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Posts tagged ‘China’

A Terrifying Limbo

Dear Gabriel,

Moses Bak’s* childhood friend faces imminent execution, but with your help, he can save her.

She and two dozen North Korean refugees in China are in a terrifying limbo — the Chinese government wants to deport them back to North Korea, where the new “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-Un is cracking down by shooting defectors on sight and vowing to kill “three generations” of their families.

Moses escaped the nightmare of surveillance, intimidation, human rights abuses and famine in North Korea — he’s a refugee now living in Seoul, South Korea. But a young woman he’s known since they were kids in North Korea is in the group currently being detained in China.

“We have cried our eyes out,” Moses and his friends say, certain the young woman will be executed if she’s returned to North Korea. Moses’s only hope is that international pressure can save her — he started a petition on Change.org calling on world leaders including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU’s Catherine Ashton to do everything they can to stop China from deporting his friend and others back to North Korea.

Click here to sign Moses’s petition telling world leaders to stop China from sending two dozen refugees back to North Korea, where they face imprisonment and execution.

North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-Un, is ruthlessly cracking down to assert his new authority since his father, Kim Jong-Il, died. In December, Kim Jong-Un told border guards to shoot defectors on sight rather than sending them to reeducation camps and decreed defectors’ families would also be killed.

But one deadline for the deportation of these refugees has already passed, signaling that China knows it will have blood on its hands if it follows through. China may be bending to international pressure, but needs to hear more from other global leaders to release the refugees to South Korea.

Already, more than 30,000 people have signed Moses’s petition. In November, 35,000 people signed a petition on Change.org asking Secretary Clinton to call for the release of political prisoners in Burma — and she did. She also spoke out for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia after receiving a Change.org petition. If every person who cares about human rights signs Moses’s petition, world leaders like Secretary Clinton will listen again.

Click here to sign North Korean refugee Moses Bak’s petition calling on Secretary Clinton and other world leaders to stop China from sending two dozen defectors back to North Korea, where they will face imprisonment and execution.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

– Sarah and the Change.org team

Stop Violence in Syria

Dear Gabriel,

The death toll continues to rise in Syria. Hundreds of largely unarmed people have reportedly been killed in the city of Homs alone. The crisis in Syria is escalating.

The world must do everything in its power to end the Assad regime’s violent crackdown. Instead, Russia, a country with influence over Syria, appears to be standing by while crimes against humanity are being committed.

Demand that Russia put real pressure on Syrian authorities to end the military assault on Homs.

Last weekend, Russia, together with China, vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, crushing one of the last and best hopes of ending the violence that has claimed thousands of lives since March. The resolution — though watered-down — was the closest the global community had come to taking firm action toward ending the violence that has brought Syria to the brink of civil war.

While diplomats wrangled at UN headquarters over the weekend, the Syrian government unleashed a barrage of attacks in Homs. The attacks included the use of heavy weaponry such as tanks in residential areas and claimed hundreds of lives, killing more than a dozen children.

As the Assad regime’s strongest foreign backer, Russia is poised to play a central role in stopping the killing and preventing the bloodbath that will occur if fighting between the government and protesters continues unchecked.

Join Amnesty’s millions-strong global human rights movement — demand that Russia take steps to bring an end to the grave human rights violations that are being committed in Syria.

When Russia blocked the Security Council from taking meaningful action to stop the massive human rights violations in Syria, it stated that it has a better plan for resolving the crisis. But its veto has only served as a green light to the Assad regime to continue to use any means to crush the resistance.

Urge Russia to take public and decisive action to oppose the atrocities being committed in Syria.

Sincerely,

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

Climate Coughing To Death

From Avaaz

Dear Friends,

Our oceans are dying, our air changing, and our forests and grasslands turning to deserts. From fish and plants to wildlife to human beings, we are killing the planet that sustains us, and fast. There is one single greatest cause of this destruction of the natural world — climate change, and in the next 48 hours, we have a chance to stop it.

The UN treaty on climate change — our best hope for action — expires next year, but a dirty and greedy US-led coalition of oil-captured countries is trying to kill it forever. It’s staggeringly difficult to believe, but they are trading short term profits for the survival of our natural world.

The EU, Brazil and China are all on the fence — they are not slaves to oil companies the way the US is, but they need to hear a massive call to action from people before they really lead financially and politically to save the UN treaty. The world is gathered at the climate summit for the next 48 hours to make the big decision. Let’s send our leaders a massive call to stand up to big oil and save the planet — an Avaaz team at the summit will deliver our call directly:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/the_planet_is_dying_us_2/?vl

Things are becoming desperate — all over our planet extreme weather continues to smash records, leaving millions homeless and without food or shelter. We’re rapidly reaching our point of no return to stop runaway climate change — we only have until 2015 to start making drastic reductions to our carbon pollution.

Yet despite this very real urgency, the world has failed to mobilise against the fossil fuel captured democracy of the US. Not only content with wrecking the Copenhagen talks and the Kyoto protocol, they are now building a coalition of climate treaty killers to put the final nail in the coffin of international negotiations in Africa.

Our only hope to turn things around lies with Europe, Brazil and China — they can make a deal happen, but they need to do it together, and that’s where we come in. Europe is tired, it’s fought long and hard on climate and needs a public boost. China has already agreed to binding commitments, is sensitive to its international reputation, and could lead further if we give it an encouraging push. And Brazil is hosting next year’s earth summit — making them eager to set the world up for climate success. Let’s build a giant global call to bring our champions together and build a green dream team. Sign the petition now and forward this email:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/the_planet_is_dying_us_2/?vl

The crazy focus on short term profits that motivates countries to stall and scuttle action on a climate crisis that literally threatens the survival of all of us cannot be tolerated. Fortunately, our movement has the power to intervene in this process and demand change. Let’s stand together and inspire others to stand with us for a safer, more humane world.

With hope and determination,

Luis, Emma, Ricken, Iain, Antonia, Morgan, Dalia, Pascal and the rest of the Avaaz team

Foreign Policy Falsehoods

From Nation of Change – Politics

Foreign Policy Themed GOP Debate Full of Falsehoods
by Brooks Jackson, Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson and Robert Farley
IWatch News/News Analysis
Monday 14 November 2011

We found several exaggerations and misstatements in the latest Republican presidential candidates’ debate.

Romney issued a hollow threat to take China’s currency manipulation to a world body that doesn’t actually deal with overvalued money, and he claimed federal spending consumes more of the nation’s economic output than it really does.

Gingrich overstated U.S. aid to Egypt by a factor of two, and he claimed Obama repudiated former president Mubarak “overnight,” when in fact the president took seven days before he publicly urged Mubarak to begin an “orderly transition” of power.

And Bachmann claimed that “we have no jail” for terrorists captured on “the battlefield,” overlooking the 1,700 men being held without trial at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

The debate took place Nov. 12 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., among eight candidates: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. It was sponsored by CBS News, the National Journal and the South Carolina Republican Party. The first hour of the 90-minute event was carried live on CBS, which said it planned to broadcast the final 30 minutes the following day on its Sunday show “Face the Nation.” Questions were focused on foreign policy.

Romney’s Hollow Threat on WTO and China

Romney threatened to haul China before the World Trade Organization to address currency manipulation. But as Huntsman suggested, the WTO isn’t a good forum for that.

Romney: “[T]hey’re a currency manipulator. And on that basis, we also go before the WT — WTO — and bring an action against them as a currency manipulator. … We can’t just sit back and let China run all over us.”

Huntsman: “… First of all, I don’t think, Mitt, you can take China to the WTO on currency-related issues.”

Huntsman — a former U.S. ambassador to China — is correct. WTO rules don’t cover currency manipulation, according to a 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service:

CRS, Jan. 28, 2011: The WTO has rules against subsidies, but these are very narrow and specific and do not seem to encompass currency manipulation.

To be sure, the CRS report said it is “debatable” whether WTO rules against unfair trade subsidies can be interpreted to cover a deliberately undervalued currency. But it added: “[T]o date [the WTO] has done nothing to suggest that trade issues linked to currency manipulation are within its zone of responsibility.” The CRS said that a president might seek to amend WTO rules so that they clearly cover currency manipulation, but that is “not easy.”

Overall, we judge that there’s less force behind Romney’s WTO threat than he would have viewers believe.

Gingrich Wrong on Aid to Egypt

Gingrich was wrong when he said Egypt receives $3 billion a year in foreign aid from the U.S. It actually receives about half that.

Gingrich: “You’re giving some countries $7 billion a year. So you start off — or — or in the case of Egypt $3 billion a year.”

The Congressional Research Service said in a June 15, 2010, report that Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, and had been receiving an average of about $2 billion a year since 1979. However, U.S. aid to Egypt has been “trending downward,” CRS said. It now receives a total of about $1.55 billion — roughly $1.3 billion a year in military assistance and $250 million in economic aid.

The level of military aid has remained consistent, the CRS report said.

CRS, June 15: In July 2007, as a part of a larger arms package to the region, the United States announced that it would provide Egypt with $13 billion in military aid over a ten-year period. Since Egypt has already been receiving approximately $1.3 billion a year in military assistance, the announcement represented no major change in U.S. assistance policy toward Egypt.

Similarly, the State Department also says on its website that “U.S. military aid to Egypt totals over $1.3 billion annually.”

However, the CRS says in its report (and in a separate report issued in February 2011) that economic assistance to Egypt has been “significantly reduced” in recent years — in part due to a 10-year agreement known as the Glide Path Agreement that was reached in 1998 that maintained military aid but reduced economic aid.

CRS, Feb. 4, 2011: Thus the United States reduced ESF aid to Egypt from $815 million in FY1998 to $411 million in FY2008. For FY2011, the Administration is requesting $250 million in ESF (Economic Support Fund) Egypt, the same amount it has received since FY2009.

NationofChange is a 501(c)3 nonprofit funded directly by our readers. Please make a small donation to support our work.
For fiscal year 2012, the Obama administration requested $1.55 billion in military and economic assistance for Egypt, the CRS said in a September report titled “Egypt in Transition.”

Read complete article at Nation of Change.

Nobel Prize Winner In Jail

From Amnesty International

If the Chinese government had it their way, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo would never receive his rightful recognition.

Earlier this month, three women were named recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for promoting women’s rights and women’s participation in peace-building. Yet, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Chinese human rights defender Liu Xiaobo, still languishes behind prison bars for seeking to promote peaceful political and social reforms in China.

In the days surrounding International Human Rights Day (December 10), you can shine a light for Liu Xiaobo and for others whose rights have been denied.

We’re asking you to take one simple action: Write a letter.

This can be a letter of passion and outrage to a government guilty of repressing free expression and denying other human rights.

Or it can be a letter of solidarity and hope sent directly to someone who needs reassurance that they are not alone.

Liu Xiaobo is just one case featured in this year’s annual Write for Rights – Global Write-a-thon – Amnesty’s largest global human rights event. Sign up now and let your letters be counted!

Since Amnesty’s founding 50 years ago, people throughout the world have joined together in classrooms, coffee houses and community centers to take action. They were united by a simple, yet powerful, tool for change – the letter.

Need proof that written words are powerful? Look no further than Liu Xiaobo – whose words of hope and freedom are seen as such a threat by authorities in China that they have imprisoned him because of them.

Now he and others need you to carry their torch by picking up a pen. You don’t need to be a Nobel Prize winner to Write for Rights! Stand with human rights supporters around the world by joining the Global Write-a-thon.

With hope,

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

How to Help Japan

Here are some ways you can help the people of Japan recover from the worst earthquake and tsunami in their recorded history.

The Red Cross has already launched efforts in Japan. Go to Redcross.org or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 from your phone.

Save the Children has responded. Donations can be made to its
Children’s Emergency Fund.

To donate or learn about additional ways to contribute to the medical response, go to Internationalmedicalcorps.org. You can also text MED to 80888 from your mobile phone to give $10.00.

GlobalGiving.org is gathering funds to be given to a variety of relief organizations helping quake victims. It’s already raised over $100,000, most notably from concerned Twitter users around the world. Visit them at: The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.

Please don’t forget about all the other people around the world who have been rebuilding and recovering from earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and other disasters (Haiti, Pakistan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Southern India, China, Peru and more).

Lend a hand, provide support and visit:

Mercy Corps.

Red Cross.

Green Crescent.

The Goods: Help Send Relief To Haiti.

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Shelter Box.

CARE International.

Proud to be an Egyptian

One of the largest non-violent revolutions in history, in the most populist state in the Arab world and the biggest country in Africa, is transpiring before our eyes! The people of Egypt have provided an example of determination, unity, honor and courage that has opened the eyes of the world to what is possible and what must be.

Following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatmas Gandhi, the fall of the Berlin Wall, People Power in the Philippines, the revolution in Romania, the revolts in the Czech Republic and thousands in Iran and Tunisia, the Egyptian people (from all walks of life, backgrounds, religious orientations and economic circumstances) have lit a path for freedom that can not and should not ever be taken for granted or dismissed.

The coming days, weeks, months and years will provide an opportunity for the army of Egypt (which is supposed to be a force for THE PEOPLE) to stay true to their word and be a stabilizing influence for real democratic change and the installation of democratic institutions. If they don’t, there is no doubt that Egyptians will arise in mass once more (despite the cost) and demand their hard fought for revolution be implemented and respected.

Many Egyptians are once again saying they are proud to be Egyptian. In fact, what they have done makes us all proud to be human. Now is the time to support the people of Egypt and similar democratic movements throughout the world, with our actions and not just give lip service as we (our government) has done in the past.

This will be the beginning of a worldwide change that will see authoritarian dictatorships around the globe either make drastic changes in how they treat their citizens or see similar mass civil disobedience and change regardless of their personal wishes for power or control. Countries such as Iran, Myanmar, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Mozambique and China may see Egypt as a wake up call. Let us hope they wake up to allow peaceful democratic freedom and rights for their people and not to clamp down and impose further restrictions, violence and tyranny.

Thank you Egypt. You are one of the cradles of civilization. Perhaps you have now become the cradle of a new world order of peace, prosperity and freedom for all.

Cheapest Trip Ever!

It was on a gorgeous afternoon that I sat at an outside table of a local downtown coffee house and took an unexpected voyage around the world.

I had just put my derriere on a metal chair (made in Italy) and was waiting for my friend Betty (originally from Chicago) to join me with pictures of her recent trip, when the woman at the next table asked about the emblem on my shirt. I told her it was an Iranian National Soccer Team patch. She asked if I knew someone there and I said our family had an Iranian exchange student live with us for a year when I was growing up. She explained that she and her husband, who had just joined her, were fans of Majid Majidi and other Iranian filmmakers. She introduced herself, her husband and their child (Sylvie, Richard and Marcel), just as Betty sat down with her Guatemalan coffee.

Turns out that Sylvie and Richard (Oxman) put on a political/international and cultural event (including documentary films) which is called OneDance and includes filmmakers, educators and activists from around the world. They are also the proprietors of French Paintbox. Several times a year they organize retreats in the Southwest of France and meet participants from around the world. It doesn’t sound like your ordinary tour, as those on the trip have the opportunity to study and paint daily with master teachers’ such as Isabelle Maureau from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux Arts De Paris. Sylvie said they also take daily excursions to botanical gardens, vineyards, museums, grottoes, country fairs, musical events, cafes, etc. She said it’s always a mixed group and you don’t have to be a painter to attend (thank goodness).

As their son Marcel, who looks like a miniature French movie star, came up to tell me that we both had on the same colored shirts (white), I thought about my wife’s French connections. I mentioned that my father-in-law spoke five languages and that he had lived in France for many years and that he and his wife (my mother-in-law) are originally from Germany. My friend Betty and her son both speak French, as does her husband (whose family goes back to Nova Scotia). Betty, obviously not thinking, asked if any of my children speak French. She should have known that that could send me on a long torrential downpour about my kids.

I looked down at my tennis shoes (made in China) and told them about my daughter, who traveled to Eastern Europe with her husband and how much they liked Italy, The Czech Republic and Turkey. Our other daughter was in Tahiti for three months, as part of her college studies. Two of our sons have been to and loved, Ireland and England and some of our best friends live in Sweden, I concluded, realizing I had never answered the question about speaking French. Sadly, I finally admitted, I don’t speak French or any other language, besides English, but both our daughters can speak Spanish, my wife German and youngest son took French for a year and a half in school. I’ve been trying to learn Kinyarwanda, which is spoken in much of East Africa (especially Rwanda), but still only know a few words.

After Sylvie, Richard and Marcel naturally tired from my monolingual linguistics, having heard all about my wife’s three-month trip to China, the Cameroon and French soccer teams and world politics, they politely said their au revoirs’. Betty was finally able to get a word in edgewise and told me about her trips to the East Coast, Nova Scotia and Nigeria.

About an hour later I walked past a World Bazaar retail store, paid my parking garage ticket (with American dollars), got in my Japanese car, turned on some Brazilian music and drove past Mexican, Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Afghani restaurants to my friend’s home on an Italian named street.

I’d only been at the restaurant for a couple of hours, but it seemed like I had traveled the globe. It was a pleasure meeting the Oxmans, hearing about French Paintbox and talking with Betty; but quite ironic that I, a stay-at-home American native, had felt like such a world citizen. For the price of an espresso (coffee from Nicaragua) it was definitely the cheapest trip I’ve ever taken!

Falling For Fun

Our family loves to kick, punch, strike and throw each other around. I’m not talking about domestic violence, which is sadly far to common, nor is this a metaphor for some violent form of communication. What I am referring to is an inter-generational love of martial arts. A love of learning how to defend oneself and others, while simultaneously strengthening and calming our body, hearts and minds.

When I was a young man (about two hundred years ago) I was lucky enough to discover a martial arts school in my hometown that taught Judo and Ju-Jitsu. The head teacher (Sensei) was a woman named Professor Jane Carr. The reason I say “lucky” is because I could have innocently become involved with a so-called teacher who had not been well trained, whose only concern was fighting or winning competitions and/or making money. A teacher, who cared more about power, control and prestige then self-control, honor and respect.

Professor Carr was different. She was a teacher, warrior, mother, counselor, non-violent activist and friend all rolled up into one. She expected all her students to work hard to improve themselves in all aspects of their lives, in and out of the dojo (practice hall). She commanded respect, not because of her fighting skills (which are formidable), but because she showed respect for others and would settle for nothing less in herself. Her presence demonstrated and invited those around her to discover their own inner strengths and character. Professor Carr is still teaching (after 45 years) and her daughter is head instructor at the academy.

When I moved to Santa Cruz I took up Tai Chi Chuan, which is a slow-moving series of Chinese exercises that can also be used for other means. I studied for a short time with Dale Strawhacker (a local acupuncturist and Tai Chi instructor) and continue to practice at home every morning.

Our oldest son took Tae Kwon Do (Korean karate) with Master Song at Song’s Martial Arts Institute. We had checked a number of schools to make sure this was a place of learning and respect. We had wanted him to have a positive experience, like I had as a teen. After six months our autistic son’s coordination, strength and self-confidence had increased ten-fold.

It seems that people rolling, jumping, falling, moving and breathing their way to health and vitality have surrounded us. Our oldest son’s friend practiced the Brazilian art of Copeira. A number of our children’s friends have taken Aikido (a Japanese martial art) or karate and many of our adult friends seem to be thrilled with Qi Kung (a separate or combined art of Chinese Gung Fu). A previous colleague told me how her entire family works out together and their daughter has gone to the national championships in Tae Kwon Do. My wife and youngest son practiced Gung Fu in Watsonville for a number of years with a wonderful teacher at Black Tiger Academy.

We are very fortunate in Santa Cruz County to have such a variety and depth of knowledge, traditions and practices to choose from. We have martial arts from Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Okinawa. There are schools that focus on self-defense, competition, physical health or all three. Some emphasize having fun. Others prioritize meditative practices, aerobics and rhythm or creating community.

Qualified teachers, of whatever backgrounds or style; will have you and/or your children’s well being as their priority. They will practice what they preach by paying attention to there words and actions, but not focusing on themselves. They will instill confidence, support and compassion, not fear, dominance or adoration.

Consider what qualities you want in a teacher before you choose a particular style or school. Visit different classes and practice halls before you decide where to spend your money and time. Ask questions about the instructor’s background, their philosophy and approach to learning. Talk to their students. Once you find the right fit, stay with it and practice daily. You’ll soon find that it will give you a positive spin on every aspect of your life and those around you.

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