If you got it, flaunt it. At least that's what my grandmother used to say, and I imagine if she could see the campaign ads coming out of Germany this week, she'd probably laugh. And Vera Lengsfeld, who is running for a parliament seat in Germany's upcoming September elections, is banking on the fact that constituents will have a sense of humor.
The ad (shown above) pairs pictures of Lengsfeld and none other than Chancellor Angela Merkel, shoulder to shoulder showcasing the bountiful assets bestowed upon them by Mother Nature -- two very ample bosoms barely contained by two seriously wide and plunging necklines. The line that runs across reads: "We have more to offer."
No doubt, where there's more chest, there's more attention. Lengsfeld, who did not clear the ads with Merkel, reports that traffic to her blog has increased, getting as many as 17,000 visitors since this campaign went public.
Her takeaway on all this?
If only a tenth of them also look at the content of my policies, then I will have reached many more people than I could have done with classic street canvassing."
It's an interesting acknowledgement on Lengsfeld's part, she's clearly aware that the show-stopping photos aren't appealing to the thinking minds of men and women, though it sounds as though she's hoping the ad's wit will trump the old T&A approach.
Many of those not laughing are likely to be women who find the posters, and the ploy behind them, cheap and offensive. The glass ceiling runs far and wide, thicker over some places than others, and apparently the profiles of men cast long shadows, even over the most powerful women in global politics. Truthfully, I'd like to see a man foolish enough to market his campaign "package" in the same fashion ... Or has Berlusconi kind of done that already?
MICHAEL GOTTSCHALK/AFP/Getty Images
Nepal has to get some credit for creativity with its public policy.
Following an official's recent suggestion of pocketless pants as a method to reduce airport corruption, the Nepalese government has a new plan. To keep widows integrated into society the government will provide a $650 grant to men who marry them.
The government says that "single women," as widows are known in Nepal, are often neglected by society, particularly in rural communities. The subsidy is supposed to help by reducing the stigma attached to widows, who traditionally lose their status when their husband dies.
Widows and women's groups however, were less than thrilled, and around 200 marched in protest yesterday in Kathmandu (pictured at left) telling the government to reverse its decision.
Women chanting slogans and waving placards that read "We don't want government dowries" and "Don't put a price on your mother" marched to the government's headquarters to hand over a letter of protest.
The BBC coverage a few weeks ago helps explain the widows' point of view:
Widows like 29-year-old Nisha Swar, whose husband was killed by Maoist fighters six years ago, say the policy of offering payment for remarriage could lead to discrimination.
"Men could want to be with us for the sake of getting the 50,000 rupees. It is like putting a price tag on our head and we are very humiliated by this," she says.
Her friend, 30-year-old widow Poonam Pathak, agrees.
"I feel embarrassed because now anybody walking on the road could say, look, there's a widow! I could get 50,000 rupees if I married her," she says.
So far, the government has defended its decision, but even if it is overturned the publicity is a good sign: at least Nepal is concerned about improving the status of widows.
PRADEEP SHRESTHA/AFP/Getty Images
Noura al-Faiz today confounded advocates of greater equality when she said she could not appear on television without permission.
"I don't take my veil off and I will not appear on television unless it is allowed for us to do so," she told the daily Shams newspaper, which published a picture of Faiz wearing a headscarf with her face showing.
She also dismissed calls for girls to be allowed to do sport at school. "It's way too early," the paper reported her as saying[...]
At the time she said she was confident her appointment was not tokenism and that other women would be appointed to government jobs. Sceptics wondered, however, whether the new minister would wield any real power, or whether she would suffer the fate of other women who had been appointed to lower councils and sunk without trace.
Perhaps TIME should have reconsidered when they could not find a photo of her to use for their feature (Google only found a blurry picture of her photo in a Saudi paper).
The new speaker of India's lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, breaks the glass ceiling:
India’s lower house of parliament elected Meira Kumar, a former diplomat and five-term Congress party lawmaker, as speaker, the first time a woman has been chosen to run a male-dominated chamber known for its rowdy debates and frequent walkouts.
Kumar, 64, was the only candidate and had the support of the ruling Congress-led coalition and the alliance led by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. Her appointment as speaker, or presiding officer, was announced by stand-in speaker Manik Rao Gavit in the Lok Sabha, or lower house, in New Delhi today[...]
The speaker conducts the proceedings of the house and occupies a pivotal position in India’s democracy, the world’s largest.
For the most part, female leadership is nothing new for India -- Indira Gandhi was prime minister from 1980 until her assasination in 1984, and her daughter-in-law Sonia has been president of the Congress Party for over a decade. But the Lok Sabha, despite having more female members than ever, is still almost 90 percent male.
While the headlines have focused mostly on gender, though, it is also noteworthy that Kumar is a Dalit--also known as an "untouchable"--a member of the lowest class in India's caste system. With the recent success of a Dalit-led political party, the Bahujin Samaj party, Kumar's election may be a victory for Congress with not one, but two key voter groups.
Kenyan women's groups started the boycott in an effort to end the feud between the factions led by Mr. Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki that has paralyzed Kenya's government for weeks. Kenya's Federation of Women Lawyers has urged the wives of both leaders to withold sex from their husbands until the feud is resolved. The president of the group told the BBC:
"Great decisions are made during pillow talk, so we are asking the two ladies at that intimate moment to ask their husbands: 'Darling can you do something for Kenya?'"
The group has also said it's willing to pay prostitutes in order to make the ban more effective. No word yet on whether Kibaki's notoriously short-tempered wife Lucy will join the movement.
Kenyans have many good reasons to want the feud resolved, but I suspect that no longer having to hear allusions to Mwai Kibaki's sex life should be reason enough by itself.
Brazil's Lula may blame "white people with blue eyes" for the global financial crisis, but in financially-crippled Iceland, many women in finance and government feel they have to clean up the mess left by the country's boys-club power elite. One former government official who, according to Der Spiegel, runs Iceland's only still-successful investment firm, put it this way:
"The crisis is man-made," claims banker Halla, 40, who like all Icelanders, is only addressed by her first name. "It's always the same guys," she says. "Ninety-nine percent went to the same school, they drive the same cars, they wear the same suits and they have the same attitudes. They got us into this situation -- and they had a lot of fun doing it," she says. Halla criticizes a system that focuses "aggressively and indiscriminately" on the short-term maximization of profits, without any regard for losses, that is oriented on short-lived market prices and lucrative bonus payments. "It's typical male behavior," says Halla, who compares it to a "penis competition" -- who has the biggest?
Now Iceland's women are rising to the top ranks -- in politics, too -- and they want to make everything better. Writer Hallgrimur Helgason says the new star is Johanna Sigurdardottir, 66, a Social Democrat, who had previously been known to most Icelanders as an honest and unimposing politician. "My time will come," she once railed at her opponents angrily almost 20 years ago.
Halla credits her success to bringing "female values into the financial world."
Sigurdardottir, currently prime minister in an appointed caretaker government, is widely expected to win big in an early election this weekend. She is not only her country's first female prime minister, but the world's first openly-lesbian head of state.
Perhaps Iceland too -- as The Onion brilliantly summed up the last U.S. election -- is now "finally shitty enough to make social progress."
The latest from Swat, Pakistan:
Sufi Mohammad said his followers would tour all districts of Malakand, including Buner, to ‘ensure peace.' He also said the courts would interpret civil rights according to Islamic strictures.
'Women will have full protection and rights under Sharia. They will live a better life, but behind the veil,’ he said.
The Israeli ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Neeman reached new levels of Stalin-esque photoshop audacity by doctoring photos of Israel's new government to remove female ministers Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver and replacing them with male ministers. (Click the photo for a larger version.) If Tzipi Livni had been elected, I would imagine the paper would have been pretty text-heavy on most days.
Unfortunately, no one has yet invented software that can make Foreign Miniser Avigdor Lieberman disappear.
The miniskirt and the hijab (the traditional Islamic headscarf) might be on opposite ends of the women's fashion spectrum, but they've found a common enemy in the government of Uzbekistan which deems both items "alien" to Uzbek culture and hazardous to your health. From RFE/RL's TransMission blog:
Speaking in a 25-minute long, prime-time television program aired this week, Uzbek officials and doctors cited health and security reasons to condemn both the hijab and the miniskirt.
"Some religious extremist women carried guns under their hijab," warned an official from the state religious committee in the television program called "Tahdid" ("Threat").
The hijab can also cause oxygen and calcium deficiencies, warned doctors. As for women who wear miniskirts, they were advised to dress with "moderation" to prevent susceptibility to all kinds of infections and other unspecified health problems.
Tajikistan apparently tried to do something similar in 2007, banning both garments on university campuses. According to TransMission, the hijab ban was more effective than the miniskirt one.
ALI YUSSEF/AFP/Getty Images
Encouraging news from the kingdom:
An expert on girls' education became Saudi Arabia's first woman minister on Saturday as part of a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle by King Abdullah that swept aside several bastions of ultra-conservatism.
Nora bint Abdullah al-Fayez, a US-educated former teacher, was made deputy education minister in charge of a new department for female students, a significant breakthrough in a country where women are not allowed to drive.
Abdullah also sacked the head of Saudi Arabia's despicable Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the religious police who once prevented a group of girls from escaping a school fire because they were improperly dressed. It's about time. We can only hope the beatdowns will continue until the commission is dismantled entirely.
Depending on where you stand, President Barack Obama's Friday decision to lift the Mexico City Policy, better known as the global gag rule, was either wonderful or appalling. For the last seven years, the gag rule stipulated that charities promoting and supporting abortion services could not recieve funding from the U.S. Government. Now, they can. I say: it's about time.
My position is not drawn from either side of the abortion debate. It's drawn from what I saw as a reporter and as a person living in Nigeria. HIV/AIDS is the open secret there -- a growing problem with a whispered name.
To put it politely, the gag rule created a rift -- at times gaping -- between U.S. government-funded projects and those of private NGOs trying to prevent HIV infection. The U.S. government brought the buck -- President Bush's PEPFAR program boasted $39 billion for HIV/AIDS work -- but it also brought rules about how to get the work done. The foundations brought less money and a sometimes different approach. Both sides fought to win the support of the local government for their strategies. From what I saw, that debate could get ugly. Friends working in the field were frustrated and saddened by the result: inertia and politics, instead of posters and condoms.
There was one particular problem that brought it home for me. In 2006, a Nigerian lawmaker announced that 55,000 women die in the country each year from unsafe illegal abortions. The evidence was everywhere -- from women that my colleagues and I met to Nigerian films on exactly that topic.
What was the best way to get that statistic down? Some will say abstinence. But sex is not always a choice. It's in those situations where women seek -- or are forced by their partners to seek -- unsafe abortions. Some counseling and a sterile doctor's office would go a long way.
That's just one example. The real "gag" was that you didn't hear a lot of stories about birth control or HIV prevention in Nigeria. So my few are only the beginning. Maybe now we'll start to hear a few more.
Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Yesterday, my esteemed colleague Josh said a lot of world leaders may not learn much about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin other than what she looks like. It turns out that ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel may not learn even that much.
The ultra-Orthodox do not publish photos of women in their newspapers due to concerns about feminine modesty. And newspapers are a prime source of information for them because they generally don't tune into television, the Internet, and most radio stations.
The prohibition on women's photos is posing a challenge for Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Reuters reports. In the wake of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resignation, she has been asked to form a governing coalition. Securing support from the ultra-Orthodox could be tough if she remains faceless to them.
If Livni wants to reach out to the ultra-Orthodox, it looks like she'll have to meet with leaders face to face.
Amid China's tainted-milk scandal (the subject of this week's photo essay), parents are frightened of buying milk and formula off the shelf for their children. A Chinese entrepreneur was bound to find a way to provide parents an alternative, and one owner of a domestic services company has: the milk nanny.
The entrepreneur, Lin Zhimin, put an ad on the Internet offering the service of milk nannies -- lactating women who get paid for giving away their milk. Calls started pouring in. CNN recently reported on one woman who signed up to provide milk. Last month she had a baby, her second. Due to China's one-child policy, she gave up the infant. Now she wants to give away her breast milk, both to help other parents and earn money -- eight times what she'd make in a factory, she says.
The concept isn't entirely new. Wet nurses have been around a long time, and the custom has been reemerging in the United States. Also, last year, FP interviewed the founder of the International Breast Milk Project, which sends donated breast milk from American women to orphaned babies in Africa. So, I guess you can't blame an entrepreneur for seeing an opportunity and milking it for what it's worth.
“I am honored to meet you,” Ms. Palin said.
“You are even more gorgeous than you are on the (inaudible),” Mr. Zardari said.
“You are so nice,” Ms. Palin replied. “Thank you.”
“Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you,” Mr. Zardari continued. At which point an aide told the two to shake hands.
“I’m supposed to pose again,” Ms. Palin said.
“If he’s insisting,” Mr. Zardari said, “I might hug.”
Yes, Zardari's a sketchball, but unfortunately, I have a feeling that Palin would face a lot of this sort of thing if she became vice president. Palin had exactly zero international recognition until this month so as long as she is being so closely guarded by the McCain campaign, a lot of world leaders aren't going to know much about her besides how she looks and the less tactful ones are going to let her know it.
The average Kenyan earns about $1,300 annually. But under a proposal by the head of Kenya's civil service, the wives of the prime minister and vice president would each get a $70,000 yearly "responsibility allowance" for the important responsibility of embodying the country's "family values."
Lucy Kibaki (right), wife of President Mwai Kibaki, already receives nearly $100,000 annually for her "social responsibilities," which she displayed so well last December when she slapped an emcee who confused her name with that of the president's unofficial second wife.
Ida Odinga, wife of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has said she will not take the money, however. And due to this rejection, many MPs -- whose own salaries average $120,000 annually, not counting perks -- are praising her for not wasting taypayers' money.
Maybe the government should focus less on the "gracious ladies," as they're called, and more on paying the $100 grants it promised to displaced Kenyans whose homes and farms were destroyed in the aftermath of December's disputed presidential election. Just a thought.
Bela Karolyi, the NBC sports analyst who was coach of some of the world's greatest gymnasts, including Mary Lou Retton and Nadia Comaneci, is incensed. He is convinced that China has included underage girls -- the age requirement is 16 -- on its women's gymnastics team by forging the girls' birth dates on official documents.
They are using half-people. One of the biggest frustrations is, what arrogance. These people think we are stupid.
Gymnastics is famous for its small women -- or rather, girls -- but the Chinese gymnasts look awfully tiny and juvenile. In comparison, Japan's team average is 4 feet, 10 inches, and 83 pounds, while the Americans are an average of 5 feet and 107 pounds. Granted, size isn't always an indicator of age, but the New York Times recently pointed to other evidence of age falsification -- inconsistent reporting of some gymnasts' ages in official documents, media reports, and government Web sites.
The Chinese gymnasts certainly aren't half-people, but it sounds like the Chinese government might be telling some half-truths.
Violence in Iraq might be declining, but a recently, there's been a troubling rise in the number of female suicide bombers in the country. Women account for 23 of the country's suicide bomb attacks so far this year, including two last week in Baghdad and Kirkuk that left nearly 60 people dead and 250 wounded.
One anonymous Iraqi woman explained the motivation:
The Americans took my husband. They destroyed our home. We've got nothing. We're living by the grace of God. We will not stay silent, and everything, including bombings, we can do in response."
Iraqi insurgent groups have taken advantage of this grief, benefitting from some tactical advantages women bombers offer: They can easily hide explosives under their robes, and cultural protocol means male guards are less likely to fully frisk them. Cultural norms also mean women are forced more easily into the act by a male recruiter or even a family member.
One woman recently entered police station seeking protection from a close relative -- an al Qaeda member -- who had tried forcing her into an explosive belt. She's now in protective custody, but too many other grieving and victimized women -- many of whom have lost not only a spouse, but their source of income -- are out there, ready to destroy themselves and others in the name of justice and revenge. Given the Iraqi government's budget windfall, there's no excuse for not helping them.
A 22-year-old St. Petersburg ad executive who was hoping to become the third woman in Russian history to successfully sue for sexual harassment (yes, you read that right) just had her case thrown out. Here was the judge's reasoning:
If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children."
Well I guess that's settled then.
Reversing Russia's population decline is a major priority for Russia's government, but this isn't exactly the most enlightened way to address the problem. Conditions for working women in the country are already in a sad state:
According to a recent survey, 100 percent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 percent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven percent claimed to have been raped.
Telling male bosses that this is their patriotic duty is probably not going to help.
(Thanks to my friend Emily for the link.)
Today's Washington Post A1 on Saudi Arabia contains an interesting nugget on how economic transformation may force the repressive government to open up, if only just a bit:
Saudi officials said they are working on easing the lifestyle and visa restrictions that have kept foreigners from investing and living in the kingdom. One side effect of that will probably be an easing of rules that ban men and women from mingling in public unless they are close relatives.
"We're not anymore an isolated island. We realize the challenge today in order for us to be more competitive means more transparency and more gender equality," said Abdullah Hameedadin, head of the Economic Cities Agency at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, the government body overseeing the projects.
Globalization at work?
Nineteen-year-old Mehboba Ahdyar, an Afghan runner featured in FP's photo essay "The Olympians of Afghanistan," has decided to seek political asylum in Europe due to the threats she has received in her home country. Ahdyar, who runs wearing a head scarf and full-length track suit, competes in events ranging from 800 to 3,000 meters and has been a poster child for the Olympics.
Earlier this month, though, Ahdyar went missing from a training facility in Italy. Several days later, she called her parents and told them she was seeking asylum in Europe because of fears for her life. She has received death threats on her mobile phone from Muslim extremists who object to a Muslim woman participating in sports. Earlier this year, her neighbors called the police, claiming she was a prostitute -- a charge that landed her father in jail until the matter was cleared up.
This whole incident is such a shame. This young woman simply wants to run in the Olympics, not run for her life.
WorldPublicOpinion.org just released a poll that reveals some surprising insight on what people around the world want from their government when it comes to one of the most touchy subjects of all: abortion.
The poll's 18,465 respondents hail from 18 countries, including China, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and the United States. Although the results might not always shock you -- British and French respondents overwhelmingly say that their governments should "leave the matter to individuals" -- they do shed some new light on countries that don't get polled too often.
Forty-seven percent of Egyptians, for instance, want their governments to take a hands-off approach to abortion. So do 67 percent of China's respondents and 48 percent from Turkey and Azerbaijan. Just 28 percent of Iranians say that abortion should be a matter for individuals, but 38 percent want the procedure to be discouraged using "non-punitive measures" such as education and adoption services. Indonesians are far less forgiving: A full 60 percent say that those who have abortions should be criminally prosecuted.
What if you group respondents by religion? Some schools of Islamic law permit abortion in certain cases, such as pregnancies induced by rape, but Muslims in the survey show the strongest support for government measures to discourage abortion, both punitive and not. As for Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church still takes a firm line against abortion, yet Christians as a group are extremely liberal toward the practice: 65 percent favor individual choice in the matter. (Read on -->)
Is Becky Hammon a traitor or a savvy capitalist?
The story in a nutshell: Hammon, 31 and from South Dakota, plays basketball for the San Antonio Silver Stars, where she earns the maximum WNBA salary, about $95,000, and was last season's runner-up for the league's MVP. Last year, she signed a four-year contract worth more than $2 million to play with a professional Russian team in the off-season. Russia then fast-tracked her to citizenship, and she became a dual U.S.-Russian citizen early this year. Two weeks later, she became a member of Russia's national team and will now be representing Russia at the Olympics.
Hammon, who has no Russian heritage, says it was simply a smart business decision. Dual citizenship makes her more valuable because her Russian league requires two Russians on the court at all times and each club permits only two American players. "There's nothing more American than taking advantage of an opportunity," she told ESPN.
Hammon insists she never had a serious chance of making the U.S. Olympic team. She wasn't on USA Basketball's original short list of 23 candidates last year and, given that she's 31, this Olympics is probably her last shot. (Why an MVP runner-up didn't even make the short list is another subject altogether.)
Some may criticize Hammon for being unpatriotic, but she is embracing two things Americans love dearly -- capitalism and the freedom to pursue happiness. In a world of athletes without borders, such as Lukas Podolski, expect more talented sports players to go to the highest bidder.
Still, I'm curious to see if her eyes tear up to Russia's national anthem if she gets to mount the medals podium this August.
In 1960, the average Brazilian woman had 6.3 children. By 2000, the fertility rate was down to 2.3. The decline was comparable to China's, but Brazil didn't have a one-child policy. In fact, for a while it was even illegal to advertise contraceptives.
Many factors account for the drop in Brazilian fertility, but one recent study identified a factor most people probably wouldn't consider: soap operas (novelas). Novelas are huge in Brazil, and the network Rede Globo effectively has a monopoly on their production. Here's a sample:
During the past few decades, the vast majority of the population, of all social classes, has regularly tuned into the evening showings. The study, conducted by Eliana La Ferrara of Italy's Bocconi University and Alberto Chong and Suzanne Duryea of the Inter-American Development Bank, analyzed novelas aired from 1965 to 1999 in the top two time slots and found that they depict families that are much smaller than those in the real Brazil. Seventy-two percent of leading female characters age 50 or below had no children at all, and 21 percent had just one child. Hence, the authors hypothesized that the soap operas could be acting as a kind of birth control.
Using census data from 1970 to 1991 and data on the entry of Rede Globo into different markets, the researchers found that women living in areas that received Globo's broadcast signal had significantly lower fertility. (And yes, the study did control for all sorts of factors and addressed the concern that the entry of Globo might have been driven by trends that also contribute to fertility decline. I'll spare you the gory econometric details.) Additionally, people in areas with Globo's signal were more likely to name their children after novela characters, suggesting that it was the novelas specifically, and not TV in general, that influenced childbearing.
These findings on the power of TV are reminiscent of last year's FP article "TV Privileges," which reported on a study about the effect of satellite TV on Indian villages. Women living in villages that acquired satellite TV -- whose shows tend to depict relatively liberated urban women -- came to have less tolerance for spousal abuse and less bias in favor of having boys. They also became more able to spend money without a husband's permission.
It all suggests that soap operas can be a soapbox for social change.
A new phenomenon has been taking Bolivia by storm in recent years: female wrestling. The women don traditional costumes, including a pleated, layered skirt, a bowler hat, shawl and pigtails, and put the WWE to shame:
Although legend has it that some indigenous women of the Aymara people, called Cholitas, have been wrestling for up to 20 years, the trend has only recently reached a critical mass. In 2007 a 20 min. documentary called "The Fighting Cholitas," was entered into several International Film Festivals, including the United Nations Association Film Festival. And in January the women, led by Carmen Rosa a.k.a. "The Champion" and Yolanda Amorosa a.k.a. "The Loving One," formed an association of women wrestlers, which organizes practices twice a week and matches every Sunday.
The Federation's founder, Carmen Rosa, explains the connection between women's equality and women's wrestling in a not-to-be-missed BBC news video:
Because we Cholitas have been humiliated and very discriminated [against] in the past. That is what mostly drove me to be a fighter. I also wanted to show people, not only in Bolivia, but around the world, that women can do what men do and still be an indigenous woman."
For the first time ever, a female Muslim Arab soldier has joined an elite Israeli Air Force unit. Upon completing a medic training course with top honors, she became part of the Airborne Combat Search and Rescue Unit 669, a premier unit that extricates wounded soldiers from combat zones in sensitive and highly classified operations.
Unlike Jewish young adults, most Arab Israelis are not required to serve in the military, but this soldier, from an Arab village in northern Israel, volunteered to serve. But Muslims and Arabs are prevented from serving in the elite Unit 669, which requires an extremely high security clearance, due to fears about conflicting loyalties should they have to serve in Palestinian areas or fight Muslim countries. So how did she get in? An investigation revealed that an error was made, although news reports have not described the nature of the error or who made it. (My hunch is that those details are confidential.)
Nonetheless, the unit's commander has been so impressed with the woman's exceptional ability that he is allowing her to stay. Although some on the Internet say she may end up betraying her unit, it may be that in this case an error ended up yielding the correct outcome -- letting in a talented, loyal soldier.
Dignity, a restored sense of beauty, and the spotlight on a serious issue: The goals for Angola's Miss Landmine pageant brought together 18 contestants, all land mine survivors, representing the southwest African nation's provinces. On a television special Wednesday night, the ladies posed in gowns and swimsuits -- and their artificial limbs. The winner, Augusta Urica, was presented $2,500 USD by Angola's First Lady Ana Paola dos Santos, and will receive a customized artificial limb. You can see some of the contestants' profiles at the event's Web site. (Pictured above is Cuanza Sul, one of the runners-up.)
Each year, between three and four-hundred people are maimed by mines in Angola -- remnants of a 27-year civil war that ended six years ago. Even though significant effort has been put forward to get rid of them, the country remains one of the most mine-laden in Africa.
There are 80,000 amputees in Angola, most as a result of landmines, according to the International Herald Tribune. Candida Celeste, Angola's minister of family, said, "They showed that they can, that they are able... This will provide encouragement to all those left invalid by the war."
The pageant came ahead of International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action which falls on April 4 each year. As the tens of thousands of Angolans can attest, mines are not weapons that can be easily and completely undeployed, and they continue taking lives and livelihoods for generations after hostilities cease. Though, as these women prove, there can be life after landmines as well.
It looks like White House spokesperson Dana Perino has come down with a case of the Charlotte Allens. I just sighed a sad sigh last year when Dana all but bragged about not knowing what the Cuban Missile Crisis was ("It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure..."). But now she's telling people that she just doesn't get missiles and defense because she's a girl:
Some of the terms I just don't know, I haven’t grown up knowing. The type of missiles that are out there: patriots and scuds and cruise missiles and tomahawk missiles. And I think that men just by osmosis understand all of these things, and they're things that I really have to work at — to know the difference between a carrier and a destroyer, and what it means when one of those is being launched to a certain area. [my emphasis]
Dana, please stop. Seriously.
This morning, I attended the 2nd Annual International Woman of Courage Awards, presented by Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky in honor of Saturday's International Women's Day. Out of the 95 women worldwide who received the honor, eight were invited to personally accept the award at the ceremony.
The awardees are an inspiring group of women, including: Suraya Pakzad from Afghanistan, whose organization Voice of Women sheltered and counseled women even throughout a repressive Taliban regime; Virisilia Buadromo of Fiji, who heads up the Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM), and pushes for family law reform, Eaman Al-Gobory from Iraq, a physician with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) who has worked tirelessly to find specialized medical care for Iraqis whose afflictions cannot be treated within Iraq; and Binal Thawabteh a Palestinian women's rights activist who has encouraged and trained women to seek public office, and recently founded a monthly newspaper that raises such hot-button issues as polygamy and honor killings. Other awardees hailed from newly independent Kosovo, Pakistan, Paraguay, and Somalia.
The rise of NGOs such as The Initiative for Inclusive Security reflects growing awareness that women's full participation in society isn't just about justice and fairness, it's also about security. Choosing to honor these particular eight women -- all from areas ravaged by conflict and instability -- clearly shows that this is also the line Rice means to take as she seeks to polish her legacy.
Liu Jin Feng, 30, was a manager for a joint venture company in his native Zhejiang province with a newly pregnant wife when the concept of womb-broking occurred to him.
He spent six months investigating. Four hundred babies later, he is confident he has picked a sustainable industry. Couples need to budget for at least 300,000 yuan ($A50,000). About 40,000 yuan is for the surrogate, a fee for the agent, and the rest covers extensive medical, travel and living costs.
Of course, China is far behind India, where commercial surrogacy was made legal in 2002 (it's illegal but tolerated in China). And if you turn to the classified section of any elite U.S. university, it's easy to find advertisements from infertile couples looking for an egg donor with an Ivy League pedigree. In fact, California has some of the most liberal surrogacy laws in the world, and parts of Europe have become links in a globalizing commercial surrogacy industry. If anything, the Chinese are just playing catch-up -- though I imagine further digging would show that the phenomenon is not quite as new as the above article would have us believe.
(Hat tip: China Digital Times)
Since the beginning of the year, John McCain seems to have settled on a consistent set of closing remarks for his most important speeches. Whenever he talks about America, he refers to his favorite nation with the feminine pronoun, "her." But in three out of the last four primary and caucus victory speeches he's delivered, McCain has stepped up his invocation of Lady Liberty. Here are the last few lines of McCain's New Hampshire victory speech:
So, my friends, we celebrate one victory tonight and leave for Michigan tomorrow to win another. But let us remember that our purpose is not ours alone; our success is not an end in itself. America is our cause -- yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Her greatness is our hope; her strength is our protection; her ideals our greatest treasure; her prosperity the promise we keep to our children; her goodness the hope of mankind. That is the cause of our campaign and the platform of my party, and I will stay true to it so help me God.
This is hardly the first time anyone invoked America in the same way they might refer to a great ship, and it isn't even the first time for McCain. But the use of the word "her" seems to have taken on a greater frequency and urgency in his oratory since January. I tend to think that this subtle change in McCain’s language is calculated to establish two things.
First, using "her" shows McCain as a traditionalist. He talks about great causes the way a founding father might have spoken. And second, McCain establishes himself as a paternal figure: a man who has the power to protect, honor and provide for a woman -- when that woman just happens to be the USA. It's a subtle way to imply that a woman would not be able to do the same job as president as a man. Certainly, it would sound strange for Hillary Clinton to refer to America as "her." In this way, McCain can covertly raise the gender issue without ever sounding overtly sexist.
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