START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
Nov 16, 2006
Focus: Human Rights
Action Request: Boycott
Location: Ethiopia
If you really need coffee, i suggest that you only buy fair trade coffee: workers are respected & paid for their labour!
But even if starbuck ever use fairtrade organic coffee... keep on boycotting them:

ETHIOPIA: US coffee chain Starbucks is denying Ethiopia earnings of up to USD 88 million a year

The Ethiopian Reporter
October 28th, 2006

US coffee chain Starbucks is denying Ethiopia earnings of up to USD 88 million a year, the charity Oxfam claimed this week.

According to reports, Oxfam said that Starbucks asked the National Coffee Association (NCA) to block Ethiopia's bid to trademark two types of coffee bean in the US. The move would have given farmers a greater share of profits, it claims.

But Starbucks denies approaching the NCA, and the association says Ethiopia is being badly advised and there is no economic case to back Oxfam's views.
Last year, the Ethiopian government filed applications to trademark the coffee bean names Sidamo and Harar in US courts.
Oxfam claims that Starbucks flagged up the application to the NCA, of which the firm is a leading member. The NCA then filed its opposition at the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Oxfam's Phil Bloomer said his organization had worked with Starbucks in the past and appealed to the firm to "act responsibly". "Their behavior on this occasion is a huge backwards step and raises serious questions about the depth of their commitment to the welfare of their suppliers," he said. 

But Starbucks senior vice president of coffee procurement, Dub Hay, denied approaching the NCA to oppose the Ethiopian move. "We did not get the NCA involved, in fact it was the other way around, and they contacted us."
Robert Nelson, head of the NCA, backed Mr. Hay's claim, adding that his organization opposed the Ethiopian move for economic reasons. "For the US industry to exist, we must have an economically stable coffee industry in the producing world," he said.

"This particular scheme is going to hurt the Ethiopian coffee farmers economically."

He claimed that the Ethiopian government was being advised to price itself out of the market and that the trademark move would reduce demand for its coffee.
Oxfam said the NCA and Starbucks should not dictate to Ethiopia how best to sell its products.
Ron Layton, president of Light Years IP, which is advising the Ethiopian government on the matter, said Ethiopia doesn't want to charge a flat fee as part of the licensing agreement.

But he said the long-term plan would be to establish the brand and then use that leverage to gradually boost the prices that companies like Starbucks pay for those coffees.

Ethiopia is also working to secure the rights to the three coffee names via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The country has succeeded in its attempt to trademark the name Yirgacheffe, but a final decision has not been made on the other two. A coffee trade group of which Starbucks is a member, the National Coffee Association of U.S.A., has filed protests arguing that the names are generic.
Sean O'Connor, an associate professor of law at the University of Washington, said he thinks it would be costly and difficult for Ethiopia to maintain the trademarks on the coffee types, if it received them. If it failed to constantly work to enforce the trademarks, the country would risk losing them, he said.
Also, O'Connor said, trademarks may not produce higher prices, arguing that it might make more sense to seek the geographic certification for Ethiopian beans, much like wine growers in France have done with the word "champagne." That's the type of process Starbucks also is suggesting.aff
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Posted: Nov 16, 2006 1:37am
Oct 23, 2006
Focus: Education
Action Request: Various
Location: United States
A subject that teaches us a lot about ourselves
SPECIESISM I Whether or not it's the equivalent of racism or sexism, discussing it is discussing what it means to be human

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The B.C. Ministry of Education, it seems, has literally gone to the dogs. It wasn't enough that a new Grade 12 social justice course will probe discrimination against gays and lesbians; the ministry is now considering a Vancouver Humane Society proposal to add "speciesism" to the curriculum.

The society's Lesley Fox explained that speciesism -- the differential treatment of beings on the basis of their species -- is akin to racism and sexism and consequently deserves inclusion in a course concerned with oppression and discrimination.

This naturally led many people to conclude that the ministry is for the birds, that instead of emphasizing the three Rs, B.C. schools will soon be teaching their charges that we should treat cows the same as we treat dogs, even though it's damnably difficult to get a cow to roll over and play dead, except in an abattoir.

Despite the skepticism, though, a discussion of speciesism is among the most important discussions that could take place in school. And this is not primarily because it might lead future generations to treat animals better than we do, although that would be an unqualified good.

No, the reason schools, and society in general, ought to grapple with the concept of speciesism, rather than dismissing it out of hand, is because it tells us a lot more about ourselves than about non-human animals. Indeed, a discussion of speciesism is ultimately a discussion about what it means to be human.

Humans have always thought of ourselves as exceptional, but in recent centuries we've been knocked from our pedestal. In the early 16th century, Polish astronomer Nicolas Copernicus made short work of our belief that the physical universe revolved us, but we nevertheless continued to believe that we're at the centre of the moral universe.

In more religious times, this was easy enough to accept, since all and only human beings possessed an immortal soul, thereby establishing a qualitative difference between humans and non-human animals.

Even philosophers who didn't rely on explicitly theological premises were able to separate man from other animals because man is the "rational animal." So Immanuel Kant, in explaining his famous "categorical imperative," argued that thanks to self-consciousness, we must treat humans as ends in themselves. Animals, on the other hand, lack self-consciousness and so can be treated as means to an end.

But as science, and particularly biology progressed, it became more and more difficult to hold to the notion of human exceptionalism. Other animals were discovered capable of engaging in what were previously thought to be uniquely human, rational behaviours, such as tool-using and even rudimentary language.

The difference between humans and other animals therefore seemed quantitative rather than qualitative, a difference in degree rather than a difference in kind. Indeed, the theory of evolution told us that all living things share a common ancestor, and that humans are apes -- great apes to be sure, but apes nonetheless. And more recent evidence further shatters our notion of human exceptionalism, as it confirms that we share more than 98 per cent of our DNA with chimpanzees.

Against this backdrop it's unsurprising that the spectre of speciesism has gained currency in our culture. Coined by British psychologist and former animal researcher Richard Ryder in 1970, speciesism received its most extensive formulation in Australian philosopher Peter Singer's seminal work, Animal Liberation, in 1975.

Before considering Singer's philosophy, it's worth looking at the work of 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham, one of the founders of utilitarianism, which holds that morally right actions are those that produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number, argued that when considering the treatment of animals we should ask not whether they can reason or talk, but whether they can suffer.

This fits in neatly with Bentham's utilitarian philosophy, since causing animals to suffer would reduce the sum total of happiness among all living creatures and would therefore be an immoral act. Interestingly, though, Bentham sanctioned killing animals for food because, he argued, animals will probably suffer less by being slaughtered in an abattoir than by dying in the wild as a result of diseases or attacks by other animals. Nature, after all, is a cruel mistress.

In any case, Singer builds on Bentham's philosophy by advancing "preference" utilitarianism. Singer admits humans and animals have different intellectual abilities, but he argues that these differences in no way permit us to give less consideration to animals' interests or preferences, particularly their interest in avoiding pain.

In support of this view, Singer notes that when we speak of equality among individuals or races, we aren't making a descriptive claim -- we aren't suggesting that all people have exactly the same abilities. Rather, equality is a normative concept -- it refers to the moral stance we take toward people, to the idea that we ought to treat their interests with equal consideration even though they may have unequal abilities.

To do otherwise -- to give less consideration to members of other races based on their putative differences -- is to engage in racism. And Singer concludes that to give unequal consideration to animals' interest in avoiding pain is to engage in the equally morally repugnant practice of speciesism.

This is not an altogether easy argument to answer, since it requires us to find some human characteristics that make us more morally valuable than other animals to justify giving our interests greater weight than the interests of animals. And as we have seen, science has gradually eliminated many of the characteristics that separated us from the animal world.

Nevertheless, most philosophers who dispute Singer's conclusions argue that humans are more than the sum of their genes, and maintain that humans' "superior" cognitive capacities do make us qualitatively different from animals. And they return to the Kantian notion that humans are uniquely rational, self-conscious beings, members of a moral community, whose enormous accomplishments have made life better, not only for themselves, but for animals as well.

Humans have also made life worse for many animals, of course, and this argument doesn't excuse that or suggest that humans can treat animals any way they like. It only suggests that we might be justified in giving more weight to human interests than animal interests in certain circumstances.

In any case, whatever the strengths or weaknesses of this argument, there is one counter example that must be addressed. Singer notes that not all humans are rational -- the mental functioning of infants and people with profound intellectual disabilities may be no higher than that of some animals.

If we wish to distinguish humans from animals on the basis of our superior cognitive abilities, Singer continues, we must recognize that certain humans would not be included. To do otherwise would be to judge beings not on their intellectual capacities, but on their membership in a certain species. And that, of course, is the very definition of speciesism.

This leads us to a further question: Is speciesism necessarily a bad thing, the equivalent of racism or sexism, or can it perhaps be justified? I don't pretend to have the answer to this question -- or to any of the questions raised here -- and I don't know anyone who does.

But that's precisely why we need to have a discussion of speciesism in schools and in the community, for the welfare of all animals, including humans, depends on the answers we supply.

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Posted: Oct 23, 2006 9:33am
Apr 12, 2006
Focus: Health
Action Request: Poll
Location: United States

I have agreed to spread the word about this. It's really easy --
they're looking for personal narratives.

If you want to participate, email me [] directly and I'll send you the
questions. Oh, if you have any questions, just email me about those, too!

Here's the description:

"My name is Ai Zhang. I am a doctoral student at the University of
Maryland majoring in Public Relations. I am contacting you regarding a
research project that I am currently doing, which is about the impact
that lifestyle change (raw-food diet/lifestyle in particular) has
brought into an individual's life.

Realizing the great benefits, both physical and psychological, that
the raw-food-lifestyle has brought into an individual's life, I am
determined to conduct this current research to publicize
raw-food-lifestyle and call for a healthier approach to life. After
reading Alissa Cohen's book "Living on Live food", I have become a
true believer in the power of raw-food-living. I could not agree more
to the philosophy that raw-food is more than a diet, but a lifestyle
and a mentality to life.

Therefore, the impact on an individual's life that my study focuses on
includes both the physical and psychological dimensions resulting from
an individual's lifestyle change to the raw-food-living. This is the
primary focus of my study. In other words, my research is to uncover
and analyze the social implications of lifestyle change and raw-food
lifestyle in particular.

However, to complete this study, I need to collect data so as to
substantiate my argument and study. Your information will be kept
confidential and your participation will remain anonymous. Last but
not least, you effort to publicize and promote raw-food-lifestyle will
be greatly appreciated."

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Posted: Apr 12, 2006 7:45am
Mar 22, 2006
Focus: Civil Rights
Action Request: Read
Location: United States

A recent San Francisco Chronicle series validated claims that the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has been making for 10 years: the San Francisco Police Department is plagued by "a culture that tolerates or rewards the use of force."

For 10 years, we've been chipping away at this culture of violence through our Bay Area PoliceWatch program. Today, we need you to help us keep it up.

Last month, the Chronicle published Use of Force: When SFPD Officers Resort to Violence. The Chronicle set up a database to track incidents of police violence — something the department has never done. What they found was shocking.

Between 2001 and 2004, San Francisco police officers were the subject of more force allegations than officers in San Jose, Oakland, San Diego and Seattle — combined. Indeed, the Chronicle reported that "force often is the first option for these officers."

Why is there so much violence in SFPD? Because the department "lags far behind many other major cities in developing an effective system for identifying problem officers. And it has failed, over and over, to take steps to get these officers off the streets." The result: problem officers stay on the force, even rising to supervisory positions, and perpetuate "a culture that tolerates or rewards the use of force."


We reached the very same conclusions about the SFPD — more than 10 years ago. That was when widespread community concerns prompted us to start Bay Area PoliceWatch — to document, expose and challenge police abuse.

In the intervening years, we have been a major force for change. We helped secure justice when officer Marc Andaya killed unarmed Aaron Williams. And demanded accountabilty when officer Gregory Breslin shot and killed unarmed, 17 year-old Sheila Detoy, who was not even a suspect in a crime. And supported the family when SFPD officers shot innocent bystander Vilda Curry in the street, in front of her young daughter. The list goes on.

<>Now is the time to press for a total overhaul of the City's police oversight mechanisms — and the just removal of those officers identified as repeat offenders. As the Chronicle report shows, the police department repeatedly turns a blind eye to officer violence. It's up to us to make the department address this crisis honestly. And the only way to do that is with help from you, now.
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Posted: Mar 22, 2006 10:48am
Feb 15, 2006
Focus: Human Rights
Action Request: Protest
Location: United States

Help Us Tell CYA's Chief Warner: Close Chad Now!!

Close Chad NowJoin Books Not Bars, Escuelas Si, Pintas No, and Youth in Focus on February 22 for a press conference and picket at the office of CYA Chief Bernard Warner in Sacramento. We will call on Chief Warner to close Chad immediately -- our youth need action now!

Please come and show your support!

What: Press Conference and Picket to close Chad

When: Wednesday, February 22, 2006, 4:30 p.m.

Where: Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
1515 S. Street
Sacramento, CA

RSVP: Contact David at: 510.428.3939 x243 or

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Posted: Feb 15, 2006 10:33am
Jan 19, 2006
Focus: Health
Action Request: Other
Location: United States
Latest warning from The US Center for Disease Control

The US Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). The disease is contracted through dangerous and high-risk behavior. The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim and pronounced "gonna re-elect him."  Many victims contracted it in 2004, after having been screwed during the previous four years.

Cognitive characteristics of individuals infected include: anti-social personality disorders, delusions of grandeur with messianic overtones, extreme cognitive dissonance, inability to incorporate new information, pronounced xenophobia and paranoia, inability to accept responsibility for their own actions, cowardice masked by misplaced bravado, uncontrolled facial smirking, ignorance of geography and history, tendencies towards evangelical theocracy, categorical all-or-nothing behavior.

Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed at how this destructive disease, which originated only a few years ago from a bush found in
Texas, has spread throughout the country.
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Posted: Jan 19, 2006 8:34am


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