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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

Tending to the graves of WWI dead, Gazan gardener weathers modern conflict

As a Palestinian gardener cares for the headstones of fallen soldiers in a World War I cemetery, he also works to protect his family from Hamas-Israel violence.
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At the Deir El-Balah Commonwealth Cemetery in Gaza, Palestinian Khalil al-Wajar washes the headstone of Australian Trooper Henry Albert Franklin Price, who served during WWl in the Australian Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron. Khalil's father Mohammed, the cemetery's official gardener, has raised his family not only in the shadow of World War l but the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. (Heidi Levine/The GroundTruth Project/GlobalPost)

Editor’s note: This post is part of a Special Report called “The Eleventh Hour: Unlearned lessons of World War I” launching in full this week, nearly a century after the Armistice Day of Nov. 11, 1918 that ended the war.

DEIR AL BALAH, Gaza — For decades Palestinian Mohammed al-Wajar has raised his family in the shadow of World War I, while trying to protect them from the violence of the Israel-Palestine conflict.


US just starting down the path toward net neutrality

Analysis: President Obama's statement supporting a free internet is the start of a larger, global process.
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Network cables are plugged in a server room on Nov. 10, 2014 in New York City. US President Barack Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to implement a strict policy of net neutrality and to oppose content providers in restricting bandwidth to customers. (Michael Bocchieri /Getty Images)

In a move that pleasantly surprised many free speech and open internet advocates Monday, Barack Obama announced his support for the concept of net neutrality — the idea that all content on the internet is equal, and that internet service providers (ISPs) should be kept from elevating certain content for a premium price.

The United Nations considers access to the free and open web a human right, and the American government’s lack of support in recent years has resulted in the US slipping in global freedom rankings, such as in the annual Freedom on the Net report [PDF].

But now it looks as if the president is ready to do battle with the cable giants over a looming decision by independent agency the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and bring the US in line with human rights treaties and international standards.


In denying Haiti cholera deaths, UN risks violating its core purpose

Evidence shows that troops from Nepal were infected with cholera when they arrived in Haiti in 2010.
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Attorneys Beatrice Lindstrom (2nd L) Marioa Joseph (2nd R) and other attorneys exit the federal courthouse in New York on Oct. 23, 2014 in New York. Cholera has killed more than 8,500 people and infected more than 700,000 in Haiti since 2010, when the plaintiffs allege it was introduced by UN peacekeepers, dispatched in the wake of a devastating earthquake. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

CAMBRIDGE, England — Late last month, attorneys argued before the US Federal District Court in Manhattan that the United Nations is not immune from liability for the spread of cholera throughout Haiti. The medical science is clear on this point, and none but the UN itself disputes this conclusion.

Yet in denying its role in the Haitian cholera epidemic that has killed more than 8,500 and sickened hundreds of thousands more, the UN jeopardizes its own future.


Could Brazil be the worst place in the world to be gay?

Despite an absence of explicit anti-gay laws, the South American country has a disturbing record of deaths related to gender violence.
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People take part in the 2nd Gay Parade Against Homophobia in Brasilia in support of gays, lesbians and transgender persons in on May 18, 2011. Despite such movements, an anti-LGBT culture continues to persist throughout the country. (EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Every member of Mães pela Igualdade ("Mothers for Equality") – an association of parents of homosexuals in Brazil – has a story to tell. Eleonora Pereira's is one of the most heart-breaking: On Oct. 14, 2010 her 24-year-old son, José Ricardo, went missing. Two days later he reappeared, severely beaten, at the intensive care unit of a local hospital. He died from his wounds soon after.

José Ricardo's death is suspected to be a revenge killing – a month before he died, Pereira, a human rights activist, helped convict a death squad accused of murdering the partner of a local police officer. But vengeance wasn’t the only reason why José Ricardo was murdered, investigators found. Of Pereira’s three children, he was the only homosexual.


How to stop sexual slavery in conflict zones

Analysis: The international community needs a tougher, more coordinated response to militant groups who abuse women and girls.
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A woman holds a card to campaign for the release of the 219 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls during a rally in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Oct. 14, 2014. Boko Haram, who has claimed responsibility for the abduction, is one of many extremist groups around the world known for committing acts of violence against women. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI /AFP/Getty Images)

The last few months have seen extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) and Nigeria’s Boko Haram rise in infamy for their brutal treatment and sexual enslavement of women and girls in the territories they control.

Most recently, Boko Haram released a video that featured leader Abubakar Shekau denying reports of a truce with the Nigerian government and claiming that the more than 200 schoolgirls the group kidnapped in April have been converted to Islam and married off to combatants. In fact, aside from a recent Human Rights Watch report, there is little solid information on how many girls have been abducted in the last few years, where they are today and if they have been married to combatants or sold.


Poll: Millennials will be swing vote in midterms, 2016

Young people will be the determining demographic in upcoming elections, but they are also losing their faith in the abilities of their government.
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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts' wife Franki Roberts share the stage at the Prairie Fire shopping center Oct. 27, 2014 in Overland Park, Kansas. Experts say both Republicans and Democrats will need to exert extra effort in bringing the millennial vote to their side of the campaign for the midterm elections. (Julie Denesha/Getty Images)

America’s youth have become fair game in the upcoming midterm elections and beyond, according to a new national survey by the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“In contrast to where they were four years ago, young people are very much up for grabs,” IOP polling director John Della Volpe said during a conference call Wednesday that discussed the results of the survey.

The poll found that US millennials – 18- to 29-year-olds in this case – are dissatisfied not only with both major political parties, but also with the government as a whole. 


International collaboration emerges as key to youth unemployment crisis

Will it be enough to put hundreds of millions of young people to work?
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LAGOS, NIGERIA -- Tayo Olufuwa, 23, has taken his future into his own hands by starting Jobs in Nigeria, an online jobs listing service for unemployed professionals. The site now has more than 200,000 users. (Lauren Bohn/GlobalPost)

NEW YORK — With little disagreement that the global youth jobs crisis is one of the most pressing issues of our time, problem solvers have begun developing and implementing coordinated solutions.

These range from renewed focus on affordable education to public-private partnerships aimed at closing the "skills gap" to entrepreneurship programs — and combinations of all of the above. Will it be enough to put hundreds of millions of young people to work?


How labor unions can help beat Ebola

Commentary: Rubber tappers in Liberia are helping with prevention and detection, representing an effective new approach.
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Family members gather outside a home in the West Point neighborhood where a man's dead body awaited the arrival of an Ebola burial team to take him for cremation on Oct. 17 in Monrovia, Liberia. The World Health Organization says that more than 4,500 people have died due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa with a 70 percent mortality rate for those infected with the virus. (John Moore /Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — As the United States military heads to Liberia to aid in the fight against Ebola, officials should not overlook an unlikely but potentially powerful ally: the rubber tappers who help make their tires.

It may seem an unlikely alliance to have a union of rubber tappers — some of the poorest people in the world — helping the US military and international relief organizations. But they have two invaluable assets: the trust of the local population and the potential to continue supporting programs the relief agencies put in place.

They are making significant contributions even as the disease poses an increasing threat to community leaders and their families.


Synod leaves questions about Vatican stance on homosexuality

Church leaders moved away from an early draft of the synod's record, but some LGBT rights advocates and clergy say evolution is underway.
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Bishops attend a papal mass for the beatification of Paul VI, who died in 1978, and the end of Vatican's synod on the family at St. Peter's square on Sunday, Oct. 19. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE /AFP/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — The closing of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family was celebrated in a Mass for thousands, led by Pope Francis in the Vatican City on Sunday.

It followed the release of the official record of the synod, or Relatio Synodi, which was approved paragraph by paragraph by the assembled bishops on Saturday, with three of the 62 paragraphs failing to get the necessary votes. Though most synods don't generate much news, a draft version of the report released last week ignited a firestorm when a section under the heading “Welcoming Homosexuals,” said, “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community,” and asked if the community was capable of welcoming people with such “tendencies.”

The new version “significantly backtracks on LGBT issues from the draft released earlier this week,” according to Francis DeBernardo, executive director of Maryland-based Catholic gay rights group New Ways Ministry.

“It's very disappointing that the synod's final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included,” DeBernardo wrote. “Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples.”


Australia is curtailing civil liberties in response to the Islamic State

IS has spooked Australia's government to push through a series of reforms reminiscent of post-9/11 America.
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Women greet eachother during Eid al-Adha celebrations at a festival at Paul Keating Park in Bankstown on October 4, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Eid al-Adha, also known as 'Festival of the Sacrifice' is a Muslim holiday that celebrates the prohit Ibrahim for his willingness to sacrifice his own son at the order of Allah. (Lisa Maree Williams/AFP/Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Shamaila Saeed sat in a circle with a dozen women and teenage girls, discussing passages from the Quran. It was a typical afternoon in the women’s section of the IEWAD mosque and community center in Narre Warren, a southeastern suburb of Melbourne.

The tranquil setting seemed a world apart from the police station parking lot in nearby Endeavor Hills, where five days earlier Abdul Numan Haider, an 18-year-old Muslim from Narre Warren, had stabbed two counter-terrorism officers with a knife before they shot and killed him.