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Freeing Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee Is AlterNet's Top Take Action Campaign of the Week

Call on the North Korean government to release the two American journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.

Two American journalists reporting from the China/North Korea border have been sentenced to 12 years in a labor prison for what North Korean authorities called a "grave crime they committed against the Korean nation."

Laura Ling and Euna Lee were working for California-based Current TV when they were arrested March 17 for an illegal border crossing. Earlier reports that indicated they were being tried for espionage were false, the New York Times has reported. The sentence, handed down by a North Korean court June 8, has drawn much criticism from the United States.

"We are deeply concerned by the reported sentencing of the two American citizen journalists by North Korean authorities, and we are engaged through all possible channels to secure their release," Ian Kelly, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said in a statement. "We once again urge North Korea to grant the immediate release of the two American citizen journalists on humanitarian grounds."

The Obama administration has condemned the sentencing, affirming that it will pursue "all possible channels to secure [the women's] release."

The legal process surrounding the sentencing was a flagrant violation of due process, Amnesty International has said. "No access to lawyers, no due process, no transparency: the North Korean judicial and penal systems are more instruments of suppression than of justice," said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific deputy director.

There has been talk of sending a special envoy to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to negotiate with Korean authorities. At the top of the list of potential candidates is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has maintained contacts in North Korea since his days in the Clinton administration. Richardson, who likened the situation to a "high-stakes poker game," expressed hope that meaningful negotiations could take place.

"In previous instances where I was involved in negotiating, you could not get this started until the legal process had ended," he said on the Today show. The United States could try to seek a kind of "political pardon, some sort of respite from political proceedings," he said.

In addition to accomplished journalists, Ling and Lee are sisters, friends, mothers and daughters to many. Their sentence is outrageous and should not be tolerated. Join thousands of others who have signed a petition urging North Korea to release them.

Here's the rest of our Take Action campaigns for this week:

II -- Save California's State Parks

On July 1, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to slice the state parks budget in half. Then, in 12 months, he's looking to eliminate funding for state parks altogether. This means that 220 state parks will shut down -- 80 percent of California's entire system.

The economic consequences of this move will be dire. In addition to sucking much-needed tourism revenue from local businesses, the decision will lay off thousands of state park employees, many of whom have put in years of service.

Join the Sierra Club in stopping this outrageous move. Tell the governor and state legislators you want to keep the parks open.

III -- End the B.S. on Abstinence-Only Education

Congressional studies have shown that abstinence-only education is failing generation after generation of our country's children. Yet millions of federal dollars continue to pour into these programs.

Additionally, "crisis pregnancy centers," which make false claims about offering abortion services, continue to lure in scared young women under the pretense of counseling. These fake clinics make false claims about the dangers of abortion, withhold facts and pressure women to carry out unwanted pregnancies.

It's time to be sensible about birth-control options. Tell congressional leaders that they need to stop throwing our money away on misleading and dangerous policies.