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.


Bill Clinton on Keystone XL pipeline: 'Embrace' it

Bill Clinton on Keystone XL pipeline: 'Embrace' it - as Naomi Klein says : a bad sign when Clinton is shilling for Tar Sands --

Speaking at an Energy Department conference in Maryland on Wednesday, the former president said he was surprised the project has gotten as gummed up as it has, laying the blame on pipeline builder TransCanada.

"One of the most amazing things to me about this Keystone pipeline deal is that they ever filed that route in the first place since they could've gone around the Nebraska Sandhills and avoided most of the dangers, no matter how imagined, to the Ogallala [aquifer] with a different route, which I presume we'll get now, because the extra cost of running is infinitesimal compared to the revenue that will be generated over a long period of time," he said.

"So, I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work," Clinton added.
TransCanada this week said it would begin building a section of the pipeline from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast and reapply for a new permit for the remainder of the project.

Read more:

SIPRI report on international arms sale

Arms Sales rise puts downturn into perspective
Something to put the military-industrial complex's whining about (still entirely hypothetical) miniscule cuts in their welfare programs into perspective:

Sales of weapons and military services by the world's biggest arms companies have continued to rise during the downturn and now exceed $400bn (£250bn), a leading independent research body has reported.

Though the increase has slowed, just 1% year-on-year in 2010, the rise in sales has been 60% in real terms since 2002, figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) showed. The total sales, including military services, of the top 100 arms companies, reached $ 411.1bn (£257.6bn) in 2010, Sipri said.

Revised, Still Offensive Ultrasound Bill Passes In Virginia

Revised, Still Offensive Ultrasound Bill Passes In Virginia 19-20
Revised, Still Offensive Ultrasound Bill Passes In Virginia
By: David Dayen Wednesday February 29, 2012 8:00 am
While everyone was high-fiving the pullback by the Virginia legislature of their trans-vaginal ultrasound bill and happily discussing how conservatives had overreached on social issues, the GOP determinedly made their changes and passed a mandatory ultrasound bill. The final vote in the state Senate was 21-19, actually a closer vote than the 21-18 count on the trans-vaginal bill that they passed earlier. But they got it done.

The state Senate approved the weaker ultrasound law by a 21 to 19 vote on Tuesday with an exemption for women whose pregnancy resulting from rape or incest is reported to police. The House, which had already approved the ultrasound law, will now consider the Senate amendments and then could send the proposed law to McDonnell for his signature.

The bill approved by the Senate would offer, rather than require, a woman undergo an additional invasive procedure such as a vaginal probe if the mandatory abdominal ultrasound fails to determine the age of the fetus [...]The Virginia measure also requires that the woman seeking an abortion be offered the chance to see the fetal image, and that a copy of the image would be in the woman’s medical record at the abortion facility for seven years.

Six other states have passed laws requiring abortion providers to perform ultrasounds, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health issues.

One Democratic Senator raised the spectre of back-alley abortions and that still wasn’t enough. And if the controversy over the forced rape bill didn’t deter Virginia Republicans from still legislating in that general area, I think the takeaway other states controlled by Republicans will get is that, as long as they stay away from the vagina, they too can mandate the ultrasound and chip away at abortion rights.

As I’ve noted, there are additional burdens placed on women with a mandate like this. First, they have to make two trips to the clinic, with a time period in between. They have to pay for the ultrasound. They have to endure this propaganda of seeing the image or hearing the “fetal heartbeat,” which is the entire point of the bill, to force them to have a change of heart and keep the baby. The track record for that in ultrasound states is low, but it just becomes an added humiliation. A version of this bill in one state forces the monitor showing the ultrasound to be directed at the women’s face, though she can turn her head. Republicans call this a “right to know” bill, just a conveyance of information to women. As if they were unsure that they were carrying a fetus around inside them.

Lawmakers in Alabama and Idaho have quietly altered their copycat versions of this bill to conform to Virginia’s standard. We’ll see this in two dozen states by the end of the year, that’s my prediction. We may have found a bright line that conservatives won’t cross – for now – but they ultimately won the battle in the the war on women.
UPDATE: A strong piece by Jillian Rayfield suggests that the trans-vaginal bills are just for show, and the version that eventually gets passed represents the real desired outcome from social conservatives.

Letter re Windpower in Ontario

Environmental Defence
Ontario has made huge strides toward a clean energy future by commiting to shut down dirty coal plants and scaling up renewable energy sources that don't pollute, like wind and solar. But now, some are trying to drag the province backward to a more polluting past by calling for a moratorium on wind energy.A private member's bill will be debated in the Ontario legislature on March 8th that seeks to place a moratorium on building windmills in Ontario.

Despite overwhelming evidence that generating power from the wind is among of the cleanest, safest options available, anti-wind groups are determined to take Ontario backward. The fearmongering out there about possible health and environmental impacts of wind are simple fiction. The fact is that wind energy is helping Ontario reduce its reliance on smog-causing coal plants, and creating good green jobs in the process.

Please take a minute to send a letter to elected officials urging them to support renewable energy and reject calls for a moratorium on wind power.

Pennsylvania poised to enact most restrictive abortion law of 2012

Pennsylvania poised to enact most restrictive abortion law of 2012
Even as the transvaginal ultrasound bill in Virginia was causing national outrage, Pennsylvania conservatives were quietly pushing a even more restrictive abortion bill. The legislation is designed with so many difficult and differing restrictions that long-time abortion policy analyst Elizabeth Nash at the Guttmacher Institute told Raw Story, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

In addition to mandating the much-maligned transvaginal ultrasound requirements since rejected by the state of Virginia, Pennsylvania legislators proposed strongly encouraging women to view and listen to the ultrasounds, forcing technicians to give the women personalized copies of the results and mandating how long before any abortion the ultrasound much be preformed — and that’s just for starters.That last requirement has already been passed and struck down in Louisiana, partially over concerns of patients’ privacy and potential risks for women in abusive relationships, Nash said.

“This bill definitely suffers the legislators-playing-doctor problem. There are a number of requirements in this bill that are medically unnecessary,” Nash said, pointing out that so many requirements packed into the 22-page bill could make it logistically difficult for abortion providers to comply with them. “This bill is something that would be unacceptable to most women seeking an abortion.”

Additionally, Nash points out that the length of the legislation hides bizarre and unprecedented requirements, such as asking women who gets an ultrasound more than 14 days before her abortion to view a state-approved video on fetal gestation. The bill, unlike many other ultrasound requirements, does offer exceptions for victims of rape and incest; the bill does not require victims to have reported the incidents to the authorities.

“Certainly what’s happening in Pennsylvania and throughout the country has sparked a lot of outrage,” said Andy Hoover of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. Noting that they’ve been fighting two other pieces of anti-choice legislation, one of which puts requirements on abortion providers and one of which would ban abortion coverage in state-sponsored health insurance exchanges, “It’s been the abortion wars for over a year.”..

Frietsche adds that the FDA already recommends that medically unnecessary ultrasounds should be discouraged, since the long-term effects of radiation from the ultrasound machines are unknown. She said the Pennsylvania chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Pennsylvania Medical Society both oppose the legislation.

The bill faces a vote in the full Pennsylvania state house in mid-March, when the legislature is back in session. A petition at has collected nearly 15,000 signatures opposing the legislation.


White House Vows to 'Expedite' New Pipeline Proposal

White House Vows to 'Expedite' New Pipeline Proposal | Common Dreams
A proposal by Canadian oil firm TransCanada to seek new approval for segments of its Keystone XL pipeline project was greeted warmly by the Obama White House today. In a letter sent to the US State Department, the company said it would seek a 'Presidential Permit application (cross border permit) in the near future for the Keystone XL Project from the U.S./Canada border in Montana to Steele City, Nebraska. TransCanada would supplement that application with an alternative route in Nebraska as soon as that route is selected.'

Corporate Personhood Case Forces Supreme Court To Hack New Path

Corporate Personhood Case Forces Supreme Court To Hack New Path

WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on whether corporations, like real people, can be held liable in American courts for international human rights violations.

The issue has divided four appeals courts over the past year and a half, as Democrat-appointed judges have uniformly voted for corporate liability while all but one Republican-appointed judge has come down for corporate immunity.

If that pattern holds in the Supreme Court, then the five justices appointed by Republican presidents will surely be hit with more accusations of pro-business bias: Having all voted in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to extend to corporations the First Amendment right of actual people to independently spend unlimited sums in this country's elections, they will in the current case have refused to hold corporations responsible, as real people are, for their roles in atrocities abroad. That kind of application of corporate personhood would be enough to make a casual observer's head explode.... and -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday morning appeared divided along party lines, with a conservative majority ready to hold that corporations cannot be held accountable in federal courts for international human rights violations.

[and you won't be able to sue China, Inc. either - once they own your oil and water]

SCA: Tell the Senate to Vote "NO" on the Blunt Amendment

Secular Coalition for America
This week the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on an amendment by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would allow employers to exclude any health insurance benefit they deem immoral or “contrary to their religious beliefs.”

If passed, this amendment would allow employers to force their religious beliefs on employees, stripping them of their personal rights to religious freedom—and the ability to make their own moral and health decisions.

Sen. Blunt’s amendment is dangerous. It could pave the way for insurers to deny coverage for all types of services, including mental health coverage and addiction treatment—as these services are opposed by some religious groups. According to several leading medical groups, including The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the March of Dimes, among others, the proposal could strip pregnant women and even infants, of critical care and services.

"The amendment would give expansive and explicit license to any employer, health plan, provider, or beneficiary to exclude any health service from insurance coverage. For instance, a small employer or health plan could ban maternity care for women due to religious convictions regarding out-of-wedlock pregnancies," the groups said in a joint statement. "Likewise, a health plan or small employer that objects to childhood immunizations, newborn screening for life-threatening genetic disorders, other components of well-child visits, or prenatal care would be fully within the law to deny coverage for any and all of these vital services," the statement continued.

The real assault on religious liberty is coming from those who wish to deny freedom of conscience to many Americans whose moral and health decisions may differ from those of a particular church, religious group or employer.

Don’t let Sen. Blunt and other supporting senators use the claim of “religious freedom” to strip Americans of their true religious lilberties—which includes the right to self determine their own religious, moral and health decisions. Tell your senator to vote “no” on the Blunt amendment.


NEWS: New York State backs down on stringent rules for ballast in the Great Lakes

NEWS: New York State backs down on stringent rules for ballast in the Great Lakes
The Harper government has welcomed New York State’s decision not to proceed with tough new ballast water rules that had been aimed at preventing foreign species from invading the Great Lakes. Parliamentary secretary for transport Pierre Poilievre says, “Canada applauds New York state for withdrawing its unattainable ballast water requirements and agrees that uniform standards are the best way to protect the marine environment. We welcome this action as enforcement of the rules on transiting ships would have stopped commercial shipping on the seaway.”

The Associated Press reports, “The rules, which had been scheduled to take effect in August 2013, would order cargo vessels to cleanse ballast water to a level at least 100 times stricter than international standards before releasing it. …New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation said this week it was postponing the effective date of its rules until December 2013. Because they are tied to a federal permit that expires then, the state rules essentially are being canceled.”

Late last month, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow as in Sault Ste. Marie warning of the impact of ballast on the Great Lakes, In February 2011, Barlow wrote in the Globe and Mail that, “Since the seaway was opened in 1959, over 185 invasive species have entered the lake in ballast from ocean-going vessels, many doing great damage to both native species and commercial activity. Canada has taken a weak position on fighting invasive species, putting commercial interests above the safety and integrity of the Great Lakes.” That’s at

The Toronto Star reported in 2007 that, “a group of more than 90 U.S. environmental organizations want ocean-going tankers banned from entering the Great Lakes.” A Globe and Mail article on the 50th anniversary of the seaway notes, “the seaway has wreaked so much havoc on the world’s greatest supply of fresh water that some critics now propose that it be abandoned as a route for saltwater ships…” More on those demands at


2nd New York state judge upholds fracking ban in towns | The Raw Story

2nd New York state judge upholds fracking ban in towns
ALBANY, New York (Reuters) – A New York state judge on Friday upheld an upstate community’s ban on gas drilling, marking the second victory this week for opponents of the drilling method known as fracking.

The authority vested in towns and cities in New York to regulate use of their land extends to prohibitions on drilling, acting state Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio ruled on Friday, dismissing arguments by a landowner who had already sold leases on almost 400 acres.

“Municipalities are not preempted … from enacting local zoning ordinances which may prohibit oil, gas and solution drilling or mining,” Cerio wrote. “The state maintains control over the ‘how’ of (drilling) procedures while the municipalities maintain control over the ‘where.’”

Jennifer Huntington, a dairy farmer, argued the town of Middlefield’s ban was pre-empted by a state law designed to create a uniform regulatory scheme for the oil and gas industry. Cerio disagreed, holding that nothing in the legislative history of the law and its numerous amendments suggested state lawmakers intended to stop towns from barring heavy industry. Middlefield is about 70 miles west of the state capital, Albany.

Cerio’s ruling was similar to a decision released on Tuesday that dismissed a bid by gas company Anschutz Exploration Corp to overturn a drilling ban in the Ithaca, New York, suburb of Dryden.

Leadnow | Canadian Robocall Scandal: Demand answers

Leadnow | Robocall Scandal: Demand answers
Elections Canada has just traced illegal phone calls made during the 2011 federal election to a company that worked for the Conservative Party across the country.

The “robocalls” appeared to be designed to stop non-Conservative voters from casting ballots in key ridings by falsely telling voters that the location of their polling stations had changed, causing them to go to the wrong location on election day.1

This news casts doubt on the legitimacy of their majority Government. The Conservatives only narrowly won their majority by 6,201 votes in 14 ridings. We need answers and real consequences that lay the foundation for new laws to protect the integrity of Canadian elections.

Tell the leaders of all political parties that you demand a full and independent public inquiry to expose the facts about the robocall scandal and ensure that the penalty for this election fraud matches the consequences of the crime - including possible by-elections in the affected ridings.

Walmart to Sell Monsanto GMO Corn This Summer

Walmart to Sell Monsanto GMO Corn This Summer | Care2 Healthy Living
Trader Joes and GM have agreed NOT to sell GM-Bt (high fructose bt toxin) corn, but Monsanto/Walmart are economic buddies. There is a petition on this site, no idea about Canadian walmarts.

Walmart is set to sell a new form of genetically-engineered (GE) sweet corn as early as this summer. Monsanto’s Bt sweet corn contains three GE traits that have never before been consumed directly by humans, and have not been subjected to thorough safety testing. There will be no labeling whatsoever indicating that the corn is a genetically modified organism.

Most GE corn is not fit for human consumption unless it is heavily processed into products like high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, or corn oil. This means that consumers can avoid consuming GE corn simply by choosing not to eat processed foods with corn-derived ingredients. However, Monstanto’s Bt sweet corn will be sold to consumers as whole ears on the cob and will be found in the produce section.

The “Bt” means that the corn contain Bt toxin, which originates in the bodies of poisonous caterpillars. In nature, the toxin prevents predators from eating caterpillars before they can mature into moth or butterflies. Monsanto’s corn has been modified to produce this toxin, which means it makes its own pesticide, rupturing the stomachs of the insects that eat it. It is unknown what effect consuming a plant that produces this toxin will have on humans, however lab rats that fed the Bt corn suffer from organ failure.

Read more:


'Perpetual Growth Myth' Leading World to Meltdown: Experts

'Perpetual Growth Myth' Leading World to Meltdown: Experts
UN-Sponsored Papers Predict Sustained Ecological and Social Meltdown

"The current system is broken," says Bob Watson, the UK’s chief scientific advisor on environmental issues and a winner of the prestigious Blue Planet prize in 2010. "It is driving humanity to a future that is 3-5°C warmer than our species has ever known, and is eliminating the ecology that we depend on for our health, wealth and senses of self."We cannot assume that technological fixes will come fast enough. Instead we need human solutions. The good news is that they exist but decision makers must be bold and forward thinking to seize them."

Watson's comments accompanied a new paper released today by 20 past winners of the Blue Planet Prize - often called the Nobel Prize for the environment, and comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Rio+20 conference – which takes place in June this year – where world leaders will (it is hoped) seize the opportunity to set human development on a new, more sustainable path.

In the face of an "absolutely unprecedented emergency", say the [...] past winners of the Blue Planet prize – society has "no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilization. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us".

The stark assessment of the current global outlook by the group, who include [Watson]... US climate scientist James Hansen, Prof José Goldemberg, Brazil's secretary of environment during the Rio Earth summit in 1992, and Stanford University Prof Paul Ehrlich. [...]

"The perpetual growth myth ... promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world's problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root cause of our unsustainable global practices"
"The rapidly deteriorating biophysical situation is more than bad enough, but it is barely recognized by a global society infected by the irrational belief that physical economies can grow forever and disregarding the facts that the rich in developed and developing countries get richer and the poor are left behind.
"The perpetual growth myth ... promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world's problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root cause of our unsustainable global practices", they say.

The group warns against over-reliance on markets but instead urges politicians to listen and learn from how poor communities all over the world see the problems of energy, water, food and livelihoods as interdependent and integrated as part of a living ecosystem.The paper urges governments to:

* Replace GDP as a measure of wealth with metrics for natural, built, human and social capital - and how they intersect.
* Eliminate subsidies in sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture that create environmental and social costs, which currently go unpaid.
* Tackle over-consumption, and address population pressure by empowering women, improving education and making contraception accessible to all.
* Transform decision making processes to empower marginalized groups, and integrate economic, social and environmental policies instead of having them compete.
* Conserve and value biodiversity and ecosystem services, and create markets for them that can form the basis of green economies.
* Invest in knowledge - both in creating and in sharing it - through research and training that will enable governments, business, and society at large to understand and move towards a sustainable future.

“Sustainable development is not a pipe dream,” says Dr Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development. “It is the destination the world’s accumulated knowledge points us towards, the fair future that will enable us to live with security, peace and opportunities for all. To get there we must transform the ways we manage, share and interact with the environment, and acknowledge that humanity is part of nature not apart from it.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The paper by the Blue Planet laureates will challenge governments and society as a whole to act to limit human-induced climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in order to ensure food, water energy and human security. I would like to thank Professor Watson and colleagues for eloquently articulating their vision on how key development challenges can be addressed, emphasizing solutions; the policies, technologies and behavior changes required to grow green economies, generate jobs and lift people out of poverty without pushing the world through planetary boundaries.”

ACTION ALERT: Protect the Wakefield aquifer and trees from the Highway 5 expansion

ACTION ALERT: Protect the Wakefield aquifer and trees from the Highway 5 expansion
About 40 people from the group A5X were on Brown Lake Road in Wakefield, Quebec today to protest the four-lane expansion of Highway 5. They were able to turn away Couillard Construction which yesterday had begun cutting some of the forest on the eastern boundary of Gatineau Park to build access roads for the heavier logging equipment.
In order to impede the cutting today, the group had people both on the ground blocking the access road and high up in several of the trees that are to be cut down. The Ministry of Transportation Quebec (MTQ) has ordered the people off the site and an injunction against them is expected tomorrow.

A number of people are on site now and are camping there overnight (it is now -2 Celsius) to prevent the construction company from resuming their work overnight or early in the morning.
The group is trying to stop the clearing of more than 88 hectares of mature forest, including a 300 year old white pine tree, the blasting of Brown Lake Mountain, and have raised concerns about the impact of the highway construction on the aquifer, local wells, and the popular Wakefield spring. A preliminary assessment by Transport Canada had found that the project could contaminate the aquifer. The 25-year old provincial environmental assessment permitting the highway did not examine possible hydrological impacts.
The group is asking Quebec premier Jean Charest to intervene. They are requesting that no preparation work start in the Wakefield area until all work on the highway is completed kilometres away on the Chelsea section of the extension. They are not completely opposing the highway, but rather are asking that the construction plan be modified to lessen the ecological impacts.
To assist those camping overnight in the cold, please send a message to Quebec Premier Jean Charest now here. The message can be as simple as: “Please intervene immediately to stop the construction of the La PĂȘche section of the Highway 5 expansion. This would allow for a review of the ecological consequences of the project and for the development of alternate plans that would lessen its impact on the landscape and ensure that the water sources there are protected.”
The Ottawa Citizen has reported, “The cutting is under a tight deadline: It has to stop in early spring under environmental rules, so that trees won’t come down when baby birds are in nests.”
The Council of Canadians has been following this issue since May 2010. On February 20, 2011, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke against the environmental destruction that would be caused by the highway and supported the “water warriors” raising concerns about it at a public event in Wakefield.
For more information from the A5X group, please see–nouvelles.html.


Argonaut Gold proposes Pitalla gold mine in Sierra de la Laguna biosphere

UPDATE: Argonaut Gold proposes Pitalla gold mine in Sierra de la Laguna biosphere
(no action yet - stay tuned...)


Tortured policy |

Tortured policy |
Torture: It’s no longer just for Afghans.
Last week Public Security Minister Vic Toews admitted that he directed the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to accept for Canadian use — “in exceptional circumstances” only of course — information obtained by foreign agencies through the use of torture.
Previous Canadian policy had insisted that CSIS could not knowingly rely upon information derived from torture and that the spy agency must also have measures in place to identify such information (“CSIS may use intelligence derived from torture, Toews says,” Canadian Press, 7 February 2012):
The latest directive says in “exceptional circumstances” where there is a threat to human life or public safety, urgency may require CSIS to “share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment.” …
“Therefore, in situations where a serious risk to public safety exists, and where lives may be at stake, I expect and thus direct CSIS to make the protection of life and property its overriding priority, and share the necessary information — properly described and qualified — with appropriate authorities.”
The UN Convention Against Torture, which Canada has signed and ratified, bans the use of torture under all circumstances, stipulating that “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Canada’s legal obligation to reject torture has also been incorporated into the Criminal Code of Canada.
The new policy doesn’t eliminate these legal bans; instead, it authorizes Canadian officials to receive the proceeds of the crime of torture as long as the torture itself is outsourced to foreign officials. In so doing, it also sends a very clear message to CSIS: The information is more important than the crime. Keep the information coming.
Given this atmosphere, it should come as no surprise if those “exceptional circumstances” later turn out to be something more akin to standard operating procedures. Exceptional circumstances have a way of becoming that.
See also: “Torture is always wrong,” Ottawa Citizen editorial, 8 February 2012


US: Protect families’ health by ending the overuse of antibiotics in food producing animals. |

Protect our families’ health by ending the overuse of antibiotics in food producing animals. | The White House|
Almost 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are for food animals. Industrial farms routinely feed these drugs to the animals to promote growth and compensate for unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. This overuse creates antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans and cause expensive, hard-to-treat illnesses.
In June 2010, the FDA issued draft recommendations on voluntary limits to this overuse—but we are still waiting for action.With more Americans becoming ill with infections resistant to antibiotics, we must end this practice that threatens the viability of these miracle drugs.Please sign this petition urging the Obama Administration to end antibiotic overuse in food animal production.


Protest succeeds: Apple seeks audit of Chinese labor conditions

Protest succeeds: Apple seeks audit of Chinese labor conditions
Technology giant Apple, Inc. said Monday it was asking the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to investigate working conditions at Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, essentially caving to the demands of protesters who delivered over 250,000 petition signatures to the company last week.
Foxconn, which hires over 1 million Chinese workers, has been plagued over the years by reports of suicides, and in one instance last year, a group of about 300 people threatened to jump to their deaths if they weren’t given better pay and working conditions.
Foxconn, which makes devices for companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Intel and others, has said it plans to replace most of its workers with robots in the coming years. Meanwhile, the company keeps its human workers in small bunks on site, works them in 12-24 hour shifts, provides little food or medical assistance, and oversees their daily duties with military-like precision using advance surveillance techniques.
Apple, for its part, joined the FLA in January as criticism against Foxconn was mounting. They became the first tech company to partner with the Washington, D.C. group, which is dedicated to stamping out sweat shops throughout the world. Other FLA partners include Nike, Barnes & Noble, Liz Blaiborne, Inc., Puma AG and American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.
After last week’s petitions, the company decided it was time to pull the trigger on their FLA membership rights, so Apple asked that the group to begin fair labor inspections of Foxconn’s facilities.


Alexandra Morton received a message from Nova Scotia this morning, where they are desperately fighting off ELEVEN salmon farms. Please consider signing their petition. They say the voices for wild salmon are vanishing as the fish go. They have spent years trying to bring wild salmon back, are just beginning to succeed and now 11 salmon feedlots are circling them, hungry for their waters. I know what that is like. My little community of Echo Bay fought hard to protect Broughton, but we were way too small, they didn't even notice us and we lost everything, there are 8 people left.

Salmon pen pen aquaculture is a threat to existing sustainable fisheries such as the lobster fishery. It will undo significant investments made in restoring wild salmon habitats along the shore. Fish farms on the Eastern Shore will also harm tourism, real estate, and the quality of life of current residents.
Scientific research has convincingly established that open pen fish farming destroys naturally occurring fish stocks and contaminates the waters with both chemicals and huge amounts of fecal matter. There is a reason why residents of British Columbia, Scotland, California, Latin America, and other parts of Nova Scotia are fighting this type of unregulated industrial farming on their coasts.

I wish I had known what we were in for when salmon farms came banging on our door I would have fought harder, I would never have given them the benefit of our doubts, they looked so reasonable - who knew? Well we know now.


Take Action Now - Amnesty International

Take Action Now - Amnesty International USA
(Russia has a new generation of 'western' youth - who might be influenced by an international voice - )
The world must do everything in its power to end the Assad regime's violent crackdown. Instead, Russia, a country with influence over Syria, appears to be standing by while crimes against humanity are being committed.
Demand that Russia put real pressure on Syrian authorities to end the military assault on Homs.

Last weekend, Russia, together with China, vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, crushing one of the last and best hopes of ending the violence that has claimed thousands of lives since March. The resolution -- though watered-down -- was the closest the global community had come to taking firm action toward ending the violence that has brought Syria to the brink of civil war.

While diplomats wrangled at UN headquarters over the weekend, the Syrian government unleashed a barrage of attacks in Homs. The attacks included the use of heavy weaponry such as tanks in residential areas and claimed hundreds of lives, killing more than a dozen children.

As the Assad regime's strongest foreign backer, Russia is poised to play a central role in stopping the killing and preventing the bloodbath that will occur if fighting between the government and protesters continues unchecked.

Join Amnesty's millions-strong global human rights movement -- demand that Russia take steps to bring an end to the grave human rights violations that are being committed in Syria.

When Russia blocked the Security Council from taking meaningful action to stop the massive human rights violations in Syria, it stated that it has a better plan for resolving the crisis. But its veto has only served as a green light to the Assad regime to continue to use any means to crush the resistance.

US Recognizes Maldives Government That Ousted Democratically Elected Nasheed

US Recognizes Maldives Government That Ousted Democratically Elected Nasheed | Common Dreams
that was fast - hard to be shocked any more... but the US has a base in the area, and who cares about democracy and climate change advocates? Military coups are just fine, tho...
The US government has recognized the new standing government in the Maldives just days after the nation's democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, was ousted in a military coup.
The United States on Thursday recognized the new government of Maldives President Mohamed Waheed as legitimate and urged him to fulfill a pledge to form a national unity government.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said Robert Blake, the top US diplomat for south Asia, telephoned former president Mohamed Nasheed to tell him Washington backed a "peaceful resolution" of the crisis on the archipelago.
"We do," Nuland told reporters when asked if Washington recognizes the new government as the legitimate government of the Maldives. She called Waheed the president and Nasheed the former president.
Blake, the assistant secretary of state for south Asian affairs, will travel Saturday to the Maldives to meet with both Waheed and Nasheed, who charges he was ousted in a coup, as well as civil society.
Nasheed, according to reports, has been threatened with arrest and 'life in jail' just days after he was forced to resign at gunpoint by renegade police and military forces. The Indian Ocean island has been in tumult since Nasheed's ouster and clashes continue in and around the major cities of Male and Addu.

Occupying Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power

Occupying Corporations: How to Cut Corporate Power | Common Dreams
Sign: "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one"...and up north, how many rights has Harper signed away to the Chinese? We Just Don't Know....

Corporations now claim: 1st amendment free speech rights to advertise and influence elections: 4th amendment search and seizure rights to resist subpoenas and challenges to their criminal actions; 5th amendment rights to due process; 14th amendment rights to due process where corporations took the rights of former slaves and used them for corporate protection; plus rights under the Commerce and Contracts clauses of the constitution.

Great article by Bill Quigley - including a list of organizations you can support who are working to amend the citizens united decision--



Avaaz - Smuggle hope into Syria

Avaaz - Smuggle hope into Syria
On Saturday, Syria’s brutal forces killed one of Avaaz’s brave citizen journalists as he pulled people from the rubble of a deadly massacre in Homs. Omar was just 23 and he died as he lived, photographing the regime’s crimes, helping others and sacrificing for freedom.As you read this, the regime is murdering men, women and children and tearing cities apart. China and Russia just handcuffed international action at the UN and gave Assad license to unleash his murder machine to crush the Syrian Spring once and for all. Omar’s friend just wrote to us -- his community is determined, but they are urgently asking for our help: “We’re heartbroken, but his death will not be in vain, we will carry on the fight, but we need your support.” (more info on what Avaaz is doing at the link above)

Ai Weiwei to build London 2012 Olympics pavilion

Ai Weiwei to build London 2012 Olympics pavilion | The Raw Story

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is reuniting with the Swiss architects with whom he created Beijing’s spectacular Bird’s Nest Stadium, to build a pavilion for this year’s London Olympics.

Ai, along with the Swiss firm Herzog and de Meuron, will join forces again to design a pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Kensington Gardens park, the gallery said on Tuesday. “It is a great honour to be working with Herzog and de Meuron and Ai Weiwei,” said gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones. “We are delighted that our annual commission will bring this unique architectural collaboration to Europe to mark the continuity between the Beijing 2008 and the London 2012 Games.”

In a joint statement, Ai and the architects said the project would involve digging some five feet (1.5 metres) into the park’s soil to collect rainwater, which would be incorporated into the design. Britain’s Guardian newspaper said Ai had been coordinating the project with the architects using online phone service Skype.

Ai — whose activism has made him a thorn in the side of China’s communist authorities — disappeared into custody for 81 days last year as police rounded up dissidents and lawyers amid online calls for Arab-style protests in China.

Weak land rights in Africa fuel potential for conflicts

Weak land rights in Africa fuel potential for conflicts -experts - AlertNet By Astrid Zweynert
(indigenous people's rights - lack of legislation, in addition to enforcement )
The sell-off of prime land to buyers hungry for the developing world’s natural resources risks sparking civil unrest unless governments and investors recognise the customary rights of millions of people who have toiled these areas for centuries, land rights experts said on Wednesday. Soaring investment in infrastructure, mining and agribusiness in Asia and Latin America is spreading to Africa, where a lack of legislation on land rights means local communities are regularly bypassed, fuelling anger and resentment.

“Controversial land acquisitions were a key factor triggering the civil wars in Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and there is every reason to be concerned that conditions are ripe for new conflicts to occur in many places,” Jeffrey Hatcher, director of global programmes at the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), said at a news conference held to release two reports into land tenure.
The RRI estimates that half a billion people rely on 1.4 billion hectares of communally held rural land in sub-Saharan Africa, which has attracted the largest share of investor interest recently.
Presenting the result of an analysis of tenure rights in 35 African countries, Hatcher said that customary land rights were being repeatedly ignored during what he called an “astonishing buying spree across Africa” Large land deals in developing countries have surged in the past decade, fuelled mostly by concerns about food shortages, a biofuels boom and the rising scarcity and financial value of agricultural land.

As foreign investment in Africa grows, experts say legal empowerment of rural communities is critical, including education about legal rights and information about the ramifications of land concessions

Two thirds of lands being acquired are in Africa, suggesting a “new scramble” for the continent, according to an analysis for RRI by international land tenure expert Liz Alden Wily. Like in the 19th-century colonial scramble for Africa, land is either acquired to channel commodities produced there into the investor country, or with the intention of not producing anything at all there but selling it on at a substantial profit.


WIN! Bruce Power plan to ship radioactive steam generators on the Great Lakes stopped

WIN! Bruce Power plan to ship radioactive steam generators on the Great Lakes stopped
Rare win - and very interesting history. Peter Tabuns, my MPP!!
By Brent Patterson, Friday, February 3rd, 201

The one-year license issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to Bruce Power to ship radioactive waste on the Great Lakes expires tomorrow, Friday February 3. This is a major campaign win and means those shipments cannot take place anytime soon
September 30, 2011: Council of Canadians Ontario-Quebec regional organizer Mark Calzavara delivers a petition with more than 101,000 names to Queen’s Park demanding that Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty do the right thing and put a stop to the planned shipments of nuclear waste on the Great Lakes,

June 13: Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow writes Swedish minister of the environment Andreas Carlgren asking him to intervene and revoke a permit issued to Studsvik, a company in Nykoping, Sweden, that is set to receive radioactive waste from the Bruce Power nuclear plant in Ontario. Studsvik has a permit from the Swedish Radiation Authority to receive and decontaminate the waste,
May 19: Ontario Member of the Provincial Parliament Peter Tabuns raises the Council of Canadians petition against the radioactive shipments on the Great Lakes in the Ontario Legislature,

War Crimes Ruling: Human Rights Take a Back Seat to Sovereignty

War Crimes Ruling: Human Rights Take a Back Seat to Sovereignty -
An international court ruled on Friday that Germany cannot be held liable for paying reparations to the descendents of victims of a massacre perpetrated during World War II in Italy. The verdict has implications far beyond Nazi-era war crimes, and was welcomed by countries far and wide.

It sounds like a paradox: Germany takes Italy to court and wins -- and Rome is secretly pleased with the ruling. In addition, several other governments around the world are breathing a sigh of relief on Friday. After all, had the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled differently, people in Afghanistan or Ethiopia, in the Balkans or in Libya, would have been able to take countries to court whose soldiers committed war crimes on their soil. It is a situation that governments everywhere wanted to avoid.

And now they have. The ICJ ruling threw out a 2008 decision by the highest Italian appellate court which sought to force Germany to pay reparations to the families of victims of World War II-era war crimes. "The action of Italian courts in denying German immunity ... constitutes a breach of the obligation owed by the Italian state to Germany," said Hisashi Owada, president of the United Nations court.

Human rights organization Amnesty International said in a statement that the ruling was a "great step backwards in the protection of international human rights." The group said that the ICJ placed countries' interests above the protection of human rights.


Malda woman’s fight against child marriage - Indian Express

Malda woman’s fight against child marriage - Indian Express
No matter what the laws - community practice is hard to change (tribal traditions of child marriage, honour killing, FGM, etc.) This is a brave woman - and if we can support and encourage LOCAL WOMEN, change may come...

Even though, child marriages are unpopular, it still remains a social menace, which is rampant in rural areas. While the local administration looks incompetent at curbing this menace, an unassuming 21-year-old girl from a remote village in Malda has taken the mantle to eradicating this menace. Meet Anjali Burman, a resident of Balarampur village, a third-year student in Malda College.
Not only did Anjali manage to save herself from child marriage, she also managed to rescue seven other girls in the age group of 12 to 14 from the clutches of child marriage. "In our locality, girls are married off at an early age. My parents also wanted to marry me off, but I resisted it. From my childhood, I had nutured dreams that I would be educated and would be financially independent. After I resisted my marriage, I always thought there were other girls like me in the area. And I know that how it is a difficult task for a village girl to resist the marriage. The whole village and the entire community stands against the girl in such cases. I took oath that would try my best not to allow any of the minor girls to be married," she said.


US: Stop the XL Pipeline!: Take Action!:

Stop the XL Pipeline!: Take Action!(sample letter from the NRDC)
I am appalled that some members of Congress keep trying to raise the Keystone XL pipeline from the dead by attaching it to unrelated legislation. Please work to keep the pipeline provision out of the payroll tax and transportation bills -- and vote No on any bill that includes a Keystone XL rider.

President Obama has already done the bidding of the American people by rejecting this destructive project. Please make sure that our government is not held hostage by a fossil fuel scheme that will enrich the oil companies while impoverishing our health and environment. Congress should spend its time doing the work it promised to undertake, not playing cynical political games that will only advance the interests of Big Oil.

Please let the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline die.