Category Archives: Causes

42,000 modern-day slaves rescued but millions in bondage, trafficking report says

By Ian Johnston,


More than 42,000 adults and children kept as slaves, forced into prostitution or otherwise trafficked were discovered by authorities around the world in 2011, according to a new report by the U.S. State Department.

Johan Ordonez / AFP – Getty Images, file
Prostitutes come out of a tunnel where they remained hidden during an operation against human trafficking at the “Super Frontera” bar, late on April 21, 2012 in Guatemala City.

However this figure was a tiny fraction of the estimated number of people held in bondage with the International Labor Organization estimating earlier this month that there are about 20.9 million victims of modern slavery, the State Department Trafficking in Persons Report noted.

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003, foreign governments must supply information about trafficking investigations and prosecutions to the State Department in order to be considered by the U.S. as working to eliminate slavery.

The report details the problem of trafficking in countries around the world, including victims’ accounts.

“I walk around and carry the physical scars of the torture you put me through. The cigarette burns, the knife carvings, the piercings … how a human being can see humor in the torture, manipulation, and brainwashing of another human being is beyond comprehension. You have given me a life sentence,” it quotes a victim of sex trafficking in the U.S. as telling her trafficker at his sentencing.

US expands human trafficking blacklist to 23 countries

Another trafficking survivor in the U.S. named “Tonya” said she “always felt like a criminal.”

“I never felt like a victim at all. Victims don’t do time in jail, they work on the healing process. I was a criminal because I spent time in jail,” she said.

‘Like she was our own daughter’
Ken Burkhart, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, described the liberation of a Latin American sex trafficking victim.

“I told my agents we’re going to treat this little girl like she was our own daughter. We’re going to hunt this little girl down and get her out of this trailer,” he said, according to the report.

After she was found, “I told her we’d been in touch with her sister and I shook her hand and I just gently led her right out the door,” he added.

State Department
Graphic showing persons in forced labor in different parts of the world

The offense of trafficking involves “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”

It applies where people have been forced into prostitution; victims do not necessarily need to have been physically moved from one location to another.

Police rescue 24,000 women, children from Chinese human trafficking gangs

In a letter included in the report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted the U.S. would celebrate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in the coming months and said that “governments across the globe are united in this struggle.”

“Yet, despite the adoption of treaties and laws prohibiting slavery, the evidence nevertheless shows that many men, women, and children continue to live in modern-day slavery through the scourge of trafficking in persons,” she added.

Clinton moved by girl’s ‘pride’
Clinton said earlier this year she had visited a trafficking shelter in Kolkata, India.

“The young women and girls there had suffered terrible abuse. But with their own drive and determination and with the help of some remarkable women and men they were getting their lives back on track,” she said.

“I met one girl, about ten years old, who asked if I wanted to see the martial arts she had learned at the shelter. As she performed her routine, I was impressed with the skills she had learned; but more than that, I was moved by the pride in her eyes – her sense of accomplishment and strength,” she added.

The Secretary of State said trafficking people deprived people of the “most basic freedom” – being able to determine their own future.

“A century and a half after the promise of freedom was fought and won in the United States, freedom remains elusive for millions,” Clinton said. “We know that this struggle will not truly be won until all those who toil in modern slavery, like those girls in Kolkata, are free to realize their God-given potential.”


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Iranian actress faces 90 lashes for role

Iran reportedly sentences film actress to 90 lashes

By Laura Rozen | The EnvoyMon, 10 Oct, 2011


An Iranian court has sentenced an Iranian actress to one year in jail and 90 lashes related to her role in an Australian-made film portraying social alienation, artistic repression and drug use in Iran, according to an Iranian opposition website.

“In an outcome that could have been lifted from the pages of the movie’s script”–“My Tehran for Sale“–the film’s lead actress, Marzieh Vafamehr, “was arrested in July and received her sentence at the weekend, according to reports quoting Iranian opposition website,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported.


In the 2009 film, Vafamehr portrays a Tehran actress whose theater work is banned by the authorities and is thus driven to Tehran’s cultural underground. Ultimately, she contemplates whether to leave Iran for exile abroad.

“Vafamehr often appears with a shaved head and no headscarf in the film, which also explores cultural oppression in Iran and taboos such as drug use,” the paper said.

Vafamehr’s attorney has reportedly appealed the sentence which was handed down on Saturday. Technically, she was accused of participating in a film whose shooting did not have the required permits. However, both the film’s director and the actress’s filmmaker husband Nasser Taghvai said the charge is baseless.

“The accusations against Marzieh have no grounds,” Granaz Moussavi, the Melbourne-based Iranian-Australian director of the film, said in a statement Tuesday, the AP reported. “All the documentation has been provided to the Iranian court to show that permits were in place for the production of the film.”

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd also expressed concern about the sentence Tuesday.

“The Australian government condemns the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is deeply concerned by reports that Ms. Marzieh Vafamehr has been sentenced to one year in jail and 90 lashes for her role in an Australian-produced film,” a spokeswoman for Rudd said in a statement, the AP wrote. “The Australian government urges Iran to protect the rights of all Iranians and foreign citizens.”


Iran’s Orwellian justice system has provoked past controversies.  Last year, for example, Iranian courts approved a death-by-stoning sentencefor Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman accused of adultery and murder charges. Ashtiani’s sentence was stayed, but only after a global outcry from international human-rights groups.

A moratorium had been declared on stoning in 2002, but the nation’s Islamic courts have continued to hand down stoning sentencesin accordance with the strict wording of the law.

On Tuesday, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly took to his websiteto criticize a flogging punishment handed down to a student who had criticized him.

“When high-profile figures freely insult the government, I disapprove that a youth is flogged for insulting me,” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote at his presidential website, the Associated Press reported.

Lashing sentences are not unheard of in the region. Last month, the Saudi king reportedly overturned a lashing sentence handed down to a Saudi woman who had been arrested for driving.


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This article brings to mind the follwoing quote:

“We want a society where people are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous and compassionate. This is what we mean by a moral society; not a society where the state is responsible for everything, and no one is responsible for the state.” — Margaret Thatcher, British prime minister


Inequity of Inequality

Black Scientists Receive Less Funding Than Whites

by Amelia T. August 21, 2011 This article was originally posted in Care2 under “the civil rights cause”


Even with equal training and research records, black scientists still may have a tougher time getting grants from the National Institutes of Health, according to a new study.  This is despite the fact that hospitals and medical schools are ostensibly trying to correct the dearth of minorities among doctors and scientific researchers.

According to ABC,  ”the study found a 10 percentage point gap between black and white researchers in winning the most common type of NIH grant — even though all held doctorate degrees and had similar research experience. Between 2000 and 2006, about 27 percent of white applicants won funding compared with about 17 percent of blacks.”  The study also found differences among Asian and Hispanic researchers, but not the same degree.

That’s a pretty shocking disparity, given that the researchers had the same qualifications.  NIH director Francis Collins said that the data was “deeply troubling.”  But it may be more difficult to determine why black researchers seem to be receiving less funding.

“That’s the frustrating thing about this paper—in most cases, you can come up with a reasonable explanation looking at the observable characteristics, and we haven’t been able to,” explained Donna Ginther, an economics professor at the University of Kansas, Lawrence and the lead researcher.

Collins seems dedicated to trying a variety of solutions.  They will test to see if outcomes change if officials make a deliberate effort to purge applications of all hints of the applicant’s race.  There will also be new efforts to train review panelists to overcome racial bias.

In his comments about the study, Collins seemed genuinely chagrined.  Black scientists represent only 1.2% of the lab heads funded by the NIH.  ”These data suggest we are failing even the ones who do make it,” said Collins.

One possible factor is researchers’ likelihood to resubmit their applications.  When their applications were rejected, black researchers were less likely to try again.  This means that mentoring could be a potential solution.

Disparities like these are often due to large systemic issues that can be extremely difficult to tackle.  It’s a serious challenge, but at least Collins seems ready to conduct a rigorous investigation of just why black researchers receive less funding.

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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Causes, Diversity To Inclusion


Meat comes from where???

by Kayla Coleman August 19, 2011 10:00 am

In a world where Ronald McDonald once led kids to believe that hamburgers grow in “hamburger patches,” it can be tricky business explaining to kids where the meat for their hot dog, bacon or turkey sandwich comes from.

Ruby Roth’s That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals is a wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated children’s book that honestly but sensitively explains the facts of meat production and the notion that animals are sentient individuals. The book is a dream for veg parents who want to explain to their kids (as the title says) “why we don’t eat animals.” It’s also controversial for parents who don’t want their kids to know the truth about meat.

I asked Ruby some questions about her wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated book, as well as the response it got:

Kayla Coleman: How did the idea for your book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals come about? Can you give us a brief description of what it’s about?

Ruby Roth: In 2005 I was teaching art at an elementary school and my students were always curious why I wasn’t drinking the milk or chowing down on the string cheese they were served at recess. When I carefully explained my choices as a vegan, they were actually really interested and had a lot of questions. So I searched for a children’s book to bring them, but couldn’t find one that wasn’t sugarcoated or that didn’t anthropomorphize animals or vegetables — the kids were too street-smart for that. I decided to create one myself, about the emotional lives of animals, factory farming, the environment, and endangered species — all in regards to the foods we eat.

KC: How did you become vegan? Did you learn about the treatment of animals used for food when you were young?

RR: I had a very progressive, liberal, eco-friendly upbringing — my mom was vegetarian, my parents had an organic farm, I got into anti-authoritarian punk rock as a teen, went to UC Santa Cruz, even lived with vegans there….yet it NEVER occurred to me to go vegan myself. This is the power of the meat and dairy industry! I went vegan when I was 20, when a friend challenged me to do it as a health experiment (I used to get tonsillitis multiple times a year). And I stopped getting sick. In fact, I felt so good and loved the transformation so much that I never went back. And then watching the film Earthlings rocked my worldview, too, and solidified my commitment to animals.

KC: The book got some mixed reactions — some people thought it was propaganda that would corrupt and scar kids. Can you tell us about some of the negative and positive reactions?

RR: The negative responses were nearly all the same — concerns about brainwashing, propaganda, scaring children and not allowing kids to have the choice to eat meat. I used every critique to formulate a positive and public response. Meanwhile, I grew more confident about my book because I was reading it to groups of kids and never once experienced a child who was overwhelmed or scared. What I found was that kids responded with great insight, questions and interest, and that it was only ever the adults who freaked out — most likely in fear of change.

KC: Did you have any concerns when writing the book? About traumatizing kids or, since you were working as an elementary school art teacher at the time, even losing your job?

RR: Absolutely. When kids first started asking me questions, I felt like a communist in the McCarthy era — that my answers would get me fired if the children reported to their parents. But there’s nothing illegal about talking about dietary habits. It’s the job of the teacher to provide information. I realized that if I treated their questions like any that a student might ask of a teacher, then I would avoid creating a “taboo” subject. And even IF a parent was angry, or refused to cater to an interested kid at home, that a seed was planted, the word defined for future reference. No one could be validly mad at me for teaching vocabulary.

KC: At the Animal Rights National Conference, you talked about America’s unique idea of “childhood” and how kids don’t need to be as coddled as they are. Can you tell us more about that?

RR: In the west, we think of children as innocent, pure and frail, and treat them accordingly — sugarcoating everything, and avoiding teaching “too much” for their minds. But this concept of childhood is not universal. In other countries, children are treated with various levels of respect for their capabilities, which also differ according to cultural beliefs. My experience of teaching is that sugarcoating information only hinders what a child is capable of — psychologically, emotionally and even spiritually.

KC: Were there any children or parents of children who read the book and then told you they wanted to become vegetarian or vegan?

RR: Yes, there were students of mine who wanted to go vegan, for example. And I saw parents pat them on the back and smile. I imagine that the parents probably cooked some veg meals at home a few times, but lacking info and support, lost interest in keeping it up for their kids. But the most important part is that the seed was planted. The child knows what the word means forever after (I certainly didn’t when I was in elementary school) and you never know what they might do with that information in the future.

KC: Do you have any words of wisdom for parents whose kids say they want to be vegetarian or vegan?

RR: I can understand a parents’ fear of change if they’re not familiar with veganism. But there’s so much supportive information out now and it’s so easily accessible. If your child shows interest, I think it’s the parent’s responsibility to collect information, ameliorate their own fears, and help the child feel empowered by their insight into food and animals. It’s just the worst to see a parent forcing a crying child to eat meat — I’ve seen it — when the solution is simply a few facts the parents need demystified about protein, for example. Especially when there is an abundance of healthier, cleaner, more absorbable, cruelty-free choices that child could be thriving on.

KC: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

RR: My man, urban artist and vegan Justin Bua and I just launched our blog and I’m working on my next children’s book, due out next year. Stay tuned at! Thank you for your support!

Here is a video of kids’ reactions to Ruby’s book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals:

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Causes, Lifestyles


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