Today is Human Rights Day, an annual celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year’s theme is "Stand up for someone’s rights today!“

The UN’s suggestions couldn’t be more fitting

Inform yourself and others about why human rights matter:

–Read and share the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
–Record the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in your native language and contribute to a collection of audio recordings to make the document more accessible.
–Make and disseminate a video of yourself with a friend talking about why you believe human rights matter (e.g. non-discrimination, gender equality or freedom of expression).
–Promote stories on your social media about people that you know have stood up for rights.

Speak out/up when another’s rights are at risk or under attack:

–If you see someone being harassed, bullied or ridiculed on the street, on public transportation, while shopping or at school, stand with them.
–Use social media to stand with people who are facing reprisals for defending human rights e.g. activists, indigenous leaders, environmentalists, lawyers, trade unionists, journalists, etc.
–At work, in school, around the dinner table, help someone whose voice is rarely heard to share their views.

Stand with others’ human rights:

–Donate to organizations that support victims of human rights abuses.
–Join public events in support of human rights - online and/or in the street.
–Volunteer with a group that promotes human rights defenders.

Call on leaders to uphold human rights:

–Lobby your government to uphold rights: sign related petitions; lobby your legislators to pass human-rights friendly laws and to repeal unfriendly ones.
–Urge your employer to sign up to the UN Global Compact and adhere to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; promote celebration of human rights in the work place (e.g. non discrimination, family friendly policies, decent working conditions, equal pay for equal work).
–Urge your community’s leaders (e.g. religious, local, sporting, cultural leaders) to make public commitments to human rights.

In everyday life action:

–Combat myths with facts: in online and daily conversations, challenge harmful stereotypes.
–Speak up for tolerance and against prejudice. Keep yourself in check, challenge your own views and prejudices.
–Consider the human rights track record of companies before doing your shopping.
–Talk to your children about human rights and point out positive and diverse role models.

Now more than ever. Now more than ever. 

That dismissal of romance as a genre is a political act. It’s about dismissing women, their sexuality, and their relationship expectations (especially those involving men). By tarring romance as inconsequential, as trash, women are denied a prime avenue for exploring themselves and their world. Meanwhile, male-focused stories about love and sexuality are heralded as literary fiction, no matter how navel-gazing or masturbatory. If that’s not political, what is?
U.S. Congress passes ‘preclearance’ bill, expanding it to train travel
The long-awaited Trudeau-Obama bill that speeds up travel through the Canada-U.S. border will soon become law.

A bill with potentially sweeping consequences for the Canada-U. S. border has just been adopted by the American Congress, allowing new projects aimed at speeding up travel through the international boundary.

The so-called preclearance bill has now been adopted by both U.S. legislative chambers after being passed by the Senate early Saturday and is now expected to become law with President Barack Obama’s signature.


The projects will establish U.S. customs offices on the Canadian side of the border allowing travellers, in theory, to get screened more quickly, zip through the actual border, and ease the logjams that slow travel and commerce.

It’s part of broader efforts to speed up movement, slowed by security measures after the 9-11 attacks, without sacrificing safety.

Preclearance will feel familiar to many Canadians.

That’s because 12 million passengers already use it each year at Canadian airports, eight of which have U.S. customs facilities. The latest Trudeau-Obama deal extended that to two more airports: Toronto’s Billy Bishop and Quebec City’s Jean Lesage.

The more significant change is that the new agreements allow the system to be extended to every mode of transportation: first trains, then buses, and potentially someday even car travel, might involve clearing the border early.

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Obama’s final speech to US troops slammed Trump without ever mentioning his name

Late on Tuesday afternoon, President Obama flew down to Tampa Bay, Florida, to speak at MacDill Air Force Base in what would be his final address to a uniformed military audience as their commander in chief. The speech was billed as an address on his counterterrorism legacy — and for the most part, it was. Much of the speech was dedicated to lengthy defenses of Obama’s approach to fighting ISIS (persuasive) and his 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan (less so).

But the part where Obama’s speech really came alive was the very end. That’s because Obama’s closing passage was a stirring defense of American values — and an unmistakable repudiation of his successor’s vision for the country.

Now, Obama never actually mentioned Donald Trump by name, in keeping with his general approach of publicly wishing Trump the best of luck. But in his closing remarks, Obama laid out a description of several core American values — religious freedom, free speech, an international order based on rules and law — that directly contrast with Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti–free press, pro–stealing Iraq’s oil vision for America.

“Let my final words to you, as your commander in chief, be a reminder of what it is that you’re fighting for — what it is that we are fighting for,” Obama told the assembled service members. And then he let Trump have it:

The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom.

We’re a country that was founded so that people could practice their faiths as they choose. The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny, or carry a special ID card, or prove that they’re not an enemy from within. We’re a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of arbitrary rule — here in our own country and around the world.

We’re a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted, and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it. The universal right to speak your mind, in protest of authority. To live in a country that’s open and free — that can criticize our president without retribution. A country where you’re judged by the content of your character, rather than what you look like or what you worship or what your last name is or where your family came from. That’s what separates us from tyrants and terrorists.

We are a nation that stands for the rule of law and strength in the law of war. When the Nazis were defeated, we put them on trial. Some couldn’t understand that; it had never happened before. But as one of the American lawyers who was at Nuremberg says, “I was trying to prove that the rule of law should govern human behavior.” And by doing so, we broadened the scope and reach of justice around the world. Held ourselves out as a beacon and an example for others.

We are a nation that won world wars without grabbing the resources of those we defeated; we helped them rebuild. We didn’t hold on to territory, other than the cemeteries where we buried our dead. Our greatest generation fought and bled and died to build an international order of laws and institutions that could preserve the peace, extend prosperity, and promote cooperation among nations. And for all of its imperfections, we depend on that international order to defend our freedom.

In other words, we are a nation that at our best has been defined by hope and not fear. A country that went through the crucible of a civil war to offer a new birth of freedom. That stormed the beaches of Normandy, climbed the beaches of Iwo Jima, that saw ordinary people mobilize to extend the meaning of civil rights. That’s who we are; that’s what makes us stronger than any act of terror.

Remember that history. Remember what that flag stands for. For we depend on you — the heirs to that legacy, our men and women in uniform and the citizens who support you. To carry forward what is best in us, that commitment to a common creed. The confidence that right makes might, not the other way around.

That’s how we can sustain this long struggle. That’s how we’ll protect our country. That’s how we’ll protect our constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic.

I trust that you will fulfill that mission, as you have fulfilled all others. It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your commander in chief; I thank you for all that you have done and all you will do in the future. May God bless you, may God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

Art is a language which anneals individuals to each other through experiences that are uniquely human, that demand connection at the level of making meaning. If we lose our ability to make meaning — that is, to interpret, to find form in the raw materials of life — then we stand in danger of having meaning made for us, a rupture between what is said and what is done, between false intentions and disastrous consequences.
—  From poet Ann Lauterbach, an absolutely beautiful, immensely insightful read on why we make art and how it makes us, particularly timely at this moment in culture. 
Ex-CIA operative: We may need a new vote - CNN Video
Former CIA Operative Robert Baer says if the CIA can prove that Russia interfered with the 2016 election then the US should vote again.

Former CIA Operative Robert Baer says if the CIA can prove that Russia interfered with the 2016 election then the US should vote again.

Make no mistake, as he says we need to see the forensics and we need to see it fast. It’s highly probable they would confirm what we’ve been told, and that means NEW VOTE and Trump and McConnell should be indicted for treason, too.

Samantha Bee

One of my favorite things about [the Brexit piece] is that we had David Tennant reading Scottish tweets about Donald Trump. Here’s our text conversation [of how that came about]. We had been writing jokes about Sam doing accents terribly, so I texted her to ask: “How’s your Scottish accent?” And she wrote back, “About as good as my Australian accent.” I said, “Maybe we can get Patrick Stewart to do it,” and her answer was, “My agent reps David Tennant. Hold on.” In an hour, we were emailing David Tennant! [Laughs] He was on his way to the Broadchurch set and pulled over to the side of the road to shoot the video with his phone. That’s how our show gets made in a nutshell!

Review of 9,000 Studies Finds We Know Squat About Bitumen Spills in Ocean Environments
“Any new approvals of pipelines or transportation proposals are assuming a large amount of risk…The decision last week was troubling because of this knowledge gap.”

Nobody knows how a spill of diluted bitumen would affect marine life or whether a bitumen spill in salt water could be adequately cleaned up, because basic research is lacking, says a new study.

The peer-reviewed paper, which will be published later this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, looked at more than 9,000 studies of the effect of oilsands products on the marine environment.

The paper is under embargo until Dec. 20, but the authors, from universities in Canada and the U.S., shared their findings with the federal government in hopes that the conclusions would be considered prior to pipeline decisions, said Wendy Palen, associate professor in the department of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University and one of the authors.

“As scientists, we feel a responsibility to speak out about the state of the science, especially with a government that has pledged to be evidence-based,” said Palen, who agreed to discuss general conclusions of the study with DeSmog Canada in advance of the embargo being lifted because of the government’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s $6.8-billion pipeline expansion.

The project will see capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline, from the Alberta oilsands to Burnaby, triple to 890,000 barrels of diluted bitumen a day from 300,000 barrels daily. It will also mean tanker traffic from the Burnaby terminal will increase to 34 tankers a month from about five a month.

Those super-tankers, carrying diluted bitumen, will travel through the Strait of Georgia, around the Gulf Islands and southern Vancouver Island then through Juan de Fuca Strait on their way to foreign markets.

Pipeline opponents fear that a catastrophic oil spill is inevitable, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists the government’s decision was based on science and that the project would have been rejected if he believed there was any threat to the B.C. coast.

However, the study found that there are large unexamined risks to the marine environment from bitumen and claims that a spill can be effectively mitigated are unfounded because there have been no ocean-based studies of how bitumen behaves in the marine environment with rough seas and changing temperatures, Palen said.

“That means that the approval of new projects is problematic, maybe even bordering on irresponsible,” she said.

“Any new approvals of pipelines or transportation proposals are assuming a large amount of risk…The decision last week was troubling because of this knowledge gap.”

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