Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for May, 2012

Houla, Syria & Russia

Dear Gabriel,

We’ve just witnessed the worst violence in the year-long conflict in Syria.

On Friday more than 108 people — including 50 children — were killed in Houla, Syria after a barrage of shells, mortars, rockets and raids. The global response to this horrifying violence was immediate condemnation — and at least 10 countries, including the United States, have since expelled Syrian ambassadors and senior Syrian diplomats.

The ruthless killing of civilians in Houla marks a new low in the Syria crisis. But a massive, renewed international spotlight on the country is our best hope to stop the bloodshed.

Let’s press Russia – which has been a key ally to Syria and has blocked meaningful action in the UN Security Council — to stand up against the brutality and prevent further loss of Syrian lives.

Over the past 14 months nearly 10,000 Syrians have lost their lives. With each passing day, the crisis reaches new levels of horror. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has yet to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The shocking images that emerged from Syria this weekend are yet one more reason why Russia must stop shielding the Syrian authorities and act to stop the violence there.

Tell the Russian Foreign Minister that we demand better from global leaders.

It’s easy to despair when seeing what’s happened to civilians in Houla and throughout Syria. But a groundswell of public outrage and support could make the difference between dithering diplomacy and decisive action. That’s why we need to urge Russia to stop blocking the UN Security Council from referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The situation in Syria is desperate. The Syrian people are counting on us to seize this opportunity for action. Thank you for coming together to show Syrians they are not alone.

With hope and determination,

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

Children Killed In Syria

Dear Friends,

The pictures from Al Houla, Syria, last Friday are almost too brutal to look at. I have a 5 year old daughter and I know it’s only luck of birth that separates her from this horror. But my shock led me to write this today as I know there is something we can all do together to stop this.

Dozens of children lie covered with blood, their faces show the fear they felt before death, and their innocent lifeless bodies reveal an unspeakable massacre. These children were slaughtered by men under strict orders to sow terror. Yet all the diplomats have come up with so far is a few UN monitors ‘observing’ the violence. Now, governments across the world are expelling Syrian ambassadors, but unless we demand strong action on the ground, they will settle for these diplomatic half-measures.

The UN is discussing what to do right now. If there were a large international presence across Syria with a mandate to protect civilians, we could prevent the worst massacres while leaders engage in political efforts to resolve the conflict. I cannot see more images like these without shouting from the rooftops. But to stop the violence, it is going to take all of us, with one voice, demanding protection for these kids and their families. Click to call for UN action now and send this to everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/syria_will_the_world_look_away_ndb/?vl

A child’s death is tragic in any circumstance. The UN says 108 people were killed in the onslaught, 49 of them children under the age of 10, and the youngest was a 2 year old girl. 90% of the population of Al Houla has now fled their homes. As I put my daughter to bed last night, I tried to consider what the mothers and fathers and grandparents of these children feel. The sheer pain and desperation is unimaginable, but there will also be deep anger and hate for those that did this. Until all of us stop these attacks on the people of Syria, the cycle of violence will not end.

Let’s not forget — this bloodbath began over a year ago with thousands of people peacefully protesting on the streets — calling, like their brothers and sisters across the region, for freedom and democracy. But the regime responded with brutality and violence — murdering, torturing, abducting and laying siege to entire cities. The international community did not intervene, letting geopolitical concerns obstruct our responsibility to protect. Then, in desperation to protect their families and fight back against the repression, some took up arms. Now it is an armed conflict — and if the world continues to do nothing it will become a full blown sectarian war that may last for generations and breed the kind of terrorist attacks we have yet to imagine in our worst nightmares.

When dozens of children are murdered in cold blood by the army and their militias — it is time for serious action. Assad, his henchmen and his murderous army must be held to account and the people of Syria protected. Nothing the international community has done yet has pried Assad from his murderous grip on power. The few UN monitors on the ground were powerless to stop the Al Houla killings — they only served to count the tiny bodies. But if we sent in hundreds of monitors to each of the fourteen regions of Syria, Assad’s assassins would think twice.

The world looked away with Srebrenica, and with Rwanda. If all of us respond today — we can make sure that these children’s tragic deaths act as the tipping point for all of us everywhere to say NO MORE! But if we turn away, so will our leaders. Let’s join voices from every corner of the earth and make it impossible for our leaders to ignore our cry. In respect for these dear children and their families, click to join the global call to demand a massive UN presence on the ground now!

http://www.avaaz.org/en/syria_will_the_world_look_away_ndb/?vl

The Avaaz community has stood with the people of Syria for fifteen months, denouncing the Syrian regime, calling for sanctions, supporting communities across the country with aid, and giving equipment to citizen journalists to get the word out about the violence. Let’s today make the Al Houla massacre the watershed moment for change and insist that our governments no longer stand by shaking their heads and turning their backs.

With deep sadness and determination,

Alice and the whole Avaaz team

Work Hard, Go To Jail

Gabriel –

Diane Tran has a lot on her plate for a 17-year-old. After Diane’s parents moved away, Diane stayed behind and started working two jobs to provide for her family — all while taking college-level classes at her high school. But when Diane recently missed school due to exhaustion, she was charged with a crime and sentenced to pay a $100 fine and spend a night in jail.

Diane’s classmate, Devin, told reporters that between a full-time job, a part-time job, and making the honor roll, it’s no wonder Diane was tired. “She stays up until 7 in the morning doing her homework,” Devin says.

Judge Lanny Moriarty didn’t have to sentence Diane to a night in jail, but he wanted to make an example of her. “If you let one of them run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them?” Judge Moriarty told reporters. “A little stay in the jail for one night is not a death sentence.”

Samuel Oh thinks working hard to provide for your family should not be cause for criminal punishment — so Samuel started a petition on Change.org asking Judge Moriarty to revoke the charges against Diane. Click here to add your name.

“Somehow Diane is not just an extraordinary worker and student, she’s an extraordinary human being with a fighting spirit,” Samuel says. “The institutions that are supposed to provide resources to youth and ensure justice are punishing her instead.”

There is some good news: when a reporter recently asked Judge Moriarty if anything could be done to get him to revoke Diane’s charges, he replied, “Yeah, it probably could.”

Samuel believes that if thousands of people sign his petition, Judge Moriarty will take this opportunity to do the right thing and revoke Diane’s charges.

Click here to sign Samuel’s petition asking Judge Moriarty to revoke the charges against Diane Tran, an honors student who had to spend the night in jail for missing school.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

– Jon and the Change.org team

Is The Cold War Over?

From Nation of Change
by Robert Reich
27 May 2012

Memorial Day Thoughts on National Defense

We can best honor those who have given their lives for this nation in combat by making sure our military might is proportional to what America needs.

The United States spends more on our military than do China, Russia, Britain, France, Japan, and Germany put together.

With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the cost of fighting wars is projected to drop – but the “base” defense budget (the annual cost of paying troops and buying planes, ships, and tanks – not including the costs of actually fighting wars) is scheduled to rise. The base budget is already about 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago, adjusted for inflation.

One big reason: It’s almost impossible to terminate large defense contracts. Defense contractors have cultivated sponsors on Capitol Hill and located their plants and facilities in politically important congressional districts. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and others have made spending on national defense into America’s biggest jobs program.

So we keep spending billions on Cold War weapons systems like nuclear attack submarines, aircraft carriers, and manned combat fighters that pump up the bottom lines of defense contractors but have nothing to do with 21st-century combat.

For example, the Pentagon says it wants to buy fewer F-35 joint strike fighter planes than had been planned – the single-engine fighter has been plagued by cost overruns and technical glitches – but the contractors and their friends on Capitol Hill promise a fight.

The absence of a budget deal on Capitol Hill is supposed to trigger an automatic across-the-board ten-year cut in the defense budget of nearly $500 billion, starting January.

But Republicans have vowed to restore the cuts. The House Republican budget cuts everything else — yet brings defense spending back up. Mitt Romney’s proposed budget does the same.

Yet even if the scheduled cuts occur, the Pentagon is still projected to spend over $2.7 trillion over the next ten years.

At the very least, hundreds of billions could be saved without jeopardizing the nation’s security by ending weapons systems designed for an age of conventional warfare. We should shrink the F-35 fleet of stealth fighters. Cut the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, ballistic missile submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. And take a cleaver to the Navy and Air Force budgets. (Most of the action is with the Army, Marines, and Special Forces.)

Read entire Op Ed at Nation of Change.

Honor Veterans by Ending War

From Nation of Change
by Amy Goodman
24 May 2012

Memorial Day: Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars

Gen. John Allen, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, spoke Wednesday at the Pentagon, four stars on each shoulder, his chest bedecked with medals. Allen said the NATO summit in Chicago, which left him feeling “heartened,” “was a powerful signal of international support for the Afghan-led process of reconciliation.” Unlike Allen, many decorated U.S. military veterans left the streets of Chicago after the NATO summit without their medals. They marched on the paramilitarized convention center where the generals and heads of state had gathered and threw their medals at the high fence surrounding the summit. They were joined by women from Afghans for Peace, and an American mother whose son killed himself after his second deployment to Iraq.

Leading thousands of protesters in a peaceful march against NATO’s wars, each veteran climbed to the makeshift stage outside the fenced summit, made a brief statement and threw his or her medals at the gate.

As taps was played, veterans folded an American flag that had flown over NATO military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan and Libya and handed it to Mary Kirkland. Her son, Derrick, joined the Army in January 2007, since he was not earning enough to support his wife and child as a cook at an IHOP restaurant. During his second deployment, Mary told me, “he ended up putting a shotgun in his mouth over there in Iraq, and one of his buddies stopped him.” He was transferred to Germany then back to his home base of Fort Lewis, Wash.

“He came back on a Monday after two failed suicide attempts in a three-week period. They kept him overnight at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis. He met with a psychiatrist the next day who deemed him to be low to moderate risk for suicide.” Five days later, on Friday, March 19, 2010, he hanged himself. Said his mother, “Derrick was not killed in action; he was killed because of failed mental health care at Fort Lewis.”

On stage, Lance Cpl. Scott Olsen declared: “Today I have with me my Global War on Terror Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal, National Defense Medal and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. These medals, once upon a time, made me feel good about what I was doing. … I came back to reality, and I don’t want these anymore.” Like the riot police flanking the stage, many on horseback, Olsen also wore a helmet. He is recovering from a fractured skull after being shot in the head at close range by a beanbag projectile. He wasn’t shot in Iraq, but by Oakland, Calif., police at Occupy Oakland last fall, where he was protesting. On stage with the veterans were three Afghan women, holding the flag of Afghanistan. Just before they marched, I asked one of them, Suraia Sahar, why she was there: “I’m representing Afghans for Peace. And we’re here to protest NATO and call on all NATO representatives to end this inhumane, illegal, barbaric war against our home country and our people. … It’s the first time an Afghan-led peace movement is now working side by side with a veteran-led peace movement. And so, this is the beginning of something new, something better: reconciliation and peace.”

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

“Insult” President, Go To Jail

Dear Gabriel,

Behareh Hedayat — a student activist in Iran — is serving 10 years in prison on charges including “insulting the President.”

Her insult?

In a speech, she said, “Organizing a protest means being beaten, being arrested, being disrespected, being tortured for confessing to false things, being in solitary confinement, being expelled from university.”

On December 31, 2009, she was arrested and sentenced simply for advocating for greater freedom in Iran. There are reports of her ill-treatment and medical neglect.

Until she is free, Amnesty will fight for her release. You can be a part of that fight by donating to Amnesty.

We know her release is possible. Our movement has helped young reformers many times before.

Fellow Iranian student activist Ahmad Batebi was sentenced to death in 1999 when a photo of him holding a bloody t-shirt worn by an injured student protestor appeared on the cover of the Economist. After nearly a decade, of persistent activism on his behalf by Amnesty members, he was granted a medical furlough, during which he escaped jail and fled Iran. With Amnesty’s support, he was granted asylum in the United States.

To mark Amnesty’s 51st birthday on May 28, we plan to recruit 1,500 new supporters who can help keep urgent pressure on governments like Iran by:

Mobilizing protests that raise the profile of specific cases of concern.

Empowering activists to put pressure on key leaders through creative tactics.

Participating in global efforts like Amnesty’s Write for Rights initiative, the world’s largest annual human rights event.

Investigating human rights abuses through research missions to key countries.

We must not let the government of Iran hold the future of the Iranian people hostage. You believe in human rights. Help us continue the fight. Help Amnesty with a gift of support.

You can help us make 2012 the year that Behareh Hedayat walks out of prison a free woman.

Sincerely,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Campaign Director, Individuals at Risk
Amnesty International USA

Little Fish Big Fish

Dear Gabriel,

Seabirds carry small fish from the oceans to their nests to feed their babies, but soon they may be finding less to eat. Humans are fishing more and more of these little fish to feed to larger fish in fish farms or to grind up as fertilizer, and the oceans are feeling the pressure.

These little fish provide food for everything from whales to seabirds to people, and science shows they are too important to the future health of the oceans and the earth to just be ground up into fishmeal or fertilizer.

Whales and birds need fish too. Tell the Pacific Fishery Management Council to protect sea creatures’ dinners»

A humpback whale may eat up to 2,000 pounds of little fish every day. If we overfish and cause a population collapse for the little fish, whales and other animals could have a hard time finding enough to eat.

But it’s not too late to take action. If we set up precautionary protections for small “forage” fish and let their populations grow, there will be more food to go around in the future—even for us humans.

Let’s save the little fish. Sign today to protect forage fish and keep the oceans fed»

Small fish swimming in schools are easy to catch. But it will become a lot harder if we catch them all, and animals like whales and baby birds will have to face the consequences of our actions.

For the oceans,
Emily Fisher
Oceana

Tag Cloud