The African nation of Kenya has strengthed laws designed to help secure convictions for human trafficking and provide greater support to victims, encouraging them to testify against their captors. Kenya has been on the U.S. Department of State’s Tier 2 Watch List for trafficking for the past three years for failing to take serious steps to tackle the problem. Meanwhile, closer to home, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a human trafficking bill that will streamline prosecutions of those committing multiple offenses, save taxpayer dollars and reduce trauma to victims appearing in court. The measure goes into effect January 1.
Community Leader Honored
Maha Krayem Abdo, Executive Officer of the Muslim Women’s Association, has won the 2014 New South Wales, Australia, Human Rights Award in honor of her quarter-century of service helping women and promoting harmony among multicultural communities. The Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello, paid tribute to Abdo as a champion of multiculturalism and an advocate for the elimination of racial, religious and gender discrimination.
A Historical Whitewash … And a Rebellion
In September, the new majority of the Jefferson County Board of Education in Colorado proposed standards for the depiction of American history that read: “Materials should not encourage civil disorder, social strife or disregard of law.” Yet America was born of these very conditions. The new curricula sparked a protest from hundreds of high school students, who marched out of classrooms to demand the revision be withdrawn. Some toted placards that read, “People Didn’t Die So We Could Erase Them.”
A Halt to Torture
Amnesty International USA is partnering with human rights allies around the world on a two-year global campaign to stop torture, from Chicago to Africa, through concrete steps and safeguards. “Thirty years after adopting a landmark treaty against torture, the world’s governments continue to violate it in practice,” said Steven W. Hawkins, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director. “Torture is a crisis not only in Mexico or Nigeria, where torture by security personnel is widespread, but also here at home.”
Imagine a World
Thirty-three years after the first celebration of International Day of Peace—September 21—the occasion was commemorated by ringing of the U.N. peace bell by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. headquarters in New York City, with a choir singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Los Angeles Clergy Coalition
The Los Angeles Interfaith Clergy Coalition has formed a council of ministers to address disaster preparedness, civil unrest and crisis intervention in Southern California communities. Initial coordination took place at an interreligious conference hosted by the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles. Participating faith and civic leaders included representatives from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement at USC, the Department of Homeland Security, Churches in Action, the American Red Cross and many more.
A recent Pew Research Center study has concluded that “Responsibility” is viewed as the most important quality to teach children.
Toward Greater Doctor-Pharma Transparency
The Physician Payments Sunshine Act, passed in response to the 2010 Congressional investigation into financial conflict of interest allegations against Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Biederman and others, finally went into effect on September 30 of this year.
Designed to bring transparency to monetary relationships between physicians and drug companies, the Sunshine Act requires that certain pharmaceutical and device manufacturers report their payments to U.S. doctors and teaching hospitals. The data will be posted online at cms.gov.
Religious Freedom Awards
The inaugural Thomas Jefferson Religious Freedom Awards were recently presented by the International Religious Freedom Roundtable to Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona; Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; and retiring Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia. Congressman Wolf additionally received a Lifetime Religious Freedom Award at the event, held on the final day of his more than 30 years in office. The Church of Scientology National Affairs Office was one of four sponsors of the event.
Clearing The Wrongly Accused
Charles Belk is working to use an unfortunate incident to foster change in the system. The African-American television producer was minding his own business late in the afternoon of August 22—walking out of a restaurant in Beverly Hills, California—when he suddenly was approached by police. As Belk remembers it, he was immediately accused of “armed bank robbery and accessory to a robbery of a Citibank branch.” He was handcuffed, transported to the Beverly Hills Police Department, photographed for a mug shot and put under $100,000 bail despite having an airtight alibi. He would be held in custody for a total of six hours.
An even bigger shock would be coming for Belk when his name immediately showed up on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department website with an arrest record. So Belk decided to do something about it. He fought to have the bogus record of his non-crime sealed and destroyed. Within a week, he had succeeded. He also started a petition to change the law so the arrest records of all who are wrongfully arrested and innocent are sealed and destroyed. The link: tinyurl.com/AutoExpunge. Belk’s goal is a million digital signatures.