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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Para la traducción española: clic aquí; y entonces hace clic en el botón de traducción en la página web.




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):

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






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):

Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2013





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):





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:







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.

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)







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.

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.

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].



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):





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






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):

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








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.


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.


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:


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.






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:


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



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.


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