Jun 302009

Via The Nobel Women’s Initiative:

The Nobel Women’s Initiative is deeply concerned by the detention of Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and other human rights activists on the Free Gaza Movement mission to deliver aid to the people of Gaza by boat.  Israeli naval forces forcibly boarded the Free Gaza boat and detained the human rights workers late this afternoon, 23 miles off the coast of Gaza.  Earlier in the day, the Israeli Naval Forces ordered the boat—at gun-point—to turn back.

Maguire is traveling on the Free Gaza fishing boat, accompanied by a sister boat called the Spirit of Humanity.  The boats are carrying construction materials, three tons of medical supplies, and suitcases full of children’s toys—all items banned by the Israeli government.

The approximately 30 activists on board include a former Congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, as well as envoys from Gulf nations. This is the eighth mission of the Free Gaza Movement, an international human rights group formed in 2006 to bring attention to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.  Past mission participants have included parliamentarians, human rights workers, and other dignitaries./p>

Before embarking on the journey, Maguire said:  “We sail to Gaza to break this cruel siege of Gaza by the Israeli Government,and to show the people of Gaza that the world does care what is happening to them.”

“It is appalling that in this the 2lst century, the Israeli government is allowed to carry out its policy of collective punishment of an entire people [by continuing] to keep borders closed and refuse the people of Gaza basic necessities for living – food, medicines, cement, and building materials.”

 June 30, 2009  Posted by on June 30, 2009 Comments Off on Israel Detains Nobel Peace Laureate And Other Human Rights Activists
Jun 302009

I suppose if it hadn’t been Michael Jackson’s untimely death, it would have  been some other crisis du jour  that knocked the Iran election coverage to the back burner.  However, as Marcia G. Yerman points out, that our interest in Michael mania rivaled if not topped our concern about Iran does not speak well of us.  As Yerman mentions, in the hours after Jackson’s death, there were so many messages on Twitter that the system was swamped to the point of disfunction,

I checked Twitter, to see if I were the only person wondering where all the other news stories had gone. The bird was pooped, exhausted from too many Tweets. When I went back later, I was able to get on, and found a few kindred souls lamenting the media situation. One had sent a message out to followers in Iran, asking them to hold on while the United Sates went through the Jackson news cycle.

However,  if you happen to live in Iran, the  crisis does indeed continue.   I’m sure sooner or later someone will run some stats on MJ vs. Iran media coverage, it will no doubt be an embarrassing inditement of our priorities.  In the meantime, FPN will continue to point towards useful commentary and information, particularly relevant to the role of women in what is happening.

Latoya Peterson has an excellent analysis of how references to beauty in the political discourse have been distracting from useful discussion of the issues,

While the politics of beauty practices has been a feminist mainstay around the globe, when employed while discussing the situation in Tehran, it distracts from understanding the actual issues at play.  Often times, Western feminists become infatuated with the symbolic nature of veiling, and fail to listen to women discussing what they are actually fighting for.

In this case, it was not just the fact that the votes in Iran may well have been rigged—the regime hand selects the candidates anyway, meaning that only a small portion of those who wish to run for election will ever find themselves on the ballot.

She goes on to make the excellent point that,

Our feminist conversations on politics in the region should not immediately default to veiling and other style issues.

The visual narrative may emphasize clothing and beauty, but we should not be so distracted by images that we miss the message underneath the make-up.

As we continue to monitor the story, please add the Tehran Bureau, run by Kelly Golnoush Niknejad to your list  of  go-to sites for information.  Lastly IPS has a good background piece here that also reports that  a mothers-run ongoing vigil that has been organized in Tehran,

(A) group of women calling themselves “The Mourning Mothers” issued a call for peaceful protests at Laleh Park at 7:00 on Saturdays, near the area where Neda was killed on Saturday, Jun. 20.

The statement reads: “Based on what sin have you murdered our children? Why have you forced all mothers into mourning?”

The mothers have demanded an end to violence, the prosecution of those who have committed violence, and the release of over 800 persons arrested over the past two weeks.

It seems that with this new call to action, women will continue to have an active presence in the protests, which have taken on new dimensions objecting not only to election fraud but to violent suppression of peaceful dissent.

Many thanks to Mari Kurisato for permission to reprint the beautiful image above of Neda Agha Soltan from her website.

 June 30, 2009  Posted by on June 30, 2009 Comments Off on Michael Jackson May Be Dead, But The Crisis In Iran Continues
Jun 292009

When it comes to funding social services, the folks with their hands on the  purse strings always have a long speech ready about how they would provide more funding if only there was more money available.  War Resisters League Fed. Tax Pie Chart

Perhaps if they sat down and had dinner with Jane Stillwater, they would realize that actually those funds are indeed available, it is just a little question of how we spend them.  You see Jane has solved the problem of hunger in America, not to mention world peace.  It’s simple really, go to dinner at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse.

As Jane quickly points out, most of us would find the tab a bit steep, but compared to the cost of a Lockheed Trident missile, it’s a steal because as it turns out, a Trident costs $30.9 million dollars.  According to Jane, for that price, 386,250 people could eat the healthy, delicious food at Chez Panisse.  And imagine if two of those people were the heads of state of say India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, well you get the idea.  Or suppose we used that $30.9 million to feed the hungry, imagine the feeling of security those people would have.

And then look at that pie and realize there is a whole lot more goodness to be had if only we buy the right ingredients. The problem is the folks that go shopping at the national mall, your elected representatives and mine, are major pushovers for glitzy advertising by those savvy marketeers on K Street.

In recent days we’ve seen numerous reports about how much money members of Congress get from the health care and banking industries. And as PilotOnline points out, much as we’d like to think of Republicans as the big recipients of defense dollars, the reality is that Obama got more defense industry contributions than McCain in the last  election. It’s gotten so bad that the recent tobacco legislation that is being hailed as a big reform was co-written by Philip Morris. Uh huh, and I’ve got some swamp land in Florida that you can have for a song.  What truly is wrong with these folks that they don’t see the inherent conflict as problematic and why do we allow it to continue?

The good folks at Open Secrets have an outstanding database that shows in painful detail which of our elected officials get what from whom.   Bears some serious digesting.

Courtney E. Martin sheds some light on another thing that might lead to some better economic decision making.  Again, quite simple–let women have at it.  Yeah really, forget that bad rep about going to the mall and racking up debt, it turns out that,

(W)omen make up just 10 percent of all mutual fund managers and only 3 percent of the approximately $1.9 trillion invested in hedge funds. This, despite the fact that women-owned funds outperform funds in general; Hedge Fund Research has just released a study that found that women-owned funds delivered an annual return of 9.06 percent compared with 5.82 percent among all hedge funds from 2000 to date.

Food for thought.

 June 29, 2009  Posted by on June 29, 2009 Comments Off on The Girls’ Guide To The Economy Part 21–It Doesn’t Have To Be Bye Bye American Pie
Jun 272009

Suppose just for a minute you’re an unemployed middle-class white guy in Detroit.  Your marriage falls apart, your house burns down and you are in debt up the wazoo.  But you’re really, really well-endowed down there.  Solution?  Sell your services.  Yes those services.  According to HBO’s new series Hung, the notion of a guy taking up what is sometimes referred to as women’s oldest profession in order to make ends meet should be highly amusing. As Dan Barry of the New York Times puts it, “The writers have turned a penis into a plot device”. Ho, ho.

Leaving aside the revolting suggestion that residents of Detroit should turn to prostitution now that the economy has tanked, and with all due respect for the rights of those who freely choose this line of work, the reality is that most people who sell their sexual services are coerced or sold into the profession and most of those people are women. For them, sex work is most definitely not a form of entertainment.

Sex trafficking is currently recognized by the United Nations as human rights violation. However, not all forms of prostitution involve sex trafficking, which leads to significant debate over whether all prostitution should be considered a human rights violation. While not all women are forced into prostitution through sex trafficking, many are somehow coerced or forced into the profession.

Research shows that sex trafficking greatly contributes to the spread of infectious diseases including HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B in women and their clients in South Asia, an area deeply effected by sex trafficking. Very few prostitutes receive the proper screening or treatment for these STIs.

Furthermore, while prostitution has not historically always been recognized as a form of violence against women, prostitutes suffer significant physical violence resulting in black eyes, bruises, and broken bones.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice,

  • 83 percent of the reported human trafficking incidents involved allegations of sex trafficking.
  • Over 90 percent of victims in both alleged and confirmed human trafficking incidents were female.
  • 99% of the victims in alleged and confirmed sex trafficking incidents were female.
  • 71% of sex trafficking victims  were under age 25.
  • 80% of sex traffickers are male.

Not a very amusing scenario is it?  For more information about sexual trafficking, via RapeIs the following are organizations working to raise awareness about sexual slavery:

 June 27, 2009  Posted by on June 27, 2009 Comments Off on “Hung” Falls Flat–Why I’m Not Sold On HBO’s New Show