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The Race for 2012: Pawlenty v. Isolationists; Perry on Gaza; Tea Party excited

Pawlenty won't name the ‘isolationists'

In a decidedly hawkish foreign policy speech this week at the Council on Foreign Relations, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty called out members of his party who "now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments. This is no time for uncertain leadership in either party."

Last night, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren asked Pawlenty to name names. The former governor wouldn't get into specifics, but said "there are several candidates for president and several leading voices in the party beyond that in Washington arguing for going further than the president in terms of an accelerated withdrawal, arguing that we have no business and he has no authority in Libya, arguing we should do nothing in Syria, arguing that we should not have any role in Iraq and beyond," he said. 

On the campaign trail, several contenders have raised doubts about the extent of our mission in Afghanistan and Libya, including former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and -- to a lesser extent -- former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The Huffington Post quoted Rep. Paul's son, Senator Rand Paul, attacking Pawlenty's use of the word isolationist.

"It's not a valid term. It's a pejorative term. It's name calling," Paul told the website. "Isolationism would mean that you're nowhere any of the time and you're completely within a walled-in state. I don't know anybody who's for that."

Americans largely support Obama's Afghan plan

Though the GOP field is somewhat divided on the president's Afghanistan withdrawal plan, a majority of Americans polled recently by Gallup, backed what he's doing. 72 percent supported his plan, while 23 percent opposed it. 50 percent of Republicans said they agreed with his decision to pull 10,000 troops out this year.

When the poll got into specifics of numbers, it found that 29 percent wanted more troops to come home, 19 percent said the number of troops Obama mentioned was too high. 43 percent thought the figure was just right.

NYT/CBS Poll on Republican candidates: Great news for "Anyone else"

Meanwhile, in another poll, likely Republican voters seemed unimpressed with their field of candidates so far. Only 23 percent said they were satisfied with the people in the race. 71 percent said they wanted more choices.

67 percent could not name a single candidate they were excited about. While Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann both had 7 percent saying they were enthusiastic about their candidacies.

The poll wasn't all bad news for Republicans. It found that Democrats are less enthusiastic about the race in general than Republicans.  Only 24 percent of Democrats said they were more excited for 2012 than they were for 2008. 33 percent of Republicans were more excited this year and self-described Tea Party supporters were 44 percent more excited.

Perry to Justice Department: Stop Gaza flotilla

Gov. Rick Perry hasn't announced he's running for president yet, but he's already wading into international issues and sounding a lot like a candidate. This week he sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to do more to stop a planned flotilla of ships to Gaza, which are carrying humanitarian supplies. Israel has a maritime blockade against Gaza.

"As an American citizen and governor of one of its largest states...I write to encourage you to aggressively pursue all available legal remedies to enjoin and prevent these illegal actions, and to prosecute any who may elect to engage in them in spite of your preemptive efforts," Perry wrote.

Perry said participating in the flotilla would violate U.S. law because it would provide "material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization," meaning Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations. 

According to the Houston Chronicle, Perry has visited Israel several times in the past and "has touted what he calls its ‘special kinship' with Texas."

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Does women-only transportation work?

Guatemala is now the 15th country to provide all-women transportation, reigniting the separate but equal debate. The new pink buses will offer a safer ride in a country where violence against women is at an all time high, but some critics have doubts as to whether they will actually help solve the root problem.

Muna Khan, editor of Al Arabiya English, recently wrote an article in which she argues that women-only transporation isn't enough unless accompanied by a wider campaign against harassment and violence:

"Women who use public transport anywhere in the world are subjected to sexual harassment with the difference being that some countries take the offense seriously (punitive action) while others address the issue by introducing women-only sections-by cordoning off sections or having women-only vehicles."

Simply providing separate transportation will not change deeply ingrained attitudes toward the treatment of women. Khan stresses that governments must focus on why women are being attacked and strengthen laws to prosecute individuals who sexually harass female riders.

Two years ago, I spent the summer working in Cairo and the women-only metro cars provided a daily safe haven from the ritual street, cafe and market harassment. But in reality, the second I stepped out of the car, nothing had changed. And when I made the mistake of riding in the mixed-gender cars? I was asking for it. My morning commute would turn into a grope-fest.

When asked for her opinion on Guatemala's new buses, Ana María Cofiño of the feminist collective La Cuerda told IPS:

"Specific actions like this are taken, but violence in other areas like the workplace or the streets, or the fact that women are at risk of being raped at any time, are not addressed."

But in some cases, combining anti-harassment campaigns with female-friendly transportation has been ineffective. Japan's trains have, for years, been epicenters of sexual harassment, with thousands of women reporting groping in the over-crowded train cars. In 2004, after several attempts to advertise police information and groping laws in stations, creating poster campaigns asking victims to speak out, and revising ordinances that threatened gropers with jail time, Japan introduced a large-scale, last-resort women's only train car initiative.

Women-only transportation is not the debate -- the need for such transportation is the real issue. Merely placing a band-aid on a deep wound does not foster a long-term healing process. But until serious cultural or legal measures are taken to ensure women's saftey on public transportation, many women argue that Guatemala's pink buses and Mexico's pink taxis are necessary alternatives.

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