Starting on June 12, some 600,000 fans will descend on Brazil to attend the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The quadrennial soccer championship will showcase the host country’s vibrant culture and revamped infrastructure as well as the unmatched skill of players from across the globe. But in the shadows of the newly constructed stadiums lurks the ugly underground world of human trafficking.
Brazil has the unfortunate distinction of being a popular destination for sex tourists, and anti-trafficking activists warn that the influx of foreigners around the games will probably lead to a spike in the sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults. During large sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympic Games, criminal gangs and predators seeking to capitalize on the increased demand for prostitution lure poor, vulnerable girls to the arenas and hotels with the promise of lucrative “work.” To combat this scourge, Talitha Kum (Little Girl, Arise), an international network of religious orders against human trafficking, has partnered with the Vatican and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See to launch a new campaign called Play for Life—Denounce Trafficking. Women religious and other advocates are using social media and public demonstrations to raise awareness about the heightened threat of child prostitution and forced labor; and during the month-long tournament, they will hand out leaflets at airports and other tourist spots encouraging visitors to be vigilant and report suspected exploitation to the police.
Churches, nongovernmental organizations and government agencies have mounted serious efforts to combat this vicious assault on human dignity in anticipation of the games. But even without the added risks of a large event, Unicef estimates that 250,000 children become victims of prostitution every year in Brazil. When the last whistle blows, Brazilian authorities and the international community must not shift the spotlight away from this horrific crime.
No More Hot Air
After years creating strategic reserves of rhetoric against climate change, the Obama administration released on June 2 new standards aimed at reducing emissions from the nation’s roughly 550 coal-burning power plants. The proposal would cut carbon emissions from coal-burning facilities—the nation’s top producers of greenhouse gases—by 30 percent from 2005 levels. States have until 2030 to meet individualized goals, either by shutting down coal plants, switching to renewables, deploying more energy-efficient technology or joining cap-and-trade programs.
President Obama finally had little choice but to sidestep Congress and set loose the regulatory dogs of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The proposed standards, if they survive the scrutiny of courts and Congress, place the United States at the global forefront of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and, we hope, will hopefully encourage other large producers like China and India to follow suit. The new standards are good for the planet, good for public health and, by setting the stage for new industrial innovations and the broad adoption of sustainable energy technologies, will likely prove good for the U.S. economy.
The state-by-state compliance standards set by the E.P.A. and the unprecedented flexibility offered by the plan suggest complaints about an overbearing federal bureaucracy are unwarranted. That will not, of course, stop critics from arguing that the new standards will sink the economy and throttle U.S. job creation. Let’s recall, however, that these are often the same folks who, in the face of 97 percent certainty in the climate science community, continue to deny the threat of climate change.
A Screed in ‘Real Time’
The Catholic Church has been subjected to many criticisms over the past few years, some of them well-deserved. We all know about the painful revelations of sexual abuse and the financial scandals at the Vatican. But sometimes legitimate criticism crosses the line into hateful screed. Some mean-spirited words during the May 16 episode of the satirist Bill Maher’s show “Real Time” crossed that line.
Mr. Maher mocked Pope Francis’ lighthearted comments about the church baptizing anyone who desires to become a Christian—even, say, Martians. In one fell swoop, he attacked the pope, Mitt Romney, Mormons and, most offensively, the sacrament of baptism, calling it “getting sprinkled with magic water.” For good measure, he joked about a groping, 50-foot-tall extraterrestrial priest with six arms. Crude smears like these are undignified.
People with influential media platforms should not use them to denigrate anyone’s faith. For whatever reason, Mr. Maher has turned against religion. That is his right and a matter for his own conscience. Thoughtful critiques are one thing, but his gratuitous attacks reveal unwarranted hostility. He is not the only person to voice such sentiments, and he will probably not be the last. But Mr. Maher is on the board of Sam Harris’s Project Reason. He would do well to practice some of the “vigorous self-criticism” the project seeks to promote.