Feb. / March 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to this edition of the Peace/Justice — Human Rights action edition!

I am just getting back after a leave-of-absence, so this newsletter will be brief. Hopefully the subsequent newsletter can finish the topic of populism, something I have been speaking and writing about during my absence.


Starting in mid-December, Sudan imposed price increases which resulted in nonviolent protests (UntiAll). Unlike the “Arab Spring”-like protests in 2012-2013, these have been broader, more leaderless and have now lasted four months, despite Bashir’s attempts to violently suppress them. He has now declared a state of emergency and replaced all federal and governors with military people. Yet the protests continue. While it is possible that, as has happened before in Sudanese history, such protests could become the tipping point for regime change, the best chance – military defections – has not happened yet in significant numbers. President Bashir has had years to purge out and also use corruption to keep both the military and the equally important NISS (secret service network) on his side.
The other factor that could help nudge things is the international community. But the U.K is consumed with Brexit, and the broader EU still values its agreement with Sudan to have them reduce the migration into the EU. Finally, the U.S., starting with the end of the Obama years, disappointingly swerved more into normalization incentives which has not been altered by the Trump Administration, even given this significant violent suppression of the people’s nonviolent uprising.
Nonetheless for those wishing to support the desire for freedom, dignity and an end to tyranny manifested by these protests, or wishing to let your elected officials know you want them to support the Sudanese people, you can copy and edit the letter template at the end of this newsletter, and send it to your representatives, either via email or regular mail. The template comes from the Darfur Women Action Group.

Take Action:
Find your Representative contact info. below, then copy, paste and edit the Letter Template at the end of this newsletter, and send it off.

Lookup your Representative:
  US: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
  UK: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
  Canada: https://www.elections.ca/scripts/vis/FindED?L=e&PAGEID=20
  Australia: https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members

Source of Letter: http://www.darfurwomenaction.org/stand-with-sudan/


Last October, the IPCC (the UN body that assesses and provides scientific information on climate change) drastically revised its forecasts to keep climate change under control. Their new forecast is that humanity must keep temperature increases within 1.5° Celsius by 2030, an alarmingly tighter timeline than its previous 2° Celsius by 2050.
Firstly, this raises our concern that we are well beyond the stage of addressing climate change via incremental change.
Secondly, due to such phenomena as the likelihood of non-uniform “trigger” events (such as the single degree difference between ice and water), the IPCC revised timeline gives a heightened sense of urgency, since any such tipping points would have a hard-to-reverse cascading negative impact.
Finally, the topic of climate change is an immensely complex issue, currently with few absolute certainties, and making it difficult to fully grasp the probability of various scenarios. Nonetheless, if this issue is not properly resolved, the scope of climate change could, worst case, potentially have a catastrophic impact on life on the earth, especially for the most vulnerable. Thus this newsletter suggests the need to abide by the Precautionary Principle, doing all we can to minimize its risks.
This sense of renewed crisis has mobilized many people, particularly the youth. In the U.S. it resulted in the Sunrise movement. In the U.K it resulted in a group called The Extinction Rebellion, whose basic tenet is “to tell the truth”, feeling that even the IPCC resulting statements end up watered down for political reasons.
To me this is best viewed not as an environmental issue but as a cross-cutting issue that also includes Human Rights, and Peace / Justice issues.


I have to be honest – when I originally saw this action (now 6 months ago, you may not remember), part of me wanted immediately to dismiss it. Given all the massive issues – whether entire countries in turmoil: Syria, Iraq, Brazil; or global threats such as climate change, etc.; . . . a few pieces of paper seemed so insignificant in comparison. Yet the other part of me recognized the danger of playing issues off each other and the either-or mentality that it wrongly evokes.
As well, part of the point is that as opposed to feeling helpless, almost anywhere one turns one CAN make a difference:
1. These receipts are toxic (containing BPA or BPS, chemicals linked to brain & heart problems and hormone disruptions). While I don’t want to handle that, think of how many a cashier handles every day!
2. In the US they take 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons to produce, and create over 600 million pounds of waste and 12 billion pounds of CO2.
There are times receipts are necessary (thus we should advocate for change) but even without expending that energy to change things, I find that right now I will never need most receipts and refuse them whenever possible.


Playing catch-up after six months, I feel somewhat aghast that the newsletter is unable to address, such issues as, among many others:
1. Up to one million Muslim Uighurs in China’s secretive “re-education” camps;
2. The atrocities of Yemen;
3. The chaotic times in Argentina & to some extent, Brazil;


I ran across this cartoon, which nailed it for me, haunting these days in the big picture. On the first panel there was a person holding a sign that said: “First they came for the reporters.” In the next panel, the sign says: “We don’t know what happened after that.”
I guess – unintentionally at the time – this is another hint to “stay tuned” for the next newsletter which will continue with the issue of global populism.



========= DARFUR LETTER TEMPLATE ==========
[ Your Name & Address & Email]


The Honorable [Name of Elected Representative]
[Address of Elected Representative’s Office]

Dear [Representative or Senator xxxxx],

I am writing to express my grave concern about the violence against peaceful protesters in Sudan. For years, many members of the U.S. Congress spoke out against the genocide in Darfur and called for justice against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. Now that the people are on the verge of real change and need the support of the world community, too many are silent. We need you to stand with the people of Sudan.


In 1989, al-Bashir came to power by coup and initiated dictatorial rule and political Islam to control and oppress the Sudanese people. In its 29 years in power, the government has continued its effort to destroy the people of Sudan.

  • Since 2002, the government has orchestrated a scorched-earth policy against the indigenous people of Darfur, resulting in genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
  • In 2004, the Bush Administration declared the situation a genocide. Since then, millions of Darfuris have been forced to flee their homes. Over 400,000 have been killed, and, as of today, over 3 million people have been displaced. Fifteen years later, Darfuris are still subjected to brutal attacks and deprived access to humanitarian assistance. Rape has been used as weapon of war, and arrests and torture have devastated, and continue to devastate, the lives of innocent civilians in Darfur.
  • In 2009, President al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for committing crimes in Darfur. He has yet to face justice. President al-Bashir’s regime has reportedly used chemical weapons against the people of Darfur as recently as September 2016.
  • The government has also attacked South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, displacing nearly a million people.
  • In the midst of this violent crises, approximately 10 million people who worked as producers, such as farmers and herders, have been displaced. Most Darfuris as well as the people of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states have had to flee and have become refugees without any ability to grow food or work. Since the farmers and herders have been displaced, the remaining Sudanese population has been forced to become urban consumers. Furthermore, members of the Sudanese government, rife with corruption, have been using the country’s resources for their own self-enrichment. The military’s budget has been increased and is used to buy weapons for the murder of civilians. As a result, Sudan’s economy has collapsed, while the human rights situation is rapidly deteriorating. The Sudanese people are experiencing historical hardship, including severe lack of food, commodities, fuel, and other materials necessary for survival. Subsequently, the Sudanese have taken to the streets to demand a change in government. In response to peaceful protests against these injustices, al-Bashir’s regime has used tear gas and live ammunition against protesters (including children), as well as killing and abducting students.

Current Demands

The protesters’ demands are legitimate and just. We, therefore, urge you to stand with the people of Sudan. Please publicly condemn these attacks on protesters and demand that the Sudanese government stop this violence against its own citizens. Given the history of crimes against humanity by Omar al-Bashir and his administration, we call upon the United States government to press him to respect and adhere to the aspirations and needs of the Sudanese people which are as follows:

  • Al-Bashir must peacefully step down and surrender power to a multi-party government
  • Creation of a technocratic, multi-party interim government to lead the country for 4-5 years
  • The peaceful resolution by the interim government of the long-standing crisis in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile and the granting of voluntary return of refugees to their lands of origin
  • Improvement of human rights and economic conditions across Sudan
  • Compensation for lost property and personal losses
  • Creation of a Sudanese constitution, agreed upon by all Sudanese people, that will guarantee basic freedoms and a dignified life for all
  • Open and improved regional and international relations with mutual interest
  • Institutional reform and infrastructure development
  • Implementation of a fair and free internationally monitored election at the end of the interim period.
  • We greatly appreciate your commitment to human rights at home and internationally. Your leadership and voice are needed to save lives in Sudan and particularly in Darfur. We thank you for your consideration.

[Your name]
In partnership with Darfur Women Action Group

========= END OF DARFUR TEMPLATE ==========

June 2018 Newsletter: US Immigration; +Darfur; +etc.

Welcome to this edition of the Peace/Justice — Human Rights action edition!

This version originally was meant to go out the first week of June but logistics made it impossible.  Then I was ready to send it June 20 but caught U.S. President Trump’s reversal of his policy to separate children and parents at the border.  Since the topic was being addressed below I decided to wait a few extra days to follow the revisions.  That said, it may continue to evolve over the next several weeks, and thus I have decided to send the newsletter now, highlighting to all that this may remain in flux for some time.

With most topics, the content here barely skims the subject of immigration; it can only try to coax out the core issues.  Again, that is why the blog was created – please use it to share any thoughts about vital areas you feel are missing or misconstrued, etc.

There are also sections related to Myanmar, Darfur and a couple other issues.  But due to the extra focus on the U.S. immigration issue, I have postponed a follow-up to the previous newsletter, noted at the end – it will be sent in the next couple of weeks.



This section highlights two concerns.  Firstly, the journalists themselves – they were arrested in December 2017 for investigating military abuses in Rakhine State (where the Rohingya crisis exists).  Despite protests concerning disregard for freedom of the press, they have since been charged with a criminal offence and could face 14 years in prison.

Secondly, last month (May) included World Press Freedom Day.  As noted in our previous newsletter, there have been rising populist dynamics.  A typical part of those dynamics is the attempt to discredit various sources of journalism.  This newsletter therefore wants to uphold the worthy, essential work of journalists, who often globally work in very physically threatening conditions, and applauds their courage.

Take Action:
[Note: If non-Canadian, edit start of your message with “As a citizen of {country}…]

Further Reading:
Background on Reuters Journalists Action [Amnesty International]
   Evidence of Further Massacres [May22]
Are Journalists Increasingly Under {physical} Attack? [BBC]
Other Journalist Threats: Mexican Journalist Killed, Sixth in 2018 in Mexico [Reuters: May29]





[Preamble: This newsletter sometimes skips a “hot button” issue, given its extensive coverage, that little is to be gained by repeating it.  Instead we often highlight other terrible plights NOT being addressed because the “hot button” issue is taking all the focus.  In this case we do a little of both.  For this immigration issue, we try to untangle and anchor the core issues and solutions.  We start with the typical brief overview and actions still needed, but will follow it with further analysis, given it fits well from the previous newsletter and the notion of affecting change].

As noted previously the U.S immigration system is broken, resulting in a simmering group of concerns and actions.  Then, recent politically-driven action (the “Zero Tolerance” notion) added to the chaotic result.  Both immediate and long-term actions / affirmations are needed, which is followed by a link to take action:

Immediate Actions / Affirmations:

  1. Children should not be separated from their parents. Using young children as objects to send a message (in this case, to stop migrating to the US) is not only stunningly callous and uncaring, it is immoral for the Possible Harms, Including Life-Long, to Separated Children.[CBC].  Due to its fundamental wrong, it is little wonder it provoked such a groundswell of outrage and protest, resulting in the action being abandoned.

    Corollary: Reunite the families already separated, due to the possible harm to the children.  [A federal judge has now ordered the reunification for children under 5 years old].

  2. Children should not be detained with their parents. Such concerns are why the U.S. 1997 Flores Agreement came into effect and must be heeded.  It recognizes detention is no place for innocent children, even with their families.  This is advocating for adequate resources for those seeking to immigrate rather than scare tactics to try to reduce the number seeking immigration.
  3. Asylum seekers should not be detained indefinitely. [July2: In a case brought by the ACLU and others, a federal judge determined such practices violated the Fifth Amendment {due process} and asylum seekers who pass the “credible fear” tests must be granted parole].

There are other considerations but I will include them below under item #2, “Fixing the System”.  Many concerns stem from a seemingly lack of trust in the immigration system as it currently stands.  The remaining concerns are the long-standing historical tension surrounding immigration, noted further below.


Long-Term Actions / Affirmations:

  1. Improve Living Standards of Developing Countries: The most basic issue is that there are countries whose citizens find life so desperate that they are willing to risk the journey to try to enter the U.S.  For example. the “Northern Triangle” countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have a history of violence, from which people want to flee [Council on Foreign Relations Jan/18].  The source of the violence is complex but at least goes back to the 1980s and civil wars (including the US-backed Contras).  Some roots go back further to Los Angeles and the 1960s (MS-13.gang) and 1980s (M-18 gang) , many of whom had fled their country’s unrest but then ended up in these gangs in the U.S., and were then deported back to their countries in a 1990s crackdown, which spread the gang influence back in their home countries (over 80,000 gang members now).

    One consequence at the end of the civil wars was many unemployed young men and easy access to weapons, leading to the proliferation of gangs, narcotics trafficking, weak rule of law, and official corruption. In 2015 El Salvador was the world’s most violent country not at war (though its rates have fallen somewhat since).  Total extortion payments in any of these countries could be as high as $290 million.  In sum, even if your child didn’t end up in a gang, your family could easily become a target of violence.

    Basic solutions are two-fold.  International development NGOS that deal directly with the people via local empowerment (especially women), capacity building, micro-credit, etc., can do much to help raise living standards, though it is rare to go much beyond the local level.  Note: Government-to-government funding is prone to strings attached and also to being siphoned off.  Secondly are the efforts to induce good governance – separate and well-functioning legislative, legal and enforcement aspects.  These efforts remain very primitive and fragile.

  2. Fix the Broken U.S. Immigration System: A broken system generates undue moral clashes, such as demands to “Stop the Queue-Jumping”. I agree – in general I don’t want queue-jumping as part of my moral framework (apart from exceptional circumstances), because it is not fair.  The same goes for No-Shows at asylum courts – while most do show up, a minority do not (though providing legal counsel significantly reduces that rate).  .In a smoothly running system there is no backlog, thus no queue jumping, few no-shows, and thus no such false, often manufactured, moral dilemmas and its associated liberal-conservative rancor.

    The [Vox] article demonstrates how the immigration system has been fixed before and could be again.  It simply needs the political will to provide the changes noted in the article and the resources (for instance, more immigration judges & asylum officers).

  3. Revisit the UN Convention on Refugees [E-International Relations]. Some people are deemed refugees {thankfully} only because a broad interpretation is made.  That leaves some people at risk of a narrow interpretation.

Selective History of U.S. Human Rights and Asylum

Apart from showing how the U.S. has adopted the core acts and protections for refugees, this list shows: (a) the tension surrounding immigration that has always lurked in U.S. history; (b) whatever group at a given time has been demonized, has later become part of the social fabric of society.

  1. 1845-55: Over 3 million immigrated to the U.S. (greatest per capita migration) from the unrest in Europe and crop failures in Ireland. The immigration backlash took the form of the “Know Nothing” movement, which included a strong anti-Catholic element.  It dispersed when the slavery issue took prominence.  Yet I remember as a young boy (over a century later) how weird it seemed that when John F. Kennedy ran for president there was controversy about him being Catholic.
  2. 1863-71: Chinese immigration led to violence and even a massacre. The anti-Chinese sentiment lingered into the early 20th
  3. 1930s: As the Jewish people faced persecution, 67% of the U.S. said they would not accept 10,000 Jewish children. In 1939 Cuba then the U.S. then Canada refused a boat of 937 Jewish refugees, which had to go back to Germany where 254 of them would die in concentration camps;
  4. 1942-45: American Japanese were sent to U.S. internment camps;
  5. 1967: The U.S. was not a signatory of the 1951 Convention of Status of Refugees, but is a signatory of the 1967 Protocol, which incorporates the Convention by reference;
  6. 1975-79: Fueled again by concern about job losses, 62% of Americans did not want to take in the Vietnamese fleeing the conflict (& later “Boat People);
  7. 1980s: This time the animosity was directed towards Cuban refugees;
  8. 1990s: This time the fear involved Haitian refugees;
  9. 1980: Congress passed The Refugee Act which brought the notion within domestic law, and added provisions for an Office to help with resettlement in the U.S.
  10. 1997: The Flores Settlement Agreement requires the federal government (a) place children with a close relative or family friend “without unnecessary delay,” rather than keeping them in custody; (b) keep immigrant children who are in custody in the “least restrictive conditions” possible.
  11. 2012: Obama introduces the DACA program for young undocumented immigrants.


Take Action (Belatedly; US citizens only – phone calls to Reps.)
Do Not Treat Asylum Seekers Like Criminals [Human Rights First]
Keep Pressure Until All Families Reunited, All Given Due Process [ACLU]
Bookmark this URL which gives your Representatives for all levels of government, federal to local:


Additional References:
Facts & Recent History of U.S. Asylum [TIME]
Fact-Checking The U.S. Family-Separation Policy  [Washington Post]
U.S. Asylum Process [Human Rights First, HRF]
Four Paths To Seek Asylum, Infographic  [HRF]
Latin America’s Homicide Epidemic [Economist]
Partial Legacy of Denying Entry to the U.S. [Slate]
Most Asylum Seekers Show Up in Court [Politifact]
JFK and Catholicism [JFK Library]





In the longitudinal study of Darfur, it is astounding now to watch countries considering a more normalized relation with Sudan, given that it has not changed its brutal and suppressive relations with its own people.  In the EU it is due to the migrant issue and using Sudan and others to stem the flow.  In the U.S. Obama had started the shift, seemingly seeing an unjust “calm” as reason enough to try to entice Sudan to do real development of its peripheries, thus perhaps hoping it might kick-start real economic growth.  At best risky; at worst, deluded.  And with President Trump in office, I simply cannot predict who will decide what.

Take Action:
Do Not Normalize Relations with Sudan

Six months after Lifting Sanctions Progress Is Limited [IRIN]
UK’s Boris Johnson Condemned for Trade Forum with Sudan [Guardian]
How Far Wil EU Go to Protect Its Borders [Dissent]





Reparative Therapy is the notion that there is a therapy that can change someone’s sexual orientation back to heterosexual.  This newsletter sides with scientific evidence that such therapy can be harmful and should be banned, let alone the faulty basic premise that only heterosexual relations can be deemed “normal”.

Take Action (US only):
Tell US Bishops to Skip Conference

Canada: Tell Government to Ban Reparative Therapy




This topic continues the issue of personal habits, their largely hidden environmental costs, and potential solutions.  This action won’t save the world, but these receipts usually have a toxic component, thus the fewer, the better, whether for meals, ATMs, or for gas.  In addition, habits can have a spill-over effect – where else can my daily patterns be changed for the better?

Take Action:
Take Pledge to Skip The Receipts Where Possible




Net neutrality maintains a level playing field for access to the internet. Removing that (that is, charging people more for better access to the internet) would be similar to charging people various rates for varying rates, and even possibly degrees, of access to the library system – knowledge is an essential resource in this world and it would create an inequality.

Take Action:





[Postponed – Stay tuned – coming in a couple of weeks]

February 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to this issue of the Peace/Justice / Human Rights action edition!.

This newsletter carries on its experimental nature.  In particular, rather than having a list of clickable actions, this article steps back, examines the bigger, troubling dynamics taking place among the core audience, and gives some generalized actions.  They are broad in scope, but hopefully help us move along that moral arc that bends toward a more decent world.

Thus, they are meant as actions, long-term ones that orient, anchor and embody the vision for the well-being of all or the flourishing of life for all.  You may already be doing them in which case they are simply encouragement to continue.  If my 40-some years of doing this has taught me anything, it is that you can never tell when isolated-feeling actions that seem like nothing more than yelling into the wind, can suddenly coalesce and bring change.  We even see the potential today, in the #MeToo movement, and due to the recent Florida school shooting, the #BoycottNRA movement.  Who knows?

Note: the article starts with some concepts.  If you tire of them or simply don’t have time, please skip to Part D where the actions are considered.

Also, this subject inevitably contains strands of my views, eg, on human nature, which may not align with your sense.  Please – that is what this blog is for – I truly welcome hearing different views, especially given this experimental content.



Two years ago, this newsletter had a section titled “Fear Must Not Rule”. Recognizing the seismic shifts taking place in many parts of the Western world (for the rest of the world, it was just another day, whether good or appalling, although any resulting policy shift in a super-power like the U.S. could have a significant impact), it gave a brief list of changes needed.  This list is repeated below, along with a variety of other actions.  But we start with an analysis of the core dynamics and possible responses.



Political lens: Populism is a word often used today to describe a major shift in overall dynamics in the Western world and beyond.  While events like Brexit or President Trump’s election bring it squarely into areas that haven’t experienced it for ages, it is also part of a much broader dynamic. For instance, over the last few decades in Europe, right-wing populists have doubled their vote and now hold almost 14% of the seats (left-wing populists also gained).  Populists often do not take power but become influential by mobilizing the people and forcing the governing parties to tilt in a direction they normally never would.

What exactly is populism?  It is slippery in nature, as noted by its framing by Cas Mudde (U. Georgia) as a “thin ideology”.  By that he means it does not define one’s total outlook but only a part of it, specifically {simplified} the notion of some form of pure people and a corrupt elite.  So out comes some form of pure people (the “real citizens”,  true patriots, “the people”) and undesirable people (the “economic elite”, the “corrupt politicians”, “pluralist politicians allowing the undue foreigner”).

This “thin” form, being incomplete, then gets attached to a “thick” or complete ideology such as socialism, nationalism, anti-imperialism, etc., which can result in any number of views.

Just think of the differences among the Philippines & death squads, the U.S., France, Brexit, Poland (Kaczynski wants a Catholic takeover from secular liberal elites), Netherlands (Wilders wants ordinary Dutch including gay rights and to rid a multicultural elite who open the door to Muslims), Spain’s far-left Podemo which wants to seize vacant buildings from banks & give to the poor while attacking “la casta” {elite caste}, and so on.  That said, the focus here is primarily the major reach of this newsletter – the U.S. and North America.

Related concept: Informally, one’s view on the issue of human nature colours all this.  How “open” or malleable are people to change (related, see below, process of change)?  Somewhat related, for clarity, this essay presumes a “thin veneer of civilization” framing.  In society there usually is some undercurrent of that enormous ranging populist sentiment.  But when it (a) builds and (b) finds a leader who can tap into it or simply manipulate it, then the result easily pokes holes through that thin veneer, making the core issues harder to see due to the resulting hateful, racist, etc., dynamics that spill out, previously kept below the surface.

Human rights lens: Populism usually springs from one or more moral issues but becomes hijacked by manipulative voices.  Populism is a human rights issue because: (a) at its core there are moral issues; and (b) a populist leader by definition is a divider and that is contrary to the inherent equality of all.

Both proponents and opponents of populist sentiment easily subvert progress on resolving the moral issue(s): proponents by not articulating the core issue or by conflating thin & thick ideologies, weaving multiple strands into their stance, and later by allowing a manipulator to distort the core issue for their own purposes; opponents by often having a blind spot (see Bias, below), by not listening deeply enough (see Mindfulness), by caricaturing the other side.

What concerns this article is not simply populism but why did it emerge?  What has gone on for so long that a certain set of people have had enough?



While already we see the need to address “divisiveness”, we haven’t cut to the heart of any underlying issue.  For brevity I will use the packed shorthand analysis of Fareed Zakaria. For him, the roots of the West’s populist revival are threefold: (1) the convergence of opinion on economic policy, (2) the divergence of opinion on culture, and (3) a pushback against increased immigration.

Economics: Convergence.  Globally this implies the desire for {neoliberal} free, open markets and capitalist dynamics.  But it has also meant a converging push-back.  For instance, why does every trade agreement now transfer risk from the company to the country (e.g., oversimplified, NAFTA or TPP allows companies to sue countries if the country enacts something that diminishes the company’s profit)?  Who is making these rules?  Let alone, issues of transfer of jobs, capital, etc.  Or issues of automation and job loss.  Or stagnation due to an aging population and low fertility rates.  {Amusing aside: Steve Bannon and I share at least one thing: we both have a disdain that no one was held accountable for the 2008 economic collapse nor have safeguards been put in place}.

The points is simply that economics is one nexus of discontent, partly justified, partly misguided if the thought is to turn back the clock. I originally thought this was the main reason for the discontent in the U.S. Rust Belt and coal belt.  Given that I don’t live in the U.S. it took a while to see the significance of the next factor.

Cultural: Divergence.  As the economic dynamics converged (right & left both moved more to the centre; NOT implying sameness, especially with rhetoric) it meant the defining allegiances to a party became more cultural.  In the U.S. Clinton had pulled in more white-collar workers, making a greater urban-rural split.  I believe most people know where the LGBTQ battle will end, even if tragically they continue to battle it (just think how far race still has to go).  That leaves immigration as easy, low hanging fruit.  And in populist framings, it provides a common outside enemy, though not all share that view.  More on that in the Action section.  Of course, the Republicans also have other items in their three ‘G’s (guns, God and gays) that differentiate them.  See Dialogue section.  Within the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is a clear indication of discontent at its establishment.



The following are just a few samples to give a sense of the wide range of arenas that feed the undercurrent that can become a populist wave.

1. Global Long-Term

  1. A moral issue arises from the basic neoliberal model. The Bretton Woods group (World Bank & International Monetary Fund) and World Trade Organization, as well as the Davos / World Economic Forum, do provide some structure for trade & direction. But they have a very mottled history skewing badly who benefits, disregarding the environment, and regarding the IMF, devastating many countries in the 1980’s.  Also, according the this Critique, they still pose many issues including in the developed countries.  The last WEF meeting has even recognized their role being played in the rise of populism.
  2. Trade deals like the dropped TPP, lack transparency and are largely formed in secret, plus as mentioned, transfer risk from the company to the country.

2. National Long-Term

Both U.S. political parties over the years have failed to tackle the issues raised in the February, 2016 newsletter (first five points) and others:

  1. Get unbridled money out of political campaigning;
  2. Create transparency in lobbying.
  3. Address the financial systems still unchanged after the 2008 financial crisis.
  4. Address the widening income gap – its chasm has become life-stifling and life-distorting.
  5. Provide robust oversight that can establish an appropriate surveillance balance between truly threatening activity and personal privacy.
  6. Put a severe cap on spending in political campaigns to level the field and stop the obscene amount being spent on elections.
  7. Address concerns of automation.

3. National Short-Term

  1. During populist times, immigration is usually one of the moral considerations. Many people feel that the U.S. immigration system is broken. It seems a majority feel the DREAMers should be allowed to stay (between 66% to 75%, ), though a vociferous minority feel  otherwise [NYT Jan. 25/18].  From the outside this seems like a classic letter-of-the-law (rules are rules) versus spirit-of-the-law issue, though muddier.
  2. Climate change predicts more severe weather, whether more droughts (& thus fires) in some areas or more storms (& thus floods or severe snowstorms) in other areas. There seems a disconnect between that and the makeup and cuts to the EPA.
  3. There must be a strengthening of the notion and location of fact-based sources, whether journalists (and a clarification between them and Op-Eds and opinion pieces) and also science and expert opinion.



The following is a brief list to help orient, anchor and engage.  They are a sample of the more than a dozen Conceptual Resources I have developed (nothing new here) to help maximize chances of success.

1. Be Well-anchored: This is the most fundamental action. One needs a basic sense of self-worth and dignity. Some already have it; for some engagement with yoga or Mindfulness or similar practices can provide the grounding (Note: it seems Mindfulness is even being used in schools to help youth. Example).

Self-assurance is essential for maximizing success when encountering a divisive world – when I encounter vitriol, I can keep the comment separate from the person and can keep treating the person as a subject (this is FOUNDATIONAL).  Also, if the comment is directed at me, it allows me to sift through it and just maybe see if they are saying something about me that I hadn’t realized, in which case – thank you – I am better off for it.  Yes, it can work that way.  For more, see Dialogue, below.

That said, one must avoid a couple pitfalls.  One is to wait for the perfect moment – it will never come (see section on Circles).  The other is it to be sure to go easy on oneself – for myself, my operative word is “bumbling” – that seems to be the best I can do, even after almost four decades of activism.  Things can happen fast sometimes – I can’t find the right words, don’t do the right thing.  See the next section.

2. Eyes on the Prize: There were two reasons why this became a classic refrain during the US civil rights movement (fuller: “Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.”):

  1. They were goal-oriented – basic human rights – and wouldn’t settle for anything less.  There can be times when compromise is needed but other times it simply compromises the whole endeavour.  It takes wise people to know which way to go.
  2. It helps keep egos in check.  When everyone has their eyes on the prize I find no one cares whose idea is being used, only that some idea is advancing us toward the goal.  See Dialogue.
  3. Anything of value takes time – “Hold on, hold on”. Doubts are inevitable but they needn’t derail things.  As well, in a world of “instant” it can be discouraging when nothing changes immediately.  The above refrain maintains perspective – how many decades did that sentiment ring? . . . and even now it isn’t totally fulfilled.  Please, keep doing what you can, and hold on, hold on.  See Circles, below.
  4. Sometimes it is said that “it’s all about the journey”.  As that phrase is stated, I am unsure what it means, but the sentiment’s focus on Means is critical as a check that one’s Means and Ends are congruent.
  5. Related: Activism / Protests: A few specific points:
    1. Activism is firstly an admission of failure of the normal processes to handle the situation.  One shouldn’t jump to activism until one is sure there aren’t alternatives, allies etc.  As well, it helps track what is wrong systemically with the recognition that for the long term it must be rectified.  See “Process of Change” – there are other essential roles & maybe something other than protest is more suited for you.
    2. If you are timid or unsure about protesting, ease into it (“go easy on yourself”).  Be sure it is clearly called as non-violent; if possible, pick one that is family-friendly, maybe slide in partway through, etc.  Know the route or place so if you get uncomfortable, you can slip away.  Enjoy yourself – strike up conversations, look at the placards – there are usually some hilarious ones.
    3. Beware badges of honour.  We are all human – there is almost nothing we do that does not contain a self-interest element to it (that’s OK – it’s “in our DNA” & is why we survived as a species).  But the overriding motivation, whether simply going to a protest, or  doing something illegal, getting arrested, whatever, should be whether it advances the goal, not whether it in essence becomes a badge I can talk about later.  This is the balancing of integrity with the inevitable undercurrent of self-interest.
    4. Beware if you are getting angrier at the wrong things, like people.  If you are losing the ability to separate people from issues, it is time to properly re-anchor yourself.  Recognize that a disproportionate amount of pain is caused by people with personality disorders (eg, narcissism or worse).  In my mind, I get angry not so much at such types as the primitive society that hasn’t figured out what to do with such people, and that opens up new issues for advocating change.  That said, yes I am human and can get angry, especially if the person ordered the bombing of civilians, schools, hospitals, torture, etc.
    5. Consider carrying a placard (but if so make sure it is visible from 20’ – not the time to scrawl an entire thesis).  There are times when I am in general agreement but find it too simplistic.  Carrying a placard helps bring the nuance I want.

3. Biases: While biases have always existed, as a field of research it is fairly new. And highly valuable! For example, in a divisive world, Confirmation Bias (we tend to give priority to new information that confirms our existing stance) is partly what keeps us siloed. The Reference section list links outlining 13 biases, 58 biases and the full 175 biases.  Being aware of how subtly susceptible we can be to bias, and having at least a few common ones known, can become a highly useful tool to help open up a little common ground.  Doing a daily meditation on each bias might not be a bad idea.

4. Dialogue: Dialogue is the chief nonviolent, non-coercive tool for bringing about change. Ideally it has only two criteria: (a) Each person is authentically there; (b) There are equal power levels.  If there is a participant who is not self-assured, a good facilitator is a must.  Here are fuller Guidelines [UntilAll].

Diversity if often only given lip-service.  Dialogue allows full engagement.  I have an insatiable curiosity for how life works and that involves differentness, since understanding why people differ from me and what moral touchstones they base it on, etc., is fundamental to grasping how life really works and thus how best to help it flourish.  I know the last thing for true life flourishing would be clones of me, yet in the Other I feel I seldom get to engage deeply enough to question what I see as inconsistencies, which when fully engaged often results in me seeing my biases and also differing but genuine ways of processing reality.

In the U.S. today (& other countries with populist tendencies) dynamics have become so shrill and caustic that points (1) Well-anchored, (3) Bias awareness in self and others, and (4) Dialogue do remain the essential best starting point.  But the notion of Dialogue is also clear that it ceases when a participant becomes manipulative.  It is also suspended when a participant can’t provide any new discourse or insight, although a full sense of “dialogue with life” is more than just using words and nonverbal language; it can also involve physically going to a place to absorb circumstances never before encountered, etc.

When dialogue fails it then becomes a question for each person whether to move on to other strategies for change, usually increasingly more coercive (the following, or point 2.5 above).

5. Process of Change: Change has many stages and layers. Do something at the correct stage and things advance; otherwise things regress. I remember in 1970 being involved in what was then called “Pollution”.  Suddenly Greenpeace appeared with one of their attention-grabbing acts.  I cringed, feeling they were setting the agenda back a decade, just when awareness was starting to occur.

While I may have been right short-term, I was wrong.  In the end Greenpeace’s dramatic awareness-stage action increased discussion at an exponential rate.  They followed it up with explanation, a bevy of lawyers, etc.  In other words, they followed the stages and made inroads.  Now they are not paradigm of perfection, but it was a good lesson for me – my incremental ways were not necessarily the best way to advance things.

The main point is that there are several stages and layers and each one needs a different type of person.  The layers can be working outside the system, inside business, political, bureaucracy, legal.  So join a group and find your place in helping bring about change.

6. Circles: Awareness Facts, Action, Reflection: On a personal level a good model of growth of insight is to think in terms of an ongoing circle of awareness, facts, action and reflection. Done properly it becomes a spiral, honing in on better and better solutions each time.

Awareness: With a 24/7 news cycle and omnipresent social media, awareness of an issue is almost inevitable, although exactly “what” one is becoming aware of, is increasingly suspect.  Nonetheless it is always the starting point.

Facts:  One must never jump from awareness to action.  One must do their homework to establish whether the original concern is correct; what are its causes short and long term; what other factors are involved; what are the typical responses and are there better ones; etc.  In particular one must use all the above (congruency with overall goal, awareness of biases, or even if this is real or manufactured information, etc.) before deciding if or what action is suitable.

One must also discern when one has enough information to act, since research can be endless.  Naturally there are most often people and organizations who have already done the research and it is often mainly a matter of assuring oneself of their reliability.

Action: It can involve any or all of the above actions and many not listed.  Again, most often joining an existing, knowledgeable group is the best idea, although of course sometimes the issue calls for something new.

Reflection:  Openness is critical to success.  One must never be tied to a given course of action.  The whole point of this section is that one must have gauges that one can reflect on (are we advancing?  What are the next set of obstacles, openings, alliances and so on?)  Even once change has been made, it can unravel and continual assessment needs to be made.

Usually, from the reflection, comes new awareness and with that one cycles back, though as indicated, each iteration should hone in closer to the eventual best outcome.


What is Populism? [Dec/16; Economist]
What Is a Populist? [Feb/17; The Atlantic]
Is Donald Trump a Populist?  [Feb/16  Slate]
When a Political Movement Is Populist, or Isn’t  [May/17; New York Times]
Historians Long Thought Populism a Good Thing. Are They Wrong?  [Jan/18 Politico]
Fake History: Nazi Massacre Remembered as Its Opposite  [Jun/17;  Foreign Affairs]
Our Biggest Mistake in the Fight Against Fake News [Mar/17  Washington Post]
Europe’s populists are waltzing into the mainstream  [Feb/18  Economist]
On Biases (Serious subject, mainly Wikipedia level):
Some 13 Basic Biases [Huffington Post]
Deeper: 58 Biases [Business Insider]
All 175 Biases, Categorized By Problem They Solve [Better Humans]
Original 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for Work on Bias [Kahnemann Lecture PDF]

September 2017 Newsletter

Welcome to this issue of the Peace / Justice newsletter!.

This newsletter is short – focused primarily on a couple of urgent actions regarding the Rohingya.  There is a window for movement on this ongoing tragedy and thus the need to take action which will bolster support for those wanting to show global desire for action.  A second time-sensitive action is related to our longitudinal issue of Darfur.



In 2012 and again in 2014 this newsletter highlighted actions and concerns related to the plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma.  While most people in Burma are Buddhist, and there are other groups and conflicts, the Rohingya have been marginalized for decades, officially deemed immigrants from Bangladesh.

Being stateless means diminished rights in an impoverished area.  It also means voiceless and thus open to increasing conflict and violence.  From our longitudinal study of Darfur, when people who want a nonviolent resolution, find all such avenues fruitless, eventually a few may take up arms both for protection and to highlight their case to the world.  Thus fast forward and we find again this is the case.

But the government disproportionately cracked down not simply on the insurgents but the entire Rohingya population, resulting in a UN official indicating the government’s response appears to be a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.  There have been over 400,000 displaced, with many villages burned, and an unknown number of people killed or raped.

The violence must be stopped, a path to full inclusiveness for all provided, and human rights violations on all sides must be investigated.  The following petitions address two audiences.  Avaaz {the site we sometimes use to explore the influence of massive petitions, in this case now over one million signatures} is targeting those governments supporting Burma’s military.  The Amnesty International petition is aimed directly at Burma’s military Commander in Chief.  Please consider signing both.

Nobel Peace Prize Laurate Aung San Suu Kyi: While previous newsletters gave her silence the benefit of the doubt, it is time to side with Desmond Tutu’s response where he pleaded with her to speak out for justice and unity and cautioned that “If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep.”

Take Action [Open to all; Consider signing both]:
Tell Governments To Stop Supporting Burma’s Military  [Avaaz]
Tell Burma’s Commander in Chief to Stop Ethnic Cleansing  [Amnesty International]

Summary of Current Crisis  [International Crisis Group]
How Years of Strife Grew Into a Crisis  [NYT]
How New Muslim Insurgency Arose [ICG, Dec, 2016]
Final Report on Fair Future [Chaired by Kofi Annan; very in-depth]



The action on this issue from the last newsletter was part of efforts that may have helped dissuade the Trump Administration from lifting sanction on Sudan.  However that had a three month timeframe which is almost up now.  So new efforts are needed to help maintain the sanctions until Sudan changes its action and addresses the marginalization of all its peripheries, most especially Darfur and South Kordofan / Nuba mountains.  As noted before, the lifting of sanctions was shocking to many Sudan watchers, including myself, who feel it was based on murky logic (see Current Status, June 25, [UntilAll.org] or the Background links below).

Thus there is urgent need to tell President Trump not to permanently lift the sanctions.  Even if one felt progress was being made, six months is far too short, as Human Rights Watch argues, below.

Take Action:
Don’t Lift Sudan Sanctions  [Act For Sudan]

Sudan Sanction Review Fails 8 Benchmark Tests [HRW]
{Counter View} Repeal Sanctions, There are Still Others in Place [Crisis Group]





At Least 200 Environmental Activists Slain In 2016:

This newsletter has taken action to safeguard environmental activists throughout the world, and for good reason.  This year saw the most deaths ever.  While India had a three-fold increase, Latin America remained the deadliest region.   Mining, oil, agriculture and logging were the industries most associated with the deaths.
Most environmental activist killed in 2016 [Globe and Mail]





Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu  Xiaobo, Died

In a sad note over the summer, Liu Xiaobo died.  He helped lead the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy uprising for which he was imprisoned.  Upon release he continued to lecture about democracy and human rights, including helping to draft Charter 08 which laid out the comprehensive changes needed, such as a new constitution, for legislative democracy.  He was imprisoned again where his health deteriorated.


June 2017 Newsletter

Welcome to this issue of the Peace/Justice action email!.

Actually this issue is not so much a full newsletter as a simple bookmark to let everyone know that this newsletter has not disappeared.  I had to take a five month “sabbatical” due to unusually heavy attention needed on a few other projects that I am involved with.  Subsequently, and unrelated, I found myself in a cardiac unit (not a heart attack, and with no usual indicators for such, well, our bodies are complex and interesting).  Hopefully by the fall the newsletter will be more on track again.

Thus this newsletter briefly has an action related to our longitudinal issue – Darfur – as well as an issue that hopefully will be heeded before it deteriorates more.  Finally, there are some accumulated items that I don’t have the time to re validate.



Sudan and Darfur have largely been out of the news, except that before leaving office former U.S. President Obama conditionally lifted some sanctions on Sudan.  After six months (July 12) that action will become permanent if a review shows Sudan was continuing progress.  This act was shocking to many Sudan watchers, including myself, who feel it was based on murky logic (see Current Status, June 25, [UntiAll.org] or the Background links below).

Thus there is urgent need to tell President Trump not to permanently lift the sanctions.  Even if one felt progress was being made, six months is far too short, as Human Rights Watch argues, below.  Given the President’s use of Twitter, the first action makes use of a tweet and provides additional information.  The second action is a petition by a diaspora Darfuri women’s group.  It calls for the sanctions to remain and also lists many other conditions (disarm militias, impose travel bans, etc.) that many have advocated for, for many years.  Please note a typo in the petition: “seize attack” should be “cease attack”.  This is not a high-financed group but their direct connections to people in Darfur provides a valuable voice.

Take Action:
Tweet: Tell U.S. To Delay Lifting of Sanctions [Enough Project]
Petition: Keep Sanctions on Sudan [Darfur Women Action Group]

Sudan Sanction Review Fails 8 Benchmark Tests [HRW]
{Counter View} Repeal Sanctions, There are Still Others in Place [Crisis Group]




A human right’s lawyer in Malaysia has been charged in connection with her questioning the legitimacy of a raid on a transgender event.  Amnesty International believes it is an attempt to silence and undermine human rights work. Please consider taking action, both for its innate rightness and for the signal it sends to Malaysia to uphold human rights before things deteriorate further.

Take Action:
Stop Targeting Transgender Community [Amnesty International]






South Africa Decides to Stay in the ICC

South Africa formally revoked its bid to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Last year it joined Burundi and the Gambia in saying it would leave, sparking fears of a wider flight; many African leaders think the court focuses disproportionately on them. But the Gambia has reconsidered, and last month South Africa’s High Court ruled that its withdrawal would be unconstitutional.
South Africa Reverses Withdrawal from ICC   [NYT]






Chiquita Bananas & Crimes Against Humanity

On behalf of affect communities in Colombia, a coalition of human rights group have called on an investigation by the ICC of the complicity of executives at Chiquita Brands International regarding crimes against humanity.  The company has admitted to having funneld millions of dollars to paramilitaries that killed, raped and disappeared civilians, yet no one has been held responsible.
Communities Seek Accountablility


A Few Leagues-Under-The-Sea: It’s Getting Toxic

In research conducted on a couple of the ocean’s deepest trenches (up to 11 km or 6.8 miles) they scientists have found organisms with PCB levels over four times as bad as the world’s most polluted rivers.  Humanity’s negative impact on the planet seems to have no bounds, yet another dire sign and call-to-action to regarding our throw-away society:
World’s Deepest Ocean Trenches Badly Polluted [Economist]

December 2016 Newsletter

Welcome to this edition of the Peace/Justice action email!

Firstly, apologies are in order – this is really November’s newsletter, greatly delayed due to a convergence of issues needing my attention.  It included being part of a group sponsoring a Syrian family who has now arrived (brief reflections below).

The interval since the last newsletter has been terribly disheartening from a human rights standpoint.  Even as the previous newsletter was being sent out, I received an Amnesty International report documenting the repugnant use of chemical weapons in Darfur, including the killing and maiming of children.  While there had been rumours of chemical weapon use before in Sudan, I find it difficult not to associate this more brazen use, with Obama’s empty “red line” regarding Syria and chemical weapons, baffled as I am by such an ill-thought statement.  It leaves a terrible unease that the world may be inching towards normalizing this once “forbidden” weapon.

In addition, while this newsletter does not always give much attention to current high profile issues such as Syria (since they are already well-known and actions abound) the recent push to remove the rebels from Aleppo contains terrible war crimes [Human Rights Watch].  In the bigger picture the Syrian humanitarian and refugee crisis continue to have enormous negative impacts on the surrounding area, throughout the EU, and into North America.  Extremist right-wing groups are gaining support in many EU countries.  Chasms separate people and shrill voices abound.

I have never felt more of a need in this upcoming year to stand firm in the highest principles and values that make humanity fair and just for all. Should upheavals occur there will be a desperate need for fair-minded people to speak and act in ways that remain congruent with such intentions.  Thus at the end of this newsletter is a link to a Southern Poverty Law Center piece giving ten points on remaining well-anchored in a divisive world.  May this year find us all striving to uphold the best aspirations of humanity!



There has been credible evidence that countless villages in Darfur have been attacked by the Sudanese government and its allied militias.  People have been shot while fleeing, raped, and even targeted with chemical weapons.

Like many authoritarian states, Sudan has built an impenetrable wall, keeping its internal actions secret by refusing all outside access.  It becomes almost impossible to verify what is occurring, an essential step if accountability and justice is ever to occur.

While there may be no international will to stop the atrocities, satellite imagery now allows you to be part of ensuring such actions not remain hidden.

Please note the innovative nature of this action!  Using your computer or phone, you can identify Darfur’s most remote villages, pictured earlier and now, and help identify those that have been destroyed.  There is a tutorial to help you identify key markers.  It can be done whenever one has some time.  So please consider being part of this project.  You will not only help build a case for war crimes against the government, but you will be helping establish the viability of this form of technology for future cases.

Help Reveal Atrocities that Sudan Wants Kept Hidden:




The crisis in Syria has become yet another horrible blight on our world’s inability to respond to massive humanitarian needs and human rights failures.  I will never forget the stunning sequence of hospitals that were reportedly destroyed in the final push by Syria’s President Assad with heavy Russian backing to oust the rebel forces.

December Note: Due to the tenuous nature of any ceasefire and evacuations, Amnesty has updated this November action to continue to pressure leaders, given the continued vulnerable nature of civilians.

Take Action:
Demand Safe Evacuation {and Protection} in Aleppo [Amnesty International]

War Crimes Committed {+ Twitter action}  [Human Rights Watch]





This is a new section to be used fr­om time to time, given that the focus of this newsletter is primarily action-oriented.

I have had the privilege of being part of a group that has twice before helped sponsor refugee families.  This time, while still being actively involved, I felt it time to pass the primary responsibility to the younger generation who, naturally, have responded admirably.

The atmosphere this time surrounding the sponsorship of Syrian refugees is vastly different from the other times.  While there are always voices urging immigrations restraint, this time those voices are stronger and more shrill.  The overwhelming sense of such voices is fear.  I have written elsewhere how there is a grain of truth to such fear but the fear has been deliberately manipulated and distorted.  The best stance is to remain open to these dynamics but not to act from a stance of fear but rather from a desire for fairness and well-being of all.  As such welcoming Syrian refugees who have been appropriately screened strengthens our global fabric.

Thus we gladly agreed to sponsor a refugee family.  We took a four-part strategy.  In addition to the commitment and money for the sponsored refugee family, we gave to:

  1. The international agencies responsible for helping the displaced “locally”, whether internally within their own country or a neighbouring country.  When feasible this is the best option – no one wants to end up halfway around the world, unless that is the only safe, stable option available.
  2. Our own country’s sponsorship network.  These agencies often have meagre budgets and volunteer teams.  Supporting them strengthens the broader immigration resources and fabric.
  3. Our local food bank.  We are quite aware of needs within our own country, and feel the best framing is not an “either/or” but “both/and” approach in terms of nudging life on.

Finally, please note that all the above are remedial in nature and should be balanced with preventive measures at all levels as well.

Back to our family.  After several months of waiting, we are now two months into this project.  We have a wonderful family of six, and while {the necessary} bureaucracy slows things down, the kids have started school and the parents are about to continue learning English.  Their home here won’t be bombed.  They are a bright, loving and very capable family.  It has taken many hands and donations, has been hard work for some (and at times exhausting work for our point-person) but it seems clear that our family will integrate quite well into our community.






Malta First EU Country To Ban ‘Gay Cure’ Conversion Therapy  

Having raised up and tracked the concern surrounding such misguided therapy, it is heartening to see a country-wide adoption of the ban on this therapy.  That said, it means that there are over 190 other countries still to enact such a ban.






Landmark Deal To Phase Out Refrigerant (HFCs)

In 19887 the Montreal Protocol banned refrigerants called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which destroy the ozone layer.  They were replaced with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs do not destroy the ozone layer but have a 1000 time effect in trapping heat.  Thus on Oct 15 in Kigali, Rwanda, an agreement was achieved to phase out the newer, destructive HFCs..

Countries Reach Agreement to Ban HFCs [NYT]



*** The Southern Poverty Law Center – Community Response Guide  ***

Here is the SPLC’s list of ten steps that everyone can do to help in divisive or hateful times.  The list is easy reading and includes many positive anecdotes that accumulated over their decades of experience dealing with hate and racism.

  1. Act (Do something; be proactive);
  2. Unite (Call a friend; create a coalition);
  3. Support the Victims (They can feel vulnerable and alone);
  4. Do Your Homework (Don’t be unthinking);
  5. Create an Alternative (Take the high road);
  6. Speak Up (Silence takes the wrong side);
  7. Lobby Leaders (Broaden support);
  8. Look Long Range (Be Preventive);
  9. Teach Tolerance (Bias is learned early);
  10. Dig Deeper (Keep looking inside oneself);

SPLC Community Response, Ten Steps

September 2016 Newsletter

Welcome to this edition of the Peace/Justice action email!

In this newsletter there are two areas of actions.  One concerns South Sudan with a couple of long-term-oriented actions to help its leaders change their calculus that has led to one of the worst humanitarian disasters today.

The second area of action is focused on the appalling working conditions suffered by many around the world, specifically in this case the factory conditions in Bangladesh.



After the initial euphoria of being the world’s newest country in 2011, South Sudan quickly descended into a horrific quagmire by the end of 2013.  The primary actors were President Kiir (and his Dinka tribe) versus Vice President Machar (and his Nuer tribe) although there are around 60 tribes.  Prior to 2011 they fought together against the government of Sudan (though with many skirmishes against each other).

When they gained independence, placing Machar as VP was supposed to give each tribe a place of positive influence in shaping the new country.  The reality turned out deadly instead in 2013.  By 2014 there were at least 50,000 dead (it is grimly telling that no one even remotely kept track of approximate figures [APF], and could easily be 300,000 now) and by now over two million have fled the area.  Several cease-fires have been made and broken.

Two actions can be taken to help reduce the violence and help change the overall calculus.  The first one focuses on stopping the flow of weapons.  The second action has arisen from a two-year investigation that revealed how both President Kiir and Riek Machar have personally siphoned millions of dollars from the very conflict they have been perpetuating.

Take Action #1:
Stop Weapons to South Sudan [Human Rights Watch]

Take Action #2:
Hold Corrupt South Sudanese Leaders Accountable [Enough Project]

One Million People Flee South Sudan [Globe&Mail]
South Sudan Leaders Pocket Millions from the Conflict They Continue [Washington Post]




Earlier this month at least 39 workers died in a fire that ripped through a factory in Bangladesh. The facility manufactured packaging for Nestlé and British American Tobacco (BAT).

It is the worst industrial accident in Bangladesh since the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, where over a thousand workers perished.  This newsletter joined a petition calling on action which eventually resulted in the  Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.  This accord was signed by global unions and international apparel brands, and created a new inspection system for fire and building safety with a degree of transparency previously unknown in the industry. Another initiative, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, was led mostly by American brands.

While those have been good steps, there are still far too many factories and other conditions which remain with no or poorly enforced regulations and transparency.  The following action can help bolster the efforts to expand such safety procedures and laws.

Take Action:
Support Victims of Bangladesh Factories

Tampaco Fire [Sep. 15; Dhaka Tribune]
Fatal Fire – Still Too Many Poor Inspections [HRW]






Chad’s Ex-Dictator Convicted of Atrocities

In the last newsletter we highlighted some of the convictions that had occurred.  Just as the newsletter was being sent out, one more name can be added to the list, Chad’s former President,  Hissène Habré.  He was found guilty of rape, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity by the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese court system.
Bolivia Enacts New Gender Identity Law

Signed into law in May, this measure allows people to change the gender listed on official documents. The author says it means that “Bolivia joins Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia as the only four nations in the deeply Catholic region to recognize the needs of transsexual and transgender citizens in this way.”  While the article also indicates that the law has met significant resistance, and implicit is a legacy of much pain, behind the headline there exists amazing courage that hopefully will prevail.
A Surprising Move from a ‘macho’ President




Good News: Polio to be Eliminated Globally This Year

The World Health Organization (WHO) is hopeful that polio will be eradicated this year.  It will take another 3 years of no polio cases before that claim can be verified.  The only other disease to have been eradicated is smallpox.  The last frontier for polio has been Pakistan and Afghanistan, where health officials are often threatened – examples of tremendous courage and perseverance.  Muslim imams have also been helpful in dispelling the notion that the program was some form of Western conspiracy.


Issues with “Countering Extreme Terrorism”

Developing some form of global consensus and response to the ongoing ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks can seem a reasonable step to take, and a recent UN document is a marker in that direction.  But some argue that the term “Countering Extreme Terrorism” (CVE) is not defined well enough, and the results are already troubling.

One problem is that if you take a “whole of society” approach (promote employment, education, alleviate poverty, etc.) for CVE, that programs well-suited for those basic aims sometimes modify their goals to include CVE.  Yet when not well defined it may reduce their original success without reducing extremism.  Secondly if it is a battle of ideas, then what ideology should be promoted to take its place – there is little consensus among global partners, and much in partners’ actions that contradict any given concept.  And so on – there are several examples given.

This is not to suggest that the endeavour be dropped; only that it be carefully and continually scrutinized and adjusted.  “Gradual reform” among nations may be the best aim possible, which if so, reinforces that we will be in this for the long-haul.


Monsanto: Who to Protest Against Now?

Monsanto, the U.S.-based agricultural (seed and related pesticide) company, has just been bought out by the German company Bayer, subject to various regulatory approvals.  Monsanto had come to symbolize much of what was wrong with giant agri-business.  For years around the globe, farmers, environmentalists and academics have vehemently protested against such Monsanto actions as forcing framers to buy both their seed and pesticides;  or their high rate of sung farmers for “using” their seeds even when they were blown onto their fields from  someone else’s fields, etc. [see articles below for examples].

Monsanto has been the arch-type villain [though The Modern Farmer suggests that much of Monsanto’s problems stem from (a) not recognizing the almost difference-in-kind between a patent for say software (something that can be disputed but is on an unremarkable entity) versus a seed (which is more akin to water, earth, life-itself, almost sacred and possibly spiritual); and (b) some of the worst PR on volatile issues.  Read the comment section of the article to get a good sense of the back-and-forth of even this contention].

The bigger issue, however, involves the implications for a shrinking global agri-business.  See the Vox article for the troubling terrain.
Worrisome Monsanto buy-out [Vox]
Colombian Farmers’ Revolt Tied to Agri-business [2013; Global Research]

May 2016 Newsletter

Welcome to this edition of the Peace/Justice action email!

Last month was Genocide Prevention Month.  Part of this newsletter will highlight threes aspects from that focus: (a) a prolonged failure {Darfur; but including a worthy action); (b) an encouraging success; (c) Dynamics to keep an eye on.  At the end there will be some brief reflections on the topic.

In the last newsletter I indicated that I would provide a more detailed analysis of “Fear, Part II”.  Unfortunately that will have to wait for more time to finish.



The topic of genocide in Darfur – to use colloquial language – is “so last decade.”  The original 4- 5 years of international outrage and protest starting in 2004 could neither coalesce the international pressure needed nor dislodge President Bashir from power.  The world moved on.

Within Sudan, after a period of lower levels of violence (2011 – 2013) the government reconstituted the Janjaweed as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).  Since then the levels of violence and displacement almost rose to the original repugnant levels.  More ominous, Bashir has settled thousands of Arab foreigners in the villages of the displaced Darfurians.  Given Bashir’s recent push again to remove UN peacekeepers, the twisted referendum on Darfur’s provincial status among other things, it is not completely implausible that someday Darfur will cease to exist, although economic weakness and widespread unrest throughout Sudan lessens the traction for such an agenda.

To counter these destructive patterns, the Enough Project teamed together with others to develop  a new scheme of sanctions against the leaders of Sudan that is worthy of support.  It is highly targeted towards the leaders while having minimal negative impact on innocent civilians.

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The International Criminal Tribunal: has convicted Radovan Karadzic, a Bosnian Serb, of Genocide.  He was sentenced for his role in lethal ethnic cleansing operations, the siege of Sarajevo and the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995.  Over 100,000 people died in the civil war in the former Yugoslavia.  Of the two other leaders originally on trial, Milosevic died in his cell in 2006 before his trial ended; Ratko Mladic is being tried separately.

Karadzic Convicted of Genocide [NYT, free access]




The International Criminal Court (ICC; not to be confused with the International Criminal Tribunal that convicted Karadzic) has started its first investigation outside Africa.  The ICC was created in 1998 when the UN adopted the Rome Statute, creating the first permanent international court.  It has issued arrest warrants for 31 people; seven are in detention; three have been convicted and detained; several remain at large.  Until recently they were all from African countries.

Recently however the ICC started war crimes investigation in Russia-Georgia, its first investigation outside Africa.  For its many flaws, the ICC needs to be seen as a necessary court in a global world; in the coming decades it will continue to mature.

ICC and Russia-Georgia war crimes investigation [BBC]




John Kerry, the Secretary of State, said that “Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims”.  This is the first formal pronouncement by the U.S. administration of genocide since Darfur in 2004.  A brief analysis of motives and effects do not indicate any particular change in direction.
U.S. Declares ISIS’ attacks on Religious Minorities as Genocide [The Economist]






Background: The Definition of Genocide

Identical to the wording of the 1948 Convention, Article 6 of the Rome Statute defines the crime of genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.  There are five such acts which constitute crimes of genocide under article 6:

  • Killing members of a group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group;


For a more decent world we need to continue grappling with the notion of genocide.  Here are a couple of the basic issues:

  1. One of the chief criticisms of the ICC is that there are insufficient checks and balances in the whole process. While this aspect has self-serving agendas, there is nonetheless some merit to this concern which should be addressed.
  2. The most problematic word in the genocide definition is ‘intent’. You can have two situations where the actions are identical and the harm is equally devastating.  But one could be classified as genocide and the other as ethnic cleansing.The point is that the Convention needs to be updated.  Currently only ‘genocide’ formally obligates nations to take action.  The original Convention was written before ethnic cleansing gained coinage.  Thus it is much preferable to have both  above examples treated at the highest level of international obligation.  It is then only after the  perpetrators have been stopped and captured should the court make the determination of genocide or not.  To be clear, the distinction does need to be made – while both are heinous, genocide is more vile and needs to be treated as such in the courtroom.





Indonesia and Shackling:

After the Human Rights Watch petition which this newsletter participated in, Indonesia’s minister of health in mid-April committed to providing mental health medication in all 9,500 community health centers across the country. This commitment is a positive step.  HRW will be monitoring the situation to ensure the crucial follow-through occurs.