July 2013 Newsletter

Welcome to the July 31, 2013, issue of this Peace&Justice action email.

This issue is a brief summer version of the newsletter, much more sparse than usual due to time constraints. The most glaring omission, in terms of big news stories, is Egypt; there are always plenty of little-known conflicts that get missed.  Please accept my apologies.

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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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TUNISIA: FREE WOMAN UPHOLDING WOMEN’S EQUALITY

Tunisia was the start of the “Arab Spring.”  Recently, an 18 year old woman was alarmed by a Salafist (conservative Islamic) group who were opposing the equality of women.  She wrote a single word (“Femen”, the name of an international women’s movement) on a wall surrounding a cemetery, for which she has been jailed.  The charges and possible lengthy sentences are considered politically motivated and are deemed an infringement her right to freedom of expression.

Tell Tunisia to release Activist:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/Amina

 

 

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TURKEY: STOP EXCESSIVE FORCE AGAINST PEACFUL PROTESTORS

As with many of the recent popular protests, the one in Turkey started with a dispute over the use of a park, in this case Gezi Park, in Istanbul, Turkey.  Prime Minister Erdogan dug in his heels and has tried to quell the protests with violence, rather than listening to the demands.  Of course behind the park issue, are complex dynamics, including a long-simmering distrust of the conservative leanings of the Prime Minister.

Tell Turkey to Stop Using excessive Force:
http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1770&ea.campaign.id=20914

 

 

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SYRIA: STOP EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS OF CIVILIANS

If you use Twitter or Facebook, you may want to mobilize your social media skills to spread this report about stopping extra-juridical killings in Syria.  Basically, as has been part of the brutal campaign, some areas are being targeted to terrorize the civilian population as a means of reducing support for the rebels, as documented in the following Amnesty briefing:

Take Social Media Action:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/syria-civilians-killed-2013-07-25

 

 

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Darfur: Sill Mired in Problems

Darfur is our longitudinal study.  There is no action for this month, but you can see a sketch of the latest events at www.UntilAll.org/darfur.htm.

 

Guatemala Genocide Trial a Landmark . . . Then Scrapped . . . Then Conviction . . . Then Overturned

The last newsletter indicated that the landmark trial had been derailed by a separate court ruling but was holding out hope for an appeal.  So it is both a relief and a triumph of justice and vindication of those who testified that Efraín Ríos Montt, former leader of Guatemala, has been found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/10/guatemala-rios-montt-convicted-genocide

However that relief was short-lived sine the verdict was then overturned [The Guardian (May 21)] . . . though as of June 4, in yet another twist, the Guatemalan Supreme Court rejected a motion to quash proceedings, and has set a new trial date of April 2014.

 

Bees:  Good News, Bad News:

A previous action called for the ban of a certain pesticide in the European Union.  The good news is that it has been banned, so thank you for all who took action.  As has been reviewed previously, such web actions seldom bring change on the own, but can help provide crucial support and backing as part of an overall strategy to bring change.  The following link provides a window into the pieces that were involved to getting the ban passed:
http://www.dailycensored.com/we-did-it-europe-just-banned-bee-killing-pesticides/

But in the U.S., the EPA just allowed a different but also toxic pesticide, sulfoxaflor, to be used on several crops, even while acknowledging it is highly toxic to honey bees.  It added an advisory for honey bees, but one which sounds quite unworkable, such as having to notify beekeepers before and after usage, advising them to keep their bees in the hive, etc.  This is not a precautionary approach to protecting such a vital link in the food chain:
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/09-3

Finally – recently in – researchers have discovered that the application of fungicides may be behind some of the rapid decline in bees.  Thus it is looking like a more complicated cocktail of interactions:
http://qz.com/107970/scientists-discover-whats-killing-the-bees-and-its-worse-than-you-thought/

 

Burma & the Rohingya: Violent Buddhists, a silent Aung San Suu Kyi, and maybe an Al-Qaeda link?

Burma was noted in an earlier newsletter for its surprising, puzzling (and world-hesitant to acknowledge) overtures to open up its previously iron-clad country.  Recently there have been several articles highlighting the recent problems with two minority groups.  There is a long history behind it all, and on its face one sees the contradictions of, for example, supposedly nonviolent Buddhists being extremely violent (although other Buddhists did come to protect the victims), the world acclaimed human rights defender Aung San Suu Kyi being silent about the repugnant human rights violations, and even a possible Al-Qaeda thread in among there.  Again deeper analysis is needed, but the following are just a couple of articles trying to sketch the terrain.
TIME Magazine article
Toronto Star article

 

DRC: Searching For An Internal Solution For The Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been enmeshed in one of the world’s longest and deadliest conflicts (most often given as over 5 million deaths as a result of the conflict), stunningly for the most part off the mainstream news radar.  This newsletter has highlighted some of the initiatives that have been made.  Here is another analysis
Towards internal solutions to the DRC crisis [IRIN]

 

 

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Brazil Protests:

Given the above actions on popular protests, and while there are many more than simply Brazil, there is an essay on openDemocracy that gives an interesting sketch of the basic issues and challenges facing the country and protestors.  Sparked initialling by student demand for better transportation given a hike in rates, the protest has spread, becoming neither anti-Brazil nor anti-football, but very broadly a call to implement a higher vision for Brazil.  It covers many areas and includes the broad dissatisfaction found within a rising country that now has a sufficiently large middle-class.  They have joined the protest over government policies that have led to hosting the Confederation Cup then the FIFA Cup then the Olympics – “first-world football stadiums and third-world hospitals, schools, and sewage facilities.”
http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/jeff-garmany/football-politics-and-protest-in-brazil

 

Yemen: A Life on Hold

For those who prefer short videos, the following helps give some sense of the millions of people living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.  This video is about family who has been living for three years in IDP camp in Yemen, noting that many IDPs end up in such camps for 10 or 20 years.  The broader question about the value and perils of such videos must await another newsletter.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFlX0Lz9SFw&feature=youtu.be

April Newsletter

Welcome to the April 29, 2013 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue provides two actions related to Darfur as well as one related to media distortion and an action concerning life patents and the giant multinational Monsanto.  I have decided to have a separate email for the Mental Health issue, which should be sent in two weeks.

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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: TELL U.S. TO SELECT NEW SUDAN ENVOY

The overall situation in Darfur has not changed significantly.  While a recent Doha Conference resulted in over $3 billion pledged for Darfur reconstruction, it is partly a charade given Sudan itself pledged over $2 billion while bombing Darfur citizens.  Apart from that, little can be done until peace and stability exists, something that is no closer.  On the broader scene the Nuba region of Sudan continues to be bombarded and starved.  And within the last couple of days a new rebel offensive has started in a previously relatively untouched area of Northern Kordofan, and also closer to Khartoum.  For more details see Darfur Current Status (UntilAll).

There are two actions in this newsletter.  The first one calls on the U.S. to fill the position of Special Envoy for Sudan which has been vacant since the end of 2012.  As noted in a background article, some groups are critical of the rumored front runner, on the basis that his policies are likely to resemble too closely perceived past failed policies.  While the eventual solution for Sudan must be a political solution embraced by all of Sudan’s stakeholders, and while some feel U.S. involvement primarily skews results in U.S. favour, the stance of this newsletter is that a Special Envoy under Sudan’s current dynamics is a better option than not having one, at least if the second action below (Sudan Peace and Accountability Act), becomes more clearly some of the guiding principles (this newsletter and the above link have previously outlined some of the complexities and conflicting U.S. priorities).

Tell Obama to Fill Position for Special Envoy to Sudan (open to all):
http://www2.americanprogress.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=250

Background:
Genocide scholars’ questions go unanswered; then Envoy resigns
Front Runner for Envoy Position Criticized

 

 

 

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DARFUR / SUDAN: TELL CONGRESS MEMBER TO SUPPORT SUDAN PEACE ACT

The second Darfur / Sudan action involves U.S. citizens, who can tell their members of Congress to support the Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act, introduced with bipartisan support.

Take action (U.S citizens only):
http://www2.americanprogress.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=266

Background:
Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2013

 

 

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TELL FOX NEWS HATEFUL MESSAGES MUST BE DEALT WITH

The Boston Marathon bombings were a terrible tragedy.  And while it did bring out wonderful acts of courage and humanity, it also brought out a repulsive act.  Fox News commentator Erik Rush tweeted the words “Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.” In his tweet, “them” referred to Muslims, and it was tweeted to his nearly 40,000 followers.  If you find this going well beyond the line of any journalist licence, then please consider taking the following action:

Tell FOX News to Drop Erik Rush: (You can edit the message depending on your TV habits):
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5550/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13742&tag=foxrushb1

 

 

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TELL E.U. COUNTRIES TO STAND UP TO MONSANTO

One of the disturbing but largely hidden trends being tested over the last few years relates to companies trying to obtain patents, oversimplified, to what are in essence life building blocks, whether genes or seeds.  It is yet another area where ethics and laws are struggling to catch-up to technology, and more importantly to the influence that such large multi-nationals can exert on politics.  In this instance companies like Monsanto have found loopholes in European law to have exclusive rights over conventional seeds (such as everyday vegetables and fruits like cucumber, broccoli and melons).  Such loopholes need to be shut before they set a dangerous global precedent.

The action below is from Avaaz, and is close to reaching 2 million signatures. Such broad implication issues like this one require a giant outcry to help support the needed outcomes.  So please consider signing the petition and try to get it over 2 million:

Tell the EU Patent Organization to Fix Patent Laws:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/monsanto_vs_mother_earth_loc/?byVEqab&v=23909

 

 

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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UN (and US) Approves Arms Trade Treaty; Plus Further on NRA Dialogue

On April 2, the US joined 153 other nations in approving the Global Arms Trade Treaty. That said, for the U.S. to ratify it, it must be passed by its Senate by a super majority.   This is deemed unlikely due to the influence the NRA has on the Senate.  So for US citizens, stay tuned for the rhetoric to heat up again.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/02/us-arms-treaty-un-idUSBRE9310MN20130402

You may recall my attempt in a previous newsletter to try to understand the opposition of the NRA to the Treaty (see: http://untilall.org/uwaa-120.htm).  I did it primarily out of my core principle of dialogue (bumbling as I am at it) – to truly attempt to engage with the stance that seemed so utterly foreign.  And I did find a thin “sliver” of contact – that a person could genuinely connect the dots in a moral way according to all their underlying framings, that would indicate that signing the Treaty was wrong.  It centered around the need to track items.

And before going farther, I would love to continue the personal exploration with anyone via the blog link at the top, unwieldy as blogs are.

But as it currently stands for me, I find that the NRA has shut off dialogue.  It has entered a harmful world of self-righteousness, where its answers and framing are the only true ones, and under no circumstances can it yield even one inch.  Every counter view is a slippery slope, which is part of cascading slippery slopes which always lead to a single family left defenceless in the face of an armed crazed person, or armed tyrannical government or oppressive UN world force.  I find that logic incredulous.  Again I do remain open to mistaken perceptions on my part, but until persuaded otherwise I must be clear the danger and harm I see in the current NRA dynamics.

Somewhat  aside, the following link shows 12 NRA ads over time, showing it going from a government-friendly organization primarily for hunters (actually simply suggesting that belonging to a rifle club is a good way to gain a skill and have fun), to a complete fear-based stance – a fear not only of who lurks in society but to a government and its institutions (FBI, etc.) who you leave open to coming after you if the NRA is not supported, for only it is the true guardian of the Second Amendment.  Now I did find a bit of a sleight of hand going on – for instance from 1920 until now there is a higher proportion of people who lock their doors.  That is, times do change and there is more fear than before at that level.  Plus the rapid changes of today are very loosely linked to a rise in fear.  But neither of those examples fully explains the dramatic shift of the ads.
NRA Ads from 1920 to the present

 

Tunisia: Latest Trend in country that started Arab Spring

Michael Ayari talks to RTCI about the rise of Salafism in the country and the “challenges of the new Tunisia”.
ICG Report: Salafism in Tunisia (YouTube clip)

 

 

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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Guatemala Genocide Trial a Landmark . . . And Then Was Scrapped

The trial of former de facto head of Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, is a landmark achievement in the fight for justice in Guatemala and is a testament to the courage and tenacity of Guatemala’s victims and human rights groups.
http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/03/19/guatemala-genocide-trial-landmark

However, the trial had been in process for a month when on April 18, a separate court annulled the entire case.  Seen as “beyond logic and due process” one can only hope that for the sake of all those who testified and all for whom they represent, as well as for any sense of justice, that a successful appeal will occur.  Here is a short and longer version of the current situation:
Amnesty International article
LA Times more in-depth article

 

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

February 2013 newsletter

Welcome to the Thursday February 28, 2013 issue of this Peace&Justice action email

This issue provides a single brief focus – the disheartening tenth anniversary of the Darfur crisis.  It had to wait until today for the related actions on Darfur.  Due to this tight timing the issue of Mental Health will become the focus of next month’s edition.

 

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TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF DARFUR CRISIS

The start of the Darfur crisis is usually either associated with February 26 when rebel forces made their first public appearance, in an attack on a Golu garrison.  or it is anchored to April 25, when the rebels achieved a victory never seen before, even during the unrelated 20year plus 20 year North-South war – they overran the El Fasher airport, destroying several aircraft and capturing the Air Force commander.  The latter event is what caused Sudan’s President Bashir to unleash the Janjaweed in combination with government ground and air forces. That said, the build-up to this eruption was years and even decades of neglect and also targeted campaigns against the people of Darfur.

Darfur has been the longitudinal study of this newsletter for several years, although at the time it was an utterly disheartening thought that the crisis not only would last this long, but would remain in such an unresolved state.  All of my Darfuri contacts that I have recently talked to, remain quite pessimistic about Darfur’s near-term future.  Readers who have been following this newsletter will know that while Darfur has slipped off the news radar screen, that within Darfur things have changed in many ways but almost none for the better.  Bombing and attacks have continued; at least two million people remain displaced in camps of which many are getting restricted aid in attempts to force them back home where often homes no longer exist or are occupied by foreigners sympathetic to the government.  And much more: see Darfur Current Status (UntilAll).

Today, February 28, 2013, was the start of a push to reignite diplomatic efforts on Darfur which also means on Sudan as a whole.  The U.S., U.K and Australia have called for renewed focus and action (see: Letter to Foreign Secretaries).  The demands are nothing new, but as with most human dynamics it is a question of timing.  While at the moment I can’t see much that may play a positive role, who can say what might come?  Thus consider taking the following actions.

Take Action:
Petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Petition to US Secretary of State Kerry

 

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

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UWAA: This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”

January 2013 Newsletter

Welcome to the January 30, 2013 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue provides actions for an international Women’s Rights Treaty, support for a global Arms Treaty, plus a call to ban an insecticide, in addition to other items of interest.  [My apologies for the late date, but this was the earliest possible transmission time].

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U.S.: RATIFY WOMEN’S TREATY

The U.S. is the only developed nation (and one of only seven nations) not to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  This issue has been raised previously in this newsletter.  It is being raised again, by Global Solutions, and the petition is directed toward the US Senate given that the new Congress might pass it this time.

No human document is perfect, but CEDAW is the closest international document saying that women’s equality means full equality and rights.  One can argue that on the one hand, for people like Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for presuming her right to be educated, CEDAW didn’t stop the Taliban nor is particularly enforceable as it stands, which is true and a point of strong debate.  But one can also say that for people like Malala, CEDAW can confirm or awaken the vision of what ought to be, and that one is not alone in such thinking.

From my readings thus far, it seems the reticence for the U.S. to ratify the treaty, apart from some completely disingenuous claims, arises from: (a) those who have a generalized fear that any treaty signed under the UN may undermine sovereignty; (b) conservative groups who feel it could open the door to dismantling their notion of traditional family values; and (c) that in the U.S. the political process often takes an extraordinary time.   Regarding the first concern, sovereignty is always a central concern for government, though in this case the US has some of the strongest rights globally, and was one of the countries involved in the initial drafts, besides which there are “Reservation” clauses that a nation can add should any unease remain.  The second concern is too diffuse to cover here; one must read the text (link below) and decide for oneself.  As for the last concern, if you feel the process has gone on long enough, then consider signing the petition below.

Take Action:
Sign Petition (U.S.-only)

Background (full text and explanation):
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm

 

 

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‘BEE’ SURE TO ACT AGAINST THIS CHEMCIAL

Given some of the weighty human rights issues that constantly swirl around us, it might seem trivializing to include an action to help protect bees.  But this newsletter has always maintained the link that basic human rights and life are undergirded by a sustainable planetary ecosystem.  The alarming decline in honey bee colonies has been noted for several years.  Apart from concern due to valuing nature for its own sake, the unease is two-fold: (a) The pollination produced by bees occurs far up the food chain, only a couple of steps removed from human consumption, and thus any collapse could have severe food shortage as well as economic consequences; and (b) Dramatic effects on insects could be a bell-weather indicator of what is also occurring to humans, just too subtle to have been identified yet.

While not all factors are clearly understood, one insecticide type – neonicotinoids – has been linked to the bee decline.  The European Union (EU) will be deciding at any time now regarding this issue.

Take Actions (open to all):
Tell EU to Ban Use of Insecticide (Avaaz deadline imminent)
Tell Bayer to Pull Insecticide Off the Market

Background:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/16/insecticide-unacceptable-danger-bees

 

 

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TELL NRA TO STOP OBSTRUCTING THE GLOBAL ARMS TRADE TREATY

The international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is meant to save lives, especially innocent civilians caught up civil unrest in their own countries.  After several years of work the final treaty hopefully will be voted on in March. The goal is to address the ill-regulated legal international arms trade (from jet fighters to missiles to small arms) and eradicate/ reduce the illicit international trade, in order to contribute to peace and security and reduce human suffering.

Those who have followed this newsletter’s longitudinal focus on the Darfur crisis have watched the unspeakable human suffering, instigated by Sudan’s President Bashir and expedited by the illegal arms trade that has allowed Sudan to bomb its own citizens, even up to this present day, as well as arming the Janjaweed (while also remembering that it is a much more complex narrative). The fact that an arms embargo has been in place since 2005, cuts two ways.  First it indicates the need for the ATT – the embargo was partly undercut by the lack of universal, consistent, rigorous transfer controls.  But secondly, it is clear to most people who have worked on this issue, that at best for the foreseeable future the ATT will only be able to reduce somewhat the illicit flow.  But any reduction also means a reduction in death, displacement, and trauma, and hence the value of the ATT, even in an imperfect global situation.

So what does the illegal international movement of arms such as tanks, missiles, aircraft and small arms have to do with a U.S. domestic-focused group called the National Rifle Association (NRA)?  At first glance, absolutely nothing.  But being Canadian and thus not ever having had any sense of a right to own arms, I have spent hours of research to understand the dynamics going on (and hence this slightly longer section).  I can see how one can feel the need for a watchdog like the NRA if one feels the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment – the right to bear arms – is so sacrosanct [the crucial question of ‘why sacrosanct’ must await another time].  And I believe the NRA has played that role for some people over its 140 years, although I also see over the last few years a discontent from some members (to the point of forming a new organization), feeling that it is now overreaching it arguments.  But that aside, the one sliver of contact between this domestic right and the ATT lies in the ATT’s notion of recordkeeping for imports.

For the ATT, the legal movement of arms such as tanks or attack helicopters needs to be tracked.  Vastly oversimplified, if within nation A there is a request to {somewhere within Nation B} for 100 tanks, then if nation A doesn’t get 100 tanks then that allows the discrepancy to be tracked since some form of record has been kept, hopefully leading to the illegal activity.  The point is that it can make sense for large items, but the NRA is claiming it may be used for a citizen ordering a single rifle from, say, Germany.  And that basically becomes a registration scheme, let alone expensive overhead.  And registering firearms is a red-line for the NRA, in that it could become a tool for any possible “tyranny of government.”  This logic seems to be behind all three points in the original NRA objections listed below.  I give a sample response in the “Alternate Wording” below.  The other points raised by the NRA have been addressed by Amnesty and also by the link below.

So please consider signing the petition below.  To be honest I am not overly enamored with the Amnesty wording and will substitute the following, which you are also welcome to use.   And regardless I am sure we will be visiting this issue next month since it be will just prior to the final ATT meeting:

===  Alternate Wording ===

Subject: NRA: Stop Abusers of Small Arms

Given that NRA members pride themselves in being responsible gun owners, I ask that the NRA support the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), since it is a legitimate attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who would intentionally use them to harm others, including harming the U.S. military.

The current draft of the ATT addresses most of the concerns you have voiced, specifically its wording about “the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems.”  And the State Department has made explicit its  “Key U.S. Red Lines” on the ATT, including:
– upholding of the Second Amendment;
– no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms, and
– no dilution of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms.

Finally, if you remain concerned about record keeping, the NRA could easily recommend that no individual citizen importing a small number of firearms shall be tracked, and siilarily for stores.  If there are further concerns the NRA should provide wording that would be acceptable and/or provide a suitable “Reservation” clause.

I am sure your members are appalled whenever there is misuse of firearms anywhere in the world, and would welcome your leadership to reduce such occurrences via a commendable final version of the ATT.

=== END Alternate Wording  ===

 

Sign Petition (open to all countries – select “Not in USA” as the State):
http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=519084&msource=W1301EAATT2

Background:
List of Original 3-point NRA Objections
Article Refutes NRA Claims
Actual Treaty Draft Text and other Info.

 

 

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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DARFUR AND SUDAN

There is no current action on this topic.  And I am out of time, except to say that the humanitarian crisis along the border between North and South Sudan remains appalling.  And the situation in Darfur, also remains largely in a tragic state, with a significant increase in hostilities.  See www.UntilAll.org/Darfur.htm for details.  Of a related note, is the following item:

Sudan Elected to UN ECOSOC

The UN elected Sudan onto its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).;  This is particularly galling given that ECOSOC is responsible for regulating various human rights bodies and for overseeing UN committees on women’s (and some children’s) rights.  Thus rather than having its own abysmal record examined in these areas, it will be in a position to try to manipulate the council and such decisions as which human rights NGOs can participate in the Human Rights Council, thereby filtering out the level of outrage that should be directed toward Sudan’s atrocities.
http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/2012/11/08/outrage-u-n-elects-genocidal-sudan-to-top-human-rights-body/

 

Uganda & LRA – fear gone but poverty remains

Joseph Kony, a name made infamous for his repugnant use of child soldiers, has long ago left Uganda.  But as the following article indicates, it has left in its wake the grinding struggle of poverty.
http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97206/UGANDA-Peace-restored-but-northern-children-still-struggle

 

Myanmar: Hope and Pitfalls

It has taken a long time for most people to give much credence to the transition in Burma.  But the past year has awakened many to see it as more than a mere façade.  Real political and media space has opened up.  That said, and not dismissing the discrimination against the Muslim Rohingya, the fighting in the Kachin area of Myanmar may pose the greatest risk:
http://www.crisisgroupblogs.org/resolvingconflict/2013/01/10/a-serious-threat-to-peace-in-myanmar/

 

Fair Trade Chocolate – Hersheys commits to 100%

Even for a chocolate lover such as myself it is easy to see such a headline, give a little nod, and move on.  But when I stop and consider the implications, on the one hand  it is terrific news for the rights and well-being of children.  Ending properly the appalling conditions of many of the children in the cocoa industry would relieve such suffering and loss.  That said, while Hershey’s commitment to 100% Fair Trade chocolate is a welcome statement, at this point that is all it is.  It could slip away, and if not done properly so that proper transitions occur it may simply transfer the pain elsewhere.
http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/10/06/hershey-vows-stop-using-child-slave-labor-eight-more-years

 

 

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=== ARTICLES OF INTEREST ===
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World Less Free – List of Gains and Losses

Freedom House has released their latest “freedom score” or list of the countries that have gained or lost in terms of basic freedoms over the last three years (please note that both the source and content are controversial).  The following article provides a quick graphic and summary:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/01/16/which-countries-are-most-free-and-most-oppressive/

 

Syria After Assad: What religious role among various factions? Views of scholar after visit

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/6667/which_islamists__religion_and_the_syrian_civil_war

 

How Not to “Feed the World”

A Mother Jones article highlights work from Oxfam which indicates how, even setting aside such controversies as Monsanto and mantras of increasing crop yield, one of the chief obstacles feeding the world is the growing amount of land in poorer countries being bought up – “land grabs” – either by speculators (such as hedge funds) or by companies (such as Iowa’s AgriSol) who want to use the land often to grow export crops for use in biofuels for instance.  This leaves the local people sidelined both in terms of ability to use the land and with less land being used to feed the local population.  Oxfam takes aim at the World Bank who it hopes with a change in leadership may alter its advice to such governments.  The stakes are high – we are talking about enough land to feed a billion people.
http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/want-feed-world-first-stop-land-grabs#13580087895611&action=collapse_widget&id=5350611

 

Positive Note: Global Pact on Mercury Controls

Even as a child, I knew mercury was a bad thing.  Sometime later the industrialized world started to take action to curb its use.  However it was not until this month that a global, legally-binding treaty was reached at the U.N.  While not perfect and with possible snags to come, it is nonetheless welcome news to everyone, since it respects no human boundaries.  That said, it will be most needed, if the mechanisms can be worked out, in the many unregulated areas around the world.
   Los Angeles Times article, Jan. 23, 2013

June-July 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the June – July edition of this Peace&Justice action email!  To alter your profile, follow the steps at the end, where your profile is listed.

This issue provides actions on Syria, Sudan and Burma, among others.  The previously mentioned new feature of these newsletters – occasional sections that focus more in-depth on an issue – will be delayed until the fall.  The first such focus will remain the issue of “Mental Health”.

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SYRIA: STOP THE KILLINGS

What started as peaceful protests over a year ago in Syria has now escalated into an armed conflict throughout the country. Some 15,000 people are dead, thousands have been arrested and many tortured with hundreds dying in custody. Over one million people have fled or are internally displaced.  As well, opposition fighters have also reportedly tortured and killed captured members of the army and their supporters.

The international community has struggled to take effective action. On March 27, 2012 the Syrian government accepted a ‘six-point plan’ by UN Special envoy Kofi Annan and a ceasefire was agreed on April 12. Yet the fighting has continued unabated.

The Russian Federation supported the peace initiative. Yet that same government has repeatedly used its veto at the UN Security Council to block or weaken resolutions aimed at stopping the violence in Syria, while remaining the main weapons supplier to Syrian forces.

Please consider sending a message to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, calling on him to help stop the bloodshed.  While it would be naïve to assume such letters themselves would change his decision, it is important that the international community not be silent.  As well, given that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad could face war crimes charges, at the end of the day, what regime wants to be found on the wrong side of history?

Take Action:
Tell Russia to Help Stop Syria’s Bloodshed

Background:
Eyewitness of Houla Massacre [Guardian]
Battle for Aleppo [Globe&Mail]

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US: SUPPORT SUDAN PEACE & ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

Consider sending a message to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012. The act calls for a comprehensive strategy to end serious human rights violations in Sudan, to create incentives for other governments and persons to stop supporting Sudan and its resulting atrocities, and to reinvigorate genuinely comprehensive peace efforts in Sudan.  It aims to change Sudan’s calculus using diplomatic measures and {non civilian targeted} sanctions. It also advocates policy to help end human rights violations in Sudan.

This newsletter has highlighted how Darfur and Sudan move in and out of the news spotlight – such is the nature of long-standing conflicts.  But as noted in Current Status, there continues to be significant political oppression, and various areas of either atrocities or humanitarian crises.

Take Action (US citizens only: Enter your zip-code for correct Representative):
http://www2.americanprogress.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=205

Background:
Status of Bill HR4169

 

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U.S.: TELL US REPRESENTATIVES TO MAINTAIN SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA

After such a long period of political oppression, and at times areas that verged on ethnic cleansing, it has been an almost stunning to see the signs of change, as indicated by recent events surrounding Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.  Yet while this forward momentum toward democracy should be encouraged, it needs to be mixed with much caution, so that it does not reward a government that is still carrying out severe human rights abuses against innocent civilians — particularly in Burma’s ethnic minority states.

Thus the following action calls on the U.S. to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act which will continue to prohibit products made in Burma from being imported into the United States — it will deny hundreds of millions of dollars from getting into the hands of Burma’s military.  While such sanctions punish everyone by prohibiting economic growth, in this case even Aung San Suu Kyi indicates that they need to remain until real political change occurs.  She sees this as a real leverage point that should not be lost.  Lifting them without real change will primarily reward the military with only minimal help for the citizens.

Take Action (U.S. only):
https://secure3.convio.net/sdc/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=723

 

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WALMART AT 50: DO MORE TO ELEVATE CONDITIONS

Walmart recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  As the world’s largest retailer, its policies hold tremendous clout.  Thus in the action below, you can send a greeting which includes birthday wishes to improve workers’ lives, and to sign on to national or global agreements that strengthen local communities, ensure labour and safety standards, and freedom of association.

Send Special Birthday Greetings:
http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/select-an-e-anniversary-card-for-walmart-below-2/

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Failure to Achieve Arms Trade Treaty

It has been hugely disappointing to see the failure to negotiate a new Arms Trade Treaty.  The proliferation of arms around the world has helped turn local conflicts into large-scale human tragedies for civilians.  Our longitudinal study of Darfur is a case in point, where the flood of simply small arms in the 1980s turned local conflicts in the deadly explosive scenarios we have witnessed.  The flood of arms did not generate the conflict, but they did allow the manipulation of the various conflicts to be highly magnified, resulting in enormous civilian tolls and allowing the entrenchment of political/power landscapes.  The only positive note is that the door is open for further talks and a vote could occur by the end of the year.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/28/arms-trade-treaty-william-hague

 

UWAA:  This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”

 

April 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the Monday, April 30, 2012 issue of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue provides opportunity to strengthen our global fabric by supporting new Arms Trade Treaty talks. As well, more concretely you can support hopes for a peaceful resolution of highly volatile attacks between Sudan and South Sudan. Finally you add you voice to get Shell to clean up the devastating mess in the Niger Delta.

SUPPORT STRONG ARMS TRADE TREATY

The illegal movement of arms has devastating effects around the world, fuelling many of the conflicts. While there are some international agreements in place, the UN will be spending eight weeks in July grappling with ideas to strengthen such efforts. But those efforts depend on the resolve of the constituent countries and that resolve rests on the voice of its people. Thus you will find below actions that can be taken (thanks to Amnesty International), tailored for many of the countries that this newsletter goes to, as well as a generalized one for other countries.

Hopefully the UN meetings will produce a stronger arms trade treaty. While such a treaty by itself will not magically stop the flow of arms, it is a necessary step, and any impact it can have in reducing the devastation is worthwhile.

Take Action (according to country):

Australia: http://www.amnesty.org.au/armstrade/comments/28348/

Canada: http://www.amnesty.ca/iwriteforjustice/take_action.php?actionid=856&type=Internal

UK: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10079

USA: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=517422

Other Countries: Click on the picture in the following link, select your country and sign petition:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/campaigns/control-arms

Background: The Small Arms Survey organization provides excellent work on the analysis and impact of the illegal movement of small arms and its ability to fuel conflicts around the globe. It also provides good background material for the current state of treaties and agreements on international, national and regional levels.

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US-ONLY: SUPPORT THE SUDAN PEACE, SECURITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

The lives of half a million people in Sudan are now at risk. Many could starve to death from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s blockade of food and humanitarian aid or die from his relentless bombing of villages and refugee camps — similar tactics he used in Darfur to terrorize and murder innocent civilians. Sudan is extremely volatile – teetering on full-scale war with South Sudan. There is desperate need for the international community to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the complex dynamics.

Many of the points of conflict can be traced back to unresolved aspects of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that the U.S. helped broker. Thus it is appropriate that the U.S. be one of the leading countries trying again to stabilize the region. The action below is to help garner enough support for a U.S bill currently in Congress that tries to bring a comprehensive approach to the various destabilizing and dehumanizing clashes. For sure, leaders in both Sudan and South Sudan have made extremely misguided actions (Sudan in taking some of the oil; South Sudan is cutting off all oil; Sudan in its bellicose responses), at least in relation to their citizens (some of whom have started twitter feeds aout living peacefully with each other).

US-only: Tell your Representative to Support New Sudan Legislation:

Send Petition to your Representative

Darfur update: There is no explicit action for Darfur. For sure if Sudan goes to war it will bring even more misery to Darfur. It is interesting to note that Bashir summoned some of the Darfur Arab leaders to join in the fight against South Sudan, and this time some of them declined. Most notable in Darfur is Bashir’s growing attempt to paint Darfur as a conflict that is over, with people voluntarily returning home and where foreign friends will help in the reconstruction of Darfur; this contrasts sharply with views from within the camps and elsewhere. For more details, see http://untilall.org/Darfur.htm#B.%20CurrentStatus.

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TELL SHELL: PAY UP FOR DEVASTATION IN NIGERIA

This newsletter joined similar calls before, but thus far Shell has not made significant efforts to stop its destructive processes in the Niger Delta let alone clean them up and compensate the local people for their loss of livelihoods, health and sometime life. In a recent study more than 100,000 barrels had been spilled or leaked over a 72-day period. Amnesty will be collecting the following petition and taking it to Shell’s Annual General meeting in May, so please consider signing it and raising the pressure – with over $30 billion in profits, Shell can easily afford the cleanup and better practices.

Take Action:

Tell Shell CEO To Clean Up Niger Delta

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PEACE, JUSTICE AND THE ISSUE OF MENTAL HEALTH

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This new feature has been postponed and will appear either in another week or will become part of May’s newsletter, along with further reflection on #Occupy (its spring should be May 1) and #Kony2012, given that its April 20 campaign fizzled.

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===

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Charles Taylor guilty of aiding Sierra Leone war crimes

This newsletter has followed issues in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. On April 26, former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his backing of rebels in the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone. He was convicted by a UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (which is an ad hoc Court not to be confused with the permanent International Criminal Court which handed down its first conviction as reported last month).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17852488

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

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UWAA: This endeavour is being placed under the overall rubric of “Until Well-being is Achieved for All.”

March 2012 Newsletter

Welcome to the Saturday, March 31, 2012 issue of this Peace&∓Justice action email!

These blogs containing the newsletters will keep with the basic peace and justice touchstone of not filtering out reality (within human limits) – a people of peace must engage in the full human dynamic. Thus these blogs will only be moderated to catch spam and attacks on personal character, falling heavily on the side of freedom of speech. It is hoped that passion and respect can be held in balance.

Secondly, please note that this newsletter is actually a combined February-March edition. Unfortunately the February edition got snared in a convergence of changed hardware, software and conflicting schedules and was never sent. So this edition contains a few remaining relevant pieces from it, plus the usual March items.

Finally, this has delayed until the April edition, another new feature. It will be an occasional section that focuses more in-depth on an issue. It will now start in April and will focus on the issue of “Mental Health”. This topic more generally points to the topic of Human Nature, which underlies, informs or shapes notions of peace and justice.

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THE ARAB SPRING – ONE YEAR LATER
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It has been a year since the “Arab Spring” uprisings. While this newsletter is primarily focused on actions that might move us to a more decent world (and an action on this topic follows in the next section), the scope of the past year`s upheavals is worth some brief reflections, which will be focused on four countries: Egypt, Syria, Mali and Turkey.

However firstly I want simply to list the scope by country. Most lists include between 15 – 18 countries. Rulers have been forced from power in four countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen); civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests have broken out in six countries (Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman); and minor protests have occurred in five countries (Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara). Freedom House indicates that the most significant gains were concentrated largely in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, while the largest declines in freedom included Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Egypt: On the upside, the protestors did learn the lessons from the past, as mentioned in past newsletters, and kept up the pressure until Mubarak was gone and elections were held. The downside from an idealized Western script standpoint was that: (a) the resulting playing field was not level – some parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood have for years had an extensive, well-running structure and were able to use it to capture a disproportionate vote; and (b) the West tended to project onto most Egyptians the aspirations of the protesters. While that was not unfounded in terms of the basic desire to remove the past’s oppressive factors, it did not extend that far (specifically to the rural areas) in terms of a more Western-style, secularist style government. In the end, one can only hope that despite the ever-present geo-political meddling and the uneven nature of current power dynamics, basic human rights will gain an ever stronger presence.

Syria: Syria forms the other end of the spectrum, where Syria’s president has ruthlessly suppressed all dissent, resulting in 9000 dead.  See the article below – complicated.

Mali:  Mali had been a stable democratic nation for 21 years.  It had nothing directly to do with the Arab Spring. But indirectly, Mali’s recent coup that ended its stability can be traced to the Arab Spring, one of the unintended consequences of toppling Libya (to see the connection read the Al Jazeera article). The point is simply that not all repercussions can be even remotely imagined nor are good.

Turkey: Turkey was also not part of the Arab Spring.  But Turkey is a key indicator of the fluid nature of the democratic space that might be attained, specifically it democratic-economic-Islamic balance.  As a bridge between East and West, Turkey has a strong secular legacy.  But it has become harder to read recently, for instance, due to trouble with the military which led to a tighter fist and fear of further oppression of its own people (at least 70 journalists detained recently).  See Is Turkey the Best Model for the Arab World?.

Brief Background: Sample of the clichéd views and more solid footing:
   Far from the Tahrir Dream [Oxford professor; Globe&Mail]
   The Egypt Backlash [FP]
   Inside Syria – complicated [IRIN]

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TELL HILARY CLINTON TO CONDEMN ABUSES IN BAHRAIN

Human Rights First has created an action to pressure Bahrain to stop the crackdown on its people. While most actions originally created for the Arab Spring anniversary have passed, this one remains active. It should be noted that Bahrain is home the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Take Action:
   http://actions.humanrightsfirst.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=5488

[Update: On March 16 Clinton criticized Bahrain (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12762500). However as long as the petition remains open it should be signed, since nothing has changed].

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THE #KONY2012 DYNAMIC

Starting in March 6 2012, the social media started buzzing about Joseph Kony, the repugnant leader of the ruthless Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The buzz was sparked by a US-based charity called Invisible Children (IC). For years they have been trying to get Kony captured. IC decided to make 2012 the year to achieve their goal and used social media to try creating an aware and motivated [primarily US] constituency that would then force politicians to act more deliberately to capture Kony The centerpiece was a very slick 30 minute video, integrated with social media and celebrities. It has been the most stunningly successful marketing campaign I have ever seen, and I would be surprised if anyone reading this newsletter has not heard about it! Since then it has gathered both praise and criticism.

Due to its widespread awareness at this point, I will simply refer readers to my reaction to it contained in the following blog, based on this newsletter’s fundamental concepts of openness and dialogue:

KONY2012: Let’s Dialogue Our Way to a Solution

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US: EXPAND NUCLEAR EVACUATION ZONES

The current evacuation zone around a nuclear plant is 10 miles. But Fukushima demonstrated that it needs to be at least 25 miles. The following petition calls on the U.S. government to extend the zone, as well as create secondary zone:

Take Action:
   http://www.greenamerica.org/takeaction/nuclearevacuation/

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AMAZON.COM – SELLING WHALE MEAT !!

I always associate the Amazon.com web site with books, even though I know it has long since sold other items. But until last week I never knew it had been selling whale and dolphin meat (in Japan). It stopped doing so last week (within certain constraints), but only after an online petition. I am adding the following action both for its own sake and as I reminder to myself – and perhaps yourself – that even seemingly innocuous-sounding companies can, unseen, grow into areas over cross over lines.

Tell Amazon.com to permanently ban whale, dolphin, and porpoise meat.

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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ICC: Historic First Conviction: Congo’s Thomas Lubanga

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has handed down its first verdict, convicting the little known militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, of war crimes (using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo). The ICC was created ten years ago as a permanent replacement for the ad hoc tribunals created for such atrocities as Rwanda. The ideal is that the court: (a) brings a sense of justice for the victims of those convicted; and (b) acts as a deterrent to those who have felt free to terrorize a people. The hope is that with the first conviction, over a period of time it will build up such a legacy. The fear is that until other international dynamics fall in line with such ideals, that the ICC will have limited success. There are also other criticisms of the ICC, which must await a future newsletter.
   http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/14/us-court-lubanga-idUSBRE82D0J620120314

One year After Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Disaster Continue reading

Kony2012: Let’s Dialogue our Way to a Solution

As an activist for over 30 years I have been extremely intrigued to see the Kony2012 video and campaign go viral. Along with the publicity has come both support and criticism. This could be very promising, as long as it is founded on two basic concepts – openness and is communal counterpart, true Dialogue. In this blog I will start with some of my chief concerns (most already echoed elsewhere):

1. Good intentions and a worthy goal are not enough. Both are virtually off-the-scale here – who doesn’t want Kony captured? But the same was true of early attempts at ending overseas child labour 20 years ago, which sometimes ended simply with the child fired from the factory, on the street and in even more desperate conditions. Critical are solid, trusted partnerships of First World groups with local ones.

Two good balancing perspectives are Stop Kony but do not stop asking questions (he brings in the question of Uganda’s President Museveni’s role) and the more critical You do not have my vote, which critiques the video and Invisible Children (lack of Ugandan context, disempowering narrative for Ugandans, wisps of White savior mentality, etc.)

2. The Kony 2012 push is about advocacy. Advocacy is first of all, an admission of failure of the normal mechanisms to resolve an issue (it should never be seen as something cool to do; I always use the US Civil Rights “Keep your Eyes on the Prize” mantra to gauge this – whenever the eyes stray, such as onto the movement, the cause has lost proper anchoring). Also, advocacy must understand the failed mechanisms and their context, have the proper goal and be focused on it, and have the proper strategies (“Means”) to achieve it. The old post on Badvocacy provides some good reference points.

3. Invisible Children (hereafter, IC) spends most of its money in the US and not on actually helping those in Uganda.

There are more critiques, and properly digested, these seem to be enough to look elsewhere for solutions. But to me there is more to the picture:

4. Awareness and the “Process of Change”: IC has clearly done a phenomenal job of raising awareness. Awareness is always the first step in the process of change. I agree with the above critique of the video. But we live in a world that is not limited to the video’s content – for most people a few clicks and you can start drilling more deeply into the issue. And given this new phenomenon of “things going viral”, it quickly opens up the debate – you can’t be on Facebook or Twitter very long before the critiques seep in.

A simplified version of the process of change, premised on a stance of openness, is a continuing cycle of: (a) awareness; (b) facts; (c) action; (d) reflection. Having followed the Kony story soon after the LRA emerged as a repugnant force in the late 1980s, we have already had a few iterations of the cycle, some military and some a mobilization of local efforts (the latter being the ideal if they have the wherewithal to prevail and that can include strategic alliances with global partners – or simply put, my notion of dialogue). So we are now starting the next iteration, on the next round of awareness. Awareness here involves three levels: the general {US} public, the NGOs (US and local) and the military strategists.

For IC and its video, public awareness and buy-in is needed to form the constituency that would be required to garner the political will to have the US more involved in capturing Kony. Setting aside whether one ought to go this route, this would be no easy feat since any country’s foreign policy starts and ends on the question of national self-interest (aside: This needs to be pushed: can national self-interest be broadened, sometimes called “enlightened self-interest” such that like the Rwandan genocide & the US, a permanent stain on one’s national identity/self-esteem results due to inaction [while heeding Badvocacy’s constraint that sometimes you simply shouldn’t act?]). Anyway, for those who want buy-in, it is the third awareness – the military awareness that is critical. Given the disaster of the 2008 Operation Lightning Thunder, do wise military strategists think they have gained enough new awareness to be successful this time?

Closer to my approach, I would first ask whether, now that the push-back is coming to Western intervention or supporting the Ugandan army, etc., can we hear more clearly from those who live in the region regarding their strategies to resolve the whole issue? Are NGOs like IC open to absorbing such dialogue?

5. There are three potentially complementary goals: (a) capturing Kony and ending the LRA, along with rehabilitating victims on both sides; (b) elevating good governance in the region; and (c) having Kony stand trial at the ICC. Are there ways to align the planets so that all three can be accomplished? The closer we can come to this, the closer we not only save children from being abducted, but also increase the stability of the region, and finally, strengthen the global social fabric in the sense that any law (The ICC here) needs a credible track record for it to start reshaping our dynamics and ethos.

6. I do want to mention the critique about IC and using most money in the US. Advocacy simply requires substantial funding if it needs to create a broad constituency, which for IC is the case here. This mirrors the Darfur crisis in its early days – US advocacy groups formed a substantial backing of citizens, which built a political constituency allowing Save Darfur to pressure members of Congress, resulting in the US declaring the atrocities in Darfur to be genocide, and put the US on its conflicted policy course. Bec Hamilton wrote “Fighting for Darfur” which is a good review of the same advocacy failings (oversimplified narrative due to not understanding or properly consulting the local people, etc.) that hover around IC. One of her main concerns was that advocacy and actual policy-making are separate endeavours and shoud stay separate; and also when the policy end is hastily done in reaction to pressure, the consequences may not advance the cause and may set it back.

In this regard I want to raise David Algoso’s golden rule for advocacy (where one must simplify if the target is a general audience), which is basically, yes, simplify but don’t distort as mentioned in his blog. I think that both Bec and David felt that too much distortion happened with the early and mid Save Darfur days (and I believe both feel the same about the IC video).

Again, there is so much more to this issue. In the end I believe that the basic human desire of most people – somewhere, somehow, sometime – to be part of something truly worthy, something that helps nudge live along, can at times be used to do exactly that. But it doesn’t come easily; there is careful work to do and lessons to be learned. And in the real world this will almost always involve less-than-savoury compromises. The trick is knowing, first, when you are well-founded, and second, when the positives outweigh the negatives. And so to IC, I say “Thank you – you have done a fine service in raising the issue and outlining a stand.” But this is simply the next iteration in the process of change. Thus let the dialogue begin.

[Update Mar. 8: As part of the dialogue, Here is the IC response to the criticism. To me this advances the dialogue slightly in that they did respond (I did my homework and knew they were much more than the video, but time-constrained, I focused on the dynamics surrounding the video, and I may later give my sense of what would have been some better signals within the video, and what they are doing right with the African-side of their work). Anyway at the end they invited exactly what dialogue entails – in essence, “here is our best answer; if you have a better one, explain it and if you convince us, we’ll heed it”. For sure they are being given alternatives (if they can be found among the viral responses), so again, let the dialogue continue and we’ll see – key – who should change and is open to it].

Reflections for 9/11: Part II: Factors Affecting the Shape of the Story

On September 12, 2001 the newsletter associated with this website had the following brief second point (link to original email below):

“(b) ROOT CAUSES: While nothing could possibly justify the abhorrent terrorist acts, and terrorists need to be stopped, there are nonetheless root causes for the violence in this world. We can add our voices to those who suggest the only long-term way out of the spiral of violence, fear and hate is a more just sharing of the world’s resources including issues of power.”

The full essay (also linked below) clarified that one should not make any easy linkages between the terrorist attack of 9/11 and its root causes. The above quote appears to hover around such a mistake. In fact that is why the full essay was later written – I knew even one day after the attacks that root causes are in some way tied to the ultimate vision being upheld and the story that packages it. I already knew of the spiteful anti-modern ideology being taught in certain Pakistani madrissas. The unjust sharing of resources fuelled the anger and recruited sympathizers but was not the basic cause. And thus the full essay wanted at least to list some of the areas that play into such global dynamics.

This blog, however, wants to ponder some of factors that have shaped the story of the Western reaction to 9/11. It presumes Part I of the blog has been read. It is not a full essay and can only highlight a few issues:

1. The overall story of 9/11: The story typically opens on September 11, 2001, while perhaps that should be the start of chapter six of the story, and by now we must be on maybe chapter 32. The original full essay, below, tried to fill in some of those earlier chapters, although since then countless books have been written on the subject. The point is that anyone wanting to break current violent patterns will never succeed without at least having a well-grounded sense of history of how we got to that point, complete with its basic human nature dynamics.

2. Fear: Fear is part of what allowed us as a species to survive – we learned to fear what truly put our lives at risk. But fear is also insidious. It easily seeps into other areas, having a corrosive effect on situations or relations that could otherwise be supportive. And fear is easily manipulated by others, as was definitely the case here. The original newsletter that questioned talk about an Iraq War (link below), while definitely not getting everything right, was correct in it skepticism of why suddenly an invasion was necessary when no new compelling evidence supported it. What did support it, among other things, was the play upon fear. Have we found an alternative vision that is noble and encompassing, and yet also pragmatic enough to deal with the hard realities that face the world?

3. “War on . . .” language: I find such language (“war on drugs”, “war on terror”) has two aspects. On the one hand it is “reassuring” language – it makes my world seem like someone knows what the problem is, what the solution is, and has the overwhelming resources to succeed – things will be taken care of. But I also find a disconnect – it is nonsensical language since there is no identifiable enemy to attack; rather there are hidden networks. Such was part of the short-lived argument in the days following 9/11 – that the best alternative approach to “war” is via an overwhelming combination of international criminal justice, political pressure and providing compelling alternatives. In this regard some commentators have said that the Arab Spring has done more to weaken Al Qaeda in the long term than any military action. Have we become more aware how terminology can be used to manipulate, or how to distinguish attempts at true journalism from an ideologically-based one, whether from the right or left? What is true insight and where is it found?

4. Cost of the War on Terror: Because this newsletter is focused on the well-being of all on this planet, it is absurd to think one can calculate a true “cost” of 9/11 – what is the value of a human life? That said, there are two concerns which give rise to this section. First, it can be a helpful exercise to attempt to plumb the scope of the reverberations. The underlying assumption that “the clearer our perception of reality, the better our chance of success (of a more humane world)” compels us to examine the breadth and depth of what ensued. Secondly, coverage of the 9/11 anniversary will include many images and statistics. This section will hopefully assist in giving some perspective to the adequacy of any such claims.

The most comprehensive website on the overall costs that I know is: http://costsofwar.org/. The work was done by a number of respected academics, with the project centered at Brown University in the U.S. While the focus is on war costs (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan), and even this narrower range is impossible to completely quantify, here are a few of its findings under some of its sub-categories:

  • Human direct costs: Over 6000 US soldiers killed (stunning: unsure injured/illness count, due to Pentagon; over 500,000); 1100 Western allied deaths (70,000 wounded); 18,000 Afghan/Iraq Security deaths; 3500 Pakistan Security deaths; 2300 Pentagon contractor deaths; 200 media people killed; 137,000 civilians killed.  For returning US, about 25% have known mental health issues as well; plus toxic dust exposure can produce other problems. There are a staggering 7.8 million displaced people.
  • Financial cost: $3.2 to $4 trillion, which includes Pentagon budget (& its hidden costs), veterans, Homeland Security, interest, etc.
  • Erosion of Civil Liberties: Issues of detention, torture, rendition, surveillance, data privacy;
  • Media: In addition to the above media-related deaths, they examine the accuracy and skewing of the media related to the wars (no examination of other 9/11 coverage);
  • Growth of Corporate Power and Profiting: The growth is due to $400 billion in military contracts, primarily to 5 companies. Fraud, abandoned project, etc., are examined. For US intelligence, private contract employees now outnumber government employees;
  • Environmental costs: This seldom-mentioned area has sprawling implications – high fuel needs (made two-fold worse: often an actual gallon for use required two gallons to transport it; total DoD fuel needs: 4.6 billion gallons/year), toxic legacies, habitat loss, wetland destruction, deforestation, depleted uranium.
  • Benefits: The original goals were the removal of safe havens for terrorists and elimination of WMD. The goals shifted into issues of democracy and also women’s rights. Setting aside the discredited WMD issue, the report’s analysis seems quite thin here, perhaps reflecting the open nature of all three questions. However, thus far democracy is rated very poorly (Freedom House, Transparency International) and women’s groups in these areas are alarmed at the backward movement of their issues. Finally, a benefit not part of the report’s focus is that no subsequent major successful terrorist attack has yet occurred on US soil. A future blog may ponder that fact in light of the well-being of all around this planet.

In light of the above, I have already found commentators say that bin Laden has largely won beyond his fondest expectations; I have also found the opposite, either on the belief of a weakened Al Qaeda network or to the rise of the Arab Spring, which provides an alternative vision and reflects the real aspirations of most in the Arab world. Perhaps it is both. For sure moving toward a more decent world will depend on the shape of the story being used.

Original Email:

http://www.untilall.org/uwaa-10.htm

Original Full Essay:

http://www.untilall.org/hopeful.htm

Original Skepticism of Iraq War Talk:

http://www.untilall.org/uwaa-21.htm

Reflections for 9/11: Part I: Broadening Empathy

On September 12, 2001 this newsletter started with the following:

“After yesterday’s horrific deaths due to terrorist action, this email endeavour would be remiss if it remained silent. Remembering that these emails are simply a forum for action and not in-depth analysis and discussion (needed as they are and available elsewhere), the following actions are given for your consideration:”

A link to the full email is below. But I wanted to highlight two notions for reflection as the tenth anniversary coverage unfolds, largely by posing questions. Here is the first snippet:

“We can help bring a broader, more solid perspective into the overall dynamics . . .

(a) EMPATHY: Even as a Canadian, the sight of the massive towers collapsing, the loss of life, the vulnerability of even the Pentagon, was traumatic and jolting. And yet I had a hard time saying that “this email would be remiss” unless it is thus always remiss – violent deaths of innocent people occur daily around this planet. I am generally so insulated from all the suffering and violence . . . but at least here is an opening for empathy. We can try to channel the reaction to one of empathy and understanding for all those who are innocent yet traumatized for whatever reason . . . We have a gut-wrenching glimmer of what some people constantly face. Let’s use it to build bridges and understanding and action.”

 

I recently saw a little TV coverage of 9/11, focused on the personal stories of sorrow and heroism. A few people were still traumatized by the event. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a well-known phrase that tragically gets remedied far too seldom. For sure, we must do what we can to help such people heal. But while remaining genuinely focused on them I can at the same time broaden that sense of empathy. It made me think of a recent report which found PTSD criteria in 75% of Darfuri children in IDP camps (Reuters article based on Lancet study) – in front of their eyes, unspeakable acts of terror were committed before they entered the camps. Both groups remain genuinely traumatized, as are many people around the world – the question is whether I can find the above openings and thus find my world enlarged.

So as I ponder these last ten years I will be asking myself: in what ways and from where has my empathy been broadened? And in what ways and from where has it been the opposite? And as 9/11 coverage unfolds, because I am quite susceptible to the tug of the video images and reports, I will be asking: Why did they choose {whatever} images? Who is trying to evoke what response in me and why? Is it fair coverage? In what ways is it helping broaden my sense of empathy and in what ways does it diminish it? And so on. As indicated in earlier newsletters, our sense of the world is shaped by many factors, media being one of the most prominent. We must seek that which expands and deepens our sense of life and also name that which diminishes it (recall in the Previous Newsletter, there was an article, Fear Inc. on a $40 million deliberately funded group that spreads inflammatory, distorted views on Islam).

Authentic empathy requires our clearest perceptions of reality. It is already clear that such empathetic connections will be readily and rightly available to the victims and heroic people of the World Trade Center buildings collapse. During the unfolding anniversary events of such a world-pivotal event, may we all also examine how easy or difficult it is and has been to broaden that empathy, examine what factors have been at work, good and bad, in that process, and endeavour to use the insight to build a stronger, more human global fabric.

Original Email:

http://www.untilall.org/uwaa-10.htm

 

Original Full Essay:

http://www.untilall.org/hopeful.htm

 

Original Skepticism of Iraq War Talk:

http://www.untilall.org/uwaa-21.htm