Ethical Action Alerts for Human Rights, Environmental Issues, Peace, and Social Justice, supporting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN Treaties and Conventions.
EPA Proposes New Rules on Emissions Released by Fracking
another way round the oil industry...
Prohibited from regulating hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act, yesterday the EPA took to the air, proposing federal regulations to reduce smog-forming pollutants released by the fast-spreading approach to gas drilling.
If approved as currently written, the rules would amount to the first national standards for fracking of any kind, the EPA said. The agency sets guidelines when companies inject fluids underground for various purposes, but in 2005 Congress prohibited the EPA from doing so for fracking. Regulation has been left to the states, some of which compel companies to report what chemicals they use and have imposed tougher well-design standards.
The new EPA proposal would limit emissions released during many stages of natural gas production and development, but explicitly targets the volatile organic compounds released in large quantities when wells are fracked. Drillers would have to use equipment that captures these gases, reducing emissions by nearly 95 percent, the EPA said.
Environmentalists said the proposed rules represent an important step by federal regulators amid a growing controversy over fracking's safety. "The EPA has a terrific opportunity here to provide the public with some assurance that the industry has to meet certain performance standards that are protective of public health," said Ramon Alvarez, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund in Texas.
The American Petroleum Institute, the country's main oil and gas lobbying group, has requested that the EPA delay finalizing the rules for at least six months beyond the current Feb. 2012 deadline. Asked to comment on the proposal's likely effects, API spokesman Reid Porter said only that the organization was reviewing it.
Judge: Tar-sands equipment can’t travel on Montanan backroads
A group of Montanans, Idahoans, Oregonians, and Washingtonians struck a blow against ExxonMobil and its push to extract carbon-soaked oil from Canada's tar sands this week. The Northwesterns weren't upset about the environmental impact of the tar sands, exactly, but they were upset that an Exxon subsidiary wanted to haul oversized loads of oil-extraction equipment from the Port of Vancouver, Wash., over small winding highways in environmentally valuable areas, to the Canadian border.
They asked a judge to stop the company from using those roads. And on Tuesday, he did, finding that Montana government officials working with the company had violated the state's environmental law by not considering other paths the shipments could take.
On a local level, many opponents to the trucking are just happy they won't have to deal with an industrial corridor running through their communities. But on a national level, environmental groups like the National Wildlife Federation see this as another blow against the overall evil of tar-sands oil.
Toronto's libraries are under threat of privatization. Tell city council to keep them public now.
If you love the Toronto Public Library, you need to come to her defense right now!
The cost cutting agenda of Toronto City Council could target the TPL within weeks. Local branches could be closed and some or all of the Library’s operations could be privatized, unless we act now. Please send a message to Mayor Ford telling him our libraries are not for sale. A copy of your message will be sent to members of the Toronto City Council Executive Committee and your own City Councilor.
Please tell City Council that our public libraries are not for sale.
(forward this to Toronto and GTA residents)
Vancouver and District Labour Council endorses declaration on Canada-EU trade deal
By Stuart Trew, Friday, July 22nd, 2011
(notice the last pp, on exempting water rights, pharmaceuticals, etc. Mary
The Vancouver and District Labour Council passed the following resolution on the Canada-EU free trade negotiations during its regular meeting this week. The VDLC committed to: educating its members on CETA; urging the provincial government to exempt municipal governments, water and pharmaceuticals from the agreement, and; endorsing the civil society declaration on CETA which is posted to the Trade Justice Network website. If you’re organization has not yet but but would to endorse the declaration, write to TJN.RCJ@gmail.com.
VDLC RESOLUTION: Canada- EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
BECAUSE the government of Canada and the European Union have been negotiating the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (the “CETA”), with their eighth round of meetings held July 8th - 15th, 2011 in Brussels and Paris; and
BECAUSE the European Union is insisting on full access to procurement by sub-national governments - including municipalities, school boards, universities, hospitals and other provincial agencies - which could significantly reduce or eliminate the right to specify local priorities when public money is invested in goods, services or capital projects; and
BECAUSE unfettered access to Canadian municipal procurement by European corporations may encourage privatization and reduce economic development options for local communities; and
BECAUSE CETA also threatens to give European multi-national corporations access to Canadian water services and supply, override indigenous rights and labour standards, and would allow these corporations to sue the Canadian government for non-compliance similarly to Chapter 11 of NAFTA,
THE VANCOUVER AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL WILL
• Take steps to educate its affiliates about CETA’s scope, cost impacts and resulting loss of local discretion;
• Sign onto the “Open Civil Society Declaration on a proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union”;
• Urge the government of Canada exempt water rights, pharmaceuticals and sub-national government procurement from CETA and other trade agreements; and
• Urge the provincial government to negotiate a clear, permanent exemption for local governments from CETA.
Tell City Council to Save our Environmental Programs! | Toronto Environmental Alliance
Please sign this petition below to tell City Council and the Mayor that you value the City's environmental programs and services.They will present this petition to Council in September when they vote on the Mayor's proposed service cuts.
Dear Mayor and Toronto City Councillors, We, the undersigned, know the City must deliver environmental services that clean our air and water, reduce energy use, help Torontonians create less garbage, keep our parks and trees healthy, help us respond to global warming and prepare us for severe weather events. These environmental services are essential. They protect the environment and human health, and they help the City avoid the costs of cleaning up a dirty environment. Cutting these services will not save us money. We need our City Council to build a green Toronto for all. That is why we urge you vote against any cuts or reductions to environmental programs and services or do anything that results in unequal access to them.
Cast Aside in Kuwait - Nationality and human rights
International law considers nationality a fundamental human right, as it serves as the gateway to other human rights. Kuwait, like other countries that have signed international human rights conventions, is obliged to avoid creating statelessness through restrictive or discriminatory citizenship laws and to consider whether a person would otherwise be stateless when evaluating citizenship claims.
In May, Kuwait became a member of the UN Human Rights Council, stepping in when it looked like Syria might otherwise gain a seat. As a member, Kuwait should uphold the highest standard of human rights in its own country. Yet current attempts to gloss over the Bidun's situation by pointing to grants and handouts don't change the underlying fact that the government has failed to provide timely and transparent review of their claims to citizenship. If the Bidun need help, it is because the government has forced them into a situation in which they can't help themselves.
Bidun - from the Arabic phrase "bidun jinsiyya," without citizenship - are people, most of them from nomadic origins, who lived in Kuwait for years but didn't register for citizenship before 1960, when the country's major citizenship registration drive ended.
Some were illiterate and nomadic and couldn't provide needed documentation, while others simply did not hear about the citizenship drive or understand the stakes. And the stakes only became clearer later when surging oil wealth created a huge gap between them and citizens, who got state largesse. The Kuwaiti government began calling the Bidun "illegal residents" in the mid-80s after treating them as potential citizens and granting them the same access to social services during the two preceding decades. Their families have been paying the price ever since.
"[Kuwaiti citizenship is like] some sort of club," said Talal, a young Bidun man. "Whoever didn't get in at the right time ... that's all there is to it."
But many Kuwaitis instead consider nationality a privilege, asserting that the Bidun became stateless through their own choices - a mythology that plagues stateless populations around the globe. Kuwaiti citizens told me that the Bidun are nationals of other countries who tore up their passports to take advantage of Kuwaitis' many social benefits, including free education at all levels, virtually guaranteed employment and housing grants.
US: Remove ‘Global Gag Rule’ From House Bill | Human Rights Watch
(Washington, DC,) - The House Foreign Affairs Committee should remove language that would reinstate the so-called "Global Gag Rule" from the draft Foreign Affairs Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012, Human Rights Watch said today. The "Gag Rule" would outlaw US funding to international groups that provide abortions, counsel women about abortion, or engage in advocacy for abortion rights, even if no US funds would be used for those purposes.
This policy, also known as the Mexico City Policy, existed as an executive order under the Bush and Reagan administrations. President Barack Obama repealed it his first week in office. The damaging policy restricted women's choices and promoted censorship in health clinics around the world - factors known to contribute to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal mortality. The committee began debating the bill on July 20, 2011.
"The Global Gag Rule has exacted a terrible cost in damage to the health of millions of women and the free speech rights of people around the world," said Meghan Rhoad, women's rights researcher at Human rights Watch. "It should be considered a shameful piece of past foreign policy, not a model for the future."
It is expected that an amendment may also be introduced to withdraw funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides life-saving maternal health care and basic reproductive health services to women around the world. In the past, funds have been withdrawn from the agency over rumors linking the organization to coercive abortions and involuntary sterilization in China.
A US State Department panel investigated the rumors in 2002 and found "no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC." When UNFPA lost funding in the past, it estimated that the US contribution would have prevented 2 million unwanted pregnancies, nearly 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of serious maternal illness, and over 77,000 infant and child deaths each year.
Global: Schools No Havens in War Zones | Human Rights Watch
(New York) - Governments should improve protections for students and teachers during wartime by explicitly outlawing attacks on schools and curtailing their use by the military, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 162-page report, "Schools and Armed Conflict: A Global Survey of Domestic Laws and State Practice Protecting Schools from Attack and Military Use," examines domestic laws and military policies in 56 countries around the world. Governments have been slow to update and align their domestic legislation with the explicit prohibitions on attacks on schools under international criminal law, Human Rights Watch said. They are also failing to account for the negative consequences for children's right to education when armed forces convert schools into bases and barracks.
"Children are entitled to go to school in a safe environment, even during times of conflict," said Bede Sheppard, senior children's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Attacks on schools and the military use of schools jeopardize children's safety and education."
House panel backs Canadian oil pipeline
The Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 30 to 14 to approve a text saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "should promptly authorize" the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) Keystone XL project.
"Canada, as a democratic ally, offers a stable source of energy for the United States," said the amendment sponsored by Representative Connie Mack, a Republican from Florida. "We could help a friend and ally in Canada and strengthen our relations with Canada instead of continuing to buy oil from Hugo Chavez in Venezuela," said Mack, a staunch critic of the leftist president.
The vote enjoyed support from a number of lawmakers from President Barack Obama's Democratic Party. But the practical impact was likely limited as it came during a debate on an overall spending bill, which will likely face opposition in the Democratic-led Senate.
Calgary-based TransCanada wants to build Keystone XL as an extension to its existing 2,154-mile (3,467-kilometer) pipeline that now terminates both in Oklahoma and Illinois. The expansion would go through the Great Plains and to the Gulf of Mexico. The proposal is fiercely opposed by many environmental groups as the oil would come from mining in Alberta tar sands, a process that produces far greater emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. The year-old Keystone pipeline has also suffered leaks, leading US regulators to shut it briefly last month.
Seven Democratic senators recently sent a letter to Clinton urging a thorough review of the Keystone XL project before any decision, calling for assurances of "sufficient safety measures."
Canada has strongly advocated approval of the pipeline, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying in February that he raised the issue with Obama.
(yes, but it's not the Senate...)
Petition: Subaru: Stop Selling Cars Where Women Can't Drive
We are leading Saudi Women’s rights activists and we write this open letter to you as a company that has made a name for itself among women drivers and which has built up a progressive brand image.
Subaru sponsors women’s surf festivals, the U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series, “Subaru Women’s Week” packages for skiers and even the Outstanding Woman in Science Award for the Geological Society of America. But while Subaru is marketed heavily at women, your company is simultaneously making millions selling cars in the only country on earth where women aren't allowed to drive – much less ride a bike or go surf, run a triathlon, or ski on their own.
Subaru takes corporate citizenship seriously. On your web site, Subaru Chairman Yoshio Hasunuma writes, “We are dedicated to support and improve the communities in which we live and work.”
But Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. As Saudi women our lack of freedom of movement places an extreme burden on our lives. We lack a public transportation system and the most basic errands and medical appointments are missed due to the difficulty and expenses of arranging transportation, notwithstanding educational and work opportunities. Our lack of this basic right to drive our own cars creates many safety risks for women on the roads, and relying on strangers as drivers has jeopardized the safety of women and children in many documents cases.
We write to you with a simple request: that Subaru publicly pledge to pull out of Saudi Arabia until such time as women are allowed to drive. It is our hope that this will put huge pressure on the Saudi royal family and shine a bright light on the "gender apartheid" in our country. It's a chance for your company to live up to your brand, and make a huge difference for nearly 13 million of us Saudi women
U.N. declares famine in two regions of south Somalia
Not news, sadly - but an official declaration.
AIROBI, July 20 (AlertNet) - The United Nations declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia on Wednesday and said it could quickly spread unless donors took action.
Mark Bowden, humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle had been hit by the worst famine in the region for 20 years.
The U.N. is proposing "exceptional measures" of providing "cash relief" while it finds ways of getting larger volumes of food aid into southern Somalia, Bowden said. The U.N. is also appealing for $300 million over the next two months for Somalia. "If we don't act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks," Bowden said.
"Every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life or death for children and their families in the famine-affected areas."
The U.N. said 3.7 million people across the war-ravaged Horn of Africa country, or almost half the population, were now in danger. Of them 2.8 million are in the south.
In the worst - affected areas, half the children are malnourished. "It is likely that tens of thousands will already have died, the majority of those being children," Bowden said. Years of drought, that have also affected Kenya and Ethiopia, have hit harvests and conflict has made it extremely difficult for agencies to operate and access communities in the south of the country.
The south is controlled by al Shabaab Islamist insurgents, affiliated to al Qaeda, who are fighting to topple the Western-backed government. The group also controls parts of the capital Mogadishu and central Somalia.
You can help: Oxfam in Somalia
Take Action Now on Syria: Amnesty International USA
Urge Brazil, South Africa and India to stop the bloodshed in Syria
To date, the UN Security Council has remained silent on the situation in Syria. Three critical members of the UN Security Council need to join other members to call on the Syrian government to stop the use of tanks, snipers and torture to suppress peaceful dissent. Members of the UN Security Council have an increased responsibility to work on an end to the violent crackdown in Syria. By supporting the current draft resolution, Brazil, South Africa and India can help to end in the bloodshed and ensure accountability for the crimes committed. ..
Amnesty International knows that a number of people arrested during the security operation in Tell Kalakh still remain in detention, including a 17-year-old boy. The organization called on the Syrian authorities to release all those arbitrarily arrested and those detained for taking part in peaceful demonstrations or expressing views of dissent, including children.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director:
“Most of the crimes described in this report would fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. But the UN Security Council must first refer the situation in Syria to the Court’s Prosecutor.”
Poor countries set to benefit from patent agreement on Aids drugs
UNITAID: People with HIV in poor countries have a real prospect of obtaining not just the basic, cheap drugs to keep the virus at bay, but some of the best medicines that are on offer anywhere in the world - at a price their governments can afford.
This remarkable turnaround is due to the Medicines Patent Pool, headed by the formidable Ellen 't Hoen, which has taken a concept many thought would never work and made it reality. On Tuesday, the patent pool announced its first licensing agreement with a pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, a world leader in HIV medicines.
Gilead is the first pharma company to agree to put specific drug patents in the "pool". This will allow generic companies in India to make cheap copies of them for use in poor countries with major Aids epidemics. Even more importantly, the generics companies will also be allowed to make combinations of drugs from different companies (provided other companies follow Gilead's lead). In an ideal world, anybody with HIV who needed medication would be able to take a single pill once a day in which three or four medicines are combined.
Gilead is to be congratulated. It has agreed to let Indian manufacturers copy and combine not only two important licensed drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine, but also two drugs that are still under clinical development and do not yet have a licence, cobicistat and elvitegravir. Gilead is itself developing a single pill called the "quad", which will combine all four drugs. Generics companies will also be allowed to start copying that too. With such a head start, it means that cheap generic versions can be ready for distribution as soon as Gilead gets its licences from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)...
Unitaid, which works for low prices for Aids drugs and was the launchpad for the patent pool, is delighted with the announcement. "We are sure now that the savings and price reductions that we have been working for over the last five years will continue to happen in the future," said Philippe Duneton, deputy executive secretary.
Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Oxfam senior health policy adviser, urged other companies to follow Gilead into the pool. "Other pharmaceutical companies now have no excuse for refusing to licence their drugs to the pool. Companies such as ViiV and Merck who are already in discussions with the pool need to get on board as quickly as possible to ensure the best possible medicines are made available to poor people at affordable prices. Others, such as Abbott, which have so far failed to engage at all with the pool should be ashamed of themselves and should start negotiations as soon as possible."
U.N. says U.S. broke torture rule in denying access to Manning |
On the same day that a major human rights organization issued a scathing report on Bush-era prisoner abuses, the United Nations alleged that the United States had violated a "long-standing" rule meant to prevent the torture of prisoners, by denying an official access to Pvt. Bradley Manning, the lone soldier accused of turning over secret documents to WikiLeaks.
Juan Mendez, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on torture, criticized the U.S. government for preventing a meeting with Manning, meant to ascertain whether the conditions of the soldier's confinement constituted torture. He insisted that an unmonitored meeting is standard practice around the world.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, that's something even Bush officials permitted (PDF) for their alleged high value al Qaeda detainees, but Manning seems to be a special case for the Obama administration.
"At the Special Rapporteur’s request and after several meetings, the US Department of Defense has allowed Mendez to visit Pfc. Manning but warned him that the conversation would be monitored," a prepared statement from the U.N. Human Rights Commission explained.
"Such a condition violates long-standing rules that the UN applies for prison visits and for interviews with inmates everywhere in the world. On humanitarian grounds and under protest, Mendez offered to Manning, through his counsel, to visit him under these restrictive conditions, an offer that Manning has declined."
“The United States, as a world leader, is a strong supporter of the international human rights system," Mendez is quoted as saying. "Therefore, its actions must seek to set the pace in good practices that enhance the role of human rights mechanisms, ensuring and maintaining unfettered access to detainees during enquiries."
Despite repeated petitions from Mendez, the U.S. has continued to refuse an unmonitored visit for Manning and insists his detention at Ft. Leavenworth is consistent with human rights standards.
Corporate lobbying tour attacks the tar sands trade talks
The briefing explanes how CETA will make environmental regulations and keeping Indigenous treaty commitments more difficult by locking in the investment rights of EU oil, gas and financial firms operating in Canada. And we asked negotiators not to let a trade deal get in the way of EU efforts to reduce the carbon content of transport fuel.
Canada is starting to get a very bad name among EU decision makers for its incessant lobbying against the Fuel Quality Directive. Specifically, Canada is opposed to including a default carbon content value for tar sands, which a peer-reviewed scientific assessment figures to be 20 kg/mj higher than the carbon content of conventional oil. The Harper and Alberta governments spend enormous amounts of public money trying to convince members of the European Parliament and EU member states to drop any reference to tar sands in the fuel standards legislation. And as the UK government’s trade department confirmed to us during a meeting in London on Friday, Harper has even said the CETA negotiations will suffer if the FQD goes ahead, as most want it to, with a penalizing high carbon level for tar sands.
The campaign has worked in the UK and Holland because both governments have adopted the Harper position and are threatening to veto any recommendation from the EU Commission to treat tar sands as dirty fuel. Go figure, these countries are home to BP and Shell, both of which are expanding their investments in the Alberta tar patch, as well as in false solutions such as Carbon Capture and Storage technology.
Massive Public Outcry to Stop Ontario’s Mega-Quarry
Building on the Council’s Mega-Quarry Action Alerts, today Regional Organizer Mark Calzavara, along with Guelph chapter members Norah and Richard Chaloner and Norman Wolfson of NDACT, delivered a massive national petition opposing a proposed 2300 acre mega-quarry to Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey at her constituency office in Brampton.
“Between the shocking indifference shown by the provincial government and the pure greed of the American billionaires that bought up the farmland, this will be an uphill battle” said Maude Barlow, chairperson for the Council of Canadians, “but there will be a provincial election in October and we have tens of thousands of members in Ontario - and they love to vote.”
11 July 2011: International Day Against Stoning - One law for all
See latest statements in support of the International Day against Stoning
As you know Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is still languishing in prison. The authorities recently mentioned her case saying that no final decision had yet been reached on her stoning sentence and that Sakineh must remain in prison. Falsely accused of murdering her husband, her only crime is that she is a woman in Iran. Her lawyer, Sajjad Houtan Kian, also remains in prison for having had the courage to defend her and other women with stoning sentences in Tabriz prison; he has been sentenced to four years imprisonment, been put under a lot of pressure and lost 20 kilos (44 pounds) as a result.
The campaign to Save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been an important one. It has spoken out in defence of humanity, and against the barbaric punishment of stoning everywhere. It has mobilised immense pressure against and condemnation of the Islamic regime of Iran from millions across the globe. These are accomplishments we must all be proud of.
On 11 July 2011, the International Day against Stoning, let’s once again step up the pressure to demand Sakineh’s immediate release and an end to stoning. Join us by either standing in a city square with a photo or poster of Sakineh, tweeting, or by organising an act of solidarity or a flash mob to raise awareness and attention. On 11 July, in 100 cities worldwide, let us once again raise the banner of humanity against one of the barbarisms of our time.
We look forward to your action and support.
Mina Ahadi, International Committee against Stoning and Execution
Patty Debonitas, Iran Solidarity
Maryam Namazie, One Law for All
PLEASE ACT NOW!
1. Post your 11 July action and upload photos here on Facebook or email to firstname.lastname@example.org with details for posting. You can also tweet on the day (#sakineh #IDAS #11July #iran #humanrights).
2. Send letters of protest to the Islamic regime of Iran:
Head of the Judiciary
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh (Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737, Iran
Email: email@example.com or via website: http://www.dadiran.ir/tabid/75/Default.aspx
First starred box: your given name; second starred box: your family name; third: your email address
Head of the Judiciary in East Azerbaijan Province
Office of the Head of the Judiciary in Tabriz
East Azerbaijan, Iran
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Email: via website: http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/index.php?p=letter (English)
Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights
Mohammad Javad Larijani
Howzeh Riassat-e Ghoveh Ghazaiyeh
Pasteur St, Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhuri
Tehran 1316814737, Iran
Fax: +98 21 3390 4986
3. Write to government officials, heads of state, MEPs and MPs in your country of residence and the UN calling on them to intervene to demand Sakineh and Houtan Kian’s release and to cease recognition of a regime that stones people to death in the 21st century.
House Passes $649B Defense Spending Bill
WASHINGTON — The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed a $649 billion defense spending bill that boosts the Pentagon budget by $17 billion and covers the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The House rejected a measure sponsored by Rep. Kucinich that would have prohibited funds for the U.S. military to continue its limited role in Libya. he strong bipartisan vote was 336-87 and reflected lawmakers' intent to ensure national security, preserve defense jobs across the nation and avoid deep cuts while the country is at war.
While House Republican leaders slashed billions from all other government agencies, the Defense Department is the only one that will see a double-digit increase in its budget beginning Oct. 1.
Amid negotiations to cut spending and raise the nation's borrowing limit, the House rejected several amendments to cut the Pentagon budget, including a measure by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to halve the bill's increase in defense spending. "We are at a time of austerity. We are at a time when the important programs, valid programs, are being cut back," Frank said.
Scoffing at the suggestion that "everything is on the table" in budget negotiations between the Obama administration and congressional leaders, Frank said, "The military budget is not on the table. The military is at the table, and it is eating everybody else's lunch."
Backward attacks on Ontario’s Green Energy Act
The council of Canadians is tracking regressive threats to policies designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, like the following:
The Ontario Liberals say layoffs at a Windsor solar panel plant are just the first of many job losses the province will see under a Tory government.
Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello says Windsor’s Siliken Canada itself attributed the loss in part to PC Leader Tim Hudak’s stance on the province’s Green Energy Act. His plan to kill the plan’s feed-in-tariff program, she says, is sending a chill down the green energy investment business….
read the full Star article, and Council background on Ontario’s Green Energy Act
Budget cuts to Environment Canada and how they affect Canada's water sources
national water campaigner. By Emma Lui
Yesterday nearly 50 civil society organizations sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper decrying the cuts to Environment Canada and outlining serious concerns about the impacts the cuts will have on water.
The letter was endorsed by labour, environmental, social justice, women's and First Nations organizations, including the Council of Canadians, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Council, Métis Women's Circle, Mining Watch Canada, National Council of Women of Canada, National Network on Environments and Women's Health, Polaris Institute, Public Service Alliance of Canada, and Sierra Club Canada.
In the letter, statements were made by Maude Barlow (national chairperson of the Council of Canadians), Oliver M. Brandes (co-director of the University of Victoria's POLIS Project on Ecological Governance), David Suzuki (emeritus professor of zoology, University of British Columbia), Bob Sandford (chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of the United Nations Water for Life Decade), Ralph Pentland (acting chairman of the Canadian Water Issues Council) and Randy Christensen (lawyer with Ecojustice).
Summary of budget cuts to Environment Canada
A comparison of Environment Canada's Reports on Plans and Priorities from 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 reveals some shocking cuts to a critical government department. A summary of key points from the budget cuts to Environment Canada are:
- Reduction of $222.2 million from last year's total planned spending
- Elimination of 1211 jobs (full-time equivalents) over the next three years
- Some of the biggest cuts were in the program activities of Climate Change and Clean Air, Substance and Waste Management, Weather and Environmental Services, Water Resources and Internal Services
- Specific programs in which funding was reduced include the Action Plan on Clean Water and the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan
- The specific programs that were cut this year include the Chemicals Management Plan, the Clean Air Agenda and the Air Quality Health Index
- The specific programs that will be cut next year include Species at Risk
While some of the cuts were predicted in last year's Report on Plans and Priorities, cuts in program activities such as Biodiversity, Weather and Environmental Services, Substance and Waste Management and Climate Change and Clean Air were either not predicted in the 2010-2011 Report on Plans and Priorities or higher than estimates outlined in the 2010-2011Report.
Although Environment Canada's 2011-2012 Report on Plans and Priorities outlines 'Planning Highlights' for the various program activities, the report fails to provide an analysis of the impacts of these cuts on water and other elements of the natural environment. The federal government has also failed to provide an opportunity for public debate on these critical decisions that will have impacts on current as well as future generations
Claims of sexual abuses in Tanzania blow to Barrick Gold - The Globe
Just two weeks after the fatal shooting of seven people at one of its Tanzanian gold mines, Barrick Gold Corp. is investigating allegations of sexual assault by about a dozen police and security guards at the same violence-plagued mine.
The Toronto-based corporate giant, the world’s biggest gold miner, is already reeling from allegations of gang rape by its security guards at another of its subsidiaries, in Papua New Guinea.
The deaths and alleged abuses at the Barrick sites, which began years ago but failed to gain wide attention until recently, are accelerating Barrick’s efforts to introduce stronger rules for investigating human-rights problems at its 26 mines around the world. The latest case comes as investors have been urging Canadian companies operating overseas in tough and lawless environments to push for more transparency instead of tolerating human-rights abuses.
Barrick recently became the first Canadian mining company to sign up to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, an international set of guidelines for extractive industries, which oblige it to investigate and report any credible information about human-rights abuses at its workplaces.
At Barrick’s controversial North Mara gold mine in Tanzania, investigators have interviewed about 10 women who allege that they were arrested at the mine site and sexually assaulted by company security guards or Tanzanian police over the past several years.The allegations were discovered in the course of a review into a separate human-rights issue at the mine. A preliminary investigation by Barrick’s subsidiary, African Barrick Gold, found that the allegations were credible.
Bangladesh: Protect Women Against ‘Fatwa’ Violence | HRW
(Dhaka) - The Bangladesh government should take urgent measures to make sure that religious fatwas and traditional dispute resolution methods do not result in extrajudicial punishments, Human Rights Watch said today. The government is yet to act on repeated orders of the High Court Division of the Supreme Court, beginning in July 2010, to stop illegal punishments such as whipping, lashing, or public humiliations, said the petitioners who challenged the practice.
In 2009 Ain-o-Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), BRAC, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP), and Nijera Kori, brought a public interest case. They challenged the authorities' failure to address extrajudicial punishments imposed by shalishes - traditional dispute resolution methods - in the name of fatwas, opinions that are supposed to be issued by Islamic scholars. These punishments include whipping, lashing, publicly humiliating women and girls by forcibly cutting their hair or blackening their faces, ostracizing women, girls, and families, and imposing fines. While many of these incidents go unreported, ASK has assembled news reports of at least 330 such incidents in the last 10 years.
"These private punishments significantly harm women's and girls' lives and health," said Aruna Kashyap, Asia women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of intervening and taking active measures to prevent these abuses, the Bangladesh authorities have been mute bystanders."
The issue became especially urgent when a shalish in Shariatpur district in the Dhaka division ordered 100 lashes in January 2011 for Hena Akhter, an adolescent girl, for an alleged affair, though by most accounts she had reported being sexually abused instead. She collapsed during the lashing and ultimately died. Since Akhter's death, the local media has reported at least three suicides of girls following similar punishments.
In November 2010, Bangladesh was elected to the board of the international agency UN Women, assuming a new role in the international arena on women's rights. With this new role, Bangladesh should ramp up its efforts to protect women's rights in-country, Human Rights Watch said.
To end this kind of violence against women and girls, Human Rights Watch and Bangladesh human rights organizations ASK, BLAST, BMP, BRAC-HRLS, and Nijera Kori, said the Bangladesh government should immediately carry out the court orders and take the following measures:
* Initiate a massive awareness campaign against extrajudicial punishments in the name of fatwas. Among other measures the government should educate everyone in schools, colleges, and madrasas about the fact that punishments under the garb of fatwas are illegal and regularly publicize these messages through print and electronic media.
* Set up around-the-clock toll-free helplines that are easily accessible to poor rural women so they can report violence and seek emergency assistance.
* Improve access to women's shelters and safe homes in every district to ensure emergency protection for women if they face such dangers in their communities.
* Provide psycho-social support and legal assistance to those who have been punished by traditional shalishes, encouraging them to take action to hold those responsible to account.
* Monitor investigations and prosecutions into punishments imposed in the name of carrying out fatwas to ensure that the accused are punished under the law, and that effective reparations are available to victims and survivors.
Avaaz - Poisoning Canada's water
The Avaaz mega-quarry petition has a great response - 3 more days to sign, if you haven't already. Also - write your MP directly.
Update: 8 July 2011
Wow! 70,000 signers in 24 hours -- we have just 3 days left before the public comment period closes. Sign the petition and share this page with everyone! Our call will be submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and delivered directly to Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey. Linda Jeffrey.
An American hedge fund is about to break ground on a massive mining project that could poison a million people's drinking water and the headwaters for five major rivers. They want to create an open pit deeper than Niagara Falls and decimate thousands of acres of lush farmland -- and we have 4 days to stop them.
UK: Landmark Ruling in Iraq Case | Human Rights Watch
European Court Says UK Violated Rights of Iraqis in Killings case
(London) - A European Court of Human Rights ruling on July 7, 2011, in a case involving the killings of Iraqi civilians by UK soldiers, is a landmark judgment in the universal application of human rights, seven UK and
international human rights groups and professional bodies, including Human Rights Watch said today.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in the case of Al-Skeini and Others v. the United Kingdom, found that the UK's human rights obligations apply to its acts in Iraq, and that the UK had violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the failure to adequately investigate the killings of five Iraqis by its forces there.
"The European Court has spoken clearly - Britain can't claim its soldiers have no human rights duties once they are in another country." said Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor to Human Rights Watch. "The British government should now finally accept human rights law applies to its acts anywhere in the world and ensure a full and independent inquiry into all these killings."
The case concerned the deaths of six Iraqi civilians in Basra in 2003 where the UK was an occupying power. Five of them, Hazim Jum'aa Gatteh Al-Skeini, Muhammad Abdul Ridha Salim, Hannan Mahaibas Sadde Shmailawi, Waleed Sayay Muzban, and Raid Hadi Sabir Al-Musawi were killed during military operations involving British soldiers. The sixth, Baha Mousa, was arrested and died at the hands of British troops in a military base. The families of the victims complained to the Strasbourg court that the UK authorities had refused to conduct an independent and thorough investigation into the circumstances of the killings.
The Court rejected the arguments put forward by the UK government, that as the deaths occurred outside UK territory, the requirement under the European Convention for Human Rights to conduct an independent and thorough investigation did not apply.
A coalition of international and UK human rights organizations and professional bodies submitted written comments to the Court, made up of the Bar Human Rights Committee, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, Human Rights Watch, INTERIGHTS, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Law Society, and Liberty. The Court has rejected unconscionable double standards governing the conduct of states, depending on whether their agents act within or outside that state's territory. The judgment represents a major reassertion of core values such as the universality of human rights, the rule of law, and the right to life.
The Most Sustainable Sushi Restaurant in America
Lofrgren says his restaurant, Bamboo Sushi in Portland, Oregon, is the most sustainable seafood restaurant in the world. It's a big claim, but he makes a strong case, citing his 4.5 "blue fish" rating on Fish to Fork's five-point sustainability scale. Only two other Japanese style sushi* restaurants in the world, both chains in the U.K., can boast the same. Lofgren has also racked up certifications from the Marine Stewardship Council and the Green Restaurant Association, and operates as a certified B-Corporation.
According to a 2011 report from the U.N's Food and Agriculture Organization, "32 percent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering and need to be urgently rebuilt." With conscious consumers starting to take note, Lofgren's strategy is to overwhelm them with proof that his seafood is actually harvested properly, because, frankly, sushi often isn't. And even when it's not from an illegal vessel or an overfished area, there's still massive waste: As much as half of all fish caught never even make it to the table.
Poisoning Canada's water
More on the quarry, and a petition
An American hedge fund is about to break ground on a massive mining project that could poison a million people's drinking water and the headwaters for five major rivers, would create an open pit deeper than Niagara Falls and decimate thousands of acres of lush farmland -- and we have 4 days to stop them.
For years, Highland Companies deceived residents, posing as a potato farming company and quietly buying up thousands of acres of land from local farmers. Then, it was suddenly revealed that the massive plot of farmland would be converted into a limestone quarry -- a 2300 acre pit so deep it would seriously interfere with the ground water system in the region. But, in order to start digging, Highland must win approval from Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey.
Jeffrey is taking 4 more days to consider public opinion on this quarry before making her decision. We can deliver an overwhelming wave of opposition to Highland's destructive plan. Sign the petition, forward it to everyone and it will be submitted to Jeffrey before the consultation period ends.
Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey:
We call on you to refuse Highland Companies' application to build a mega-quarry in Ontario that would threaten drinking water, farm land and vital river and forest habitat. We stand with the Minister of the Environment and concerned community residents in opposition to this destructive quarry project.http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_
Progress of the World's Women | In Pursuit of Justice
Part of the first report from the new UN Women's Commisssion.
In many countries of the world, the rule of law still rules women out
In every region, there are laws that discriminate against women, in relation to property, the family, employment and citizenship. Too often, justice institutions, including the police and the courts, deny women justice. But, governments and civil society are pioneering innovative approaches to ensure that women can access justice
Catalyzing gender-sensitive law reform, investing in one-stop shops and providing reparations for women are just some of the responses that are making a difference. Women parliamentarians, lawyers, judges and activists are driving change and making a difference
Ensuring women are in parliaments, are on the front-line of justice, and are represented in the judiciary and customary justice systems helps women to access their rights. Groundbreaking strategic litigation has been used in every region to expand access to justice for millions of women. Full report and executive summary available at the site above.
examples of recommendations:
Some practical approaches to putting women’s rights at the heart of the MDGs include: abolishing user fees for healthcare, which has been shown to increase women’s and girls’ access to services, including for reproductive health; using stipends and cash transfers to encourage girls to go to school, delay marriage and continue their education for the critical secondary years; putting women on the front line of service delivery to make public services more accessible; and amplifying women’s voices in decision-making, from the household up to local and national levels, to ensure that policies reflect the realities of women’s lives.
City Poised to Kill Support for Local Food | Toronto Environmental Alliance
Toronto: Late this morning a City of Toronto committee refused to adopt a policy that would direct City staff to buy local food, when appropriate, instead of imported food that may come from thousands of miles away. The policy will now go to City Council in two weeks time for debate.
“While the rest of the world is moving towards supporting local food, Canada’s largest city is poised to kill its support,” said Franz Hartmann, Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) which has been advocating for local food for over 4 years. “Here in Ontario, all the political parties at Queen’s Park support a ‘buy local food’ policy. Do we really want to be the city that says no to fresh, local food and yes to food that is jet-lagged?”
The City of Toronto spends about $11 million a year purchasing food for city-run daycares, shelters and seniors’ homes. Back in 2008, City Council agreed to a 50% “buy local food” target. Since then, staff have been working on ways to meet this target and figuring out what the Province can do to change regulations that work against supporting local food.
“It makes no sense why Councillors would vote against supporting local food,” said Hartmann “Why would anyone vote against a policy that aims to get fresh, local food to people in city-run daycares and seniors’ homes? And why would anyone vote against a policy that helps local farmers and the environment without costing Toronto taxpayers more?”
Hartmann said that TEA will be working with its members and all those that support local food in Toronto to get Council to adopt the policy that supports local food. “Today’s decision sends the wrong signal to our farming neighbours and to food processors here in Toronto who use local food,” said Hartmann. “By voting against the policy, they are effectively saying fresher and in-season cheaper local food is not welcome in Toronto.”
Help Stop One of the Most Destructive Projects on Earth (Tar Sands)
* Target: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
* Sponsored by: Natural Resources Defense Council
Our continent's greatest songbird nursery is in grave danger as oil companies violently strip-mine tar sands -- the world's dirtiest oil -- in Canada's Boreal forest. The resulting devastation could ultimately claim some 160 million migratory birds -- including many of the songbirds we love seeing and hearing every summer.
Now, a shocking oil industry plan would drive even MORE destruction of the Boreal while threatening the U.S. with environmental havoc. The Keystone XL pipeline would transport raw, toxic tar sands oil right through the American heartland, endangering sensitive ecosystems and fresh water for millions of Americans.
This continent-wide disaster is designed to boost oil company profits. Everyone else loses. But the U.S. State Department is rushing toward approval of this fiasco -- unless we mobilize swiftly to stop them.
Make forced marriages illegal say survivors - Home News, UK -
By Jerome Taylor
The only time Saima Ahmed breaks down while recounting her forced marriage is when she retells the moment a family friend tracked her down and plunged a knife into her stomach for running away from home. The 20-year-old is calm and collected as she recalls being flown to Pakistan as a teenager, married against her will to a man she had never met before and raped every night until she became pregnant.
But when she thinks back to the stabbing - in which her unborn son died in her womb - the tears come. “I can still remember waking up in hospital, listening to those machines beeping and realising that my angel was gone,” she says, her voice cracking under the strain. “But it’s because of him that I have the strength to do this. If I can stop just one girl from going through what I went through it’ll be worth it.”
BC Corporate Salmon Farmers surpress data, intimidate with US money
Over the weekend Don Staniford found minutes of a recent meeting of Cermaq's BC Corporate Team posted on the web. This posting has now disappeared, but not before we saved it.
In it the Cermaq's BC Corporate Team is asked to keep quiet on the "situation" in BC.
I have explained the context of this in my blog: http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/
I strongly suggest that if you want to see BC wild salmon survive that you attend the fish farm hearings at the Cohen Commission in Vancouver, August 25 - September 9 (check commission website to confirm as date approaches as they have experienced many delays). I will be blogging about the proceedings. However, if you have a legal or personal interest in wild salmon, nothing is better than witnessing this first hand.
First Nations, commercial and sport fishing organizations, wilderness tourism associations, municipal governments, environmental organizations, MLAs, MPs the NDP, Conservatives, Liberals, Green Party should all send representatives. I don't believe in the power of government to work for the people anymore. I don't believe the Cohen Commission will be able to save the Fraser sockeye without us. But together, truth can be served. Justice Cohen has done his part by making the province of BC release their salmon farm disease records. No one has ever done that before worldwide, but what we do with this information is up to us, the wild salmon people.
If you can donate even the smallest amount of money, we can stay with this until people with real resources realize that it is time for them to step in and help us.
There are no losers here. We can protect the 1,250 fish farm jobs, but where we are headed now is not serving them either.
Many of us received a huge advertisement newspaper from the BC Salmon Farmers in the mail this week. They are spending millions to make us think Atlantic salmon we are not allowed near, fed on fish shipped from Chile are better and more sustainable than the millions of wild salmon that flowed home to us every year. They spread stories that I am a corporation, wealthy, funded by Americans. They are so deep in this now, they don't see what they have become.
Thank you for sticking with me on this, Alexa.
Danish firm to prevent use of drug in U.S. executions
COPENHAGEN — Danish drugmaker Lundbeck said Friday it would restrict the distribution of its Nembutal drug to prevent its use in lethal injections in US prisons.
"The company has moved to alter the distribution of its medicine Nembutal (the trade name for its pentobarbital sodium injection) in order to restrict its application as part of lethal injections in the US," the Danish company said in a statement. The drug will from now on "be supplied exclusively through a specialty pharmacy drop ship program that will deny distribution of the product to prisons in US states currently active in carrying out the death penalty by lethal injection."
It said it notified its distributors of the plan in late June. Lundbeck's pentobarbital anaesthetic is used to treat severe epilepsy but is also used by a number of states as part of a three-drug cocktail used to execute death row inmates.
To take action, See: No Death Penalty, and Amnesty