New Amnesty International leader on human rights and Trump

The new leader of Amnesty International says many world leaders, especially President Trump, are rolling back gains made in respecting human rights, with the Trump administration’s separation of families at U.S. borders “one of the worst atrocities” seen in a long time.

“The presidency of Donald Trump is a major challenge for the people of the U.S. and the people of the world,” Kumi Naidoo said Thursday, suggesting the psychological damage of the border separation policy alone could be long-lasting.

“Overall on human rights he has set us back … and it should be no surprise that Donald Trump will be in my vision of activism and will be somebody who will receive quite close focus by Amnesty as a global movement.”

With a background of activism against apartheid in his native South Africa and for environmental issues as a director of Greenpeace, Naidoo said he intends to make Amnesty “bigger, bolder and more inclusive.” He began a four-year term at the helm of the London-based rights group this week.

“What I hope to do at Amnesty is to intensify our appetite for peaceful civil disobedience,” he said. Although world leaders often ignore letters and meetings, he said that “when you mobilize thousands of people on their doorstep … that seems to work much better.”

Despite the recent setbacks for human rights, Naidoo said he is optimistic. Amnesty has a global membership of 7 million people and he said he would like to see that increase to 70 million, especially among younger people. “Young people will not accept wisdom that they are the leaders of tomorrow; they will assert their leadership now,” he said.

[Los Angeles Times]

Save the Children warns urgent de-escalation needed in Gaza

Save the Children is deeply concerned about the mental health impact that the ongoing violence in Gaza is having on children. Research, conducted earlier this year, found that feelings of depression, hyperactivity, a preference for being alone, and aggression were reported by 95 percent of children in Gaza.

And over the past couple of days, we have seen a severe and deeply dangerous escalation on the Gaza-Israel border, with reports of dozens of casualties on both sides. More than 180 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza have hit Israel, with 11 reported injuries including one woman with serious injuries. Gaza was hit more than 200 times throughout Wednesday night and into Thursday.

Fears are growing that we could be on the brink of another large-scale conflict, with serious concerns for the physical and mental well-being of children who get caught up in the violence.

Maher Abdullah, a Senior Education Officer for Save the Children in Gaza, said that situation was extremely fragile. “My children were terrified – they didn’t sleep. Some of the airstrikes were so close that the building shook like it was an earthquake.

On the Israeli side, large tracts of open farmland were also hit, and warning sirens rang late into the night, with authorities suggesting that they may have to evacuate communities living near Gaza due to the latest escalation.

[Save the Children]

Among the effects of the oppressive worldwide heatwaves

Last week saw record breaking temperatures across the globe. What is at risk in this increased heat?

  1. Infrastructure fails. Materials like steel can start to expand above certain temperatures. In 2018, a steel bridge in Chicago had to be hosed down with cold water because the joints had expanded and could no longer open for boats to travel underneath. In 2012, rail lines deformed by heat in Illinois caused a freight train to derail and cause the collapse of an overpass.
  2. Planes can’t take off. In higher temperatures, planes need to be going faster in order to get off the ground. So longer runways are needed to be sure a plane has sufficient time to reach the necessary ground speed. In 2012 in Washington, D.C., when temperatures reached 100 degrees, a plane’s wheels sunk into the exceedingly hot tarmac and became stuck, delaying the flight for several hours.
  3. Asphalt can burn you. Asphalt can get as high as 20 degrees hotter than ambient temperatures during a heat wave and hot enough to burn you if touched. In 2018, asphalt along the Hume Highway which links Sydney and Melbourne in Australia actually melted when temperatures exceeded 47.3 degrees Celsius or just over 117 degrees Fahrenheit. The Humane Society warns that your animals and pets can overheat with extended exposure to hot asphalt.
  4. Bodies suffer serious health risks. Too much heat exposure usually starts with dehydration, heat rash, and muscle cramps. If not addressed, these symptoms can progress to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. People over 65, children, anyone with a medical condition, or those who work outdoors are more at risk. There is also evidence that heat disrupts our sleep, our ability to think clearly, and healthy birth rates.
  5. Crops suffer. It’s no surprise that plant life suffers in extreme heat just as we do. Heat sensitive and widely consumed crops like maize, soy, and spring wheat are likely to be among the most affected. Past heatwaves saw crop yields for maize, fruit, and even wine drop by as much as 30% in Italy and France.

[Everyday Einstein]

Trump and Governor Brown make dueling claims on cause of California fires

As twin wildfires have destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Northern California, President Trump and California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown are both making claims – and provoking criticism – about why the fires continue to spread.

California Gov. Brown said during a press conference last week that climate change is a factor. He spoke of climate change and said the “more serious predictions of warming and fires to occur later in the century, 2040 or 2050, they’re now occurring in real time. You can expect that — unfortunately — to continue intensifying in California and throughout the Southwest.”

Trump tweeted Sunday claiming the fires are “being magnified” by environmental laws that stop water from being effectively used. He also called for clearing more trees.

A spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shot back, according to a reporter for BuzzFeed, saying the department has “no idea” what Trump is talking about. “We have plenty of water for the firefight. The Mendocino complex is next to Clear Lake and the Carr fire has the Whiskeytown Lake and Lake Shasta,” the spokesman said.

Thousands of firefighters are currently battling the flames of close to 20 active fires, which are threatening communities from Redding in Northern California to Orange County in Southern California. The Mendocino Complex fire burning just north of wine country in Northern California became the state’s largest-ever fire.


IDPs the humanitarian crisis you don’t hear about

The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that one person is forcibly displaced from their home every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution. Worldwide, refugees—citizens who flee their own country for another—number more than 20 million. But that number is dwarfed by a more silent and devastating crisis: the over 40 million who are internally displaced.

People who have been forced from their homes but have not crossed an international border are called internally displaced persons, or IDPs. Unlike refugees, they have no protections or formally agreed-upon rules and no international resources or funding. The care for IDPs falls to the local and national government, where more pressing matters take precedence.

Over 85 percent of the world’s displaced people, both refugees and displaced persons, are in emerging nations, mostly in Africa. And there is often a cultural clash between IDPs and the people in the locales where the IDPs temporarily—or permanently—settle. Different populations are suspicious of one another and of their loyalties, especially when IDPs come from areas under terrorist siege. Other pressures hurt integration as well. Sudden population growth from an influx of IDPs strains access to food and water.

“Too often, IDPs are marginalized because of the mistrust,” says Kristen Wright, the director of advocacy at Open Doors USA, a charity focused on promoting religious freedom.

So why doesn’t the UN or any supranational agency coordinate assistance for IDPs? Part of the problem stems from how the structure of refugee law evolved after World War II when European nations constructed laws. These laws deferred to a state’s sovereignty over the welfare of its people, so long as those people did not cross international borders.

[Excerpts from CFR post by Cheryl Strauss Einhorn, an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School]

Your first job should be a nonprofit job

If you asked me my freshman year of college where I thought I would be in fifteen years — or even where I would be after graduation — I would not have said “working in the nonprofit sector.” But life often takes you in surprising directions.

My job has given me back as much — and more — as I’ve put into it. So to those college grads who are heading out into the world, allow me this piece of advice: think about taking a nonprofit job as your first job.

I know, it’s not the craziest idea you’ve ever heard. After all, research from Johns Hopkins University shows that, collectively, nonprofits are the nation’s third largest employer, behind only the retail and manufacturing sectors. Here’s my elevator pitch.

There’s plenty of room to grow. The best thing about working at a nonprofit organization is the relative lack of bureaucracy. It’s not that most nonprofit managers will let you take ownership of a project; in many cases, you’ll be expected to.

There’s no lack of opportunities to build marketable skills. When it comes to building marketable skills, new nonprofit employees often are surprised at how quickly they are thrown into the deep end of the pool — I’m talking about everything from writing and editing, to social media marketing, to budgeting, analytics, and project management.

There’s little chance of getting sidetracked. Working at a nonprofit is a good way to gain real-world experience while you are attending, or contemplating, grad school. One reason is that nonprofit employers tend to be more flexible than for-profits about part-time or non-traditional work schedules.

Whether it comes as a surprise or not, one day, like me, you might even wake up and realize the job you thought you would only have for a year or two is a job that you love and hope to have for years to come. 93 percent of survey respondents in the nonprofit sector — nearly three times the national average — saying they are highly or somewhat engaged in their jobs.

[Philanthropy News Digest]

Extreme global weather is ‘the face of climate change’ says leading scientist

Extreme weather has struck across Europe, from the Arctic Circle to Greece, and across the world, from North America to Japan. “This is the face of climate change,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, and one the world’s most eminent climate scientists. “We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate change.”

Climate change has long been predicted to increase extreme weather incidents, and scientists are now confident these predictions are coming true. Mann said, “As a scientist [seeing our predictions come true] is reassuring, but as a citizen of planet Earth, it is very distressing to see that as it means we have not taken the necessary action.”

Prof Mann said that asking if climate change “causes” specific events is the wrong question: “The relevant question is: ‘Is climate change impacting these events and making them more extreme?’, and we can say with great confidence that it is.”

Mann points out that the link between smoking tobacco and lung cancer is a statistical one, which does not prove every cancer was caused by smoking, but epidemiologists know that smoking greatly increases the risk. “For all practical purposes, there is a causal connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, and it is the same with climate change,” Mann said.

Other senior scientists agree the link is clear. Serious climate change is “unfolding before our eyes”, said Prof Rowan Sutton, at the University of Reading. “No one should be in the slightest surprised that we are seeing very serious heatwaves and associated impacts in many parts of the world.”

[The Guardian]

Biggest regret is failures of kindness

One useful thing you can do with an old person is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc.?

There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition — recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

One thing in our favor: some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age. It might be a simple matter of attrition: as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish — how illogical, really.  Read full commencement speech

Greek government facing criticism over handling of wildfires

This weekend, Greece will begin burying the victims of a devastating wildfire near Athens which killed at least 88 people, and has prompted criticism of the government’s handling of the disaster.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday took political responsibility for the tragedy as opposition leaders said the government had failed to adequately safeguard lives. Tsipras’ government has been criticized for failing to have an adequate evacuation plan in place for such a disaster. The government has announced a long list of relief measures and promised to tackle decades-old problems, including haphazard and unlicensed residential building, to minimize the risk of a repeat disaster and to cool public anger.

A deputy mayor in Marathon, which administers some of the affected area, on Saturday became the first official to resign over the wildfire.

Heavy downpours hit the region on Saturday, prompting fears that the work of rescue crews and efforts by locals to salvage what they can from the fire could be made more difficult.


Why there isn’t enough money to address poverty

To provide basic education for every student in the world would require 6 Billion dollars

To provide water and sanitation for everyone in the world would require 9 Billion dollars

To provide reproductive health for all women worldwide would require 12 Billion dollars

To provide basic health and nutrition for the world would require          13 Billion dollars

Read more on the subject