Human Rights Day- Schedule at Metro Reference

 Toronto will play host to a very special letter-writing afternoon at the Toronto Reference Library, between 12pm and 7pm. Participants can stop by at any point during the day, which features guest speakers every hour on the hour.

View speaker schedule
View flash mob schedule
Toronto will play host to a very special letter-writing afternoon at the Toronto Reference Library, between 12pm and 7pm. Participants can stop by at any point during the day, which features guest speakers every hour on the hour.
And in the evening, you’re invited to take part in a very special flash mob event (jump to flash mob times here)!
Schedule of speakers for the day
1:00pm – Rev. Brent Hawkes
First clergy in Canada to perform gay marriage, presenting Jean-Claude Mbede‘s case.
2:00pm – Bill Gillespie
Former CBC Radio Correspondent and Amnesty Canada Media Awards winner in 2008 – presenting the case for Natalia Estemirova
3:00pm – Mary Ambrose
Independent Writer and former Guest Host of CBC’s “As it Happens”. She’ll be presenting Jenni Williams and WOZA’s case.
4:00pm – Nino Ricci
Order of Canada, Writer – Presenting Nasrin Sotoudeh‘s case
5:00pm – Kathy Price
From Amnesty International Canada
5:45pm – Antonella Mega
Wife of Canadian-Iranian, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall
She’ll be speaking about hers and Hamid’s fight, and is presenting Mohammad Kabudvand‘s case.
6:30pm – Brendan de Caires
PEN Canada – special message from Nasrin and toast
MC for the evening is Jayne Patterson, long time friend of Amnesty and AITO volunteer


Sec. Clinton To UN: 'Gay Rights Are Human Rights, And Human Rights Are Gay Rights'

Sec. Clinton To UN: 'Gay Rights Are Human Rights, And Human Rights Are Gay Rights' | ThinkProgress
Recognizing that America’s own record on LGBT equality is “far from perfect,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on nations around the world to recognize that “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights,” during a speech in Geneva, Switzerland this afternoon. Clinton’s address builds on a memorandum President Obama issued earlier today directing all agencies to “promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”
Clinton also announced that the administration is launching a $3 million global equality fund to support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world. The fund will help human rights groups “record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other Human Rights groups,” Clinton said.
Some highlights from the speech:
- “Like being a woman, like being a racial religious tribal or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are gay rights.”
- “Well, in reality, gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes, and whether we know it or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends and our neighbors.”
- “Some believe homosexuality is a Western phenomenon… but gay people belong to every society in the world…. Being gay is not a Western invention, it is a human reality.”
- “In all countries, there are costs to not protecting these rights, in both gay and straight lives lost to disease and violence and the silencing of voices and views that would strengthen communities and ideas never pursued by entrepreneurs who happen to be gay. Costs are incurred whenever any group is treated as lesser or the other whether they are women, racial or religious minorities or the LGBT.”
- “Our commitment to protect the freedom of religion and defend LGBT people come from a common source… Human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.”
- “It should never be a crime to be gay.”
- “To LGBT men and women worldwide: Wherever you live and whatever your circumstances… please know that you are not alone.”
- “Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history, and history honors them… We are called once more to make real the words of the universal declaration. Let us be on the right side of history.”


Write for Rights | Dec 10, Metro Reference « Amnesty International Canada

Write for Rights | TORONTO « Amnesty International Canada

Toronto Shines a Light

On Dec. 10th, Toronto will be Shining a Light on human rights – and you’re invited to join in!

Toronto will play host to a very special letter-writing afternoon at the Toronto Reference Library, between 12pm and 7pm. Participants can stop by at any point during the day, which features guest speakers every hour on the hour.
And in the evening, you’re invited to take part in a very special flash mob event!
Saturday December 10th
Intersection of Yonge and Bloor St.

6:30 pm
Meet at the Write for Rights event inside the Toronto Reference Library
6:45 pm
Flash mob begins! All participants will gather in the intersection of Yonge and Bloor Streets when four-way-traffic has stopped, and will blow whistles and shine flashlights on an image of Jabbar Savalan. To explain to passersby what the event is about, we will pass out candles and wish them Happy Human Rights Day. Each candle will be wrapped with a short note about Write for Rigts, will feature Jabbar’s case and will be tied with yellow and black ribbon.


Amnesty International's Global Write-a-thon | Write for Rights

Amnesty International's Global Write-a-thon | Write for Rights
Amnesty International members, letter writers, and human rights supporters across Canada and around the world are getting ready to mark Human Rights Day, December 10th, by taking part in Write for Rights.

This is a special year for Amnesty International — our 50th anniversary — and we are planning an even bigger, more exciting, and more impactful event to mark the year’s most important date for human rights.

Please join us in writing a letter on human rights day — it’s a simple act that can save a life!

Shine A Light on Human Rights Defenders
Your words can be a SPOTLIGHT that exposes the dark corners of the torture chamber. They can bring POWER to a human rights defender whose life is in jeopardy. They can IGNITE hope in a forgotten prisoner.

Join hundreds of thousands of people around the world in marking International Human Rights Day this December by taking part in Amnesty International's Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon - the world's largest human rights event. Through letters, cards and more, we take action to demand that the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering human rights abuses, and work to bring about positive change in people's lives.

The activists of the human rights organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) know the price of freedom. For organizing peaceful demonstrations to protest the worsening social, economic and political situation in Zimbabwe, WOZA members have been repeatedly harassed, intimidated, beaten and jailed by authorities. For years, government officials have misused the law to arbitrarily arrest and detain human rights activists and perceived critics of the President's political party. WOZA activists have been arrested multiple times, forced into Zimbabwe's notoriously filthy, over-crowded, and disease-ridden jails. Yet, they remain undaunted in their pursuit of dignity and justice.


HUMANITIES The Islamic Scholar Who Gave Us Modern Philosophy

HUMANITIES Magazine: November/December 2011: The Islamic Scholar Who Gave Us Modern Philosophy

According to Immanuel Kant, the urge to philosophize is universal: “In all men, as soon as their reason has become ripe for speculation, there has always existed and will always continue to exist some kind of metaphysics.” The truth of this is apparent in children at any early age, whose questions exhaust even the most profound and patient of parents. But it does not follow that there must inevitably be a place for philosophy in our educational systems. It is rare in the United States, for instance, to encounter philosophy before college, and rare outside Catholic universities for philosophy to be required in college. (It was a pleasant feature of a recent year spent living in Morocco to find that almost everyone there, from pharmacists to cab drivers, had a basic grasp of what philosophy is, acquired from their high school days. In this country, in contrast, even well-educated people often have little idea of what philosophy actually consists.) At the university, we think of philosophy as an essential offering in the humanities. But there is nothing inevitable even about this, as reflection on the history of the subject reveals.

Philosophy, as it is generally studied in the modern university, springs from ancient Greece and the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The various famous ancient schools long thrived during the Hellenic and Roman eras, but then slowly faded away during the sixth century CE. There followed several centuries of darkness—a true Dark Ages, as much as medievalists dislike the phrase—until philosophical forms of thought began to reemerge in the ninth century. Around the same time, one finds distinct and quite independent philosophical movements afoot in Byzantium, in Latin Western Europe, and in the Islamic world. In time, the Latin tradition would become ascendant, as fostered within the European university and eventually reinvigorated by the Enlightenment and the rise of modern science.


Remembrance Day Event: Matthew Bin on Canadian Peacekeeping

OHS Member Event: Matthew Bin on Canadian Peacekeeping
On Saturday, November 12, author Matthew Bin will be presenting a talk on “Peace and Canadian Peacekeeping from a Humanist Perspective”. The talk is hosted by the Humanist Association of Toronto at OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Toronto.

Matthew Bin is President of the Canadian Authors Association, also a writer, a Humanist Officiant, and author of a number of books, including On Guard for Thee: Canada Peacekeeping Missions, an oral history of modern Canadian peacekeeping.

He will talk to HAT about the humanist aspects of the international work that Canada is, could, and should be doing, as well as the very human cost that we bear as a society when we undertake these missions. He will select excerpts from his book to support these ideas, as well as discuss them.

Iran called to account on LGBT repression at UN

Iran called to account on LGBT repression at UN
I would like to offer the government of Iran to give account and explanation for violations of LGBT human rights. Or, to replace the primitive penal code of Shari’a law with constitutions based on 21st century human rights. Or if either is not doable, I would like to suggest that Mr. Ahmadinejad, the head of state of Iran, in his trips to the UN, travel to the USA on the back of a camel. After all, we, the LGBT of Iran shouldn’t be only ones treated with the mind-set of the dark-ages of 1400 years back in history.

Iran called to account on LGBT repression at UN
For the first time, Iran has been called to account for its repression of LGBT people at the United Nations.

In the Concluding Observations [PDF] on November 3 from its 3rd periodic review of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has made clear that the government’s conduct amounts to a violation of the international laws that it has agreed to uphold.

“As a state that prides itself in tradition and morality, Iran must now take immediate action to ensure its definitions of tradition and morality are in accordance with the fundamental principles of international human rights law,” UNHRC said.

“For years, Iranian authorities have committed atrocities against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, incited violence by others, and refused to admit that LGBT Iranians exist,” said Hossein Alizadeh, Regional Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

The UNHRC meets three times a year for four week sessions to consider the five-yearly reports submitted by 162 UN member states on their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (ICCPR).

The Committee has asked the Iranian government to widely circulate their Concluding Observations to the Iranian judiciary, government and civil society. After consulting with civil society, the government must submit a progress report about the implementation of the recommendations included in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. The Committee has specifically asked the Iranian government to include detailed information on the enjoyment of Covenant rights by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in its next periodic review.

The Committee urged the government of Iran to repeal or amend legislation that “could result in the discrimination, prosecution and punishment of people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” There is a range of discriminatory laws in Iran, among them laws criminalizing homosexual sex and punishing it with death.

The number of executions of gay people in Iran is opaque because trials on moral charges are usually held on camera, so it is difficult to determine, Human Rights Watch said in a report last December, what proportion of those charged and executed for same-sex conduct are LGBT and in what proportion the alleged offense was consensual. The Iranian government maintains that “most of these individuals have been charged for forcible sodomy or rape.” However, in just one report, by Doug Ireland in December 2009, twelve men were facing execution for sodomy and a joint appeal had been made for them by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO), and COC of the Netherlands. Iranian media reported the execution of three men for sodomy in September.

The Human Rights Committee said, however, that:

“Even one person incarcerated [on account of freely and mutually agreed sexual activities or sexual orientation] constitutes a violation of fundamental rights to privacy and non-discrimination.”

The questioning of whether LGBT people actually are executed — or even persecuted at all — has led those judging Iranian LGBTs seeking refuge in Western countries to argue that it is possible to ‘live discreetly’ there without suffering consequences. IGLHRC and the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) submitted a joint Shadow Report to the UNHRC entitled Human Rights Violations on the Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Homosexuality in the Islamic Republic of Iran and testified before the Committee.

In September, Saghi Ghahraman of IRQO wrote:

Right after the revolution, execution of Gay and Transsexuals began, by the ruling clergies, illegally; it was legalized in 1995 – two decades after the revolution – when Shari’a law, Islam’s Code of Conduct, legally replaced Iran’s penal code.

Article 110 – executions based on sodomy; Article 130 – executions based on lesbianism; Article 220 – granting fathers the right to kill their children, recognizing fathers as blood-owners of their own children, turned State and Society, equally, into executioners of gays, lesbians, bi, and transsexual population, and also the heterosexuals; clergies have used sodomy laws against those prisoners who couldn’t be executed or persecuted otherwise.

Shari’a law is not only responsible for killing of LGBT members of society in Iran, it is also the basis of generations of LGBT’s lack of parenting, education, carrier, housing, and overall security and safety. The fact that no LGBT Iranian dares to introduce themselves as L, G, B or T by their own voice, face, name is because of the fear-mongering articles of Shari’s sodomy law.

Living as a Queer woman over 50 years, a Queer poet over 20 years, directing a LGBT advocacy organization over five years, I have been witness to the horror the community in Iran goes through, everyday, not only by way of murders and executions but in everyday life of Not Living a simple, decent, dignified life human beings deserve in the realm in the Age of Democracy and Human Rights. And I am not talking only about those of our children who are disadvantaged and deprived, but also about gay professors, TS engineers, lesbian and gay specialist medical doctors, gay and lesbian poets, writers, artists, journalists and more, of highly accomplished status, all working inside Iran, who are victims in the hand of a hostile set of laws, and are most vulnerable.


ROM EVENT: Stephen Lewis and Romeo Dallaire on Child Soldiers

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children with Romeo Dallaire and Stephen Lewis
Friday, November 25, 7:00 - 9:00 pm ,

Romeo Dallaire and Stephen Lewis discuss the eradication of the use of children as weapons of war.
Moderator: Anna Maria Tremonti

Speaker: Senator Romeo Dallaire is the winner of the Pearson Peace Medal, author of the award-winning book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda and recently They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children and an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Speaker: Stephen Lewis is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, board chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and co-director of AIDS-Free World. Mr. Lewis was the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from June 2001 until the end of 2006. He is author of the best-selling Race Against Time and a Companion of the Order of Canada.
Cost: YPC Members $40.00, Public $40.00, Member $40.00, RPC Members $40.00


IHEU eulogy for Rob Buckman

When Rob BuckmanHumanist, oncologist, and TV personality – realized he was dying from an autoimmune disease, he thought it would be useful to make a film to help others learn from his death. He was right about the value of the film: Your Own Worst Enemy was a great critical success and helped countless people address a topic that is taboo and yet unavoidable. But Rob was wrong about the subject of the film: thanks to a new treatment he survived another three decades after the 1981 movie. And those three decades were filled with the love, learning and laughter that made him a hugely popular figure on both sides of the Atlantic. Rob BuckmanIt was somewhere over the Atlantic that death finally caught up with Rob Buckman on October 9, 2011. He died in his sleep while flying back to Toronto after filming some health shows in London. He was 63. He is survived by his first wife, Joan van den Ende, and their two daughters, Joanna and Susie, and by his second wife, Pat Shaw, and their two sons, James and Matthew.
The attitude that led Rob to make Your Own Worst Enemy was typical of his life. He used his remarkable communication skills to share his medical expertise with the widest possible audience. But he was so much more than just an expert communicator: he laid bare his essential humanity, right down to the details of his own mortality, in order to help others find understanding and comfort. And these rare talents can be found throughout his life, intertwined in his vocations as physician, communicator and Humanist.
The 1994 Canadian Humanist of the Year, Rob was always eager to help the Humanist movement. For more than a decade, starting in 1999, he was a hands-on president of the Humanist Association of Canada. He also worked with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) serving as Chairman of the Advisory Board for IHEU’s bio-ethics center at the United Nations. He made frequent trips from Toronto to New York City to help the bio-ethics center, speaking at the center's conferences and contributing to UN briefings. Rob grew up in London, and then went to St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in medicine in 1972. At Cambridge he was a star in the famous Footlights troupe, which has featured so many of Britain's leading comedians. As a junior doctor at University College Hospital, London, he met Chris Beetles, and they teamed up as "Beetles and Buckman" to perform live comedy and revue. Rob wrote for the long-running satirical BBC Radio 4 show Week Ending, and for a TV sitcom, Doctor On the Go, based on Richard Gordon's Doctor in the House books. In the 1980s, Rob went on to front a long-running TV medical series with Miriam Stoppard, Where There's Life. In 1985 Rob emigrated to Canada, working as an oncologist at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, before moving to Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. He also became a full professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto and adjunct professor at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He specialized in breast cancer and also in teaching communication skills in oncology to physicians and nurses. In Canada, Rob continue his career presenting television science-and-medicine programmes. Magic or Medicine? his series on ‘alternative medicine’, won him a Gemini award (the Canadian TV Industry equivalent of an Emmy). As well as writing a weekly column for the Toronto Globe and Mail, Rob wrote 15 books. Many of these aimed to help people deal with death and dying, including: How To Break Bad News: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals; What You Really Need To Know About Cancer: A Comprehensive Guide for Patients and their Families; Cancer is a Word, Not a Sentence: A Practical Guide to Help You Through the First Few Weeks; and I Don't Know What To Say - How To Help And Support Someone Who Is Dying. His autobiography was titled Not Dead Yet. He also wrote a national best-seller exploring his Humanist philosophy: Can We Be Good Without God? Biology, Behavior and the Need to Believe. In Twice Around the World and Still Stupid, Rob Buckman wrote, "To me, Humanism is what you are left with if you strip away what doesn’t make sense. I was always attracted by science, and the more I learned, the more I found that many established world-philosophies (particularly among some of the organized religions) didn’t make any form of intuitive sense. Undoubtedly they bring great comfort to their believers, but I found that I was unable to sincerely believe in any divine architecture to the cosmos, or in any predetermined destiny for any race or creed or even for any individual. From my teenage years onwards, I basically came to think that we humans are a most peculiar species huddled together in a rather uneven and random way on a rather pleasant planet, and it’s up to us to do our best. I have never felt that we can look for assistance elsewhere. What we see around us is what we’ve got. Now that might sound as if I am some sort of unemotional reductionist - a B. F. Skinner playing the role of doctor – but I know that I am not. Accepting a Humanist view of our world does not mean that you don’t feel love, anger, fright, tenderness – or even humour. A Humanist basis simply allows you to spend less of your time twisting what you see and contorting it to fit somebody else’s idea of what ought to be. Of course I could be wrong: but if I am I don’t think I shall have done all that much damage on the way – on average, Humanists don’t." --Matt Cherry


Saudi woman driver saved from lashing by King Abdullah |

Saudi woman driver saved from lashing by King Abdullah
The reprieve comes, but this is a very interesting discussion about the fight between the powerful religious judiciary and the King.
note: "Although there are no written laws that restrict women from driving, the prohibition is rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold that giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins".

Not much more I can say about that ....

A Saudi woman sentenced to be lashed 10 times for defying the country's ban on female drivers has had her punishment overturned by the king. The woman, named as Shaima Jastaina and believed to be in her 30s, was found guilty of driving without permission in Jeddah in July. Her case was the first in which a legal punishment was handed down for a violation of the ban in the ultraconservative Muslim nation.

Although there has been no official confirmation of the ruling, Princess Amira al-Taweel, wife of the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, tweeted: "Thank God, the lashing of [Shaima] is cancelled. Thanks to our beloved king. I am sure all Saudi women will be so happy, I know I am." She later added that she and her husband had spoken to Shaima, who told them: "The king's orders washed the fears I lived with after this unjust sentence."

Jastaina was sentenced on Monday — a day after King Abdullah promised to protect women's rights and said women would be allowed to participate in municipal elections in 2015. He also promised to appoint women to the all-male Shura council advisory body.

The moves underline the challenge facing Abdullah, known as a reformer, as he pushes gently for change while trying not to antagonise the powerful clergy and a conservative segment of the population.


UK/BHA: ‘If believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly, the law is right to prevent them’

‘If believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly, the law is right to prevent them’

KEY PHRASE: "All reasonable people will agree that there is scope in a secular democracy for reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs when that accommodation does not affect the rights and freedoms of others. But if believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly "– denying them a service because they are gay or claiming a right to preach at them in a professional context – the law is right to prevent them.’
British Humanist Association comments on Equality Commission intervention
Domestic courts have been right to uphold human rights and equalities law and principles in dismissing cases of alleged Christian discrimination, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has stated today. The BHA commented following the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) publication of its interventions in four cases being taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, and a summary of responses to its consultation on the detail of those interventions.
In July the BHA criticised as ‘wholly disproportionate’ ( the EHRC’s announcement to intervene in the cases of Lillian Ladele, the registrar who refused to fulfil her duties because of her ‘orthodox Christian beliefs’ against same-sex partnerships and Gary McFarlane, who refused to treat gay couples equally with straight ones in his job as a counsellor at Relate; and the cases of Nadia Eweida, who has repeatedly lost her claims of religious discrimination against her employer British Airways, and of Shirley Chaplin, who claimed that uniform codes violated her human rights as a Christian.
However, following its initial announcement to intervene and to argue for ‘reasonable accommodation’, the EHRC decided not to make the case for ‘reasonable accommodation’ in any of the four cases, and it consulted on the detail of its proposed interventions. The BHA is a stakeholder with the EHRC and responded to the consultation, giving particular commendation to the EHRC’s new proposals to support the domestic judgments in Ladele and McFarlane cases.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Our domestic courts have been robust in dismissing these cases and the victim narrative that lies behind them has no basis in reality. What they describe as discrimination and marginalisation of Christians is in fact the proper upholding of human rights and equalities law and principles. All reasonable people will agree that there is scope in a secular democracy for reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs when that accommodation does not affect the rights and freedoms of others. But if believers try to invoke their beliefs as a defence for treating other people badly – denying them a service because they are gay or claiming a right to preach at them in a professional context – the law is right to prevent them.’
Read the EHRC's press statement about their interventions
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

Engineers tell Politicians: we have all the science for Carbon reduction

Engineers: We have all the tech we need to cut carbon
Apparently the world's engineers are getting sick of being told that cutting emissions is an engineering problem. Eleven of the biggest engineering organizations have released a joint statement saying, in effect, "You want carbon cuts? We can give you carbon cuts. Just say the word, smart guy."
We already have all the tech necessary to cut emissions 85 percent by 2050, say the engineers.
What we don't have is support from governments -- laws that prioritize carbon reduction, and funding to put the technology into action.
Colin Brown of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (one of the 11 signatory agencies) didn't even try to hide his contempt for all those non-geeks in government:  

While the world’s politicians have been locked in talks with no output, engineers across the globe have been busy developing technologies that can bring down emissions and help create a more stable future for the planet. We are now overdue for government commitment, with ambitious, concrete emissions targets that give the right signals to industry, so they can be rolled out on a global scale.

The statement calls on world leaders to reach a global commitment to emissions reduction and energy efficiency at December's COP17 climate change talks. Once that committment is in place and adequately backed up, say the engineers, the technology is there to carry it out.

The 11 organizations that made the joint statement represent the U.K., Scandinavia, Germany, Japan, Australia, India, and Honduras, but not the U.S.
Future Climate 2: We have the technology to slash global emissions, say engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Johns Hopkins scientists figure out how to ‘disarm’ AIDS virus

Johns Hopkins scientists figure out how to ‘disarm’ AIDS virus
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University said recently that they have learned how to "disarm" the AIDS virus by eliminating the cells' membranes, effectively stopping it from hijacking its victim's immune system.

Research results published last week in the medical journal Blood indicated the treatment method could lead to a vaccine against the virus, which affected about 33.3 million people worldwide at the end of 2009.

Scientists said their new method works by eliminating a membrane of cholesterol used by HIV to disguise itself and disarm the immune system. It steals the cholesterol from the first immune response to its intrusion, then uses it to communicate with the rest of the immune system. By stripping it of that essential cholesterol membrane, the AIDS virus is attacked by the immune system and shut down.


Get Ready to Burn Through Some Books

Danielle Crittenden: Get Ready to Burn Through Some Books
Today kicks off Banned Books Week: the Huffington Post Canada and Indigo have teamed up to bring our readers' attention to books that have been banned or challenged, both in North America and around the world. Starting tomorrow, we will feature one noteworthy book per day that has come under fire, either by a government or a community.

In our free society, attempts at censorship usually arise from offended religious or racial sensibilities. In recent times, the most notorious and explosive of these attempts occurred in 2005, when a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad; the cartoons had begun as illustrations for a book, but were rejected by the Danish publisher. Newspapers and magazines in more than 50 countries republished the cartoons in solidarity with the Danish newspaper, and in an effort to protest media self-censorship. Some 200 people were subsequently killed around the world in violent riots and protests by angered Muslims who called the images "blasphemous."

Even by 2009, publishers remained cowed: Yale University Press banned the images from a book about the controversy, entitled The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Danish-born professor Jytte Klausen. Despite objections from the author, Yale University Press further refrained from publishing "any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children's book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante's Inferno that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí."...
Whatever your opinion, remember that in Canada you are free to read a book, judge it on its merits, and discuss it openly. That is not true in many countries around the world. Again and again throughout history, books have served as the inspiration and the engines for revolution against non-free regimes. We will be featuring some of those great works this week as well. Join books discussions on our Facebook page as well as at Indigo. But above all: read!


Ariel Garten | TEDxToronto

Ariel Garten | TEDxToronto
TedX opens on Friday. Here is the 'hipocampal neurogenesis' speaker -

CEO and Co-Founder InteraXon

Ariel is the CEO and co-founder of InteraXon, which creates thought controlled computing products and applications. Ariel has also researched at the Krembil Neuroscience Institute studying hippocampal neurogenesis, displayed work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, been head designer at a fashion label, and opened Toronto Fashion Week. Referred to as the “Brain Guru”, Ariel and her team’s work has been featured in hundreds of articles in over 20 countries.

Study Finds Correlation Between Belief in God and Cognitive Style | Harvard

Study Finds Correlation Between Belief in God and Cognitive Style The Harvard Crimson
There exists a correlation between an individual’s belief in God and his or her cognitive style, suggests a study by Harvard researchers published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology

The researchers determined that those with an intuitive cognitive style tend to have a stronger belief in God than those with a more reflective cognitive style. As defined in the study, intuitive thinkers make judgments quickly, based on automatic processes and instinct. Reflective thinkers prefer to pause and critically examine initial judgments before making a decision.

The study was conducted by three Harvard Psychology Department researchers—doctoral student Amitai Shenhav, Human Biology Lecturer David G. Rand, and Social Sciences Associate Professor Joshua D. Greene.

“Our study shows that although there’s certainly a role for [cultural influence], that’s not the only thing going on,” Rand said. The study found that intuitive thinkers not only tend to believe more strongly in the existence of God, but their faith also grows more certain over time. Alternatively, reflective thinkers become less certain of the existence of God over time.

To confirm their results, the researchers controlled for age, gender, and IQ and still found a positive correlation between cognitive style and belief in God.

Another part of the study demonstrated that cognitive style can be swayed in the short term, resulting in greater or lesser certainty about the existence of God. Researchers asked study participants to write about personal experiences in which they followed “their intuition or first instinct” or carefully reasoned through a situation.

“What we were most surprised by was the strength of the effect of just having someone write [a] paragraph result in a substantial shift in that person’s reported belief in God,” Rand said.

While the study provides insight into how people think about belief, the researchers were careful to point out that cognitive style is not an absolute indicator of people’s beliefs.“Each person strikes their own balance when they apply intuitive or reflective style. The findings don’t mean anything about religious beliefs being rational or irrational,” Shenhav said.

The study’s findings raise further questions about the relationship of cognitive style and politics, the researchers said. “The way that the political landscape in the U.S. is structured, belief in God is very strongly tied to a sort of sweep of other political beliefs,” Rand said.

Harvard’s Humanist Chaplain Gregory M. Epstein said this research is highly relevant for the humanist community, and he has invited Rand to speak at one the group’s meetings later this fall.

“With the incredible expansion in recent years of the size of the secular community in the U.S., I think people are asking a lot of questions about who are the non-religious in America,” Epstein said. “This is sort of a nugget of insight as to what goes on in the mind of a non-believer.”


‘Pipe Dreams’ documentary on Keystone XL/Tar Sands

‘Pipe Dreams’ documentary on Keystone XL
Not sure when/where it will air - keep your eyes peeled (or your GoogleAlert)

Pipe Dreams is a new 40-minute documentary by Leslie Iwerks on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. It is narrated by Daryl Hannah, who was recently arrested in Washington, DC at the sit-in protest in front of the White House calling on US President Barack Obama to reject the pipeline.

You may remember Iwerks also directed Dirty Oil. “Narrated by actress Neve Campbell, this feature film follows pipelines from the Alberta oil sands to the American Midwest to witness how U.S. refineries, much like their Canadian counterparts, try to increase toxic dumping into the Great Lakes. These disturbing stories profoundly illustrate the price dirty oil is taking on both sides of the border.”

She also directed its prequel Downstream. “Shortlisted for the 81st Academy Awards, this 30-minute prequel documentary generated a media storm about the Alberta Oil Sands and got the Canadian government hot under the collar. Dirty Oil builds upon Downstream, exploring in full our addiction to oil - and offering hope for the future.” Downstream prominently features Dr. John O’Connor - now a Council of Canadians Board member - the Fort Chipewyan community physician who first raised concerns about cancer rates there.

For more, please go to and
For more on Council of Canadians opposition to Keystone XL, go to


Seminar on 9/11 and cultural theory, Of Swallows, Sept 30

From  an evening with Robert Hullot-Kentor (Friday, Sept. 30).
For the final installment of our series Waste Luxury Knot, distinguished cultural critic (
Things Beyond Resemblance) and editor-translator (Aesthetic Theory, Current of Music) Robert Hullot-Kentor will here offer a talk entitled "Severe Clear: Sacrifice, Ground Zero." Prof. Hullot-Kentor will examine the new memorial site at Ground Zero, with the intention of illuminating the historical dynamic that is now present in Canada, the US, & Europe: the insistence that, if we are to survive what we are in the midst of, "all things must be cut." The talk will be followed by an extended discussion, as we inaugurate our new line of inquiry: into Sacrifice. 
riday September 30, 7:00pm at 283 College.
Tickets will be sold in advance: $20 (or $12 for students/underemployed), includes wine and cheese. Space is limited. For more information: or 416-534-5173.  
Of Swallows, their Deeds, and the Winter Below, Bookstore.
283 College Street, Upper
Toronto, ON M5T1S2


Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences adds its voice for evolution | NCSE

Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences adds its voice for evolution | NCSE
The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with a statement from the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, "the unified voice for earth science in Canada."
"Creationism and ["intelligent design"] do not qualify as science, because the scientific method is not deployed and these ideas are therefore not theories or hypotheses in universally accepted scientific sense," the statement explains (PDF). "Hence, Creationism and ID do not belong in any K-12 science curriculum."
The Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences's statement is now reproduced, by permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution.

disOrientation 2011 | the past is a battleground

disOrientation 2011 | the past is a battleground
Ten years ago, two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre buildings in New York City, inspiring the US-led “War on Terror.” Within months the US invaded Afghanistan with Canadian military support. Two years later the US invaded Iraq under the pretext of eliminating “weapons of mass destruction” that were never found. These military ventures, like so many others, affirmed the simple truth about terrorism: states do it with far greater quantifiable devastation, and always well-disguised as a force of good.
To counter this violence and manipulation, activists around the world persistently research, educate and organize to dig deeper than media sound bytes and to fight those who distort the truth for personal gain. The tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 reminds us that our conception of the past determines how we operate in the present. Join the Ontario Public Interest Research Group and the University of Toronto Students’ Union for a week of events that will help reveal the most accurate version of history. (Schedule at link above)


Alexandre Brassard, Ph.D: Which Ontario Candidate Will Dare Address Separate School Funding?

Alexandre Brassard, Ph.D: Which Ontario Candidate Will Dare Address Separate School Funding?
... But most disappointing, perhaps, is the insensitivity of Catholic schools toward their lesbian and gay students. Back in 2002, the Durham Catholic School Board fought tooth and nail to stop a student from going to the prom with his boyfriend. More recently, the Halton Catholic School Board and St. Joseph's Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga prevented gay and lesbian students from forming support groups. And the Dufferin - Peele board was ridiculed when it censored rainbow images for being "too political".

Worse still, the Toronto Catholic District Board voted to undermine the Ministry of Education's Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, by stipulating, "Where there is an apparent conflict between denominational rights and other rights, the board will favour the protection of the denominational rights." We now have a situation where provisions adopted in 1867 to protect one minority are being used to harass another.

The assisted suicide dilemma - Globe

The assisted suicide dilemma - The Globe and Mail
Professor Udo Schuklenk, a philosopher from Queen’s University, talked to Marina Jimenez of the Globe and Mail editorial board. He is chair of the Royal Society’s committee on end-of-life decision-making in Canada. The committee, which will release a lengthy report this fall, spent two years studying this issue, and the experience of other countries which have decriminalized assisted suicide.


ROM: TIFF, Peter Lynch: Future Projections 2011

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto International Film Festival: Future Projections 2011

Toronto International Film Festival: Future Projections 2011
Buffalo Days by Peter Lynch

Institute for Contemporary Culture

September 8 to 18, 2011
Thorsell Spirit House

A multichannel video installation, created by one of Canada’s most celebrated filmmakers, Peter Lynch’s Buffalo Days examines the devastating impact of Europeans on native cultures. In place of an inherently organic system, Europeans substituted one of complete control, driving out or eliminating wildlife—especially buffalo—and people unable to conform.

Conference | TEDxToronto/ viewing party UofT

Conference | TEDxToronto
On Friday, September 23rd 2011, fourteen diverse and passionate speakers will gather to share TEDxTalks on the theme of Redefinition. We are inviting Torontonians to join, listen, and be inspired. See below for ways to be a part of the day. Celebrate the spirit of ideas worth spreading at the official afterparty of TEDxToronto 2011. Tickets are now available on a first-come, first-served basis to the 3rd annual event, after back-to-back sold out years of over 700 attendees.If you’d like to be a part of TEDxToronto, but are not a delegate (registration has closed), please be advised we’ll be hosting Viewing Parties at the following locations: A registration form will be made available here no later than Monday, September 12th.Visit this site on September 23rd at 9:30AM EST to tune in.
  • Sheridan College
  • University of Toronto
  • York University
  • Ryerson University
  • Humber College
  • Centre for Social Innovation
These Viewing Parties will offer the opportunity to watch the TEDxTalks LIVE with others who are just as passionate about ideas worth sharing. A registration form will be made available here no later than Monday, September 12th.
(afterparty at Steamwhistle)


Opponent of Canadian Gold Mine in Colombia killed - Maude Barlow to visit Goldcorp Mine

NEWS: Opponent of Canadian mine in Colombia killed   By Brent Patterson, Tuesday, September 6th,  More info: Grahame Russell, Rights Action, 011 502 4955-3634,

“Father Jose Reinel Restrepo Idairraga was killed by unknown assailants…on Thursday, 1 September…in Colombia. …Father Restrepo was 36 years old…and since 2009 was pastor in Marmato, where he was appreciated and respected by the locals because of his commitment to the poor. The authorities have begun investigating the case to determine whether the reason for the priest’s killing was mugging or if there is any other reason.

This area of Colombia is well-known because about 80 percent of the population of Marmato works in gold mining.” In a video posted to YouTube just days before his murder, Father Restrepo spoke against an open pit gold mine proposed by Toronto-based Medoro Resources (which recently merged with another Canadian company, Gran Colombia Gold Corp). Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper reports,

“The priest had spent the past two years in Marmato where he had opposed the moving of the town, a possibility that has been considered if the mining company Gran Colombia Gold mines its open pit project.” The Marmato Project: As noted on their website, “Medoro Resources Ltd. is a gold exploration, development and mining company with a primary emphasis on Colombia. Medoro owns most of the prolific Marmato gold district and the producing Mineros Nacionales underground gold mine located in Zona Baja at Marmato. The Compan (plans) to develop a large open pit gold mine to realize the large potential of the Marmato Project.

” In October 2009, Medoro acquired the Zona Alta license through its share purchase of Colombia Goldfields Ltd.” A March 2008 article in The Dominion by Micheál Ó Tuathail of Edmonton’s La Chiva collective reports, “Five years ago, (Marmato’s) roots were shaken when the Compañía Mineras de Caldas, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Colombia Goldfields Limited, began its project of consolidating ownership of the mountain, leading to what many call the ‘economic forced displacement’ of Marmato and the social eradication of a working community. …(An article in El Colombiano) claims that an open-pit gold mine at Marmato would be ‘one of the largest in South America’, requiring the removal of ‘between 30,000 and 60,000 tonnes of earth daily in order to produce 250,000 ounces of gold annually.’ The operation would exploit in 20 years what small miners could in 200.”

Water: The Dominion article adds, “While small mining practices are notorious for their use of harmful chemicals such as cyanide, open-pit mines are environmental disaster zones, according to critics, who say they bring limited short-term employment and leave behind gigantic holes in the ground where communities once lived.” A Colombia Goldfields media release from February 2007 says, “The first detailed water monitoring ever undertaken at Marmato was completed in December 2006 at 18 locations in three creeks and two locations on the Cauca River. The sampling was a joint effort with Corpocaldas, the State Environmental Agency responsible for the Environment in the Department of Caldas. Due to unregulated discharge from the mills and the lack of any tailings disposal facilities at Marmato, cyanide levels are toxic in all locations and the amount of suspended solids is many times above acceptable levels.”

also - Maude Barlow to visit Goldcorp mine in Guatemala
Tomorrow, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be visiting the controversial Canadian-owned Marlin mine in the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, which is located about 300 kilometres north of Guatemala City. “Community activists have risked their lives to protect their water from depletion and the discharge of toxic tailings,” says Maude Barlow.  Among the water-related concerns with the Marlin mine, Tech International, a US-based non-governmental organization, has expressed concern that tailings water from the mine is seeping into a downstream tributary.

In 2009, a research team from the Pastoral Commission for Peace and Ecology confirmed the Marlin mine had contaminated local water supplies. And University of Ghent researchers believe the mine is depleting surface water causing arsenic-rich groundwater to be drawn into surface waters, and that arsenic may be the reason for skin problems being found among local residents. “By allowing Goldcorp to operate this way in Guatemala, the Canadian government is violating the right to water of the local communities in the regional and river basin where the Marlin mine operates,” says Barlow, referring to the legally binding resolutions passed at the United Nations last year recognizing the right to water and sanitation. “To Harper, the right to water in Guatemala, and other countries Canadian mining companies operate in, is simply a barrier to trade,” adds Barlow, noting the federal government is seeking a free trade agreement with Guatemala. “But you can’t trade away human rights.”

NOTE: Given Canadian investments (including through the Canada Pension Plan) and subsidies that have funded the mine's operations, the Canadian government and public have a responsibility here, notes Barlow. The Council of Canadians is calling for legislation in Canada that recognizes the right to water and ends the impunity Canadian mining companies currently enjoy abroad.

“With Guatemala’s federal election less than a week away, mining should be a central issue given its widespread impacts in Guatemalan society and environment,” says Barlow. “With the terrible international record of Canadian mining companies, it should be a central issue here too.” This past May, the Council of Canadians, along with 200+ people, participated in a protest at Goldcorp's annual shareholders meeting in Vancouver. The protest demanded that Goldcorp suspend its operations at the Marlin mine.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali is on TVO's BIG IDEAs Sept 4, discussing her book NOMAD

AYAAN HIRSI ALI, TVO's Big Ideas, 5pm Sept 4.
Somali-born author Ayaan Hirsi Ali delivers the 2010 Donner Canadian Foundation Lecture. Her lecture, based on her book Nomad: From Islam to America, is followed by a lengthy Q & A. | Books | Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
In her powerful new memoir, the #1 bestselling author of Infidel tells the stirring story of her search for a new life as she tries to reconcile her Islamic past with her passionate adherence to democracy and Western values. A unique blend of personal narrative and reportage, moving,  wryly funny at times, Nomad gives us an inside view of her battle for equality in the face of considerable odds.

Ayaan captured the world's attention with Infidel, the eye-opening memoir of her childhood in Africa and Saudi Arabia, and her escape to Holland en route to a forced marriage in Canada. Nomad is the story of what happened after the Dutch director with whom she made a documentary about the domestic abuse of Muslim women was murdered by a radical Islamist and death threats forced her into hiding; of her bid to start a new life in America; of her renewed contact with her family on her father's death; and of her attempts to live by her adopted principles. With deep understanding, and through vivid anecdotes, and observations of people, cultures, and the political debacles that are engulfing the world, she takes us with her on an illuminating, unforgettable journey.


9/11 Ten Years On: Implications for Canada – September 7, 2011 « Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Sept 7

9/11 Ten Years On: Implications for Canada – September 7, 2011 « Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Panel Discussion, Public Welcome
Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 , 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Campbell House Museum (Queen West & University, Toronto – Osgoode subway station)

Paul Champ (Counsel in Abdelrazik, Afghan Detainees)
Nathalie Des Rosiers (General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association)
Jameel Jaffer (Deputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union, New York)
Lorne Sossin (Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School)
Sukanya Pillay, moderator (Director, National Security Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association)

Admission CCLA members: $5.00 Non-CCLA members: $15.00 Student members: free iInformation: Sukanya Pillay, National Security Program Director, at, (416) 363-0321, ext 256

Secularism has reached a tipping point - Greg Epstein

Secularism has reached a tipping point - On Faith - The Washington Post
by Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain, Harvard | Aug 31, 2011 2:23 PM
In the summer of 2000, I quit a “job” singing in an indie rock band in favor of studying Humanism toward a career as a Humanist chaplain and rabbi. At the time it seemed to almost everyone I knew (my mother and one friend were the main exceptions) to be an unassailable fact that I’d chosen the riskier, less practical of those two paths.
It was the turn of the millennium. Religion was on an upswing around the world. 9-11 and the Bush administration had not yet kicked the hornet’s nest of New Atheism. Somewhere in an office at Oxford, the theologian and former atheist Prof. Alister McGrath was probably already working his 2004 book The Twilight of Atheism , which actually contains some worthwhile insights but as a prediction of what was immediately to come did not work out too well.
The few things that happened next came so quickly that, like the iPod taking over music before you could tweet #ihatehavingtocarryawalkmantogorunning, we didn’t know what hit us. Osama. Bush. Rick Warren. Robertson and Fallwell’s comments on 9-11. Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens.
All the while, I was one of only a tiny handful of students in the U.S studying these events full time in preparation for a career in Humanism and secular studies. So I can tell you, things have changed. A certain tide has turned, or to use the Malcolm Gladwell catch phrase, we may have reached a tipping point in my field. A few years ago, though small groups of us saw the potential for something greater, Humanists and secularists were known primarily for studying and debating science and religion. We’ve now grown into a movement of people who are making a positive change in the world around us. So many of us, including a wave of gifted young students (and a steady stream flowing into my office this week to apply for the Humanist internship that I supervise) have internalized that to build a better world we are going to need to build up positive secular and Humanist values, building new institutions to affirm the dignity of all human beings, rather than merely tear down what came before us. We have to be creative and compassionate at least as much as we are rational or logical. We need to nurture Humanist communities* at least as much as we critique the problematic practices of other communities. And so in the US alone we’ve now got godless billboards, The New Humanism, and Humanists helping lead the Interfaith movement. There are secularist camps, charities, lobbyists and White House visits, high school clubs and earthquake relief efforts; there are atheists in foxholes, holding festivals. I could go on.
A few weeks ago I attended an historic conference: The World Humanist Congress in Oslo, Norway. Hundreds of Humanist, atheist and secular activists gathered in a city that had recently been shaken by a madman murderer out to get all those who value, as Humanists do, liberal democracy, open society, and religious pluralism. As it turned out, being there with the people of Oslo at that difficult time was good for us - we heard how hundreds of thousands of Norwegians marched with roses in hand, to passionately stand up for a continued emphasis on peace and inclusion in their society. And I’d like to think we were a breath of fresh air for the city, too. With our flags and banners flying all around a prominent city square, we learned about the 10,000 Humanist youth confirmation ceremonies performed every year in Norway; the 32 percent of Dutch army chaplains who are Humanists; the 120-member Humanist caucus in British Parliament and the 300,000 Britons who attend Humanist weddings each year; the life-saving social service work Humanists are doing in Uganda, Malawi, India, Pakistan, Haiti, and more.

Near the center of downtown Oslo, there is a Humanist House-a beautiful, historic building spanning nearly an entire city block, home to dozens of professional activists and tens of thousands of community members, all engaged in supporting the above work and much more. If you come visit our little (but growing!) Humanist Student and Community Center in Harvard Square next month, you can see an exhibit about it. And in fact what really struck me about the place is that it is a museum, but not like most museums. Most museums are of the past: ruins, libraries, dinosaurs, statues, paintings. Oslo Humanist House is a Museum of the Future.
So all in all I think On Faith is right on target asking this question about whether we’re ready for secular studies. They are going to need to study what we’re about to do together.
*In the coming weeks, by the way, I plan to have a lot more to say about how we can do even more to build Humanist communities around the US. Follow me here and on Twitter to learn more!


The Humanist Interview with Leo Behe | The Humanist

The Humanist Interview with Leo Behe | The Humanist
Leo Behe is not your typical young humanist. He’s the son of famed intelligent design proponent, author, and biochemist Michael Behe. Since 1996 the elder Behe, a professor at Lehigh University, has earned accolades from intelligent design proponents throughout the world for his books and court testimony in support of the concept. His most famous book, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge of Evolution (1996), asserts that particular biological systems are irreducibly complex, meaning “the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” While celebrated by sympathetic philosophers and creationist-minded Christians, the book has been panned by many in the scientific community, including Brown University biologist and fellow Catholic Kenneth Miller. Miller reviewed the book, arguing that it ignores empirical observation and that “Behe has gone two centuries into the past to find the argument from design, dusted it off, and invigorated it with the modern language of biochemistry.”
Leo Behe was born on October 30, 1990, in Easton, Pennsylvania, to Michael and Celeste Behe. He is the fourth of eight children and grew up in the Roman Catholic faith of his parents. In the following interview he discusses his journey to atheism and humanism, his current family relations, and his attitudes towards intelligent design.... (full interview here)


Full text of Stephen Lewis’s stirring eulogy for Jack Layton

Full text of Stephen Lewis’s stirring eulogy for Jack Layton

Below is the eulogy delivered by NDP statesman Stephen Lewis during Jack Layton’s funeral:

Never in our collective lifetime have we seen such an outpouring, so much emotional intensity, from every corner of this country. There have been occasions, historically, when we’ve seen respect and admiration but never so much love, never such a shocked sense of personal loss.

Jack was so alive, so much fun, so engaged in daily life with so much gusto, so unpretentious, that it was hard while he lived to focus on how incredibly important that was to us, he was to us. Until he was so suddenly gone, cruelly gone, at the pinnacle of his career.

To hear so many Canadians speak so open-heartedly of love, to see young and old take chalk in hand to write without embarrassment of hope, or hang banners from overpasses to express their grief and loss. It’s astonishing.

Somehow Jack connected with Canadians in a way that vanquished the cynicism that erodes our political culture. He connected whether you knew him or didn’t know him, whether you were with him or against him.

Jack simply radiated an authenticity and honesty and a commitment to his ideals that we know realize we’ve been thirsting for. He was so civil, so open, so accessible that he made politics seem so natural and good as breathing. There was no guile. That’s why everybody who knew Jack recognized that the public man and the private man were synonymous.

But it obviously goes much deeper than that. Jack, I think, tapped into a yearning, sometimes ephemeral, rarely articulated, a yearning that politics be conducted in a different way, and from that difference would emerge a better Canada.

That difference was by no means an end to rancour, an end to the abusive, vituperative practice of the political arts. The difference was also, and critically, one of policy – a fundamentally different way of viewing the future of Canada.

His remarkable letter made it absolutely clear. This was a testament written in the very throes of death that set out what Jack wanted for his caucus, for his party, for young people, for all Canadians.

Inevitably, we fastened on those last memorable lines about hope, optimism and love. But the letter was, at its heart, a manifesto for social democracy. And if there was one word that might sum up Jack Layton’s unabashed social democratic message, it would be generosity. He wanted, in the simplest and most visceral terms, a more generous Canada.

His letter embodies that generosity. In his very last hours of life he wanted to give encouragement to others suffering from cancer. He wanted to share a larger, bolder, more decent vision of what Canada should be for all its inhabitants.

He talks of social justice, health care, pensions, no one left behind, seniors, children, climate change, equality and again that defining phrase, “a more inclusive and generous Canada.” All of that is entirely consistent with Jack’s lifelong convictions. In those early days of municipal politics in Toronto Jack took on gay and lesbian rights, HIV and AIDS, housing for the homeless, the white ribbon campaign to fight violence against women and consecrate gender equality once and for all.

And of course a succession of environmental innovations, bike lanes, wind power, the Toronto atmospheric fund – and now Michael, his progressive and talented son, as councillor can carry the torch forward.

And then came his tenure as president of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, where he showed that growing deftness of political touch in uniting municipalities of all sizes and geographic locations, winning their recognition of the preeminence of cities and the invaluable pillar of the public sector. Jack made the leap to federal politics look easy.

The same deeply held principles of social democracy that made him a superb politician at the city level, as I know, transferred brilliantly to federal politics. And also, from the many wonderful conversations we had together, I know led him to a formidable commitment to internationalism.

He was fearless in his positions once embraced. Thus, when he argued for negotiations with the Taliban to bring the carnage in Afghanistan to an end he was ridiculed but stood firm. And now it’s conventional wisdom. I move to recall that Jack came to the New Democratic Party at the time of the imposition of the War Measures Act, when tanks rolled into the streets of Montreal and civil liberties were shredded, and when the NDP’s brave opposition brought us to our nadir in public opinion.

But his convictions and his courage were intertwined – yet another reason for celebrating Jack and for understanding the pain and sadness with which his death has been received.

Above all – and his letter makes this palpably clear – Jack understood that we are headed into even more perilous economic times. He wanted Canadians to have a choice between what he described as the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and an economy that would embrace equity, fairness, balance and creative generosity.

This was the essence of the manifesto. That’s why he insists that we’re a great country, but we can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity. These were not rhetorical concepts to Jack. They were the very core of his social democratic philosophy. He was prepared to do ideological battle, but as all things with Jack there was nothing impulsive or ill-considered.

He would listen as he always listened – he was a great listener – he would synthesize thoughtfully as he always did, and he would choose a political route that was dignified, pragmatic and principled. He was so proud of his caucus and what they would do to advance the agenda of social democracy.

He cultivated and mentored every member of that caucus, and as the country will see, that will speak volumes in the days ahead.

The victory in Quebec – and I will be followed by a eulogist in the francophone language – the victory in Quebec was an affirmation of Jack’s singular personal appeal, reinforced by Quebec’s support for progressive values shared by so many Canadians. And his powerful belief and trust in youth to forge the grand transformation to a better world is by now legendary. Indeed, the reference to youth spawns a digression.

From time to time, Jack and I would meet in the corridors of my foundation, where his supernaturally competent daughter Sarah works, and we would invariably speak of our grandchildren. You cannot imagine – I guess you saw it in the video – the radiating joy that glowed from Jack as he talked of Sarah’s daughter, his granddaughter Beatrice, and when he said as he often said that he wanted to create a better world for Beatrice and all the other Beatrices to inherit, you instantly knew of one of his strongest and most compelling motivations.

He was a lovely, lovely man. Filled with laughter and affection and commitment. He was also mischievous and musical, possessed of normal imperfections but deeply deserving of the love you have all shown. His indelible romance with Olivia was beautiful to behold, and it sustained them both.

When my wife and I met with the family a few hours after Jack died, Olivia said, as she said in the video, that we must look forward to see what we all can accomplish together.

I loved Jack’s goodness and his ideals in equal measure. Watching all of you react so genuinely to his death, the thousands upon thousands who lined up for hours to say a last goodbye in Ottawa and Toronto, it’s clear that everyone recognized how rare and precious his character was.

We’re all shaken by grief but I believe we’re slowly being steadied by a new resolve and I see that resolve in words written in chalk and in a fresh determination on people’s faces. A resolve to honour Jack by bringing the politics of respect for all, respect for the Earth and respect for principle and generosity back to life.

My wife Michele reminded me of a perfect quote from the celebrated Indian novelist, activist and feminist Arundhati Roy. Jack doubtless knew it. He might have seen it as a mantra. “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

Thank you Jack.

Schedule | Humanist Canada Conference 2011

Schedule | Humanist Canada Conference 2011.
Here is the schedule of speakers for the Humanist Association of Canada conference Sept 30-Oct 2 in Toronto. The theme is:
Planetary Overload: The Survival of the Human Species.
Speakers include: Madeline Weld, Chris di Carlo, Matt Cherry (IHEU), Mike Nikerson, John Shook, Khalid Sohail, Jason Wiles, Dale Jackaman


Jack Layton dies

Jack Layton dies

"When good men die their goodness does not perish, but lives though they are gone. As for the bad, all that was theirs dies and is buried with them."
-- Euripides


TEDxToronto 2011 Conference Sept 23, TELUS

TEDxToronto 2011 Conference | Ideas Worth Spreading
SPEAKERS LIST! apply to attend on the website - ..
David Miller
Urban Green Jobs Advocate & 63rd Mayor of Toronto
Bilaal Rajen
Children’s Right Activist, Hands for Help
Ted Sargent
Professor, Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology, University of Toronto
Dr. Brian Goldman

Author, The Night Shift
Carlyle Jansen
Founder, Good For Her
George Roter

CEO & Co-Founder, Engineers Without Borders Canada
Jeff Melanson
Executive Director and Co-CEO, Canada’s National Ballet School
Adam Garone
CEO & Co-Founder, Movember
Ariel Garten
Chief Executive Officer, InteraXon
Brandon Hay
Founder, Black Daddies Club


Upper-class people less empathetic than lower-class people: study

Upper-class people less empathetic than lower-class people: study | The Raw Story

People from different economic classes have fundamentally different ways of thinking about the world, according to research recently published in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The authors of the study said the findings have important, but overlooked, implications for public policy.

"Americans, although this is shifting a bit, kind of think class is irrelevant," said Dacher Keltner of the University of California-Berkeley, who cowrote the article with Michael W. Kraus of UC-San Francisco and Paul K. Piff of UC-Berkeley. "I think our studies are saying the opposite: This is a profound part of who we are."

A study published in Psychological Science in November, for instance, found that people of upper-class status have trouble recognizing the emotions other people are feeling. People of lower-class status do a much better job. "What I think is really interesting about that is, it kind of shows there’s all this strength to the lower class identity: greater empathy, more altruism, and finer attunement to other people,” Keltner said.

“One clear policy implication is, the idea of noblesse oblige or trickle-down economics, certain versions of it, is bull," Keltner added. "Our data say you cannot rely on the wealthy to give back. The ‘thousand points of light’—this rise of compassion in the wealthy to fix all the problems of society—is improbable, psychologically." Those in the upper-class tend to hoard resources and be less generous than they could be.

But the differences between people of upper and lower-classes seems to be the product of the cultural environment, not ingrained traits. Studies have found that as people rise in the classes, they become less empathetic.

Keltner speculates that people of lower-classes are more empathetic because they need to rely on others more often to be successful. Those who can't afford daycare service for their children, for example, turn to neighbors or relatives to watch the kids. "If you don’t have resources and education, you really adapt to the environment, which is more threatening, by turning to other people///People who grow up in lower-class neighborhoods, as I did, will say,’ There’s always someone there who will take you somewhere, or watch your kid. You’ve just got to lean on people.’"


Chomsky: Public Higher Education Under Massive Corporate Assault

Chomsky: Public Education Under Massive Corporate Assault
If you are concerned about corporate control of UofT - (Munk, anyone?) see the writing on the wall at Berkeley and UCLA:

....In California, the main universities — Berkeley and UCLA — they're essentially Ivy League private universities — colossal tuition, tens of thousands of dollars, huge endowment. General assumption is they are pretty soon going to be privatized, and the rest of the system will be, which was a very good system — best public system in the world — that's probably going to be reduced to technical training or something like that. The privatization, of course, means privatization for the rich [and a] lower level of mostly technical training for the rest. And that is happening across the country. Next year, for the first time ever, the California system, which was a really great system, best anywhere, is getting more funding from tuition than from the state of California. And that is happening across the country. In most states, tuition covers more than half of the college budget. It's also most of the public research universities. Pretty soon only the community colleges — you know, the lowest level of the system — will be state-financed in any serious sense. And even they're under attack. And analysts generally agree, I'm quoting, "The era of affordable four-year public universities heavily subsidized by the state may be over."


Study of secularism sees boost on college campuses.

Study of secularism sees boost on college campuses.
(note: this report is from the Christian Century and the Religion News Service - interesting in itself as a source!) Also, the University of Humanistics in the Netherlands has been offering undergraduate and Graduate degrees since 1989. Also, Harvard is offering a divinity decree which trains Humanists  - in the works.

(RNS) Almost every major college and university offers a degree in religious studies. But secularism? Nary a one -- until now. Starting this fall, Pitzer College, a small liberal arts school in Southern California, will offer a bachelor's degree in secular studies.

The degree is the first of its kind in the United States, according to the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College. Though the program is a first, it may not stand alone for long. Scholars say there is a growing interest in secularism -- the rejection of religion in public, and sometimes private, life -- both in the U.S. and around the world.

"We've been studying religious people for years, but there is a huge chunk of humanity who is not religious," said Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor and founder of the Pitzer program. "Who are they? I would like to study them with the same vigor we study religiosity."

So, it seems, would others:

-- The Humanist Institute, the educational arm of the American Humanist Association, hopes to establish this year the country's first master's program in humanism, a philosophy that substitutes human morality and reasoning for belief in the supernatural.

-- "Secularism and Nonreligion," the first academic journal devoted to the subject, will debut in January.

-- San Diego State University will host a first-of-its-kind international conference in September examining the rise of unbelief in the West.

-- The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion will host a half-dozen sessions dealing with secularism at its October meeting. Ten years ago, there were none.

"There are a number of academics out there looking into this with great interest," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "Part of the reason it is growing is we are realizing the demographics it represents is huge and growing and national academia is interested in getting involved."

In 2008, the American Religious Identification Survey found that the percentage of American adults who say they have no religion had nearly doubled since 1990 to 34 million people -- 15 percent of U.S. adults.

More critical for colleges and universities, one-third of Americans under 30 reported they had no religion in 2001, according to another ARIS poll. And the Secular Student Alliance, a campus-based organization of nonreligious college and high school students, has grown from 100 groups in 2008 to 219 in 2010.

"There is just no question that there is a hunger in the U.S. by nonreligious people to express their secularism and know more about it," Zuckerman said.

One factor may be the so-called "New Atheists" movement popularized by the best-selling books of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Characterized by a take-no-prisoners attack on religion, the New Atheists' often strident denunciations of faith have drawn extensive media coverage.

"They made a big noise and are continuing to make a big noise," said Ryan Cragun, a sociologist at the University of Tampa who will co-edit the new journal. "It is now okay to say I am interested in this topic and I want to study it."

The Humanist Institute has long offered a three-year certification in humanism for college graduates. Now, plans and money are in place with Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., to establish a master's degree, perhaps as early as December.

"It would give a certain level of recognition that would attract a lot more people to the program and raise the stakes on how qualified and functional the folks who complete it are," Speckhardt said.

At Pitzer, students pursuing the new degree will take 10 core courses that examine secularism within the framework of art, literature, politics and science. They will also take religious studies courses. Class titles include "Anxiety in the Age of Reason," "The Secular Life" and "God, Darwin and Design in America."

Kiley Lawrence, a 19-year-old, pre-med student from Kansas, plans to study for the new degree. "I'm excited to study why people are so quick to relinquish scientific curiosity in favor of `heaven only knows' and also, why a standpoint of skepticism has been so stigmatized over the years," she said.

"I think what I'll get out of it is some greater insight into the workings of religion in society, a greater appreciation for scientific investigation, and how the two relate to each other."

But some academics raise concerns about secular studies programs and degrees. Barry Kosmin, director of Trinity College's secularism center, which helps educators incorporate secular studies in their curricula, said he prefers to see secularism examined within other fields, like biology, politics and especially religious studies.


Toronto's libraries are under threat of privatization. Tell city council to keep them public now.

Toronto's libraries are under threat of privatization. Tell city council to keep them public now.

If you love the Toronto Public Library, you need to come to her defense right now!< The cost cutting agenda of Toronto City Council could target the TPL within weeks. Local branches could be closed and some or all of the Library’s operations could be privatized, unless we act now. Please send a message to Mayor Ford telling him our libraries are not for sale. A copy of your message will be sent to members of the Toronto City Council Executive Committee and your own City Councilor. Please tell City Council that our public libraries are not for sale.


Global: Schools No Havens in War Zones | Human Rights Watch

Global: Schools No Havens in War Zones | Human Rights Watch
(New York) - Governments should improve protections for students and teachers during wartime by explicitly outlawing attacks on schools and curtailing their use by the military, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 162-page report, "Schools and Armed Conflict: A Global Survey of Domestic Laws and State Practice Protecting Schools from Attack and Military Use," examines domestic laws and military policies in 56 countries around the world. Governments have been slow to update and align their domestic legislation with the explicit prohibitions on attacks on schools under international criminal law, Human Rights Watch said. They are also failing to account for the negative consequences for children's right to education when armed forces convert schools into bases and barracks.

"Children are entitled to go to school in a safe environment, even during times of conflict," said Bede Sheppard, senior children's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Attacks on schools and the military use of schools jeopardize children's safety and education."

As Religion Fades, Will Atheism Be Enough? | Psychology Today

As Religion Fades, Will Atheism Be Enough? | Psychology Today
Great post by Dave, pres of AHA.

In my travels as president of the American Humanist Association, I am often asked to explain the difference between atheism and humanism. Since the question gets raised so frequently, I thought it might be a good idea to provide a short explanation here.

To understand the difference between the terms atheism and humanism, realize first that the former refers to a view of only one specific issue (the existence of gods) whereas the latter is a broad philosophical outlook. From that premise, the rest falls into place easily.

When Sally describes herself as an atheist, she is revealing only one fact about herself: she does not believe in any gods. Note that she is saying nothing about other supernatural beliefs, and she is saying nothing about her ethical/moral principles. Although atheists, being without any god-beliefs, usually do not accept other supernatural claims (such as belief in astrology, reincarnation, or life after death), technically Sally could believe in such notions and still wear the "atheist" label. Moreover, while some might be inclined to make certain presumptions about Sally's ethical principles upon learning that she identifies as an atheist, such presumptions, based on her atheist identity alone, are unwarranted. Because the atheist identity refers only to the singular issue of god-belief, it says nothing about her moral stature, good or bad.

When Patty describes herself as a humanist, on the other hand, she tells us numerous things about herself. For one, she tells us that she approaches the world from a natural standpoint, meaning she rejects all supernatural beliefs, not just the singular issue of divinities. In seeking truth and knowledge, she accepts empiricism, science, and reason as her guides. Identifying as a humanist, Patty is declaring that she holds certain values, including a support for human rights, peace, democracy, and personal liberty with a sense of social responsibility. These principles are subject to some interpretation, of course, and humanism rejects outright the notion of dogma, but the general thrust of humanism is a progressive, forward-looking life-stance that encourages creativity, critical thinking, and personal fulfillment within the context of social well-being. The AHA sets forth a vision of humanism in its document Humanism and its Aspirations, which has been signed by 21 Nobel Laureates. The International Humanist and Ethical Union also has a short statement of humanist principles called The Amsterdam Declaration.

The atheism/humanism comparison shouldn't be seen as an either/or situation where one must choose sides. Many humanists, but not all, also identify as atheists; many atheists, but not all, also identify as humanists. For many years I identified as a humanist but not an atheist, much preferring the broad philosophical label of humanism to the more narrow definition of atheism. In recent years, however, I've come to the opinion that the "atheist" label is wrongly stigmatized in American society, so nowadays I'll also identify as an atheist mainly to push back against the unfair prejudice. My humanism is more important to me than my atheism, but I realize that the Religious Right draws much strength from marginalizing atheists, so we're doing a service if we can help the public to realize that atheists should not be feared.

This brings me to my gentle criticism of Nigel Barbers's various posts on "Why Atheism Will Replace Religion." As an activist in the secular movement, I'm hopeful that Barber's general vision, of a more humane world where dogma and superstition dwindle in importance, is correct. I would simply point out that, if this comes to be, the important element will be the broad, affirmative values of humanism, not a singular notion of nonbelief.