Monday, March 26, 2012

The Women Get Snarky

Many congressman may be perplexed as to why they are receiving a knitted vagina and/or uterus in the mail, but odds are its because they raised the ire of The Snatchel Project . This group targets government officials who have pushed for anti-woman legislation and "gifts" them with their handiwork. The vaginas and uteruses are handmade and mailed in by volunteers who want to add their voice to the growing number of women and their families who are frustrated by male politicians who insist on inserting themselves where they are not needed. "We are half the population and we will not be treated as children or a disenfranchised minority," says the Snatchel Project via its website.

Rick Perry is feeling the heat from women as well. Perry recently refused $35 million earmarked for Planned Parenthood, cutting off one of the few avenues for preventative health care available to women. In response, his Facebook page was flooded by comments from women asking questions about their menstrual and vaginal health. Many added in their comments that they were coming to him for answers since he clearly regards himself as an expert on women's health. Perry's Facebook has since been cleared of these comments, but I sincerely hope he got the point.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sex Tourism in Thailand

Human trafficking and forced prostitution are issues that are very close to home for me. I live near one of the largest human trafficking hubs in the country and you cannot drive down the interstate without seeing half a dozen billboards with hyper-sexualized "masseuses," who tend to be Asian or Hispanic, and promises that trucker parking is available. But of course, this is not just a local issues. Human trafficking is an international tragedy that affects men, women, and children alike. Many wind up in this situation because they are kidnapped, coerced, or traded by unsuspecting family members who are desperate to pay off their debts. The parents are promised that they will have a better life and will be able to send money back to the family in addition to the money they received from the trade. Instead of placing them in good jobs as promised, they usually end up in slave labor or forced prostitution, which is more often than not the case in Thailand. These individuals are highly prone to AIDS and other STDs which usually follow the sex tourist back home to infect their loved ones.

Those who come to Thailand specifically for sex often do so because they indulge in sex acts that would be frowned upon back in their home countries, including child prostitution. Many, if not most, are aware that these individuals have been trafficked and have no choice about being there. For the men who engage in sexual tourism, it is as much about the power as the sex. They revel in the fact that they have economic power that allows them to purchase anything, including a human being. This only reinforces the idea that men are the providers of money and women (and children) must succumb to that power.

Men looking for the best sex at the cheapest prices turn to the internet instead of lurking around dark alleys as they have in the past. There are even forums on these websites so they can report their experiences, discuss new areas to be explored and to warn about police crackdowns. While conducting research for this article, I came across several such websites. Of course, the same advantages that the internet provides to the offenders, also serves as a tool for police enforcement to combat this growing problem.

However, in far too many cases, the prostitutes are arrested as well. When their pimps come to bail them out, they must work off what they "owe" the pimp for the bailout, which is ofter added on top of "travel expenses" and "room and board." On the up-side, U.S. citizens who have sex with children under the age of 18 abroad will be tried at home instead of the country where it happened and can face up to 30 years in prison. This is a much harsher sentence than they would have faced in the country of the offense as their laws are often much more lenient or unenforced.

The women who are forced into this lifetime have the added shame of being harshly judged by their community. In Thai culture, a good woman is a chaste woman and are therefore marginalized. Additionally, the Thai people resent being associated with sex tourism and those who solicit those services are equally reviled.

Many organizations such as the Polaris provide opportunities to raise awareness, volunteer, as well as donate or organize fundraisers, or even report possible sex trafficking situation. Their hotline is 1-888-3737-888. You can call this number to report a tip, connect with social providers and shelters in your area, request information about volunteer opportunities. Other great resources include, The Department of Homeland Security, and theIntercommunity Peace and Justice Center just to name a few.

Excuse Me a Moment While I Geek Out Over President Carter

President Carter is one of my all-time biggest heroes. He is a humanitarian who has made a huge impact on the poorest people in the world and he continues his philanthropic work to this day, long after he has left office. He founded the Carter Center and won a Nobel Peace prize for his role in the Camp David Accords and his tireless work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts. He has also been working since 1980 to eradicate guinea worm disease, a crippling condition that Carter has stated keeps people in poverty.

He sat down with the Huffington Post to discuss his new book "NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter." As always, he gave heartfelt and well reasoned answers on topics such as gay marriage, reconciling science and religion, and women's role in the church.

He begins the conversation by pointing out that God inspired the Bible but was written by men and therefore we must take the spirit of the text instead of interpreting it literally. On the topic of religion and science, the former President had this to say: "I happen to have an advantage there because I am a nuclear physicist by training and a deeply committed Christian. I don’t have any doubt in my own mind about God who created the entire universe. But I don’t adhere to passages that so and so was created 4000 years before Christ, and things of that kind. Today we have shown that the earth and the stars were created millions, even billions, of years before. We are exploring space and sub-atomic particles and learning new facts every day, facts that the Creator has known since the beginning of time."

President Carter also shares his disagreements with the Southern Baptists stance on the role of women in the church. "I separated from the Southern Baptists when they adopted the discriminatory attitude towards women, because I believe what Paul taught in Galatians that there is no distinction in God’s eyes between men and women, slaves and masters, Jews and non-Jews -– everybody is created equally in the eyes of God."

On the topic of gay marriage, President Carter points out that at no point did Jesus speak out against homosexuals. He concedes that churches who oppose gay marriage should not be forced to perform such a ceremony because as a Baptist he believes that each congregation is autonomous. In case you were wondering, the church President Carter currently attends accepts gays on an equal level.

If this doesn't make you fall in love with Jimmy Carter as much as I have, then I have a few links that I'm pretty confident will blow your mind.

President Carter wants to end Guinea worm disease

The Carter Center

President Carter Bio

Karen Santorum One of Her Husband's Top Advisors

Karen Santorum has mostly kept herself behind the scenes in this campaign. She shies away from the public eye but in private, she is one of her husbands most trusted advisors. "She's very politically savvy," says former state Rep Al Salvi. "I know she is the first one to tell Rick that he has made a mistake." One of those times was when Santorum called President Obama a "snob" for encouraging people to go to college. Soon after he made that statement, she called to admonish her husband.

You might be surprised to learn that Mrs. Santorum is a nurse as well as a lawyer. Santorum's campaign would do well to highlight these facts more often if they wish to win the women's vote. Mrs. Santorum insists that he is no way anti-woman, despite some of the remarks he has made. “I am a registered nurse, a lawyer and an author of two books and when I was on my book tour he was home making meals, changing diapers, cleaning the kitchen. He’s been supportive of me and my career. They’re trying to make him look like something he’s not. He is completely supportive of women.” She went on to assure women that her husband has no plans to ban contraceptives.

Voters who worry that Santorum may ban abortion should not hold out hope his wife may soften him on this issue, however. Since the birth of her daughter Bella, who suffers from a genetic disorder, her pro-life stance has only been strengthened. “I just felt very strongly about faith and family and I … feel very strongly about life, the life issue,” she told CBS. “Now that we have a special-needs little girl, I … feel especially stronger about, you know, the dignity and value of every person from the moment of conception until death.” She also recalled the pain of losing a son who was born prematurely, which also contributed to her pro-life views.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In Ga, No Abortion Even For Stilborn Fetuses

All over the country, politicians are deciding that they know more than doctors about women's health. Here in the great state of Georgia, Representative Terry England lends his vast knowledge on the topic to the national debate. His qualifications? He used to work on a farm.

England defended HB 954 which would restrict abortion to the first 20 weeks, even in the event of a stillborn, by citing cases in which a cow or pig deliver a dead baby. "Life gives us many experiences…I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive. Delivering pigs, dead or alive. It breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it." Bizarrely, he follows this statement by relating a story in which a man who was running a chicken fighting ring tells him that if abortion was outlawed he would give up all his chickens. I'm not sure what chicken fighting has to do with managing a high-risk pregnancy, but they are apparently linked in England's mind.

Its very frightening to know that the state I live in feels I should have to carry a stillborn fetus and give birth to its corpse because its good enough for cows, pigs and other barnyard animals.

Friday, March 9, 2012

NYPD Surveilling Muslim Citizens

Its not all good news from New York today. The Associated Press released a report that showing the NYPD'S Demographics Unit has been doing everything from recording conversations in Muslim owned business to copying license plates at mosques with absolutely no link to criminal activity. Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner have commented that the lack of terrorist attacks since 2001 is due to the program's success and that they aren't treating the Muslim community any differently than any other group. So I'm guessing there is a huge data base of licence plate numbers from churches and synagogues as well? Wrong. Jews and Christians were excluded from the surveillance. As if all that wasn't bad enough, NYPD has been spying on Newark NJ citizens as well without Newark's Mayor Booker or Governor Christie's knowledge or consent.

Rightfully enough, there has been considerable outrage over this revelation. “It is no longer a question that the NYPD is engaged in widespread racial profiling,” says Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “NYPD documents state that they are spying on Muslims solely because they are Muslims.” I couldn't agree with him more. So does the Attorney General who is launching a review of the report. Here's hoping he brings the hammer down hard.

Female Firefighters on the Rise in NY

Apparently a record number of women have signed up to be firefighters. 3,481 brave ladies signed up for the entrance exam, a significant rise from the 1,4000 in 2007. Currently, there are only 24 female uniformed firefighters out of the 11,000 member department. This rise is likely due to FDNY's recruitment drive targeting women, which appears to be working. The recruitment drive may be due to the fact that if the doesn't raise its minority ranks, they will be facing a $128 million fine. Competition is still a bit stiff, however, as 60,000 people of both genders have signed up for the exam and there are only 300 - 325 spots to fill.

I absolutely support women breaking into traditionally male dominated fields and I absolutely support employers making attempts to diversify their staff. I just hope that these women are chosen because of their ability and passion for the job, not just to fill some quota. Hiring women just to avoid a fine helps no one and gives feminism a bad name.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Santorum: "Single Mothers Breed Criminals"

As if it weren't already clear that Rick Santorum were a bucket of batshit, Mother Jones discovered a gem from his first Senate campaign wherein he declared that single mothers were breeding more criminals.

"Most people agree a continuation of the current [welfare] system will be the ruination of this country," Santorum told a town meeting in Clairton, Pa., in February 1994. "We are seeing it. We are seeing the fabric of this country fall apart, and it's falling apart because of single moms." He even brought a handy-dandy chart that shows a direct correlation between the rise of welfare and the rise of children born out of wedlock. He ended his statement by saying that single mothers need a "kick in the butt." Because raising children by yourself isn't enough of a kick in the butt to begin with.

Santorum also insisted that if the single mother couldn't produce the name of the father, she would not be entitled to welfare. So I guess rape victims and women who were forced to turn to prostitution for whatever hellish reason got them there are just even more shit out of luck than they were before. And if that doesn't get your blood boiling, Santorum says children with disabilities are part of the problem as well. Crackpotsayswhat?

Now that he is in the national spotlight, he has tones down his rhetoric slightly. In October he stated that welfare recipients and single moms were the base of the Democratic party. So, as an incentive for people to get married, he proposed an end to the head of household exemption for single parents while tripling the value for married parents.

So if you are in an abusive or unhappy relationship, widowed, have a child as a result of being raped, or simply don't believe in the institution of marriage, you're not living in Santorum's version of America.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Funny or Die Nails It

Limbaugh Calls Sarah Fluke "Slut"

In a whack-a-doodle move earlier this week, Rush Limbaugh called Sarah Fluke a "slut" because she supports the contraception coverage. On Thursday, he took yet another step around the bend when he stated that women who advocate the coverage should be made to post sex tapes of themselves online.

"So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch," said Limbaugh. So in his addled mind, if you have sex ever you are a slut and therefore should have to prostitute yourself out to pay for your dirty, dirty birth control. Right.

This is why whenever I see an article with his name attached, I'm always slightly surprised to learn that people find him even remotely relevant. Fluke stayed classy, however, and was quoted as saying "No woman deserves to be disrespected in this manner. This language is an attack on all women, and has been used throughout history to silence our voices.” True that.

Syria Condemned By UN For Human Rights Violations

The United Nations Human Rights Counsel voted Thursday to condemn the Syrian government for widespread violations of human rights. The measure passed at 37 nations in favor. Russia, China and Cuba voted against and India, Ecuador, and The Phillipines abstained. An additional four nations did not participate. Britain and Switzerland announced they were closing their embassies in Damascus, Syria's capital. Kuwait has pledged support for rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The government began its bombardment of the neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs four weeks ago on Thursday and activists say army defectors were still resisting the onslaught. Baba Amr was pounded on all four sides by mortar and rocket fire on Wednesday. Syria's main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, announced it had formed a "military bureau" to organize resistance to President Bashar al-Assad. Communications with Baba Amr were cut for several hours, raising the fear that a long-awaited ground attack had already begun. Tank reinforcements had closed in area the area overnight from Damascus highway.

Activists say it was a very aggressive attack but do not think they will invade the city with tanks. There is speculation that the army would rather destroy the city than to invade. Snipers dispatched anyone on the streets of Baba Amr.

"The humanitarian situation is really bad," says Mulham al-Jundi, a nearby activist. Many neighborhoods have lost electricity and they are using much needed fuel to refrigerate the bodies of the Western journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. There is minimal health care, endangering the lives of scores of wounded. Supplies are running low in the city and the death toll reached 29 on Wednesday.

Damascus blocked the visit of The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos, despite the fact that Russia encouraged attempts to bolster medical and other aid. Amos stated that she was "deeply disappointed" and supported a call by the International Committee of the Red Cross to meet the medical and other humanitarian needs of civilians. The Foreign Minister was quoted as saying that Amos had suggested an "inappropriate date" but they were willing to consider a more suitable time. It is unclear if Syria will allow the visit of Kofi Anan who was appointed as the organization's special envoy. The Foreign Ministry has requested clarification on Anan's role.

As Anan himself said, "The message is clear: the killing and violence must stop."

Cody Rogers Starts Facebook Campaign After Being Beaten

Oklahoma teen Cody Rogers stepped in to defend his 21- year old friend and got severely beaten among homophobic slurs at a party this weekend. 18 year old Rogers came out of the closet 18 months ago. "I am feeling really emotional, I am holding it in right now. I stepped in and they threw me to the ground." Pictures of his bloody wounds went viral just after the Rogers uploaded them to Facebook.

Rogers has created a Facebook page called "Help Stop the Stomping" with an eye for promoting protection for the LGBT community. Currently, Oklahoma is one of nineteen states who don't include sexual orientation in their hate crime bills.

I'm almost split down the middle on whether is more important to protect LGBT individuals or protect society as a whole for precedents that allow for your thoughts to be persecuted as crimes. Not to mention that being illegal seldom stops people from doing anything. However, if it saves a handful of lives, might it be worth it?

Republicans Who Support Gay Marriage Targeted By Their Own Party

Senator Roy J. McDonald was quoted as saying "they can take this job and shove it" while discussing the political consequences of supporting gay marriage. The Republican Committee in his own hometown of Wilton endorsed his opponent in his re-election campaign. Elaine Gerber, chairwoman of the committee, stated that his remark certainly had an influence on their vote.

A remark of that nature may or may not warrant withdrawing support. However, Senator McDonald is the second of the four Republicans who support gay marriage to have faced political difficulties. Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo lost support of the Eerie County Republican Party, who were critical to his election. New York's Conservative Party stated that it would oppose all four of the senators for re-election.

On the other side, Mayor Micheal Bloomberg pledged financial support of the Senators' campaigns and Senator McDonald announced the endorsement of the Stillwater Republican committee. Senator McDonald stated he would continue to focus on lowering taxes and creating jobs. Scott Kingsley of the Wilton Republican Committee agrees. "We cannot be branded by that single issue. If we're constantly making decisions based on that one issue, we're going to have a hard time putting together a coalition to govern." McDonald's opponent is Steven McLaughlin who is running because he feels the incumbent hasn't represented conservative view on issues such as abortion, taxation, or marriage.

A move back to the middle would likely benefit the Republican Party. The GOP is currently too crowded with evangelicals who want to expand the government to control the medical procedures and family structures of Americans. A return to focus on job creation, lower taxes and smaller government be very attractive to voters in this economic climate.