The Iranian government has appointed its first woman ambassador since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Marzieh Afkham is appointed to serve her country in Malaysia. She was previously working as the Spokesperson to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she was the first woman to ever serve as the spokesperson for the Ministry. Ms. Afkham has been working in the diplomatic service for 30 years in various posts.
Ms. Afkhamâ€™s appointment has opened the arena for other women to aspire to such positions. The news about her appointment was well covered by many local as well as a few international mediums. Ms. Afkham has also been a strong supporter of human rights especially womenâ€™s rights. According to the state news agency IRNA, she has praised the current Foreign Minister, Jawad Zarif for his â€œtrust in women and for the courage to take such a decision.â€
IRNA reports that during a tribute to the 50 year old career diplomat, Mr. Zarif said, Ms. Afkham has â€œcarried out her duties for two years with dignity, bravery and particular insight."
After the current president, considered a moderate, Hassan Rouhani came to Office, he called on ministers to appoint women to key posts and promised that he will fight against discrimination. His predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardliner, appointed Marzieh Vahd Dastjerdi as the first female minister to the cabinet in 2009. She was appointed to the health ministry. Ms. Afkham is only the second woman ambassador in the history of Iran. Mehrangiz Dolatshahi was the first ambassador who served in Denmark in 1976. She held the position until the revolution in 1979.
Although women in Iran hold key positions, including the parliament and the cabinet, they cannot run for president, cannot attend male sports events, and has unfriendly laws to women in cases of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Women in Iran are also not allowed to serve as judges.
A Washington state investigation into Planned Parenthood has found "no evidence" of wrongdoing on the part of the women's reproductive healthcare provider following allegations the organization was selling or profiting from fetal tissue donations.
Washington state joins a growing list of states where probes into Planned Parenthood have failed to turn up proof of any illegal activity. This announcement, however, is particularly meaningful because Washington is one of the only two states-the other being California-where the organization offers patients the option to donate fetal tissue for scientific research.
In July, citing several deceptive and surreptitiously-recorded videos by anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Washington state lawmakers sent two letters to Attorney General Bob Ferguson requesting an investigation into the healthcare provider's activities. The videos, which claim to document the illegal sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood, have been debunked repeatedly.
Despite eight states' investigations coming up empty, right-wing lawmakers continue to target Planned Parenthood. Following the release of CMP's deceptively-edited "sting" videos, several congressional committees launched investigations into the organization. In September, House Republicans called Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Last month, House Republicans announced the formation of a select committee - this time under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee - in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood through budget reconciliation.
For now, Ferguson hopes his state's findings reveal the true motivations of Planned Parenthood's opponents. "Unfounded allegations against Planned Parenthood are troubling," said Washington State Attorney General Ferguson in a statement. "They seek to discredit the organization and divert resources away from patient services, making it more difficult for Washington women to exercise their constitutional rights."
11/19/2015 - World Economic Forum Report Places U.S. 28th
The World Economic Forum just released The Global Gender Gap report of 2015 that ranks the United States 28th out of 145 countries. The U.S. is ranked 28th in women vis-a-vis men in economic participation and opportunities; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment. Of the 145 countries, the U.S. ranks 6th in gender gap in economic participation and opportunities, 40th in educational attainment, 64th in health and survival, and a miserable 72nd in political empowerment. Due to the widening wage gap and leadership positions, the think-tank says, the U.S. fell 8 places in 2015 to 28th compared with last year.
According to the World Economic Forum at the current rate of women gaining parity with men to close pay, education, health and political participation gaps will take 118 years. The Forum reports that in the last ten years, "an addition quarter of a billion women" have entered the global workforce. The authors also wrote that women are only now "earning what men did a decade ago."
The Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden still lead with the smallest gender gaps. Ireland is the only non-Nordic country that is ranked 5th. Above the U.S. is New Zealand, 10th, Germany 11th, France 15th, and the United Kingdom ranks 18th.
The Ohio state House yesterday voted to defund Planned Parenthood in the state, only weeks after the state Senate passed a similar bill. Legislators must now decide which bill to advance.
In a 62-33 vote mostly party line vote-with all Republicans voting 'yes' and all Democrats except for one voting 'no-the House passed legislation that would redirect Ohio Department of Health grant money from healthcare providers that perform abortions.
In the most recent fiscal year, the state provided approximately $1.3 million to 28 Planned Parenthood clinics, excluding $2.4 million in Medicaid reimbursements. While the bills passed by the House and Senate do not affect the Medicaid reimbursement, the $1.3 million it eliminates will hamper Planned Parenthood's ability to provide a variety of services, including sexually transmitted disease testing, programs to prevent infant mortality, and breast cancer screenings.
Only 3 of the state's 28 Planned Parenthood clinics perform abortions, and none of the state-administered grant funding goes to these services.
"Testimony given by people all around our state-from Planned Parenthood staff to community partners-demonstrated that women and men rely on Planned Parenthood. Their stories and experiences directly contradict what is being said by the legislators who support this bill," said Stephanie Kight, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. "Their blatant disregard for the truth and the well-being of Ohioans is shameful. They are willing to disrupt community programs that help some of our most vulnerable citizens, all to score cheap political points. These are not the leaders that the people of our state deserve."
The Ohio bills are the latest in a series of anti-family planning and women's health measures introduced by Republican lawmakers to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood following the release of a series of surreptitiously obtained and heavily edited videos by the Center for Medical Progress. Despite no evidence that there is any truth to the videos' claims that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetal tissue, Republicans in several states have insisted on eliminating funding that enables millions of women, especially low-income women, to access health care.
A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division reveals a 44 percent drop in maternal mortality worldwide since 1990, highlighting the successful efforts of the many international agencies to reduce the number of pregnancy-related deaths among women globally.
According to data compiled in Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015, maternal deaths around the world dipped from some 532,000 in 1990 to about 303,000 in 2015, cutting the number of women's pregnancy-related deaths nearly in half over a quarter century. The report's findings is good news for the all international organizations especially UN who, in 2000, pledged to reduce the global maternal mortality rate to below 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030, with no country averaging worse than 140. Of the regions analyzed, Eastern Asia made the most progress, boasting a rate decrease of 27 deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 95 in 1990. Iceland and Finland as well as Poland and Greece experienced the lowest maternal mortality at a rate of 3 per 100,000. Despite still suffering from very high numbers of pregnancy-related deaths, Sub-Saharan Africa maternal mortality rate is also down from 987 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 546 today.
Though many countries made considerable strides to improve accessibility and quality of women's reproductive healthcare around the world, some still lag behind. North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe were among 13 countries where maternal mortality increased. The United States, too, saw a rise in pregnancy-related deaths from 12 to 14 per 100,000 births over 25 years. On the other side, Afghanistan has been making tremendous progress in decreasing maternal mortality rate. The death rates decreased from 1340 in 1990 to 1100 in 2000 and to 394 in 2015. Sadly, currently Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. The maternal mortality rate in 2015 in this country accounts to 1360 per 100,000.
In a statement last week, Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO's assistant director-general for family, women's, and children's health celebrated the gains made in women's health regionally, but underscored the importance of continued efforts to expand care for women worldwide. "Over the past 25 years, a woman's risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes has nearly halved," said Bustreo. "That's real progress, although it is not enough. We know that we can virtually end these deaths by 2030 and this is what we are committing to work towards."
By: Gaisu Yari, Former FMF Afghan Scholar
Walking on a rainy day on Kabul's streets is harder than climbing a mountain in the winter. I walked along Dashti Barchi, where the mass of protesters began marching, holding high above their shoulders the coffins of the seven innocent Afghan Hazara people beheaded by ISIS. I felt the frustration and anger reverberating through Kabul's streets. I felt the strength and unity of the people. I felt the horror of the loss of seven innocent lives. There are many ways to look upon this large protest, which people have come to call "Tabassom's Revolution," named after the nine year old girl, the only child who was among the beheaded.
First, this revolution is not solely about one ethnic group, the Hazaras. When the revolution broke out in the north of Kabul, it was expected to draw people from all sides of the city and from all ethnic groups. When the bodies entered from Ghazni province, a procession of one hundred cars was seen following the coffins. It was a night when even Kabul's sky was crying; a night when the anger started taking shape. One could feel proud to be part of this night, while another could feel angry and scream for change. Hamid Raustami, head of the Justice Seeker Human Rights Organization in Afghanistan, said, "I wanted to be part of this protest from the beginning. I started the night before. I am a Sunni Afghan, but I wanted to prove that we are all one."
Revolutions can be defined in many ways. Sami Darayi, a life-long activist and humanitarian in Afghanistan, blames the government for not keeping its promise to the people of Afghanistan. Darayi is one of the organizers of this protest who, alongside many other Afghans, "finished the 13km distance walk in order to get to the presidential palace." As he followed the movement to its final destination, he was inspired by the courage of the multitudes of women and youth who were so passionately involved. "Women were the crucial participants in this revolution," Darayi confirmed, they "screamed as loud as the rest of the crowd." Darayi hoped the upcoming protests and the revolution taking shape in Afghanistan, spreads across the provinces. He believes that the Afghan people are evolving, as the level of education and acceptance of change grows among youth.
Second, this revolution does not only belong to the men of Afghanistan. Women participated and became part of a historic movement. In fact, this movement would not be possible without the inclusion and involvement of women. As women broke the taboo of bearing coffins upon their shoulders and showed their strength, they repeated history: they bore Shukria Tabassom's coffin like they bore the coffin of Farkhunda before her. The distance between Dashti Barchi and the presidential palace was far and arduous, yet women were a crucial part of this long-distanced march, holding the coffins overhead. Nadira Bakhteyari, one of the women holding Tabassom's coffin, said, "it was a historic day in Afghanistan. Women were part of this movement where we were screaming slogans, men were repeating after us. The body of Shukria Tabassom and her mother were given to the women in the protest. I stood for four hours under their coffins."
This is not the first time men and women have been beheaded and killed in Afghanistan. This is not the first time that the people have been frustrated, and this is the not the first time men and women have worked together to build a better Afghanistan. I am certain it will not be the last time either. Those who are living outside the country, those who are merely reading the newspapers and watching the news on TV, may not be able to feel the positive changes that have occurred in Afghanistan over the past 14 years. Protests, movements, and revolutions are signs of progress, the practices of modernity, and the bearers of revolutionary ideologies that lead people to pour onto the streets and call for justice and change. Afghanistan will only change for the better if the educated people, particularly the youth and women, take part in the movements and decision-making processes that shape the country's future.
Women and youth in Afghanistan are not the same as they were many years ago. They think differently and yearn for change. This protest has shown that different ethnic groups, different ideologies, and different people can came together to make history, and that women can be part of it. The beauty of these movements is their very diversity: different people with different beliefs and backgrounds, all coming together and holding hands, so that they can prepare Afghanistan for a greater future.
The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) today released a groundbreaking report on self-induced abortion. The report found that at least 100,000 Texas women have ever attempted to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance. These findings demonstrate that in the face of burdensome restrictions on abortions, like Texas' onerous House Bill 2 (HB2), women will resort to self-induction to terminate their pregnancies.
The Texas law has shuttered 22 clinics, leaving only 19 clinics across the entire state, cutting women's access to safe, legal abortion. "Women still need abortions in our communities, and many of those women take matters into their own hands. Poor Texas women are finding themselves experimenting on their bodies when abortion is supposed to be legal," said President and CEO of Whole Woman's Health Amy Hagstrom Miller, who is the lead plaintiff in the legal challenge against HB2. The study confirms that when women don't have access to abortion options and accurate health information, they will use whatever options and information are available, even if those turn out to be inaccurate or dangerous.
"Every woman should be able to get safe reproductive care in her community, including prenatal care, birth control, and abortion," continued Hagstrom Miller.
The study-performed over five weeks from December 2014 to January 2015-is the first time statistics on self-induced abortion in the general population have ever been calculated by researchers. TxPEP estimates that somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 women age 18-49 in Texas have ever tried to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance. The study outlines four primary reasons why women attempted to self-induce their abortion: financial limitations to travel to a clinic or pay for the procedure, the closure of their local clinic, the suggestion from a close friend or family member to self-induce, or to avoid the stigma or shame of going to an abortion clinic, especially if they had prior abortions.
On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to review a challenge to HB2, which threatens to close more than 75% of abortion clinics in the state and deny millions of women access to safe, legal abortion. The case, Whole Woman's Health v. Cole, seeks to permanently block two provisions of HB2. The first provision, which has already forced more than half of the clinics in the state to close, requires providers to secure hospital admitting privileges. The second provision forces clinics to fulfill costly, medically unnecessary ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirements. The TxPEP study suggests that self-induction may become more common should the Supreme Court uphold these provisions as constitutional.
On Friday, the White House's Council on Women and Girls hosted a day-long summit focused on advancing equity and elevating the status of women and girls in the United States. The Summit also served as a venue for institutions to announce new initiatives focusing on women and girls. Unlike the previously announced My Brother's Keeper program, the initiatives unveiled on Friday are not public-private partnerships and will receive no funding or resources from the Obama Administration.
MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry, the director of the Anna Cooper Center at Wake Forest University, led the event and was joined by expert panelists including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Cecilia Munoz of the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Ms. Foundation's Teresa Younger. The summit introduced key strategies for addressing inequity experienced by women and girls of color. Women and girls from around the world joined the conversation via social media using the hashtag #YesSheCan.
At the event, the Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research-a coalition of American colleges, universities, and research organizations led by Wake Forest University-announced an $18 million funding commitment to support research efforts about women and girls of color. The coalition currently comprises 24 institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, Harvard University, Bennett College, and Howard University School of Divinity.
Prosperity Together, a project of the Women's Funding Network-a group of public U.S.-based women's foundations committed to investing in women's economic security-also announced a five-year, $100 million funding initiative to increase economic opportunities for low-income women.
In 2014, the Obama Administration created the My Brother's Keeper Taskforce, which has attracted over $300 million in funding, and an additional $85 million for its non-profit spinoff. The total for the new private initiative for women and girls is only $118 million and does not come with any White House infrastructure like the aforementioned Taskforce.
My Brother's Keeper has received criticism for failing to acknowledge the unique challenges faced by their female peers. Studies show girls of color experience a disproportionately higher rate of school suspensions than their white counterparts, comprise 32 percent of juvenile arrests and detentions and remain more than twice as likely to become pregnant as teens as young white women.
11/13/2015 - Afghans Protest Nationwide Over Beheadings by ISIS
Thousands of Afghans took to the streets in Kabul on Wednesday after seven people from the Hazara ethnic group were beheaded by ISIS. Of the seven Afghans who were taken hostage while traveling and then beheaded, there were two women, four men, and a nine year old girl. Demonstrators, which included men and women from all ethnic groups in Afghanistan, carried coffins of the victims and marched six miles from west of Kabul to the gates of the Afghan presidential palace. They demanded justice and urged the government to take action against the increasing violence and insecurity in Afghanistan.
Afghan women made up a large group of the protesters. They stood at the front line, raised their voices and carried the coffin of Shukira, the nine year old girl who was beheaded. It is very unusual for Afghan women to carry a coffin of a deceased in public. The large participation of Afghan women in this protest shows the increasing determination of Afghan women to demonstrate and to participate in political events.
Protests continued yesterday in 10 cities across Afghanistan in many other provinces as well. People took to the streets in Herat, Nangarhar, Balkh, Ghor, Daykundi, Zabul, Bamian, Jawzjan and Ghazni against the Taliban and ISIS.
According to the Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, ISIS kept them for a month. He had announced a national day of mourning on Wednesday. In a meeting with representatives of the protestors and family members of the victims, Ghani said that "the government took every possible measure to release the hostages, but unfortunately, the terrorists had them on the move."
Ghani said that he shared the pain of the victims' families and called on Afghans to maintain national unity. "Our enemies, by creating incidents that have ethnic and regional color, are trying to take our unity from us. We must not let any force divide us." He said that he had been personally monitoring progress on operations to free the hostages before they were killed by the Islamic State fighters, but the hostages had been moved 56 times to evade military operations.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan condemned the killings. Killing and kidnapping civilians are "serious violations of international humanitarian law," said UNAMA chief Nicholas Haysom. He also called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.
The Supreme Court announced today that it will review an anti-abortion Texas law that threatens to close more than 75 percent of abortion clinics in the state and deny millions of women access to safe, legal abortion.
"Today, my heart is filled with hope," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder and President of Whole Woman's Health, the lead plaintiff in the case. "Although this is the first step in a much longer process, I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the rights that have been in place for four decades and reaffirm that every woman should be able to make her own decision about continuing or ending a pregnancy."
"I have hope," Hagstrom Miller continued, "for my staff members, who, for years, have poured themselves into providing Texas women with high-quality and comprehensive reproductive health care. And most of all, I have hope for the families and communities all across Texas who now may be able to get the safe and comprehensive care they need from a clinic they trust."
Last week at its Women Money Power Summit, the Feminist Majority and the Feminist Majority Foundation, honored Hagstrom Miller with a Courage Award.
"We are thrilled that the Supreme Court has decided to review this politically-motivated law, whose goal is to end abortion access and all but overturn Roe v. Wade," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. "Laws designed to force the closure of women's reproductive health clinics are not only discriminatory, they are dangerous for women. The Supreme Court should expose the Texas law, and all those like it, for what they are - an end run around Roe - and reaffirm the constitutional right of millions of women to access safe, legal abortion."
The Supreme Court will likely hear the case Whole Woman's Health v. Cole in 2016. The case challenges two provisions of Texas' omnibus abortion law, known as HB2. The first provision, which has already forced more than half of the clinics in the state to close, requires providers to secure hospital admitting privileges. The second provision forces clinics to fulfill costly, medically unnecessary ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirements.
Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have spoken out against both the ASC and admitting privileges requirements as medically unnecessary. Without any medical justification, all these laws seek to do is make it increasingly difficult-or even impossible-for a woman to get an abortion.
"We are confident the court will recognize that these laws are a sham and stop these political attacks on women's rights, dignity, and access to safe, legal essential health care," said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Whole Woman's Health and other providers in the case.
The Supreme Court has twice stepped in to temporarily block the law from fully going into effect-once in October 2014 and again in June 2015. The 2014 decision came after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that both restrictions could take effect even though the case was still being heard in court. The Supreme Court's decision kept the ASC requirement from going into effect until the Fifth Circuit could make a final ruling on the law's constitutionality. When the Fifth Circuit issued its final decision in June, upholding both requirements, the Supreme Court again stepped in to temporarily block the decision, maintaining the status quo while the clinics continued their legal challenge back to the Supreme Court.
This week, at the National Women's Studies Association (NWSA) 2015 Annual Conference, Ms. in the Classroom, a college curriculum based on Ms. magazine, will introduce two innovative new digital readers. The readers compile the best of Ms. magazine and the Ms. Blog into easily accessible online textbooks for the 21st century feminist classroom.
Designed to engage digital-savvy undergraduate students in an ever-growing number of women's studies and online education courses and programs, Ms. Digital Readers are edited and introduced by distinguished faculty from the Ms. Committee of Scholars and feature more than 100 articles from Ms. and the Ms. Blog from 1972 to present day. Currently available, the new Ms. Digital Reader: Gender, Race & Class, introduced by Beverly Guy-Sheftall and edited by Aviva Dove-Viebahn, introduces students to the intersections that connect gender, race and class, strengthening students' relationships to progressive activism on their campuses, in their communities and the larger world. For the first time ever, the Ms. Digital Reader, in partnership with Women Make Movies, will offer students the opportunity to supplement their reading with documentary films related to their topic of study.
The Ms. Digital Reader series, inspired by an appeal to educators issued by the NWSA Curriculum Institute (led by Guy-Sheftall) to approach women's studies in transnational and intersectional terms, is the brainchild of Ms. in the Classroom program director Karon Jolna. Building on four key concepts identified as central to women's studies and feminist activism, including intersectionality, transnationalism, knowledge production and social justice, Ms. Digital Readers feature articles written by such feminist and social justice pathbreakers as bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, Bonnie Thornton-Dill, Dolores Huerta and Brittney Cooper, addressing topics like work and labor, media, and reproductive justice.
Arriving January 2016-just in time for Winter and Spring 2016 classes!-the followup Ms. Digital Reader: Introduction to Women's Studies: So You Want to Change the World?, edited by Michele Tracy Berger, introduces students to the field of women's studies. The articles highlight the transformative influence of studying women, gender and sexuality on students, universities, communities and feminism.
Want to join the 700+ undergraduate women's studies programs worldwide using Ms. in the Classroom Ms. Digital Readers, but can't attend NWSA's Annual Conference? Sign up for Ms. in the Classroom TODAY!
Between Thursday and Sunday this week, as many as 1,800 feminist scholars from around the country will meet in Milwaukee for the National Women's Studies Association's (NWSA) annual conference. Ms. and the Feminist Majority Foundation's national campus organizers will join distinguished faculty and graduate students from across academic disciplines in celebrating the latest feminist scholarship.
In addition to hundreds of workshops, panels will feature such feminist luminaries as Kimberle Crenshaw, former NWSA president Beverly Guy-Sheftall as well as event keynote speaker Sara Ahmed, the director of the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Since 1977, the NWSA has worked to strengthen the field of women's studies through feminist scholarship, building an ever-expanding membership of individuals and institutions nationwide. In recent years, addressing the need for a more inclusive space, the NWSA has centralized scholarship by women of color within its programs. It launched the NWSA Women of Color Leadership Project, a conference mainstay, at which esteemed scholars, including Angela Davis and bell hooks, will deliver keynote addresses.
Each year, some of the most well-attended conference workshops are the Ms. Sessions, featuring Ms. scholars sharing their experiences and insights about writing for the popular press. Currently in their fourth year at the conference, these Ms. writing workshops provide feminist scholars with the tools they need to translate their cutting-edge research into articles and blogs for Ms. and other media outlets.
In addition to the Ms. Sessions, Ms. in the Classroom will be introducing two innovative new Ms. Digital Readers at the exhibition booth. The readers are the first of their kind, compiling the best articles from Ms. magazine and the Ms. Blog into accessible, engaging online textbooks to be used in feminist classrooms in the U.S., Canada and globally.
Ms. in the Classroom program director Karon Jolna hopes this year's NWSA conference will grow Ms.' network of feminist scholars and offer them new and creative ways to engage their students."Ms. in the Classroom strengthens the connections between academia, women's studies, and the Ms. community of activists," says Jolna. "With faculty participating in 48 states and more than 500 universities and colleges, [teaching tools like] Ms. Digital Readers, designed for use in the most popular women's studies and general education courses, take on an even greater sense of currency for the next generation."
11/11/2015 - SCOTUS Protects Use of Deadly Force by Police
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed a Texas police officer to avoid a civil suit for shooting and killing a fleeing suspect, despite two federal appeals court decisions that would have allowed the lawsuit to go forward.
In March 2010, DPS trooper Chadrin Mullenix fired his rifle six times from atop a highway overpass at suspect Israel Leija, Jr. who had been engaged in a high-speed chase with police. Minutes before the shooting, trained DPS officers had set up tire spikes at three strategic locations to disable Leija's vehicle in order to apprehend the suspect. Mullenix, who was never trained in shooting to disable a car in a high-speed chase, asked permission from his superior to fire at the approaching vehicle. The superior told him not to shoot, ordering Mullenix to "stand by" and "see if the spikes work first."
Mullenix shot anyway. None of the six bullets he fired hit the car's radiator, hood, or engine - which would have disabled the vehicle - but at least four shots hit Leija in the upper body, killing him at the scene.
Leija's mother brought a civil suit against Mullenix, alleging that the officer had violated the Fourth Amendment by using excessive force against her son. In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Mullenix could face trial. That decision was later upheld after the entire Fifth Circuit, in a 9-6 ruling, refused to rehear the case.
On Monday, in an 8-1 decision, the Court reversed the Fifth Circuit, finding that the officer's actions did not clearly violate a constitutional prohibition on excessive force and that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity, meaning that Leija's mother will not be able to seek justice for her son through the courts.
In a scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the Court of "sanctioning a 'shoot first, think later' approach to policing [that] renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment hollow." She noted, "When Mullenix confronted his superior officer after the shooting, his first words were, "How's that for proactive?" Justice Sotomayor described this "glib comment [as] revealing of the culture this Court's decision supports when it calls it reasonable-or even reasonably reasonable-to use deadly force for no discernible gain and over a supervisor's express order to "stand by.""
The court's decision comes amid massive, nationwide protests of police use of deadly force, whose victims are disproportionately African American. According to the Washington Post, 843 people have been shot dead by police this year alone.
Low-wage workers around the country-the majority of whom are women-gathered Tuesday to strike for $15 an hour. The Fight for 15 campaign, now in its third year, began with fast-food workers demanding better wages, and now includes factory laborers, home- and child-care workers, janitors, retail employees and others earning less than $15 an hour.
The campaign is backed by the Service Employees International Union and has seen victories in cities across the country. In Los Angeles and Seattle, for example, city councils voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 incrementally over a period of years. And in San Francisco, residents voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018. On Tuesday, campaign organizers added Pittsburgh to their list of wins, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 for state employees.
Fight for 15 organizers say demonstrations were held in at least 270 locales, including Las Vegas, Fresno, Calif., Troy, Mich., Fairfax, Va. and Milwaukee, among others.
Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers and a Mexican-American icon, joined activists in Milwaukee who are not only demanding a better minimum wage, but also protesting the Republican presidential debate happening last night in that city.
"The Republican candidates are going down the wrong path with all of these attacks they're making on our community," Huerta said in a statement. "They're against raising the minimum wage, against fighting climate change, even though families are struggling and global warming is going to affect every one of us."
11/11/2015 - Taliban Stones to Death 19 Year Old Afghan Woman
Recently, a 19 year old Afghan woman was stoned to death after she was accused of adultery. The video of her stoning that has been widely shared on the internet shows that she was forced to sit in a deep hole dug for her in her home village in Ghor, a remote province in western Afghanistan. The video shows dozens of men sitting and standing around the hole pelting rocks at her.
According to several news reports in the Afghan media, at the age of 13, Rokhshana was forced to marry an old man who had lost both his arms and legs. She refused to accept the decision and eloped with her boyfriend around her age to another village. She was arrested by the security forces and was handed over to her parents. For the second time again, her father decided to force her marry another old man. Rokhshana refused to accept the second marriage as well and was on the run with her boyfriend; this time to another village. To her bad luck, she was arrested halfway to her new destination.
In the meantime, a local Taliban leader had demanded Rokhshana's father to force her marry his brother, but her father had decided to marry her to a man he had chosen. While Rokhshana was on her way to another village, she was arrested by local Taliban members; who within hours demanded for her release around $80,000 (5 million in Afghan currency) from her farmer father. Rokhshana's father could not pay the money. Within hours, the local Taliban determined her fate and decreed she would be stoned to death for adultery. The Taliban had asked her father to attend his daughters stoning, which he did.
The Office of the President of Afghanistan has strongly condemned the brutal killing of Rokhshana and called it "extrajudicial, criminal & un-Islamic." President Ashraf Ghani has assigned a delegation to investigate the stoning of Rokhshana and bring those to justice who have committed the crime.
Some of the other local religious leaders have also condemned the stoning and called on the government to bring the perpetrators to justice. Lawmakers in Kabul as well as civil society members and other politicians condemned the brutal and inhumane killing of Rokhshana, too.
The stoning and lashing of women was a common method of punishing women during the Taliban's time. However, wherever the Taliban has control, they still use this barbaric method of punishment to terrorize women. Rokhshana was not the first victim of the Taliban stoning, but a number of women have been stoned to death since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Last week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's administration filed an appeal notice at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans after a federal judge ordered his administration to cease efforts to strip Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood in the state.
Late last month, after temporarily blocking Jindal's attempts, U.S. District Judge John deGravelles handed down a preliminary injunction requiring Louisiana to continue funding Planned Parenthood.
Jindal, a Republican candidate for president, sought the cancellation of provider agreements between Medicaid and Planned Parenthood, asserting the women's reproductive healthcare provider does not "represent the values of the state of Louisiana in regards to respecting human life."
He also cited a series of fraudulent and surreptitiously recorded videos released by anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The videos, which CMP claim depicts Planned Parenthood's sale of fetal tissue, have been debunked repeatedly. Nonetheless, under Jindal's directive, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) issued a notice to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) in August alerting them of their contract termination with Medicaid effective 30 days after the notice's date.
The need for affordable access to quality reproductive healthcare in Louisiana could not be more critical. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Louisiana has some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease infection in the United States, ranking first in gonorrhea infection, second in chlamydia and third in syphilis and HIV. Last year, the state's two Planned Parenthood clinics provided nearly 20,000 STD tests as well as pelvic exams, cancer screenings and contraception to some 10,000 predominately low-income patients.
Yesterday, in their continuing fight to push Parliament and University staff to lower fees for education access, students from the University of Witwatersrand and University of Cape Town marched on Parliament to meet with the Minister of High Education Blade Nizamande and President Jacob Zuma, while Parliament support staff walked off the job to protest Parliament's treatment of workers.
The protests, which began in October, have focused on putting pressure on school administrators to lower fees for students at the University of Witerwatersrand after school administration told them to expect a 10.6% increase in tuition fees in the coming year. More than 10,000 people joined the October March, making it the largest student protest since the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid.
Students united to protests for weeks, prompting President Zuma to announce a 0% increase in university fees for students. The protests have spread from University of Witwatersrand and UCT to other campuses in South Africa, such as the University of the Western Cape.
Students in the United States have also united against rising tuition costs, including protests in the University of California system.
11/10/2015 - Federal Appeals Court Upholds Injunction Against Obama's Executive Action on Immigration
In a blow to President Obama's immigration reform efforts, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction barring the Administration from moving forward with a series of executive orders that would protect nearly 5 million people from deportation.
The 2-1 ruling upholds a February decision by a Texas-based federal judge who rejected the Department of Justice's request for the executive orders to go into effect pending appeal. 26 states challenged the executive actions in court.
The initiatives under scrutiny include expanding the eligibility for the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the creation of a Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program through a 2014 executive order. DACA protects immigrants if they were brought into the country illegally as children. DAPA would protect parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
Texas governor Greg Abbott responded to the decision saying, "The court's decision is a vindication for the rule of law and the Constitution... The president's job is to enforce the immigration laws, not rewrite them. President Obama should abandon his lawless executive amnesty program and start enforcing the law today."
Dolores Huerta, founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Feminist Majority Foundation board member, said, "This decision shows how important it is to elect progressive presidents. This is a decision by a conservative majority on the court."
In a statement, Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said, "The court's flawed ruling today is inconsistent with even the most basic legal principles. While it is clear that our fight is far from over, the power of our voices and our votes will eventually prevail and bring about change. We will not deviate from a future in which all immigrants are treated with dignity and justice... We now call on the Department of Justice to seek Supreme Court review immediately where we are more likely to obtain justice for our communities."
11/9/2015 - Protests Force U of MO President Out
University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe has resigned amid escalating protests and calls for him to step down after failing to address the issue of racism and racial intolerance on campus.
For months, black students at the University of Missouri have been protesting over matters of racial discrimination, citing that students felt unsafe on campus due to racial slurs and threats aimed towards black students.
During homecoming, the protesters blocked the president's vehicle during a parade, but unfortunately, Wolfe did not come out to address them and the police had to move them.
Seeing the lack of acknowledgement from the president, a black graduate student, Jonathan Butler, went on a hunger strike last week to bring awareness to the "slew of racist, sexist, homophobic" incidents on campus and Wolfe's lack of response to them.
Over the weekend, the protests picked up steam when 30 black football players announced they would not participate in football team activities, including games, until Wolfe resigned. A statement by the players revealed that the players would not tolerate any lack of action concerning threats or incidents of racism towards students. The boycott would have had significant economic repercussions for the school, including a $1 million fine if they do not play in this weekend's game versus Brigham Young University.
Students and members of the Concerned Student 1950, an organization named after the year in which the first black student was admitted to the university, also spearheaded today's walk out to demand Wolfe's resignation.
Several political leaders voiced their concern over the lack of action by the school authorities. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D - MO) said it is essential for the Board of Curators to send a "clear message" to the student body on how they are committed to addressing racism on the campus. In a statement, Missouri State Representative Steven Cookson said that Wolfe "can no longer effectively lead" and he should leave his post.
Last month, the Feminist Majority Foundation, along with 72 local and national women's and civil rights groups, called on the U.S. Department of Education to issue new guidelines for colleges and universities to do more to protect students from harassment and threats based on sex, race, LGBT and disability status.
The groups are calling for the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to remind colleges and universities of their legal obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure campuses are not permitting a climate of hostility toward some students based on race, sex, ethnicity, and LGBT or disability status.
The Feminist Majority Foundation and its 42 co-sponsors honored Congresswomen Louise Slaughter with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Barbara Lee and Donna Edwards with Fearless Trailblazer Awards, and Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and Founder of Whole Women's Health with its Courage Award at the 2015 Women Money Power Summit.
The awards were presented before a packed ballroom at the National Press Club. The Summit is co-sponsored by 42 leading women's rights organizations including National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, American Association of University Women, National Education Association, National Congress of Black Women, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York made history as the first woman on the powerful House Rules Committee and now as its ranking member. Congresswoman Slaughter a strong voice and fighter for reproductive and justice in Congress and Chair of the Prochoice House Caucus, reminded participants about the days of back-alley abortions. She emphasized that we must never go back to that time. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro paid tribute to Slaughter calling her one of the "great Titans in Congress."
Congresswoman Barbara Lee courageously fought against the Stupak-Pitts anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Care Ac and recently introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) to finally end the Hyde Amendment. She believes that there is "no option but to fight for women's healthcare, for women's rights, and the elimination of racism and sexism." She encouraged the audience to advocate for what you want. Congresswoman Lee quoted her idol, Shirley Chisholm that "if they don't give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair."
Congresswoman Donna Edwards served as the first executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, an organization she co-founded. She also led the campaign to pass the Violence Against Women Act and the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. Congresswoman Edwards asked audience to be strong supporters of women. She raised an important point that "it takes women supporting women, making sure people know not only what we want, but what we demand." Congresswoman Edwards said that "being fearless is about every single one of us standing up and making a difference."
Amy Hagstrom Miller is the lead plaintiff in the legal challenge against the Texas TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) law that would reduce the number of clinics from 41 to 10 in the state, denying millions of women access to legal abortion. Advocates are waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court will hear Whole Woman's Health constitutional challenge to the Texas TRAP law. Miller spoke of the importance of women's health clinics to millions of women not only in the major population centers but also in the rural areas of the country.
The Summit featured sessions on maximizing the women's vote, the rule of gender in election and advancing the feminist agenda. Featured speakers at the sessions included Avis Jones-Deweever, President and CEO of Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women, Kelly Dittmar a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, Barry Lynn, Executive Director at the American United for Separation of Church and State, E. Faye Williams, President and CEO of National Congress of Black Women, Terry O'Neil, President of National Organization for Women, Lisa Maatz, Vice President of Government Relations at the American Association of University Women, Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, Serra Sippel, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity.
By: Payk Investigative Journalism Center
At the end of September, the Taliban took control of the city of Kunduz. The Afghan government, with some help from the international community, kicked them out in a few days. But during this brief time of the Taliban takeover of the city, women were the first targets and once again paid the price for fighting for their rights.
The Taliban had a "hit" list of the women who were working for various governmental and non-governmental organizations. This especially included women who led some civil society and media organizations in Kunduz. Women who were involved in the civil society and media arenas fled the city to neighboring provinces or to the capital, Kabul. These women had received threats before the Taliban took over the city, but they continued their work. In an interview with the PAYK Investigative Journalism Center, Ms. Beheshta, who was reporting for a local radio station in Kunduz said, "the Taliban threatened me multiple times over the phone. They threatened my father as well, telling him to stop your daughter from working with the media and if not they will kill his daughters."
Ms. Beheshta is not alone. Many other women journalists have moved to Kabul as well. Najia Khudayar, the Director of "Zohra," another local radio station, is currently staying in Kabul and doesn't know when she would move back to her city in the north. Khudayar's radio station focused only on women's issues and had employed around 20 people, mostly women. After the Taliban took over the city, all of the employees moved to Kabul. Frustrated and disappointed about the loss of her 12 years of work, she said, "the Taliban destroyed everything at Zohra radio station. They destroyed all the equipment." Ms. Khudayar doesn't know when she will be able to return to her city and to restart her work as a journalist. "I am dreaming of going back to my work," she says.
Another radio and television station, Roshani, also suffered tremendous damage. Roshani is believed to be the radio and television station that suffered the most damage during this brief takeover of the city. A member of Roshani radio who did not want to be identified for security reasons said, "Roshani has suffered $20,000 in losses. All of the equipment is damaged. The entire building was set on fire." Roshani was one of the first radio and television stations in Kunduz to focus on women's issues and employ mostly women. The member of Roshani believes that because their radio and television channel supported the Afghan National Security Forces, they received multiple threats from the Taliban. The member also said that the Taliban had even placed a bomb in front of their house, adding "luckily it didn't cause any fatalities."
It was not only women who were involved in the public sphere that suffered. Young girls, who make up 40% of the student body in Kunduz, were not able to attend schools. The students missed three weeks of their education and it has only been a week since they have been back to school. The spokesperson of the Department of Education in Kunduz province says that "70% of the students and teachers are now back to their schools."
Those who were staying at the protection houses (shelters) for women also had to leave the city. According to a member of the house, 70% of the women in shelters were also sent to Kabul. The Taliban referred to the women staying in the shelters as "sluts, whores, immoral, who are not wanted." Women staying in the shelters had received threats before, too.
The Taliban does not want women to be seen publicly or be involved in social and political life. Women working in the media are a big threat to the Taliban because they speak against the oppression of the Taliban and their reactionary ideology. Women leaving their houses due to abuse are considered "whores and immoral" because they refuse to submit to the oppression from their husbands and other male members of the family.
In addition to women and women's institutions, the media and journalists in this northern city were also the first targets of the Taliban. The Taliban did not only attack the different media outlets offices and equipment, but also threatened the journalists. In a statement by the head of the Information and Culture Department in Kunduz, Obaidullah Niazi mentioned that "prior to the Taliban takeover of the city; there were more 100 journalists working for the local, national and some international outlets." Now most journalists have moved to other provinces and have not yet moved back to Kunduz city. During the Taliban time, there was only one radio operating in Kabul and only broadcasting the Taliban propaganda messages.
The Supreme Court today agreed to hear arguments from religiously affiliated non-profits challenging women's right to access insurance coverage for birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The non-profits seeking to deny women employees access to birth control argue that the requirement to fill out a one-page form to receive an exemption from covering birth control places a substantial burden on their exercise of religion and violates Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
"Birth control is basic health care for women. These challenges are not about religion. There is no law in the United States that allows an employer, even a religiously-affiliated non-profit, to impose a religious belief on an employee," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "Plain and simple, these cases are about sex discrimination and whether or not religion - in the United States - can still be used as a cover to discriminate against women. Will we have equal rights and democracy for everyone, or will we have democracy for men and theocracy for women?"
Under the ACA, health insurance companies must cover the full cost of all FDA-approved contraceptives - including the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception - without requiring co-pays or cost-sharing. Religious employers, like churches, are already entirely exempt from this requirement. Religiously affiliated non-profits that object to providing birth control coverage to their employees are entitled to an accommodation that relieves them of their obligation to cover birth control.
To qualify for the accommodation, religiously affiliated non-profits must only inform their health insurance issuer, third party administrator, or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - via a simple government form - that it objects to providing insurance coverage for birth control. At that point, these organizations are no longer required to play any role in providing or subsidizing birth control. The insurance issuer or third party administrator would be solely responsible for providing birth control benefits to affected employees.
Seven federal appeals courts have ruled that it is not a violation of RFRA the for a religiously affiliated non-profit to fill out a form indicating that it objects to providing insurance coverage for birth control. Only one court, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, has sided with the non-profits.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear at least parts of all seven cases that requested review.
Just last Term, the Supreme Court decided in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that for-profit corporations with religious objections could deny health insurance coverage for birth control. In its opinion, the Court determined that the government could achieve its goal of making birth control coverage available through narrower means, specifically referencing the accommodation available to religiously affiliated non-profits.
11/4/2015 - First Woman Elected President of Nepal
Last week, Nepal's parliament elected Bidhya Devi Bhandari the country's first woman president.
Elected by a 327 to 214 majority vote, Bhandari succeeds Ram Baran Yadav, the country's first elected president following the dissolution of the Nepalese monarchy in 2008. Bhandari's appointment comes on the heels of the adoption of Nepal's new constitution, which was written with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in mind. The new constitution requires that women comprise one-third of the nation's lawmakers, as well as contribute in all government committees. It also calls for either the President or Vice President to be a woman.
A longtime political activist and women's rights advocate, Bhandari entered parliament in 1993. In 2009, Bhandari accepted the position of the country's first defense minister, serving until 2011. Bhandari's presidential election undoubtedly marks a milestone in Nepal.
Bhandari, who actively pushed to secure women's rights under Nepal's new constitution for the last seven years, has vowed to continue fighting for minority and women's rights in the country.
Over the last six years, about 1,000 police officers in the United States lost their badges because of sexual misconduct, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. That amounts to an officer being fired for sexual misconduct nearly every other day.
The AP report examined police decertification records from 41 states between 2009 and 2014 to determine how many cases fit the Department of Justices' standard for sexual assault:
"AP determined that some 550 officers were decertified for sexual assault, including rape and sodomy, sexual shakedowns in which citizens were extorted into performing favors to avoid arrest, or gratuitous pat-downs. Some 440 officers lost their badges for other sex offenses, such as possessing child pornography, or for sexual misconduct that included being a peeping Tom, sexting juveniles or having on-duty intercourse."
The investigation did not include data from nine states and the District of Columbia, because they either did not decertify any officers or refused to provide this information to the AP. Decertification is an administrative process that results the loss of the ability to serve in law enforcement. This process varies by state. California and New York, two of the most populous states, are also not included in these findings, as they have no statewide system to track decertifications. Federal officers were excluded as well. Because of these gaps, these numbers are most certainly an undercount.
Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida said, "It's happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country... It's so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them."
The report comes as the trial of Daniel Holtzclaw - the former Oklahoma City police officer facing 36 counts including rape, sexual battery and forcible oral sodomy - is set to begin this week. At least 13 African American women have come forward against Holtzclaw, who seems to have targeted these women because they are Black. Despite being charged with these heinous crimes and abusing his authority in the community, Holtzclaw was released on bond, which was later revoked when he let his GPS monitored ankle bracelet battery go dead. Black Women's Blueprint, a national Black feminist organization, has called this a part of a history that "devalue[s] Black women as legitimate victims of rape and assault."
In May, the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) released a report, "Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women," highlighting stories of Black women who have been killed by police, and studying forms of police brutality, such as sexual assault, that are often disproportionately experienced by women.
"Although Black women are routinely killed, raped and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality," explains Kimberle Crenshaw, AAPF founder and director. "Yet, inclusion of Black women's experiences in social movements, media narratives and police demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combating racialized state violence for Black communities and other communities of color."
Just five years since Colorado introduced an innovative family planning initiative providing little to no-cost long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to low-income women in 68 clinics, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced a 48 percent decline in teen births and abortions statewide, effectively linking access to affordable reproductive care to low rates of unintended pregnancy.
Since 2009, the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a five-year pilot program funded privately with a $25 million grant from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, has provided more than 30,000 intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other LARC methods including hormonal implants to low-income and uninsured women across the state. According to data compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health, both births and abortions among women aged 15-19 have been cut in half, decreasing by as much as 48 percent between 2009 and 2014.
Women ages 20-24 are seeing drops, too. In the last five years, the birth and abortion rates within their age group dropped by 20 percent and 18 percent respectively. Moreover, the program has saved Medicaid approximately $79 million in birth-related costs between 2010 and 2012, meaning for every dollar spent, the initiative has returned $5.85 back into the social safety net.
Unfortunately, some remain unconvinced of the initiative's clear benefits. In May, the Colorado Senate voted down a bill appropriating $5 million for the program, funding that would have sustained the program beyond the previous grant's July expiration date. Several organizations have since pledged roughly $2 million to fund the program until June next year.
But according to Colorado's chief medical officer and health department executive director Dr. Larry Wolk, the program's effectiveness is undeniable. Given three-fourths of Colorado's teen pregnancies are unintended, the need for increased access to affordable contraception could not be more critical.
"This initiative continues to prove its effectiveness," said Wolk. "Thousands of low-income Colorado women now are able to pursue their dreams of higher education and a good career and choose when and whether to start a family."