North America

Obituary: Betty Friedan, Philosopher of Modern-Day Feminism.  [United States] Betty Friedan, whose manifesto "The Feminine Mystique" became a best seller in the 1960s and laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement, died Saturday, her birthday.  She was 85.  Friedan's assertion in her 1963 best seller that having a husband and babies was not everything and that women should aspire to separate identities as individuals, was highly unusual, if not revolutionary, just after the baby and suburban booms of the Eisenhower era.  The feminine mystique, she said, was a phony bill of goods society sold to women that left them unfulfilled, suffering from "the problem that has no name" and seeking a solution in tranquilizers and psychoanalysis.  "A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, `Who am I, and what do I want out of life?'  She mustn't feel selfish and neurotic if she wants goals of her own, outside of husband and children," Friedan said.
Obituary: Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights Advocate.   [United States] The assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 brought his wife, Coretta Scott King, to the forefront of the civil rights movement.  Mrs. King dedicated her life to the continuation of his work for racial equality and non-violent protest.  A year after her husband's death, she founded the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change to act as a focal point for his legacy.   The centre contains exhibits on King and holds his speeches in an archive, as well as working to educate people on his beliefs.   Mrs. King also campaigned for a national holiday to mark his January birthday, which has been observed annually on the third Monday in January since 1986.  She was involved with international issues and campaigned against apartheid.
Obituary: Willie Grace Campbell, Women's Rights Advocate.  [United States] Willie Grace Campbell, 90, who spent five decades promoting human rights and women's empowerment from Indiana to Washington to Africa, died of congestive heart failure Feb. 6 at her home in Los Angeles.  Ms. Campbell launched voter education projects in six inner cities during the 1960s, took part in the first White House Conference on Civil Rights, trained legions of female political candidates, pushed the League of Women Voters to challenge social inequities with lawsuits and served as vice chair of the federal African Development Foundation from age 75 until her death.
Historical Amnesia Threatens Women.  [United States] History is a terrible thing to waste.   The obituaries for Betty Friedan, whose 1963 book, ``The Feminine Mystique,'' revived an American feminism then thought to be extinct and unnecessary, were striking in their recognition of how much explanation is now required about the world before the women's movement.  Newspapers had to remind their readers that equal pay for equal work, sex-blind help-wanted ads, the right of pregnant women to keep their jobs, non-discriminatory admission standards for professional schools and many other matters of simple justice were considered not only controversial but radical proposals in the 1960s.   On one level, the ignorance of the young and the not-so-young -- many people in their 40s also know little about what life was like when most forms of discrimination against women were perfectly legal -- is a measure of how much has been accomplished.  But on a deeper level, this ignorance endangers many feminist gains because it raises the real possibility that future generations will have to reinvent the wheel.
Bush Proposes Cuts for Overseas Family Planning.  [United States] President George W. Bush, who five years ago acted on his first full day in office to deny U.S. aid to overseas groups that help women obtain abortions, is for the first time proposing sharp cuts in financing for international family planning programs that the White House had described as one of the best ways to prevent abortion.  Since 2001, the administration had adhered to Bush's commitment to maintain the financing of such programs at $425 million, the same level as in the last year of the Clinton administration.  But in the president's new budget proposal, financing would fall 18 percent, from $436 million this year to $357 million.   The cuts are stirring strong opposition from nonprofit groups and Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees responsible for foreign aid.  They said the reductions would mean more unintended pregnancies among the world's poorest women and more dangerous abortions in countries where the procedure is outlawed.
Justices to Weigh Late-Term Abortion Ban.  [United States] The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning a type of late-term abortion, teeing up a contentious issue for a newly-constituted court already in a state of flux over privacy rights.  The Bush administration has pressed the high court to reinstate the federal law, passed in 2003 but never put in effect because it was struck down by judges in California, Nebraska and New York.  The outcome will likely rest with the two men that President Bush has recently installed on the court.  Justices had been split 5-4 in 2000 in striking down a state law, barring what critics call partial birth abortion because it lacked an exception to protect the health of the mother.  But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the tie-breaking vote, retired late last month and was replaced by Samuel Alito.  Abortion had been a major focus in the fight over Alito's nomination because justices serve for life and he will surely help shape the court on abortion and other issues for the next generation.
Supreme Court Backs Abortion Protesters.  [United States] The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to abortion clinics in a two-decade-old legal fight over abortion protests, ruling that federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used to ban demonstrations.  Anti-abortion groups brought the appeal after the 7th Circuit had asked a trial judge to determine whether a nationwide injunction could be supported by charges that protesters had made threats of violence absent a connection with robbery or extortion.  The 8-0 decision ends a case that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had kept alive despite a 2003 decision by the high court that lifted a nationwide injunction on anti-abortion groups led by Joseph Scheidler and others.  Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said Congress did not intend to create "a freestanding physical violence offense" in the federal extortion law known as the Hobbs Act.  Social activists and the AFL-CIO had sided with anti-abortion groups in arguing that similar lawsuits and injunctions could be used to thwart their efforts to change public policy or agitate for better wages and working conditions.
South Dakota House Approves Abortion Ban.  [United States] The South Dakota House has passed a bill that would nearly ban all abortions in the state, ushering the issue to the state Senate.   Supporters are pushing the measure in hopes of drawing a legal challenge that will cause the US Supreme Court to reverse its 1973 decision legalizing abortion.   The bill banning all abortions in South Dakota was passed 47-to-22 in the House.   Amendments aimed at carving out exemptions for rape, incest and the health of women were rejected.  The bill does contain a loophole that allows abortions if women are in danger of dying.  Doctors who do those abortions could not be prosecuted.
South Dakota Passes Abortion Ban.  [United States] South Dakota's state senate voted on Wednesday for an abortion ban aimed at giving the conservative-tilting Supreme Court an opening to overturn rulings granting women the right to the procedure.  Only an unlikely veto by Republican Gov. Michael Rounds could prevent the legislation from becoming law, people on both sides of the issue said.  "We hope (Rounds) recognizes this for what it is: a political tool and not about the health and safety of the women of South Dakota," said Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood, which operates the sole clinic providing abortions in South Dakota.  "If he chooses to sign it, we will be filing a lawsuit in short order to block it," she said after attending the afternoon debate at the state capitol in Pierre.  Proponents have said the law was designed for just such a court challenge.  The timing is right, supporters say, given the recent appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the high court.  The two conservatives could pave the way to a decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling said women have a constitutional right to abortion.  The high court said on Tuesday it will rule on whether the federal government can ban some abortion procedures, a case that could reveal whether the court reshaped by President George W. Bush will restrict abortion rights.
Wal-Mart Must Stock Contraception in Massachusetts.  [United States] The state board that oversees pharmacies voted Tuesday to require Wal- Mart to stock emergency contraception pills at its Massachusetts pharmacies, a spokeswoman at the Department of Public Health said.   The unanimous decision by the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy comes two weeks after three women sued Wal-Mart in state court for failing to carry the so called "morning after" pill in its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in the state.  The women argue state policy requires pharmacies to provide all "commonly prescribed medicines."
Ginsburg Returns to Supreme Court as Sole Female Justice.  [United States] It will be a different scene Tuesday when the black-robed justices of the Supreme Court emerge from behind a red, velvet curtain and take their seats at the mahogany bench.  Instead of two female justices, there will only be one.  Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the high court, retired last month.  That left Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the lone female among the nine justices, a distinction she seems unhappy about.  "I would not like to be the only woman on the court," Ginsburg said in a speech last September, a practical appeal to President Bush to send up another woman.  Bush complied, but nominee Harriet Miers withdrew after Republican conservatives strongly opposed her.   The president then turned to veteran federal judge Samuel Alito, who will hear his first cases as a justice when the high court meets Tuesday.  O'Connor's absence, coming after nearly a quarter-century on the court, will be felt in the weeks and months ahead by Ginsburg -- and her male colleagues -- as they adjust following a period of death, retirement and the addition of two new members.
Plan Puts Female Inmates in Centers by Their Families.  [United States] Radically reshaping their approach to women prisoners, Schwarzenegger administration officials plan to move 40% of the state's female inmates out of their cells and into neighborhood correctional centers.  Most would probably be housed in Los Angeles County, which sends more women to prison than any other county.  The plan, most of which requires legislative approval, reflects a growing consensus among experts nationally that female inmates are ill served by a one-size-fits-all correctional system designed for violent men.  If adopted, the initiative would make California a leader among states remaking prison systems to reflect differences between the sexes.
Study: Gap Between Male, Female Characters in G-rated Movies.  [United States] Male characters outnumbered females 3-to-1 overall in top-grossing G-rated films from 1990 to 2004, according to a study whose sponsors say the disparity diminishes the importance of women in children's eyes.  "We're showing kids a world that's very scantly populated with women and female characters," said actress Geena Davis, founder of See Jane, a program of the advocacy group Dads & Daughters that encourages balanced gender representation in entertainment for children.  In the 101 animated and live-action films examined, 28 percent of speaking characters were female, and just 17 percent of people in crowd scenes were female, researchers found in the study released Thursday by See Jane.  "It's important for what kids watch that as far as possible, they see the real world reflected, to see men and women, boys and girls, sharing the space," said Davis, co-star of the female-empowerment film "Thelma & Louise " and star of TV's "Commander in Chief" in which she plays the U.S. president.   "They should see female characters taking up half the planet, which we do."
Men Don't Want Funny Women. [United States] It's a trait often requested in lonely hearts ads and scientists have now shown that a good sense of humor is important for women, but not men, in choosing a romantic partner.  A woman is even willing to overlook other shortcomings in a man if he can make her laugh, North American researchers say in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.  "Our results suggest that humor can positively affect desirability as a relationship partner but this effect is most likely to occur when men use humor and are evaluated by women," says Dr Eric Bressler, an assistant professor at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.
Men Spend Lots More Than Women on Valentine's Day.  [United States] Take note, gentlemen: You'll probably give more than you get on Valentine's Day.  Men plan to shell out an average of $128 on their loved ones Tuesday, while women plan to spend $74, according to a new survey sponsored by Discover Card, the credit card company.  Why do men spend more?  "Because men have to, and women can chose to," Gail Sheehy, the author of "Sex and the Seasoned Woman" and other books on modern women, said in an e-mail interview.  "Women remind men and guilt them into it."  Fair enough.  But women also earn less, about 75 cents to every dollar a man makes, according to Vicky Lovell, study director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington.  Lovell suspects that there's a second reason for men's extravagance:   They're less comfortable letting their hearts speak.  "Women may spend less because they see it as a time for men to express affections," Lovell said.
Management Program Links Female Farmers.  [United States] Working a combine was no problem for Ann Whitehead, one of five daughters who grew up on a farm.  But with little understanding of the business side of agriculture, she was lost when she asked a local banker for a farm loan.  The banker's response only made matters worse.  "Bring your dad with you next time," he told her.  "It was very intimidating," recalled Whitehead, 48, who owns 100 valuable but long-dormant acres in central Missouri.  Those experiences are all too common in what remains a male-dominated line of work, said Ruth Hambleton, a University of Illinois extension agent who founded Annie's Project, a farm management training program, four years ago.
Government Calls Conference to Study Two Deadly Infections.  [United States] The federal government has called an unusual scientific conference to look into two related bacterial infections, one that killed four California women who took an abortion pill and the other that has caused outbreaks of diarrhea and colitis in hospitals and nursing homes across the nation.  Fifteen to 20 scientists who have studied the two bacteria have been asked to present their research at the conference, scheduled for May 11, an official at the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.  The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the abortion pill, Mifeprex or RU-486, is so controversial that some officials have been threatened after speaking about it publicly.  Officials are concerned that the political controversy swirling around medical abortions may interfere with the scientific discussion, the F.D.A. official said in an interview.
Cadet Accused of Sexually Assaulting Female Cadets.  [United States] A senior cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has been charged with sexually assaulting six female classmates.  Webster M. Smith was charged Feb. 9 under military law with rape, assault, indecent assault and sodomy against female cadets.  The incidents allegedly occurred between May and November 2005.  Some allegedly happened on the academy grounds when Smith entered female cadets' rooms without permission.  Others were reported off campus in Mystic, Clinton and Stonington.  The rape allegedly occurred in June 2005 during a trip to Annapolis.
Saudi Couple in Colorado Plead Not Guilty to Charges of Enslaving Indonesian Woman.   [United States] A Saudi couple pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges including kidnapping and sexual assault stemming from claims that they held as a virtual slave an Indonesian woman who worked for them.  A federal indictment released last year said the Indonesian woman was allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted by Al-Turki and was paid less than the equivalent of $2 a day over four years to cook, clean and care for the couple's five children.  It also said she was sometimes loaned out to work for other families when her host family traveled.
A Woman For President?  [United States] Will a woman run for the Oval Office in 2008?  We’re 99% certain.   Since the The White House Project began eight years ago, we’ve known that women would be viable contenders for the Presidency in 2008.  We were talking about it then, and we’re talking about it now.  Except now, it’s real.  Two years before the battleground primaries, we offer you a chance to meet eight of today’s most intriguing Presidential possibilities and then cast your vote.   Why now?  Because it's time.  The White House Project believes the time is ripe to raise awareness in America about 8 women who are real contenders for the top position in our country.  As governors, senators, a secretary of state and a major mayor, these women show a natural ability to lead, and a deep understanding of the complicated issues that affect everyday Americans.  A recent Roper Public Affairs poll shows that nearly 80% of Americans would vote for a female president.  It’s time to use all our resources.  It’s time for women to lead.
Poll: Americans More Ready for Woman President.  [United States] A majority of American voters remain ready to elect a woman president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is making gains on that front while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's support remains steady, according to nationwide poll released Sunday.  In the poll commissioned by Hearst Newspapers, the percentage respondents who said Rice should run for president swelled to 48 percent, up from 42 percent in a similar poll conducted in February of last year.   Clinton, who polls show leading all potential Democratic candidates for the party's 2008 nomination, saw mounting resistance to a presidential campaign: 44 percent of the people polled said she should not run, up from 37 percent a year ago. At the same time, 51 percent said she should run. Fifty-three percent said she should run in last year's poll.
Like a virgin...   [United States] Women have resorted to backstreet hymen repair for centuries in religions and cultures in which marrying as a virgin is sacred and losing your “maidenhead” before matrimony can mean shame, or even being put to death.  Named after Hymen, the Greek god of marriage, the vaginal membrane has been a marker of virginity since the Stone Age, even though it can be ruptured by nonsexual activity, such as athletics or wearing tampons.  An increasing number of women are now electing to be “revirginised” using modern techniques as a purely cosmetic or lifestyle choice, to “put the sparkle” back into their marriage or give their husband a surprise on the second honeymoon.   The operation is performed under general anesthetic and takes up to an hour.   The fragments of the broken hymen are made raw again using a laser, which cuts and cauterizes simultaneously.  Then the fragments are pulled together and stitched, leaving only the small vaginal opening associated with virginity.  Most clients are Latin Americans, Saudi brides-to-be or British Muslims who fly in to be surreptitiously revirginised before marriage.  There is also a growing demand for “recreational” hymenoplasty.  It has always been a sensitive topic: Dr Matlock told The Times that he was happy to talk about all the “designer vagina” operations he offers — except hymen repair, because he has had death threats from religious groups outraged that the fallen faithful can buy a fake virginity.
Women in Politics.  [Canada] Twenty years ago, a group calling itself The Committee of '94 set a target of 10 years to bring the proportion of women in Parliament up to 50 per cent of sitting members.  But today, following the Jan. 23 federal election, the number of women in Parliament and cabinet is still far below that goal.  Women hold only six of 27 cabinet posts in the new Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  Things weren't much rosier in former prime minister Paul Martin's government, where women held nine cabinet positions out of 39.  Despite gains made by women in developing countries - more women are moving up the ranks in business and government in those regions - feminist leaders in Canada fear that efforts to break through the glass ceiling in politics here at home are failing.