Last month marked the fourth anniversary of the earthquake that struck southern Haiti, killing over 100,000 good Haitians and displacing perhaps a million more, while also destroying or severely damaging almost 300,000 Haitian buildings. Now only half of the rubble has been cleared, and nearly 300,000 Haitians still live in temporary camps -- and nearly half of these camps do not even enjoy basic health services. Worse than all of that? Relief efforts have spent over five dollars on temporary housing for every dollar they've spent on permanent housing; I understand the importance of triage, and I know Haiti was none too prosperous to begin with, but this is four years later, and we can do better than that. Hence Action Aid USA helps you tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to introduce the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act. It doesn't sound like much, but these assessments can shine enough light to get things moving, and Mr. Reid doesn't have to worry about whether the House will pass this bill -- it already has. Mr. Reid's proven to have some clout on the Hill -- his refusal to move "free" trade fast-track has, at the very least, saved us from the TPP for a few more months -- and he ought to use his clout here.
Meanwhile, Jamie Principado of Littleton, CO has begun a petition on change.org that helps you urge the House of Representatives to pass HR 3505, the TEACH Act, which would help disabled students gain equal access to educational materials. Mr. Principado attended Florida State University with the goal of becoming a teacher of blind students like himself, but discovered that FSU's online classes didn't mesh with his screen reader very well, and then FSU's administration didn't try to resolve his issues, instead telling him that he try an "easier" major, which every motivated student loves hearing from people who think they're too busy to help anyone. The TEACH Act (the acronym's not too bad) would enhance federal laws so that they do not merely hand out "accessible" materials, but ensure that those materials really are accessible by the technologies disabled students use; the bill creates no new mandates, but merely makes the mandates that already exist work more efficiently. HR 3505's main sponsor is Republican Thomas Petri of Wisconsin; other co-sponsors include Democrat Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Republican Jon Runyan of New Jersey. What's the House waiting for? Our input, I suppose.
Finally, the Grocery Manufacturer's Association of America has been pushing for a weak, voluntary genetically-modified food labeling law, one that a) might lull large segments of the population into thinking that big food corporations actually care about food labeling, b) would hamstring the FDA's ability to regulate genetically-modified foods, and c) would let corporations label their Frankenfoods as "natural." We need not get debate whether going-against-nature-is-part-of-nature-too to understand that GMO foods are not necessarily safe just because the people making gazillions of dollars from them say they're safe. Of course, the GMA (not to be confused with GMOs) has also threatened to sue any state that dares pass a GMO-labeling law; we've discussed the legal implications of such efforts in the second paragraph here. (Spoiler alert: GMO labeling laws are not unconstitutional, though big food's corporate lawyers have BS'd their case in a way I might admire if I were not more spiritually advanced.) So the Organic Consumers Association helps you tell the FDA to reject any plans they might have to issue weak, voluntary GMO-labeling laws. Because, very often, corporations need to be made to do the right thing.