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.


Ecuador Takes on Chevron, Global Indifference in Controversial Fights to Protect Rainforest |

Ecuador Takes on Chevron, Global Indifference in Controversial Fights to Protect Rainforest | Democracy Now!
During a visit to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño joins us to discuss his government’s involvement in two closely watched environmental legal battles. An Ecuadorean court has ordered the oil giant Chevron to pay $19 billion to indigenous and rural Ecuadoreans for the dumping of as much as 18.5 billion gallons of highly toxic waste sludge into the rainforest. But Chevron has refused, winning a partial victory last week when an international arbitration panel based in The Hague delivered an interim ruling questioning the validity of the original 2011 verdict. Patiño also addresses why Ecuador recently dropped a plan to preserve swaths of the Amazon rainforest from oil drilling by having wealthy countries pay them not to drill, an effort that the Ecuadorean government says failed to attract sufficient funding. Leading environmentalists, including Vandana Shiva, Naomi Klein and James Hansen, recently wrote an open letter to President Rafael Correa asking him not to forsake the initiative, saying: "Along with thousands of other world citizens, we look to the Yasuní-ITT initiative as a pioneering step in the international struggle for a post-fossil-fuel civilization. We have been inspired by the determination of the Ecuadorean public to rejuvenate the initiative following your government’s recent decision to abandon it."
Watch the full interview with Ricardo Patiño here


FREE Dhondup Wangchen - Amnesty International

Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen is serving a six-year prison sentence in China for "inciting separatism" -- simply because he dared to speak out about Tibetan human rights through his filmmaking. Demand his release now!

Dhondup is not due to be released until December 2014. He has been tortured, subjected to solitary confinement, and at times forced to work up to 18 hours a day. He suffers from various medical issues, including Hepatitis B, for which he is not receiving treatment.


Write for Rights 2013 | Amnesty International Canada

Write for Rights 2013 | Amnesty International Canada

Amnesty International invites you to join us on International Human Rights Day for the world’s largest letter-writing event

Every year on December 10th, activists in more than 80 countries gather on their own or in large and small events to press governments to respond to a human rights concern on selected high-priority cases. We also write letters of hope and solidarity directly to prisoners or people experiencing human rights violations.
(choose cases from link above)


GE Fish / T Canadian Biotechnology Action Network - CBAN

GE Fish / Topics / Resources / Take Action - Canadian Biotechnology Action Network - CBAN

GE salmon eggs

Environment Canada has approved the commercial production of genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon eggs Prince Edward Island (PEI), the decision was announced on November 23 in the Canada Gazette. The U.S. company AquaBounty has asked for approval of the GM Atlantic salmon for human consumption in the U.S., based on a plan to produce the GM fish eggs in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada and ship them to Panama for grow-out and processing.
The company claims the salmon grow to market-size twice as fast as other farmed salmon. The salmon are engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature). If approved, it would be the first GE food animal in the world.
You can email the Minister of the Environment today!


Protect Costa Rica's rainforests: tell Infinito Gold to drop the $1b lawsuit | SumOfUs

Protect Costa Rica's rainforests: tell Infinito Gold to drop the $1b lawsuit | SumOfUs
Infinito Gold, a Canadian mining company, just slapped Costa Rica with a $1 billion lawsuit simply because the country decided its rainforests were more important than an open-pit gold mine.
Lauded as one of the countries with the most beautiful rainforests, it’s no wonder Costa Rica rejected Infinito’s mine. Costa Rica’s rainforest is home to many endangered species such the green macaw. Gold mining also uses toxic chemicals such as cyanide, which often leaks into and pollutes nearby lakes and rivers.


Cases | Amnesty International Canada: Write for Rights, Dec 10

Cases | Amnesty International Canada

Write with hundreds of thousands of human rights supporters

On December 10, let the letter-writing marathon begin! Amnesty supporters in 80 countries around the world will be participating in what has become the world’s biggest letter-writing event. Together our collective action on these priority cases will put massive pressure on governments to respond positively to our plea to improve human rights.
Each year Amnesty selects human rights cases for Write for Rights. Follow the links below to read case details, download printable case sheets for your letter writing, and take action. Letter-writing tips, event resources, slideshows and more are located on the resources page.


Solar for the Philippines - WakaWaka

Solar for the Philippines - WakaWaka US

We personally bought wakawaka solar chargers for gifts and they sent some to syria and haiti.
You can now buy the and send them to the phillippines.  

Our partner the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is on the ground in the Philippines mobilizing a humanitarian response to the typhoon. Delivering clean water and safe sanitation is the IRC's first focus. But access to light and power is also included in the first critically important services to be lost. And the effects can be devastating.
WakaWaka's solar-powered devices provide immediate assistance as well as long-term relief, enabling the survivors to see after dark and to charge their phones to connect with family members elsewhere. In addition, emergency response teams need a source of light and power to even begin dealing with the crisis.
WakaWaka is getting solar-powered lamps and chargers to IRC staff on the ground - as many as we can, as soon as possible. Help them by buying one for yourself today!


Take action for human rights | Amnesty International Canada

Take action for human rights | Amnesty International Canada
Up to October 31, the province is inviting public comments on the plan to renew clearcut logging in the Grassy Narrows territory. Amnesty International takes no position on the details of the plan. However, we strongly support the people of Grassy Narrows who have said this decision cannot be made without their consent. We are encouraging our members and supporters to take this opportunity to express their own support for this fundamental human rights standard.
The draft ten-year plan will not be subject to an environmental impact assessment or any other public process. However, all comments submitted this month will form part of the public record and the province has promised to consider all the comments it receives.

No clear cutting on Grassy Narrows: Take action for human rights | Amnesty International Canada

Take action for human rights | Amnesty International Canada
Up to October 31, the province is inviting public comments on the plan to renew clearcut logging in the Grassy Narrows territory. Amnesty International takes no position on the details of the plan. However, we strongly support the people of Grassy Narrows who have said this decision cannot be made without their consent. We are encouraging our members and supporters to take this opportunity to express their own support for this fundamental human rights standard.
The draft ten-year plan will not be subject to an environmental impact assessment or any other public process. However, all comments submitted this month will form part of the public record and the province has promised to consider all the comments it receives.


Download This Anti-Fracking Protest Poster by Artist Gregg Deal -

Download This Anti-Fracking Protest Poster by Artist Gregg Deal -
great poster, based on the photo, attached.  (go to the link to download the entire poster, longer than the thumbnail)

Yesterday, as we were posting the excellent video project artist Gregg Deal (Pyramid Lake Paiute) has been cooking up, he was taking note of the chaos in Canada near Rexton, New Brunswick. He was inspired to make the poster below, which he offers as a free, open source image for anyone who cares to show solidarity with the protestors. Suitable for Facebook and Twitter posts, profile photos, or even framing -- right-click or ctrl-click (Mac) to download it in high resolution (file is 1728 x 2592 pixels, 1.19 MB):



GRAIN — Hands off our maize! Resistance to GMOs in Mexico

GRAIN — Hands off our maize! Resistance to GMOs in Mexico
In a previous report (“Red alert! GMO avalanche in Mexico”),1 we recounted the circumstances leading up to the imminent threat of the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) organisms (also known as GMOs, genetically modified organisms, or transgenics) into Mexico and several other Latin American countries. The whole continent is seeing a wave of measures, such as seed and intellectual property laws, designed to facilitate multinational control over agriculture. Unfortunately, these efforts are finding an echo in international organizations like the FAO and CIMMYT and in “development” foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
With or without the granting of commercial planting permits, the threat of Mexico’s largest cities being inundated with transgenic maize still looms. We are seeing the proliferation of authoritarian crop intensification systems whose ultimate result is to contaminate native maize varieties in the very centre of origin of this crop – one of the four most important crops in the history of humanity.
Public protest
The approval of permits for the commercial planting of GE maize in the states of Sinaloa and Tamaulipas had seemed imminent, but thankfully this did not come to pass during President Felipe Calderón's final months in office. Yet the threat remains under the new administration of Enrique Peña Nieto. He may try to use his “National Crusade Against Hunger” as a pretext to distribute GE maize, claiming that it is needed to fight hunger.2 He might also invoke the Crusade in support of land grabbing, monoculture, and industrial agriculture with its typical package of agrotoxins, intellectual property rights, and criminalization of native seeds.3
Approval was not granted, the dates for a ruling expired, and the planting season for irrigated maize for northern Mexico, where the permits were requested, is over for the time being.
This success is a significant achievement on the part of Mexican and international organizations. Months of effort, initiative, and coordinated mobilization have gone into this. Information has been disseminated through the newspapers, social networks, meetings, assemblies, workshops, international petition campaigns, strikes, sit-in and fasts, public debates, and radio spots by well-known activists, intellectuals, and artists. Countless opinion pieces, news stories, billboards, and Web video and radio interviews have appeared. The national and international political cost in terms of public opinion continues to rise. On another level, the legal and administrative tangle through which various government bodies are attempting to navigate has made it very difficult for them to act in a coordinated fashion.
But it would be a mistake to assume the threat no longer exists. When planting time (irrigated or seasonal) rolls around again in northern Mexico, we will find out whether the corporations think they have their winning conditions in place. Applications for new permits have already been filed, covering as much as 36 million hectares.4


Important update on our #SaveTheBees campaign | Sierra Club Canada

Important update on our #SaveTheBees campaign | Sierra Club Canada
Since PMRA has invited us to comment on the use of neonicotinoids, let’s let them know what we think! We have made it easy -- just click here, fill in the form and click “send”. For everything you need (scientific studies, media releases, etc.) visit our #SaveTheBees webpage.
Please note: Be sure to include your full mail address in the body of your submission or the PMRA will invalidate your submission.

 On September 19th, Sierra Club Canada and others filed an objection to PMRA’s decision to re-license Clothianidin -- a neonicotinoid pesticide made by Bayer. We’re using a complex legal action in the hope we can force a reversal of the decision.
Here's what happened over the summer. In July, the Ontario Premier convened a “Bee Health Working Group” to give her recommendations for action to protect bees and other pollinating insects. However, within days of the first meeting, beekeepers in Ontario began reporting bee deaths.
In early August, David Schuit of Elmwood Ontario lost several million bees and Ontario beekeeper Jim Coneybeare was forced to truck his hives several hours north to “bear country” just so they could forage away from neonicotinoid pesticides.
You’ll remember that back in the spring, Health Canada’s “Pest Management Regulation Agency” (PMRA) concluded neonicotinoids only present a problem “during spring planting” and went ahead on July 13th to quietly re-license Clothianidin (a neonicotinoid manufactured by Bayer) despite demands from beekeepers and Sierra Club Canada to ban bee-killing pesticides (we even sent the Health and Agriculture Ministers 20 scientific studies linking neonicotinoid pesticides with bee deaths).


Necessary and Proportionate Principles on Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance

Necessary and Proportionate Principles on Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance

International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance
(endorsed by the Ontario Humanist Society)

Final version 10 July 2013
As technologies that facilitate State surveillance of communications advance, States are failing to ensure that laws and regulations related to communications surveillance adhere to international human rights and adequately protect the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. This document attempts to explain how international human rights law applies in the current digital environment, particularly in light of the increase in and changes to communications surveillance technologies and techniques. These principles can provide civil society groups, industry, States and others with a framework to evaluate whether current or proposed surveillance laws and practices are consistent with human rights.
These principles are the outcome of a global consultation with civil society groups, industry and international experts in communications surveillance law, policy and technology.
Privacy is a fundamental human right, and is central to the maintenance of democratic societies. It is essential to human dignity and it reinforces other rights, such as freedom of expression and information, and freedom of association, and is recognised under international human rights law.[1] Activities that restrict the right to privacy, including communications surveillance, can only be justified when they are prescribed by law, they are necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, and are proportionate to the aim pursued.[2]
Before public adoption of the Internet, well-established legal principles and logistical burdens inherent in monitoring communications created limits to State communications surveillance. In recent decades, those logistical barriers to surveillance have decreased and the application of legal principles in new technological contexts has become unclear. The explosion of digital communications content and information about communications, or "communications metadata" -- information about an individual’s communications or use of electronic devices -- the falling cost of storing and mining large sets of data, and the provision of personal content through third party service providers make State surveillance possible at an unprecedented scale.[3] Meanwhile, conceptualisations of existing human rights law have not kept up with the modern and changing communications surveillance capabilities of the State, the ability of the State to combine and organize information gained from different surveillance techniques, or the increased sensitivity of the information available to be accessed.
The frequency with which States are seeking access to both communications content and communications metadata is rising dramatically, without adequate scrutiny.[4] When accessed and analysed, communications metadata may create a profile of an individual's life, including medical conditions, political and religious viewpoints, associations, interactions and interests, disclosing as much detail as, or even greater detail than would be discernible from the content of communications.[5] Despite the vast potential for intrusion into an individual’s life and the chilling effect on political and other associations, legislative and policy instruments often afford communications metadata a lower level of protection and do not place sufficient restrictions on how they can be subsequently used by agencies, including how they are data-mined, shared, and retained.
In order for States to actually meet their international human rights obligations in relation to communications surveillance, they must comply with the principles set out below. These principles apply to surveillance conducted within a State or extraterritorially. The principles also apply regardless of the purpose for the surveillance -- law enforcement, national security or any other regulatory purpose. They also apply both to the State’s obligation to respect and fulfil individuals’ rights, and also to the obligation to protect individuals’ rights from abuse by non-State actors, including corporate entities.[6] The private sector bears equal responsibility for respecting human rights, particularly given the key role it plays in designing, developing and disseminating technologies; enabling and providing communications; and - where required - cooperating with State surveillance activities. Nevertheless, the scope of the present Principles is limited to the obligations of the State.
Changing technology and definitions
"Communications surveillance" in the modern environment encompasses the monitoring, interception, collection, analysis, use, preservation and retention of, interference with, or access to information that includes, reflects, arises from or is about a person’s communications in the past, present or future. "Communications" include activities, interactions and transactions transmitted through electronic mediums, such as content of communications, the identity of the parties to the communications, location-tracking information including IP addresses, the time and duration of communications, and identifiers of communication equipment used in communications.
Traditionally, the invasiveness of communications surveillance has been evaluated on the basis of artificial and formalistic categories. Existing legal frameworks distinguish between "content" or "non-content," "subscriber information" or "metadata," stored data or in transit data, data held in the home or in the possession of a third party service provider.[7] However, these distinctions are no longer appropriate for measuring the degree of the intrusion that communications surveillance makes into individuals’ private lives and associations. While it has long been agreed that communications content deserves significant protection in law because of its capability to reveal sensitive information, it is now clear that other information arising from communications – metadata and other forms of non-content data – may reveal even more about an individual than the content itself, and thus deserves equivalent protection. Today, each of these types of information might, taken alone or analysed collectively, reveal a person’s identity, behaviour, associations, physical or medical conditions, race, color, sexual orientation, national origins, or viewpoints; or enable the mapping of the person’s location, movements or interactions over time,[8] or of all people in a given location, including around a public demonstration or other political event. As a result, all information that includes, reflects, arises from or is about a person’s communications and that is not readily available and easily accessible to the general public, should be considered to be "protected information", and should accordingly be given the highest protection in law.
In evaluating the invasiveness of State communications surveillance, it is necessary to consider both the potential of the surveillance to reveal protected information, as well as the purpose for which the information is sought by the State. Communications surveillance that will likely lead to the revelation of protected information that may place a person at risk of investigation, discrimination or violation of human rights will constitute a serious infringement on an individual’s right to privacy, and will also undermine the enjoyment of other fundamental rights, including the right to free expression, association, and political participation. This is because these rights require people to be able to communicate free from the chilling effect of government surveillance. A determination of both the character and potential uses of the information sought will thus be necessary in each specific case.
When adopting a new communications surveillance technique or expanding the scope of an existing technique, the State should ascertain whether the information likely to be procured falls within the ambit of "protected information" before seeking it, and should submit to the scrutiny of the judiciary or other democratic oversight mechanism. In considering whether information obtained through communications surveillance rises to the level of "protected information", the form as well as the scope and duration of the surveillance are relevant factors. Because pervasive or systematic monitoring has the capacity to reveal private information far in excess of its constituent parts, it can elevate surveillance of non-protected information to a level of invasiveness that demands strong protection.[9]
The determination of whether the State may conduct communications surveillance that interferes with protected information must be consistent with the following principles.
Legality: Any limitation to the right to privacy must be prescribed by law. The State must not adopt or implement a measure that interferes with the right to privacy in the absence of an existing publicly available legislative act, which meets a standard of clarity and precision that is sufficient to ensure that individuals have advance notice of and can foresee its application. Given the rate of technological changes, laws that limit the right to privacy should be subject to periodic review by means of a participatory legislative or regulatory process.
Legitimate Aim: Laws should only permit communications surveillance by specified State authorities to achieve a legitimate aim that corresponds to a predominantly important legal interest that is necessary in a democratic society. Any measure must not be applied in a manner which discriminates on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Necessity: Laws permitting communications surveillance by the State must limit surveillance to that which is strictly and demonstrably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim. Communications surveillance must only be conducted when it is the only means of achieving a legitimate aim, or, when there are multiple means, it is the means least likely to infringe upon human rights. The onus of establishing this justification, in judicial as well as in legislative processes, is on the State.
Adequacy: Any instance of communications surveillance authorised by law must be appropriate to fulfil the specific legitimate aim identified.
Proportionality: Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that interferes with the rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression, threatening the foundations of a democratic society. Decisions about communications surveillance must be made by weighing the benefit sought to be achieved against the harm that would be caused to the individual’s rights and to other competing interests, and should involve a consideration of the sensitivity of the information and the severity of the infringement on the right to privacy.
Specifically, this requires that, if a State seeks access to or use of protected information obtained through communications surveillance in the context of a criminal investigation, it must establish to the competent, independent, and impartial judicial authority that:
  1. there is a high degree of probability that a serious crime has been or will be committed;
  2. evidence of such a crime would be obtained by accessing the protected information sought;
  3. other available less invasive investigative techniques have been exhausted;
  4. information accessed will be confined to that reasonably relevant to the crime alleged and any excess information collected will be promptly destroyed or returned; and
  5. information is accessed only by the specified authority and used for the purpose for which authorisation was given.
If the State seeks access to protected information through communication surveillance for a purpose that will not place a person at risk of criminal prosecution, investigation, discrimination or infringement of human rights, the State must establish to an independent, impartial, and competent authority:
  1. other available less invasive investigative techniques have been considered;
  2. information accessed will be confined to what is reasonably relevant and any excess information collected will be promptly destroyed or returned to the impacted individual; and
  3. information is accessed only by the specified authority and used for the purpose for which was authorisation was given.
Competent Judicial Authority: Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent. The authority must be:
  1. separate from the authorities conducting communications surveillance;
  2. conversant in issues related to and competent to make judicial decisions about the legality of communications surveillance, the technologies used and human rights; and
  3. have adequate resources in exercising the functions assigned to them.
Due process: Due process requires that States respect and guarantee individuals’ human rights by ensuring that lawful procedures that govern any interference with human rights are properly enumerated in law, consistently practiced, and available to the general public. Specifically, in the determination on his or her human rights, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent, competent and impartial tribunal established by law,[10] except in cases of emergency when there is imminent risk of danger to human life. In such instances, retroactive authorisation must be sought within a reasonably practicable time period. Mere risk of flight or destruction of evidence shall never be considered as sufficient to justify retroactive authorisation.
User notification: Individuals should be notified of a decision authorising communications surveillance with enough time and information to enable them to appeal the decision, and should have access to the materials presented in support of the application for authorisation. Delay in notification is only justified in the following circumstances:
  1. Notification would seriously jeopardize the purpose for which the surveillance is authorised, or there is an imminent risk of danger to human life; or
  2. Authorisation to delay notification is granted by the competent judicial authority at the time that authorisation for surveillance is granted; and
  3. The individual affected is notified as soon as the risk is lifted or within a reasonably practicable time period, whichever is sooner, and in any event by the time the communications surveillance has been completed. The obligation to give notice rests with the State, but in the event the State fails to give notice, communications service providers shall be free to notify individuals of the communications surveillance, voluntarily or upon request.
Transparency: States should be transparent about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers. They should publish, at a minimum, aggregate information on the number of requests approved and rejected, a disaggregation of the requests by service provider and by investigation type and purpose. States should provide individuals with sufficient information to enable them to fully comprehend the scope, nature and application of the laws permitting communications surveillance. States should enable service providers to publish the procedures they apply when dealing with State communications surveillance, adhere to those procedures, and publish records of State communications surveillance.
Public oversight: States should establish independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance.[11] Oversight mechanisms should have the authority to access all potentially relevant information about State actions, including, where appropriate, access to secret or classified information; to assess whether the State is making legitimate use of its lawful capabilities; to evaluate whether the State has been transparently and accurately publishing information about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers; and to publish periodic reports and other information relevant to communications surveillance. Independent oversight mechanisms should be established in addition to any oversight already provided through another branch of government.
Integrity of communications and systems: In order to ensure the integrity, security and privacy of communications systems, and in recognition of the fact that compromising security for State purposes almost always compromises security more generally, States should not compel service providers or hardware or software vendors to build surveillance or monitoring capability into their systems, or to collect or retain particular information purely for State surveillance purposes. A priori data retention or collection should never be required of service providers. Individuals have the right to express themselves anonymously; States should therefore refrain from compelling the identification of users as a precondition for service provision.[12]
Safeguards for international cooperation: In response to changes in the flows of information, and in communications technologies and services, States may need to seek assistance from a foreign service provider. Accordingly, the mutual legal assistance treaties (MLATs) and other agreements entered into by States should ensure that, where the laws of more than one state could apply to communications surveillance, the available standard with the higher level of protection for individuals is applied. Where States seek assistance for law enforcement purposes, the principle of dual criminality should be applied. States may not use mutual legal assistance processes and foreign requests for protected information to circumvent domestic legal restrictions on communications surveillance. Mutual legal assistance processes and other agreements should be clearly documented, publicly available, and subject to guarantees of procedural fairness.
Safeguards against illegitimate access: States should enact legislation criminalising illegal communications surveillance by public or private actors. The law should provide sufficient and significant civil and criminal penalties, protections for whistle blowers, and avenues for redress by affected individuals. Laws should stipulate that any information obtained in a manner that is inconsistent with these principles is inadmissible as evidence in any proceeding, as is any evidence derivative of such information. States should also enact laws providing that, after material obtained through communications surveillance has been used for the purpose for which information was given, the material must be destroyed or returned to the individual.


Letters re Tarek Loubani and John Greyson: Amnesty International Canada

Take action to protect Individuals at Risk || Amnesty International Canada
Canadians Tarek Loubani and John Greyson are on hunger strike in protest at their continued detention in Egypt. On 14 September, the Public Prosecution extended their detention for a further 15 days following a brief investigation in Tora Prison.
Doctor Tarek Loubani and Professor John Greyson began their hunger strike, in which they will receive liquids but no food, on 16 September 2013. They continue to be held on charges of “violence”, “inciting violence” and “carrying weapons”, as well as “destroying public property”. They are being held alongside hundreds of Egyptians who were arrested during violence in Cairo on 16 August.
Amnesty International is concerned that, as with the hundreds of others arrested that day, Tarek Loubani and John Greyson have been accused of a broad array of offences without apparent consideration of their individual criminal responsibility.

Write a letter
Please send a letter written in English, Arabic or other language to the following people.
Interim President
Adly Mahmoud Mansour
Office of the President
Al Ittihadia Palace
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2 391 1441

Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Defence
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Ministry of Defence
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2 290 6004
Fax/Phoneline: +202 2 291 6227

Salutation: Dear General

Public Prosecutor
Hesham Mohamed Zaki Barakat
Office of the Public Prosecutor
Supreme Court House, 1 “26 July” Road
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202 2 577 4716
+202 2 575 7165
(switched off after office hours, GMT+2)

Salutation: Dear Counsellor

New York Times Editorial Board: Harper Conservatives Aim To 'Guarantee Public Ignorance'

New York Times Editorial Board: Harper Conservatives Aim To 'Guarantee Public Ignorance'
The New York Times editorial board has accused the Harper government of seeking to "guarantee public ignorance" by muzzling federal scientists.
In a scathing piece published Sunday, the newspaper argues Harper Conservatives have tried to restrict publicly financed scientists from sharing information with the public, particularly research into climate change and "anything to do with Alberta tar sands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline."
The Times suggests Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to ensure the controversial Keystone project proceeds with no red flags from federal scientists.
"This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.
"It is also designed to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information."
The editorial comes just days after hundreds of frustrated scientists rallied on Parliament Hill and in cities across Canada to demand the Harper government stop muzzling scientists and cutting research funding.
The "Stand Up for Science" protests were organized by advocacy group, Evidence for Democracy, which maintains the Harper government is basing decisions on ideology, not evidence.
"The facts do not change just because the Harper government has chosen ignorance over evidence and ideology over honesty," said Jeremy Kerr, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa, to a crowd in the nation's capital.
There have been multiple reports — many of which are documented in HuffPost Canada's "Stifling Science" feature — of the Tory government attempting to restrict what scientists and other civil servants can say to the media.
The Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and the ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch has cited multiple examples of taxpayer-funded science being suppressed or limited to pre-packaged media lines across six different government departments and agencies.
The Conservatives also sparked chatter this spring when Gary Goodyear, then-minister of state for science and technology, ordered the National Research Council to focus more on commercial science and less on fundamental science that may not have obvious business applications.
Council president John McDougall said the shift in focus away from basic research and discovery to a more targeted approach to research and development will make the NRC a more attractive partner for business.
"A new idea or discovery may in fact be interesting, but it doesn't qualify as innovation until it's been developed into something that has commercial or societal value," he said.

In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly, by unanimous vote, adopted Resolution 36/67 establishing the International Day of Peace (IDP) which stated in part, “…to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.” The first Peace Day was celebrated in September 1982 on the opening day of the General Assembly.

International Day of Peace - US/UN

US residents: Today is the International Day of Peace, and we're honoring those who dedicate their lives to peace: United Nations peacekeepers. We still need 1,000 people to sign the thank you card that we'll deliver to peacekeepers serving around the world – help us reach our goal of 30,000 signatures by adding your name! From Haiti to Mali to Afghanistan, more than 113,000 UN peacekeepers are working to bring peace and stability back to regions torn apart by violence. They've left their homes behind to protect civilians and restore democracy in some of the most dangerous places in the world, and unfortunately, some have even lost their lives: 61 peacekeepers have been killed so far this year alone. For their service, sacrifice, and willingness to go where others cannot – or will not – they deserve our thanks. This International Day of Peace, show your appreciation for UN peacekeepers' life-saving work by signing their card – and you can even add a note if you'd like.


Creed - Human Rights Survey

Creed Human Rights Survey
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is updating its 1996 Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of Religious Observances. The aim of this survey is to hear from individuals, religious and other community members, employers and other groups on what creed means, peoples’ experiences of discrimination based on creed, its root causes, as well as challenges and success stories for accommodating creed beliefs and practices.

For more detailed discussion of these and other issues, see Human rights and creed: emerging issues. Your responses to this survey will help us as we revise the policy.

NOTE: By submitting this survey, you are agreeing to our collection and use of your responses. The OHRC is committed to protecting your privacy and personal information. Survey responses will only be reported on in the aggregate to protect and maintain individual anonymity (i.e. no individuals or specific organizations will be identified in OHRC analysis and reporting of survey results). 

| Luis Moreno Ocampo: Between bombing and doing nothing

Between Bombing or Doing Nothing | Luis Moreno Ocampo

an  important analysis:

There is a global agreement regarding the problem: Crimes against humanity are being committed in Syria that could easily destabilize the entire region. There is also consensus that it is urgent to stop the violence. Should the world ignore the crimes the entire Middle East could become a battlefield setting a precedent for the use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists anywhere in the world. However, the global community is divided on the solution to the problem. There may be an efficient and collective solution.

In February 2012 the UN Security Council and the Arab League appointed Kofi Annan to facilitate negotiations. But very soon the hardliners prevailed and eliminating the enemy became the only proposal. Eighteen months and 100,000 deaths later, six million people have been displaced and chemical weapons have been used; the world is now discussing military interventions.

But Russia and China will likely veto a UN Security Resolution authorizing the use of military forces. Even the Arab League, while demanding to the UN Security Council "to take the necessary measures," has fallen short of recommending the use of military forces. The UK Parliament refused to accept British engagement in military operations. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a limited use of force.

In 2010, President Obama stated that "preventing mass atrocities is a responsibility that all nations share." His leadership and U.S. military power could be more efficient if they are supported by an international consensus.
What could be the terms of such an international consensus?

The Arab League is proposing an option that could be the foundation of an agreement: they suggest making those responsible for those crimes accountable before the international community. The Security Council took similar approaches previously and it could do it again. It created international ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and it referred to the permanent International Criminal Court the Darfur and Libya situation. Those in Syria who order the crimes should be prosecuted. The International Criminal Court is ready to provide the independent judiciary required.
It could be effective. Leaders in Syria are ordering massive crimes to retain or to gain power. If they evaluate that they conclusively would end in a prison at The Hague, they will stop.

But to be an effective option for halting the crimes against humanity, the international justice path should be refined and improved. There should be a strategy integrating justice with military efforts and political negotiations, a strategy that was lacking in the past. Justice could be a way to promote behavior change without involving the UN Security Council in 'regime change.' Four conditions are necessary to make the international justice path successful.

First, it will be necessary to find a common position with Russia. Russia has used its veto power at the UN Security Council to oppose opening the door for military interventions and regime change, but Russia is not against justice. On the contrary, Russia, a founder of international justice at Nuremberg, signed the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court and voted in favor to provide jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court in Darfur and Libya situation. Furthermore, on July 2012 Russia presented a draft UN Security Council Resolution "[c]ondemning the widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups" highlighting the importance to prosecute also rebels that committed crimes and "recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable."

Second, it will be necessary to find an agreement with China. The Arab League request can facilitate such agreement. China has always been consistent in taking into consideration the position of the regional organizations. International justice is not part of China's agenda but Beijing will harmonize its position if there is a general agreement. China's valuing of harmony and regional consensus is demonstrated in its decisions to abstain -- instead of vetoing -- the Security Council's referral of Darfur to the International Criminal Court and its vote in favor of a similar referral in the Libya case.

Third, the temporal jurisdiction should be thoroughly discussed by UN Security Council members. They have options. They can request that ICC investigations start from the beginning of the Syria conflict or establish a deadline in the near future that will trigger the jurisdiction of the Court. Such a timeframe could provide an incentive to begin a different style of negotiations to end the conflict.
Should the conflict effectively stop before the deadline, the national leadership could discuss adequate ways to promote justice for the past. It will be a challenge for negotiators to include accountability as a part of the political agreement but it will be the only guarantee that the leadership are not involved in new crimes.

Fourth, in order to have an impact, the referral to the International Criminal Court should include references on how to execute arrest warrants. Without enforcement, the threat of prosecution would be toothless. Security Council members should define the framework and political constraints of such arrest operations. In the case of the former Yugoslavia in 1996-1998, a coalition of countries spent months planning the modalities of arresting individuals during the conflict. This time the military should adjust and plan innovative arrest operations of criminals, in accordance with the limits imposed by the UN Security Council. The simple possibility to execute arrest warrants will change the tone of the negotiations.

"Never again" has been an unfulfilled promise. The Syrian conflict offers the world an opportunity: to find an innovative response to establish global order. Today's leaders could make our children safer. Or not.


Federal Tax System Will Recognize Married Gay Couples Even If Their States Do Not |

Federal Tax System Will Recognize Married Gay Couples Even If Their States Do Not | TPM LiveWire
The U.S. federal tax system will recognize gay couples' marriages even if they live in a state where gay marriage is not legal, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced in a statement Thursday.
This ruling, which creates a uniform policy for the IRS, "assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement.
Prior to the ruling, if a gay couple married in Connecticut, for example, and moved to New Jersey, they would no longer be recognized as married for tax purposes. Now, the state where the wedding took place takes precedence over the state of residence.
“With today’s ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation’s federal tax laws, regardless of what state they call home,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement. “These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”


Isn't a Humanist Military Chaplain an Oxymoron? |

Isn't a Humanist Military Chaplain an Oxymoron? | Tom Carpenter
Must a military chaplain believe in God? We shall soon find out the answer to that question and it will inform us if the Chaplain Corps truly understands what the Constitution and the Supreme Court say about religious liberty.
The Navy recently received an application by a highly qualified chaplain candidate who is endorsed by the Humanist Society. The candidate, Jason Heap, holds Masters Degrees from Brite Divinity School and the University of Oxford and is well on his way to a Ph.D. He wants to be a Navy chaplain, but doesn't believe in God.
That should not be a problem because the precedent was set in 2004 when the Armed Forces Chaplains Board (AFCB) approved a Buddhist chaplain and like Humanists, most Buddhist do not profess a traditional belief in divinity. And, of course, Unitarian Universalists who have had chaplains for almost 20 years, also have some members who do not have a traditional belief in God.
There are religious and Christian organizations that support the free exercise of religious liberty within the military. On July 31, 2013, the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy published its position on this issue saying in part:
We strongly support the recruitment and retention of highly qualified, clinically trained chaplains who are representative of and committed to a chaplaincy reflecting a broad and inclusive range of interfaith, multicultural and diverse life experiences. This inclusive outreach extends to chaplains representing the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities of faith, and to those of minority beliefs, including Humanists and other nontheists. They, too, are valued members of our country's military and must be embraced fully. Our soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and coastguardsmen deserve nothing less!
Professor Rita Nakashima Brock, Director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, makes a strong case that the military should not preclude Humanist Chaplains but welcome them with open arms:
In our military today, more members identify as atheists or agnostics than the combined total of Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus, but these latter groups now have their own chaplains. My friend and colleague Chaplain (Col.) Herman Keizer, Jr. (ret.) spent 34 years as a chaplain, and he advocates unequivocally for expanding the chaplaincy to meet the religious needs of an increasingly diverse military. He had the honor of swearing in the Army's first Muslim chaplain, who stood in a long line of firsts, first Roman Catholic, first Rabbi, first Hindu, etc., all of whom faced resistance. It is time for an atheist first -- over a quarter of a million in military service say they have "no religious preference," a self-identification that is growing in those under age 30.
While the approval of Jason Heap's application should be a virtual "shoo-in," opposition abounds from those who are adamantly against an expanded policy of inclusion. This is appalling, as Heap's endorsement would be a strong recognition and affirmation of thousands of service members for whom military chaplains are duty bound to provide care. Retired Army Reserve Chaplain Ron Crews. who leads an alliance of conservative denominational endorsers, justifies this highly exclusionary practice by citing a legendary maxim for the existence of military chaplains, "To bring God to soldiers, and to bring soldiers to God." While he is certainly welcome to embrace this beloved maxim, as chaplains have done for years, it is hardly grounds for discrimination and exclusion. It would have been far more appropriate for Chaplain Crews and his Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL) to have championed the non-negotiable core values of the United States Army Chaplaincy, "Nurture the Living, Care for the Wounded, and Honor the Fallen."
Crews is not alone in his beliefs and position and is joined by a coalition of other ultra-conservative Christian organizations who are determined to keep the Christian privilege that presently exists in the military.
The world continues to evolve, as does the religious demographics of this country. Those who cling to the past will be relegated to the dustbin of history. The denial of a humanist wedding at the United States Naval Academy Main Chapel in Annapolis, and the continuing silence of the Navy in response to the application of Jason Heap, suggests the Chaplain Corps may not see the danger these actions pose to the future and very existence of the military chaplaincy.

Tibetan Protestors, Destructive Mining, and Government Crackdown

Tibetan Protestors, Destructive Mining, and Government Crackdown
Over a hundred Tibetan protestors were injured during a government crackdown on a peaceful protest against mining in the Yulshul County, Kham region of eastern Tibet earlier this week. Eight Tibetans were detained, with six later being released, and one man committing suicide.
Two other Tibetan protest leaders—Ketsa  Sodor from Atod and Gyaltsen from Dzachen—have now “disappeared,” according to a source of Radio Free Asia. “They were both threatened with detention, and later they disappeared. Both of them were the heads of nomadic villages.”
Concerned that the mining activities have not been approved by the Central Government, as well as their impact in causing environmental problems, including pollution, over 1,000 Tibetans gathered to protest against the mining activities in each of the three sacred Buddhist sites. The local Tibetans protest that the mining workers increase environmental destruction in the county, that they have not followed China’s environmental protection laws and are carried out by the workers in coordination with corrupt state and local officials. Protesters raised their hands and shouted slogans such as “stop the destruction of the environment”.
The massive crackdown followed a tense confrontation between local Tibetan protestors and Chinese mine workers at three sacred Buddhist sites having diamond reserves . Tibetan residents of the area have long regarded the mountains targeted for mining as the homes of protective deities. On Friday, Chinese security forces stormed two of the three mining sites in the mountainous area where demonstrators had been in a standoff with Chinese mine workers since early in the week. Over 500 armed police stormed holy sites in Atod Yultso and Zachen Yultso and fired teargas to disperse the protestors. The protestors were tortured, severely beaten with gun butts, and threatened with being shot if they don’t end their protests.
China’s large-scale exploitation of mineral resources in Tibet has led to sustained socio-economic and environmental problems. Massive influx of Chinese migrant workers into Tibetan areas deprives Tibetans of employment opportunities,” said the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) based in Dharamsala-India after the incident.


Avaaz - Stop the Anti-Women Gag Rule/ Afghanistan

Avaaz - Stop the Anti-Women Gag Rule
Sold into marriage at 12, Sahar Gul lived in a house of horrors. Her in-laws chained her in the basement, beat her with red hot iron pipes, starved her and pulled out all her fingernails when she refused to prostitute herself for them.

Her attackers’ sentence was reduced to a meager one year, and now they’re free again! Worse still, the Lower House of Parliament just passed a bill that would ban aggressors’ family members from testifying in court. This would prevent countless children and women from ever getting justice.

The Upper House has beaten back anti-women legislation before and high-level officials say the Avaaz community could tip the balance and help stop the bill before it goes to a vote. But to do that, we need to act fast. Click to sign this urgent petition now -- when we reach 1 million signers we’ll launch a massive local media campaign targeting key senators until the bill is dumped.


Interior Department says Keystone XL pipeline impact report is inaccurate | The Raw Story

Interior Department says Keystone XL pipeline impact report is inaccurate | The Raw Story
The US Department of the Interior has criticised as “inaccurate” the State Department’s draft conclusions that the impact of the Keystone XL pipeline on wildlife would be temporary, and has warned instead that it could have long-term, adversarial effects.
It is the second major government body to publicly criticise State’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), a much contested document which examines the pipeline’s potential impact on the natural environment, endangered species, communities and the economy. The DEIS, published in March, concluded that the project would only have a temporary and indirect impact on wildlife.
A 12-page letter, dated 29 April by the Interior Department’s Office of Environmental Protection and Compliance and posted on the department’s website on 15 August, warned that some effects of the pipeline on wildlife may be permanent.
In the letter, the Department of the Interior repeatedly takes issue with the conclusions of its fellow agency that any impact on wildlife would be short-lived and occur only during construction. The Keystone pipeline, which will transport oil-sands bitumen from Canada across thousands of miles to Nebraska, requires a presidential permit from the State Department, because it crosses the US border.
The Interior letter lists several potential permanent threats to wildlife, including “loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation, species displacement, barrier effect, etc”, and says that the DEIS’s conclusion that “permanent impacts are not expected” in terms of wildlife is not accurate.
One of 100,000 public comments received on the DEIS “at the same time”, according to the State Department, the letter states:
“Given that the project includes not only constructing a pipeline but also related infrastructure, access roads, and power lines and substations, impacts to wildlife are not just related to project construction. Impacts to wildlife from this infrastructure will occur throughout the life of the project (ie: operation and maintenance phases).”
It also states that while the potential impact to fish and aquatic invertebrates have been included in the DEIS, “there there is no acknowledgement of the potential impacts to wildlife in the event of spills or leaks”.


Wisconsin Democrat who infiltrated ALEC: ‘They don’t want people involved in the political process’ | The Raw Story

Wisconsin Democrat who infiltrated ALEC: ‘They don’t want people involved in the political process’ | The Raw Story

really really scary....


French president promises to keep ban on Monsanto GMO corn despite court ruling | The Raw Story

French president promises to keep ban on Monsanto GMO corn despite court ruling | The Raw Story
French President Francois Hollande said Friday that a ban on growing GM corn sold by US giant Monsanto would remain in place, despite a court ruling reversing the suspension.
“The moratorium will be extended,” he said on a visit to the southwestern department of Dordogne.
France’s Council of State court ruled Thursday that the French moratorium imposed on growing MON810 corn since March 2012 failed to uphold European Union law.
Under EU rules, such a ban “can only be taken by a member state in case of an emergency or if a situation poses a major risk” to people, animals or the environment, it said.
But Hollande said the ban on GM crops was in place “not because we refuse progress, but in the name of progress.”
“We cannot accept that a product — corn — have bad consequences on other produce,” he added, stressing that it would however be necessary to “secure this decision legally, at a national level and especially at a European level.”
MON810 includes an inserted gene that makes the corn plant exude a natural toxin that is poisonous to insect pests. This offers a potential financial gain for farmers, as they do not have to use chemical pesticides.
Green groups say that GM crops are potentially dangerous and should be outlawed as a precaution.
Greenpeace says MON810 encourages the emergence of pesticide-resistant insects, and has questioned whether the toxin affects bees, which are rapidly declining in Europe.


Canadian mining company may be held liable for human rights abuses committed abroad by its foreign subsidiaries |

Canadian mining company may be held liable for human rights abuses committed abroad by its foreign subsidiaries |
On July 22, 2013, Justice Brown of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released her decision on whether or not related lawsuits against three mining companies, Hudbay Minerals Inc. ("Hudbay"), HMI Nickel Inc. ("HMI") and Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel S.A. ("CGN"), would be permitted to proceed (the "Hudbay Actions"). The defendants brought preliminary motions in March of this year to strike each of the claims on the basis that they disclosed no reasonable cause of action. As discussed below, Justice Brown quite rightly dismissed all three of the defendants' motions. This is a groundbreaking decision because it will result in the first time that an action is litigated in Canada on the question of whether a Canadian parent company (i.e. Hudbay) can be held liable for the actions of its subsidiaries abroad (i.e. CGN and HMI) and, moreover, it recognizes that such a finding is in fact possible.
Over the past five years, Canadian mining companies have increasingly been thrust into the spotlight for their conduct overseas, including directing or permitting the following types of activities to occur: forcible evictions of indigenous communities from disputed land, contamination of water supply, assassination/disappearance of anti‑mining activists, and rape of local women by private security forces. In the absence of specific legislation in Canada to hold companies to required standards of conduct and weak appetite to pursue crimes committed by prosecutors in host countries such as Guatemala or the Democratic Republic of Congo, there has been little means for victims of these abuses to seek redress.


Avaaz - An urgent threat to the Great Barrier Reef

Avaaz - An urgent threat to the Great Barrier Reef
It would be hard to make this stuff up. Australia’s legendarily irresponsible mining industry has a new plan: while the planet faces catastrophic climate change, build the world’s largest coal mining complex, and then build a shipping lane to that port straight through the greatest ecological treasure we have - the Great Barrier Reef!

This is a terrible idea with devastating consequences, and the investor group Aurizon that’s backing it know it. They’re getting cold feet, and we might be able to push them over the edge, and kill the project. One of the main potential funders has even donated to climate activism!

If one million of us express our head-shaking disbelief at this crazy project in the next few days, we can help get Aurizon to pull funding and maybe even persuade the Australian PM to step in. This is what Avaaz is for, let’s raise a voice for common sense!


#Summerheat Activists Arrested Protesting State Dept Contractor Who Lied About TransCanada Ties | Common Dreams

#Summerheat Activists Arrested Protesting State Dept Contractor Who Lied About TransCanada Ties | Common Dreams
54 activists from the group were arrested Friday after blockading the elevator and office entrances of the Environmental Resources Management Office in DC.
The direct action comes as part of a series of protests kicking off this week dubbed #SummerHeat in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and its looming consequences for our planet.
Acorrding to, a group of activists blocking ERM’s office door used “lock-boxes," which physically attached the individuals to one another, making it difficult for police to remove the protestors.
Police began arrests Friday afternoon, eventually arresting 54 who were brought out of the building one-by-one while a large group of protesters chanted outside.
As investigative journalist Steven Horn uncovered recently, ERM, the lead consultant contracted by the State Department to assess the environmental impacts of the tar sands pipeline, has deep ties to Canada's tar sands industry.
Horn's recent reporting revealed that ERM had lied on a June 2012 conflict-of interest filing when it checked a box saying it had no current business ties to TransCanada.
"In fact," Horn wrote, "ERM—a member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on tar sands and Keystone XL since 2008—does maintain business ties to TransCanada... This includes an ongoing consulting relationship with South Central LNG, co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips."


Farmers Want More Scrutiny of New Monsanto Crops

Farmers Want More Scrutiny of New Monsanto Crops
For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Indiana News page.

A coalition of farmers is asking federal regulators to further scrutinize Monsanto Co.'s new soybean and cotton offerings, saying they could pose environmental threats to nearby crops.

The Indiana-based Save our Crops Coalition, a group of farmers who grow conventional and organic crops, filed a comment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week, asking the department to expand its review of soybeans and cotton that Monsanto is developing and are currently awaiting federal approval.

The company filed its own comment, late Wednesday, asking the agency to suspend its review altogether, saying the agency doesn't have authority over the issue. The additional review, the company said, "would further delay introduction of important products to the market, ultimately harming farmers and the agricultural economy."

Monsanto has been working to genetically modify soybeans and cotton to make them resistant to dicamba, a decades-old herbicide known for being especially volatile and prone to drift into "non-target" fields.

The company, along with its competitors, is scrambling to develop new herbicide formulations and crops to overcome growing resistance to glyphosate, a herbicide developed by Monsanto and sold as Roundup.

Roundup Ready, or glyphosate-tolerant, crops - which are genetically engineered to withstand applications of Roundup - have become ubiquitous on American farmland, accounting for the vast majority of corn and soy grown in the country. But in recent years, as farmers have increasingly relied on the Roundup Ready system, weeds have evolved to survive glyphosate.

The new soybeans and cotton, designed to survive applications of dicamba, are Monsanto's answer to the problem - and an important addition to its product lineup.    

The Population Institute - petition to restore international family planning

The Population Institute
Late last week the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs approved a funding bill that would be devastating to women around the world.  The bill caps family planning funding at the FY2008 level of $461 million, which is 23 percent below the current level. It would also eliminate funding for the United Nations Population Fund.

The bill would also reinstate the global gag rule which intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship by prohibiting organizations in developing countries from using their own money to provide medically accurate information, referrals or services related to abortion that are legal in their country or engage in public policy debates about abortion.

These cuts would mean that:
  • More than 6.5 million women and couples would lose access to contraceptive services and supplies;
  • There would be 1.8 million more unintended pregnancies, including 882,000 more unplanned births;
  • 882,000 more abortions would take place (of which 630,000 would be unsafe);
  • 5,040 more maternal deaths would occur; and
  • 25,200 more children would lose their mothers.
This renewed attack on women and their reproductive health must be stopped.

Make your voice heard. Tell Congress to halt the assault on international family planning!

U.N. Launches Campaign To Fight Anti-LGBT Violence, Change Attitudes

U.N. Launches Campaign To Fight Anti-LGBT Violence, Change Attitudes
NEW YORK (AP) — Amid a surge of anti-gay violence and repression in several countries, the United Nations’ human rights office on Friday launched its first global outreach campaign to promote tolerance and greater equality for lesbians, gays, transgender people and bisexuals.
Called Free & Equal, it’s an unprecedented effort by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to change public attitudes around the world on issues that have bitterly divided the U.N.’s own member states.
The multi-pronged campaign — announced at a news conference in Cape Town, South Africa — will include videos and public-service announcements distributed through social media, a new website, a series of fact sheets, and engagement by celebrities well-known in different regions of the world.
“Changing attitudes is never easy… It begins with often difficult conversations,” said Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights. “And that is what we want to do with this campaign. Free & Equal will inspire millions of conversations among people around the world and across the ideological spectrum.”
There were multiple reasons for choosing South Africa as the news conference venue. It is Pillay’s home country, and is a leading nation on a continent where discrimination and violence against LGBT people is widespread.
In Cameroon, for example, two men were sentenced to prison this week for gay sex, and a gay rights activist was tortured and killed earlier this month in an attack his friends suspect was related to his activism. South Africa, in contrast, does not criminalize homosexuality and allows same-sex marriage, yet is plagued by extensive anti-gay violence, including frequent rapes of lesbians.
However, the new awareness campaign will extend worldwide, reflecting the challenges faced by gays in many countries.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin recently signed a law that will impose hefty fines for holding gay pride rallies or providing information about the gay community to minors. In Haiti, gay-rights leaders say their community has been targeted by a recent series of threats. In Montenegro, several hundred people on Wednesday attacked the Balkan nation’s first-ever gay pride rally, throwing rocks and bottles at activists while some yelled, “Kill the gays.”
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights promises a world in which everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights — no exceptions, no one left behind,” Pillay said. “Yet it’s still a hollow promise for many millions of LGBT people forced to confront hatred, intolerance, violence and discrimination on a daily basis.”


What happened to history’s refugees? |

What happened to history’s refugees? | News |
People have been forced to leave their countries since the very notion of a country was created. We take a look at some of the largest human movements in history to find out why people left their homes, where they went and what became of them.

this is an astounding article on refugee migration, including statistics, and conflict areas.


After HudBay ruling, Canadian firms on notice over human rights

After HudBay ruling, Canadian firms on notice over human rights - The Globe and Mail
On Monday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Carole Brown ruled that claims for rapes and murder in Guatemala against Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals can proceed to trial in Canada. This precedent-setting decision puts Canadian companies on notice that they will have to be much more vigilant about their actions overseas.
Hudbay, like other corporations before, had argued in court that court that corporate head offices could not be held responsible for harms at their subsidiaries but the judge disagreed, saying that the claims could not be dismissed.
Murray Klippenstein, the Toronto lawyer for the 13 plaintiffs who accuse HudBay of murder and gang-rape stated “There will now be a trial regarding the abuses committed in Guatemala, and this trial will be in a courtroom in Canada a few blocks from HudBay’s headquarters…we would never tolerate these abuses in Canada, and Canadian companies should not be able to take advantage of broken-down or extremely weak legal systems in other countries to get away with them there.”
Judicial decisions often act as markers, sometimes nudging society along to change systems and values in order to ideally reflect a search for justice. Sadly, our global world today still denies justice to many of the most vulnerable, making a mockery of our global system of corporate law.

Voices-Voix: Letter to Prime Minister Harper |

Voices-Voix: Letter to Prime Minister Harper |
We are writing to you on behalf of Voices-Voix, a coalition of more than 200 national and local civil society organizations across the country. We are seriously concerned about recent reports that your office had instructed government officials to compile “friend and enemy stakeholder” lists as part of the process of preparing briefing materials for new members of Cabinet.
24 July 2013

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2
By fax: 613-941-6900

July 24, 2013

Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to you on behalf of Voices-Voix, a coalition of more than 200 national and local civil society organizations across the country. We are seriously concerned about recent reports that your office had instructed government officials to compile “friend and enemy stakeholder” lists as part of the process of preparing briefing materials for new members of Cabinet.
Prime Minister, we are in particular deeply troubled about the use of the term “enemy”; seemingly to describe individuals or organizations with views critical of or in opposition to government policies and initiatives. We call on you, as a matter of urgency, to make it clear that any such lists already compiled will not be used, no further lists will be prepared and that there is no place for such terminology in describing how the government perceives its critics. Instead, it is vital that Canadians hear unequivocally and personally from you, acknowledging that your government accepts and welcomes opposition and disagreement as an essential dimension to developing strong public policy and maintaining a vibrant democracy.

Voices-Voix came together in 2010, reflective of growing concern that the space for civil society dissent and advocacy with respect to a range of critical social and public policy matters in Canada - including women’s equality, the environment and other human rights issues - has become significantly constrained, both directly and indirectly, through a variety of government decisions and actions in recent years.

We have researched and documented numerous instances of individuals and groups suffering serious financial, organizational and professional consequences because they have disagreed with the government. We have also sought to engage with government, parliamentarians and the public with an eye to building deeper understanding of the crucial importance of ensuring that individuals, communities and organizations reflective of diverse and critical views are able to participate in public debates and discourse without fear of repercussion and with government support when necessary.

Given Voices-Voix’ focus on shoring up and bolstering the space for civil society advocacy and dissent in Canada, the news of the “enemy stakeholder” list is obviously of very serious concern. At a time when many organizations and individuals are already nervous about publicly expressing disagreement with the government, additional hesitation that they may be labelled an “enemy” for doing so will inevitably increase that level of trepidation. That in turn has very real implications for fundamental rights protected under international human rights law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. This is of course worrying when it comes to the discussion and debate that is needed regarding the particular environmental, human rights and other issues that may be at stake; it is worrying more widely as well though with respect to the state of democracy in Canada. Plain and simple, in a healthy democracy government does not publicly talk of its critics and detractors as enemies.

Prime Minister, civil society organizations across the country are waiting to see you demonstrate and assert the urgent leadership that is needed in the wake of the revelation of this intention to prepare enemy stakeholder lists; leadership that affirms and appreciates the work we do. As such, we call on you to:  

  1. Make public any “enemy stakeholder” lists that may already have been compiled, confirm that such lists will not be used by the government, and make an unequivocal commitment to prepare no other such lists.
  2. State publicly that the government acknowledges and unequivocally welcomes the essential role of civil society in Canada across a range of activities, including service delivery, research and advocacy.
  3. Proactively seek regular opportunities to clearly state that the government does not see civil society groups that may be critical of government policies or initiatives as enemies, but rather as important partners in developing and delivering sound public policy and programs.
  4. Convene a multi-sector government/civil society roundtable process tasked with identifying measures that would strengthen the independence and better support the work of civil society groups in Canada.
The news that some members of government view civil society critics as enemies has become a source of considerable worry and consternation. It can now serve as an opportunity for the government to renew that relationship, so as to bolster the many essential contributions that civil society groups make to both developing better understanding and addressing pressing social needs locally and nationally right across the country.

Representatives of the Voices-Voix Coalition would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and/or other government representatives to discuss our concerns and recommendations further.  A meeting can be arranged by contacting the Voices-Voix Coordinator Aurore Fauret by email at or by phone at 514 770 4950.


USDA Fast-Tracks 'Rubber-Stamp' Approval of 'Dangerous' GE Seeds |

USDA Fast-Tracks 'Rubber-Stamp' Approval of 'Dangerous' GE Seeds | Common Dreams
The USDA 'rubber-stamped' the first of many 'dangerous' new genetically engineered (GE) seeds Friday under the department's new streamlined approval process.
The fast-track process allows the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to "make a determination of nonregulated status for crops with GE traits that have already been approved in another crop" without a new review, allowing for a more "timely and predictable review process," according to Mike Firko, APHIS Acting Deputy Administrator for biotechnology regulatory services.
"As expected, the fast-track approval process has made it all that much easier for the USDA to rubber-stamp a host of new GE crops," Katherine Paul, Associate Director of the Organic Consumers Association, told Common Dreams.
The first products to come down the speedy new pipeline are a host of canola seeds resistant to the "dangerous" herbicide glyphosate, which a recent study linked to a litany of health disorders and diseases including Parkinson’s, cancer and autism.
Already approved is a glyphosate-resistant canola from Pioneer, with other pending petitions for deregulation including Monsanto's glyphosate-resistant canola and hybridization system corn, as well as Genective's glyphosate-resistant corn.
"For years, scientists have warned about the hazards of glyphosate," continued Paul, who noted that the FDA recently raised the allowable limit of glyphosate residue on fruits and vegetables.
"But with the stranglehold that agribusiness has on the FDA [...] and the USDA, consumers are being exposed to greater and greater amounts of glyphosate on food, and in our groundwater."
"It's clear that these federal agencies are working on behalf of corporate agribusiness, not US taxpayers and consumers," she added.