<\body> Stories in America: February 2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Undercovered News: South Dakota Travel Ban, Rape in Darfur, Bush to Shut Down AmeriCorps

Facts and Figures on U.S. Women

Population: As of July 1, 2004, there were 149.1 million females in the United States. There were 144.5 males.

Education: 31 percent of women ages 25 to 29 years had attained a bachelor's degree or higher in 2004, which exceeded that of men in this age range (26 percent).

Businesses: There were 6.5 million women-owned businesses in 2002, up 20 percent from 1997.

Earnings: Women 15 and older, who worked full time, year-round, earned 77 cents for every $1 their male counterparts earned in 2004. This amount is up from 76 cents for every dollar in 2003.

Voting: 65 percent of female citizens reported that they voted in the 2004 presidential election, which was higher than the 62 percent of their male counterparts who cast a ballot.

Military: As of Sept. 30, 2004, women made up 15 of the armed forces. In 1950, women comprised fewer than 2 percent.

Source: US Census


*March is Women's History Month, a federally recognized, nationwide celebration that encourages all Americans to reflect on the ways in which women have shaped U.S. history. But how did this celebration come to be, and why is it held in March?

*Women of color in the sciences are celebrated in a new book that aims to inspire the next generation. But educators and some of the featured scientists worry that recent gains for black female scientists are vulnerable to unraveling.
Source: Women's eNews

*Effa Manley became the first woman elected to the baseball Hall of Fame when the former Newark Eagles co-owner was among 17 people from the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues chosen Monday by a special committee.
Source: AP

*Without any public notice, the US Environmental Protection Agency has rewritten its proposed rule on human experiments to authorize chemical testing on fetal tissue, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The change will allow pesticide and chemical companies to conduct experiments on aborted fetuses to buttress lobbying efforts for relaxation of federal regulation and increases in allowable dosage levels for its products.
Source: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility


*President Bush, who embraced AmeriCorps as part of his "compassionate conservative" agenda in 2001, now wants to shut down a part of the national service program that his administration has deemed "ineffective." Beginning next year, the White House would reduce funding for the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps from $27 million to $5 million with the goal of closing it down, according to the president's budget. About 81 full-time staff members would lose their jobs.
Source: Washington Post

*Bucking rising sentiment against illegal immigrants, Congress recently voted to increase protections for undocumented immigrants trapped in abusive relationships or sex-trade networks. President Bush signed these amendments into an existing law in January, giving abused undocumented women greater options for obtaining legal status and escaping perilous circumstances, according to two attorneys who spoke Friday in Sacramento at a workshop for social workers and law enforcement representatives from around the state.
Source: Sacramento Bee

*The Bush administration will oppose a U.N.-backed resolution calling for the creation of a council to expose the world's worst human rights abusers, John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday.
Source: Washington Post

Economic Justice

*For the second straight year, personal savings have been in the red, a phenomenon that has only happened once before, at the height of the Great Depression. Research conducted by the Economic Policy Institute shows that the indebtedness of US households has risen nearly 36 percent over the last four years. As a result, the gulf between the "haves" and "have nots" is reaching crisis proportions.
Source: In These Times

In The Courts

*A 20-year-old legal fight over protests outside abortion clinics ended Tuesday with the Supreme Court ruling that federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used against demonstrators. The 8-0 decision was a setback for abortion clinics that were buoyed when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals kept their case alive two years ago despite the high court's 2003 ruling that had cleared the way for lifting a nationwide injunction on anti-abortion leader Joseph Scheidler and others.
Source: AP

*Senior Food and Drug Administration officials must testify about the federal agency's failure to decide whether a controversial emergency contraceptive pill may be sold without a prescription, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled late Friday. The decision by Magistrate Viktor Pohorelsky came in response to FDA legal efforts to keep secret the agency's discussions and correspondence about the pill, called Plan B.
Source: Newsday

Reproductive Rights

*Stay out of South Dakota. That's the message one pro-choice group has for its supporters. The Wisconsin-based Women's Medical Fund is calling for a boycott of South Dakota tourism if Governor Mike Rounds signs a bill banning most abortions. It's the state's second largest industry, but South Dakota tourism could see a drop in visitors who don't support a ban on abortion.
Source: Keloland.com

*Abortion opponents say they are babies. Pro-choice activists call them fetuses. Whatever the label, Kay Frost says, the tiny beings put on quite a show during ultrasounds at the AA Pregnancy Help Center -- an anti-abortion facility in Lexington. Across the country, anti-abortion activists are now using medical technology to persuade women to carry their pregnancies to term. Some abortion-rights activists have criticized the use of sonograms, saying they put inappropriate pressure on women. "It's a manipulative tool," said Ginny Copenhefer, a former lobbyist with the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. "I don't think it's fair to heap guilt on them because they feel they have to terminate a pregnancy. That's just the most cruel form of abuse that I can imagine."
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

*The [New York] Legislature on Monday supported a new bill that would allow pharmacists to offer the "morning after" contraceptive pill to girls and women without prescription. Lawmakers said the new version addresses most of the concerns that led to Gov. George Pataki's veto of an earlier bill.
Source: Newsday


*If you are a woman in the Darfur region of Sudan who has been raped and you want to lay a charge, it is virtually certain that legal officers will automatically reduce your allegation to one of assault. If you persevere with your rape accusation, you will be told to do the impossible and provide four male witnesses to support your charge. As a result, sexual violence goes almost totally unpunished and is one of the biggest violations of women's rights in Darfur. It is why members of my organisation, the African Women's Development and Communications Network, FEMNET, and of other women's rights groups in Africa have high hopes that the new International Criminal Court in The Hague will be able to change the situation.
Source: Institute for War & Peace Reporting

*A small but burgeoning group of young Italians are turning to Catholicism with new fervor, suggesting a reversal of Catholicism's decades-long decline in Italy. Sister Cristina is one of 550 young Italian women who joined the country's 7,500 cloistered nuns in 2005 - a dramatic increase from the 350 who became nuns in 2003. Vatican officials say the sudden rise in Italian monasticism mirrors a resurgence in Catholicism among young Italians during recent years.
Source: Christian Science Monitor

*A record number of women are serving in parliaments worldwide, but they only account for just over 16% of all MPs.
Source: BBC

*The world is beginning to understand that integrating women and girls into the life of a nation is the surest path to economic growth and development, a top U.N. official told an annual meeting that analyzes the global status of women.
Source: Reuters

*In Africa, the increased participation of women in politics is helping legislatures look more like their own societies and less like exclusive men’s clubs. The conclusions were presented in a study by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. It’s participating in a series of discussions during the annual meeting of the 50th Session of the U-N Commission on the Status of Women, C-S-W, in New York City.
Source: VOA

*A mysterious source was feared to have bought every copy of a best-selling novel that caused sensation and scandal in Saudi Arabia. Banat al Riyadh, or the Girls of Riyadh, written by Rajaa al Sanea, about the lives of four well-to-do women in the Saudi capital, was on exhibit with other Dar al Saqi publications at the Riyadh International Book Fair. However, a representative for the publishing house denied the book had sold-out.
Source: Asharq Alawsat

Darfur: One of the World's Worst Crises

The situation in Darfur has become one of the world's worst crises; two million people have fled their homes and more than 400,000 civilians have been killed since 2003:

The chaos in Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan where more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, has spread across the border into Chad, deepening one of the world's worst refugee crises.

Gunmen from Darfur have pushed across the desert and entered Chad, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes, making them refugees in their own country.

Hundreds of thousands more people in this area, along with 200,000 Sudanese who fled here for safety, find themselves caught up in a growing conflict between Chad and Sudan, which have a long history of violence and meddling in each other's affairs.

"You may have thought the terrible situation in Darfur couldn't get worse, but it has," Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said in a recent statement. "Sudan's policy of arming militias and letting them loose is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad."

Sudanese people are seen in Nyala in the South Darfur region, September 2005. (AFP/File/Salah Omar)

An internally displaced Sudanese woman sits outside her makeshift hut in Riyad camp in the west Darfur region of Sudan August 24, 2005. Sudan's interior and defense ministers and its national intelligence chief are among 17 people the U.N. Security Council should punish for blocking peace in Darfur, according to a secret list compiled for the council by U.N. experts. (REUTERS/ Antony Njuguna)

Preventing Unintended Pregnancies

The anti-women, anti-choice movement has no desire to prevent unwanted pregnancies; their goal is to force women to have children they don't want and ban birth control. They will never admit that of the six million pregnancies that occur among American women each year, nearly half are unintended. As a result, women experience 1.4 million unplanned births and 1.3 million abortions annually. Among industralized countries, the United States has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancy.

For now, most politicians still live in the real world and realize that sex education and access to contraception is the key to lowering those numbers. New research from the Guttmacher Institute finds that, while a number of states have shown commitment and creativity in addressing unintended pregnancy, others lag far behind:
California ranked first and New York ranked fifth, a result that may seem predictable, given both states' liberal orientations toward social issues. But between them in the highest rankings sit three conservative states - Alaska, South Carolina, and Alabama.

The reason, says the report's author, is that these states are acutely aware of the relationship between unintended pregnancy and dependence on welfare, and they see the economic and social benefit in helping women avoid unintended pregnancy. In turn, that helps women avoid the abortion question altogether.

"What you see in these results is that helping women avoid unintended pregnancy is not just a blue-state issue," says author Cynthia Dailard, a policy analyst at Guttmacher. The institute was at one time affiliated with Planned Parenthood, but is no longer.

"Alaska, Alabama, and South Carolina scored very high, even though we think of them as having an anti-abortion environment," says Ms. Dailard. "But they've really stepped up to the plate in terms of making family-planning services available, particularly to low-income women."
The states were ranked on three criteria: service availability, laws and policies and public funding:

*In Alaska, 85 percent of counties have at least one family planning clinic. The state also devotes major funding, both from its own budget and from federal block grant dollars, to family planning.
*South Carolina and Alabama are noteworthy in their expansion of family- planning services to low-income women through Medicaid.
*Last year, the legislatures in Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Texas directed their states to apply for federal permission to expand eligibility for Medicaid-funded family-planning services.
*Arkansas and West Virginia passed laws requiring private health insurers to include coverage of contraceptives if they cover other prescription drugs.
*Massachusetts and New Hampshire now allow pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives without a prescription.

States with comprehensive access to birth control have lower teen pregnancy rates than states that choose to brush the issue under the rug by solely focusing on abstinence only programs. In California and Alaska, the teen pregnancy rates declined by 39 and 34 percent, respectively, between 1992 and 2000 (when we had an "abortion president"). In Nebraska, the lowest-ranking state in the Guttmacher report, teen pregnancy declined by 17 percent during that same period.

To find out how your state ranks, click here.

From New Orleans to Atomic Conflict

A papier-mache figure of US President George W. Bush is seen putting his feet in bowls with fat, on a float of the Carnival parade in Cologne, Germany, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2006.

Troops Still Believe Saddam was Involved in 9/11

Zobgy recently surveyed 944 troops at several undisclosed locations throughout Iraq. The most disturbing finding: 85 percent of those surveyed still believe they are in Iraq "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks."

"Before 11 September 2001, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents and lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons, and other plans - this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take just one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
-Bush in his State of the Union address, January 2003. He made these comments in the context of the links he perceived between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda

"We don't know."
-Cheney when pressed on whether there was a link between Iraq and 11 September during a TV interview, September 2003

"We will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who've had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."
-Cheney in the same interview, commenting on the war against Iraq

"[Saddam Hussein posed a risk in] a region from which the 9/11 threat emerged."
-Condoleezza Rice defending the reasons why the US went to war against Iraq, September, 2003

"We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11 attacks."
-Bush, speaking to reporters on September 17, 2003

The poll also found that 72 percent of troops think the U.S. should leave Iraq within the next year; nearly one in four say they should leave immediately:
Different branches had quite different sentiments on the question, the poll shows. While 89% of reserves and 82% of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year, 58% of Marines think so. Seven in ten of those in the regular Army thought the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next year. Moreover, about three-quarters of those in National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within six months, just 15% of Marines felt that way. About half of those in the regular Army favored withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months.

The troops have drawn different conclusions about fellow citizens back home. Asked why they think some Americans favor rapid U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, 37% of troops serving there said those Americans are unpatriotic, while 20% believe people back home don't believe a continued occupation will work. Another 16% said they believe those favoring a quick withdrawal do so because they oppose the use of the military in a pre-emptive war, while 15% said they do not believe those Americans understand the need for the U.S. troops in Iraq.

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks," 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was "to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq."
"A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."
-Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) commenting on the House floor after former Marine colonel Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) called for troop withdrawl

The Personal Story of a South Dakotan Woman Who Had an Abortion

Even Bush, the man whose family used to support Planned Parenthood, says the South Dakota law, which will require a girl who is raped by her father to have the baby, believes the it goes too far:
Bush is "pro-life with three exceptions," McClellan said.

Those exceptions are rape, incest or when a woman's life is endangered. The South Dakota bill only allows abortion in the last case.

"The president believes we ought to be working to build a culture of life in America and we have taken practical, commonsense steps to help reduce the number of abortions in America," McClellan said.
Ah yes, building a culture of life with cluster bombs.

Back to South Dakota. Here's a story about Mrs. X, a woman who never thought she'd ever have an abortion, until she found out her baby had Down syndrome. Her doctor said the baby didn't have a chance at long-term survival and would "never leave the hospital."
"We spent a lot of time crying and praying. We asked ourselves if it was fair to bring a child into the world only to have him live a short life filled with discomfort and pain. Would it also be fair to our firstborn for us to be in the hospital continuously? These are the questions we struggled with and we asked God to guide us."

The couple decided on an abortion, but they were not ready for what lay ahead.

"I guess we thought that it would be different if you were having an abortion for medical reasons. We thought that the procedure would be performed in a hospital, but it wasn't. We were sent to the same abortion office in Amherst that everyone else goes to, the one with the protesters outside," said Mrs. X.

One protester, in particular, drew the ire of Mrs. X and her husband.

"They make them stand out by the road, so you have to drive by them like it's some sort of perp walk. They were all holding signs and reciting prayers. One old woman had a sign that said 'Your baby is healthy, don't kill it.' I wanted to jump out of the car and scream at her, 'No, my baby is not healthy. How dare you suppose such a thing? How dare you judge me?'"
The experience has changed Mrs. X's opinion about the anti-choice, anti-women crowd:
"They paint it as all so simple, so black-and-white. They want a woman to have her baby, no matter the circumstances. Then what? Who will adopt those unwanted babies? Have you ever looked at those adoption ads in the newspaper? 'Couple seeks healthy, white newborn.' What about the unhealthy babies? What about the non-white babies? Who will care for them? I never hear that answer presented."

Mrs. X also has a message for the South Dakota Legislature and, in the near future, the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

"Unless a person has had to lie on that table and feel what it's like to have an abortion, they shouldn't have a say as to what another woman can or cannot do with her body. There is a reason it is called pro-choice. It's because no one is pro-abortion. You can't go through what I did and ever want to have to live through it again."

She continued, "But a woman needs to have a choice, and have it be her and her partner's choice alone, as to what is best in their situation. I pray to God that none of the women holding up those signs in front of abortion clinics are ever put into the position that I was. But if they are, I also pray that they'll still have the right to decide for themselves what they should do."
If the South Dakota law is upheld, women like Mrs. X will be forced to find an abortion provider in another state, but poor women who can't afford to travel and take time off from work will be forced into back alleys.

Monday, February 27, 2006


I'm not a fan of polls (How many were polled? What questions were asked?), but I like this number:
The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.
A BBC poll found that 60 percent of people in 35 countries believe the war has increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks worldwide. Unlike most American outlets, the BBC tell us it questioned some 41,856 people in the poll.
"It's official. Citizens worldwide think Western leaders have made a fundamental mistake in their war on terror by invading Iraq," says Doug Miller, president of the international polling firm GlobeScan, which carried out the survey.

"Short of the Iraqi government asking them to stay longer, people think the troops should leave," he says.

U.S. soldiers pay their final respects at a memorial service for Lieutenant Colonel Karim Al- Zehairi, commander of the Iraqi army 4th Battalion, in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb. 27, 2006. Zehairi was killed on Feb. 24, 2006, when a sucide bomber detonated himself while he was foot patrol in Baqouba. (AP Photo/Mohammed Adan)

Ali Mohammed, 6, a victim of a mortar attack recovers in a hospital, in Baghdad,Iraq, Monday, Feb.27, 2006. Four mortar rounds exploded Monday on a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, killing four and wounding 16, as Sunni Arabs are ready to end their boycott of talks to form a new government if rival Shiites return mosques seized in last week's sectarian attacks and meet other unspecified demands, a top Sunni figure said Monday. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Iraqi women pass by an Iraqi army tank guarding the street, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb.27, 2006. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

An Iraqi girl passes by the wreckage of car hit by a mortar in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Feb. 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The Single Women's Vote, Unsafe Abortions in Poor Countries Kill 200 Women Daily


*Out of all the major studio-financed films released in the United States last year, only three -- Bewitched, Aeon Flux and North Country -- were directed by women.
Source: Miami Herald

*Wendy Wasserstein's "Uncommon Women and Others," which was initially aired during PBS' 1978 Great Performances season, will be rebroadcast in April.
Source: Playbill

*The federal government agreed to stop funding a nationwide program that promotes teen abstinence to settle a lawsuit alleging the money was used for Christian proselytizing. The agreement was reached Wednesday between the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Civil Liberties Union. Under the deal, the Silver Ring Thing program won't be eligible for more funding unless it ensures the money won't be used for religious purposes. "Public funds were being used to fund a road show, really, to convert teens to Christianity," said Julie Sternberg, an ACLU attorney.
Source: AP


*Unmarried women hold solidly progressive views and would vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates if they voted regularly, according to a new poll released this week by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. The survey was sponsored by the Women’s Voices. Women Vote. Action Fund (WVWVAF) to explore the reasons that 20 million single women did not vote in the 2004 election. WVWVAF is dedicated to raising awareness among single women, who represent a quarter of all Americans of voting age.
Source: Feminist Wire

In the Workplace

*Why women have not achieved parity with men in the workplace continues to bewitch experts. Yet, insights to the mystery may be readily available in the widely popular Harry Potter series.
Source: Christian Science Monitor

Reproductive Rights

*Filling a void left by the Food and Drug Administration's inability to decide whether to make the "morning-after" pill available without a prescription, nearly every state is or soon will be wrestling with legislation that would expand or restrict access to the drug. More than 60 bills have been filed in state legislatures already this year, and that follows an already busy 2005 session on emergency contraception. The resulting tug of war is creating an availability map for the pill that looks increasingly similar to the map of "red states" and "blue states" in the past two presidential elections -- with increased access in the blue states and greater restrictions in the red ones.
Source: Washington Post

*Thousands of women suffer long and short-term disabilities because of complications resulting from illegal abortions performed in private clinics and homes each year. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in low-income countries, approximately 200 women die each day as a result of unsafe abortions.
Source: Daily Times


*The gender pay gap between men and women in Britain is the worst in Europe, with female workers earning on average 17 percent less than their male counterparts, an offical report said.
Source: AFP

*Iraq's interior minister says he believes American journalist Jill Carroll is alive and will be released. The deadline set by the Ann Arbor native's kidnappers passed at midnight.
Source: AP

*Saudi Arabia's oil wealth is not enough to ensure everyone has a job, so young people are encouraged to set up businesses - men and women. So young Saudis are being encouraged to set up their own businesses - and not just young Saudi men.
Source: BBC

*Australian couples are traveling to the United States for in-vitro fertilization so they can select the sex of their baby. The couples are spending up to $25,000 to use a controversial embryo sex screening procedure that is banned in Australia, the Melbourne Herald Sun reported.
Source: UPI

*1091 honor killings were committed in Turkey in the past 5 years, said Turkish Parliamentary Investigation Commission which was set up to probe honor killings. The commission will submit a report on honor killings soon. The report includes the reasons of violence against women and proposals to prevent such violence.
Source: TurkishPress.com

Army Pays Halliburton for Disputed Costs

Your hard earned tax dollars at work:
The Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had identified more than $250 million in charges as potentially excessive or unjustified.

The Army said in response to questions on Friday that questionable business practices by the subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, had in some cases driven up the company's costs. But in the haste and peril of war, it had largely done as well as could be expected, the Army said, and aside from a few penalties, the government was compelled to reimburse the company for its costs.

Under the type of contract awarded to the company, "the contractor is not required to perform perfectly to be entitled to reimbursement," said Rhonda James, a spokeswoman for the southwestern division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, based in Dallas, where the contract is administered.

One of Halliburton's most persistent critics, Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, said in a written statement about the Army's decision, "Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus."

Check Halliburton Watch for the latest news about bribery and fraud.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Outlawing Abortion Does Not End Abortion

South Dakota's governor is expected to sign a law banning all abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. Abortion is also illegal in Ghana, except for cases involving rape and incest, or if the woman can prove she is mentally ill. Ghanaian market trader, Esinam, 42, tells the BBC why she decided to have an illegal abortion at a back-street clinic in Accra, after she got pregnant for the fourth time despite using birth control. "My husband and I can barely look after our three children on the little income we have. How could we afford to feed another mouth?" She was four months pregnant when she had the back-street abortion.

I had thought the procedure would be done in an operating theatre but it wasn't. It was just an ordinary room.

Even though I realised it wasn't a proper clinic, I was still determined to go through with the termination. I had no choice.

The 'doctor' asked me to undress and lie down. After an examination, he inserted some metal instruments into my vagina. He didn't give me any aesthetic - he just began removing things from my body.

I didn't see anything, but felt a pulling sensation. The pain was unbearable, but I muffled my screams.

I did not allow myself to fully express my pain. I felt guilty about the whole thing, but the idea of bringing up another child in abject poverty convinced me I had made the right decision.

After fifteen minutes of 'surgery', he inserted a white tablet into my vagina. He told me that this would cause the remaining foetal parts to eventually discharge.
That night, she bled profusely and was taken to the hospital. When she regained consciousness, she was told her womb was rotten and had been removed. "I cannot have any more children and if I had lost any more blood, I would have died. I am very grateful to the doctor and his team at Accra's Ridge Hospital who saved my life."

"At Cook Country Hospital in Chicago, approximately 5,000 women a year came in with injuries and bleeding resulting from illegal abortions, mostly self-induced abortions," Leslie Reagan, the author of When Abortion Was a Crime, said in an interview with DissidentVoice. "They had an entire ward dedicated to taking care of people in that situation. Those wards pretty much closed up around the country once abortion was legalized."

Prior to Roe v. Wade, as many as 5,000 American women died annually as a direct result of unsafe abortions, according to NARAL.

The anti-women crowd is turning the Hand Maids Tale into non-fiction. In the book, doctors that provide abortions are hanged; in South Dakota, they will go to jail. Abortion is just the beginning.

The Best Magazine on the Newsstand

Unfortunately, the most current articles in Harper's Magazine are not available online, but it's well worth the price. Plus, this cover is a keeper.

Southern Baptists Seek Even More Male Domination, All Six Saudi Women Candidates Lose


*The Southern Baptist Convention is weighing a proposal to bring the world's largest Protestant missionary group for women under the control of the denomination, a move that critics say would reinforce the conservatism and male dominance of the SBC.
Source: Chicago Tribune

*During Black History Month, Macy's marketed a second shipment of baskets made by Rwandan women, many of whom were widowed during the country's genocide. Some weavers say the business helps them cope with HIV-AIDS.
Source: Women's eNews


*Cabinet minister Portia Simpson Miller is set to become Jamaica's first woman prime minister after being elected president of the nation's ruling political party.
Source: Reuters

Economic Justice/In the Workplace

*San Jose State University Foundation's chief operating officer has filed suit against the university, claiming it has refused to pay her comparably to others in similar positions because of her gender and race.
Source: Knight Ridder


*Women are earning 15% less than men in the European Union, the European Commission has said. In its annual report on gender equality, released on Friday, the Commission called on EU member states to do more to close the gender gap in employment.
Source: Fin24

*Voters rejected all six women candidates in a chamber of commerce election in eastern Saudi Arabia, according to preliminary results. The polls for the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry were only the second time in Saudi history that women have run for elected office. Women and men are strictly segregated in the conservative kingdom, and women were not allowed to vote in the country's first nationwide municipal polls last year.
Source: AP

*There are still too many complaints of sexual abuse against United Nations troops, the head of peacekeeping operations has said.
Source: BBC

Sunday in Iraq & Neighboring Countries

"Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms. Anti-American feelings will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil. And last week's tape by Osama bin Laden tells us that our enemies will seek relentlessly to transform a war into a tool for inspiring and recruiting more terrorists."
-Howard Dean, speaking at Drake University on February 17, 2003

Iraqi medics rush a wounded civilian into a local hospital in the city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. At least 13 Iraqis and two US soldiers were killed in a series of rebel attacks even as security forces kept a tight grip on Baghdad to quell sectarian violence unleashed this week. (AFP/Ali Yussef)

A child injured in a bomb explosion is brought to the hospital in Hillah, a predominantly Shiite city about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006. A bomb exploded as passengers were boarding at a crowded bus station Sunday morning injuring five, police reported. A 24-hour vehicular ban remained in effect in Baghdad and it's suburbs as authorities tried to halt the violence that has claimed nearly 200 lives since the Shiite Askariya shrine was destroyed Wednesday in Samara. (AP Photo/Alaa Al-Marjani)

An Iraqi father takes her daughter for a stroll as the curfew was relaxed for few hours, in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad,Iraq, Sunday, Feb.26, 2006. Bomb blasts and gunfire killed at least seven people, including two U.S. soldiers, in Baghdad and south of the capital Sunday. A 24-hour vehicular ban remained in effect in Baghdad and it's suburbs as authorities tried to halt the violence that has claimed nearly 200 lives since the Shiite Askariya shrine was destroyed Wednesday in Samarra. (AP Photo/Mohammed Adan)

A Pakistani Shi'ite Muslim holds a placard during a rally in Karachi February 26, 2006. The rally was held to denounce the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Iraq and to protest against the publication of cartoons and caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammad in European newspapers. REUTERS/Zahid Hussein

Iranian protesters shout anti-Britain slogans during a protest in Tehran, Iran February 26, 2006. More than 1,200 conservative students angered by the destruction of a Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Iraq hurled petrol bombs, stones and eggs at the British embassy in Tehran on Sunday. (REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)

Shiite boys beat themselves on their chests during a demonstration in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006. Thousands of Turkish Shiite Muslims gathered in an Istanbul neighborhood to protest attacks on the Shiite shrines in Iraq. Demonstrators dispersed peacefully. (AP Photo/Osman Orsal)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saturday in Iraq: 60 Dead

"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war. On the issue that mattered most, the intelligence community judged that Iraq probably was several years away from developing a nuclear weapon. The October 2002 NIE also judged that Saddam was unlikely to use WMD against the United States unless his regime was placed in mortal danger. The Bush administration deviated from the professional standard not only in using policy to drive intelligence, but also in aggressively using intelligence to win public support for its decision to go to war. This meant selectively adducing data -- "cherry-picking" -- rather than using the intelligence community's own analytic judgments."
-Paul Pillar, author of Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq, an article in the March/April 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs
Pillar served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005

An injured father consoles his injured son, both victims of car bomb explosion, in a hospital in Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Feb.25, 2006. A car bomb exploded Saturday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing at least six people, including two women, and injuring more than 52, police said. The attack occurred as Baghdad and three nearby provinces were on a second day of a daytime curfew aimed at dampening the wave of sectarian violence that has killed more than 140 people since the bombing of a Shiite shrine. (AP Photo/Alaa Al-Marjani)

An Iraqi woman carries a girl wounded after a car bomb attack in the holy city of Kerbala, 110 km (70 miles) south of Baghdad February 25, 2006. (REUTERS/Ali Abu Shish)

A wounded Iraqi girl sits in the lap of her mother at a hospital in the holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad. (AFP/Qassem Zein)

A boy injured by a car bomb explosion looks up while recovering in a hospital, in Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Feb.25, 2006. (AP Photo/Alaa Al-Marjani)

An unidentified relative mourns in the front of the coffins of his family members, in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006. Provincial police said an unidentified gunmen broke into a house of a Shiite family killing 13 members. The town, a Sunni-insurgent stronghold, has seen repeated sectarian strife. The name of a local mosque is written on the left coffin. (AP Photo/Mohammed Adan)

Wrapping Arabs in Israeli Flags

Another brilliant move by the Bush cabal:
Military interrogators posing as FBI agents at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, wrapped terrorism suspects in an Israeli flag and forced them to watch homosexual pornography under strobe lights during interrogation sessions that lasted as long as 18 hours, according to one of a batch of FBI memos released Thursday.

FBI agents working at the prison complained about the military interrogators' techniques in e-mails to their superiors from 2002 to 2004, 54 e-mails released by the American Civil Liberties Union showed. The agents tried to get the military interrogators to follow a less coercive approach and warned that the harsh methods could hinder future criminal prosecutions of terrorists because information gained illegally is inadmissible in court.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of the prison at the time, overrode the FBI agents' protests, according to the documents.

The memos offer some of the clearest proof yet that the abuses and torture of prisoners in U.S. military custody weren't the isolated actions of low-ranking soldiers but a result of policies approved by senior officials, the ACLU said.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Another Conservative Admits Failure in Iraq

These guys are beginning to sound like the far left anti-war, anti-America, anti-troops crowd:

"It Didn't Work"

"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed."

"Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans."

"The accompanying postulate was that the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymkers to cope with insurgents bent on violence. This last did not happen. And the administration has, now, to cope with failure."

"Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat."
-William Buckley, National Review Editor at Large

SD Passes Abortion Ban, Even in Cases of Rape or Incest

Under this "pro-life" law, a girl who is raped by her father will be forced to have his baby.

Here's a statement from the National Organization for Women's President Kim Gandy:
In passing a law today that bans all abortions except when the life of the woman is at stake, South Dakota legislators gave right-wing zealots what they have been waiting for since the 1992 Casey decision: another shot at Roe v. Wade. That landmark decision recognized a woman's fundamental right to privacy in deciding whether to continue her pregnancy.

By a vote of 50-18 in the House and 23-12 in the Senate, state lawmakers virtually assured a legal battle that will reach the Supreme Court. And given the current breakdown of the High Court, whose two newest justices have a history of opposition to women's rights, the outcome could well be a reversal of Roe.

Every Senator who did not filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Sam Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor will share responsibility for what follows.
Nineteen Democratic Senators failed to support the filibuster: Akaka (HI), Baucus (MT), Bingaman (NM), Byrd (WV), Cantwell (WA), Carper (DE), Conrad (ND), Dorgan (ND), Inouye (HI), Johnson (SD), Kohl (WI), Landrieu (LA), Lieberman (CT), Lincoln (AR), Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR), Rockefeller (WV), Salazar (CO)

Nigerians Kidnap Foreign Oil Workers, Demand Basic Services

Nigerian separatist militants showed one of nine foreign hostages, Macon Hawkins to reporters. The 68-year-old Texan and eight of his colleagues working for the US engineering firm Willbros have been held hostage for a week by the militants, who are demanding that the military pull out of the Niger Delta region and that control of oil revenues be handed to their tribe. (AFP/HO)

The militants, who claim to be fighting for a greater local share of the country's oil wealth for their impoverished region, seized Hawkins and eight other foreign oil workers from a barge in the Niger Delta's mangrove swamps Feb. 18.

The 15-minute encounter Friday took place in the middle of the river with the militants in five boats and journalists in two.

Hawkins seemed upbeat despite being surrounded by gunmen standing over him with Kalashnikov automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and tripod-mounted machine guns.

He repeated militant demands that neutral third parties like the United Nations or President Bush get involved in negotiating the release of the hostages, who also include two other Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one Briton and one Filipino.

"Tell President Bush we want to get this thing settled," he added, before the militants steered their boat around and headed back into the mangrove swamps, firing their AK-47s skyward for show.

"These people have no schools, no hospitals," said Hawkins. "They're very poor, it's time to do something."

Fair & Balanced Fox: "Civil War in Iraq? Could It Be a Good Thing?"

From Media Matters:
A segment about escalating sectarian violence in Iraq on the February 23 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto featured onscreen captions that read: " 'Upside' To Civil War?" and "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?"

The segment, guest-hosted by Fox News Live (noon-1:30 pm hour ET) anchor David Asman, featured commentary by Fox News military analyst Lt. Col. Bill Cowan and Center for American Progress senior fellow Col. P.J. Crowley.

In a photo provided by the Howard family, Army Staff Sgt. Curtis T. Howard II is shown in an undated photo. Howard was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, his family said in a statement, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006. Howard, 32, was on his second tour in Iraq as a member of the Army's 4th Infantry Division when the incident occurred. The Army had not released details of Howard's death, but it said on Thursday that three 4th Infantry soldiers were killed Wednesday when their vehicle struck a bomb near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad. (AP Photo/Photo Courtesty of the Howard Family)

Iraqi soldiers are reflected in a pool of blood at the site where a roadside bomb exploded in central Baquba city, northeast of Baghdad. Iraq has imposed a daytime curfew on Baghdad and three neighbouring provinces to prevent further outbursts of sectarian violence on the Muslim day of prayers. (AFP/Ali Yussef)

An Iraqi resident carries a girl who got injured after a car bomb attack in Baghdad February 23, 2006. Four policemen were injured in the attack targeting an Iraqi police patrol, witnesses said. (REUTERS/Ali Jasim)

Iraqi Shi'ites chant slogans denouncing Samarra's Golden Mosque bombing during a protest after Friday prayers in Baghdad's Sad'r city February 24, 2006. An emergency curfew for Friday's Muslim day of prayer helped quell sectarian violence that has killed some 200 people around Baghdad, keeping much of the Iraqi capital deserted as leaders work to avert civil war. (REUTERS/Namir Noor-Eldeen)

Iraqi women display a poster of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr after attending the Friday prayers in the holy city of Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad February 24, 2006. An emergency curfew for Friday's Muslim day of prayer helped quell sectarian violence that has killed some 200 people around Baghdad, keeping much of the Iraqi capital deserted as leaders work to avert civil war. (REUTERS/Ali Abu Shish)

The attack on the revered shrine has brought Shias out into the streets making heartfelt demonstrations of anguish. (AP)

Bush Plan Denies Health Care to 600,000 Military Retirees

Once the uniform comes off, you're on your own. From American Progress:
President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have proposed fee hikes to the Pentagon's health care system, TRICARE, that could deny health benefits to as many as 600,000 veterans. Under Bush's proposal, military retirees would be forced to pay higher prescription drug co-payments and annual enrollment fees. The plan would triple health care costs for retirees. The Military Officers Association of America says the administration is playing a "shell game" by steering military retirees away from TRICARE and instead toward health plans offered by their current employers. Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), military personnel subcommittee chairman, said, "I guess we could talk about the morality of that, if that's the way to contain costs [by] persuading people not to use health care. But I'm going to put that aside."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Undercovered Stories: Family Incomes Decline, Soup Kitchen Lines Grow


A little more than a year since Harvard University President Lawrence Summers ignited a furor by suggesting women may lack the aptitude for science and math, the first names coming up as his possible successor are mostly women. Harvard German professor Judith Ryan, one of the leaders of the anti-Summers faction, said it would be "delightful" if Harvard had its first woman president.
Source: Bloomberg

Reproductive Rights

An Indiana Senate committee gutted two emotionally charged bills that could have shut down abortion clinics and required doctors to tell women that life begins at conception. The most significant provision now is a new requirement that doctors tell women seeking an abortion that there are families waiting and willing to adopt. Already, doctors must inform women about alternatives to abortion, including adoption, the risks of the procedure and that an ultrasound of their fetus is available.
Source: The Indianapolis Star

The FDA is about to begin a new review of the abortion pill RU-486, which some have blamed for the sudden deaths of four American women. A scientific review of the cases fails to definitively link the drug to the fatalities.
Source: Women's eNews

Economic Justice/In the Workplace

Women and minorities are still sharply underrepresented in America's corporate board rooms, according to a survey released by recruiting firm Spencer Stuart on Tuesday. A study of 2,357 directors of the top 200 Standard & Poor's 500 companies found that 16 percent of the directors are women and 15 percent are minorities.
Source: Reuters

Economist and author Sylvia Ann Hewlett said women are still being shortchanged in the work force and companies need to look for an alternative to the "white male model."
Source: AZCenteral.com

The average income of American families, after adjusting for inflation, declined by 2.3 percent in 2004 compared to 2001 while their net worth rose but at a slower pace. The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that the drop in inflation-adjusted incomes left the average family income at $70,700 in 2004. The median, or point where half the families earned more and half less, did rise slightly in 2004 after adjusting for inflation to $43,200, up 1.6 percent from the 2001 level.
Source: AP

As the economy has steadily grown over the past four years, so too has the number of Americans going hungry. America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest charitable food distribution network, is now providing help to more than 25 million people, an 8 percent increase over 2001, the last time the organization did a major survey of its more than 200 food banks in all 50 states.
Source: Christian Science Monitor


An Iraqi television reporter famed for the courage of her work on the frontline was among the victims of the country's latest paroxysm of violence. Atwar Bahjat, 30, was sent yesterday to the city of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, to cover the bombing of a revered Shia shrine. She took with her a three-strong crew, but no bodyguards, despite the fact that dozens of foreign and Iraqi journalists have been killed during the war.
Source: Times Online

Since the summer of 2002, septuagenarian Fazel Hadi Shinwari has run Afghanistan's Supreme Court like the respected Islamic scholar he is. He has banned the Afghan feminist Sima Samar from holding a cabinet position, after she reportedly said she didn't believe in Islamic sharia law. He has banned an Afghan TV station for showing what he called "half-naked singers and obscene scenes from movies." He has also spoken against coeducation; has supported the employment of women (if they wear head scarves); and ordered the arrest of an Afghan journalist who suggested that, in some cases, the Koran was open to interpretation.
Source: Christian Science Monitor

As the Ugandan president and his challengers prepare for a showdown at the polls tomorrow, the country's first lady is also running for election after a campaign which has seen women politicians making remarkable progress. Janet Museveni, 57, is making her first foray into politics by running as a parliamentary candidate in rural Ruhama in western Uganda. On a continent where men have dominated post-independence politics, the past year has seen the beginnings of a gender shift.
Source: Guardian

The French parliament adopted a law aimed at guaranteeing equal pay rights for women, who earn on average one fifth less than their male counterparts. A national review, to be carried out in three years' time, will decide whether to introduce financial penalties for offending employers.
Source: AFP

A three-month long rights campaign in Jordan has revealed that women are unable to seek access to justice due to financial burdens and social norms. "Either because of limited financial resources or social stigma, some women abandon their rights," said Jordanian rights advocate Najah Enab from Mizan, a local NGO which organised the campaign. "It's not easy to have access to justice when you're poor. You need a lawyer, and not everyone can afford this."
Source: IRIN

Innocent Casualties of the Iraq War - Intervention is Inadequate

The following articles illustrate the woefully inadequate treatment of returning veterans. With all the money being spent on the war, surely the government has the funds to hire more than one psychologist trained in treating post-traumatic stress disorder for all returning veterans who live between Los Angeles and San Francisco, including Jeffrey Lehner, a 40-year-old Marine sergeant who recently shot himself and his father:
He had joined the Marines enthusiastically, he told me, and served as a flight mechanic for eight years. Not long after 9/11, he began helping to fly materials into Afghanistan with the first wave of U.S. troops.

In the beginning, Jeff supported the administration's policies in the region. But over time, that began to change. As we talked, Jeff brought out an album of photos from Afghanistan. He pointed to a series of photographs of a trailer and several huts behind a barbed-wire fence; these were taken, he said, outside a U.S. military camp not far from the Kandahar airport. He told me that young Afghans -- some visible in blue jumpsuits in his photos -- had been rounded up and brought to the site by a CIA special operations team. The CIA officers made no great secret of what they were doing, he said, but were dismissive of the Marines and pulled rank when challenged.

Jeff said he had been told by soldiers who had been present that the detainees were being interrogated and tortured, and that they were sometimes given psychotropic drugs. Some, he believed, had died in custody. What disturbed him most, he said, was that the detainees were not Taliban fighters or associates of Osama bin Laden. "By the time we got there," Jeff said, "the serious fighters were long gone."

Jeff had other stories to tell as well. He said the CIA team had put detainees in cargo containers aboard planes and interrogated them while circling in the air. He'd been on board some of these flights, he said, and was deeply disturbed by what he'd seen.

His case was compounded, his friends said, by strong feelings of "survivor's guilt" involving the crash of a KC-130 transport plane into a mountain in January 2002 — killing eight men in his unit. He'd been scheduled to be on the flight and had been reassigned at the last minute. As part of the ground crew that attended to the plane's maintenance, he blamed himself. Afterward, he went to the debris site to recover remains. He found his fellow soldiers' bodies unrecognizable. He also told me he was deeply shaken by the collateral damage he saw to civilians from U.S. air attacks — especially the shrapnel wounding of so many Afghan children.

Jeff told me that he often couldn't sleep at night, thinking about what he had seen and heard. He had gone to Afghanistan a social drinker but came home, like so many veterans, a problem drinker. And he admitted self-medicating with drugs. He was seeking help — and just days after we met, he drove 100 miles to enter a treatment program in Los Angeles. But the Veterans Affairs hospital's PTSD ward was full, he told me, so he was placed in a lockdown ward for schizophrenics, which only aggravated his isolation and despair.
In another tragic killing that possibly could have been prevented if appropriate intervention measures were in place, a 19-year-old vet has been accused of stabbing his 18-year-old wife 71 times with knives and a meat cleaver:
Spc. Brandon Bare, 19, of Wilkesboro, N.C., was charged with premeditated murder and indecent acts related to the mutilation of his wife's remains.

Bare had returned to Fort Lewis from Iraq in April to recuperate from cuts and internal ear injuries in a grenade attack on his Stryker brigade unit in Mosul. He was there as a machine-gunner with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.

His wife, Nabila Bare, 18, was killed July 12.

"The murder was premeditated, deliberate and savage," prosecutor Capt. Scott DiRocco said in January during Bare's Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court. "He did not stop after he killed her."

Bare's lawyer said there was nothing to show the killing was planned.

"What this looks like ... is an act of rage, or some sort of other unexplainable act," defense attorney Capt. Patrick O'Brien said.

Witnesses testified that Bare had enrolled in treatment programs for anger management and combat stress after his return from Iraq. He had said he was having trouble controlling his anger and didn't like his wife going out and partying, said Michael Collins, a nurse and case manager at Madigan Army Medical Center.

A day before his wife was found dead in the couple's kitchen, Bare told his rear detachment commander Capt. Mickey Traugutt that he was taking a new prescription that made it hard to get up and that he had missed a treatment.
A 2005 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that out of nearly 170,000 Iraq veterans about 34,000 were diagnosed with psychological disorders. You would think the current 'support our troops' president would spend some of his precious time publicizing this issue and ensuring resources are in place to deal with these escalating problems. Instead, he's attending a $500-per-plate luncheon for Indiana Rep. Chris Chocola today. He'll be posing for photos with those who pay $4,000 per person or $6,000 per couple. Thanks again for the tax cut, Mr. Bush. Don't forget to pretend to 'support the troops' once in a while.

Update: The American Psychiatric Association says Bush's proposed budget fails to meet the needs of veterans with mental illnesses:
While the Administration’s budget does allow for increases in spending over FY06, the APA is concerned that the budget assumptions, such as the reliance of legislative proposals to collect user fees and copays from priority level 7 and 8 veterans, might be overly ambitious. The Friends of the VA advocacy group estimates that up 200,000 vets will drop out of the VA system with the proposed copays. While level 7 and 8 veterans are not service-connected for disability, we are concerned that the VA has not considered the impact on those 200,000 who rely on the VA to pay for psychiatric medications such as anti-depressants that keep them well and employable.

Veterans with substance use disorders are drastically underserved. The dramatic decline in VA substance use treatment beds has reduced physicians’ ability to provide veterans a full continuum of care, often needed for those with chronic, severe problems. Funding for programs targeted to homeless veterans who have mental illnesses or co-occurring substance use problems does not now meet of the demand for care in that population. Additionally, despite the needs of an aging veteran population, relatively few VA facilities have specialized geropsychiatric programs.

The APA is concerned that VA mental health service delivery has not kept pace with advances in the field. State-of-the-art care requires an array of services that include intensive case management, access to substance abuse treatment, peer support and psychosocial rehabilitation, pharmacologic treatment, housing, employment services, independent living and social skills training, and psychological support to help veterans recover from a mental illness. The VA’s Committee on Care of Veterans with Serious Mental Illness has recognized that this continuum should be available throughout the VA. However, at most, it can be said that some VA facilities have the capability to provide some limited number of these services to a fraction of those who need them.

'Liberal Media' Gone Wild

From today's Media Matters:
Reports on Bush admin. review of UAE port deal failed to mention Rumsfeld "just heard about this over the weekend"
The New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times all failed to note an inconsistency in the administration's account: that Secretary Rumsfeld, a key member of the committee reviewing the deal, said that he possessed "minimal information" about the deal because he had just heard about it. It follows, then, that none of those reports raised the question of how the CFIUS could have approved the deal if at least one of its members had never heard of it.

Only on Fox: "Attacking capitalism: Have Dems declared war on America?"
Introducing a panel discussion on Cavuto on Business, Fox News posted onscreen text reading, "Attacking capitalism: Have Dems declared war on America?

McWhorter falsely claimed African-American child poverty rates decreased under GOP majority
On Hannity & Colmes, Manhattan Institute senior fellow John McWhorter claimed that the poverty rate of African-American minors has decreased "ever since 1996," a trend he credited to "the Republican party, who created welfare reform." In fact, according to U.S. government census data, the poverty rate among African-Americans under 18 began decreasing in 1992 and continued to do so until 2002, midway through President Bush's first term.

O'Reilly: U.S. should leave Iraq "as fast as humanly possible" because "there are so many nuts in the country"
Bill O'Reilly suggested that the United States "hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible" because "[t]here are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies -- that we can't control them." O'Reilly has previously called those advocating immediate withdrawal from Iraq "pinheads" and compared them to Hitler appeasers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

SD Legislature Votes to Ban Abortion, Even in Cases of Rape or Incest

The South Dakota House and Senate has voted to ban abortion in virtually all cases, even rape or incest. That's right. Amendments to create exceptions in cases or rape or incest, or to protect the health of the mother were voted down. If a young girl is raped by her father, she will be forced to have his baby. This isn't about life; this is about the repression and subjugation of women.

Doctors who still perform the operation will be slapped with a five-year prison term and a $5,000 fine. Republican Governor Michael Rounds is expected to sign the bill:
"We hope (Rounds) recognizes this for what it is: a political tool and not about the health and safety of the women of South Dakota," said Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood, which operates the sole clinic providing abortions in South Dakota.

"If he chooses to sign it, we will be filing a lawsuit in short order to block it," she said after attending the afternoon debate at the state capitol in Pierre.

Proponents have said the law was designed for just such a court challenge.

The timing is right, supporters say, given the recent appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the high court. The two conservatives could pave the way to a decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling said women have a constitutional right to abortion.
Planned Parenthood, the only abortion provider in the entire state of South Dakota, plans to fight the ban in what is sure to be a costly, lengthy battle. An anonymous donor has offered $1 million to the state to pay for legal fees.

South Dakota already has some of the tightest restrictions on abortion in the country:

*Like several other states, South Dakota has a mandatory delay law requiring a woman to wait 24 hours before she can get an abortion.
*In March, South Dakota enacted restrictions that force doctors to read to women seeking abortions state-scripted information that is medically inaccurate and infused with ideology. The law also requires women to sign the scripts to certify that they understand them. Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) is currently challenging the law in court.
*The law in South Dakota also requires minors to notify a parent before getting an abortion.
*And earlier this year the state passed a "trigger bill," that will immediately ban all abortions, except to save the life of the woman, if Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, is ever overturned.

Another Day of Hell in Iraq

Soaad Ahmed, 45, sits inside her damaged hairdressing salon in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006. Eight beauty parlors and three liquor stores were blown up in Baqouba during the previous night. (AP Photo/Mohammed Adnan)

Shiite Muslims pilgrims visit a Shiite Muslim shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra Monday, Feb. 2, 2004. A large explosion destroyed the golden dome of one of Iraq's most famous Shiite shrines Wednesday Feb. 22, 2006, spawning mass protests and triggering reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques. It was the third major attack against Shiite targets this week and threatened to enflame sectarian tensions.(AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Iraqis gather at the ruins of a Shrine in Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006. A large explosion Wednesday heavily damaged the golden dome of one of Iraq's most famous Shiite religious shrines, sending protesters pouring into the streets. It was the third major attack against Shiite targets in as many days. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

An Iraqi Shi'ite woman reacts during a protest outside the Kazemiya mosque in Baghdad February 22, 2006. A dawn bomb attack wrecked a major Shi'ite Muslim shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra on Wednesday, sparking protests, some of them violent, and forcing an urgent government appeal to avoid sectarian reprisals. (REUTERS/Namir Noor-Eldeen)

News Roundup: Emergency Contraception, Protestant Bishops Support Birth Control

*Emergency contraception may soon be available without a prescription in pharmacies in Colorado and New York. A committee in the Colorado House has voted in favor of a bill giving pharmacists the authority to dispense emergency contraception, and New York Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer (D) announced his support for pharmacy access in New York.
Souce: Feminist Daily News Wire

*Two parents whose teenage daughters had abortions in other states debated on Monday a bill that would restrict the ability of West Virginia teens to get abortions without telling their parents. They spoke during a House Judiciary Committee informational session in the House of Delegates chamber. The bill is pending in the committee.
Source: AP

*The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday it will rule on whether the federal government can ban some abortion procedures, a case that could show if the high court reshaped by President George W. Bush will restrict abortion rights. The justices agreed to decide whether the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act that Bush signed into law in 2003 is unconstitutional because it lacks an exception to protect the health of a pregnant woman.
Source: Reuters

*A senior at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has been charged with sexually assaulting six female cadets in the campus barracks and other sites. Webster M. Smith, 22, of Houston was separated from the rest of the student population after the first complaint was filed with administrators Dec. 4, the academy said. Smith, a linebacker on the academy's football team, was charged Feb. 9 under military law with rape, assault, indecent assault and sodomy against female cadets, said Chief Warrant Officer David French, an academy spokesman.
Source: AP

*Protestant bishops have taken a bold stand on artificial birth control, in sharp contrast with the policy of the Catholic Church. “We are prolife, we are antiabortion; we are propoor so we endorse family planning bills in Congress because these will solve the unchecked population growth and help bring down poverty.” The Council of Christian Bishops of the Philippines (CCBP), which is composed of protestant prelates with 20,000 churches nationwide, adopted that position after the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) rejected House Bill 3773 or the proposed Responsible Parenthood and Population Management Act of 2005.
Source: Manila Standard Today

*Suspected Taliban militants have set fire to a school for some 1,500 boys in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, officials confirmed on Tuesday. "Last night militants set fire to a boys' high school in Zarghon village of Nadali district, around 17 km west of the district capital, Lashkargah. All the books, desks and chairs have been burnt, but no one was killed or injured in the incident," Haji Mohammad Qasim, head of Helmand's educational department, said, adding the villagers had extinguished the fire.
Source: IRIN

*Over 30 women sitting in a tent are holding up their right arms high in the air, waiting for their turn to talk. Many are clutching scraps of paper with meticulous lists written on them. One by one they stand up and address the meeting in nervous, shaky voices. But as the women around them nod in agreement and call out their support, their confidence grows and so do their voices. This is Muzaffarabad's Female Committee and for most of the women here, this is the first time they have aired their problems in a public forum.
Source: IRIN

*Six Saudi women are running this week for seats on the local chamber of commerce. Although winning won't be easy — of the 12,000 merchants eligible to vote, fewer than 500 are women — the election is a marker of change in Saudi Arabia, where progress toward a more open political system, including greater rights for women, is measured in inches, not miles.
Source: AP

*Uganda's first lady Janet Museveni is running for a seat in parliament on Feb. 23. Anti-AIDS activist Beatrice Were might have supported her a few years ago. But now she blames her for restigmatizing the disease with help from U.S. funding.
Source: Women's eNews

*No fewer than 55,000 Nigerian women lose their lives yearly in child-birth related complications.
Source: This Day

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bush's Budget

From today's NYT:

Mr. Bush's spending and taxing proposals are a mass of missing information. The cost of keeping the military in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't included. Neither, as it turns out, are the usual projections of the long-term effects of proposals to cut $183 billion from domestic programs other than entitlements.

The administration's obfuscation is, however, being deciphered by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an independent watchdog organization. Specialists backtracked through tables of opaque data and deduced the following: Over five years, veterans' benefits would be cut 13 percent, or $10 billion. Despite all the political talk about energy research and alternate fuels, $4.4 billion would be cut from energy programs. Environmental spending, including for national parks, would be cut 22 percent, or $28 billion; housing, fuel, child care and nutrition programs for the poor and elderly would lose 13 percent, or $24 billion. Topping this surreal concoction is a 13 percent cut -- $53 billion -- in education and job programs by 2011.

Political realists have already declared the budget dead on arrival on Capitol Hill. That's not enough. The administration's assault on domestic programs should stand as a permanent reminder of the folly of the $285 billion in additional upper-bracket tax cuts the president and the Republican-controlled Congress are aiming for across the next five years. Despite the budget fictions, the damage from the tax-cut mania will haunt future generations.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Anti-Choice & Anti-Birth Control

"Their [anti-choice organizations] aim is not about reducing abortion -- it includes restricting people's access to contraception, it includes transforming our sex lives, it includes transforming our families. That's the goal, and [restricting abortion] is just one vehicle toward that end."
-Cristina Page, author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics, and the War on Sex

In her book, Page argues that the pro-choice movement is "doing a better job at what the public understands to be the pro-life agenda than the pro-lifers are." Unlike the "pro-life" movement, pro-choice organizations are dramatically reducing the number of abortions and fighting for pro-family, pro-child policies. Read an AlterNet interview with Page here:

Photos from the April 2004 March for Women's Lives in Washington DC, one of the largest marches ever held in the capital's history. If you don't remember hearing about it, you probably didn't.

Page, a veteran of the editorial departments of Glamour and Ms. magazines, and the current vice president of the Institute for Reproductive Health Access at NARAL Pro-Choice New York, describes how she had been searching for a pro-life counterpart with whom she could engage in a reasoned, honest search for common ground. She found one: a feminist-identified woman who worked for a Right to Life chapter, and on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2003, they published a jointly authored op-ed in the New York Times.

"The Right to Agree" laid out a series of shared goals, including pro-family and pro-child policies like affordable child care and support for single mothers, an end to violence and violent language in the abortion debate, and the adoption of legislation mandating that health insurance cover contraceptives. While pro-choicers responded with mild support, pro-lifers were outraged, particularly at the statement of support for broad access to contraception. It was then that Page realized that the anti-contraception pro-lifers were not, as she'd assumed, on the fringe of the movement but rather the ones who set its agenda.

Referring to the book's relatively slim profile (it weighs in at just 236 pages), Page described it as "in many ways a breezy tour through frightening truths," but How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America is tenaciously researched and extensively documented (40 of those pages are endnotes). Digging deep into the evidence, Page unveils the hidden anti-contraception agenda of the pro-life movement and outlines how how close we are to losing not only the constitutional right to abortion provided by Roe but also our rights to safe, accessible contraception.
It's time for politicians and activists who are in favor of keeping abortion safe, legal and rare to expose these hypocritical anti-contraception "pro-lifers."