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EDF's Climate Corps mentioned in Financial Times

Environmental Defense Fund's Climate Corps, an Overbrook-funded program, was mentioned in the Financial Times late last week for its innovation and success saving businesses operation costs through energy efficiency measures. The United States lags behind many other countries in its efforts to adopt clean energy, especially in response to the Solyndra scandal and the financial crisis (green tech is often believed to be more expensive than "traditional" energy sources, although hefty health and environmental costs are frequently left out of the equation when calculating those comparisons.)

One program that has emerged as a leading example of how energy efficiency can save businesses significant funds is Climate Corps. Climate Corps is an internship program through EDF that matches business school students with large corporations to identify areas in which those companies can save energy. The appeal for businesses are the financial savings; the appeal for the rest of us is the proof that energy efficiency really works, and the confidence that programs like Climate Corps will push popular U.S. opinion toward a more universal acceptance of clean energy in the United States.

According to the Financial Times article, Climate Corps interns have saved businesses $1 billion in operational costs since the program's inception. In 2011 alone, the savings were $650 million and, most importantly, 440,000 tons of CO2, equivalent to removing 87,000 vehicles from the road.

To read the Financial Times article (Climate Corps is mentioned toward the bottom), click here. Free and fast registration on the Times' site allows a full read of Sarah Murray's article, "Green Technology: Clean Energy Feels the Pinch."

Mr Heck says: “Energy efficiency investments make economic sense and for people who can afford the investment to install them, they’re an even better deal now because they’re saving

Victory for L.A.A.N.E. and a Step Toward a Greener Economy

Back in January 2011, I blogged about Overbrook grantee L.A.A.N.E., the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and the widely-read report that organization released through its Don't Waste L.A. program. The report detailed a litany of problems with the trash hauling system in Los Angeles -- everything from dirty, gas-guzzling trucks to poor working conditions to overlapping, disorganized, carbon-heavy truck routes. Several months later, on its June docket, the Overbrook board considered and agreed to support Don't Waste L.A.

It seems Overbrook's support, along with the efforts of a large coalition of funders, green groups and individual activists, has come to fruition. Yesterday's Daily News reported that the L.A. City Council voted to give private trash haulers in the city a five-year warning: the current "free for all" for city trash haulers will be converted into a private franchise system in which hauling companies will compete for the city's business. Requirements for contracts will include clean vehicles, good, green jobs for employees (including better wages and safer working conditions), more comprehensive, enforceable recycling, and re-tooled collection routes that eliminate overlapping to save on unnecessary emissions. Franchise fees will go back to the sanitation department of the city.

This is a solid victory for LAANE and its coalition partners! And, since one Don't Waste L.A. objective is to implement a program that can be replicated in other large metropolitan areas, the L.A. City Council decision is good news for the entire country.

Human Rights Abuses in Mexico's "War on Drugs"

On November 9, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report describing the rise in human rights abuses in Mexico since President Calderon launched the war on drugs and organized crime five years ago. This new report, called Neither Rights Nor Security Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico's "War on Drugs", follows the surge in violence in five states resulting from the actions of both drug cartels and government actors. HRW reveals that the government's public security policy has led to an increase in human rights violations, rather than accomplishing its intended goal of restoring and guarding public safety.

Based on credible evidence, the authors have identified 170 cases of torture, 39 "disappearances" and 24 extrajudicial killings. Many of these human rights abuses involved security forces and often included attempts to cover up these events rather than launching proper investigations. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch identified an increased scale of human rights abuses. For example, 4,803 complaints of abuses by soldiers against civilians have been filed with the Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission between 2007 and 2010 (up from 691 complaints between 2003 and 2006). Decrying the impunity of these abuses, Human Rights Watch investigates the failure of the government, security forces, prosecutors and medical advisers to challenge these actions. While this report does not ignore the violence stemming from the drug cartel's activities, it strives to show how those who claim to protect Mexican citizens have failed to enforce standards of due process or to investigate many of the abuses perpetrated against their constituents. The report also addresses the failure of Mexico's Human Rights Institutions to effectively help those who have been detained or killed or to support their families and friends, ignoring the suffering and serious consequences of trauma in this population. Additionally, HRW critiques the societal discourse that frames abuses like torture and disappearances as targeting only those who were mixed up in organized crime, when that is not always the case. A shift in this discourse and the efforts to help the families of victims is needed for adequate pressure to be put on government and military forces to stop the abuses.

Click on this link for the press release: http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/11/09/mexico-widespread-rights-abuses-war-drugs.

If you would like to view the full report, you can download it here: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/11/09/neither-rights-nor-security-0.

The 2011 US Human Rights Fund's Human Rights Hero Award

At this week's United States Human Rights Fund Convening in Philadelphia, the Overbrook Foundation CEO and President Stephen Foster presented the Fund's first Human Rights Hero Award to activist, Jessica Lenahan. Ms. Lenahan receives this award to honor her extraordinary work promoting human rights and combating violence against women in the face of deep, personal tragedy.

In 1999, Jessica's estranged husband Simon Gonzales threatened and intimidated Jessica and her children, resulting in a judge's restraining order. Defying this restraining order, Mr. Gonzales kidnapped their three daughters from Ms. Lenahan's home. When Ms. Lenahan repeatedly sought help from the police to enforce the restraining order and subsequently to recover her daughters, they refused to help and even belittled her concerns. Tragically, this kidnapping ended with both the death of Mr. Gonzales during a shooting with the police and the uninvestigated murders of her daughters. Ms. Lenahan filed a lawsuit against the Town of Castle Rock for its unwillingness to protect her and her children despite the judge's restraining order.

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court decided that the police were not required to enforce the restraining order. Undeterred, Ms. Lenahan turned to the human rights community in her efforts to redress the injustice. Ms. Lenahan brought an appeal to the US Supreme Court's decision to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR). On August 17, 2011, this court ruled in favor of Ms. Lenahan, publically condemning the United States for failing to investigate Ms. Lenahan’s complaints, failing to investigate the circumstances of the deaths of her children and failing to hold law enforcement accountable for its responsibility to implement the law. This decision is documented in the IACHR’s press release.

Additionally, this powerful video of Jessica's story in her own words surpasses our ability to recount the speech presented at the Convening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvPtMCrl4J4&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Ms. Lenahan has used this decision to expand advocacy and public education efforts to improve services and legislation to protect women from domestic violence in the US. As a woman of Latina and Native American descent, she views her experiences as a part of a trend of the injustice and the denial of human rights that disproportionately affects women in this country, particularly women from low-income or ethnic or racial minorities. Despite the toll of her personal tragedy, she has become a "voice for the voiceless" in her efforts to protect all women, especially those women from the most vulnerable communities.

The Overbrook Foundation congratulates Jessica Lenahan and applauds her hard work to promote accountability from all levels of the United States government for human rights violations committed under their auspices.

The Overbrook Foundation is pleased to announce a major victory for one of its grantees.  The Innocence Project

GEORGETOWN, Texas — A Texas grocery store employee who spent nearly 25
years in prison in his wife’s beating death walked free Tuesday after DNA tests
showed another man was responsible. His attorneys say prosecutors and
investigators kept evidence from the defense that would have helped acquit him at
trial.
Michael Morton, 57, was convicted on circumstantial evidence and sentenced to
life in prison for the August 1986 killing of his wife, Christine. Morton said he left
her and the couple’s 3-year-old son to head to work early the morning of the
slaying, and maintained through the years that an intruder must have killed her.
Prosecutors had claimed Morton killed his wife in a fit of rage after she wouldn’t
have sex with him following a dinner celebrating his 32nd birthday.
Wearing a simple button-down shirt and a nervous smile, Morton hugged each of
his half-dozen defense attorneys, then hugged his parents after District Judge Sid
Harle said he was a free man.
“You do have my sympathies,” Harle said. “You have my apologies. . . . We do
not have a perfect system of justice, but we have the best system of justice in the
world.”
Addressing reporters moments later, Morton struggled to hold back tears.
“I thank God this wasn’t a capital case. That I only had life because it gave these saints here at the Innocence
Projects time to do this,” he said.
Texas has executed more prisoners than any other state. The New York-based Innocence Project, which
helped Morton secure his release, specializes in using DNA testing to overturn wrongful convictions.
This summer, using techniques that weren’t available during Morton’s 1987 trial, authorities detected
Christine Morton’s DNA on a bloody bandana discovered near the Morton home soon after her death, along
with that of a convicted felon whose name has not been released.
“Colors seem real bright to me now. Women are real good looking,” Morton said with a smile. He then
headed to a celebratory dinner with his family and lawyers.
DNA evidence frees Texas man wrongfully imprisoned for nearly 25 years... http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/dna-evidence-frees-texas-man-...
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The case in Williamson County, north of Austin, will likely raise more questions about the district attorney,
John Bradley, a Gov. Rick Perry appointee whose tenure on the Texas Forensic Science Commission was
controversial. Bradley criticized the commission’s investigation of the case of Cameron Todd Willingham,
who was executed in 2004 after being convicted of arson in the deaths of his three children. Some experts
have since concluded the forensic science in the case was faulty.
Bradley did not try the original case against Morton. But the Innocence Project has accused him of
suppressing evidence that would have helped clear Morton sooner. That evidence — including a transcript of
a police interview indicating that Morton’s son said the attacker was not his father and that his wife’s credit
card and personal checks were used after she was killed — was ultimately obtained through a Texas Public
Information Act request.
Bradley agreed Morton should be freed after the other man’s DNA was tied to a similar slaying in January
1988 — after Morton was already in prison.
Harle signed an agreement Monday recommending that Morton’s conviction be overturned. It was passed on
to the state Court of Criminal Appeals, which will make the final ruling that could make Morton eligible for
state compensation of $80,000 per year he was wrongfully imprisoned — about $2 million total.
Morton is not allowed to leave Texas until the Court of Criminal Appeals rules. Innocence Project co-founder
Barry Sheck said that process usually takes at least a month but could take two or three.
Asked if he ever thought he would be released, Morton said, “I prayed for it, and I had faith it would arise.”
His lawyers said he couldn’t answer more questions about his case because of the pending appeals court
decision, and separate court filings charging police and prosecutorial misconduct.
Morton’s defense attorney, John Raley, said his client was told a few years ago that if he showed remorse for
the crime, he likely would have been paroled.
“I don’t know what I would respond after the system had let me down the way it had and I’d been in prison
23, 24 years,” Raley said. “But this man told them, ‘All I have left is my actual innocence. And if I have to
spend the rest of my life in prison I’m not giving that up.’”
Morton’s release could become an issue for Perry, who is vying for the Republican presidential nomination.
Perry appointed Bradley to the forensic commission in 2009, but the Texas Senate refused to confirm him
after he told reporters Willingham was a “guilty monster.”
A report indicating that the science in the Willingham case might have been flawed was submitted to Perry’s
office as part of the appeals Willingham’s lawyers filed before his execution.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed.
DNA evidence frees Texas man wrongfully imprisoned for nearly 25 years... http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/dna-evidence-frees-texas-man-...

Say No to Keystone XL

There have been some key new developments in the case of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  According to a New York Times article this week, a round of emails is revealing a "warm and collaborative relationship" between lobbyists for TransCanada (the company building the pipeline) and the U.S. State Department.  Back in August, the State Department issued its final environmental report on the proposed pipeline, which could carry 700,000 barrels of oil from Canada to Texas.  The report found the pipeline would have "no significant impact" on the environment.  The Obama administration now appears poised to approve the project by the end of the year.

But critics are hoping the new evidence stops the U.S. government from giving the green light. An editorial published in the New York Times cites concerns which The Overbrook Foundation also shares: "the stripping of the Canadian boreal forest, the further carbon-loading of the atmosphere, and the threat to the Midwest's water supplies."  And the oil wouldn't necessarily be destined for domestic markets.  According to the editorial, six companies "have already contracted for three-quarters of the oil.  Five are foreign, and the business model of the one American company... is geared toward export."

It's for all the reasons that The Overbrook Foundation is supporting 350.org's campaign "Tar Sands Action," to stop the U.S. government's approval of the pipeline.  We're hoping we can continue to get the word out -- say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.