September 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to the September 27, 2015 edition of this Peace/Justice action email!

This brief newsletter revisits the world of human slavery and slavery-like conditions, focused on those trying to uncover this repugnant largely hidden world.  The first action is URGENT, given that the court case is in mid-October.  The second action involves the head of Mauritania’s most prominent anti-slavery group, who has been detained for almost a year.  In addition there is a thank-you to those opposing the Shell Arctic drilling – they have ceased explorations for now.  The next newsletter will hopefully have some basic guidelines regarding the Syrian refugee crisis.

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Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.
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URGENT: DROP CHARGES AGAINST THAI INDUSTRY RESEARCHER

Human rights activist Andy Hall will soon find out if he faces time in prison for reporting on labour rights abuses in the Thai pineapple industry. In 2013 a report entitled Cheap Has a High Price was published by the NGO Finnwatch, which included some of his research.  It contained allegations of worker abuse and slavery-like practices in the Natural Fruit factory, a Thai company that processes pineapples and supplies retailers around the world.

Instead of looking into the allegations, Natural Fruit targeted Andy. He was hauled into court on charges of computer crime and criminal defamation.  Despite an international outcry, Natural Fruit have not backed down.  Thus WalkFree is calling on the Thai government to ensure that all charges against Andy Hall are dropped.

The Thai authorities are already facing global scrutiny for not doing enough to protect workers from abuse — the latest US Trafficking in Persons report gives Thailand the lowest score for action to tackle trafficking.

Take Action:
http://www.walkfree.org/drop-the-charges-against-andy-hall-now/

Background:
Charged in Thailand [The Guardian]
Joint Letter to Thailand Prime Minister [Human Righs Watch]

 

 

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FREE MAURITANIA’S ANTI-SLAVERY ACTIVISTS

Biram Dah Abeid is a leading anti-slavery activist in Mauritania, the country with the highest prevalence of slavery in the world1. The organization he founded, the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, has fought for the freedom of countless men, women and children.

Mauritania fully outlawed slavery in 2007 but has systematically failed to end it in practice. It has fallen to activists like Biram to fight for people’s’ freedom and they face regular harassment and harsh treatment in their campaigning.

Take Action:
http://www.walkfree.org/mauritania/

Background:
Mauritanian Sentenced to Prison [Slate]

 

 

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Shell Stops Its Arctic Drilling

Thanks to all who took action this spring calling on Shell to not drill in the Arctic.  Shell just announced that it will cease exploratory drilling “for the foreseeable future” due to surprisingly marginal discoveries and indirectly to what they saw as the surprising public pressure.
Shell Abandons Alaska  Arctic Drilling [Guardian]

 

 

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Detecting (and Eventually Preventing) Mass Killings and Genocide

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has unveiled an online tool to forecast which countries have the highest risk of state-led mass killings.  The aim of the project is to help prevent civilian mass atrocities by providing earlier and more accurate warning.  Much has been learned from past genocides in Darfur, Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Holocaust in terms of the clear early warning signs that precede mass violence.

The tool takes into consideration factors including political instability and potential threats to a regime’s hold on power that might lead to a response in the form of a mass killing. Live expert feedback is also part of the project, which defines mass killings as killings of more than 1,000 civilians.

Topping the list of countries currently at risk are: Myanmar, followed by Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.
New Tool To Assess Risk of Mass Killings [Al Jazeera]

August 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to the August 31, 2015 edition of this Peace/Justice action email!

Every year or two this newsletter devotes an issue to evaluating the direction and intent of the newsletter. The end of summer (North America) seems a suitable time. So in this issue we will explore any insights gained from both our content in general as well as our longitudinal focus on Darfur.  In addition there are a few items at the end that have accumulated since the last newsletter.
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GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

This newsletter began over 15 year ago, during the start of online petitions.  Its original loosely-defined intent was two-fold and the observations will be clustered accordingly:

#1: To allow people who were already immersed in life’s concerns, the opportunity to respond to the larger issues that swirled around them; within that if people were too busy to respond, to keep them informed of a few major issues not being covered by mainstream media.

  1. The format worked fairly well for busy people: It was eventually honed into a brief description followed by the action link (which could be done quickly) and including links for further background.
  2. The newsletters helped people stay informed when they were too busy to take action, and tried to highlight at least a few areas not typically seen on front pages of mainstream media.
  3. Actions have always been filtered to ensure integrity of the action and congruence within best development (and occasionally aid) principles. But starting with the economic collapse of 2008, the number of organizations dropped significantly and has never fully recovered. This has had a slight impact on the range of actions, which was and remains part of the exploratory nature of the newsletter.

#2: To explore the impact of this new form of advocacy and track its changes over time.

  1. There have been significant shifts over the past 15 years. Web technology has allowed organizations like Avaaz to create petitions with over 4 million signatures.  But the only metric that counts is “impact” – is the cause advanced by the action?  And the response remains the same as last time – “It depends.”  In brief it typically requires the self-interest of both the target group and possible pressure groups to align.
  2. Over the past few years the term “slacktivism” has gained coinage. Its most basic meaning is simply activism via a few clicks on web petitions or other social media sources.  It can also be more pejorative, explored below.
  3. Long before the term “slacktivism” gained coinage this newsletter tried to indicate on occasion that this form of advocacy was a modest targeted part of a much larger dynamic that was needed for success. Informally, the newsletter tried to distinguish the three basic  types of intended effects / targets:
    1. The action itself in sufficient numbers might bring about the change;
    2. The action would not bring about direct change but would help build the constituency that could help push the issue to success by others more directly involved;
    3. No action would likely bring about change, but it would be terribly amiss to have the world remain silent about the issue;

Anyone who viewed these actions as more substantial than that would have misinterpreted this project.

  1. The notion of slacktivism raises another observation. Any genuine contribution should be welcomed.  If there is a valid evaluation, it is measured against the adage of keeping “your eyes on the prize.”  That is, it needs to be: (a) an action that can somehow be connected to nudging the goal forward; and (b) the focus of the person doing the action must be on the goal and not on what it does for him/herself.  The latter definitely fails the whole concept (and is part of the pejorative sense of slacktivism).  “Eyes on the prize” also means an egoless effort – no one cares who has done what.  Of course people should care for each other, but in the context of assuring each remains well-anchored as each keeps their eyes on the prize.
  2. Even successful campaigns are generally contingent. Apart from some ideal prototypical success where a complete holistic transformation has taken place, most achievements leave various degrees of residual antagonists who will continue to look for chances to regain momentum.  The point is that while achievements can be celebrated one can never assume it will last –a watchful eye must be kept. For example, some year ago an action nudged Japan off its humpback whale hunts, but it recently has threatened to resume it.
  3. Crowdfunding: The final topic is also a new phenomenon whereby someone hears of a dire heart-wrenching story, for example, parents who need expensive medical care for special conditions in their child, but cannot pay for its enormous cost. And thus the news goes out to donate to help the family story.

    On the one hand they are irresistible stories, one can have a real impact and there is an immediacy in seeing the results.  On the other hand it highlights the gaps in our social safety net, etc.  If nothing is done about the systemic nature then again it easily slips into a “favoritism of the privileged loudest/visible voices” and “feel-do-goodism.”

    I think the best resolution is firstly to acknowledge this downside and then to commit to an overwhelming ratio of giving to root causes.  That is, for every dollar given to such crowdfunding, commit ten dollars to organizations that efficiently are attempting to deal with the underlying systemic imbalance.  There are many ethical base points at play here so feel free to explore them on the blog (link at top).  This includes the parallels to activism in general.

 

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OBSERVATIONS FROM OUR LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF DARFUR

  1. When the media spotlight moves elsewhere and political avenues fail to resolve the situation, the death, displacement, rape, malnutrition, and lost futures in Darfur continue (now for 12 years). It becomes monotonous news, but it remains a devastating reality
  2. When the spotlight moves elsewhere, it can result in a sharp climb in violence. We saw that with the creation of the ruthless Rapid Support Forces (2014).  This has also been true in newly created South Sudan where many displacement camps have grown enormously and are on the verge of starvation.
  3. Advocacy helped keep tens or hundreds of thousands of people alive. But advocacy can’t bring about lasting peace when a government is intent on its destructive ways and the international community will not provide the government sufficient pressure to change its calculus. Primary bridling includes:
    1. Sudan’s almost totalitarian control (control/suppression of media; almost omnipresence of ruthless security services);
    2. Outside funding for Sudan (Qatar; Russia & Chine arms, etc.);
    3. Veto power of UN Security Council (China, Russia);
    4. Conflicted US policy (State Dept wanting to resolve issue; security agencies wanting terrorist info.; the latter continues to win);

      There are times, with all sides seemingly entrenched, when advocacy, while always looking for openings, can do little.  But it can at least let the people of Darfur know that they are not forgotten.

  4. A basic rule-of-thumb for despots: Slow down the rate of death and displacement and you can keep the atrocities under the news radar.
  5. Advocacy was most helpful in the early years, but it was slow to adjust its narrative to the changing dynamics, though that has been somewhat corrected. However in 2007 it made a blunder by knowingly over-inflating the number of deaths.  Its credibility has never fully repaired.
  6. When a conflict is not quickly resolved, it starts to compete for media attention and international resources. It is easy to start comparing tragedies in terms of priority.  That is always a mistake as a first principle – any death torture or displacement is equally abhorrent.  Of course given limited resource, priorities must be made but the point is that to start improperly is never to visit and reinforce the perspectives that might get us beyond such dynamics (by ensuring there are adequate resources for conflicts; developing better overall global strategies that reduce conflicts, etc.).
  7. UN (and African Union) hybrid Peacekeepers: it is better to have them than not.  Their firewood patrols – where they would accompany women gathering wood – have kept some people from being raped..  But in terms of being able to keep conflicting groups apart, it was an utter failure.  Here are three basic reasons:
    1. The Sudanese government did not {willingly} invite them in; it was more of a begrudging coercion. Thus they continually threatened to kick out the peacekeepers if they became too active (and did kick out some NGOs) and hampered all efforts by the peacekeepers.  This is far the main reason.
    2. In ongoing conflict and civil war-like scenarios, it is hard to distinguish all the relationships and sides as they eventually splinter; as well as groups that use the unrest to create an advantage over previously existing tensions, and those groups created solely to obtain power to loot, etc.
    3. Internally: While not diminishing those who have a commitment to a deeper sense of peacekeeping and have put themselves at risk for it, the effectiveness of the UN peacekeeping was undercut by:
      1. The makeup of the forces was often not up to standard. As one of my contacts notes, for some African recruits it was basically a pay cheque, much more money than any other option but not something they would risk their life for,
      2. Sometimes their actions were questionable and even reprehensible because for some peacekeepers, all they had known was a violent world;
      3. The supporting UN agencies did not provide sufficient support, for example, the long-term plea for a measly 18 helicopters;

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Status of Hunt for LRA and Joseph Kony

In 2011 there began a more concerted effort to capture Kony, with some US Special Forces joining the African Union Special Task Force.  Since then the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has lost several key commanders, and over 260 people have defected.  The LRA is scattered in three countries.  The strategy has reduced the LRA attacks to mainly survival rather than growth.  But it also means attacks still occur and there remains controversy about whether this approach or a rapprochement style would finally bring things to an end.
http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=101667

 

Court Rules Against Gay ‘Conversion Therapy”

In what is considered to be a landmark civil-rights ruling, a New Jersey court ruled against the notion of “gay conversion therapy” – the notion that gay people can be “cured” and made straight through some form of treatment.  This newsletter already noted [Special issue on mental health] the serious harm that can be done and the harsh criticism of it from the American Psychiatric Association.
Landmark Ruling Against Conversion Therapy [Guardian]

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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‘Sea Slaves’: The Human Misery That Feeds Pets and Livestock

The vast oceans hide many terrible deeds.  This newsletter has highlighted some of the environmental destruction as well as overt human trafficking.  But this article highlights another dimension: abuses suffered by the crews, as well as a whole industry hidden behind simple pet food.
Thailand ‘Sea Slaves’ [Four-part series; NYT: requires registration]

 

Mapping the World’s Current Wars

The conflict in places like Syria and Iraq dominate the news recently.  Their effect is global – from humanitarian crises, to migrant flows to money spent, etc.  But there are other conflicts that don’t make the headlines.  Our long-term focus on Darfur has made it clear that the world (at least the western media) can only highlight a couple of tragedies at a time.  The rest are seldom even given passing mention.
http://newirin.irinnews.org/map-world-conflicts-dataviz-interactive/

June 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to the June 20, 2015 edition of this Peace/Justice action email!

Please note the urgent June 24 deadline to take action below! The action is to request the UN Security Council not to withdraw or reduce its peacekeeping troops form Darfur – they are the only remaining very thin line of protection for civilians, who are still caught in unspeakable swirls of violence!

Due to this urgent action, this June newsletter will have a second part, done later.

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KEEP UN PEACEKEEPING IN DARFUR

On June 24 the UN Security Council will be meeting to decide whether to reduce or even possibly withdraw UNAMID, the UN peacekeeping troops in Darfur.  Sudan has been pressing for an “exit” plan.  Earlier there had been serious talk at the UN about reducing their presence in Darfur.

This needs to be seen against the backdrop of this past 18 months, where Sudan began very concerted efforts to defeat the rebel forces. The techniques remain the same – using indiscriminate bombing runs and militia attacks in rebel areas, resulting in large civilian displacement and causalities.  In addition tribal rivalry and a lawless element have added to the unrest.  This newsletter has tracked all of this (see: Current Status  [UntilAll]). The UN Refugee Agency estimates that well over 2 million people are currently displaced [http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e483b76.html].

It would be unconscionable to pull UNAMID out.  While this newsletter has been clear that UNAMID has been largely impotent, the solution lies in addressing the core issues which one of the following resolutions attempts to list.  In addition, as ineffective as UNAMID has been, it remains the last line of recourse for the civilians, whose lives remain caught in various repugnant layers of violence.

Thus please consider signing both petitions below:

Petition To UN Security Council:
Renew UNAMID’s Mandate

Petition to President Obama:
Keep UN Peacekeepers in Darfur

 

 

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WORLD REFUGEE DAY

June 20 is World Refugee Day.  There are almost 60 million who have fled their homes, resulting in over 20 million refugees.  This past year has seen a higher rate largely due to the conflict in Syria.

Our longitudinal study of Darfur gives us a sense of the reasons, the world politics that maintains that status quo, the despair as one month becomes one year becomes a decade, and so on.  But our study of Darfur should also keep us open to the ongoing struggles around the world.  For some of those stories see:
http://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/

March 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to the March 31, 2015 edition of this Peace/Justice action email!

Due to other pressing projects, this again will be a minimal newsletter edition.  There are three actions.  The first involves a US notion of feasible, reduced support for nuclear weapons. The second action pertains to Michigan and discrimination, while the third action involves the potential for Arctic drilling.

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US: SUPPORT ‘SANE’ SPENDING ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS

The amount of money spent on nuclear weapons is always a contentious issue.  For U.S. citizens, the following petition will allow you to consider whether the current priorities form a good balance.

Citizens for Global Solutions support the “Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act” [H.R.1534; S.831], suggesting that the current nuclear spending and priorities do not align with today’s security needs.  They believe that cuts in nuclear programs will not jeopardize security but rather will increase security if it is accompanied by a more relevant focus on contemporary threats.  Read more details in the link below.

US-only: Tell Your Representatives to Co-Sponsor the SANE Act:
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5550/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=19838

 

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US AND “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM LEGISLATION”

The state of Indiana is getting so much negative reaction regarding discrimination after its “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was recently passed that it may be self-correcting, a topic for another day.  However, right now in Michigan, there are no laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and Michigan may try to implement a similar version of the Indiana law which could, worst case, entrench such discrimination.

As a specific example, a pediatrician in Michigan discriminated against a six-day-old baby because the baby’s parents are lesbian.  The couple came to the doctor’s office, but the doctor had “prayed on it,” and decided she could not care for their baby.

The following petition can be used to send a signal to Michigan lawmakers about how such a law would be perceived.  It might have been useful for the Indiana lawmakers to have fully understood the outside-state consequences (which include the freedom of people and companies to move or avoid an area) before the voted.  Democracy works best from a well-informed standpoint.

Take Action (open to all):
Tell Michigan Legislators Not To Discriminate

Background:
Indiana’s Law Puts Obstacles to Equality [The Atlantic]

 

 

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DARFUR: EMPTY ELECTIONS, EMPTY VILLAGES (OR WORSE)

Sudan will go to the polls in mid-April.  It is a foregone conclusion that President Bashir will be re-elected.  This means that the horrid conditions in Darfur, as well as the deplorable state of South Kordofan and the Nuba mountains will remain.

Up to six million people are at humanitarian risk in Darfur.  As mentioned last month the levels of death and displacement approach the most gruesome levels of the 2003-2006 outbreak of violence.  Villages remain empty or even worse, are being filled by outside Arabs.  One contact recently returned from Darfur has indicated that some of these outsiders have extremist tendencies.

There is no action at the moment for Darfur.  However a new set of strategies, relying partly on Sudan’s feverish mining of gold, is being developed, as noted in the link below.

Background:
Latest Potential Pressure Points for Sudan

 

 

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SHELL MOVING OIL RIG TO ARCTIC

Greenpeace is following the movement of a Shell oil rig as it makes it way to the Arctic.  This newsletter has previously explored the potential negative impacts of drilling for oil in the Arctic and has advocated for making the Arctic a sanctuary.  The following link can be used join the movement to save the Arctic and/or to track the progress of the oil rig and Greenpeace ship.

Take Action / See Progress
https://www.savethearctic.org/en/live/info-box/

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Canada Ratifies the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Good news: Canada became the 91st State Party (and 19th NATO member) to the Convention on Cluster Munitions on March 16, 2015.  Its stockpiles were completely destroyed as of June 2014.
http://stopclustermunitions.org/en-gb/media/news/2015/canada-is-the-newest-state-party.aspx

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Do you need a new cell phone?

There are continual voices that lure us to buy the ‘next’, the biggest or the best. Green America has produced a simple one-page flowchart to remind us that buying a new phone is not simply a financial decision.  It has environmental implications from e-waste to the cost of producing yet more rare and precious minerals and other components.  Our newsletter has already highlighted that some of those costs also sometimes include the fueling of conflict and the maintenance of sweatshop labour.

http://www.greenamerica.org/PDF/2014gam98apr-may-fix-it-flow.pdf

January 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to the January 30, 2015 edition of this Peace/Justice action email!

Due to other pressing projects, this will be a minimal newsletter edition.  There is a single action – a follow-up action on Darfur.  If you want to take other actions, I have included links to some of Amnesty International’s websites.  In them you will find actions from LGBT issues, to issues of torture, denial of freedom, and so on.

Plus there is a huge “Thank you!” for the amazing response to the global Write-for-Rights campaign.

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DARFUR: 2015 STARTS WITH ATROCITIES

Sudan’s President Bashir has recently initiated yet another deadly campaign against the people of Darfur.  Since the start of January, bombings and assault have displaced over 30,000 people with an unknown death toll (400,000 displaced in 2014).  With description of “cleansing” entire areas such as parts of East Jebel Mara, this has repulsive echoes of the early days of the Darfur crisis (for fuller overall details of conditions of Darfur and Sudan see: Current Status  [UntilAll]).

In addition, the U.N. is planning to further cut-back its forces, largely due to pressure from Sudan, even as violence has drastically increased.

A petition has been created to press the U.N. into more robust action.  Tell the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to the new wave of bombings.

Take Action:
Tell UN Security Council to Protect People of Darfur

 

 

 

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TAKE MORE HUMAN RIGHTS ACTION

While I have a list of other possible actions to take, I have not had time adequately to investigate them.  Thus if you want to take other human rights actions, please go to any of the Amnesty International websites.

Take Action:
Australia: http://www.amnesty.org.au
Canada: www.amnesty.ca
U.K.: http://www.amnesty.org.uk
U.S.: http://write.amnestyusa.org
International site: www.amnesty.org

 

 

 

 

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Amnesty Write-For-Rights Campaign Success

A big “Thank you” goes out to all who participated in Amnesty International’s annual international Write-For-Rights letter writing campaign in December!  Over 3 million actions have been tallied so far – simply amazing!

 

UN Arms Trade Treaty Takes Effect

On December 24, 2014, the UN Arms Trade Treaty took effect, regulating the international trade in arms trade.  This newsletter has advocated for this treaty, although its effect is tied to broad support, especially from the large arms exporters.  Thus far, sixty-one nations have ratified it and thus are bound by it.   Of the large arms exporters:

  1. Britain, France and Germany have signed and ratified it;
  2. Russia, China and Pakistan have not even signed it;
  3. The world’s largest exporter, the U.S., has signed it but is unlikely to ratify the treaty since it requires approval by its Senate, and the concerns of the National Rifle Association (NRA) hold sway.

In the January 2013 newsletter the concerns of the NRA were explored as honestly as possible, although in the April newsletter the overall logic regarding the treaty concerns was deemed to be “incredulous” (although I remain open to further dialogue).
Announcement of UN Treaty (Reuters)
Actual UN Treaty Text

 

Western Sahara: Nonviolent Women’s’ Resistance

This newsletter raised the issue of problems brewing in sub-Saharan Africa long before they became mainstream news.  While many issues remain bleak, there are also signs of hope.  The following article highlights a nonviolent women’s resistance movement:
Nonviolent Women’s Resistance in Western Sahara  [openDemoracy]

 

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Ten Wars to Watch for in 2015

Here is the annual list from International Crisis Group:
http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/op-eds/2015/guehenno-10-wars-to-watch-in-2015.aspx

 

 

One Almond Requires One Gallon of Water

 

The following article combines two environmental sub-themes of this newsletter: (a) our disconnection between what we consume and the resources to produce it; (b) the growing issue of water.  And please note that it is a separate question regarding how much of that gallon of water is left to use again.
Almonds, California and Water   [Mother Jones]

 

November 2014 Newsletter

Welcome to the November 29, 2014 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

Given that this is a human right’s newsletter, the primary action is to take part in Amnesty International’s global Write-for-Rights campaign.  In addition there is an action related to Darfur and the UN’s mishandling of the situation, and an action to raise again the hope that the U.S. will ratify the Convention on Child Rights.

In addition are a couple of follow-up and other articles of note.

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WRITE-FOR-RIGHTS

Consider joining the annual Write-For-Rights campaign, where hundreds of thousands of people around the world write letters or take other actions on behalf of those unjustly detained, tortured, imprisoned!  It takes place during the first 2-3 weeks of December, coinciding with Human Rights Day, December 10.  You can join a group, take web actions, or better yet create your own group (they can supply you with all necessary material)!

Take Action:
Australia: http://www.amnesty.org.au/activist/campaign/35547/
Canada: http://www.writeathon.ca/
U.K.: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Write-for-Rights-2014
U.S.: http://write.amnestyusa.org/?ac=none_r

 

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DARFUR: TOWN WOMEN RAPED; UN REPORT IN DENIAL

On October 31 Sudanese forces entered the town of Tabit, reportedly beating the men and then raping 200 women, many of them girls.  The UN peacekeeping force (UNAMID) was 30 miles away.  They sent a team to investigate three days later but soon after arriving and reportedly getting a little corroborating evidence, the Sudanese forces kept them out for a week.  When UNAMID came back they could not get anyone to confirm the atrocity.  Their eventual report denied any rape had taken place. Given other corroborating testimony, this has shed light not only on this incident but has confirmed the suspicions of many about UNAMID’s compromised reporting in general.  Apart from creating a furor at the UN, it has now frayed relations with Sudan who has verbally asked UNAMID for an exit path.

The following petition by Waging Peace (UK) demands an immediate investigation into the mass rape, that the UN provide immediate medical and psychological treatment for the victims and that the government soldiers be held accountable for their brutal crimes, including compensation for the victims.

The event is sickening.  And on a revealing ironic note, the town – Tabit – was one of five towns that were designated in June as one of Darfur’s “model villages”, that is, suitable for the voluntary return of displaced persons.  It demonstrates what most people knew – the effort by the government to paint the conflict as over, is an utter farce (for fuller overall details of conditions of Darfur and Sudan see: Current Status  [UntilAll]).

Take Action:
https://www.change.org/p/un-security-council-protect-the-people-of-darfur

Background:
UNAMID Covers Up Darfur Atrocity [Foreign Policy]
Initial Report of Rape [Radio Dabanga]
Actual UNAMID Internal Report [Sudan Tribune; Eric Reeves]

 

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US: RATIFY THE CONVENTION ON RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

The US and Somalia (and newly created South Sudan) are the only countries who have not ratified the Convention on The Rights of the Child.  November 20 was Universal Children’s Day.  The action below was to tell U.S. President Obama to announce on that day that he will submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

It may seem stunning to some to think that the US, who helped shape the Convention, has not ratified it.  As the background articles indicate, US failure to ratify it stems largely from concern over the possibility of it undermining parental authority. Many countries include formal reservations and declarations of interpretations, so that the Convention won’t override national interpretations of their laws and customs.  Given that all other Western countries with the same basic standards on issues of concern have not been affected by ratifying the treaty, such US concerns do not seem to be grounded in reality, but rather agendas.

US-ONLY: Tell President Obama to Sign:
Tell Obama to Ratify Treaty

Background:
Why is US Against Children’s Rights?  [TIME]
Why Won’t US Ratify Child Rights Convention?  [The Economist]
Actual Convention on Rights of the Child

 

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ISLAMIC STATE (ISIS / ISIL)

The emergence of a new, well-funded, tech- and media-savvy terrorist group that uses grotesque acts and images as one of its chief vehicle for spreading fear and gaining recruits, has caught the Western world scrambling to react.  Analysis of this truly despicable group abound; there is little to add.  Short-term actions have already been implemented. Such actions at best can only contain the immediate situation and by their fast-reaction nature contain terribly compromised elements that easily spark other sometimes worse results.

This newsletter would be remiss not to note this new repugnant dynamic.  Specifically, how do we dissipate ISIS, so that it is only known as a footnote in history? Bombs and bullets (and intelligence gathering and other tactics) may reduce some immediate threat, but they cannot dispel an idea that has gained such deadly traction. For that one needs the long-term classic nonviolent strategy of strengthening the reasonable voices on all sides.  This will be explored more in the next newsletter.  One role is to use Islam itself to combat the horrible distortions (and yet that somehow have appeal) and provide a more solid and compelling alternative vision.  Given that 85% of the victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims [Sanders: The Myth of the Muslim Tide], no one has a greater stake in this than Muslims.  The following is a sample:
Using Islam To Combat ISIS [Huffington Post;  MPAC]

Stay tuned for more on how this seemingly hyper-idealistic strategy can actually contain much grip.

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Bee Decline Now Evidence Of Bird Decline

A decline in bee populations due to a new pesticide (neonicotinoid family) has previously been highlighted in this newsletter.  Now a Dutch study has linked it to a decline in the bird population, though it need further work.
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28216810
http://commondreams.org/news/2014/07/24/notorious-neonics-pervasive-midwest-waters-study
 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Is Selection Process for UN Peacekeepers Flawed?

Reports coming from some of the top UN troop-contributing countries indicate that many troops are not adequately educated regarding basic human right.  Often they come from areas which have poor human right records.  Examples were given where UN troops, when previously in their country, were part of serious rights violations.  For others, it is a “reward” thus reducing any motivation to take seriously the UN mandate.  In 2012 the UN set up guidelines for this overall issue but the vetting  process thus far seem unable to address basic flaws.
http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=100415

 

Is U.S. Public TV Dominated by the One-Percent?

In a world where traditional meda is continually squeezed thereby diminishing the range of voices heard and in-depth journalism, one presumes that atleast in the public broadcast sphere there is a better range.  Yet a study by FAIR has found that most U.S. public broadcasting stations have governing boards dominated by the corporate sector.  Even billionaire David Koch sits as a trustee.

While recognizing the value of business people to ensure sound fiscal policies, the point raised here is one of dominance.  On the one hand those from the corporate world constitute 84% of the governing bodies and most are drawn from elite entities.  On the other hand there is a dearth of other areas – few academics, and almost no journalists, educators, artists and leaders of nonprofit groups.
http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/who-rules-public-tv/

June 2014 Newsletter

Welcome to the June 29, 2014 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue deals with the horrible escalation of violence in Darfur and the rest of Sudan, as well as the Egyptian’s court refusal to rectify its original sham trial resulting in the mass sentencing of hundreds of people to death.

In addition you will find articles on the global groundwater crisis, the current global country index, and a new campaign to counter the notion that homosexuality can by “cured” via therapy.
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Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.
Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.

 

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END ABHORRENT VIOLENCE IN SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN

The March newsletter raised the alarm bell regarding Darfur – the repugnant dynamics are back (see: Current Status  [UntilAll]).  Under the new guise called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), villages were again being razed, people killed or displaced, all linked back to Khartoum.  Recently even the New York Times highlighted the same abhorrent violence [‘Sudan Said to Revive Notorious Militias’, {requires registration}].  The violence also extends to previously noted areas in the Nuba mountains, and on both sides of the Sudan-South Sudan border areas. Pockets of famine and genocidal targeting are threatening both countries and the intensifying conflicts are pulling in neighboring states.

The advocacy group, Enough, now has the following action to help reinvigorate diplomatic actions to address the escalation of violence.  The U.S. has had a major stake in this area for years, helping to broker the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan, as well as being involved in trying to end the Darfur conflict, mottled as some say those efforts were. The action also calls for full international reengagement (for non-US citizens, consider also forwarding this to your government).

Take Action (open to everyone):
Ask U.S. Government to Reinvigorate Sudan Diplomacy  [Enough]

 

 

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EGYPT FOLLOW-UP: STOP THE MASS EXECUTIONS

This newsletter previously recommended action to tell the Egyptian courts to stop the mass execution of over 500 people.  The courts proceeded, and appeals to both the court and the government have thus far had little or no impact.  Amnesty International considers the proceedings to be nothing short of a complete “travesty of justice.”  Thus they have initiated the following campaign to continue the pressure for a fair trial, which also includes a demand that the three Al Jazeera journalists be freed..

Take Action:
Tell Egypt to Stop Mass Executions  [Amnesty International]

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Global Map of “Groundwater Footprint” and Stress

As has been highlighted here and elsewhere, water will likely become a major global tension-point in coming decades. We can see change in rivers, lakes and glaciers.  But for the first time we now have a map of the stresses being put on something we can’t see – groundwater levels.  In many ways this is even more ominous.  The following article, from McGill University and published in Nature, highlights a tool to start measuring the use (sustainable or not) of groundwater throughout the world.  It suggests that “groundwater footprint” may soon have the same coinage as “carbon footprint.”
Article and Actual Map of Global Groundwater Usage  [McGill University]

 

The 2014 Fragile States Index

Each year the Fund for Peace calculates its Fragile States Index which is published by Foreign Policy.  This newsletter again presents the annual data, which can make for interesting analysis of what is considered worthy of indexing and how the results are highlighted.
2014 Fragile States Index  [Foreign Policy]

 

New Campaign to End Gay Conversion Therapy

This newsletter has previously indicated the danger of “conversion or reparative therapy”, which is the notion that through therapy homosexual activity can be “cured”.  The medical community has abandoned such notions years ago.  And while some places have formally banned the practice (for example, the states of California and New Jersey in the US) it remains a topic of controversy.  Thus a new campaign has been launched to take direct aim at such notions.
New Campaign to End Gay Conversion Therapy  [TIME]

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Missed an action email?  An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.

 

May 2014 newsletter

Welcome to the May 31, 2014 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue deals firstly with the widely publicized case of a pregnant Sudanese women sentenced to death [please note this newsletter was delayed to get the latest action].  Secondly this newsletter provides an update action to last year’s Bangladeshi factory collapse.
The blog associated with this newsletter is at: http://untilall.org/blogs/newsletter/.  Feel free to comment on any topic.

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Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.
Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.

 

 

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SUDAN: PREGNANT WOMAN CONDEMNED TO DEATH

A Sudanese court has sentenced a pregnant woman, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, to hang for apostasy after she married a Christian man.  The death sentence would be carried out two years after she gives birth.  In addition she will receive 100 lashes for adultery (her marriage is not deemed valid) once she has recovered from giving birth.  Amnesty International has created a petition to protest against this horrible violation of human rights.  Amnesty considers Mariam to be a prisoner of conscience (violates freedom of thought, conscience and religion), her flogging to be torture, and is against the death penalty.

[Update: May 27: Mariam gave birth to a baby girl, Maya]

[Breaking News: May 31: Sudan’s Foreign Ministry has announced that the case will be repealed.  Thus the original action here has been removed (just before I was to send this newsletter).  But because this came from the Foreign Ministry and not the court itself, the spotlight should remain until Mariam is actually freed and all charges have been repealed.  Thus I delayed this email until I found the following replacement action.

Take Action:
Keep Pressure on Sudan – Demand Mariam be Freed!
Background:
Sudan: Pregnant woman faces death for apostasy   [BBC]
Sudan’s twisted history of using religion   [Al Jazeera]

Darfur and thus Sudan have been part of this newsletter’s longitudinal study.  We know how the political power remains an influx, multi-voiced dynamic (which has also been labelled, dysfunctional;  see: Current Status  [UntilAll]).  But it is unknown whether this incident bubbled up from obscurity or became a useful distraction.

 

 

 

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BANGLADESHI FACTORY COLLAPSE FOLLOW-UP ACTION

Last year’s massive building collapse in Bangladesh killed over 1,100 people and injured countless others.  After a global protest, the corporations that profited from this tragedy were to pay into a $40 million fund to be collected by the International Labour Organization.

But one year later, less than half the money has been donated — and 15 retailers, including Ascena (Lane Bryant), JCPenney, and Benetton, are refusing to pay up.  Worse, very little has changed within Bangladesh.  Survivors and their families are still struggling, and little has been done to affect long-term change.  Thus consider the action below to demand that these retailers uphold their obligation to the Bangladeshi workers now!

Take Action:
Tell Companies to Keep Promise and Donate to Fund   [Watchdog.net]

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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SYRIA: Latest UN Report

A recent UN report has summarized the extent of the ongoing, four year-old tragedy in Syria.  Almost two-thirds of Syria’s population suffers from extreme poverty because of the civil war, calling it “catastrophic”.  Over 150,000 people have been killed.  Nearly 50% of Syria’s labor force is unemployed, and the country’s gross domestic product has shrunk by an estimated 40% since 2011. Losses from damage are estimated at $143.8 billion.  Full details:
 UN Report on Syria   [Reuters]

 

MALI: Violence Flares

This newsletter originally noted the unrest that was occurring in Mali, and later, highlighted the issue of Mali’s coup in 2012.  Since then France came in to overtake the northern area held by the Tuareg rebels.  France remains concerned about Islamist strongholds.  In the past few days there has been further fighting, whereby Tuareg separatists repulsed an attempt by Mali’s army to take control of their stronghold of Kidal.  A ceasefire has been agreed to, for now.  The point of this update is to note that as long as underlying issues remain unresolved, violence will remain near the surface.
Latest fighting   [Reuters]
Refugees divided on future of northern Mail   [IRIN]

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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When is civil society a force for social transformation?

The cluster that is called civil society, particularly though not exclusively in terms of number of charitable originations, has grown enormously for the last few decades.  The following essay probes the dynamics and asks why there is not a similar reduction in the social ills they try to address.  The essay even suggests there has even been a less positive impact than before.  The author offers two primary reasons.
Civil Society and Social Transformation   [openDemocracy]

 

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Missed an action email?  An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.

March 2014 Newsletter

Welcome to the March 29, 2014 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue gets back to the usual emphasis of this newsletter on tangible actions.  While numerous significant topics swirl, three requiring immediate action have been selected. The first involves our longitudinal focus on Darfur, where recent events have stunningly shifted the violence to the type of atrocities not seen since violence originally erupted.  A second action involves the siege and subsequent starvation of people in Syrian town.  The third action deals with an unbelievable Egyptian court order to execute over 500 people.

In addition, there is also an action related to disturbing trends related to the Rohingya in Burma.  Finally there is some follow-up to a few previous issues.

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Pour la traduction française: cliqueter ici; et cliqueter alors le bouton de traduction sur la page Web.
Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.

 

 

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DARFUR: IT BURNS AGAIN – TAKE ACTION

The Darfur crisis exploded 11 years ago, resulting in 300,000 people killed and over 2 million displaced.  Violence has never ceased – it only has periods of greater and lesser degrees.  This past year has continued an upsurge – almost 500,000 displaced [Amnesty International], and well over 100,000 in 2014.

Worse, some of the most ominous dynamics are now occurring, mirroring the early days of death and destruction.  It results from President Bashir’s determination to subdue the rebel forces, using the same tactics as during the repugnant early days – relying on militias, who spend most of their time attacking civilians.  The outcome is similar – compare the villages recently attacked over a Sample Few Days  [UntillAll.org] with the horrific events of 2004 to 2006.

The actions are two-fold.  Neither will stop Bashir directly; they are simply the best tools that might lead him and those who support him, to recalibrate their calculus.  One action calls on select countries to prohibit Bashir from entering their nation, in accordance with the ICC mandate.  The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted President Bashir with charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  As such, any member country of the ICC is to prohibit him from entering their country, and if he does, arrest him.  Bashir has entered several countries (though, only after painstakingly being assured he will not be arrested – he does feel the ICC mandate).

The other action (for US citizens) is to advocate support for the “Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act”.  It was introduced in 2013, but still sits in committee.  After this recent, ongoing deplorable turn of violence, there is a growing demand to re-engage with this issue, so it is timely to sign.  The Act is better grounded than previous ones, aligning with the common call to address Darfur as part of the Sudan-wide solution.

Take Action (from United to End Genocide):
{US only}: Tell Congress to support Sudan Peace & Accountability Act

{Open to all}: Tell Countries to Uphold ICC, Keep Bashir Out

 

 

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SYRIA: STOP DELIBERATE STARVATION OF CIVILIANS!

The Syrian conflict is now over three years old.  It has resulted in 100,000 people dead (about half of them civilians), and a staggering 2.5 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced.

Among all the horror of this period, has come a new even more perverted twist.  In what would amount to a war crime, Syria has also laid siege to the Yarmouk area, with a reported 128 people having starved to death because the siege prevented access to food.  Rebel forces have also hindered access.   Last week some food made it to the city, for only the second time.  But due to the delicate and tentative nature of this, pressure must be continued.

Take Amnesty International Action(s):
{US-only}:  Tell Your Senator to Cosponsor Syrian Humanitarian Bill

{Open to All}: Tell UN to Stop Yarmouk Siege, Protect Civilians

Background:
Squeezing the life out of Yarmouk: War crimes against besieged civilians [Amnesty report]
Reuter’s article on Yarmouk siege

 

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BURMA: STOP THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Conditions continue to deteriorate for the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar).  We have previously highlighted the agonizing situation of the minority Muslim Rohingya in the predominantly Buddhist country.  Terrible violence erupted in 2012, and new clashes are occurring again (hundreds have been killed, tens of thousands have fled, and 140,000 have been forced into horrible, overcrowded camps where they face severe restrictions and are denied basic necessities including lifesaving medical care).While part of this violence stems from extremist Nationalist/Buddhist groups (e.g., the shadowy ‘969’ movement), see the Background link for some of the much deeper, widespread reasons.

If left unchecked, the trajectory, already considered to be crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Fortify Rights, could eventually plummet to the level of genocide.  Part of advocacy is to raise up such dynamics in order to prevent them from reaching such repugnant end points.

Last week, members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee approved H.Res. 418: “Urging the Government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people”.  U.S. citizens can sign the petition to add their support to this bill.

Take Action (US citizens only; from United to End Genocide):
Urge House to pass bill to stop persecution of Rohingya
Background:
Worsening Plight of Rohingya [Mar/14; The Diplomat]
Acts are Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing [HRW; .PDF]

 

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EGYPT: TELL COURT TO STOP THE MASS EXECUTION

In an utterly stunning move, the Egyptian court ordered the execution of 528 people!  While those convicted were no angels – they were part of the Muslim Brotherhood and had been involved in protests, resulting in the death of one policeman, injury to several people and property damage – it is simply incredulous that any court would sentence them all to death.  The entire trial for all of them lasted only two sessions, with many convicted in absentia.  While this will likely be appealed, it is important that the international community provide strong, clear support for those Egyptians who are trying to bring a semblance of fairness to their legal system.

Take Action:
Tell Egypt to Reject Court Decision [Avaaz]

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Conflict-Free Minerals – Intel Offers Help

We have followed the attempt to reduce the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by lobbying companies not to buy minerals from the conflict area.  While it was inspired by such pressure initiatives as the boycott against apartheid in South Africa, and more recently, the blood diamond project in Sierra Leone, the DRC initiative seemed manifoldly more difficult.  Nonetheless, Intel has spent five years trying to figure out how to rid itself of such minerals in its supply chain.  Having succeeded (one hopes) via a system of bagging, tagging and verifying minerals as they reach the smelter, it now wants to share the insights with other companies, thereby saving them the need to “reinvent the wheel.”  It will take to time know whether this is primarily PR or a genuine effort to step-up the dynamics.
Conflict-fee Minerals Initiative [Reuters]

 

Central African Republic (CAR) and Warning Signs of Genocide

For the past several months the Central African Republic has seen horrendous chaos and violence that has raised alarms about early warning signs of genocide.  While Muslims and Christians had been living in relative peace, a Muslim rebel coalition (Seleka) seized power last March.  That resulted in looting and killings, followed by reprisals from Christian “anti-balaka” groups. Eventually the leader stepped down, but that did not satisfy the anti-balaka forces, and the killing of Muslims has continued.  Over one million people have been displaced. With signs of genocide, French and then UN peacekeeping troops have been sent in, but in insufficient numbers thus far.  There are calls for a more robust intervention in CAR, with its largely non-existent institutional infrastructure
UN Warns: ‘Seeds of Genocide’ [Reuters]
A Muslim Community under Siege [HRW]

 

Uganda: Passed Harmful Anti-Gay Law

We have followed, and joined the petition against, the anti-gay bill that was introduced four years ago.  At that time it included the death sentence in extreme cases.  The huge outrage removed the death clause and put the bill into limbo.  But in February, Ugandan President Museveni, signed the altered bill into law. It is an affront to basic human rights, specifically the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.  But much worse, many punishments will result in a life sentence.

That said, perhaps even worse, is the effect on society.  If you read the Nigerian article, whose laws were modelled after Uganda, you find that although homosexuality has been illegal since the colonial era, people used to be tolerant.  But not now – mobs sometimes go hunting for gays, beating them, threatening their life and causing them to lose their jobs.  Many HIV/AIDS programs must scale back and thus IADS may skyrocket.  Why the dramatic change?  In several other African countries, “in many cases” much of the caustic change is due to the American anti-gay activists and the Christian right, who have helped change laws in nine countries.
Uganda’s President Sign’s anti-Gay Bill  [CBC]
Running Scared for Your Life if Gay In Nigeria [Mother Jones]

 

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Missed an action email?  An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.