Iraq: sliced up by sects

March 4, 2007

All the troop ‘surges’ Bush can inveigle out of his tired, over-deployed military (and a few fresh recruits) will not put Iraq’s fragments back together, to a semblance of what it was before the American-led war and occupation.  In common parlance, Iraq is SNAFU.

Peter Beaumont in Baghdad
Sunday March 4, 2007
The Observer

Ahmad Hamad al-Tammimi used to live in the village of Quba. Before Iraq descended into sectarian war it was home to around 700 families. The vast majority were Sunnis. Tammimi, spiritual head of Diyala province’s Shias and a follower of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most important religious leader, was the imam at the local mosque. He farmed groves of date palms and oranges close to the Diyala river. That was then. He has not seen his house, his farm or old mosque for close to two years.

It is hard to believe that the situation can actually get worse. But it is, and the war-torn country is being further shattered, sliced apart:

The Shias have left Quba, pushed out of their homes over two years of gradual, deadly ethnic cleansing that is now almost complete. Sectarian deaths are decreasing because there are few people left available to kill.

Both communities have retrenched in areas where they feel they are safe and which they can defend, sometimes with barricades and armed men. It is a process repeated across Iraq in an endless cycle of displacement that the new efforts to end sectarian violence in Baghdad seem to have done little to diminish.

Read full Guardian UK article: Sects slice up Iraq as US troops ‘surge’ misfires

International Women’s Day, March 8th!

March 4, 2007

Protect Women Now!

International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th is an ideal time to celebrate women’s achievements. But it is also a time to examine how far we have to go in eliminating violence against women.

Sadly, widespread and persistent violence against women and girls is still on of the most shameful and inexcusable facts of our time. Ant the reason? Because government and community leaders around the world — including Canada — choose avoidance rather than action. They are like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand!

All too often, government and community leaders tend to ignore or downplay the problem. It’s a domestic issue, they claim. There are no resources to tackle the problem. It’s cultural. There are no laws to prevent it. There is no end to the excuses of government inaction.

This IWD and for the rest of the month of March, as part of our [Amnesty International] year-long Human Rights For All: No Exceptions campaign, we are asking you to hold these governments and leader accountable for their lack of action.

There are four main courses of action leader can take to end the ‘head in the sand’ attitude.


  • See it! Recognize the scope of violence against women and girls and confront its root causes.

These include:

– racial, gender and class discrimination

– poverty, lack of adequate housing and education

– unsafe environments

– community or political instability and conflict.

  • Make it a crime. Violence against women and girls should be illegal, in line with international law and human rights standards.
  • Ensure justice and compensation. The training, policies and practices of the police, justice and health systems must allow women and girls to gain justice and compensation for these crimes.
  • Provide support. Fund agencies, such as shelters and legal aid so that women and girls escaping violence can rebuild their lives.

Amnesty International has identified five key countries where we want to see reforms put in place: Canada, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Guatemala and Albania. There are specific targets for each country, and they can be found on the Amnesty Canada website:

Let’s build pressure for real change!

Here are some of the ways you can tell leaders you want action:

  • Order the special IWD postcard appeals.
  • Participate in a Stop Violence Against Women event on March 8th. Show solidarity with women’s groups that are tackling violence in your community.
  • Sign up at to receive Speak Out, Amnesty’s exciting new campaign e-newsletter.
  • Give an ‘Ostrich Award’ to the government or individual who is failing to act to end violence against women.

** The above text was laboriously typed by me from my paper copy of the most recent Activist, Amnesty International’s bi-monthly newsletter for Canadian members. If you’d like your own copy which is filled with lots of exciting news, events and information, check out their website: (Yes I know that you can find everything on the website, but I still like a paper copy to tuck into my bag and read on the bus, in bed, wherever.)

*** By the way, did Canadians notice that our wonderful country is mentioned alongside countries like Afghanistan??  We need to step up to the mic and let our voices be heard!!  Actions, please!!  Wake up Canada!! ~ annamarie

Caledonia: One Year Later – CBC News Video

March 4, 2007

This is the CBC News clip of Caledonia: One Year Later (a ” town in limbo”, says the CBC’s Neal Koksal)

Declaration to conserve the “Heart of Borneo”

March 4, 2007


An historic declaration to conserve the “Heart of Borneo” has been officially signed between the three Bornean governments – Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia. The tri-country declaration will conserve and sustainably manage one of the most important centres of biological diversity in the world, covering approximately 220,000 square kilometres of equatorial rainforests – almost a third of the island.  Learn more about this momentous announcement.


WWF-Canada’s panda mascot visited Parliament Hill on February 14th to deliver a Valentine’s Day wish on behalf of WWF-Canada and more than 12,000 Canadians – that Parliamentarians put aside their differences and start acting responsibly together to implement solutions to global warming. Bill C-288 was passed and it requires that the government table a plan for meeting Kyoto, submit reports on progress, and impose penalties for non-compliance.  For the latest on WWF-Canada’s work on climate change visit the WWF-Canada blog.

Canada: Rally for Kyoto – help fight Global Warming!

March 4, 2007


On Sunday, March 11, voice your concern about climate change by attending one of the Canadians for Kyoto national rallies. Bring your friends and family and help call for Canada to fulfill its international obligations and take positive action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. WWF-Canada’s Climate Change Manager, Dr. Keith Stewart, will be speaking at the Toronto event at Nathan Phillips Square, taking place between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. For more information go to If there is no rally in your area, register your concern about climate change by visiting

David Suzuki’s ‘notes from a bus’

March 4, 2007

Among all my subscriptions, David Suzuki’s weekly Science Matters column is one of my favourites. I thought I’d share it here so you’ll see why:

Notes from a bus

Exhaustion. Exhilaration. Self-doubt. It seems like I’ve been assailed by these emotions daily on my cross-Canada bus tour. With up to three speaking events a day, along with a constant barrage of media interviews, punctuated by hours of driving on the open road, the emotional peaks and valleys are truly draining. But of this much I am certain: This is a great country.

Looking out across the vast, windblown blanket of snow the Prairies is hypnotic. And yet I can’t help think that in spite of the vastness of this land and the great distances between us, Canadians seem to share a common set values that I have been lucky enough to have experienced first hand.

Canadians, I have learned, have a profound love of our land and our natural spaces. And they want to take care of them for our children and grandchildren. They feel like they are already seeing the early stages of global warming and they are concerned about what it will mean for the future. They want to help, to do their part. And they have an innate sense of fairness – that we should all be doing our share. The passion with which people have expressed their views has been at times overwhelming, but these stories are the very reason why we did this tour.

It started with a seed of an idea. Long before TV, cars or cell phones, entertainers would load a tent and all their regalia on wagons and move from town to town. When their tents went up, people gathered to share ideas as well as music, acrobatics and theatre. Eventually, a permanent site for annual gatherings was established in Chautauqua, New York, and it became a magnet for people wanting to engage in public discourse.

A few years ago, I began to float a modified version of a Chautauqua. Why not take our ideas on the road, I suggested, going to communities to find out their concerns and to talk about emerging global environmental issues? The idea took root in recent months as, over the past year, reports about water shortages, fires, floods, heat waves and hurricanes suddenly showed us that such problems were no longer just happening somewhere else, they were happening at home too.

As the Inuit have been telling us, global warming can no longer be seen as a slow motion catastrophe – they are seeing it happen in the Arctic right now. In addition, Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, had an explosive impact on the public psyche, while books like Tim Flannery’s The Weathermakers and George Montbiot’s Heat ramped up public awareness and concern about climate change.

So we started planning, but we knew we couldn’t just blow through communities – we needed the conversation to carry on after we left. Our hope was to act as a catalyst to conversation, a dialogue about community, provincial, federal and international issues, starting at the local level. We contacted local community groups in cities on our proposed route and asked whether they would partner with us and organize the events to enable us to gather with local people. Those local organizations have been amazing, and critical to the success of the tour.

When we set off from St. John’s, we had no idea what to expect. But the response has been incredible. To date, we have recorded hundreds of video testimonies from people telling us what they would do for the environment if they were Prime Minister. And we have collected thousands of ballots voting for the environment.

Sustained applause and intense discussion during the question and answer sessions indicates to me a hunger for such discourse and a desire for real action from our political leaders. So here we are, nearing the end of the tour, having met with people in dozens of communities across this vast country. It’s an experience that I wish I could share with everyone, because it has changed my life. Next month I celebrate my 71st year filled with a new hope and optimism for the people of this country.

Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at