Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for March, 2012

Talk With Iran – No Killing

Dear Gabriel,

As we approach the ninth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we once again see dangerous momentum for another irresponsible, unnecessary and costly war — this time with Iran.

Fear-mongering and propaganda aside, Iran is not an imminent threat to the United States — and we haven’t yet exhausted all avenues for diplomacy to ensure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.

But as a result of the Iranian Revolution over 30 years ago, current law makes it very difficult for American diplomats to talk directly to representatives of the Iranian government.

That is why Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that, in her words, “directs the President to appoint a Special Envoy for Iran to ensure that all diplomatic avenues are pursued to avoid a war with Iran and to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”1

Click here to automatically sign the petition. Tell your member of Congress to co-sponsor Rep. Lee’s bill to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.

Whether or not you think your representative will co-sponsor the bill, we need you to speak out.

Unfortunately, while the American people are opposed to another war of choice,2 those pushing for war have been far more vocal and organized than the rest of us.

Our friends on the Hill have told us that congressional offices are hearing from people who want us to go to war, but not from those who would like to see a diplomatic solution.

Not only will your petition signature signal support for Rep. Lee’s bill, it will also ensure that those howling for war are not met with a deafening silence on our side.

Our allies in Congress will know their constituents want them to remain steadfast, and other lawmakers will be put on notice that their constituents reject the dangerous saber-rattling that might bring our nation to the brink of war.

We can’t afford to remain a silent majority. We must push back on the ever-increasing clamor for war.

Click here to automatically sign the petition. Tell your member of Congress to co-sponsor Rep. Lee’s bill to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.

While there are no easy solutions to addressing the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy.

We know all too well the consequences of starting an unnecessary war.

The war in Iraq was a catastrophic mistake and a tremendous moral failure.

But right now with Iran, all options are on the table except direct negotiations. That’s a recipe for another needless war.

We can’t wait for the first bombs to drop. We need to speak out now.

Tell your member of Congress to co-sponsor Rep. Lee’s bill to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:

http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=5541954&id=36805-266627-TLJh4Kx&t=10

Social Security is one of the greatest anti-poverty programs in our country’s history and is wildly popular. In addition, despite fear-mongering to the contrary, Social Security is currently running a surplus, will be fully solvent for decades, and is prohibited by law from adding to the deficit.

It’s a sad comment on our political system that an organization that represents older Americans needs to be pushed to stand up for Social Security.

But it’s better to speak out now and ensure AARP stands strong, than try to pick up the pieces after they cave.

Thank you for speaking out to stop another needless war.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Syria Bleeds

>Dear Gabriel,

When will Russia do right by the people of Syria?

In the six weeks since Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria’s bloody crackdown, 1,179 Syrians have been killed. Amnesty International has received the names of well over 6,500 people killed since March 2011.

On Tuesday Russia vowed to keep pumping arms into the country — arms used to massacre civilians. Russia claims Syrian president Bashar al-Assad needs them to defend against opposition fighters.

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of human rights abuses have been committed by state security forces. Amnesty has documented an extremely disturbing — near medieval — pattern of torture and humiliation of anyone merely suspected of opposing the government.

Satellite imagery from Homs and Hama show civilian neighborhoods pocked with artillery impact craters. Field guns are still trained on residential areas and armed forces have not been removed from cities, in direct defiance of a UN General Assembly resolution from mid-February.

It’s time for Russia to stop opposing strong action by the UN Security Council to end the violence in Syria.

Urge Russia to help end the human rights catastrophe in Syria.

While Russia defies international pleas for cooperation, evidence mounts of widespread crimes against humanity committed by security forces.

Amnesty’s new report “‘I Wanted to Die’: Syria’s Torture Survivors Speak Out” details systemic and horrific abuses committed in Syria’s detention centers. Former detainees (men and women) interviewed by Amnesty said that they had either experienced or witnessed 31 methods of torture and other ill-treatment:

“I was very badly beaten. They used pincers to remove flesh from my legs.” – Karim

“We were hung from wood — crucified — while blindfolded and handcuffed, and then beaten mercilessly for several hours.” – Musleh

“I could hear people screaming from the torture, which was worse than physical torture.” – Abd al-Baset

Russia can make a difference in Syria. It must.

Join Amnesty as we ratchet up the pressure on the Russian government. Sign our petition urging Russia to use its influence to bring an end to the grave human rights violations being committed in Syria.

Thank you for all you do to stand up for human rights.

Sanjeev Bery
Advocacy Director, Middle East & North Africa
Amnesty International USA

Dolphin Deaths in US

Dear Gabriel,

Did you know that dolphins are being killed right off our shores?

You haven’t seen it in the newspaper, but it’s true. In the northeast US alone, around 600 dolphins – some of the smartest, most playful animals in the world — were caught by fishing nets in just the last year.

And that is just in one place. This is happening wherever people fish. We are working to cut these tragic deaths, but we need your help.

Free dolphins from fishing nets. Tell the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect dolphins and the ocean»

One of the worst offenders are gillnets: weighted walls of mesh that sink to the ocean floor and trap everything large enough to get its fins caught in the net – and far too often, that means dolphins.

We need more eyes on the ocean to count the number of dolphins caught and killed – and that’s where you come in.

We are working to ensure that fishery managers minimize the deaths of dolphins and other marine mammals, count the dolphins they do catch, and stay within the set limits. We need your help to tell the government that we simply can’t stand by and let dolphins drown in fishermen’s nets.

Dolphins have complex brains and human-like levels of self-awareness. They are suffering – and we can’t let it happen anymore.

If we all make our voices heard, we can minimize these deaths. Tell the US government to free dolphins from fishing nets»

For the oceans,
Emily Fisher
Oceana

Fear and Justice

From Change.org.

Dear Gabriel,

Heartbreaking tragedy: 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was visiting a relative’s house in a Florida gated community when he walked to the store to get Skittles and iced tea for his little brother. He never made it home. Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a self-styled neighborhood watch leader, who told police he thought Trayvon was “suspicious” in the mostly-white community.

Unbelievable twist: A man named George Zimmerman allegedly admitted to police that he shot Trayvon Martin in the chest. Zimmerman claims he acted in self defense, even though police allegedly told him not to do anything until they arrived — and despite the fact that Trayvon was unarmed, carrying only a bag of Skittles when he died. In the two weeks since Zimmerman allegedly killed Trayvon, police have refused to arrest the confessed killer.

Hope for justice: Sybrina Fulton is Trayvon’s mother, and she’s leading a campaign on Change.org to get justice for her son. Tracy knows that if enough people raise an outcry, Sanford, Florida authorities will be forced to investigate Zimmerman the same way they would investigate any confessed killer.

Sign Sybrina’s petition calling on the authorities in Florida to charge George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin and try him before a jury of his peers.

———

Here’s a lot more info about Sybrina’s campaign, in her own words:

On February 26, my son Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he walked back from a convenience store where he had just bought some candy. He was only 17 years old.

Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman, admitted to police that he shot Trayvon in the chest. Zimmerman, the community’s self appointed “neighborhood watch leader,” called the police to report a suspicious person when he saw Trayvon, a young black man, walking from the store. But Zimmerman, who is white, still hasn’t been charged for killing my son.

Trayvon was my hero. At the age of 9, Trayvon pulled his father from a burning kitchen, saving his life. He loved sports and horseback riding. At only 17 he had a bright future ahead of him with dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic. Now that’s all gone.

When Zimmerman reported Trayvon to the police, they told him not to confront him. But he did anyway. All I know about what happened next is that my 17 year-old son, who was completely unarmed, was shot and killed.

I don’t know if my family will ever receive justice for this terrible tragedy. It’s been nearly two weeks and the Sanford Police have refused to arrest George Zimmerman. In their public statements, they even go so far as to stand up for the killer – saying he’s “a college grad” who took a class in criminal justice.

Please join me in calling on the the Sanford Police Department and Florida State’s Attorney Norman Wolfinger to investigate my son’s death and prosecute George Zimmerman for the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin.

———

Click here to sign Sybrina’s petition for Florida State’s Attorney Norman Wolfinger to prosecute Trayvon Martin’s killier.

One In A Million

From FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance)

Dear Gabriel,

We all like to think we’re special – but thinking and doing are very different things. This month, FINCA is offering you an opportunity to do something momentous…

As you may already know, we are closing in on financing our 1 millionth client. People are starting to talk, and the excitement is building. In the meantime, our friends at the Feinstein Foundation are stepping up once more. We have their support to partly match your donation – as long as you make your gift by April 30.

For you this means that every dollar you pledge will be partly matched, thereby making your pledge even more powerful!

For FINCA and our clients, this increased support is bringing us tantalizingly close to financing our millionth client.

This woman entrepreneur will most certainly be One in a Million – but it’s her actions, and the actions of the other 999,999 women we’ll be supporting, that are shattering the chains of poverty across the developing world. Loan by loan, repayment by repayment, client by client – donation by donation: We are winning the fight against poverty. We cannot stop now.

FINCA’s clients work every day to make microfinance work. Today, it’s your turn to take a barrier-breaking action. And with the Feinstein’s Foundation matching funds – there’s no better time to renew your support.

Many of our supporters have a long history of supporting great causes. They have already given – perhaps you have too. But that’s the point: Supporting this ever-growing tide of self-employed women micro-business owners requires your committed support. There is no quick fix, but there is a long-term solution.

And believe me; FINCA values your ongoing support as deeply as our clients depend on FINCA’s ongoing loans. It’s a shared process – and it’s producing life-changing results. Microfinance is working!

Please renew your support for women’s microfinance initiatives today. FINCA depends on your ongoing commitment and the amazing women we support depend on us.

The Feinstein Foundation’s generous matching funds are a wonderful opportunity to reach client One Million – please don’t let the funds go unused.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Soledad Gompf
Vice President,
New Business Development

PS – Please help FINCA make the most of your support by responding today! For the 15th consecutive year, the Feinstein Foundation will divide $1 million among hunger-fighting organizations nationwide to help them raise funds this March and April.

Government Mandated Medicine

Gabriel —

Last week, I told you Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was getting ready to sign the “ultrasound bill,” an atrocious proposal that would force all women considering abortions to get ultrasounds and require their doctors to ask if they’d like a picture.

Well, he signed it.

We didn’t stop the bill this time, but we did make sure the entire country knew exactly what was going down in Virginia.

There are still 450 other bills on birth control and abortion in state legislatures across the country. With a far-right faction of the GOP holding a majority in many of them, it’s unclear how many we can stop. But let me just say this: We need to be prepared to win in November.

As long as women’s rights are being attacked, we’re going to keep fighting back — in Congress and in the states.

Say that you’re ready to stand with Democrats as we stand up for women. Add your name today.

We’re taking on this fight both nationally and in the states. In Virginia, that meant helping to fund the state party’s rapid response communications team — they pushed back on the ultrasound legislation, supported the Democrats who opposed it, and publicized peaceful protests of it at the capitol. That work helped put this bill on the national radar.

Right now, New Hampshire, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, and many other states are considering similar legislation.

The Texas legislature is in the midst of a bitter fight to eliminate state support for a wide range of women’s health services. They’ve already eliminated two-thirds of their funding for women’s health, closing more than half of the state’s Planned Parenthood and other clinics. And now they’re voting to reject aid for the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. They claim they’re doing this to fight abortion, but what they’re actually doing is denying hundreds of thousands of women access to basic health care.

Clearly, this fight is about more than abortion and birth control.

I won’t stop speaking out across the country about a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and Democrats in the states won’t stop pushing back against these bills.

I hope you won’t stop fighting either.

Support the fight state by state and nationwide. Stand with the Democrats today:

http://my.democrats.org/Stand-for-Women

Thanks,

Debbie

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Chair
Democratic National Committee

Healing Loan For Three-Year-Old

From FINCA Newsletter.

When Her Daughter Became Ill, FINCA Made a Difference.

Wendy Yesenia Molina de Recinos and her husband thought life couldn’t be going any better. They had a beautiful, three-year-old little girl. Wendy was in her third year at university in Santa Ana, El Salvador, and her husband’s income was enough to keep the family in good stead.

But then their beautiful daughter fell terribly ill with a kidney disorder. Even as the doctors treated her, her condition worsened, and it was soon discovered that she had an intestinal tumor. Wendy knew she had to withdraw from university and give all of her attention to caring for her little girl.

It wasn’t long before the expenses for medicine were overwhelming, and Wendy knew she needed to help with the family income. A neighbor told her about Grupo Comunal Argentina and the loans that she could receive from FINCA. Her neighbors rallied around her, and she was quickly accepted as a new member of the group and received her first loan. Wendy invested the money she received in shoes to sell in the market, and it didn’t take long before she was able to add to her husband’s income, and help pay for the food, medicines and transportation that their daughter needed.

Wendy says she is grateful to FINCA and to the women of Grupo Comunal Argentina who have accepted her so easily into their group. She continues to work hard every day to do everything she can to help her daughter’s recovery.

Wendy’s most recent loan was funded through FINCA Lend A Hand. To learn more about how you can give a little and change a lot, go to www.LendAHand.FINCA.org

Afghanistan & Women’s Rights

Dear Gabriel,

Shocking brutality, discrimination, denial of education. Just a few of the human rights abuses Afghan women face.

Dozens of girls daring to seek an education were sickened when gas filled their school — allegedly caused by a Taliban attack. An 18-year-old bride had her nose and ears cut off as punishment for running away from her abusive in-laws. The Taliban shot a pregnant woman dead for alleged adultery after forcing her to abort her fetus.

The U.S. is going to withdraw from Afghanistan. But the the risks that Afghan women face daily — and hard work it will take to ensure their human rights — remain.

We need a plan.

Today, International Women’s Day, let’s make sure the women of Afghanistan are not left behind.

Tell the U.S. government that women’s human rights are non-negotiable, and Afghanistan should not be an exception. The U.S. should adopt an Action Plan for Afghan women before leaving the country in the hands of the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a promise to Afghan women: “We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always.” Protecting human rights in Afghanistan — including the rights of women — was one of the reasons the U.S. and NATO cited for invading Afghanistan back in 2001.

But now this pledge to the Afghan people is in danger of being broken, and the very justification for being in Afghanistan in the first place — defending human rights — is in danger of being completely abandoned. All because of political expediency.

A U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is imminent. But the U.S. shouldn’t abandon Afghanistan’s women.

Peace talks are underway between the U.S., the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai, and the Taliban. As these sides negotiate the future of Afghanistan, women must be included and their rights must be protected.

Women’s participation will build a better peace in Afghanistan. But will women even be equally represented at the talks that will determine their fate? So far the answer is an unacceptable “No.” We know all too well what happens when women aren’t at the table — their voices are silenced and their needs are left out.

Amnesty has a plan to promote women’s rights in Afghanistan and to make sure Afghan women are able to shape their own destiny — but we need you to take action to make it a reality.

Demand that the U.S. keep its promise to Afghanistan’s women. It can leave Afghanistan, but not its commitment to women’s human rights.

Sincerely,

Cristina Finch
Policy and Advocacy Director, Women’s Human Rights
Amnesty International USA

I Am Listening

Hello Gabriel,

I am Suzanne Nossel, the new executive director of Amnesty International USA.

It is a privilege to take the reins of Amnesty, especially now, at this pivotal moment. We have the opportunity to make solid human rights gains. To succeed, I will rely on the dedication and talents of all Amnesty supporters.

This is where you come in. In collaboration with our Board of Directors and other member leaders, I am leading a listening tour to gather feedback from every corner of the Amnesty movement. We will use your input to develop a strategic plan for the organization.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please take a short online survey to help guide our strategy.

I look forward to working with Amnesty because I have cared about human rights from a very young age. My mother’s family fled from Nazi Germany to South Africa. As a child, I saw apartheid first hand. Bathrooms, beaches and buses were segregated, and I knew something was wrong.

In high school in New York City I worked with an organization to help free Soviet Jews. We wrote letters, wore bracelets with the names of individual dissidents on them, raised money, marched down 5th Avenue and demonstrated in front of the United Nations.

My position at Amnesty will draw upon every one of my professional experiences. As Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, I learned how decisions get made within Washington and how to push through important human rights initiatives.

As Chief Operating Officer of Human Rights Watch I gained a deeper understanding of human rights around the world and the role of expertise in human rights advocacy.

I know I have big shoes to fill. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my predecessor, Larry Cox, and the tremendous hard work and accomplishments of Amnesty USA members in recent years:

Abolition of the death penalty in New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009) and Illinois (2011).

Enactment of the Tribal Law and Order Act (2010) to streamline access to justice for crimes of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.

Freedom for thousands of political prisoners persecuted for their beliefs.

As Amnesty supporters, you and I share a powerful belief that dedicated individuals acting together can defend human dignity and restore human rights — and society can flourish.

I’m excited about the opportunity to work with you, and I do hope that you can take the time to share your ideas with me in this short survey.

Thanks,

Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

P.S. Hurry — the survey will close on Friday, March 23.

1,000 Women A Day

From AFP at Yahoo News

1,000 women a day die in childbirth, says MSF

About 1,000 women die each day in childbirth or from preventable complications related to pregnancy, humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said Thursday.

“Worldwide, at any time, 15 percent of pregnancies incur the risk of a potential fatal complication,” said Kara Blackburn, responsible for women’s health at MSF in a statement to mark International Women’s Day.

“Women must have access to quality obstetric care, whether they live in Sydney, Port-au-Prince or Mogadishu,” said Blackburn.

She said that access should be the same whether at a modern hospital in a major city, in a conflict zone, a refugee camp or in a shelter after an earthquake.

A report entitled “Maternal mortality: a preventable crisis”, published in Geneva, shows how MSF emergency obstetric care provided in humanitarian crisis situations can save lives.

The organization believes the solution lies in implementing programmes, especially regarding obstetric complications, the training of specialised personnel and access to appropriate medical equipment.

MSF provides obstetric care in nearly 30 countries.

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