Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Evolution Of Human Child Birth

From Science Daily:
Researchers from the University of California at Davis (USA) and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) present a virtual reconstruction of a female Neanderthal pelvis from Tabun (Israel).

Although the size of Tabun’s reconstructed birth canal shows that Neanderthal childbirth was about as difficult as in present-day humans, the shape indicates that Neanderthals retained a more primitive birth mechanism than modern humans. The virtual reconstruction of the pelvis from Tabun is going to be the first of its kind to be available for download on the internet for everyone interested in the evolution of humankind (PNAS, April 20th, 2009).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Padel, Poetry & Clive James

From the Guardian:
The broadcaster and writer Clive James today said he would like to be Oxford professor of poetry amid the furore surrounding Ruth Padel's appointment to the post.

In an interview with the Guardian, James said the position, which dates back to 1708, and whose past occupants include WH Auden and Seamus Heaney, was his "dream job".

Padel, elected to the post nine days ago, is resisting calls to quit after it emerged that she tipped off newspapers about claims of sexual impropriety against her main rival, Derek Walcott, the Nobel laureate. Walcott, highly respected for his work on post-colonial Caribbean life, withdrew from the campaign days before the election after allegations resurfaced that he had propositioned students in the 1980s and 1990s.

In recent days, James has urged Padel to step down from what is regarded as the most important academic position in poetry. Asked if he would want the job, he said: "You know – and this is strictly between you and me and millions of readers – it's the only job I want."
Padel is the great-great-granddaughter of the naturalist Charles Darwin.

Hosne Ara Begum

From Modern Ghana:
Recently, the government appointed the first ever Officer in Charge (OC) of a police station in the history of the Bangladesh police force. Hosne Ara Begum was assigned as the OC of a police station in the capital city of Dhaka and started working in her new position on May 18, 2009.

Hosne Ara Begum started her challenging career with the Bangladesh police as a sub-inspector back in 1981. In her long 28 years of service, she had worked in many regions of Bangladesh, in different police jurisdictions and departments, including the Intelligence Branch of the Bangladesh police.

The Bangladesh police force introduced its first female officers back 1974, with only 14 officers. After 35 years, the numbers of female police members are now 1,937, and among them 1,331 police constables the minor label member.

A report of the local human rights organization Odhikar says that 5,816 women and children were raped between 2001 and 2007. Among the victims, 636 women were killed and 69 committed suicide after being raped. Also, 1,024 women were victims of acid burns and 1,884 were subjected to dowry-related violence. Of those, 1,241 were killed, 479 were tortured, 61 sustained acid injuries, and 95 committed suicide.

One female police OC alone will not be able to make a large impact. It is equally important that, in Bangladesh's male-oriented society, men should change their actions and attitudes toward women in a positive way.

Mayte Almeida

Article by Sivan Fraser from the Miami Herald:
In the male-dominated world of aviation mechanics, Mayte Almeida can put many of her co-workers to shame.

''She was the toughest one out of them all,'' said her boss Joel Valle, who owns J.V. Air Maintenance. When the guys slack off, Valle uses Almeida as a motivator, telling them ``If you can't do it, I'll get Mayte. . . . She'll do it for you.''

Almeida, 32, has been an aircraft technician, specifically an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) Mechanic and Avionics Technician, for five years. She is currently a lead technician on Valle's team.

''Being a female in aviation is not a big deal because, from my perspective, I am simply a person, a human being not defined by gender,'' she says. ``The only limitations I have, I put on myself. We make our own limitations.''

Women on the Frontlines

From Times Online:
The ban on women serving in frontline infantry roles alongside male soldiers is to be reviewed, the Ministry of Defence announced yesterday.

The last time that this issue was examined in any official capacity was in 2002 when the Service chiefs and ministers decided to maintain the policy of using only male personnel in close-combat roles. Women have always been barred from serving in infantry battalions, the Royal Armoured Corps, the Royal Marine General Service, the Household Cavalry and the RAF Regiment.

Because this taboo on equal treatment for women breaches European legislation, the Government is obliged to review the rules every eight years. At the moment just under 10 per cent of Armed Forces personnel — about 17,600 — are women.
There's also a link at

Sonia Sotomayor

From Yahoo News:
A history-making selection behind him, President Barack Obama is pressing the Senate to quickly confirm federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.

Not so fast, say Republicans.

The GOP faces an uphill battle in defeating the New York-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents, but Republicans are promising a thorough and perhaps lengthy hearing process that scrutinizes her record and judicial philosophy.

Sotomayor's personal story and her academic and legal credentials earn her respect from all quarters, but conservatives see plenty to criticize in her rulings and past statements. They describe her as a judicial activist who would put her feelings above the Constitution.

Sotomayor has said that personal experiences "affect the facts that judges choose to see."

"I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging," she said in a speech in 2001. "But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

Any Republican effort to block Sotomayor's confirmation could be risky for a party still reeling from last year's elections and struggling to gain back lost ground with Hispanics, the fastest-growing part of the population and one that is increasingly active politically.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Blood & Mistletoe

From the Telegraph:
Our knowledge of who and what the Druids were is based, in fact, on a tiny stock of ancient texts; all that the archaeologists can do is first make an interpretation of the texts and then select those bits of physical evidence that appear to back it up. Professor Hutton gets through all of this, with masterly inconclusiveness, in fewer than 50 pages. The great bulk of his book (and it is a great, bulky book, with more than 400 large pages of small print) is taken up not with the history of the Druids – as the subtitle might suggest – but with the history of what people have subsequently thought, imagined and claimed about them.

Margaret Mensah-Williams

From IPS News:
A teacher by profession, Mensah was the first woman in the legislature to assume a decision-making role in the Southern African country's Parliament when she was appointed deputy speaker.

Just a day after she was sworn in, Mensah presided over the male-dominated parliament without a glitch. The preparation was not easy though, and she didn't get much guidance from her male colleagues.

Namibia's legislature was almost completely male when Mensah was appointed Deputy Speaker in 1998. There were only two women in the legislature at the time.

Women in Leadership

From Newsweek:
These 11 women came from many different backgrounds, but they all had big dreams. The path to power meant facing obstacles and their biggest fears.
Vingettes of 11 notable women in leadership roles.

Paraguay: Women & Politics

From ISP News (April):
For the first time in Paraguayan history, a woman is running for president in the elections on Apr. 20, as the candidate of the Colorado Party, which has governed this country continuously for 61 years.

However, a number of women’s organisations say that Blanca Ovelar, a 50-year-old rural schoolteacher and former Education Minister, was nominated because the Colorados want to stay in power rather than because they are taking gender issues seriously.

Maggy Balbuena, of the National Coordination of Rural and Indigenous Working Women’s Organisations (CONAMURI), says Ovelar does not represent an option for change.

Women gained the right to vote in 1961, but there were no women ministers in the cabinet until 1989, when then President Andrés Rodríguez (1989-1993) appointed a woman health minister.

According to a study by the Inter-American Development Bank, 10 percent of the cabinet is currently made up of women, one of the lowest rates in Latin America.

Fortune 500 - 15 Women CEOs

From Fortune:
From health care, to food, to retail, to technology, these 15 women show what it takes to lead some of the nation's biggest companies.

Brief vingettes of 15 notable women in the business world.

Also from Fortune:
This is a groundbreaking day in American business. With the decision of Anne Mulcahy to pass the chief executive role at Xerox to Ursula Burns, the Fortune 500 has its first ever woman-to-woman CEO hand-off. The transition, due July 1, will also make Burns, 50, the first African-American female CEO in the Fortune 500.

Mature Women and Childbirth

From the Times Online:
THE conspicuous bump protruding from beneath her cardigan appears incongruous for a woman who is fast approaching her eighth decade.

However, according to her friends and colleagues, Elizabeth Munro is not the kind of person to let age stand in her way.

Next month the businesswoman is set to give birth for the first time. A few weeks later, in early July, she will celebrate her 67th birthday. The two milestones combined will make her Britain’s oldest mother with her age exceeding the previous record-holder, Patricia Rashbrook, by four years.

Record-breaking births
- The oldest woman to have given birth is Omkari Panwar, from India, who had a twin boy and girl last year. She was said to be 70. Her 77-year-old husband paid for the IVF, which the couple wanted to provide a male heir, by selling buffaloes and mortgaging his land.

- Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara, from Spain, previously held the record after having twin boys at the age of 66 following IVF in America in 2006.

- In Britain, the record belongs to Patricia Rashbrook who gave birth to a son in 2006, when she was 62. Her doctor, Severino Antinori, treated her in Russia after the law in Italy, where he formerly operated, changed to make the procedure illegal.

Canada's Female Sikh MP in Hot Water

From the Times of India:
Embattled Indian-Canadian MP Ruby Dhalla, who is facing charges of abuse by her two former nannies, was in more trouble on Thursday when an advocacy group working for foreign workers testified in support of the nannies.

Thirty-five-year-old Ruby Dhalla, who is the three-time MP from the local Brampton-Springdale constituency, faces the allegations by her two Filipino nannies that they were underpaid, overworked and forced to do non-nanny jobs while they were employed briefly at the MP's home here in February 2008.

A former Miss India-Canada runner-up, Dhalla has called the allegations "a political conspiracy" to defame her.

She is the first Sikh woman to become an MP in Canada and is widely considered to become the first South Asian cabinet minister in a future government by her Liberal Party.

Kuwait: Female Candidates Hope For Win

From the Wall Street Journal:
As Kuwaitis prepared to go to the polls Saturday to elect a new parliament, the third in three years, Aseel al Awadhi geared up for a round of last-minute campaigning.

Ms. Al Awadhi has become a political celebrity in Kuwait, with polls showing she has a good chance of becoming the first female to be elected to Kuwait's 50-seat parliament.

Women were given the right to vote and run for office in 2005. So far, they haven't been able to win a seat in this conservative Muslim society.

But this year, 19 women are running, out of 280 candidates, for Kuwait's 50 seats.

Prisons Failing Women

From the Guardian:
In pay, pensions, politics and promotion, the gender gap is a disgrace. But in justice, women face a national scandal. A report published today by the Fawcett Society reveals a justice system that is "institutionally sexist". This is of no surprise to organisations such as the Howard League, which have long campaigned against the hopeless situation of women rotting in our prisons.

Today, as we sit outraged in our armchairs, 4,274 women and girls languish in our jails. These are not the dangerous criminals one might imagine, but often sad victims of circumstance and violence – often at the hands of men. More than half have been victims of domestic violence, a third have experienced sexual abuse, and 25% have been in care as children. Two-thirds of women in prison have dependent children under 18; of these, just one in 20 remain in their own home once their mother has been sentenced.

These vulnerable women, damaged at the hands of men through violence, sexual abuse, neglect, or trafficking, are victims themselves. The revolving door at the prison gates is an appalling and hopeless cycle – and the taxpayer funds each pointless prison place to the tune of over £40,000 a year for each female we incarcerate. Tragically, the dire consequences leave blood on the male-dominated government's hands.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Politics & Malawi Women

From IOL:
"Don't give me things because I am a woman... that's degrading. I want to achieve and accomplish things by own effort."

A record 220 women are running in Malawi's presidential and parliamentary polls on Tuesday, representing about 20 percent of all candidates for the 193 seats.

Women are also at the top of the ticket for the first time: Loveness Gondwe is Malawi's first female presidential candidate, incumbent President Bingu wa Mutharika has tapped foreign minister Joyce Banda as his running mate.

The outgoing parliament included 27 female lawmakers, but the ministry of women and child development has launched a donor-backed scheme to encourage more female candidates with the goal of women winning half the seats, a plan they call the 50:50 campaign.

Mature Women - the Options

From Philippine News - Manila Standard Today:
The symptoms are so well known they have been turned into jokes. Mood swings. Bouts of depression. Lack of interest in, even aversion to, intimacy. Grumpiness. If a woman in her 40s or 50s is exhibiting these, there is no other explanation—she must be menopausal.

The sad part is that it’s not really a joke. It’s a harsh reality women of a certain age go through, albeit in varying degrees. The heartbreaking part is that at one time or another, these women will be those dear to us: mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, colleagues, friends. Worse, the symptoms that are the subject of jokes are just some of the less serious effects of menopause. Aside from these more superficial symptoms, menopausal women are more vulnerable to osteoporosis, cardio-vascular diseases, uro-genital disorders—a poor quality of life, overall.

Dr. Joan Tan-Garcia, who holds clinic at the women’s health center of the St. Luke’s Hospital and sits as president of the Philippine Society of Climacteric Medicine, says the support given to women in this stage should be holistic. She takes pride in the hospital’s having the only active menopause clinic in the country—active in terms of providing information to as many women as possible. The hospital conducts a free lay forum every several months where experts speak on various aspects of menopause in an effort to help “maturing” women grow old gracefully and maintain a good quality of life.

Women & Childbirth

From The Punch:
A medical expert, Prof. Oladosu Ojengbende, has said that about 600,000 women die annually from pregnancy-related complications

Out this figure, the Head, Family Health Department of the University of Ibadan Teaching Hospital, said 90 per cent of them were from the developing countries

He made these revelations at this year’s International Day of the Family held by the Federal Ministry of Health in Abuja on Friday.

Every May 15 is observed worldwide as the International Day of the Family to evaluate the health of the family which is considered as the microcosm of the society.

Rwanda: the Agaseke Project

From All Africa:
Established with the aim of strengthening women's economic empowerment, the Agaseke project is an initiative of Kigali City Council (KCC) with other partners who include IMBUTO foundation and RDB/RIEPA.

The project was initiated to primarily train about 3800 women from the three districts of Kigali namely Nyarugenge, Kicukiro and Gasabo, in weaving so that they could produce products ready for the market.

In efforts to keep the project a going concern; KCC is planning to put up three training centers in Kigali, one in each district as well as a promotion house for crafts.

Yemen: Female Police Officers

From the Yemen Post:
Ministry of Interior announced that receiving registration applications for women willing to join the Police Academy is to start in the 16th of October. This came as Major General Hussein Al-Zauari, Deputy Interior Minister, adopted, in a special committee, the developing mechanism for the enrollment of female in the Police Academy and the basic admission requirements.

The Commission decided to send directions on behalf of the Minister of Interior to security units of onward notification to women willing to enroll in the academy. At the meeting, Deputy Interior Minister stressed dealing with the new women batch in accordance with their fitness and capabilities, and benefiting from the experiences of other Arab countries that have preceded us on this side.

Aboriginal Women in Canada

From NUPGE (National Union of Public & General Employees):
The Harper government is once again deflecting calls for a public investigation into more than 500 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women. Amnesty International, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and the Liberal Party of Canada have all called on the federal government to take more action on the alarming number of Aboriginal women and girls that have been murdered or gone missing in the past three decades.

In March, 2009 the NWAC released a second edition of Voice of Our Sisters in Spirit: A Report to Families and Communities. The Sisters in Spirit Initiative is a multi-year research, education and policy initiative designed to investigate the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. NUPGE has supported this initiative with funding through its "Building International Sisterhood" projects.

Women in the Workplace

From Time:
Work-life balance. In most corporate circles, it's the sort of phrase that gives hard-charging managers the hives, bringing to mind yoga-infused, candlelit meditation sessions and — more frustratingly — rows of empty office cubicles.

So, what if we renamed work-life balance? Let's call it something more masculine and appealing, something like ... um ... Make More Money. That might lift heads off desks. A few people might show up at a meeting to discuss that new phenomenon driving the bottom line: Women, and the way we want to work, are extremely good for business.

So we need to get rid of the nutty-crunchy moral component of the work-life balance and make a business case for it. It's easy to do. In fact, a decade from now, companies will understand that hiring lots of women, and letting them work the way they want, will help them Make More Money.

Christian Women in Pakistan

Although 25% of religious minority women are not considered disadvantaged, Christian minority women who live on the bottom of society face many untold limitations. A policy of “living invisibly” with family members is often the only answer for protection for many minority Christian families who suffer under the great specter of poverty in Pakistan.

Most of the families of Christian minority women in Punjab came, at the turn of the 20th century, from families that were originally from India. They came from dalit Hindu families who moved to what would later become the Pakistan region in 1947. Their legacy of isolation and separation from Indian society is ongoing. As dalits they were part of the lowest “untouchable” caste in India. This has been a nemesis that has followed them, even after they converted from Hinduism to Christianity. Basic women’s rights and human rights are often out of reach for these women who daily experience conditions of extreme poverty.

Dalit Christian women who have been severely marginalized often suffer from a shortage of even the simplest basic needs. Lack of health care is common. Slum conditions can also be found where families are forced to live on the streets or to live together in crowded poorly constructed shelters, amid garbage, toxic chemicals and refuse. Their structures often have no electricity, heat or clean water.

Because of these conditions, many dalit Christian women fall into lifetime careers as sewer cleaners, domestic servants or brick kiln workers. Payments for these positions are painfully low, or at times non-existent. Some employers give payment loans ahead to trap minority women, preventing them from ever paying the loans back as they continue to work for free on wheels of never ending debt bondage.

Penni Nafus

This morning, Penni Nafus, director of the New Jersey Association of Women’s Business Center of Chatham, received the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award. The honor was bestowed at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Conference Center, in Washington, D.C., along with other awards as part of National Small Business Week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Menstruation Gene

From BBC News:
Scientists say they have begun to crack the genetic code that helps determine when a girl becomes a woman.

A UK-led team located two genes on chromosomes six and nine that appear to strongly influence the age at which menstruation starts.

The Nature Genetics study also provides a clue for why girls who are shorter and fatter tend to get their periods months earlier than classmates.

The genes sit right next to DNA controlling height and weight.

In collaboration with research institutions across Europe and the US, they studied 17,510 women from across the world, including women of European descent who reported reaching menstruation of between nine and 17 years of age.

When they split the women up according to the age they began menstruating, certain gene patterns appeared.

Scanning the whole genome enabled them to hone in on these differences and pinpoint the exact genes most likely accountable.

Three other papers, also published in Nature Genetics, throw up other candidate genes which appear to be involved in the onset of puberty.

Worlds Youngest Female Billionaires

From WA Today:
The number of young billionaire women under the age of 40 jumped to seven from just two a year earlier, bringing the number of women under 50 with 10-figure fortunes to 20, up from 17. The average age of female billionaires has dropped from to 61.5 from 62.5 in just the past year.

Married or single, self-made or inherited, these women, ranging from 24 to 49 years old, have limitless earning potential and decades ahead to see their investments and business ventures flourish. They are emerging from some of the world's biggest economies, taking on corporate roles their grandmothers and even mothers never would have dreamed possible.

Women: Saviours of Banking

From BBC News:
Can women bankers and investment managers get us out of the economic mess that their male colleagues got us into? Will it take women to ensure the future health of the financial sector?

Halla Tomasdottir and Kristin Petursdottir are convinced the answer is yes.

They set up their investment firm Audur Capital in Iceland to prove it.

"Women tend to bring a lot to the table. They think more long-term, they think about the team, and not only themselves. They think more about people, and they see other business opportunities than men."

There is another, crucial difference, they find: "Women are willing to ask stupid questions. We want to understand. "

Eve Ensler: Woman and Warfare

From CNN:
I write today on behalf of countless V-Day activists worldwide, and in solidarity with my many Congolese sisters and brothers who demand justice and an end to rape and war.

My play, "The Vagina Monologues," opened my eyes to the world inside this world. Everywhere I traveled with it scores of women lined up to tell me of their rapes, incest, beatings, mutilations. It was because of this that over 11 years ago we launched V-Day, a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls.

Nothing I have heard or seen compares with what is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where corporate greed, fueled by capitalist consumption, and the rape of women have merged into a single nightmare. Femicide, the systematic and planned destruction of the female population, is being used as a tactic of war to clear villages, pillage mines and destroy the fabric of Congolese society.

In 12 years, there have been 6 million dead men and women in Congo and 1.4 million people displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn apart. What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same.

The women in Congo are some of the most resilient women in the world. They need our protection and support. Western governments, like the United States, should fund a training program for female Congolese police officers.

Let Congo be the place where we ended femicide, the trend that is madly eviscerating this planet -- from the floggings in Pakistan, the new rape laws in Afghanistan, the ongoing rapes in Haiti, Darfur, Zimbabwe, the daily battering, incest, harassing, trafficking, enslaving, genital cutting and honor killing. Let Congo be the place where women were finally cherished and life affirmed, where the humiliation and subjugation ended, where women took their rightful agency over their bodies and land.

Failure and Women in Business

From WA Today:
After years of slogging it out, you've finally got the position you've always felt you deserved. There is just one problem - the job description demands you do the impossible.

Sound familiar? If you're a woman - or in fact anyone except a white, middle-aged, able-bodied man without child-care responsibilities - it may indeed ring a bell. Crashing through the glass ceiling is one thing, surviving the so-called "glass cliff", where you are promoted to a job where you are likely to fail, is quite another.

One reason for this, says Jayne Chace, chief marketing officer at software company Acision, is because women still find it hard to get to the top level. When they are offered a senior role they will grab the opportunity, however difficult the role is. For men, there is more choice over what positions to take.

Iran: Women and Divorce

From Tehran Times:
A new research conducted by Shahid Beheshti University showed that 80% of petitions for divorce were filed by women in the first five years of marriage.

Head of the research group, Majid Abhari blamed women’s power of attorney in divorce as the main reason behind such a great rate of petitions filed by women.

According to the research, unemployment, poverty, addiction, and consequently lack of mutual understanding are the biggest cause of discords in marriage.

There was a rise of 11% in the country’s divorce rate, compared with the last year.

Women Key to Afghanistan Future

From Google News:
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in Kabul Saturday there would be no progress in Afghanistan without its women, adding that things are "going better" in the turbulent nation.

Wrapping up a three-day visit, the minister said he had noted an "admirable courage" among the Afghan women he met during his trip.

"The future of democracy passes through women," Kouchner told reporters. "Without the women in Afghanistan, there will be no progress."

Pakistani Police Sex Scandal

From the Times of India:
Authorities in Pakistan's Punjab province have suspended five women police personnel and launched a probe following allegations that they were involved in a sex racket.

The scandal has rocked the women's police department and officials fear the issue will make it more difficult for newcomers to join the force in a conservative society.

The matter came to light when Inspector Shafia Bakhat, believed to be the head of the racket, "dispatched" two women constables for duty at the residence of an officer of the Lahore Development Authority.

The constables found three "customers" waiting for them at the officer's home, police sources said. When the women constables refused to do the bidding of the officer and his friends, they were allowed to leave but warned that they should not raise an alarm.

However, the women constables reported the matter to the station house officer in Sabzazar police station and he subsequently informed his superiors.

Lahore's SSP (Operations) Shafiq Ahmed suspended Shafia Bakhat and four other women police personnel for alleged involvement in the racket. He also directed SSP (Coordination) Imran Arshad to investigate the matter and submit his findings at the earliest.

According to the initial findings, Inspector Bakhat was involved in the racket for several years. A couple of years ago, she was suspended on similar charges but was reinstated owing to her "strong connections with police high-ups", sources said.

"Shafia targets women police personnel from remote areas with poor family backgrounds. She has a strong network backed by senior police officers and journalists," a source said.

The findings of the probe indicated that she was in league with other persons in Lahore. "Shafia's network uses the codeword 'duty' for such assignments and the same landed her in trouble when she wrongly sent a SMS to personnel who were not part of her network for performing duty at the Lahore Development Authority officer's house," a source said.

Muslim Women and Sport

From Google News:
In red-and-white uniforms which cover all but their hands and face, Saudi women pioneers with their basketballs and footballs are puncturing strict religious taboos.

Jeddah United train four times a week away from the prying eyes of men.

Yet just playing basketball is revolutionary in Saudi Arabia, where an ultra-conservative version of Islam means women can't go out in public without guardians, can not drive, and can't even attend men's sports events.

Formed last year in the port city of Jeddah, the team is made up of mostly women from well-off families, some like the founder and team captain Lina al-Maina graduates of US schools, where they picked up a liking for the game.

The two women see their passions as breaking through the country's strict taboo on women's sports.

Abdallah hopes King's United will "serve as the seeds for a national team."

Muslim Women Making Music

From the Birmingham Post:
Muslim Women Making Music is a collaboration between Birmingham-based Ulfah Arts and agencies in Holland and Denmark, bringing together five contrasting women artists from their respective countries. Though all were born in Europe they have cultural roots in the middle east or south Asia.

Afghan Activist - Person of the Year

From Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty:
RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan has named Anarkali Honaryar, a 25-year-old dentist and human rights activist, as its Person of the Year. The annual award goes to an outstanding individual whose contributions to democracy and civil society have had a significant effect on Afghanistan's effort to rebuild. Honaryar was chosen for the award by a panel of more than 30 Afghan journalists, civil society activists, and human rights advocates.

Upon receiving the Person of the Year award from RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, Anarkali said she is honored to receive the recognition, and proud of the work performed by the Independent Commission for Human Rights.

She says it will take many years and much more effort before women in Afghanistan will be able to enjoy full equal rights.

And while her dedication to that effort means she no longer imagines herself becoming a pilot, she does have a new dream -- that her daughters and nieces will one day live in a society where they can pursue that dream or any other they wish.

MOWAC committed to supporting women

From Ghana News:
The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) has reiterated its commitment to ensure the enforcement of existing laws and policies on women and children to improve upon their welfare in the country.

Miss Akua Sena Dansua, Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, said there was the need to effectively implement laws and policies covering women and children as they are constantly being abused and molested despite existing laws such as the Domestic Violence Law.

Miss Dansua made the statement on Friday when she delivered the Keynote address at the 27th anniversary celebration of the 31st December Women’s Movement, an organization aimed at empowering women economically and politically.

Helen Alexander

From the Guardian:
The former boss of the Economist Group, Helen Alexander, will be named today as the first female president of the CBI in its 44-year-history.

Alexander, who quit the publisher of the weekly news and business magazine a year ago, will take over from Martin Broughton at the employers' group next month at a time when the CBI is urging caution about a prospective economic recovery in the UK.

Female President in Lithuania

From the Denver Post:
The European Union's budget chief was poised to become Lithuania's first female president after a landslide victory Sunday in a vote overshadowed by the Baltic country's ailing economy, preliminary results showed.

Dalia Grybauskaite had 69 percent of the vote with more than 95 percent of ballots counted.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Madam President

From Google / AFP:
In a stuffy Kabul wedding hall about 400 men and a dozen enthusiastic women listen to Afghan presidential candidate Frozan Fana outline her manifesto as the first woman to run the violent, tribal nation.

Peace and security, national unity, media freedom, protecting the country's sovereignty -- her electoral promises are likely little different from those of the 42 men who also want to lead Afghanistan.

What is unusual is that Fana is a woman running for the highest office in a deeply patriarchal nation where her sisterhood barely drive, almost never divorce, few read, girls are forced to marry and abuse is rife.

But she has a rival in the stakes to become Afghanistan's first woman head of state -- lawmaker Shahla Ata, who believes now is the time to give women the chance to run the troubled country.

And from the Guardian:
On 12 June Iranians will go to the polls to elect a president, and this year there is a possibility that one of the prominent contenders will be a woman, Rafat Bayat.

Although Bayat's candidacy is still not confirmed, the new constitutional interpretation issued by the Guardian Council is a welcome development and should be celebrated. A female president would certainly be a significant advancement, but nonetheless a presidency under Rafat Bayat might well mark a continuation if not an increase in the restriction of Iranian women's rights.

Champions for Missing Women

From CTV Winnipeg:
The Conservative government is deflecting calls for a public investigation into more than 500 cases of missing or murdered native women.

Liberal MP Anita Neville says her party will push until the government acts.

She says there would be national outrage if hundreds of women from another cultural group were targeted the same way.

A recent report found that 520 native girls and women - most under the age of 30 - have been killed or have vanished since 1970. Two-thirds of them - 348 women - were murdered, and almost one-quarter are still missing.

The government cites $5 million spent on the Sisters in Spirit research campaign, and says it's working on a second phase.

Aung San Sui Kyi - New Charges

From the Canberra Times:
The United States has called for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi, as Western governments condemned new charges brought against the pro-democracy icon by Myanmar's military junta.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "deeply troubled" by the case laid against Aung San Suu Kyi just days before her six-year-long detention was to have expired.

The democracy activist has been charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest in a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside house and hid inside her home.

Aung San Suu Kyi, now removed from her home, is being held at the grounds of Insein Prison, where the Myanmar government said she faces trial on Monday.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon is "gravely concerned" about the case, his deputy spokesman Marie Okabe said in a statement, adding Ban believed the democracy activist "is an essential partner for dialogue in Myanmar's national reconciliation."

In Geneva, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, called for Aung San Suu Kyi to be freed, and said her detention broke the country's laws.

Female Immigrants: Keeping Families Together

From Yahoo News:
The story of migration is no longer a man's story. It is increasingly becoming a woman's tale, according to "Women Immigrants: Stewards of the 21st Century," a new poll by New America Media. Immigrant women are taking charge in keeping their families together. At a time when more than one-third of families in the United States are single-parent households, 90 percent of women immigrants interviewed report that their families are intact, writes NAM Executive Director Sandy Close.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Girl Scout Council Salutes Local Women

From the Gainesville Sun:
While Verna Jackson Johnson was not a Girl Scout or a troop leader like several fellow honorees for the Women Who Make a Difference award, she shares their sense of courage and call to service. And perhaps for Johnson, co-founder of Caring and Sharing Learning Charter School, her sense of confidence can be better described as humbleness.

On Wednesday, Johnson, along with Victoria Condor-Williams, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Margaret "Peg" Nattress, and Ellen Shapiro, were named the 2009 Women Who Make a Difference by the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council.

Each year the Gateway Council of Girl Scouts hosts the luncheon to honor local women whose careers and community service illustrate the values of the organization.

The Gateway Council began honoring local women in 1989. Women honored over the years include Ann Marie Rogers, Rosa Williams, Ester Tibbs, Mary Wise, Marilyn Tubb, Cynthia Chestnut, Pegeen Hanrahan and Kay Ayers.

Valley Women of the Year

From the Valley Courier:
Yesterday, 11 Valley women received Women of the Year recognition at the 2009 Women’s Conference held at Adams State College. The women are Barbara Hillin, Sylvia Evans, Donna Wehe, Julie Geiser, Jan Oen, Debra Goodman, Sue Getz, Kathy Rogers, Kay Laws, Ann Holmes, and Marian Seegrist.

Obama's Short List

From North Jersey:
President Obama is considering a mix of more than six Supreme Court candidates that is top-heavy with women and Hispanics, a group that features three judges, a governor, his homeland security secretary and his solicitor general.

Among those under consideration are California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Appeals Court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Pamela Wood.

Moreno — the sole man on the known group of candidates — is a newer name to emerge. Obama is widely expected to choose a woman for a Supreme Court that has nine members but only one female justice.

South Carolina Women

From the Columbia Star:
A public symposium celebrating the lives of South Carolina women is set for Thursday, June 4, at the University of South Carolina and is expected to draw scholars from around the world, who have written about Palmetto State women.

Hosted by the university's College of Arts and Sciences, "South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times," will take place in the Daniel- Mickel Center on the eighth floor of the Moore School of Business. The daylong event begins at 8:30 am and will feature concurrent sessions with dozens of mini- presentations on the lives of notable South Carolina women, from the Native American "Lady of Cofitachequi," who reigned in the 1500s, to S.C. Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal.

The symposium coincides with the release of the first installment in the three- volume anthology, "South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times", coedited by Dr. Marjorie Spruill and Dr. Valinda Littlefield at the university and Dr. Joan Marie Johnson of Northeastern Illinois University.

Catholic Women in the US

From Community Press Cincinnati:
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, along with 20 women religious congregations from greater Cincinnati, are featured in a nationally touring exhibit that celebrates the contributions of Catholic women religious in the United States.

The exhibit, "Women & Spirit, Catholic Sisters in America," starts Saturday, May 16, and runs through Wednesday, Aug. 30, at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., will also host the traveling exhibit at a later date.

The exhibit tells the story spanning three centuries of Catholic Sisters in America who served with compassion, dedication, determination and faith in education, health care, and social services. Sisters ministered as missionaries, serving the poor and marginalized. They embraced the tide of immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries, welcoming all nationalities into neighborhoods, schools and parishes.

Global Summit of Women 2009

From Yahoo News:
Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sport, Yu—Foo Yee Shoon, will make an official visit to Chile from May 14 to 16 to attend the Roundtable of Women Government Ministers at the Global Summit of Women 2009.

The event is an annual event where women leaders from government, business and other sectors share strategies to accelerate women’s economic progress.

Women in Leadership Awards

From Wicked Local:
Sister Pat Andrews, Nicole Bahman, Marguerite Fagan, Deborah Larson-Venable and Barbara Osband all admitted they didn’t know why they were chosen to be honored at this year’s annual Allston Board of Trade dinner, but anyone who heard these five women speak Tuesday night knew why each deserved to be recognized: all were committed to their community.

What seemed to make the evening special, despite it being the best- attended ABOT dinner was that all the honorees, including Daley, had a passion for service in their communities and each looked at life in a unique way.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Go Down Together"

Except from a new book by Jeff Guinn on the legendary Bonnie and Clyde as posted on the New York Times:
N.D. Houser, the owner-operator of the Red Crown Tavern and its adjoining two-cabin motor court, was suspicious from the moment Blanche Barrow walked into his office on July 18 and asked to rent the cabins overnight for a party of three. For one thing, Blanche was wearing her beloved "riding breeches" — jodhpurs was the correct fashion term — that were skintight across the rear and flared out from the hip to the knee. Pants like that were seldom seen in Platte City, Missouri, and several people who saw Blanche there were still remarking about them decades later.

Marriage and the Habsburgs

For those that like their daily dose of historical trivia, here a nice article about the Habsburgs from Forbes:
Members of the powerful Habsburg royal family ruled Spain for centuries until the dynasty died out at the beginning of the 18th century.

Now, a new study suggests the reason for their decline lies not in the stars but in themselves -- and their unfortunate habit of marrying their own relatives.

Ultimately, the genetic havoc caused by inbreeding appears to have doomed the Spanish Habsburgs to oblivion via infertility, scientists report in a research paper released last month.

"Inbreeding was a major cause responsible for the extinction of this dynasty" and also contributed to the deaths of many Habsburg children, said study co-author Francisco C. Ceballos, a researcher at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The study suggests that successive inbreeding contributed to the genetic diseases that turned the last Habsburg king, Charles II, into a mental and physical cripple who was unable to have children. Charles II reigned from 1665 until his death in 1700 at the age of 38.

The findings appear in a recent issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Today, the Habsburgs are most well known for their domination of Europe over three centuries -- Charles II ruled not only Spain but Italy and much of what is now the Netherlands -- and for their oddly protruding jaws.

In Spain, the Habsburgs ruled from 1516 until 1700, when Charles II died without offspring, despite two marriages.

The family faced a challenge because they needed to marry Catholic spouses of equal rank -- a rarity -- and because dynastic marriages were used to keep territories within the family's grasp, explained Alan Sked, a historian at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In their study, Ceballos and colleagues examined the Habsburg family tree through more than 3,000 people, going back 16 generations. They aimed to figure out how inbreeding -- cousins marrying cousins, for example, and uncles marrying nieces -- may have affected the family's health.

The team found that the final Habsburg ruler, Charles II, had a high chance of developing genetic abnormalities due to inbreeding. Indeed, he was physically stunted and suffered from a variety of intestinal and blood ailments, so much so that his subjects dubbed him "El Hechizado," or "The Hexed."

The study also suggests that interbreeding weakened the family's health so much that it contributed to an extraordinarily high death rate among children. From 1527-1661, 10 of 34 children in the Spanish Habsburg family died before the age of 1, and another seven died before they were 10. The researchers note that the death rate was much higher than would even be expected for children born in that era.

Overall, the Habsburgs' habit of inbreeding led to family members sharing up to 20 percent of identical genomic material, the researchers said.

The conclusion that inbreeding may have hurt the Habsburg family's health is a reasonable one because the odds of genetic disease rise when people marry their relatives, according to Andrew J. Bohonak, an associate professor of biology at San Diego State University.

Possibly as a result, "there are social taboos against inbreeding in most human societies," he said. "One of the few places you see these taboos avoided is in some of the royal families of old."

What would have happened if the Habsburgs hadn't married each other? Sked, the historian, said "there would have been changes in alliances, boundaries and policies. Most of all, the Habsburgs would have produced more capable and intelligent rulers."

The Venus of Hohle Fels

From AlphaGalileo:
The 2008 excavations at Hohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany recovered a female figurine carved from mammoth ivory from the basal Aurignacian deposit. This figurine, which is the earliest depiction of a human, and one of the oldest known examples of figurative art worldwide, was made at least 35,000 years ago. This discovery radically changes our views of the context and meaning of the earliest Paleolithic art.

Between September 5 and 15, 2008 excavators at Hohle Fels near the town of Schelklingen recovered the six fragments of carved ivory that form the Venus. The importance of the discovery became apparent on September 9 when an excavator recovered the main piece of the sculpture that represents the majority of the torso. The Venus from Hohle Fels is nearly complete with only the left arm and shoulder missing. The excellent preservation and the close stratigraphic association of the pieces of the figurine indicate that the Venus experienced little disturbance after deposition.

The figurine originates from a red-brown, clayey silt at the base of about one meter of Aurignacian deposits.The Venus lay in pieces next to a number of limestone blocks with dimension of several decimeters. The find density in the area of the Venus is moderately high with much flint knapping debris, worked bone and ivory, bones of horse, reindeer, cave bear, mammoth, ibex, as well as burnt bone.

Radiocarbon dates from this horizon span the entire range from 31,000 – 40,000 years ago. The fact that the venus is overlain by five Aurignacian horizons that contain a dozen stratigraphically intact anthropogenic features with a total thickness of 70 – 120 cm, suggests that figurine is indeed of an age corresponding to the start of the Aurignacian around 40,000 years ago.

And from the LA Times:
A 40,000-year-old figurine of a voluptuous woman carved from mammoth ivory and excavated from a cave in southwestern Germany is the oldest known example of three-dimensional or figurative representation of humans and sheds new light on the origins of art, researchers reported Wednesday.

The intricately carved headless figure is at least 5,000 years older than previous examples and dates from shortly after the arrival of modern humans in Europe. It exhibits many of the characteristics of fertility, or Venus, figurines carved millenniums later.

Many researchers believe that they were fertility totems, but their ultimate meaning may remain a mystery.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Afghan Schoolgirls Poisoned

This incident has made headlines worldwide, and shows just how desperate the Taliban has become in its attempts to stop young Afghan girls from receiving an education.

From Turkish Press:
Another 98 Afghan girls were rushed to hospital on Tuesday in the latest in a spate of mysterious poisonings to hit three schools north of Kabul in a fortnight, officials said.

The children fell ill as they entered the school building in the small town of Mahmud Raqi, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of the capital, teachers and students told AFP.

It follows a similar incident on Monday about 20 kilometres away in the town of Charikar where 61 schoolgirls and one of their teachers were treated in hospital, apparently also after inhaling some form of gas.

Late April around 40 other girls were treated in a different school in Charikar with similar symptoms.

The Taliban and other radical Islamic factions who also oppose the education of girls are waging an insurgency against the new administration that has seen several attacks on boys' and girls' schools.

Blood samples had been sent to Kabul to find out what the cause was, doctors said.

And from Syracuse:
Officials accused extremist militants of launching a poison gas attack Tuesday that caused dozens of schoolgirls to collapse with headaches and nausea as they waited in line for a Quran reading at their school in northeastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists have regularly attacked girls schools in Afghanistan and the second apparent poisoning in two days has raised concerns that they have now found a new weapon to scare girls into staying at home rather than going to class.

Students were gathering in the yard of Aftab Bachi school in Muhmud Raqi for a morning reading of the Quran when a strange odor filled the area. First one girl collapsed, then others, said the school's principal, Mossena, who fought for breath as she described the event from her hospital bed.

Tuesday's incident is the third alleged poisoning at a girls school in about two weeks. On Monday, 61 schoolgirls and one teacher went to the hospital in neighboring Parwan province with a sudden illness that caused some to pass out. In late April, dozens of girls were hospitalized in Parwan after being sickened by what officials said were strong fumes or a possible poison gas cloud.

Miss Beautiful Morals

From the Star Tribune:
Sukaina al-Zayer is an unlikely beauty queen hopeful. She covers her face and body in black robes and an Islamic veil, so no one can tell what she looks like. She also admits she's a little on the plump side.

But at Saudi Arabia's only beauty pageant, the judges don't care about a perfect figure or face. What they're looking for in the quest for "Miss Beautiful Morals" is the contestant who shows the most devotion and respect for her parents.

The Miss Beautiful Morals pageant is the latest example of conservative Muslims co-opting Western-style formats to spread their message in the face of the onslaught of foreign influences flooding the region through the Internet and satellite television.

Free: Roxana Saberi

From the LA Times Blog: Babylon & Beyond:
Thin and pale, but nonetheless overjoyed, Roxana Saberi today made her first public appearance since her release from prison Monday after more than three months in detention. Saberi's apparently free to leave Iran for the U.S. But the after-effects of the Iranian American journalist's arrest and stunning release from prison will continue.

Some analysts abroad speculated that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured Saberi's release to score points ahead of June 12 presidential elections. But his calls for the judiciary to review the case more likely were an effort at damage control meant to prevent him from losing potential supporters.

Roxana Saberi was lucky - she did not suffer the fate of Zahra Kazemi.