May 222008

As much as I hope that the International Museum of Women is able to raise the funds for an actual building, I LOVE that in the meantime they have turned the world  wide web into a  virtual art museum.  Right now they have an amazingly powerful show running called Women, Power and Politics.  Each month of the show has a different focus, the theme for May is “Is Biology Destiny?” Check out the show and best of all, if you happen to be artistically inclined, you can submit work for upcoming months!

 May 22, 2008  Posted by on May 22, 2008 Comments Off on International Museum of Women’s Virtual Women, Power and Politics Exhibit
May 222008

From Human Rights Watch:

One year after her illegal suspension, the Afghan parliament should reinstate Malalai Joya to office, Human Rights Watch said today.

On May 21, 2007, the lower house of the Afghan parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, voted to suspend Malalai Joya, a female MP elected from Farah province. Malalai was accused of insulting the parliament and suspended until the end of her term in 2009.

Malalai’s suspension occurred after she appeared in a television interview comparing the parliament to an animal stable. Malalai told Human Rights Watch that her remarks were edited out of context. She said that her statement divided parliamentarians into two groups – one of which was working to uphold democratic principles while the other was undermining them, thereby serving the Afghan population even less than animals in a stable. Malalai has since received numerous death threats by phone and “night letters” (posted threats) and now lives in hiding. She receives no security protection from parliament or the government.

“Afghanistan is requesting billions of dollars in assistance from donors next month and presenting itself as an emerging democracy,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “If Malalai Joya remains suspended for exercising her right to free expression and has to keep moving around because of threats for which the government does nothing, what does this say about the state of human rights and democracy?”
Continue reading »

 May 22, 2008  Posted by on May 22, 2008 Comments Off on Human Rights Watch: Reinstate Malalai Joya To Afghan Parliament
May 202008

Many thanks to Cara at Feministe for permission to cross-post this appalling story:

An immigrant woman from Honduras who has very recently awakened from a coma is being threatened with what can effectively be called deportation, because she does not have the insurance needed to cover her medical bills. (Don’t read the comments in these articles unless you want to lose your lunch.) But here is the real kicker: while it would be repulsive and incredibly inhumane to deport an uninsured/under-insured person with a serious medical condition because of their undocumented status, despite the lack of adequate facilities for their care in their nations of citizenship, it isn’t even the case here. Sonia del Cid Iscoa has a current visa and in the U.S. legally. (All emphasis in quoted text is Cara’s.)

A gravely ill woman at risk of being removed from the country for lack of adequate insurance coverage awoke from a coma Tuesday.

The hospital has been seeking to return her to her native Honduras; her family took the hospital to court.

[. . .]

Iscoa, 34, has a valid visa and has lived in the United States for more than 17 years. She has no family in Honduras.

But St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center sought to have her sent to Honduras when she went into a coma April 20 after giving birth to a daughter about 8 weeks premature. Iscoa has an amended version of Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System coverage that does not cover long-term care, Curtin said. But her family worried that the move would seriously harm her, or, at the very least, prevent her from ever returning to the United States.

Iscoa’s mother, Joaquina del Cid Plasecea, obtained a temporary restraining order to keep her from being moved. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Carey Hyatt also ordered that the family post a $20,000 bond by Tuesday to cover St. Joseph’s costs of postponing the transfer.

However, Curtin said that the hospital gave the family three more days to come up with the money before a hearing Friday.

If the family can prove that Iscoa would suffer irreparable injury by a move, the bond will be refunded and Iscoa will not be transferred. But if Hyatt determines that Iscoa is not in imminent danger by a move, the family will forfeit the bond.

A stipulation to a court order issued by Hyatt Tuesday evening said that the parties were “actively exploring alternative sources of securing payment for the medical bills of Sonia Iscoa.”

The original story is close to a week old — but a judge has postponed the hearing until this Friday (which would be May 23rd). As I said, the Honduran hospital that St. Joseph’s is looking to transfer Iscoa to has agreed to accept her as a patient but warns that they cannot provide her with the care she needs.

Iscoa went to the hospital on April 16 because of abnormal bleeding, but the hospital sent her home, family members said. The next day, her doctor asked her to return, and when her water broke and she began having contractions on April 20, she was rushed into surgery and did not regain consciousness afterwards.

“They told us that she was bleeding excessively, and they had to do a hysterectomy on her, but they didn’t know why she was in a coma,” said Maria Adame, a family spokeswoman.

Iscoa went into kidney failure. She had two more surgeries and had an ovary removed.

Meanwhile, Adame said the family is having trouble getting medical records from St. Joseph’s.

An independent doctor was scheduled to examine her on Saturday to help assess whether she can or should be moved.

Liliana Flores, a spokeswoman for Hospital Escuela, said that the hospital would accept Iscoa but cautioned that its ICU unit only has four beds and the hospital has no dialysis unit.

There are attorneys and Honduran groups who are desperately trying to help Iscoa and her family.

Suzanne Pfister, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said that as many as eight patients are transferred each month to other countries, mostly to Mexico.

It’s a practice some lawyers are calling into question, specifically whether a hospital has the legal authority to force patients to cross international borders against their will. One attorney in Tucson has twice called police and accused hospital staff of kidnapping to stop the transfers.

“Right now the hospital is exploring with us the alternative means of being able to try to provide a long-term solution to the problem,” said Iscoa’s attorney, Joel Robbins.

[. . .]

The relatives contacted attorneys and got a temporary restraining order.

Judge Carey Snyder Hyatt of Maricopa County Superior Court ordered that the family post a $20,000 bond against expenses incurred by the hospital in the delay.

Robbins said it will be posted by the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association.

Nora Montoya, consul general for Honduras in Arizona, said that Honduran groups here and in Los Angeles and Washington are raising money for her medical care.

Robbins is hopeful that a compromise can be reached to find long-term medical care for Iscoa in Arizona, and he and his associates are talking with other health-care organizations.

[. . .]

Mitchel, who has lived with Iscoa for four years but is not married to her, wondered how they could send her to another country against their wishes.

Hospital representatives were not sure if such transfers had been successfully challenged in court, despite the frequency with which they are carried out. It is the federal government that ordinarily determines who must leave the country.

Fernando Gaxiola, a criminal-defense and immigration attorney in Tucson, said that he has twice thwarted such transfers by calling police and Mexican authorities and reported the transfers as kidnappings.

You know, the question really does seem like a no-brainer. In what rational world does a hospital have the right to send a patient to another country against her wishes? I know that on a day-to-day basis, our shitty health care system seems to have as much if not more direct power over our lives than the government does. But despite the common perception, they are not all-powerful. They are not the government. And they do not have the right to deport anyone, let alone a woman who is in the country legally and in grave medical condition. Gaxiola was entirely right to report previous “transfers” to authorities as kidnappings. And pretty damn smart to have done so.

Furthermore, knowingly and forcibly transferring a patient with kidney failure to a facility that does not have a dialysis unit is nothing short of violence. Plain and simple. Regardless of how we tend to behave, being a citizen of any nation other than the United States does not revoke your status as a human being. This is both racist and classist. This is flat out wrong.

A fund to help pay for Sonia del Cid Iscoa’s medical care has been set up through Wells Fargo Bank. Please help disseminate this information.

Helping Iscoa’s loved ones to pay for her medical care will not solve the bigger problem or help those who come after her. That is why the legal action is absolutely necessary. But we can help one woman receive the care she needs to live and to stay with her family, and loudly voice our opinion that this is in no way acceptable.

 May 20, 2008  Posted by on May 20, 2008 1 Response »
May 202008

Talk about urban legends. Here I’d been under the impression that the root cause of honor killings had to do with patriarchal misogynist violence. Imagine my surprise that we can just blame it on cell phones, no need for any in-depth analysis of socio-political structures…nice try, no dice–read on:
In the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the number of honor killings has risen dramatically. The root cause of these killings is no different than the routine killing and maiming of women that so often comes in the aftermath of conflict. Or we could just blame it on cell phones. No, I’m not making this up. According to Patrick Cockburn, writing in The Independent (UK),

“The murder of women who are deemed to have disobeyed traditional codes of morality is even more common in the rest of Iraq where government authority has broken down since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A surprising reason explaining the massive increase in the number of honor killings is the availability of cheap mobile phones able to take pictures. Men photograph themselves making love to their girlfriends and pass the pictures to their friends. This often turns out to be a lethal act of bravado in a society where premarital or extra-marital sex justifies killing.

The first known case of sex recorded on a mobile leading to murder was in 2004. Film of a boy making love with a 17-year-old girl circulated in the Kurdish capital, Arbil. Two days later she was killed by her family and a week later he was murdered by his.

Since then there has been a sharp increase in the number of women suffering violence – it is almost always the women rather than the men who suffer retribution – as a result of some aspect of their love life being pictured on mobile phones.”

Oh what is wrong with this, let me count the ways…actually, that is hard to do while foaming at the mouth, so I asked Jennifer Drew to take a shot at it, and this is her response:

“There are so many issues with this ill-conceived piece, one almost does not know where to begin. Claiming the systematic male perpetrated mass genocide of Iraqi women is being fueled by ‘picture phones’ is almost unbelievable. Sex and violence always sells papers or more specifically, salacious representation of non-western women as sexualised ‘others’ supposedly engaging in ‘sexual immorality’ is certain to attract western readers’ attention. But now we have a pornographic aspect as well. Apparently it is ‘normal male behaviour’ for men to film themselves ‘doing sex to female partners’ so they can then either pass on or sell these pornographic images to other men. Pornography has indeed become global and the sexual exploitation of women now passes unnoticed and without any comment or criticism. No need to ask why so many men believe they have to take pictures of themselves ‘doing sex to women.’ Central to this article is the pornographic lie that non-western women are ‘eroticised sexualised others’ who because they engage in ‘sexually immoral acts’ are subsequently murdered in so-called ‘Honor Killings.’ But this is not about ‘Honor’ it is the systematic enforcement of male control and domination over women.

‘Honor killings’ conveniently enables western society to feel superior and more civilised compared to supposedly backward non-western societies. Western women are not routinely murdered by husbands/male relatives for supposedly violating male ownership of their bodies and lives. Neither are western women held responsible or blamed when men rape and sexually exploit them. No, this only occurs within non-western societies.

A more nuanced and thoroughly researched article would quickly discover the genocide of Iraqi women by male militias is central to the systematic imposition of an Islamist Fundamentalist society which is being supported by the US government. The Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) which has an easily accessible website provides evidence that Iraqi women are being deliberately targeted by male militias who are intent upon imposing a fundamentalist misogynistic Islamist state.

Women’s social status is being eradicated and southern cities in Iraq have become no-woman zones. Women are no longer allowed to appear in public, even if heavily veiled, instead they are imprisoned in their own homes. But women are not even safe in their own homes because male Islamist extremists will murder them if they do not like a woman’s behaviour or actions. No need to mention how since the invasion of Iraq by US forces in 2003, the US Government has condoned and supported fundamentalist political groups who clearly state they are determined to restrict Iraqi women’s human rights and replace it with a fundamentalist misogynistic constitution.

But ‘picture phones’ are responsible for Iraqi women being murdered and committing suicide, not powerful misogynsts and fundamentalist political organisations who openly condone and promote mass murder of Iraqi women. ‘Picture phones’ not male Islamist activists are responsible for destroying any vestige of women’s rights and imposing total male control and domination over Iraqi women’s lives.”

There is no doubt that the use of cell cameras adds a new layer of misogynist expression to the crime of killing women, but it is dangerously disingenuous  to imply that this is the cause.   The cause is the deep hatred of women that is a manifestation patriarchal domination.

 May 20, 2008  Posted by on May 20, 2008 Comments Off on Cell Phones Blamed For Increase In Honor Killings In Iraq
May 192008

One of the things that makes me so damned mad about the so called pro-lifers is that for all their yammering about saving the lives of unborn children, you won’t hear a peep out of them when it comes to addressing known causes of infant and childhood death and health problems.

For instance, the impact of environmental toxins on children’s well-being:

“Higher incidences of congenital anomalies, including cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) and hypospadias, were found in boys whose mothers had higher serum levels of certain organochlorine compounds, researchers say. Two separate studies presented today during the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) in Orlando confirmed existing hypotheses that maternal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals – including total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, such as Arochlor) and organochlorinated pesticides (such as dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane, or DDT) may contribute to an increased incidence of these conditions.

Mothers with high levels of organochlorine compounds in their bodies are at a greater risk of bearing sons with undescended testicles (cryptorchidism). In a study (abstract #276) of 40 boys undergoing surgical treatment for the condition, researchers from New York and Michigan analyzed PCB serum levels from both the patient and the mother and compared the readings to residual PCB levels in the patients’ fatty tissue samples (taken at surgery). Patients ranged from eight to 18 months of age at the time of treatment.

Of the sons whose mothers had measurable PBB levels at the time of conception, 35 reported GU conditions, including hernias (13), hydroceles (10), undescended testicles (9), hypospadias (5), phimosis (2) and varicocele (1). Sons whose mothers had PBB levels greater than 5 parts per billion were more likely to report these conditions than those whose mothers had lower levels. Maternal PBB levels were not found to have an impact on birth weight or estimated gestational age. 12.2 percent of boys with maternal serum levels greater than 5 were more likely to report GU conditions, compared to 5.5 percent of boys with lower maternal PBB levels.”

And then there is this from Laura Tarkan:

“The preponderance of the evidence on the harmful effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals stems from studies and observations of the animal world. In the 1990s, studies began to consistently link hormone-disrupting pollutants with reduced fertility in fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds. These associations are strong and well-documented.

Among humans, we are witnessing a number of disturbing trends in fertility. There has been a worldwide increase in the number of men with low sperm counts as well as a 1 percent reduction of testosterone in men per year for the past 40 to 50 years. In women, there have been declines in the age that breast development occurs and that girls experience their first period. There has also been a continuous rise in the rate of endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, the two most common conditions associated with infertility — both with strong evidence of links to environmental factors.

Skeptics say there isn’t definitive proof that these chemicals have much of an effect on the fertility of humans. The reality is, the sort of evidence they are waiting for would be a devastating tragedy, along the lines of the 2006 movie, Children of Men, a flash forward to the year 2027, when homo sapiens could no longer procreate.”

Last, there is this reminder of the deadly impact of war and conflict on children’s lives:

“The Israeli siege of Gaza that has restricted access to food, water and medicine is now beginning to hit unborn children and newborn babies.

“Many babies are born suffering from anaemia that they have inherited from their mothers,” Dr Salah al-Rantisi, head of the women’s health department at the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza told IPS. And the mothers are becoming anaemic because they do not now get enough nutrition through pregnancy.

The ministry of health says 9,000 to 10,000 babies are born in the Gaza Strip every month. Of every 1,000 born, 28 die from malnutrition, anaemia and other poverty-related causes. The ministry has no figures for surviving babies suffering from malnutrition.
“There are many cases of pregnant women who need medicines that are not available in Gaza,” al-Rantisi said. Most families could not afford them if they were available, he said.
The World Bank said last month that the poverty rate in Gaza is now close to 67 percent and that economic growth last year was zero.”

The list of course is endless–poverty, hunger, lack of education–all of these things impact the ability of children to live and to thrive–if we truly cared about and valued the lives of children, these are the issues we would be addressing.

 May 19, 2008  Posted by on May 19, 2008 Comments Off on Suffer The Little Children