Help Fire Tom DeLay

This morning, the Washington Post and the New York Times each broke new scandals involving Republican Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay.  According to the Times, DeLay paid his wife and daughter more than $500,000 of his political donors’ money over the last four years.  And the Post article highlights a seedy 1997 trip DeLay took, underwritten by “a mysterious company located in the Bahamas” that was tied to Russian business interests.

And that’s not the only legal or ethical scandal DeLay is involved in.  DeLay illegally used corporate funds in support of his plan to re-district Texas, and he went on golf trips with gambling lobbyist Jack Abramoff–two months before DeLay helped kill legislation opposed by the gambling companies.
DeLay’s grandstanding on the Terri Schiavo tragedy–which a great majority of the country feels is political opportunism–was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Now, some Republicans in Congress are speaking out against DeLay, but most are still too scared of his powerful network of corporate donors.  We need to show all of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, that if they stand up to Tom DeLay we’ve got their back.

It is time to fire Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader.  Please sign our petition urging Congress to remove DeLay from his leader post at the link below.

Oppose the “Nuclear Option”

Nuclear winter could come as early as this spring if Republicans follow through on their threats to launch the nuclear option.  Republicans angered that Senate Democrats have rejected 10 of the President’s 214 judicial nominees and desiring absolute power want to end a 200 year-old Senate right to engage in unlimited debate.

They want to go “nuclear” and turn the Senate into a rubber stamp for President Bush.  They want to silence Senate Democrats – the one remaining check on President Bush’s power.  If they can do away with debate in the Senate, they can get whatever they want – right-wing Supreme Court Justices, Social Security privatization and tax breaks for the wealthy that will plunge us deeper in debt.

But Senate Democrats are going to fight them every step of the way.  And this fight will be different than any other fight in the history of the Senate – because it will include you.  Imagine all of us standing together in the Senate Chamber during this debate.  YOU can make it happen.

Stand with Senate Democrats against this Republican abuse of power:

Toxic Selenium Needs Strong Protections

Last year, the EPA proposed weakening existing Clean Water Act protections for selenium.  Selenium is a toxin that, in high doses, is known to cause severe reproductive impairment in fish, birds, and other wildlife.  The new proposal means that polluters could dump more selenium into our waters.  There is strong evidence that the proposed selenium criterion was developed with flawed science.  In addition, the proposal has drawn criticism from wildlife scientists who believe that the number chosen will not be protective of fish or wildlife.

Tell the EPA not to weaken our protections from toxic selenium.

Put Science First at the FDA

Next week an FDA Advisory Committee will once again consider approval of silicone breast implants for general use.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denied the breast implant manufacturers’ applications in 2004 because they failed to provide important safety evidence, including more information about breakage and the long-term health risks of leaking silicone into the human body.  As long as there still is no adequate proof that silicone implants are safe for long-term use, the manufacturers’ applications must again be denied to protect women’s health.

But the breast implant makers are relentless and the FDA may cave in this time.

In early March, breast implant makers distributed a memo through FDA staff with the clear intention of persuading senior FDA officials, including Acting Commissioner Lester Crawford, to approve breast implants for general use.  Not surprisingly, the industry memo distorts the facts in the name of promoting women’s “choice.”


What we do know about Silicone implants:

    Mammograms will miss about 67% more breast cancer tumors in women who have silicone breast implants than in women without, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association article.

    All implants will rupture eventually and have to be removed or replaced, most within 10 to 12 years.

    Women who have silicone breast implants for at least seven years are twice as likely to die from brain cancer, three times as likely to die from lung cancer, and four times as likely to commit suicide compared to other plastic surgery patients, according to the National Cancer Institute.


MAKE SURE THAT THE FDA IS GUIDED BY SCIENCE, NOT POLITICS.  Millions of women depend on the FDA’s approval as an accurate and reliable standard of safety.  For the public, the FDA stamp of approval implies that there is no danger.  Without long-term research on these new implants it is not possible to draw such a conclusion.


Ask the President to Sign a Verifiable Treaty Banning the Production of Bomb-Grade Materials

President Reagan always said, “Trust but verify.”  This is good advice for the Bush administration.

In July 2004, the Bush administration announced that it will now support a treaty to end the production of fissile materials – plutonium and highly enriched uranium – that are fundamental ingredients for all nuclear weapons.  While the change in position is welcome, unfortunately, the Bush administration also stated that it will not support a verifiable Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty (FMCT).  By not supporting a way to verify whether or not states are abiding by the treaty, the Bush administration is essentially defeating the purpose of the treaty – a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices that would effectively put a limit on the size of nuclear arsenals.

In order to further strengthen the non-proliferation regime, a verifiable ban on the production of fissile materials must be negotiated and enforced.  The FMCT is an essential tool to keep nuclear materials off the black market and out of the hands of terrorists.  It would also ensure that no country secretly produces bomb-grade uranium and plutonium for weapons by requiring all states, including the nuclear weapons states, to open up their nuclear facilities to international inspections and dispose of the fissile materials from dismantled nuclear weapons under international safeguards.  The negotiation of a verifiable FMCT would make reductions in nuclear arsenals more transparent, accountable and irreversible.

The five declared nuclear-weapon states – China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US – have all said they are no longer producing fissile material for weapons.  On the other hand, India and Pakistan have active production programs for both HEU and plutonium, and it is likely that their stocks of weapon-grade material are increasing.  It is not clear whether Israel is continuing to produce fissile material for weapons purposes.  Under the guise of civilian nuclear energy research, other states, including Iran, have built facilities capable of producing fissile material for weapons.

In the final document of the 2000 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), all of the state parties to the treaty, including the US, agreed to completing a verifiable FMCT in five years.

Ask President Bush to support a verifiable Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).

Take Action Against Heterosexism in Jamaica

Take action to protect LGBT people in Jamaica.  Call for a debate on the repeal of sodomy laws, and for legal reform to protect LGBT people from violence and discrimination.  LGBT people have been subject to vigilante action by members of the community and ill-treatment or torture by police.  This occurs in a climate where popular Jamaican singing artists commonly urge their audiences to kill gay men.

Defend Hope: Protect Refugees Fleeing Persecution

The United States’ long-standing history as a beacon of hope to people around the world fleeing political, religious and other forms of persecution is under assault in Congress.

The bill, known as the REAL ID Act, will make it much harder for refugees to prove that they qualify for asylum and remove safeguards that protect refugees from being sent back into the arms of their persecutors.

Under the bill, insignificant inaccuracies – like a woman’s failure to recall her date of high school graduation – could be used to deny her asylum, even though she has fled from horrendous persecution like genocide, rape, forced abortion, severe domestic violence, or the threat of honor killing.

Urge your Senators to preserve our nation’s commitment to protecting refugees:  Ask them to stop the REAL ID Act.

Break the Silence on Darfur!

This week is the 11th anniversary of the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda.  Eleven years ago today, April 6th, 1994, Presidents Habyarimana of Rwanda and Ntaryamira of Burundi were killed when their plane was shot out of the air.  This action crippled the emerging peace between the Hutu government and Tutsi rebels in Rwanda and sparked what became the fastest and most efficient killing spree in the 20th century.  The world watched, virtually silent, as 800,000 Tutsi and Hutu supporters were killed in 100 days.

Today, there is another ongoing genocide in Darfur that has claimed up to 400,000 lives.  We now ask you to raise your voices in defense of the people in Darfur who are victims in the on-going government-sponsored genocide in Western Sudan.  Please consider sending a letter to the editors of your local papers drawing attention to the crisis in Darfur.

It has been almost seven months since the Bush administration declared the crisis in Darfur to be genocide, yet since that time, the U.S. has failed to take the necessary action to stop the genocide.  While the United States has supported targeted individual sanctions and allowed a UN resolution to pass (with a U.S. abstention) that calls for those accused of crimes against humanity in Sudan to be tried in the International Criminal Court (ICC), what is urgently needed is a multinational humanitarian intervention with a mandate to protect civilians.  The U.S. has done nothing in the UN or other arenas to support or propose an urgently needed intervention in support of the African Union.

The African Union (AU) only has 2,000 troops on the ground in Darfur, a region the size of France.  The AU troops are also restricted by a mandate that allows them to mostly observe the escalating genocidal violence but not to intervene to protect civilians.  If we are to have any hope of stopping the violence and protecting the people in Darfur, we must act on the urgent need for more troops on the ground with a stronger mandate.

When remembering Rwanda, U.S. officials claim that one of the reasons that the U.S. did not intervene was that they were not hearing Americans calling for action on the genocide.  We cannot allow for President Bush to use that excuse for inaction.  One of the most powerful ways to send a message to President Bush and the leadership at the United Nations is through the media.

We expect articles to appear over the next couple of days about the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.  Please take a moment to send a letter to the editor calling for an immediate multinational humanitarian intervention in Darfur in support of the African Union.

Make a Difference for America’s Wildlife

Many of our nation’s wildlife species are in trouble.  The number of species on the federal Threatened and Endangered Species list has doubled in the last ten years, with over 1000 species listed and many more in the pipeline.  We must do more to address problems early on to prevent species from becoming endangered in the first place.

The State Wildlife Grants program is the nation’s core program for preventing wildlife from becoming endangered in every state.  The program leverages federal funds to assist state fish and wildlife agencies in conserving wildlife and habitat.

Please urge your members of Congress support the State Wildlife Grants program.

Bill J. Benefiel Jr.

The state of Indiana is scheduled to execute Bill J. Benefiel, Jr., a white man, April 21, 2005 for the Feb. 7, 1987 murder of Delores Wells, 18, of Vigo County.  Wells was kept in Benefiel’s home for several days.  She was sexually abused and tortured before Benefiel killed her.  Benefiel also kept another victim in his home who survived and testified against him.

Court-appointed experts testified during the guilt phase of the trial that Benefiel suffered from schizophrenic personality disorder, and from a mental disease or defect.  As a baby, Benefiel’s birth mother gave him to an unfit mother in exchange for having a place to live.  Benefiel endured a traumatic childhood including abandonment and sexual abuse by his adoptive mother’s boyfriend.  During trial, Benefiel was reluctant to disclose the details of abuse he suffered and also reluctant to discuss the crimes he had committed.

He suffered an emotional breakdown during the trial, refusing to go back into the courtroom after a recess.  The trial court, however, ruled that Benefiel was not mentally ill due to the fact that he “showed the ability to monitor police, commit numerous burglaries, conceal and destroy evidence, and his manner of carrying out various crimes.”  In 1991, the Supreme Court of Indiana stated that Benefiel’s “impairment suffered as a result of mental disease is entitled to substantial mitigating weight.”  However, the court maintained that this mental illness issue as mitigation was diminished because Benefiel exhibited both periods of non-violent behavior and control and because of the way in which the crimes were carried out.

There is strong evidence to support the argument that Benefiel suffers from mental illness.  The execution of persons with mental illness is a clear violation of international human rights standards as violating the 1964 and 1989 U.N. Economic and Social Council Resolution and the U.N. Human Rights Commission Resolution.

Please take a moment to write the state of Indiana protesting the execution of Bill Benefiel.  This cycle of violence must not be further perpetuated by the state.

These and over 375 other action alerts are archived at

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