Health Canada — sign our petition to get heavy metals out of makeup: Ask that Health Canada take cumulative exposure of heavy metals into account and improve the draft guidelines on impurities in cosmetics to better reflect what is technically avoidable, then officially adopt them without delay. These guidelines have been in the draft stage since March 2009.

ICC Prosecutor seeks Gaddafi arrest over protest deaths

ICC Prosecutor seeks Gaddafi arrestutor seeks Gaddafi arrest over protest deaths
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The ICC international prosecutor on Monday sought an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi accusing him of committing crimes against humanity by killing protesters during an uprising against his 41-year rule.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, International Criminal Court prosecutor, also asked judges, who now need to see if there is enough evidence to issue warrants, for the arrest of Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam and his spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
Moreno-Ocampo signaled his action earlier this month when said he would seek three arrests for the "pre-determined" killing of protesters in Libya after the U.N. Security Council referred the violence to the Hague-based court in February.
"The office gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Muammar Gaddafi himself, direct evidence of Saif al-Islam organizing the recruitment of mercenaries and direct evidence of the participation of al-Senussi in the attacks against demonstrators," Moreno-Ocampo said at the ICC on Monday.
The prosecutor moved with unprecedented speed in his investigation into the early violence in the uprising against Gaddafi's rule, with the request for arrest warrants coming just 2-1/2 months after the Security Council referral. He added the office of the prosecutor also documented how the three held meetings "to plan the operations" and Gaddafi used his "absolute authority to commit crimes in Libya."
Libyan officials have already denounced the ICC prosecutor's action, saying the court is a creation of the West for prosecuting African leaders.


Warcrimes court to seek Libya arrest warrants on May 16

Warcrimes court to seek Libya arrest warrants on May 16
THE HAGUE (AFP) – International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Friday he would seek arrest warrants on May 16 for three people considered most responsible for crimes against humanity in Libya.

"On 16 May 2011, the Office of the Prosecutor will request the pre trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants against three individuals who appear to bear the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity committed on the territory of Libya since 15 February 2011," a statement said, "The Judges may decide to accept the application, to reject it or to ask the Office for additional information."

China defends detention of artist Ai Weiwei

China defends detention of artist Ai Weiwei
A senior Chinese diplomat, on a visit to Hungary on Thursday, defended the government's detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying made the comments after talks with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, although Fu said Ai was not raised during their discussions.

"There are rules and laws in China that need to be applied just like here," Fu said. "And individuals, maybe they are your friends, maybe they agree with you more than others, but that should not make (them) ... above the law. It is very condescending for the Europeans to come in to tell China that some people are beyond the law," Fu said.

Ashton, who was visiting Hungary, current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, made no comment on the artist. She was also scheduled to hold talks with China's State Councilor Dai Bingguo. The Chinese government said last month that it was "unhappy" with foreign support for Ai after his detention earlier in the month sparked an outcry from Washington and other Western governments.

ICC reports Djibouti to Security Council for not arresting Sudan president

International Court reports Djibouti to Security Council for not arresting Sudan president

Judges at the International Criminal Court reported the African nation of Djibouti to the United Nations Security Council Thursday for failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during an official visit. Judges said media reported that al-Bashir attended the inauguration ceremony of Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh last Sunday.

The court has indicted al-Bashir on charges including genocide for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Darfur. It has issued warrants for his arrest to all nations — including Djibouti — that recognize the court’s jurisdiction.

The court has no police force and relies on member states to execute its orders and warrants. However neighbors and nations friendly to Sudan have so far not moved to detain al-Bashir when he has visited. Last year, the court also reported Kenya and Chad to the Security Council for failing to arrest al-Bashir.

In Thursday’s written decision, judges said Djibouti 'has an obligation to cooperate with the Court' by executing arrest warrants and said the Security Council could take any action it considers appropriate.

Darfur was plunged into turmoil in 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, whom they accuse of discrimination. Al-Bashir’s regime is accused of retaliating by unleashing Arab militias on civilians — a charge the government denies. The U.N. estimates 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced in the conflict.

US Plant pathologist warns about GMO corn and crop failure

Food Democracy Now | Dr. Huber's Warning
On January 17, internationally recognized plant pathologist Dr. Don Huber, wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack warning of the discovery of a new pathogen and a possible link between Roundup Ready® (GMO) corn and soybeans and severe reproductive problems in livestock as well as widespread crop failure...Roundup Ready® seeds are genetically engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s top selling weed killer Roundup, which is made up of Glyphosate and a trademarked formula of component chemicals. In 2007, more than 185 million pounds of Glyphosate were sprayed on America's soils and crops and that amount has only continued to rise as more weeds develop resistance to Glyphosate.
Recently a team of top U.S. scientists discovered an organism associated with this rise in plant diseases in Roundup Ready® corn and soybeans which form the foundation for animal livestock feed in the U.S. The organism is observable only by an electron microscope, and was previously unknown to science. This new organism, along with nutritional deficiencies in the Roundup Ready GMO corn and soybean feed, has been associated with a sharp rise in animal infertility including a 20% failure to conceive rate among cattle and hogs and up to a 45% rate of spontaneous abortions within cattle and dairy operations.
Less than 3 weeks later, the Obama administration approved 2 new Roundup Ready® GMO crops, set to be planted this spring... Read on about Dr. Huber's discovery.

sign our petition to ask Sec. Vilsack to stop these seeds from being planted until further research is done.


AP: Uganda's "Kill the Gays" Bill Disappears from Agenda After Outcry |

AP: Uganda's "Kill the Gays" Bill Disappears from Agenda After Outcry | AlterNet

AlterNet has been reporting on the way zealous evangelical conservatism in the United States has influenced some noxious policies overseas, the most horrifying and brutal of which has been the surfacing of a bill in Uganda that would essentially criminalize homosexuality, including using the death penalty. The bill sparked numerous petition drives and threats from the US of aid being cut off.

This morning, though, the AP reports that the bill has mysteriously disappeared from the docket: The bill had been scheduled to be debated before the full parliament on Wednesday but was dropped from the schedule.

The future of the bill remained murky. Wednesday was parliament's last scheduled day of session, and President Yoweri Museveni was scheduled on Thursday to be sworn in after his February re-election. It wasn't clear if the bill could be carried forward to the next session or if the bill's author would have to offer a new bill, which he has said he will do if needed.

...One member of parliament, John Alimadi, said Wednesday that the bill may have been dropped from the agenda because of the worldwide outcry against it.

Is Congo's mineral trade really the key to the country's conflict?

Is Congo's mineral trade really the key to the country's conflict? -
an interesting article on conflict minerals in Congo
"When people who study the Congo for a living get together, one of the questions that inevitably arises has to do with how the conflict minerals narrative was created. Nobody disputes that minerals fuel part of the violence perpetrated by some of the armed groups operating in the eastern Congo. But we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how conflict minerals became THE story about the multilayered conflict.

I think it's fair to say that after a couple of UN reports on mining during the wars came out, this narrative was picked up on and strengthened by advocacy groups, in particular, the Enough Project and Global Witness, the latter of which spent most of the last decade researching mineral trafficking in the Congo and the former of which was at the forefront of efforts to get a rider on the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill passed that will eventually require American electronics companies to identify whether they are using DRC-sourced conflict minerals in their products. Enough's leaders believe that this legislation will play a significant role in reducing the use of conflict minerals from the DRC, which in turn will cut off a source of financing for Congolese armed groups, which in turn will lead to less violence in the region. While their latest advocacy materials acknowledge the need for more significant reform in other sectors, there's no question that the bulk of Enough's efforts have been focused on the mineral issue.
Most scholars of the DRC would agree that the mineral trade is one dimension of the conflict, but that it isn't the entire story, and most of us are very perplexed as to from where the idea that minerals are the central story originated. Why is Enough so committed to this one facet of the conflict when few, if any, regional experts believe that addressing the militarized mineral trade will stop the region's violence?
The keys to improving life in the Democratic Republic of Congo involve creating better governance, real security, stronger institutions, jobs, and a state that acts for the common good rather than the self-interest of its rulers. These are complex, elusive fixes that have little to do with the mineral trade and everything to do with governance. As an excellent new Crisis Group report on mineral supply chain regulation efforts concludes,"The control and regulate approaches are complementary, but face serious feasibility, reliability and security problems related to the more general problem of governance in eastern DRC."
Which brings us back to the question of why advocates pushed so hard for the conflict minerals focus in the first place. It was obvious to almost everyone who knows Congo that the mineral trade was not the place to start. Without the basic institutions of governance and security in place, attempting to regulate minerals is very unlikely to affect significant change.. (see article and contents above)


Avaaz - 48 hours to stop Uganda's anti-gay bill!

Avaaz - 48 hours to stop Uganda's anti-gay bill!
UN TREATY: CEDAW, CCPR, CAT, Yogyakarta Principles

Update: May 9 2011 It's monstrous -- thousands of Ugandans could face the death penalty -- just for being gay. On Wednesday, Parliament may pass a law that punishes homosexuality with death – we have 48 hours to act.

We've stopped this bill before, and we can do it again. Ugandan President Museveni is scared of losing valuable international aid from the West -- after a massive international outcry last year, he stopped the bill from coming to a vote. But political unrest is mounting in Uganda, and religious extremists in Parliament are hoping confusion and violence in the streets will distract the international community from a second push to pass this hate-filled law. We can show them that the world is still watching. If we block the vote for two more days until Parliament closes, the bill will expire forever.

With 48 hours to go, every moment counts. Over half a million of us have already joined the call -- let’s get to one million voices against Uganda's gay death penalty in the next 48 hours -- sign now then spread the word about this campaign!

If you've signed and spread the word, click here to call your Head of State to take immediate action to help stop the anti-homosexuality bill.

Petitions to free AI WeiWei

You can read about Ai WeiWei's sculpture opening in NY, and about the curious lack of protest by other artists, as well as sign am Avaaz petition HERE.  You can sign a petition HERE


US: The DeVos Family: Meet the Super-Wealthy Right-Wingers Working With the Religious Right to Kill Public Education

The DeVos Family: Meet the Super-Wealthy Right-Wingers Working With the Religious Right to Kill Public Education | | AlterNet
UN TREATIES: Both the CCR and the UDHR state the right to FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION (at least at the elementary level).
However, the agenda of the Right is to destroy public education. And if you think you are living in an alternative, Dickensian Dystopia, Here is a new companion to the Koch Bros.
ACTION: CHECK your state's policy on vouchers, and be aware of the Koch-funded campaign against teachers unions and public schools. See some of the info below, or read the article.

Since the 2010 elections, voucher bills have popped up in legislatures around the nation. From Pennsylvania to Indiana to Florida, state governments across the country have introduced bills that would take money from public schools and use it to send students to private and religious institutions.
Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, this most recent push for vouchers is led by a network of conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors. But "school choice," as they euphemistically paint vouchers, is merely a means to an end. Their ultimate goal is the total elimination of our public education system.
The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA (now Xe), and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.
By now, you've surely heard of the Koch brothers, whose behind-the-scenes financing of right-wing causes has been widely documented in the past year. The DeVoses have remained largely under the radar, despite the fact that their stealth assault on America's schools has the potential to do away with public education as we know it.
The conservative policy institutes founded beginning in the 1970s get hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy families and foundations to develop and promote free market fundamentalism. More specifically, their goals include privatizing social security, reducing government regulations, thwarting environmental policy, dismantling unions -- and eliminating public schools.
Whatever they may say about giving poor students a leg up, their real priority is nothing short of the total dismantling of our public educational institutions, and they've admitted as much. Cato Institute founder Ed Crane and other conservative think tank leaders have signed the Public Proclamation to Separate School and State, which reads in part that signing on, "Announces to the world your commitment to end involvement by local, state, and federal government from education."
But Americans don't want their schools dismantled. So privatization advocates have recognized that it's not politically viable to openly push for full privatization and have resigned themselves to incrementally dismantling public school systems. The think tanks’ weapon of choice is school vouchers.
Vouchers are funded with public school dollars but are used to pay for students to attend private and parochial (religious-affiliated) schools. The idea was introduced in the 1950s by the high priest of free-market fundamentalism, Milton Friedman, who also made the real goal of the voucher movement clear: “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system." The quote is in a 1995 Cato Institute briefing paper titled “Public Schools: Make Them Private.”
Joseph Bast, president of Heartland Institute, stated in 1997, “Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling. In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Bast added, “Government schools will diminish in enrollment and thus in number as parents shift their loyalty and vouchers to superior-performing private schools.”
(of course...quite simply, voucher programs do not work) - The longest running voucher program in the country is the 20-year-old Milwaukee School Choice Program. Standardized testing shows that the voucher students in private schools perform below the level of Milwaukee’s public school students, and even when socioeconomic status is factored in, the voucher students still score at or below the level of the students who remain in Milwaukee’s public schools
This will not stop the money being used to dismantle public education, however...
Money continues to be spent on attack ads against both Republican and Democratic senators opposed to SB-1. The Scaife-funded Commonwealth Foundation has created a webpage to pressure wavering Republicans. The Koch-funded FreedomWorks sponsored mailers attacking Republican state Senator Stewart Greenleaf. The mailer is headlined, “There’s a battle in Harrisburg over our children’s future. Who will win? Our children or the powerful teacher’s union?” A Students First PAC mailer attacks Democratic state Senator Daylin Leach as opposing the bill because, “he is listening to teacher union leaders who oppose SB-1 and have contributed a fortune to people like Leach.”
Much of the Indiana PAC money was also used in media campaigns, including funds sent to Florida for media purchases. AFC was the sole funder of a pro-voucher group that ran ads in Jewish publications attacking Dan Gelber, a Jewish candidate for Florida attorney general who opposed vouchers. Full page “wanted ads” were purchased in Jewish publications accusing Gelber of “crimes against Jewish education.” Other ads purchased just prior to the election described Gelber as “Toxic to Jewish Education” in red Halloween-style letters.
Dick DeVos’ model for “rewards and consequences” as described in his 2002 speech, is at work in Pennsylvania, Florida, and elsewhere, and it's a project funded by a few mega-donors. The voucher warriors with their unlimited funding are trying to create the absurd impression that they are the altruistic David in battle against the teachers’ union Goliath.
Betsy DeVos has announced that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are scheduled to speak at the National Policy Summit of the American Federation for Children on May 9. Walker wants to expand vouchers in Milwaukee despite the program's failure, made clear by disappointing standardized test results. Walker’s response? To halt the testing. Pennsylvania voucher supporters have already taken care of the pesky issue of accountability by defeating an amendment that would require the students using vouchers to take standardized tests.
During the AFC’s summit, it’s doubtful there will be speeches about eradicating public education but there will certainly be public relations-produced media everywhere, showing the beautiful faces of the little children these voucher proponents are supposedly saving. And Betsy DeVos, the four-star general of the voucher wars, will continue to advance a stealth campaign against American communities and working families -- the battle to eradicate public education.


U.N. rights boss asks U.S. for facts on bin Laden killing

U.N. rights boss asks U.S. for facts on bin Laden killing | Reuters
(Reuters) - The United Nations' top human rights official called on the United States Tuesday to give the U.N. details about Osama bin Laden's killing and said that all counter-terrorism operations must respect international law. But Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the al Qaeda leader, killed in a U.S. operation in Pakistan, had committed crimes against humanity as self-confessed mastermind of "the most appalling acts of terrorism," including the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.
It was always clear that taking bin Laden alive was likely to be difficult, she said, noting that U.S. authorities had stated that they intended to arrest him if possible.
"This was a complex operation and it would be helpful if we knew the precise facts surrounding his killing. The United Nations has consistently emphasized that all counter-terrorism acts must respect international law," Pillay said in a statement issued in response to a Reuters request.
In Washington, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defended as lawful Tuesday the U.S. operation to go into Pakistan that resulted in the death of bin Laden and the taking of his body.
"If he was captured and brought before a court, I have no doubt he would have been charged with the most serious crimes, including the mass murder of civilians that took place on 9/11, which were planned and systematic and in my view amounted to crime against humanity," said Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge.

Courage to Resist - Update on Bradley Manning

Courage to Resist - Home
UN TREATY: UDHR, CAT,  (The Committee Against Torture (CAT) is the body of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by its State parties)
Hundreds of thousands of individuals globally celebrate today the confirmation that their efforts to end the torturous pre-trial confinement conditions inflicted upon US Army PFC Bradley Manning have been successful. Manning’s lead defense attorney, David E. Coombs of Rhode Island, has personally verified that Manning is indeed being held in Medium Custody confinement at the Joint Regional Corrections Facility (JRCF) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as claimed by the Army last week.
“We won this battle because 600,000 individuals took the time to write letters and sign petitions, because thousands called the White House switchboard, because 300 of America's top legal scholars decried Bradley's pre-trial conditions as a clear violation of our Constitution’s 5th and 8th Amendments,” declared Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network. “We won this battle because over a hundred concerned citizens engaged in civil disobedience at the White House and at Quantico, and because our grassroots campaign shows no sign of slowing.”
These new conditions reflect a dramatic improvement for Manning following his transfer to Fort Leavenworth on April 20, 2011, after having suffered extreme solitary-like confinement at US Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. During the nine months at Quantico, Manning was denied meaningful exercise, social interaction, sunlight, and was at times kept completely naked. These conditions were unique to Manning and were illegal under US military law as they clearly amounted to pre-trial punishment.
“I was able to tour the [Fort Leavenworth] facility and meet with PFC Manning last week. PFC Manning is now being held in Medium Custody. He is no longer under…harsh pretrial confinement conditions. Unlike at Quantico, PFC Manning’s cell has a large window that provides adequate natural light....PFC Manning is able to have all of his personal items in his cell, which include his clothing, his legal materials, books and letters from family and friends....Each pre-trial area (including PFC Manning’s) has four cells, and each pre-trial detainee is assigned to his own cell. The cells are connected to a shared common area, with a table, a treadmill, a television and a shower area....PFC Manning and his group are taken to the outdoor recreation area [for approximately two hours daily],” explained Coombs on his blog at hours ago.
“President Obama’s recent pronouncement that Bradley Manning ‘broke the law’ amounts to Unlawful Command Influence, something clearly prohibited because it’s devastating to the military justice system. Manning will eventually be judged by a jury of career military officers and noncommissioned officers. Will they be able to set aside the declaration of their commander in chief?” explains attorney Kevin Zeese, a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network. “Along with the illegal pre-trial punishment already inflicted upon Bradley, the government has more than enough legal basis to drop the prosecution. Instead, the death penalty or life in prison hangs over Manning’s head.”
After nearly a year in confinement, the Army is expected to soon announce Manning’s first public hearing, an Article 32 pre-trial proceeding, which will be held in the Washington DC area. Scores of international solidarity events are already being planned.
US Army intelligence analyst Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, 23-years-old, was arrested in Iraq on May 26, 2010. He still awaits his first public court hearing, now expected to begin in June 2011. Over 4,300 individuals have contributed over $333,000 towards PFC Manning's legal fees and related public education efforts. The Bradley Manning Support Network is dedicated to thwarting the military’s attempts to hold a secret court martial, and to eventually winning the freedom of PFC Manning.
“President Obama’s recent pronouncement that Bradley Manning ‘broke the law’ amounts to Unlawful Command Influence, something clearly prohibited because it’s devastating to the military justice system. Manning will eventually be judged by a jury of career military officers and non-commissioned officers. Will they be able to set aside the declaration of their commander in chief?” explains attorney Kevin Zeese, a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network. “Along with the illegal pre-trial punishment already inflicted upon Bradley, the government has more than enough legal basis to drop the prosecution. Instead, the death penalty or life in prison hangs over Manning’s head.”
The Bradley Manning Support Network is dedicated to thwarting the military’s attempts to hold a secret court martial, and to eventually winning the freedom of PFC Manning.

News: Former Bishop Pleads Guilty To Possession Of Child Pornography

Former Bishop Pleads Guilty To Possession Of Child Pornography

The former Bishop of the Archdioces of Antigonish, Nova Scotia today pleaded guilty to importing child pornography in an Ottawa courtroom.
Raymond Lahey was originally detained at the airport on September 15, 2009 in Ottawa, Ontario. During routine questioning at the border, Lahey became nervous when agents questioned him about having a laptop. Upon further inspection, agents at the border found suspicious materials on his laptop and seized it, but allowed Lahey to leave. Lahey quickly resigned as the Bishop and was formally arrested and charged on September 30, 2009.

Lahey's laptop was found to contain nearly 600 pornographic images and nearly 60 videos, most of the abuse of young boys. Lahey's trial was to start today in Ottawa and was expected to last three days, but instead the proceedings ended shortly after the guilty plea. Lahey also requested to have his bail revoked and go immediately to prison starting today.

Both the Vatican and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued statements after the guilty plea condemning Lahey's actions, with the Vatican saying, "The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation of all kinds, in particular when minors are targeted." The church also stated they were considering further action against Lahey.

Ironically, just prior to his arrest, Lahey had announced a financial settlement to a class-action lawsuit filed by victims of sexual abuse against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish. At that time he also offered an apology, stating he wanted to "formally apologize to every victim and to their families for the sexual abuse that was inflicted upon those young people who were entitled instead to the trust and protection of priests of the church. I want them to know how terribly sorry we are, how wrong this abuse was, and how we are now trying to right these past wrongs."


60% of US Teens Believe Torture Is OK

Shocking: 60% of US Teens Believe Torture Is OK | AlterNet
A new study by the American Red Cross found that a surprising majority—almost 60 percent—of American teenagers thought things like water-boarding or sleep deprivation are sometimes acceptable. More than half also approved of killing captured enemies in cases where the enemy had killed Americans. When asked about the reverse, 41 percent thought it was permissible for American troops to be tortured overseas. In all cases, young people showed themselves to be significantly more in favor of torture than older adults.
Torture has been around as long as there have been wars, but media coverage of enhanced interrogation techniques has risen the visibility of torture since the attacks of September 11. Could the generation who came of age since the towers fell have a different notion of what’s acceptable in a time of war? “Over the past 10 years, they’ve been exposed to many new conflicts,” says Isabelle Daoust, who heads ARC’s humanitarian law unit. “But they haven’t been exposed to the rules.”
The reasons may be even more nuanced than that—a combination of social and political factors new to the national conversation since the Bush administration claimed that today’s enemy was different from the ones we’ve fought in the past. Intelligence attained through controversial interrogation techniques, Bush’s lawyers at the Department of Justice argued, may be the only way to save American lives. A 2006 dossier detailing the U.S. government strategy to combat terrorism described the difficulty of pursuing new enemies who constantly “evolve and modify their ways of doing business.” As a result, the document suggested, the military would have to evolve its understanding and treatment of the enemy.
Legal scholars see societal influences that may be responsible for de-stigmatizing torture, including increasingly graphic media. “I think it suggests the national conscious is becoming more and more corroded and more accustomed to the violation of fundamental principles of human rights and international law,” says Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard, who blames programs like 24 that trivialize serious issues. (Tribe, along with nearly 300 legal colleagues, sent President Obama a letter last month decrying the prison conditions of Bradley Manning, the army private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.)


US: Mumia Abu-Jamal Sentence Unconstitutional

Mumia Abu-Jamal Sentence Unconstitutional

Mumia Abu-Jamal may be the best known prisoner on death row. A journalist and activist, he is the author of six books and hosts weekly radio broadcasts from prison and is for many the face of the social justice movement and prisoners' rights.

His case took an unexpected turn last week as a federal appeals court ruled, for the second time, that his death sentence was unconstitutional. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia found the sentencing instructions received by the jury was confusing and unclear and did not rule on Abu-Jamal's guilt or innocence.

Abu-Jamal's case has snaked through the justice system since the 1980s. In December 1981, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a car driven by William Cook, Abu-Jamal's brother. The rest of the story remains in dispute, but shots were fired. Both Abu-Jamal and Officer Faulkner were shot. Faulkner died from his injuries and Abu-Jamal was found guilty of his murder.

The judge who presided over Abu-Jamal's trial was widely considered to be a racist and came under fire for conduct during Abu-Jamal's trial. It was Sabo's instructions to the jury that the court found unconstitutional for two times now.

As a result of this recent decision, Abu-Jamal will likely petition the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on whether or not he received a fair trial. Abu-Jamal could get a new, full sentencing hearing before a jury. At that hearing, the jury would be given clear instructions on how to decide between applying a sentence of life in prison versus the death penalty. If successful, Abu-Jamal would be removed from solitary confinement on death row.