As we approach the joyful holiday season, it is important to remember the challenges that so many across the world continue to face. Malaria, which is transmitted from the bite of a single mosquito, causes 200 million illnesses per year and kills more than 600,000 people, most of whom are children under the age of five. Jewish tradition teaches us that human life is sacred because all of humanity is created b’tselem Elohim, in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Thus, we must make sure to treat each life with equal value, and fight this disease that is both treatable and preventable.
This week, talks have begun between global leaders and civil society in Lima, Peru on what an international commitment to mitigating the harmful effects of climate disruption and reducing our worldwide greenhouse gas emission footprint could look like. In the past month, President Obama has made several historical moves as a global leader on climate change.
One out of three women worldwide will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. In some countries, it’s as many as seven in ten. Violence against women is a human rights violation that devastates lives, fractures communities and prevents women from fully contributing to the economic development of their countries.
Take a minute to think about the things we do every day: go to work, go to school, provide food for ourselves and for our families. We generally do not equate these tasks with putting ourselves in danger. But, that’s not the case everywhere. Often, the perpetrators of violence against women and girls commit that violence while women are on their way to work or to collect food and water, or while girls are on their way to school—that is, if they are allowed to go to school at all. Read more…
According to a new report published earlier this month in the twelfth edition of the World Report on Religious Freedom, issued by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, religious freedom is at risk. The report looks at the state of religious freedom in 196 countries between October 2012 and June 2014 by collecting first-hand data. The report measures religious freedom in each country by the following factors: the right to conversion, to build places of worship, to conduct missions and whether children are allowed to be educated according to the religious principles of their parents. The report notes that religious freedom is at risk in Europe and has been increasingly suppressed in the United States.
This past week, the United Nations Convention Against Torture met and examined President George W. Bush and President Obama’s track records on cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The panel that monitors compliance with an international anti-torture was critical of the treatment of prisoners currently being held at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. They questioned the United States delegation on practices such as the four-hour minimum sleep standards that could lead to unnecessary sleep deprivation, according to a New York Times report from last week.
Yesterday, President Obama came to an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to curb greenhouse gas emissions in both countries. This agreement comes in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, next month.
In response to the announcement of the U.S.-China climate agreement, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action, said in a statement:
“Though far from perfect, this week’s agreement between the U.S. and China, the world’s two most carbon emitting nations, is a positive step toward addressing the crisis of climate change… We are reminded of the words of Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, that it is not our responsibility to finish the task, but neither are we free to desist from it. The U.S–China deal is a recognition by leaders of both nations that they have a responsibility to current and future generations to respond to the challenge of climate change. We will continue to work to ensure that this plan is not the end of the process of addressing climate change, but one step toward a healthier future for our earth and all its inhabitants.”
Earlier today, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued two new items of guidance regarding the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The first guidance offers special relief for leave-based donation programs to aid Ebola victims in the aforementioned countries. The other guidance names the Ebola outbreak in these West African countries a “qualified disaster” for federal tax purposes.
The leave-based donation guidance would allow employees to donate their paid vacation, sick or personal leave and employers will make cash payments to tax-exempt organizations that are providing relief for the victims of Ebola in Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. This program will allow for employer cash payments until January 1, 2016. For this period, the donated leave will not be included in the sum of income or wages of the employees. Furthermore, employers will be able to deduct the amount of the cash payment, also a boon for them.
It is no secret that Americans are freaking out about Ebola. According to a Washington Post poll from last week, two-thirds of Americans are suffering from “Fear-bola,” a hyper-contagious “disease” that affects the brain, making sufferers fear a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States. In response, a number of news sources, like Vox, have worked to convey how minor the risk of outbreak is to everyday Americans. However, the disease has claimed over 4,800 lives and is still a significant and dangerous threat in many countries in West Africa. Estimates of the future impact of Ebola in the region are frightening, and the virus is also compounding other existing global health concerns, like malaria. Furthermore, Ebola not only kills many who are afflicted by the disease, but is also afflicting the economy in many West African countries which pushes these countries further behind economically. Read more…