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.


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.


This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is Gas Land | Common Dreams

This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is Gas Land | Common Dreams
The Obama Administration has proposed new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on 756 million acres of public and tribal lands. The rules were written by the drilling industry and will be streamlined into effect by a new intergovernmental task force, established by the president, to promote fracking — a practice that has been linked to water poisoning, air pollution, methane emissions and, most recently, earthquakes. Environmentalists, many of whom are highly skeptical that fracking can even be regulated, hope to use a brief window for citizen participation in the rule approval process to leverage the growing anti-fracking movement.
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — the government agency that manages the public lands in question — follows a dual and often conflicting mandate. Although it is charged with conserving lands for recreation and biological diversity, it must also ensure the commercial development of natural resources. The bureau tends to focus heavily on the latter part of its mission, and it has auctioned off public land for resource extraction, including oil and gas development, while following drilling regulations that were last updated in 1988, before fracking became a common practice.
“Under the old regulations, an operator would have to disclose non-routine techniques,” said BLM spokesperson Beverly Winston. “Now, hydraulic fracturing is routine, so nobody discloses it. It’s my understanding that probably 90 percent of wells on public lands use hydraulic fracturing.”
The newly proposed regulations will provide superficial environmental safeguards against industry excesses while shielding drillers and the government from the legal challenges that have begun cropping up. In April, for instance, a California judge ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity that the BLM had failed to take a “hard look” at the impact of fracking on federal land in the state and halted the issuance of fracking leases for the Monterey shale region until an assessment of its environmental impact is completed. The proposed laws, however, will give the BLM legal cover to keep the frack leases flowing.
Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who helped draft the laws, resigned from his post in January to take a job with WilmerHale. The corporate law firm’s website boasts “our lawyers strive to reduce liability and transform environmental compliance obligations into opportunities.”
Those wondering what opportunity looks like to drillers in regions originally set aside for conservation need only visit the Allegheny National Forest in Western Pennsylvania, a state that has opened its arms to drillers in recent years. Nearly 4,000 oil and gas wells were drilled in the Allegheny between 2005 and 2011.
“Where there were once remote areas of the forest there is now oil and gas infrastructure,” said Ryan Talbott of the Allegheny Defense Project. “If you are a recreationist going to go out and go hiking, camping, fishing, what might have been your favorite area before is now a sea of roads and pipelines and well sites.”


UN Women's new chief - In the news: Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka |

Meet UN Women's new chief - In the news: Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka | Devex
South African politician Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka will replace Chilean presidential candidate Michele Bachelet as head of U.N. Women, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon announced on Wednesday.

Mlambo-Nguka, former deputy president under Thabo Mbeki (2005-2008), is a known advocate for womens rights and pushed for the government’s anti-AIDS policies to expand treatment, testing and prevention programs at a time when South Africa was still struggling to admit it had a problem with the disease.

The 57-year-old “has proven to be a groundbreaker and a formidable champion for women and girls,” United Nations Foundation president and CEO Kathy Calvin said in a statement.

Mlambo-Ngcuka will replace former Chilean president Michel Bachelet, who resigned in March to seek the same office for the second time in her home country.

The appointment comes as a relief to U.N. gender rights entity, whose deputy executive director John Hendra told Devex in April that a replacement for Bachelet would be picked within three months. Hendra added that U.N. Women continues to grapple with underfunding within the world body’s system relative to other agencies.

Pope Overhauls Vatican Laws To Criminalize Leaks, Sex Abuse

Pope Overhauls Vatican Laws To Criminalize Leaks, Sex Abuse
Pope Francis overhauled the laws that govern the Vatican City State on Thursday, criminalizing leaks of Vatican information and specifically listing sexual violence, prostitution and possession of child pornography as crimes against children that can be punished by up to 12 years in prison.
The legislation covers clergy and lay people who live and work in Vatican City and is different from the canon law which covers the universal Catholic Church.
The bulk of the Vatican’s penal code is based on the 1889 Italian code. Many of the new provisions were necessary to bring the city state’s legal system up to date after the Holy See signed international treaties, such as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Others were necessary to comply with international norms to fight money-laundering, part of the Vatican’s push toward financial transparency.
One new crime stands out, though, as an obvious response to the leaks of papal documents last year that represented one of the gravest Vatican security breaches in recent times.
Paolo Gabriele, the butler for then-Pope Benedict XVI, was tried and convicted by a Vatican court of stealing Benedict’s personal papers and giving them to an Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi.
Using the documents, Nuzzi published a blockbuster book on the petty turf wars, bureaucratic dysfunction and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons that afflict the highest levels of Catholic Church governance.
Gabriele, who said he wanted to expose the “evil and corruption” that plagued the Holy See, was convicted of aggravated theft and sentenced to 18 months in the Vatican’s police barracks. Benedict eventually pardoned him and he is now a free man.
But his crime devastated the Vatican, shattering the confidentiality that typically governs correspondence with the pope.
In an indication of how serious the Vatican considers such confidentiality, the penalties for violations of the new law are stiff: Anyone who reveals or receives confidential information or documentation risks six months to two years in prison and a €2,000 euro ($2,500) fine; the penalty goes up to eight years in prison if the material concerns the “fundamental interests” of the Holy See or its diplomatic relations with other countries.
Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, the president of the Vatican tribunal who presided over Gabriele’s trial, acknowledged Thursday that the Gabriele case could be seen as having an influence on the new crime, though he said the crime itself was “irrelevant” to the overall reform.
But the crime of leaking Vatican information never existed before in the Vatican legal system. Sexual crimes did exist, albeit in a general form in the archaic code as a crime against “good customs.”
The new law gives a broader definition of the crimes against children, including the sale of children, child prostitution, recruiting children, sexual violence, sexual acts with children and the production and possession of child pornography.
In the old code, such general crimes would have carried a maximum penalty of three to 10 years, the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. Under the revision, the punishments go from five to 10 years, with aggravating circumstances bringing the maximum up to 12 years, he said.
It considers a minor anyone under age 18, and allows Vatican prosecutors to pursue the case on their own even if the victim or his or her guardians choose not to make a criminal complaint.
Dalla Torre stressed that just because such acts are illegal now doesn’t mean they were legal before. It merely means that, 100 years ago, child pornography was not specified as a crime in either the Italian legal code or the Vatican’s.


Take action to protect Individuals at Risk || Amnesty International Canada

Take action to protect Individuals at Risk || Amnesty International Canada

Eskinder Nega is an Ethiopian journalist and human rights activist.
Eskinder has been subjected to outrageous injustices. He was sentenced to 18 years in jail for writing articles calling for freedom of expression and an end to torture in Ethiopia.
Sadly, this is not the first time that Eskinder has been jailed for his activism. Eskinder and his wife, Serkalem, a newspaper publisher, were previously jailed for speaking out against the government in 2005 and released in 2007 after continued campaigning by Amnesty International.
His previous arrest came after the Ethiopian government ordered a violent crackdown on post-election protests in 2005. Security forces reportedly killed nearly two hundred people. Eskinder and Serkalem wrote and published articles criticizing the government's actions. For this, they were both arrested and put in prison.Their son, Nafkot, was born in that prison.
For Eskinder, this was one more brutal act of oppression in a life spent being hounded by his government for defending human rights. Few families have sacrificed more for their people.
In recent years, the Ethiopian government has clamped down alarmingly on its citizens for speaking out. According to Serkalem, “freedom of expression and press freedoms are at their lowest point.” Now the regime has enacted a “terrorism” law that they use to silence anybody critical of them.
They used these laws to threaten Eskinder. To ban him from writing. To force Serkalem to stop publishing. To terrorize their family and threaten Eskinder with the death penalty.
And now – to arrest Eskinder alongside many other prominent journalists.
Amnesty International believes Eskinder Nega is a prisoner of conscience detailed solely for his peaceful and legitimate activities as a journalist. Join our call for his immediate release.