What's Up With the Rainforest: Brazil suspends Amazon dam project targeted by Avatar director

With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day just around the corner, a renewed sense of activism and attention is cast around the present state of our natural environment. What started as a local grassroots effort to increase environmental awareness and provoke action from our political leaders has not only led to significant policy changes, but has also developed into an international celebration of our planet. As we remember what this day first meant, it is important we not only look back on our past with a critical eye, but also look at our world with the hope that is needed to make the future better than today. We, along with our partner Rainforest Alliance, are calling on you to take the action needed to help make that dream a reality. Because as the recent events involving the rainforest show us, we hold the power for both tremendous improvement and colossal destruction.

We start with an update in Brazil, where a recent decision to suspend the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam provides new evidence for an argument we have been highlighting for months, suggesting Hollywood holds a great deal of environmental leadership power. The project cited as a "danger of irreparable harm" to the Amazon rainforest" was suspended after Avatar director, James Cameron, not only vocalized concerns but also visited the indigenous communities who would be impacted by the dam. And in Malaysia, individuals continue to work towards protecting land in Borneo. Recent efforts have been directed at attaining a World Heritage Listing for the Maliau Basin, which would effectively save the isolated and celebrated rain forests from timber and mining interests.

The gains in positive action have also been coupled with reports of controversy and scandal. Palm oil has been a topic of continual scrutiny, and as we've seen, Unilever, the world's biggest buyer of palm oil, has been at the center. Unilever had suspended business with Sinar Mas after reports surfaced that the company is partaking in the illegal destruction of rainforest land. Based on the company's latest decision to purchase palm oil from PT SMART a subdivision of Sinar Mas, Unilever is not only sending mixed messages to its consumers but also has learned little from its past. The EU Ecolabel has come under fire from consumers, environmentalists, and The European Environmental Bureau (EEC) who are all angered byrecent revelations that Golden Plus and Lucky Boss brand copy paper, products which had been awarded with the EU Ecolabel, have actually been adding to "devastating impacts on Sumatran rainforests, causing deforestation, threatening endangered species such as the orangutan, and harming the rights of indigenous peoples".

It is obvious that we have a long way to go in solving our global environmental crisis, but just because it may seem daunting doesn't mean it's impossible. In the words of late anthropologist Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." We encourage you to keep this in mind as you move forward and invite you to join our celebration of Earth Day by visiting us on Facebook.

A political junkies fate

Malaysia is just a crazy place to be a blogger. It's the wild west like none other that I've come across in the world. It's a strange development, where the tight clamp down of all print by the ruling party, but the near total freedom provided by the internet, has allowed for a blogosphere there to align with the oppositional party in a way that's unparalleled.

I bring this up to point out a blogger over there, Raja Petra Kamarudin. He was thrown in jail a while back for blogging something about the Deputy PM being in a murder conspiracy, and then let out before his trial. Before he went to trial, he did one last post. His blog post is titled, Probably my last message to Malaysians.

Now, I will give away the ending (for now), because I want to make this a light-hearted post on the situation. He didn't get sentenced to jail-- where he vowed to hunger strike to death. Instead, you can read in the comments, that his trial got postponed.

But here's the point-- what a true political junkie. In his last post before he vows to die if he's imprisoned, he's out there making electoral projections-- complete with graphs (top that Nate Silver!).

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The Republican Model for Labor in America

No matter what your opinion on the auto bailout, one lasting image of that fight was Mitch McConnell, and his fellow facist neo-con flock "informing" Americans how we are too fat and sassy because we strive to create, and sustain a viable middle-class. Yes, the same group that supports bailing out the bankers, and for outrageous CEO pay that milks the very companies they run were telling us that the real problem were the greedy American workers, who god forbid want fair wages and some kind of benefits for their efforts.

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Tomboy Fatwa.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

The AP is reporting that Malaysia's main body of Islamic clerics has issued an edict today banning tomboys in the Muslim-majority country, ruling that girls who act like boys violate the tenets of Islam.

The National Fatwa Council forbade the practice of girls behaving or dressing like boys during a meeting Thursday in northern Malaysia, said Harussani Idris Zakaria, the mufti of northern Perak state, who attended the gathering.  Harussani said an increasing number of Malaysian girls behave like tomboys, and that some of them engage in homosexuality. Homosexuality is not explicitly banned in Malaysia, but it is effectively illegal under a law that prohibits sex acts "against the order of nature." Harussani said the council's ruling was not legally binding because it has not been passed into law, but that tomboys should be banned because their actions are immoral.

"It doesn't matter if it's a law or not. When it's wrong, it's wrong. It is a sin," Harussani told The Associated Press. "Tomboy (behavior) is forbidden in Islam." Under the edict, girls are forbidden to sport short hair and dress, walk and act like boys, Harussani said. Boys should also not act like girls, he said.  "They must respect God. God created them as boys, they must behave like boys. God created them as girls, they must act like girls," he said.

Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said the ruling was prompted by recent cases of young women behaving like men and indulging in homosexuality, according to the national news agency Bernama. He did not elaborate.  Malaysian media have reported on recent incidents of school bullying among girls, which have been caught on film and circulated on the Internet. In one film, some girls are seen beating up another girl in a bathroom.  A well-known Malaysian Muslim actress caused an uproar last year when she shaved her head bald for a film. Harussani and other muftis urged Muslims not to watch the movie, arguing that the actress had violated Islam by making herself look like a man.  

Muslims make up some 60% of Malaysia's 27 million people, and are subject to Islamic laws and the council's edicts, even if the rulings have not been enshrined in national or Shariah law.  As was noted, it was not immediately clear what kind of punishment awaited those who violate the tomboy edict.

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Mayalsia's Anwar deadline next Tuesday

The big showdown in Malaysia is happening this upcoming week. The opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has been saying for months that he would have the votes to take over power no later than Sept 16th, next Tuesday.

It sounds like he's hedging his bets now:

After discussing with PAS and DAP, the date can be postponed even though our target was Sept 16 previously.

"However, I believe the present Government will find it difficult to quell the uproar...

When I was over there a few months ago, there was much talk about bribes being offered for parliamentary members to switch their alliance to Anwar, away from the ruling party of PM Badawi. The next election isn't for a couple of years, so if Anwar isn't able to meet his deadline, its tough to see how he gains the members otherwise:
The National Front won 140 seats in the 222-member Parliament, losing its two-thirds majority for the first time since 1969.
Anwar won a by-election last month that enabled him to re-enter Parliament and to become prime minister if his alliance takes power.

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