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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

As religious leaders help in Ferguson, US churches remain mostly segregated

Just 13 percent of American churches are racially mixed, an increase since the late 1990s.
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Reverend Al Sharpton addresses churchgoers as he speaks about the shooting death of Michael Brown during a church service at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church Nov. 30, 2014 in St. Louis, Mo. (Joshua Lott /Getty Images)

For the vast majority of American Christians, attending church is a racially segregated experience.

Just 7 percent of all US congregations were racially mixed in 1998. By 2012 that number had climbed to 13 percent, according to Michael Emerson, professor of sociology at Rice University and author of three books on religion and race in America.

Yet Christian clergy of all backgrounds and denominations have been prominent voices within the public furor around race and police brutality sweeping the country, touched off by a St. Louis County grand jury decision not to indict the white officer who killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. — then further ignited this week by a Staten Island grand jury decision not to indict the white officer who was videotaped choking to death Eric Garner, an unarmed black man.


Mexican drug murders get less attention in US than Middle East violence

Multi-national corporations and middle-class economy thrive, even as Narco-War persists.
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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto delivers a speech during the presentation of the programme 'Nuevo Guerrero' (New Guerrero) in Acapulco, Guerrero State, Mexico, on Dec. 4, 2014. Mexico's embattled President Pena Nieto visited violence-plagued Guerrero state on Thursday for the first time since a security crisis erupted over the apparent massacre of dozens of students in the city of Iguala on Sept. 26. (PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son and six others were killed by paid assassins, famously stated: “I don’t know where the state ends and organized crime begins.”

The disappearance and presumed murder of 43 college students in the town of Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26 – and the subsequent discovery of multiple mass graves – confirm Sicilia’s observation.

This massacre is one of more than two dozen reported in Mexico since the 1960s. There was the infamous Tlatelolco Massacre in 1968; the disappearance of approximately 1,200 during the Dirty War in the 1970s; and the deaths and disappearances of more than 100,00 people since the Narco-War began in 2006.


For India, moving forward means saving women's lives

The new prime minister links India’s development prospects to improving the status of girls and women.
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In this photo taken on Nov. 7, 2013, Indian mother Suman Chandel holds her new born baby, hours after delivery at a clinic in Jhiri, in central Madhya Pradesh. India has long had a dismal record of deaths from preventable illness. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT /AFP/Getty Images)

WHITEHOUSE STATION, New Jersey — In several recent and high-profile speeches, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on India’s citizens to recognize the important link between his country’s development and the current status of girls and women.

He noted that India cannot move forward as long as its girls and women are left behind; that India will not complete its journey to becoming a global power if its girls and women remain powerless. And he emphasized that one of the most distressing problems facing girls and women is maternal mortality.


Immigration officials create a climate of repression in America

Commentary: Are we willing to allow the US to be a place where young people — including my own son — can be harassed?
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

NEW YORK — It was a proud moment for our family. Our firstborn son was coming home from his first semester at college in Chicago. He had made it through midterms and finals, through an array of friendships and experiences in a new city, the one where his immigrant mom was raised.

To save money, we bought our son an Amtrak ticket. It was the first time he would travel alone by land and the first time on a long train ride. It would be about a 20-hour trip. Painful for his back, and as it turns out, painful for his soul.


Ferguson case reveals US media’s flaws in covering issues of race

Journalism needs less sporadic, more comprehensive coverage of race relations, experts say.
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Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol speaks to media during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 18, 2014. The media has since provided near-nonstop coverage of the events that unfolded. (MICHAEL B. THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Even before a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting black teenager Michael Brown, the events in Ferguson, Mo. dominated news reports, explainers, analyses and commentaries in mainstream media, tabloids and independent blogs alike.

“As far as the Ferguson case is concerned, [the media] covered pretty much everything you can cover,” said Clint Wilson, professor emeritus of communication, culture and media studies at Howard University in Washington, DC.

The problem, Wilson said, is that the same is rarely true for the issue of race in general. The cases of Brown and of Eric Garner – a black man who died in a chokehold by a white Staten Island police officer in July – are examples of the media’s sporadic coverage and lack of leadership when it comes to tackling racial relations in the United States, Wilson said.


Missing students a symptom of a larger crisis in Mexico

Apart from being a human rights atrocity, the case is also a reflection of a faulty government system that the US helped cultivate.
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Demonstrators from Guerrero State demand answers concerning 43 missing students during a march November 20, 2014 in Mexico City, Mexico. The students from the Atyotzinapa teaching college near Chilpancingo in Guerrero have been missing since September 26. (Brett Gundlock /Getty Images)

Of all the consequences of the Mexican government’s slow response to the disappearance of 43 students in September, it is the continuing protests in Mexico City and throughout the country that are most revealing of the public’s deep discontent with the current system.

“I think it’s very clear that we’re seeing a huge crisis in human rights in the country,” said Maureen Meyer, senior associate for Mexico and Migrant Rights at the Washington Office of Latin America (WOLA), a nonprofit research and advocacy group.

The case of the missing students – who disappeared on their way to a protest in the southwestern city of Iguala on Sept. 26 – are indicative of that crisis, which involve not only human rights violations but also public security issues in parts of Mexico, Meyer said. It is a crisis that stems from widespread corruption and a lack of political commitment to justice on the part of the Mexican government, especially in some areas of the country, she added. It is also caused, in part, by the United States.


Jimmy Carter says Bible no justification for discriminating against women

The former US president spoke about his efforts on gender equality at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
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Former US president Jimmy Carter (L) talks with a Liberian woman in October 2005 in Monrovia, Liberia. The Carter Center, founded by Carter to promote peace initiatives and health issues worldwide, is in Liberia to monitor the elections along with the National Democratic Institute. (Chris Hondros/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON, Mass. — Former US president Jimmy Carter said there is no doubt in his mind that the Bible, if correctly interpreted, advocates gender equality.

Unfortunately, as he told a crowd of about 700 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston on Thursday evening, very often the Bible is used as the basis for discrimination against women.


Uber privacy fiasco suggests we are 'extortable'

As the world grows increasingly reliant on data, safeguarding the right to privacy becomes a tougher task.
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Medea Benjamin of CodePink holds a sign while in the audience as Richard Salgado, director of law enforcement and information security matters for Google, Inc, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Privacy , Technology, and the Law Subcommittee Nov. 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee /Getty Images)

When a top executive threatens to dig into the private lives of journalists who criticize his company, it’s sure to cause a ruckus.

At a New York City dinner party on Monday, the senior vice president of ride-sharing service Uber, Emil Michael, floated an idea to hire opposition researchers and journalists to dig up dirt on critics. BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith heard the statement and published Michael’s comments on the site, not the first time Uber has been accused of abusing its power. 

The result is #ubergate, a deluge of opinions at the intersection of privacy rights, cybersecurity and ethics at a time when journalists are just part of a larger group that is vulnerable.


Trafficking survivors work toward laws that end violence and exploitation

Policy makers are decriminalizing the sale of sex and focusing on pimps and brothel owners.
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Indian sex workers hold placards as they participate in a rally at the Sonagachi area of Kolkata on Nov. 8, 2014. Hundreds of sex workers with their children and family members participated in the rally to demand better legal protection of sex workers, claiming that better laws will reduce human trafficking and exploitation. (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR /AFP/Getty Images)

TURIN, Italy — Over the last few weeks, two territories thousands of miles apart made a similar commitment to gender equality. Northern Ireland became the first part of the United Kingdom, and Canada the first country outside of Europe, to vote in favor of a bill that recognizes the gender dimension of the commercial sex trade.

In both cases, the selling of sex will be decriminalized. Exiting services and support will be provided to those in prostitution, and the focus will move to pimps, brothel-keepers and buyers – those who create the demand that fuels sex trafficking. The approach is known as the “Nordic Model,” initially established by Sweden in 1999 and later adopted by Norway and Iceland.

Today, Ireland and France are considering similar approaches, while the European Union and the Council of Europe both recommended that other countries follow suit.


Barack Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi: From optimists to realists

Together in Myanmar, the two leaders are chastened and strong — but no longer adored by those who once cheered them.
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US President Barack Obama and Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speak during a press conference at her residence in Yangon on Nov.14, 2014. Obama began talks with Suu Kyi in a show of support for the opposition leader as the nation turns towards elections next year with uncertainty over the direction of reforms. (MANDEL NGAN /AFP/Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Two world figures whose political destinies were launched in hope took center stage in Myanmar last week.

As fledgling leaders, President Barack Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi both expressed confidence they would “get things done” by reaching out to those who wished them ill. The very titles of their respective memoirs — Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” and Suu Kyi’s “Voice of Hope” — suggested a heady confidence rooted in a belief in the essential goodness of human beings and a limitless possibility when people work together.