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.


Climate Change Network: Letter to Environment Minister re Albert Coal Plant

Action alert from Climate Change Network:

"The federal government is coming  out with new greenhouse gas regulations for coal plants that would go into  effect in 2015, and Maxim Power is trying to rush construction of a new coal  plant in Alberta in order to have it completed before then so it can be exempt  from the regulations.

On top of this, we have obtained documents revealing that  Environment Minister Kent has advised Maxim on how to do this, even though just  last year the government said it would guard against this very behaviour.

The Ontario Humanist Society, and Dr. McCabe and Mary Beaty, UofT Humanist Chaplains, have endorsed this letter to Environment Minister Peter Kent which begins:

"We are writing to urge you to launch an immediate review of the appropriateness of Maxim Power’s proposed coal-fired Milner expansion project, in light of the federal government’s future regulations on coal-fired electricity generation.

As you know, Maxim Power Corp. recently received an interim approval from Alberta’s Utilities Commission for a 500-megawatt supercritical coal plant, which would be located north of Grande Cache, Alberta. The company plans to commission the plant just before the federal regulations on coal-fired electricity take effect.

In June 2010, former Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced that the federal government would adopt regulations specifying a performance standard for greenhouse gas emissions from certain coal-fired power plants. Though the regulations would only apply beginning in July 2015, Minister Prentice assured Canadians that the government would not allow companies to avoid the regulations by rushing new plants into service. He said: “We will guard against any rush to build non-compliant coal plants in the interim”  ....

Please pass this action on to other concerned groups.

Contact: Kim Finch at kfinch@climateactionnetwork.ca (tel: 613-241-4413)