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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

Why maternal health and mortality matters

The issue could be losing out to other global health concerns, but advocates insist it should be a top priority.

BOSTON – The world could be a lot less safe for mothers after 2015. As the deadline for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, advocates for maternal health say the issue is in danger of fading in future models of sustainability.

“There’s a real concern that the more targeted, focused goals [for maternal health] will be absorbed into broader objectives, and that they will then disappear,” said Martha Murdock, vice president for regional programs at Family Care International (FCI), a New York-based nonprofit that works for safer pregnancy and childbirth worldwide.

That concern set the tone for an Oct. 7 strategy meeting and later a panel webcast of women’s and maternal health advocates, researchers and implementers at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University in Boston.

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Investigating hate crimes is a top FBI priority, but local police often ignore them

Commentary: A look at hate and its relationship with terror.

NEW PALZ, New York — Recently, I found a very disturbing message on my car. Just above several bumper stickers praising President Barack Obama, someone had inked, “I love niggers.”

The car was parked in my boyfriend’s driveway in East Fishkill. He had seen the message in black marker as he was about to leave for work and asked me to come outside. “I called the cops,” he said. “It’s a hate crime.”

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‘Women2Women’ is empowering young female leaders to help build global peace

Commentary: Empower Peace brings girls from the Middle East and Arab World to Boston for dialogue and mentorship.

BOSTON — We are living in a dangerous reality. It’s a reality where terrorists are holding hostage Islam, a religion that, at its core, is peaceful, compassionate and tolerant.

Since Sept. 11, 2001 and continuing with the most recent executions of journalists, including James Foley of GlobalPost, a misunderstanding and manipulation of Islam and Muslims has permeated discourse about the Middle East and the Arab world. American-Muslim relations are strained and Islam is not portrayed positively in the media.

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To move forward, Jerusalem must steer its own fate

Analysis: Unless citizens of all faiths find a way to work together, weak leadership and old hatreds will keep the city from a potentially bright future.

JERUSALEM – Behold the new Jerusalem.

Here I was, stuck in ungodly traffic on the outskirts of the ancient walls of the Old City, that sacred quarry of stone that holds traditions dear to all three Abrahamic faiths. And through a crowd lined up along the ramparts and the sidewalks nearby, I suddenly heard the thunder of powerful engines and the screeching of tires.

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David Cameron heading the wrong direction on human rights, experts say

Breaking with the European Convention could set the UK back 50 years in human rights progress and have negative global impact.

LONDON — An alarming new plan to scrap the United Kingdom’s Human Rights Act and break with the European Convention could have sweeping, global ramifications, say human rights experts.

The eight-page document, put forward by Prime Minister David Cameron and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling last week, outlined a course of action that the Council of Europe called “inconceivable.”

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In British town, influx of migrants creates conflict

Analysis: The arrival of Eastern Europeans in a traditionally Pakistani area strains neighborly relations.

SHEFFIELD, England — I take a stroll down Page Hall Road in Sheffield, a typical working class area of the industrial north. The houses are narrow, cramped, identically structured, all rusty red brick and battered front doors.

Children play in the streets, tagging each other and running to the shops to buy sweets and soda. It’s an unremarkable scene except that this one small area has lately become a major focus of immigration conflict in the United Kingdom.

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Some of Islamic State’s worst crimes are against women, UN report says

On the militant group’s long list of human rights abuses and potential war crimes, its treatment of women is stark in its cruelty.

Beatings, forced marriage, imprisonment and rape – these are the fates of women at the hands of the Islamic State, according to an Oct. 2 report by the United Nations human rights office in Iraq.

The 26-page document, which details abuses committed by the Islamic State (IS) from July 6 to Sept. 10, reveals – amid a litany of human rights violations and possible war crimes – the targeting of women for capture and mass enslavement.

“[W]omen and children who refused to convert were being allotted to [IS] fighters or were being trafficked as slaves in markets in Mosul and to Raqqa in Syria,” according to the report, which relies partly on testimonies from survivors and from prisoners who managed to contact the UN.

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The ferryman of Istanbul helps Syrian refugees

One man has made it his mission to help his Palestinian Syrian countrymen find safe harbor.

ISTANBUL — In ancient Greek mythology, Charon was the ferryman who carried the dead from the land of the living into the underworld. In modern-day Istanbul, Nasir is a ferryman for Palestinian Syrians looking to escape violence in the Middle East and find refuge in Europe.

One of Nasir’s recent charges was his friend Ahmad, who in January 2014 left Syria with his wife, his twin daughters and a niece. For three months – while Ahmad called relatives abroad for financial support – Nasir hosted Ahmad and family at The Adar Center, an educational facility Nasir set up in Turkey. After Ahmad had gathered the funds he needed for travel, Nasir connected him to a smuggler who put Ahmad and his family on a ship to Athens.

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Remembering why Sinead O'Connor tore up the pope's picture on national TV

Her tactics made her a target and a pariah. Today we know she was right.

Sinead O'Connor performed an a cappella cover of Bob Marley's "War" on Saturday Night Live on October 3, 1992, rewriting a few of the lyrics to address child abuse, in addition to the song's initial topics of racism and the horrors of war.

As she finished the song, she produced and tore to shreds a photograph of Pope John Paul II, shouting, "Fight the real enemy!"

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Female artisans defy tradition to create Hindu goddesses

One of India's most joyful festivals, Durga Puja, is now in full swing.

KOLKATA, India — Fall in India brings with it the festivity of the goddess Durga among Hindus, who observe the triumph of goodness over evil. Several states in eastern India surrender to a 10-day frenzy, whereby large idols of the goddess are put up in mammoth tents. 

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