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Most Countries Receive a Failing Grade on Human Rights


Sunday, December 10th, 2023


This week’s core story is about: World failure on human rights.

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Most Countries Receive a Failing Grade on Human Rights

A new report grades countries on their human rights practices, finding most are failing.


A new report by researchers at the University of Rhode Island grades the world’s countries on their human rights practices, finding most are failing to protect their citizens’ most basic civil and economic rights, amid a global decline in human rights protections this century.

Report highlights:

The report, produced by the Global RIghts Project (GRIP), draws on data from the CIRIGHTS Data Project, the largest quantitative human rights datas et in the world. The dataset includes human rights reports from the U.S. Department of State, Amnesty International, and the U.N., among other sources. 

The GRIP researchers graded nations on a 100-point scale based on how much a country respects a suite of 25 human rights, including physical integrity rights like freedom from torture or political imprisonment, empowerment rights like free speech and assembly, and worker rights like the right to unionize and freedom from child labor.

The researchers say the grades seek to “provide an overall picture of each country’s human rights practices.” 

The report found 63% of countries scored an “F” (a score of 0-59) on their respect for human rights in 2023, while 11% received a “D” (60-69) and less than one-fifth got an “A” (5%; score of 90-100) or “B” (14%; score of 80-89). 

The top five grades were given to Finland (score of 98; or an “A”), Australia (92; “A-”), Estonia (92; “A-”), Sweden (92; “A-”), and Austria (90; “A-”). The five worst grades were given to Iran (score of 0), Syria (6), Yemen (8), Venezuela (12), and Egypt (14). 

The U.S., which scored high on civil and political rights while performing poorly on labor and women’s rights, received a score of 64, earning a “D”. The global median score was 50, or an “F”. 

Among the characteristics that correlated with better scores, the report found “democracy is one of the strongest predictors of human rights around the globe.” “Our data suggest that the more democratic a country is, the better its human rights practices are (on average),” the authors wrote.

The report also found smaller countries tend to have better human rights practices than larger nations, while wealthier countries tend to score higher than poorer countries.

Why it matters:

Regarding trends, the report found human rights scores have declined by one to three points globally this century, suggesting “global human rights protection is on the decline.” Overall, 72% of countries scored an “F” (60%) or “D” (12%) for their human rights practices over the past two decades, while just 16% scored an “A” (6%) or “B” (10%).

“A decline in human rights is always a cause for concern for citizens’ quality of life,” the authors wrote. “If human rights are in decline, democracy is declining … and inequality is increasing.”


A new report found global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels reached a record high in 2023.


Global CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuels Reached a Record High in 2023

A new report by the Global Carbon Project found global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased 1.1% in 2023, reaching a new record high of 36.8 billion tonnes. When emissions from land use are included, the Global Carbon Budget report projects global CO2 emissions will reach 40.9 billion tonnes by the end of 2023.

  • Based on current emissions levels, the researchers estimate there’s a 50% chance global warming will exceed 1.5°C consistently in about seven years. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C is one of the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

  • “It now looks inevitable we will overshoot the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement,” said lead author Pierra Friedlingstein. “And leaders meeting at COP28 will have to agree to rapid cuts in fossil fuel emissions even to keep the 2°C target alive." 



A new Gallup survey highlights the significant STEM gender gap among Gen Z


The STEM Gender Gap Among Gen Z 

A new survey by Gallup highlights the significant STEM gender gaps among Gen Z in the U.S., finding 85% of males born between 1997 and 2011 say they’re very or somewhat interested in at least one STEM field, compared with 63% of females.

  • The fields with the largest gaps in reported interest (28 percentage points each) are engineering (24% of females reported interest vs. 52% of males) and computers and technology (34% vs. 62%).

  • The survey also found that while young men and women are about as equally likely to say they don’t enjoy STEM, confidence in one’s ability differs significantly by gender. According to Gallup, 57% of Gen Z females say they aren’t interested in STEM because they don’t think they’d be good at it, compared with 38% of males.



A new study found some modern earthquakes are actually 200-year-old aftershocks.

U.S. Geological Survey

Some Modern Earthquakes May Be 200-Year-Old Aftershocks

A new study by researchers at Wuhan University in China found about 30% of all earthquakes near the Missouri-Kentucky border from 1980 to 2016 were likely aftershocks from major earthquakes that struck the area in 1811 and 1812. The study also found around 16% of modern-day quakes in Charleston, South Carolina were likely aftershocks from an earthquake that struck the region in 1886 (aftermath pictured above).

  • The researchers examined three major earthquake events in North America that ranged in magnitude from 6.5 to 8.0: one near Quebec, Canada in 1663; three earthquakes near the Missouri-Kentucky border from 1811 to 1812; and one in Charleston in 1886. 

  • The three events are the largest earthquakes in recent history in the stable continental interior of North America, where less tectonic activity happens than regions located near plate boundaries, like the continent’s west coast.


Climate May Shape the Evolution of Languages

A new study by researchers at Kiel University in Germany found the average ambient air temperature of a region influences the loudness of the languages spoken there, with warmer regions tending to have louder speech sounds than those in colder regions.

The study focused on the relationship between temperature and speech. Since we’re surrounded by air when we speak and spoken words are necessarily transmitted through the air as sound waves, the physical properties of the air can influence how easy it is to produce and hear speech.

“On the one hand, the dryness of cold air poses a challenge to the production of voiced sounds, which require vibration of the vocal cords. On the other hand, warm air tends to limit unvoiced sounds by absorbing their high-frequency energy,” said lead author Søren Wichmann.

The researchers found languages occurring around the Earth’s Equator have the highest sonority (i.e., loudness), while the lowest sonority belongs to the Salish languages on the northwest coast of North America.


  • 85% - The percentage of U.S. voters in battleground states (Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio) who support paid family leave, according to a new survey by the Paid Leave for All campaign. The figure includes 64% of voters who say they strongly support paid family leave.

  • 29,000 - The estimated number of American lives that could have been saved if the U.S. government had authorized COVID booster shots sooner, according to a new study by researchers at Northwestern University. The figure is based on a comparison of the U.S.’s COVID booster shot rollout with Israel’s. 


Long Video. Get the scoop on NASA’s journey to the Moon with the Artemis mission. (13 min)

Short Video. Here’s why “buy one, get one free” isn’t always a good deal. (4 min)

Fun Video. Why isn’t the Netherlands already underwater? (5 min)

Good Read. Learn why the Founding Fathers considered American democracy an “experiment” and why they weren’t sure it’d survive. (884 words; 4 min)

Neat List. Check out the best books of 2023, according to Smithsonian Magazine.


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Written by Ryan Wittler