RIGHTS REPORTGroup Faults World Leaders for ‘Normalizing’ Hate
A recent report by Amnesty International—The State of the World’s Human Rights—accuses world political leaders of “state-sponsored hate,” which it said contributed to a “rollback” of human rights worldwide.
The announcement came in the human rights group’s annual report in February covering 159 countries where it said “hate-filled rhetoric” by leadership is normalizing discrimination against minorities.
The situation has been poignantly reflected in Myanmar, where wholesale massacres of Rohingya Muslims have been reported. The U.N. estimates 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled the country into camps along the Bangladesh border. The Myanmar military launched a crackdown on insurgents last August.
The Amnesty report accuses the international community of failing to mount a robust response to the Myanmar crisis and to war crimes committed in Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
ONLINE SEX TRAFFICKINGFBI Seizes Backpage.com
The FBI and a string of other U.S. law enforcement entities shut down Backpage.com on April 6, dealing a death blow to the classified ads website whose name had become synonymous with sex trafficking, especially that of underage children.
Following the website’s abrupt closure, federal authorities unsealed a 93-count indictment, charging Backpage’s founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin, along with five other senior executives, with facilitating prostitution and money laundering.
The indictment revealed details about victims trafficked on Backpage, including children as young as 14. The website, the subject of a 2017 U.S. Senate investigation report titled Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking, earned more than $500 million in prostitution-linked revenue since it was launched in 2004, according to the indictment.
Lacey and Larkin, along with Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, face separate money laundering charges in California, stemming from the income generated by the website’s illicit activity.
With federal investigators looking into Backpage, who could forget that Lacey and Larkin had their own propagandist who labeled anyone exposing the human trafficking as suffering from “mass paranoia,” and accusing them of “junk science” and sensationalism. That propagandist is the same failed reporter, Tony Ortega, who some say has been paid to keep quiet regarding Backpage. Ortega wrote this of his former employers, “The people I work for were smart enough to start Backpage.com.”
A day before Backpage was shut down, Ferrer cut a plea deal with state and federal prosecutors, conceding that he knew the website had become a hub for online prostitution since it was founded in 2004, court records show. For years, Backpage had defended its actions by invoking the First Amendment and pointing to a 1996 communications law that offers website operators broad immunities from liabilities for hosting illegal content created or posted by users.
Ferrer, 57, agreed to plead guilty to charges in state courts in California and Texas as well as federal charges in Arizona.
BATTLING ADDICTIONPolice Take Back Day Nets 475 Tons of Pills
The 15th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on April 28 yielded 949,046 pounds—475 tons—of prescription drugs. Sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the biannual event came as overdose deaths from opioid pain relievers have quadrupled since 1999, National Institute on Drug Abuse statistics show.
As many as 5,842 collection sites, monitored by 4,683 law enforcement officers, were set up to safely gather unused prescription drugs.
Texas, with 82,978 pounds, topped the list where the most prescription drugs were collected. California, with 69,883 pounds, placed second. Wisconsin, which netted 62,195 pounds, was third.
Since the National Prescription Take Back Day began in 2010, California has collected more drugs (890,133 pounds) than any other state. Texas’ total was 752,766 pounds, followed by Wisconsin, with 591,472 pounds.
Unintentional overdose deaths related to opioid pain relievers have outnumbered those involving heroin and cocaine since 2002.
MEDIA BIASBBC Ordered to Broaden Religious Coverage
Ofcom—the official regulator of Great Britain’s communications media—has ordered the BBC to offer more religious programming. The BBC responded by announcing its own review, which concluded that people of all faiths were “often absent, poorly represented or satirized” in its programming.
As a result, the U.K.’s media giant said earlier this year it will include more religious themes in its popular dramas on both TV and radio, more documentaries covering religious and ethical issues and coverage of celebrations of Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Christian holy days.
Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, told the London Times that the new plans “will ensure the BBC better reflects the U.K., the world and the role that religion plays in everyday life.”
In recent years the BBC has cut religious programming, which culminated in April 2017 with the closure of its religion and ethics television studios in Manchester.
It still produced more than 7,000 hours of religious broadcasting.
Its review consisted of input from more than 150 experts and faith leaders, the BBC said.
Patient, Heal ThyselfPsychiatrists Don’t Take Their Own Medicine
What do psychiatrists do when they are crippled by prolonged emotional, mental or physical stress? According to Medscape, a leading medical news website, nearly 60 percent of psychiatrists recently surveyed cope with burnout by talking with family members or close friends. A little more than 50 percent also exercise, while 43 percent catch up on sleep, and 40 percent listen to music.
Only 7 percent of psychiatrists surveyed said they use prescription drugs to handle burnout or stress. The statistic contrasts sharply with the fact that when it comes to writing prescriptions for patients, psychiatrists commonly recommend antidepressants such as Xanax, Klonopin and Valium. These chemical “solutions” are well-known to cause anxiety, deepen depression and increase psychosis and violence.
Other options for stressed-out psychiatrists included eating junk food, drinking alcohol and binge eating.
TestimonyUN Hears Witnesses on Human Rights Abuses in Pakistan
The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, took testimony recently on allegations of egregious human rights abuses against religious minorities in Pakistan, including accusations of systematic persecution of Christians by the Muslim majority there.
Witnesses and human rights representatives told the council that blasphemy laws, dating to an Islamic military dictatorship there in the 1970s, have become a weapon of choice for Islamic fundamentalists in suppressing minority religions.
Shazia Khokhar—a Christian activist from Pakistan now living in Switzerland—testified that she had seen blasphemy laws used to create “an atmosphere of religious intolerance [that] has contributed to the institutionalization of discrimination against religious minorities.”
A number of controversial blasphemy accusations have gained international attention, including a death sentence handed out to a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was found guilty of blasphemy while working in the fields in 2009 for drinking from a cup belonging to a Muslim worker.
Other cases cited before the council included the alleged beating death of a Christian schoolboy by classmates in Pakistan after he drank from a water fountain reserved for Muslims, and the alleged kidnapping of Christian girls subsequently forced into marriages with Muslim men.
A psychologist in Chula Vista, California, has surrendered his state license following accusations he smuggled drugs and mobile phones to inmates at a San Diego prison.
Psychologist Jeremy Trimble worked as a contractor at the prison in 2015. A complaint made last December by the California Board of Psychology alleged that Trimble smuggled drugs and cell phones into the prison in 2015.
He surrendered his license effective March 29, 2018. No criminal charges have been filed.
ELECTROSHOCKFDA Asked to ‘Stop the Torture’
A nationwide disability rights group, ADAPT, is demanding the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibit a Boston-area facility from using electric shocks to control autistic and emotionally disturbed children, treatment that has already been declared torture by the United Nations.
Members of ADAPT held a 12-day vigil near the home of FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in March, carrying banners declaring “Stop the Shock,” and demanding a ban on the Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED) machines used at the Judge Rotenburg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts.
The device uses painful 200-volt shocks to force compliant behavior from autistic or seriously emotionally disturbed children and adult patients, remotely sending electricity through bands strapped to their arms or legs 24 hours a day. ADAPT, which along with other patients’ rights groups has been calling for a ban since 2014, said the shocks can be administered at anytime, whether the patient is sitting or standing, eating, showering or even sleeping.
For years, media reports highlighting the abusive practice have put pressure on the FDA to take action. But rules governing the GED shock machine remain mired in red tape, ADAPT organizer Dawn Russell told Freedom.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Méndez, condemned the practice as torture, and the American Civil Liberties Union called it “inhumane.”
A psychiatrist in Delaware has been barred from practicing for 60 days pending a disciplinary hearing after allegations that he bartered treatment for guns and failed to monitor addictive pain medications prescribed to patients.
Delaware Secretary of State Jeff Bullock suspended Dover psychiatrist Gregory Villabona’s license in March, following a two-year investigation by the Delaware Department of Justice. Investigators alleged that Villabona “prescribed opioids to patients … with little or no required documentation … and exchanged guns and weapons with patients.”
“The facts presented to me in this case demonstrate an immediate danger to public safety,” Bullock said in a press statement.
One of Villabona’s patients died after he allegedly continued prescribing oxycodone despite notification by state authorities that the patient was in court-ordered treatment and was obtaining narcotics from multiple providers.
He was found guilty in 2003 of unprofessional conduct involving alleged sexual misconduct with patients according to state records obtained by Freedom.