30 October 2010

'Cash For Caulkers' Seals Savings For Homeowners 23OKT10

A worker with Home Energy Loss Professionals retrofits a home.
John Poole/NPR A worker with Home Energy Loss Professionals, a Maryland company, retrofits the attic of a home.
This year was supposed to be the year when the U.S. government redesigned the energy economy and took a bite out of global warming. But Congress had no appetite for complicated legislation that might raise energy prices.
So now comes "cash for caulkers." Call it "energy reform lite" — part of a string of more modest measures designed to reduce our hunger for energy without a top-down overhaul of energy use in the country.
Known officially as Homestar, cash for caulkers would put up to $6 billion of federal money into the hands of homeowners and contractors who make homes more energy-efficient. That's if Congress decides to pass it.
We do a better job servicing our car than our house.
To see just what Homestar would subsidize, I visited a crew from Wellhome, an energy retrofit company.
"So what we have here is a blower door," explains Glenn Dickey as he secures a canvas flap over the front door entrance to a comfortable house in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. There's a big fan built into the flap, connected to a power socket. "And what we are going to do is turn the fan on, draw the air through the house, and this will give us an opportunity to find the leaks."
Dickey trains retrofit workers to get certified by the Building Performance Institute. Today he's on the hunt for an insidious enemy — air leaks. When he turns on the fan, it sucks air out of the house and lowers the interior air pressure — not enough to suffocate us, he promises, but enough so that hot air from the outside will leak into the cooler house through any cracks or holes.
Dickey's partner here is Rush Fleshman, a Wellhome expert. Fleshman wanders through the house using an infrared camera to find those streams of air. They will lead back to cracks and holes in walls and windows. He finds plenty.
Infrared images of pull-down attic stairs (left) and a fireplace with glass doors
Courtesy of Glenn Dickey In the wintertime, cold air can enter homes from pull-down attic stairs (left) and fireplaces with glass doors (right). The dark colors in these infrared images show poorly insulated surfaces where cooler air is entering the home.
"What we are seeing here is warm air infiltration washing down these walls here," he says as he points his camera at an interior wall. "That would be behind the drywall."
The screen on the hand-held camera shows a pinkish blob slithering down the wall. It's coming from the attic. Any air that's a few degrees warmer or colder than the indoor air will show up on the infrared camera, even behind walls.
In this case, the insulation could have pulled away from the inside of the wall, or there might be an opening somewhere between the first floor and the attic.
Tough Love For Homeowners
Meanwhile, around the kitchen table, Wellhome auditor Michael Hogan throws a barrage of questions at the homeowners, Jay and Dorothy Murdoch. Jay is pretty savvy about construction — a copy of Family Handyman lies on the table — and Dorothy is an architect. But they're in for a grilling.
"Does your house have any cold or hot areas?" Hogan asks. Rapid fire, he runs down a hefty list. "Are there any drafty areas in your home? Do you ever close off any rooms to prevent from heating them? Do you have any moisture problems anywhere in the home? Do you have any musty smells in your home?"
Sometimes the questions hit a sore spot. "When was the last time you had your furnace cleaned or serviced?" Hogan asks.
"Ooooh," sighs Dorothy Murdoch. Her husband grimaces.
"It hasn't been serviced since it was installed," he confesses — three years ago. "We do a better job servicing our car than our house."
"Yeah, we're bad," Dorothy admits.
This is more than just "tough love" for homeowners — it's the Gold Star treatment. That's a top-of-the-line energy efficiency overhaul that evolved after some states started rebate programs for residential energy retrofits.
Homeowner Jay Murdoch is actually in this business — he works for Wellhome. He volunteered for this workover after he reached the limit of his own handyman skills.
Some fixes only require a change of behavior. The house has five computers, for example, and sometimes they're all drawing electricity at once. Hogan also spots some things that aren't so obvious.
"A cell phone charger," he says. "You know, people usually leave them plugged into the wall. That has a draw on it."
An Airy Puzzle
Dickey heads up a staircase into the attic. In a well-insulated home, attics are supposed to be sealed off from the rest of the house. Dickey pulls back the insulation on an interior wall and finds a long open seam that leads down into the house — a conduit for attic air to dribble back down.
A two-by-four should be enough to seal that off — no big deal. But downstairs, Hogan and the infrared camera have found something mysterious.
"Right at the moment, I'm stumped," admits Hogan. "We've got this air circulating down around the paneling in the little den space here, and the air is cool, which would indicate that it's not coming from the attic." Maybe it's coming up from the crawl space under the house. Or maybe somewhere else. It will take some sleuthing to diagnose it, and that's what Hogan likes — connecting parts of the house like a puzzle.
That's not how most people in the construction business think, says Larry Zarker. He runs the Building Performance Institute, which trains and certifies retrofit workers like Hogan. "You can't get comfort, you can't get energy efficiency, without treating the house as a system" of interconnected parts, he says. "You can do piecemeal projects, but you can't get there" just one room or appliance at a time.
After a couple of hours of home "therapy," the homeowners are contemplating several thousand dollars' worth of work.

Related NPR Stories

"Our house is a sieve," says Dorothy Murdoch. "But it's good to know that," her husband adds. "We're waiting to see what their action plan is going to be." Comfort and savings are his priority; she ranks "going green" higher.
Subsidies For Energy Retrofits
The Murdochs are willing to pay for an overhaul because it will lower their bills. But if Homestar happens, the federal government could subsidize the work with as much as $8,000 for a single home. It would also subsidize a less rigorous and less expensive overhaul called Silver Star.
Some states, like New York, already pay homeowners for retrofits.  So did President Obama's stimulus plan last year.  But Jeff Genzer of the National Association of State Energy Officials says the stimulus money was mostly for low-income families. Homestar is for all homeowners.
"And it's really targeted to getting the money in the hands of underemployed building contractors," Genzer says. Indeed, Homestar advocates claim that the $6 billion could create 160,000 new jobs in the flagging building sector.
Genzer adds that small-scale-efficiency programs are cheaper than building new nuclear plants or big wind farms. And homes are a fat target for savings — buildings use 40 percent of the country's energy. But caulk and insulation aren't very sexy either.
"Is it easier for a politician to cut a ribbon in front of a nuclear power plant than it is in front of a house that's been weatherized?" he asks. "Well, maybe."
Nonetheless, the House of Representatives has passed a Homestar bill, and it's now being considered in the Senate.

Poll: Americans Don't Know Economy Expanded With Tax Cuts from BLOOMBERG 29OKT10

I have heard and read so many reports that includes statements from voters that they are tired of being treated as being stupid by election campaigns, yet we are on the verge of turning the House over to the republicans because these voters are stupid enough to be manipulated by and  believe the hate filled, prejudiced propaganda from the tea-baggers and gop, ignoring the facts on the economy, fiscal policy and government programs. From Bloomberg, be sure to check out the full poll results and the chart, click the links.

U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to promote a plan to let companies take immediate tax deductions for the full cost of new equipment today in Maryland. Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg
Chart: Poll Results
Attachment: Full Poll Results and Methodology
The Obama administration cut taxes for middle-class Americans, expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks and has overseen an economy that has grown for the past five quarters.
Most voters don’t believe it.
A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26 finds that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered.
“The public view of the economy is at odds with the facts, and the blame has to go to the Democrats,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm that conducted the nationwide survey. “It does not matter much if you make change, if you do not communicate change.”
The Obama administration has cut taxes -- largely for the middle class -- by $240 billion since taking office on Jan. 20, 2009. A program aimed at families earning less than $150,000 that was contained in the stimulus package lowered the burden for 95 percent of working Americans by $116 billion, or about $400 per year for individuals and $800 for married couples. Other measures include breaks for college education, moderate- income families and the unemployed and incentives to promote renewable energy.
Not Getting Through
Still, the poll shows the message hasn’t gotten through to Americans, especially middle-income voters. By 52 percent to 19 percent, likely voters say federal income taxes have gone up for the middle class in the past two years.
“He’s all about raising taxes,” says poll respondent Jeanette Bagley, 74, a retired home health aide in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. “He’s all about big government and big spending.”
The view that taxes have gone up is shared by a majority of almost all demographic groups, including 50 percent of independent voters, among the linchpins of Obama’s victory in the 2008 election.
Even a plurality of Democrats, 43 percent, holds this misperception. Overall, 63 percent of those who earn $25,000 to $49,999 say taxes have gone up, compared with 45 percent of those who earn $100,000 or more.
Republican Advantage
The poll demonstrates the tough odds for Democrats heading into the midterms. Republicans are poised to retake the U.S. House next week with a 47 percent to 44 percent edge among likely voters. Independents are driving the Republican advantage.
The heart of Obama’s voting base and the group he’s tailored most of his policies to, middle-income earners -- or those who make $25,000 to $49,999 -- feel more pinched by taxes, are gloomier about economic growth and more pessimistic the tax dollars lent to Wall Street banks will ever be repaid than their higher-income-earning counterparts.
In an October report to Congress, released as TARP turned two years old, the Treasury said it had recovered most of the $245 billion spent on the Wall Street bank part of the rescue, and expects to turn a $16 billion profit. In the Bloomberg poll, 60 percent of respondents say they believe most of the TARP money to the banks is lost and only 33 percent say most of the funds will be recovered.
“Anything that ever needs to be paid back it’s ‘let’s go after the middle class,’” says poll respondent Judith Ann Micone, a 55-year-old cosmetologist and Republican from Kalispell, Montana.
Women More Skeptical
Women are slightly more skeptical than men that the funds will be recovered. Independents and Republicans are overwhelmingly skeptical. Even Democrats are mostly doubtful, with 48 percent saying the money will be lost, compared with 41 percent who say it will be recovered.
Separate from the aid for the Wall Street banks, the Treasury says the payouts for insurers such as New York-based American International Group Inc. will end with a small loss on investment, as will the bailout for automakers. Only the assistance to mortgage lenders, projected to reach about $45 billion, will never be repaid, Treasury says.
The perceptions of voters about the performance of the economy are also at odds with official data. The recession that began in December 2007 officially ended in June 2009, making the 18-month stretch the longest since the Great Depression.
Economy Grows Again
Today, the Commerce Department reported the economy grew at a 2 percent annual rate in the third quarter as consumer spending climbed the most in almost four years, a sign the expansion is developing staying power. In the past year, the economy has grown 3.1 percent.
The third-quarter growth matched the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and followed a 1.7 percent gain the prior three months. Household purchases, about 70 percent of the economy, rose at a 2.6 percent pace, the best quarter of the recovery that began in June 2009.
Voters aren’t seeing the better climate: 61 percent of poll respondents say the economy is shrinking this year, compared with 33 percent who say it is growing.
Charlene Miller, a 58-year-old unemployed nursery worker from Waterview, Maryland, said her impression is shaped by the state of jobs and wages and the fact that she’s been unemployed for two years.
Jobs Going Overseas
“We’re sending too many jobs overseas and not paying Americans for their work,” says Miller, an independent who voted for Obama.
Older voters are more likely to view the economy negatively, with 69 percent of those age 55 and older saying it is shrinking, compared with 48 percent of voters under 35 who say so. For those 65 and older, it’s 71 percent. Those who earn less than $50,000 are more likely to view the economy negatively than those who earn more.
The Bloomberg National Poll, which included interviews with 1,000 likely voters in the November 2010 general election, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The impressions of these voters also are dissonant with other signs of economic improvement.
A year and a half after U.S. stocks hit their post- financial-crisis low on March 9, 2009, the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen 75 percent, and it’s up 15 percent for this year.
Jobless Rate Dominates
The unemployment rate that’s hovered at or above 9.5 percent for 14 months is crowding out any positive news, said Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
“It spreads a dark cloud across anything else that you’re doing,” Oppenheimer said. “This won’t be a good election for Democrats.”
The poll reveals the failure of the Democrats to communicate their achievements even within their own party and the opposition’s triumph in painting the Obama administration as a failure, particularly on economic issues.
“The administration has said for a long time that the best politics was doing the right thing,” says Steve McMahon, a Democratic strategist. “It requires a lot more. These numbers show that the best politics is selling what you’re doing.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Heidi Przybyla in Washington at; John McCormick in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at

Are the Tea Partiers Being Taken for a Ride? from MOTHER JONES NOV/DEZ 2010 ISSUE

ANOTHER SHOUT OUT on this blog to the tea-baggers, you are not going to like laying in the bed you are making for yourselves...the election is not until Tuesday, you have time to change your mind!
Voters beware—the head you're putting on the chopping block may be your own.
Even in an election season marked by more than the usual dose of insanity, Dinesh D'Souza's Forbes cover story about Barack Obama, "How He Thinks," marks a new low. You remember D'Souza—last seen blaming the left for 9/11, but best known for noting that "the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well" (and for dating both Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham). He'd found, he said, an explanation for Obama's "strange behavior"—bizarre stuff like noting that the BP disaster might have something to do with our addiction to fossil fuels.
The president, D'Souza assured Forbes readers, is neither "clueless" nor a socialist—the problem is something much, well, darker. "We have been blinded to his real agenda because, across the political spectrum, we all seek to fit him into some version of American history." But that's wrong, because Obama grew up in strange places "off the American mainland" (like...Hawaii), and is guided not by "the American dream" but the ideology of the Kenyan father he barely knew. "Incredibly," D'Souza gasped, "the US is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."
What to say about this kind of tripe? (First, um: George Washington = anticolonialist.) That, like so much conservative rhetoric of late, D'Souza's philippic seems designed to—in Chris Matthews' phrase—rip the scab off American race relations? That for serial philanderer Newt Gingrich to tout this bilge as a "profound insight" has...a certain charm? But mostly, that it's unfathomable why a conservative, but still mainstream, business magazine would publish something so reckless, false, and bigoted?
For a clue to the answer, consider a data point from the Congressional Budget Office (PDF). If you are in the bottom 80 percent of American households, you've gained essentially no economic ground in the past three decades. Those of you lucky enough to be in the top 20 percent ($100,000+) might be heartened by the trajectory of the red line on the chart shown here—but sorry: The vast majority of those gains have actually gone to the top 1 percent (PDF) (average income: $1.9 million). And though the chart doesn't show this because the line would run off the page, if you're in the tippy-top 0.1 percent, your gains make the merely filthy rich look like chumps. (Click here to see the change in income distribution. Pour yourself a stiff drink first.]
Obama isn't proposing to radically redistribute these riches, mind you. Sure, he's advocated letting the Bush tax cuts for the most affluent expire, bringing their tax rate back to where it was under Reagan (PDF). But that's not why Forbes chose to demonize him; most of even its 5.4 million readers would not be affected. No, the reason Obama is being caricatured as some kind of latter-day Patrice Lumumba is simply that he took office at a dangerous moment for the wealthy and their enablers, coddlers, and bipartisan political minions. They faced the kind of backlash that has greeted corporate and political elites in the past when they've driven the economy off a cliff. (Consider that the Depression realigned our political tectonics in a way that lasted well into the 1970s.)
So, the defenders of the überrich pulled off an amazing bit of jujitsu. Just two years after the collapse, a vast percentage of those who got screwed are mad as hell—not at the bankers who did the screwing, but at a government that was left to clean up the mess. Anxious about feeling squeezed, they rail about being taxed (less, it's worth recalling, than they were under Bush). Furious about what they have lost, they fume about those who have lost even more. Voila: Anger is not only being deflected away from the top, but deliberately redirected toward the bottom.
How'd that happen? It's a sleight of hand that was made infinitely easier by the fact that we'd just elected our first black president. When you aim to convince Americans that in order to protect the common man's pocketbook, we must hand over an even greater share of the nation's wealth to the rich, it helps to appeal to our worst instincts. Mad at Wall Street mountebankers and their Capitol shills? We feel your pain... and hey, look, over there! It's a black commie in the White House! (See also: ACORN. Shirley Sherrod. Michelle "Marie Antoinette"—a.k.a. uppity—Obama.)
You really have to hand it to Newt et al. This toxic propaganda neither solves the economic predicament of the people whose anger is being manipulated, nor advances the 200-year-plus debate about the role our government should play. What it does is undermine the founding anti-colonialists' e pluribus unum mandate—by ensuring that the trend lines of economic inequality continue to diverge.
Clara Jeffery is coeditor of Mother

Standing up for Human Rights-in Uganda, Hungary, Egypt, and the U.S., HRF RIGHTS WIRE 29OKT10

UPDATES  and actions to participate in on terrorism trials, asylum seekers, defamation of religion (see previous post on this blog or click the link below), elections in Egypt, LGBT rights in Uganda, Hungary and more....

Rights Wire

In This Issue From the President and CEO»
VIDEO: Gitmo Trial Hits NYC; Manhattan Yawns»
Egypt's Diminished Democracy»
Deadline on Fear? Asylum Filing Requirement Hurts Refugees»
Violent Homophobia and the LGBT struggle»
A Tale of Three Trials»
In Memoriam: Lou Henkin»
HRF in the News»
Upcoming Event»
"I have hope that the powerful urge to be free and live with dignity can exist despite hatred and discrimination, despite fear and despair. And that those who experience this urge can join their voices together – and drown out those who hate."
Julius Kaggwa, Human Rights Award recipient
From the President and CEO
HRF's Elisa Massimino
Last week, we gathered at our annual Human Rights Award dinner with more than 800 of our friends and supporters to celebrate our victories and rededicate ourselves to the challenges ahead.
We were privileged to honor two courageous human rights activists fighting discrimination against vulnerable minorities: Julius Kaggwa of Uganda and Viktória Mohácsi of Hungary. Julius promotes the rights of sexual minorities in Africa, and Viktória, a former EU parliamentarian, advocates for the rights of the Roma people across Europe.
In a poignant and moving reminder of where fear and hatred of "the other" can lead, our special guest, Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein, presented the awards to Julius and Viktória with these words: "The honorees and I share something more than this prestigious award – something, quite sadly, that we did not seek, something we were simply born into. We – a Jew, a Roma and the member of a sexual minority -- are all members of a tragic society: survivors of communities persecuted during the barbarous acts of the Holocaust..The yellow star, the brown triangle, the upside-down pink triangle – they sound like shapes children would draw. Each of our people were marked with these symbols – and branded as unworthy. Many in our communities still feel the ghostly imprint of these marks today – because we still face discrimination all around the globe."
Julius, Viktória, and Gerda inspire us with their courage and dedication to the principle of equality. Together, we are working to ensure that all people can live in dignity, free from discrimination.
Thanks to all who were able to be with us in person – as well as those who were with us in spirit! Read more about the event and our honorees. Watch videos about their lives and work.
Elisa Massimino
President and CEO
Human Rights First
VIDEO: Gitmo Trial Hits NYC; Manhattan Yawns
In September, the first Guantanamo trial began in New York City. We went to the scene to document the “mayhem” predicted by fearmongers: except, there wasn’t any…
Our video was picked up by several news outlets, including Talking Points Memo (twice!), Salon, The Hartford Courant, and it was a “winner” on Charles Kaiser’s blog. More than 5,000 people have watched it on YouTube—watch it and send it to your friends!
Egypt's Diminished Democracy
Egypt's Diminished Democracy
The upcoming parliamentary elections in Egypt next month and expected presidential elections next year, could be a turning point for democracy and human rights—and a crucial test of the Obama administration’s commitment to advancing them.  But the early signals are not good, and many expect rigged elections, violence and repressive tactics.
Human Rights First will head to Egypt next month to work with human rights and democracy activists to find innovative ways to monitor and report on elections. Together, we’re leveraging online organizing and reporting tools—but Egypt continues to crack down on these and other methods. International election monitors are needed to make sure the vote is fair.
Egypt is one of the U.S. government’s closest allies and a top recipient of U.S. aid—and yet the United States hasn’t done enough to pressure Egypt to end repressive tactics. This is no time for subtlety; the United States must “call things by their proper names,” HRF’s Neil Hicks argued recently in the Washington Post.
Help us pressure the Egyptian government to accept international election monitors and stop repressing opposition voices. Write President Obama today.

Deadline on Fear? Asylum Filing Requirement Hurts Refugees
An arbitrary deadline on applications for asylum in U.S. law has barred thousands of refugees from receiving protection in the United States. A missed deadline can send them back to persecution.
A new Human Rights First report examines real cases that exemplify the harmful effect of this deadline, and shows how it has increased costs and delays in the asylum system. Read the New York Times article covering the report.
Help end this and other harmful refugee policies—ask your Senators to cosponsor the Refugee Protection Act.

Violent Homophobia and the LGBT struggle
Violent Homophobia and the LGBT struggle
The disturbing attack against three gay men in the Bronx, violent protests against the pride parade in Belgrade and other recent hate crimes against those in the LGBT community underline the importance of creating a climate of tolerance—in the United States and abroad.
We’ve been working with activists and governments across the world to adopt laws against such heinous acts of hate—and to ensure that they are enforced.
One of our Human Rights Award Winners this year, Ugandan LGBTI activist Julius Kaggwa, is leading the fight against the draconian anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda that would punish homosexuality, in certain cases, with death. At the same time we were honoring Julius and his work, a newspaper in Uganda published the “top 100” homosexuals in the country, including names and addresses, under the headline titled “Hang Them.” This is not just about a piece of legislation—in many places, being homosexual itself is a death penalty, says Kaggwa.
Watch Kaggwa discuss the problem in this video clip.

A Tale of Three Trials
Three trials this month leave little doubt about where we should try terrorist suspects:
  1. In a Manhattan federal court, Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, got a sentence of life in prison without parole. His trial ended less than six months after he was arrested and taken into the U.S. criminal justice system.
  2. Also in a Manhattan federal court, a judge barred the torture-tainted testimony of a prosecution witness in the trial of Ahmed Ghailani, accused of bombing two East African embassies in 1998. The rule of law prevailed.
  3. Meanwhile at Guantanamo, the U.S. is preparing a plea bargain for Omar Khadr. Khadr was fifteen when he was captured, there is credible evidence he was tortured, and the U.S. has held him for eight years while it tried to fix the secretive, capricious, and rights-denying military commissions.
Though the choice seems obvious, it’s far from clear the country will make the right choice.
That’s why Human Rights First is monitoring trials, sharing facts with congressional candidates, and mobilizing retired military leaders to get the facts out to the public and policy makers. Last week we issued a powerful TV ad with these leaders urging the government to use civilian courts to try terrorism suspects, shown throughout Pennsylvania, where this issue has become a partisan one in the Senate campaign.
We’re urging candidates in the upcoming elections to ignore the fearmongering and trust our courts—sign our petition today!

In Memoriam: Lou Henkin
In Memoriam: Lou Henkin
Human Rights First mourns the loss of one of our founding fathers, Lou Henkin. Professor Henkin served on our board for more than three decades.  He was our North Star, and a beloved role model for the countless human rights advocates he mentored. “Literally and figuratively, he wrote the book on human rights,” said HRF President and CEO Elisa Massimino. Read the obituary in the New York Times.
 HRF in the News
In an op-ed published in Politico, Daphne Eviatar discusses the shaky legal framework of military commissions—you just don’t learn this in law school. Daphne is in Guantanamo for the Khadr sentencing.
The Washington Post On Faith blog featured an opinion piece by Tad Stahnke on “How American ideals won in Quran Burning Controversy.” He draws lessons from this controversy to explain why we should not adopt “defamation of religions” resolution at the UN.

 Upcoming Event
Human Rights First is cosponsoring, with Rabbis for Human Rights, Human Rights Under Fire: A Jewish Call to Action, an event that brings together an impressive list of speakers and will feature conversations on subjects ranging from indefinite detention to Netanyahu, exceptionalism and Jewish values.
Register here.

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How American ideals won in Qur'an burning controversy 1OKT10

FREEDOM won this battle because we have the freedom to speak out. We showed the world we stand for the freedom of religion AND free speech, that the two can exist and be practiced without violence. The nations who are promoting this restrictive resolution at the U.N. need to do some serious introspection and consider the lack of basic human rights in their own nations, and accept the International Declaration of Human Rights as passed by the U.N. 

Recently, anti-Muslim incidents in the United States sparked deadly protests in Afghanistan, marches in India and Indonesia, and the burning of Israeli and American flags in Iran and Pakistan. General Petraeus spoke out to remind Americans that actions here in the United States directly impact our ability to achieve our objectives overseas. His message was clear: the world is watching what we do. Fortunately, with the spotlight upon us, we have some positive lessons to share with the rest of the world about what an effective response to bigotry and hate speech looks like. And these lessons are particularly relevant as the UN General Assembly takes up again efforts to establish a global code against blasphemy.
  (Pakistani Muslims burn a US flag during a protest in Lahore on September 19, 2010, against earlier threats by US pastor Terry Jones to burn copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.)
For over a decade, Pakistan, Egypt and some other predominantly Muslim countries have successfully promoted resolutions at the United Nations which argue that it is necessary to criminalize anti-religious hate speech (or "defamation") in order to protect freedom of religion. It would be tempting to view recent anti-Muslim incidents as evidence of why such legislation is needed.
In reality, criminalizing speech damages rather than advances efforts to combat religious intolerance. Such laws are all too often abused to stifle debate and dissent and can have devastating consequences for those holding religious views that differ from the majority religion. Journalists, bloggers, teachers, students, poets, religious converts and other individuals have been targeted, charged and sentenced to prison or received other punishments simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The response to the aborted Koran burning event demonstrates how non-legal measures can effectively and successfully confront and counteract hatred and intolerance.

For starters, America's leaders got this one right. They affirmed their commitment to tolerance and diversity and ultimately drowned out the hateful rhetoric of an isolated extremist. Political, religious, and other leaders, including President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, General David Petraeus, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, and many others presented a clear message and a unified front against the Koran burning.
These high profile messages were joined by the voices of ordinary citizens and local political and religious leaders who successfully worked together to affirm religious solidarity. For example, in Gainesville, Florida more than 20 religious organizations united in hosting a series of interfaith events incorporating Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scriptures into worship services focused on peace and understanding. Members of the Gainesville community were also encouraged to attend a candlelight vigil and Iftar celebrations.

Their efforts ultimately led the Mayor of Gainesville to declare September 11th, the day of the planned Koran burning, as "Interfaith Solidarity Day" in the community. He also issued a statement condemning the "offensive behavior that has been directed at Muslim neighbors and those of the Islamic faith worldwide." Ultimately, they won. The planned "Burn a Koran Day" was cancelled.
Inspired by the success of efforts targeting the proposed Koran burning in Florida, communities and groups throughout the United States confronting similar anti-Muslim incidents have also united in opposition to intolerance.
Restricting speech is not the answer to fighting bigotry and hatred. What we need more of is condemnation of acts of hatred, as well as effective policies of inclusion, equality and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Instead of creating internationally binding obligations that aim to criminalize the "defamation of religions," politicians should confront hate speech and efforts to defame religions with the mightiest weapon in their arsenal--their voices.

Tad Stahnke is the Director of Policy and Programs at Human Rights First.


GREAT news in this newsletter about Sea Shepherds new interceptor ship, the Ocean Adventurer, which replaces the Ady Gil, the ship rammed and destroyed by japanese whalers last year. Also updates on the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, marine parks and turtles.

Sea Shepherd
Sea Shepherd E-Newsletter
Defending Ocean Wildlife Worldwid

In just one month, with your help, I will be leading our seventh Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign with a crew of passionate, courageous volunteers from around the world. Our ships, the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, are currently being prepared for the campaign. Our only challenge now is to raise the funds for our new faster, larger, and stronger interceptor vessel (see picture below).

Despite the challenges, we continue to prevail because we are passionate about defending our oceans and we know we must fight for biodiversity in the oceans. We need your support to help us save whales, dolphins, seals, and more! You are our lifeblood! Thank you for making it possible for us to be effective.

New Interceptor Vessel for Operation No Compromise
New Interceptor VesselThe Ocean Adventurer is the newest edition to Neptune's Navy. It is much like the Ady Gil, the vessel that the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru No. 2 deliberately rammed and destroyed this past January, but the Ocean Adventurer is faster, larger, and stronger than the Ady Gil. It is going to have a great impact our our Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign!

Funds are still needed to completely secure this vessel and gear it up for Operation No Compromise. Please donate to support Operation No Compromise, and help us send the whalers home empty-handed this year!

Marine Parks - Do You Know What Your Money is Funding?
dolphins being killed/brought on boat - Taiji

The crimes against nature occurring in Taiji, Japan as you read this are something that have no place in the 21st Century. With all of our knowledge on conservation and marine issues, how can the slaughter of dolphins be allowed in 2010? Unbeknownst to most, the dolphins that make "the cut" are the ones who aren't slaughtered. They are chosen by trainers to live a life of slavery at marine parks.

Learn more about recent happenings in Taiji and how you can avoid inadvertently supporting the dolphin massacre.

Galapagos Marine Iguanas Saved by K-9 Unit
Rescued marine iguanaIt is inspiring to see how our long-standing partnership with the Ecuadorian Environmental Police pays off time and time again!

Willy, one of the dogs in the K-9 unit, just recently rescued two live marine iguanas who had been improperly and illegally packaged for export from the Galapagos. (more)

Another Victory for the Harp Seals
This week European Judge Marc Jaeger refused to suspend the ban on the importation of commercial seal products from Canada.

His ruling is great news for the seals! With the season for the "hunt" approaching in four months and seal populations at 10% of their levels before the "hunt" started, the seals can't afford for there to be a market at all for their "products."

Learn more about the victory for the seals!

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Our primary weapons in the battle to save those who have no voice from those who pillage and plunder the oceans are compassion, courage, and cameras. We put ourselves in harm's way to defend the very foundation of this planet, and our cameras dramatically document this message so that it can be conveyed to the world.

We are steadfast in our commitment to defending, conserving, and protecting marine wildlife and habitats worldwide. In defending marine wildlife, we defend ourselves; in fighting for the oceans, we fight for the future of our children. Please join us in this battle to save the planet. We believe it is not too late. Thank-you!

For the oceans,

Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President
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Captain Paul Watson

Where Have all the
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Throughout Australia,
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29 October 2010

Coddling the Rich 29OKT10

THE greed of the rich in this country is disgusting, as is their attitude that they are untouchable. I still want someone to explain how taking the bush era tax cut away from the rich will hurt the economy because that money will not be available for job creation. The rich have been receiving their tax break for the two years of this recession......where are all the jobs they are supposed to be creating with this money??? Oh, that's right...they are in prc china, India and Mexico! Hey tea-baggers, do you speak these languages? You'll need to if you are going to follow your jobs when your tea-bagger / gop candidates establish the plutocracy you are working so hard for......
A couple of weeks ago I sort of vaguely intended to write a bit about the extreme sensitivity of the American business community. I had just read someone (I forget who) saying that he had been out in the world chatting with business folks and had fully expected their anger with Barack Obama to rate about an 8 out of 10. But no! It was 10 out of 10. They were in an absolute frenzy of combined rage (over what he was doing to them) and fear (over what he might say about them if they dared to criticize him publicly).
Needless to say, this seemed crazy to me. On a substantive front, after he took office Obama continued George Bush's rescue of the banking system, boosted the economy by passing a stimulus bill, and saved untold thousands of businesses by rescuing GM and Chrysler. His healthcare reform bill was so business friendly it's a wonder the industry didn't keel over in hypoglycemic shock after it was passed. On the rhetorical front, he's taken a few modest shots at the financial industry, but not much more. So what were they all so apoplectic about?
But then I stopped and decided there was no point. If I asked, business folks would say they were afraid to invest because of Obama's blizzard of new regulations. They'd say they were afraid he was going to raise their taxes. They'd say he had somehow screwed up the banking sector so that they could no longer get loans the way they used to. They'd say they were afraid of cap-and-trade and card check, which Obama supported even though they both went nowhere. Looking at the big picture, they'd claim the administration is squeezing them on all sides because its actions have resulted in slow hiring, higher taxes, impaired lending, and further limits to individuals' ability to deploy capital in business ventures (whether their own or other people's).
Or, as Jake Gapper put it earlier this week, quoting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Obama has "vilified industries while embarking on an ill-advised course of government expansion, major tax increases, massive deficits and job-destroying regulations." Gapper himself says there's some truth to this: "Mr Obama has failed to understand or communicate the role big business plays in remoulding the economy and creating highly skilled and highly-paid jobs. Unlike Bill Clinton, the previous Democratic president, he sounds as if he thinks multinationals do little but suck work out of the US."
And Gapper's evidence? As Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias point out, precisely one thing: Obama's criticism of large companies for using tax breaks to ship jobs overseas. That's it. Something that's virtually a staple of American politics. Obama is following in the footsteps of thousands when he complains about this, including plenty of Republicans when they're in a tight election campaign.
What's remarkable about all this is that Obama is, patently, not anti-business. All of the corporate complaints above, when you dig an inch below the surface, amount to lashing out at phantasms. However, although Obama isn't anti-business, it is fair to say that he's not especially business friendly. And after decades of almost literally getting their every heart's desire from Republican presidents and congresses, this has come as something as a shock to the corporate community. When Obama puts a tax break in the stimulus bill, it's aimed mainly at the middle class, not the rich. When he hires a labor secretary, it's someone who actually thinks labor laws should be enforced. When he says he wants to pass a healthcare reform bill, he actually does it. (Its impact on big business is close to zero, but no matter.) There's no evidence at all that Obama wants to punish big business, but at the same time it's quite plain that he cares much more about the middle class than he does about the rich.
And that's pretty hard for them to take. So they're apoplectic. On a scale of 1 to 10, he's a ten. Merely refusing to coddle the business community endlessly is all it takes these days.