Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Congratulations to Breakthrough

The Overbrook Foundation just wants to add a quick congratulations to Mallika Dutt. Dutt, the Executive Director of Breakthrough is being honored with the American Courage Award by the Asian American Justice Center, one of the nations leading civil rights organizations. This award goes out to an individual who has shown extraordinary courage or commitment to the cause of civil rights.

The award ceremony will take place on Thursday, October 1st at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., with Congressman John Lews (D-GA) providing opening remarks. Anita Botti, the Deputy Director of the President’s International Women’s Initiative InterAgency Task Force, will present Dutt with the American Courage Award on behalf of Ambassador-at-Large, Melanne Verveer.

If you’re in the DC area, you should join Breakthrough for the award ceremony. For more information, email June Jimenez or call 202/296-2300, x138.

13th Annual American Courage Awards
Thursday, October 1, 2009
6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
National Press Club 529
14th St. NW, 13th Floor
Washington, D.C.

Congratulations again to Dutt and the entire staff of Breakthrough. We couldn’t be more thrilled that you are being recognized for such innovating work that uses the power of popular culture, media, leadership and development to transform public attitudes and advance equality, justice, and dignity.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reporters Without Borders Releases Report on Mexico

In a follow up to my post on Friday, I thought I'd mention taht, Reporters Without Borders released the report today detailing its latest trip to Mexico. The release coincides with a Reporters Without Borders news conference in Washington at which the speakers will included Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, a Mexican journalist who fled to the United States and is now waiting to be granted refugee status (watch a video about it here).

With a total of 55 deaths of journalists since 2000 that were clearly or probably linked to their work, and eight journalists missing, Mexico is the western hemisphere country where press freedom is most endangered. The creation of a Special Federal Attorney's Office for Combating Violence against the Media in February 2006 has unfortunately changed nothing and has not helped to combat impunity.

The purpose of this Reporters Without Borders visit was to examine the investigations into several recent murders and disappearances of journalists with the aim of gaining insight into the workings of the Mexican criminal justice system and what causes it to malfunction. It was led by secretary-general Jean-François Julliard. The delegation met with journalists, press freedom activists and government officials, including secretary of interior Fernando Francisco Gómez-Mont Urueta, the number two in the federal government.

The report's findings are unfortunately damning for the authorities, both local and federal. The passivity or negligence of the excessive number of entities dedicated to defending press freedom in all branches of the government (executive, legislative and judicial), and their tendency to cancel each other out, are not the only reasons why the Mexican media's ordeal continues.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another Mexican Journalist Murdered

If you’ve been following either the Foundation's blog, or stories coming out of Mexico, you’ll have heard about the unabated violence against journalists in Mexico. Well, two days ago, on September 23rd, the editor of Mexico’s online Radio Visión's website, Noberto Miranda Madrid was murdered in the northern state of Chihuahua. This brings the number of deaths of journalists in Mexico since 2000 to 55.

Madrid’s death comes as Reporters Without Borders is preparing to release a report of its latest fact-finding visit to Mexico that took place this past July. The report titled, "Behind the scenes of impunity in Mexico," rightly condemns the passivity of the authorities (and their apparent involvement in some cases). The report will be released during a news conference (to find out more about that conference, click here).

"The state of Chihuahua and its border city, Ciudad Juárez, are symbols of the uncontrollable violence resulting from the war between the drug cartels and the all-out military response from the federal authorities," Reporters Without Borders said. "Norberto Miranda clearly paid with his life for not conforming to the prevailing self-censorship in his coverage of this reality. The Juárez cartel was probably behind his murder."

According to local police sources, Miranda was murdered by three hooded men who forced their way into the Radio Visión office in Nuevo Casas Grandes, about 200 km from Ciudad Juárez, asked for Miranda and shot him in cold blood after he identified himself. Miranda’s murder came two days after freelance photographer Jaime Oma Gandara San Martin was stabbed to death in the state of Chihuahua.

Aged 44, Madrid wrote op-ed pieces under the pen-name of El Gallito (Little Rooster). His last column on September 22nd, (which can be read here) referred to the deaths of 25 people in Nuevo Casas Grandes since the start of the month in reprisals blamed on the Juárez Cartel.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Women from Across the Globe Lead Panel on Climate Change

This morning I attended a panel discussion sponsored by The Women's Media Center and the TckTckTck campaign, held in honor of Climate Week and the fast approaching UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

Women's Media Center President Carol Jenkins hosted the panel, entitled "Global Women Taking Action on Climate Change," and introduced a group of eight women who were forced to take action in their local communities when natural disaster hit.

For those of us who follow the news and watch the developments of both national and international climate change legislation, it is no surprise to hear stories of floods, droughts, melting ice and other disasters that are starting to pop up with increasing frequency. I can't say I was shocked by any of the stories I heard today. However, it was undeniably powerful to hear the same basic story repeated by women hailing from lands as far apart as the Arctic Circle, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Pacific Islands and the Bronx, to name a few. Rising waters, melting ice, dry lands, high winds -- these are all threats that can no longer be relegated to an isolated "fluke," or just a problem that "they" have. The panel served not only as a rallying cry for grassroots work to mitigate and adapt to climate change, but also a wake-up call that significant action in the US congress and Copenhagen is crucial.

Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, began the morning's comments by connecting the environmental issues of pollution and climate change to human rights issues. Carter was followed by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit activist who traveled by dog sled for the first ten years of her life -- living in a world completely foreign to Carter's in the Bronx, yet sadly comparable in its sense of environmental disenfranchisement. "This is much more than about melting ice," she said. "This is about families and children."

Ursula Rakova of the Carteret Islands began her comments with this statement: "Once upon a time my island was a tropical paradise. It is a tropical paradise no more." Sharon Hanshaw of Biloxi, Miss. spoke of the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which left her not only homeless but helpless, when her own government seemed not to be listening. But she soon realized she was not helpless, and co-founded the group Coastal Women for Change.

The rallying cry of the morning was simultaneously inspiring and sad; the panelists have all fearlessly taken the climate crisis into their own hands and voices, yet at the same time it is difficult not to wonder why they have to. Individuals create change, but good governmental leadership can make those changes infinitely easier. Ritt Bjerregaard, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, spoke about the climate conference that is soon to take place in her city. "Kyoto wasn't what we hoped for, so we need all the pressure we can get," she said. The crowd applauded, and we can only hope that sentiment is shared by UN leaders in December.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One Web Day!

Today, September 22, people all over the world are celebrating OneWebDay!

OneWebDay was founded by Susan Crawford, (now an advisor of President Obama on science, technology, and innovation policy). It's a global event which is celebrated every September 22 since 2006. Think of it like an Earth Day for the internet.

Over the past four years, OneWebDay has attracted a global network of partner organizations and individual activists committed to broadening the public’s awareness of Internet and Web issues while deepening a culture of participation in building a Web that works for everyone. Every year it provides an opportunity for communities to celebrate the power of Web for positive change, to take action to protect what is precious about it, and to educate the public and policy-makers on key social, economic, and political Web issues. This year's has a specific them, One Web For All and it’s all about digital inclusion, digital literacy, and working to close the digital divide.

OneWebDay organizers are calling attention to efforts that work to ensure that anyone who wants it has access to the Internet and the skills they need to engage in our new communications environment. The fight for digital inclusion is now on the cutting edge in the long struggle for social and economic justice. It's time to recognize that access to a fast, affordable, and open Internet is essential for every child in school, every entrepreneur with a new idea, and anyone who wants full access to our government and the democratic process. These are no longer privileges, they are necessities.

If you want to show your support for OneWebDay and digital inclusion efforts, sign the 2009 pledge to Free the Internet and End the Digital Divide. There are some great activities you can participate no matter where you are in the United States or abroad (they are expecting events in over 50 cities in 20 countries). To find out more about OneWebDay and what you can do to be involved, click here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How "Clean" are your Cleaning Products?

Although "green" has become a fashion statement in recent years, there is significant substance to the trend. In growing numbers, consumers are demanding to know the names and natures of chemicals they come into contact with every day, and which of those chemicals could be making them sick.

An article in Friday's New York Times reports that secrecy will soon be a thing of the past for manufacturers of household cleaners. Starting this January, all product ingredients except for those occurring in amounts less than one percent will be available to consumers in one of three ways: listed on the label, listed on the company web site, or listed by a recorded voice on the company's 800 number. The disclosure plan will be voluntary, with the idea that companies will feel competitive pressure to participate as consumers gravitate toward those with more candid labels.

Some environmentalists are applauding this first step in the industry's effort to come clean (in perhaps a very toxic manner!) about chemicals and health risks to consumers, but others complain that a voluntary program has no teeth at all. Representative Steve Israel of New York, who introduced a mandatory labeling bill in Congress, had this to say about the proposed program: "Voluntary compliance is an oxymoron. It may be good public relations, but not good policy." In order to be meaningful, critics argue, the program would not only have to be mandatory, but would also have to list every single ingredient, regardless of its percentage of the ingredients.

But when manufacturers of household cleaners keep ingredients to themselves, they are not necessarily trying to get away with something unhealthy or illegal. Usually the ingredients that make up the largest portions of household cleaners and detergents are common knowledge within the industry. Chemicals that make up less than one percent, those chemicals exempt from the disclosure program and the subject of consumer advocate ire, are precisely those "secret recipe" contributions that make one product smell like "white linen" and another like "mountain breeze." Unfortunately, it is also these chemicals that can be highly toxic, and although the companies argue they are used in trace amounts, research about contact over a lifetime is inconclusive.

GoodGuide is a great resource for comparing the safety, social and environmental responsibility of a variety of products (see my post from September 2), but it doesn't compare the abilities of competing products to really make a bathtub shine or a kitchen counter smell of lemons. Surprisingly, there is scant information online about which green products work and which are so-so. Here are a couple I found in a basic search:

http://www.grist.org/article/i-dont-want-no-scrub -- This is a post on Grist, testing eight bathroom products.

http://www.thegreenguide.com/buying-guide -- This is a rating system on National Geographic’s web site, where you can scroll to the bottom and choose the category of product you’re looking for. There is also a blog on a variety of green products that users can search through.

Follow this link for a brief green cleaner rating on About.com.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Founder of Grist, Overbrook Grantee, Honored

Chip Giller, Grist founder, has been honored with a prestigious Heinz Award.

Now in its tenth anniversary year, Giller describes Grist as "a beacon in the smog" of a burgeoning environmental news market that can sometimes overwhelm, confuse or alienate new audiences. Read his response to his award here.

In past years, the Heinz award has focused on outstanding individuals in a variety of fields, from arts and humanities to technology and the economy. But this year the awards were granted solely to those individuals working in an environmental field.

Teresa Heinz, chairwoman of the Heinz Family Foundation, explained the Foundation's decision in the following statement:

"At this unique time in history, when the environment is more important than ever to our lives, our economy, our national security and our future, it is only fitting that we focus exclusively on this critical topic," she said. "These awards honor those guardians of our future who value our natural resources, work to remove toxic chemicals from our air and water, and create policies and the new technology that will ensure a sustainable planet for generations to come."

Click here for a full list of this year's recipients.

Congratulations to Chip Giller and Grist!

Demand Due Process

Sadly, thousands of people are detained and denied due process every day here in the United States. Well, Breakthrough, an innovative, international human rights organization using the power of popular culture, media, and leadership development and community education to transform public attitudes and advance equality, justice, and dignity, is doing something about it. They’ve recently launched a very important and timely campaign to restore fairness and bring back due process to the immigration system.

They’ve just produced, in association with 26 other organizations, a great new video that shows members of Congress who think due process needs to be restored to our immigration system. You can click here to watch it. And after watching, you can e-mail Congress to encourage them to become an ally. You can also check out more ways to get involved.

If you’re linking to their video on Twitter, be sure to use the hash tag #restorefairness. It will help keep track of all of its mentions as well as spread the word about the important campaign.

And a special congratulations is in order to Breakthrough. Their immigration video, “Death by Detention”, which details the story of Sandra Kenlye, a 52- year old grandmother, who after living in the U.S. legally for 33 years, was subjected to degrading and inhumane conditions and died in an immigration detention center, won for best long form video at the 2009 DoGooderTV Nonprofit Video Awards. Currently, immigration detentions centers are detaining 300,000 legal and undocumented immigrants, many of whom have not committed a single crim.

Monday, September 14, 2009

EPA Takes on Mountaintop Removal Mining

A front page story in yesterday's New York Times is one in a series on water quality throughout the United States. This one focuses on Appalachian state residents who have fallen victim to the toxic residues of mountaintop removal coal mining. A large photograph above the story shows a close-up of a seven-year-old's mouth, full of fillings and cavities caused by a short lifetime of brushing with poisonous water that comes out of the tap in his own home.Videos and charts showing water quality violations in each of the 50 states accompany the article, and although some states are in greater violation than others, not a single one has a clean record in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

While change in federal policy cannot happen overnight, Friday's news brought some hope. The Environmental Protection Agency has suspended 79 permit applications for new mountaintop removal coal mines, spanning four Appalachian states. The Obama administration put the permits on hold, acknowledging (for the first time after eight-years of Bush) that the practice of mountaintop removal sullies water with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, and is in direct violation of the Clean Water Act. The EPA submitted the permits to the Army Corps of Engineers for review, making both an environmental and political statement that the Obama administration will not follow in the footsteps of the Bush administration, which never once challenged the coal industry.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson diplomatically clarified the new administration intends to comply with the Clean Water Act while preserving the interests of the energy industry. "We look forward to working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, with the involvement of the mining companies, to achieve a resolution of EPA's concerns that avoids harmful environmental impacts and meets our energy and economic needs," she said.

The EPA's initial reviews looked at available information about the project in question, the current environmental condition of the watershed, and the environmental impact expected to result from the proposed mine. While this review is years late for families already experiencing deleterious health effects of mountaintop mining, it is better late than never. A post on Grist provides a link where you can encourage the Obama administration to follow through.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Controversial Sex Education

As the Foundation has been a long-time supporter of reproductive rights (both domestically and in Latin America), we’re always interested when there’s something new in the world of sex education.

Well, this month, there’s a new set of proposed international sex education guidelines that’s aimed at reducing HIV infections among young people that’s provoked criticism from conservative groups who claim that the program would be “too explicit” for young children and promote access to legal abortion as a right. The draft version of the guidelines is expected to be released this week by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). They’ve been working on the guidelines for over two years, and have drawn on more than 80 studies of sex education.

Mark Richmond, UNESCO’s global coordinator for HIV and AIDS and the director of the division that coordinates educational priorities said, “In the absence of a vaccine for AIDS, education is the only vaccine we have. Only 40% of young people aged 15 to 24 have accurate knowledge of how the disease is transmitted, even though that age group accounts for 45% of all new cases.
Some conservative criticism has caused some participating and donor agencies to pull back from the project, such as the United Nations Population Fund, which requested that its name be edited out of the published material.

International Planned Parenthood Federation reports that there are at least 111 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases among people ages 10 to 24; 10% of births are to teenage mothers and up to 4.4 million women 15 to 19 seek abortions annually.

We applaud UNESCO for allowing them to empower young people with knowledge that could save their lives. When the full guidelines become available, I’ll post the link to them on this post as a postscript.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Climate Change and the Arctic Ecosystem

Every year since 1978, scientists have been measuring the extent of Arctic sea ice at the end of the summer, and then comparing the ice cover from year to year. News hasn't been overwhelmingly positive of late, and while we are still waiting for this year's minimum we already know that 2009 is the third lowest year for Arctic ice extent since scientists began recording it in 1978. Over the past 20 to 30 years sea ice extent has decreased by an astounding 45,000 km each year, with 2007 holding the title for the lowest extent ever recorded, and 2008 the second lowest. Click here for National Snow and Ice Data Center images of fluctuating Arctic sea ice throughout the years. This link shows similar data from NASA.

Eric Post, associate professor of biology at Penn State University, led an international team of scientists in a survey of the Arctic ecosystem, looking at the biological response to global warming on a variety of levels ranging from changes in plants, insects, birds, mammals (including humans) and fish. The team's results will be published tomorrow in Science.

"It seems no matter where you look -- on the ground, in the air, or in the water-- we're seeing signs of rapid change,"Post said. And the changes, for the most part, are not good. Some species, such as polar bears and ringed seals, give birth in caves under the snow and in recent years have lost so many pups to early melt that they are now headed, perhaps irretrievably, to extinction.

Post's team also found animals and insects moving northward as their usual habitats warm, and decimating plant life in their wake. Winter moth, musk oxen and reindeer are eating shrubs that act as carbon sinks and help retain a thick snow cover. As the shrubs are thinned, less carbon is stored and snow melts -- contributing even further to the warming.

Caribou are also struggling, proving unsuccessful at syncing their calving cycle with the rapidly changing plant cycles. Baby caribou are born at times when there's no longer enough food around, the opportune feeding time already past. Reduction in the caribou population also further changes the hunting cycles and methods of Inuit hunters whose culture is intertwined with ice and animal behavior.

Can anything positive be gleaned from this horrible news?

If anything, it is a heartening sign that scientists have their eyes (and increasingly, the public eye) turned toward changes in the Arctic. Changes in the Inuit population's ability to hunt, as well as a dramatic shift in native culture, is increasingly being viewed as a human rights issue, and a melding of human rights with climate change brings new voices and funds to the issue. And although sea ice minimum has always been measured in September, it is perhaps a small stroke of luck that it coincides with the Senate's debate over the climate bill...we can only hope our senators are paying attention!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Local Community Radio Act

It’s time to stand up for Low Power FM (LPFM) Radio! Tell Congress to pass the Local Community Radio Act (HR 1147/ S. 592). This important bill, which is sponsored by representatives Mike Doyle and Lee Terry and Senators. Maria Cantwell and John McCain, would expand noncommercial, LPFM radio to towns and cities across the country. It would also open our airwaves to more Low Power FM radio stations across the country, and bring a diversity of news, views and music to your radio dial.

If you need a quick refresher on what LPFM is and why it’s important, check out this resource guide from Free Press. You can also check out some great success stories about LPFM Radio Stations here.

Expanding LPFM radio is an issue that has received widespread support from Republicans and Democrats alike (just check out the profiles of the sponsors above if you have any doubt about that). Support for the act will help restore much-needed diversity to our airwaves, bringing forth new voices and viewpoints that are often overlooked by large commercial broadcasters.

Please click here to sign the petition to support the Act. After you’ve signed it, don’t forget to take a second or two to spread the word to your friends and colleagues.

And if you’re interested in this issue, also make sure you read Kirk Johnson’s great article “From a Porch in Montana, Low-Power Radio’s Voice Rises” from this weekend New York Times. It details Scott Johnston or northwest Montana who broadcasts KXZI radio from his 90-year-old farmhouse. If the above act is passed it could double the number of such low-power stations to about 1,600 from 800.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Van Jones Resigns

As most of us have heard by now, this Labor Day weekend brought the resignation of Van Jones, the White House Council on Environmental Quality's Special Adviser for Green Jobs.

Jones, of course, is the charismatic founder of Green For All, an Overbrook grantee, as well as the author of The Green Collar Economy and an inveterate supporter of human rights. Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All since Jones' departure for Washington in March of this year, sent an email to supporters and posted on the organization's web site this weekend. Jones' resignation was the focus of Ellis-Lamkins' post, but she focused less on the defeat and more on the work ahead. The post, titled "Time to Step Up," implores readers to cyber-sign an Internet petition supporting green jobs in a show of new-found commitment and strength after this blow to the green jobs movement.

"In the face of tactics intended to frighten and divide," the petition states, "we must stand together around the core values that unite us." It is not clear to whom the petition will be passed, whether it's for the eyes of senators in Washington or merely an act of solidarity to re-rally the green jobs movement. Only time will tell how significant Jones' resignation is to the success of the green collar economy.

Arianna Huffington's post, "Thank You, Glenn Beck!" takes a slightly less somber, if less polite, tone. Huffington actually thanks Beck for the smear campaign he led against Jones. "To stick him (Jones) behind a desk," she writes, "working out the details of tax credits for green jobs -- incredibly important though the job is -- was never the best use of his unique and abundant skills." According to Huffington, Jones can now go back to speaking his mind and using his abundant oratory skills to inspire the green jobs movement.

Although her tone is irreverent, Huffington gravely warns against an emerging culture of fear and intimidation, in which citizens could become afraid to speak their minds or support unpopular causes. "If the sliming of Van Jones is an indication of how things are going to be," she writes, "a lot of 20-somethings posting to their Facebook pages as we speak better start worrying about the digital crumbs they are leaving behind for the future Glenn Becks of the world."

David Roberts of Grist, also an Overbrook grantee, faults the White House for not properly vetting Jones. He concedes the anti-Jones campaign was a "head hunt," however, launched to discredit the uncensored, candid speech that made people admire Jones in the first place.

Glenn Beck, on the other hand, posts on his Fox News television program's web site that "the American people" were the ones who "stood up and demanded answers" about Jones' past, as though Beck were an innocent conduit of information between Washington and the people. He writes that "the Administration had Jones resign under cover of darkness," which is patently not true. In reality, Jones made the decision to resign himself, stating that a negative media blitz surrounding his past would take away from the Obama administration's message in these crucial days leading up to health care and climate change legislation. You can read Beck's short post on Jones' resignation on his web site; it's the link under "Most Popular Stories," just above "Sarah Palin Bikini Pictures." We can only hope readers differentiate the news-worthiness of the two.

With luck, the coming weeks will bring new statements from Green For All and Van Jones, as well as a new appointee to the Special Adviser for Green Jobs position.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


There’s a great upcoming event we want to tell everyone about. It’s called “Whistle-Blowers: A Conversation with Daniel Ellsberg and John Dean” and it will be held on September 15th from 6:30-8:30.

The event will explore the lessons of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the "war on terror" and determine what these lessons offer about the abuse of power by the executive branch in times of national crisis. Join Daniel Ellsberg, the RAND strategist whose leak of the Pentagon Papers helped bring down the Nixon presidency and end the Vietnam War, and John Dean, White House counsel to Nixon and later a key whistle-blower on the Watergate scandal, for a conversation about the perils—then and now—of presidential overreach and excessive secrecy.

The event, sponsored by the Open Society Institute National Security and Human Rights Campaign, comes on the eve of the U.S. premiere of the feature documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith will present clips from the film. Ann Beeson, executive director for U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute and former associate legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, will moderate the discussion with Ellsberg and Dean.

The event will take place at the New York Society for Ethical CultureConcert Hall, located at 2 West 64th Street (corner of Central Park West). Doors open at 6:00 p.m.

If you can’t make it to the event, don’t worry because on September 16, the new documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America will open at Film Forum in New York City. More information and tickets are available on the Film Forum website.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Defense Against Greenwashing While You Shop

Shopping for the health, society and eco-conscious consumer just got a little easier. A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor profiles Dara O'Rourke, co-founder of GoodGuide, a web site, text service and iPhone application that allows conscious consumers to learn the "back stories" of products on the shelves.

Many of us have had the experience of buying a home or health product, only to find out later that an ingredient is carcinogenic, or the company that produces the product has a lousy recycling record or underpays its employees. Now, consumers can search for their favorite products on GoodGuide, or they can use phone applications to search spur of the moment, while standing in the store.

GoodGuide reviews over 75,000 products, and boils over 600 criteria down to three ratings under the headings of environment, health and society. Consumers can look into details of the category they value most, or they can look at the average score (on a scale of one to ten) that takes all three headings into account.

Best of all, it's easy! Sitting at my desk, I texted "gguide lotion" to 41411, and within seconds received a text from GoodGuide listing the highest rated lotions. A message at the bottom of the text instructed me to reply with a single "I" to receive a list of lotion ingredients to "watch out for." The text was so reassuring, I'm considering adding GoodGuide to my "Five Faves!"

Violence Continues in Mexico

I blogged at the end of July about an increase in violence against Mexican journalists. Not only was the brutal murder of veteran Acapulco-based radio presenter Juan Daniel Martinez Gil disturbing, but the lack of police follow-up to the case left many press freedom defenders extremely frustrated.

Well police authorities are investigating another attack this month, this time about an alleged shooting on August 30th at the home of Guillermo Soto Bejarano, the editor of the regional weekly Nuevo Milenio. Authorities are working under the assumption that the shooting was linked to his journalist activities. But the worst part? This was the second attack on Soto in a short space of time. And according to Reporters Without Borders, The Salina Cruz municipal police, although they arrive a few minutes after the shooting, have done little to hunt down the perpetrators. Reporters Without Borders called the lack of any reaction “incomprehensible.”

Following the shooting and at the advice of the police, Soto and his family moved out of the house as a safety measure. Sadly, neither Soto nor his family but have been given any protection. Soto did report the incident to the federal justice ministry office in the city of Oaxaca which will hopefully carry out an appropriate investigation

Although the specific reason for the attack remains unknown, Soto’s runs a regular column called “Refinando la Noticia” (Refining the News), the subject of which is often the national oil company Pemex. Soto said several other aspects of his journalistic work could have been possible motives for the shooting, but hesitated to go into details out of concern for his safety.

Mexico remains the western hemisphere’s most dangerous country for the media, with 50 journalists killed since 2000. There have been six cases of bombings or shooting attacks on new media offices or homes of journalists since the beginning of 2009. Mexico was ranked 140th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Government and Industry Address the Environment

Two articles in today's press show a growing trend toward environmental awareness in mainstream politics and business.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the EPA may soon officially declare CO2 a "dangerous pollutant," and designate a formal "endangerment finding" for the greenhouse gas. To those of us who have been following the politics and science of climate change, this seems like a no-brainer, and perhaps not much of a step forward. But according to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, greenhouse gases can be regulated if the government declares them a threat to public health and welfare, and that regulation would be enforced by law.

The EPA proposed classifying CO2 and five other greenhouse gases as health-harming pollutants back in April, and the enforcement of that proposal would obligate congress to regulate them under the Clean Air Act, even as ACES lingers in the Senate and takes a back-burner to the debate on health care reform (see my blog post from August 5th, "More Struggles Ahead for ACES.)

Industry, along with government, is beginning to focus on the environmental impact of its decisions. Today's Wall Street Career Journal profiles Nuno da Silva, a "professional pollution calculator" whose business has exploded in the past couple of years despite massive job loss in other sectors. Da Silva's job is to calculate the energy and resources used in the manufacture, use and disposal of products. He makes a "life cycle assessment" by looking at all stages of production, and not just the impact of a single finished product. (See The Story of Stuff for a more thorough description of the full life-cycle of consumer goods.)

Da Silva's work has resulted in some surprising findings. For instance, the plastic soles on New Balance sneakers were found to impact the environment more harshly than the pollution generated from shipping shoes to the U.S. all the way from Asia. As consumers begin to factor the environment into their purchasing decisions, findings like Da Silva's will inspire companies to change their modes of production, shipment and disposal. (See my post from June 9, "Looking at the Life Cycle of Travel," for a description of how life cycle assessments are affecting the travel industry.)