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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

Boko Haram agrees to release kidnapped girls after ceasefire

The break in violence is a relief for Nigeria and for the world, but experts don't expect the peace to last.
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Supporters of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign march for the release of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, in Abuja, Nigeria on Oct. 14. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI /AFP/Getty Images)

The Nigerian government and the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have reportedly agreed Friday to a ceasefire which would set free more than 200 schoolgirls the group abducted in April. 

“They’ve assured us they have the girls and they will release them,” Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur told BBC Focus on Africa. “I am cautiously optimistic.”

The agreement was reached Thursday night and comes after one month of negotiations, Tukur said. No details have been reported about the terms of the girls' release.

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New center to help coordinate global response to youth unemployment crisis

More than 400 million jobs will need to be created in the next decade to keep up with the growing labor force, the International Labor Organization reports.
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Greek unions rally against unemployment in central Athens in July. The last few years have seen youth unemployment rise to crisis levels, with more than 74 million young people without jobs today. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI /AFP/Getty Images)

As youth unemployment spirals into crisis levels worldwide, solutions are increasingly relying on stakeholders from varying sectors to come together, push for reform and innovate on a global scale, according to panelists at a policy forum on the issue, held Oct. 15 in Washington, DC.

“This has risen to the level of what we call a grand challenge that needs to be addressed in a very complex and coordinated fashion,” said Wayne Holden, president and CEO of the research firm RTI International, which hosted the forum.

The forum covered educational reforms that would better prepare millennials for the current job market and the role businesses can play in directing and funding career programs. The four panelists of varying backgrounds talked about innovations that have succeeded in getting young people employed and, above all, the need to forge partnerships that could take those innovations to a nationwide and global scale.

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England, Northern Ireland brace for more health worker strikes

Demonstrations continue as the government refuses to budge on protesters’ demand for 1 percent wage hike.
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National Health Service (NHS) workers, including a midwife and her baby (C), gather outside St Thomas' Hospital on Oct. 13 in London, England. Unions are seeking a 1 percent raise for all workers, but the government says it would cost too much. (Peter Macdiarmid /Getty Images)

LONDON – Midwives, nurses, paramedics and other healthcare professionals across England and Northern Ireland went on strike Monday morning to protest the reversal of a promised 1 percent wage increase, the first time such an action has been taken in 30 years.

Thousands of people picketed in front of hospitals throughout the country, and for the rest of this week, National Health Service (NHS) employees are performing work-to-rule – meaning they are only working the bare minimum that their contracts demand. Next Monday, radiographers will strike, leading the series of actions by NHS employees into a second week that unions say is a “last resort” to demand fair pay.

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Vatican document fires up gay rights debate

As Catholic bishops from around the world discuss "family issues," friendlier language toward gays and lesbians is creating fireworks.
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Pope Francis (R) smiles as he arrives for his speech at the Synod on the Families, to cardinals and bishops gathering in the Synod Aula, at the Vatican, on Oct. 6. Pontiff on Sunday launched a major review of Catholic teaching on the family that could lead to change in the Church's attitude to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — “The drama continues!” laughed Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle of the Philippines, opening the second week of press conferences on the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops taking place amid the buzz of wandering tourists around the Vatican.

Tagle began the usual media briefing Monday afternoon by summarizing some of the most noteworthy aspects of the previous meeting, part of a landmark gathering on Catholic families and social issues. He had on hand the freshly released Relatio Post Disceptationem, a synthesis of discussions from the first week of the synod. And that document has already created a firestorm.

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The international community must not consent to 'new Burmese apartheid'

Opinion: Muslims are suffering at the hands of Myanmar's government, which is now planning an awful new program.
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US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks alongside Wunna Maung Lwin, Minister for Foreign Affairs for Myanmar, prior to meetings at the US State Department in Washington, DC on Sept. 30. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

YANGON, Myanmar  Myanmar's foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin took to the podium at the United Nations building in New York late last month and told the international community that “all major concerns related to human rights” in the former police state had “been addressed to a larger extent.” Given the government's efforts in this field, he asserted, his country “had now reached the middle tier of the human rights ladder” and should no longer be subjected to the scrutiny of the UN Human Rights Council.

While the minister's speech drew polite applause, his claims could hardly have been taken seriously. 

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President Obama: America's millennials not really a 'lost generation'

With the midterm elections next month, the president pitched his plans for a generation disillusioned with his economic leadership.
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US President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting Oct. 9 at Cross Campus in Santa Monica, Calif., where he addresses issues affecting millennials today. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama is offering a new commitment to American millennials, but with youth unemployment and student debt levels still oppressively high, the country's largest generation has withdrawn some of its once-fervent support for him.

"A lot of you entered into the workforce during the worst financial crisis and then the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Obama told a forum at Cross Campus, a business and innovation center in Santa Monica, Calif. on Thursday. “A lot of cynics have said, ‘Well, that makes many of you part of a lost generation.’ But I don’t buy that, because when I travel around the country, I see the kind of energy and hope and determination that so many of you are displaying here.”

The president praised the efforts of millennials to overcome a recovering economy and assured them of his administration’s support in issues that affect them most — wage equality, unemployment, health care, education and debt.

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The US is jailing immigrant women and children under appalling conditions

Most asylum seekers are law-abiding but are detained in spite of international law.
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Families of Central American immigrants turn themselves in to US Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico to McAllen, Texas on Sept. 8. Although the numbers of such immigrant families and unaccompanied minors have decreased from a springtime high, thousands continue to cross in the border illegally into the United States. (John Moore /Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas — In America, women and children as young as 11 months old are being jailed.

More than 500 women and children are currently detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a for-profit detention center in Karnes City, Texas. Six hundred more are held in Artesia, New Mexico.

Among those detained was Nayely Bermudez Beltran, a 7-year-old from El Salvador who is suffering from a malignant brain tumor. Nayely’s mother, Sara Beltran Rodriguez, came to the US border with her daughter in July, fleeing family violence in El Salvador so severe that she feared for their lives.

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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.
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The four panelists (from left) at an Oct. 7 webcast on the impact of maternal health on children, families and communities: Amy Boldosser-Boesch, interim president and CEO of Family Care International; Jeni Klugman, senior adviser at The World Bank Group and fellow at Harvard Kennedy School; Alicia Yamin, lecturer on Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health and policy director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University; and Aslihan Kes, economist and gender specialist at the International Center for Research on Women. (Jessica Mendoza/GlobalPost)

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.
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Thousands gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on August 24, 2013, near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

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.
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Young women look out from a hut in an agricultural area south of Iraq's central Shiite Muslim Shrine city of Najaf on April 14, 2014. (Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images)

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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