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‘Just Say Nyet’ Campaign Aims To Get Congress To Ban Seafood From Russia

By Marianne Levine, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — U.S. economic sanctions against Russia over Ukraine may wind up helping the Alaskan fishing industry.

At least that’s the hope of those promoting “Just Say Nyet,” a petition intended to get Congress to ban Russian seafood imports.

Organizers cite Russia’s possible involvement in the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine on July 17, and Russian support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war as reasons to boycott Russian seafood.

The Just Say Nyet website features a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a giant pike. Kremlin aides have said he caught the freshwater fish in a lake in Siberia, not the Gulf of Alaska.

The Obama administration and the European Union have added sanctions against Moscow for its interference in Ukraine, imposing four rounds of travel bans and asset freezes since March against individuals, banks, oil companies, arms suppliers, and other institutions. Fish have yet to make the list.

The U.S. imported $327 million worth of fish, crab, and other seafood from Russia in 2013, less than 2 percent of total U.S. fishery imports, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It just seemed so logical that we ought to do this ‘Nyet to Putin’ kind of thing and try to hit the (Russian) fishing industry not only to hurt them, but to also help our fisheries,” said George J. Hochbrueckner, a former Democratic member of Congress from New York, who is the campaign spokesman.

The website asks consumers to contact U.S. fish processing and frozen food companies to say they will purchase only U.S. fish.

At least one company on the list, SeaPak Shrimp and Seafood Co., says it’s a mistake. Dwight Gram, a spokesman for SeaPak and its parent company, Rich Products, a privately held, multinational food products corporation based in Buffalo, N.Y., said neither SeaPak nor Rich imported fish from Russia.

Gram said Rich’s corporate office had asked Hochbrueckner to remove its name from the website.

The campaign is the latest of several proposed anti-Russia boycotts that have sprung up since the crisis in Ukraine erupted in the spring. They are hampered by the relative paucity of U.S. trade with Russia.

Critics have urged consumers to boycott Lukoil, the Russian oil giant that operates more than 500 gas stations in the northeast United States. Protests were staged in the spring in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Some critics also have urged viewers to boycott RT, a Moscow English-language channel that the State Department has called a propaganda outlet for the Russian government. Few Americans watch it anyway.

Photo: wobbitz via Flickr

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Minorities Aren’t Well Represented In Environmental Groups, Study Says

By Marianne LeVine, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Minorities and people of color have not managed to break the “green ceiling” inside environmental organizations, and remain underrepresented on their staffs, according to a report released Monday.

The report found that while people of color make up about 38 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 12 percent to 15.5 percent of the staffs of environmentally focused foundations, nonprofits and government agencies.

None of the largest environmental organizations has a person of color as president, vice president or assistant/associate director, according to the study, which was conducted by University of Michigan professor Dorceta Taylor and commissioned by Green 2.0, a working group focused on addressing diversity challenges in the environmental movement.

“The numbers don’t lie,” Taylor said. “Even more troubling, although most of the survey respondents expressed an interest in bridging this diversity gap, they admit their organizations are unlikely to take the necessary steps to do so.”

Environmental organizations surveyed attributed the lack of staff diversity to a shortage of open positions and qualified applicants.

The study found minority and low-income communities are more likely to support increased funding for environmental initiatives.

“When you survey African-American and Hispanic communities, they are more likely to say, ‘Spend money on environmental issues,'” Taylor said. “From a political perspective, it makes sense for environmental groups to engage low-income communities because a lot of political support sits in those communities.”

Minorities also remain disproportionately affected by health issues related to environmental pollution. According to the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African-Americans were 20 percent more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic whites in 2011. Hispanics were 30 percent more likely to visit the hospital for asthma, compared with non-Hispanic whites.

“It’s an aggressive public health issue,” said Mark Magana, founder and principal of the Hispanic Strategy Group, a consulting firm. “I think the green groups need to utilize our community to get the word out.”

In response to the study, environmental group leaders acknowledged their organizations need to do more to increase diversity.

“We believe this report is critically needed and very timely,” said Trip Van Noppen in a statement. Van Noppen is president of Earthjustice, a public interest legal organization focused on environmental issues.

“Our movement, and indeed our own organization, have a serious problem in that we don’t yet reflect the rich diversity of our nation, or even the diversity of groups we represent in our work to protect the environment for all people,” he said.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Obama Signs Order Banning LGBT Discrimination By Federal Contractors

By Marianne LeVine, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed an executive order Monday barring federal contractors from discriminating against gay employees and prohibiting discrimination against federal workers who identify as transgender.

“In too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender can still be a fireable offense,” Obama said. “I firmly believe it’s time to address this injustice for every American.”

Obama’s two-part directive will amend an existing executive order that was issued by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 preventing federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The new order will add sexual orientation and gender identity to this list.

The directive also amends another existing executive order, issued by President Nixon in 1969, by adding gender identity to a list of categories protected against federal workplace discrimination. President Bill Clinton added sexual orientation to this list in 1998.

Last Friday, senior administration officials said that the executive order would affect 24,000 companies.

Obama also called for pressure on members of Congress to implement federal legislation barring workplace discrimination against all gay and transgender employees.

“Congress has spent four decades, 40 years, considering legislation that would help solve the problem,” he said. “And yet they still haven’t gotten it done.”

The president received praise from members of Congress and human rights groups for the new orders.

“Today’s executive order signing is another big step toward equality for the LGBT community,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), a supporter of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would bar all workplace discrimination against LGBT employees.

“Now, all federal workers will be judged on whether or not they do their job and not on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” she said in a statement.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT civil rights group, described the orders as “unprecedented and historic” and asked that the House vote on ENDA, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support last November.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

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