Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the release Wednesday of the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
The TIP report ranks governments, including the United States, on their efforts to combat and prevent human trafficking. While Tier 1 is the highest ranking, it does not mean that a country has no human trafficking problem.
The TIP report ranks countries into one of three tiers based on their level of compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking as outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
This year for the first time, the State Department was required by statute to move six countries off the Tier 2 Watch List; Azerbaijan, Congo-Brazzaville and Iraq were moved to Tier 2, while China, Russia and Uzbekistan were downgraded to Tier 3 and now face possible sanctions.
“The TIP Report is only as good as it is honest, and we commend the State Department for using fact-based analysis -- not concern for sensitive geopolitical relationships -- when it assigned Tier 3 rankings to Russia, Uzbekistan and China,” said David Abramowitz, director of The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, a coalition of 12 U.S.-based human rights organizations.
Other sensitive countries, including Thailand -- where the fishing industry is filled with trafficked workers who are routinely murdered -- remained on the Tier 2 Watch List and face automatic downgrade next year if they do not demonstrate appreciable progress.
"In the last year, roughly 46,000 victims of trafficking were brought to light worldwide -- compared to 27 million who are enslaved," Kerry said.
Today, 83 percent of countries have legislation to combat human trafficking, compared to only 60 percent in 2009. Still, of 46,570 identified victims in 2012, just 16 percent of cases were prosecuted, with convictions in only 4,746 cases -- about 10 percent.
So far, 154 states are party to the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, and 16 percent have never recorded a single conviction for human trafficking.
"When we help countries prosecute traffickers, we’re strengthening the rule of law," Kerry said.
The U.S. was added to the TIP report three years ago with a Tier 1 ranking. President Obama has announced several new initiatives to combat modern slavery and proposed increased anti-trafficking funding in his 2014 budget.
It took a year for Johnny Depp to open up about his breakup with former girlfriend Vanessa Paradis.
The two ended their 14-year relationship in June 2012. They share two children: Lily-Rose, 14, and Jack, 11.
This is the first time the "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor has spoken about the breakup, which came after their acting careers had them living apart for months at a time. They were not seen together in public after 2010.
Depp, 50, said he will always be close to Paradis, especially because of the children. The children were also his reason not to turn to drinking during the split.
"In terms of the breakup, I definitely wasn’t going to rely on the drink to ease things or cushion the blow or cushion the situation," Depp said. Neither has told the real reason for their split, and Paradis said she never will.
Since the split, Depp has been seeing actress Amber Heard, while Paradis has been linked to Benjamin Biolay, former French first lady Carla Bruni's ex-boyfriend.
Miley Cyrus just released her new music video for the single "We Can't Stop."
In the video, she is seen kissing a mannequin, wrestling with a female friend and twerking. She wears outfits that could have been pulled straight from an American Apparel catalog -- a pair of onesies, a beanie a la bank robber with an attached birdcage, and several crop tops.
The video also features a singing floating head, people wearing giant grand-prize-at-a-carnival-worthy teddy bears strapped to their backs and a beer-bottle piñata filled with cigars.
Suffice it to say, the only way to understand the video is to watch it, and assume she's just being Miley.
A set of twins was captured in a video having the best time ever while playing with two rubber bands and kitchen cabinets.
In the clip, the two toddlers can be heard laughing their hearts out as they stretch rubber bands placed on cabinet door knobs only to find they snap right back to their starting position. If you can spare just over two minutes to watch this video, take a peek below.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced Wednesday that the company would issue a partial recall of its Model S sedan over a seat defect.
The post clarified that the weld is indeed attached to the cars, that there have been no customer complaints or reported injuries thus far and that the defect was not brought to Tesla's attention by a regulatory agency.
Musk added that affected Model S owners will be contacted in the next few days to coordinate a date for their vehicles to be picked up, fixed and returned to them hours later.
Calling the report a "smear campaign" written by "human scum... moving desperately to deter" North Korea, the Ministry of People's Security, which is responsible for policing, said the defectors were being used by the U.S. and South Korea.
The ministry said it was determined to "physically remove the despicable human scum who are committing this treason."
The report originated from an unnamed North Korean official living in China.
"Mentioning that Hitler managed to rebuilt Germany in a short time following its defeat in WWI, Kim Jong Un issued an order for the Third Reich to be studied in depth and asked that practical applications be drawn from it," the source said.
Two bodies were discovered this morning at Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. An employee at Dreyfoos found the bodies of a school custodian and another adult early Wednesday morning.
"It's an open death investigation," West Palm Beach Police spokesman Capt. David Bernhardt said. "That way we're not limiting to ourselves what type of investigation we are doing. It could turn out to be a homicide investigation later on, it could just be a normal death investigation."
So far police say there is no obvious sign of how the two people died at the downtown high school. Bernhardt declined to give the ages or genders of the victims, though they were both reportedly adults.
Bernhardt also revealed the bodies were discovered in a "maintenance or supply area" near the school's theater, and were not found inside a classroom. Although the school held its graduation in May, it is unclear if summer classes were scheduled.
Police, including SWAT, were in and out of the school this morning. The SWAT team was inside to secure the building. The FBI appeared on the scene briefly until it was determined there was no active shooter.
“Our hearts are broken by the tragic loss of lives at the Dreyfoos School. It is a sad day for our schools, community and our workers. While the investigations are underway and we are anxiously waiting to know the details, our heartfelt condolences go out to the co-workers and families,” SEIU-Florida Public Services Union President Alphonso Mayfield said in a statement.
Dreyfoos alumni and parents were shocked to hear of the discovery on the campus of the arts school.
Super chilling to read a headline with my high school's name in it - two bodies found there this morning: http://t.co/xNktdRxRh0— Celeste Ridlen (@celesteasaurus) June 19, 2013
Going to Dreyfoos was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I felt safe there. I'm so heartbroken from this act.— Sammy Robinson (@sammylee224) June 19, 2013
Channing Tatum was all over Tuesday's "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
He and Jamie Foxx debuted a video for a song called "(I Wanna) Channing All Over Your Tatum," reprising the song from Kimmel's post-Oscar show in February.
The video aired during a special edition of the show that aired before game six of the NBA Finals. It features a host of other celebrities, including Miley Cyrus, Gabourey Sidibe, Matt Damon and Olivia Munn alongside Kimmel and Tatum.
Channing's name appears all over the video on Champagne bottles, sunscreen, T-shirts and whipped cream, and is sung in a "Channing" chorus.
Country singer Slim Whitman, famous for his falsetto and yodeling style, has died. He was 90 years old.
Whitman sold millions of records and appeared in several self-promotional TV ads in the 1980s and 90s. He also wrote the song that saved everyone from aliens in "Mars Attacks!" His career spanned six decades.
He died of heart failure in a Florida hospital, his brother-in-law said.
Whitman was born in Tampa and grew up listening to Jimmie Rodgers. He did not pursue a music career of his own until after World War II, during which he served in the U.S. Navy.
He started out with a band called the Variety Rhythm Boys. The band was picked up by Tom Parker, who later represented Elvis Presley. Parker earned the band a recording deal with RCA Victor, and released Whitman's first single in 1948.
Whitman hit the top 10 in 1952 with hits including "Indian Love Call" and "Keep it a Secret." He was consistently in the charts until 1955, when his hits became less frequent.
He didn't have another chart single until 1961, when "The Bells that Broke My Heart" hit No. 30.
From there, he started a chart streak, placing 22 singles through 1974. He kept the momentum with a mail-order TV album, which was a new concept. He sold 1.5 million units of his first mail-order album "All My Best" in 1979.
"All of a sudden, here comes a guy in a black and white suit, with a mustache and a receding hairline, playing a guitar and singing 'Rose Marie,"' Whitman said in 1991. "That TV ad is the reason I'm still here."
The popularity of the TV album took him to the top 20 again in 1980, which earned him an appearance on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.
He also became the butt of several jokes, including Slim Whitman lookalike contests to match Whitman's own thick mustache, sideburns and receding hairline. He became a pop culture icon, showing up in "Mars Attacks!" and 2007's "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
Whitman released his last album, "Twilight On The Trail," in 2010.
"The material I did was lasting material," Whitman said in 1991. "A lot of people thought I wasn't doing anything, but I was in the studio. The biggest factor is the material you choose. You hunt, you cut."
Seventeen years ago next month, TWA Flight 800 to Paris exploded shortly after takeoff from New York, killing all 230 people aboard and setting off a four-year investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board, with the aid of the CIA and the FBI, determined the fatal crash was caused by a spark from faulty wiring. But the explanation never sat well with some and the account has been dogged by accusations of a coverup.
A new documentary premiering July 17, on the crash anniversary, claims to have new proof of a deliberate act of terrorism. "TWA Flight 800" says forensic evidence, along with eyewitness accounts, reveals a missile hit the plane's right wing, causing the explosion.
Six former investigators involved in the film are calling for the investigation to be reopened in light of what they say is new evidence and a "falsified probe," and filed a petition Wednesday with the NTSB.
Among the claims was that the FBI dismissed the claims of almost 800 eyewitnesses, who they say "recalled seeing something resembling a flare or firework ascend and culminate in an explosion."
"Had the crash been the result of state-sponsored terrorism, it would have been considered an act of war," a CIA report from 2008 said. After and eight-month investigation, the CIA "concluded with confidence and full substantiation that the eyewitnesses had not seen a missile."
Instead, the CIA determined the "eyewitness sightings of greatest concerns to us -- the ones originally interpreted to be a possible missile attack -- took place after the first of several explosions aboard the aircraft."
Jim Speer, an accident investigator for the Airline Pilots Association, said he found holes that would be explained by a high-energy explosion on the right wing. When the test came back positive, he said, he was "forcibly removed" from the room by CIA agents.
The film's co-producer Tom Stalcup said radar data offered "solid proof that there was an external detonation" that resulted in an "asymmetric explosion coming out of the plane -- something that didn't happen in the official theory."
But not everyone buys a coverup.
While investigators who took part in the documentary said they kept quiet at the time of the investigation out of fear they would lose their jobs, waiting until after they retired, the former Department of Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo was skeptical.
"If this really troubled them at the time and they had conclusive evidence, -- they said they kept quiet to keep their jobs -- well, there's a duty beyond that and there's ways to report this," Schiavo said. "I was the inspector general."
And Pat Milton, a CBS reporter who wrote an account of the investigation called "In the Blink of An Eye" that came out of 11 months at the scene, said the conspiracy theories surrounding the crash have been discounted over time.
One of the oft-pinpointed reasons for doubt comes from the involvement of the FBI and CIA, and the FBI's initial report that terrorism could have been involved.
"At the time, bin Laden was just coming onto the radar of the FBI," she said, which is why the security agencies were involved at all. But the absence of "the tell-tale piece" of evidence eventually led the investigators to rule out terrorism.
The NTSB is required to respond to the petition requesting a reopened investigation, and said the Office of Aviation Safety would assign a team of people who were not involved in the original probe to determine if the documentary team indeed brought new information to the table.
Investigators "spent an enormous amount of time reviewing, documenting and analyzing facts and data, and held a five-day public hearing to gather additional facts before determining the probable cause of the accident," said NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel.
The documentary will air July 17 on EPIX.