<\body> Stories in America: March 2006

Friday, March 31, 2006

Roses for Helen Thomas

Here's something to smile about after a crappy day:

"Blessed are the peacemakers. The bounty of beautiful roses from such wonderful people has lifted my heart and will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. Thank you for caring that others may live."
-Helen Thomas, Columnist, Hearst Newspapers
The roses kept coming - and coming - and coming - to the Hearst Newspapers office in downtown Washington on Thursday, until they filled a large conference room to overflowing.

By the time the Federal Express delivery was complete, there were 108 dozen roses, nearly 1,300 in every color. They were the result of an e-mail campaign to show support for Hearst columnist Helen Thomas after she grilled President Bush about his Iraq policy at last week's White House news conference.

The campaign was the brainchild of Clarity Sanderson, a 31-year-old Democratic activist from Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, who was motivated by the sharp exchange between Thomas and Bush, and by an op-ed article Thomas wrote about the exchange in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Sanderson, a work-at-home web designer and mother of two who is co-chairwoman of the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus, said she saw a note on the website democraticunderground.com suggesting that people e-mail Thomas to thank her for asking Bush "the questions all Americans want answered about Iraq."

"I thought, 'Let's take it a step farther," she said, and sent an e-mail asking people to donate to her Pay Pal account to send roses to Thomas.

That was last Friday. By Monday she'd received more than $2,200. She ordered the roses and 100 glass vases from an online floral service in San Francisco, Organic Bouquet, and they were delivered Thursday.
Thomas sent the bulk of the roses to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. How un-American of her.

Caribbean Coral Suffers Record Death

This Oct. 2005 photo provided by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration shows Elkhorn coral in the Buck Island Reef National Monument in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. A bleached Elkhorn coral, ill but alive, is in the foreground, while healthy coral with bleached tips are in the background.

A friend just emailed me the following article with this message:

"Well, love what we got, because we are at the pinnacle of society, resting on the top peak of an ocean wave that has carried us far and high...but it is coming down and it is coming fast...brace yourself, the dark ages are coming. We have been blessed with the most glorious and amazing time in history...from Burning Man to the Internet...but Mother Nature is biting back and she's pissed. See you all on the other side."

You might want to plan your next vacation around seeing coral reefs while you still can. We owe the reefs, fish, whales and dolphins a big apology.

A one-two punch of bleaching from record hot water followed by disease has killed ancient and delicate coral in the biggest loss of reefs scientists have ever seen in Caribbean waters.

Researchers from around the globe are scrambling to figure out the extent of the loss. Early conservative estimates from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands find that about one-third of the coral in official monitoring sites has recently died.

"It's an unprecedented die-off," said National Park Service fisheries biologist Jeff Miller, who last week checked 40 stations in the Virgin Islands. "The mortality that we're seeing now is of the extremely slow-growing reef-building corals. These are corals that are the foundation of the reef ... We're talking colonies that were here when Columbus came by have died in the past three to four months."

And with global warming, scientists are pessimistic about the future of coral reefs.

"The prognosis is not good," said biochemistry professor M. James Crabbe of the University of Luton near London. In early April, he will investigate coral reef mortality in Jamaica. "If you want to see a coral reef, go now, because they just won't survive in their current state."

Deceiving Women with 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers', Iran Bans Feminist Films

Read Stephanie McMillan's brilliant cartoon about anti-abortion legislator Bill Napoli here. Stephanie is auctioning off the original art to raise money for the only abortion clinic in South Dakota.

In a March 3 NewsHour piece on the South Dakota abortion ban, Napoli was asked to describe a scenario in which an abortion might be allowed. "A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."

Reproductive Rights

Peddling Deception - by Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America
A young woman, 16 years old, is raped. Her concerned father, looking for medical care and counseling, brings her to a storefront "clinic." They are shown what he later describes as "brutal footage" including pictures of dismembered fetuses. "They just emotionally raped her... They are advocates for the unborn, and to hell with the troubled person. They had an ax to grind, and just terrorized her," he said. Unbeknownst to the man and his daughter, they had walked into a crisis pregnancy center--the anti-choice movement's latest tactic in the campaign to take away women's reproductive freedom. Around the country, the anti-choice movement has set up thousands of these centers. They're all different, of course, and some might offer pregnant women sincere help, such as free baby clothes. But more often, we've discovered, their sole purpose is to lure women in with the promise of honest medical care and then badger or coerce them away from considering abortion. These counterfeit pregnancy centers typically aren't regulated by the government because they're not really offering medical care--they're just pretending to.

Maloney Wins Support of ACLU For Regulation of Abortion Ads - New York Sun
A New York congresswoman's proposal to have the federal government regulate advertising for abortion counseling services has won the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, despite warnings from other civil libertarians that the measure is unconstitutional and unwise. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat who represents parts of Manhattan and Queens, introduced legislation yesterday aimed at cracking down on so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which are operated by anti-abortion groups and encourage pregnant women to consider other options. "It seems to me they're purposely trying to confuse people," Ms. Maloney told The New York Sun. "If you're a pro-life group, put out a banner that says, 'pro-life counseling.'"

Chinese NGO to push sex education - Xinhua
China's largest NGO on reproductive health is all set to popularise a new method of sex education for youngsters across the country. Xi Xiaoping, vice president with the China Family Planning Association, said: 'Puberty and child-bearing age have arrived earlier in recent years, but sex education is lagging behind.' Education on sex and reproductive health in China was virtually 'non-existent' for many years. Traditionally there were cultural taboos and people rarely discussed sex publicly -- it was even regarded as a sin.

Teenage pregnancies increase in the Marshall Islands - Pacnews
The Marshall Islands government put the spotlight on the high rate of pregnancies among teenage mothers at the opening of a three-day Girls' Forum in Majuro on 29 March, Mariana Variety reports.

In the Courts

ACLU set to appeal 'Choose Life' tags - Tennessean
Despite a federal appeals court ruling this month that lets Tennessee put "Choose Life" on license plates, it isn't clear when - or even if - the tags will ever hit the road. The American Civil Liberties Union is likely to appeal to the full panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said yesterday.


Iranian Police Attack Women's Rights Activists - Worldpress.org
Human rights organization Amnesty International stated in a recent report that discrimination against women still exists in 36 countries. Iran is among those on the list. Discrimination against women in Iran is not the same as in Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries where women cannot drive or vote. In Iran women can drive; they can even participate in car races. They not only can vote, but have been elected numerous times as Members of Parliament -- though they are excluded from presidential candidature. In the arts, Iranian women have won acclaim as painters, poets, film directors, and film stars.
One of the chief areas of discrimination against women is found in the country's Islamic judiciary system, where the difference between the sexes in terms of the legal remedies afforded in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance are stark. The subject of feminism has become a taboo subject. The new hard-line government of President Mahmood Ahmadinejad has issued a statement that movies in which feminist values are emphasized must be banned.

Nepal women hail divorce ruling - BBC
Women's rights activists in Nepal have hailed a Supreme Court's ruling to scrap a law that allowed men to seek divorce if their partner was infertile. Under the 43-year-old law, men were able to file for divorce if they could prove through a doctor their wives were unable to conceive for 10 years. Activists said the court verdict was a milestone towards scrapping laws that were discriminatory towards women.

EGYPT: Women still marginalised from judiciary - IRIN
"When I was appointed by the Constitutional Court in 2003, I felt Egypt had taken a very important step towards building a freer, more equal merit-based society," said Tehany al-Gebaly, Egypt's only female judge. "Three years on, I am saddened to see that the obstacles to women joining the judiciary remain firmly in place." In Egypt's approximately 6,000-strong judicial body, al-Gebaly is the only woman in an executive judicial role. She was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 2003 following a long-standing battle with the system to include women in the ranks of the judiciary, which essentially remained the only public position women were barred from well after they gained the rights to vote and run for political office in 1956.

Pakistan gets women combat pilots - BBC
The Pakistani Air Force (PAF) has inducted four women as fighter pilots for the first time. The women were part of a batch of 36 cadets who were awarded flying badges after three years of gruelling training at the PAF academy at Risalpur. Being a fighter pilot has until now been a purely male domain. Women could join the armed forces but only for non-combat jobs like the medical corps.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jamaica's First Woman Prime Minister

Jamaicans welcomed their first woman prime minister today:
Portia Simpson Miller, a longtime parliament member who represented some of Jamaica's poorest neighborhoods, faces high expectations for change as she succeeds P.J. Patterson, who stepped down as prime minister after 14 years on the job.

"Because she's a woman from the grass roots the expectation is higher and it's going to be tough," said Rupert Lewis, a political science professor at the University of the West Indies in Kingston.

Simpson Miller, known as Sista P., beat three opponents to take over leadership of the ruling People's National Party last month. Patterson had led his party to three consecutive election victories, the most recent in 2002. But his administration was dogged by corruption allegations, a lagging economy and a homicide rate 10 times that of the United States.

Last year, a record 1,671 homicides occurred on the island of 2.6 million people.

"We have to mobilize every sector of the society against this encroaching evil and wickedness," Simpson Miller said earlier this month at a funeral for six slain members of one family.

The Republican Nightmare in MN: "We're a Disgrace"

Campaigning is in full force in Minnesota and according to a piece in today's Wall Street Journal, Republicans are in trouble:
The Republican nightmare here in the First District is a burly, high-school teacher and coach who is running as a Democrat but evokes House Speaker Dennis Hastert as a younger man. The Democratic candidate in the Second District is a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent with the maiden name of Cheney who is waging an antiwar campaign. Her Republican opponent, a Marine veteran, opined on radical Islam and attacks on the Easter Bunny while on the campaign trail recently at a Lutheran school whose sports teams are the "Crusaders."

As Minnesota suggests, the 2006 campaign is a power struggle but also a moment for Congress to renew itself after wearing thin its welcome with voters. For Democrats, who need to gain 15 seats to win the House, spring is the season for testing campaign pitches. For Republicans, who hold power, it is a time to take stock after dominating Congress for the past 12 years.

K.J. McDonald, a former Republican state legislator who now is mayor of Watertown in Carver County, recites a litany of party woes from "the ineptness of the Bush administration" to the national debt and the Iraq war. "We are due for a fall," he worries. "We're a disgrace."
Tim Walz, the "burly" man running in the First District, spent 24 years in the Army National Guard and is still on active duty.

In a recent profile of Democratic veterans running for office, The Atlantic reports on what happened when Walz decided to take two students to hear Bush speak shortly before the 2004 election in Mankato, Minnesota:
The president's visit struck Walz as a teachable moment, and he and two students boarded a Bush campaign bus that took them to a quarry where the president was to speak. But after they had passed through a metal detector and their tickets and IDs were checked, they were denied admittance and ordered back onto the bus. One of the boys had a John Kerry sticker on his wallet.

Indignant, Walz refused. "As a soldier, I told them I had a right to see my commander-in-chief," the normally jovial forty-one-year-old recently explained to a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party dinner in the small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

His challenge prompted a KGB-style interrogation that was sadly characteristic of Bush campaign events. Do you support the president? Walz refused to answer. Do you oppose the president? Walz replied that it was no one's business but his own. (He later learned that his wife was informed that the Secret Service might arrest him.) Walz thought for a moment and asked the Bush staffers if they really wanted to arrest a command sergeant major who'd just returned from fighting the war on terrorism.

They did not.

Instead Walz was told to behave himself and permitted to attend the speech, albeit under heavy scrutiny. His students were not: they were sent home. Shortly after this Walz retired from the Guard. Then he did something that until recently was highly unusual for a military man. He announced he was running for Congress--as a Democrat.
I'm sure you've already heard about this incident in the liberal media.

Colleen Rowley, the woman running in the Second District, is the former FBI agent who blew the whistle on pre-9/11 intelligence failures.

Democrats on the ground in Minnesota say this time around, gay marriage and other wedge issues won't help Republicans; voters are more concerned with the war and the economy. Last week, 2,600 Minnesota National Guard troops left for the Middle East.

Dems Should Embrace Russ Feingold

Do the Republicans really want the next Democratic President to have as much unchecked power as Bush? Sen. Russ Feingold wrote the following for TomPaine.com:
As many Republicans focus on defending the President, they are losing sight of what ceding these powers to the President now will mean for their own party down the road. Those expansive powers will rest with whoever sits in the Oval Office. Republicans who argue today that the President has the power to ignore a law passed by Congress are relinquishing authority not just to this Republican President, but to future presidents of any party. They are helping to render future members of their own party powerless to check an executive who claims expansive powers under the Constitution or a future Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution.

The Republican effort to defend the President works against the party in the long run, and it also goes against the party's longstanding rhetoric about checking government power and strengthening individual freedoms. It's hardly in keeping with those values to allow Americans' communications to be monitored without a warrant, or to concentrate power in one branch of government. One of the best ways to limit government power is to ensure that each branch provides a check on the other two, but most Republicans in Congress today aren't checking the President's power or defending the judicial branch's right to do so - they are giving him a blank check to ignore the rule of law.

A party that prides itself on limiting government, and supporting individual freedom and the rule of law, should think twice before it allows any President to ignore the laws that Congress passes. By supporting the President now, Republicans are making it tougher for members of their own party to challenge the power of future presidents and departing from their own values in the process. That's a short-sighted strategy that won't serve either party, or the nation, in the long run. What would serve the nation, and support the rule of law, is for a few courageous Republicans to follow the example set during the Watergate scandal by standing up to a President of their own party, asking tough questions, and holding the President accountable for his abuse of power.

"Bring Them Home Now" Postage Stamps For Your Tax Returns

This is a great idea..from Bring Them Home Now:

Giving voice to the majority of Americans who now support the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, "Bring Them Home Now!" has created a $.39 cent postage (approved & licensed by the US Postal Service!).

The stamp features the symbol of the growing "Bring 'Em Home Now!" movement - a yellow ribbon transposed over a peace sign - providing millions of Americans with a unique way to show their support for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Take the pledge to send in your tax returns with the "Bring 'Em Home Now!" stamp and let the government (and everyone else) know where you stand -- and at the same time donate funds to the peace movement.

All proceeds from the sale of the stamps (as well as t-shirts, buttons & stickers featuring the popular "Bring 'Em Home Now!" designs) benefit citizen groups working hard to end the war and bring our troops safely home, including Military Families Speak Out , Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Veterans for Peace.

By participating, you proudly say: "I support the troops. Let's bring them home now! And let's take care of them when they get here."

Jill Caroll Freed, Report: Women Treated Better Under Saddam

American reporter Jill Carroll speaks to media after her release from captivity at the Islamic Party Headquarters Thursday March 30, 2006 in Baghdad in this image taken from video. Carroll, who was kidnapped three months ago in a bloody ambush that killed her translator, was released from captivity Thursday and said she had been treated well. (AP Photo/Baghdad TV via APTN)


Saddam Better for Women - IPS
Women were far better off under former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein, a women's group has found after an extensive survey in Iraq. ''Under the previous dictator regime, the basic rights for women were enshrined in the constitution,'' Houzan Mahmoud from the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq told IPS in an interview. The group is a sister organization of MADRE, an international women's rights group. Under Saddam, she said, ''women could go out to work, university and get married or divorced in civil courts. But at the moment women have lost almost all their rights and are being pushed back into the corner of their house.''

Journalist Released Unharmed in Iraq - AP
American reporter Jill Carroll was set free Thursday, nearly three months after she was kidnapped in a bloody ambush that killed her translator. She said she had been treated well. Carroll, 28, was dropped off near offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party. She walked inside, and people there called American officials, Iraqi police said. In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military was not involved in Carroll's release.

Reproductive Rights

Abortion proposal debated at hearing - AP
A public hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday took place on a bill that would ban abortions in Alabama except for those performed when the life of the mother is in danger. The bill, by Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, would ban abortions even in cases where the mother was raped or when incest was involved. Erwin's bill is patterned after legislation which recently passed in South Dakota banning almost all abortions. "The most important issue we can deal with in the Legislature is protecting the unborn," Erwin said. But opponents said the legislation would hurt women.

Blue Cross won't challenge mandated contraceptive coverage - AP
The office of the state auditor says a new mandate requiring insurance companies to include contraceptives in prescription drug plans is effective immediately. Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath issued the opinion yesterday. He says failing to include coverage for contraceptives in prescription drug plans constitutes sex discrimination. Earlier today, Blue Cross Blue Shield said it's still working through the opinion, but does not plan to challenge it.

Many unaware of Plan B's availability on campus - The Daily Free Press
Despite efforts by the Feminist Majority Foundation, an organization that promotes reproductive rights, is fighting to increase education about the availability of the "morning after pill" across the nation's college campuses, many students are still unaware that BU's own health services carries it on campus.

Zimbabwe runs out of birth control pills - NewZimbabwe.com
Zimbabwe, grappling with chronic foreign currency shortages with have hit imports of fuel and electricity, has now run out of contraceptive pills used by the majority of women. "Birth control pills are in short supply with most pharmacies in and out of Harare having run out of stock," the state-owned Herald newspaper said on Wednesday. "I am not even sure when the next supplies will be coming because my suppliers are saying they are experiencing some difficulties in procuring oral contraceptives," one pharmacist told the paper. Most Zimbabwean women, grappling with an economic crisis shown in soaring consumer prices and static salaries, rely on short-term oral pills which cost about Z$20,000 ($0.20) a month. Longer-term contraception requires up to Z$4m.

Catholic bishop in AIDS-affected Papua New Guinea defies Vatican over condom use - Mainichi Daily News
A Catholic bishop working to combat an AIDS epidemic ravaging the impoverished Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea has openly questioned the Vatican's ban on condom usage. Bishop Gilles Cote, a French-Canadian who heads the Daru-Kiunga diocese in the country's Western Province, said he was in favor of governments providing condoms to communities where extramarital sex and multiple sex partners are commonplace. The Catholic Church, however, has repeatedly rebuffed calls for it to endorse the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS and endorses abstinence as the best way to combat the spread of the disease.

Italian poll stirs up abortion row - BBC
For the first time in 25 years abortion has become an election issue in Italy as politicians put religious and moral issues at the centre of their campaigns.

In the Workplace

Women make slow progress filling US company boards - Reuters
It will take 70 years for there to be as many women as men on the boards of directors of the 500 largest U.S. companies at the pace women are getting such positions, a study released on Wednesday revealed. Last year, women held 14.7 percent of the 5,629 seats on the boards of the top 500 companies as ranked by Fortune magazine, the study found. That number rose from 13.6 percent in 2003 and 9.6 percent in 1995, according to the study by Catalyst, a research and advisory group that works to expand workplace opportunities for women. The rate of progress over the past decade has been, on average, one-half of 1 percentage point each year, the study by the nonprofit group said.


Urgent Action Needed to Break Male Dominance in Thai Govt. - News Blaze
Thai women face major prejudice in politics and stark under-representation in the upper tiers of the Government, according to a United Nations-backed report launched today that sets out a raft of concrete recommendations for speeding progress in reducing gender disparities, including the use of quotas. Holding one ministerial post out of 36, with one governor out of 76, and only 10 per cent of parliamentary seats, women are strikingly under-represented in positions of power, according to the report, Women's Right to a Political Voice in Thailand, issued by the UN Development Programme.

Drought, Poverty Forcing Young Women Into Risky Commercial Sex - IRIN
The ongoing drought that has left hundreds of thousands in eastern Kenya facing severe food shortages has driven many rural people into these towns in search of work and food. Children are sent from deep within the interior to the roadside to sell honey and homemade crafts. In an even more disturbing trend, parents have resorted to sending their young daughters into the towns to trade their bodies for money to feed their families.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Day in the Life of Women Around the Globe

Dr. Mariam Saleh, third left, the only woman member of the new Palestinian government, pauses among other members of the cabinet, during the swearing in ceremony at the headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday March 29, 2006. Hamas formally took power Wednesday. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Indian doctor Nayana Patel(C) poses with two surrogate mothers at her clinic in Anand. Patel runs the Akanksha infertility clinic and is mentor and protector of the women who are surrogate mothers. For the sake of financial security, the life of India's new breed of professional surrogate mothers means lies, secrecy and often nine months hiding. (AFP)

A woman sits in front of riot police in Caen. Police used tear gas and batons to quell angry demonstrators in Paris as nationwide strikes and protest action brought over a million onto the nation's streets to rally against new youth job laws. (AFP/Mychele Daniau)

A woman digs a water dam in Bur Dhuxunle village in southern Somalia, 370km (230 miles) west of the capital Mogadishu, March 29, 2006, as locals strive to fight the drought ravaged East African nation. (REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya)

This 1999 Carroll family photo shows freelance journalist Jill Carroll, left, and her twin sister, Katie, when they were 21 years old. Jill Carroll, a freelance writer for The Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped on Jan. 7, in Baghdad. Katie Carroll pleaded Wednesday, March 29, 2006, on the Arab television channel Al Abrabiya for Jill's release saying her sister is a 'wonderful person' who is an 'innocent woman.' (AP Photo/Carroll family photo via The Christian Science Monitor)

Democrats Take On Rubber Stamp Republicans

You won't see this on tonight's news, but thanks to Crooks and Liars, you can download House testimony from Democrats who stand for a lot more than the media would have you believe.

From the Rubber Stamp Clearinghouse:
To put it plainly, the Republican Rubber Stamp Congress doesn't care about you. Their major legislation, engineered by the White House and Tom DeLay and rubber stamped by the Republican rank and file, appears to be little more than a quid pro quo with huge special interests -- with cynical indifference to the problems facing middle class Americans. As health care costs have continued to skyrocket, Republicans passed legislation that provided almost $140 billion in windfall profits for their donors in the pharmaceutical industry, while making it explicitly illegal for the federal government to bargain for lower prices and preventing ordinary seniors from importing FDA approved drugs from Canada at a lower cost. As millions of Americans lost their jobs in the Bush/ DeLay economy, House Republicans gave away billions in taxpayer money to special interests like Big Oil. As millions more Americans struggled to make ends meet, Republicans cut the right to overtime pay for countless workers.

IL Pharmacists Accused of Lying to Women About Availability of Contraception

*Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to require the state's 2700 pharmacists to post signs with their names on them stating they will provide an alternative if they are out of contraception or allow the prescription to be filled at a different pharmacy. Gov. Rod Blagojevich says pharmacists who oppose dispensing contraceptives often lie to women, saying the contraception they need, including the morning after pill, is out of stock.

*Connecticut's four Catholic hospitals will not prescribe the morning after pill if a rape victim is ovulating or one of her eggs has been fertilized.

Where is the outrage and where is the media??

Reproductive Rights

Spending on abortion vote could reach the millions - AP
A successful referral of the state's new abortion law to the November election ballot could bring what some observers believe would be millions of dollars in advertising from both sides. Opponents of the law that would ban most abortions in South Dakota have begun a petition drive to challenge the law. They need 16,728 valid signatures by June 19. "This election is going to be incredible. I could see millions of dollars spent," said Terry Robertson, associate professor of political communication studies at the University of South Dakota.

AG says insurance companies required to cover contraceptives - KTVQ
Montana's attorney general says health insurance companies are required to cover contraceptives. He says the practice of denying such coverage for women is sex discrimination.

Twenty House Republicans Ask GAO to Investigate Content of Federally Funded Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs - CQ Today
Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) and 19 other House Republicans last week wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking the agency to investigate the content of federally funded teen pregnancy prevention programs, saying that some programs that market themselves as "abstinence plus" promote sexual activity, CQ Today reports. The lawmakers said some of the programs teach curricula that are "shocking at best and medically inaccurate" and asked GAO to determine whether the federal government is "funding dangerous and unhealthy programs." Manzullo is co-sponsor of a bill (HR 3011) that would require federally funded health clinics to notify the parents of any minors seeking contraception at least five days before dispensing the contraception.

Pharmacists targeted over contraceptives - UPI
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has proposed the state's 2,700 pharmacies post a sign with his name on it informing about options for buying contraceptives. The governor said the proposal is aimed at pharmacists who lie when telling women contraceptives are not in stock, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Senate Kills "Morning After" Contraceptive Bill - AP
Legislation that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense "morning after" emergency contraceptive pills without a prescription from a doctor died in the Maryland Senate Tuesday by a one vote margin.

Proposals to require hospitals to carry morning-after pill raises concerns among Catholics - AP
A growing number of states are considering laws that would require hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims, drawing criticism from supporters of the Roman Catholic Church, which likens the morning-after pill to abortion.
Seven states already require all hospitals to dispense the drug, which helps prevent a pregnancy within 72 hours of sex. A dozen states are considering similar legislation.

Democratic senators pledge to maintain hold on Bush's nominee to head the FDA - AP
Two Democratic senators said Tuesday they will not stop blocking President Bush's nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration until the agency decides whether the emergency contraceptive Plan B can go on sale without a prescription.
Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y, told reporters that they met Tuesday with Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach but were unable to get a Plan B update. “He gave us no status and he couldn't give us any kind of timeline,” Murray said.


New Orleans women partner with national groups - AP
When a group of New Orleans women chartered a private jet and flew to Washington in January imploring members of Congress to visit their hurricane-scarred city, one of their selling points was their size. A total of 140 housewives, mothers, former debutantes and successful businesswomen flew to the Capitol in a show of charm and force.
Now, the Women of the Storm are about to grow from 140 women to 300,000 nationwide, as they join hands with four national groups: the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc., the National Council of Jewish Women, The Links Inc., and the Women's Initiative of the United Way.

Paradox of the Perfect Girl - AlterNet
While overachieving girls are knocking on the front doors of America's best colleges, admission officers are letting their slacker brothers slip in the back door.


Female Democrats raise funds for Casey's Senate race - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright last night helped to raise about $100,000 for the U.S. Senate candidacy of Democratic state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. at a Philadelphia event hosted by nine female Senate Democrats who described themselves as "pragmatic" and "progressive." The invitation to the event with Ms. Albright, who served in former President Bill Clinton's administration, was accompanied by a letter from the nine that praised Mr. Casey for his advocacy for "children, the elderly and everyday Americans who don't have a voice." Mr. Casey hopes to spotlight events that show support among women as the May Democratic primary draws closer. Both Mr. Casey and incumbent Republican Sen. Rick Santorum oppose abortion, while Mr. Casey's two Democratic primary opponents -- Chuck Pennacchio and Alan M. Sandals -- support abortion rights.


U.N. misses AIDS treatment goals - UPI
The United Nations acknowledges its global HIV/AIDS treatment initiative failed to meet targets, despite an 85 percent increase in worldwide expenditures on the disease. A World Health Organization report released Tuesday in Geneva said 1.3 million people received antiretroviral treatment in 2005, up from 400,000 only two years before but still less than half of the "3 by 5" project's goal.

WHO says few pregnant women getting HIV drugs - Reuters
Nearly 2,000 babies are born with HIV each day because their virus-infected mothers do not get the treatment needed to stop transmission, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. The WHO said fewer than 10 percent of HIV-positive women in developing countries got antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy and childbirth between 2003 and 2005, despite a tripling of overall access to the drugs in that period.

Jail term for female foeticide - The Times of India
Five million missing girls later, the country has seen its first-ever conviction for foetal sex determination. On Tuesday, a subdivisional judicial magistrate in Haryana sentenced a doctor and his assistant to two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 each for violating the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994. Although the Act has been in force for 12 years, this is the only such conviction. The previous one in Punjab was for improper maintenance of records and the doctor got away with a fine. Dr Anil Sabhani and his assistant Kartar Singh were caught red-handed when a team of government doctors sent three decoy patients to his clinic in Palwal, Faridabad.

UN Launches $92 Million Appeal to Stave Off New Hunger, Deaths in West Africa - UN News Service
Facing a difficult new lean season which could mean death for more than 300,000 children in four West African sub-Saharan countries unless steps are taken now, the United Nations today launched an appeal for nearly $92 million to feed one of the world's poorest regions. "We cannot wait for thousands of people, the majority of them women and children, to die of hunger or malnutrition to react," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said.

Welcome to Iraq, Would You Like Burger King or Pizza Hut?

U.S. soldiers eat meals from Burger King, in al-Asad air base, 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, March 4, 2006. As the construction work goes on in full scale in Balad U.S. air base and handful of other installations, with Burger King and Pizza Hut already in, it is difficult to say weather U.S. forces in Iraq are here to stay for a short term or a long term. (AP Photo /Charles J. Hanley)

"We're pouring concrete. We're building little fiefdoms with security, moats, and walls. Eighty percent of Iraqis will grouse, but they have no political power. We'll stay whether they want us to or not."
-Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served in the office of the Secretary of Defense until spring 2003, in an interview with Mother Jones

In another enlightening press conference last week, Bush said it'll be up to future presidents to decided when to leave Iraq. Air Force mechanic Josh Remy was even more revealing in an interview with the AP. "I think we'll be here forever," said the 19-year-old. With easy access to Burger King and Pizza Hut, the Balad Air Base feels like home:
They've inherited an Olympic-sized pool and a chandeliered cinema from the Iraqis. They can order their favorite Baskin-Robbins flavor at ice cream counters in five dining halls, and cut-rate Fords, Chevys, or Harley-Davidsons, for delivery at home, at a PX-run ''dealership." On one recent evening, not far from a big 24-hour gym, airmen hustled up and down two full-length, lighted outdoor basketball courts as F-16 fighters thundered overhead.

''Balad's a fantastic base," Brigadier General Frank Gorenc, the Air Force's tactical commander in Iraq, said at his headquarters here.
Gorenc's fellow generals at the Tallil base just scored a new $14 million dining facility.

Over the past year, the Pentagon has reportedly been building up to 14 "enduring" bases across the country--long-term encampments that could house as many as 100,000 troops indefinitely, according to Mother Jones. How much is this costing American patriots?
KBR's first big building contract there, in June 2003, was a $200 million project to build and maintain "temporary housing units" for U.S. troops. Since then, according to military documents, it has received another $8.5 billion for work associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom. By far the largest sum--at least $4.5 billion--has gone to construction and maintenance of U.S. bases. By comparison, from 1999 to this spring, the U.S. government paid $1.9 billion to KBR for similar work in the Balkans.
Bush wants another $348 million in 'base construction money' as part of his 2006 emergency war funding bill.

Why feed the poor or provide the Iraqis with electricity when we can build a few more pools and fast food joints?

The swimming pool at Balad air base as seen through the window of a blackhawk helicopter,70 kilometers (44 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 25, 2005. (AP Photo/Jacob Silberberg)

U.S. soldiers stand in a line with their purchases at a PX, in al-Asad air base, 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, March 4, 2006. (AP Photo/Charles J. Hanley)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Afghan Teacher Beheaded

"In Afghanistan, young girls go to school and women serve in government because America helped liberate the Afghan people."
-Laura Bush, speaking on International Women's Day (March 8)

The AP is reporting that Taliban militants beheaded Malim Abdul Habib, a teacher in a central Afghan town, while his wife and eight children watched.

Why aren't the Muslims who took to the streets to protest the cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed raising hell over this beheading?
Habib was the headmaster of Shaikh Mathi Baba high school, which is attended by 1,300 boys and girls.

Zabul, a remote and mountainous province populated mainly by Pashtuns and bordering Pakistan, is a hotbed of Taliban militancy. The former Taliban regime prohibited girls from attending school as part of its widely criticized drive to establish what it considered a "pure" Islamic state.

Zabul province's education director, Nabi Khushal, blamed Taliban rebels for the killing.

"Only the Taliban are against girls being educated," he said. "The Taliban often attack our teachers and beat them. But this is the first time one has been killed in this province."

Cleric Sayed Omer Munib, a member of the nation's top Islamic council, said there was no justification in Islam's holy book, the Quran, to prevent girls from studying.

"Nowhere in the Quran does it say that girls do not have the right to education," he said. "It says that 'people should be educated.' This means girls, too."
It's true that hundreds of thousands of girls have returned to school since we bombed Afghanistan and temporarily ousted the Taliban in 2001, but for the Bush administration to use Afghanistan as an example of how we've 'successfully' spread democracy to the Middle East is misleading and insulting to the Afghan people.

The Taliban are still in power and continue to attack girls' schools and teachers across the country.

Mississippi Abortion Bill Dies, Botched Abortions in Kenya on the Rise

"I don't want to minimize it, but if you look at the (news) coverage and the energy and the focus, etc., you would think that's all we discussed. And let's face it: A lot of the issues we deal with are pretty mundane but they're fundamental - they're making sure people are safe, we're balancing budgets, we're providing for education."
-South Dakota's Republican House Speaker Matt Michels commenting on the fact that the legislature spent no more than 15 hours discussing South Dakota's abortion ban with no exceptions for rape and incest

Reproductive Rights

Mississippi abortion bill dies this session - AP
A bill to ban most abortions in Mississippi died after House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a compromise before a deadline.

Anti-abortionists turn sights on schools and hospitals in US-style campaign - The Guardian
Anti-abortionists inspired by the militancy of the movement in America are adopting tactics associated with animal rights extremists in an escalating campaign of intimidation. The latest victims of harassment by a group called UK Life League are the pupils and teachers at a Catholic girls school in Surrey. The head teacher of Woldingham School, Diana Vernon, has been accused of "child abuse" for providing sex education for her 14- and 15-year-old pupils as required under the national curriculum. Activists are being encouraged to bombard Ms Vernon with hate emails.

Desperate Kenyan women risk last-resort abortions - Reuters
Turn right near the tall acacia tree at the crossroads and a narrow dirt road leads you to Mama Alice's tin-roofed health clinic.
Mama Alice, a stout woman in her 50s, says bad things happen in the backstreets of Mukuru, a squalid shantytown that is home to about 40,000 on the outskirts of Nairobi. Many women are dying after unsafe abortions by quack doctors in the slum. Mama Alice says she treats two or three women every week for abortion-related complications.


Seven ages of woman - The Guardian
When does a woman turn into a feminist? Is there ever a defining moment? Feminists from their 20s to their 80s think back.


Bush's support among women falling, poll shows - Scripps Howard
The gender gap is back. Just 30 percent of women approve of President Bush's job performance, according to the latest Scripps Howard/Ohio University survey of 1,007 adult residents of the United States. The poll found that 44 percent of men approved of him. Overall, Bush's approval rating was 37 percent. The gender gap is significantly larger than in previous polls.

In the Workplace

Ex-CSFB analyst claims bank pushed her into lesser posts- New York Post
An African-American Wall Street analyst with an Ivy League pedigree said financial behemoth Credit Suisse First Boston executives pushed her steadily down the corporate ladder, replacing her at each step with less experienced white men. According to an arbitration claim filed Tuesday by Anthia Christian, a former senior analyst and stock strategist CSFB, the firm waged a "campaign of pervasive racial and gender discrimination" against her. Christian, who attended Harvard Business School, is seeking over $29.2 million in damages and awards from the firm.


A dark season in Afghanistan - Christian Science Monitor
You have only to turn a page or two of Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan to understand that this will not be a pretty read.
Author Ann Jones begins her narrative by telling how she flew into Kabul in early 2002. (This is not a trip one sets up with a few keystrokes to Travelocity - Jones had to fly to Dubai and then wait in the airport there until a man with a briefcase briefly turned up to handwrite tickets to Kabul in exchange for hastily offered cash.) Not surprisingly, she was drawn to the plight of women, and during her time in Afghanistan she worked with different national and international organizations to improve conditions for women.

Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan - Kurdish Media
FGM is a taboo in Kurdistan. In former times, people never talked about this subject. This painful mutilation is usually done to young girls aged between 4 and 12 years. It is a secret act about which people never talk. There is neither present neither party. Women want to get rid of the 'haram' (dirty) organs of the girl the most quickly and secretly as possible.

Italian women shun 'mamma' role - BBC
EU states are trying to understand why the birth rate is falling - and if anything can be done to stem the decline. All this week, the BBC News website is asking women in various countries about how they feel about being asked to have more babies, and how easy or difficult they find combining motherhood and work. Here, the BBC's Rome correspondent Christian Fraser asks why Italy - a predominantly Roman Catholic country that has always loved children - has stopped having them.

Italian Rights Movement Nervously Awaits Election - Women's eNews
Women's issues and reproductive rights are a wild card in the April 9 elections in Italy, where discontent over government moves to limit abortion and civil unions smoldered until a journalist's e-mail ignited public demonstrations.

Pro-Choice Republicans Are Tired of Fighting

Here's my latest piece on AlterNet:

No Room in the Big Tent

Anti-abortion Republicans have a lot to celebrate. The confirmation of Samuel Alito and John Roberts, two anti-abortion Supreme Court justices, and the passage of the South Dakota law banning all abortion, have been seen as clear Republican victories. But for pro-choice Republicans, appalled and disgusted by the South Dakota law, the party ended a long time ago. While some say it's important to speak out and fight for change, others say they're tired of fighting a losing battle.

"I was a Republican. I did stand up. I got crucified for it and finally said, 'To hell with it,'" says Elisabeth "Jinx" Ecke, a longtime Planed Parenthood supporter and board member in San Diego, Calif. "I've tried to support Republican candidates in the California Assembly, and they swear on a stack of bibles that they'll vote pro- choice. Then they go to Sacramento and they vote anti-choice. I'm done."

Ecke, 74, cast her first vote for Dwight Eisenhower back in 1953. Four years ago, she reregistered by checking the "Decline to State" box. "I'm supporting mostly Democrats for one simple reason: choice," she says. "People say you can't be a one issue voter and I say, 'Yes I can.'"

How to Be A Lobbyist -- Or Just Talk Like One

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, journalist Matt Taibbi writes about his "personal journey into Washington's culture of greed." In January, Taibbi attended Senator Conrad Burns's (R-MT) birthday bash (for the low price of $500) and pretended he was a lobbyist working for a company that wants to drill for oil in the Grand Canyon:
When Heggem [the person who handles energy issues for Burns] was finally free, I introduced myself. "I work for Dosko-Konsult," I said. "We're a Russian company. We represent a number of Russian energy companies. Specifically I work with a company called PerDuNefteGaz."

"What?" she said, leaning over.

"PerDuNefteGaz," I said. "It's a Russian oil company . . ."

"Oh, yeah," she said. "Yeah, of course."

I suppressed a laugh. My Friend in Politics had told me that everyone I met at the party would pretend to know the company I worked for. "PerDuNefteGaz" translates roughly as "FartOilGas."

I pressed on, stammering through a researched speech about my client's discovery of an "abiogenic theory of petroleum recovery" and some new surveys we'd been conducting. A sharp woman, Heggem was right there with me, even when I stopped making sense. "Basically you're using new technology, new recovery methods," she said.

"Exactly," I said. Then I laid it on her. "We're pursuing a number of projects," I said. "Including one that would involve some exploratory drilling in Grand Canyon National Park. Now, obviously this is complicated but . . . at some point in time I was hoping we could sit down and I could tell you a little more about our company and our energy-independent project."

"OK," she said. She gave me her information and told me to call her anytime. We shook hands. For a few minutes more we stood there chatting. I asked what the protesters were there for, pleading ignorance -- I'd just flown in from Moscow.

"It's all of that Abramoff stuff," she said.

"It's funny," I said. "In Russia, they can't understand . . ."

"They don't understand why this is even a big deal with Abramoff, right?" she cut in.

"Exactly," I said.

We parted; I moved through the crowd in the direction of Burns. Up close, the senator looks like little more than a big exhausted lump -- like a sack of potatoes with a mushy, half-caved-in pineapple on top.
The entire piece is worth reading. Just be sure to remind yourself that you're not reading fiction.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Time to Open Your Bible Textbooks, Kids

"The Bible is not my book and Christianity is not my religion."
-Abraham Lincoln

Georgia may go down in history as the first state in the nation to treat the Bible as a textbook:
Though students in many states enroll in classes related to the Bible, Georgia would become the first to require its Department of Education to put in place a curriculum to teach the history and literature of the Bible. Schools would use the book itself as the classroom textbook. Specifically the bill would establish electives on both the New and Old Testaments.

It has overwhelmingly passed both chambers, but needs a final vote on a minor House change. If it passes, the state's Department of Education has a year to establish Bible elective courses in the curriculum.

In the late 1700s, Congress thought enough of the Bible as a textbook that it printed 40,000 copies. But the bold effort here in Georgia to use the Bible in today's secular curricula may be about presenting it as a moral code rather than a foundation to better understand the biblical allusions in literature, critics say.

"Behind this is the tension around the country about how to go about doing a Bible elective, and a lot is at stake," says Charles Haynes, director of the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va.
I guess this means Bart Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, won't be invited to speak at Georgia schools anytime soon.

Mr. President, Why is All the News Coverage on Iraq So Negative?

This is from a Q&A with Bush at one of his informative "townhall" meetings on March 22. You know, the "townhall" meetings at which the crowd must swear on the Bible that they pray for Bush every night before bed:
QUESTION:I ask you this from the bottom of my heart for a solution to this, because it seems that our major media networks don't want to portray the good. (Standing Ovation!) They just want to focus...

BUSH: OK, hold on a second.

QUESTION: They just want to focus on another car bomb or they just want to focus on some more bloodshed or they just want to focus on how they don't agree with you and what you're doing, when they don't even probably know how you're doing what you're doing anyway. But what can we do to get that footage on CNN, on Fox, to get it on Headline News, to get it on the local news?
She has a point. How can we get this footage on CNN and Fox? (Warning: graphic images)

An Iraqi boy mourns for a youth killed by a blast in the Iraqi city of Basra, 550 km (342 miles) south of Baghdad March 26, 2006. A 14-year-old student was killed and two others wounded by a bomb planted in front of a school in Basra, police said. (REUTERS/Atef Hassan)

Shad Mohammed, 6, is comforted by a neighbour after being wounded in an attack by insurgents which doctors said also killed both of her parents, in Baghdad March 27, 2006. A surge in violence in Iraq has claimed the lives of over 50 people in the past two days, including at least 30 army recruits at a base near the northern town of Mosul. (REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz)

Iraqis remove the body of one of those killed in a raid. The US military insisted that Iraqi special forces carried out a raid on an insurgent hideout, rejecting accusations American troops had launched a deadly attack on civilians in a mosque. Amid a swirl of conflicting versions, the US military said Iraqi special forces raided a meeting hall in northeast Baghdad being used by an insurgent cell and killed 16 people and detained 18 others(AFP/Wissam Al-Okaili)

An Iraqi man weeps as the victim of a U.S. backed raid on a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad is taken from a hospital morgue Monday March 27, 2006 in Baghdad. At least 16 Iraqis were killed in a US backed raid in a Shiite neighborhood of the capital on Sunday evening. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Shi'ite women weep as protesters hold a mock funeral for victims of a shooting incident at a mosque in Baghdad March 27, 2006. The protest comes one day after 20 people were shot dead in the Mustafa mosque near Sadr City in Baghdad, in what some Shi'ite leaders said was a massacre of worshippers by U.S. troops. Police and residents said the killings resulted from a clash between U.S. and Shi'ite militia men. (REUTERS/Ali Jasim)

A video grab shows various bodies lying on the floor at a mosque in the Shaab district of eastern Baghdad March 26, 2006. Politicians from Iraq's Shi'ite majority accused U.S. troops of massacring 20 worshippers at a Baghdad mosque on Sunday but police and residents said many died in clashes between Shi'ite militia fighters and Americans. (REUTERS/Reuters Tv)

An Iraqi man tries to identify a body which was found among a group of nine corpses with ropes around their necks, at a hospital morgue Monday March 27, 2006 in Baghdad. Mortar attacks, and sectarian violence continued with at least 21 corpses found monday, and in another incident a suicide bomber killed at least 40 and wounded 30 others in an attack on an Iraqi army recruiting center in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)

Good News from Iraq

How's this for good news, Mr. Bush?
Baghdad provincial Governor Husayn al-Tahan said he is suspending all cooperation with U.S. forces until an independent investigation is launched into the killing of 20 Shi'a, allegedly in or near a mosque.

Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, al-Tahan said, "Today we decided to stop all political and service cooperation with the U.S. forces until a legal committee is formed to investigate this incident."

He said the inquiry panel should include representatives from the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi Defense Ministry, but not the U.S. military.

Followers of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr blame U.S. forces for killing the 20 Shi'a in and around a mosque in Baghdad on March 26.

The U.S. military denies the charges, saying Iraqi forces backed by U.S. advisers killed 16 insurgents in an operation in the same neighborhood.
This is just one incident in which the U.S. military is being investigated for murdering innocent Iraqi civilians, but you probably won't hear about this on TV because the media are afraid their reporting is too negative:
US military investigators are examining allegations that Marines shot unarmed Iraqis, then claimed they were "enemy fighters". In the same incident, eyewitnesses say, one man bled to death over a period of hours as soldiers ignored his pleas for help.

American military officials in Iraq have already admitted that 15 civilians who died in the incident in the western town of Haditha last November were killed by Marines, and not by a roadside bomb, as had previously been claimed. The only victim of the remotely triggered bomb, it is now conceded, was a 20-year-old Marine, Lance-Corporal Miguel Terrazas, from El Paso, Texas.

An inquiry has been launched by the US Navy's Criminal Investigation Service after the military was presented with evidence that the 15 civilians, including seven women and three children still in their nightclothes, had been killed in their homes in the wake of the bombing. If it is proved that they died in a rampage by the Marines, and not as a result of "collateral damage", it would rank as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by US armed forces since the invasion three years ago.

The Politics of Plan B, Parents Back Sex Ed in Rural TX

"Listen, the reason I took this job is, I feel like we need to go into the 21st century. Clearly, with some folks in the country, we're going to get there kicking and screaming."
-Cecile Richards, the new president of Planned Parenthood

Reproductive Rights

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood's Choice Leader - Washington Post
In her first week on the job, the Supreme Court agreed to decide if the first federal ban on a method of abortion is constitutional. Two weeks later, South Dakota became the first state to ban nearly all abortions and set up a challenge to Roe v. Wade . Mississippi is on the cusp of enacting a similar law. A nonprofit organization with an annual budget of $800 million, Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health care and sexual-health information to nearly 5 million women, men and teens each year, but Richards, 48, does not have a background in public health: She is a veteran Democratic political operative with Annie Lennox hair and a steely, strategic core, hired to preserve abortion rights.

Morning after in America - Washington Post
President Bush's uneasy relationship with science and policy is about to hurt him as much as it has already hurt American women. For years now the Food and Drug Administration has failed to make the morning-after contraceptive pill, commonly known as Plan B, available over the counter. This despite numerous studies (including ones by the FDA) showing that the medication is effective and as safe as Tylenol. The result? Millions of women have been deprived of easier and cheaper access to an important product. And the agency has seriously damaged its reputation among scientists, Congress and the American public.

Time to Stall a Bush Nominee - NY Times
We don't generally approve of holding nominations hostage to other political objectives. But Senators Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray surely have good cause to block a vote on the nomination of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach to become commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration until the agency makes a final decision on the morning-after pill. There is no excuse for the administration's endless obfuscation and delays on making the pill available without a prescription when the overwhelming bulk of expert opinion says it is safe to do so. The pill must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, preferably within 24 hours, leaving little time to visit a doctor to get a prescription.

African women ask for safer abortions in Ethiopian conference - eitb24
More than 120 researchers, health-care professionals and policy makers held a three-day conference in Ethiopia to discuss ways to liberalize attitudes, laws and accessibility to safe abortions in Africa. A coalition of women's rights groups and activists pledged Friday to do more to make safe abortions available in Africa and called for more research into unsafe abortion and maternal mortality.

Survey says parents back sex ed beyond abstinence - Express-News
As Bexar County continues to suffer one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, local health educators find themselves in the crosshairs of a passionate debate over what to teach children about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinence is the core message of all school-based sex education programs, in line with the Texas Education Code. But the state leaves it up to local school districts to decide whether to teach students about birth control and condoms, and at what grade level to introduce that information. Now, a small survey of parents from inner-city and rural areas of Bexar County has found that 80 percent of them favor teaching their children about condoms and birth control as early as the middle school years.


Iraqi woman's Baghdad blog in the running for£30,000 book prize - The Guardian
An anonymous Iraqi woman has become the first blog author to be in the running for a big literary prize for a book published between hard covers. Baghdad Burning, by a 26-year-old author who has won an international readership under the pen name Riverbend, is longlisted for the £30,000 Samuel Johnson award. In the list, announced today, she is up against 18 other books including Alan Bennett's latest bestseller, histories of the cold war and the great wall of China, and a biography of the 19th-century cookbook author Mrs Beeton. The Guardian carried an extract from Riverbend's title last summer.


For some women, Senate choice is no choice - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One of the more intriguing dynamics of this year's Pennsylvania Senate race is that when faced with a Democrat and a Republican who both oppose abortion, some Democratic women are going to sit the race out. The issue was thrust to the forefront this past week when several women's groups endorsed a virtually unknown Democrat, Alan M. Sandals, as their choice to challenge Sen. Rick Santorum, largely because Mr. Sandals supports abortion rights.


Healing Powers - Newsweek
African women are starting to take charge--making new laws, changing old attitudes, inspiring others to follow their lead. Who will help them mend a broken continent?

Women leaders to discuss role - Gulf Daily News
About 100 women's leaders from 16 Arab countries will converge in Bahrain tomorrow to discuss the means of promoting their role in the region. The two-day conference will focus on the success of Arab women in the legal, economic and political fields. Participants will examine experiences in the region that reflect women's achievements, including the role of women in family and society, women's contribution to the economic sector and their political participation.

As outsourcing booms, now India makes babies too - GG2.net
giving birth to healthy twins, Mrs A, a young Indian woman, handed them to a US-based couple knowing she was unlikely to see them again. Her parents never knew what she was doing," her mother-in-law confides. "She told them she had a baby boy but he passed away." Mrs A, 27, is part of India's most prolific family of surrogate mothers, something that although not unlawful has to be kept a secret in this conservative country.

PanAfrica: Somber Outlook On Aids - AllAfrica.com
A former director of the United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa has painted a gloomy picture of efforts to bring the pandemic under control across the continent. "There is absolutely nothing optimistic about HIV in Africa, 25 years after the virus was discovered," said Nana Poku, who is now a professor in the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, in the United Kingdom. "The biggest issue we fundamentally got wrong is prevention. The ABC strategy doesn't work," he added.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bush's Legacy in the Middle East

This is from an Aljazeera interview with As'ad AbuKhalil, author of The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power and Bin Laden, Islam, and America's New 'War on Terrorism.' AbuKhalil is also a visiting professor at UC Berkeley and runs the Angry Arab blog:
What, in your opinion, will the Middle East look like one or two years from now?

I have no doubt years from now people in the West and East will look back and remember George Bush as the most incompetent and most unwise US president ever.

His legacy in the Middle East will grow more horrifically. It will be seen that he has unleashed destructive forces in the Middle East, and has consolidated the rule of most authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

From Iran and Syria, Bush wanted democratic transformation, but from his client regimes in the Gulf, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan, he wanted nothing more than little cosmetic changes that would not alter the power dynamics in those countries.

He has also contributed to the rising conflict between Arabs/Muslims and Western governments.

His contribution in that regard will only please Osama bin Laden.

Photos of the Pro-Immigration March

Demonstrators march in Los Angeles, California, to protest of proposed illegal immigration legislation. Half a million protesters paralyzed downtown Los Angeles, demanding amnesty for undocumented immigrants and rejection of a proposed law that would drastically tighten US immigration rules. (AFP/Getty Images/J. Emilio Flores)

Protesters wave signs and chant in front of City Hall.
(Gina Ferazzi / LAT)

A mural overlooks the thousands of protesters. (Gina Ferazzi / LAT)

Thousands take to the streets as pro-immigrant groups hold a march and rally to express their opposition to congressional bill HR 4437, a bill designed to strengthen the enforcement of immigration laws, in Los Angeles, California March 25, 2006. (REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

Thousands of demonstrators march towards city hall during a pro-immigrant march and rally expressing opposition to congressional bill HR 4437, a bill designed to strengthen the enforcement of immigration law, March 25, 2006. At least 200,000 mostly Hispanic demonstrators protested in California on Saturday against moves to tighten U.S. immigration laws, while President George W. Bush urged wary Republicans to take up his guest-worker proposal. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Abortion Ultrasound Law Passes in Michigan, Kentucky to Document Abortion Counseling Sessions

Reproductive Rights

Mich. Governor OKs Abortion Ultrasound Law - AP
Women considering an abortion will have the chance to see ultrasound imaging of the fetus under legislation signed Friday by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Until now, Michigan law has required that women have a chance to review diagrams and descriptions showing a developing fetus, but not their own. The new law allows, but does not require, clinics to do an ultrasound exam.

Effort To Outlaw Abortion In Kentucky Voted Down - WCPO
The effort to outlaw abortion in the State of Kentucky is dead. The Senate killed the amendment that would end abortion in the Bluegrass State. House Bill 585 though does strengthen informed consent laws. Women who seek an abortion may soon have to schedule a face-to-face meeting with a medical professional before having the procedure done. Current state law requires women to receive counseling and then 24-hours before have an abortion procedure. Under the new proposal, meetings would have to be documented.


Muslim women raise voices worldwide - Toronto Star
During the height of the Danish cartoon controversy, Canadian media interviewed male Muslim leaders exclusively, without bothering to seek out leaders among Muslim women. It's a given that Muslim leaders are men, preferably with beards. Haideh Moghissi, a sociology professor at York University, says that rigid, unforgiving and sexist voices are considered valid voices by Western media. When a Muslim woman speaks out or assumes a leadership role, she's called militant.


Nurses to help check pregnancies in UK schools - HindustanTimes
Nurses will now work for birth control in all the schools of England in a move to slash the rising incidence of teenage pregnancies. There are currently 2,409 nurses who work in primary and secondary schools across the country but the latest announcement signals a massive extension, reported the online edition of Daily Mail. By 2010, every primary care trust will be funded to have at least one full-time qualified nurse working with each small group of state primary schools and their local secondary, it said.

Strait-Laced Hem in Straight Talk for Uganda Teens - Women's eNews
Thirteen years ago, two female anti-AIDS activists in Uganda started Straight Talk, a frank and pioneering sex education forum for African teens. Today, while not officially censored, it copes with a sense of being hemmed in.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hungary Wants to Prevent Unwanted Pregnancies

Amazing. Hungary is considering subsidizing birth-control pills, while states in this country are passing legislation that allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense the pill and eliminates funding for low-income women who can't afford the pill:
State support for the pill, combined with education, could encourage women to avoid unprotected sex, Mihaly Kokeny, the country's commissioner for public health coordination, said in an interview. Hungary's leading contraceptives maker, Budapest-based Gedeon Richter Rt., has been pushing the idea for years.

The proposal may help Hungary's health insurance system, which has run a deficit for the past decade, save money by reducing spending on abortions, supporters say. Hungary's National Health Insurance Fund spent 1.4 billion forint ($6.9 million) to end pregnancies in 2004, more than the cost of a year's supply of birth-control pills for each patient.

"We, in Hungary, are fighting against abortions," Kokeny said. "It's insurance-subsidized family planning. On the other hand, contraceptives are not subsidized. Not at all. So things have to be considered."

Kokeny, a former health minister, has been a leading campaigner for what he calls "responsible sex." In February, he held a ceremony to unveil a condom vending machine at a Budapest university.

Hungary's abortion rate has dropped 42 percent since the end of communist rule in 1990, but remains one of the highest in the region, according to World Health Organization statistics.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Day in the Life of Women Around the Globe (Friday)

The committee of 'Women from around the world' hold a memorial day to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the victims of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps massacres, in Beirut, in September 2005. Three Lebanese cabinet ministers visited the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps outside the capital, the first ever such occasion.(AFP/File/Ramzi Haidar)

A veiled Kashmiri woman adjusts the cap of her son as she begs outside Jamia Masjid the grand mosque in Srinagar, India, Friday, March 24, 2006. Mirwaiz Molvi Umar Farooq Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's new peace initiative with Pakistan and also added if India declares unilateral ceasefire he will negotiate with the militant groups. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

An Iranian woman listens to a sermon during Friday prayers in Tehran March 24, 2006. (REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi(

An elderly Iraqi woman flips the pages of a religious book at the roadside market of old and second hand books, in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday,March 24, 2006. Iraq once had one of the best education system in the middle east, but it's schools and universities crumbled under two decades of war and neglect. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)

A woman shouts slogans during a trade union protest in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk March 24, 2006. Trade unions on Friday held a rally in Krasnoyarsk to protest against growing prices for consumer goods. Some 3000 people attended the protest. (REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)

An Israeli border police woman arrests an Israeli protester during a joint protest with Palestinian, Israeli and international activists against the controversial Israeli wall in the West Bank village of Bilin March 24, 2006. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)

A woman walks past exclusive foreign boutiques selling luxury items in New Delhi, India, Friday March 24, 2006. In a country long known for its poverty, a tiny pocket of immense wealth is growing, lifted by a booming economy and lusting for brand-name luxury goods. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

An unidentified woman chants slogans Friday, March 24, 2006, in Manama, Bahrain, demanding freedom for about a dozen men imprisoned for a December protest over the brief detention of a Shiite cleric. About 500 Shiite demonstrators, including many of the jailed men's relatives, demanded the men be freed and the government evict the foreigners from Syria, Jordan, Pakistan and Yemen who make up a large part of Bahrain's security forces. Her headband reads 'Oh, Hussein,' a plea to an important prophet in Shiite Islam. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bolivian indigenous woman Juana Yujra, 63, holds her pencil and smiles during her first week of an alphabetization program lead by Bolivian government in cooperation with Cuba in Laja, 37 km (22 miles) from La Paz, Bolivia, Friday, March 24, 2006. Bolivian president Evo Morales, an indigenous descendant himself, is trying to eradicate illiteracy in the country. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)

South Dakota Pro-Choicers Fight Back

Former state Rep. Jan Nicolay, right, and current Rep. Elaine Roberts, second from right, introduce a petition drive to put South Dakota's abortion ban to the voters, Friday, March 24, 2006, in Sioux Falls, S.D. The state recently approved the strictest abortion law in the United States -- a ban on all abortions except to save a woman's life, with no exceptions for rape or incest -- and the measure is set to take effect July 1. (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers)

The battle to overturn South Dakota's anti-choice, anti-woman law has begun. A new coalition, called South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, is in the process of collecting signatures to put the nation's most extreme law on the November ballot:
"This law clearly endangers the health of women in South Dakota and violates the right of women and families to make private, personal health-care decisions," the group said.

With at least nine other states also considering strict abortion limits, the issue is expected to gain renewed national visibility in the November midterm elections, when Democrats are seeking to recapture both houses of Congress from Republicans.

The issue could energize both parties, analysts said.

"It is about South Dakota, but it ultimately is a national issue," said Ted G. Jelen, a DePaul University professor of political scientist. "This is the type of thing that might pry open some checkbooks."
The group must collect 17,000 signatures by June 19 to block the abortion ban from taking effect on July 1. The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families lists 15 co-chairs in a group that includes Republican and Democratic state legislators, medical professionals, a Methodist minister and a representative from the state's Sioux Tribe.

Syria's First Woman Vice President

Syrians are welcoming their first ever woman vice president. Najah al-Attar, 68, has served as minister of culture from 1976 to 2000 and was most recently in charge of the ministry's translation department. She holds a doctorate from Edinburgh University and has published a number of books.

How do men in conservative Arab countries feel about the appointment?
A male political science professor at a prominent local Saudi university who did not want to be named said the political shift in Syria is a part of a greater move where women, who are underrepresented in politics in the region, have no choice but to keep their eyes on the prize and grab the fruits of power through hard work and diligence.

"There's no doubt that women are being driven to join the Arab political arena because men's representation on behalf of women's voices is poor if not totally dumb," he said. "There's no doubt that the majority of Saudi men dread the involvement and competition of women; it's called intimidation and control-loss."