Category Archives: Human Rights

Articles and links to Human rights issues, especially the reality of Modern Slavery.

Friday Flash: Sanctuary *plus* 52/250: Working in the Digital Age (background story)

SANCTUARY

The undead beat upon the door of the church. The sun glared upon their torn and damaged limbs while flowering vines clung to the brick walls of the edifice like dead men’s fingers. Neither daylight, cross, nor holy water detered them from the thick wooden door.

The nearby fae heard the cries of despair with cold, unyielding hearts. The pleas for mercy went unheeded by the pastor and his flock – safe within their brick sanctuary.

The sun’s heat soon sapped the unfortunate souls of all strength. Sensing their desolation, the fairies left the hive, hovered for a moment above their prey, then swooped down for the feast. Shrieks of pain and torment rent the air.

Inside the church, the congregation prayed.

THE END.

I love the idea of having a six minute timer and a prompt that you don’t see until the timer starts. Obviously this doesn’t produce the best prose, but it makes for some great creativity. I plan on rewriting some of my attempts from the Six Minute Story site on my blog to see how I can improve from the raw material I produce there.

The story behind this is pretty short. About three minutes into writing this the phone rang. I felt cheated of my chance, so I picked this as my first rewrite. Also, Monsterbat suggested that fairies would be a scary-but-funny ending. So – thank you, Monsterbat!

*This story is a rewrite of a story I wrote for the Six Minute Story site. The original can be found here. It is licensed through the site under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.

**Also, please don’t forget to check out the 52/250 Flash Challenge. My newest story there, Working in the Digital Age, was written for the theme ‘Busy at Work.’ I have a lot of trouble writing about things I care about, and so I’m not sure the story comes across very well or if it seems too cliché. But…  Slavery isn’t history.  I’m not being metaphorical. Modern Slaves outnumber the slaves during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the majority of them are used in the sex industry. I drew upon that fact as the basis of my story.

*** For more info on modern abolitionism, please check out

Polaris Project

-activist group focusing on sexual slavery (especially of women and children)

Not for sale

-campaign to fight the global slave trade by training people to recognize it in their own backyards

Free the Slaves

-abolitionist organization with information about the modern slave trade, free newsletters, FAQ, and more


As always, feedback is begged for welcome. Thank you for your time.

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Filed under 52/250 Challenge, Action Alerts, Flash Fiction, Human Rights, slice of life, Writing Corner, zombies

Women's rights for the prostitute

Please watch this video about sexual slavery and abuse from the European Women’s Lobby.  It’s not really short, maybe 30 minutes, but it’s powerful.  Thank you.

http://www.womenlobby.org/site/video_en.asp

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Filed under Human Rights, In the News

Shopping with a conscience

These days, it seems like that’s pretty hard. I don’t want to support companies that exploit humans or animals. So I try to avoid businesses that sell or use animal products such as dairy, eggs, honey, leather or silk. I read labels to make sure I’m not consuming products that have been animal tested. I do my best to support ethical companies. Yet, my conscience is constantly barraged with yet MORE things to watch out for. It’s like those As seen on TV commercials – A constant bombardment of “But wait! There’s more!”

I find a vegan chocolate and carefully check the ingredients. No milk or other dairy. Good. Is it okay to buy? No – the company sources it’s cocoa from The Ivory Coast where child slavery is used to harvest the cocoa beans. So I keep looking until I find a chocolate bar that doesn’t hurt animals OR humans. I find one – Fair trade or organic. My wallet hurts a little. A little less chocolate for me overall, but that’s okay. I can always snack on something else if I need to.

I decide to make my spending dollar go a little farther by purchasing some goods through a charitable site. I’m discouraged by the fact that many (if not most) of the goods sold use leather, silk, or other animal products. Why can’t sites that see the evil of human slavery make the connection that killing an animal for his skin is wrong too? I keep searching. There are other purchases I can make from those sites to support the cause without compromising my principles.

At times, I’m inclined to agree with Mark Twain’s view of a conscience. It’s like an anvil that weighs me down, inconvenient, a nuisance. Life would be so much easier without it. But I doubt the world would be the kind of place I’d like to live in anymore. No – Give me my conscience any day. It’s worth reading a few extra labels to work toward a better world.

**

Other similar blog posts:

Human Trafficking: What it does and doesn’t mean

Stop Supporting Slavery!

Charitable Giving Ideas for the Financially Strapped

Make the world a better place in ten minutes or less a day.

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Filed under Action Alerts, Animal Rights and Veganism, Human Rights

Please watch this one minute video.

There are tons of articles and books about Modern Human Slavery.  I written a couple blog posts about it, but this minute long video speaks volumnes.

What Traffickers Don’t Say

http://humantrafficking.change.org/videos/view/what_traffickers_dont_say
Please be the voice of the voiceless.  Speak out.

***I came across this PSA at the End Human Trafficking site at Change.org.  I checked out the link at the end of the video, but it’s an author site (nothing to do with the video and information).

*I tried to embed the video, but it wouldn’t work for my site.  Please just click on the link to view the video. Thank you.

Other Blog Posts:

Human Trafficking: What it does and doesn’t mean

-This article talks about slavery with some advice on activism.  There are suggested resources at the bottom of the article.

Stop Supporting Slavery!

-Videos, links, and information about the connection between chocolate and slavery.

Alert: Conflict-free Chocolate?

-This blog post describes the connection between cocoa and slavery in the Ivory Coast.  Links at the bottom direct you to lists for slave free chocolate and other abolitionist resources.

I just want my chocolate

-I wrote this essay about an experience I had.

Not For Sale by David Batstone

– Review of a book chronicling the lives of slaves around the world.

Additional Links:

Tony and the Slave Free Chocolate Factory

– Very interesting article about someone who prosecutes himself for buying slave chocolate. Video included.

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Make the world a better place in ten minutes or less a day.

How do you save children, fight breast cancer, feed an ape, and help children learn to read in less time than it probably takes you to finish your morning cup of coffee or tea? There is a very simple way. Donate. With a click, you can donate for free every day. There are a lot of charities out there that get funding this way, and the only cost to you is a few minutes of your time.

It should be noted that most Free Donation sites are sponsor driven and limit the amount of clicks per page (or button) to once daily. The exception in the below list is the Free Rice site which allows multiple clicks (because it’s a game). Also, Good Search allows multiple searches because it is a search engine.

Care2.com – This is a social networking site for the socially conscious. Just click on their “free click to donate” link which takes you to tabs for each of 10 charitable giving sites. Just “hit” the button, it will take you to a “thank you” page that displays ads from sponsors. Then go on to the next tab. It takes only a few minutes to work your way through them all. *

In addition to the tabbed charities, there is also a Daily Action site that highlights a particular action for the day. You can also join the Care2 community for free which entitles you to a free webpage, email, messages, and participation in groups.

If you like to blog about issues, you can “share” your Care2 blog entries with others in the Care2 Community by posting to a group. It’s an easy way to expose your blog posts to a wider audience. Just be sure that the posting is relevant to the group (a poem about AR to the poetry group, for example).

The Ecology Fund – It’s just what it sounds like – a charity site focused on environmental issues. This one has clickable buttons (for several environmental causes) located on the same page. It should only take a minute or so to donate at this site.

The Literacy Site – (from their site) The Literacy Site is dedicated to funding free books for children. (…) To date, more than 87 million visitors have helped provide more than 1.6 million books to children who need them the most. Another free donation site.

FreeRice.com – This may seem out of place, but how’s your vocabulary? This free click charity raises money with word quizzes! For each correct answer, a portion of rice is donated to the UN World Food Program. For each wrong answer, you simply have to try again til you get another correct answer. But be warned…. this game is addicting!

Good Search – This search engine site works very simply. Just type in the charity you’d like to benefit from your search (I donate either to Farm Sanctuary or Free the Slaves) under the question “Who do you Good Search for?” Then do your normal search. Please only use this engine for genuine searches. If people use the site fraudulently, the charity will be delisted and no longer benefit.

*I should note that at the Care2 free donation site, I click on almost all the charity buttons. I do not click on the donation button for HSUS (the “Pets” tab). I don’t support AR organizations that kill the animals whose interests they are supposed to represent.

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Filed under Action Alerts, All about books, FREE CHARITIES, Human Rights, In the News

Human Trafficking: What it does and doesn't mean

Human trafficking. I don’t know about you, but when I first heard that term I thought it referred to illegal aliens. You know the stereotype… people in other countries trying to sneak across borders illegally, maybe paying for the privilege. But it means so much more.

Slavery. It’s an ugly word. It’s associated with images of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Africans kidnapped from their homes and exported to Europe or America as slaves to white plantation owners. Thankfully, slavery no longer exists, right?

Wrong.

Slavery means Human Trafficking. They are the same thing. Human Trafficking is the polite euphamism for Modern human slavery. Slavery hasn’t been eradicated. It’s simply changed it’s form.

Slaves of the Old American South were bought and sold for a considerable amount of money. They were valued as an expensive investment, much like we would buy a car today. It was horrible, disgusting, cruel, and dehumanizing, but today it’s worse. People, especially children and women, are traded and sold for virtually nothing. So their “owners” treat them as disposable people. When someone wears out, simply get someone else.

*There is an estimated 27 MILLION slaves worldwide today – more than at the height of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. We hide behind the idea that this only happens in other countries far, far away from our own. It’s true that other countries have slaves. It’s also true that there are probably slaves in your country or even your own backyard, working behind the scenes, unseen and uncared for. Slavery exists in virtually every country on the planet Earth, even though it’s supposedly been abolished for years. Mauritania is the most prominent example of a country that only recently legally abolished slavery.

Sure, that may be true for Mauritania, but what about the Mid Western United States? What about Florida? What about England? What about China? Yes, they have slaves too.

What about this article written about slavery in Kansas? Here’s another one about a slave in Florida. England has it’s share of trafficking rings. China’s slave labor camps imprison people the government considers undesirable (such as political dissidents or homosexuals) and force them to work producing cheap export products.

What can we do, what can ANYONE do, to stop this? It’s overwhelming.

We need to be informed and make people aware that slavery isn’t history! The first thing we need to do to eradicate this evil is let people know it still exists. Read books. Watch documentaries. Write and tell as many people as you can. Raise awareness.

There are lots of things that you can do to help. Hold a screening of a slavery documentary at your library. Invite friends to a movie night at your house featuring a movie like Amazing Grace. Then talk about how slavery still exists. Make and print out flyers to post at local bulletin boards. Blog. Write to newspapers, magazines, and your government representatives. Hold a bake sale or yard sale; give out flyers with purchases and donate the proceeds to an abolitionist organization.

Also, watch the types of goods you consume. Don’t inadvertently support slavery through ignorance by purchasing slave chocolate or coffee products.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a lot of money. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a lot of resources, time, or transportation. You have something slaves don’t have. Freedom.

And a voice.

So use it.

Recommended books:

Enslaved can be read (with some omissions towards the end) as a Google book preview, though I strongly urge you to either buy a copy or check it out at your local library. In my opinion, it really brings the issue home by having the individual slaves tell their own stories.

Not for Sale is another must read. This also has individual slave stories, but told from a third person point of view.

Abolitionist campaigns:

I Abolish

American Anti-Slavery Group -(from their website) a nonprofit organization that works with former victims of human trafficking to abolish modern-day slavery, focusing primarily on systems of chattel slavery in Sudan and Mauritania.

Not for Sale campaign -(from their website) a campaign of individuals, musicians, artists, people of faith, businesses, school and sports teams united to stop (slavery).

Additional websites:

End Human Trafficking – an online resource for articles, videos, links, ideas, and more through the Change.org website. This is one of the most active abolitionist sites I’ve come across.

Stop the Traffick -(from their website) a global movement of ordinary activists from around the world who believe that PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE BOUGHT AND SOLD. We believe that when people act things change. Visit their website for news, activism opportunities, and sign their declaration. They even have a store where you can buy activist materials like shirts, buttons, posters, and banners.

Free the Slaves – an online resource for activist materials. Easy access so that anyone can get involved in the modern abolitionist movement.

Video recommendations:

Amazing Grace – the story of the abolitionist, William Wilberforce, who worked to end the slave trade in the British Empire. A Church would be a great place to hold a viewing of this video.

DEMAND – a documentary about the sex slave trade. The website offers the full 45 minute version with the warning features graphic material, nudity, and sexual content. Underneath there is a 16 minute condensed version that does not contain graphic material, nudity or sexual content and is ideal for churches, schools and youth.

What Traffickers Don’t Say – just barely over a minute, this public service announcement is incredibly powerful. Please watch it.

 

*The 27 Million slave estimate was taken from the Free the Slaves site, though I’ve seen similar estimates on other abolitionist sites.

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Filed under Action Alerts, Current events, Human Rights, In the News

A Vegan Parent's Survival Guide to Halloween!

It’s that time of year again. Time to put up cobwebs instead of sweeping them away. Time to stay up late watching scary movies instead of going to bed at a sensible hour. And, of course, time to Trick or Treat!

Now, speaking as a rabid raving Halloween lover, I have to tell you that I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. At first, you might think that it’s nearly impossible for vegan kids to get (let’s face it) butt loads of candy and treats that they can actually consume – Not to mention what the beleaguered vegan can give to greedy little Trick or Treaters that come a knockin’ October 31st. But never fear, it’s not really hard. It just requires a little foresight and planning.

For one thing, if you want to try to avoid the whole “getting non vegan treats” from well meaning omni friends and family, you can always have a party in your home. That way you control the games and the types of treats the kids are given. One year we had a costume party for my son’s birthday, and it ran along the same lines as Halloween. For starters, I put out a large box full of dress up items like funny hats and plastic googley eyed glasses (which was a big hit)! To get their goody bags, they had to go on a scavenger hunt with lots of clues sending them all over the house.

It’s not expensive to create vegan goody bags filled with vegan jelly beans, assorted non chocolate candies and a few inexpensive toys. At party stores you can usually buy bags of toys to give away such as spider rings, bouncy balls, marbles, and mini card games. If you’re feeling especially generous, you could maybe buy a slave free chocolate bar (such as Newman’s Dark Orange Chocolate) for each child. Another time tested idea is to have your little ones Trick or Treat for a charity like UNICEF. Again, as long as they get goodies at home from you, they shouldn’t be disappointed.

The party idea might work for younger children, but once those vegan tykes are old enough to go to school I’m fairly confident they’re going to be besieged with treats that you wouldn’t want in your home. How do you deal with this tactfully? Do you make a point of returning the candy? That’s really up to you. Personally, I’d at least explain why the child can not have the intended treats, if possible before hand so as to avoid any hurt feelings.

Let’s just cut to the chase and say that, despite your best efforts, you’re child comes home with a bag full of non vegan candy and slave chocolate. What do you do? How do you handle this without the child being disappointed? I assure you, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought.

From my own experience and also that of some other vegan parents, the ol’ switcheroo seems to work nicely. Basically, your child brings home their “goodies” but you offer (give) them in exchange a much better bag of vegan ethical goodies that no kid in their right mind would refuse. The trick is to make YOUR goody bag much more appealing than anything they would bring home. So far this year, my son’s exchange-bag-o-goodies includes 3 of his favorite candy bars, some snack bars, a mini notebook (a guaranteed favorite as he loves to draw constantly), and a monster hand puppet. I plan on getting a few more things here and there over the next few weeks; Maybe some little bags of chips and some vegan jelly beans. I might even throw in a pack of Chaotic cards and a Tech Deck (he collects them). Whatever your child is interested in or collects that isn’t too pricey would be a good choice. And, of course, I will let him keep any vegan candies he does happen to collect. The exchange only applies to the non vegan ones.

So enjoy your Halloween without taking a “holiday” from your ethics. And, of course, have a BOO-tiful Holiday!

***

Below are some links for Fair Trade vegan chocolates and jelly beans:

http://veganstore.com/sjaaks-organic…age_1/810.html

http://veganstore.com/vegansweets-je…age_1/842.html

**In the interest of full disclosure, the past Halloweens my son was vegetarian but not vegan. So he was able to “keep” a greater percentage of the candies he was given. This Halloween will be his first completely Vegan Halloween. I asked him about the exchange bag though,and he’s very excited about it! Also, the other vegan parents I’ve communicated with tell me this method works well for their own children. :)

**Also, please check out the Free Pamphlets page I posted (always found on the right column underneath the page search engine) for some literature to give out before the Holiday. Thanks!

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Filed under Action Alerts, Animal Rights and Veganism, Current events, Human Rights, In the News

Stop Supporting Slavery!

Most people (in the U.S. at least) are unaware of the direct link between cocoa and chocolate. The major chocolate companies get the majority of their cocoa from African countries, specifically the Ivory Coast, where most of the cocoa is harvested by child slaves. And NO, that isn’t an exaggeration. It’s a literal fact, well documented by the UN and watchdog groups around the world.

Please take a few minutes to watch these videos and stop supporting slavery.

Newsnight Story about Chocolate and Slavery

I find it inspiring that these children are taking responsibility for their actions and actively trying to abolish slavery. Below are some links for Slave Free chocolate guides.

Stop Chocolate Slavery

-information and table listing slave free chocolate

Stop the Traffick

-information and downloadable chocolate guide

My previous blog article (with links for more information below the article)

Also, Fair Trade cocoa products should be relatively safe, as should organic. (I realize organic is sort of an umbrella term, but it does require a certain amount of transparency. Also, The Ivory Coast, where the majority of the slave cocoa comes from, does not currently have any organic cocoa farms.)

News debate with big cocoa about slavery

Newsnight

So, if you’ve read and viewed this far, now you know. You can’t claim innocence. You know what is being bought with your dollars when you buy that chocolate bar.

Buy fair trade or organic cocoa products, or give up chocolate (cocoa products) altogether. Tell people about this issue. Phone and write the cocoa companies and tell them you won’t support child slavery!

Don’t eat bloody chocolate.

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Filed under Action Alerts, Animal Rights and Veganism, Current events, Human Rights, In the News

The Spirit of Giving

In the spirit of the season, I’d like to take some time to mention once again some special websites and charities that could benefit from your time and possible donations.

www.iabolish.com is the website for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Contrary to popular belief, slavery is not a thing of the past. It is a very, very real thing in every country on the planet RIGHT NOW. Mauritania and Sudan have chattel slavery. China has forced labor camps. There is slavery in the U.S. also, despite the fact that slavery has been outlawed worldwide. If you’d like to donate to a charity for Christmas, this is one of the best. They work to free modern slaves today.

I would also suggest reading “Enslaved” put out by AASG. Either get it from your library or buy it and read it yourself. Then pass it on or get another one as a gift to your local library or a friend.

***Also, a side note regarding the link between Slavery and Chocolate. Please keep this in mind when shopping for the holiday and only buy slave free (either organic or fair trade) cocoa and chocolate products. No one wants to contribute to slavery and suffering with their gifts. Thank you.

Another extremely worthy charity is Farm Sanctuary. You can donate directly to them as a Xmas present for someone, sponsor a rescued animal in someone’s name, or even make a purchase from their store.

If anyone has a computer, an internet connection, and 2 or 3 minutes of time every morning, they can donate to multiple charities every day with just a few clicks at Care2.com. Just click on the top left Click to donate button, and you can donate quite easily. The concept is simple. By clicking on a charity’s button, the site takes you to a “Thank you” page which displays ads and links for sponsors. The sponsors donate to the charity based on the number of people that see the ad on the site’s Thank you page. The sponsors get advertising, and the charity raises funds. Nice, eh?

Please practice random acts of kindness when you can, not just now but throughout the year. Pay for the person behind you on the toll road. Write a complimentary customer comment card or speak to the manager about an employee in an establishment that you patronize. Bake someone cookies for no particular reason. Just take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Also, for anyone with time (and possibly transportation) – please consider volunteering at a local shelter for the homeless, for abandoned animals, soup kitchen, etc. You name it. Just make a point to do something extra nice. Take advantage of the opportunities you have to be generous with your time as well as (or instead of) your wallet.

If you’ve read this far in my rather long and windy post, thank you and I’ll be getting off my soap box now!

And have a very, very nice Holiday!

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Filed under Action Alerts, Animal Rights and Veganism, Current events, Human Rights

Alert: Conflict-free Chocolate?


 
Focus: Human Rights
Action Request: Various
Location: United States

The bitter taste of our favorite sweet.


When you think of chocolate, you likely think of your favorite recipe for chocolate cake, a gooey candybar, or a steaming mug of hot cocoa. Did you ever think chocolate could be linked to human bondage? Child slavery? Civil wars and unspeakable suffering? I didn’t either, until I read this article – “Cocoa and Conflict: A Look at Côte d’Ivoire

 

That article is just a drop in the bucket though. Apparently about half of the world’s supply of cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast where the profits are used to fund both sides of a civil war between the Government and rebels. Child slaves are caught and sold to harvest the cocoa. Arms bought with the proceeds are used to continue the conflict which includes political assassinations, “disappearances” and torture. Families are separated. Lives are ruined. Suddenly that candy doesn’t taste quite so sweet.


But there is something you CAN do about it. For one thing, stop buying chocolate of unknown origins. Make sure that any cocoa or chocolate you purchase is certified fair trade. In leiu of that, call the company of whatever product you are considering purchasing and ask “Where do you get your cocoa? Did you know about the link between slavery and chocolate?” Vote with your pocketbook, and voice your concerns to any company you may have questions about. They will appreciate the feedback. I know that I feel better knowing my son’s cereal is both vegan and slave free. I don’t want to feed my son, myself, or anyone in my family something flavored with the misery of others. I’ll take my cocoa with compassion.


For a list of fair trade cocoa/chocolate:


http://vision.ucsd.edu/%7Ekbranson/stopchocolateslavery/goodchocolateproducts.html


For more info on this subject:


http://www.stopthetraffik.org/chocolatecampaign/


http://africa.reuters.com/top/news/usnBAN225964.html


http://www.american.edu/ted/chocolate-slave.htm


http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0412-05.htm

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Filed under Action Alerts, Human Rights