Women as a Force for Change

Kristof_New-popupWomen as a Force for Change – NYTimes.com

As “women’s empowerment” has become a buzz phrase in the last few years, some people are pushing back. They resent this as the latest fad in political correctness, a liberal mission to troll for support from woolly-minded female voters.

Nicholas D. Kristof

But a few recent incidents have underscored why a push on gender equity isn’t just a mindless fad and why it’s not primarily about political correctness.

Consider Marte Dalelv, the 24-year-old Norwegian woman who reported a rape in Dubai — and then was sentenced to 16 months in prison on charges that included extramarital sex. That was, she said, three months longer than the alleged rapist’s prison sentence. After an outcry, the authorities “pardoned” Dalelv (and also, according to news-media reports, her alleged rapist). That’s the first reason “empowerment” isn’t just a feel-good slogan: profound gender injustices persist —not just in Dubai but also, albeit to a lesser extent, in the United States.

The United States military has a deplorable record of sexual violence within its ranks, with an estimated 26,000 service members experiencing unwanted sexual contact annually. Yet President Obama has so far declined to back the sensible, bipartisan and broadly supported proposal of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to improve investigations of rape in the military and reduce conflicts of interest.

Add to the toxic brew of sexual violence the Steubenville rape case, widespread sex trafficking and laws in many states that give rapists custody rights to children they father. Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held three women in his house for about a decade, has already requested visitation with a child he fathered by rape — although a judge declined the request.

The political backdrop is frustration that women aren’t fully represented in decisions that affect them, and that’s a second reason this issue reverberates. That’s why State Senator Wendy Davis of Texas electrified the social media when she filibustered restrictive abortion legislation. It’s not that men favor tougher abortion laws than women (that’s an issue with a negligible gender gap) but that plenty of women feel bullied by out-of-touch male lawmakers.

Anyone thinking that women’s empowerment is a side issue also wasn’t paying attention when Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating girls’ education, spoke to the United Nations in July on her 16th birthday. Malala highlighted the third reason to focus on empowering women and girls. It’s perhaps the best leverage we have to fight social ills.

As Malala noted, a powerful force for change in the world is education, especially girls’ education. The United States has invested thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11 and accomplished little; maybe we should have invested more in the education toolbox. Drones and military patrols sometimes reinforce extremism, while girls’ education tends to undermine it.

Change can come not only from a bomb but also from a girl with a schoolbook studying under a tree or in a mosque. She will, on average, have fewer children, be more likely to hold a job and exercise more influence; her brothers and her children will be less likely to join the Taliban.

Likewise, women’s health programs aren’t a chivalrous handout but a cost-effective step toward a healthier society. The Guttmacher Institute reported this week that without publicly financed contraception programs in 2010 the unintended pregnancy rate among teenagers would have been 73 percent higher. And lawmakers want to cut such programs?

A final insight into women as leverage for change came during my annual win-a-trip journey, in which I take a student with me on a reporting trip. The winner, Erin Luhmann of the University of Wisconsin, and I delved into the malnutrition that contributes to 45 percent of all child deaths around the world.

So how do we save those millions of lives? It’s not just about transporting more food to the hungry or about improving agricultural yields in Africa. It’s also about — yes! — empowering women.

In rural Chad, we accompanied World Vision and chatted with local women about why children were malnourished. One factor there, as in much of the world: Men eat first, and women and children take what’s left.

“We know about malnutrition,” one said, but if the meat doesn’t go mostly to the man, she added, “there is trouble in the house.”

Researchers have found that giving women land titles, inheritance rights and bank accounts aren’t just symbolic gestures. Rather, they are strategies to increase women’s influence in household decisions and save children’s lives.

So to those of you who chafe at “women’s rights” as political correctness run amok, think again. This isn’t a women’s issue or a man’s issue, for Malala is exactly right: “We cannot all succeed if half of us are held back.”

March On Washington: Congress Commemorates 50th Anniversary

The civil rights leader Martin Luther KIMarch On Washington: Congress Commemorates 50th Anniversary

WASHINGTON — As members of Congress marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Senate majority leader warned Wednesday that civil rights the march helped to protect secure for disenfranchised Americans are “once again under siege.”

House and Senate leaders from both parties led the ceremony in the stately Statuary Hall to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which helped to pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. The bills won passage in 1964 and 1965, respectively.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, noted that after the Supreme Court’s June decision invalidating a key part of the Voting Rights Act, some states moved quickly to implement voting rules that he considers a threat to the votes of minorities, the elderly, women and others. He singled out Texas.

“Fifty years later, some of the progress made by the civil rights movement, and some of the protections made by the Voting Rights Act, are once again under siege,” Reid said. He urged those who value the movement’s key victories to “take this assault on freedom as seriously as you’ve taken anything.”

His comments drew enthusiastic applause, including from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who sat onstage alongside Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who as a student activist endured a severe beating in the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march in Selma, Ala.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did not applaud Reid’s remarks. Boehner turned to McConnell with a questioning glance during the applause.

Boehner spoke of the march with historical references, from Abraham Lincoln, who as a Republican senator from Illinois sponsored a bill to free District of Columbia slaves, to abolitionist Frederick Douglass, NAACP activist Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the march and delivered his signature “I Have a Dream” speech from the Lincoln Memorial.

“This is a story of how a president, a slave, a seamstress and a minister locked arms across a period of time. A story that shakes us forward and shakes us free,” Boehner said.

McConnell recalled that the march inspired him to organize for change in Kentucky, and that he worked to help his boss, a U.S. senator, overcome opposition in Congress to help pass the Civil Rights Act.

The original march took place on Aug. 28, 1963. Congress observed the 50th anniversary early because it falls during its August recess.

The 1963 march drew approximately 250,000 people to the National Mall. Its purpose was to call attention to economic inequality, but it is most remembered for King’s speech.

Lewis, who was a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in 1963, told Wednesday of his meeting with President John F. Kennedy before the march and of Kennedy expressing wariness that the march might turn violent.

Lewis told the crowd that he sees the March on Washington as one of the nation’s finest hours and that it helped usher in a spirit of bipartisanship that moved the country forward.

“What would it take for us to come together and make that kind of progress for America once again?” Lewis asked.

David Cohen, 76, of Washington, was among those at Wednesday’s ceremony who attended the march. He said he was employed by a Washington lobbyist who was working on passage of the Civil Rights Act at the time. Banks and congressional offices were closed, the National Guard had been deployed and liquor sales were banned out of fear of violence during the march, Cohen said.

Cohen and his wife hosted several participants in their apartment, to the dismay of his landlord because of the racial mixing, said Cohen, who is white.

Also in the audience were Attorney General Eric Holder and District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray. Grammy award-winning opera singer Jessye Norman roused the crowd with a rendition of “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.”

Civil rights leaders are planning two major events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march: An Aug. 24 march from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial, and an Aug. 28 march that will stop at the Labor Department and the Justice Department buildings. Other activities are planned around the anniversary as well.

The Capitol ceremony Wednesday came as President Barack Obama toured the country to promote his agenda including jobs and economic growth. Obama met with several leaders on the voting rights issue on Monday and pledged his administration would work to strengthen the Voting Rights Act.

Starbucks, Loaded Guns and Lattes

<> on January 28, 2009 in Miami, Florida.Opinion: Starbucks, loaded guns and lattes – CNN.com

Editor’s note: Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Kate Beck is the head of the organization’s Seattle chapter. The organization was created to build support for what they term common-sense gun reforms.

(CNN) — Starbucks lauds itself as a company committed to operating responsibly and ethically, and many of its policies reflect a strong corporate conscience. But when it comes to responsible gun policy, Starbucks has lost its moral compass.

Starbucks refuses to ban loaded guns from its coffee shops in the 43 states that allow people to openly carry loaded weapons.

As mothers, we wonder why the company is willing to put children and families in so much danger. Nobody needs to be armed to get a cup of coffee. And that’s why thousands of moms across the nation are asking Starbucks to put the safety of its customers first.

We’ve started a petition asking Starbucks to ban guns from its stores. In response, Starbucks has referred concerned moms to a statement on its website, a statement last updated in March 2010, about 90,000 American gun deaths ago. The statement reads, “The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores.”

Shannon Watts
Shannon Watts

Kate Beck
Kate Beck

Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson recently told Seattle Weekly that it is a legal strategy. “In communities that permit open carry, we abide by local laws. Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited.”

Moms don’t want a gun debate with our coffee either. But when children are shot in schools, in movie theaters and even at Fourth of July parades, we can no longer keep the debate in the places where they “belong.” As the debate on guns spreads to town hall meetings nationwide in August, do we really have to have one in Starbucks too?

Starbucks’ refusal to ban guns from its stores has made it a nationwide venue for pro-gun rallies, where customers toting loaded weapons gather over coffee. There have even been accidental shootings: earlier this year a woman shot another customer when she dropped her purse and a loaded weapon inside discharged. A pro-gun site called I Love Guns and Coffee sells a coin that looks like the Starbucks logo, except the mermaid is wielding handguns. On Sunday, for example, 60 pro-gun activists carried handguns, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns into a Starbucks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Starbucks claims its open carry policy simply follows state laws and local ordinances. However, the company is willing to overlook those in other instances; it recently announced a smoking ban within 25 feet of any store.

Watch this video

Costas: There will be another Newtown

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Why are there no Starbucks in Italy?
Why is Starbucks willing take a public health stand on smoking, but not gun violence, which kills more than 55 children and teens a week in America? Since when is second-hand smoke more dangerous than second-hand bullets?

Starbucks also claims that banning guns from its stores would put its employees in a “potentially unsafe position” if they had to ask a gun-wielding customer to leave. This alleged concern has not stopped other companies — including Disney, California Pizza Kitchen, AMC Theaters, Toys R Us, and even Starbucks competitor Peet’s Coffee & Tea — from prohibiting guns in their stores in states where open carry is legal. In fact, these companies have banned guns in order to keep employees and customers safe.

Starbucks bans guns from its corporate headquarters in Seattle, where open carry is perfectly legal. This same protection should be afforded to the millions of unarmed customers Starbucks serves each week.

An overwhelming majority of Americans want common-sense gun reforms. But it’s not just Congress and state legislatures that impact society; business policies also affect our safety. Shame on Congress for failing to act, but that’s no excuse for companies like Starbucks to fail to lead.

We never saw ourselves becoming activists. But like so many mothers on December 14th, we were horrified by the Sandy Hook shootings. The realization that our country’s lax gun laws led to the massacre of 20 innocent children shook both of us to the core. As mothers, we cannot and will not abide politics and policies that needlessly put our children and other children in danger.

Moms Demand Action has become a rallying point for mothers across the nation who refuse to tolerate the inaction over the epidemic of gun violence. We will not stop until gun reforms and responsible policies are in place at the federal level, in our states and at American businesses.

We have the most important reason of all for never backing down — our kids. Risking their safety isn’t worth a nonfat misto at Starbucks. Women make the vast majority of spending decisions in America; you can be sure we’ll spend those dollars with companies that value the safety of our families.

Women In Combat – Bad for the Country

Dear Guns & Patriots reader,

I have served with women on Coast Guard cutters and both at Fort Bragg, N.C., and deployed to Iraq. There were always problems: affairs that destroyed families, miscarriages in the engine room and tragically rapes and sexual hostilities.

What can we do? What else can I say? The truth is military women in Iraq, at Bragg and at sea have also mentored me and, frankly, bailed me out when I was in trouble. There are thousands of dedicated service women on-duty right now doing the right thing for the country they love.

Having said that, putting women in combat units, and even special operations units, introduces all of the problems women in the military present to units, where their presence does nothing to improve kill power. The decision made for political reasons will make our military less lethal and our leaders know it.

Do not count on Republicans on Capitol Hill to lift a finger to stop it, though. They are too “whipped” to speak up.

Our very good friend Robert L. Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has a tremendous new book “Deadly Consequences: How Cowards Are Pushing Women into Combat.” Check out a review of the book that dropped Monday in this week’s roster.

We got more and more for you too, so scroll down for fantastic articles this week.


Neil W. McCabe
Editor, Guns & Patriots

Republicans Want Wendy Davis to Foot Possible $2.4 Million Bill for Special Session

Republicans Want Wendy Davis to Foot Possible $2.4 Million Bill for Special Session – Dallas – News – Unfair Park

In the wake of yesterday’s epic fail on transportation funding it looks like state legislators are headed back to Austin for a third month-long special session, and it won’t be cheap. As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports this morning, each extra month the legislature’s in session costs $800,000, bringing the likely toll on taxpayers to $2.4 million.

Much of this could have been avoided, of course. Lawmakers could have done what they’re elected to do and finished their business in the spring. Failing that, they could have set aside inflammatory topics and focused on addressing the state’s glaring funding shortfalls in water and transportation. Or, since that seems to have been a nonstarter, Republicans could have steamrolled Democrats and pushed through their desired abortion restrictions as they wound up doing in the second session.

The other option is to blame everything — the mounting numbers of special sessions, the unnecessary costs, the GOP’s embarrassing collapse in round one — on State Senator Wendy Davis

“I am upset at the cost,” Representative Giovanni Capriglione, a Tea Party Republican from Southlake, told the Star-Telegram. “I think we need to remember why we are having this extra special session. One state senator, in an effort to capture national attention, forced this special session.

“I firmly believe that Sen. Wendy Davis should reimburse the taxpayers for the entire cost of the second special session. I am sure that she has raised enough money at her Washington, D.C., fundraiser to cover the cost.”

It seems unlikely that Davis raked in quite that much at her recent trip to the nation’s capital, but Capriglione made his point. So did Davis, who pointed out that it’s Governor Rick Perry, not a Democratic Senator, who keeps calling lawmakers back to Austin.